is a dangerous thing. Drink deep or taste not of the Pierian spring. – Alexander Pope
A WuFlu rant follows. Sorry, I needed to grouse. Come back tomorrow for non-current-events and lighter topics.
The line is part of Alexander Pope’s very long poetic essay An Essay on Criticism. It is not an easy work to read, and most of us no longer connect the Pierian Spring with the inspiration of the Nine Muses. Which fits my muddled meanderings on the modern media’s practitioners, a little learning, and the near-hysterical narrative shaping society in the US at the moment.
Pope was talking about literature, but the point remains valid for a lot of other disciplines. You know things, you think you know other things, and you have ideas that you assume are correct knowledge. Or as many people have said, “It ain’t what you know that’s the problem. The problem is what you know that ain’t so.” A lot of the media seem to suffer from two and three in combination. They assume that because they report on X, they know X. Combine that with ideology and other assumptions, and oh lordy, here we go again.
Since January, those of us afflicted with occasionally encountering TV news have observed that reporters and news-writers cannot do statistics, know nothing about biology, are very good at ignoring background, have no understanding of the philosophy and mechanics of the Constitution and federalism, and have no qualms about flaunting this ignorance in ways that cause a narrative of panic and hysteria to erupt around them. And they consider this “speaking truth to power.”
Some of the long-time reporters, who are actually still reporters, do know a little about certain areas. Even they have gotten stampeded on occasion, although three of them do seem to have settled down and gotten back on track. They tend to be careful to listen, and to admit when they don’t understand or are past their experience limits. Would that we had more of them.
What I’ve found educational to observe is how the TV media, and their internet and print counterparts, have tried to steer American (and global) society. Their base position is that anything that does not agree with their political worldview is at best in ignorant error and (more likely in their minds) willfully mean if not evil. If President Trump says “This might be good,” then the media assume that it will be a disaster, or that he has a financial stake in [thing]. If the thing (tax cuts, easing or removing counterproductive regulations, medical treatments) does work, then it gets ignored or the press and their philosophical fellow-travelers pounce on what they assume to be flaws and errors, and highlight the one person or business that doesn’t benefit.
For example – the lede on Tuesday and Wednesday was about supermarket workers dying of the Flu Manchu. The anguish! The woe! The four people out of over two million who work in the grocery stores— Screech. What? Yes, the number I heard was four, one of whose mother tearfully explained that her child had gone in to work until her lungs were so congested that she couldn’t breathe.* I feel sorry for the families and friends of those who fell ill and died, but to use four out of millions in order to argue for a $15/hr minimum wage is wrong.
The media and a lot of supposedly smart people don’t know what they don’t know, and they don’t want to know. They don’t know how to look for “cooked” numbers, like strange causes-of-death rates. They don’t know why the perfect is the enemy of the good. They don’t want to believe that “No, you won’t get it right this time,” because central planning and government control of the economy and medical system can’t work.
They’ve drank just enough from the Muses’ spring to sound as if they know. And that’s probably the worst thing. Our local EMS chief was on TV the other day assuring people that if they think they are having a stroke, or heat-attack, or other medical problem, please, please call for help. They won’t die of the Flu Manchu if they have to go to the hospital with a heart attack, EMS won’t refuse to treat them because they are waiting for Wuhan Flu calls. *facepaw*
I’m also amused how—according to the US media—the plasma/antibody transfusion treatment is “a game changer” (HuffPo and AP headline) but the hydroxychloroquin/Z-pak treatment is unproven and probably useless. Oh, and if the models don’t match reality, it is because reality has yet to catch up. Seriously. I had a friend say that his city is keeping lock-down because they will have a major outbreak of the Wu Flu “any day now” because that’s what the U of Washington model predicts.
A little knowledge . . . *Sigh*
*I bet her coworkers were thrilled to hear that. And what was her manager thinking, not sending her home, if indeed she was that sick?