Our writers’ recommendations for the best debunking, fact checking and media criticism you shouldn't miss this week.
Joe, Senior Researcher - As the pandemic has worn on, have you found yourself wondering why people seem to be clinging to miracle cures, folk and rumour-based medicine, or claiming “Jesus is their vaccine”? Hugh Gusterson, professor of anthropology and international affairs at George Washington University, has penned a wonderfully insightful article on the “turn to magical thinking” in the wake of COVID-19.
Kristina, Disinformation Researcher - We already explained how the coronavirus conspiracies are used to their advantage by some governments. However it is not the only case of pandemic being exploited to promote political ideology; some of the examples are hundreds years old. Brian Dunning talks about the Black Death and Typhus which were weaponised for political purposes.
Nick, Contributing Editor - The 5G-coronavirus conspiracies are so relentless, they seem to actually get stoked by the facts that contradict them. The latest edition has a video of a man claiming to be a telecoms engineer. In the clip, he shows off a supposed piece of 5G-mast circuitry with what looks like a bottle of counterfeit perfume stamped with “COV-19” ready to spray virus particles out into the atmosphere. Reuters looked into it and found out the board likely came from an old TV set.
Ishaana, Researcher - Yes, I’m talking conspiracy theories too. In a video circulated online along with endorsements from our “pals” at Great Game India, Italian politician Sara Cunial calls for the arrest of Bill Gates for his plans to “de-populate” the world with his vaccination trials. Her speech is made from the stuff of conspiracy theorist’s dreams. Read more on this here.
Al, Senior Editor - Professor Barry Lam of Vasser College has been producing the peerless 'Hi-Phi Nation' podcast since 2017, in which he does an incredible job of applying rigorous philosophical ideas to pressing social problems by telling compelling, beautifully produced stories. In this episode from 2018, 'Chamber of Facts', Lam asks whether people with different politics really do believe in different sets of facts, and reveals some incredibly surprising and interesting things in the course of his answer. You can listen to it here.
Edie, Contributing Editor - As an antidote to the breathless speculation about what was happening in Wuhan at the end of last year, the BBC World Service podcast team has put together this account of what was really going on, including interviews with the doctors who treated the first COVID patients. Listen here or on your preferred podcast platform (mine is Overcast).