Saturday, July 17, 2021

Does Misinformation Kill?

Yesterday, our cognitively impaired president announced that Facebook was killing people. Presumably, he meant that it was killing people with disinformation. Obviously, this hurt the feelings of the semi-objective fact checkers of Facebook. After all, they had been carrying water for the Democratic Party for years now. They had banned Donald Trump from their platform. Now, to be accused by their co-conspirators-- it was a bit too much.

This followed fast upon the admission, by the White House press secretary, that the government was telling Facebook who to cancel, for providing disinformation about the Covid vaccine. And that Facebook (and Twitter) have been complying.

Dare we say that this is a rather complicated issue.

And yet, beneath the blather lies a philosophical and psychological assumption. The Biden administration is assuming that if there were no disinformation then everyone would get vaccinated. It is assuming that the low vaccination rates in certain communities-- most often minority communities, as it happens-- would vanish in the morning mist if everyone had accurate information. 

But, we need to qualify that last statement. People have total access to the information the government wants them to see. The White House has the bully pulpit and it uses it unrelentingly. What the White House does not want to allow, at all, is any difference of opinion about the vaccine-- and about numerous other issues.

So, in larger terms, the Biden administration wants to exercise total control over what information you do or do not have. But, this also means that it and it alone can decide what is and what is not disinformation.

After all, our now Veep Kamala Harris declared that if the Trump administration had promoted a new vaccine she would not take it. Should Kamala be sent to federal prison for killing people?

Among the problems here is the simple fact that the Biden administration is allowing hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to flood the country, without any concern for their covid status.

If you dare declare on Facebook that the vaccine entails risk you will be canceled. If you send hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated people around the country-- no problem.

You can see why people are confused.

We can say that those who are most at risk from the virus have invariably been vaccinated. The Wall Street Journal editorializes this morning:

About 65% of Americans over the age of 12 and nearly 90% of those 65 and older have received at least one dose. Widespread inoculations have resulted in plunging cases, hospitalizations and deaths in recent months even as most states lifted their lockdowns and mask mandates.

Fair enough, but many of those who have not been vaccinated, including minority group members, do not trust the government and are willing to take the risk. The problem is: if they get sick they risk passing the virus to other people, people who are not vaccinated.

And, dare we mention, but people who are vaccinated, in Great Britain and in Israel, have also gotten the virus. Their illness is surely less than it would have been otherwise, but many people are aware of these facts. And many people know that for certain groups the vaccine itself comports health risks.

So, what to do about the people who have refused to get the vaccine, even though those mostly at risk have gotten it. 

And then there is the other issue, recently raised by health officials in Los Angeles. Should LA county revert to mask mandates, or lockdowns in order to stop the vaccine? We all know that these lockdowns have in and of themselves hurt people. They have certainly hurt children, especially those who have been deprived of a year of education and a year of socializing with their peers.

Is it right or wrong to shut down the economy in order presumably to stop the virus, and to do so without measuring the costs, both economic and human, in such activities? If the World Health Organization declares that no one should wear a mask while exercising, because of the negative health effects of breathing too much carbon dioxide, should we now question mask mandates? Should we shut down the information, or is it, disinformation?

Science does not yield moral absolutes. Joe Biden will never understand it, but taking or not taking the vaccine involves risk assessment. A child is at very little risk. A young adult is at slightly more risk, but not a great deal. An older person, like yours truly, is at greater risk.

So, people assess risk and make decisions. In Western religions it is called exercising free will. After all, we know the risks associated with smoking, and yet it is still legal to smoke cigarettes. And we know the risks of secondhand smoke, yet it is still legal in most places to smoke in your home.

And yet, that leaves us with another philosophical issue. Risk assessment is not the same as absolute certainty. Risk assessment involves weighing the pros and cons of a decision and then making up one’s mind. Dare we say, sometimes it involves disinformation, Or else, it might involve correct information. Do we trust people to decide, or are Americans all so stupid that they believe whatever they read on Facebook?

If the FDA has not granted the vaccine final approval and if someone decides to delay taking the vaccine because he wants to await final approval, has he succumbed to misinformation, or is he evaluating different types of evidence?

But then, what to do with the unholy alliance between the government and Big Tech-- alliance that is being challenged in courts for its effort to shut down free speech? And, are we now going to change the first amendment in order to ban disinformation? Where does it say in constitutional law that disinformation must be canceled? And then, who decides what is or is not disinformation?

Was the Hunter Biden laptop story disinformation before the 2020 election? And if the definition of disinformation involves the exercise of coercive political control over the flow of information, why would anyone believe anything that the social media platforms are trying to ram down everyone’s throat.

Credibility counts and the American left, having taken its leave of even the pretense of objective reporting of facts, should not now be shrieking about how disinformation kills. One reason people do not trust the media as a source of accurate information is that the media has by now abandoned even the pretense of offering factually accurate information. 

We all know by now that tech monopolies were shutting down all discussion of the lab origin theory of the coronavirus, until they learned that the theory was entirely plausible. One might ask whether the one or the other theory of the origin of the virus would have impacted anyone’s decision to take the vaccine. Oops.

Big Tech shut down the Hunter Biden laptop story until after the 2020 election. Manipulating information in order to achieve a political goal must surely be illegal.

And then there is the coercion factor. By the laws of cognitive psychology, we know that when anyone tries to force you to do something, even something that is decidedly for your own good, your initial reaction, and at times not just initial, will be to resist. It seems, if I may, that allowing people to decide for themselves, based on a mix of government information and even some disinformation, will make it more, not less likely, that people get vaccinated.

No one likes to feel like he is being coerced. Coercion makes people feel that they are sacrificing their judgment in order to comply with orders delivered by someone who claims to know better what you should do than you should. No one willingly bows in supine compliance to a despotic assertion of control. 

The more someone in authority, even the cognitively impaired Joe Biden, insists that he knows better than you what is best for you, the more you are going to challenge his pretense. Of course, the fact that the majority of citizens now believes that Joe is cognitively impaired diminishes the chances that anyone will take his advice seriously. If a senile old fool tells you that you must take the vaccine you will be less likely to do so, because you will be less likely to grant credence to the views of a senile old fool. The more the old fool seems to be gaining political advantage from his will to become a despot, the less you will want to take the vaccine.

Thus, the Biden administration, first, through its unwillingness to test the new immigrant arrivals it has invited into the country, second, for its insistence on imposing its will on the entirety of the populace is more the problem than the solution to the vaccine problem.

Worse yet, American life has been so thoroughly politicized-- largely by the left’s nonstop tantrum during the Trump presidency-- that people have good reason not to trust anyone. None of Trump’s detractors saw it at the time, but their refusal to grant legitimacy to a president they despised damaged the political credibility of all government officials. Now they are paying a price.


370H55V said...

What is absolutely astounding though, is the utter political tone-deafness of the timing of Joe Vegetable's administration move in this regard.

Here we have a huge Trump First Amendment lawsuit against Big Tech which, until this happened, was unlikely to go anywhere (and thus leaving him the object of considerable ridicule). But now the Vegetable administration is UP FRONT about using Big Tech to suppress opinion and thereby provide proof of social media being used as state actors and ammunition for Trump to use in his lawsuit. How unbelievably stupid!

Sam L. said...

"You can see why people are confused." Not "confused" Stuart, "ANGRY". They are lying to us.

IamDevo said...

What is "unbelievably stupid" is the number of people who voted, and to this very day would vote, for Biden or any Democrat. Even the "Gibs Me Dat" class ought to realize that Democrats want total control. Should they achieve that goal, it's off to the gulag for anyone not in lockstep with whatever program happens to be favored by the government at any given time. Stalin killed his kulaks and Ukranians; Mao killed the resistant peasants, likewise Pol Pot; Che killed... pretty much anyone he pleased (although he especially enjoyed killing blacks, whom he despised). Once the Wakandans among us have ceased to be useful to the ruling class, they too shall be "disfavored" with utmost prejudice.

David Foster said...

A serious, professional marketing campaign would have resulted in more people getting vaccinated than would the current mix of hectoring, threats, smug superiority, etc.

Monotonous Languor said...

"Fair enough, but many of those who have not been vaccinated, including minority group members, do not trust the government and are willing to take the risk. The problem is: if they get sick they risk passing the virus to other people, people who are not vaccinated.

And, dare we mention, but people who are vaccinated, in Great Britain and in Israel, have also gotten the virus. Their illness is surely less than it would have been otherwise, but many people are aware of these facts. And many people know that for certain groups the vaccine itself comports health risks."

You appear to be saying two contradictory things here. The unvaxxed pass disease to other unvaxxed. But next, you admit that the vaxxed also get sick, although their symptoms are less. First of all, you've admitted that the vaxx has nothing to do with disease transmission, but only the degree of symptoms once infected. So in reality, anybody who gets sick, either vaxxed or unvaxxed, is a disease carrier. Any blame lies equally on both categories. It is illogical to accuse the unvaxxed of being moral lepers.

Second, government propaganda slyly assumes collective morality, not individual morality. Therefore, if someone who is unvaxxed gets sick, then that was surely their personal choice, about which they weighed their options. It has nothing to do with, and therefore should not be an excuse for, a tyrannical government that assumes responsibility for everyone whether they want it or not.