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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Perception war and infodemics

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We believe what we read. In this age of information asymmetry, and even more our analysis ability guided by its milieu, our perceptions and feelings are guided by the information we consume whether in history books, in newspaper, TV or social media and only few people try to search for an explanation behind things that either comply with our wishful perceptions or with logic.

At a time when India is yet again gripped in the wave of the deadly coronavirus, a basic humanitarian act should be to simply help the suffering and share their grief, instead of contributing to compounding a situation at large either by engaging in rumours and gossips or heresy, leading a new breed of “conflused species”.

Confused and anxious people were somehow fed that for the sudden new illness that has been in rampage or allowed to be on rampage, it is the 5G mobile network that was to be blamed. The result we all witnessed. The 5G mobile towers were vandalized and burnt down. It was not just a crazy standalone instance, but a collective behaviour witnessed across countries. Did we stop here?

We came with another funny story for the confused masses. There were minds that were abuzz with information and disinformation related to origin of the virus, accusations and counter accusations on the blame, on the effect and on further actions….

The Dark Knight inspired story was believed by many who never cared to think how a virus would survive cooking temperatures. It is not a tapeworm that affects your gut but a virus that affects your respiratory tract. But we are not to be blamed. We are all scared and at the same time relish to be ‘confused’. Misbeliefs thrive on fear.

It is not that we are not aware of how often social media flies with lies.

Actions are mediated by decisions, decisions have a foothold on perceptions, and perceptions are subject to manipulation. This paves the way for perception war.

So, who have been responsible for the real super spread behind the pandemic? What really had been crippling populations? Is it just the virus behind this pandemic or is it our carelessness or a dropped guard or the fear, making us believe anything we hear or read?

The lack of information has hugely affected our fight against COVID. Though, India was quick to respond to the first wave, quick to develop an indigenous vaccine. Then all of the sudden misinformation regarding expedited trials, side-effects of vaccines gave rise to vaccine hesitancy, immature procedure for vaccine administration and what not…

This vaccine wastage is also attributed to the low turnout of people coming up to get inoculated. Low turnout meant that the vaccine vial once opened could not be completely utilized and forced to be trashed.

Social media today is brimming with COVID prescriptions and a cry for medicine shortage. Since when did medical prescription become universal and not patient-specific? Countless cases of self-administered steroids premature to the requirement are aggravating the need for hospitalization when it was least needed. Confusion among doctors on convalescent plasma has led to another flood on social media demanding plasma for patients.

The process of dealing with pandemic and its effect was getting complete and then came the complete mayhem.

Now all this should force us to think about what really is more fatal? Is it the virus or is it the preventive mind-set to fight the virus, or is it getting lost in the speculation, or is it the degeneration of thought to be constantly in a blame mode, or is it the zeal to counter and encounter the virus, or is it the slurry of excuses to not wear a mask and prevent necessary action, or is it the lost ability to think through things? Is it the misinformation or lack of information that is causing the real mayhem?

Is Pandemic and any pandemic is always the result of virus?

Can the pandemic not be an aggravation of the virus because of information mismanagement-‘Infodemic’.

Infodemic is no less than a real pathological virus eating us all.

A pandemic can happen without a real pandemic, and we constantly prepare roads to move towards that …..

Any doctor can tell that a local wisdom guided diet and precautions related to hygiene would have gone a long way to tide pandemic and prevent it as well even though not being able to thwart it. But information pollution led apathy stymied this part as well.

A pandemic, in essence, is more an element of perception born out of an exploitative mindset to control or gain out by making it unfavourable to the masses and instilling enough amount of doubt to make it fearful.

A pandemic can also strike any place if people don’t know how not to be get affected by the information pollution. It will not allow the people to guard themselves properly and at a proper time with precautions and then shunning their local wisdom that evolved out of centuries. This can lead to perpetual pandemic.

Pandemic is a perception driven by intense desire to be in a state of enjoying fakeness of misinformation and its effects…Pandemic is when people seeded by numerous doubts fail to make even basic adjustments in thinking and in lifestyle.

Pandemic is fuelled by information and perception war, where you are not allowed to follow a right path because of the panic environment that is deliberately set up.

Pandemic is not only physical effect on the health, it can be a psychological situation of enjoying a state of super negativity too that weakens your guard.

Inability to gauge the enemy because of a state of mind that is agitated, that is cluttered by negativity, to be in constant blame game is pandemic too.

Constant inability to evolve lateral thinking allows people to be in a state of constant pandemic situation, which may not kill, but can make them anyone almost half dead…

Criticising and insulting a known preventive solution prevents people to prevent pandemic and can perpetuate it too.

Being critical of everything without a reason or logic is a state of super pandemic…

Common perception plays a major role in worsening the situation. A problematic situation could crop up anywhere if herd mentality prevails plentifully. This herd mentality is a particularly dangerous thing that can pose tremendous risk to the possibility of restoring stability in these times of deep crisis. Herd mentality has everything to do with manipulating influence; and this is a brand new breeding ground for a behavioural war.

Pandemic may be understood as a metaphor. If people’s attitude is susceptible to believing any half-baked information, any situation can turn into a pandemic. A pandemic comes about because of distortion of information and perception.

A pandemic is not merely a situation bringing physical ailment; it is also one that breeds politics, misinformation, feigned ignorance, and the very basic inability to learn. A pandemic is not just a virus that is spreading around but it is also the attitude of people fuelled by politics of deliberate ignorance and misinformation about the pandemic. These mental and psychological conditions are as much pandemic as the deadly virus is. Who requires to wage a war in that condition?

Public perception is a major factor stoking the primary pandemic. Bigger than the Covid-19 pandemic is the pandemic of people not being able to understand or being misinformed and not able to logic out information that is afloat. Believing what they read on ‘Whatsapp’ forwards and forming strong opinions based on those flimsy sources can create a breeding ground for converting any virus into a pandemic.

While there may not be legitimacy for any explanation-known or unknown, be it political, economic or the root-cause analysis, one thing that remains true is that a media pathogen is hollowing the world. ‘Infodemic’ is more lethal than the virus induced pandemic. Spreading disinformation about the pandemic is no less than a virus itself, more armed, more lethal more infectious and a long-lasting war.

People with clouded vision and clouded sense of discernment are the essence of a pandemic. With this kind of herd-driven, undiscerning thinking, any situation can fast turn into a pandemic and even an ordinary ailment can bring about a similar situation of crisis and war.

Any one, having a nefarious design and ill intent can create a ‘pandemic’ but not necessarily guided by viruses?

It will be war, a new war, perception war that does not require any weapon, only information manipulation to plunge or prepare to plunge a thinking, a system into deep crisis.

The worst happens when we do not prepare for what we cannot see coming, but in our case, we choose to be blind.

 

About Author:

Perception war and infodemics -

K. Siddhartha

A Strategic thinker, Geostrategist, Knowledge and Perception Management Consultant, an educationist, Mentor and Earth Scientist of International repute, a distinguished Thought leadership trainer and author of 43 books.

A prolific contributor to newspapers having written more than 120 articles in newspaper and magazines including The Hindu, Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Tribune, Indian Express, Punjab Kesari, Dainik Jagaran, Jansatta, Rashtriya Hindi Mail etc.

 

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