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Pushing back against irrationality… September 23, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

I liked this from Willie O’Reilly in the SBP at the weekend. Discussing the absurd non-controversy of the Jennifer Zamparelli so-called ‘debate’ on face-mask wearing that never took place in the end he writes:

It nicely summed up the problem for the news media in this Covid-19 era. Balanced discussion as previously practised is difficult. If we collectively believe in a united response to fight the virus, then it doesn’t do to continually highlight the doubters, the conspiracy theorists and the disbelievers.
The sense is that our health officials have a difficult enough time carrying out their responsibilities without the media querying their every utterance and continuously highlighting those in disagreement. Especially as today’s social media amplifies those in opposition as never before.


It’s a tricky time for media. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant for stupid views,” argued one respected journalist, presumably feeling that the discussion should go ahead.
In general, I wholeheartedly agree, except when I don’t. It’s not Kansas anymore and we are operating in a time of virtual warfare with an enemy within and where we need to lead rather than engage in repetitious discussion.

I agree with that line ‘In general, I wholeheartedly agree, except when I don’t.’

It’s like no-platforming fascists. In principle I am all for freedom of speech. But in practice there are obvious exceptions, and more to the point no general rule that in any society one has to listen or worse enable opinion that is toxic. To bring it closer to home, for years on this site there was agonising over permitting certain people to access the site in what was a trolling fashion. Freedom of speech considerations allowed for far too light a touch – until I and others involved realised that we had no particular reason to treat this as other than a semi-private space and if people didn’t accord to the guidelines on the site for speech that was their problem in precisely the same way as if someone (and this has happened to me) sat in the sitting room spouting anti-vax nonsense. They were bid to the door and never invited to return.

In a medical emergency, such as a pandemic, the idea that something as innocuous and potentially important as mask-wearing is the subject of discussion is an absurdity. And O’Reilly makes a good point in the following:

The public to a large degree has put its faith in the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), not because they believe that they are right about everything, but because Nphet offers the best and only coherent pathway to the other side.

That is one key consideration. All those voices, so loud in newspaper columns and comments (and some individual politicians), offering scathing criticism of NPHET, have one major problem. None of them will have to shoulder the burden of actually engaging directly with the pandemic at a policy level. It’s all abstract and hypothetical. They have the luxury of saying everything and anything. And unfortunately some of that rhetoric they offer has an effect in terms of weakening the ability of those best placed to offer advice. As with, perfect example, the manner in which the government resiled from a higher level of restrictions in Dublin this last week, despite that being the best possible approach given the severity of what is happening.


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