This Has Been the First Global Infodemic of the Information Age — But Are We Now Immune?
Has the global lockdown fiasco left humanity with residual antibodies to hysteria pandemics, or are we as helpless as before?
Whether you think COVID-19 was a bad cold, a bad flu, or a mini-pandemic, I think it is clear by now that a global lockdown of 3 billion people in response was a huge and costly overreaction to it.
The “pandemic” (which caused detectable excess deaths in no more than a dozen nations) now largely in the rear mirror, was at the very most still no worse than the Influenza pandemics of 1957-1958 and 1969 which we coasted through without even a thought of similar measures.
There was nothing once-in-a-century about the disease, but only about the imagination-driven response to it.
Why is that? Why was the response this time so out of proportion to the threat? There is the influence of Big Pharma and its WHO, but that is not new.
The difference, in my opinion, is that since the 1990s we have a 24/7 news cycle, that since the 2000s we have instant news from everywhere in the world, and that since the 2010s we have the magnifying effect of the social media.
If the press industry was honest it would cut down on the number of news stories it churns out when there’s less happening in the world (or use the time to move into difficult and not well-rewarded in-depth stuff). But that’s not how it works. The underpaid interns and low-level grinders actually creating the news items are on a quota, and when there’s less real news they will start to latch onto anything to try and satisfy their do-nothing supervisors (who in turn need a good stats sheet to satisfy their execs and keep their cushy do-nothing jobs).
Trying to keep their content slots full, the media has tried to sensationalize an outbreak of every single new disease since 2000. I don’t think there’s even any especially nefarious agenda behind it, merely a consequence of the ever-present pressure on the rank-and-file media workers to keep producing stuff that will grab maximum attention, whether there’s anything super dramatic currently happening in the world or not.
However, all previous instances of sensationalizing new diseases nonetheless ultimately deflated and fell flat. Usually, because the diseases in question were just too deadly to the individuals they infected and therefore very poor at spreading wide. Quite soon the reality burst the media bubble.
Not this time. This time, unlike with Ebola or SARS, the media had an infection to work with that was not very deadly and correspondingly far better at spreading. Coupled with the self-serving WHO delusion that the infection killed over 2% of those it infected there was much better raw material for media to work with and have the bubble snowball rather than deflate.
As it started to grab the attention of the public, even the news writers who had resisted the temptation to go for the low-hanging but ridiculous plague scare stories would be told by their statistics-conscious supervisors that that was now their job.
Then you had the social media effect. Over-protective soccer moms, hypochondriacs, professional hysterics and bleeding-hearts of all kinds would soon be bleating about a new DEADLY PLAGUE, many of them following media for the first time in their lives (and therefore never having truly experienced and internalized the incredible bottom-feeding lows the media is willing to stoop to).
The social media hysteria convinced the cowardly and risk-averse politicians that extreme-countermeasures must be something the people wanted, and the extreme measures once ordered by the politicians convinced the public at large that they must have been warranted, and that this was indeed a once-in-a-century killer, or why else would the authorities initiate such measures?
(However, in places like Sweden, Belarus, Nicaragua, South Dakota, and Japan where governments opted not to lock down, the public just as willingly got behind those policies. In other words, it is not that extreme lockdowns were demanded by the populace. It is that everywhere the populace proclaimed itself agnostic on such a highly technical matter as a new disease outbreak and entrusted themselves into the care of governments privy to expert advice. (Except their trust in lockdown countries was betrayed and their leaders proved themselves unworthy of it.))
The results of the lockdowns, brought about and maintained by this feedback loop have been horrendous and will become more horrendous still. As we sail into the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression we should be aware we have so far paid only a small price for our insanely stupid mistake. The bigger price of the bill is yet to be paid, not only in comforts but in lives alike.
However, you must understand that from the point of view of the press staff writers who unknowingly set it in motion, it worked out great. For about three months their immediate problem, the mind-numbing boredom of their jobs was alleviated. Rather than having to come into the office each day and finding no news out there that they could relate to and that would also satisfy their editors, they got to quickly churn out several COVID panic stories and satisfy their quota effortlessly.
You can be sure that media zombies will try to pull this stuff again. Come the next new illness the half-dead staff writers will again latch onto easy stories to exploit innate human fears and satisfy their limited-ability, stats-crunching editors.
The question is will the next time the human race know better than to fall for it again? Did getting burned with COVID hysteria leave humanity with some residual antibodies against the next infodemic, or are we liable to — given the right disease — to repeat the whole insanity again?
In reality, humanity *was* put in front of a never-before-seen challenge. The challenge was not COVID but the nexus of COVID, the information age, and the social media age. And except for a few honorable mentions, nations of the world flunked this challenge so horribly that hundreds of thousands of lives will now needlessly be lost, and our economic advancement set back for at least a few years.
Seeing this was truly the first time the humanity faced a semi-serious disease amplified by communication tools of our age, it is perhaps understandable that a species that still largely learns through trial-and-error failed to remain rational. Next time it will not be so understandable.
More diseases will come. Some will be semi-serious. If we allow our politicians to rain ruin on us each time in response then I do not predict a great future for us. We must not allow global scares to become a staple of our existence.