I’ve not followed the career of Ben Shapiro except by accident. He’s one of those people whose opinions pop up on social media and have generally led me to think of him as a walloper with spectacular means for self-promotion.
Last night I only noticed him because he’d posted two maps of the US, challenging his followers to spot the pattern between the people who wear masks and the places with the biggest outbreaks of COVID-19. DOH! They all live in the same places! Wow! Maybe masks make the virus… worse?!
It was really a lesson in the old and valuable truism: correlation does not imply causation. I doubt I have to explain why it was a dumb claim to make, but just for the sake of completion, both maps were essentially reflecting the population density of the US. Rural places don’t have many people wearing masks or spreading the infection for a reason that has nothing to do with masks or infections. It’s because very few people live there.
I decided I’d write about this on my way to bed last night. Weighing on my mind was the realisation – not exactly profound but timely – that too many people still listen to the advice of people who have been proven to be wrong too many times. I mean, there was a reason why people listened to Stephen Hawking throughout his long and distinguished career and it wasn’t because he previously claimed that blackholes with large intersteller clams or once proposed injecting the sun with bleach to stop its harmful rays. No, he was consistent through his career. He was not always right but, when wrong, it was wrong in a reasonable way.
The opposite is true of the bullshit squadron, who are rarely right and, when wrong, monumentally wrong. Their chief spokesman is Donald Trump. Despite everything he’s done and, more importantly, failed to do around the coronavirus crisis, he only trails Biden by double digits. In any rational world, he’d be trailing by three figures among US voters. He has now apparently told hundreds of thousands of lies throughout his presidency, yet journalists still ask him questions. Why 30% of Americans would still support him says more about 30% of Americans and, perhaps, human beings. One day we might find the right way to talk about them but, for the moment, the best one can do is pity them.
Yet beyond Trump, there’s a whole universe of nincompoops who shamelessly spout rubbish and never feel the shame of being wrong. Instead, they roll on like some imperious German tank that is impervious to criticism or, apparently, self-awareness. Peter Hitchens is the finest example of the phenomenon in the UK. He continues to write his tedious nonsense months after being proved wrong about the lockdown (it did flatten the curve), wrong about Sweden being the right model for response (allowing every bugger to catch it), and, I’d suggest, wrong about nearly everything he writes. It would be laughable if it weren’t deadly serious. Excuse my language – I’ve had enough of being calm and objective about this idiot – but this addle-brained fuckwit is now leading the moronic chorus on the subject of facemasks. He devotes an entire column today to the cheapest trick of the sceptic’s playbook: finding contradictions in scientific advice. His purpose: to spread the malicious message that the state is out to subjugate us.
I wish I could shift into some other hyper-inflected language to express my frustration at this point…
How utterly irresponsible, dangerous, and morally bankrupt do you have to be to lecture against the science from you amateur soapbox in the middle of a pandemic? If masks prevent the virus from spreading by only 1% they are worth wearing…
These people are zealots to only one cause: their bank accounts. Being contradictory is how they make their money and they know full well how to do it. It’s all jingoism wrapped around deep state conspiracy bullshit, pandering to the outlooks of the perpetually wizened who read papers like The Mail on Sunday. They don’t have real wars to fight so they fight them in their imaginations; the wrinkled Fifth Column ready to man the barricades when the sugar police come for their boxes of Terry’s All Gold. What is most shameful about this is that the effort to wear facemasks is to protect the very people who are being the most sceptical.
It’s so depressing I really don’t know what to say. If we can’t convince people about the sense of masks, what hope did we ever have of persuading them about Brexit or the value of immigration? This week Hitchens is moaning about masks and next week it will no doubt be the vaccine which he objects to, probably with some overwrought argument along the line “this Stalinist government now wants to impose itself on my body by injecting this ungodly product of chemical labs”… Then he’ll be back to his old lament about an England lost to “progress”.
There is, however, one other possibility and that is: he’s right and I’m wrong. Not only am I wrong, I might well be insane. Frankly, I worry about that a lot. There has to be a reason he has the readers and I don’t. Maybe *this* (waves arms to the reality I see around me) is what insanity looks like. Does the guy in the tin foil hat claiming there are aliens thinks he’s the one making sense? Maybe me, sitting here still trying to protect my loved ones, is the person who has been brainwashed into believing masks and science. Looking at the evidence – the two books of cartoons I’ve compiled this last fortnight and my continued belief in this blog – and I’m compelled to raise the question. Am I mad? Or do I just feel so gaslit that I can no longer tell up from down?