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How exposure to misinformation inoculation sometimes makes things worse

Image: Cathy Scola/Getty Images

While on vacation, Marcial Conte, the Brazilian publisher of my first book, met a woman who asked about his work. Upon learning he was responsible for A Mentira do Glutén: E Outros Mitos Sobre O Que Voce Comê (The Gluten Lie: And Other Myths About What You Eat), she lit up.

Her husband, she said, had followed my revolutionary diet protocol and changed his life. Pounds melted away. Myriad health problems resolved themselves.

“She told me to thank you for saving her husband’s life with the ‘UNpacked Diet,’” Conte grinned at me. “Incredible, no? …

The Nuance

There’s new evidence that strong emotion — and, in particular, anger — may allow falsehoods to flourish

Illustration: Kieran Blakey

On January 8, two days after former president Donald Trump incited a mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, a 57-year-old Texas man tweeted a list of the penalties Trump would incur if he were impeached a second time. The listed penalties included the loss of Trump’s presidential pension, the loss of his Secret Service detail, and the loss of his ability to run again in 2024.

The tweet was reposted on a left-leaning Facebook page, at which point it went viral. The original tweet, which has since been deleted, accrued hundreds of thousands of “likes” and tens of thousands of…

‘They would have died anyway’ is a flawed and ugly claim

Medical staff move the bodies of Covid-19 victims from the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center to a refrigerated truck on April 2, 2020 in Brooklyn, New York. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

People who believe Covid-19 is not a big deal and is something we should just live with, like the flu, argue that the death toll is inflated because many of those who have died were old or had underlying medical conditions and would have died soon anyway.

The argument is not only morally reprehensible but also scientifically flawed, experts say. If a person has a medical condition that puts them at greater risk of complications from Covid-19, and they catch the disease and die, epidemiologists say their death certificate should list Covid-19 as the cause of death.

“People with underlying…

Illustration: Matija Medved

One Day at a Time

Daily insights on life in the face of uncertainty, by psychiatrist and habit change specialist Dr. Jud Brewer

Feeling news fatigue or losing hold of knowing who to trust?

You’re not alone. Having too many options of what to read or watch mixed with bursts of excitement can trick your brain into spreading false information and leave you feeling burned out. Fortunately, there is something you can do about it.

Let’s explore.

Margaret Sullivan, a columnist for the Washington Post, recently wrote that the media must stop live broadcasting the president’s daily briefings. She argued that he is spreading misinformation and using these briefings as a substitute for his now defunct campaign rallies. …

Trust Issues

Academia isn’t immune to the scourge of misinformation

A family physician prepares a measles vaccine during a consultation in Bucharest, Romania on April 16, 2018. Photo by Daniel Mihailescu/AFP via Getty

Dozens of infants and children in Romania died recently in a major measles outbreak, as a result of prominent celebrities campaigning against vaccination. This trend parallels that of Europe as a whole, which suffered a 400 percent increase in measles cases from 2016 to 2017. Unvaccinated Americans traveling to the World Cup may well bring back the disease to the United States.

Of course, we don’t need European travel to suffer from measles. Kansas just experienced its worst measles outbreak in decades. Children and adults in a few unvaccinated families were key to this widespread outbreak.

Just like in Romania…


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