Social Distance From Social Media
April 9, 2020
“I had an epiphany a few years ago when I was out at a celebrity party and it suddenly dawned on me that I had yet to meet a celebrity who is as smart and interesting as any of my friends.” ― Moby
“A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to be well-known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.” ― Fred Allen
Gareth Cattermole via Getty Images
Social Distance From Social Media
Coronavirus has shut down much of America. Millions of people are stuck at home, and spending more time on social media platforms. Many are searching for information on this heretofore unknown disease.
Unfortunately, false claims about Covid-19 have been spreading across social media at an alarming rate, and there is growing concern that this online disinformation could be having real world health impacts. Some worrisome ‘treatment’ protocols include injecting vitamin C directly into the bloodstream, and ingesting colloidal silver. Research suggests there is a statistically notable link between people who believe false claims about coronavirus, and people willing to ignore the government’s social distancing guidelines, putting themselves and others at considerable risk.
Politicians, celebrities and other prominent public figures are responsible for producing or spreading 20 percent of false claims about Covid-19; their posts, however, account for 69 percent of total social media engagement. Actors and entertainers specifically, with millions of followers on Twitter and Instagram, play an outsized role in fanning the flames of misinformation, often reaching vastly more people than mainstream news outlets.
Popular actor Woody Harrelson shared numerous posts on Instagram that make baseless claims linking the coronavirus outbreak to the installation of 5G equipment in Chinese cities. Likewise British singer MIA, an opponent of vaccination programs, posted tweets criticizing engineers installing fiber broadband outside her London home; she claims the supposed “symptoms” of being near 5G base stations mimic those of coronavirus. And British boxer Amir Khan claimed on Instagram that coronavirus was man-made — designed to cull the world’s population — and the lockdown was meant to provide cover for the 5G rollout.
- Coronavirus: YouTube tightens rules after David Icke 5G interview (BBC)
- SEC Suspends Trading Of Company That Sold ‘At-Home’ COVID-19 Tests (NPR)
- The Virus Changed the Way We Internet (NYT)
- ‘Beginning of a new era’: how culture went virtual in the face of crisis (Guardian)
- Additional song: R.E.M. – Strange Currencies
A Sickness By Any Other Name Still Smells As Sick
- New data from the National Records of Scotland reveal a significant rise in deaths unrelated to Covid-19 in Scotland. It’s prompting healthcare professionals and public officials to issue warnings of “huge risks” if people are ignoring signs of other diseases and not seeking medical treatment because they believe the health service may be overwhelmed.
- Speaking at the Scottish government’s daily media briefing, interim chief medical officer Dr. Gregor Smith said: “People are perhaps making a choice not to present just now… but there are huge risks for people to hold on to symptoms like chest pains or bleeding.” (Guardian)
Left or Right, They Are All Corrupt Centrists
- On Tuesday a top court in Ecuador convicted the country’s former president, Rafael Correa, on corruption charges, sentencing him to eight years in prison. Correa, a socialist, was Ecuador’s president from 2007 to 2017 at a time when left-wing leaders were prominent in Latin America, including Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil.
- The political landscape is certainly different today, with right-wing nationalists heading up South American countries, like Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Nicolas Maduro (Venezuela), Mauricio Macri (Argentina) and Sebastian Penera (Chile).
- Correa was among 20 people, including his vice president Jorge Glas, who were accused of accepting $8 million in bribes in exchange for public contracts from 2012 to 2016. Correa left Ecuador in 2017; his conviction, which he can appeal, would make him subject to arrest if he returns to the country. (NYT)
- President nowhere to be seen as Nicaragua shuns coronavirus curbs (Guardian)
- Coronavirus: WHO chief urges end to ‘politicisation’ of virus (BBC)
- Pakistan doctors beaten by police as they despair of ‘untreatable’ pandemic (Guardian)
- Speed of coronavirus deaths shock doctors as New York toll hits new high (Reuters)
- New Zealand isn’t just flattening the curve. It’s squashing it. (WaPo, $)
- CDC Hospital Data Point To Racial Disparity In COVID-19 Cases (NPR)
- India Savors a Rare Upside to Coronavirus: Clean Air (NYT)
- Some of Europe, ‘Walking a Tightrope,’ Will Loosen Coronavirus Restrictions (NYT)
- 6 things to know about telehealth: How to find a doctor in the coronavirus pandemic (Vox)
- Thousands of applicants, zero loans: Trump’s small businesses lending program is a failure to launch (NBC)
- Michael Lewis explains why Trump ignores threats like coronavirus (Vox)
- ‘We won’t see coronavirus here’ … and other gems from Trump’s new press secretary (Guardian)
- U.S. Democrats, Republicans at odds over next coronavirus aid (Reuters)
- Map: Tracking The Spread Of The Coronavirus In The U.S. (NPR)
Additional World News
- Syrian regime blamed for sarin gas attacks in landmark report (Guardian)
- Microloans, Seen as Salvation for Poor Women, Trap Many in Debt (NYT, $)
- Taliban recalls negotiators after suspending prisoner exchange talks (Reuters)
- ‘It Changed So Fast’: Oil Is Making Guyana Wealthy but Intensifying Tensions (NYT, $)
Image via Getty Images
One Small Step For Man, One Giant Leap of Ego
- President Trump put on his real estate developer cap and signed an executive order Wednesday encouraging the US to mine the moon. A 1979 agreement known as the moon treaty stipulates that any activities in space should conform to international law.
- The executive order notes that the US was never a signatory, and the US doesn’t view space as a “global commons.” It also says the US will oppose any international effort to bar it from removing chunks of moon, Mars or elsewhere in space. In 2015 Congress passed a law explicitly allowing American companies to use resources from the moon and asteroids.
- The Trump administration’s zeal to commence drilling on the moon is consistent with its enthusiastic support of mining back on Earth. The administration has opened up vast tracts of federal land for oil and gas drilling, and rolled back various environmental laws in an attempt to revive the ailing coal industry.
- In his first year in office Trump downsized two national monuments in Utah in what represented the largest elimination of public lands protections in US history. (Guardian)
- An astronaut’s guide to surviving isolation (BBC)
- Additional song: R.E.M. – Man On The Moon
Justin Sullivan via Getty Images
Cowboys Glamping in Camo Glam: This Isn’t A Potato/Potahto Situation, Idaho
- Ammon Bundy, the Idaho man who once led an armed takeover of an Oregon wildlife refuge, is determined to violate Governor Brad Little’s order to avoid group gatherings.
- Last week Bundy gathered a few dozen people inside an old factory building north of Boise and expounded on how Little’s order undermines their constitutional right to peacefully assemble.
- He’s not alone. Some state lawmakers and a county sheriff have challenged social-distancing requirements, calling them an infringement on individual liberties. One group wants 1,000 people to get together for Easter.
- Idaho is facing its own worrying spike in coronavirus cases. Despite that, efforts aimed at containing the spread of the virus have run into outright rebellion among people in some parts of the state who dislike big government and science.
- Meanwhile an emergency room doctor in the area said a lot of people listen to those voices. Unfortunately, if even “a small group wants to exercise their right to assemble, it puts the community at large at such a high risk.” (NYT)
- ‘Please don’t come’: calls to close US national parks over virus fears (Guardian)
- Additional song: R.E.M. – It’s The End Of The World
Additional USA News
- Bernie Sanders Will Drop Out Of 2020 Presidential Race (NPR) While Sanders will likely never win the presidency he’ll likely be remembered as someone who greatly shifted the national conversation on major economic policies from greatly expanding necessary healthcare, increasing the minimum wage, and housing assistance.
- The coronavirus is exposing America’s housing crisis (Vox) & Nearly A Third Of Renters Didn’t Pay By 1st Week Of April (NPR)
- Linda Tripp, Clinton Sex Scandal Whistleblower, Dies At 70 (NPR) (Avoid friends who will record your conversations.)
- COVID-19 Is Harming The US Postal Service Too (NPR)
When You’re Feeling Down And Out, Get Up And Out (At Least 4 Times A Week)
- It bears repeating: exercise is good for the body and the soul. A timely new study finds that among a generally healthy but sedentary group of adults from their 20s to their 40s, working out lowers levels of depression, hostility and other negative feelings.
- The study also finds that the mood benefits of exercising can linger for weeks after people stop working out. It’s another compelling reason for people to try moving, whenever and wherever possible, during this coronavirus crisis. Plenty of previous studies have shown that regular exercise substantially reduces risks for clinical depression among people with a genetic predisposition to the condition, and that it also alleviates the severity of anxiety disorders.
- But there weren’t good studies of people without mood disorders until researchers at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City and other institutions decided to test the effects of an exercise regime on the mental health of generally healthy, but inactive, people. 119 sedentary adults ages 20 to 45, with no known mental health problems, were divided into two groups — one continued their daily lives as usual while the other group exercised 4 times a week. At the end of the experiment, the group that had exercised scored much lower than their already low scores for depression and hostility. (NYT)
- Additional song: R.E.M. – Shiny Happy People
- The Far-Right Helped Create The World’s Most Powerful Facial Recognition Technology (Huff Post)
- Humans living in Amazon 10,000 years ago cultivated plants, study finds (Guardian)
- ‘We all have resilience… You’ve got to make it grow’ (BBC)
- Famous stolen paintings: Where high art and low deeds collide (CNN)
- How boredom can inspire adventure (BBC)
- Time alone (chosen or not) can be a chance to hit the reset button (Aeon)
- A Missionary on Trial (New Yorker) Additional song: R.E.M. – Losing My Religion
- Coronavirus and Credibility (Paul Graham)
- Behind the Mask of Corruption (The Paris Review)