Monday, 14 February 2022

The problem isn’t so much what people say, it’s that we listen.

I don’t listen to Joe Rogan. I never have listened to him, and I have no intention of doing so. Problem solved.

In fact, I don’t listen and never have listened to t****, Fox News, whether it be Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Jeannine Piro, Jesse Waters, et al., or any other source on the Right such as Alex Jones, Ben Shapiro, Candace Owens, formerly Rush Limbaugh, etc. Of course, clips crop up in newscasts, but I never tune into any of these people. Problem solved.

It occurs to me that the problem isn’t so much that any of these people are talking, it’s that we’re, I mean, you’re listening. Why are you listening?

“I talk shit for a living — that’s why this is so baffling to me. If you’re taking vaccine advice from me,
is that really my fault? What dumb shit were you about to do when my stupid idea sounded better?
‘You know that dude who made people eat animal dicks on TV? How does he feel about medicine?’
If you want my advice, don’t take my advice.”
-Joe Rogan, The Hollywood Reporter, Feb 8/2022

When I want medical advice, I go to a medical doctor, not a comedian. Why in heaven's name is anybody listening to Rogan's health recommendations? Dr. Anthony Fauci is a career epidemiologist of forty years who's advised seven presidents. I'm sorry, there is absolutely no comparison in the level of medical expertise. Why are we even talking about this? This is the height of absurdity! Heck, this may be one of Rogan's best comedic bits!

Joe Rogan, Fox News (Fox Entertainment?), and anybody else in this field are in business are trying to make a profit. In order to make a profit, they need an audience. So what can they do to get and hold our interest? During his divorce proceedings, the lawyer for the far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones referred to his client as a "performance artist". (NBC News, Apr 17/2017). Jones has turned his venture into a lucrative business model, earning more than $20 million in revenues annually in recent years, according to court documents. (CNBC, Sep 14, 2018) That's a pretty good paycheck for screaming about the government putting chemicals in the water that turn the friggin’ frogs gay.

The Power of Influencers
In a 2021 report, The Pew Research Center states 48% of U.S. adults say they get news from social media “often” or “sometimes”. (source) A 2020 report from the same company states that people who mainly get their news from social media are less likely to get their facts straight and more likely to hear unproven claims. (source)

I think it safe to say we all naïvely plugged into the Internet to unleash our opinion on the world unaware of how the landscape would change. The current world population stands at around 7.9 billion, 50% of whom are on some form of social media. (source: Statista) Facebook is the number one player with 2.9 billion users and YouTube second with 2.3 billion. It used to be that any one person stood on a soapbox at the corner preaching to passers-by with a megaphone. Now, an individual can garner an audience of millions.

We have now seen the dangers of such unfettered access to people. With no checks and balances, with no requirement for truthfulness, anybody can say anything they want, regardless of how crazy that might be. Two plus two equals five. The earth is flat. It is the wild, wild west of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Never have so many knowing so little said so much.

But I return to my original premise: The problem isn’t so much what people say; it’s that we listen. Is it a lack of education or real life experiences? Is it an inability to critically think? Or is it just plain stupidity? There is a significant portion of the population who don't know that two plus two doesn't equal five and will never take the time to check the math but merely accept the so-called expertise of somebody else. On top of it, this segment of the population has a distrust for the government and anything mainstream, including the news, education, and expertise, so even if a legitimate source gives them the right answer, they discount it. These people are ripe for the picking, an easy target for the slick talk of the next snake oil salesman.

Joe Rogan got himself into hot water back in the spring of 2021 for giving unorthodox and if not crazy medical advice and tried to explain himself out of the backlash.

“I am not a doctor. I am a fucking moron. I am a cage-fighting commentator … I am not a respected source of information even for me. But I at least try to be honest about what I am saying.” -Joe Rogan, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Apr 29, 2021

Joe was already telling people to not pay attention to him but we didn't listen. On top of it, he supposedly explained away any problem by saying he was trying to be honest. Please note than being wrong or being honest and wrong still means you're wrong.

After repeatedly hearing about ivermectin as a supposed Covid treatment touted by Rogan and others, I sat down to look at the issue in November 2021. (my blog: Ivermectin: I'm not taking medical advice from Joe Rogan. - Nov 9/2021)

First off, Joe Rogan hadn't done his homework. I found the original studies done back in 2015 to try to combat the Zika virus outbreak in Africa and the April 2020 Australian study trying to combat the coronavirus. In both cases, the scientists said that if they put enough ivermectin in a petri dish, they could kill the virus but noted the amount of ivermectin was greater than the recommended dosage for humans. Please note: Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic, used to combat parasites; it had never been touted as an anti-viral. These studies never did any human trials, concluding somebody would have to do such a thing.

Subsequent trials found no causal relationship between ivermectin and the coronavirus but the rumor had been born and continues to this day, propagated by Rogan and others.

“I can increase the concentration of sodium chloride (table salt) by 50% to my tissue culture cells and show inhibition of most viruses. But I don't go asking people to eat as much salty food as possible to combat virus infections, much less SARS-CoV-2. Hoping ivermectin works based on "in vitro efficacy studies" is "magical thinking."
-Dr. Benhur Lee, Professor of Microbiology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, interview in Salon about ivermectin, August 2021

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and desperate people do desperate things. Rogan is a comedian by profession; he has no training in the medical field at all. While his interviews may have a folksy, man in the street feel which makes him popular (11 million listeners per episode!), he's ill-equipped to question his guests or challenge their claims. The same holds true for Fox News or even Alex Jones. I return to my question: Why are people listening?

In the fall of 2021, Aaron Rodgers, quarterback for the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League (NFL), got himself into trouble by revealing he wasn't vaccinated and was taking medical advice from Joe Rogan, including the use of ivermectin. (my blog: Aaron Rodgers: I’m disappointed but I’m not surprised. - Nov 18/2021)

Rodgers told McAfee he is taking ivermectin on the advice of his new friend, podcaster Joe Rogan (the CDC does not consider ivermectin effective in treating or preventing COVID-19), and that the “woke mob” will be disappointed to hear that after 48 hours, he feels great. I am sincerely glad he feels great, but also: So what? I once felt great just 48 hours after eating at Applebee’s. What does that have to do with anything? This is a classic and frankly simple example of using anecdotal evidence to prove a point that can be proved with only statistics; it is the height of intellectual dishonesty, even if Rodgers is gullible enough to believe it himself.
-Michael Rosenberg, Sports Illustrated, Nov 5, 2021

The blind leading the blind leading blind. I repeat: Joe Rogan is a comedian by profession with no medical expertise. Dr. Anthony Fauci is a career epidemiologist of 40 years who's advised seven presidents. Why is this even an issue?

Final Word
Why do people listen? Can they not discern a legitimate source of information from the fakes? Do they just distrust anything they perceive as connected to the "mainstream"? Once again, are they just plain stupid?


We are all bombarded with information from all directions, family, friends, acquaintances at the coffee shop, TV, radio, and social media but we have to filter out the good from the bad, the real from the fake, and the legitimate from the rumor. I repeat my definition of the scientific method:

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

But do I think science knows everything? Do I think Dr. Fauci is infallible and never makes mistakes? 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.

The 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.

People are desperate for answers. I get it. We are all in an unprecedented situation, even the experts and the authorities. But the situation changes and the messaging changes. This certainly isn't the time to give up and turn to Rogan or Fox News. That's akin to shooting yourself in the foot.

In the final analysis, I'm going to trust Joe Rogan as a comedic professional to tickle my funny bone. However, in all other health-related matters, I'm going to trust a medical professional.


References

You can find my other rants about the pandemic on the site map under the section Health.

putting chemicals in the water that turn the friggin’ frogs gay
* Every conspiracy theory starts with a shred of truth. Believe it or not, in the mid-1990s, the United States Air Force studied the possibility of creating an aphrodisiac-like chemical which would cause immediate homosexual behavior in enemy soldiers. (Wikipedia: Gay bomb)

Wikipedia: The Joe Rogan Experience
The Joe Rogan Experience is a podcast hosted by American comedian and UFC color commentator Joe Rogan. It launched on December 24, 2009, by Rogan and comedian Brian Redban, who was its co-host and producer until 2013 when he was replaced by Jamie Vernon. By 2015, it was one of the world's most popular podcasts, regularly receiving millions of views per episode, also including a wide array of guests. Since December 2020, the podcast has been exclusively available on Spotify, with highlights uploaded onto YouTube.

McGill University: Science vs Joe Rogan
The McGill Office for Science and Society (Separating sense from nonsense) analyses Rogan's popularity and the extent of his influence and concludes: A colossal reach like Rogan’s requires maturity, especially in the middle of an infodemic. But in clinging to the teenage desire to hear things that’ll blow your mind, the podcaster with a golden megaphone broadcasts lies, fantasies, and bad medical advice.

2022-02-14

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Thursday, 3 February 2022

Covid: What if the U.S. was like Canada?

In an opinion piece (National Post, January 10, 2022), controversial Canadian Jordan Peterson explained the inconveniences he’s had to suffer due to restrictions related to the responses of various governments to Covid. After a visit to Tennessee during which he enjoyed the openness of the Covid-related rules, he wondered why Canada couldn't open itself up like Tennessee or Florida.

I was curious, so I put together the following chart. Deaths per million gives us a common denominator for comparing different populations.


How to calculate deaths per million: Canada --> 34,212 (total deaths) / 38,267,245 (population) * 1,000,000 = 894 (deaths per million)

All the following have been rounded.

Canada currently has 34,212 deaths attributed to Covid.

Florida has 3.40 times the deaths of Canada: 3,039 / 894 = 3.40

If Canada had the same death rate as Florida: 34,212 x 3.4 = 116,298 deaths

Tennessee has 3.73 times the deaths of Canada: 3,335 / 894 = 3.73

If Canada had the same death rate as Tennessee: 34,212 x 3.73 = 127,625 deaths

The United States has 3.07 times the deaths of Canada: 2,747 / 894 = 3.07

If Canada had the same death rate as the U.S.: 34,212 x 3.07 = 105,106 deaths

It obviously follows that yes, Canada could have been like Florida or Tennessee or even the U.S. but at what cost in human lives? What is the trade-off? What benefit would there be for those human lives? How many Canadians would have to die before Mr. Peterson thought the crisis was more important than the inconveniences he suffers?


I got curious about asking the inverse question: What if Florida was like Canada?

Florida's rate of deaths is 3,039 - 894 = 2,145 --> 2,145 / 3,039 = 71% greater than Canada.

Excess deaths: 65,273 * 71% = 46,070

If Republican Governor Ron DeSantis had run his state of Florida like Canada, 46,070 Floridians would be alive today.

What if Tennessee was like Canada?

Tennessee's rate of deaths is 3,335 - 894 = 2,441 --> 2,441 / 3,335 = 73% greater than Canada.

Excess deaths: 22,776 * 73% = 16,671

If Republican Governor Bill Dee had run Tennessee like Canada, 16,671 Tennesseans would be alive today.

What if the United States was like Canada?

The American rate of deaths is 2,747 - 894 = 1,853 --> 1,853 / 2,747 = 67.45% greater than Canada.

Excess deaths: 917,600 * 67.45% = 618,920

If the United States had been run like Canada, 618,920 Americans would be alive today.

Those numbers are so big, it staggers my imagination. I've previously said that I think t**** should be held criminally negligent for his downplaying of the crisis. A significant portion of the population followed his lead and never took Covid seriously and never took preventative measures. If you think there's no danger, why bother protecting yourself?

But it's not just the population, it's also the leadership. Government at all levels, federal, state, country, and municipal have followed t****'s lead, responding too slowly or not at all, believing the crisis wasn't as bad as it was.

“The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.”
-Rush Limbaugh, Feb 24, 2020

Ron DeSantis has taken a shoot from the hip, full speed ahead damn the torpedoes approach to running Florida, even going so far as legislating that schools, businesses, etc. cannot put in preventative measures like mask mandates. No restrictions for Florida!

I have to shake my head. Nobody gives a sh*t. I'm alive; nothing else matters. It occurred to me that inadvertently or not, Ron DeSantis seems to be following this idea: The dead don't vote. By removing restrictions, getting the economy reopened, and ignoring all other factors like the number of people dying, he's betting on the people who remain, the people who are still alive, will reap the benefit of an economy and a style of life returning to normal. The dead can't vote but those who remain alive could see him as being responsible for getting things back to normal and vote for him. Cull the herd. Only the strong survive. Thoughts and prayers.

Note: I'm sure somebody's going to hold Biden, as the current president, responsible for whatever is wrong today, right at this minute. I would point out that t**** left him with a f*cking mess. It is clear that t**** deserves the blame, having prompted other Republicans like Ron DeSantis and Bill Dee to conduct their business with such a callous disregard for human life.

Think I'm being unfair? Headline from the New York Times, Feb 1/2022:
U.S. Has Far Higher Covid Death Rate Than Other Wealthy Countries
(The NY Times is behind a paywall. Click here for a reprint in the Indian Express.)

Every man for himself! I've never paid attention to t****. I would never pay attention to DeSantis or Dee. I follow the science, and thank my lucky stars I'm living in Canada, not the United States.


References

data source: WorldOMeter: Coronavirus

I will be the first to point out that this same comparison could be applied to Canada and any other nation. Places like Japan (151 deaths per million), South Korea (133 deaths per million), or New Zealand (11 deaths per million) have demonstrated a far better response to the pandemic than Canada. How many of my fellow Canadians have needlessly died?

You can find my other rants about the pandemic on the site map under the section Health.

2022-02-03

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