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Irresponsible propaganda detrimental to public health

Irresponsible propaganda detrimental to public health


Fake news and conspiracy theories are very much a part of our modern world. In St Vincent and the Grenadines there is what one would call an “enabling environment” in which these kinds of activities can flourish. There is talk radio with some hosts who thrive on sensationalism, the Internet with its multiplicity of Google “experts” and social media, the perfect avenue for fake news, deception and even slander.

That is the climate around which we have to navigate and try to keep our heads focused on reality. It is easy and tempting to dismiss many of these distractions, but when issues of public health are involved, we simply cannot ignore what is tantamount to a danger to our population.

Our schools are due for physical reopening next week in the context of a COVID threat which continues to lurk over us, plus the very real danger of an outbreak of dengue fever. It is a tightrope which we must navigate with care and do all in our power to avoid the spreading of misinformation.

Recently one of our respected infectious disease experts Dr Jerrol Thompson, in public discussions on Round Table Talk and on radio, raised concerns about what he called “bogus fake news” and how detrimental such activities are to public health. All of a sudden anti vaxxers, proponents of Qanon theories, wild conspiratorial rumours, are finding fertile ground locally, sometimes in unexpected quarters.

In his discussion on the dengue fever threat, Dr Thompson spoke of the usefulness of infra red thermometers which allow for temperatures to be easily and hygenically taken by non-medical persons and allow for early detection of dengue and other viral illnesses.

Unfortunately there are persons among us with access to the media who insist in undermining confidence in the use of such a measure. In particular, one popular talk show host insists on spreading the untruth that infrared thermometers could pose a risk to the pineal gland of the brain, particularly among children.

In addition, at a time when the official health advice is for the wearing of masks as a precaution to avoid the spread of COVID, that same host also promotes the idea that the wearing of masks is harmful since it facilitates the inhalation of carbon dioxide.

Surely we cannot condone such irresponsible propaganda on public radio, particularly on a radio station owned by the governing party, although the Government itself provides advice to the contrary. Such behaviour contributes further to a climate of suspicion leading to non-cooperation and undermining public confidence in the advice given by public health officials. It must be condemned unequivocally and the government must take steps to stop it.