Fake News: Testing the Boundaries of Reality in the COVID-19 Pandemic

As we continue the war against the COVID-19 Pandemic, a relevant battle in this war will be the one we have to fight against fake news.

While it is a good thing that we have access to information and can disseminate the same easily, we must consider the flip side; the possibility of disseminating false information which can negatively influence people’s feelings, thoughts and behavior.
In the transfer of news or other information, we need to consider the source, the medium of transfer and the receiver of the information. If the source of the information is someone biased, deluded, misinformed or compromised, the information given out can be false, misrepresented or adulterated. When this is presented as news (through whatever medium), it takes a receiver who is knowledgeable, unbiased, mentally/emotionally stable and analytical to be able to sift the chaff from the wheat.

As the scourge of the pandemic keeps evolving, the reality is that the entire world is dealing with a major health crisis that the greatest of all nations were not prepared for.

As the scourge of the pandemic keeps evolving, the reality is that the entire world is dealing with a major health crisis that the greatest of all nations were not prepared for. In January 2020, when the news of the potentially lethal transmissible virus broke out fully, the global world powers never anticipated that a Wuhan (Chinese) problem was going to become a major problem for the entire world. Otherwise, they would have rolled out many of the strict measures they eventually put in place much earlier. Many doubted the source and considered unreliable the explanation(s) given for the cause and the course of the illness associated with the new infection. This paved the way for the virus to stay several steps ahead of our weak health systems, challenging the concept of theoretical universal health coverage that is designed to be “reactive” rather than “proactive”. These doubts have given rise to the dissemination of fragmented information about COVID-19 from seemingly credible sources. This fragmented information has continued to be the snippets of materials being recycled and propagated as News about COVID-19.

How and Why of Fake News

Fake news can be synthesized around an actual incident or event. It can also be a figment of someone’s imagination or fictitious creative writing around actual persons or places. I am sure you might have read various stories about China, Wuhan, Italy, the Pope, Trump and the relationships between the superpowers in the context of the current pandemic. In the advent of the incidents of the infection in Nigeria, I am sure you would have read or heard about some high profile individuals getting infected or transmitting the infection.
Some of the persons who create these contents do so to drive traffic to their websites. Others do it as a means of embarrassing some persons for other secondary gains.

some creators of fake news content might be inspired by delusional thought processes.

Through the analysis of the content of some fake reports, it appears that some creators of fake news content might be inspired by delusional thought processes. While the definition of a delusion excludes beliefs that are shared upon a common background of religious or other ideological foundations, some thought processes are delusional in composition with ideas that cross the boundaries of reality into fantasy.

Specific means of creating fake news content include; false/irrelevant sensational headlines, video editing to misrepresent or misinform and quoting people out of context (text or video).

Specific means of creating fake news content include; false/irrelevant sensational headlines, video editing to misrepresent or misinform and quoting people out of context (text or video).
When we are challenged by stressors, we need to adopt coping mechanisms to reduce the effect of the stressor and to minimize the stress that we might experience psychologically and physically. The psychological stress can be manifested in terms of feeling anxious or sad while the physical stress can be seen in generalized weakness and a breakdown of our immune system. Rather than accommodate the feelings of anxiety or sadness that will accompany the reality of the stressor, some individuals exhibit what I call “the ideal truth phenomenon (ITP)”.

Simply put, the ITP is a “Lie”. These persons choose to create an imagined much more acceptable version of the story which persons with limited information about the subject matter will find reasonable and acceptable. Such versions can be modified from time to time to suit different listeners or audiences. It helps them reduce the negative emotions associated with the reality of the truth. The challenge is that a lot of people who are not well informed or persons who share some of the sentiments that the primary source of the ideal truth has can begin to propagate the misinformation as reliable news.
Stressors like bad news or information that challenge our wellbeing need to be resolved by practical coping skills that are targeted towards addressing the specific source of the challenges or minimizing the impact of the threat on us.

Before you start troubling yourself with the number of respirators in Nigeria, please wash your hands with soap and clean water; stay at home and adopt al other strategies recommended by credible sources on health-related matters.

Stay Safe and Sane!!!

To be continued……………………..

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Ola Ibigbami

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