As the pandemic fades it leaves much in its wake. For some symptoms of long and ‘short’ COVID, for others loss, for most of us just memories of a very strange and difficult time. One of the most notable features for me is our acceleration into what is reasonably termed a post truth world. The pandemic has created divisions, not so much in the world of genuine science, but more the perception of science in the population which is likely to persist far after the virus has become a manageable part of our lives.
Milking the pandmic
The most glaring examples is the lingering malevolence of a few who are milking the pandemic for personal wealth and glory, mainly coming from the US, but here in the UK too. In our electronic age that means the effects are felt everywhere. Fortunes can be made on social media platforms monetised by advertising. Worryingly in the US, responses to the pandemic have been heavily politicised.
This is not some minor issue. Robert F Kennedy Jnr is running for the Democrat nomination in the US and it seems an incredible 10-20% of Democrat voters support him. Sure he has a significant and saleable family history, but he is one of the worlds leading antivaccine celebrities with some truly crazy and incredibly harmful ideas on science.
His previous career as an environmental lawyer seemed laudable, but for some reason has used his political leverage to lead US antivaxxers and now seeks power. There is little chance that he will get anywhere, but a Trump vs Kennedy contest would be a horror show for democracy which would leave millions without a sensible electoral option and mean for many that federal elections at least would be worthless.
Despite the worlds best experts pretty much unanimously being in favour of vaccines and quietly having done the job of delivering them, it is the cynics, like RFK who make too much of the news.
Trust and distrust
Now, I completely understand distrust in ‘elites’. The most wealthy people in the world have accrued underserved and indeed, unearned wealth, and this has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Harnessing that wealth for the benefit of all is the one of defining issue of our times. Its not going well!
I’m not sure how this distrust has been shifted to experts, but its been a long and intentional process. Experts are unfairly lumped into the distrusted elite category, despite most of the experts I know being far from wealthy. People who have spent their lives studying and working in area of knowledge hold views are not only to be trusted, but are critically important to making important decisions.
When it comes to day to day health problems, you see a GP. They know enough about a wide range or problems and know when a specialists more focused, less wide ranging knowledge is going to help. Thats why you see the GP with a health problem first. Specialists will have spent their careers in a well defined area of concern to you. We want plumbers, electricians, carers and many other specialists who know what they are doing to help when needed. Experience and dedication matters; while we are all entitled to our opinions, some opinions will always be more valuable than others.
Experts, lambasted so idiotically by Michael Gove in the run up to Brexit, are vital to the function of modern health systems and societies. Perception of expertise has been damaged by the enormous reach of social media.
Choose your expert with care, and no, don’t ask a sunk to do your shopping!
I wonder if, for instance, if Albert Einstein were alive today and had a Facebook account, some might see it as equal in value to someone who thinks the sun is a giant light bulb in the sky because the presentation seems the same. Same with anti vaccine gibberish. Nonsense has become mainstream.
Here in the UK we have our antivaccine grifters too. Much as I dislike our backward Conservatives, they were quite right to kick Antony Bridgen out of their party for spouting illiterate nonsense about the pandemic in Parliament. This has made the news in antivaxx circles creating the notion that he was a brave individual speaking out against censorship and speaking up for freedom; my take is he abused his position for personal glory.
Either that is he is plain stupid. He now has joined Reclaim, a political toy of Laurence Fox, another truly hideous celebrity jumping on the idiotic bandwagon of being “Anti-Woke” and uses a new outlet called GB News styled very much on Fox. In other words, lies and outrage.
Outside parliament things get more chaotic. A glaring example of post truth is one of John Campbells lates videos where he publicises a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to highlight a mythological increase in miscarriages and stillbirths which he hints must be due to vaccines. He is not an expert, having has a worthy career as a nurse educator, he now reaping financial rewards from misinforming the vulnerable, so worth a look.
The FOI request in question actually showed no increase risk of miscarriage in the UK, apart from one area, Lanarkshire. There it seemed there was a big increase. Now anyone with any honesty would wonder why this result was so different from elsewhere and immediately assume that the number is at least work checking – others did and spotted the error.
Miscarriages in Lanarkshire were not increased, a simple mistake had been made. Campbell had to admit, albeit half-heartedly, that he was totally wrong. He issued a half hearted innuendo laden ‘correction’ video but left his original error strewn video on line where it continues to misinform, mislead and cause anxiety for the 443,000 people who had seen it so far’ even counting those 227,000 who viewed the correction are left with a nonsense informing their thoughts.
His hints that vaccination have caused miscarriage and stillbirth are, as far as I’m concerned, dangerous. Im certain if he was still a practising nurse he would be disciplined, but out there in unedited cyberspace, anything passes as truth.
There are now plenty of decent studies which show the vaccine to not only be safe in pregnancy, but that it has saved the lives of many mothers and their babies.
As it always seems to be, nonsense is more saleable. YouTube videos are monetised and lucrative if you can get the followers. Campbell’s posts on miscarriage and vaccination, both the schoolboy howler and its less than humble retraction, have made him thousands of pounds to add to the fortune he is amassing due to what is at best very dubious information. One excellent rebuttal of his nonsense, convincing and well presented, makes a tiny amount.
Take care, in this digital world, malevolence makes money.