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The Great Bee Hoax

The article “Viewpoint: How a small group of scientists and pliable media created a ‘catastrophe narrative’ that hurts bees and farmers” by Henry Miller discusses the effects of pseudo-science and information cascades when it comes to the popular ‘bee-pocalypse’ trend. According to international statistics from 1995, the number of honeybee colonies has stayed seemingly constant (some graphs even show growth).

So why exactly has everyone been saying “save the bees”? Miller believes that it is the Pseudo-Scientific Method’s fault: experiments are botched on purpose to achieve desirable results, which are then published in predatory journals (that take on a fee to publish regardless of scientific validity). As soon as these articles are posted on social media, the falsified results will have already reached halfway around the world, trumpeted by Twitter retweets and Instagram stories. In relation to the bee story, the truth is that most of the studies were done on caged bees that were massively overdosed with the neonic pesticides originally in question.

This article is a prime example of the information cascades we learned about in class. Due to our massively interconnected society on the internet, news can spread more rapidly and dangerously than ever. Incorrect ideas can become widely accepted due to falsified literature and scientific evidence; two things that the general public does not conduct sufficient research into. Even worse, activists use the media as their research, which results in a mass repetition of fabricated crises in various articles and posts. In addition, social media creates increased social pressure to fuel the cascade, as users can see who is supporting the “movement” with hashtags and other similar features. As more and more people jump onto the bandwagon — especially celebrities and influencers — others soon follow.


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December 2019