It is difficult to find an article on a scientific topic in the Armenian media. There is little public interest in and specialized journalists for such materials.
Discussions on this topic can be more or less found on social networks. Arman Gasparyan is a journalist interested in science, he uses his social media account and tells people various international scientific news, discusses them, talks about the non-existence of science in Armenia and its consequences.
Recently, he has been writing a lot about the importance of coronavirus vaccines, trying to counter the vaccine myths with scientific hypotheses and facts.
According to him, the statistics of deaths from the infection show that today there is a crisis of social responsibility in Armenia. People, the media and, first of all, the state are indifferent.
To put it mildly, our society is not ready for scientific materials. You have started to create an audience on this topic on social media, does it work?
People are well aware that the state funding for science is low, that scientists live on a low salary, and the deputy, the minister, the head of the department of some institutions have very high-paying jobs.
Add to that the traditional condescending and skeptical attitude towards science and those engaged in science, not imagining the scientific result in general colors due to the low level of knowledge received at school.
Our society does not have a full understanding of the importance of science in ensuring its own well-being. And it is not the fault of society, it is just that the state has never been and is not seriously engaged in the evaluation of science in society.
I and many other people who love science are just a drop in the ocean, our financial audience is not enough to create any public mood.
The public mood can not be formed only with the news about the next achievement of world science. Society constantly demands “close to the body,” obvious examples. Scientists living with a high-paying job and prosperous life, the continuous growth of science funding, existence of separate scientific professional departments in the media, formation of scientific institutes, etc.
My goal is to inspire people to do science, but almost all of my examples are “from outside.” Of course, there is no such thing as “outside” and “inside” in science, it is a kind of universal symbiosis, but at the moment we have little to offer to the world scientific community.
However, that nucleus we have is very strong, in case of a very solid and appropriately prudent attitude it can turn into an influential systemic element.
The media has left the topic of science on the sidelines, there is no public demand, even after the war when there was a need for serious articles and analyzes.
The topics of interest to our society are very far from science, therefore the media pays almost no attention to the topic, and if it does, it acts in a very unscrupulous way, translates sensational materials of some yellow media without understanding the topic.
These materials are mostly distorted and do not correspond to reality.
The result of such an irresponsible attitude is the so-called “British scientists,” which is one of the catalysts for taking science lightly.
There is no serious public demand for scientific journalism, there is no scientific journalism. However, one of the factors shaping the public demand, in addition to the complex state approach, is professional scientific journalism.
As a result, we have a closed circle. There is no public demand because there is no scientific journalism, there is no serious journalism because there is no public demand.
Can individuals help change opinions, formulate questions for public administration?
During and after the war, there were tens and hundreds of posts on social networks, which thoroughly substantiated the need for the preservation and development of knowledge, as well as a step-by-step description of how to do it all.
The state at that time had a large army of advisers, most of them professionals, who offered their services. But time passed, the voice of the people was lost under the noise of domestic political topics.
Now no one is particularly worried that no important conceptual steps have been taken in the field of science in the last year.
Vaccination against coronavirus is also a knowledge-based topic. You are campaigning for vaccines online. Are you managing to carry out that difficult task?
From the very first days of the coronavirus, aggressive marginalized individuals and groups appeared on social media, deliberately harming themselves by making unsubstantiated claims about the absence of the virus, the global conspiracy.
The resistance of the state propaganda against these groups was so weak and timid that many people began to be convinced that the “coronadissidents” were right.
I want to emphasize that a significant part of the deaths from coronavirus infection in Armenia could have been avoided if these movements had been countered at the state level in time.
However, this did not happen and the public has incorrect, incomplete ideas about science, about scientific methods, therefore, any program on that topic is treated with suspicion.
To this, we add the sermons of the marginals with a large audience and the inability of the state to resist them. Now that the pandemic has reached the vaccination stage, they are successfully waging a fierce struggle against vaccinations.
The direct consequence of this situation is the daily deaths. If there is an opportunity to influence the decision of at least a few people with logical reasons, it may save lives.
The state has already failed the vaccinations, lost in the information struggle against the opponents of the vaccines, although the justifications of the latter are not subject to any criticism.
What does the behavior of people show, is it a matter of proper awareness or thinking?
Both problems exist. The problem of thinking is deeper, it is difficult or impossible to correct. Vaccines have been known to mankind for a long time, their effectiveness in overcoming many deadly infections is not in any doubt.
It is possible to convincingly describe the working mechanisms of vaccination to any school child. However, it has not been done and is not being done. Neither at school, nor in the media, nor within the framework of state propaganda, has the explanation been given to people in understandable language as to what the vaccine is and how it is effective and safe.
In contrast, vaccine myths are much simpler, easier to digest, and more memorable because of the effects of various horrors. It is a very strong factor influencing public attention.
At the beginning of the coronavirus, when people did not even want to wear a mask, I said that it is necessary to show dying patients on TV every day, which can have a sobering effect.
Now that mankind has been vaccinated against deadly diseases such as pox, it is necessary to constantly show what the disease was and what would have happened if it had not been overcome.
The behavior of people shows that they have very flawed ideas about the topic. They have a lot of questions, and as long as those questions are not answered in a comprehensive way, the opponents of the vaccine will always give them false but convincing answers.
This is not a domestic political game, we are dealing with human lives here.
How do you imagine the role of local media in vaccination and social responsibility?
When the media outlet reports a clearly opposing message to the vaccines after the press conference of a suspicious semi-literate speaker, the journalist or editor must understand that they can be the cause of death.
Most media outlets today are not interested in public health.
If the media outlet is oppositional, it will provide information that contradicts the steps of the authorities, just because its functions are like that.
But it must be understood that the culprit in this situation is first of all the authorities, because not only is there no adequate anti-propaganda, but also mechanisms to fight against information that intentionally harms public health.
Unfortunately, the Armenian media are busy with everything except the realization of their social responsibility before the public.
Interview by Gayane Asryan