By Ramishah Maruf, CNN Business
Four little words – “do your own research” – are hurting the US response to the pandemic, CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter said on Sunday in “Reliable Sources.” And it has real consequences as figures from Nicki Minaj to Sean Hannity continue to promote the idea.
Minaj helped raise doubts about the Covid-19 vaccines on Twitter last week, saying she would only get the vaccines once she had “do enough research. “This may sound like a reasonable attitude, even a positive one, and it is a hot topic of discussion taken up by many right-wing media.
The problem is, most people just don’t know how to do their own research, especially when it comes to understanding the intricacies of medical science.
The concept was recently associated with Covid-19 and QAnon, but the phrase ‘do your own research’ dates back to the 1890s when it was associated with skepticism surrounding the smallpox vaccine, said Renee DiResta, head of research at the Stanford Internet Observatory. on “Reliable Sources”. The idea of doing your own research isn’t a bad idea in and of itself, DiResta said, because it’s important to maintain a healthy level of skepticism about the information given to you. But in today’s media environment fueled by clicks and engagement, it’s all too easy to come across deceptive data that confirms bias.
“No one goes to the library and looks for authoritative sources to do their own research,” DiResta said.
And while DiResta thinks Minaj didn’t have bad intentions, there are others who do, and they steer people away from credible sources for their own benefit.
Yael Eisenstat, Future of Democracy member at the Berggruen Institute, said to help tackle this phenomenon, the media must be more transparent in their reporting, especially when it comes to Covid.
This is because many of the subtle differences between understanding scientific research that is still theoretical and that which has been tested and widely accepted are not well communicated to the public. As new information and research is published, the media must go one step further in explaining the changing landscape.
“Science is a consensus building process,” Eisenstat said. “Not something where we know the facts immediately, the moment someone wants to google them.”
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