Monday 3 January 2022

The world has gone mad: Covid and Misinformation

Everybody has turned into their own expert. Armed with a computer and an Internet connection, anybody can transform into a genius in any field.

Never have so many said so much while knowing so little.

Then again, I will be the first to amusingly point out that by writing here, I’m doing exactly the same thing; I’m jotting down what I believe, and somebody could reasonably ask if my opinion is better than anybody else’s.

However, if I may be so bold, I like to think I’m doing what the average person doesn’t do: I research in order to back up my beliefs with expert sources of scientific information. Yes, I’m stating my opinion, but I like to think my opinion is not based on some wild conspiracy theory I saw in a social media post published by somebody wearing a tin foil hat; it is grounded in fact. And when I say fact, let me clarify:

Independent scientists doing independent research can independently arrive at the same results.

Time and time again over the past few years, I’ve noted how people say they believe such and such but are unable to offer verifiable, documented evidence. Two plus two equals five? Sure, but let me see your proof. Show me the math which does, in fact, prove the answer is five, not four. I am forever amused to hear people make a statement and then tell me to look it up. Guess what? I did, and they’re wrong!

Social Media
On Twitter, I posted my pro-mask, pro-vaccine stance, citing America’s Dr. Fauci. I received this reply:

Why would you listen to fauci lmao. Has lied over and over since the onset.

Let me get this straight. I’m stuck in the middle on this and need some guidance as to which way to turn.

On the one side, I have an anonymous poster on social media who has no credentials, no expertise whatsoever, and who, in his feed, has posted links to what I can confirm are conspiracy theory websites.

On the other side, I have Dr. Fauci, a career epidemiologist of 40 years who has advised seven presidents, the FDA, the CDC, frontline workers, doctors, nurses, the administrators of health care institutions, the governments of Canada, England, Spain, France, Germany, the Nordic countries, Australia, New Zealand, India, China, and Russia, etc.

Who should I trust? Who should I follow? To whom should I turn to for guidance during this public health crisis?

The above anonymous poster says that Fauci has lied. On Monday, the science says X. On Tuesday, Dr. Fauci talks to the public about X. On Wednesday, new data comes in, and science says Y. On Thursday, Dr. Fauci talks to the public about Y. Did Fauci lie? Science changes as new information becomes available. That’s science, not lying.

Here we go again. People with no credentials overestimate their own ability to interpret science, to understand how the world works, and stupidly ignore the advice of experts. (The Dunning-Kruger Effect) Here I am, standing the middle, anonymous poster on one side, and pretty much the rest of the world including the scientific community on the other side. Who should I believe?

Let’s face it, I would have to be pretty goldarned stupid to believe this poster as opposed to Dr. Fauci. There is no way I’m going to take medical advice from social media over a legitimate source of expertise with a proven track record.

It’s my turn to write lmao. I see people posting sh*t from nonexperts (Joe Rogan, Marjorie Greene), conspiracy theory web sites, and unreliable, biased sources (Hello, Fox News!) while completely avoiding any legitimate science, and I have to think people have lost their minds. Two plus two equals five. The Earth is flat. The Democrats are a cabal of pedophiles hell-bent on taking over the world and taking your children for their satanic sacrifices. I remain mystified by what some people believe and what they trust as a reliable source of information. The world has gone mad.


In December, I call a business acquaintance about a work-related matter. During our chat, he reveals he’s not vaccinated. Why? “I’m waiting to see what happens.” What?

His work involves meeting the public, but he said he had armed himself with tests and was verifying his status on a regular basis.

I spoke to him about my research and subsequently sent him some literature, but I assume he’s going to remain unswayed. His wife is vaccinated.

I have to shake my head. I can’t help feeling he’s turned this into a contest of wills. He wants to proudly wear a t-shirt: “I survived the pandemic unvaccinated and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. He could drive to the store and back while not wearing his safety belt. I wouldn’t recommend it, but he could do it and escape unscathed. If he doesn’t need a safety belt, why does he need a vaccine?

The pandemic is a hoax
In the past year, I’ve listened to a physio-therapist who is angry with the government. The lockdowns have at times closed his business, and he is outraged at being deprived his livelihood. That’s understandable. However, whenever I see him, he spouts off, ignoring all the facts. If not a hoax, the pandemic is an overblown issue. Respiratory droplets? Pshaw! Masks? He refuses to wear them and never asks his clients to wear them. What a recipe for disaster!

Nevertheless, he’s managed to get this far without any incident. Of course, that is merely a stroke of good luck. His business could see a hundred clients a week. If he became infected and remained asymptomatic for the usual 14 days, he could infect one to two hundred clients who would then infect their own families and circle of friends. How many people would be involved? Hundreds, possibly thousands. Whoa!

But as I said, he’s gotten this far without incident which I imagine only reinforces his idea that the severity of the pandemic has been exaggerated. By visiting with him, I know I’m taking a calculated risk but unfortunately, I don’t have any choice; he’s too important for my health. I've never been able to find anyone who matches his level of expertise.

Final Word
I think of the amusing synonyms for the know-it-all: armchair general or Monday morning quarterback. Let me add the laptop with a WiFi connection medical expert. I have to shake my head as people with no education or experience in epidemiology open their mouths and embarrass themselves by saying things which anybody without much effort using Google search can disprove.

Back at the beginning of the pandemic, I researched respiratory droplets and the airborne transmission of infectious diseases. It was all clear; I felt I knew exactly what was going on, and I followed the recommended course of action. Anything else would be foolish. It would be like confronting all the scientific evidence linking the use of tobacco to lung cancer, and then smoking a cigarette. I couldn’t do it. And when people complained that some measures were draconian, I believed it paid to be prudent, and I thought it better for all of us to err on the side of caution.

Of course, I must make a personal confession: I’m retired and live alone, meaning I sort of live in a bubble. In other words, I have not had to face two of the most challenging aspects of this pandemic: employment and schooling. I have not had job restrictions or even lost a job, and I’ve had not had to deal with homeschool learning. Some in my family have had to deal with those issues and have kept me apprised of what it’s like to live at the front lines. Maybe I wouldn’t be so understanding.

I’ve said that five years from now, historians and other experts will analyse what we’ve collectively done during this pandemic. What did we get right? What did we do wrong? Aside: I think t**** should be held criminally negligent for downplaying of the severity of the coronavirus. He, more than anyone else, has made things worse than they had to be. I've seen studies that state upwards of 40% of American deaths were unnecessary because t**** convinced people not to take this seriously.

Whatever that five-year analysis concludes, I have to make note of one very important point in any future discussions: We’re alive. Yes, we get to debate the issue because we’ve managed to survive. The dead don’t get a say. Some say the fact they’re alive means the pandemic wasn’t such a big deal, an overblown issue, or possibly a hoax. I’m alive but say I’m lucky. I haven’t been infected; I haven’t been hospitalized; and I haven’t ended up dead.

So, for all those antimaskers or antivaxxers or pandemic deniers, spouting off dubious statistics to supposedly back up their stance, you have the privilege of voicing your opinions for one simple reason: You’re alive. The coronavirus hasn’t been the zombie apocalypse. It would seem it hasn’t even been the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918. Nevertheless, I would say we have collectively demonstrated that like the politics of the past four years under t****, we are incapable of agreeing on a unified course of action. It’s pretty much every man for himself. Sit on your stoop with your shotgun and defend your castle. Who cares about anybody else?

As I like to say: The dinosaurs became extinct because of an asteroid. Humans will become extinct because of stupidity.

Cartoon by Jon Adams, The New Yorker
(I apologise. I do not have permission to repost this, but it is too good to pass up.)


my blog: What I learned from parents who don't vaccinate their kids | Jennifer Reich | TEDxMileHigh - Dec 3/2021
Jennifer Anne Reich is an American sociologist, researcher and author at the University of Colorado Denver. Her research interests include healthcare, adolescence, welfare, and policy. Her work on vaccine hesitancy gained widespread attention during the 2019 measles outbreaks. She is the author of three books and numerous journal articles.

my blog: What the heck is a respiratory droplet? - Nov 7/2021
You step outside on a cold, winter day, and you exhale. You see your breath. The cold has condensed the bits of moisture in the exhaled air and formed a mist. When you exhale, you’re not only breathing out air but dampness from your lungs, your mouth, and your windpipe . Those bits of moisture are called respiratory droplets.

my blog: Masks: How We Hate Change - Sep 28/2021
To mask, or not to mask, that should not be a question. I have to shake my head at all the protests against masks and vaccines. We hate being told what to do, even if it’s for our own good.


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