Early on I began collecting screen shots of prominent people making statements that would likely not age well.
One of the first things I noticed was that in January and February, the media engaged in “China bashing”, criticizing China for the strong actions their country was taking to stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus from spreading. Many of those who bashed China are now bashing the US government for not taking strong enough actions, soon enough. Their inability to see the inconsistency and contradictions in their own statements is surprising.
James Hamblin has apparently changed his mind:
Ken Roth on March 23, 2020:
A major problem for the media is that many view themselves as authorities, their word is gospel. But even with relevant expertise, that does not mean they are correct. Yet their messaging – which we now see was incorrect – serves to confuse people.
Indeed, public messaging around the coronavirus pandemic has been inconsistent, frequently contradictory, lacking in clarity, and generating confusion.
For example, in my state, every day during the past week, the Governor said “I will not do X” in the morning, but by evening was then saying “Effective immediately I am ordering X”. Every single day.
Many times, the information we receive is contradictory. An official at the CDC says X, a public health doctor in Washington State says not X, and a politician says “we will consider X at the appropriate time”. What? This creates confusion.
In February, the CDC issues warnings that “older” people and those with “underlying health conditions” were at increased risk.
But NEVER defined the term “older” and never gave clarity on “underlying health conditions” until about the third week of March. (Actually, they gave clarity in a bulletin issued specifically for Santa Clara County, CA during the 2nd week of March – but which people outside that area would likely never see.)
Early in March I was scheduled into two events in mid March and early April. I contacted my Public Health Department (excellent people, by the way) to see if they had any clarity on the CDC’s “higher risk” requirements. They did not – they had only the same info the public had.
In March, officials and the media told us that no one need to “stock up” on groceries, there is plenty of food. But by March 22nd, the CDC issues guidelines that all person “at risk” (older, health conditions, or about 40% of the US population) should “stock up on essentials” and have on contact with people outside their home. Thus, after telling everyone not to stock up, we now tell them to stock up – but don’t leave your home. And they will eat, how, exactly? This contradictory messaging is asinine.
Next throw in the random statements of Dear Leaders across the country, and things being shared on social media, and all we had was a wall of useless noise creating national panic.
The public messaging – across the board – was a fiasco of incompetence.
Someone who is a data scientist – but without any health expertise – wrote an online column trying to make sense of the data. I then read social media comments from a doctor complaining vociferously about how a non-expert had produced this column and “How Dare you!” ask questions of the experts. In effect, she was using the “appeal to authority” argument, which is one of the worst forms of argument, to defend her opinions.
Instead, her take away should have been – what has led to this person’s confusion? Why is this person (and others) asking these questions?
The confused public is not the problem and should not be blamed. It is the experts and the “Dear Leaders” across the land that have created this problem. Instead of blaming the public, the proper response is to fix the problem that leads to the public being confused. And that is the responsibility of this doctor – she is the one with the title and authority to address this failed public messaging around the corona virus response.
To be continued. I probably have a 100 saved quotes to review.