by B Kean
Can you guess what happened to their political views?
It could be called magic. I prefer to compare it to a rescue mission. Paid to stop watching Fox News for one month, the diehard and the Foxified after only one week could feel their brains defrosting thanks to CNN.
Real information was entering and as if a sump pump had kicked on automatically thanks to the detection of increasing pressure, the rancid swamp of Fox-News propaganda and lies was slowly being removed. What the test’s organizers say was only in three days, the stunted brains of the Republican viewers were being unrestricted, freed even, and views were changing.
The treatment group, returned to the fold of the sane, was being repatriated.
The Fox viewers were nearly all very conservative and strong Republicans, the study explained. “Of 763 qualifying participants, we then randomized 40 percent to treatment group. To change the slant of their media diet, we offered treatment group participants $15 per hour to watch 7 hours of CNN per week, during Sept. 2020, prioritizing the hours at which participants indicated they typically watched Fox News (CNN for 30 Days).”
WHAT? Let’s read that last paragraph again……
I have long been aware of the evil of Fox. Having resided in Russia for the past two and half decades, the unmistakable power of incessant media lying was something I had to deal with on a daily basis.
Arguments with smart friends, colleagues, girlfriends, wives, taxi drivers and so many more Russians filled much of my first fifteen years or so. The fights were not really differences of opinion as they were the Russians regurgitating propaganda when I was relying on a commonly-held set of facts.
I stopped arguing, and in many ways caring, at around my sixteenth year of life in Russia. I realized that they were so far collectively gone that there was nothing I could say, show, share, or do that would ever sway them — the state propaganda was their psychological crack and no one was in need of my intervention.
I recently wrote about how so many intellectuals throughout the world are mourning the loss of a free press in Russia since the outset of the war. There really never was a free press in Russia. There was never really a great need for it. Even many who left recently (estimated to be around 200,000) to protest Putin have very skewed versions of world history and Russia’s role in it. The thing that separates them from those who remain is just the degree of the craziness of their chosen conspiracy theory.
Just a few years after Fox News was launched as an alternative news source that would strive to be the middle of the road to CNN’s “leftist leanings,” a tragic, but magical event for Roger Ailes, transpired: 9/11. The rawness of that day blinded many of us in the U.S. to reason and we willfully let emotions replace facts.
I returned home for Christmas 2001 and I was shocked at how the news was being reported. It was like people tore the rearview mirrors out of their cars and with eyes staring straight floored it backward convinced they were moving forward. We were collectively returning to the simplest common denominator: all Muslims are evil and must be punished. Any voice that offered any opinion more nuanced was a traitor. Americans were behaving themselves exactly like Russians.
Eventually, the dust would settle and the likes of The New York Times would apologize for their flawed reporting on, most infamously, the “yellowcake and nuclear rods.” This investigative piece by Judith Miller was cited by many as the moment when they believed it was okay to pre-emptively invade Iraq.
Eventually, CNN and other news organizations would stop the propaganda and return to reporting — this never took place on the right.
Fox hides bad news
NO, IS THIS TRUE?
The treatment group of the study in question, otherwise called “switchers,” revealed some very interesting insights after just a week or so:
Switchers were five percentage points more likely to believe that people suffer from long Covid, for example, and six points more likely to believe that many foreign countries did a better job than the U.S. of controlling the virus. They were seven points more likely to support voting by mail. And they were 10 points less likely to believe that supporters of then-candidate Joe Biden were happy when police officers get shot, 11 points less likely to say it’s more important for the president to focus on containing violent protesters than on the coronavirus, and 13 points less likely to agree that if Biden were elected, “we’ll see many more police get shot by Black Lives Matter activists (Watched CNN Instead).”
As the authors of the report point out, boycotting right-wing media by members of the Left is not a wise decision. Some Foxified conservatives can be reached and the spell cast by the lies of Fox News broken.
One clear takeaway by the treatment group was that if a story showed Trump in a negative light, then Fox would just ignore it.
This mode of political influence, where partisan media can simply ignore stories that are inconvenient, is a potentially powerful challenge to democratic accountability. It’s also probably not symmetrical. Even media outlets that skew liberal in their coverage generally don’t shy away from covering the Covid death toll or the rise in inflation (Watched CNN Instead).
This voluntary choice to avoid anything that could be perceived as negative for the political figure of choice is 100% propaganda. This is exactly what Russia does unapologetically with Putin. Such so-called reporting, which is more like proselytizing, paves the way for the irrationality of personality cults.
Putin is god-like in many homes in Russia and the more outlandish the lie, the more it will be believed. The more atrocious the truth, the less likely the followers will ever believe it. The crazier the shit that Trump put out, the more the Foxified were going to believe it.
The establishment of Fox News in the late 1990s forever changed both media and politics in America, transforming the formerly staid world of television news into the series of political shout fests we know and love-hate today. More than a quarter-century after its founding, however, the question persists: Does watching Fox News actually change voters’ minds (Watched CNN Instead)?
So many of us are shocked by what has happened in Russia. While Republicans refuse the rally around the flag moment despite the unparalleled leadership that Biden demonstrates in his response to Putin’s murderous campaign, Fox News, and especially Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, continue to put out bald-faced lies about President Biden. Carlson regularly offers open and veiled praise for Putin.
We are moving ever closer to the end of our democracy and along with it, there is a good chance we will lose our freedom of expression, too. Russia is an example of what happens when stupid defeats smart. Fox News needs to be brought to the task. It’s ruining our nation and taking with it the free world; it’s empowering the Putins.
This study proves once and for all that Fox is a terrorist organization hell-bent on ending our democracy. Will anyone be shocked when we lose our press freedoms?
Sadly, I don’t know anymore.
I’m Tired of Being Polite to Toxic, Dumb Bastards — And You Should Be, Too
From War to Climate Change, None of This Is OK — So Why Do We Pretend It Is?
Well, take a hard look at the world out there. Right about now, I can sum it up for you like this: it’s the dumb bastards versus the rest of us. This is a frightful, horrid decade. We have a choice of apocalyptic futures ahead, like some kind of buffet cooked up by the devil and Ed Sheeran in hell. Would you like climate change and ecological collapse? Not tasty enough? Let’s add a side of World War!!
Ah, still hungry, good sir? Why not try a dash of fascism on top? I see you’re a tough customer. Let’s add mass extinction of life on earth for an especially outrageous dessert. Please leave us a nice review on Yelp!!
It will take a generation of grad students and journalists to flesh out the full extent of the criminality of the Trump administration and the damage done to our institutions.
The failed January coup by MAGA mobs and the right-wing revisionism that has followed have substantiated the fact that the Republican Party has been, and continues to be, the biggest internal threat to American democracy since the Civil War.
In a 2018 essay ”The Constitution of Knowledge,” Jonathan Rauch describes the information ecosystem in democracies that winnows out nonsense. “We let alt-truth talk but we don’t let it write textbooks, receive tenure, bypass peer review…or dominate the front pages.”
That has changed.
For the foreseeable future, Trumpism will remain a threat to “ourselves and our Posterity” because of its success in sidestepping those constraints.
An extensive body of fiction — a new national mythology — has been created by an unholy alliance between corporate right-wing media and a professional Republican political class that has elevated party over principle; their political futures over facts.
Standard definitions and standards of proof have been scrapped. A growing segment of the public — driven by passion and immune to evidence and rational discourse — has created a post-Enlightenment wasteland in which anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection can distort the public record.
There is a neurological disorder in the body politic that prevents many Americans from connecting the dots that map out the footprints of these load-bearing lies.
This blog is a digest — occasionally a soapbox — the goal of which is to connect some of those dots.
I am a writer and a freelance photographer of a certain age. Politics is not my primary interest in life but the overwhelming corruption of Trumpism is impossible to ignore and will continue to have negative consequences for our children and grandchildren.
Sound ideas — not money or coercion — -should shape the ongoing public discussion of who we are as a people and where we should be headed.
To whatever extent shared words and pictures can be countervailing forces for a better future, it is my heartfelt hope that these will contribute to that end.
by umair haque
Mar 28, 2022
In about 30 seconds, you’re going to call me an “alarmist,” or say that I’m “exaggerating.” In about 60 seconds, your stomach is going to lurch, and you’re going to feel slightly ill. Don’t worry about it— I got you.
In the coming weeks and months, a new variant of Covid is going to emer — oh, why bother.
There are three kinds of people in the world right now. Those who know it, and accept the basic facts of viral evolution, that it could very well be worse — that’s a small minority of us, fools who believe in a little thing called “science.” There are those who don’t know it — they’re the hopeless kinds of idiots, given the fact that we’re now years into a pandemic. Then there are those who know it, but deny it — they’re the aggressive kind of idiot, who’ll tell you, flat-out, angrily…
Not to wear a mask.
Not to social distance — they’ll get right up in your face and shout it at you.
Not to worry, not to care…
Because don’t you know — Covid is like the flu.
This kind of idiot…well, what is there to even say. Have you run into such a person? There you are, minding your own business, wearing a mask, keeping your distance — and before you know it, some enraged buffoon is launching flecks of spittle at you, shouting at you to take it off.
What is this, Naked and Afraid?
Covid is not the flu. You are quite right to wear a mask and keep your distance. 30 seconds up. Go ahead, call me an alarmist. Get it out of your system.
Done? Good. My turn. Now I’m going to make your stomach lurch.
Covid isn’t like the flu in one very obvious way — it’s a Coronavirus. Coronaviruses are masters of mutation, and some of them, like SARS and MERS, are fantastically deadly. Recombine Omicron with those — and bang, it’s lights out. Forget it — the idiots don’t care and never will. Sorry — one last try, for old time’s sake.
We’re just beginning to understand something even beyond that, though. The effects of Covid over the long term, which aren’t “Long Covid.” “Long Covid” is a set of symptoms which afflict people in whom Covid seems to turn chronic. The long term effects of Covid mean something very, very different: what happens to seemingly normal people who “get it”, “recover”, and then.
Then what, exactly? Well, like I said, that’s what we’re just beginning to understand.
And the effects are alarming. Uh oh. I said it! Someone, find a stake, and burn me. Or maybe, I don’t know, prepare yourself, because, like I said, your gut is about go numb.
“Thanks to a new study from the UK we are now beginning to uncover the effects of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the brain. Comparing brain volume before and after individuals were exposed to SARS-CoV-2, this study documents significant cortical gray matter loss, equivalent to nearly 10 years of aging.“
“Significant cortical gray matter loss, equivalent to nearly 10 years of aging.“
Did you get that? Let me try that again, for the idiots.
The bolding’s mine. Alarming is probably an understatement. You probably want to know the methodology of that study. Sure, here you go: “Douaud et al had unique access to an extensive biomedical database, called the UK BioBank. The UK BioBank provided pre-pandemic brain scans from 785 individuals that were used as a baseline for normal size and structure relative to each participant. About three years later, in May 2021, the same population of participants returned for new brain scans. From the total cohort, 401 individuals were infected with Covid-19 between scans and the remaining served recruited as controls.”
See that? That’s good experimental design. Pioneering, in fact. They studied brain scans three years apart — pre and post pandemic. And the results are both grim and shocking. Cortical loss equivalent to ten years of aging.
It’s not so bad, maybe, some scientists originally hypothesised. It was probably just the portions of the brain responsible for your sense of smell. And who needs that, amirite? Hey, did someone forget to take the trash out again? Meanwhile, there’s a family of badgers the size of mountain goats living in the garage.
But it didn’t turn out to be that funny at all. “Surprisingly, Douaud et al. also found additional abnormalities in regions not normally associated with the sense of smell. In particular, they observed reduced gray matter volume in some regions of the limbic system, involving several structures important for producing behavioral and emotional responses. The largest differences, ranging from 0.2% to 2% reductions, were seen in the left parahippocampal gyrus and the entorhinal cortex. These regions play an important role in the hippocampal memory system, so gray matter loss could signify future memory impairments.”
And it didn’t stop there:
“Additional exploratory analyses found gray matter loss in the amygdala, the insula which borders the temporal cortex, and the front-most portion of the cingulate gyrus, known as the anterior cingulate gyrus. Interestingly, all these regions play a role in emotion processing and regulation. More research is needed to determine whether deficits in these brain regions may be linked to mood disorders associated with long-haul Covid-19, including depression and anxiety.”
How bad is all that? It’s really, really bad.
“Most strikingly, individuals that experienced no or only mild symptoms with Covid-19 displayed specifically significant changes, but cortical damage seems to occur regardless of disease severity, age, or sex.”
Findings like these tell us that we are sleepwalking into a disaster. That disaster goes like this. Having given up on fighting the pandemic for political expediency’s sake, leaders of all kinds have taken the ethically bankrupt, intellectually false, and medievally backwards positions of… “living with the pandemic”…because “Covid is over”…since it’s now “just like the flu.”
These leaders — who, shockingly, include many of the Western world’s public health agencies, in what has to one of the most laughable derelictions of duty since the Vichy Regime turned the Rue de Rivoli over the Nazis — turned all this into a myth. A fairy tale. They sold it to the average person in everything from editorials to TV appearances.
Don’t worry, everyone! Viruses evolve to become less severe! Covid’s like the flu!
Hey, guys — remember when polio, smallpox, and the plague magically turned into the fl…never mind. Nobody in power asked the question even a first grader could idly ask while multi-tasking Playstation and snacks. Mom, if polio didn’t turn into the flu, then why could Cov — sshh, little Johnny. You’ll make the CDC angry!
So the average person came to believe in this incredible, fatuous myth, which is a whole new made-up theory of disease, only one that regresses us back, oh, I don’t know, a a millennium or more. In this fairy tale theory of disease, viruses, all of them, magically evolve to become the Smurfs. We live beside them, reclining on the riverbank, and they regale us with cute stories of what it’s like to be small, blue, and funny.
Medieval is an understatement, because even in the Dark Ages there was a widespread understanding that diseases don’t evolve to become less severe. People then were flatly terrified of deadly viruses, like smallpox or the plague, because they understood full well that, no, these little guys weren’t going to become the Smurfs.
That is how far backwards in history we’ve regressed, incredibly, in just two years. We have gone past the Dark Ages when it comes to how we “think” — I put it in quotes because look, the dog isn’t the turd — about Covid. We believe a fairy tale — our public health agencies, our politicians, the average moron on the street shouting at you to take your mask off — as societies now about how disease works that even some poor bastard of a decrepit burlap-wearing peasant in the Dark Ages would have laughed at. Hey, Baldric, get a load of these guys.
Pushing this myth was convenient in the short-term. It let life “get back to normal,” which meant, basically, that healthy working age people could go right back to work, and get back to the Very Serious Business of paying off bills for stuff they can’t really afford in the first place, which is what we call “the economy.”
That short-term decision is looking increasingly problematic by the day, as you might think basing the future of your entire society on a fairy tale would. Because now we are slowly starting to discover that not only will Covid not magically “go away”…it appears to have the potential to do serious long-term damage in ways we are only barely beginning to comprehend.
How serious? There’s a litany of research that’s beginning to show that Covid f***s you up — it’s like you’re Chris Rock, and Covid’s Will Smith, at the Oscars, only forever.
Here’s just one study of what’s turning into a whole burgeoning area of research. “We show that, beyond the first 30 d after infection, individuals with COVID-19 are at increased risk of incident cardiovascular disease spanning several categories, including cerebrovascular disorders, dysrhythmias, ischemic and non-ischemic heart disease, pericarditis, myocarditis, heart failure and thromboembolic disease.” There is plenty more where that came from, just ask your friend Google.
But I’m highlighting the neurological effects for a reason. If you know your neurology, then you should also know that “damage to brain cells cannot be reversed. When tissues die, cerebrospinal fluid and other biomolecules fill the excess space to maintain the integrity of the brain. Perhaps, this explains why neurological complications associated with long-haul Covid-19 show little improvement over time.”
Neurological damage is forever. And yet now we already have evidence showing us that Covid can age your brain by ten years.
Now think about the last time you had Covid. How much “brain fog” there was. Just admit it — more or less everyone I know experienced serious brain fog having Covid. Your brain slows down. It seems to stop working. Me, I struggled for words like I was in a blue-grey haze. Was that my brain…aging by ten years? We don’t know, is the answer to that particularly disturbing question.
Now think of how Covid actually works at the moment. We all keep getting it, over and over again, or at least plenty of us do, because it “escapes” immunologically, vaccines and natural defences both, faster and faster. Yes, of course there’s going to a next variant, and a next wave, and even if — in a minor miracle — it’s just like Omicron, which it probably won’t be, if only thanks to the principle of mean reversion…there it is, and you get it again.
So how much brain damage does getting Covid three times do? Five times?
Forever, over and over again, just like the flu?
That’s the path we’re on now.
And it’s a shockingly poor decision for our societies to take.
Because one can easily imagine that given the long-term damage we already know of, Covid causes, as time goes on, serious and catastrophic outcomes for large, large groups of people. Not just with “Long Covid,” but just people who’ve gotten it three times, five times, and, over time, that’s led to serious brain damage. Heart damage. Nerve damage. And so on.
Getting Covid over and over again is not a risk we should be taking as societies. We do not know the magnitude of that risk. And every indication right about now is that it is far, far larger than we imagine. That our hospitals and healthcare systems are going to burdened to breaking point as today’s healthy working age people age into old ages of chronic damage and stress from consequences we’re only now beginning to understand, multiplied by having gotten Covid several times over. That is going to be incredibly costly for society, because imagine taking care of ward upon ward full of a generation or three of elderly people who are just wrecked by Covid’s long-term consequences.
That is the magnitude of the risk we’re dealing with here. It is tremendous and significant. It is completely and totally irresponsible, not to mention flat out foolish, to just…take it. It’s a little bit like being handed a generous inheritance, taking the first available flight to Vegas, marrying a stranger in a drunken haze of a mind-wrecking bender, and winding up broke. You probably want to avoid blowing up your future like that, but in our case, well, we appear to headed for the Hangover Part 5: Apocalypse. There is a very, very good chance that we wake up at some point in the near future and say to ourselves, oh my God, that was one of the biggest mistakes we ever made. And then your new husband/wife walks in and asks for alimony.
What happens if all that comes to pass? Nobody knows. Then we face a scenario something like, perhaps, polio. Covid ends up cutting life expectancy and disabling people in serious and severe ways. Wards are full of them, as they age, ten, twenty, thirty years from now — and remember, right about now, there’s no guarantee any of us are ever going to stop getting Covid.
Read something, learn something. Covid is a brain and body wrecker of a disease, we’re beginning to find out. It’s something nobody should want to get even once — unless you like having ten years of brain damage all at once — and yet here we are, all going to get it over and over again, precisely because we’re surrounded by pathetic, irresponsible morons called “our leaders” colluding with healthy working age people who appear not to give two hoots if grandma dies…all of whom believe in this insane fairy tale, which even Baldric the Dark Ages Peasant would laugh at, that a disease which appears to cause brain, heart, and lung damage, is magically becoming the goddamned Smurfs.
And that fairy tale dooms us all to keep on getting it, forever.
See the vicious cycle of idiocy at work here?
Friends, I have to be honest with you. So far, I’ve been lying, a little bit. This is the stupidest thing I have ever seen. It’s worse than a war. It’s like dropping a nuke on your pinky, just because you didn’t like your pedicure.
It’s like seeing the Nazis coming, and calling them the goddamned Smurfs, taking off all your clothes, dancing around, and inviting them to join you in a delightful, thrilling game of Naked and Afraid.
It’s so painfully idiotic that we’re trapped in this cycle of Covidiocy I literally have no words that can do justice to it, because, as I explained with the example of Baldric the Dark Ages peasant laughing at us, it’s literally one of the stupidest things in history. When the Dark Ages laugh at you…maybe, I don’t know, rethink your life choices.
So here we are. Let me try to sum it all up as concisely as I can.
The backwards idiots who surround the tiny minority of the rest of us who are left sane, screaming at us to take off our masks, believe the fairy tale peddled by irresponsible leaders, including the very public health agencies designed to protect us, that all this has become “the flu”…and that fairy tale dooms all of us to get a disease…which can take a baseball bat to your brain and age it by ten years…and that’s just getting it once…to get that disease…over and over again…forever.
Maybe we don’t even need Covid to do us brain damage.
Because right about now, we’re acting, as societies, like we never had ones to begin with.