Category Archives: Epidemics/Pandemics

Rebellion Returns to Steinbach




The group known as Hugs not Masks together with their local ally the Church of God Restoration had a second rally in Steinbach today. This time I was determined not to miss it.

Pandemics make stranger bedfellows. Sharon recited the lyrics to John Lennon’s classic, Imagine. Hardly a regular hymn from the church services I would expect.  Remember this is the song that suggests the world would be better if there were no religion or country to kill or die for. I would hardly think the members of the Church of God Restoration would want to imagine people living without religion, yet they seemed to be smiling fondly. Perhaps they did not understand the song.



There were about 50 to 100 people there and most were from the church or invited speakers.


This was one of the rare people who wore a mask at the rally. Most people did not wear masks or maintain social distances. I did. Frankly, I did not want to be identified with the group.

The proceedings started with an opening prayer by Pastor Tobias Tissen that was as much a political statement as a prayer.



Next was the speaker who identified only as Sharon. Sharon had a Canadian flag wrapped around her shoulder. I guess she wanted to make Canada Great Again. She gave a speech that I would call rambling. Or perhaps it was meandering. In my opinion her speech did go beyond gibberish but only barely. She asked if we knew that Canada was a corporation not a country?  She did not explain on what basis or why that was significant. She also asked us if we had ever looked at our birth certificates? “It shows you are the property of someone else,” she boldly asserted.

Jordan Ross reported this way about a local rebel:

“Steinbach resident Antonio du Rocher listened to  speeches while holding a yellow sign reading: “Gov’t lies are the real threat.”

Governments and health experts are “oppressing people, oppressing the truth” by refusing to admit when they’ve been wrong. About Covid-19 du Rocher said. He cited U.S. immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute  of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who advised against buying masks early in the pandemic.

“Doctors, scientists have debunked this for months now and they refuse to say ‘Hey, you know what we were wrong,” Du Rocher said.

He called the Covid-19 vaccine “genocide” and an attempt by Microsoft founder Bill Gates to instigate mass depopulation.” Du Rocher wasn’t worried about receiving a fine for attending the rally.

“They can’t fine me. They can’t. I don’t consent. I know the law.”




I found some of the signs interesting:

“Faith is essential”

“Freedom is essential”

“The media is the virus”

“Lockdown is out of control”

“Love over fear”

“Freedom over Tyranny”

“No study has confirmed masks work”

“We are all essential”

“Stop Agenda 2030”


The last one is right out of the conspiracy theories on the internet. This is based on very laudable goals of the United Nations but an instrument of Satan according to many of the right-wing conspiracy theorists. According to The southern Poverty Law Center, an anti-hate group in the US, this conspiracy theory claims that there is “a secret plot to impose a totalitarian world government, a nefarious effort to crush freedom in the name of environmentalism.”

I mention this last one just to make sure everyone realizes we have our crazies in Steinbach too. As if anyone ever doubted that.


Steinbach hits International News

Steinbach does not often hit the national or international news, and when it does it usually is at least partly about religion. We on occasion have been made to look ridiculous, not entirely without justification,  for actions taken based on the religious views of a majority of the community. The news has not always been negative. I remember when Steinbach hit the national news for having the most generous charitable donors in the country. That is pretty favourable news.

I have been a subscriber to the Guardian Weekly since 1982. It is a newspaper that is read around the world and widely admired for the quality of its journalism. Then it was called the Manchester Guardian. I assure you that since that time Steinbach has never been on the Guardian’s radar. They might have mentioned the name Steinbach (I can’t remember) when Steinbach’s most famous son was interviewed by the press around the world as a result of a journalist, Murray Hiebert, who I knew in passing, and who was the Malaysian bureau chief for Far Eastern Economic Review, and was jailed after serving one month for contempt of court. Basically, he was jailed for writing a book critical of the Malaysian legal system. I believe he was the first reporter in the Commonwealth that was jailed for his writing since the Second World War. I don’t know if the Guardian covered the story but they likely did because he was interviewed by media around the world. Briefly he was probably the most famous person ever to have come out of Steinbach. The Guardian might have mentioned Steinbach when it wrote about our most famous daughter—Miriam Toews. They have written about her on more than one occasion, and she is certainly worthy of international attention and has justifiably received much of it.

And now Steinbach hit international news again and this time for something that happened in our little city. Imagine my surprise when I read about this in the Guardian. The Guardian reported on the dissenting efforts of the Church of God Restoration. The Guardian juxtaposed their rebellion with the seriousness of the pandemic, particularly in Steinbach. Here is what Leyland Cecco reported in the Guardian Weekly:


“We’ve certainly been more aggressive with masks than the United States,” said Dr. Anand Kumar an infectious disease and intensive care physician. His province of Manitoba has the highest  active case rate in the country. 634 infections per 100,000 residents—seven times the higher than neighbouring Ontario. In Steinbach, the site of a recent anti-mask protest, officials have logged  10-day positivity rates of 40%.”


I was told that was the highest rate in North America at the time, yet our city was the site of an anti-mask rally. It was incongruous. Actually, it was worse than that. Dr. Kumar, an expert on the subject, was advocating, Manitoba’s restrictions be tightened, not loosened as the church wanted. He was worried about a health care overload that was already stressing our health care system. The dissidents included many members of the church, but many others as well. They  were primarily worried about their rights to congregate. The Guardian suggested that Manitoba would have done much worse had they followed American practices and ignorance about the disease and had Manitoba political leaders not refused to believe in conspiracy theories. As the Guardian said, that “probably averted a far more dire outcome.”

I wonder what will be the next reason that Steinbach attracts international attention? Maybe when Miriam Toews wins the Man Booker Prize.

You will never catch up with Injustice


William Faulkner once said ‘you will never catch up with injustice.’ Truer words have never been spoken.

 Kyle Hiebert had some important things to say in a recent opinion piece in the Winnipeg Free Press. Here is the opening paragraph of that piece:

“With numerous national COVID-19 vaccine programs underway, the world has potentially entered the final chapter of the pandemic. That is, however, if you are lucky enough to be living in a country that has access to a vaccine. For billions of people around the world, that is not the reality.”


In the west we worry that our political leaders have not scrambled hard enough, quickly enough, and with enough ferocity to get our “fair share” of the vaccines. Of course in each country or each jurisdiction “fair share” means gross excess. No one is satisfied with fair. This attitude is spreading around the world like a pandemic. Funny how that happens.

Africa has been warned that they may not see the vaccines until the latter part of 2021.  According to Hiebert, here is the harsh reality and we should look at it, even though we may hate to do that:

“…advocacy groups warned that in more than 60 of the world’s poorest nations, nine in 10 people will be denied a vaccine before 2022. Other assessments say the wait could be as long as until 2024. Instead, wealthy nations representing a mere 14 per cent of the world’s population have snatched up billions of doses of different vaccines through pre-purchase agreements with a range of manufacturers, accumulating stockpiles grossly disproportionate to their population size.”


As has been happening over and over again during this pandemic we are seeing the existing inequities in our societies repeatedly exposed if not magnified. What shocked me though is which country is the worst offender? USA? Russia? Turkey? No. Canada!

As Hiebert said,

“The world’s worst offender: Canada, which — while failing at developing its own domestic vaccine production capacity — pre-purchased enough jabs to inoculate its population five times over. The Trudeau government has now belatedly announced that Canada would donate $485 million to COVID- 19 mitigation efforts in developing countries.”


Now in fairness to Canada, our federal government took the initiative and risk and ordered vaccines from a number of corporations on speculation hoping that some would work out well, but expecting that not all would work out at all. It spent a lot of money contractually agreeing to buy vaccines that might have turned out to be worthless. It did that to protect Canada who lacks the capacity to produce its own vaccines. We Canadians are likely happy they did that. But now—perhaps—we have too much. I hope we do the right thing now and help less advantaged countries get their fair share too.

Countries like Canada must do their part to bring about justice. Attitudes of Canada First or America First have their dark sides that ought not to be ignored and should be limited. We have to remember that we actually are in this together. Until the poorest country tackles this disease it can come back to haunt those countries that thought they survived the worst. As well, all world economies now rely on international trade and if poor countries suffer they won’t be able to buy good from rich countries and as a result all economies will suffer.

Kyle Hiebert summed the issues up well this way:

“The end of the pandemic may be within sight — for some. But even in the post-pandemic era, the myopic outlook of rich countries in terms of security and prosperity will continue to threaten the world’s ability to become a safer, more equal and more sustainable place.”

May be then we can at least see injustice and do something about it, even if we can’t run it down.

Is it really the fault of the homeless?


Manitoba has the second highest rate of deaths from Covid-19 iun Canada. Only Quebec has more.

Recently, I heard Manitoba health officials said the reason Manitoba was in such poor shape during this pandemic was because Manitoba had so many homeless and poor people. I believe that is true. But is it really the fault of homeless and poor people? That  begs the real question—why does Manitoba have so many poor people? And why have Manitobans not cared about them? At least until now.

Now some people are starting to realize that during a crisis we are only as strong as our weakest members. Inequality in other words is dangerous. I wish more people learned this valuable lesson. Reducing inequality is good for all of us. It is not just poor people who benefit from such measures—we all do.


Economic Nonsense


There is one person in our family—and only one—that as soon as she is required to go for a Covid-19 test, she will get it immediately. She moves to the head of the line. And she gets her results the same day. She gets that benefit because she is important. The work she does is important. She is a care worker in a long-term private care facility for mentally challenged adult men. I agree with that. This is important work. If no one is on the job these men can’t survive. If she is not on the job it is not that easy to get a replacement.  Who wants to do such work? Who wants to change the diapers of adult men? Who wants to work shifts often through the night for low wages? I believe she also has the longest seniority of anyone in our family. She has worked there for many years.

Yet—and this is the interesting part—she is nowhere near the highest earner in our family. Rather she is woefully under paid. This is totally unfair. Our health care system recognizes her importance. Our economic system does not. That is also woeful. We bad. This is nonsense!


Welcome to America where some of them are all in it together.


Yesterday I blogged about a crisis nurse Chelsea Walsh. She goes to the worst places where Covid-19 has broken out. She was asked, “How do people like the crisis nurses avoid getting sick?” The short answer is they don’t. They get sick too. Walsh said she was about due to get sick again. Yes again. She has got Covid-19 as have her friends who are nurses. Sometimes the 2nd or 3rd time they end up in the hospital. So she doesn’t go near her family. The last time she saw them she could not hug them. She hasn’t been able to embrace her family at all. “That’s hard,” she said. I bet. She knows how hard it is for her patients to be away from family because she is too. “But we do it because we care about everyone and we want to keep everyone safe.”

Then Hari Sreenivasan asked her an interesting question. “If you’re an independent contractor what is your health insurance like when you re going into these dangerous hospitals?” Walsh is in fact an independent contractor and she has been sick multiple times. So guess what? She doesn’t have any health insurance any more! She got cut off in May or June. The insurance company won’t take the chance on her. “So I can’t go to the hospital, if I get sick” she said. Welcome to America! Where, as everyone says, “We’re all in this together.” Not really. Like Orwell’s Animal Farm, some are in it more than others.

Walsh says there are a lot nurses right now who don’t get health coverage! Insurance companies have rejected them. And some of them like her, are going to the most dangerous places in the country. And they continue to work. Many face death or bankruptcy if they catch Covid-19. Yet they go.

This is incredibly unfair. In many cases if they catch Covid they are not covered. And sometimes the results are horrific. Some who caught Covid were fired from the job because they could not prove they caught it in the hospital rather than the grocery store. So some health care workers who are independent contractors, don’t have health insurance even if they are doing work that puts them in harm’s way. I wish Charles Dickens  or George Orwell was around now to write a novel about this? The reality is that a nurse working in a hospital nurse on a Covid patient who gets sick and must be hospitalized might not be able to pay for her hospital stay. She would have to go bankrupt! Welcome to America.

This leads to the obvious question–so why do it? Walsh’s answer, “because everyone needs help.” She doesn’t know how much longer she or her co-workers can do it. Many of them feel like they are at their limit. Right now. As she said, “It seems like society is trying to pull the rubber band to see how far it can stretch. And that rubber band is just about to snap.” She also added, “It’s a very real possibility right now, that America may be left without hospitals in many places because the nurses will walk out or leave and will refuse to work in certain conditions.” Does that seem farfetched? I wish it did.

Going to the Worst Places in the World


Often I hear people say the pandemic is nothing. I find that hard to understand. Recently, I heard an astonishing interview with an astonishing person on Amanpour & Company. The interviewee was a travelling crisis nurse called Chelsea Walsh. She travelled around the United States to many different states when they were in the worst crisis ever. She went to New York, Arizona and Texas when they were all at crisis stages. If a Covid crisis was spiking in one state that’s where she went. She went to the worst places, at the worst times, and she did it deliberately and intentionally. She must be crazy.

Why did she go? “I knew that people needed help and I wanted to help them,” she said. This reminded me of the Russian union men who went to Chernobyl and then went right into the contaminated centre of the storm, knowing they would die, because they were Russians and Russians suffered and they were asked to help they helped. That’s it. Crazy heroes.

Walsh went at great personal risk to herself. Many health care workers in the US have contracted Covid-19 and have died. Yet she did it anyway. She had the support of her fellow professionals, her supervisors, the hospital, the management, and most important the people. The Communities supported her. Until they didn’t. First some stopped listening to her and her colleagues. They thought they knew more than the professionals. They “knew” Covid-19 was no big deal. This over confidence led to more cases than there should have been. This nearly overwhelmed her and her fellow professionals.

The US at this stage when Walsh talked had more than 260,000 deaths from this disease. 12 &1/5 million people were infected. What do people think is unreal about this illness? Why do they not take this seriously? Walsh compares these people to people that have been warned by meteorologists that a lightning storm is on the way and it can be dangerous, so be careful and stay out of the storm. Some people run into the storm with a lightning rod in their arms saying “we don’t believe in lightning.” How is that possible? Walsh asked, “How do you convince people who don’t believe in lightning that lightning is real?”

One day Walsh ran out of the hospital at the end of her day exhausted and crying. A young woman had come into the ICU with Covid-19 “bleeding profusely from her nose, her eyes, her vagina. Everywhere. Then you realize this is something that is contagious. When you leave the hospital you might have it.” The woman had bled out. Screaming. Walsh said, “Whatever she had I don’t want that.” Whatever it was, it was real.

When she sees a young woman in such horrific condition and she realizes that could be her lying in that bed it is deeply disturbing. She pointed out that nurses like her develop a bond with their patients. Neither of them can go home to their families. They are alone in the hospital as is the nurse. They are together all the time. “It is like watching a friend die,” she said.

Then when she talks to the family they often have panic attacks. Some of them did not believe Covid was real. They did not realize how serious this illness is. Some have significant guilt because they gave it to the patient who died.

Walsh has therapy once a week now because of all she has seen, said and had to do. She is suffering from “Covid PTSD” as she calls it. A lot nurses of nurses are developing it. The nurses talk about it all the time. They have empathy with their patients. Now all around them patients are dying.

Walsh said,

“A lot of these places don’t have enough support staff anymore. They have all quit or been fired. It’s now mainly doctors and nurses on the ground floor. In some places the doctors won’t even help anymore; they won’t even go into the rooms anymore. It’s still up to the nurses, and we felt from the very beginning most of us that talked about it we’ve pretty well been sacrificed. Our lives would be worth less than everybody else from the beginning by being told only we could go in to see the patients. So there is a constant fear of ‘why us’? And again, when it going be to our turn to be in that hospital bed?”

As if that is not bad enough in some places they don’t have the PPE they need or the supplies they need. They are not getting the support they need. Sometimes they are running out of medications or supplies they have to rationed. Imagine the decisions they have to make!

At the same time the nurse/patient ratio is going up and this is what kept them alive. That means they have less time to spend with each person.

Added to that, “a lot of risky things have happened and are happening that make the entire situation very unstable and very unsafe right now.”

These are all things that make it very different from seasonal flu spikes. Those are bad and they stress hospitals and care workers too, but nothing like this. This is different!

Walsh was asked what hospitals should be doing:

“Right now what people should be concentrating on is protecting their nurses, because once we’re gone there is no more hospital standing, because without us there is nobody to do the skills. These hospitals are already turning into these ghost town situations where there’s not enough staff to take care of a hospital. And we’re doing our best. In some places I’ve had to do housekeeping; I’ve had to be the secretary; I’ve had to be the pharmacist. I’ve had to do every job in the hospital because nobody else is working. And then the doctors still won’t go into these rooms and we have to do doctor’s assessments. So nurses are literally picking up all the fields that are leaving the hospital and if we’re gone and we’re not protected the hospital can’t stand. So right now the highest priority hospitals should have is protecting their nurses, because we’re keeping the hospital standing.”

This is what an overwhelmed hospital looks like. People who won’t wear masks or wont’ wash their hands or won’t believe in Covid-19 should really pay attention. People who don’t think the pandemic is a big deal should think again. This is real.

As Hari Sreenivasan asked, “why is it that nurses are telling us that people are literally dying without believing the very thing that is killing them?” Walsh, I believe has the right answer, “Because everything became politicized. Politics invited itself into medicine and then divided everything.” When politics came in it caused people to choose sides. They say, “my side” does not believe in Covid. So I will stick to my side no matter what. That is the way polarized politics works. People choose sides rather than the truth.

Walsh says that instead of listening to their doctors and nurses, people listen to their political leaders who don’t care about them and, even worse, don’t know what they are talking about. The nurses also also hate wearing masks at all times. They also care about the economy. They also want to go to the bar after work. But they also care about their patients and want this thing to be over. No one wants it to be over more than him or her. Listen to them. As Walsh said, “If anyone wants an unbiased opinion ask your nurse or doctor.”

Anti-vax memes myth the mark


Confession: the Winnipeg Free provided me with that snappy title.

Today is December 20,2020 so you can expect crazy things. Besides the serial 20s,  this is my birthday. Yikes.

Today, I read a fascinating article by Joel Keilman in the Winnipeg Free Press  that reflected on exactly the issues I have been blogging about of late. The issues are truth, lies, and ethics. The article commented on some of the myths surrounding the vaccines that have now been developed and appeared in Manitoba this week. It’s time for people who have lost confidence in science to come out. And they have come out.

The lies and falsehoods are spreading out and a credulous public is lapping them up like thirsty dogs. Keilman reported on a TikTok video like this,

“As a melodramatic song plays, Rousseau, young, blonde and elaborately mascaraed, silently portrays a woman beaten to death for refusing to take a vaccine that contains a microchip carrying the mark of the beast. At the end, she enters a heavenly skyscape emblazoned with the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.

The video has been seen more than 680,000 times, garnered 47,000 likes and, despite thousands of mocking comments (“Ma’am, this is a CVS”), earned plenty of positive reviews.

“This is so incredibly powerful,” one viewer wrote.”

Unsurprisingly, in our polarized world, thousands of people have been inspired by this video to praise the Lord and thousands have been inspired to mock the gullible. In this case at least, I think it is clear which side got it right.

Here are some of the myths (that is really too kind a word) people are spreading on line:

  1. The vaccine contains a microchip

Apparently this one has been around for years, but has been amplified recently. People fear that microchips have been secretly implanted in vaccines so that the government can keep track of you. People worry about this rather than the device everyone carries that can actually be used to do this—smart phones. This conspiracy theory has been spread by many, including in particular Alex Jones and InfoWars, the conspiracy theorist Trump loved so much. Supposedly Bill Gates is also involved as is 5G technology.

Other myths include these:

  1. The vaccine will alter your DNA
  2. The vaccine will give you COVID-19
  3. Our immune systems are better than vaccines

There are others but you get the idea.

The anti-vax movement has been strong and I suspect is growing stronger in recent years. According to Keilman’s article a recent poll showed that only 47% of Americas intend to take the vaccines. The percentages of Canadians are probably not that far behind. I know people who say they won’t take a vaccine. They are suspicious of it. There are some reasons to be wary, primarily related to the surprising speed of the development and approval of the vaccines and particularly to fear that the current American president may have had his foot on the accelerator.

The problem is that society needs people to trust the vaccines. Particularly because the vaccine’s have such a high efficacy rate, wide- spread use of them could bring about herd immunity soon and that would be a tremendous benefit for millions of people and our health care systems and workers. The vaccines’ high efficacy rate, much higher than that of flu shots, could swiftly bring about herd immunity that would prevent people from encountering the virus at all.  But if people are afraid to take the vaccines because of the lies they are fed on the internet all of us will suffer. Even those who take the vaccines because we all pay for our health care system and many of us won’t get the proper treatment because of unnecessary Covid cases in hospitals.

And this brings me to the point I have been trying to make. These credulous people are not innocent. They are dangerous! They are dangerous to public health. In times of a public health crisis we need to trust science, we need to respect the truth and the truth gathering process. We need to be suspicious of crazy stuff we find online. The misinformation being spread on the internet is dangerous. Fomenting distrust in public institutions as so many are now doing, including political leaders, is a dangerous and costly to us all. That is why irrational beliefs are not innocent. We should not tolerate them. We should voice that intolerance quietly and respectfully without scapegoating, but we should not keep quiet.

Beliefs have consequences. Therefore they are not all ethical.


Ignorance Allied with power is a ferocious enemy of justice

If a person gives up on evidence, he or she gives up on truth. If, for example, faith is the foundation of belief one can only convince another of the truth of that belief if that other person shares the same faith. A Muslim cannot convince a Christian of a statement of faith. Similarly a Christian cannot convince the Muslim of a statement of faith either. A Muslim could persuade a Christian that the book in her bag is red by opening the bag and showing it to the Christian. In other words by showing the evidence to the Christian, the Christian can be convinced that the book is in fact red. If we give up basing beliefs on evidence we will relegate a lot of claims to realm of faith where agreement will not be possible.

The same goes for hunches. For example, when Trump said he had a hunch that the coronavirus would soon disappear that would not convince anyone, other than a person who had faith in Trump. Many of them had that faith so he could persuade them. They would believe him no matter how likely it was that he was right. That is why evidence is better than faith, or hunches, or feelings, or gut reactions. Faith is all right in our personal lives. In social lives where we live and interact with each other we need evidence.

Without evidence then the world of shared facts shrinks dramatically. The only shared facts then are those between members of the same faith, or between people who have the same feeling, or the same hunch. As result of the world of shared facts having shrunk many more people are ignorant than otherwise should be the case. That is an unfortunate consequence of abandoning evidence. And there is another consequence of that.

When people in power are ignorant, the rest of us had better look out. As James Baldwin said, in his 1972 book No Name in the Street: “Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

 In the summer of 2020 we saw a good example of this when Black Lives Matter and their supporters took to the streets to protest police brutality against black lives and the long history of black oppression.


As Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for The New York Times, recently pointed out: Not in generations has a sitting president so overtly declared himself the candidate of white America.”

Trump allied himself with right wing groups who wanted to maintain confederate flags and monuments so that racial bigotry and hatred could be legitimized. By doing so Trump tried to hide the roots of racism. In other words he allied himself with ignorance, as he has so often done. As a result the streets of America were made much more dangerous that summer than they ought to have been. He did that after all to emphasize to his base of white supremacists and their conscious and unconscious supporters that he was on their side. It is hardly surprising that he would do this in the midst of a tight election campaign. As Henry Giroux said, “After all, his white supremacist ideology is the cornerstone of his appeal to the reactionary and bigoted elements of his base.”

For exactly the same reason Trump got angry with NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag. It was what Giroux called “organized forgetting”. And when that is aligned with the most powerful office in the world, the American Presidency, that is, as Baldwin said, the most ferocious enemy justice can have.

Trump also proudly tweeted that critical race theory should be banned from all federal agencies because “this is a sickness that cannot be allowed to continue . Please report any sightings so we can quickly extinguish! ” People should be ignorant instead. That was more congenial with Trump’s ideology–white supremacy.

He also tweeted “How to be anti-white 101 permanently cancelled.” Really what he wanted to do is erase history. He wanted to show just the good parts. The parts that exalted whiteness. I am not saying whites are all bad. I am just saying they were not all good, and to suggest otherwise is a lie and an attempt to bury the truth. It is an attempt to entrench ignorance.

Giroux described it this way:

“Trump’s ignorance floods the Twitter landscape daily. He denies climate change along with the dangers that it poses to humanity, discredits scientific evidence in the face of a massive pandemic, claims that systemic racism doesn’t exist in the United States and mangles history with his ignorance of the past.”

Implicit in Baldwin’s warning is that the greatest threat to democratic societies is a collective ignorance that legitimizes forms of organized forgetting, social amnesia and the death of civic literacy.

Under the Trump regime, historical amnesia is used as a weapon of miseducation, politics and power. Trump wants to erase the struggles of those who fought for justice in the past because they offer dangerous memories and lessons to the protesters marching in the streets today.

Efforts to erase the progress of the past, including emancipation, is a centrepiece of authoritarian societies. These efforts cause public memory to wither and the threads of authoritarianism to take root and become normalized. They’re often accompanied by a broader attack on critical education, civic literacy, investigative journalists and the critical media.

When people stop looking at the evidence, they stop looking for the truth and they allow ignorance to rule. And that helps injustice to flourish. And that is an ugly thing.

Conspiracy Theories about Coronavirus

The habit of believing things without evidence is uniquely dangerous. I think it is one of our most dangerous habits. Because such habits are so dangerous such beliefs are unethical. Perhaps nowhere is that more obvious than during a pandemic.

Incidents that generate a lot of anxiety are uniquely susceptible to the virus of Conspiracy theories. The international coronavirus pandemic that started in Wuhan China at the end of 2019 was a spectacular example of that. During the pandemic coronavirus conspiracy theories were generated as explosively as microbes in a Petri dish. The comedian John Oliver put it well: “Coronavirus has created the perfect storm for conspiracy theorists.”

To begin with, early on many conservative pundits, including TV personalities, actual doctors, Talk Show hosts, politicians, and others claimed that the seriousness of the pandemic was grossly exaggerated. The Internet film Plandemic was viewed 8 million times. According to John Oliver, this film was “a pseudo-documentary with a hodge-podge of conspiracy theories.” It seems likely that this show is what spurred R.M. of La Broquerie Reeve Lewis Weiss to make his remarkably unfounded statements about Covid-19.

In that film Judy Mikovits claimed to be a whistle-blower. She was a former scientist at the National Cancer Institute who was now an investigative journalist looking at Covid-19. In the film there was a swat team surrounding her house, so her claims must be real. So people thought.  Actually the swat team surrounding the house had nothing at all to do with her claims. There was no connection at all to Judy Mikovits. This was a blatant attempt to make her look like a serious whistle-blower, but she was really just a serious blow-hard. She was one of the people who claimed that wearing a Covid-19 mask actuated your own Covid-19 virus. She also claimed that closing beaches as some American States were doing was “insane,” because that kept people away from the healing viruses on the beach. The only thing insane, according to Oliver was Judy Mikovits.

Examples of conspiracy theories spreading without an inkling of truth to them, include the claim that masks that people around the world were urged to wear were themselves dangerous and could amplify the virus rather than protect against it, because you could become sick from the virus already inside your own body. Another theory was that Bill Gates was responsible for starting the virus or at least was responsible for keeping it going because he wanted to gain control of the vaccines when they were developed so that he could capture the market and also implant a chip inside them so that he would gain control of the world. Another example, is the claim that the new 5G Internet network is to blame for the CV-19 pandemic. The only thing astonishing about these theories is the number of people that subscribe to them without evidence. Another theory, promulgated by conservative pundits of various stripes, was that the virus was being over-touted by Democrats in order to defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election

According to the Kennedy School in Harvard “over half of Americans endorse at least one conspiracy theory.” The School also pointed out that given the transmissibility of the disease conspiracy theories are dangerous even if only a fraction of Americans succumb to them and as result ignore best practices such as social distancing. Some on-line conspiracy theories have already had some worrying real world consequences. Minimizing the harmfulness of Covid-19, for example, led to people not taking the virus seriously and hence failing to protect themselves, leading to the people getting harmed or passing on the virus to others.

Conspiracy theories are dangerous but those involving an international pandemic are particularly dangerous. As Julian Kestler-D’Amours reported,

“Researchers say conspiracy theories about COVID-19 are spreading at an alarming rate across the country — and they warn misinformation shared online may lead to devastating consequences and push Canadians to shun important safety measures.”

“I think that people should be enormously concerned,” said Aengus Bridgman, a PhD candidate in political science at McGill University and coauthor of a study published last month on COVID-19 misinformation and its impact on public health.

The study found the more a person relies on social media to learn about COVID-19, the more likely they are to be exposed to misinformation and to believe it, and to disregard physical distancing and other public health guidelines.

About 16 per cent of Canadians use social media as their primary source of information on the virus, Bridgman said in a recent interview.

There were other studies as well. Another study published in May at Carleton University indicated 46 per cent of Canadians believed at least one of four unfounded COVID-19 theories: the virus was engineered in a Chinese lab; the virus is being spread to cover up the effects of 5G wireless technology; drugs such as hydroxychloroquine can cure COVID-19 patients; or rinsing your nose with a saline solution can protect you from infection. In other words nearly half of Canadians believe such nonsense.

The fact that the scientific process and issues about Covid-19 are poorly understood, the financial pressures many people face, and given the frustration that has been growing amid restrictions people’s freedoms has amplified the problem with the disinformation circulating. All conspiracies are dangerous, those conspiracy theories circulating during a pandemic are peculiarly destructive.

During such times people really need the best available evidence to make reasonable judgments that affect the safety of themselves or their loved ones. It is not a good time for beliefs based on insufficient evidence.