Is It ‘Too Much’?

Long-time Premium subscriber Michelle in Ohio writes: “I realize that the … assorted obliviots provide lots of grist for your mill, but with all the news about Covid-19, seeing more of it in True adds to my depression. So if possible, could you back off from [it]? (Oh, and if you don’t accede to my request, I’ll manage to survive; you ain’t gonna get rid of me that easily. This is still the best seven bucks a month I’m spending.”)

An example (and perhaps shock-inducing) story from the issue Michelle is replying to is in this blog: Peak Stress.

First, I certainly understand where you’re coming from, Michelle, and greatly appreciate your parenthetical. The short answer is no …but of course there’s a longer answer.

It’s a multi-pronged approach. For instance, this is today’s much-shared post from my Randy’s Random site.

While most of True’s stories obviously have an “entertaining” aspect to them (though certainly, as noted occasionally over the years, “not all stories are meant to be funny”), there’s also the “thought-provoking” function.

There are a lot of aspects to just that thought-provocation piece of the puzzle, especially as related to the pandemic.

I’m Conscious Of…

  • True reflects what’s going on in the world. Can you think of a story that’s bigger and more impactful on the regular people of the world and, especially, the U.S.? The aspects of this one topic include medical, criminal, macro- and micro-economical, societal, business, sports, travel, legal, national security, political, entertainment, technology, historical, religion, R&D, education, national security, emergency services, manufacturing, food supply, hospitality, science, aging, taxation, communications, and probably more — those are just what I could think of in 5 minutes while writing this one bullet point.
  • “The media” has often done a terrible job of covering not just Covid, but pretty much everything: they give “equal time” to tiny minorities with loud voices, such as those expressing doubts about the reality of the virus, or claiming conspiracies. The truth is, the vast majority of Americans understand how contagious the virus is, how dangerous it is, and that yes, 500-1200 people in the U.S. alone die from it every day. That tiny minority simply doesn’t deserve “equal time,” which sows confusion and doubt …which is exactly what that minority wants.
  • This obliviot who pulled a pistol on a father shopping with his young daughter at a Walmart in Royal Palm Beach, Fla. (who dared to ask him to wear a mask), is Vincent Scavetta, 28. Thanks to this security camera shot, Scavetta was identified and arrested, charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

    “The public” (or some portion thereof) begins to think because of this that there’s a vast anti-mask contingent, when in fact it’s a small group with loud voices — sometimes amplified as they pull out guns to defend their defenseless points. They need to know that there is case after case after case of those “plandemic” conspiracy theorists spreading Covid to others, such as the guy in this morning’s podcast episode expressing his guilty mea culpas.

  • Last, “This era is going to be studied for generations to come: epidemiologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and a lot of other -ologists: this is the first severe worldwide pandemic in modern history, and it will be a field of study for a long, long time,” I said in episode 66 of my podcast, and that’s certainly true. I want those professionals to be able to go through True’s and Uncommon Sense’s archives and know that there were “thought leaders” (hate that term, but whatever) urging a more rational approach to this era. Sure, there are a lot of social media posts, memes, etc., but will those terabytes of posts survive the vagaries of Facebook’s business plans? Who knows, but I’m making sure True and Uncommon Sense survive by supplying the full content of both to the Internet Archive.

But Wait, There’s More

I am sorry if the stories cause anxiety, but sometimes it’s necessary to be anxious. That doesn’t mean terrified, it means being aware and not hiding your head in the sand, and keeping your vigilance up so you don’t fall into the same trap.

But more than that, not everyone has the ability to argue these issues. The examples provided in True give readers actual fact-based talking points to use or, if all else fails, a URL to send others to. True uses stories to convey its messages, and stories are powerful vehicles to make points and spread understanding. It sure beats the ad hominem, non sequitur bullshit and misdirection used by those who demonstratably have caused tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths and hundreds of thousands of cases of medical harm in the U.S. and elsewhere.

All this said, yes, I do try to find balance, and include more “lighter” stories than ever to help with that balance. Some of those push out many, many other possibilities that are more directly Covid-related. For instance, I didn’t use the story about the 30-year-old guy in San Antonio, Texas, who told hospital staff, “I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not.” Methodist Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jane Appleby said that “Just before the patient died, [he] looked at [his] nurse and said, ‘I think I made a mistake.’” (Source)

Yep, he did, and he not only paid with his life, I have to wonder how many others he infected, threatening their lifelong health status, up to and including joining him in the grave much sooner than they had to. I’m doing as much as I can to wake people up with real and true stories of what happens when they underestimate this pandemic. “This is just one example of a potentially avoidable death in a young member of our community and I can’t imagine the loss of the family,” Dr. Appleby said.

Just one example indeed. It’s easy to ignore one example. It’s stupid but still possible to ignore five examples, or ten, or a hundred. Who knows which one — #1, #12, #50…? — that will finally sink in to some obliviot enough that s/he stops risking all of our lives.

So, I’m going to keep with the examples until they don’t seem to be necessary anymore. As of now, such examples definitely still need to be circulated, and commented upon.

Note: Because I know someone will ask, “Premium subscriptions cost $7/month?!” No …unless you want them to. Many readers voluntarily pay extra to help support True, paying $7, $15, $25, or other amounts every month to enable this publication to survive attention-sucking social media, or to help fund my Randy’s Random meme site, the Uncommon Sense Podcast, the Honorary Unsubscribe, or whatever aspect of my work is important to them, since ads on small web sites bring just a few dollars a week. More info here, and I greatly appreciate your generous support for True’s mission.

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19 Comments on “Is It ‘Too Much’?

  1. I wish more people who need to hear these stories about what’s really happening with COVID-19 would actually hear them or even encounter them. Sadly the echo chambers seem impermeable these days. The people that really need to hear the truth will remain within theirs. Unless, of course, they’re suddenly faced with the life-threatening brutal reality somewhere in their circle of concern.

    While it’s tempting to go “they’re so stupid,” I also think it’s much more complex than that. By believing the truth about COVID-19 (or anything else, for that matter), they risk being ostracized by their various social circles. I think that, more than anything else, is what truly reinforces what appears to be “stupid” behavior.

    What’s funny is that I got push-back on my Not All New is Bad for publishing too many positive COVID-19 stories. I want people to hear those stories to share a shred of hope. It is easy to get completely overwhelmed and anxious (and depressed) by the daily barrage of “news” (quotes intentional). Signs of hope are important.

    You’re trying to educate. Keep it up. It’s probably more important than either of us realize.

    It is ironic that NANIB is getting pushback too. I hope that the more such people see others just like them saying “I think I made a mistake,” the more they can resist the pressure from their social circles to believe demonstrably harmful things. Meanwhile, keep up with your part of the effort! -rc

  2. I agree with Michelle…I’m so damn tired of hearing about COVID, masks, and how evil/corrupt/illegitimate the President is that I wish we could move on. The President isn’t perfect…but no President has been…I’m not a great fan although he was better than the alternative in ‘16… up no ones mind is going to be changed either way…so I really wish we could all take a deep breath and talk about something else.

    Connie and I really enjoyed meeting you and your bride Kit last June/July at Colorado Boys…always nice to meet a person you’ve met digitally in meat space as my old buddy Mark used to say.

    I’m not saying corona or politics or masks aren’t important…just that ther are so many obliviots I really wish we could all move on.

    We can’t until we get Covid under control, and we can’t do that until the population takes it seriously. -rc

    • We won’t get over the pandemic until we achieve herd immunity or get a safe, effective, and lasting vaccine. Given the relatively small number of viruses for which one has been developed…and none for anything in the coronavirus family…it isn’t clear we will ever have one. The flu vaccine really isn’t effective or long lasting but it does work somewhat. It will not surprise me at all of this coronavirus just becomes part of the new normal. We’ve been working on one for SARS, MERS, and HIV for a long time with no results…and the first two are I believe in the corona family as are flu viruses.

      I believe you are correct about all of this, except that I don’t think any strain of flu is in the coronavirus family. -rc

      • If I’m not mistaken, it’s the common cold that is. Hence the old adage about not being able to find a cure for the common cold being particularly relevant these days.

        You’re sort-of mistaken. The “common cold” is caused by hundreds of virus strains, some of which are coronaviruses and most which are not. That huge number of causes is why we don’t seem to build an immunity to colds: the next one is probably not the same virus, so our body has to start from scratch. When it IS the same virus strain, that’s when we have mild symptoms: the body recognizes it and can mount a defense much more quickly, thanks to antibodies (which tend not to last a terribly long time) and T-cells (which do tend to last). Most are caused by rhinovirus (30–80%), with coronaviruses coming in at no more than 15%. The rest are a smattering of influenza, adenovirus, and “human respiratory syncytial virus” (aka orthopneumovirus).

        It’s possible I’m responsible for the misunderstanding, since I made a joke in my podcast early on in the pandemic about my having “a” coronavirus — a common cold (Episode 62 in late February). It’s unknown which type of virus it “really” was, but the odds of it being “a” coronavirus were 15 percent or less, and “the” coronavirus are less than that. -rc

        • Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for someone to come down with a cold from the same corona family virus after just a few months. Some people, including those who have caught the SARS-CoV-2 virus, do develop t-cell resistance, but not everyone. Some who have t-cells to the corona family cold viruses also seem to have some level of immunity to SARS-CoV-2. There’s no question that antibodies drop rapidly in almost all cases. 30 someodd percent each month.

          We now have several confirmed cases of re-infection with this one. Not many, but a few. And it hasn’t really been around all that long for someone to get it, get over it, and then come in contact with another who has it, and get a large enough dose to run into another full fledged infection.

          Many of the early vaccine candidates have been touting antibody production. Well, just the antibodies doesn’t create any lasting immunity. A few are now saying they are seeing t-cell response. That’s much more promising.

    • And until people admit that Trump’s actions, and continuing actions, are at the core of the population that is not taking it seriously, the people “moving on” are the ones dying from it.

      Yes, Trump is now wearing a mask himself — sometimes — and you would think that would help, but it’s not. Covidiots are now claiming he was threatened with assassination for “exposing the hoax.” Worse than Covidiots, I call them “Deludiots.”

      I haven’t heard that assassination conspiracy theory. But you know how gun-crazy those Democrats can be, so anything’s possible! -rc

  3. I agree completely with your choice to continue presenting stories that make me think. The vast majority of the time I feel that we think significantly the same way. On the occasions when we don’t there is almost invariably something I’ve overlooked (or just been unaware of). Thank you for continuing to challenge your readers.

  4. The cold-blooded question that nobody is willing to discuss out loud is:

    Which can the country can better afford: a million people dead, or fifty million people out of work for a year? (Adjust both numbers as you see fit.)

    That’s a false choice: we could instead have really clamped down and followed the experts’ advice, and we would have been much more like Taiwan and not had “a million” deaths OR 50 million out of work. Since it’s too late for the first 160,000 (and millions out of work), we still have the choice: make it better, or make it worse. It’s such an obvious choice, yet…. -rc

    • I’m generally of this opinion: The full lockdowns were necessary in the beginning to gain time and build hospital capacity. After that, it’s a guessing game as to when reopening things creates the fewest deaths (and no, the answer to that is not “when there’s a vaccine”).

      I say that because while COVID-19 obviously kills people, bad economies also kill people. No, you won’t see “economy” as a cause of death on a death certificate or autopsy report, but you will see things like starvation, suicide, domestic violence, etc., all of which have long been proven to occur at higher rates when the economy is bad.

      If things reopen too early, the economy won’t kill many people, but the virus will kill a huge number of people. On the flip side, if we wait too long to reopen, the virus death count will be much lower, but the number of deaths caused by the economy will be much, much higher. The curve of total death count (virus plus economy) as a function of reopening date is, I believe, very roughly a parabola that is concave up, and the guessing game I referred to is trying to figure out the date corresponding to the minimum point on that curve.

      Unfortunately, this has two problems: first, we’re not going directly from full lockdown to full reopening, but rather reopening in phases (as we should), which muddies the waters of “reopening date” in the above paragraph. The second, unfortunate thing is that 20 years from now, only the virus death count will be remembered, and the economic deaths will be forgotten about because, as I mentioned, they aren’t recorded as such, nor are they clearly distinguishable from deaths that would have happened anyway. (For that matter, many of the economic deaths aren’t even clearly identifiable as such *as they happen today*.)

      So we’ll never know how right or wrong we were in guessing the right time to reopen. What we can be reasonably certain of is that once the initial lockdown has allowed the necessary time to gain the supplies and infrastructure to handle the virus, the economy does eventually need to get going again, even at the risk of the virus.

      The countries able to handle longer lockdowns without significant economic deaths can do so because they have universal healthcare and better social support programs, as well as a better functioning government. Unlike here the United States, where most people’s ability to afford healthcare is tied to their ability to contribute to the economy and the government is horribly broken, leading to a need to reopen sooner and suffer a higher virus death count to defend against what would be a much, *much* higher economic death count.

      • It doesn’t even have to be death-by-economy. If you destroy somebody’s life by sinking them in a debt hole they can never get out of, or by forcing them to use up their life savings, or by destroying their business, that’s pretty awful too. If you take them out of work long enough that they “forget” how to work — that they get out of the habit of working and used to living on government assistance — then that’s pretty awful.

        The economy matters. It’s very hard to compare how important it is, versus lives, but the ratio isn’t infinite.

  5. A podcast I listen to, which discusses science stories of the last week, has decided to run an extra weekly episode devoted strictly to COVID news. I know that True works hard to bring relevant, recent stories, but perhaps you could break it up some — one issue per month of strictly covidiots, and leave COVID news out of the other issues. Or some other split that seems reasonable.

    Just a thought.

    Since TRUE tends to have a dozen stories each week, my choice has always been to have a mix. -rc

  6. My biggest problem is the inconsistency and incompetence of those deciding what is allowed and what is not. From what I can tell, medical schools remove all knowledge of the scientific method from their graduates. In some cases, the “scientific” evidence is from silly experiments and in other cases the medical experts refuse to believe something is possible because no-one has proven it in a two-year, double-blind study.

    Even before COVID-19, I’ve watched medical personnel engage in sanitization theatre. They squirt their hands and think they’ve eradicated all infectious agents and they really get mad if you ask them to wash their hands. Even then, they promptly grab nitrile gloves out of boxes that have been sitting in the open with sick people — which means they’ve contaminated themselves and negated all the squirting or washing. In years past, even minor medical folks were required to take a class in which they dipped their hands in graphite powder and then acted normally — opening drawers, touching light switches, walking around, touching themselves — which drives home how contamination works. I’ve talked to recent graduates of medical and nursing schools and they have no such practical training.

    The other big problem is that civilization has forgotten what public health means. In the past, public health was much more ruthless about preventing the spread of disease. People who contracted communicable diseases were really quarantined — not just asked “Please stay at home” without any enforcement. Houses were boarded up and burnt with the dying inside, sick people were put on quarantine ships (or islands), and if someone didn’t keep to themselves but tried to contact the still uninfected — shots were fired.

    Not only are we required to do stupid things, the medical flip-flop game has accelerated way past the “coffee bad, no good, no bad” cycle. And despite all the whinging, the authorities are not seriously enforcing anything. Heck, our governor sent a flunky to buy her jewelry at a store which was closed by her PHO that day.

  7. I didn’t want to read any more about Covid-19 when reading “This Is True”, but I am glad you are much less biased and crazy about it. There are people going nuts on both ends of the spectrum: People going unmasked to crowded, close and large social gatherings and at the other end I saw a woman wearing a hat, scarf, mask, long sleeves (at 92F) and sunglasses to do business at a drive-up bank teller. Most of the deaths in my county were in nursing homes. Nursing homes that had positive patients moved in to prevent the hospitals from being flooded with Covid-19 patients. Without enough training, staff and PPE, these nursing homes made the pandemic spread here more quickly than it would have otherwise.

    Governors of various states and other politicians need to be called on every time they pull a “do as I say, not as I do” stunt, such as the Mayor of Chicago shutting down hair salons, then having her hair cut, or the governor of Michigan locking down the state, then attending a mass protest without a mask. She also tried to make it illegal for Michigan residents to visit their second homes or other properties, but had no problem with residents of other states coming to Michigan to their second homes. Then she and her husband went to their second home in the northern part of the state. He tried to have their boat given priority to be brought out for the season by dropping her name and position.

    Many people don’t realize that until the general population has either had a certain percentage infected, exposed or vaccinated to Covid-19, then there is going to be a fair risk. The government has said any vaccine must be 50% effective to be approved for use. The reasoning is that with most of the population either vaccinated or recovered, the danger from the pandemic will be greatly reduced. No vaccine meeting that criteria will mean no ‘herd immunity’ until a lot more people have gotten sick.

    The moral of the story is: Don’t do anything foolish until that happens.

    Pathetic politicians indeed, and excellent advice in your conclusion. One of the “problems” with a vaccine is that even if it works, or even if you get it and recover, the question remains: For how long will any conferred immunity last? It might not be long enough to get to “herd immunity” — so then what? -rc

  8. First, thanks for all you do here, Randy. I agree with your always including a mix of stories, and heartily endorse your thought-provoking and very entertaining RIDICULING STUPIDITY theme.

    I do wish, however, you would try to find more ways to point out (and ridicule) how most of today’s media has lost their way, and only presents biased viewpoints. For example, last week, the state of Florida admitted a man initially reported as a COVID death statistic actually died in a motorcycle accident. If that’s not worth a horse laugh, what is?

    Finally, because so many people rely on you as a “news source,” whether you intend this or not, you might pay more attention to the reporting dictum “Correlation does not indicate causation.” An example of this would be the story you didn’t use about the San Antonio guy who didn’t wear a mask and he died — did anyone report on his serum vitamin D level? His systemic zinc level? I would bet he was deficient in both.

    So the bottom line here is we do understand that you must include COVID stories in each issue. Keep up the good work.

    First, you’re welcome! Thanks for helping to support it. You know what I get out of the Florida story you cite (which I haven’t seen: just going by your summary)? That they found an error and corrected it. I don’t fault anyone for making an error when they have a firehose of data blasting at them; what I would fault them for is not correcting it when they discovered that error. So no, I didn’t laugh at all, let alone a horse laugh.

    As for your “news source” part, I don’t consider TRUE a primary news source, and readers need to be careful about what I do say it is: it’s news commentary, and since the first issue in 1994 each story has included reference to the source of that news we’re summarizing and commenting upon. We definitely cannot and do not even try to review every possible source of a story to get multiple angles on it, and never have. Did someone report on his Vitamin D levels? Not that I saw, and I doubt any did, no matter how many different news organizations covered the story. Assuming the hospital checked, someone’s personal medical information doesn’t typically get released to the press, especially with the current privacy laws in place. The bottom line, then, is I reject any thought that I should somehow be responsible for digging that information up when it’s a) not possible and b) not at all relevant to TRUE’s actual function. -rc

  9. Kudos for your rationale presented so eloquently to Michelle in your “long answer”. I particularly liked your second bullet about “The media” and its last sentence, “That tiny minority simply doesn’t deserve “equal time,” which sows confusion and doubt …which is exactly what that minority wants.”

    Please consider adding “covidiot” to your lexicon as Randy from San Diego has. It appears to be a subset of obliviot, i.e. those obliviots who ignore common sense about COVID specifically. I saw that label on the national news last night during a report on some of the crazy large potential superspreading parties observed across the country.

    I didn’t coin “covidiot” but I sure hope “obliviot” led to it! I’ve used the term in at least one newsletter. -rc

  10. I can’t help but wonder if we as a society will actually learn anything from all this. Past history tells me that the odds are not good. There will be so much political backstabbing and finger pointing that the real lessons will be lost. When the next one hits, and there will be a next one, we will struggle just as much.

    It will depend in part on how long between this one and the next one, but indeed we had much the same response to the 1918 “Spanish Flu” pandemic. We definitely didn’t learn from that history. -rc

  11. Your thoughtfulness on this issue has surpassed so many others. Time for another paypal donation to put my money where my mouth is.

    Much appreciated; I’m sure some will cover their ears and flee. -rc


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