Talking about Corona

In this page I want to offer some guidance how you can be useful in spreading good Corona information, specifically about vaccines.

Importantly, many readers of my blog are the technology help desk for their families - the people that help fixing the wifi, install new computers and generally are useful for solving complex problems.

That makes you, the reader very imporant. Your family and friends see you as someone who knows what they are talking about. Your opinion will matter to them.

And this is important. We can stop Corona, but only if people follow advice, and crucially, get themselves vaccinated (if elegible).

The really really brief version

  • The good news is: most people are not yet radicalized and are willing to listen
    • Folks that are radicalized or polarised are very noisy, which makes it look like there are a lot more of them then there actually are
  • It is extremely painful if someone has truly lost it and is spreading abject falsehoods
    • But forget about convincing these folks with facts!
  • And in fact, entering into overlong discussions with radicalized people is harmful: discussing their falsehoods gives oxygen to their ideas. Their ridiculous stories instill doubts in reasonable people!
  • Our overriding goal should be to spread reliable and useful information to non-radicalised folks
    • We won’t convince people who went of the deep end
  • It is no use trying to convince people who have decided ‘facts’ and ‘logic’ aren’t real. It is not a fair fight. We come up with solid arguments and faxts which they counter with opinions and things they’ve head somewhere. And they’ve heard an infinite number of things.
  • With some simple techniques, it is possible to avoid conversations going off the rails. With some work, you can avoid having to discuss every random forum post someone found somewhere.
  • Key insight is: Avoid having to counter your radicalised friend’s every idea. Wait until s/he comes up with something truly ridiculous, and then stick to that.
  • With some work, you can now show your family, friends, social circle, that your friend is truly nuts
    • “So the WHOLE world is in on a conspiracy to poison us with the vaccine?”
  • Once your friend is discredited, there is room for you to focus on the very legitimate questions people have about Corona and vacines.
  • Because it is entirely normal for people to have questions. And you can provide reliable and useful answers.

The long versoin

COVID, vacines, many people hate the restrictions, many people feel anxious about vaccines.

There are many reasons for this, but an important factor is what I like to call “your radicalised uncle”. For uncle, please also read father, friend, sister, brother, aunt and of course also complete COVID deniers.

We are talking about folks that label the vaccine as a poison, that claim without evidence that the vaccine has already killed many people. Simultaneously they’ll let you know that COVID isn’t real, and that it has never been “isolated”. The PCR test is also fake. And if it is not fake, most of the positives are false. Also, the people that are dying were probably going to be dead anyway. You should also know the hospitals are faking it, I drove by one recently, the parking lot wasn’t full! And by the way, all I am doing is asking questoins.

Their arguments are endless and so are the discussions. Any time you manage to refute one of their ideas they move the goal posts. If you’ve shown with figures that COVID-19 is far far worse than the flu, they mention that 10000 people die every day in this country, and we don’t sweat that either. If you then prove that there are thousands of excess deaths now every day, they’ll tell you those numbers are caused by doctors putting ‘COVID’ on death certificates so they get extra money. This is easily refuted (way more people than normal are dying), but on and on it goes.

You won’t win. You are using ‘logic’ and bring scientific facts. And your radicalised uncle does not. You stick to rules and bring facts to the table. Your uncle counters with feelings and opinions, things he regards as equally valuable.

Even if you refute ten of his theories, he comes up with an eleventh - which you’ll then also have to counter.

You won’t win because the game is rigged - he keeps bringing up rumors, hearsay and links to shady websites. And unless you manage to refute everything, he declares that he has won.

But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Legitimate worries

Next to your radicalised friend, there are also people that are legitimately on the fence. Loads of folks just aren’t sure. And the thing is, they have a point. This was one of the weirdest years in living memory. We were told that masks wouldn’t work and now we’er being told we’re some kind of mass murderer if we don’t wear them. The prognosis was that vaccines might arrive somewhere in 2022 and now all of a sudden they are ready?

Please realise that the techniques outlined on this page are meant to disarm your radicalised contacts. Do not use such techniques on people that need access to high quality information!

Because that is the whole goal of this page: how do we inform people as well as possible, without being distracted by radialised family members and friends.

There is nothing wrong with being anxious and wanting to know more, especially if good information is hard to come by.

So let us help.

The good news

We tend to focus a lot of our attention on people with extreme opinions. But the the good news is that by definition, folks with extreme opinions are relatively rare. The majority has middle of the road opinions.

Sadly, the extremists take up a huge fraction of our attention. And I don’t think they mind at all.

The vast majority of people are susceptible to good information, and many of them would adhere to measures and get vaccinated, if their legitimate questions were answered well: what are the risks, from what point on will I be protected? How long will tihs protection last? Should I get vaccinated even if I (think I) had the disease already? Can I take the vaccine even with the other medications I’m already on? And what about allergies? How come it took less than a year to create this vaccine, and we still don’t have one for AIDS? Will I need to get a COVID shot every year? And why is my government making such a shambles of things?

These are all excellent questions, and governments and authorities and frankly we should spend a lot of time answering these questions.

Sadly, the opportunity to do so is ruined by radicalised friends and family members.

And not only does this prohibit us from providing good information, the heated discussions with science deniers will instill doubt even in reasonable people.

The longer you hear someone arguing that a vaccine is lethal / is entirely safe, the more worried you tend to get!

What we can do

Our goal should not be to convince our radicalised friends. For one, there aren’t that many of them, but secondly, it won’t work anyhow.

Our goal is to make sure EVERYONE ELSE does the right thing!

And we won’t achieve that by wrestling with people who claimed without any evidence that the vaccine is poison meant to kill us.

The trick is: can we neutralise the arguments of our radicalised friends and then pivot to convincing normal people.

If you do this well using techniques outlined below, it is possible to do so, and then have loads of time to answer the legitimate questions on how the vaccine works, when you’ll be able to get it and what to expect in terms of side effects.

The technique

Key is not to play the game according to the wrong rules. If you follow the rules of the radicalised, no matter how well you make your points, you won’t ever win. Because the sheer possibility of winning has been removed from the situation. They have an infinite supply of feelings, opinions, rumours and hearsay to counter your hard won facts. And know that they demand the hardest of hard proofs before they’ll doubt their poorly sourced feeling.

In what follows I describe a hypothetical conversation. In reality, it will never go down this neatly, but it does describe the techniques used:

Here goes. “Corona is nothing but the flu, and we don’t shut down over that either”. You might counter this with this graph that shows COVID-19 is ten times as lethal as flu (with the exception of very young people).

Your uncle now seemlessly pivots to stating that last year, more people died of the flu than died of “so called COVID” this year. You could now counter this as well, but you are now following his narrative. Even if you also counter this statement, he’ll follow up with another one that you have to rebutt.

The technique to break out of this endless sequence is to pick the right hill to die on. And stay there. For example, if your radicalised uncle says that COVID-19 is not so bad since only old people die of COVID-19, that is a good one to linger on. Because the thing is - much of your family is old. They don’t hold truck with arguments that COVID-19 isn’t bad since it only affects them.

Your radicalised friend might now attempt to pivot that most people that die from COVID-19 have underlying disease. Well guess what, lots of your family members also suffer from hypertension, heart disease or diabetes. See how well your radical friend does defending that COVID-19 isn’t bad since it only kills those people!

Another good one is if someone says the people dying of COVID-19 actually aren’t dying COVID-19. The numbers, they are fake. Do dwell on this one - you can ask who would be in on this conspiracy. Coroners? All medical practitioners? Long term care facilities? The CDC, Fauci? And also the insurance companies that supposedly hand out monetary incentives for COVID-19 deaths. Is EVERYONE in on the plot?

You can build on this by asking if no one in the media would’ve cottoned on to a conspiracy this big. With some luck your racidalised friend will now confirm the conspiracy is so big it even includes Fox News - in addition to all these scientists, medical doctors, hospital administrators and government people.

With some luck, your radicalised friend will by now also have started talking about Bill Gates and George Soros, which can clinch the deal.

And the deal is this: to make your reasonable friends agree your radicalized uncle is nuts. And once consensus has been reached on that, you can get down to the important business of answering good legitimate questions with useful information.

Areas to avoid

It takes discipline. You may personally be very upset if you see someone out jogging without a properly worn facemask. But before someone cares about this, they first have to deeply believe that COVID-19 is an actual threat. And that is where we need to go first.

Your radicalized contact may attack you that masks aren’t perfect and dare you to come up with proof they are, proof which you will not find. The best you will find is that they are likely to help.

The trick is to pick the “hills to die on” and these are areas where people have to descend into absurdities to defend themselves.

Some rules

So don’t present these rules - it is not helpful. But if you stick to them you’ll be able to keep the discussion from derailing. Because remember, the goal is to get your radicalized friend to descend into absurd statements as quickly as possible. If you persist in trying to rebutt his every idea, you won’t get there and you’ll confuse bystanders.

  • No one can state something without declaring where they learned that. So if someone says it is not true hospitals are at capacity, we ask:
    • Where did you learn that? Who told you that?
    • If there is no concrete answer, we can say “so you don’t know if that is true”.
    • “Someone told me” is not an answer.
  • Random forum posts (sites where everyone can ask/answer questions) are not a serious source. We can’t rebutt every random piece of gossip you find online, especially if our radicalized friend demands rigorous scientific studies to refute each random comment he finds online. Same goes for Youtube movies, news from the Daily Mail etc.
  • “I’m just asking questions” also unkindly known as “JAQ-ing off”. The problem is that anyone can invent ever more questions, and them demand answers to all of them. And if you can’t answer one of them, they claim to have won. This is not fair. The trick is to analyse every question if you can reverse it into something absurd. For example, one may wonder how it is the case that mRNA technology arrived just in time to save us from COVID-19 (it didn’t by the way). The counter question is “so you believe scientists created COVID-19 to profit from their invention?”.
  • It is easy to state things are not good and that policies were wrong. Often also true. But that gives you no free pass. If someone says doing X has not been productive, ask them what would be good. For example, I have lost friends who wanted to reopen bars and restaurants, but would not answer what level of daily deaths would be acceptable to achieve that. Demand concrete numerical answers to these questions.
  • Stay on target! The goal is to get your opponent stuck on something he can only defend by descending into absurdities. A good one is the COVID-19 lethality graph for example, you aren’t talking yourself out of that without saying there is a huge huge conspiracy theory.
  • Once someone says “f*ck this shit, we’re all going to die anyhow” or similar, leave it at that.

The end game

The goal is to provide your friends and family with the best information. This works best if 1) your information comes across as credible, and 2) your radicalised contacts make fools of themselves as quickly as possible.

The earlier you get your radicalized uncle to talk about George Soros, Bill Gates, and institutions attempting to poison us with their vaccines, the better it is.

Here is a list of things most people won’t believe if they’ve thought about it a bit:

  • That the virus is fake
  • That there is a worldwide conspiracy involving all scientists and all media and all government to poison us
  • COVID-19 isn’t so bad, it only affects old people
  • COVID-19 isn’t so bad, it only affects people with heart disease or diabetes
  • Hospitals are all faking it, they aren’t actually overflowing
  • Fauci and everyone else in the NIH, CDC, WHO are all lying to us

Some help

To help you I’ve collected a bunch of useful facts or statements about COVID-19.

But DO KNOW, these things are not here to convince your radicalised uncle! They are here to 1) convince YOU and 2) to keep your uncle busy until we find a suitable subject that allows him to descend into absurdities.

And I’ll say it once more to be sure: do not expect to convince radicalised folks with the points above. They will not accept a 1 in 10000 risk of the vaccine but are fine with a 1 in 10 risk of the actual virus.

Additional items for this list are most welcome! Please share them with bert@hubernet.nl.