Aerial theatre in the time of coronavirus?

[With apologies to Gabriel García Márquez and Ben Wilkie.]

It's not that long ago that I was posting about the Australian bushfires; now it's the turn of the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic, and it's worldwide. Social media is an essential tool in such times of crisis, but it also can be a misleading one. Here's a fairly trivial example relevant to my own interests.

Kathleen tweeted this on 13 March:

The Italian airforce gives a big emotional lift to their nation with Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma (let no one sleep)and where lyrics say venceremos(we will overcome)they have their planes dramatically facing and overpowering the single plane (virus) with their National Flag!

As of 16 March, the attached video has been viewed 10.6 million times. And why not? The display is beautiful, the music inspirational, and it fits in with other videos we've all seen of quarantined Italians singing together from their balconies. Unity and culture will defeat the pandemic! Viva Italia!

The only problem is that the display had nothing to do with the coronavirus, because it was performed well before it hit Italy, or anywhere for that matter. As HoaxEye noted, the exact same video was uploaded to YouTube by Pierinoinflight Johnny on 10 November 2019:

It appears to be a standard display of the Italian Air Force Frecce Tricolori, or Tricolour Arrows.

As I say, this is pretty trivial piece of misinformation, and I think quite harmless. And we all need a lift right now! Apart from the obvious link to national identity, it's also only incidentally about aerial theatre, as I don't think anyone is suggesting that aviation can actually be used to fight the coronavirus (obviously, the reverse, since it's playing a big part in spreading it around the world).

I argued (well, more asserted) in my book that people generally don't learn much about existential threats, or what can or should be done about them, unless and until there is an actual crisis (or panic), because they just don't pay attention until it saturates the media. I think we're seeing that with coronavirus: how many people have learned how to wash their hands properly only in the last month? (I know I'm one!) But I implicitly assumed that the information being spread in a crisis is more or less accurate, which of course is not true.

So I'll end by saying: wash your hands, don't touch your face, keep your distance and trust your local medical authorities, not 'the internet'. And disburse contiguum!

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