Heard of LOCKSTEP? This has been wheeled out to
correspond to government dictates.
They have worked out who they are going to BLAME for their
Coronavirus: ‘Dangerous’ Covid-19 conspiracy theories on the rise
14 August, 2020
A spike in anti-Covid-19 conspiracy theories over the past week could undermine efforts to stamp out the virus, health experts say.
Researchers at Te Pūnaha Matatini, Auckland University’s centre for research excellence, are studying disinformation about Covid-19 on social media this month.
Research findings to date show the country’s leading conspiracy theory proponent is Billy Te Kahika – who is standing for the New Zealand Public Party in the Te Tai Tokerau seat.
A prolific Facebook poster, his party page had 20,000 followers within two months.
In a video posted on Wednesday Te Kahika told followers he had been forewarned about the level 2 and 3 alert announced by the Prime Minister by “patriotic Kiwis that work in Government agencies”.
There is evidence to contradict his claims which include that Covid is no more harmful than the common cold, that the swab test being used could not distinguish between types of viruses, and that the military would be going door-to-door to test people for Covid-19.
The study, which is being funded by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, would provide findings to the Government for use by policy makers, research lead and Auckland University physics department research fellow Kate Hannah said.
”We are concerned about what we have found so far in that there definitely has been a spike in neutral and positive framing of these ideas as promoted by Billy Te Kahika and Pete Evans.”
Evans is a celebrity-chef who has become a controversial anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist.
The monitoring done by the researchers found support for resisting the use of masks, resisting Covid testing, and not being vaccinated against the virus when a vaccine becomes available.
An anti-mask video by UK conspiracy theorist David Icke had been translated into multiple languages including te reo Māori and Pacific languages and shared widely.
Auckland University associate professor Siouxsie Wiles warned the Government and all politicians against ignoring the dangerous potential of conspiracy theories.
“It’s feeding into people’s fear and my concern is that people will then behave in a way that will help the virus to spread rather than help us to stamp it out.”
Wiles said it was hard to quantify the impact of conspiracy theories on the Covid-19 response but there was no doubt they increased the risk.
“All it would need is a case within a community that has really bought into these theories for a massive cluster to happen.”
If people with symptoms refused to get tested for Covid-19 cases could be missed, and opportunities to contain further spread would be foiled, she said.
Researcher and author Jess Berentson-Shaw said addressing the spread of disinformation about the pandemic needed to be part of the Government’s pandemic response plan.
This meant understanding the motivations of supporters and getting ahead of conspiracy theories “very early on”.
Building relationships with people who lacked trust in the government for valid reasons, and were therefore more likely to believe them, would be vital, Berentson-Shaw said.
Although it appeared the Government response had been slow to date, it was not too late, she said.
“I think it is critical to put resources in to addressing misinformation so that when we do get a vaccine we are all set and ready to go and people are well inoculated against any misinformation that is likely to flare up,” Berentson-Shaw said.
For individuals concerned about the beliefs of friends and whānau, Berentson-Shaw said not to re-tweet their material even to debunk it.
Arguing with people who were very entrenched in their beliefs was unlikely to have any effect and could be very draining.
Politicians could politicise conspiracy theories by alluding to them in comments but the practice was “a particularly dangerous phenonemon” Berentson-Shaw said.
By using the theories in this way, politicians effectively moved dangerous ideas into the mainstream and legitimised them, she said.
In a statement put out on Thursday, the New Zealand Defence Force said there had been “inaccurate posts circulating on social media about our future support” of the Government’s Covid response.
The armed forces were only helping at the managed isolation and quarantine facilities, and at vehicle checkpoints around Auckland, the statement said.
“Our involvement in such activities is far from unusual, and is routinely trained for,” it said.
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