They Sow the Wind and Reap the Whirlwind (Covid Doubt in St. Petersburg).
Lacking state-imposed quarantines, we’ve been abandoned to personal choices. Advising us to save ourselves and our neighbors by staying home, our governments struggle to keep the wrong doubts from going viral. The Russian state, in particular, has announced crackdowns on fake news: citing the danger of Covid-19, new laws harshly penalize the “spread of false information.” But accusations of falsity are as bottomless as the hoaxes they try to contain. States accuse each other of spreading disinformation, and scholars show that these accusations are themselves often false, that “an EU-funded body set up to fight disinformation ends up producing it.” The falsity of such accusations of falsity gives fodder for new accusations. And thus the battle against an infectious pandemic becomes overshadowed by the battle for faith, against doubt. In this “infodemic,” America’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urges citizens to do these “three easy things: Don’t believe the rumors; Don’t pass them along; Go to trusted sources of information to get the facts about the federal (COVID-19) response.”
Can a state agency order citizens (not) to believe?