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Cognitive dissonance on the crisis…. April 8, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Read this over the weekend:

A second senior UK government adviser, the chief pandemic modeller Graham Medley, told The Times newspaper he feared Britain had painted itself in a corner with no clear exit from a strategy that will damage the economic and mental well-being of much of the population.

And there’s bits and pieces online where you can build up a better sense of his thesis. What I find odd is the idea that this ‘will damage the economic and mental well-being of much the population’. Note that economic is placed ahead of mental.

But what I find particularly jarring is when one looks at the headline for the piece on RTÉ that references it (by the way this is not a dig at RTÉ, it’s simply reporting the statements). There were 708 deaths reported on Saturday. What about the impact of that on the mental well-being? That’s a truly scarifying figure and it is one that is likely to be repeated, or worse, daily for some time. Or the situation in relation to the Prime Minister. And it’s this weird detachment that is particularly evident in the UK (but also elsewhere admittedly amongst some) in the face of such numbers. And although figures for ‘ordinary’ flu fluctuate, already in the space of a very very few days, relatively speaking, these figures for the virus are, should they be sustained, very high indeed (and keep in mind ‘ordinary’ flu is across a year as distinct from this ‘surge’).

Take the reality described here:

According to the WHO, current evidence on the new coronavirus suggests 15% of all illnesses are severe infections, requiring oxygen, and 5% are critical infections requiring ventilation. These levels are “higher than what is observed for influenza infection”.

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1. 6to5against - April 8, 2020

I was listening to 6Music this am and picked u a few BBC news stories. I found the tone confusing, with a few references to when the shutdown might end. They were reporting comments that said its too soon, but it still felt like this was being put on the table now.

Couple that with much reporting yesterday of the UCL study that said school closures were having little effect – until you read the story in detail and see that they were actually comparing closed schools to schools that were open but observing social distancing! I ran the figures with a few colleagues yesterday and if we were to observe social distancing in our rooms, we would be able to accommodate an average of maybe 4 or 5 students at a time. Farcical. And that’s before you get to the bit about no play areas, and keeping the same groups together throughout the day…

The overall effect of the coverage seems to be that the UK is being prepared up for a quick re-opening. But how can you square that with deaths of 700 in a single day?

I’m not dismissing the costs of the shutdown, but its hard not to see it as either cognitive dissonance, or deluded self interest of the business world?

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6to5against - April 8, 2020

Though it can be hard to judge the overall tone of media from outside a country.

I’d be interested in hearing form some of the UK residents.

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WorldbyStorm - April 8, 2020

I’ve been listening to some of the same programmes. Did you have the sense I did that unlike here there’s much less of a sense of collective effort or even and this I find particularly odd, a sense of how serious it all is?

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6to5against - April 8, 2020

That’s the feeling I get from the media. But I wonder how much of that is media-management by the government and how much is real?

But speaking of UK institutions, BBC 6Music is making things much easier for me. Not enough daytime music is one of the things I normally dislike about my working day. Really enjoying the extended Lauren Laverne show in the morning.

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2. sonofstan - April 8, 2020

It’s impossible under the current circumstances to do a like for like comparison: normally, I’d spend at least some time each month back in Dublin, but I haven’t been there since the first day of the Irish lockdown. Perhaps in self-defence, but I’m a little impatient with much of what I’m reading in the Irish MSM that seems to be a little self-regarding concerning the Irish response as compared to here. Obviously there have been mistakes, and confusion at the top, but focussing on the higher mortality rate as if that, in itself, tells the whole story needs to be nuanced. A few obvious facts: Britain is a much more crowded Island than Ireland and has maybe half a dozen metropolitian areas that are bigger than the only really sizeable city in Ireland. So infection spreads sooner and wider. Secondly, it’s a much older population here: 30+% of pension age versus <20% in Ireland.

The rate of infection and mortality varies widely: London and the West Midlands hit very hard, but Yorks and the Humber, with about the population of Ireland has about the same rates as there.

I would also dispute the 'less of a sense of collective effort': it's a much bigger ship to turn around, and there will be outliers in terms of behaviour, but from what I can see, by necessity confined to one city, there is a great deal of solidarity, observance of social distancing and general will to get through this. But being Yorkshire, people are somewhat taciturn about it….

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Joe - April 8, 2020

Excellent SoS. Fair play.

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6to5against - April 8, 2020

There’s definitely been a little too much of that self-regard going on in the Irish media, and it irks more than a little.

Its interesting what you’re telling us of life in Yorkshire right now. It matches my experience here. Can you see, though, why we may not be getting that impression from UK media – whatever about what we see in the Irish media?

But I learned during the Brexit era that its really hard In IRL to separate out within your own consciousness – or mine anyway – what you’re hearing from UK or increasingly US sources as opposed to Irish sources.

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WorldbyStorm - April 8, 2020

Re the less of a sense of collective effort – just to be clear that was v specifically about coverage on bbc radio I’ve been listening, not any broader societal response to the crisis, which former seems to be much less well exercised about it than equivalent programming here in the ROI. Purely a subjective impression and from shows some days back but curious is that a real phenomenon.

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Ned Corcaigh - April 8, 2020

Good point by SoS. As regards the ‘collective effort’ stuff I’ve just been to the local shop in West Cork where a guy at the till told me the place has been mobbed with people, largely from Dublin or Cork city, who’ve come down to their holiday homes.
Most people here have been absolutely scrupulous about the regulations to the extent of people who live 3k from the sea not going there.
So there is a general astonishment at the attitude of entitled yuppie yachtie deck shoe wearing pricks getting in their cars and driving across country where they and their spawn will presumably spend the weekend mingling with the populace.
“They must think this is a poor man’s disease,” said your man who has to look at people considerably better off than him flouting their belief that the law is for little people.
There is, I would suggest, a class aspect to this as most of those involved would I suspect be fans of the kind of rugged neo-liberal individualism which enables some people to buy holiday piles by the sea while others have a problem paying the rent.
I also suspect that as our betters have decided that the restrictions don’t apply to them, we will soon see some bold articles wondering if these restrictions are really, really necessary.
It is a slap in the face not only to people down here but to people in Dublin living in considerably smaller and more crowded accommodation than the second home owners.
So there’s no point in portraying this as some kind of Blitz style moment of national togetherness. After all, the Blitz wasn’t like that either.
The discreet charm of the bourgeoisie strikes again. Or five hundred go down to the sea.

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Ned Corcaigh - April 8, 2020

There also seems to be a definite decision by what remains of Ireland’s extreme right to claim that these restrictions are hardly needed at all. It’s not long since the same stooges were welcoming Boris Johnson’s sturdy common sense approach to the pandemic.
I’m a Garda sceptic in most cases myself but not this one.

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sonofstan - April 8, 2020

“Or five hundred go down to the sea”

🙂

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Ned Corcaigh - April 8, 2020

Hopefully they won’t be singing ‘What Happened Your Lungs.’

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makedoanmend - April 8, 2020

Garda powers to set up road blocks during the Easter weekend have been enacted. The govt. had already anticipated this eventuality – maybe because they know how certain sections of society feel a bit more priviledged than others.

Those who are flouting the restrictions in Ireland because they think they can, can think again.

https://www.rte.ie/news/coronavirus/2020/0408/1129218-coronavirus-legislation/

“He (Garda Commissioner) also said that if people are currently staying in their holiday homes that is now considered their place of residence, they should not leave during the current restrictions. He said people should not be travelling to holiday homes…

Penalties for non-compliance include fines of up to €2,500 and up to six months in prison.”

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Ned Corcaigh - April 8, 2020

I know that. And there’s a certain schadenfreude in seeing these hoors being stopped like Yorkshire miners on their way to a picket line. I suspect the phrase ‘I pay your wages’ will ring out all over the land.
However that’s kind of beside the point. I’m not blaming the politicians or the guards for this. Lots of this gang are in situ already. The really shameful thing is that these new powers have had to be granted to the cops (never something you like to see in normal circumstances.)
I don’t even think this is going to lead to a wave of C19 in West Cork. It’s the downright unfairness of it which annoys me. I remember not long ago people on CLR earnestly discussing how proper exercise might be carried out within a 2K radius of their homes in Dublin. I’ve had that discussion myself down here.
So to see a class of people (and those with holiday homes are a pretty distinguishable class) exempting themselves like this gets my goat. I don’t think we’ll see many fines or prison terms. I suppose Sinn Fein’s victory at the next election will have to serve as punishment enough for them.
This kind of stuff is rife in England too according to the New Statesman. But at least there apparently most of the culprits are sneaking in under cover of darkness.

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WorldbyStorm - April 8, 2020

“because they know how certain sections of society feel a bit more priviledged than others.”

And

“to see a class of people (and those with holiday homes are a pretty distinguishable class) exempting themselves like this gets my goat.”

+1

Clearly they believe they’re immune to the virus or any societal implications in terms of countering it.

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WorldbyStorm - April 8, 2020

BTW, I like this from you NC…

“I suppose Sinn Fein’s victory at the next election will have to serve as punishment enough for them.”

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sonofstan - April 8, 2020

There was a piece in the Guardian about a writer who left Paris to go to her second home and thought it wise to hide her car with Paris plates in the garage and use her other motor. And then tell readers of Le Figaro all about it in her column.

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makedoanmend - April 8, 2020

I can assure you, as I work in a holiday spot, that they are doing the same in the clear light of day in the UK.

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WorldbyStorm - April 8, 2020

Class structures always manifest. Always. 😦

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makedoanmend - April 8, 2020

Oh and I was basically having a sly dig at our FFG:

“The govt. had already anticipated this eventuality – maybe because they know how certain sections of society feel a bit more priviledged than others.”

FG especially knows how a subsection of their electorate think and act since FG, more or less, have actively encouraged such attitudes for decades.

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CL - April 8, 2020

“It’s all-out class warfare in the Hamptons.”
https://nypost.com/2020/03/19/we-should-blow-up-the-bridges-coronavirus-leads-to-class-warfare-in-hamptons/

” New data released by New York on Wednesday showed the coronavirus pandemic is impacting African Americans and Hispanics harder than others – a trend that was noted nationally by the White House coronavirus task force….

“NYC Deaths
Hispanic: 34% of deaths (29% of population)
Black: 28% of deaths (22% of population)
White: 27% of deaths (32% of population)
Asian: 7% of deaths (14% of population)”
https://abc7ny.com/health/african-americans-hit-harder-by-covid-19-data-shows/6086065/

If these figures were adjusted for income level it might be that class rather than ethnicity might account for at least some of the disparity.

In cities other than NY the disparities are even greater.
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/04/07/who-dying-coronavirus-more-black-people-die-major-cities/2961323001/

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3. makedoanmend - April 8, 2020

People view things through different prisms within and without their own culture. They have different historical pasts and perspectives that influence these views, for example.

Too often in the past it was assumed that the Irish media would routinely mirror the UK MSM in both story line and emphasis, and to a very large extent it still does. However, there have been several divergences over the decades as Ireland has more deeply integrated into both in the EU and to some extent the global economy. Post Brexit, it seems there is a slow and growing divergence, and this pandemic is certainly a case in point because there is a real divergence between the USA response, on the one hand, and various responses on mainland Europe with regard to dealing with society during a time of pandemic.

The UK seems to be steering a position somewhere half-way between that of, say, Germany and the USA; which is their right to do. But we are still impacted on this island. I believe that RTE reported that the first testing site in the six counties was only created this week! So I would fully expect our MSM to report on the divergence.

Yet, I would say that the Irish media still does a piss poor job of reporting on a broader range of stories in the EU and beyond with far too much emphasis on the UK; though the unfolding plights of Italy and Spain have been prominent during this pandemic. There’s also been some good reporting about China.

In this particular reference to the senior UK advisor, his tone certainly diverges from that of Irish health advisors and of those from quite a few other European nations. Yet, no doubt most nations share that advisor’s economic emphasis. After all, most are just as rabidly capitalist as the other.

On the whole the Irish media hasn’t been overly harsh of other countries. With respect to the UK, the Irish Republic’s response was better informed and more timely, while what occurred in the six counties was bordering on the abysmal. I really don’t see why this being reported is somehow over indulgent.

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sonofstan - April 8, 2020

” the Irish Republic’s response was better informed and more timely”
It was, but I stick to my point that a smaller country is a lot easier to mobilise than a larger one.

“Re the less of a sense of collective effort – just to be clear that was v specifically about coverage on bbc radio I’ve been listening, not any broader societal response to the crisis, which former seems to be much less well exercised about it than equivalent programming here in the ROI. Purely a subjective impression and from shows some days back but curious is that a real phenomenon”

Yes,maybe: I’ve been listening to 6 Music a lot more recently too, and maybe less of an emphasis there, but there has been stuff of Radio 4 and 5 that has been forensic about what’s going on at the NHS frontline.

On a more general point, it’s been interesting how the federal system is being held up as one of the strengths of the German response: I wonder if there is a lesson for NHS England and for England more generally here in terms of governance?

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WorldbyStorm - April 8, 2020

Definitely – which dovetails with your point about smaller states – that said the libertarian inflection to the Tories clearly had an impact in delaying responses – not least given other large states did get ahead of the curve after Italy unlike the UK

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sonofstan - April 8, 2020

Yeah. I’m suffering a little bit of cognitive dissonance myself at the minute: obviously, I hate this government and all who sail in her – though at least they’ve hidden Priti Patel for the duration, it seems – but given that they are the government, I want them to manage this in the best possible way, even if, ultimately, they make political capital out of it. The consequences of a complete fuck up are too horrifying.

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Ned Corcaigh - April 8, 2020

Ditto here. I’m hoping everything I think about the competence of Leo and the other sons of Brian Hayes is wrong.

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Gearóid Clár - April 8, 2020

I take your point on Yorkshire and up north in general. My frame of reference right now is London (where I live) and a west Ireland town (where all the family are).

The attitudes I see over here are destroying me. With a bigger population in London than Ireland as a whole, the arseholes per capita is going to be higher here, I get that. But it seems excessive. We live near a park with a pull-up bar. On our walk yesterday, there were 16 guys hanging out around it taking turns on it and none of them wearing gloves. The UK reddit forums seems infused with this weirdly fatalistic “if we go down, we go down in a spitfire and damn the WHOMerkel” attitude to the whole thing.

I compare this to the precautions around town back home – via the family whatsapp group – and the general “in it together”ness of r/ireland right now. I dunno.

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4. CL - April 8, 2020

“For many days after the first positive test, as the coronavirus silently spread throughout the New York region, Mr. Cuomo, Mr. de Blasio and their top aides projected an unswerving confidence that the outbreak would be readily contained…..
“Excuse our arrogance as New Yorkers — I speak for the mayor also on this one — we think we have the best health care system on the planet right here in New York,” Mr. Cuomo said on March 2. “So, when you’re saying, what happened in other countries versus what happened here, we don’t even think it’s going to be as bad as it was in other countries.”…
Dr. Frieden said that if the state and city had adopted widespread social-distancing measures a week or two earlier, including closing schools, stores and restaurants, then the estimated death toll from the outbreak might have been reduced by 50 to 80 percent.
But New York mandated those measures after localities in states including California and Washington had done so…..
Officials seemed to speak and act based on the assumption that the virus had not arrived in the state until that first case — the woman traveling from Iran. State and local officials now acknowledge that the virus was almost certainly in New York much earlier…..
New York City, at the start of the outbreak, relied on 50 disease detectives to trace the rapidly rising cases of unconnected infected people, city officials said.
By comparison, in Wuhan, China, where the pandemic began, more than 9,000 such workers were deployed. New York City added to its original 50 only after the outbreak began to accelerate.,,,,
“This is an enemy that we have underestimated from Day 1,” Mr. Cuomo said on Monday. “And we have paid the price dearly.”

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CL - April 8, 2020

NYT.

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5. roddy - April 8, 2020

I have always maintained Ireland north and south would be less badly hit as it is not as urbanized as England.By the way ,what does coognative dissonance mean.I never heard of it in my life up until a few months ago and now everybody’s talking about it!

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Ned Corcaigh - April 8, 2020

It’s, I think, holding two or more conflicting ideas in your mind at the same time.
Like, for example, thinking that (A) Sinn Fein must embrace democratic politics and (B) That they’re unfit to be in government no matter how many votes they get.

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Dermot M O Connor - April 8, 2020

Ned’s SF example is great.

Or: “America is the land of the Free and if you don’t like it you can fuck off to North Korea you commie socialist”.

Or: “Millenials are a bunch of feeble spineless cowards who need a safe room and a comfort blanket, but they are also the greatest threat to western civilisation since Genghis Khan”.

Cog-dissonance sufferers have to perform spectacular acts of mental gymnastics to maintain the two contradictions simultaneously. Freudian censorship (not seeing what exists) and projection (mapping qualities onto the observed that it doesn’t have).

Another: people who think that things have never been better (e.g., Stephen Pinker) and who therefore have to edit out (censor) all incoming data that contradicts that Belief System (BS).

Absolutely exhausting to have it I imagine. As an illumined being of Pure Perfection I of course would not know.

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CL - April 8, 2020

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up

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Dermot M O Connor - April 9, 2020

CL, true. The trick is being conscious of it and not arbitrarily flipping from one idea to the other as it suits.
When a person isn’t conscious of the conflicts their brain switches between, that’s when they problems arise.

It’s like a person who says “I don’t have a philosophy” or “I’m not political”. They DO have a philosophy and are political view, they’re just unexamined….hence the problems – incoherence etc.

I think american liberals – if not liberals in general – are going slowly bonkers for similar reasons. In Mary Midgley’s words, their philosophy (classical liberalism) “pretends to be universal when it is not”. But their worldview demands that they accept that it is universal, that it can deliver a ‘republic of heaven’, when not only can it not, but that goal gets more remote daily. The amount of mental gyrations that they must go through to make themselves believe that they are on the right path are spectacular (wait and see them risk another bout of Covid to vote for a racist warmongering bigot in November!)

Ouch.

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6. roddy - April 8, 2020

Would I be guilty of it if for example I said I despise all Tory politicians and their offspring but find Nigella Lawson quite “fetching”!

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sonofstan - April 8, 2020

Yes. You’ve got it, by Jove!

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7. Joe - April 8, 2020

Fook you Roddy, you have me laughing out loud again. I’m not supposed to like the likes of you. But listen, I suspect you might be suffering from more than cognitive dissonance if Mrs Roddy heard you talking about Nigella like that.

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8. roddy - April 8, 2020

Mrs Roddy tends to laugh too but at me instead of with me!

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oliverbohs - April 8, 2020

Hey it’ll do

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9. Dr. Nightdub - April 9, 2020

The brother lives in SE England, lost his high-paid job before Xmas and got a job packing shelves at night in Tesco to keep some money coming in. He’s described constant rows with management over lack of social distancing and that’s at 4am when there’s not even any customers in the shop.

Can’t help thinking the disregard for the seriousness of this, at least as portrayed in UK media, is less about some kind of spirit-of-the-Blitz nonsense and more just another out-working of the whole derision of facts and experts that the UK was subjected to during and after the Brexit referendum. Chickens coming home to roost…

However, the gap between Irish and UK fatalities should (in a rational world) be a huge wake-up call to them. We had 25 deaths here today. The UK population is 15 times larger than ours, so they should’ve had 375 or so. They had 938. If “Even the bloody Irish are showing us up here” isn’t enough to shame and galvanise them into getting their act together, you’d have to wonder will anything?

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