Some of my best friends don’t do twitter. I do twitter because it fills my echo chamber and, generally speaking, I only read tweets from those who have a similar worldview to mine. Now and again, I travel beyond my echo chamber and what I see horrifies me. Obviously, since the Brexit referendum disaster of 2016, hate and anger are the default settings for many twitter users. COVID-19 appears to have sent hate and anger to new dangerous levels.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has reportedly recommended that the government calls a two week national lockdown. Such is the rapid increase in the infection rate, the medical and science boffins – experts, as we used to call them until Michael Gove said we’d had enough of experts – think serious measures are required. But the abuse Whitty has been subjected to on twitter would be regarded as beyond belief from anyone who didn’t know what England was like at the moment.
At the heart of the current insanity are the conspiracy theorists. Unable to accept simple truths or understand even the most basic science, they seek alternative facts, or lies as they are otherwise known. There are people out there who think COVID-19 is a hoax or they think it’s not particularly virulent. Those who invent the theories are often from the hard right – fascists, basically – who believe that the moon is a hologram and lizards rule the world. Not only that, a ‘deep state’ controls the brains of every single politician, scientist, journalist and even small-time bloggers, like me. So, when Chris Whitty does his job, which is to provide medical advice to the governing party, he is in reality some kind of lizard, presumably one with supernatural powers who controls the world.
Anyone with half a brain knows that COVID-19 is not a hoax. It is a coronavirus that has killed many hundreds of thousands of people and so wrecked the world economy. It is a fact, like gravity is a fact, like evolution is a fact. It’s true, it’s real. Anyone who pretends its all a conspiracy insults every single person who has suffered and died from the virus and all their families, too.
Science requires evidence. That’s how it works. When the evidence changes, so the science changes. We know COVID-19 is real because there is lots of evidence. Science quickly worked out its code, scientists are now working on treatments and vaccines. The science is not being prepared by deep state lizards but actual scientists in laboratories, independent of politicians and anybody else, apart from other scientists. If you do not believe any of this, I can recommend a good therapist. You certainly need one.
The thousands of haters on twitter – at least the ones who aren’t bots – need help, too. Chris Whitty is one of the good guys, trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure those who get it have the best possible treatment. And I repeat: Whitty advises the government. He isn’t the government himself.
And finally, this. Believe what’s true. Believe only that for which evidence exists. From my point of view, I won’t be looking to cranky conspiracy theorists for answers to anything. Someone will no knowledge or understanding of science is probably not the best person to seek advice. On anything, actually.