Thursday, March 05, 2020

Diverse irrational reactions to Covid-19

The irrationality of many people's reactions to the newly followed, more harmful cousin of the common cold virus is just amazing.

In many countries, there are shortages in the shops. What's amazing is that (aside from the chemistry for cleaning and disinfection which make some sense) the most typical product that is sold out is... toilet paper. We had toilet paper shortages in Czechoslovakia of the 1980s – Western Europe could make fun out of it, a rather rare example of a failure of our socialist economy. But these days, there doesn't even exist a sensible reason why people should buy lots of toilet paper.

Matt Gaetz, a Republican in the House.

If you haven't learned it yet from my otherwise deep and informative texts about cutting-edge physics and mathematics of monstrous moonshine, toilet paper is good for wiping your bottom. Why should people do it more often when there is a new respiratory infection around? There are only two explanations I can see:

* the uninterrupted media hysteria actually makes the people šit into their pants many times a day; because of fear, they actually consume vastly more toilet paper than normally

* it is a herd effect; some random person started to buy it and other moronic sheep who actually belong to the same herd started to emulate him or her or it. It must be simply clever to buy tons of toilet paper (and similarly food that will expire in a few days) because N other sheep are doing so as well, let me join! ;-)

The "argument" I just wrote down (it is not an argument, it is just an instinct of brain-dead people who need to belong to the middle of a herd and just can't use their own brain at all) was equally irrationally applied to the Chinese reaction. The Chinese government has declared science-fiction-style curfews in much of the country (and car sales dropped 80% in all of China!) so there must be a very good reason and the virus must be lethal for mankind.

Not really. This is not how proper logic works. China has enforced the draconian measures because it could, because the affected citizens don't have any real rights in a non-democratic country. That's the actual reason why we saw what we saw. We saw dramatic pictures of ghost towns that showed a high level of precaution but not a high level of risk. It's more convenient for a shepherd like Comrade Xi to protect his herd (with 1.4 billion members) and fight against threats in this brutal way. But that doesn't mean that it's more right or that it is fully justified. It doesn't really mean anything at all.

Reactions may be very different, however. In Qom, a holy city of Iran, people were fighting against Covid-19 in this simply clever way:

They just licked the metallic parts of the fundamentalists' structures. Allah will surely deal with everything. Too bad, useless suicide isn't really allowed by Islam: Allah will have hard time to figure out whether these simply clever lickers have to be sent to Heaven or Hell. And be sure that Allah had to decide (and will have to decide) many times, as the footage from the Qom's morque makes extremely clear.

Back to the West. Lots of people were buying facial masks. However, they're far from preventing you from getting the infection. The materials still contain microscopic holes which are large enough for the virus to get through. Note that a virus is an order of magnitude or two smaller than a cell. People don't care about any of these details. They want to "feel good" for having done "something", no matter whether this "something" makes things better or worse, and for helping to spread the hysteria.

Another interesting "precaution" is to physically attack an Asian man's face with one's own fists. It's actually a good way to catch the infection, too! ;-) But because fists are used, these violent morons "feel" that they are fighting the virus. Not really. By fighting Asians, you don't really fight the virus. Not to mention that both Italy reports many more cases per day than China now. Instead of Kung Pao Chicken, you may want to boycott the Frutti di Mare Pizza or a Chelo-Kebab with some hummus.

Tons of cruel and hysterical Australian pet owners want to murder their pets to lower their chances of not getting the virus (by what fraction of a percent?).

Equally irrationally, people think that by being at home with their relatives, they're safest. They seem to miss that most of the newly infected people actually catch it from their close relatives. Your close relatives are the main threats that you should avoid if you are seriously about your precautions.

Then there is the hardcore partisan propaganda. The leftist deceitful subhumans have promoted Donald Trump to the creator of the virus or at least to the incompetent cause of a looming extinction of the American nation. Both statements are ludicrous, of course, although the first one is even more ludicrous than the second one. He didn't create the virus and his administration did the right reactions and is doing better than almost anyone else in the world. Virtually no one is emitting these accusations in Czechia. Everyone knows that the government just has to deal with something they have nothing to do with and they will probably follow some laws and conventions and face the dissatisfaction from people of various kinds, including the healthy ones, the infected ones, and those people's contacts.

But the Democrat Party's and MSM media's toxic garbage has made it to the Czech press, too. A2larm, a fringe Soros-style outlet that is nevertheless shown up in Google News often, boldly claimed that "Czech hysteria about the coronavirus is a sad failing grade for our government". Oh, really? Is the coronavirus the right proof that we need to start an orange revolution?

First of all, there is no widespread hysteria in Czechia. I have seen some empty shelves in the media and a few nutcases with gas masks etc. but some of those were stunts, some of them were fabricated by the media, and I have simply not seen any empty shelves in actual shops that I have visited. So if the visible hysteria measures the strength of some "opposition", whoever it is (the government is ANO but the Prague city hall is led by the Pirates who are on the opposite side, kind of), the "opposition" is extremely weak, indeed.

And even if the number of hysterical Czechs were high, their being hysterical just doesn't mean that they're right. Most of the hysteria is unfair and irrational. The A2larm's way of argumentation is absolutely illogical, fraudulent, and idiotic, and if you – I am talking to you, George Soros – are paying these filthy corrupt aßholes for spreading the Democrat-Party-like hateful memes and for the nuclei of medieval witch trials, you should stop to fund them and make this scum starve to death because they haven't succeeded in spreading these hostile lies at all.

Among the jokes (and there were lots of pictures with gas masks, anti-nuclear jackets in supermarkets etc.), I liked this AOC method of fighting against the virus. The picture is probably fake but the implied claim about the AOC's IQ is spot on.

The most entertaining coronavirus video that I saw (and virally spread) was the video that I titled "Disciplined and organized Germany was prepared for its first Covid-19 fatality" (Germany with 262 infections still has zero fatalities, by the way, compare with Italy that is above 100! Thankfully the exclamation mark isn't the factorial sign):

But aside from the spectacular dumb reactions (masks, shortages, licking) and the disgusting political ones (blaming the virus on Trump, members of race or nation ABC etc.), there are many "innocent" irrational reactions by many people.

Some people are just terrified and they are already acting as if tens of millions were dying. For your personal purposes, the risk of contracting Covid-19 and dying because of that is still smaller at this moment than the risk of contracting flu and dying of flu (44 Czechs have died of flu in 2020, zero for Covid-19).

Otherwise these two diseases are completely analogous. That's why you really should treat the risks together and Covid-19 has only microscopically changed the degree of threat. Tens of thousands of Americans die of flu every season while 10+ have died of Covid-19 this season. They're the same thing so the anti-flu policies should be strengthened by some 0.1%. Maybe flu deaths will die because of the Covid-19 precaution so the total number of people who die from infectious respiratory diseases may very well go down in 2020.

So many people seem so incapable of a basic mental exercise – to distinguish the current reality from some "imaginable" worst case scenario (Czechia may always run out of special care hospital beds, as some "clever" commenter pointed out, but we were assured that Prague has huge capacities for mass graves LOL). These are two totally different things – reality and fiction – but so many people seem to totally conflate them. They behave now as if they were characters from a dystopian sci-fi movie about the future. I think that I understood the difference very deeply when I was 2 years old but many people apparently don't.

Yes, if Covid-19 were allowed to spread, with its infection rate similar to flu and cold, and if it became as widespread as flu or cold, it would become the most frequent cause of deaths from similar diseases. But the previous sentence contains two IFs. The failure of one of them is enough to invalidate the scary "argument" but in fact, it's very likely that both IFs fail.

They fail for the same reason: Covid-19 seems more serious than flu which is (surprisingly?) bad for the propagation of the virus. It's bad because of two classes of mechanisms: natural and man-made. The natural mechanisms say that when someone is quickly crippled and brought to a near-dying condition, he will spread the disease to fewer people than if he were spreading a common cold. Second, because the death rate is higher and comparable to 1% (0.5% in Korea, 0% in numerous countries so far, 2-4% in Iran and Italy etc.), the politicians and healthcare systems will trace it and fight it.

We don't really fight against flu let alone common cold on individual basis because these diseases were embraced as "unavoidably omnipresent ones". We're not restricting people with common cold at all and we're not quarantining families, streets, and towns because of flu. Yes, sometimes we close some schools because of flu epidemics. But because we consider Covid-19 more serious than flu, we will always fight it more aggressively which is why the overall numbers will always be smaller than those of flu.

And there are extremely effective ways to contain the pandemics. Just tell the people to buy food for 4 days (declare an exceptional longer weekend in Italy), keep the people at home for 4 days, and almost all infected ones will get fever by those. Isolate those and repeat the exercise a few times. You may reduce the cases by an order of magnitude within a month. Incidentally, I do think that Italy should do it. Extend this weekend to next Tuesday and expect the people to work during the next weekend in 9-10 days instead. The number of new cases could drop hugely.

The only question is whether we will have to fight intensely forever. I am not sure. China has reduced the new cases per day to 1/4 of the peak within 3 weeks or so which is unnecessarily fast, I think. But even with softer policies, I think that the peak may be reached and the drop after the peak will be fast enough, at most a few months, in the freer world.

Will the disease go completely extinct? I find it somewhat unlikely. It has places where to hide over the summer while almost everyone in the world thinks "it's perfectly fine". Human flu is transmitted and stored by our pets, for example. It may survive at some surfaces (Covid-19 surviving on surfaces for 9 days is possible), and so on. So my guess is that the disease will drop in a few weeks when the spring starts on Northern Hemisphere (the infections in really warm countries are negligible so far). It will keep on dropping but some hot spots will reappear in the winter again.

If we want the 2020-2021 season to be vastly weaker than this one, we will need to help Iran. Those lickers are doomed (the Qom's sightseeing was closed for similar clever pilgrims). But at the end, Iran may be given our drugs that seem to work. If Iran is miserable enough, they could commit themselves to fully recognizing Israel's right to exist, among other things. That's what should be tried. But to stop the huge explosion of cases in Iran, even though it is a rather isolated country, is in the interest of everyone else, too.

P.S.: Lots of people who are sending me messages seem to be utterly irrational, too. I forgot about one important class of irrationality, the intentional long-term agenda to distrust the official numbers and think that "it's always more serious than said". Why do people do it? And why is there no one who thinks that governments deliberately overstate the crisis which could actually make more sense because it would increase the importance of those governments in the eyes of citizens?

So Marián Kechlibarov saw those dozens of bodies in the morque of Qom and wrote me that it meant that we can't trust there are just 100+ fatalities in Iran. But his conclusion doesn't follow from the evidence at all. There are fewer than 100 bodies in the video, some of the bodies may be from non-Covid causes, and it's been officially reported that Qom is the first and main Covid hot spot where the infection got from China. So the video is consistent with all official numbers and claims from Iran that I've heard and the claim that they're not seems to be clearly due to someone's broken logic.

More generally, people want to distrust the Chinese, American, and all other governments. Surely there are thousands of people dying everywhere. Really? Even if many governments were lying, it would not be enough. You would need almost all governments lying because no governments are showing some anomalously high numbers. In particular, the German government reports 0 casualties out of 262+ cases. Yes, I can imagine Merkel's folks are lying, they are doing so often. But why now? And why someone wouldn't have been able to see the evidence for the lies and bring it to me? The situation is being watched by almost everybody, by millions of people (including journalists of many types). I haven't seen any such evidence which is why I consider these numbers politically neutral figures (about a crisis that really naturally unites mankind, and it's irrational to think that it should divide it) and I see no good reason why the governments should lie, regardless of these governments' ideology or political goals.

The people who need to believe that everything is completely different than it seems are conspiracy theory nuts, I think. And I am annoyed by the self-evident fact that some of these people are climate skeptics but their illogical and dishonest argumentation is equally dogmatic – having a predetermined conclusion that they just won't sacrifice, regardless of any evidence – as the climate fearmongers' "argumentation". The situations are almost isomorphic. In both cases, the alarmists refuse simple, easy-to-measure empirical data – showing that the temperature trend or fatality counts are mild – and they prefer an arbitrarily shaky and convoluted arguments as long as they agree with their alarmist faith.

One fudging new strain of a cold and a whole bunch of formerly self-described right-wing pundits turn into another wave of fraudulent manipulative leftist demagogues who deny any evidence, embrace any speculation, abuse any emotions (polar bears aren't enough so they must have leaked videos from morques) excited by videos that don't imply anything, jump from one lost argument into another. And they even seem to have the very same goal – a permanent state of the societal emergency (the Bolsheviks in California have declared emergency, what a surprise!) in which the normal laws of the society and freedom are suspended and instead, everyone has to listen to lying stupid yet pompous pseudointellectuals such as themselves who don't have to work and who are funded for pretending to be smart and the Messiahs.

M.K. has also brought some contrived paper (so analogous to the hide-the-decline papers that just do a mathematical masturbation to advocate a predetermined conclusion) claiming that the Iranian deaths must be much higher because the Iranians have brought the disease to rather many people in third countries. A lethal problem with that Canadian paper is that it neglected the correlation between the likelihood of infection and the amount of traveling that a given Iranian person does. That's a debilitating omission for a statistical paper because the infected ones are clearly largely those who travel, and that's why those are also mostly the same people who keep on spreading the disease elsewhere. It's clear that there can't be any demonstrable contradiction in those data.