One of the unexpected effects of the quarantine is that it equals us. It doesn’t matter where you are, what work you do, what your age is or how much money you have in the bank. Quarantine forces us to be at home, with our fears and thoughts. And this comes at a price: We end up reading and hearing that our life-time heroes are not so perfect.
In the past few weeks, some of the artists I admire have signaled that – for whatever reason – they are ignoring undeniable facts about COVID-19 and even spreading false news.
On July 29, Madonna surprised her fans by sharing on her Instagram account a video in which a doctor claimed that hydroxychloroquine was the cure for the new coronavirus. And she added a comment: “The truth will set us free.”
It has been widely documented that there is no cure for COVID-19. The doctor and Madonna are flat wrong.
So those who follow the singer on Instagram saw her post covered by a black screen that said “False information,” followed by the link to PolitiFact and LeadStories fact-checks. Hours later, Instagram removed the entire post.
“We’ve removed this video for making false claims about cures and prevention methods for COVID-19,” Raki Wane, Instagram’s policy communications manager, told USA Today in a statement. “People who reacted to, commented on, or shared this video, will see messages directing them to authoritative information about the virus.”
As a fact-checker and a longtime fan of Madonna’s music, it hurt me to see that she ignored the work that has been done by fact-checkers all over the planet since January.
In the CoronaVirusFacts alliance database, which is available not only on the International Fact-Checking Network’s website but also on WhatsApp chatbots developed in English, Spanish, Hindi and Portuguese, with the support of 99 organizations across the work, there are at least 77 articles, full of respected, credible and non-partisan sources, noting that there is no evidence that hydroxychloroquine works to stop the coronavirus.
Madonna was not my only idol to deny the facts.
On July 27, the Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli, the voice of the beautiful “Con te Partiró”, participated in an event organized by his country’s Senate and not only denied the seriousness of COVID-19 but also attacked the measures taken by the Italian authorities to prevent further contamination.
First, he claimed that the new coronavirus couldn’t be that dangerous because he didn’t know anyone who had needed intensive treatment. Then he confessed that he had not followed the lockdown rules because he had felt humiliated. He missed the sun.
“I couldn’t leave my house even though I had not committed any crime,” he complained.
It was hard to see another idol so ill-informed or uninterested in the realities. According to the data kept by the John Hopkins University, Italy has registered 35,000 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 248,000 infected people. The fact that Bocelli does not know someone who has been in serious condition, of course, does not mean that this group does not exist.
But let me conclude with a positive thought. I’d rather remember what he did on Easter Sunday, April 12. Italians – and a good part of the planet – were in lockdown. Bocelli went to the gigantic cathedral in Milan, which was completely empty, and gave a concert to bring peace to people’s hearts. The last song, sung outside in the empty piazza, was “Amazing Grace”, by John Newton.
Read the Spanish version of this article at Univision.
* Cristina Tardáguila is the associate director of the International Fact-Checking Network and the founder of Agência Lupa. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.