How to Spot a Fake Coronavirus Expert
Here’s the thing about a pandemic: it’s everywhere. Everyone wants to read something encouraging. Everyone wants to say something useful. Everyone thinks their point of view matters. And most of us should just shut up so we can hear the real experts speak.
In literally the past 24 hours, I have seen friends share information about the epidemiology of COVID-19, the authors and experts cited included: a military historian, a computer scientist and a person known for writing unscientific memoirs. I don’t need to say this, but guys: if you want to know about epidemiology, look for a fucking epidemiologist.
Here’s my top piece of advice to help you figure out who has the right to speak on a topic: Look for what this person was an expert on before COVID-19 appeared: whether they studied an infectious disease, treated respiratory diseases, or if they were working on public health campaigns, great! Trust them if they speak within their area of expertise.
But this is often not the case. Some people have just learned a couple of facts and are trying to deal with it. In the case of journalists and politicians, gathering information on new world events is part of the job, but that does not make them qualified experts themselves. They must cite reliable sources.
The most widespread misinformation now seems to consist of opinions, which say what people want to believe. These are mostly contrived arguments, often based on little more than scattered data or pure assumptions, that we should reopen all schools and workplaces and start partying and visiting our friends again. It would be nice, right? It’s a shame the real experts don’t say anything like that .
If you are reading something that tells you what you want to hear, see who is giving that seductive opinion. If they weren’t pandemic experts before this pandemic, stop reading. And if you’re really passionate about something you’re reading, check the facts, to hell.