Fake news and misinformation in corona times

Fake news.

Since we have to suffer the vainest and most useless US president the expression ‘Fake News’ has seen a lot of use. Or is it abuse? I think the latter. Fake news: since the orange idiot is mismanaging the United States the best definition of the expression Fake News would be: information that the reader finds inconvenient or is harmful to his political agenda. I am sure many among you could come up with an even better definition. Having said all that, you could also say that fake news is incorrect information that was deliberately spread to serve an unknown agenda of unknown people. If all this about the White House lying king alienates me from his supporters, so be it. I am not a fan of theirs, so I see no reason why they should be a fan of mine. I prefer intelligent readers! The ultimate proof of Trump- being unfit to govern a nation is his latest advice on corona: inject yourselves with disinfectant. I can only say this: if all his followers would listen to him, a huge problem would be solved in an instant. Watch the video on the webpage below for a good laugh.

For another good laugh, here is a video my husband Noud (Don’t tell me I have just alienated the anti-gay bigots as well, duh) found on Youtube that shows exactly how we feel about the orange idiot. Have fun watching it!

Misinformation

So how should we call news about the developments concerning the coronavirus that is not confirmed or turns out to be incorrect? I’d call it misinformation. And really, there is a lot of misinformation going around. I know it is very difficult to find out if certain ‘news’ is correct or not, especially if you are manning a news medium and you want to be on top of your game. Boy, am I glad I am not. I am not a news medium, I am just managing a website that is only there to enable me and Noud to rent out our house in Madeira during the summer months.

Then again, I can’t very well go on and on about the house and its views and surroundings, however fantastic they are. That’s why I decided that writing about what’s going on on the island is something that could well be of interest to our potential clients. Gradually, the audience grew, attracting people with a general interest in Madeira. That opened up a wealth of subjects. I have written about the island’s delicious exotic fruits and vegetables, about the stunning walks we made, about the world-famous levadas, and lately, of course, about the effects of the coronavirus on our little paradise. Unfortunately, the virus is in the front of our minds and it is having a heavy impact on almost everything in daily life.

Since the very beginning of the virus spreading, I promised myself – and my readers – to steer clear of all sensationalism and scaremongering. Of course, I try to verify all information I use, and I swear that is bl**dy difficult. In the meantime, I try to do some damage control where potential visits to Madeira are concerned. Another reason to reject all sensationalism and – yes – fake news. Or was it misinformation? Whatever it is: our web site has no place for fake news and misinformation to add to people’s anxiety.

fake news and misinformation hasn't affected Madeira's beauty.
Before sunrise in our valley. Our house is situated in a beautiful spot in west Madeira

Shut up, Ursula

I can’t stress it enough: do not take every scrap of ‘information’ at face value. There are a lot of loudmouths about who keep screaming nonsense, or, even more dangerous, half-truths. The first one who should be shut up is the new president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. She first said that we could expect a vaccine by September. Problem is, as she has studied medicine (and economics) people tended to believe her. But she has been focussing on her political career and is no more a corona expert than you and I. Then, she was corrected by people who really are the experts – as opposed to politicians – and she made a new statement saying a vaccine can’t be expected before the end of the year. Finally, she added insult (calling me elderly) to injury (telling me I am in prison) by stating that I and the likes of me have to stay indoors till the end of the year. And here I was, silly me, believing that age discrimination is illegal. Now I am not a religious person, but I do have a prayer to say: Save us from politicians who think they are experts on stuff they know no more about than anyone else!

I sincerely hope this is ‘only’ misinformation. But coming from a politician it may well be fake news. Whatever. For now, I will ignore everything said by any politician. Maybe I should make that a mantra. Because covid-19 is not their expertise. Theirs is cheating and deceiving the electorate, that’s what they are really good at. I may listen to the health experts though.

And you too, shut it, Facebook experts

Another prayer (I may become a believer yet). Save us from the Facebook-based ‘experts’. A good – or rather bad – example is a Dutch Facebook Group named ‘Madeira op z’n Nederlands/Vlaams’ (translated ‘Madeira the Dutch/Flemish way’)  moaning that the closure of all Madeira beaches for the entire summer was putting every tourist off of coming to the island. They warned potential tourists to stay away, claiming that Madeira is not attractive anymore because the beaches are all closed and all festivals cancelled. Excuse me? Since when is Madeira a beach destination? And since when are the island’s visitors here for the village parties? Oh and wait! Where did that information come from, anyway? And was it checked at all?

I thought it best to start checking that bit of news myself. Festivals cancelled? Well yes, all of the village festivals for the summer have been cancelled. The flower festival, that normally would have taken place in May, has been postponed till September. And what about the closed beaches?  It turned out that the council of Funchal has closed the concrete bathing platforms and pools. True, the Portuguese call the concrete platforms ‘Praia’, meaning beach, but the real beaches aren’t in Funchal. The only closed real beach is the pebbled beach called Praia Formosa between the city and Câmara de Lobos. It also turned out a Funchal-only decision. The Island government has not supported this decision and does not at all plan to close the beaches for summer. In other words, we are dealing with a serious piece of misinformation. The moderators of the Facebook Group I mentioned are oozing self-importance, claiming they are the experts. Several people asked the moderator where in the world he is, as some suspected he resides in the Netherlands… The question remained unanswered – So I think I have my answer. 

Praia formosa, the large pebbled beach between Funchal and Câmara de Lobos. Photo: https://www.madeira-web.com/en/

Did I mention the Group links to a ‘news’ page in Facebook that steals all Tobi’s news articles from the Madeira Island News just to get their Google clicks for some lazy bucks? Well, they do. We happen to know one of the culprits cashing on Tobi’s work and, frankly, we are not surprised. I do think it’s scandalous to steal someone else’s work and when I told them so in a comment to their group, I was blocked from the group and with that effectively excluded from reading their blabbering and from writing inconvenient truths. I can’t regret not being able to read their nonsense and stolen content. It is better for my blood pressure. However, I want to stress that Tobi deserves the credit for his relentless work, and stealing from him for a quick buck is scandalous. End of rant and back on-topic.

So tourists won’t like the island anymore because of a closed pebbles beach and cancelled village parties? Rubbish. Madeira has kept its breathtaking beauty. Maybe the lack of partygoers and beach lovers adds to the island’s atmosphere setting it even more apart from the Spanish Costas, the Canary Islands and the Ibiza orgies. The great majority of the tourists come to Madeira for its unspoiled nature, for its Levada walks, and maybe, just once or twice, for a swim in the ocean. If nothing changes, that will probably be possible as soon as the restrictions on travelling to the island have been lifted. Madeira has lost none of its real assets and they are waiting for you to enjoy as soon as you can travel again.

No fake news or misinformation can take away Madeira's beauty.

Complot theories

One of the most irritating pieces of fake-news (or is it misinformation?) going around is the complot theory claiming that China has deliberately constructed the coronavirus as a biological weapon. Invariably, the source of this ‘nonformation’ is obscured. I can’t say it enough: I refuse to take any text with an anonymous or obscured source seriously. Can you think of anyone in his right mind who would destroy its main market? The Chinese are far too clever for such a stupid thing to do. I can’t imagine what brings people to write these stories if it isn’t for creating a lot of drama or for scaremongering. I also can’t understand some people for being so naïve that they think something is true because they read it on Facebook or saw it on Youtube.

Especially these days we can’t even rely on the news media without using a lot of common sense and without cross-checking things with other sources. And even then, what seems true today may turn out fake tomorrow.

So how is Madeira now after the Câmara de Lobos incident?

Those who follow Tobi’s Madeira Island News may have read the unnerving stories about two brothers from Câmara de Lobos who ignored the isolation and went and infected at least 18 people in Câmara de Lobos and Funchal last weekend. Subsequently, the government has put a ‘cordon sanitaire’ around the village of Camara de Lobos as soon as they legally could. Nobody goes in or out for two weeks, except for provisioning the village, medical help or police. The island was outraged about the completely irresponsible behaviour, that may well extend the Madeira lockdown unnecessarily. You would think the population of Câmara de Lobos would be well aware of what their fellow villagers caused. But instead of respecting the health of others, several fishing boats soon left the village and some tried to dock in the Calheta marina to go food shopping. The police intervened, but we don’t know exactly if the fishermen were able to get into the supermarket at all. For our food shopping,  we decided to wait a bit before we go back there. We will know soon enough if any infections were caused and in the meantime, there are two smaller supermarkets we can use.  Other fishermen continued to the still corona free Porto Moniz. Fortunately, the police were there and prevented the fishermen from disembarking. They have been sent to Funchal where they can disembark, but again, the police gave them a warm welcome! Well done!

The total number of Corona infected people on Madeira is now in the eighties. For the exact count, it’s best to follow Madeira Island News.  We still feel that the health authorities do everything in their power to control the spreading of the virus. They have already isolated most of the people who were in contact with the two irresponsible brothers, and the number of new infections after they found them out, was limited to only two. Yesterday ended as the third consecutive day without new cases, unfortunately, today showed one new case, but still, it seems the situation continues to be under control.

Some light

I don’t know if the light I seem to see is the end of the tunnel, but light it is. First, overall in Portugal, last Tuesday, the number of people declared cured surpassed the number of new infections. Second, the officials have started to study how to start up the hotel sector again, and they aim for July, maybe even June in some areas. Of course, all depends on what aviation is going to do, because the great majority of tourist would travel to Portugal and Madeira by air. It is still early days, so we will have to see how things develop. For now, the only thing we can do is stay put and keep dreaming. There is a beautiful video that already appeared in the Madeira Island News, but for who missed it, here it is.

The video will certainly make you dream of better days when we can travel freely once more. They will come, so much is certain. Feel free to leave any comments or thoughts on the subject here below. If you wish to subscribe to my blog, scroll down end put in your email address (bottom-right) to receive a notification whenever I post a new article.   

Meanwhile, dream away, stay at home, stay healthy, and keep in touch.

Peter was born in Amsterdam in 1949. He has a history in PR and copywriting. Now, part time resident of the Island of Madeira of over 10 years, he writes about Madeira, its culture, its overwhelming nature, its food and drink, and about everything concerning travel to and on this beautiful island.

10 thoughts on “Fake news and misinformation in corona times

  1. Thank you again Peter, for your thoughts and observations. It is beyond me how the US cannot pull Trump out of his position just based on his latest ramblings. The poison control centers in several states are now dealing with the backlash of his completely reckless comments. Hard to believe but true.
    I would also like to reinforce your comments on why tourists are drawn to Madeira. As a traveler, the last thing I look at for is a beach environment. I chose Madeira for the levada walks and spectacular scenery. What I received was a welcoming unlike any other I have experienced in my wanderings. The people, both indigenous and transplanted, have been an unexpected joy to behold. You and Noud are very much a part of this phenomenon. For the first time in all the years I have wandered the planet, I came back to the same place twice. Madeira stole my heart.
    Thanks again, I continue to look forward to your posts.

    1. Ah, Amy, I can’t believe that anyone in his right mind would support such an idiot. But apparently party interest goes before anything, and I am afraid we will all have to suffer the moron for another term.
      Meanwhile, I hope you continue to enjoy your stay, even within all the limitations we have for now. If you manage to return home, Noud (who says hello) and I hope you will keep coming back, as we have greatly been enjoying your company. We both agree on Madeira: no beaches but stunning scenery. And good company! See you soon, hopefully!

  2. Trump was sarcastic, he said the sun is good lol
    We know that already so he added in to drink bleach, cause we know that too.

    Do you think anyone drank bleach because they were about to die from covid, no.

    He us a master at disinformation.

    Did you know that the entire population of earth would have been touched by infected covid carriers at least twice.

    You obviously don’t do math.

    An infected person will infect 2 others every 3 days.

    In NY they had 100 infected in December, 20 doubles later, 60 days unmitigated, is 98 million.
    And that doesn’t include every infection after the first 100.

    Yet, no surge of millions of sick, or 100000s dead.

    It’s all fake as Elaine’s orgasms.

    Wake up

    1. No, Joey, I don’t do maths. Also, I don’t keep statistics. And I also don’t think anyone injected himself with bleach. But I do read that many have drank disinfectants to try and battle the coronavirus. Check out this link. https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertglatter/2020/04/21/rise-in-accidental-poisonings-from-cleaners-and-disinfectants-linked-to-coronavirus-pandemic-cdc-report-finds/#7cb820d44969. And then we see an idiot promoting it as a cure. I don’t need to do maths to recognize a fool when I see one.

  3. Great read Peter! I agree all this fake news and Chinese whispers drive you mad. I must admit Trump’s antics yesterday cheered us up on a glum day as we never laughed so much, and all the videos and pictures flooding the internet. It will not be so funny though when someone actually does inject themselves with disinfectant following this car crash briefing!
    Keep safe Jan

    1. Indeed Jan, and it has already happened. Then again, let’s be realistic. Anyone brainless enough to support an idiot like Trump is likely to not use the little brain he or she has and inject themselves with bleach. And Anyone opposing Trump won’t listen to a word he says, unless it’s good to laugh your *rse off. I am glad you enjoyed the read, though. I admit I enjoyed writing it.

  4. Thanks so much for all this information. The fishermen were in the Calheta Marina supermarket last Sunday we walked down to the marina and they are getting on their boat with Pingo bags and cartons of cigarettes, one seemed intoxicated, all very sad when things were going so well for the island

    1. Thanks for that, Isha. That was a piece of information I did not have. We will stay away from the Pingo Doce in Calheta for a while now. As it happened last sunday it’s only one more week before we know if anyone was infected there. Good thing we are well stocked and we have the Anoitecer to fill in the gap – if any.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Pauline. Secretly, I enmjoyed writing it, especially the parts about Trump and the ridiculous Dutch Facebook page.

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