They say viruses metamorph; this is how you get strains of the same parent virus. Well, in our experience, misinformation often evolves over some time. Right now, we are and have been talking COVID-19, but what have we noticed? Like the virus SARS, the infodermic that precedes begot four waves or strains of falsehoods. Dubawa did her best to debunk most of them; but, our efforts would be futile if we don’t learn from the past. What’s the common saying? “Those who do not remember the past, are condemned to repeat it”.
Downplaying & Deflection
It is funny to think the first string of what are now COVID-19 cases began in November 2019. Most people think the novel coronavirus broke out in 2020. It is perhaps this sad unbothered deflective “it’s their business” mindset that has gotten us where we are today. In truth, most people thought and still think it was a China thing; it does not concern us. The President of the United States portrayed this rationale in what CNN termed a “scape-goating” oval office speech; a speech that was reminiscent of finger-pointing and blame. After all, when asked about the virus, the US President deemed it not as worrisome as the flu.
This pattern of downplaying the novel virus trickled down globally. It was either downplaying its potential for worrisomeness or just denying its existence. We noted the former when Ibrahim Magu suggested corruption was “worse than all these viruses.” And concerning deflection, Dubawa started seeing posts that asserted Nigeria’s immunity to this virus. It was not just Nigeria, fact-checkers noted it in other locales; so much so, Poynter published an article saying no race, religion or tribe was more vulnerable or immune to the virus. Yes, not even the Nigerian heat could slow it down.
The era of fake prevention, cures & false attributions
Pretty soon, people understood the destructive potential of the novel coronavirus. The idea that it just might be here for the long haul started to sink in. Thus commenced the era of the fake cures. Enter scene, garlic, cocaine, salt and sex! Lest we forget, Chloroquine, we cannot forget Chloroquine. While most Nigerians had come to understand the menace, COVID-19, others’ actions suggested they were still in denial. In truth, most falsehoods stemmed from the belief of the superiority in herbal medicine. It was as if to say this “foreign disease cannot touch us when we got our garlic, ginger and salt”. This rationale holds as several reports and interviews showed this to be the rationale for grassroots indigenes. Other trends involved misleading content on vaccine research.
Subsequently, Dubawa noticed a slight shift in tactic. Rather than just outrightly misleading people, purveyors of misinformation kickstarted a sub-era of false attributions. It would seem these lot discovered the power in a would-be credible source. Hence, in a bid to sound authentic, they used meme generators, usurping notable broadcast platforms. In other instances, they would blatantly attribute falsehoods to prominent figures.
At this juncture, Nigeria had her first index case, and the numbers were rising; so much so, some prominent officeholders tested positive for the virus. Thus, the trend evolved into a game of “who’s got it and who’s hiding?”One news publication asserted that 15 house of representative members tested positive with COVID-19; this was false. Shortly after, one blog site dropped a pretty heavy conjecture- Yahaya Bello tested positive to the novel virus- to which the Governor vehemently rebuffed. Then on Thursday, March 26, a WhatsApp audio message claiming Buhari and his Chief of Staff both positive with CV fled the country for treatment; this again was a baseless supposition as sources in the presidency debunked it.
Clickbaitery & malicious intent
You know the saying, save the best for last, well we kept the worst for last. This category of covinfodemic is not “misleading content”; no, it is deceptive content. This strain features supposition with a potential for harm. We recall the viral post suggesting that China was seeking approval for mass murder; such claims fall squarely under this strain. This strain’s slightly less hazardous half are click-bait content. It seems some sites aim at capitalizing on this pandemic; giving out information to reroute traffic to their website. Yes you, Fake Netflix Account, we are talking to you!