Conspiracy Theories in Mainstream Media
The news cycle has recently refocused on the theory that the COVID-19 pandemic is the result of a lab leak in Wuhan. The coverage ranges from suggestions that the lab was merely studying the virus to more sinister insinuations that it was intentionally designed as some sort of a bioweapon.
Yet, there is no actual evidence to suggest that the virus came from a lab, and practically all serious experts on the subject reject this idea as incredibly unlikely. A few mainstream sources such as NPR and Nature manage to provide unbiased coverage and show why this theory is a highly unlikely scenario. Meanwhile, an Australian scientist who was the only foreigner at the Wuhan virus lab says she never got COVID-19 and doesn’t believe the centre leaked it.
Of course, it is important to study all possibilities to understand how such pandemics start, and to rule out these unlikely scenarios. However, most media coverage has been sensational to the point of misinformation. What’s worse is that this type of reporting does not lead to any productive results. Even in the unlikely event that the pandemic started in a lab in Wuhan, no amount of Western media outrage will affect how China deals with such problems going forward. If anything, such reporting makes it less likely that China will be cooperative since they would rightly assume that any information that’s released will be used to smear their country.
Ultimately, figuring out whether the virus came from the wild or a lab is not nearly as important as figuring out how to handle such pandemics once they start. The reality we have to accept is that pandemics will continue to happen in the future regardless of how many preventive measures are taken.
The focus should not be on finding a country to point fingers at, but on what went wrong once the pandemic started and why so many countries failed to contain it. This is the painful discussion we need to have going forward. Most Western governments took a cynical decision to prioritize the economy over the lives of their citizens. In the end, this approach resulted in utter failure since public health is a prerequisite for having a robust economy. In fact, a study analyzing 45 countries conclusively shows that the choice between public health and the economy was a false dichotomy all along.
Focusing on the origins of the virus is a convenient distraction from systemic policy failures that allowed this pandemic to turn into a global disaster. One concerning outcome is that economic fallout did not affect everyone equally. While many economies suffered, and regular people lost their savings, a certain percentage of the population actually benefited from this disaster. Canadian billionaires saw significant increases in their wealth, and many corporations received generous bailouts that turned into dividends for their shareholders.
There is an obvious problem with the fact that the people who have the biggest influence over politics in our country also happen to be the demographic that benefits from disasters such as this pandemic. Decision makers being in position to profit at the expense of working class people leads to decisions that negatively impact lives of the majority. This is the story that mainstream news coverage should be focusing on instead of chasing dubious lab leak conspiracies. Disastrous pandemic handling wasn’t the result of an accident or incompetence. It was a rational decision to sacrifice the lives of regular people in order to create wealth for the capital-owning minority that rules this country.
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