Athouse’s son, John Althouse Cohen, has his own eclectic blog, and I check in now and then. He’s intelligent, as I would expect, though his endorsement of the transparently pandering Pete Buttigieg was disappointing. Now and then his mother directs her huge readership over to him, which is what she did with a post called “Things I’m tired of hearing about the coronavirus.”
It seems unfair that John’s post has, as of now, zero comments, and Ann’s post consisting of nothing more than a link to that post has 118 comments as I write this. Why wouldn’t her readers give the author of the post their attention and support instead of his mother?
Be that as it may, John mentioned five things he was sick of hearing during the current pandemic, and four out of five reasons for his fatigue were valid. One is an attempt to excuse the inexcusable, using an intellectually dishonest argument.
Here are John’s four legitimate beefs:
- He flags “More people die in car crashes!” This is transparently idiotic, and reminds me of Michael Moore’s asinine refrain after 9/11 that since more people died in auto accidents, it made no sense for the government to take major anti-terrorism measures. Ethics Alarms touched on this kind of argument here.
I wonder: What proportion of the public is this bad at analogies? I’m a bit afraid of the answer.
- “Look, it’s not that hard, just wash your hands and don’t touch your face!” Cohen says: “Actually, it’s pretty hard to wash your hands often enough and never touch your face.” Ethics Alarms discussed the near-useless “Don’t touch your face!” edicts here.
I suspect, though, that one benefit of this ordeal will be that everyone will develop a new and healthy dedication to hand washing. I was amazed, in an earlier flu outbreak, how quickly coughing into one’s arm became a society-wise practice. It was amazing. After centuries of covering our mouths with our hands, this superior method became a reflex. Buy hand soap stock.
- Cohen takes aim at “Quit whining, other people have had to go to war, while you’re just sitting around on the couch!”, saying, “That’s a little tone-deaf when many people are sitting at home worried about how they’re going to pay the rent or feed their families because they lost their jobs as a result of the virus.”
Yes, the fact that there have been other national emergencies requiring more of citizens than the current one does not mean the pain of a current crisis isn’t significant. It’s like telling someone in the hospital with two broken legs that she has no right to complain because someone else was set on fire. On the other hand, recounting what previous generations have had to sacrifice might be a useful strategy with someone like the son in this query to a Slate advice columnist;
The problem is my youngest child is a high school senior, and all the fun stuff has…been canceled. He finally made varsity in the sport he plays, and the big statewide tournament has been canceled. We don’t know if they will even be able to play again. The spring dance was canceled, and we won’t be going on our spring break vacation. Now we are also worried about senior prom; graduation; Spring Day at his new, out-of-state college; senior trip (that he has already paid for himself); and college orientations that start in June…. He is disappointed and frustrated to be missing out on experiences that just won’t happen again. How do I support him through his stress..?
Millions of kids his age have missed these experiences due to injuries, poverty, family disasters, wars and more. I see nothing inappropriate about reminding him of that.
- “China has almost no coronavirus cases anymore, so let’s figure out what they’re doing right and copy that!” John nails this, writing: “Yes, let’s trust official reports from an authoritarian government known for secrecy and censorship. Also, China has admitted it isn’t counting asymptomatic cases, unlike other countries”
Now here is Cohen’s misfire. He attempted to mock “Why are people hoarding toilet paper? They must have some irrational bias!” by writing,
Right, because it’s not like people have a good reason for buying more toilet paper than usual when they and their family members have to be at home all the time, and governments are announcing increasingly strict lockdowns.
Uh, no. People do not use more toilet paper because they spend more time at home. If everyone bought paper products exactly as they always have, according to need, there would be no shortages. The government isn’t going to prevent access to food and essential supplies. People are hoarding toilet paper and other items because 1) they, again, have poor analogy skills, and think we are facing a nuclear winter, or 2) they are trying to create a shortage they can exploit, or 3) because they are reacting to a legitimate fear of a shortage caused by the first two kinds of people, who are lousy citizens and bad neighbors. Unfortunately, #3 is rational behavior.
Still, as Marvin Lee Aday, aka Meatloaf, so sagely observed, two out of three ain’t bad, and four out of five is better.