Last week there was an article published by a guy named Aaron Ginn in Medium, which purported that the current pandemic was going to fade out relatively quickly and do far less harm than others expected. The article was spread widely — you might even say it went viral — and some big names in media promoted it. It was recently taken down, though, and I can’t link to it, nor would I, even if I could. It was a terrible article.
It was interesting as an exercise in critical thinking, though. The first week of my introductory biology course I share a bad science article with the students, and ask them to figure out how they would know whether to trust it or not. They quickly do the usual stuff — look at the source, look at the author, look at the quality of the data — which should have been the response to this article by Ginn…but no. It says things people wanted to hear, so it was disseminated uncritically.
What should have been noticed right away is that Ginn has zero qualifications in epidemiology, yet here he is claiming that the scientists were all wrong. You might be wondering what his qualifications are. He’s a silicon valley tech bro who claims to be an expert in “growth”, meaning how to increase the popularity of products online. Because he uses the word “virality” in his advertising and promotion work, surely he must be a master of the biology of real viruses. He even claims you don’t need a special degree to do epidemiology.
Jesus. Red flags and signal flares popping off all over that mess. The arrogance of these silicon valley dudes knows no limits, and we ought to be able to stop there. Except that Mr Ginn was quite annoyed when his silly, ignorant article was yanked, and he ran yipping and whining to other unqualified media personalities, like Brit Hume, Greg Guttfeld, and Steven Crowder (seriously, dude?), none of them with any qualifications in the subject, either. He’s being censored, don’t you know. He’s now frantically and rather indignantly defending his claims on Twitter. Someone ought to tell him that Brit Hume, let alone Crowder, isn’t exactly a smart guy to cite, and rather obviously his choice of who to beg for props is telling. Ginn writes for Breitbart in his spare time, and works with the California Republican party.
Anyway, ignore Ginn and his bad paper. Go read this Twitter thread by Carl Bergstrom, who actually knows what he’s talking about.
1. I hate to invest precious time on taking apart the atrocious @aginnt article pictured below, but it is getting too much traction here and even in traditional media.
This thread could be far longer than it is, but I'm doing my best to only discuss the most glaring flaws. pic.twitter.com/EFA7ATQRbX
— Carl T. Bergstrom (@CT_Bergstrom) March 22, 2020
Ginn is puking up exactly the kind of misinformation that ought to be filtered out — he’s cocky and full of himself, but he knows pretty much nothing about the subject he’s lying about.