I keep hearing that the various social media services were going to start cracking down on disinformation. If that’s the case, why is Dennis Prager still around? His latest “fireside chat” is just an old ignorant man sitting around lying about the coronavirus.
It’s both sad and horrible. I lasted about ten minutes, roughly half of which is Prager talking about his dog. In the remainder, he made 3 stupid points.
- He’s a rational person and he hates irrationality, and those libs are all panicking and closing schools. He can’t stand panic.
The thing is, though, nobody is panicking. Saying they are is about as convincing as saying you’re rational on your god-soaked propaganda channel. My university is closed, but no one was in a panic; this was a calmly made, rational decision based on the best available evidence. In centers of the epidemic, medical services are overwhelmed and people are dying, and since we aren’t particularly keen on seeing our students die, or bringing an infectious disease home to their more fragile grandparents, we decided to do the reasonable, responsible thing and minimize contact.
Carl Zimmer posted some vivid data that illustrates why a timely response is necessary. In this graph of cumulative cases in Italy, Lodi was hit first and quickly shut down the city; Bergamo had its first case shortly afterwards, and waited two weeks before shutting down. Now the difference is dramatic. Bergamo has a rising number of cases, while Lodi effectively flattened the curve.
- The kids are only lightly affected, so why shut down schools? Yeah, that’s the kind of dumb-ass thing a Prager would say. Young people are less severely affected (but they aren’t immune — there have been deaths at all ages, just many more in older people), but they can carry and communicate the disease. The concern is that children will mill around with each other at school, come home, and next thing you know, white-haired avuncular 71 year old grandpa with the nice dog he loves so much is in the hospital with respiratory failure. And so are all the other older people in his family, and there aren’t enough respirators to go around, and the health care workers are all falling sick and told not to come in, and people are dying because little Billy gave pop-pop an affectionate kiss on the cheek.
You deserve it, you lying fuck, but it’s not fair to put that guilt on Billy’s shoulders.
Tens of thousands of people die of the regular flu everywhere without panicking. I might panic if I or my wife came down with the regular flu. But instead what we do is the rational thing: we get our flu shot every year, we stay home if we’re sick, and if we’re feeling the symptoms, we don’t head out for crowds to shake hands and hug people. That’s something only an insensitive, uncaring asshole like Dennis Prager would do, which he proudly declares that he is doing.
The difference is that we have vaccines for the influenza that minimize its effects, and keeps the load on hospitals to a manageable level. We do not have a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2. We know that it is more severe in its effects than influenza, is going to have a higher death count, and spreads rapidly. In both cases, we are making a rational, non-panicked decision about how to respond.
If you accidentally set a piece of paper on fire in your home, you calmly put it out. If you accidentally start a grease fire in the kitchen, the curtains and your sleeve are on fire, the smoke alarm is frantically beeping, you don’t walk away, pet the dog, and make a video about how you set a piece of paper on fire and how clever you were to pat it out, and all the fire trucks and the doctors treating the deep burns on your arm are over-reacting.
That’s the kind of data officials looked at before making a calm decision. There was no panic. Prager is lying and misrepresenting the situation.
Prager has billionaires backing him, though, and he can be as stupid and dangerous as he wants, and YouTube will continue to take his money.