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:
- NBC News: Sturgis rally may have caused more than 250,000 new coronavirus cases, study finds
- USA Today: Study says Sturgis bike rally was a ‘super-spreader’ event, led to 260,000 COVID-19 cases
- IBT: Sturgis Rally May Have Led To 250,000 New US Coronavirus Cases, Study Estimates
- Forum News Service: Researchers: Sturgis rally a ‘superspreader event’ linked to 267K coronavirus cases
- Kaiser Health News: Sturgis Biker Rally Linked To 260,000 COVID cases
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.