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A Breakdown in Normal Processes

June 22, 2020

Highway to the Danger Phase

The World Health Organization says COVID-19 is entering a “new and dangerous phase,” as though the old phase was so pleasant. The Times reports:

In Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Arizona, daily counts of new coronavirus cases reached their highest levels of the pandemic this week. Texas, which has seen known cases double in the past month, became the sixth state to surpass 100,000 cases.

Trump held his big comeback rally in Tulsa, where he said he told his staff to “slow the testing down” so there wouldn’t be so many new cases revealed. Before the event, six of his staff in Tulsa came down with the virus. There was plenty more crazy stuff going on, but you don’t need me to tell you that.

Praising doctors and nurses, Pope Francis criticized priests with “adolescent” attitudes who defied or complained about lockdown measure.

Franklin Graham is very unhappy with Anthony Fauci for saying “science is truth,” which of course we knew he would be, and then shows just how smart he is by saying, “Man did not evolve from apes or tadpoles as many scientists say. That’s just not true — God created man and woman as the Bible says.”

Silver Lyings (Get It???)

Neuroscientist Gary L. Wenk at Psychology Today dispels the idea that certain foods will “boost your immune system” to prevent COVID-19, making a key point about why you wouldn’t want this “boost” anyway:

What you eat does not boost your immunity; it can only impair it. … Usually, bad things happen when your immune system is boosted too far for too long. Common consequences of an overactive immune system are autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. A boosted immune system attacks both bad cells, the virus, and good cells, you.

Please don’t stick a copper wand up your nose to prevent the coronavirus. I mean, if you have other reasons for doing so, who am I to judge? But just don’t do it for COVID-19.

Please don’t do what antivaxxer Del Bigtree says, telling his cult followers and try to “catch this cold,” meaning, of course, the disease that has killed almost 150,000 Americans.

You’d think that after all the hubbub around Jim Bakker and his silver-based fake cure, that we’d be done with this colloidal silver thing. Hardly. Olga Kazan at The Atlantic reports:

What’s happening here seems deeper than snake-oil salesmen foisting useless potions on people. All of these silver peddlers are tapping into a real interest in the stuff. Colloidal silver enjoys a devout following online among people who believe it can cure a number of diseases. … More so now than normally, people feel let down and ripped off by medical professionals. There’s no proven treatment for the coronavirus, and advice about how to stave it off seems to shift from week to week. Some people now look at “natural” remedies such as silver and think, At least this won’t hurt me.

Timothy Caulfield, writing in the Toronto Star, offers some guidance on debunking COVID-19 misinformation. To sum up: use independent facts, use clear and shareable content, be nice and empathetic, get creative, make the real information the star as opposed to the fake stuff, and aim for the general public as your audience, not the dug-in denier.

Dr. Kathleen Montgomery writes in The Tennessean about her experience dealing with threats and harassment from conspiracy theorists, and gives her own take on sifting through misinformation:

When you read a news story about a new scientific finding, seek out the primary source – usually it will be hyperlinked in or immediately following the article, and most of the time the findings are not as conclusive as suggested.

Look out for words like “may” or “could” — often stories will use phrases like “this finding COULD help doctors,” when referring to something that is still unproven. Be very skeptical of anyone selling supplements or books and check the credentials of anyone proclaiming to be a doctor. Even better, ask your own doctor about information that seems confusing.

You Don’t Trust Anything

And speaking of The Tennessean, what on Earth possessed them to run a full-page ad from a “prophecy ministry,” using photos of Trump and Pope Francis, telling folks that on “July 18, 2020, Islam is going to detonate a nuclear device in Nashville, Tennessee”? The paper apologizes and tries to explain that it was a result of a “breakdown in the normal processes”:

[Ryan Kedzierski, vice president of sales said,] “No words or actions can describe how sorry we are to the community for the advertisements that were published. We will be utilizing the advertising dollars that went toward the full-page ad placements and donating those funds to the American Muslim Advisory Council.”

[Editor Michael A. Anastasi said,] “The ad is horrific and is utterly indefensible in all circumstances. It is wrong, period, and should have never been published. It has hurt members of our community and our own employees and that saddens me beyond belief. It is inconsistent with everything The Tennessean as an institution stands and has stood for and with the journalism we have produced.”

Still doesn’t explain how it happened.

Zack Stanton at Politico interviews Prof. Adam Enders about this “golden age of conspiracy theories” (that’s one way to put it), and it’s not all that hopeful. Enders says:

If you’re motivated to believe the conspiracy theory because of partisanship, then we know you will buy into what trusted elites are saying. But if you’re motivated more by just these deep-seated conspiratorial sentiments, that’s a lot harder to correct, because you don’t trust anything. What’s a trusted source for somebody who is literally defined by thinking that everyone and everything is a lie and against them and a conspiracy?

The AP addresses the conspiracy theories being made up about billionaire George Soros and how he is supposedly orchestrating the protests against racism, or perhaps supplying ne’er-do-wells with buses and bricks to cause havoc, or even faking the death of George Floyd:

Experts who study conspiracy theories say the new claims about Soros are a way to delegitimize the protests and the actual reasons behind them. Some see anti-Semitism, or a new spin on the age-old hoax that a shadowy cabal of rich men – whether it’s the Illuminati, the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers, Bill Gates or Soros – is manipulating world events.

The Rockefellers and Rothschilds? Seriously, what year is it?

We’re keeping track of COVID-19 pseudoscience, snake oil, fake cures, and more at CFI’s Coronavirus Resource Center. Separate fact from fiction and inoculate yourself from misinformation at centerforinquiry.org/coronavirus.

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.