Krypt3ia

(Greek: κρυπτεία / krupteía, from κρυπτός / kruptós, “hidden, secret things”)

Wuhan Novel Coronavirus Misinformation and Disinformation

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This week I decided to watch “Contagion“, as one does in the midst of a potential pandemic like the current 2019-nCoV event that is unfolding across the globe. In the plot to this film, a novel strain of virus that is akin to the Coronavirus or a flu like the 1918 version that swept the world, sweeps the world and kills fairly quickly and painfully. The story is primarily about how the world might react to such an event today given the rapidity of transit, the connectivity of the populace through media and the internet, and how it all can fall apart very quickly. While watching it this time though, I could not but help to see one of the major plot lines mirroring the events in the real world today as the 2019-nCoV infects and travels from China to the rest of the world, much as the flu (called MEV-1) does in the film. The plot line I am talking about is the disinformation created and promulgated by an online “journalist blogger” played by Jude Law in the film; Alan Krumwiede, who starts blogging on how the governments of the world are hiding the truth about the outbreak, but also says that he has the cure in liquid Forsythia extract.

This all got me thinking about some of the misinformation, disinformation, and out and out conman activity out there today around the coronavirus we are dealing with today. So, last night I called a friend in <REDACTED> who works on disinformation research and counter measures and we talked for about an hour. Needless to say that both of us were more depressed when we ended the conversation than going into it because when you work in this field, you realize that there isn’t much you can do about it’s prevalence but try to get the truth out as best as you can. In that effort, I went to the net and began my Google Fu, looking for all the badness, and shit, it did not take long to locate. In my searches, I was able to locate numerous accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and a slew of other blogs and alleged news sources feeding at best, unintentionally bad information to the worst offenders selling outright disinformation to sow chaos and fear.

Up until now my primary concern in the disinformation space as been the 2020 election cycle, but now this outbreak and, as of yesterday, ‘global emergency’ per W.H.O., has taken precedence in the disinformation sphere because the outcomes from disinformation around this virus could in fact spark violence and darker forces with more direct impacts to society than the election of Trump again. Don’t get me wrong, his re-election is a long term existential threat to the union, but this stuff could have people in the street rioting and looting. Since the virus has begun to spread and the Rnaught is 2.3 to 5.5 depending on who is giving the stat, shows that this virus is highly transmissible and now has shown person to person transmission as well. This means that as the weeks have passed we have seen infection reporting go up because of a few factors; the first is that we now have detection means, the second is that the virus has a longer incubation period of up to two weeks to show symptoms, while the third is that a rapid test for the virus in the person is still being developed as far as I know, so you could have a common flu or cold and you could be misdiagnosed until they test the virus after isolating a sample. All of these things can cause uncertainty in reporting, and thus, fear grows.

Additionally, the mortality rates of the virus can be skewed in reporting as well as a host of other factors that the general populace may not take into account. Things like the ages, relative health of those infected, and generally the medical and health habits of those patients play a key roll in whether or not they are more susceptible to dying from this coronavirus strain. That the primary deaths as far as I am aware have been in China and in people who may have had concomitant illness or issues, that led to their demise, not the variants pathology or lethality being any stronger than the previous coronavirus’ such as SARS we have dealt with in the past. So, anyone who takes a moment and understands the variables here will likely not freak out. This is not however the case of the masses and when the masses are also being given false or misleading information, well, things can go south really quickly.

 

As you can see from the above screenshots, there are many out there distorting the reality of what is actually happening and passing off much more dangerous information on the situation in China to stoke the fears of those who read their “news”. I found the usual suspects like Alex Jones and Hal Turner pumping out disinformation outright that the Wuhan coronavirus was in fact engineered in China as a bio-weapon and leaked by accident. In other more extreme cases these people are making claims that it was a deliberate attempt on the part of <INSERT BAD PEOPLE HERE> to cull the masses and start a world war and even perhaps to start the end times. In some extreme cases, the whole affair is being tied to what is known as the “White Genocide” that certain Nazi extremists tout as a staple in their toxic brew of bile. I am sorry to break it to you all, but 2019-nCoV is not the great killer that you are all making it out to be even if it has a higher mortality rate in China at the outset.

However, this is not stopping people from coloring outside the lines on this, and as the situation evolves, we will see people take the ball and move it over the crazy goal line pretty quickly I suspect. With all of this too, we have others who are offering “cures” for the coronavirus and this too is scary. In the case of the movie “Contagion” the blogger made over four million dollars selling Forsythia liquid during the outbreak. Actors like Alex Jones, who has been known for his crazy supplement and other nutrients sales on his site, is likely to follow suit and offer something by way of a cure eventually I am sure. This is all just selling potential hope to the fearful and if the pandemic really does heat up and mortality rates rise, cause more panic and violence in trying to acquire the magic elixir. We are already seeing runs on masks on Amazon and in brick and mortar stores like Home Depot. Never mind the fact that those masks that people are trying to buy, on average, will not be effective in preventing the wearer from contracting or spreading 2019-nCoV at all.

I guess, at it’s base, the problem with any pandemic socially, is that the standard operating procedure is to socially isolate yourselves from others. You are told to do so in case you are infected so as to not infect others, and conversely, you don’t want to be roaming about looking to get infected by contact right? So all of these circumstances click our mammalian or lizard brain into action. We become organized into our family groups and we do anything to protect ourselves and our loved ones. We do whatever it takes to survive, and in some cases that means looting, violence, and other bad behaviour out of fear. These are the things that the disinformation outlets are seeking to create, for whatever reasons they are doing it. Our greater problem other than fighting the virus is handling all of this misinformation and disinformation in order to preserve the society and the populace. In the extreme, such as in the movie “Contagion” the social order breaks down, and this could happen if this outbreak speeds up and outpaces the global responses.

I am unsure as to what the government is doing concerning this disinformation that is likely to be ramped up by nation state actors as well to set us against each other. It will likely be up to the companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook to deal with the disinformation and misinformation, but, we know how well that has been handled in the past right? So, what I am telling you all is this; keep an eye on the disinfo around Wuhan, the pandemic, and the coronavirus. Things are likely to get pretty weird pretty fast, so remember, social distancing, washing hands frequently, and don’t touch your face as much, and if you do, wash your hands again!

*steps back into the BSL-IV containment unit*

K.

Written by Krypt3ia

2020/02/01 at 22:21

Posted in Disinformation

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