Dancer, singer, songwriter, actor, director – Madonna has had quite a career.
But the Queen of Pop’s latest reinvention came this week in the form of a video posted to Instagram that shared a coronavirus conspiracy theory with her 15 million subscribers.
Madonna claimed a vaccine existed but was in hiding. “They prefer to let fear control the people and let the rich get rich and the poor get poorer,” she said.
Instagram scrambled the video, captioned it “fake news” and linked users to a page debunking the misrepresentation. He later deleted the message.
So ended yet another skirmish between fame, truth, and the pandemic, an ongoing battle that pits fame against science and public health.
Days earlier, it was Lewis Hamilton’s turn to sink into trouble by sharing an anti-vaxxer article, which suggested Bill Gates was lying about coronavirus vaccine trials.
The clip, which the Formula 1 driver shared with 18.3 million Instagram followers, shows Gates reassuring about potential vaccine side effects and refuting false claims that any vaccine will be used to implant microchips in humans. The clip is captioned: “I remember when I told my first lie. “
After a backlash, Hamilton deleted the post and issued a statement praising Gates and supporting a vaccine, but expressing concern over “uncertainty” over the side effects of the potential coronavirus vaccine, which no ‘does not exist yet.
Some celebrities such as John Cusack, Woody Harrelson and Wiz Khalifa have peddled the myth linking 5G technology to the coronavirus. Others, like actor Evangeline Lilly, question the need for social physical distancing (she later apologized).
There is even a conspiracy theory that celebrities are paid to say they have coronavirus. “Such stupidity,” said Idris Elba, who contracted the disease earlier this year.
Some of those who are challenged for spreading disinformation delete posts and plead misunderstanding. Others refuse to back down. Either way, say public health experts, messages on Covid-19 are getting confusing.
“Celebrities have a platform and when they abuse it it’s incredibly irresponsible,” said Paul Offit, co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine and director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “They influence people. Science doesn’t win, facts don’t win. Emotion wins out over scientific evidence every time. “
Samuel McConkey, an infectious disease expert at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences in Dublin, said many people have turned to prominent names on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and other platforms to get information on Covid-19.
“It makes no sense to consider our singers and actors as sources of information about this disease. It’s like I have to sing and play – it wouldn’t be entertaining. We have to work in our own areas and jurisdictions. Anyone who turns to Madonna for scientific information is confused. Maybe we need epistemology lessons in elementary school.
Offit and McConkey credited some celebrities, such as actors Salma Hayek and Amanda Peet and boxer Katie Taylor, with using their platforms to echo established medical advice on vaccinations and other effective public health measures. .
A study by researchers at the Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford found that most interactions with coronavirus-related lies came from social media posts by politicians, celebrities and influencers.
“Rather than being completely fabricated, much of the disinformation in our sample involves various forms of reconfiguration where existing and often true information is spun, distorted, recontextualized or reworked,” the report states.
Baybars Örsek, director of the International Fact-Checking Network, a unit of the Poynter Institute, said celebrities should be aware of their “amplifying abilities” around lies.
“Covid-19 has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world and the spread of false information about cures, vaccination and the causes of the disease is damaging public confidence,” she said.
Orsek also urged internet companies to be vigilant. “Millions of users are exposed to such lies every day.”