Age of Spin

If there is one lesson we should take from Covid so far, it’s that we live in an age of disinformation and political Spin. And it works! Arguably, the ease in which we are manipulated is one of the greatest threats to humanity and social justice.

Covid is a good example…

At the point where the requirement to self-isolate if infected was removed in the UK, over 70 per cent of the public thought it should continue…

…and science and common sense backed this consensus. It makes no sense at all to permit those infected with Covid to spread it freely. Not on an individual risk, workforce, economic, or healthcare burden perspective.

But politicians were desperate for a win; they needed a win!

Ventilation is another good example. This basically means ensuring indoor spaces have sufficient flow of air to remove enough of the virus so the chance of getting it lessens. It can be as simple as opening a window on a bus, or leaving the office door open.

There is also the option of installing ventilation systems that achieve outdoor air levels of virus or even really quite cheap filtration systems that actually filter out most viruses.

What possible reason could there be not to pursue it? One could even imagine a situation where venues and buildings could achieve a “mask-exemption” status once ventilated to certain standards.

And as for masks, wearing one on a bus or while shopping wasn’t really that much of a hassle for most of us. Indeed, again, most of the public thought mask mandates should continue at the point they were removed.

As for healthcare, those pushing for doctors and nurses to treat vulnerable patients mask-free while SARS2 is circulating at high levels simply reveal their bias – it’s lunacy.

But the politicians needed a win. They were under pressure from certain businesses and certain ideologues who were railing from the other revelation Covid delivered: the strength of the State really does matter; the free-market ideology only works when the State works.

And the interventions to keep SARS2 levels lower (not eliminated), keeping the economy moving, and saving valuable healthcare resources for all the other conditions that still need treated are so mundane that we would hardly notice them…

1. Stay up to date with vaccines
2. Open a window or have background ventilation running (invisible)
3. And yes, stay home if you are actively contagious.

Compared to where we have been, these things seem a small price to pay to keep society moving and save lives (inc non-Covid)

So why not follow them?

People don’t want to live in fear. There is enough already to fear – poverty, climate change, heart disease, getting injured, etc…

Political leaders (particularly those failing) couldn’t resist being the hero – removing that fear, through spin!

And there have been really quite severe consequences.

In particular, the “we won” and “it’s over” narratives have led vaccine uptake to fall, people infected spreading it freely, and caused mass staff shortages, overwhelmed health services, and lots of death and disability…

My point isn’t so much about Covid; yes, we should be doing more and being honest about the reality, not trying to pretend we won or it’s over. But yes, it now becomes one thing of many that we adults must think about.

My point is more about a different vulnerability…

The ease at which we can be duped and manipulated. The way we can be lied to so effectively that hard facts have little value.

It should make us all take a beat. Check our sources. And be wise to the fact there other things to worry about that are being hidden from us…

The deep undertone of corruption, of religious idealism, of exploitation by a few to take your power and money.

Climate change has been one of the biggest victims. Not good for the bottom line. Not good for impotent leaders. But for our kids we must be the grown-ups and face it

The point: Covid has exposed a lot. The fact we are constantly being manipulated is a big one.

So, when someone argues for something using facts we have to ask: is there a conflict of interest here? Can we trust the “fact”?

A good example is gun control. If facts are being shared by a Senator who receives funding from gun lobbyists, then we should fact-check them. The same goes for those making claims about Covid; what are their conflicts of interest and can I trust their facts?

Back in the day, this would be the media’s job. But some are just as guilty as politicians of manipulating the public using half-truths or even complete untruths. And we have other ways of getting information – such as social media – where no fact-checking takes place.

So we all need to be clear on the facts ourselves before we act on them.

Covid teaches us that the direction we are heading in is not up to the task of dealing with the increasing global threats we face or indeed local issues.

That’s why the Obama Foundation is strongly focused on trying to tackle one of our greatest threats… disinformation.