Misinformation epidemic: How conspiracy theorists and wannabe doctors confuse the public

#12: Richard Carpiano on medical misinformation and unqualified Covid-19 punditry
Protestors hold a sign in support of public mask requirements to reduce the spread of the SARS2 coronavirus. Photo: GoToVanFollow/Flickr

Episode Summary

As the Covid-19 infections continue to rise among non-vaccinated people, it’s worth taking a look at the history of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and unqualified media medical advice.

In this episode, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield is joined by Richard Carpiano, a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Riverside.

Carpiano is a medical sociologist and public and population health scientist who studies how social factors, such as education, income, race-ethnicity, and social connections impact the physical and mental health of adults, children, and the communities in which they live.

In the discussion, Carpiano talks about how conspiracies about medical vaccines have circulated in multiple sub-cultures through quack medical doctors, television programs of people like Oprah Winfrey, and also via Christian nationalist groups that oppose science generally.

They also discuss how political-interest media commentators like Nate Silver and Zeynep Tufekci have unadvisedly expanded their output to include inexpert pronouncements about the pandemic, and in the process undermined public confidence in legitimate medical experts.

Read Carpiano’s essay about amateur Covid punditry and public confusion here or follow him on Twitter.

About This Podcast

Lots of people want to change the world. But how does change happen? History is filled with stories of people and institutions that spent big and devoted many resources to effect change but have little to show for it. By contrast, many societal developments have happened without forethought from anyone. And of course, change can be negative as well as positive.

In each episode of this weekly program, Theory of Change host Matthew Sheffield delves deep with a solo guest to discuss larger trends in politics, religion, media, and technology.