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Coronavirus and Credibility (paulgraham.com)
724 points by Rerarom 51 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 917 comments



Do people appreciate that denial of the severity of this virus came from all political quarters?

Here's one showing the mistakes of left-leaning media I found in 2 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=36&v=wVDPVBZF2Xg

It's just as easy to find supercuts of Pelosi, DeBlasio, and other prominent Democrats telling people that they didn't need to start social distancing or that the virus wasn't airborne contagious.

Bad judgement is a human failing that cuts across party lines. To think that this is a long-term credibility problem for only some people shows a lack of a healthy diversity of news sources. At the end of this, everyone will go back to their teams' dugouts and prepare for the next political battle. Nothing will have been learned about credibility.


It did come from all political quarters, however one political quarter stayed in denial much longer. Notice how many of the clips from your video are from January or early February.

The POTUS was still publicly pushing the coronavirus = flu comparison in early March even after we saw what happened in Iran and Italy. Remember, he said on February 28 that being worried about the coronavirus was “their new hoax” from the media and his political opponents, so he himself recognized his political opponents were pointing out the severity by late February.

Edit: i don’t want to get too deep in the politics with this, I do agree with your ultimate point that most won’t learn from this and will simply return to their team’s side regardless of who got this one more right.


however one political quarter stayed in denial much longer

Now you're splitting hairs. You know who the first politician in the USA who was banging the drums in alarm about Wuhan and the coronavirus? Tom Cotton. Republican Senator. Do you support him now? Does his early conviction of the severity of this event put you behind him and everyone who echoed his concerns? Are you likewise now opposed to the people who were ridiculing him as a conspiracy theorist and fear-monger?


Tom Cotton was one of the people who were on this and warning of it early. So was Steve Bannon. There are others. Just because someone has an R by their name doesn’t mean they’re a homogeneous blob.

I think that’s great, I don’t agree with all their politics but they didn’t let themselves be blinded by optimism and looked at what was actually going on here. And the theory that the virus may have accidentally escaped from the lab where they were studying bat coronaviruses always seemed credible to me (Reminder, the 1977 flu likely escaped from a Russian or Chinese lab but this was never admitted either).

The political quarter that was in denial was mainly the POTUS and those who simply follow whatever the POTUS is doing without independent thought (Hannity, etc.) Edit: again, he was calling it “their new hoax” so you really can’t deny that he was behind on this one :-)


"The political quarter that was in denial was mainly the POTUS and those who simply follow whatever the POTUS is doing without independent thought"

How did you come to that conclusion? What about the Democrats in New York, which is the epicenter of the virus outbreak right now (certainly the US and probably the world)? I remember hearing someone on TV (probably DeBlasio or Cuomo) saying that public schools were not going to close.


> ...someone on TV (probably DeBlasio or Cuomo) saying that public schools were not going to close.

This was specifically because many of those students would go hungry since they rely on food programs at school. Without those programs, many students have little to eat at home. It's a little disingenuous to represent it in another light. If anything, it highlights yet another weakness in our society.


Yes, of course they had reasons. It's not obvious what to do in a disaster.

But did people die because of that decision? Probably. Maybe a lot.

Tough calls. It comes down to who made those tough calls earlier. And that's not a partisan thing, or a smart/dumb thing.

Plenty of bad decisions to go around, but we probably shouldn't lay the blame to thick anywhere. Because it's chaos and people are adapting and changing in real time.

Look at someone like Newsom. One minute he's the mayor of SF, the next he's the governor of 40M people and he has to shut down the state to slow down the virus. I guarantee he's going to be a different person in 12 months.


> Look at someone like Newsom. One minute he's the mayor of SF, the next he's the governor of 40M people

“The next minute” is off by something more than 6 orders of magnitude.

You kind of skipped over ~4.2 million minutes he spent as Lieutenant Governor between those jobs.


Wow. Time flies when I'm paying attention to other stuff ;-)


> This was specifically because many of those students would go hungry since they rely on food programs at school.

California schools pretty much immediately set up daily meal pickup when they closed (often, for anyone under 18 at any school site.) And this was already happening when they said that.


I'm glad you brought Tom Cotton up here. He was one of the few individuals who was able to ask the right questions at the right time. And yet, when he did that, all kinds of mainstream media including WaPo came out saying he was repeating a "coronavirus conspiracy theory that was already debunked". https://archive.vn/TG8zN#selection-999.29-999.84 https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/17/business/media/coronaviru... https://www.wired.com/story/coronavirus-conspiracy-theories/ https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/483354-sen-cotton-repeat... https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/02/republican-senat... https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/18/politics/tom-cotton-coronavir... https://www.huffpost.com/entry/tom-cotton-coronavirus-china_... https://www.factcheck.org/2020/02/baseless-conspiracy-theori...

Now WaPo seems to be admitting that we should at least consider the possibility that the virus may have originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. https://archive.vn/UP6dx#selection-1801.148-1801.176


The theories which are explored in the Washington Post article (around the idea that someone Wuhan Institute of Virology might have been accidentally infected with the virus while studying bats) are completely different to the claim the it's an engineered bio-weapon that came from those labs.

(To be clear, Tom Cotton himself says the bio-weapon thing was just a hypothesis[1].)

[1] https://twitter.com/SenTomCotton/status/1229202134048133126


There’s a mix there, AFAIK there’s no reason to believe the virus is a bioweapon.

On the other hand the fact that they were researching bat coronaviruses in the lab in the city where the outbreak began certainly is suggestive of a possible lab accident. I doubt we’ll ever find certainty of this though just like the 1977 outbreak of H1N1. Not impossible it’s just a coincidence either (after all SARS and MERS jumped to humans without any help).


Your last link seems broken, but here's another:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/how-...


I think you're misreading this - it's an opinion piece and it includes some speculation about how the virus ended up infecting people. It does not say the virus 'originated' in a lab and it's not 'WaPo admitting' anything.


Some HN readers who seem to be knowledgeable about genetics were discussing the spread 73 days ago [1]. If you don't want to read the whole thread, I'll also link to a couple specific sub-threads [2] [3].

However, I will note that a colleague of mine saw the virology institute's location change on Google Maps around this time. Free software legend Eric S Raymond mentioned this on his blog as well [4].

I'm pretty sure the Google Maps thing is a sign that the Chinese leadership heard these bioweapon rumors, and figured the best way to combat them was to require Google to lie about the institute's reported location.

There are plenty of ridiculous rumors on the Internet, why would the Chinese government react so strongly to this particular one?

It could be because the Chinese leadership has something they're trying to hide. But in China things are often censored all over the place with little rhyme or reason as well. "We know this rumor's false and ridiculous, any serious scientist knows it came from some country bumpkin eating an improperly cooked bat, but this rumor could potentially be destabilizing, so let's force Google to tell this lie for us" is certainly a way the Chinese government might think.

Is it created in a lab?

The Google maps thing is pretty weak evidence. It could be explained by the "oh crap people are catching on, we'd better make Google help with the coverup" hypothesis, but it's equally well explained by the "we know it's false, but we'll censor things willy-nilly because we're China and that's what we do" hypothesis.

I don't know enough about mol bio to really understand the genetic sequences.

To summarize: The evidence seems to be inconclusive, but certainly consistent with the possibility the virus is a Chinese bio-weapon. "Coronavirus is a Chinese bio-weapon that somehow accidentally escaped" is a possibly true hypothesis. There's not nearly enough evidence to say for sure. But it's a reasonable possibility, not tin-foil hat territory.

Suggesting it was let out on purpose probably does get pretty close to tin-foil hat territory; it seems hard to figure out a sane and reasonable motive for unleashing this on the world, without also requiring some much bigger, more complex conspiracy (which greatly weakens the prior probability of the hypothesis).

If it is lab-created, it probably escaped by a mistake, or someone not following the rules (e.g. the janitor who's supposed to burn the dead infected research bats sold them to a market instead to make an extra buck).

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22146446

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22147320

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22147369

[4] http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=8587


> Why would the Chinese govt react so strongly

They react to all kinds of irrelevant bullshit strongly all the time. It's a gigantic unimaginative bureaucracy. It could very well be some peon 18 levels down doing something done 200 times prior, in response to some news article some other peon has classified as western propaganda.

Are they going to come out and admit that?


His "banging of the drums" was literally spreading conspiracy theories. I think that it is fair to criticize him for unscientific fear mongering. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/17/business/media/coronaviru...


Is this about whether Republican s or Democrats are better, or about how our politicians dropped the ball and the top one stayed in denial the longest?


Democrats were upset about Trump's travel restrictions.

The epicenter in the United States in in New York.

This is what was happening in NY.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_uNKatrJgw&feature=emb_logo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emyNXZ8v8sY&feature=emb_logo


I watched that video and no one on the left was making a joke of the coronavirus. They were all stating that the flu is more dangerous which while being clearly a miscalculation, not the same as calling it a left wing hoax so save your moral equivalence for another day.


That's one of the issues with hyperpartisanship. Everyone thinks that people need to be held accountable - as long as it's people they already decided were terrible. The truth is the response to this pandemic has been poor across the board. Go back and read what people were saying in February to see how unprepared everyone was.

Bill Gates, for example, is held up as someone who saw this coming. However, if you read what he wrote at the end of February about what needs to be done to stop the Coronavirus, you'll he didn't raise any issues about the way it was being handled within the United States, and viewed the main problem being the difficulties that poor countries would have handling it. Even a few days ago there were almost no leaders calling for mass use of face coverings. And there still seem to be very few (if any) calling for an implementation of measures like those that are successfully combating the virus in South Korea.


It's also one of the issues with a bipartisan system designed to stay that way - one side eternally blames the other for being evil incarnate and how their side's excrement has no olfactory emission. It's conducive to this hyperpartisanship and I really agree with some of the founding fathers of the US that political parties should be forbidden because of the types of dramatic intrigue that result, which hurt people the most during times such as now. I just call them both the War Party now because that's what they are.


I had this same thought. Here's Pelosi encouraging people to come to Chinatown.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFCzoXhNM6c

Also, we should be careful about how much we eviscerate people on both sides politically during this time. If our leaders are too afraid of repercussions to make difficult decisions, they may make bad decisions instead.

I'm calling for moratorium on partisan finger-pointing. I think we're all in this together, and that's the only way we're getting out of it.


Your link is a bit different, she was in Chinatown to show people that not all Chinese people have the virus. Seems there businesses were stagnating due to xenophobia. She was wrong to encourage people to go out and shop in general but she was not wrong to try to stop the rumors surrounding Chinese Americans.


Not sure what that has to do with denial of the severity of the virus. Not to mention NYT just published a report confirming that the virus strain in the US mostly came from European sources, instead of Asian ones. Are you equating "avoiding Chinatown" with "preventing the spread of the virus"? That sounds extremely worrisome, to be polite.


That was on February 24th, a full week before there was a single case in NYC. Promoting local commerce before the virus reached that area seems pretty far from denying the level of risk presented by COVID-19 on a global scale.


You can cherry-pick different opinions from all over the spectrum. For example, Tucker Carlson took the virus pretty seriously early on, but he was one of the only voices on Fox News to do so. Views on the left have been more mixed.

At least that's been my observation, but I don't watch TV news; I just read about what's on it. I've been getting my news from WaPo and WSJ, both of which took the virus seriously from the beginning.


Not enough is said about people who saw it before it came. Relying on someone to do the right thing in the middle of chaos is unreliable. You really don't need to cherry pick to find examples on both sides.

George W Bush laid out a major pandemic strategy, for instance: https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/homeland/pandemi...

Too bad it fell apart in subsequent administrations.


Yes - it seems like Tucker Carlson was the person who convinced Trump to change his mind[1] and he deserves credit for it.

I wonder what it was that convinced him when many of the people he deals with day-to-day were of the complete opposite view?

[1] https://www.thedailybeast.com/tucker-carlsons-monologue-prom...


As much as I disagree with almost everything Carlson says, I have to give him credit for going against the grain on this and a few other issues in the past. Lindsey Graham also deserves some credit for calling up Trump and trying to convince him to take this situation more seriously. There's something to be said for the strategy of kowtowing to Trump most of the time so that he will still listen to you when it really counts. That strategy shouldn't be necessary with a competent leader, but here we are.


Here is a video of horrendous New York situation with "overrun" Queens hospital https://video.fprg2-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/l/t42.9040-2/92262469_...

Here a similar one from Begamo, Italy https://youtu.be/lcK2mzuO6MU

And now, where is the truth? I would like not to be infected. I try to avoid being infected by flu as well. But maybe we really are overreacting. We don't have immune system trained for this - that is problematic. Elderly people and people with health conditions should be isolated. But that's probably it. Once the population has enough people with trained immune system, it will be "like a flu" or won't it? Who to trust?


I don't think the point is about an apocalyptic image of people cogging up and dying in the corridors or whatnot. It's the lack of equipments like ventilators. Also it's confirmed from many sources that the medical workers are all stretched to their limits and some of them even died from overexertion. That's probably much more convincing than some random videos.


Being wrong and being in charge are different than just being wrong. Responsibility should come at a price.


I'd be all for holding politicians in charge accountable, but that's where everyone gets squishy depending upon who they support?

One guy's being wrong becomes another guy's "not that big of a deal".

By what metric will you measure "being wrong" for this COVID-19 pandemic? A super cut of video clips showing a reluctance to believe uncertain information coming out of China? Death rate compared to other OECD countries? Whether or not the great Hydroxychloroquine efficacy debate goes one way or another? Whether or not the ban of flights to/from China were effective?


When you are not in charge you can say whatever you want, it won't kill people. So that's why it matters. It's not about who you support. "The Buck Stops Here".


People will die of this in every country on earth. Are all in charge responsible for every death in the country over which they preside?


"With great power comes great responsibility"

it's an ideal, not a metaphysical necessity. But we need to enforce the ideal because otherwise the powerful use their power to their interest and against their detractors. It is absolutely essential to hold them responsible for their decision making process if we value life in a liberal democracy or a classical republic. They cannot get every decision right, but they must at least get them wrong for a fair reason.

Otherwise it's just "personal responsibility for the many, riches and fiefdoms for the few"


Depends on what they did to avert it. In many cases the answer is 'too little'.


It probably depends who you are taking your information from. For example, here is an expert saying that it is just like the flu[0] (Linkedin [1]).

The other part, is that we shouldn't expect consensus in something like this. Why? Because data is evolving and changing. This is in contrast to something like Climate Change where we have a large amount of post hoc data/analysis. Here the analysis is being done in situ and that is much more difficult. It should be unsurprising that opinions change as information changes.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGC5sGdz4kg

[1] https://www.linkedin.com/in/knutmwittkowski


The video snippet you linked is from January. You can tell because it talks about the upcoming Iowa caucus.

This is approximately the time that the first patient tested positive in the U.S. The video that OP references goes into February and March, so I don't think these are equivalent.


It's true, both were wrong.

It's also true that both sides presume the worst intentions when they say the other side was wrong.

I can't get over the fact, however, that only one side was (and still is) in a position to do something about it. Moreover that one side had access to better intelligence about the severity of the situation, and that one side sowed the seeds of their awful response over the past three years with the various cuts they made.


Fortunately good judgement is an occasional human virtue which also cuts across party lines.


> They didn't realize there was any danger in making false predictions.

Is there any danger for them? PG seems to have very idealistic view of politics.

As far as I know, any amount of fact checking in politics don't change political views.

Will Fox News lose any viewers over this? Politicians may lose jobs because bad economy, but will they lose votes because they were wrong and ignorant?

H. L. Mencken wrote:

> No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby. The mistake that is made always runs the other way. Because the plain people are able to speak and understand, and even, in many cases, to read and write, it is assumed that they have ideas in their heads, and an appetite for more. This assumption is a folly.

I think there is great Mencken experiment going on. Always underestimate public and see how far you can go.


>any amount of fact checking in politics don't change political views.

That is what I was thinking.

Paul is writing as if credibility stems from reality. When in reality, the reverse its true. Fox news is credible, its viewers believe that, and whatever those credible people say, is reality. As long as people keep tuned in only to Fox News, that reality wont shatter. Their credibility exists because of their reach, its strength in numbers, its entertainment factor. Calling Fox News news and not entertainment is quite a leap. Most of what they have to say exists to keep people hooked, not to educate them into being more capable of performing civic duties. Fox News wants people to vote in a way that benefits Fox News, not the voter, and the same principal applies to all their coverage of everything. Coronavirus skeptic was a contrarian position to take, it divided their people from other people. Now that they are divided, they can switch sides and still maintain the artificial divide, and keep their viewers isolated from "alternate" realities.

This was a really good article by Kara Swisher of ReCode, who at the end finally convinces her mom to heed medical warnings about being out and about, cant convince her to turn off Fox.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/31/opinion/coronavirus-fox-n...

They can flip a 180 overnight, and the viewers will see it as people with "updated information" and continue to cheer them on.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/fox-news-stars-sean-hannity-an...

There is the sad irony too, that the demographic who watches Fox news is already the most likely to be at risk (age, faith over evidence, distrusting of established medicine and government) denial not withstanding. Add denial to the mix, and youve got a real bad stew.


The problem is that the channel is named "fox news", but they have both news shows (which are actually not bad), and opinion programming, which is pretty terrible. I suspect most people don't really make a distinction between the two.


Why would you assume they want to? Opinion shows are the only thing watched on Fox News, they are the primetime lineup. Everything else is filler.


This is a deliberately built political philosophy, one of the results of Karl Rove's "reality-based community" [1] idea, from over 15 years ago. Whether or not the label was actually coined by Rove is debated, but essentially this idea is that some people lived in a world that was "reality-based" and that others were not limited by reality and thus were better/stronger politicians. In practice, what this means is the Bush administration did not have to believe in and be bound by this thing called reality, they created reality when they acted.

President Trump is just continuing this idea through today. Unlike GWB and cronies, Trump and team don't even have to act to "create reality", they merely talk and reality instantly changes for their followers. It's a powerful tool and like him or hate him, his administration is using it skillfully.

1: https://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/magazine/faith-certainty-...


to an outsider, americas left vs right hostility and mutual disrespect are becoming painful to watch. lets make a counter example to they one you provided, does the nyt "create reality" for their readers? they did publish their fare share of dangerously incorrect material about the virus, pandemic, the countermeasures,you name it.


This is false equivalency.

When you have to seek to find bad examples from other side, and it's the every day modus operandi the other side there is no comparison.


You could show this comment to anybody from either of the general left/right tribes, and they’d think it was true. Whether you’d use this reasoning to deride Fox News, or CNN (or pretty much any other ‘news’ organisation), would boil down entirely to your tribal affiliation. When I was younger, having “critical thinker” or “anti-establishment” views would generally lead to the conclusion that politicians and mass-media tend to lie/mislead to promote whatever their agenda is. Now, those same views seem to lead to the conclusion that “the politicians and mass-media of the other side tend to lie/mislead to promote their agenda, but the politicians and mass-media of my side are generally pretty good”. I think that’s pretty sad. But perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps things have always been this way, and my perspective has simply changed. That said, I don’t remember any counter-culture icons coming out to endorse career politicians who’d accepted millions of dollars from big business interests when I was a kid.


The downvotes on your post demonstrate the left-leaning nature of this site. It's discouraging frankly. The thousands of conversations that occur daily on this site, without emotion or incident; but insult "the other side"'s politicians or news outlets as being biased? Downvote hell

Yes, CNN and the like are just as bad as Fox news. The sooner you folks recognize that, the sooner we can have decent conversations about emotional issues. Both sides are bad. Neither is better. No, they aren't. Stop it. Blame them BOTH for getting us to this point so that we can leave them in the dark past, and we all over here can talk like adults while they sit over there and bicker, mutually accusing each other of racism and Nazism or whatever today's 5 minute hate happens to be.

WE DO NOT NEED THEM! Either of them! There is a whole universe of conversation that is not occurring because BOTH SIDES are refusing to engage in it, because if you did, you would realize -- tada -- you don't need them. And they can't have that. Viewership and income would drop.

Neither is incentivized with your best interest. And the sooner we collectively start to see it the better.


The "both sides bad" mantra is really just lazy. The false equivalence between the validity of whatever DJT says and what critics say have let even basic decency be thrown out the window, let alone facts.


You must have a reasonably short memory, because people said exactly the same sort of sensational things about Obama, and Bush Jr, and Clinton, and Bush Sr, and Reagan... There’s not really any truth or insight in what you just said. It’s simply an impassioned judgement about a politician you don’t like/disagree with/don’t trust/whatever...

The truth is that most politicians are corrupt on some level, most politicians are unduly influenced by lobbyists, few politicians truly care about their constituents, mass media doesn’t care about the truth, even though some of their employees might, they just care about revenue, for any political perspective you can think of, you’ll find a media outlet willing to pander to it.

I don’t think any of that is particularly controversial (or even insightful for that matter). I’d wager that most people would agree with that sentiment on some level. But they’ll tend to lose sight of reason when you suggest that “yes, that includes the politicians you like, and the media outlets that share your opinions”.

Any public figure of any significance is going to attract a tribe of impassioned haters. They tend to have no greater connection with the truth than that same persons tribe of fervent fans will.


But DJT lies a lot more than any of his predecessors, and hires a lot more incompetents, and fires a lot more competents, than any of his predecessors.


You must have a reasonably short memory, because people said exactly the same sort of sensational things about Obama, and Bush Jr, and Clinton, and Bush Sr, and Reagan...


But when (if) they said those things about Obama, the Bushes, Clinton, and Reagan, those were lies like Trump's.


Perhaps what you’re saying right now is a lie.

In general, I’m quite fond of being incredibly sceptical of the government and all of its agents. They should be scrutinized thoroughly. But this isn’t honest or productive scrutiny. The truth is all of those politicians lied, and all of them exaggerated details, and misrepresented facts (though trying to measure how much would be reasonably subjective). They also all did good work (again open to some subjective interpretation). But your commentary boils down to an incredibly black and white view, which ignores the sins of one group, and exaggerates the sins of another. It almost exclusively reflects your own biases over the actual conduct of any president.


> The "both sides bad" mantra is really just lazy.

"Fox News is TEH EVILZZ AND CNN/CBS/NBC/MY HOLY LOVE ARE TEH ANGELZZ" is really lazy. Refusing to recognize how the other news outlets aren't bastions of honorable reporting is really lazy. Refusing to recognize that none of them -- any of them, not one -- have the public's (e.g. YOUR) best interest in mind, is really lazy.

Somewhere deep down you know that but there's some emotional need you're trying to satisfy that prevents you from recognizing it. You NEED something like Fox to be evil so that your views feel justified.

So a few days ago CBS trumpeted this crying nurse from NYC complaining about lack of masks and people dying and blah blah blah. Turns out? Never happened.

The hilarious part? I despise Fox News. I just equally despise all the others. They're all complicit in fascism and the march toward corporatist dictatorship.


> "Fox News is TEH EVILZZ AND CNN/CBS/NBC/MY HOLY LOVE ARE TEH ANGELZZ" is really lazy.

Now you are being downright dishonest. Nobody said either of these things but it's demonstrably true that Fox News often publishes unverified propaganda while CNN routinely has scientists and solid source surveys to support their points.


It's interesting how you refuse to answer anything I'm saying. You're simply proving my point.

And you know full well what it is. You don't need any of them. They're all dishonest. We'd be better off having honest conversations with each other rather than tribally organizing behind ANY mainstream media (colloquially called news, but they aren't).

And yet the only thing you can focus on is attacking your perceived enemy, ignoring the enemy you choose not to see.


The world is a lot more nuanced than your manichean view is making you see.


Yes it is, and that's exactly the problem I have with defending any news outlets. None of them have those complex conversations, and they prevent us from doing so. It's important we have them. Until that massive blinder is removed, they will be overjoyed for us to bicker about which news outlet is best, because it means we aren't looking square at them and everything we miss because they never talk about it.

We are better than the world they've given us.


You want complex conversations? Try listening to Ezra Klein's podcasts, Kara Swisher's podcasts, Lawfare's podcasts, PopeHat's podcasts, and there are many more.


The founder of Vox, the editor of a Vox subsidiary, and two law blogs that have become devoted almost entirely to trying to impeach Trump. That sure is a diverse group of perspectives you’re exposing yourself to. You can be glad you don’t exist in some sort of echo chamber.


Perhaps even more nuanced than the comment you made immediately preceding this one.


> The downvotes on your post demonstrate the left-leaning nature of this site.

Not really. If you post something that certain people dislike for whatever reason, but which is unremarkable to others, the votes will never break even; you will not get enough upvotes from the latter group to make up for the former. (Even given the fact that not everyone can downvote.)

Whichever group's buttons you push then makes it seem like the site is overrun with that group. E.g. an atheistic comment might enrage theists, but to atheists it might just be "meh". Gee, what's with the downvotes? Boy, this site is just a haven for religious zealots!

I can't even begin to speculate about the grandparent comment. Maybe some users simply found it insubstantial? Shrug.


Criticizing the impact of political tribalism (as I have done above) is likely to irritate anybody with politically tribal views. When it comes to things like Fox News vs CNN (or MSNBC, or whoever else...), I’d consider them all to be on approximately even footing in regards to journalistic integrity (as in, a rather low footing). It’s easy to see how an opinion like that would trigger anybody who had strong tribal affiliation with any of those organisations (whether they viewed it as tribalism or not, people don’t tend to scrutinize their own views in that way, as far as I can tell).

That said, you can just read the thread and come up with a rather decent guess as to which side of that paradigm I likely upset.


Logically speaking what you say is true and is worth recognizing. My comment is based more on trends I have observed over the years (and HN is no more immune to the moving window than any other social media site, it's just slower here).


the two outlets are absolutely equal when it comes to making half of the americans view the other half as raging lunatics. it is basically this https://youtu.be/aFQFB5YpDZE

seppin 51 days ago [flagged]

Trump is a lunatic, literally. Obama was a smart, measured person people didn't like.

There's a difference.


Obama killed civilians overseas and presided over massive NSA surveillance of US citizens. Trump also kills civilians overseas and presides over massive NSA surveillance of US citizens, but that doesn't make it any better that Obama did it.


"Obama carried out the duties of being President" - yes he did, one of those duties is killing people. You'd have to go out of your way, almost to the point of ignoring and not acting on threats, to not kill anyone as POTUS.

Nice straw man, the above has nothing to do with my statement.


I’m not sure that’s true. Some objective “truth” exists in the world whether it’s noticed and reported correctly or not (the tree falling in the woods), and some news outlets (NYT) report this truth more accurately than others (Fox News). It’s misleading to insist on “both siding” to make a mountain of untruths from one outlet seem to be the same size as a molehill of untruths from the other.


Bothsiding feels so mature though. Look at those petty little onesiders! Don't they know bothsides are the same!?


"like him or hate him, his administration is using it skillfully"

I couldn't agree more.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-recorded-havin...

Not many people could survive this, then become president.


Politicians have survived worse.


When I heard it first I thought Trump had clinched the presidency. People publicly rail against this kind of talk but emotionally look up to people who can not just talk but behave like that. I distinctly noticed women talking more positively about him after it came out.


I think the factor you missed in relating anything prior to the Trump era is the fact that Trump is an obvious, completely symptomatic Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

When he is back out of politics, watch for the other appointees to not just be replaced due to the change of president, but actively canned because they are all cronies appointed as a personality cult, and/or as favors to his worshipers.

And yes, I'm morbidly curious to imagine what the Trump presidential library might wind up containing. I snarkily predict that nothing will be approved except autobiographies.


Right, but this might change as people they know start dying. It is easy to lie about things happening that don’t directly affect the people being lied to, but if you personally know multiple people killed by the virus, it will be hard to lie about it.


This is the only thing I can think of that could change their minds. And even then.


I think you misread the passage that you quote as supporting idealism. The full passage is:

"The answer, I realized, is that they didn't think they could get caught. They didn't realize there was any danger in making false predictions. These people constantly make false predictions, and get away with it, because the things they make predictions about either have mushy enough outcomes that they can bluster their way out of trouble, or happen so far in the future that few remember what they said."

Making a false prediction on the premise that you can bluster your way out of it doesn't indicate that they think the false prediction doesn't have consequences - it indicates that they think the false prediction doesn't have consequences for them. That they can get away with it. It's "I can say what I want, because nothing bad will happen to me personally for lying."

I wouldn't call that idealism.


Bear in mind it's not just Fox News which got this pandemic wrong. "It's no worse than the flu," "this won't be a global pandemic," "you don't need to wear a mask unless you are symptomatic or caring for someone who is," and other 100% wrong takes were also pushed by Vox, NYT, WaPo, and even WHO & CDC long past when they should have been.


Which is one of the reasons why I wish we, collectively as a society, would stop blaming the blame game in this crisis. Almost everyone got this wrong.


When and why people got things wrong is also important. People who underestimated COVID-19 in January because evidence of its lethality and r0 were scant are somewhat different from people who downplayed the virus in March because it aligned them with a particular political figure. Similarly, it's a lot easier to sympathise with the epidemiologists who will turn out to have massively overestimated casualties because we took unprecedented action to shut down society to avoid them than the people still organising mass events or the people who have concluded that the disease is best stopped by attacking 5G masts.


But they should not have got any of this wrong! Check out the TED talk by Bill Gates in 2015. How could any journalist worth anything not have had that video in their research before publishing articles. Look at how Asian countries wear masks. Did the people working in the WHO think that was for fashion? The people in spokesperson positions have been caught out big time. It's a issue with how people are promoted to these positions and an example of how society favouring extroverts over introverts is a bad idea.


I look at it a bit differently. If someone's pushing the line "just listen to the experts," then it should be acknowledged that experts do get it wrong and have massively dropped the ball on COVID-19. The signs of how lethal and contagious the virus is were there in China for anyone to read by early January.

Of course, "experts (in particular our experts) don't know what they're doing" is different from "... and therefore you should listen to any yahoo who says it's 5G."


In hindsight, it is obvious that COVID19 was worse than SARS or MERS.

But at the time, especially given China's clampdown on information outflow, it didn't appear to be significantly different from SARS, which didn't effect the West much, or MERS, which had almost no impact outside of the Middle East.

But as another commenter noted, the timing matters a lot.

Everyone except Fox News thought back in January that COVID19 was going to be big, but based on prior coronaviruses not something that would significantly impact the West. They've all done 180s and are pulling out the stops to fix their earlier error.

Fox News is still saying that today (i.e., April 6). One of their talking heads just said that COVID19 is overblown just a few minutes ago.


"especially given China's clampdown on information outflow"

Come on. By late December, China's response was so drastic (including when measured against all previous coronavirus outbreaks) that the question of "suppressing" information about it was completely moot.

The CDC completely dropped the ball on this. Yes, in part because Trump slashed their pandemic response budget, but they did a piss-poor job even for the resources at their disposal.

Fox News and Trump being a source of constant disinformation and incompetence is, to me, kind of a constant of the universe. The same ought not to be true of the rest of our institutions, and yet it seems that it is.


Your memory is highly selective and simply wrong.

On Dec 31, China informed WHO about a mysterious cluster of respiratory ailments clustered around a seafood market in Wuhan. China didn't even close the seafood restaurant until 2020. The first confirmed death wasn't reported until January 11. China didn't begin a lockdown of Wuhan until January 23.

Yes, the CDC dropped the ball, but evidence coming out in March indicates that China knew about COVID19 in early December and didn't bother to tell the rest of the world about it for another month, and even then downplayed the seriousness of the virus until the end of January.

To this day China is still blocking the release of information about the severity of COVID19. WaPo reported last week that there may have been more than 40,000 COVID19 fatalities in Wuhan alone (based on manually counting the number of urns distributed by morticians) which is at more than 13x the official number of deaths reported for the entire country.

https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-pandemic-timelin...


I'm sorry, its not even in hindsight. All you needed to do is look at what China was doing. It became very apparent that there was a major viral outbreak on-going in china around Luna New Year


> but based on prior coronaviruses not something that would significantly impact the West.

If we talk about a lot of media, they simply had the priority of making Chinese look bad in any possible way, including blaming them for "misinterpreting numbers" and ridiculing them for implementing lockdowns or wearing masks.

Which just shows how stupid some global agendas are. Media don't do that in vaccuum, but they are the reflection of the power of the interest groups that want to push the agenda.


If we talk about a lot of media, they simply had the priority of making Chinese look bad in any possible way, including blaming them for "misinterpreting numbers" and ridiculing them for implementing lockdowns or wearing masks.

Amazing how apparently all of the media around the world was united in a conspiracy to make China look bad, especially when much of the reporting was commenting on how much worse the situation must actually be compared to what was being reported by China, given the severity of China's response.


> all of the media around the world was united in a conspiracy to make China look bad

It's like 'memes': very little journalists today do their own research. I can see that whatever Trump says today then follows the "echo" of "media around world" (those that have U.S. sources) that last weeks.

It's a total disaster of false information, and a lot could be traced directly to Trump or the U.S. in general (there are other "sources" that are establishment but produce falsehoods, it's not that he's alone).

But enough people remain confused believing it is true, including people very close to me.


But not everyone, and that’s key. Some people and some entire countries got it right.


Fox News is the only organization that continue to let their opinion anchors downplay and politicize the virus well after it was clear it was deadly and inevitable.


Isn't tied to the size of the 'public' (crowd)?

Too few members in the crowd, and the probability for one to understand and explain to others remains too low.

Too many of them and the Big Chiefs control the media, and also live so high in the Sky nobody seems credible when it comes to criticize, moreover all non-official messages are diluted into other ones to the point of many being not even emitted because the ones understanding the situation know that they will not be heard.


Votes will be lost, because people are unnecessarily putting themselves and others at risk, and some will die.


What you're saying is that votes should be lost. Claiming that they will be is a stretch.


Actually, I think what they're saying is that voters will die, and therefore reduce the number of available votes.

Edit: and, of course, that this effect will dispropotionately affect political tribes whose propagandists under-, rather than over-, estimated the dangers of covid-19.


Exactly this.


From what Mencken book/essay is this quote?


'Notes on Journalism' in the Chicago Tribune (19.09.1926) https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/myl/MenckenNotes.pdf


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Dr. Drew has apparently also gone on a copyright claim kick trying to remove the evidence [1]. He has a now-deleted Tweet [2] about people infringing on copyright.

So, I am thinking his rehabilitation tour is perhaps not as forthright as it could be.

1: https://reclaimthenet.org/dr-drew-apologizes-coronavirus-dmc...

2: https://i.imgur.com/R8wxtot.jpg


Did Fox News actually dump Laura Ingraham? I've never heard about this. She still seems to be on TV.


Why are you picking on Fox News? CNN, MSNBC, and others were chastising Trump over the China travel ban. They were saying he was creating hysteria over nothing. They were dismissing the virus at that point.


This is the sort of false equivalency that leads to claims that they all lie, so it's okay if Fox egregiously lies. We see this on HN all the time where someone stomps their feet and cries about a news headline that they think doesn't convey just the right slant that they want, ergo it's the same as the guy inventing bullshit conspiracy theories on his blog.

No, they weren't "chastising" Trump over the China travel ban because there was no China travel ban. There was a Wuhan restriction only applicable to foreigners. Thousands of Americans were going and coming with no restrictions whatsoever. Fly into Wuhan, lick the toilet seats, fly back home. Do it the next day.

There was zero screening. Zero containment. Zero listening to the pandemic experts.

No, they aren't the same. This revisionist "they were dismissing the virus" nonsense is utter horseshit of the worst kind. It is a lie of profound ignorance and gullibility, or an intentional lie, and both are just as obnoxious.


The equivalency being drawn by the parent may be wrong, but mainstream sources outside Fox News absolutely downplayed the seriousness of the virus and helped push the "it's not a big deal" perception that we are all now rowing against.


Completely disagree. The Fox news and related contingent and their response was drastically different than the other side. For example, SF declared an emergency in February and everyone was working from home since early March. While Florida had no such order till last week


> but mainstream sources outside Fox News absolutely downplayed the seriousness of the virus

That's true, I guess, if you consider OANN to have reached the status of “mainstream” with the boost they've gotten with their attachment to the current US administration.

But, otherwise, show me some specific examples.


You can look on Youtube yourself and see countless examples o MSNBC and CNN criticizing the travel ban on China because the virus wasn't any more dangerous than the flu.


I actually followed the coverage the first time, and where the ban was criticized it was almost entirely for being too late for that response to be useful, not unwarranted by the severity of the disease. Of course, if there really are “countless” examples supporting your characterization, it will be easy for you to cite some.


Looks someone else already found a few great examples.


You claimed that there were countless videos of "MSNBC and CNN criticizing the travel ban on China because the virus wasn't any more dangerous than the flu." Which of course isn't accurate.

You seek your redemption in some guy[1] listing a tiny selection of articles, having nothing to do with the partial travel restriction, arguing about the social effects. He links either contrarian articles, or articles talking about the psychology/sociology.

That you think this proves the case is astonishing. I am going to say again that you are either so profoundly partisan that the truth doesn't matter, or you are logically broken.

It's the classic deflection, and it's absolutely amazing. Fox was literally at war with what they saw as the "mainstream media hoax" (in lockstep with Trump, of course, because they are his state media), claiming that they were fear-mongering about the virus. Oh but now, the mainstream media actually wasn't at all. They were understating it. The cognitive deficiency to seriously argue this...

[1] That guy whose post history is littered with claims that the response to SARS-CoV-2 is "fear-mongering", and who a month ago seriously said that the US response was and is the best, of anyone. Their single example being that Trump limited air travel from a single region...for non-Americans...long after the horse was out of the barn.

Then again, your history has continual COVID denial, such as your claim that no hospitals are over capacity. You guys are really trying to argue everything simultaneously and it must be exhausting.


None of your ad hominem counters the articles the other poster found.


Did the news about the death counts flattening and missing projections by a lot today bum you out? I can’t imagine having my identity so wrapped in Trump losing the election that I would be hoping for hundreds of thousand dead and the failure of the American health care system. Enjoy the next 4 years of the Trump administration.


"I can’t imagine having my identity so wrapped in Trump losing the election that I would be hoping for hundreds of thousand dead and the failure of the American health care system"

No one celebrates the extraordinary and unending failures of this administration. We protest it. We argue against it. We see a horrendous rise of idiocracy as people celebrate their own incredible ignorance and hate.

That it's bad for you doesn't make it "good" for us.

If a miracle cure was discovered today and not a single extra person died, that will never undo the raw criminality, and total, complete incompetence of the Trump administration.

That Jared Kushner has a role greater than mail room is a fucking travesty. Hey, but what about her emails, right?

"Did the news about the death counts flattening and missing projections by a lot today bum you out?"

Social distancing works. This surprises positively no one. Your orange buffoon, however, wants to stop social distancing. Maybe there's some miracle snake oil he can pitch and everything will be great again.

Go back to Twitter. Go back to your insular echo chamber. Your trolling, copy-paste noise just makes you look like a clown here.


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If you would have actually read those articles, you would see that the WaPo opinion piece does not actually downplay the coronavirus threat at all; it discusses the psychology of social panic. The NYT piece discusses how fear of coronavirus spread faster than the virus itself without any comment on the seriousness of the disease.

The CNBC article does compare the flu to the coronavirus and does note the flu has already killed more across the US on an absolute basis, but also notes that the coronavirus is significantly deadlier than the flu on a relative basis. Lenny Bernstein, the opinionist behind the second WaPo opinion piece you linked, apologized for his cavalier dismissal of the coronavirus in a followup opinion piece.

To date, only one person in the entire Fox News organization has apologized for getting it wrong on coronavirus. Every single other talking head has doubled down on downplaying coranavirus, and Fox and Friends is still implying that it's all just a second impeachment effort.


I'm sure you read all the articles in 5 minutes but either way the mental gymnastics you are going through to get around the headlines reading "How our brains make coronavirus seem scarier than it is" etc is truly impressive.


> The CNBC article does compare the flu to the coronavirus and does note the flu has already killed more across the US on an absolute basis, but also notes that the coronavirus is significantly deadlier than the flu on a relative basis.

The flu has already killed 10,000 across US as world frets over coronavirus

The flu remains a higher threat to U.S. public health than the new coronavirus.

This very clearly downplaying. One example was asked for, at least one was provided. Now we have examples of the downplaying being downplayed, because the "right guys" did it.


It's worth pointing out that Trump gave this order the day after or during the impeachment trial when it was risky for him to do so.

edit: None of this matters though because orange man bad.


Wait, wasn't your "but orange man bad" classic twitter response good enough? Why'd you edit it?

"When it was risky for him to do so."

Trump just got a get out of jail free card and absolute impunity and immunity to do anything he wanted. Since he's fired a number of people in the most brazen display of corruption in US history. Risky? There was zero risk.

Yes, orange man is bad. He's historically bad. He is a thin-skinned grifter who is positively the worst possible person to be in this position.

Oh but look he did an easy, lazy partial, regional restriction that accomplished positively nothing. What a savior.


So you don't think travel from China should have been shutdown until later?


What travel ban ? 400k people traveled from China after the ban. Trump said as of 2 weeks back that everything will be open by Easter. Everyday he downplays the virus and peddle misinformation. How anyone can define a completely unhinged and unethical person, whose direct actions is resulting in thousands of deaths is beyond me


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We have already seen 13k deaths in 2 weeks, with unprecedented lockdowns. According to president genius we should have been at zero cases and shouldn't be shutting down the economy. If we treated this like a regular flu, I won't be surprised if we saw numbers at the high end of the projection. And lol, 48 states ? He won barely by 70k votes and lost by what 3mn in 2016 against the most hated candidate, with Russian help, and with FBI meddling 7 days before the election. Look how we lost what 400 seats in 2018. If indeed America elects this incompetent and malicious imbecile, who trades American lives based on which states have sucked up to him, thinks his ratings are more important than 1000s of people dying, then we truly are lost. But I will not be moving to Canada, but fighting everyday to keep our democracy which is threatened everyday by this man in office


"How far are we going to be under projected death counts for Covid? A factor of 1000?"

What do you think the projection was?

The US has tragically seen 12,242 deaths (which is an undercount, but it's the authoritative number right now). There are over a thousand deaths a day adding onto that.

Did someone predict 12 million deaths? No, they didn't.

The absolute worst-case projection was 2 million deaths if there were zero reduction steps taken. Maybe you haven't noticed, but society is basically shut down. The spread has dramatically slowed. With extreme social distancing the US is on target for 100,000-200,000 deaths. This is a good thing relative to much more dire outcomes possible. Note that this happened at the state level with zero federal leadership. Quite contrary, with constant federal pushback.

Not sure where your "factor of 1000" nonsense comes from. I assume from the echo chambers where you're fed your pablum.


I'm ideologically opposed to political conservativism, but I sympathize with you. Regarding ideological bias, CNN is worse than Fox, but in left leaning communities Fox is demonized while CNN gets a pass. Hivemind mentalities are frustrating regardless of which group engages in it.


> Regarding ideological bias, CNN is worse than Fox,

No, it's not, though it's pretty bad.

> in left leaning communities Fox is demonized while CNN gets a pass.

No, CNN’s (and most of the institutional media that isn't hard right) center-right pro-corporate bias is nearly as frequently pointed to by left-leaning folks as Fox’s hard-right bias.

You may be confusing the pro-corporate center-right wing of the Democratic Party with the left, though, which would make this statement understandable.


CNN'S pro-corporate bias barely scratches the surface of CNN's hostility to journalistic integrity.


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Of course it could be both, at different points in time.

Edit: as well as different people within the organization.


> quite unlike Fox where the entire organization is given marching orders and a narrative they must push.

Honestly that seems more like the NYTimes or something. https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/08/new-york-times-m...

Do you have proof Fox is like this and other media organizations aren't? I'd honestly would like to see it.

We all have access to wikileaks so we should all know which organizations were in bed with the DNC (thanks dkim!).


There is nothing about what has happened that should surprise anyone who has read the book Superforecasting.

It explains that we naturally trust people who sound smart, well-informed, and CONFIDENT. We don't want to hear uncertainty, probabilities, or the other signs of someone who thinks in a careful quantitative way. We want to accept a cognitively simple answer, then move on. This is what we find comfortable.

However this is a good way to select people who are terrible at making actual predictions. They appear to predict, but often with sufficient weasel words that it is hard afterwards to say whether it was violated. (The book gives real examples.) But if you put them in a setting where they can be tested, they perform worse than uninformed monkeys. And the part of the future that they are worst at predicting is exactly what they were supposed to be experts at!

The book Superforecasting walks through how this was demonstrated, and the discovery that there are people you will never see on CNN or Fox news who are really good at forecasting. A fact that is extremely interesting to various TLA agencies (one of whom paid for the research in question).

The long and short of it? Bayes' Theorem actually works in the real world. The revolution that started with quants on wall street, analytics in baseball and Nate Silver in politics is still ongoing.

When you are done with the book and have processed it, hopefully you will understand why the author said in response to an audience question after a talk, Here’s my long-term prediction for Long Now. When the Long Now audience of 2515 looks back on the audience of 2015, their level of contempt for how we go about judging political debate will be roughly comparable to the level of contempt we have for the 1692 Salem witch trials.

Hopefully the contempt that some of us have for how talking heads in January and February of 2020 dismissed Coronavirus is a step on the path to that future.


> It explains that we naturally trust people who sound smart, well-informed, and CONFIDENT. We don't want to hear uncertainty, probabilities, or the other signs of someone who thinks in a careful quantitative way. We want to accept a cognitively simple answer, then move on. This is what we find comfortable.

Almost any interview with Robert Shiller is a striking counter example to these smart confident sounding people who aren’t actually good at making predictions. When speaking Shiller does not sound very confident at all and you need to know his background and history and remind yourself to pay attention to what he’s saying.


There is some really interesting interplay here between forecasting and decisionmaking. (Taleb would have a lot to say here, along the lines of "forecasters are poor.") Maybe it makes sense that forecasts should be measured, but decisions should be, well, decisive.

A good Bayesian should be able to make confident decisions based on information available at the moment, while acknowledging that lack of information is leading to suboptimal decisions.

For example, a leader can be absolutely confident that shelter-in-place is the best decision based on the available information, while acknowledging that there is missing information that would drastically change this assessment.


A good Bayesian should be able to make confident decisions based on information available at the moment...

No.

A good Bayesian should be able to come to decisions like, "I am 70% confident that Osama bin Laden is in that compound." While the Bayesian next says, "I am only 50% confident that Osama bin Laden is in that compound." With both knowing that there is a difference of opinion, but no disagreement on basic facts or reasoning method.

It is very rare for a good Bayesian to be absolutely confident of any prediction. And if you are often so confident, you're probably not thinking very well. I mean that quite literally - the process of analyzing probabilities well requires being able to make the case both for what you think will happen, and what you think won't. Because only then can you start putting probabilities on the key assumptions.

For example, a leader can be absolutely confident that shelter-in-place is the best decision based on the available information, while acknowledging that there is missing information that would drastically change this assessment.

Really?

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22750790 is a discussion that I was in recently about whether on a cost benefit analysis it is better to crash the economy by shutting things down, or to keep things open and let lots of people die.

The decision wasn't nearly as clear in the end as I would have expected it to be. (That all options are horrible was clear. But we knew that.)


> No. A good Bayesian should be able to come to decisions like, "I am 70% confident that Osama bin Laden is in that compound."

That's not a decision though. That's an assessment, what I would put in the same category as predictions. A decision would be whether or not to bomb the compound.

Your post seems to miss my point, that predictions and decisions are very different and one can be uncertain about predictions while being certain about decisions. For example, I completely agree with this:

> It is very rare for a good Bayesian to be absolutely confident of any prediction.

Here's a simple example to think through the difference. You have a sophisticated weather model that predicts 40% chance of rain today. You hate getting wet, so you take your umbrella. In fact, you would take your umbrella even if the chance were only 10%.

So you are really uncertain about whether it's going to rain (your forecast), but absolutely certain that taking your umbrella is the optimal decision given the information at hand.


You are right that I had not paid close attention to decisions.

I see no particular reason why Bayesians should be better at being decisive. They should make better judgments given the available information. But they are not necessarily any better at making decisions and moving on.


Expanding on this, the skill of figuring out the odds of bin Laden being in the compound is unrelated to the skill of figuring out how to handle both outcomes, and whether that is a worthwhile risk to take.

So a good Bayesian can inform a good decision maker, but the Bayesian is not necessarily a good decision maker.

Similarly in the book, one of the superforecasters made the point that listening to well-informed experts who might be bad at making decisions was very useful. Because the expert really did have a good grasp of the current situation and could explain it clearly, which was a great starting place for the Bayesian who lacked background. Preparing background and making predictions are both required, but the combination of skills need not start in the same brain.


Fundamentally, decision-making is what predictions are for. We mainly care about information to guide our actions. There are some interesting implications of this for how we should do research.

https://www.gwern.net/Research-criticism#beliefs-are-for-act...

A recent example: people have been talking about clinical trials for coronavirus vaccine candidates. In those you want to minimize the bad things that happen to the people in the study, and also get a working vaccine rolled out to the world as quickly as possible. Therefore you might want to accept unusually low levels of certainty that the vaccine is safe, or ramp up trial size faster than usual, because the world is on fire and every day of delay is terrible. For other vaccines with smaller expected benefits, slow-and-cautious might be the way to go. In both cases it's a matter of balancing expected risks with rewards as your probability estimates change over time.


Yes, exactly. For example, I would think there would be immense value right now in sampling totally random subsets of the population and testing whether they've had COVID-19 in the past. This is the kind of information that could radically change decisions about when to release stay-at-home orders.


I disagree on that.

The purposes of sampling are to find out how deadly the disease is, and to find out if herd immunity exists. But we have good evidence that it is likely to be deadly enough to justify stay-at-home orders while community spread exists. And have strong circumstantial evidence that only a small fraction of the population has had it.

Therefore breaking quarantine for a random subset of the population is unlikely to change actionable decisions. But it will be likely to spread the disease. I would love to know the answer to the question raised. But it isn't worth human lives to answer it sooner than it will otherwise be answered.


> But we have good evidence that it is likely to be deadly enough to justify stay-at-home orders while community spread exists.

I don't think we agree on that and it's relative. Not all people agree on stay-at-home/confinement orders. I personally see them as an authoritarian measure and I think everyone should judge for himself whether he wants to expose himself to COVID-19 risks or not.

As to the point of determining if COVID-19 is deadly enough or not, I don't see how we can do that without sampling the society. It's not clear, right now, if the only cases are the ones that are diagnosed or 50% of society.


I don't think we agree on that and it's relative. Not all people agree on stay-at-home/confinement orders. I personally see them as an authoritarian measure and I think everyone should judge for himself whether he wants to expose himself to COVID-19 risks or not.

It is in the nature of public health that "everyone should judge for himself" guarantees epidemics. Because like it or not, the choices that you make for yourself affect me. You may decide that you'll survive so you don't alter your behavior. But that spreads the disease and makes it more likely that my immunocompromised sister dies.

The result is that public health provides the most clear-cut cases where we have to choose between individual rights and the public good. But we are loathe to make that choice. Therefore it presents us with a series of easily debated moral quandaries.

See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2267241/ for some of the relevant history.

As to the point of determining if COVID-19 is deadly enough or not, I don't see how we can do that without sampling the society. It's not clear, right now, if the only cases are the ones that are diagnosed or 50% of society.

Both extreme statements are exceedingly unlikely.

I had based my comment on published articles estimating an infection fatality rate of 0.4%-1.4% with a best estimate around 0.66%. But the full story is complicated. Work your way through https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/global-covid-19-case-fatality-... to understand the current data, estimates, limitations of various research and so on. It is..messy.


Based on your comment I went to buy Superforecasting on Audible. When I browsed to it I saw I already bought it on 29-04-19. Time to listen to it.


Great book. Also check out The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver.


This is why these last few weeks on the market have been wonderful. If you can predict (including accounting for the supposed irrationality) then you make money. Otherwise you lose money.

If you had a prediction of how things would get hit w/ virus, there was so much money to be made. I watched but my timing was a bit off and I did not commit the majority of my wealth. That's a pity and speaks to my true estimate of the danger whereas a friend of mine pulled out completely of all long-term holdings in mid Feb so we know he believed.


If you're getting your "news" from CNN/Fox/MSNBC, or "gathering evidence" to promote one the two permitted narratives, that's your problem. This is stuff is low effort "Presidential Level Politics" 24x7. Real news died when reporters stopped having to craft a story so that the Associated Press or United Press International picked it up and made it available to the varied local newspapers of America, both liberal and conservative. The old CNN that actually did news, not talk show shenanigans reminiscent of old school Howard Stern, is missed.


Agreed. Unfortunately now it's more like picking a sport team ("Team CNN" or "Team Fox"), or Apple vs/ Google vs/ Microsoft than actually finding, or learning about, facts. Tribalism at it's finest.

The only alternative I've found (I'm open to helpful suggestions) is to ignore that noise and read actual briefings and original sources.

But, that defeats the point of news being an honest and straight forward source of a summary. And it takes a lot of time. And doesn't always end in rewarding information (lies/bias in original sources exist too - eg: watching hours upon hours of live impeachment hearings was full of lies/half-truths/obfuscation coming from all sides).


> Unfortunately now it's more like picking a sport team

Indeed, what’s being provided is infotainment / soft news. [0]

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infotainment


I've found a well-curated Twitter feed of smart sources from various ideological and media camps helps to find interesting and informative info which would otherwise take a great deal of time to find. You do get misinfo and bad takes sometimes, but if you set it up right it's no worse than mainstream sources. Lists are useful as well to avoid Twitter's feed curation algos.

Just specifically for COVID-19, this led me to:

- Pay closer attention to the pandemic in China and request testing for my daughter when she had flu symptoms in late January while traveling (the CDC had no tests, of course)

- Begin using masks and gloves while going to groceries and other stores long before it was in common use and the value of masks had been acknowledged

- Mentally and materially prepare my family for an extended quarantine period long ahead of when the necessity was broadly acknowledged


It sometimes feels like there is the perception that twitter is worthless and devoid of meaningful information, but like you I've been increasingly relying on it for news. I'm not sure where else you can collect so many different perspectives on any given piece of news. Overtime, you learn how many grains of salt to take with each person in your timeline, and you get a sense of their personal biases. And if you can brush off the trolls, it's instructive to read the arguments that happen in the replies.

The way I use twitter, it serves the same purpose as hacker news, but with a much broader scope.


> It sometimes feels like there is the perception that twitter is worthless and devoid of meaningful information

My feeling has been there are nuggets of really good and really up-to-date information there, and there are some threads that are extremely informative, but signal-to-noise ratio is in general extremely close to zero and the hostility of the surrounding environment is unbelievably terrible.


A BIG advantage of Twitter is that get to hear from the persons themselves totally without filtering by the media. Maybe you do or don't like what some public figure who posts on Twitter says, but at least DO get just what THEY said.


This. The slanted editorializing and purposefully misconstrued out-of-context quoting by the media long ago turned me off.


My response some years ago was just to turn the mainstream media (MSM) off. On paper they can't compete with Charmin, and on the Internet they are useless for wrapping dead fish heads. Some of their material is worse than just misleading and down to manipulative, deceptive, dangerous, and even destructive. I don't want even to hear the MSM and, then, have to debunk them or risk being influenced. I hope the Internet enables some replacements, many more outlets but focused on smaller audiences.


I've resisted Twitter for a long time, but this would be the only reason I could see myself becoming a user.

In the past I've had a hard time finding people to follow with a high enough signal to noise ratio (or who don't flood my feed with a new tweet about their cat every 5 mins). Do you have any tips for picking sources? Or choosing when to fill them? And how do you stay on top of the flood of information?


For covid-19 I've curated this list:

https://twitter.com/i/lists/1239639611694911489

All the people on it are serious experts. I've also left out some people who are worth listening to, but have a political bias or express a lot of emotion (it's hard not to be angry).

I spend way too much time getting up to speed, but (a) there's a lot of stuff I find interesting (I studied molecular and cell bio a bit during my Masters), and (b) would rather err on the side of over-learning than being misinformed.

If you want secondary sources rather than primary, try STAT news. They've been excellent.

The quality of discussion in other fora (including HN) has been quite disappointing.


Thank you so much for this! I recently got into Twitter and following local news in an effort to stay informed but boy do the comments enrage/scare me. It’s just crazy how tribal things have gotten. Is there any end of this sort of division in sight? Every year I think it will get better but it doesn’t.


Would you mind sharing the twitter handles you recommend following?


Agreed. I’d also add selling stocks when they were hitting highs.


I’ve been sorting reddit comments by controversial. There’s a lot of junk sure, but it’s you also get away from people parroting the standard lines and sometimes get some unique insight.


That's an interesting idea. I need to try this too!


Oh I didn't know you could do that! In the old days when I used to visit another site, I gave bonus points to Flamebait and read at +4. As other p said, a lot of crap, but also a lot of insight. (I also took a point off "Insightful", since +4 Insightful was usually more like "a good but well known perspective which you have probably encountered before". The genuine insightful stuff was always +5.)

I kinda miss the ability to make my own comment thread. My social media was much more efficient back then.


Out of curiosity, and because I'm a Canadian out of the loop with respect to American news networks, how can there be news being at ends with each other? That's something I have difficulty putting into perspective (referring to the Team CNN vs Team Fox comparison)


This is just my hypothesis: news networks discovered that they can cater to 30% of the population with an extreme message and get more viewership than they would have catering to 50% or 100%. A side effect is that the permissible extremity increases over time as radical becomes the new norm. Both sides can play off each other's increasingly radical messages.


two comments:

1) the american TV news industry has slowly blurred, then obliterated, the line between straight news and editorial opinion. they're now often intermixed, with slanted analysis weaved throughout reporting. things like those news panel shows are particularly bad about this.

many people don't like to admit it because it challenges their centrist pretensions, but in the modern era, fox news started it and the remaining TV news outlets followed suit over the years.

2) but more fundamentally, there is probably no such thing as truly unbiased straight news reporting. the choosing of which facts to present is itself still an editorial process subject to human prejudice.


You're forgetting the most important point. There's no law requiring a "news" agency to report the facts. In fact there's no laws requiring them to not lie about everything they say. It seems crazy to admit, because news is suppose to be useful and factual information surrounding current events, but in America it doesn't have to be and it stopped being that way when they realize that sensational and entertaining stories got better ratings.


If you read the Globe and Mail (Liberal) and National Post (Conservative), you'll see a similar -- though not quite as extreme -- phenomenon.


My approach is to include one or two news sources from the "other team" in my daily news diet.

It adds a nice grain of salt for when I read "my team's" news.


I think the Tory/Labor division that existed in the newspapers, and the way that dynamic changed in the Rupert Murdoch era (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Murdoch#Activities_in_t...) should be studied in light of emerging polarization you're discussing in the US. Creates a self-reinforcing news duopoly that is very persistent and harmful. I suspect that as people look back on the end of Great Britain that we are living through and how it has fallen as a global power it will be interesting to see how media driven internal division was a factor.


There are still plenty of real news outlets, they just aren't on TV. You can pull up the Reuters web site, spend a few minutes reading the front page, and come out with more actual information than somebody who spent all day watching CNN.


I don’t think “real news” has ever died - it was always dead. The term “Yellow Journalism” has been around since the late 1800s.

I don’t think news that tries to push a narrative is useless. You just have to understand the viewpoint that they’re providing. By reading several different conflicting sources, and trying to understand each viewpoint and why they disagree, you can become informed on the issue.

The problem is, many people would rather take the easy route and treat every issue as if it were black and white. This opinion is right, that opinion is wrong. This news outlet is right, this news outlet is wrong.


Reading different sources doesn't help if all news is biased towards trying to report a coherent and easily understood narrative if the world is complicated and nuanced. In which case all you'll get is, to steal an expression, "the nearest common cliche" to the truth.


WaitButWhy's "The Story of Us" (https://waitbutwhy.com/2019/08/story-of-us.html), in particular "The Sick Giant" (https://waitbutwhy.com/2020/01/sick-giant.html), provides a really good explanation of what might be going on here.


It's the effects of the free market on journalism. The drive for profit means boosting ad revenue which in turns requires drawing an audience... actual journalism isn't profitable enough.


Each day, you have to read CNN, Fox, Reuters, the Economist, the Center for Disease Control, and some of the better local newspaper sites to figure out what's going on. Ignore what they choose to put on the home page. Even Fox News is not totally out of touch with reality once you get off the home page and ignore the opinion section.


Even Noam Chomsky, who co-authored Manufacturing Consent, practices this method. Read and dissect a wide range of sources.


> Real news died when reporters stopped having to craft a story

Or stopped fact-checking--you know, doing your homework. Real journalists used to interview one person at a time, ask them direct questions, call them on their bullshit, and fact check them in real-time. Nowadays what passes as journalism is to put two people from different "sides" on at the same time and watch them fling crap at each other. Or put two people from the same "side" on to have them take turns ripping someone else to shreds.

Frankly, it's disgusting. I have literally felt myself close to vomiting while watching TV these days. The fact the people on TV new wears suits and business attire is the worst irony; all they do is fling mudwrestling now. Just another one of the present debasement of all things past good and wholesome.



If anything, with the rise of targeted advertising and paywalls, this kind of thing was encouraged. Why write articles hoping they get picked up on their merits when you can just pitch partisan articles to partisan people and get the desired home-run every single time?


[flagged]


I'm a Pepsi guy. It always annoys me when someone offers me a Pepsi and then gives me Coke. I can tell, and I don't drink it.

People don't get my attitude. "How can you even tell the difference?" they say. "It's pretty much the same!"

This is because when your favorite soda is Mountain Dew, you can barely tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi. They're both a heck of a lot different from Mtn Dew, and there's only the tiniest difference between Pepsi and Coke when you contrast with Fanta, Mtn Dew, Sprite, 7Up, etc.

(I'm not making this up merely as an argument - the above is my reality, and yes, people do say that to me).

When you get accustomed to good quality journalism (which WaPo isn't), the differences between CNN and Fox are miniscule. When you consider all the news topics out there, and all the diverse perspectives on them out there, you'll see that CNN and Fox more or less cover the same tiny fraction of topics. Sure, if your world consists of only that tiny fraction, then the differences between CNN and Fox seem stark.

I think a more concise way to put it is: If you assign 100% to the universal set of topics/opinions, then perhaps Fox is at 2% and CNN at 3%. Sure, CNN is 50% better than Fox, but from a whole picture standpoint it's really only a 1% delta between the two.


LOL.

I don't have time to compile the numerous examples of CNN maliciously, cynically, and shamelessly to their users, so I'll just post my favorite example:

https://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/787749117502119936?lang...

Chris Cuomo looking into the camera, and telling America it is illegal for them to go to wikileaks. But it's ok, the media is exempted from that and they'll make sure to tell you ALL of the important information you need to know.

Sorry, but give me a break. Not only do they lie, they try to scare you into not informing yourself.


I don't disagree with your CNN comment, but the severity, consistency and magnitude of F-NEWS's lies doesn't compete with anyone tbh. They're on their own category.


Exactly - I'm not sure how anyone can say with a straight face that the Dijon-mustard-tan-suit-latte-salute network has ever been anything but the #1 producer of bullshit on TV.


Fair. I should have clarified that I wasn’t nominating CNN for first place. But just because they are not the worst doesn’t mean you can let your guard down while watching CNN. In a way it’s more dangerous at least for people like me. I can watch Fox News to see what the other side is saying, but I roll my eyes enough to remind myself to take everything with a big grain of salt. It’s easier to be lulled into being less skeptical while watching CNN, MSNBC, etc.


Do you think the Red Sox are not like the Yankees?

They're just different teams playing the same game.

Fans always defend their team and vilify the other. Always. With every dispute they're able to convince themselves it's the other side that are the cheaters. They can't both be right, but yet each side feels equally certain of their position.


"I'm the most correct because I don't care about anything and trivialize important matters to just differences of opinion!"


>They can't both be right

But that also doesn't mean, as you and so many imply with these kind of statements, that both sides are wrong. It can be the case that one side is, in fact, correct, or less at fault than the other.

It's a fallacy that in a dispute both sides are always equally wrong, or that the answer is always exactly in the middle.


Yes, that's not what I was implying though (or at least didn't mean to). I meant they can't both be right all the time. The point being that fans think their side is always right and the other always wrong. When the reality is their side is sometimes right and sometimes wrong.

Certainly in any specific dispute one may be correct. Or both partially correct. Or both wrong. And one may be better or worse than the other in sum.


On the contrary, not only is this type of "both sideism" incredibly harmful to healthy political discourse (because it discourages engagement and breeds cynicism), both sides are not in fact equal, or even similar.

There are always bad apples, but you just need to look at how they are treated (e.g. whether they are rewarded or punished).


Dismissing it as "both sideism" just allows mediocrity to thrive. On both sides, as it happens. It's an endless loop of "they're the problem, not us". Deflecting any responsibility and avoiding self-reflection. Nothing changes or improves as a result.

Why not demand better on all fronts? None of the aforementioned media are doing grade A work.


CNN's website spent weeks running the "you should be more worried about the flu" lie.


I'm not an American and far from Trumps target audience but the CNN is bad as Fox. I have them both on TV. It truly is a kettle and pot situation, I believe so many Americans have grown so deeply into either culture that unfortunately you can't comprehend it anymore.


Every single journalist in the video Paul Graham linked was on Fox News/Fox Business.


The video appears that it was put together by the folks at The Daily Show. You really think they went looking for clips from the "other side?"


Is the a similar video with other news stations and their similarly incorrect reporting?



Should be easy to do if it's as equivalent as you're assuming, no?


Late-night satire shows are not politically unbiased, nor do they attempt to be. They cater to their audience, the same way those who they satirize do.


Right, but I expressed my opinion on your political divide and newspapers, not PG's links.



I'm curious as to why you think China is to blame for American politicians ignoring precautions and prioritizing their own wealth over the well-being of their citizens?


Because China covered it up and misled the experts.


Actually, China was thought to have covered it up because the whistleblower originally sent a message[1] to a WeChat group of his, telling group members that 7 people from the wet markets had been diagnosed with SARS. The government had no idea what it was and I'm sure nobody in the world knew what it was at the time, hence how it's a novel virus.

[1]: https://mmbiz.qpic.cn/mmbiz_jpg/jvumSxUR3OrjfcgXFibaich6y6Z6...



Thanks for the links. It seems that the response went along the following timeline according to my understanding:

  1. Dec. 30 - Doctors from the first few cases have analyzed the samples and discover how similar the new virus is to SARS. Officials tell them not to spread information to the public about the virus.

  2. Dec. 31 - China tells WHO about new virus (not that they know much at this point)

  3. Jan. 1 - Provincial health committee orders provincial labs to destroy samples, samples are transported to larger state facility to do testing there. The reason for this is due to the samples being considered "highly pathogenic microorganisms", and that only approved facilities should test it. (I'm guessing due to the risk of acting on the sample and contracting it?)

  4. Jan. 2nd - State approved facilities map the genetic sequence but an official national statement doesn't get made until a week later, Jan. 9th.
So from lab work, until international statement, that's two weeks. During that time, wouldn't it make sense for the doctors and researchers to keep their results hidden until it can be verified lest they risk causing unwarranted panic? Considering how carriers of COVID19 can be asymptomatic [1], it does take time for verification to be done on whatever discovery a nation makes on the world stage. In hindsight, it's easy to say that they should have jumped the gun and done exactly that on whatever communications platform were available to them. However, had COVID-19 turn out to be a minor disease, that'd mark the end of all their careers.

[1]: https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/14/health/coronavirus-asymptomat...


The parts that matter are Jan 11th to the 30th.

> Jan. 11–17: Important prescheduled CCP meeting held in Wuhan. During that time, the Wuhan Health Commission insists there are no new cases.

> Jan. 14: WHO announces Chinese authorities have seen "no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus."

> Jan. 20: The first case announced in South Korea. Zhong Nanshan, a top Chinese doctor who is helping to coordinate the coronavirus response, announces the virus can be passed between people.

> Jan. 23: Wuhan and three other cities are put on lockdown. Right around this time, approximately 5 million people leave the city without being screened for the illness.

> Jan. 24–30: China celebrates the Lunar New Year holiday. Hundreds of millions of people are in transit around the country as they visit relatives.


Where in this timeline do you see evidence that information their healthcare system had suggesting how severe COVID-19 was, was being intentionally covered up? I just see how unfortunate it is that they realized COVID-19's severity too late, else the Wuhan residents who left prior to the lockdown would not have been able to travel as freely as they did.


They knew how bad it was and downplayed it until it spread to the world.

Dr. Birx confirmed that they misled the experts:

https://twitter.com/RealSaavedra/status/1245138898772045824?...

> I think the medical community interpreted the Chinese data as that this was serious but smaller than anyone expected,

> Because I think probably we were missing a significant amount of the data.


I think that shows exactly that China didn't realize how bad this was. For example, from the NPR link:

Jan 18: Wuhan hosts a holiday banquet for 40,000 attendees, despite reports of a contagious viral pneumonia.

We've seen similar things in so many countries - people don't understand how bad it is until lots of people start dying. China put 21 million people on lock-down when there were only 619 confirmed cases - compare that to elsewhere.


China notified the WHO on December 31. Anything after that date should be blamed on China.

If you want to argue really hard, then January 23 when the Wuhan quarantine was announced is the last possible date that a country could argue that China was covering up the extent. At that date countries like Australia started screening passengers (and by 31 Jan had announced isolation requirements for travellers from China).


Could that be caused by the fact that compilation authors are clearly on Dem side? Trump's travel ban was called racist by whom?

(I'm also an outsider.)


You're right. And I'd add that modern journalism has effectively become activist journalism across the board. Modern journalists are primarily ideologues - and that is the origin of the partisan spin on almost every single news outlet, especially online.

This is also why credibility in media is at all time lows. Most people are politically moderate and they're waking up to the inescapable spin. This behavior is also dangerous because it provides some justification for the infamous "enemy of the people" quote. But I think partisan reporting has become so commonplace in the industry that most journalists don't realise what they're doing - either that or they believe the end justifies the means. But when the means back away at the credibility that reporting must be based on, you are destroying your institution and possibly taking society with you.


Yes Minister, on how to respond to a crisis:

  Sir Richard Wharton: “In stage one, we say nothing is going to happen.”

  Sir Humphrey Appleby: “Stage two, we say something may be about to happen,
                         but we should do nothing about it.”

  Sir Richard Wharton: “In stage three, we say that maybe we should do something about it,
                        but there’s nothing we can do.”

  Sir Humphrey Appleby: “Stage four, we say maybe there was something we could have done,
                         but it’s too late now.”

Remember that Yes Minister is a manual for politicians, not a comedy.


Stage four requires admitting guilt, it should be "We've always known we should've done something about it, but (opposing political party) didn't let us!"


That back-and-forth is between two bureaucrats, who are talking about how to obstruct politicians. One of the core premises of "Yes Minister" is that the bureaucracy holds the real power in government, somewhat similar to the idea of a 'deep state', though the show existed long before that phrase was coined.


This seems to undermine the point at the end of the GP comment:

> Remember that Yes Minister is a manual for politicians, not a comedy.

It seems like the deep state was (more) right on this one and the politicians are/were the ones trying to downplay the danger and generally mislead.


The proper name for the deep state is civil service employees and they generally tend to be right on a lot of stuff because they've been at it for decades rather than a couple of weeks to months. The whole idea that some politician lands in a chair and starts making policy by their lonesome is laughable.


> The proper name for the deep state is civil service employees

It's funny how that has become the new explanation/softer excuse. I remember when "Deep State" was used to describe groups like the Koch Brothers and similar power brokers well before it was adopted by the right-leaning popular media to describe the puppet masters of the 'establishment' on the other side. Now it's spun as an attack on simple 'civil servants'...

I guess it means whatever people want it to mean, depending on the context of your ideology or position on the matter.


The episode in question is episode 6 of series 1 of Yes, Prime Minister "A Victory for Democracy". Highly recommended!


The point of YM is that civil servants and ministers are interdependent, rather than a 'deep state' in the trumpian conspiracy theory sense.



From what I'm reading, I think there are still a significant minority of people who think this isn't an issue. I've had to learn to just walk away from comments on a variety of media where comments such as 'psychosomatic', 'less dangerous than the flu that kills 50,000 each year', 'patented by the illuminati', 'caused by 5G masts', and so on. I ended up deleting my twitter account as I dared try to engage with one UK-based journalist who was saying that 'they' were destroying the economy to serve their own foul needs (everyone under house arrest, total control of society, etc). For me, it's just not worth doing this - it's hard enough being separated from the people I care about, without filling the void with attempts to have a rational discussion with people who seem to be divorced from everyday fact.

You would think this would be the reality check that was needed, but it's not the case for everyone. I guess that is human pyschology writ large, but I'm finding that I just have to watch videos and not even look in the comments as it's just a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories and people being just plain wrong in a lot of places.


i've been saying "not more dangerous than the flu" before it started really going to shxt in europe, because to be honest, the epidemic doesn't look that dangerous if you're in general good health, just by looking at the numbers from a distance.

The fact that most people seem to not have anything worse than a few days of fever (some having even nothing at all), while at the same time others simply die very quickly to it makes it a very peculiar epidemic. And i think this is the reason why even amongst the medical professional i've talked to, they first seemed not too worried at all.

As for the number of death, let's not forget the flu kills hundreds of thousands of people each year, and that is with people getting vaccinated. It made me realize how getting vaccinated for the flu as soon as you reach 50 may actually be a pretty good idea..

Another thing that i haven't read a lot, is that the WHO have been alarming people in the past with previous epidemic (srars, mers, ebola, etc), and nothing "special" happened (i suppose partly because people correctly dealt with it, but also because of the nature of the virus). It actually made me realize how the whole world has been completely desensitized to catastrophic predictions.


Just goes to show that people will continue to ignore an exponential trend until it eats their lunch personally.

FWIW, totally aside from that, CDC numbers for the "flu" are actually a combined "flu and pneumonia", and according to the NHS in the UK-- which doesn't bin the same way-- no more than 1/3rds of those deaths are due to the flu. Other estimates have put the flu well under 10% of flu+pneumonia, though with substantial year to year variation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3827586/

Even if you steadfastly refuse to accept the obvious exponential dynamics of contagion in a naive population, perhaps the fact that the figures you are reasoning from are off by a constant factor of 3 to >10 might cause you to reconsider your level of confidence?


> Just goes to show that people will continue to ignore an exponential trend until it eats their lunch personally.

This. It seems most people are incapable of making decisions purely based on what their mind or the math says. I kind of get it, it didn't "feel real" in the beginning, it was just the mind that went "omg we need to act NOW", not the stomach. I suspect this is why the Silicon Valley Crowd was so far ahead of the curve - they deal with exponential growth more often, and are used to listen to just their brains, for better or worse.


> it didn't "feel real" in the beginning

Plus, a lot of the interventions don't really make much sense if you're the only one doing them.

For example, imagine I'm not worried about my own safety, but I am for the safety of others. Staying home and self-isolating will help with this if almost everyone else does it - but if I start a month early, doing it on my own? Negligible benefit.

And of course, much easier to get to work from home at an otherwise-non-WFH company once your boss and their boss are thinking the same way as you, and they've heard Google and Apple are doing the same...


Or they work with remote teams around the world, including China & Europe, and saw first-hand what was coming.


Every major bank in NYC has trading desks across the world, including Asian markets. Shouldn't they have seen it coming as well?


Not if their salaries depended on not understanding...


You can tell that, even today, people (especially the media) still don't understand the nature of exponential growth.

Every day, there's an article describing the new cases or deaths as a "surge". Look for that word: Surge. This word implies that the growth is somehow sudden or unexpected, whereas every day's actual day-to-day growth was predicted pretty accurately months ago. But, if you read the news, every day is described as some surprising "surge". I wish the media would stop calling every day's number a "surge" and start reporting "New coronavirus cases grew at (or above or below) the expected rate, doubling every N days."


Yes, if you click "log scale" on any of the many graph sites for almost any region, you see a line that's better straight than I could draw freehand.


Actually, the log scale for infections in pretty much every polity has started bending downwards, about a week and a half after the lockdowns were put in place.


I've always read "a surge" as synonymous with "an increase", which could be expected or unexpected depending on the context.


> Just goes to show that people will continue to ignore an exponential trend until it eats their lunch personally.

Non-math/cs people typically haven't been directly exposed to exponential growth. Which, to be fair, can be an intuitively hard concept until someone sits down and thinks it through. The classic lily pad example is my usual go-to way of explaining exponential growth to someone.

I also think a large part of this problem is societies overall rejection of science, but that's a different discussion.


I don't think people feared catching the virus at all. Exponential dynamics doesn't change anything in your response in that situation. I think every winter viruses have exponential dynamics as well, and they're not a big deal. You catch it, and you get over it..

Actually that's why most public communication for staying at home doesn't say "protect yourself", but rather emphasis on protecting "others" (aka : people vulnerable). The virus is extremely dangerous, but only for a (not that small) minority of people. That's a weird one.


It's still making a large portion of the people who aren't dying extremely ill.

I think one of the biggest public health communication disasters of covid19 is the reliance on mortality as the communication endpoint.

It's acceptable for other threats-- like automotive accidents-- to speak in terms of mortality because there isn't a huge population which is much less exposed to dying but still exposed to serious illness. Automotive accidents also seriously injure many more people than they kill, but not in a way that lends itself to a false impression of immunity.

"Death" makes a nice clear warning for the risks of driving, and other very bad but not death outcomes are just some factor of the death outcomes... it isn't like the audience is comparing death rates to population numbers then deciding that the death from driving isn't worth worrying about just because we didn't also include maimed-for-life.

For covid19 we've ended up making many 20 and 30 year olds believe that it doesn't threaten them. It does. They may not be dying in especially large numbers-- especially where either hospitals are not overloaded or where they're engaging in the ethically dubious practice of triaging younger people ahead of others based purely on their age rather than, e.g. response to treatment--, but they are still becoming seriously and painfully ill and ending up with severe immune system damage -- which takes a long time will recover and will result in latent mortality --, and for many likely lifelong injury in the form of extensive lung scaring.

Infections like influenza are much less contagious-- with an R0 of 1.3 vs 2 to 3 (an enormous difference)--, less deadly, face a population which is at least somewhat resistant (in part due to heroic vaccination efforts) and which knows how to rapidly create new and effective vaccines against it. It's not really that comparable.


Curious: what are you basing this on? Do you have some statistical data that shows hospitalization rates of young people _because of_ (instead of just _with_) corona virus?

I myself haven't yet seen any data that would make this virus any worse than the flu (which means it's still dangerous, just maybe not "everybody-hide-under-the-rock" dangerous). Even data from Italy doesn't show mortality any higher than previous years.

Do you have links to data that supports what you wrote?

I agree it is a communication disaster though. If I see another chart with red line, logarithmic scale, not starting from zero or with some approximated (red) curve that doesn't specify the formula... :-/


> Do you have some statistical data that shows hospitalization rates of young people _because of_ (instead of just _with_) corona virus?

Doesn't that require a study after the fact? So your proposal is to just wait and see?

BTW, how do you explain the unprecedented hospitalization and ICU rates in Northern Italy?

As an example, this report from European Society of Anaesthesiology[1] mentions:

> The number of intensive care beds in Italy continues to change. Initially, there were 500 public intensive care (ICU) beds in Lombardy, and 140 private ICU beds. However, now there are more than 900.

[1]: https://www.esahq.org/esa-news/analysis-of-covid-19-data-on-...


> BTW, how do you explain the unprecedented hospitalization and ICU rates in Northern Italy?

A lot of people aren't tested unless they are severely sick, they're just told to stay at home.

When they arrive in the hospital they're already in a pretty bad condition, and only then tested. Which means that no therapeutic actions are made until patients are admitted, with the exception of self-administration of paracetamol.

> The number of intensive care beds in Italy continues to change. Initially, there were 500 public intensive care (ICU) beds in Lombardy, and 140 private ICU beds. However, now there are more than 900.

But a lot of ICU beds were slashed in the past 10 years due to budget cuts, and we were at 80% capacity when the virus hit. If the testing keeps on like this, and we can't even palliatively treat patients until they start suffering respiratory problems, these problems will continue.


> hospitalization rates of young people _because of_ (instead of just _with_) corona virus?

What do you think the mechanism is here? Why are people being hospitalised with covid-19, if it's not covid-19 causing the hospitalisation?

People under 50 don't spend much time in ITUs on ventilators, until covid-19 happens and now the ITUs are full of people with covid-19 having air pumped into their lungs to push the fluid out.

What's causing that if not covid-19?


That's already well understood.

People are counted in the stats produced by hospitals if they have the virus, not if they've been hospitalised because of the virus. Literally if someone breaks their arm and they're tested positive, that goes into the stats for "COVID-19 cases". This is also true if someone dies of anything whilst having the virus; they're recorded as a "COVID-19 death".

The statistics here don't tell us what they sound like they're telling us. We'd see exactly the same pattern if the rules were suddenly changed to require every hospital admission to be tested for the common cold in a regular year - the number of "cases" and "deaths" would increase dramatically every day.

People under 50 don't spend much time in ITUs on ventilators

That statement is far too vague. People of all ages spend time on ventilators every years, especially during a flu outbreak. This is especially true of young children (under 5) whom COVID-19 doesn't affect at all! And COVID-19 is known to affect very few under 50s; the numbers here are so tiny the media can literally write entire stories about individual cases.

So what does "people" and "much time" mean in this sentence?

You can see some data on deaths from pneumonia by age group here:

https://ourworldindata.org/pneumonia#pneumonia-mortality-rat...

Of course deaths isn't the same thing as hospitalisation as the young are more likely to recover than the old. So this data isn't exactly what you're talking about, but it's at least quantifiable.

It's not safe to make a claim about this virus without comparing it to known values from prior years or outbreaks, when comparing the same thing. Every single number we're being presented with is presented without context and it leads to catastrophic mistakes of understanding. Number of positive test increases is shown without the number of negative test increases as well (i.e. an exponential increase in testing looks like an exponential increase in cases), deaths are counted without any investigation to decide what caused that death and so on.

It's very easy to get a totally misleading impression of what's going on. This is likely why in so many parts of the world hospitals are now reporting themselves as empty for weeks, despite the supposed "exponential growth" that should have overwhelmed them by now. In fact in Switzerland hospitals are needing to apply for emergency funding because the huge drop in patient numbers has caused their revenue to dry up.


Your theory is that there is surge of broken hands and unrelated health issues, but all those people also happen to have covid so covid gets blamed? Like, New York and Italia and France have to build make-shift hospitals cause of broken hands epidemic?


No.

There's clearly a virus spreading. It sends some people to hospital. Quite a few viruses do that.

Unlike those, this virus is different in one key way - governments have decreed that any death where the virus is present is counted as a "virus death", and have decreed mass testing to find infections. Consider a virus that is not really dangerous but highly infectious, like any common cold or flu. Then many people will turn up at hospital with it, but in reality their problem is something else. With our current data that would look like hospitals being flooded in a way never seen before, but it'd be a data artifact, not something real.

As for countries having to build makeshift hospitals, two things:

1. Local overloads happen during bad flu seasons too. You can find many reports in the past about wards being converted, tents being constructed to hold patients on the streets from earlier flu pandemics. Arguably making quick hospitals to handle that sort of bad flu season should be a more common practice.

2. No country anywhere is experiencing general overload. Even in Italy, a few days ago a politician was publicly asking why they're sending patients to Germany when in nearby Veneto there are hospitals that are 2/3rds empty.

Projections of mass death requiring everyone to shelter-in-place are based on the belief that everywhere will "go Bergamo" simultaneously at once. That isn't happening, it's not even close to happening.

Go investigate and you can find stories of deserted hospitals all over the world right now. They've been cleared out in anticipation of an imminent surge that isn't appearing. That's why Germany and Switzerland can take in patients from neighbouring countries - not only are there no makeshift hospitals but hospitals need financial bailouts because they've having to pay so many staff who are basically idled, like many other businesses.

Clearly there's a huge mismatch between the global view and a small number of local hotspots, and our understanding of what's happening is heavily coloured by the press.


Thanks for describing exactly what it looks like when preparing for a major outbreak. Its measurable, growing geometrically without breaking stride, and 6X-10X more deadly than anything we can name.

If we succeed at slowing the growth, even stopping it, then thank god those hospitals will remain empty.


It is not growing geometrically (or only with a tiny multiplier if so). If the feared scenario of exponential growth were the case then we'd see the proportion of positive test cases doubling, not just the raw number. Right now what's being seen is that if you increase testing 10x you find 10x more cases, which is consistent with finding something that's at a somewhat steady background level.

e.g. here's German data:

https://swprs.files.wordpress.com/2020/03/infizierte-pro-tes...

and US data:

https://twitter.com/FScholkmann/status/1246122535793680386

It looks like it doubles every few days because of the rapid increase in testing.

Moreover these hospitals are now entering their second week of being idled. They should be very busy by now if the sick were really growing exponentially - they're still mostly empty.

Even in New York you see this:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8173563/Elmhurst-ta...

"New York City's Elmhurst hospital - the 'epicenter of the epicenter' - is now receiving fewer patients but they are arriving sicker, doctor warns, as he says some come in with no symptoms other than diarrhea then test positive"

"He said testing was surprising and that some people show up with a fever and cough but test negative. Others who are there for different ailments - like car accident victims - end up testing positive."

New York is supposed to be the epicentre of the outbreak yet the most overloaded hospital is now seeing fewer patients arrive than before. That's not consistent with being at the start of a very long exponential growth phase (it obviously can't grow exponentially forever so this discussion is only about how long it lasts in that phase and where the peak is).

Edit: got throttled, will reply to Joe here

Many sources show only the number of positive cases and deaths. Here's one that shows total tests performed in the USA:

https://covidtracking.com/data/us-daily

On the 5th April 2020 there were 332,308 positive cases in the USA. So the halving point was between 29th and 30th March (139,061 and 160,530 cases respectively). It took about 5 days to double.

On the 5th April 2020 there were 1.42 million negative cases. On 29th March 2020 there were 692,290 negatives or 48% of the figure today. It took exactly the same amount of time to double.

So we can see that number of tests doubled in that time. Total tests went from 831,351 (47%) to 1,762,032.

The proportion of positive to negative cases is 18% today. On the 29th March it was 16%. A 2% rise, nothing even close to doubling. The graph in the tweet I linked to shows this visually - a fairly smooth and slow increase over time. We think it's spreading exponentially because of misuse of data, but all that's actually growing exponentially is testing. And yes - that's probably why there are now global shortages of reagents and other ingredients for tests. You can't keep globally doubling demand for tests without eventually hitting production limits!


That's pretty glib - its just testing that's increasing? Geometrically? With scarcity of test resources in the news daily?

Look at the worldwide data, then at the data for pretty much every country: https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.h...

Its geometric growth pretty much any place you look. Now, unless testing were proceeding completely uniformly across the board, its hard to imagine that explains any of this.


> That's not consistent with being at the start of a very long exponential growth phase.

This is an example of how you are making straw man arguments. No-one is arguing that the growth rate will continue to be exponential in the face of effective mitigation.


Let me reply to the edited comment.

We're not testing the general population. Its testing of folks coming to a hospital? Folks who aren't having hospitalizing symptoms are not tested at all, and sent home to quarantine.

So if tests doubled that means that folks are feeling bad at an increased rate. Showing up at a hospital with alarming symptoms.

You can finagle the statistics both ways - by ignoring what the 'test sample' is and assuming its uniform for instance.


The stable proportion is seen around the world, including in places like Germany where they are doing tons of testing and certainly far more than just those who turn up to hospital.

You're right that it's not a uniform sample, but the consistency across the world is very suggestive. Not everywhere has test shortages.


Frankly, you lie about Italy. Also, we are actually closing schools when there is outbreak of flu - few schools is enough to get flu under control.


To answer your question ("do people die with covid-19, or of it?") with data you might want to read this twitter thread. https://twitter.com/ActuaryByDay/status/1246866119597621248

It links to a document from the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre.

The evidence from actual covid treatment doesn't support the "they die with, not of, covid" argument.


Isn’t all flu growth exponential over the season then dies down? Apparently Australia had a bad flu season last year: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7148553/Horror-grap...


Yes, seasonal flu starts exponentially, but people don't understand exponential growth and its limits.


There's a vaccine for the flu. That makes a huge difference, even if the diseases were otherwise just as bad as each other.


> CDC numbers for the "flu" are actually a combined "flu and pneumonia"

That's just like Covid though - they are counting everyone who dies with the virus even though most have other conditions.


That argument no longer works when we're seeing highly infected regions with significant increases in their _all cause_ mortality rate, e.g. https://reason.com/2020/03/17/italian-daily-death-rate-up-20... https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/04/01/virus-deaths-...


Italy’s death rates are up 20% when comparing this year’s average to a typical year’s whole average. This way of comparing averages may skew the information. In America, we have more average daily deaths in the beginning of the year than in the middle and end until December. The average of January through March will always be higher than the yearly average.


This!

This is the latest data published by the Italian Ministry of Health. Looking at the chart on the second page, try to ignore the lines (we all know there is an infinite amount of ways one can approximate a curve to the dots) and just observe the dots. Does this seem like a bad year to you? Compared to winter 2016/17?

http://www.salute.gov.it/portale/caldo/SISMG_sintesi_ULTIMO....

Also note that all the charts are misleading since they don't start with 0 (the effect is exaggerated).


"What the official figures don’t say. They don’t say that in March 2020 more than 5.400 people have died in Bergamo province, 4.500 of which due to coronavirus. Six times more than the previous year."

https://www.ecodibergamo.it/stories/bergamo-citta/coronaviru...

Doesn't that seem like a bad year to you?


What are you talking about? The spike started in mid March, that's just a single data point on that graph.


It does because regional fluctuations don't warrant a widespread overreaction.

Overall mortality for Europe is lower than during most flu seasons:

https://www.euromomo.eu/


That’s for week 13. I expect france would be higher now.

Week 13 is march 22-28 if I counted right. Deaths lag cases. French Coronavirus deaths went from 674 on the 22nd, to 2314 on the 28th, to 8078 yesterday april 5th.

I would say your comment is premature.


Because if no coronavirus this would be rather a good year. The December-February looked better than on average.

The thing you are missing though is that crisis started mid March. It feels like forever (because of shelter at home), but it is a very short time and every few days the number of cases doubles. Most of that doesn't register on graphs that spans multiple years (look at the dates).


If you lose your job, your lunch is being eaten.


> people will continue to ignore an exponential trend

Every cold and flu grow exponentially.

Not sure what the fixation of HN readers is on the work exponential. Although true, using it doesn't add anything to analysis of corona virus specifically.

I'd rather talk about the false hope in ventilators, and the futility and destruction to our economy by lockdown.


> Although true, using it doesn't add anything to analysis of corona virus specifically.

The issue of exponential growth is of relevance in response to those saying that the number of deaths (insert the inplicit 'so far' here) is much less than from infuenza (annually.) It is not a 'fixation' to expose the irrelevance of that line of thinking.

More generally, the issue is a combination of the facts that this virus is significantly more dangerous, for all age groups, than at least post- Spanish Flu infuenza; it is very readily transmitted; and there is no (or much less) herd immunity. When you combine these fact with the math of exponential growth, and have establshed the doubling rate, you can do some scientific prediction that goes beyond "so far it has not been as bad as the flu", which is true just so long as it is, and no longer. To do that, however, you have to hold more than one idea at a time in your head.


The idea that viruses always grow exponentially until they reach total saturation of the population comes from mathematical models that have never successfully modelled any real epidemic, ever. It doesn't come from experience of real diseases in nature, many of which were predicted by epidemiologists to grow to enormous proportions and yet - even in the absence of control measures - that isn't what happens.

It seems there are a ton of people right now who are enjoying thinking of themselves as intellectually and even morally superior to people who are just pointing out facts about the statistics gathered so far (which point to flu-like levels of danger and properties). I think the HN community is especially prone to this because it's full of computer programmers who are used to thinking in powers of two; some seem tempted to ascribe near-magical wisdom to this familiarity. But nature isn't a computer and just saying "exponential growth" over and over will eventually make fools of a lot of people, because it isn't there.

If this virus was really spreading exponentially, you'd expect to see the proportion of positive tests going up exponentially as well. But that isn't what is seen. In places that report the total number of tests administered (some places don't), the proportion of positive tests increases sub-exponentially or even hardly at all, coming to rest at about 15%, which is roughly the background level of coronavirus infections in the population during normal times.

It's especially disappointing to see PG fall into the trap of blaming politicians. Politicians have in the blink of an eye ceded power to a tiny cabal of (primarily) epidemiologists. So far they by and large aren't asking questions, instead simply doing whatever they're told even if it makes little sense.

But we really need people to start asking those scientists difficult questions. Citizens can do it but ultimately it only matters when politicians do it. Epidemiologists have a track record of absolute failure. They failed with Zika, they failed with foot and mouth disease, they're failing with CV. Go look at the models they produce and weep; some are invalidated the day they're published!

This guy is doing a good job of pointing out the many errors of modellers:

https://twitter.com/AlexBerenson

There's also some background here:

https://blog.plan99.net/is-epidemiology-useful-a4ec54e59569


Nobody is able to test all or even most of their population with tests overwhelmingly concentrated among those either likely to be infected or at least exposed one would expect the proportion of positive tests to be a function of the testing methodology rather than a fiction of its prevalence in the population. If for example a group is only testing those already experiencing severe symptoms and had a 93% positive rate what would it even mean for the proportion of positive tests to increase exponentially?

What we are supposing is instead that the number of people who are presently infected will increase exponentially IF we don't adopt measures to decrease the spread. This is actually what you saw in the initial period and what you would be seeing now if we did nothing extraordinary to decrease the spread. If you look at the 1918 flu epidemic it ultimately infected 1/3 of the population. It is utterly unclear to me why you imagine your understanding is better than that of the experts. It would seem you yourself are guilty of the same sin you ascribe to programmers? From your animus towards the profession are you perhaps a manager of same? If so you seem to have contracted at least one of their faults.

> politicians have in the blink of an eye ceded power to a tiny cabal of (primarily) epidemiologists.

This literally isn't real.

The politicians are indeed at fault for the poor response. We cede to them substantial funds and powers to both prepare for and response to situations just like this. In fact the pentagon prepared a report on literally just this exact crisis in 2017 that called out among other things a lack of supplies. We opted to do nothing of import between now and today. In the crucial early days of this crisis instead of instituting effective measures we were busy first ignoring reports of it and then publicly claiming it is a hoax. If we aren't brave and clear sighted enough to even ascribe blame how are we to do better next time?


with tests overwhelmingly concentrated among those either likely to be infected

Even the highest positive rates I've seen (in the UK where the testing situation is dire) are only 30%. In other countries with more tests it's around 15% and stable over long periods.

If the number of infected were truly growing that fast, then you'd see the proportion of positive tests go up and up until negative tests were hardly happening, but that isn't close to what's seen on the ground.

What we are supposing is instead that the number of people who are presently infected will increase exponentially IF we don't adopt measures to decrease the spread

That's not what policymakers are supposing. If that were true there wouldn't be a global run on ventilators, which assumes enormous growth over case load today.

This literally isn't real.

That's not much of a response. Where are there politicians not saying their decisions are just guided by the science? The only places where politicians even pushed back slightly on epidemiologists are Brazil and - briefly - the USA.

At this time what epidemiologists say should be done, is done, no questions asked. In Denmark they are even restricting speech to stop people criticising the adopted measures, or so it's said. Look at what happened to my post above - even investigating or criticising those currently making the decisions is suddenly penalised.

A tiny number of academics with no track record of accuracy have obtained enormous power now. If they say lock down, countries lock down. If they say close the borders, the borders are closed. If they say open up, countries open up.

It's right and proper that such people be subject to the same scrutiny as normal politicians are.

As for politicians having done nothing, I don't think that's fair. Does the USA not have large stockpiles of ventilators and masks? Perhaps unusable in the end, but that level of detail is not for politicians, only civil servants. As for beds, well, even assuming the modellers are right no healthcare system in the world can have tens of thousands of ICU beds empty, sitting for a once in a century pandemic. Politicians who tried to have such levels of slack would soon be replaced by others who cared more about utilisation. I don't think there's much to say about them at this time; for better or worse they've taken a back seat.


You can get the numbers and do the math yourself, and prior to effective mitigation, the growth is exponential. There are policies that do have a mitigating effect, and that is the point. The mitigation of an effect does not mean either that it did not exist in the first place, or that it is not relevant.


Like soylent green the economy is made of people.

If people are doing well, the economy will likely catch up-- weak businesses will fail, new ones will be created. It may hurt, may hurt for a while-- but from a purely economic perspective this might turn out to be a useful reboot. There are going to be a lot of phenomenal opportunities in the coming year.

But the economy cannot do well if the people are not.

For a thought experiment, imagine for a moment that we didn't need to keep delivering food and power and whatnot. It would be possible to simply pause the entire economy-- just like contracts that don't consider weekends business days-- in this fictional world we could freeze all accounts and all debts and whatnot for a year and then do "2020" over again. We can't do this because we need to keep a lot of people working to keep food and medical care flowing-- but I think the crazy idea is a useful illumination that the economy is a shared delusion. Whats going on now is only as devastating as we allow it to be, but the deaths of millions would be devastating (economically and otherwise) regardless of what we otherwise want.


I wish and hope just pausing the economy is as easy as you say. I'm worried though, as the last decades the Economy appears to be this unpredictable daemon that affects everything and everyone but no one knows how to please it.


>Every cold and flu grow exponentially.

No, that's true only if it's brand new. Immunity for a certain strain lasts several years, which means there's a level of herd immunity that constraints infection from even reaching some of the non-immune folks, hence it's hard for it to be exponential.

This is not the case with the 'novel' coronavirus. There is no large scale immunity among the population.


> Every cold and flu grow exponentially.

When it is growing exponentially, they close a few schools here and there or stop visits in hospitals. That is enough to stop spread, get the R below 1 and making it not exponential.

It is simply not true that every cold and flu grows exponentially.


> Although true, using it doesn't add anything to analysis of corona virus specifically.

For many layperson, this is their first experience when it really matters. My mom isn't sitting around thinking about exponential spread when she gets a cold.

> I'd rather talk about the false hope in ventilators

I agree. Something like 80% of the people who end up on a ventilator die. Of course those other 20% are happy one was available, but by the time ventilators are being discussed it's really too late. Prevention is key.

> futility and destruction to our economy by lockdown

Depends. The economy was going to be hit hard regardless. Even if nothing was ever forced closed, the number of people sick and the number of overwhelmed hospitals would have killed the economy. For example, even before there were any official lockdowns in the US, companies I work with were already stopping all travel (late February timeframe).


We also do take notice when more mundane exponential threats crop up -- for instance, the R0 of measles is something like 12-18 (compared to a "measly" 2-2.5 for the novel coronavirus, or 1.28 for the typical seasonal flu), and when it got out of control in a few cities in the US last year, it was a Big Deal even though most people are vaccinated for it.


The part of that most people, including you, seen to miss is that this goes way beyond those sick with the virus. The strain this virus is putting on healthcare is unlike anything the flu does in any given year, even during epidemics in the past several decades. That means it will kill people who are sick with something else. Pray you don't have a need for an ICU bed any time soon.

In the US, the flu kills between 12,000 and 61,000 people each year depending on the season. COVID-19 will almost certainly reach the low end of that range in between two and three days. It went from 100 to more than 9,000 deaths in only three weeks.

It's not the flu.

P.S. everyone who can get a flu shot should, every year, regardless of age. Herd immunity assists in protecting the entire population.


Yes. In Italy it has already killed twice as many people as a normal influenza season.


Looking at this shows completely different story: https://www.euromomo.eu/

January 2017 was much worse overall in Europe, it's not even comparable.


That's interesting, it shows how misleading an average can be (the average 8000 dead for the flu that I quoted).

Still, if you focus on Italy, which is the most ahead in Europe, by March 28th (the time that report was updated), the number of deaths was already matching the 2017 peak (and in about 2/3 of the time). Since then the death count went up 70%.

edit: also note the caution about the uncertainty due to delayed registration.


It seems that the website was updated a few minutes ago with data for week 14. Italy is looking much worse than 2017. England is also very scary.

The data is still lagging by a few days, but it seems that the numbers are starting to trend down.


> i've been saying "not more dangerous than the flu" before it started really going to shxt in europe, because to be honest, the epidemic doesn't look that dangerous if you're in general good health, just by looking at the numbers from a distance.

It looks like flu, among other reasons, because popular comparison at the time compared all-ages mortality for flu (e.g. including old and sick) with healthy-young-person mortality of the covid. This very same comparison also ignores asymptomatic covid people and does not ignore asymptomatic people with flu. So it is twisted in all kind of ways.


The differences with this coronavirus, as I understand it:

1. People are often contagious well before showing symptoms, making it much harder to track and isolate the people who have it.

2. It is about 10x more deadly than the flu. Could be more than that, as it's difficult to extrapolate from the current messy data. But I think it's safe to say it is much more deadly than the seasonal flu.

So far more people getting it, in a very short period of time, and a much higher percentage dying or requiring hospitalization, giving us the results we see. Overwhelmed health care systems, and death counts that will be much higher than seasonal flu without large scale mitigations in place.


I had a similar experience but I was ignorant about how rapid infection rates could overwhelm hospitals and lead to much higher mortality rates. In part probably because this stuff has never been explained in so much detail before.


Comparing annual death totals for the flu to coronavirus deaths over a couple of months is mistake number 1.

Comparing a number that is static from year to year to one that is growing exponentially is mistake number 2.


and comparing "estimated contamination cases vs associated death" to "a known-positive cases vs. associated death" is mistake number 3.

CDC data shows 220k known-tested-positive case and 22k associated death. The 36 millions case is pulled out of a hat. As per these number, seasonal flu kills 10% of the known-positive cases.


.


> And i think this is the reason why even amongst the medical professional i've talked to, they first seemed not too worried at all.

Medical professionals aren't professionals in everything. You may have been asking the equivalent a frontend developer for advice on writing COBOL for z/OS.


To a degree we deal with catastrophic threats aptly without having our responses deadened by past fears never having come to fruition regularly. For example we swim knowing that if we stop moving we will sink and drown, we drive knowing that a slip up we could well die.

We are collectively guilty of many errors in judgement but on the whole we show on average not only are we able to mostly behave competently in complex situations individually we are able collectively to make some systemic changes to decrease mortality over the years.

This gives me hope that we take the correct lesson from this terrible experience and adjust our individual and collective behavior to avoid a re occurrence.


I probably had covid19 in February(in Asia), only in retrospect I could differentiate it from the flu.

The main difference was it took the superior part of the throat instead of the inferior. Talking with doctors they tell me I had all the symptoms.

The problem with it is that at first it is "benign"(I had high fever for "just" two days) if your body stops it before getting into the lungs. Once it gets there it could be nasty(as it produces cytokine storm syndrome there) very fast.

So it is very easy to get confident.

Even the flu could get very dangerous is you get it combined with something else like a bacteria at the same time.


Do you have a source for corona infecting the inferior part of your throat rather than the inferior part? I know you spoke to doctors, but I find it incredibly difficult to find credible sources other than either

incredibly simplified accessible articles on mainstream health websites, stating that a symptom is "throat pain"

or having to go through 20 pages of medical research which I understand basically nothing of.


>i've been saying "not more dangerous than the flu" before it started really going to shxt in europe

Have you stopped saying that, or are you still saying it for some reason?

>It made me realize how getting vaccinated for the flu as soon as you reach 50 may actually be a pretty good idea..

Do you realize, you can, and probably should, get vaccinated for the flu each year? And that these vaccines are only a 'best guess' for that particular year, so you should get on each year?

>It actually made me realize how the whole world has been completely desensitized to catastrophic predictions.

I suppose the alternative is to not warn people about pandemics and just let them all run wild? I'm sorry if people choose to get "desensitized", but these organizations are not interested in the politics of whether or not the general public will be able to appropriately digest their messages, and hence don't ration warnings based on how much we can "handle".


>the epidemic doesn't look that dangerous if you're in general good health

I'm not so confident yet. What is still worrying me, is that it is not clear about the importance of the initial dose with respect to the severity of the outcome.

The disease having a quite slow progression, may mean that if you let it spread wildly, suddenly there is a large percentage of the population exposed, and this mean that when people gets contaminated they receive a high inoculum which may bring down even healthy individuals.


The flu, even with vaccines, does not overwhelm medical personel, facilities and logistics as this does.

And the total death toll, given the current dynamics, is already going way way worse than the flu.


Yes it does.

2018: Flu stomps the nation, overwhelming ERs and leaving 20 children dead: https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/12/health/flu-surveillance-cdc/i...

2013: Flu Outbreak Overwhelms Hospitals: https://fox8.com/news/flu-outbreak-overwhelms-area-hospitals...

2017: Hospitals Overwhelmed by Flu Patients Are Treating Them in Tents: https://time.com/5107984/hospitals-handling-burden-flu-patie...

I still have yet to hear from the medical and nursing schools about increasing the number of students for the future.


Those articles do not in anyway describe situations that are close to what we're seeing now in new york, italy, france and spain

The flu is still terrible, btw. And I hope this situation will increase the vaccination rates for the flu


I don't think you picture yet the scale at which we are all hit right now...


Agreed, and that's why i changed my mind since i saw what's going on in europe.

I just wanted to explain my initial reaction, based on what happened in china and by reading various medical people give their opinion.


> the total death toll, given the current dynamics, is already going way way worse than the flu

Fully aware of the types that will come out of the woodwork for simply saying this, however: no, it's currently still not on track for even a mild flu year yet alone a bad one.

A bad year for influenza is about 650,000 deaths worldwide, pneumonia deaths are often an aftereffect of the flu and it kills 2.5 million on average each year.

SARS-COV-2 has killed 60,000 in 5 months despite having no vaccine or known medicinal treatment, mainly due to locally overstretched medical resources more than anything else.

It's not even close to being equivalent to a bad flu year yet, and that's ignoring the secondary deaths.


> A bad year for influenza is about

Maybe about tenth your figure, once you exclude non-flu pneumonia-- which is about where we are now for covid19. Flu death figures are Flu+Pneumonia because they usually don't check. Efforts to separate flu from flu + pneumonia all result in flu being a small fraction of the total ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3827586/ ).


The point still holds to compare Covid vs flu+pneumonia then. This is some weird No True Scotsman argument you're making where it's not the "True Flu" if they had pneumonia as well... (likely getting pneumonia because of the flu) I doubt the dead people would be comforted by such a subtle distinction.


The plus operator here is "and/or" not "and", but I presume you must have understood this. The GP's point is that flu+pnumonia = (flu) U (non-flu pneumonia). Nobody is denying that flu with pneumonia is flu.


What's really happening is that some people are trying to compare deaths from Covid-19 to deaths from the typical flu/pneumonia season. Nitpicking about what is or isn't the flu really doesn't matter, what matters (to me at least) is how many more deaths Covid-19 is causing than normal "flu/common cold/pneumonia/whatever" deaths which happen every year.


The CDC's figure is "flu or pneumonia" (non-exclusive). The majority of the moralities included in it do not have influenza.


I really don't understand your intent. Are you trying to say more people have died so far from Covid-19 than die from a bad flu or pneumonia season?


What's amusing to be is how anyone can look at the incompetence of governments across the world, and conclude they'd be capable of any kind of organized conspiracy against the general population.


"What's amusing to be is how anyone can look at the incompetence of governments across the world, and conclude they'd be capable of any kind of organized conspiracy against the general population."

Tell that to the Jews in Deutchland circa 1931...

Tell that to the Kulaks in the Ukraine in 1930 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor,

Tell that to the educated classes in China under Mao;https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/mao-murd...

You see conspiratorial thinking as some kind of bug in the thinking of insuffciently skeptical and analytical minds; a branch of stupidity. But it's not. It's a self-defense mechanism which, like other things considered antiquated and ineffcient like borders and control over immigration saves people from mass death.

These things don't exist because people are stupid and can't reason. They exist because people aren't stupid and do reason and then believe in their own mind's creations.

No matter how smart or sophisticated or computer-aided your reasoning is, no matter how big your data set becomes, you will only match and elucidate upon, but not beat, instincts which evolved under real Darwinian pressures which make you aware and wary of things which kill en masse.


The listed examples are conspiracies by the dictionary definition - "a group of people acting in harmony to a common, illegal end" - but I don't think they're the same thing the parent poster was referring to. Conspiracy theories generally revolve around some secret action by the government or other large organizations, not open slaughter. A better example might be COINTELPRO.


Technically the government itself is a form of conspiracy against the general population. But people don't know that, even educated people, because political science isn't mandatory in higher education. But labeling something as conspiracy theory is a useful tool to silence discussions about all the evil governments and large organizations do.


> Technically the government itself is a form of conspiracy against the general population

"Technically" in which sense? Which political science course taught you that? Or are you referring to some specific government?


Right. Conspiracies happen all the time because there are plans, which if understood by those upon whom the planners wish to enact them, would be rejected by their targets.

That describes most plans people have.

So the planners deceive and dissemble. That is how the world has always worked.

What's more, it's instinctive knowledge that this is happening all the time. Suspicion of those in power is a human instinct which, like all instincts, optimizes our survival chances under the conditions for which it evolved. WRT to political conspiracies, those conditions still hold today.

The way to think about conspiracy theories is the same way you think about inventors and inventions.

Nature produces inventors (conspiracy minded individuals) many of whom produce only harebrained inventions ("conspiracy theories" so called) some more who produce hit and miss inventions and a few which produce inventions which are overwhelming important and matter to survival ("Hitler is going to kills us all, we must flee right now!" - spoken by a Jew in 1933 Munich).

What this mapping between domains, inventions and conspiracies, also implies is that just because someone was wrong about one conspiracy doesn't mean they are wrong about all conspiracies and their credibility should not be automatically bankrupted if they believe one or two false conspiracy theories.

I do read some conspiracy theory sites and like to hear plausible (non-alien/ lizard people) ones because I want my mind to at least entertain the idea. It's like panning for gold. Most of it is nothing. Once in a while, maybe a little taste of something and I retain it dimly awaiting future possible supporting evidence.

For example, the "desperate labor shortage" and "Americans don't like STEM" meme is a clear conspiracy amongst employers and attorneys and their clients to control engineering wages and have more of the profits go to business owners. I used to not know about that "conspiracy theory" then I heard it and wondered if it could be true then over time the evidence for it became incontravertible.

Just to give one example.


I used to think conspiracy theories are unrealistic, the image of a group of people sitting in a dark room conspiring against others just seems ridiculous.

But the older I get, and the more understanding I have over how large organizations are ran, the more I realize that conspiracies actually do happen, but in much more subtle ways.

What actually happens is that over a long periods of time, people collaborate with and promote those who think like them, with similar biases and incentives. Then when a major decision needs to be made, everyone at the table think the same way and agree on the same solution. This works even across organizations, as people's career are made through networks and relationships transcending organizational boundaries.

It is difficult to get a group of people to understand something when all their salaries depends upon them not understanding it.


Isn’t that called “cronyism” (or “old boys club”) rather than “conspiracy”?


True, although the term cronyism and old boys club focus on the exclusivity of those "elite" circles, rather than the impact of their decisions, which looks a lot like conspiracy from outside.

Some people end up coming up with conspiracy theories based on their outsider observations.


Yep. Actual conspiracies are comparatively banal, and often more to do with covering up incompetence than establishing new world orders with incredible technological advances. To bring up famous examples from the not too distant past, the same administration supposedly capable of secretly planting demolition charges in busy NYC offices without anyone noticing apparently saw it as too risky to secretly plant chemical weapons needed to be 'discovered' somewhere in an entire country under the control of its military.


Not in order to give credibility to the idea, but I do think it would be easier for a group of conspirators based in the US to pull off secret demolition charges than for them to plant weapons in a foreign country unnoticed.


One theoretical conspiracy involves personnel carrying around large explosive charges and drilling holes in strategically placed beams on every floor of a permanently occupied and secure office building unnoticed by any one of thousands of surviving workers. The other involves a truck in an area the US is known to be conducting military operations unloading stuff at an abandoned remote facility and then calling in non-conspirators to validate their 'find', and accusing any Iraqi who argues the facility had other purposes of lying. Not saying there aren't reasons the second wouldn't go wrong - from getting ambushed or inspected en route to UN weapons inspectors concluding the material is unlikely to be of Iraqi origin - but it's not more difficult to plant stuff in a remote location than secretly prepare for a controlled demolition of a heavily occupied skyscraper.


All theories about what happened on 9/11/2001, including the official 9/11 Commission Report, are conspiracy theories. They disagree on who the conspirators were, but every last theory about it is a conspiracy theory.


Like the endless YouTube conspiracy-oriented channels which rant about the vast Illuminati/Jewish/Deep-State/whatever conspiracy that holds our world in thrall and assassinates with impunity, yet somehow can't manage to file a few bogus DMCA claims to get the YouTube channels shutdown.

Of course if one tries pointing this out the response is sometimes "oh, they're so powerful that they like to mock us", but more commonly just to accuse you of being a shill/deep-state-agent/whatever.


Supposing for the sake of argument that the Illuminati were real and you were in charge of it. You know a bunch of weirdos on youtube know the truth and are generally regarded as cranks. Would you bother concerning yourself with them, or would you ignore them since they're pathetic and powerless? I'd ignore them.

To be clear, I don't think the Illuminati are real, but I don't think your reasoning is sound either.


An all-encompassing conspiracy orchestrating events across the globe, sparing no effort or expense to weave us all into an inescable spider's web of connected threads, that then says "eh, probably nobody is even going to listen to those guys, let's not bother with having the intern fire off a few boilerplate take-downs"?


Sure, why not? It's obvious "probably nobody is even going to listen to those guys" is true...


Why not? Because what evil puppet-master settles for "probably ok" when a slight extra effort buys certainty.


One that isn't totally neurotic, presumably. Just to reiterate, I don't believe such an organization exists. But when trying to understand the plausible actions of even fictional characters or organizations, I try to imagine myself in their shoes. If I were in their fictional shoes, I would ignore the people who say I rule the world if those people are widely mocked and derided as insane by the general public. To do anything other than ignore them would be to risk giving them a sliver of credibility.


Indeed! Every time someone mentions "them" running whatever conspiracy I'm reminded of the quote "Do you not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?"

Looks like it's already centuries old even, from 1600s Sweden: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axel_Oxenstierna#Quotation


Yes exactly. Most people don’t know or care about how Governments and Corporations really work. All they see are memes and conspiracy theories and latch on to them.


People can be capable of organizing conspiracies for their own self-interest and quite poor (or simply disinterested) in coordinating effective action otherwise. This is the story of every corrupt institution in history. You have to think beyond binary frames.


It's always about benefits. Incompetence doesn't cost government benefits, so nobody cares. However, if there are benefits to be had by organizing a conspiracy against whomever, you can bet your money that this will be done. Nobody cares for "the greater good" or whatever. It's always about personal benefits.


I only wish it was only about benefits, because then it would be rational agent. What (economic) benefit does the Republican party of the US gain by suppressing gay rights or abortion? I can understand wanting to quash unions, prevent minorities from voting, remove environmental controls (in the short run anyway), or cast doubt on opposition media. But who actually gains when e.g. a gay couple can't buy a cake?


Benefits do not have to be economic. It means getting the things you want.


The sorts of incentives for organized conspiracy would naturally be bigger than the incentives for competence in executing ordinary matters of government. However the rareness of uncovering organized conspiracies suggests they are rarely attempted more than it suggests some hypercompetent class of conspirators.


Define "rare". Based on the ones I know were admitted alone, I'd think they are rather common.


Its because they're not what people want to imagine (hypercompetent ubermenchen who they're outsmarting) but just covering up "mundane" though still devestating crimes.


I wouldn't classify putting LSD in the water supply to be "mundane".

Neither would I classify MK-Ulta that way: "Techniques included the covert administration of high doses of psychoactive drugs (especially LSD) and other chemicals, electroshocks, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse, as well as other forms of torture."

Or the releasing of biological weapons (MK-Naomi): "at least three covert techniques for attacking and poisoning crops that had been examined under field conditions."

Or Operation Notherwoods: "to both stage and actually commit acts of terrorism against American military and civilian targets, blaming them on the Cuban government, and using it to justify a war against Cuba."

Or the Tuskegee experiment: "The purpose of this study was to observe the natural history of untreated syphilis; the African American men in the study were only told they were receiving free health care from the Federal government of the United States."

The list goes on and on and on and on.


Things like wholesale NSA data collection were organized conspiracies against the population. There are plenty of examples, even just considering the US.


Strange that you got downvoted. NSA collection of American data fits any reasonable definition of "conspiracy against the population" that I can think of.


I think that at least US governments have done a poor job explaining the motivation behind the drastic precautionary orders. For a brief period, there was much talk of "flattening the curve" but I doubt that many people understand how that gets us to "deliberately wreck the economy."

This is what people who say it's just flu++ are missing, and I am trying to be sympathetic to their lack of knowledge of exponential math and how medical services plan and allocate their resources. It is the government's job to explain how this is very different from the flu and they are utterly failing to do so in many cases.

In fact, I suspect that most people believe that the isolation policies are to protect individuals' health, ie. to prevent even young and healthy people from contracting the virus. And based on this false premise, they are right to be annoyed with the lockdowns.

This is important because in a week or two, when the grocery stores start to empty and the lights start to flicker, the rugged individualist-types in the United States are going to start asking "why are we doing this, exactly?" And there is born civil unrest.

It is the role of state and national governments to answer this question and they have not been effective in doing so. We are doing this because there are O(10^6) preventable deaths in our future. Not because of the danger to any one young healthy person.


> This is what people who say it's just flu++ are missing, and I am trying to be sympathetic to their lack of knowledge

This is very condescending. There are still a lot of unknowns, and there are smart people (for instance [1]) out there who think the cure may be worth than the disease. We urgently need more data.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUvWaxuurzQ


Reasonable people can certainly disagree about whether the cure is worse than the disease.

That said, the world's governments have made a decision to react in a certain way, and I maintain that my intuition tells me that most people don't understand the real reason for the lockdowns.

They think it is to prevent them personally from getting sick. That's not really true. The point is to prevent the medical infrastructure from becoming overwhelmed so that if and when people do become sick, they can be given their best shot at recovery.


> The point is to prevent the medical infrastructure from becoming overwhelmed

I think this is clear for most people. I'm not American but I've watched Trump recent talk and they explained this clearly in a way everybody could understand.

What they didn't explain though is the post-lockdown strategy.

Most likely, in a few weeks, only a small fraction of the US population will be immune, and the problem won't be solved anymore than it was before the lockdown (except that the country is stalled). The virus will still be there, and there won't be any vaccine. I'd like them to think a few steps ahead and tell us what will be their plan.


The people who are currently sick will either recover or die. Lock down can make the effective R0 below 1. When it is below 1 the disease will die on its own. Of course we would have to be locked for a very long time, but even if we won't wait that long the active infection curve will go down and buy us some time.


The disease will never die out on its own. The question raised is hat are we waiting for and how long are we willing to wait for it.

If the answer is that we are waiting for nothing, perhaps we shouldn't.

If the answer is that we are waiting in lock-down 1-2 years for a vaccine and vaccinations, maybe we shouldn't.


> We are doing this because there are O(10^6) preventable deaths

That doesn't appear to be true. Almost everybody who goes on a ventilator dies. Corona virus will infect as many people as any other flu or cold.

So it's a valid question - why do we still have a lockdown?


To slow down the spread and ultimately reduce the number of people that will get to go in ICUs, go on a ventilator and/or die.

Because those _are_ preventable, if they don't get infected.

That, in turn, buys time to medical research & practice to mitigate and cure the disease, so that, later, when someone vulnerable is infected, we'll know better how to take care of them.


> Almost everybody who goes on a ventilator dies.

That wouldn't be a problem if so, to be honest. The problem is that a patient usually survives, but it takes 3 weeks in the ICU to do so.


Flu doesn't spread as well, because large number of people take a vaccine.

The reason for lockdown is to slow things down, so we don't get to the point where doctors have to decide who to help or who not. Also a lot of people can't connect in their mind that when hospitals are full, it also affects people who didn't even get the virus.


> The reason for lockdown is to slow things down, so we don't get to the point where doctors have to decide who to help or who not.

But one must think that this can't go on indefinitely or for very long time frames. It buys time to reduce the number of "active" cases, but only to ensure that once lockdown is lifted one is able to do tracing and isolation for new cases.

Realistically, we'll have to live with this virus (and the associated risk) for quite a while. The time frames for a "cure" if it is found vary from months for drugs (if those in current trials prove to be useful) to years for a vaccine (which like the drugs may not be effective).

You can keep people holed up for a few months at best. You won't be able to do so for one or more years, unless you want to face severe consequences (and I'm not talking about the economy, I'm talking of long-term psychological effects).


Of all the conspiracy theories out there, the 'caused by 5G masts' is the one that confuses me the most. I get the possible aversion to 5G, but how does one make the leap from that to it causing COVID?


I’ve tried to understand them, their rationale appears include:

- 5G occurred at the same time as corona - This is therefore “too much of a coincidence”

- 5G kills off things that naturally kill coronavirus

- 5G makes our immune systems weaker

All of which are unfounded of course. But it’s important not to just reject people’s ideas out-of-hand, or to suppress them.


My aunt sent me a video asking my opinion (yay?), and I've been hearing ominous FUD about "5G" long enough that I wanted to see where it was actually coming from. So I watched it.

The bit I gleaned was the claim that since 60GHz is absorbed by oxygen (haven't checked this, but I'd assume similar to 2.4GHz being absorbed by water), it therefore interferes with your lungs' ability to intake oxygen. (my low-effort analysis: the radio waves won't penetrate your skin by more than a few millimeters, and therefore could in no way act in your lungs)

The whole narrative was much jumping around making connections that would seem plausible if you don't know or try to investigate technical details. For example - a defense contractor worked on 60GHz gear as well as communications for cruise ships -> smoking gun!

I'm sure there was plenty of innuendo that rolled right off my back, but makes an emotional impression. My aunt had gotten the impression that 5G is 50-60 times the power of a microwave oven. I couldn't bring myself to watch the video again to find what could possibly be interpreted this way, but I'm guessing it was talking about the frequency while implying magnitude.


The argument all over my facebook feed is that Africa is both the only country with no Coronavirus and the only country with no 5G. But really, these are the same friends arguing for flat earth in a lot of cases.


The number of things wrong with this makes me despair.

1. Africa is a continent, not a country. 2. Some countries in Africa DO have 5G deployments, including my home country of South Africa. In the news recently is a possible link between BCG vaccinations and reduced fatality rates from Covid-19. South Africa has fairly high BCG vaccination rates due to the prevalence of TB 3. Iran has a severe problem with Covid-19, but no 5G deployments.

But as you say, this comes from the same type of crowd that believes in all the other bullshit (flat earth, vaccinations give you autism, etc.) so you can hardly expect an informed response to this.


For every reasoned answer you give them an avalanche of utter bullshit flows forth. This might be one of those rare occasions where the solution to bad speech is not more speech. The mind of the conspiracy believers is just too darned efficient at justifying bad reasoning.


Alternatively your reasoned answer wasn't as good as you think it was.


To the conspiracy minded no answer is good enough.


Yes, but to those who are undecided and are on the edge, a good answer might pull them to the right side. I know for a fact that it happened to me multiple times, when I saw a heated argument between two people (mostly on technical topics though, not something like corona).


@Beltiras Or maybe that's just your excuse to not even try.


Maybe unfounded but it's no like I can't see where they are coming from. Neither do I have the ability to refute any of those points.


Your mistake is assuming people are using reason to come up with that theory :)


IMO this is deliberate mis-information, some type of info-guerilla, to stir and channel anger against the establishment.


Yep, this also comes packaged with NWO, there is one country that actively works on spreading this crap on social media, I believe the goal is to weaken Western countries by setting up their citizens against their own government.


5G comes from China; coronavirus comes from China.

REALLY JUST A COINCIDENCE!? /s


Some humans won’t change their mind regardless of how much soft evidence they’re presented with. This is good because we need variability. Evidence might be wrong, or it could be right, but following it could turn out to be worse a posteriori.

This idea helps me provide a plausible explanation to some behavior I find counterintuitive.


Perhaps they'd all been watching Dr. Drew, who is apparently trying to use the DMCA to remove this[0] compilation of him downplaying the Coronavirus.

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKlJlQadZtE


What's different, I suppose, is that certain types of people have a huge platform in the US via Fox News and the like.

In my country, The Netherlands, for the most part people didn't really seem to take things seriously, even when our PM told us to. All the same kinds of talking points (similar to flu, lots of people die from car accidents, etc.).

And so in the first weekend, with some restrictions already in place and Italy being in deep trouble, we all went to sit in parks and socialize like nothing was wrong.

It was only the week after that things changed. The government didn't suddenly enforce a full-on lockdown, but rather it was a combination of 1) our PM imploring everyone to change their behavior, 2) partial social distancing measures that were noticeable (events cancelled, restaurants closed for anything but take-out/pick-up), and perhaps 3) a sinking-in of how bad things were going elsewhere.

I've been 'immersing' myself in how the media reports things, the political debates and press conferences, and the way my social circles and people on the streets respond, and so far my impression is that there are two crucial factors that have resulted in 'proper' behaviour around here, despite the great weather: First, as it becomes clear that actual things change (limited no. of people in a supermarket, restaurants closed, specific public spaces closed when necessary), people realize it's not just abstract, and 2) while we are an individualist, recalcitrant bunch, we do ultimately have a lot of trust in the expertise of our government (whether justified or not).

I'm very interested to see how things develop in the US, and quite concerned in particular when it comes to 2.

EDIT: I'll add that personally I think at least initially our government was way too laissez-faire about this, and probably more so than many other countries in Europe other than the UK (and Sweden?). Our PM was/is perhaps too torn between taking things seriously and keeping the economy going. Which I suppose is exactly what he should be doing as a center-right politician.


You need to walk away from these people entirely. Get rid of the conspiracy theorists in your life.

The Twitterverse that generates fake news feeds on the controversy generated by stupid opinions. It ascribes value to the clicks and responses intentionally stupid content, shouted loudly, acquire.

When stupid people only talked to other stupid people IRL, the blast radius was limited. When I had a taxi driver spouting conspiracy theories, I didn't then take him with me to a party, and make all my friends listen to what he said.


The flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 per year worldwide according to WHO. Today we're still <80k for Corona, and new cases are slowing.


It’s not slowing down naturally - we are all on lockdown in order to slow it.


I’ve also had this issue and I’ve decided to simply give up on these people. In three weeks time, they are going to be eating their words anyway.


my hot take: this is all because we are engineers designing social networks.

think about it. email, twitter, etc. it all works like any network protocol meant for machines. it is cheap to spam. there is no middle ground between anonymity and spam. each node must handle their own peers. etc.

what if it was designed by actual sociologists or people that actually deal with human, instead of engineer. one would hope in such world tweeter would reduce exposition to all those accounts, because people around me that I trust do not engage with or outright block them. also I could have means to benefit of all that network without rendering all my information to the service. etc.

in summary, we are to blame for most of it.


Maybe you should try to explain why something that kills on average 450k every year is less serious then something that has only ever killed 70k. And not just less serious, but warranting several orders of magnitude fewer resources.

It's you who need a reality check.


I think that a lot of the people who are deniers are afraid of the economical consequences from the lockdown because they will be hit harder than others. So in their mind they choose to underplay the epidemic in order to justify their insecurity.


Meh. I'm extremely dubious, often in politics we often see the public arguing against their own economic self-interest. Why should this be any different?

It's tempting to give ignorance and fear a complicated explanation couched in the suspicion of greedy forces. It's not parsimonious. Plain ignorance and distrust is sufficient.


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