Fake News! Bad Science! Confirmation Bias! Wuhan Virus Fear-Mongering! The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Narrative Has It All!

I was going to write (another) post about politically weaponized studies and surveys after Nick Kristoff pronounced the U.S a failing nation after seeing the latest Social Progress Index, which determined that out of 163 countries assessed worldwide, the United States, Brazil and Hungary are the only ones in which people are worse off than when the index began in 2011. This is always one of my least favorite type of studies studies, the apples to oranges compendiums where it is the researchers’ values being measured and not what the study claims. Weight the 50 “metrics of well-being”  differently, take out some or add others, and the result is completely different, and just as imaginary. “The data paint an alarming picture of the state of our nation, and we hope it will be a call to action,” Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor and the chair of the advisory panel for the Social Progress Index, told Kristoff. “It’s like we’re a developing country.”

Right. That’s certainly a rational statement.  Kristoff goes on,

The index, inspired by research of Nobel-winning economists, collects 50 metrics of well-being — nutrition, safety, freedom, the environment, health, education and more — to measure quality of life. Norway comes out on top in the 2020 edition, followed by Denmark, Finland and New Zealand….The United States, despite its immense wealth, military power and cultural influence, ranks 28th — having slipped from 19th in 2011. The index now puts the United States behind significantly poorer countries, including Estonia, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Greece.

I guess the smart thing is to move right over to Finland or Estonia then! I’m sure the rest of the Trump-bashing pundits and America Stinks crowd, like Michael Moore, will have a field day with this propaganda, because it fits in nicely with Big Lie #5: “Everything is Terrible,” which I expect to have a resurgence as we approach election day. Actually it already is; here’s TIME’s cover:

But I digress: lets’s get back to Sturgis. (Thought I had forgotten, didn’t you?)

A recently released study claimed to show that the annual motorcycle rally held last month in Sturgis, South Dakota was a “superspreader event,” infecting more than half of the 460,000 attendees at a cost of $12 billion to our public health institutions. The white paper from the IZA Institute of Labor Economics was so questionable that “no medical journal would touch it,” as public health writer Alex Berenson noted, so  the thing was posted on the website of an obscure German thinktank, the Insitute of Labor Economics.  Nonetheless, it was gleefully embraced by the news media, advancing as it did multiple narratives the AUC loves, and providing an opportunity to slam a group assumed to be rife with supporters of President Trump—you know, rednecks, white supremacists, Second Amendment supporters, free spirits, deplorables.

“Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was ‘superspreading event’ that cost public health $12.2 billion,” tweeted The Hill. Oh it was, was it? The study was not peer reviewed, and its methodology was, shall we say, dubious.

South Dakota health officials have identified 124 new cases  linked to the rally. Wuhan virus cases credibly  traced to the Sturgis rally have been reported in 11 states as of September 2, for a total of  260 confirmed cases, which is about 0.1% of the number the IZA paper claims. To reach its wildly inflated number, the paper’s researchers analyzed “anonymized cellphone data to track the smartphone pings from non-residents and movement of those before and after the event,” explained Newsweek. “The study then linked those who attended and traveled back to their home states, and compared changes in coronavirus trends after the rally’s conclusion,”  thus assuming, without evidence,  that all the spikes in virus cases in areas where people went post-rally must have been caused by the cyclists. Other factors, like schools reopening and mobs of protesters/rioters rampaging through cities across the country—it’s impossible to rampage and socially distance at the same time—were not considered.

The researchers also assumed a $46,000 price tag for each person theoretically infected to reach the $12.2 billion public health cost of the event, a  figure that assumed that every person had a severe case requiring hospitalization.

Gee, what a brilliant study!

A cursory reading would quickly alert anyone not hysterical, biased, or too dumb to be out without a leash that the white paper was ridiculous. We know how impossible it is to legitimately defend it by the fact that even the habitually biased Snopes site had to admit the study’s conclusions were “unproven,” which a more straightforward organization would properly phrase as “utter nonsense,” or better still, “crap.”

Never mind. Fact Don’t Matter!  Here’s a partial list of the news outlets—in addition to the Associated Press, Washington Post and New York Times, of course, and Fox— that ran with  fake news about the fake conclusions:

This episode, hardly the first, indicates that the biased, irresponsible and incompetent news media isn’t interested in or capable of conveying reality at all.


Sources: The Hill, PJ Media, Reason

17 thoughts on “Fake News! Bad Science! Confirmation Bias! Wuhan Virus Fear-Mongering! The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Narrative Has It All!

  1. Does this imply that the media is ethic ally estopped from criticizing Trump for downplaying COVID-19 back in early February, seeing as the media is exaggerating?

    Also, do you have any further comment on the Time magazine cover?

    • When a Democrat underemphasizes the severity of something it is because he’s taken a calculated and well thought out approach to calming the people and showing them how to remain stoic in face of crisis and approach it from a level headed posture…you know, real leadership.

      When a Republican underemphasizes the severity of something it is because he’s keeping the people in the dark with an attempt to make it look better politically…he’s causing them to take unnecessary risks and lead people towards their own doom…you know, a head in the sand moron.

      Just like when Democrats filibuster a bill to help the American people in a time of crisis in the GOP-slight-majority Senate, it’s “Republicans do not advance COVID-19 aid bill”. But when Republicans, in a minority situation in the Senate, filibuster a bill, it’s “Obstructionist Republicans gumming up the works preventing passage of super-important legislation.”

      The Media, the DNC, the entire Left-wing is a destructive and dangerous force that must be opposed at every turn.

      • Thank you, Michael.

        They’d evidently preferred Winston Churchill had gone on the air and said, “We’re bloody toast.” Which is probably along the lines of what he thought more than once.

          • This does beg the issue of when it is ethically justified- or even mandated- to downplay or exaggerate anything.

            I wonder if Jack can dedicate a blog post on the issue.

            • Coming! But the answer is clearly “of course” in leadership. As I mentioned before I think, I once wrote a skit where FDR prepared to give a speech saying, “We have nothing to fear but a complete collapse of our economy!” (I played FDR.)

            • I don’t know what else there is to comment on. The U.S. has a population of almost 330 million people. 200, 000 deaths are bad, yes, I feel badly for the way they had to suffer and my heart aches for their families and loved ones.

              But the cover is just another attempt by the media to make the virus the boogeyman needed to destroy our economy, derail education and affect public service to the extent that pushing through radical initiatives undreamed of in January can be rationalized now. If the boogeyman behind the virus – Donald Trump – can have his re-election dreams dashed at the same time, even better.

              Toward the end of World War II, the Red Army entered Germany from the East. The Russians hadn’t been treated well by the German Army during the invasion of the U.S.S.R, life in the Red Army wasn’t super great anyway and they’d encountered concentration camps in Poland as they moved west. For that reason, they were in no mood to be kind to German civilians. So they weren’t. The massacre at Nemmersdorf in Eastern Germany was heavily publicized by the Propaganda Ministry to warn the Germans what would happen to them if they didn’t fight to the death.

              Trouble was, by that time, the Propaganda Ministry had lost most of its credibility with the people. A lot of Germans just shrugged and thought, “Oh, well, there’s Dr. Goebbels exaggerating again”.

              This Henny Penny sky-is-falling mentality among the bulk of the news media is wearing thin with a lot of Americans. Why read the articles if the headlines make it clear what the story will be? I don’t bother with most articles about the virus, the economy, the President or much of anything else because I simply don’t believe anything they say.

              Unless it’s about a celebrity death. R.I.P, Dame Diana Rigg.

              The rest of the time, I just shrug and say, “Oh, well, here they go again”

  2. Oh, also, it is 9-11…Never Forget there are worldviews out there diametrically opposed to America’s Republic. Never Forget how many people died that day in that horrendous attack.

    If you are a Democrat (one of the worldviews diametrically opposed to America’s Republic), never forget to use today as an opportunity to dunk on the closest President named Donald Trump…because that’s what today is about for you.

  3. I read the story in USA Today about this study and came away unconvinced. I did note, though, that the researchers briefly touched on the subject of why they weren’t seeing huge increases in coronavirus cases caused by protests, which are also large gatherings where zero social distancing is performed. Their answer, as I recall, was something along the lines of there was no big spread because a lot of the locals, I believe it was, stayed home during the protests. Say what?

    Of course at Sturgis, the ‘locals’ were negligible — with the 460k estimated attendees, the entire state experienced a significant population boom during this event.

  4. Thanks for fleshing out that Sturgis story. I thought it sounded fishy when I heard just the suppositions on the “250,000 infected”. The cost “estimate” kicks it well into the totally laughable category.

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