I took this photo in a school I visited on one of my two trips to Bali. I wondered what was happening in Bali right now. I discovered the country has been exhibiting some kind of strange immunity to the coronavirus. An article in The Asia Times yesterday reports only 86 cases and two deaths. In fact, the medical community in Bali is more concerned about a dengue fever outbreak than about COVID-19.
Of course, tourism has slowed to a trickle and this is devastating for the economy in Bali which relies heavily on the 5 million tourists who visit each year.
I read about a high school teacher who tasked her students with finding an article in the newspaper that wasn’t about the coronavirus to share with their classmates. The assignment proved difficult if not impossible. I decided to take on the challenge with today’s Winnipeg Free Press. The only features I could find that didn’t refer to the pandemic in some way were the obituaries, the comics, the horoscopes, one recipe and the letters to Miss Lonely Hearts.
I really appreciated a segment Adrienne Arsenault did on The National last night about talking to family and friends who you believe are spreading conspiracy theories or fake news via social media. Some may be prone to making claims about the virus based on their own armchair expertise or that of unqualified commentators. Adrienne provided some helpful tips about how to respond without making the other person double down on their claims because they get upset with you.
I have started seeing some of these questionable, conspiracy theory types of posts on Twitter and Facebook from people I know and I’ve already learned that reacting indignantly isn’t helpful. Apparently, neither is unfriending or blocking them. We need to respond in a kind, measured way perhaps providing links to alternate sites that provide more reliable information from scientific experts. We have a responsibility to do our part to combat the spread of misinformation.
The United Nations is so concerned about the spread of false ideas they are mounting a massive campaign to flood social media with the best information experienced scientists can provide. The UN has added a myth buster section to their website where they respond to ideas that are most certainly false. They remind us that while some people spreading misinformation on the internet are doing it for political or monetary advantage most are just fearful and well-intentioned. We need to keep that in mind when we respond to them. Yesterday when Donald Trump made his decision to cut funding to the World Health Organization I was reminded of a sculpture we saw at the United Nations called Sphere Within a Sphere by Arnold Pomodoro. It was a gift from Italy a country that has been hit extremely hard by the coronavirus. The sculpture shows the split outer core of the world but inside the cogs that keep it going are still running. The sculpture reminds me that healing the world and keeping it running is going to need to be a global effort. The seriousness and foolishness of what President Trump has done were perhaps most clearly illustrated by the fact that even Fox News, a media outlet whose support of the President has been almost unconditional ran an article yesterday that ended with these words “The World Health Organization is essential to turning the tide against COVID-19. There is no path out of the epidemic on our own. We need other countries. The WHO has its challenges, but for now, it’s our best hope of ending this crisis quickly.”