Media literacy

A need for media literacy – The Pulse


By: Léa Alsept

[email protected]


Perspectives from those affected not only by the physical effects of COVID-19, but also by the misinformation that has accompanied the pandemic

“She got so sick… My mum is like, ‘She looked like she was skin and bones. She looked like she was about to die.

That’s the reality that University of Findlay student Tim Cunningham faced when he discovered his family’s longtime neighbor was taking ivermectin to prevent contracting the coronavirus.

The problem: Ivermectin does not prevent contracting the virus or alleviate the symptoms associated with it.

Ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug used to treat roundworms and roundworms in humans and animals, was also being tested in vitro for use on coronavirus patients during the early stages of the pandemic. According to a peer-reviewed article in BMC Infectious Disease published in July 2021, ivermectin treatments in clinical trials revealed no significant changes in patient condition while taking the coronavirus drug. BMC Infectious Diseases is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal that reviews articles on all aspects of infectious disease prevention, diagnosis, and management.

A large-scale trial of coronavirus patients in Brazil showed that ivermectin did not reduce COVID-19 symptoms or improve the patient’s condition, as reported by The Wall Street Journal on March 18.

Ivermectin proponents, like podcast host and UFC commentator Joe Rogan, have gotten a lot of media attention for using ivermectin to treat COVID-19.

Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin were also being tested in scientific clinical trials to see if they could be repurposed to fight coronavirus disease. Dr. Robert Charvat, an immunologist and biologist and professor of science at the University of Findlay, had a front row seat to this information as he saw it on social media.

“Hydroxychloroquine…changed the pH inside the cells and that was a necessary step for viral infection,” Charvat said.

Hydroxychloroquine is a less toxic derivative of chloroquine, and in a 2017 study published in the National Library of Medicine shows that chloroquine is effective in treating viral illnesses in their early stages.

At the start of the pandemic, scientists published clinical trial studies that found hydroxychloroquine in its medicinal form, Remdesivir, helped prevent COVID-19 in vitro – that is, inside the body. a test tube – outside of a living organism.

“Neither hydroxychloroquine plus azithromycin nor hydroxychloroquine alone reduced upper or lower respiratory viral loads or demonstrated clinical efficacy in a [non-human primate]…” wrote the National Institute of Health (NIH) about a clinical trial carried out on monkeys. “In a large platform-based randomized controlled trial of inpatients in the UK… hydroxychloroquine did not decrease 28-day mortality compared to usual standard of care…” the organization said of another study.

The results of trials like these have caused the NIH and other medical and scientific organizations to advise against the use of hydroxychloroquine outside of a hospital or clinical trial situation.

The ‘Zelenko Protocol’, a drug cocktail of hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and zinc, was created by New York-based doctor Vladimir Zelenko, who gave it to his patients and said they recovered 100% virus free, in a now-deleted video addressed to the former president. Donald Trump.

Trump has touted the use of hydroxychloroquine in 2020 to treat the coronavirus as he claimed to be taking the drug to prevent coronavirus infection. This gave hydroxychloroquine a lot of media attention.

Conservative pundits followed suit. Sean Hannity, a popular radio host, took to Fox News to talk about his interview with Zelenko on his show at Former Vice Pres. Mike Pence. Media Matters is an organization dedicated to fact-checking national news channels around the clock for misinformation. The group published a study which found that Fox News was promoting hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 146 times in five days.

“But the problem was that individuals were seeing hydroxychloroquine and saying, ‘Oh, I know people are using it for their aquariums and their fish,'” Charvat explained. “So a lot of people were running into pet stores and picking up hydroxychloroquine and a lot of people got sick and died.”

There is a case where Americans had severe reactions after taking the fish cleaner version of chloroquine. An Arizona man ingested chloroquine from fish cleaning chemicals and died shortly after arriving at hospital in March 2020.

While working at a bakery in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, Cunningham watched co-workers reject COVID-19.

“A lot of my co-workers in the bakery were 40, 50, 60-year-old men, you know, they grew up in a different time. They all hated the idea of ​​wearing masks,” Cunningham said. “They all thought that was ridiculous. And it was unnecessary. None of them have been vaccinated. None of them believed in the vaccine.

Trump downplayed the severity of the coronavirus in the first three months of 2020. The Washington Post found 31 Trump cases comparing COVID-19 to the flu, even saying “it’s like a miracle, it will go away”.

In late September 2020, it was revealed that Trump knew about the severity of the pandemic and had spoken about it on the phone with Watergate reporter Bob Woodard.

The partisan divisions on the pandemic are very contrasting. The Pew Research Center found in February 2021 that how people thought the pandemic was affecting the United States depended on political orientation.

Political leanings have also been found to shape how Americans consume news. Pew found that Americans with consistent conservative beliefs are tightly clustered around one news source: Fox News. Conservative Americans are also more likely to see social media posts that align with their beliefs; Americans with a consistent liberal ideology are more likely to block or antagonize someone on social media because of disagreements over politics.

“I think to get out of the bias bubble, we first have to admit that we are each biased and then recognize that we have to get information from multiple sources,” says Dr Diana Montague, professor of communication at the University. of Findlay. .

Montague sees people unable to get out of their filtering system – a system that impacts the news and the types of information sources we seek.

“Many people do not consider [a filter] being able to recognize and process other messages that may contain information they disagree with or have never heard before,” she said.

Charvat, who gets much of his news from the scientific literature, knows that the general public – non-scientists – might have trouble understanding the results of a medical journal.

Individuals’ ability to access scientific literature can be a bit difficult. Some journals have paywalls, so to access those journals you actually have to pay a subscription fee. So it limits public access to scientific research papers,” Charvat said. “An accountant may not understand the molecular biology that goes into developing new treatments. So being able to digest this information could also pose a challenge.

The ever-changing scientific findings posed a challenge to the public — who, faced with changing scientific information during a clinical trial, retreated to their own beliefs — whether science-based or not, Charvat says. .

“People who thought this might be a viable treatment option for COVID, when presented with information like ‘look, ivermectin is not approved, it’s not safe, it’s not isn’t the best approach, “didn’t listen or retracted further in their belief that ivermectin would work,” he said.

And those who don’t watch the news, Montague says, don’t realize the impact they have when they don’t go to an unbiased source first.

“When you have your real viable news outlets struggling to get the information they need and get it out to the people and it takes longer because they have to go and check it,” Montague explained. “But in the meantime you have different social media feeds just throwing up crap. Sometimes people go for that first.

But how can Americans begin to emerge from a news echo chamber?

There are several fact-checking websites and media literacy resources on the web—for free—that Americans can access. Snopes, PolitiFact, are all fact-checking resources that are constantly updated with different happenings in the news.

“We need to recognize what kind of source we’re getting this information from and whether or not we can take this information and assume it’s true, accurate and factual,” Montague says. provides users with a media bias chart assessing the far left to far right bias of news outlets.

Cunningham, who has contracted COVID-19 three times – all before a vaccine came out, doesn’t understand how his Youngstown neighbor can believe in conspiracies.

“Trump ran for president and now she’s literally crazy… She believes in gangstalking. She thinks anyone walking past her is like looking for her or following her,” he said. Cunningham mows his lawn in the summer. When he returned from UF last December, she told him about the reptilian race of Democrats.

“How do people who believe in these conspiracy theories live in constant fear? Like where does it take you in life? Where are you going? You can’t go anywhere. You’re so sucked into this hole. And like you can’t get out,” he said, exasperated. “And then you surround yourself with other people who are also in this hole. So there’s no way for any of you to get out of it. Because you’re all like corroborating the same ideas with each other. others.

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