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September 29, 2020

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Don’t be fooled by media misinformation

In the modern era people can get information with extreme ease, but the general public largely lacks the motivation to utilize the Internet to gain the knowledge they need.

As a consequence they are susceptible to the deliberate misguidance of some social media without independent thinking. This is particularly true in the case of science and news.

This phenomenon is especially obvious during the COVID-19 epidemic.

Some netizens were genuinely shocked by the chaotic state of the United States and Europe as they checked bloggers on Weibo or WeChat, China’s equivalent to Twitter and Facebook.

Meanwhile, people in those “chaotic” countries have been quick to show a negative attitude toward China after some media reports mistakenly accused China of being responsible for the epidemic.

A perfect example of this is in the controversy surrounding “herd immunity.” During the pandemic, this fancy term made frequent appearances in the Chinese social media.

Examples can be found in WeChat and Baidu articles under “Some governments do nothing in response to the pandemic,” “Letting the virus spread crazily” and “Herd immunity, a wild bet with human lives.”

In essence, “herd immunity” means taking no precautions and allow the virus to spread freely among the public.

But was it true?

If we do a quick online search, it’s easy to find that back on March 3, the British government had already published detailed policies in response to the pandemic, including the four major phases of contain, delay, mitigate and research.

Sir Patrick Vallance suggested the “herd immunity” concept on March 13 without any indication that it would be the country’s sole response to the pandemic. Nor is the concept of herd immunity itself inherently worthy of ridicule. Herd immunity is a long-established epidemiological concept that is widely used in controlling the spread of almost all kinds of infectious diseases.

It merely refers to a form of indirect protection when a large percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, whether through vaccination or previous infections, thereby providing a measure of protection for individuals who are not immune.

This is just one of many cases where the general public is led astray “by a lack of context.” During the epidemic, some tabloids in Europe tweeted that China had banned the export of facial masks overseas, in favor of self-supply, without any credible information sources.

They made the assumption because they thought China’s huge population would consume every mask.

Yet, in the early stages of coronavirus, China sent facial masks to Italy and Serbia, with many netizens from both countries tweeting they were grateful of the donation.

Our historically unprecedented easy access to information and knowledge makes it extremely easy for people to leave their thoughts online with zero cost.

Meanwhile, it also makes people more inclined to conform to others’ thoughts: This is how public opinion is shaped.

The more developed social media is, the easier it is to form an information cocoon. We should always be cautious to prevent ourselves from being blocked and controlled in this information cocoon.

Given our exposure to so much information and news, all from a hodgepodge of sources, it is especially important for us to maintain our rationalism and independent thinking, no matter where we stand.

In short, know more about the subject matter before making a judgment and think more before making a comment.


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