The broad points here are entirely correct but I think you are wrong about some of the specifics about health professionals and COVID.

With the early messaging about masks being ineffective (which they knew was a lie but thought was a noble lie to preserve masks for hospital), messaging about how even fully vaccinated people need to act as if they arent vaccinated, or boosters being unnecessary (another noble lie to force the USA to export more vaccines to foreign countries) the health organizations in this country have shown quite a willingness to prioritize messaging they think will manipulate behavior. I think our health organizations needed more scientific messaging with less concern for how their messaging will impact behavior. Let someone else figure that out, the scientists need to prioritize accurate scientific information.

This emphasis on messaging intended to take into account how the public will react to the message has made things worse not better.

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Dec 20, 2021·edited Dec 21, 2021

Terry Pratchett said it best. Nobody considers themselves the villain of their own story.

Or to put it another way; Everybody is in the Rebel Alliance.

Depending where you fall on the scale of power and self-determination, even the most selfish asshole in existence will spin some sort of narrative that paints himself in the right as either the downtrodden victim of a selfish uncaring society (therefore, anybody I hurt probably deserved it and the ends justify the means) or the lone wolf rebel/sheriff/self-made man and the only person capable of seeing clearly above the stupid/lazy/greedy crowd (therefore, anybody I hurt probably deserved it and the ends justify the means.)

Most people fall somewhere between the two polar extremes, where there's always some group of evil conspirators or an amorphous cloud of stupid greedy assholes out there trying to strip us of our dignity, power, and personal freedom, but whenever we do manage to gain a little control in the game (even if it's just putting a sassy bumper sticker on our car or posting a rant on facebook), any loss of dignity, power, or freedom that the other guys may experience as a result is fully justifiable and only causing them pain because they were jerks who were in the wrong to begin with.

Where this sort of thinking really breaks down and rises into bat-shit extremism in when there is incredibly overwhelming easily obtained information that your POV is not just wrong but *dangerously* wrong, and you have to really stretch the plausibility of your counter-narrative to explain why you're the good guy and these other people with their fancy "science" aren't merely incorrect... but EVIL.

Which is why we're now in a situation where an incredibly large section of the population legitimately believes that there's a satanic cabal of blood-drinking pedophiles Democrats ruling the world who eat fetuses to stay young, operate artificial weather machines and hire crisis actors to manufacture disasters and school shootings, and have paid off all the doctors and scientists as part of an elaborate conspiracy to seize our guns and personal freedom, force everybody to be gay, and make that bastion of pussy-grabbing human decency Donald Trump "look bad."

And while it seems like that should have absolutely nothing to do with whether it's basic common sense to fucking put on a mask to protect yourself from a terrible airborne illness that's pretty demonstratively all around you and already killed a shit-ton of people, these folks have been indoctrinated to believe "everything a Liberal says or does is wrong/immoral" and are constantly reassured of this position every day by Fox News, their local megachurch, and surrounding social group, to the point where agreeing with a Democrat about *anything* is akin to walking up to Hitler and giving him a big high-five.

If a satanic baby-eating Dracula wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth and came up to you sinisterly hissing "Here, take this scarf and pair of mittens, it's cold outside and I don't want you to catch a chill. Mwahahahaha!" you'd definitely think twice about accepting the gift, even though you're shivering, it's the middle of winter and you can see snow falling from the sky. Because why would this clearly evil and immoral monster offer me something and tell me it's going to help me, if it wasn't a lure or trap of some kind? It must be some sort of evil social control experiment! Ha! I see through your clever ploy!

Get thee behind me Satan with your warm and fuzzy mittens of temptation!!! I care not that they bear image of adorable hedgehogs or small dogs in funny hats! I know that were I to accept such an offering, my very soul would be subject to eternal damnation! I must post to the YouTube and 4chan immediately to spread the word to others and warn them of this evil scheme to subvert human dignity by forcing them to become reliant upon the devil's fleecy outerwear!!!

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There's a lot of sense here, but I don't agree with this "human behaviour is what it is" line. It assumes that human nature is immutable AND universal. When this article talks about "human behaviour" it really means "American behaviour" - other countries around the world had populations who were much more willing to accept restrictions and follow mandates for the greater good and have had a much less harmful experience of Covid as a result. And you don't need to look back very far in history at all to see how some attitudes and behaviours have changed quite drastically in a fairly short amount of time.

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Dec 20, 2021·edited Dec 20, 2021

Jason great article though I am skeptical of your assertion that you live in an air tight left wing bubble. I have noticed you regularly assert this but you obviously consume a greater diversity of media and opinions than that. Not sure why you feel the need to preface so many of your opinions with this.

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I broadly agree. And tax carbon and increase the cost in real terms over time. You'll truly set the world on the path to innovation and fixing the climate crisis that way.

But also there are ways to change american attitudes and equally there are also negative externalities beyond simple carbon emissions if we want a better quality of life.

I'm very pro-make people's lives radically better in low carbon, non destructive ways.

The problem with a big chunk of this article is that you imagine certain changes like switching to bikes/ebikes/public transport and general new urbanism related things are downgrades. They really really aren't. It's just most people have never lived somewhere with great public transport infrastructure or where it's safe and convenient to cycle.

When you've experienced not having to own a car, or even if you own one when you don't have to use it because cycling and public transport is just a better option then you realise just how much of a downgrade a car is.

I have a car, since moving I barely ever use it to do anything other than go on the 80 mile round trip to my dad's in the middle of nowhere. I'm tempted to get rid of it and join a car club. That's because getting on the bike or ebike (they have a thing called coats in the rain) is so much better. It's practical, convenient, faster within the city. I even have a little trailer come cart for it when I want to do a big shop etc. Coats exist for rainy days etc. And the real secret is cycling to get around is fun and pleasant in a way driving 99% of the time simply isn't.

There is a reason why it's perceived (although not really backed up by the reality for obvious reasons) that cyclists are all wealthy middle class types and cycle lanes are signifiers of gentrification and so on (again not really true).

But those people exist. These are people who aren't cycling for ideological reasons, they are wealthy people who could drive, but have improved their quality of life by not driving.

Also the literal deadly negative externalities of cars are so significant that you really do need to curb them. SUV/trucks need fundamental regulation and redesign to focus on pedestrian safety. They've wiped out all gains in the past 30 years from improving the built environment. They've killed thousands and maimed hundreds of thousands more than would have died if cars had stayed the same size as they were in the 90s.

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You aren't going to make 100x more eficient and clean energy sources without funding and you're not gonna get them installed with oil companies getting in the way. One of the biggest instruments of social change has been literal old age death of those in power. Maybe we can't wait for old age this time.

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Dec 20, 2021·edited Dec 20, 2021

The one thing I try to pass along to my kids is to be careful of people who trade in absolutes. Humans like certainties (they're very addictive!) and hate uncertainties. However, if you've lived long enough, you know absolutes and certainties exist only in pronouncement and very rarely in reality.

Journalism most certainly trades in absolutes, depending on the political slant of the media outlet. It takes a lot of work to understand both sides of a disagreement. (I don't believe there are any large 'news' operations that aren't tainted with biases. There never has been, probably never will be). Most people don't want to do the work. And for one reason: most people are in 'survival mode'. This doesn't allow for nuance.

Relying on self-professed 'trusted sources' is what most people fall back on. I believe this is called the Tyranny of The Expert. No matter where you sit (left, center or right), guaranteed, YOUR trusted experts are saying not to trust THOSE experts. We really need to stop and ask 'why?'

I've found that most people agree on subjects that might be controversial, but differ on methods of correction because those methods are usually painful for all parties involved, and people like to avoid pain.

As for your hypothetical at the top of the essay, I'd say that, yes, accountability is important, as is reconciliation and forgiveness. Please note that none of these words are synonyms for punishment or retribution. So even cured of their "criminality" they still should be held accountable. For some people the other two can happen concurrently, but for many, accountability has to come first. Every situation is unique. As is every person.

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Jason, I think article was well written. I am concerned that this has to be written for adults who see the world as black and white. I would encourage people to try and understand why people have an opposing view instead of just writing someone off as evil. If you understand what is behind the behavior you find “evil” you may find you understand them better and can address their concerns instead of just attacking them. It is also possible you may find some common ground or it could even (gasp!) affect your own views. Many times demonizing others just causes them to dig in their heels and can make things worse.

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This relies too much on viscous abstraction.

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Dec 25, 2021·edited Dec 25, 2021

> If you found out a loved one was falling down a rabbit hole of racist propaganda and Great Replacement conspiracy videos, how would you dissuade them?

The problem with debunking "great replacement" is that it is practically the same idea as "emerging democratic minority" only with connotations reversed. Dunno if it is true or false -- Ruy Teixeira, a guy who invented "emerging democratic minority" has since abandoned the idea -- but before you go to "debunk" "conspiracy theories," please make sure you don't believe in something similar yourself.

Also, here's what Ruy Teixeira is saying now (his points about "technopesimism" are really compatible with what you wrote):



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Excellent work. I'm a nurse with a minor in psych. You pretty much nailed it on every level...which is scary. It's a good thing you are a "fiction writer", otherwise the MIB would make you disappear. FYI: I felt the same way about Jon Stewart when he was on the air. He bitch-smacked politicians and Fox/Faux News so hard with the facts that I thought he was going to get assassinated or maybe just killed by some right-winger. After a while, I realized that he probably got away with it because it was on Comedy Central and wasn't "real news".

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Jason, might I suggest no longer using numbered lists in your posts? I understand driving internet traffic was probably the reason for that method in the Cracked days but I don't think it is necessary anymore.

Or you could completely ignore me since you know far more about writing for an audience on the internet. I will continue reading regardless, albeit while silently seething.

Keep up the good work!

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This shit was fire!

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Jason, could be a long shot but I came across your old 6 harsh truths column (https://www.cracked.com/blog/6-harsh-truths-that-will-make-you-better-person) and there is a part in the article where you have "Here's another video (NSFW)" but the link appears to be broken.

Just curious what that clip was if you remember. Thanks!

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Great great great article. Down with ideology. Thank you for the warmth.

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Can't agree with this one, Jason. Let's say such a pill did exist. You know what that would be? A get out of jail free card. A rapist would very much go on doing what he enjoys most, i.e., ravaging people's lifes and, if he never get caught, so much for the better. If he did get caught, well, a single pill and that's it. And in my country, very recently we had a high profile banker convicted of major fraud and illegaly getting millions into his accounts. What would happen then? Take the pill and continue living with all of the money? And if he never get caught?

And let's say nothing about a mind-rewiring drug held by the government. Can't imagine that one being used wrongly, oh no.

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