Two things happened this week at Ye Olde Blogge: First, we got TROLLED by a genuine MAGA troll who spouted real live MAGA things in the comments. It was kinda crazy and made me glad I didn’t live in the same country as him. And, second, I had real live thoughts about the troll and his beliefs. And, I got excited because I wanted to tell all y’all what I thought about the cognitive tendencies that caused the troll’s warped beliefs! And third, after I wrote the post, I realized it was a bajillion words long, which is TL;DR, so I had to split it in TWO: one is explains the cognitive errors that MAGA Nation is making and the other is the super interesting and fun story of being TROLLED by a real live MAGA troll.
I rarely ever get trolled on the blog or on my social media accounts. It’s really a bummer. Everyday, I see people complaining on social media about how James Wood or Kristie Alley has blocked them. No body ever blocks me! Or when I’m at the WordPress watercooler, all the other bloggers are kvetching about all the trolly comments popping up on their blogs, and all I can say is some guy a couple of years ago commented, You people are all a bunch of deranged idiots! All the cool bloggers just look at me with pity in their eyes.
That all changed two weeks ago, when someone wrote an innocuous comment on a year-old post about the reasons for Trump’s lack empathy for those sick and dying of #COVID19. Maybe you remember that post? The entire comment rivaled my favorite chapter in all of literature, My mother is a fish, from Willy Faulkner‘s incomparable, As I Lay Dying, for it’s layered complexity beneath its disarming simplicity. Mosckerr simply wrote, Dude Trump aint a Doctor. Duh. Well, no shit. No one ever said Trump was a doctor, so what the fuck did he mean, I politely enquired.
He answered with a long derpy screed. Long story, short, I answered with a polite statement saying that I wouldn’t publish disinformation and offered six “facts” contradicting some of his points. That set off a commenting storm that you’ll have to read on the story post.
Days later I found myself trying to refute every argument he made in my head. That’s the fascinating part and the part that got me to thinking about why the anti-maskers are so wrong… so stupid. What cognitive errors lead to such obviously dumb-ass conclusions? Luckily, there is an explanation. Let’s use one of his most ridiculous “arguments” to illustrate.
For example: do masks accomplish anything? A virus its [sic] incredibly small. The masks worn by people their mesh can no more stop a Covid virus from entering or escaping the mask any more than the filters of flour, designed to remove insects within the ground powder, these filters permit the ground wheat to pass through the filter screens because the grinding process makes the wheat smaller that the holes in the filter screens.
There are three cognitive tendencies that explain it : everyday reasoning, illusory knowledge, and collective intelligence. For a more in depth discussion of each, see the posts in the links.
Everyday reasoning is the reasoning we use to justify everyday decisions: to wear a mask or not, to punch the Walmart greeter asking us to wear a mask or not, to assault the restaurant hostess who asked for our vaccination card or not. You know, those kind of everyday decisions that in this time of #COVID19 we’re faced with everyday.
Should I wear a mask into the grocery store? Of course I shouldn’t, MAGA jeneus thinks. Masks don’t work anyway, so why should I wear one? Look if masks could stop a teeny tiny eensy weensy virus, then how do the huge — by comparison — air molecules get through? Hunh? See? I’ve run circles around you logically!
Once we’ve thought of all the good reasons not to wear a mask, we stop questioning ourselves about it. We have all the evidence we need. As soon as we have a reason that “makes sense,” we stop looking for reasons. It is human nature.
Our second point is collective intelligence. Collective intelligence refers to the body of knowledge and skills that emerges from and is shared by a group when the group is attempting to solve a problem. This collaboration allows us to accomplish goals that no single person could achieve otherwise. Our world is too complicated for us to understand everything alone by ourselves. We can’t do it. Hunter gatherers couldn’t do it forty thousand years ago on the savannas of Africa. We can’t do it now. We have to rely on the experts to help us make these decisions. Here’s what the experts tell us about masks:
First, masks work. They stop the spread of #COVID19. You know how we know? Because of controlled experiments and the law of large numbers. Even if what he was saying about the size of the gaps between the threads in the fabric were true — it’s not, and I’ll explain why in a minute — we still know they work.
The controlled studies work like this. Take two thousand people. Test everyone for #COVID19 so you’re sure none of the two thousand have or have had #COVID19. Have one thousand of them wear a mask for a week, the other half go maskless. Have all of them keep an hourly diary of what they did, where they went, who they were with, and whether they were in enclosed spaces or not. You know that kind of thing. At the end of the week, test everyone for #COVID19 again. Presto, magico, sum cum loude, there is a statistically significant greater number of people who went maskless who got #COIVD19.
With a two thousand randomly chosen people from a population and then randomly assigned to each group, every other group variable regresses to the mean. There is no outlier affecting your results. You can be sure that the only real difference between the two groups was wearing a mask, ergo, the masks stopped one group from getting #COVID19. We’ve got millions of participants in mask studies. Literally millions from a dozen countries for over a hundred years. The evidence is overwhelming that the masks are preventing infection with an airborne virus.
Masks have multiple layers so that the gaps between the fibers don’t line up. A virus particle gets through some of the gaps in the outer layer, but then get trapped by the inner ones.
Besides, The virus don’t travel alone. It has a pimped-out ride! Droplets of mucous! Lucky for all of us, they are too small to be seen. These particles get caught on the fibers of the mask and molecularly bind with the them.
The biggest problem with cloth masks is that they don’t seal to your face, so the air goes around them instead of through them. Luckily, surgical masks do.
The Knowledge Illusion
The knowledge illusion tells us that we think we know more than we really do. You think you know how a zipper works? How does that little dummafletcher that you pull up and down get the two sides to enmesh and unmesh? What’s going on in there, really? You don’t know. I don’t know. Ain’t none of us knows, but we use them every damn day, so it seems like we know, but when you have to explain it, you find out you don’t. Now, be a smartass and tell me how a zipper works in the comments. Go ahead.
Mocskerr and everybody else in MAGA Nation thinks he knows how masks work, how #COVID19 is spread, and all kinds of other stuff, but they don’t. And when they tried to explain it, they can’t. Just like you and me can’t; although, I did explain how masks work and how we know they work, so there’s that.
Knowledge is a Collective Commodity
Knowledge is a collective good. We can’t possibly carry around everything we need to know. We have to work with others to achieve all the great things that people have achieved. What is the anti-vaxxers’ favorite line? Do your own research, by which they mean search Youtube for conspiracy videos, believe whatever they’re telling you, and buy the supplements they’re selling.
When they say that taking the vaccine and wearing a mask is a personal choice, they are negating the very essence of being human, which is pooling our knowledge, experience, and intelligence so that we can make good choices and accomplish great things together. They want everyone to be an island evaluating information on their own and coming to their own conclusions forgetting that the average person lacks the knowledge required to evaluate the science behind the vaccines, masks, and other public health measures.
The line, do your own research, sounds good. The idea of everyone evaluating information and coming to their own conclusion seems right (everyday reasoning, remember?), but it means that either we all become experts or we are vulnerable to misinformation, disinformation, and cognitive biases. It is an impossibility. It just ain’t human. MAGA Nation requires us to use our greatest strength as a species. Does that make sense to you?
If you liked the explanation of the cognitive Tom fuckery of MAGA Nation, then perhaps you’d be willing to do one or more of the following:
- Comment: Tell us about the MAGA trolls you’ve encountered or how zippers work.
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- Rate: Giving this post a five-star rating will let you drink the bitter tears of MAGA Nation.
- Share: Wouldn’t your friends, followers, family, and acquaintances love to know all about his Tom fuckery, too?
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