You Have Been Deceived

You have been deceived.

There’s no shame in that. You might even take it as an indirect compliment.

Fake psychics love to have scientists “test” their powers because scientists are easy to fool. Scientists work with observable facts, so they assume that they’re good at detecting fraud. They’re not good at it. They’re terrible at it.

Likewise, propagandists love honest people because they’re easy to fool. Honest people usually tell the truth and think everyone should tell the truth. So they don’t think in terms of trickery. A little misdirection here, a little exaggeration there, a couple of outright lies, and many honest people simply believe what they’re told: Iraqi WMDs, “hands up, don’t shoot,” Russian collusion, and now The Deadliest Plague Ever (Covid-19).

Kekst CNC, a market research firm, did opinion polls in six countries (UK, US, Sweden, Germany, France, and Japan) from July 10-15. In each country, the poll got answers from 1,000 adults who were supposedly representative. The results are plausible but I have not verified them personally. They are consistent with my own observations. Results for one of the questions are shown at the top of this blog post.

In every country, poll respondents wildly over-estimated how many people had Covid-19 and how many people had died from it. In the United States, the average of respondents’ answers was that nine percent of the population had died from Covid-19. That’s 30 million deaths, or one-hundred seventy-nine times the official August 2020 total of 167,000.

That’s what you get from 24/7 fear-bombing by the media and politicians using Covid-19 for partisan advantage. But if you pay attention, you can detect some of the deceptions.

A particularly egregious example came from the Kansas State Department of Health. This graph supposedly shows that wearing masks helps prevent transmission of Covid-19:

Sorry if the image is a little unclear. The original photo of the chart is “for sale,” which implies that it is copyrighted. On the site of The Topeka Capital-Journal, you can see the actual chart from the news conference here. From the chart, you would think that mask-wearing helped a lot to slow transmission of Covid-19.

But look closely: The “mask” line is plotted against the left-side axis, while the “no mask” line is plotted against the right-side axis. The left-side axis goes from zero to 25, while the right-side axis goes from zero to 14. If you plot the lines against the same axis, you get this:

Masks might help prevent the spread of Covid-19, but the chart doesn’t show it, and is clearly deceptive. Non-mask counties had fewer cases per 100,000 people than mask counties. Nobody could make that “mistake” by accident.

Don’t panic. Stop and think. Read carefully. Follow links and footnotes to see if they really say what the text suggests that they say. If you see words like “might” or “model,” beware: what you’re reading isn’t established fact, it’s spin or speculation.

You can’t go through life never trusting anyone. As a result, sometimes you’ll be deceived. But you can often avoid it. As a former president advised, “trust, but verify.”

About N.S. Palmer

N.S. Palmer is an American mathematician.
This entry was posted in Life, Political Science, Psychology, Science, Society and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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