Scrolling through Twitter can make or break a morning, especially these days. I’ve had my own problems with Twitter recently. There were more depressing mornings than glorious ones filled with sunshine and feel-good stories. I deleted the app from my phone. Every time I came away form the phone I would be down. Tales of doom, gloom and the pandemic filled my feed so I had to get rid. I check it on the work computer or the browser on my phone but I am trying to stay away. Even checking it on the work computer can be a trial. I don’t let it ruin my mornings/afternoons/evenings anymore but there is still a drag on my spirit when I see unsavoury things.
The most prominent type of tweet that makes me throw my eyes up to heaven and whisper ‘Give me strength’, like an Irish mother cleaning the house for the umpteenth time that day, only to find a dirty pile of clothes tucked away in the corner of her son’s bedroom after she explicitly told him that she was putting a wash on that morning, is a tweet by an anti-masker or a member of the Irish media promoting their ideas. Last week, Jennifer Zamparelli on 2FM (Irish radio station) tweeted that she would be having a debate on the use of face masks during the pandemic on her show. She received many replies questioning her sanity, prompting the Irish celeb to cancel the discussion. She claimed that she was attempting to examine the psychology behind someone who would not wear a mask. However, her original tweet was not attempting anything of the sort. To include the voice of someone who believes we should not be wearing masks is promoting their ideology and harming other people.
Today, Neil Prendeville tweeted about a guest on Red FM who claimed that we should not be overreacting to the Covid crisis. Professor Dolores Cahill, who has caused controversy for her claims about the virus, was given airtime on one of Cork’s main radio stations. The Twitter pile-on did not reach the same levels as Zamparelli’s but the feeling of the people is clear. Our radio presenters must stop giving these people airtime. UCD has disassociated itself from Dolores Cahill due to her stance on the virus and the measures the government has implemented. Ireland’s media outlets should know better and take one of the country’s leading universities’ advice.
Prendeville referred to her by her academic title. ‘The Professor is telling Mick…’, making her out to be an expert on the matter. He must have known that vulnerable, gullible people reading that tweet would take that bold claim as expertise.
Cahill also claimed that the virus can be cured with Vitamin C and hydroxychloroquine. Hydroxychloroquine is the controversial drug that Donald Trump claimed would stop the virus; the drug that has possibly caused more deaths in those it has treated than those treated with standard measures, according to this study of coronavirus patients in Veterans Affairs hospitals in America; the drug that can possibly cause drug-induced cardiac arrest in a small subset of the population. Even if it turns out that this drug is effective against the coronavirus, it needs to be advice from medical officials and the government that sways us. How many people listening today might decide to self-medicate, or take the drug regardless of whether they have symptoms or not?
So, while both pile-ons were warranted, in my opinion, the fact that Prendeville has received around a fifth of the replies that Zamparelli received due to her tweet is astonishing. While Jen may have misjudged people’s strong feelings on the matter, Neil Prendeville is providing a platform for someone who has been debunked countless times and spreading her misinformation around the Twittersphere. Why hasn’t he come out to clarify? What is so different between the two?
I’m sure we all have our reasons why Neil Prendeville might not apologise or even acknowledge his actions this morning. Whatever they are, we all know it is not right. We cannot crucify one radio presenter and not the other, despite the size of the roles they might play in this pandemic.