A shocking narrative about COVID-19, the illness attributable to the novel coronavirus, is spreading: that fears of the pandemic are overblown as a result of in 1969, the Woodstock music pageant was held throughout a flu pandemic.
The declare has been shared 1000’s of occasions through Fb posts and memes. “As a substitute of shutting all the things down, they held Woodstock,” one model of the meme reads.
As nearly all of the nation rides out the pandemic quarantined at dwelling, net visitors has exploded, and with it on-line misinformation concerning the coronavirus. On Fb viral content material has been circulating, no matter its truthfulness — just like the deceptive “Plandemic” video, which was seen hundreds of thousands of occasions earlier than it was taken down by the platform’s moderators final week.
And whereas the “Plandemic” video offered a conspiratorial worldview steeped in anti-vaccination and extremist tropes, the Woodstock/flu meme is one thing totally different: nostalgic and gauzy, though nonetheless inaccurate.
The meme argues that the present lockdown as a result of present coronavirus pandemic is a product of the media spreading pointless worry and panic. Many iterations of it are adopted by feedback by those that had been alive on the time about how Individuals in 1968 and 1969 didn’t change their lives to cope with an influenza pandemic
The Woodstock narrative originated in a Might 1 article titled “Woodstock Occurred within the Center of a Pandemic” by the American Institute for Financial Analysis, a conservative analysis institute. In it, the AIER’s editorial director Jeffrey A. Tucker argued that in 1969, whereas an H3N2 pressure of influenza sickened the planet, the financial system didn’t shut down, and, for the 400,000 individuals who gathered at Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York, there was some music.
“Nothing was closed by power. Colleges largely stayed open. Companies did too. You could possibly go to the films. You could possibly go to bars and eating places,” Tucker wrote.
“If we used authorities lockdowns then like we use them now, Woodstock (which modified music endlessly and nonetheless resonates right this moment) would by no means have occurred. How a lot prosperity, tradition, tech, and many others. are dropping on this calamity?” he added.
Tucker’s piece, revealed on Might 1, 2020, is now filled with updates and corrections. The unique model claimed that no faculties had closed as a consequence of H3N2, which isn’t true — 23 states confronted faculty and school closures. The unique model additionally, most crucially, didn’t embody the element that the influenza pandemic began in 1968, got here in two massive seasonal waves through the winter months, and whereas it lasted till 1969, Woodstock occurred in August, between the waves of the pandemic.
On Might 7, the Reuters Truth Examine crew labeled the AIER article “deceptive,” writing: “the Woodstock music pageant happened months after the primary season of the Hong Kong flu had led to america. Though there was to be a second wave within the US the next winter, it’s deceptive to say it occurred ‘in the course of a pandemic.’”
Columbia College virologist Angela Rasmussen advised BuzzFeed Information that whereas there have been some similarities between COVID-19 and H3N2, crucial distinction was that the loss of life fee through the 1968–1969 flu pandemic — 100,000 within the US — was completely totally different from COVID-19.
“That is mainly the identical variety of deaths you get in a typical flu season within the US,” Rasmussen mentioned. “We’re on observe to hit 100,000 deaths [from COVID-19] subsequent week, if not the top of the month.”
However no matter whether or not the comparability between the 1969 outbreak and the 2020 coronavirus is a good one, the concept has unfold on Fb, notably inside right-wing teams and pages.
The Rabbit Gap, a right-wing Fb web page, was the largest supply of visitors to the AIER story, in response to social metrics web site CrowdTrangle.
“What we did not do prior to now was panic like a bunch of scared kids and permit the federal government to damage folks’s lives,” the web page wrote. “Please learn this text, it reveals you the stupidity of what our Governments are doing proper now.”
The Rabbit Gap has over 100,000 likes on its web page, which promotes misinformation about COVID-19, just like the declare that masks can’t defend you from the virus.
AIER’s article additionally acquired an enormous quantity of visitors from right-wing information web site CNSNews.com, which had a submit about it shared nearly 10,000 occasions.
Houston-based conservative radio discuss present host Michael Berry shared the AIER article, writing on Fb, “We did not all the time destroy our financial system, our life financial savings, our small companies, our jobs, and all the things we labored for due to pandemics.”
“It is nearly just like the debunking would not actually have an impact. It makes folks extra inclined to imagine it.”
“Is it coincidence that an America that has locked its kids indoors due to media-hyped worry of the bogeyman is now locking itself indoors over worry of this virus?” requested one in all Berry’s followers within the remark part.
As for the way customers can keep away from falling for deceptive or dangerous details about COVID-19, Rasmussen mentioned that many individuals who share misinformation are likely to bristle when they’re fact-checked.
“A variety of occasions when a lot of these ‘oh here is a brand new sizzling tackle this’ articles come out and when they’re debunked, the folks actually double down — the individuals who wrote them or people who find themselves sharing them broadly,” she mentioned. “It is nearly just like the debunking would not actually have an impact. It makes folks extra inclined to imagine it.”
“We’re starved for data that can permit us to take some actionable societal measures like, ‘let’s reopen and have Woodstock as a result of they did that in 1969 and all the things was positive,’” Rasmussen mentioned.