The grim reaper who revealed grim truths about our society. (Part two of the misinformation trifecta).
It's wild how the tribal dynamics are so self-reinforcing. Even putting emotion aside, nuance can feel like signal-weakening, so people over-signal to push the equilibrium. Like trying to do systems thinking, but without guardrails like trust and good faith.
I find the use of the Grim Reaper obnoxious, but to me it's not the salient metaphor that comes out of the pandemic. Rather, the anti-scientific metaphor concerns the science-denying anti-maskers who claim it's a matter of freedom; the people who believe COVID-19 is a Democratic hoax; the folks who associate the response to disease with the imposition of socialism on the US. These images are far more strongly embedded, a bizarre form of "Live Free or Die." Reading interviews with nurses in South Dakota who reported some patients' final words before intubation were that it was all a hoax turns my sense of rationalism to jelly.
Great article! Why were all the pictures at the low-risk beaches, not in restaurants and bars? Because there's nothing that is more sinful and that sells better than sex, and beaches are where you easily get sexy pictures.
Zeynep you ask why this adulation of the Grim Reaper. I don't think it's a coincidence that he is a very old image that is believed to have first appeared around the time of the Black Death. Of course there's a perfectly good modern scientific case for pandemic restrictions. But they also tap into some old religious bits of our circuit boards that are still there ready to be activated: namely the notion that by retreating from the sinful world, by turning inward, and shunning the false pleasures of social interaction and fun, we will be saved from the divine punishment. The Grim Reaper is the enforcer of that. In fact one could write a whole piece analysing people's responses to the pandemic through that religious lens I think: for example, the way in which ER staff posting angry (and not necessarily accurate or well-informed) videos denouncing rulebreakers are treated like Biblical prophets; or the division of the world into the Saved (who have heard the message to mask up and stay home) and the Reprobate (who fail to listen to the divine message and will be punished accordingly).....
We are not at the place now where, in Michigan or anywhere else, an outbreak can easily and finally be blamed on individual behavior, opposition to science, or vaccine hesitancy.
But eventually we might be in a place to make that judgment. Take for example, the occasional community outbreaks of measles in this country- it is highly correlated with anti-vaccine movement activity and parents refusing to give their kids the MMR vaccine. How do we assign blame here? Obviously the kids are innocent, and the parents have been led astray by charlatans. But I do think it's a mistake to only blame the leaders of the anti-vaccine movement, (or perhaps government institutions that fail to promote the benefits of vaccination or enforce mandates in schools), while letting individual parents off the hook. I do think there still is a role for shame as a motivational tool for public health.
Just have to say: Zeynep breaking out the Brumaire! Hell yes! Thought I was just the only Marxist hanging with my thoughtful left liberal friends. ;-)
I agree completely about the beach. But, we also saw lots of people out at night without masks, drinking and partying, including being indoors. People may be outside, but they are being crowded in together. We just saw 40,000 mostly unmasked baseball fans for a Texas Rangers game. Outdoors, yes, but sitting within inches of one another.
There was research that showed that after each Trump rally, the county that the event was held in showed increased cases of COVID.
So, yes, being out in dry air, often with a breeze limits transmission, a number of those folks would later in the day engage in more risky behavior. Then, if they become infected (often without symptoms), they take it back to their hometowns or colleges, risking others.
One other note. The CDC is allocating $90 million to surge vaccines and vaccinators into MI.
Well said (and explained). Thank you.
I live in a neighborhood of University backed housing in California. The vaccination rate (including me) in the neighborhood has got to be above 60 % (kids not vaccinated). I feel like _not_ wearing a mask when I walk the dog is science backed. I also admit to feeling like I'm mildly trolling my neighbors. come on, people! let's see each other's faces! You say you believe in science! Masks off! (sort of) open to changing my mind on this, if anyone wants to take a crack at it. ;-)
Other than the sensationalist headlines where should people go to learn what’s safe or not?
I do think it’s hard for people to believe in studies when they know no one who were part of one. I have to follow certain researchers to get information I feel is relevant and useful but to others I’m following my own thought leaders that are making the decisions for me. Another form of belief.
I don’t think so but I do have trouble defending my stance at times because there is just a point where I “feel” what someone says is correct vs reading a thousand articles.
On a related note, one of the biggest frauds in psychological research was committed by Eysenck, who claimed that personalities were related to illnesses such as cancer, and that psychological treatment could help people prevent such illnesses. This speaks to the overall flawed perspective outlined in the post. See this Twitter thread by Stuart Ritchie for an overview of Eysenck's research: https://twitter.com/StuartJRitchie/status/1182962883447214081?s=20
The phrase "safe" in reference to behavior or activities is inherently subjective.
Government health guidelines think of "safe" as "keep R0 below 1", which will at least keep things under control. But individuals, for various reasons, will set their own definition of "safe". I know people who understand the science and seem to have decided to define "safe" as "an unmeasurably small risk". Basically, p = Epsilon.
So telling someone that going to the beach is safe opens yourself up to disagreement. These friends of mine would only consider it safe if everyone at the beach had effective masks on their faces while staying 6' away from anyone outside their bubbles. They would also be concerned about wind direction and not being in anyone's exhalation trail. And they'll likely be double masking with one N95.
Perhaps saying "very safe" would be better than "safe".