Skeptic News: Peer Pressure from Dead People

NZ Skeptics Newsletter


Peer Pressure from Dead People

What day is it? Is it still 2020? Damn.

Jess Macfarlane.

What's the harm in a good conspiracy?

What’s the harm in viral conspiracy theories? This blog investigated the people who had been affected by and involved in the spread of misinformation in 2020. The piece touches on Covid-19-deniers who ended up contracting the illness, people who became internet sensations and ended up speaking to thousands about their conflicting and nonsensical notions, and the hurt of having newly estranged family members.
On the question of how to approach people who have been swept up in the conspiracy theories, psychologist Jovan Byford is quoted as saying "The point is to infuse their thinking with counter arguments so the next time they approach a conspiracy theory in a different way."

At the time of writing the F.B.I are investigating 5G paranoia as a motive for the suicide bombing in Nashville on Christmas. This writer attended an anti-5G protest in 2020, In support of 5G. 5G is a technology that will allow us to do even more on the internet, and the scientific consensus is that it is safe.

Insulting, ridiculous, disappointing & dangerous

Dr. Siouxsie Wiles wrote on twitter recently about a NZ Herald article which wondered if New Zealand’s response to the pandemic was an overreaction. While pointing out that she hadn’t read the article (it was pay-walled) she said “But if the answer isn't a resounding NO WE DIDNT then the piece is insulting, ridiculous, disappointing, & dangerous”.
This was illustrated by the Toby Morris animated graph showing the predicted numbers of Covid-19 cases with and without a lockdown. The gaping maw between the two lines in the graph became the mouth saying the words “we overreacted”. This type of reaction feels like a predictable one – where a lot of effort was put in to prevent a disaster, and no disaster occurred.
I personally hope that this type of reaction does not discourage our experts in science or healthcare from doing the important job of slowing down a deadly pandemic. I was able to see and hug my family for Christmas and I am very happy to say I have not attended anyone’s Covid-19 related funeral or (personally) know anyone who has. As a measure of success for me, those examples are palpable.
Again from the NZ Herald, if you are able to read it, this paywalled article goes through the contributions of many of the New Zealand scientists who helped make our Covid-19 response a success. Included in the list are Dr. Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris. I’m very glad New Zealand was able do what a good skeptic should do and follow the science. A big thank you to all from me.

As for the NZ Herald, posting articles that are on either side of a debate that isn't a debate, where scientific consensus is on one side and devil's advocate the other, that is a false balance i.e. anti-science propaganda.

A Grinchy point of view

In the very first verse of The Grinch, we learn that the Grinch hated Christmas, and then Dr. Seuss writes “Now please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason”.  My young self always wondered about that. Why couldn’t I ask? Was I supposed to not ask questions so I wouldn’t feel guilty about parcelling him up in my mind as the bad guy? That advice always seemed very sinister to me. I’m instinctively deeply skeptical when someone tells me not to question something.
The story goes on to explain that it’s the “noise, noise, noise, noise!” that the Grinch hates. As a child this washed over me as something all grownups must either tolerate or complain about to varying degrees, but I learned somewhere along the line about something that changed my perspective. I learned about misophonia. Misophonia isn’t a dubious Japanese soup made of doom-scrolling devices, but a condition where certain sounds or repetitive noises trigger an unusually strong emotional response in people, responses ranging from annoyance to panic to anger. A workmate of mine suffers from this condition.
For the purposes of a jolly Christmas tale of someone learning the value of Christmas, I suppose it helps the story to just have a bad guy and leave it at that. However, looking at the tale again and imagining the Grinch as a rounded person with a particular condition that makes him respond intensely with panic or anger to banging buzzing or beeping toys, it makes me wonder if the Whos down in Whoville might have grown their own hearts several sizes by stepping up and trying to actually ask him why he hated Christmas so much.
Alternatively, perhaps it's best to acknowledge that Christmas (not to mention other traditions) can put a lot of pressure on some people, and it can be cathartic to be a Christmas hater sometimes. If I were the Grinch bothered by Christmas noise even from inside my own home, wouldn’t it be nice to be offered a safe space where I could relax in peace and quiet without being accused of being a hater and being made to feel I’m not doing my duty by participating? There I fixed it. Now let’s all raise our be-baubled glasses and remember that most tradition is totally pointless peer pressure from dead people. Cheers!

Ex-chef's face off Facebook

In other news, Australian ex-celebrity chef Pete Evans has finally been kicked off Facebook for spreading conspiracy theories about Covid-19. He had previously been fined $25,000 for trying to sell a ‘Bio Charger’ device as a fake coronavirus cure via a livestream on the platform.
Back in April he was in the news for passing on and making up stories on Instagram. The stories were a reaction to New Zealand’s lockdown, which resulted in us all being able to spend the holiday season with family and friends, unlike many countries where social distancing is still in place and for some now dealing with new Covid-19 variants, getting stricter.
One idea Mr. Evans was very vocal about was that kiwis had better wake up because after lockdown, we were all about to be put under martial law as part of the Prime Minister’s plot to control us.
Well, that’s it from me. It’s nearly time for my once a month allotted 5-minute outdoor time in our #NZhellhole and I don’t want to be late and get on the bad side of our benevolent dictator. Tootles!
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