Dramatic headlines create clicks and sell papers. So, when a Government Minister talks about reviewing the National Emergency Action Plan and details the different threat level responses the media naturally leads with what the ‘worst case’ scenario looks like as this will create more interest for the story. It is not until you read the body of the story that you realise the headline has been over dramatised. The problem is most people only read the headlines.
Governments and professional businesses need to have emergency plans in place and at times like this it makes sense to review them and make sure all is in order. The World Health Organisation, similarly, has protocols in place and has been calling for all governments to prepare. The news media is simply amplifying this message. It does not mean however that the worst-case scenario is any more likely than the best-case scenario.
Adding further fuel to the fire of dramatic headlines are the politicians who will take any opportunity to look strong in the media to help their opinion polls – for example by shutting borders or prematurely declaring a pandemic when one does not exist. This impact then snowballs and creates further unnecessary angst in the community.
Social Media Loves Drama – and a Conspiracy Theory!
Social media and instant access to information via smartphones is overall fantastic. However, spend enough time online and you’ll be convinced the earth is flat and man didn’t land on the moon. As mentioned before, it is best not to take medical advice from strangers on social media.
Sadly, the result of all this panic is that holidays and even public events are being cancelled for no valid reason.
The head of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said this week, ‘Our greatest enemy right now is not the virus itself, its fear, rumours and stigma.” He stressed that fear and misinformation were the biggest challenges to overcome.
Fear, misinformation and panic is leading to irrational decisions which in turn is placing entire industries and economies under threat. Thousands of jobs have already been lost and it is not inconceivable that several airlines and companies relying on travel, tourism and events will stop trading as a result.