A broken clock is right twice a day.

Which is about 729 times a year more than the New York Times is right.

But here we are.

Excellent piece by David Leonhardt, on how the terrible news coverage of the Covid pandemic is a reflection of human nature (And, I will also infer, some of the worst aspects of modern American media culture). In this case, the fact that people love reductionistic stories with heroes and villains, and that journalists (and the business people they report to) are not only basically human, but know that that bit of human nature brings eyeballs and dollars.

And that’s been on display:

In the case of Covid, the fable we tell ourselves is that our day-to-day behavior dictates the course of the pandemic. When we are good — by staying socially distant and wearing our masks — cases are supposed to fall. When we are bad — by eating in restaurants, hanging out with friends and going to a theater or football game — cases are supposed to rise.

The idea is especially alluring to anybody making an effort to be careful and feeling frustrated that so many other Americans seem blasé. After all, the Covid fable does have an some truth to it. Social distancing and masking do reduce the spread of the virus. They just are not as powerful as people often imagine.

The main determinants of Covid’s spread (other than vaccines, which are extremely effective) remain mysterious. Some activities that seem dangerous, like in-person school or crowded outdoor gatherings, may not always be. As unsatisfying as it is, we do not know why cases have recently plunged. The decline is consistent with the fact that Covid surges often last for about two months before receding, but that’s merely a description of the data, not a causal explanation

People like to see, Or think they see, their actions having an impact on the larger world.

Somebody has found a market feeding that impression, Including The very human tendency for people together in tribes.

The Karen tribe seems to be descended from the crowd of mean girls and bullies in junior high.

8 thoughts on “Counterintuitive

  1. There are numerous, replicated studies that show that people find patterns even where none exist. In evolutionary terms, we are bred to find patterns, since finding patterns is a prime survival mechanism, so we grasp at whatever we can find. “Rally hats” and “lucky” totems anyone?

  2. The failure of lockdowns and other social distancing/masking mandates to alter the vector of covid cases and deaths has been apparent since the middle of last year.
    All you had to do was look at the data.
    Empiracal data is your friend. It can be used to prove or disprove causality, much better then “the consensus of public health officals.”
    BTW, alphanews has a great vid today of Walz giving a press conference where he first explains that he never shames or is angry with people, followed by a minute or so of him angrily shaming people:

  3. Pingback: In The Mailbox: 10.08.21 : The Other McCain

  4. Uh . . . so what?
    I don’t have a job.
    You can’t look at the graph showing number of vaxxes and see any uptick after Biden’s mandate.
    Who cares what the suit think? They are all 100% against sexual harrassment, when they are not poking their secretaries.

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