The source matters. Other things the source produces matters. They influence the credibility of that source.
In the current Coronavirus conversation, there keep popping up these videos of doctors with conspiracy theories who promote a “different narrative.”
People love to watch and share these; people love being “in” on what they perceive as a “rogue truth” that goes against the “mainstream narrative.”
I’ve stayed out of this conversation online, not because I don’t have an opinion, but because reading the ridiculousness of some of these arguments are exhausting.
But I’ll momentarily jump in.My argument here is not about the legal or medical debates around Coronavirus, I don’t feel I can add anything that hasn’t already been hashed out to death.
My argument is on credibility. We all have confirmation bias – gravitating towards “evidence” of things we already believe. But on heightened issues, that takes us to the extreme of believing and promoting things that are clearly ridiculous.
My argument – the source matters, and that source’s body of work matters.
Recently, a video was shared by Breitbart showcasing “Frontline Doctors” who talk about the ineffectiveness of masks and promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine. It was promoted by Trump & Junior before being blocked. It’s since been blocked on Facebook and Twitter after millions of views for promoting false information. But those who believe it say that’s evidence that the big corporations are censuring truth.
First, the video was shared by Breitbart.
Breitbart is a far-right extremist publication known for fake-news (actually false stories, not just a term you use when you disagree), and intentional inflammatory posts. Among its “stories” include titles such as:
- “There’s no hiring bias against women in tech, they just suck at interviews”
- “The solution to online ‘harassment’ is simple: Women should log off.”
- “Young Muslims in the West are a Ticking Time Bomb”
If you agree with these headlines, then I guess this video is perfect for you. But otherwise, is it smart and responsible to trust content from a network that also publishes these types of stories?(Source: If you need verification of my credibility, visit Breitbart’s site and search for these articles. I’m not going to give Breitbart the benefit of any more links)
Second, one of the doctors in the video is Stella Immanuel. She says masks don’t work and hydroxychloroquine is effective in curing COVID. Because she is a doctor, are her views valid? Let’s look at her other medical views.
- She believes infertility, cysts and other gynecological issues are caused by astral projection sex with demons (https://archive.fo/G7wtb)
- She believes some people in government are not human and claimed she had a conversation with someone who was half-human and half-reptilian or E.T. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mnu_h4gz-O4 – at around 51 minutes)
- She believes that “they” have discovered a religious gene in your mind and are developing a vaccine to keep you from becoming religious (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egzoTqwxMX8 – around 4 minutes)
If you agree with these beliefs, then she is a credible doctor for you. But if these beliefs seem a little off to you, and they are within the context of her medical training, how does it affect the validity of her claims regarding coronavirus? Also, in various YouTube videos, she is wearing a mask, and in a Facebook video advertising her clinic she tells people to wear a mask before coming in. All this despite saying it’s ineffective. If she has contradictory actions and claims with regard to masks, is she a reliable source of information?
Can you talk about differing views regarding Coronavirus? Of course.
This argument is not about about Coronavirus and masks. It is about the larger issue of carelessly sharing media with unverified claims and illegitimate sources, and applies to a host of other issues. I’ve seen this from both my liberal and conservative friends. If you share and promote content like this because you simply like the view, despite the illegitimacy of the sources that produce that content, it is irresponsible, harmful, and wrong. If you are a person who regularly shares content with questionable sources, how does that affect your own credibility in everything else you say? Are you a trustworthy person?
For my Christian friends, we have a pretty bold claim that a God exists who loves the world and sent his Son to redeem it. If we are constantly sharing information that is rooted in conspiracy theory, how does that affect our message? If we are untrustworthy when it comes to common, everyday reality, how can we possibly be trusted regarding existential claims? Is your need to share conspiracy theories so important that it overrides the calling to share the hope of Jesus?(These claims are in multiple articles. Notice how I went to the direct source and cited it, rather than carelessly resharing those claims.)