Jun 3rd 2020“DOCTORS NEED three qualifications: to be able to lie and not get caught; to pretend to be honest; and to cause death without guilt.” So
“DOCTORS NEED three qualifications: to be able to lie and not get caught; to pretend to be honest; and to cause death without guilt.” So wrote Jean Froissart, a diarist of the Middle Ages, after an outbreak of bubonic plague in the 14th century. Fake news then meant rumours that the plague could be cured by sitting in a sewer, eating decade-old treacle or ingesting arsenic.
The “infodemic” around covid-19, declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in February, is not the world’s first outbreak of misinformation. This time the myths include the notion that the disease can be cured by drinking methanol, which has led to more than 700 deaths in Iran, and that it is spread by 5G transmitters, which has convinced arsonists in Britain to carry out more than 90 attacks on phone towers. Just as the virus lodges in people’s lungs, dangerous ideas are infecting their minds.
One big difference between the infodemics of the 1300s and 2020 is the rapid worldwide transmission of today’s nonsense, enabled by the internet. In March a poll by Gallup of 28 countries…