Best Of ’23: I Wanna Be Sedated

‘Tis the day before Christmas, so I’m in a somewhat more forgiving mood than I tend to be at other times of the year.  In looking back, I’ve apparently been particularly harsh on a certain journalist who has a fairly consistent presence in the Left–er LOS–Angeles TIMES, which, like many newspapers I’ve loved, has become a shadow in both size and value of what they were once were.  

And as it would happen, for the seventh time in a one-month period, on Festivus, the day where we Seinfeld worshippers commemorate the “airing of our grievances”, this journalist yet again contributed a front page story of considerable length detailing with painstaking depth and impassioned “expert” testimony how that wonderfully triggering word, COVID, is still very much with us, and how absolutely crucial it is for every living person to be sure they get the latest round of vaccines.

I first brought the name Rong-Gong Lin II up in a somewhat chiding post mid-summer that I’ve since moved out of public view.  As his TIMES biography reminds, his qualifications to write about this subject are impressive.  And boy, does he write.  A lot.  And often with the same cast of characters to back up his diatribes that all lead to the same consistent messages:  get that latest vaccine, and damn you if you don’t wear a mask everywhere you dare to go.  

Now before anyone starts to tear into me for being one of “those” lunatic fringers who provide quotes to the EPOCH TIMES and chum for X, let me yet again state for the record I’ve personally got two shots and four boosters, and I’m in the best physical shape of my adult life.  I AM one of those called “NOVIDs”, which to some is triggering unto itself.  And I haven’t worn a mask unless absolutely required for more than a year, in spite of Mr. Lin’s persistent and prominent articles.  I also have interacted with plenty of people whose own choice is one where they have not gotten the latest booster, and aren’t diligent about masking either.  To some, I’m a walking contradiction.  And if you read on long enough in Mr. Lin’s articles, you’ll notice an awful lot of those that are buried well below the screaming headlines.

It doesn’t mean a fig to me whether you get a shot or not, and the statistics more than bear out the realities of exactly what the impact is.  That’s even more true in the case of masks, particularly the flimsier kind that even the staunchest advocates would not support.  

What does matter to me is how this messaging impacts me.  I wrote at length a month after my first post regardling Mr. Lin about the impact it had on my ability to earn a living.  Not long after that, I actually did a little research of my own to try and get more direct clarity on those that seem to hang on every word Mr. Lin provides and are unafraid to share it.

And in doing that, it became more and more evident that I’ve been overly harsh on Mr. Lin.  After all, he’s merely reporting what he is being assigned.  And therein lies my biggest grievance.  It’s called agenda journalism.   And as someone who spent 15 years working for someone like Rupert Murdoch and his minions, I dare say I know more than a thing or two about what constitutes it.

Ya know, it cuts both ways.  And when a newspaper that just happens to be run by a billionaire who achieved his wealth in a field that directly benefits from maintaining as much of a high alert for caution and a demand for products related to it, one simply cannot help notice that Mr. Lin is, as some describe others, merely a “willful idiot” in spreading a gospel that is more dubious than ever and continues to reverberate in our lives by causing damages far greater than the inconvenience of a few days in bed. 

Other newspapers devote time and space to some of that other side of this “debate”.  This week, THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS had some detailed assessments of just how much impact pandemic policies have had on students as a class that entered upper level learning at its outset prepares to graduate.  This piece is as worthy a read as anything from the TIMES.  

But since they are competing with a paper owned by Murdoch, I suppose there are some that would accuse this of being agenda journalism, too.

Those calls come from heads far higher than those belonging to the likes of Rong-Gong Lin II.

So in the spirit of Christmas, I humbly offer Mr. Lin an apology, for he is simply doing his job, as any good person who earned a check from a billionaire with an agenda would otherwise do.  And that list once included me. 

But I offer no such apology for what I wrote that summed up my research this summer, and pretty much is where I’ve landed on this whole issue.  

Apparently, a recent flurry of musings have caused enough concern among at least one of you who felt compelled enough to actually send me a note via the e-mail function on this site.  I’m grateful, of course, because at least that means that there’s SOMEBODY real out there who is noticing all of this.  But the tone this person took came off to me as somewhat mocking.  Something to the effect of “do I ever not complain?”.

Let me perfectly clear, as a former world leader from a time I fear is meaningless to this person used to say.  These are not complaints as much as they are fear-driven laments, typically caused when I’m dumb enough to glance at my bank account balance.  We’re a third of the way through the month, and I’ve already spent half of what I’m supposed to live on.  My car needs work again, so that’s an unforeseen expense that piled on.  I’m “patiently” waiting on several potential incremetal gigs that are in flux, but nothing certain may come from any of them.   And that’s pretty much been my experience ever since the world shut down, for a host of reasons relating to timing and the way the world seems to want to live, that has consistently denied me the one sure-fire way I’ve relied upon for decades to assure that I will make a strong impression and maintain an income.  Sitting down face-to-face with someone and letting them see up close I’ve got a lot to offer and am very much worth their time and money.

So please, dear reader.  Don’t mistake what you may feel is snarky bitchiness or bitterness as anything other than what it really is.  Overwhelming fear that the wishes of a few outliers that have even deeper negative feelings about me than you seem to have will be met.  Homelessness or perhaps more.  And close to my birthday, no less.

Naturally, this has left me even more sleepless and mournful than ever, so I doomscrolled a bit more than usual.  And sure enough, my favorite Los Angeles Times writer, good old Rong-Gong Lin II, and the rest of what I can now adoringly reference as the Hyphenates, was given a pulpit of more than thirty paragraphs for the third time in a month to open a “debate” on what is clearly an editorial direction for what they hope we should devote time and effort into thinking about:

The uptick in coronavirus transmission this summer has not brought major alarm from health experts.

But it is raising questions about whether the risks are high enough to go back to safety measures that many have abandoned.

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a UC San Francisco infectious diseases expert, said transmission is increasing and “we haven’t seen the crest yet” of the wave.

Aah, the esteemed Dr. Chin-Hong, who seems to have been given a priority place at the educational table by Rong-Gong and Soon-Shiong (Patrick, the Times’ billionaire publisher and bioscentist, as his Wikipedia entry describes him), hence the Hyphenates.   Heres how UCSF’s website describes him:

Peter Chin-Hong is Associate Dean for Regional Campuses. He is a medical educator who specializes in treating infectious diseases, particularly infections that develop in patients who have suppressed immune systems, such as solid organ and hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients. He directs the immunocompromised host infectious diseases program at UCSF. He has been one of the leaders of institutional and community education around COVID-19 and Mpox.

Impressive.   And Dr. Chin-Hong is quoted several more times in this lengthy piece, providing the “pro” to the numerous cons that Lin seems to grudgingly include throughout this tome.  Take for example the next several paragraphs:

Most people have stopped wearing masks and aren’t likely to follow suggestions to return to that practice all the time again.

But swearing off masks for good — even when sitting on a plane next to someone who is coughing or sneezing — would unnecessarily put people at higher risk for illness.

“I think there’s, like, an in-between” message, Chin-Hong said. There are people who may want to avoid contracting COVID-19 “because it’s disruptive to life.”

Chin-Hong said he’s aware of people who’ve had to change big travel plans to Europe and Africa because of illness.

“Right now, when things are heating up all around the country with COVID, you might want to think about [masking at] public transit and airports,” Chin-Hong said. And even if you don’t choose to mask up, “definitely be kind to people who decide to wear masks.”

We clearly know how he feels, and far be it for me to even think that there just might be some sort of vested interest by someone with his job and someone who’s trying to sell newspapers (or what’s left of them) to devote so much time and effort to raising blood pressures enough to think we’re in for yet another deadly wave.

You need to go quite deep into this piece to see some actual statistics, which would seem to suggest that the esteemed Dr. Chin-Hong’s anecdotal evidence might just be a tad reactionary:

Coronavirus levels are ticking up, but overall rates are still quite low. Nationally, the number of new weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations has risen by roughly 12% each week over the last three weeks. But the most recent number — about 9,100 new COVID-19 hospitalizations for the week that ended July 29 — is still near a record low.

As a researcher myself, I equate all of this to the type of conflating that successfully conned potential buyers into making deals on marginal content or talent that I’ve authored for decades.  And thanks to the miracle of algorithms and the breakdown of filters from X, I got sucked into perhaps a more ironic rabbit hole where I somehow wound up in a discussion group led  by the hashtag #covidisnotover with these kind of feelings:

Turns out our new social media connection was triggered by this little note from a British group contributor, courtesy of THE GUARDIAN:

Millions of people under the age of 65 in England will be denied flu and Covid jabs this winter despite one of the government’s top public health officials warning that coronavirus has not “gone away”.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the UK government, said on Tuesday its plan for Covid was to offer jabs only to those at “high risk of serious disease” who are “most likely to benefit” from vaccination.

Kinda flies in the face of the world that our new friend Taro envisions.

Ensuing discussions suggested that there be organized protest in London and perhaps a demand for a sit-down meeting with these government officials.  Probably looking somewhat like this, I’d imagine:

I was dumb and yes, depressed enough to make the mistake of briefly attempting to engage with these fine people.  What I did learn is our shared disdain for what they mock as “baggy blues”.  And the first thing that comes up when my browser scrolls over it is this explanation:

According to a source, cloth or ordinary surgical masks cannot trap the infectious droplets from the wearer’s mouth which causes the disease to spread. This is because they are often very baggy and don’t provide a well-fitting around the mouth.

Beyond that, it appeared that anything else I offered up was triggering and deserving of insults and mocking.  And after my most recent feedback here, I honestly didn’t need any further aggravation.

Funny, in this country radicalized people want to storm government offices in the hopes of shooting someone who they think is ruining their lives.  In England, people want to do that in the hopes of BEING shot, at least with a syringe.

I did unsubscribe, but not before I was tagged on a reply from a woman who announced she was divorcing her husband because he refuses to wear a mask, and proceeded in a lengthy post to ask the world for prayers and understanding as she stood her ground.  In this particular case, the woman is an advocate for those who suffer from long COVID.   But even this woman’s work has yet to truly establish a direct  and statistically significant connection between mask-wearing and both incidence and degree of infection.  Long COVID is something we all want to avoid, and the fact I have five vaccines should be more than enough proof of how strongly I fear it.   But every single time I dared to ask the question of whether or not there is an actual controlled study that specifically shows a statistically significant differenc between masking and non-masking that does not account for vaccination rates or other co-morbidities, I got  conflated and panicked arguments and insults, occasional references to studies that did NOT control for those variables and a lot of threats to my safety.   I kinda identify with the poor schmuck now facing divorce but, much like some other situations I know a lot about, it probably wasn’t a match made in heaven.

I did leave the woman seeking consolation with this suggestion.  Subscribe to the LOS ANGELES TIMES.

As for me, I’m gonna try some other way to calm down if possible.  I’m open to suggestions.

Until next time…

 

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