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Lockdown Reflections Day 11: Misinformation is flourishing, Confirmation bias is a disease

On Saturday, News24 published an article about the testing of a vaccine on Africans. It was completely false and baseless. It spread like wildfire.


Today they’ve published a retraction (see Apology to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for 'Africa vaccine' story https://m.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/apology-to-the-bill-and-melinda-gates-foundation-for-africa-vaccine-story-20200405). But it’s too late. Bill Gates’ name has been muddied. And people have been scared.


Yesterday, a complete nut job who claims to have found missing children and believes that 5G is a conspiracy to destroy our health, posted a video urging people to not get tested because some test kits actually have Covid. As with all conspiracy theories there is a germ of truth in this. A batch of test kits in Luxembourg were found to be contaminated. They were due to be sent to the UK. The contaminated kits were found and destroyed before they even left the factory. But people put 2 and 2 together and came up with 9 and a half.


This video was spread by people, who when confronted with its untruth became defensive and said “its better to be safe than sorry”. But the video tells people to refuse to be tested for Covid. If we do that, we fail. If we do that, millions will die.


Over the past week I have been accused of being arrogant and not listening to “both sides of the story” and not being “open to different views”. Well that’s because sometimes there aren’t two views. Sometimes one thing is right and the other thing is wrong.


News24 today have publicly retracted their story and apologised to the Gates Foundation. But thousands of people are still going to believe that Gates Foundation is out to do harm to Africans. There aren’t two sides to this story.


Confirmation bias is one of the strongest forces in the universe. Of course no one wants to think they are wrong. But instead of admitting it, they become defensive, accuse others of arrogance, invent conspiracy theories to maintain their false truths, and fight to maintain their ignorance and misinformation. It is actually frightening to watch.


This Covid-19 crisis is highlighting two big weaknesses in humanity. We don’t have natural immunity to coronaviruses, and we seem to have a natural bias against the scientific method of verifying and incorporating truth into our systems of thought. We need a vaccine for both Covid-19 and confirmation bias. Both of these are diseases that can destroy humanity as we know it.

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