Time to level up, folks

If you’re one of the people who’s felt my scorn about your take on The American Plague Situation, please know I am not sorry. (If you are not one of those people, be warned this rant is long and…um…exceedingly ranty.) So. Onward.

When you sigh about overwhelming information, muse about lockdowns maybe being too extreme, express concern that the doom predictions aren’t coming true but your friends & family are going bankrupt/ being evicted/ losing their savings, if you wonder if the prevention is worth the effort and cost, or maybe it’s exaggerated and it’s definitely confusing and we can’t go on like this forever..this is what’s going on in my brain:

OMFG OH MY FUCKING GOD NO YOU ARE WRONG AND I AM TOO SHOUTYCAPS ANGRY AT YOU & THE WHOLE FUCKING WORLD TO DEAL WITH YOUR IGNORANT BULLSHIT.

I am happy to have rational discussions about issues, and I think I have achieved that standard in most cases despite my above feels…

BUT. When you hear that edge in my voice, when you sense I am less patient than usual, less inclined to accept the validity of your ideas, and not treating your positions as reasonable, there is a reason, and it is this:

You are not reasonable. You are fucked up, AND you are identifying yourself as a direct, immediate threat to my life and the lives of people I love. I will not be chill about that.

Bad ideas come in gangs, and they beat up on rationality. “It’s all so confusing” runs with “They’re all equally bad,” “I can’t keep up,” and “I don’t know what to believe,” and they are all shitty excuses that play right into swearing allegiance to the ringleader of rational assassins, Denial.

When you hang out with the “it’s so confusing” mindset, you become the “It’s fine” meme dog. People deny their way into death by smoke inhalation every year. True story. No joke.

I’m actually in favor of letting people endanger themselves on their own time. But in the case of this pandemic, you are endangering others. Me.

So, fuck your willful ignorance. “Looking at both sides” and “I can see their point” acceptance of all ideas as equal spreads hot takes like “we can’t stay locked down, people are going bankrupt,” “But the children ARE FALLING BEHIND and having their childhoods ruined” and “cloth face masks don’t prevent disease, so are they worth the hassle?”

All those chunks of bullshit can be disputed and debunked point by point, but I have neither the patience or interest for it. No one who accepts them is doing so rationally. No one who even ponders them is thinking straight.

Look. I know news comes at us from all sides like fire hoses of fact & fiction, pouring data into the burning building of The Year 2020. But complaining that you don’t know how to interpret it all? That it’s too haaaaarrd?

TOO FUCKING BAD. FUCKING LEARN. I WOULD FUCKING TEACH YOU.

Wading through a neck-high flood of information isn’t fun. But it isn’t HARD. It’s just time consuming. Engage in source-checking, recognize and filter out data that’s tied up in bias phrasing and hidden agenda red flags, and translate hyperbole based on the facts you learn from the first two activities, and there you will find consistent, reliable information.

Please understand, my passionate horror of your attitude has deep roots. I have pushed back against the American devaluation of expertise and lived experience for decades now. The whole, “doctors disagree, so I’ll believe the conclusion that feels right,” makes my blood boil. The eager embrace of anecdote-as-proof, the trust in uninformed intuition, the erosion of respect for intellectual rigor and basic math…I have been howling and growling (and calmly educating people) about these problems for years.

But now the worship of snake oil over science is LITERALLY killing people by the dozens each day. COVID-19 is on its way to becoming endemic, and it didn’t have to be this way. We’ll be lucky if it doesn’t hammer at the fracture points in our society until they shatter and send us careening into open civil warfare. (as opposed to the undeclared war already being waged by federal & local military forces against American citizens right now. BUT I DIGRESS. Sorrynotsorry. Recognizing the seeds of dystopia is kinda my thing.)

And okay, fine. I can’t resist. I will bring the hammer of reason down on a few points.

There are social safety nets that could catch EVERYONE facing personal or business losses due to the collision of a pandemic with a private sector Gone Wall Street Wild for 30 years. Mostly in the USA we’ve gone the “full-on blatant corruption & skimming” route instead, but that isn’t the POINT.

The point is, helping people through financial and educational loss is possible. Bringing people back from the dead isn’t. And don’t get me started on the “that which does not kill us leaves us damaged” aspect of COVID-19 which is becoming clear as cases pile up.

Pitting lives against economics is a rigged game, and if you’ve been tricked into playing it, you’re a fool. Period. There will also be economic devastation if factories shut down, ports shut down, stores close, utilities fail BECAUSE TOO MANY PEOPLE WHO RUN THEM ARE SICK OR DEAD.

Is that possible? Oh, hell, yes. Likely? Maybe? We are NOT under control. We squandered the initial shutdown time without developing resources for identifying & containing outbreaks. And now the spread is skyrocketing because too many people are tired of taking simple precautions. (The dangerous magical thinking goes something like this: we did the shutdown, we flattened the curve, it’s all over and now everything is fine!)

Uh. No. We barely flattened out the curve, and never came close to stamping it out anywhere. I expect we will face breakouts for years the way we used to see with measles & polio and still see with flu…and oh, yeah, we could have TWO pandemics at once this winter if it’s a bad flu season. Viruses don’t care if they’re inconvenient.

While I’m ranting, forget the phrase “herd immunity” forever unless you are saying you are a-okay with hundreds of thousands of people dying from COVID-19 and far more facing lifelong medical complications for your hypothetical, temporary protection. At least 20-40% of the whole damned herd has to get infected to matter at all, and its benefit assumes the immunity lasts. WHICH IT USUALLY DOESN’T FOR CORONAVIRUSES. If you are okay with that, GTFO of my life, you are a monster.

Don’t believe me? Look up the tweets by the governor of Mississippi, who lays out the gruesome toll.

Oh–and all your friends who are a) swearing they had Covid last year, or b) insisting lots more people had it already and never got sick and that means the fatality numbers are inflated and c) besides, it’s mainly old people? A) No. Just. Ugh. NO. B) Check your arithmetic, even if Covid only had the fatality rate of a mild flu, that’d be 325,000 dead people or more if left unchecked, so C) GTFO, monster. And some of those healthy folks walking around are breathing death, and we cannot know who they are.

Also not all the dead will be olds. Hospitals some areas are so full of COVID cases right now that Our Federal Government is hiding the numbers from the public. Young people. Old people. Sick people. Previously-healthy people. Virus doesn’t give a damn. The cold numbers are such that even tiny percentages add up to a lotta dead. Math is unforgiving that way.

And that’s why masks fucking matter. My fitted mask cuts the risk me exposing someone virus by more than half. I can’t know if I’m a healthy spreader. The antibody tests are trash.

But everyone who won’t bother to properly cover their damned noses is doubling MY risk. The sheer, flagrant selfishness of it enrages me. FYI, you will not choke on your own toxic exhalations or suffocate because you cover your face with thin cloth or paper. *FACEPALM*

ANYWAY. Wrapping up now, I promise.

All your musing and pondering comes down to the equivalent of this: “I heard the fire alarm, but I don’t smell smoke, the fire exits are hard to find, and leaving seems like a waste of time and money, plus so many people say we can ignore the alarms because sometimes the alarms are wrong anyway so I don’t know what to believe.”

To which I say, WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU?

If you get to wrap yourself in a comfy blanket of information fatigue and refuse to educate yourself properly or keep a fucking mask over your damned nose, I get to call you a fucking accessory to mass murder.

Yes, I am judging people and finding them wanting. I hate losing faith in so many, MANY people I once respected, especially since they could do better and won’t. But alas, I am disappoint. SO DISAPPOINT.

TL;DR:
Stay strong, learn the difference between snake oil and science, remember you are mortal. This ain’t over. Keep a mask on your face, keep your distance from others, and keep your pantry stocked.

And if you’re one of the people who feels the way I do, hail and well met. We shall stand in solidarity. Separately. Safely.

And next post I’ll write about my exciting book revisions, or my upcoming Gen Con events or happy garden projects…or something.

Until later!

If it ain’t broke…maybe it got fixed?

This post has been brought into the world because I went scrolling through Twitter & Facebook and kept coming across ridiculous criticisms about the way the U.S. is shutting down to slow and mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic spread.

This is what all those complaints sound like to me:

  • My house didn’t burn down. Boy, I sure overreacted by putting out that grease fire on the stove before it spread!
  • The basement didn’t flood when it rained. Well, heck, now I feel foolish for spending all that money on a sump pump and improved drainage.
  • My car’s engine just never seizes up or overheats. The hassle of regular oil changes and maintenance visits sure feels pointless.
  • Didn’t get sepsis or tetanus even though I gouged myself on a sharp piece of metal.  Why did I bother washing out the cut and keeping it clean until it healed?
  • Totally got through that intersection on the green light without hitting anyone else’s car. HA! WHO NEEDS TRAFFIC SIGNALS ANYWAY?

I am a starry-eyed optimist. I still hope our societal seawalls will hold against the rising viral tide. If we have separated fast enough, we’ll stay below the terrifying threshold beyond which doctors & nurses have to decide who dies for lack of an ICU bed. If we keep the infection curve low and slow, we won’t see non-pandemic patients dying from a sheer lack of hands & supplies to treat their injuries & illnesses.

But if all these painful, terrifying, difficult, potentially-ruinous measures WORK, then as sure as stink follows shit, I’ll hear many more comments like, “Gee, that COVID-19 thing wasn’t so bad. All those precautions were pointless.”

And then I’ll want to punch someone. People’s inability to recognize connections between process & outcome just blows my mind sometimes.

Final note: Nothing about this post should leave the impression I’m asking for explanations or want to argue this point. If you think I’m wrong, go away and say so in your own virtual space, far, far from here. I don’t have a ban hammer. I have a ban phaser set on  vaporize.

I’ll try to post something more cheerful next time.

Until later!

 

 

Fact-Checking My Facebook Feed

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After a few hours of post-convention surfing last Monday I unfollowed people on Facebook the first time ever. Historically if I disliked what someone said or did, I have unfriended and possibly blocked. Friend or not-friend. It’s a binary. I like binaries.

I also like variety. Big picture, many lenses. I like seeing things that challenge my worldview. I find shifting perspective to be a neat exercise. Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t enjoy being surrounded by what I already know and believe. There’s nothing to learn there.  So I rarely unfriended, and never over differences of opinion.

The kink in the system is that I now use social media as a professional channel as well as personal connection.

The more I use FB professionally, the more  public-only acquaintances I collect.

It felt awfully harsh to unfriend someone who was never a true-held bosom friend to begin with, but I needed to clean up. My FB feed has been increasingly flooded with posts that deeply offend my sensibilities. Thus I’m giving the unfollow option a whirl.

Now, I didn’t do it to get rid of conservative posts or liberal ones. Tthere’s a lot of territory between an echo chamber and a hostile,  unhealthy life environment. See above re: many lenses.

No, what had to go were the posts that offended me as an analyst, a scientist, and a rhetoric competitor trained in the simple art of reasoned debate. The slippery slope into the contra-factual swamp got a lot steeper this year.  I’m clinging to higher ground by eliminating the stench of bad data.

Wondering if I unfollowed you? Well. Did you knowingly & un-ironically share material from white supremacy/socialist-propaganda/conspiracy theory sites/false news/parody sites and present it as factual?  Did you leave said material up after verified rebuttals from respected sources were posted to the comment thread? Did you defend lies by insisting opinions were persuasively equivalent to facts?

I only unfollowed someone when I saw those intellectual failures committed multiple times within a few days, and it was still a depressingly high number of people.

I understand viewpoints that oppose mine. Empathy and critical thinking are skills I practice daily. I can see from other positions. I respect differences of opinion.

But when opinion is stapled to horrific bullshit labeled and defended because “it’s from a reputable source” when the source is anything but reputable? That’s when my emotional wheels come right off.

someone-is-wrong-on-the-internet I’m tired of being a spectator at a parade of willful ignorance. I do not have the energy to run around placing little fact towels over bouncy, dangling embarrassments posted by acquaintances. I cannot afford to be the internet’s unpaid correction coverage service.

I’ve tried, I have. But from now on I will avert my eyes from the ugly naked lies and say good day. Good DAY. No mess, no fuss, no awkwardness in comment threads.

I am also removing contrafactual posts other ways. F.B. Purity is a useful extension, and I filter out a lot of sites that pitch their sticky, smelly lies at the interwebs. Articles from those sites need to be read fully and carefully and their sources independently verified before sharing, and I don’t have the energy.

I added to my FBP filter  list recently with the help of this:  False, Misleading, Clickbaiting & Satirical “News” Sources.  (edit 11/22 12:00 CST: the list itself has been pulled and is being expanded & revised — I recommend bookmarking the google doc. If you would like the original texts I copied, email me at pub dot rigger at gmail dot com.)

The list is neither exhaustive nor neutral, but you’ll find examples for from the left, the right, the blue, the red, and everything in between. Some of the sites are on there for being biased rather than false, so YMMV, but many of them are run by outright lying liars.

I also always suggest checking unfamiliar “news” sites against RealorSatire.com  and vetting specific stories on Snopes.com (What’s that? Snopes has a liberal bias? Blah,blah, bullshit, blah. Check your sources there. Yeah, no.)

The big problem is both sites are well behind the news distribution curve, overwhelmed by the seething floods of misinformation. By the time they post investigative results, the misinformation is everywhere being trumpeted as FACT-FACT-FACT!

I won’t be party to that, and my eyeballs can no longer bear it. So I’ve purged and I’m filtering…but the mobile app doesn’t filter.

So I’m begging, here. Read first. Check second. Wait third. THINK. If an article passes all 4 hurdles, then share. I know Google and Facebook have claimed they’re going to do a better job of curation and control, but if you believe that, I have some prime waterfront land in Tibet to sell you.

Oh–if you want to see how distorted the same information can get in a real echo chamber even before misinformation is added to the mix, take a look at this article:  Red Feed Blue Feed

It’s problematic in some ways, and not representative of any real social media feed, but it does a good job highlighting polarization of perspective. And it emphasizes the importance of thinking critically before dismissing or distributing news.

Okay. Done ranting now. Can we please endeavor to be more excellent to each other?

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