The destruction and loss of life from the fires in California and Australia are what happens when fake news hits the buzz saw of reality. Scientists were saying for years that the weather will become extreme. The summers will be longer, hotter, and more fringe, but people wouldn’t face the facts. Junk science and conspiracy theories were taken seriously, and, in some cases, morphed into terrible policy. The result was an underinvested infrastructure and uneducated electorate on the dangers of extreme weather like flooding and fire.
Fake news and conspiracy theories take off because they are easy to believe and provide an escape hatch from doing the hard work. Why prepare for something if it isn’t going to happen? The same thing happened in South Africa in the 1990s when the South African government went into denial about the AIDS epidemic. Fake news and junk science kill people. Even back then in the ’90s, there was junk science and fake news. The difference in 2020 is that fake news is turbocharged by super communication highways like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It makes me angry and sad that we have to learn the hard way, but there is the benefit of turbocharged news by super communication highways like Insta, FB, and Twitter is that there’s nowhere to hide the consequences of bad policy and decisions. We’ve all seen the harrowing pictures coming out of Australia. We’ve all read about the rolling electricity blackouts in California. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. If we can document, broadcast, and amplify the consequences and then learn from our mistakes, at least it’s not all in vain.
Against the verdict of history, there is no appeal. I hope we learn and take action.