There has been a lot of commentary in the sports news in North America in the past few weeks over the fact that one of the National Basketball Association’s top stars, Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets, refuses to have a COVID vaccine shot, and as a consequence will be unable to play for his team since current regulations ban admittance to sports venues in many states unless you are fully vaccinated. Although there is no shortage of Americans or Canadians of a libertarian bent who would support Irving’s position, one should keep in mind that he has also in recent years stated that he is convinced that the earth is flat. That should tell you all you need to know about Irving’s knowledge of basic science, as well his level of intelligence and wisdom in general.
When questioned about his odd flat earth beliefs, Irving admitted he was into conspiracy theories and urged his fans to “do your own research”. Herein lies the crux of the reason why so many people of late have come to believe in COVID conspiracies, resist vaccine and masking mandates, and push for quack cures for COVID that have no medical basis whatsoever. These people do their so-called “research” by going on the Internet and doing random Google searching. Of course, there they find no shortage of self-proclaimed “experts” who make all kinds of claims that have no real scientific or fact-based foundation to them. Some of these “experts” may even have some medical or scientific background or education, but what they often propound runs counter to what the overwhelming majority of qualified real experts recognize as fact. There are quacks and charlatans even among the professional community. Fortunately, the scientific method and peer review systems in place eventually expose these fringe fake “authorities” for what they are. Regrettably, this does not seem to make any difference to people who are convinced by bogus conspiracy theories and refuse to follow the advice of public health experts and authorities.
To me, it is incredible that someone will do some casual googling, find some arguments by unknown, radical or marginal sources that object to vaccine and masking mandates, and believe them rather than the combined knowledge, experience and research of millions of scientists and doctors around the world who have made it their life’s mission to learn everything they can about diseases and immunology. This is nothing less than a crisis of credibility if not wilful ignorance.
The real question is why? Why are so many people so easily swayed to reject science and fact in favour of wild theories, conspiracies, misguided opinions posing as principles and bogus cures? In my view, a lot of the blame can be placed at the feet of easy universal internet access and the lack of integrity in the social media.
The advent of internet apps such as Facebook, Google, Instagram and others has given everybody equal access and a voice on a global stage. Anybody can put out anything they want on the digital media platforms and have an unlimited audience. There are few if any controls as to the “facts”, veracity or verifiability of the material published on the Internet.
Further it is simple to hide or disguise your real identity. This has been a boon for unscrupulous agencies, corporations, radical groups and even nation states whose agendas include the disruption, corruption, subversion and destruction of the societies that we live in. We all know that countries such as Russia, China, North Korea and other authoritarian states invest billions of dollars and employ millions of IT experts to not only hack into other countries’ IT systems, but also deploy countless paid trolls who surreptitiously use social media to divide, polarize and disrupt the political and social structures of western democratic states. I have no doubt that much of the disinformation and misinformation we currently have out on the internet regarding COVID has been spawned by these foreign intelligence services.
Further, I think constant use of social media apps have tended to create the impression in a lot of people’s minds that their opinions or beliefs are as valid as those of anyone else. People will read a few post or articles on a given subject and believe that they are now experts and qualified to render a valid opinion on things. This is wilful naivete. I may have an opinion on the Big Bang theory of the creation of the universe, but it cannot carry anywhere near the weight or authority of a professor with a PhD in astrophysics or a Nobel prize winner in that field. I may have my own thoughts on how COVID is transmitted or how it should be treated, but I will always defer to the opinions and advice of the large body of qualified medical doctors and immunologists who have made it their life’s study and know the subject intimately.
It is time to put our egos and emotions in check, and follow the advice of those that really know what they are doing.