Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Monkeying around with the truth

I don't think I'll ever understand the conspiracy theorist mindset.

It's not, mind you, that I think conspiracies never happen.  It's just that the vast majority of them get found out or otherwise fall apart through gossip and sheer ineptitude.  Humans are lousy at keeping secrets -- and the more people are in the know about the secrets, the faster they get found out.  If you don't believe me (hell, maybe I'm one of the conspirators and am trying to fool you -- mwa ha ha etc.), check out this study I wrote about last year that actually showed there's an inverse relationship between the number of people in a conspiracy and how fast it collapses.

Also, if there were a successful conspiracy -- the likelihood of it being figured out by stupid people is fairly low.  Which was my reaction when I read that the recent outbreak of monkeypox is already being branded a left-wing fabrication by people like Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers, who amongst (many) other things buys into the idiotic claim that Donald Trump actually won the 2020 presidential election, and that the voter fraud that put Joe Biden into office was the work of "seditious Jews."

So it's pretty clear that Wendy Rogers has spent too much time doing sit-ups underneath parked cars.  But being crazy and stupid doesn't, unfortunately, make you quiet, so it came as no surprise to me that she is now saying the following about the monkeypox outbreak:

  • Monkeypox is an invention of the Democrats to compensate for falling approval ratings and to "reestablish tyrannical control" over rights and freedoms.  (Unfortunately for Rogers, monkeypox was discovered in 1958.)
  • The fact that the virus is spreading much faster than monkeypox usually does should make us suspicious about "what Gates, Fauci, and the rest of the so-called 'public health experts' have been up to for the last few years."  (Which ignores the fact that viruses are excellent at evolving to become more transmissible.  Oh, but wait, she doesn't believe in evolution, either.)

Then her followers started yapping along with her, and adding to the foolishness:

  • Monkeypox is a side-effect of the COVID-19 vaccine.  (It's not.)
  • It's a complete fake; the entire outbreak is a hoax.  (It's not.)
  • Okay, maybe it's not a hoax, but it's only spreading in Blacks and gay people.  (It's not.)
  • Just like COVID-19 is the same thing as the flu, monkeypox is the same thing as shingles.  (It's not, and it's fucking not.)

Unfortunately, the last bit was made considerably worse when someone found a photograph on a Mumbai-based website that was labeled as monkeypox, but was actually a photo of a shingles rash that had been taken from the website of the Queensland Health Department.  The Mumbai health website apologized for, and fixed, the error as soon as they found out about it, but by then it was too late.  Honestly, the confusion was understandable; they do look similar, and you probably know that the causative agent in shingles is the chickenpox (varicella) virus, which is in the same genus (Orthopoxvirus) as monkeypox.

Thus the similarity.

But did I mention that they are not the same thing?  

Monkeypox virus [Image is in the Public Domain]

I know whereof I speak; last year, because 2021 wasn't already enough of a shitshow, I got shingles.  It was pretty mild as such things go, but still hurt like hell, giving me the characteristic "electric zaps" of pain.  But -- unlike monkeypox -- I had no fever, no swollen lymph nodes, none of the other warning signs that it was anything but ordinary shingles.

And, most significantly, when I took a week's worth of aciclovir, it went away.  As shingles does.  As monkeypox does not.

But I'm not expecting any of this to convince anyone who isn't already convinced, especially not Wendy Rogers, who appears to have a half-pound of LaffyTaffy where most of us have a brain.  As I've mentioned before, once you've decided everyone's lying to you, you're unreachable.  Anyone who tries is either a dupe or a shill, so What I Already Believed q.e.d.

Or, put another way, you can't logic your way out of a position you didn't logic your way into.

What's most upsetting, though, is how many people immediately jump on the bandwagon with horseshit like this.  Epidemics and outbreaks are scary, I get that.  We live in a big, chaotic, unpredictable world.  But sometimes stuff just happens.  Everything isn't a plot, a conspiracy, wheels within wheels.

But with people like Wendy Rogers, that's not good enough.  Not only does attributing everything bad to some grand conspiracy appeal to her mindset, it also allows her to scapegoat the people she already hated.

For me, I'd rather side with Carl Sagan, as he expressed the philosophy in his wonderful book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Darkness: "For me, it is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."


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