A shocking narrative about COVID-19, the illness brought on by the novel coronavirus, is spreading: that fears of the pandemic are overblown as a result of in 1969, the Woodstock music competition was held throughout a flu pandemic.
The declare has been shared 1000’s of instances through Facebook posts and memes. “Instead of shutting everything down, they held Woodstock,” one model of the meme reads.
As nearly all of the nation rides out the pandemic quarantined at dwelling, internet site visitors has exploded, and with it on-line misinformation in regards to the coronavirus. On Facebook viral content material has been circulating, no matter its truthfulness — just like the deceptive “Plandemic” video, which was seen tens of millions of instances earlier than it was taken down by the platform’s moderators final week.
And whereas the “Plandemic” video introduced a conspiratorial worldview steeped in anti-vaccination and extremist tropes, the Woodstock/flu meme is one thing completely different: nostalgic and gauzy, though nonetheless inaccurate.
The meme argues that the present lockdown because of the present coronavirus pandemic is a product of the media spreading pointless worry and panic. Many iterations of it are adopted by feedback by those that had been alive on the time about how Americans in 1968 and 1969 didn’t change their lives to cope with an influenza pandemic
The Woodstock narrative originated in a May 1 article titled “Woodstock Occurred in the Middle of a Pandemic” by the American Institute for Economic Research, a conservative analysis institute. In it, the AIER’s editorial director Jeffrey A. Tucker argued that in 1969, whereas an H3N2 pressure of influenza sickened the planet, the financial system didn’t shut down, and, for the 400,000 individuals who gathered at Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York, there was some music.
“Nothing was closed by force. Schools mostly stayed open. Businesses did too. You could go to the movies. You could go to bars and restaurants,” Tucker wrote.
“If we used government lockdowns then like we use them now, Woodstock (which changed music forever and still resonates today) would never have occurred. How much prosperity, culture, tech, etc. are losing in this calamity?” he added.
Tucker’s piece, revealed on May 1, 2020, is now stuffed with updates and corrections. The unique model claimed that no colleges had closed as a result of H3N2, which isn’t true — 23 states confronted faculty and school closures. The unique model additionally, most crucially, didn’t embrace the element that the influenza pandemic began in 1968, got here in two giant seasonal waves throughout the winter months, and whereas it lasted till 1969, Woodstock occurred in August, between the waves of the pandemic.
On May 7, the Reuters Fact Check crew labeled the AIER article “misleading,” writing: “the Woodstock music festival took place months after the first season of the Hong Kong flu had ended in the United States. Although there was to be a second wave in the US the following winter, it is misleading to say it happened ‘in the middle of a pandemic.’”
Columbia University virologist Angela Rasmussen informed BuzzFeed News that whereas there have been some similarities between COVID-19 and H3N2, an important distinction was that the demise charge throughout the 1968–1969 flu pandemic — 100,000 within the US — was completely completely different from COVID-19.
“That’s basically the same number of deaths you get in a typical flu season in the US,” Rasmussen mentioned. “We’re on track to hit 100,000 deaths [from COVID-19] next week, if not the end of the month.”
But no matter whether or not the comparability between the 1969 outbreak and the 2020 coronavirus is a good one, the thought has unfold on Facebook, notably inside right-wing teams and pages.
The Rabbit Hole, a right-wing Facebook web page, was the largest supply of site visitors to the AIER story, in response to social metrics web site CrowdTrangle.
“What we didn’t do in the past was panic like a bunch of scared children and allow the government to ruin people’s lives,” the web page wrote. “Please learn this text, it reveals you the stupidity of what our Governments are doing proper now.”
The Rabbit Hole has over 100,000 likes on its web page, which promotes misinformation about COVID-19, just like the declare that masks can’t shield you from the virus.
AIER’s article additionally acquired an enormous quantity of site visitors from right-wing information web site CNSNews.com, which had a publish about it shared nearly 10,000 instances.
Houston-based conservative radio speak present host Michael Berry shared the AIER article, writing on Facebook, “We did not all the time destroy our financial system, our life financial savings, our small companies, our jobs, and every part we labored for due to pandemics.”
“It’s almost like the debunking doesn’t really have an effect. It makes people more inclined to believe it.”
“Is it coincidence that an America that has locked its children indoors because of media-hyped fear of the bogeyman is now locking itself indoors over fear of this virus?” requested considered one of Berry’s followers within the remark part.
As for the way customers can keep away from falling for deceptive or dangerous details about COVID-19, Rasmussen mentioned that many individuals who share misinformation are likely to bristle when they’re fact-checked.
“A lot of times when these types of ‘oh here’s a new hot take on this’ articles come out and when they are debunked, the people really double down — the people who wrote them or people who are sharing them widely,” she mentioned. “It’s almost like the debunking doesn’t really have an effect. It makes people more inclined to believe it.”
“We’re starved for information that will allow us to take some actionable societal measures like, ‘let’s reopen and have Woodstock because they did that in 1969 and everything was fine,’” Rasmussen mentioned.