There are a number of ways of causing panic. In increasing order of effectiveness these are:
3 – Actual danger
2 – Shouting “DO NOT PANIC!” in a crowd
1 – Telling people that other people are panicking.
Today I opened my window to let in some air only to hear my neighbor shouting “go buy four face masks in the pharmacy before they run out“.
Then I opened the news and realized why my otherwise level-headed neighbor who never leaves the apartment acted so irrationally first thing in the morning: even respectable news sites had their front pages choke full of photos of empty supermarket shelves.
It doesn’t matter that all the headlines added that there is no reason to panic buy groceries or to wear face masks unless you are already sick. No one reads what comes after “there is panic”. Telling people that others are panicking is a faster way to cause panic than releasing a Soros-impersonator on a crowded bus.
Believing that others are panicking makes you (act) panicky in much the same way believing that others are stupid/evil/irrational makes you (act) stupid/evil/irrational.
Now excuse me, I am off to buy shares in canned food companies.