As our battle with Covid-19 continues, it’s been alarming to see how some people have been reacting to what’s happening. It’s been alarming mostly because of the number of people who don’t seem to be taking this seriously, but also because of how residual issues of misinformation that we’ve seen out in our public discourse rearing its ugly head at the worst possible time.
If there was ever a time to listen to health experts and science above all, you’d think that this would be in and the urgency of this situation would be enough to knock down the crap coming from the usual sources out there. But instead what we’re seeing is that years and years of exposure to misinformation and crap from these places have made a mark and is proving to be as resilient as the actual virus we’re fighting.
With that in mind though, today I wanted to highlight just how dangerous this misinformation is, especially when it is being spouted by elected officials and the real-world consequences of it. For that, let’s start in Florida because, well, of course it would have to be Florida for something like this. Behold:
That folks was Okeechobee County Commissioner Bryant Culpepper, trying to tell people that sticking a blow dryer up their noses would help to kill Covid-19 and his source for his “advice”? A new American network that basically exists to try to “out Fox News” Fox News and is becoming known for issues with the partiality and such of their “coverage”.
What made that bit even more concerning was that Mr. Culpepper basically tried to say that he understood that there is misinformation out there, but only on social media and tried to argue that this crap network is the real deal. Of course, to make this worse, this is not the first time he had done this. Just a few days before, on March 17 at another meeting, he suggested using ozone to kill the COVID-19 virus. Yep, you see that Culpepper’s son found something online and he decided to share that with the public. Thankfully that lead to Commission Chair Terry Burroughs to urge “the public to get their medical information in regard to the Coronavirus from the Centers for Disease Control, the Florida Department of Health, or their own health care provider.” Thank God there is at least one adult in that room, but what happens with all those people who decide to act on terrible advice like Culpepper was giving? We have a very sad example of the real-world consequences when this misinformation and crap is acted upon, coming from words of the President of the United States:
Folks, I’ve always believed that “Words Matter” and this is a prime example of that in the worst way. In an attempt for try to make things political better for him and his presidency, Donald Trump has put a lot of stuff out there that doctors and knowledgeable officials have had to correct immediately. Included in that crap has been his assertions around malaria drugs, which members of his Covid-19 task force have already said is nothing more than anecdotal at best.
But whether if we like it or not, there are many people who trust Trump’s word above all else and that story from Nigeria is a prime example of that. People in Nigeria took his word and rushed out to buy the anti-malaria drug chloroquine, on his word that this could help with Covid-19. That lead to supplies being bought out in some cities, despite the fact that the drug is no longer effective against malaria and hasn’t been since 2005. And thanks to that “advice”, three people in the country overdosed on the drug and forced Nigerian health officials to issue a warning about use of the drug.
So in this moment of serious health peril around the world, those health officials had to take precious time and band width out of their days to respond to another health issue completely created by the vanity and hubris of someone whose more concerned about his own political health than anything else. And because of his words people got poisoned, hurt and caused problems for their families and loved ones. That folks is a big part of the real-world consequences of elected leaders spouting such crap, real consequences that can affect real health for people.
I would hope that the takeaway from these stories would be that public officials should be more careful in what they say and should put the real well being of others above everything else. Their words have real consequences and sadly it’s in these moments we see how much so. But honestly, if they were seriously concerned about that, these people wouldn’t have said what they had in the first place. In the end I hope that at least people out there will see these stories and remember the old axiom that “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is”. We are in a dangerous crisis and if there was an easy way out of this, we would already be out of it. People peddling “too good to be true solutions” should be viewed with extreme skepticism, regardless of how low or how high the office the occupy may be. The fact that we need to include the President of the United States in that count these days is disturbing, but we can’t focus on that fact. We have more important things to worry about, the health and well being of others, and all we can hope for soon is that those other people realize that and act accordingly.