The Associated Press has taken it upon itself to castigate the “AP superspreaders.” The story was written by David Klepper, Farnoush Amiri, and Beatrice Dupuy. It begins:
“As the coronavirus spread across the globe, so too did speculation about its origins. Perhaps the virus escaped from a lab. Maybe it was engineered as a bioweapon.”
“Legitimate questions about the virus created perfect conditions for conspiracy theories. In the absence of knowledge, guesswork and propaganda flourished.”
“College professors with no evidence or training in virology were touted as experts. Anonymous social media users posed as high-level intelligence officials. And from China to Iran to Russia to the United States, governments amplified claims for their own motives.”
“The Associated Press collaborated with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab on a nine-month investigation to identify the people and organizations behind some of the most viral misinformation about the origins of the coronavirus.”
Responsible news reporting
This is a very dangerous story for a “news” organization to promulgate. The reason it is dangerous is the personal nature of the targeting. The report targets the named individuals and organizations. When the world finds itself without information on a potentially dangerous situation it needs curious thought.
We need to understand no one is right all of the time. Ask Dr. Fauci. Think of it this way. Advancing our knowledge requires that we gain knowledge. How is that done? Well, certainly one way is the employment of scientific method.
The scientific method is a systematic way of learning about the world around us and answering questions. The key difference between the scientific method and other ways of acquiring knowledge is forming a hypothesis and then testing it with an experiment.
There are six steps:
News reporting requires it be without value judgment
The point here is a curious approach, one asking questions and hypothesizing about the situation protects us. So before condemning people who don’t hold a majority view, maybe it indicates the need for a more calibrated approach. Targeting “superspreaders” feeds the spread of a pernicious cancel culture we are growing.
Unless there is a malicious intent established, asking questions, bringing forth hypothesis and data and analysis is basically how the scientific method works. We propose a solution. We test it and try and prove it wrong. The person proposing a solution which we later discredit was wrong… not bad … wrong.
When news organizations are vilifying people for being wrong they are outside the role of responsible journalism. And AP is doing so after acknowledging everyone was working in the absence of knowledge. Given today’s cancel culture this is dangerous piling on. It is singling out individuals for not being correct. How do we expect to advance thinking on any subject unless we are free to hypothesize and willing to be wrong?