More than six months after the start of the pandemic, we can now begin to see noticeable changes in our consumption habits. While early memes mocked the spirit of Zoom, recent data suggests that we actually bought fewer beauty supplies, like deodorant and makeup, and unfortunately less healthy food, like ice cream.
While the occasional pizza binge has been shown to be nutritionally benign, the same cannot be said for the spread of the sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle under quarantine or confinement. Recent research from the New York Times described the experiences of those on the front line of waist expansion in the U.S., that is, tailors, who are watching it happen in real time.
With potentially increasingly unhealthy Americans and increasingly expensive medicine, the most recent set of executive orders from the President of the United States, Donald Trump, aimed at reducing the costs of prescription drugs, especially insulin, there could be no arrived at a better time.
One of the orders signed by Trump last week would facilitate the granting of individual exemptions for the personal importation of drugs from Canada, Mexico and other places where large social health systems often negotiate costs and are substantially lower than in the US USA
Not many are happy with these executive orders. Some suggest that Trump’s announcement was simply a brazen political effort to attract older voters, while others feel it too closely resembles the political platform of his democratic rivals.
Trump is not the only one who seems to have the well-being of the public in mind. Her colleague across the pond, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who recently lost considerable weight after recovering from the coronavirus, has turned his slim new self into a national campaign to combat the country’s growing obesity.
These actions in the US and UK are just a few of the many new rules and guidelines in the area of health that are constantly being implemented across the planet, especially in response to the pandemic.
However, new health habits are not the only problem with this pandemic. In addition to the virus, society still suffers from the scourge of the concomitant infodemic, a consequence of the fake news problem of a simpler time before the coronavirus. This unsupported eruption of information is particularly destructive when unverified anecdotal data is spread as a medical gospel.
A recent example was a video of a group of curious people calling themselves America’s frontline doctors. The group promotes marginal views on the medicine, although it would now be difficult to know for sure what they are: their website is down, and the video has been effectively erased by all major media outlets after being identified as fake.
These and other alleged stakeholders appear to be underpinned by unscientific and anecdotal data, along with old conspiracy theorists, are another arm of what journalist Matti Friedman has identified as ideological activism that has permeated the media and our culture.
Friedman makes specific reference to the emerging ‘Generation of Awakening’ that somehow paints his own position and the positions of his allies in gray, but all opposite values are absolutely and hopelessly offensive. As Friedman points out, this is indeed (and ironically) the worldview of many old-school religions. But this new worldview need not be limited to current civil unrest in the US or the old attack on Israel, as Friedman frames it.
Arguably, the same type of mindset that underpins everything that currently defines these groups also exacerbates the aforementioned infodemic, facing opposing health views in a zero-sum death struggle against each other, and in which each claims that the other side is undoubtedly incorrect. At a time when we can least afford to provide citizens with inconsistent health guidelines, how do you know who to trust when everyone wears the same white lab coats?
In the past, much of the pseudoscience would have been lost in the background noise. However, the global nature of this pandemic has completely captured our attention. Previously, we could also have turned to Hollywood’s ever-present relaxing hobbies and sports to distract ourselves from these destructive disagreements about fact and science. But not this time. Even if the public were interested in distraction, we could be running out of both.
New television and film content is suffering from a drought due to quarantines, blockages and new waves of the disease. On top of that, most spectator sports have banned all fans from having fun in the stands.
At least we can all agree with pizza.
Dov Greenbaum is director at the Zvi Meitar Institute for Legal Implications of Emerging Technologies at the Israeli academic institute IDC Herzliya.