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Lessons from COVID-19 IV: (Mis)Information

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Image Credit In the face of a crisis politicians do have strong incentives to conceal, lie and even spread disinformation. There seems to be a natural impulse to do so, to try to avoid blame or perhaps out of a form of wishful thinking that reality will somehow conform to the deception. A politician might even have seemingly good reasons to conceal and deceive, such as avoiding seeming weak to other nations or to try to avoid panicking the population. No matter the motivation, concealing the facts will only make the problem worse, while disinformation will make it even worse than silence would. One lesson that should have been learned from the 1918 influenza pandemic is that honesty and accurate information are critical to fighting a pandemic. The threat of the flu was initially downplayed, allowing it to spread and officials failed to inform the public of the true danger. One example of this is the infamous Philadelphia parade which allowed the flu to spread like wildfire.  This resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 people and over 200,000 were infected. While this disaster should have provided a clear lesson to others, the denial, downplaying and deceit continued in the United States. The inaction extended all the way to the top, with President Woodrow Wilson (a Democrat) remaining silent. While there is no way to calculate exactly how many people would have not died if a policy of providing accurate information had been adopted, it is reasonable to infer that many lives could have been saved.  Given this clear historical lesson, one would have thought that we would have been ready to address COVID-19 with honest, accurate information. But this was not the case. As an American, I will focus on my government, though examining other nations would also be useful. When COVID-19 was first identified in January, former Trump officials  (Bossert and Gottlieb) started sounding a warning about the virus, drawing the obvious and tragic lessons from. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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