THURSDAY, JULY 22, 2021
The power of vaccination: Is there a good way out of this mess? We're not sure there is.
We've become a nation of two warring tribes. In many ways, involving many people, a set of silent secessions are taking form.
Modern technologies—and attendant business models—keep driving the tribal division higher and higher. Human nature being what it is, it isn't clear how to make this devolution stop.
Members of the warring tribes keep hearing divergent statements and claims. Sometimes, they even hear different (fully accurate) facts.
As a result, the tribes may come to hold widely divergent beliefs. For today, consider a passage from yesterday's report in the the New York Times about the power of Covid-19 vaccines.
Michael Grynbaum reported on the way the topic is being reported and discussed on Fox News. At one point, he offered this example of the "skeptical message" viewers are hearing from the network's prime time hosts:
GRYNBAUM ET AL (7/21/21): In his Monday monologue, Tucker Carlson, Fox News’s highest-rated host, told viewers, “We’re not saying there is no benefit to the vaccine—there may well be profound benefits to the vaccine.” He acknowledged that “various vaccines seem to lower the effects of the disease, make it less severe on people,” but he also brought up the Texas cases, saying, “It makes you wonder, how effective are those drugs anyway?”
On balance, Carlson's work on this topic seems hard to justify. Quite often, his work is even worse. (We haven't seen all his work on this topic.)
We haven't thoroughly studied Carlson's work on this topic. That said, we did see the Monday evening broadcast in question, and we'd have to say that Grynbaum's quote was perhaps a bit misleading.
“It makes you wonder, how effective are those [vaccinations] anyway?” We did see Carlson make that statement. Grynbaum's quotation of Carlson can be scored as technically accurate.
That said, the quotation, at least as presented, is perhaps a bit misleading. Here's why:
Carlson did refer to the half-dozen Texas legislators who have tested positive for Covid since fleeing their state's political wars and decamping to Washington. Reportedly, the Texans have tested positive despite being fully vaccinated.
Carlson did refer to those "Texas cases." But in this, his fuller presentation, you can see the principal fact to which he was alluding when he made the quoted statement in question:
CARLSON (7/19/21): Unfortunately, [Texas legislator Gene] Wu was not able to join us tonight. He is still at the airport meeting his many fans. So instead, we have tape for you from the U.K.'s Chief Scientific Adviser, a man called Sir Patrick Vallance. This tape is from today.
Gene Wu and his friends should have watched it before they left Texas. It makes you wonder, how effective are these drugs anyway? Watch.
VALLANCE (videotape): In terms of the number of people in hospital who have been double vaccinated, we know it's around 60 percent of the people being admitted to hospital with COVID have been double vaccinated, and that's not surprising because the vaccines are not a hundred percent effective.
CARLSON: So, fully sixty percent of patients admitted to British hospitals for severe, presumably life-threatening cases of COVID, because that's why you go to the hospital, had been fully vaccinated. That's what he just said.
In the statement Grynbaum quoted, Carlson was referring to a somewhat puzzling statement by Vallance, a high U.K. official. Carlson's viewers actually saw the statement by Vallance on videotape.
In his initial statement, Vallance had said that 60 percent of people being hospitalized with Covid-19 had been double vaccinated. Vallance was referring to people admitted to hospitals in the U.K.
As Carlson quickly noted, Vallance had quickly amended that statement. He'd meant to say that 60 percent of the hospitalizations involve people who haven't been double vaccinated, the fumbling official now said.
Still, that would mean that as many as 40 percent of hospitalized Brits may have been fully vaccinated. For Carlson's full transcript, click here.
Even in its amended form, Vallance's statement seemed to fly in the face of statements being widely made on CNN and MSNBC, even in that same Monday night hour. In those statements, viewers were told that 99.5 percent of current Covid deaths in the U.S., and the huge majority of serious illnesses, involve people who haven't been vaccinated.
Why did Vallance say what he did? We have no idea.
In its amended form, was his statement accurate? If so, does it contradict or challenge the statements being made on this side of the pond in some significant way?
We don't know the answers to those question. Vallance's statement has largely been ignored on this side of the puddle.
In the major news orgs of Our Town, we're still being told, we'll presume correctly, that almost no one who's fully vaccinated has been hospitalized, or has died, in the new wave of Covid infections.
We'll presume that claim is correct, though we can't say we know that with certainty. Meanwhile, Fox viewers were quickly told about Vallance's potentially troubling statement—and the New York Times may have put its thumbs on the scales a tad when it reported what Carlson said about the puzzling statement.
Why did Vallance say what he did? Was his statement accurate? If so, does it contradict, challenge or call into question what we're being told over here? Should it be seen as a point of concern?
We don't know how to answer those questions. The main point we're making is this:
Here again, for the ten millionth time, the two tribes were being told different things. Even as Fox viewers were being given reason to wonder about the power of vaccination, Our Town was being given a massively different impression.
Flipping back and forth that night, we saw both presentations in the same 8 P.M. hour.
On their face, the statements didn't seem to jibe, but no one has tried to explain. In perhaps a million such ways, members of our two warring tribes come to see the world in widely divergent ways.
In fairness, Carlson reported an actual quote from a major authority. Viewers saw the actual videotape of the statement in question.
In Our Town, we haven't been told about the peculiar statement. Is there any way out of this deep tribal mess? Given the human impulse for tribal war, we're not sure what it is.
Carlson's performance is often beyond appalling. In this case, he played a piece of videotape, and he described it in a reasonably accurate way.
His viewers saw the videotape; CNN's viewers didn't. Two days later, the New York Times may have put its thumb on the scale as it wholly ignored the statement to which Carlson had referred.
In a wide range of such ways, the tribal division we're all living with only gets deeper and dumber. Just for the record, journalistic elites in each tribe are engaged in this war.
That includes some major stars right here in Our Town. Given the ways our human brains work, we see no obvious way out of this spreading problem.
Can a nation survive such a mess? We see no way to be sure. In closing, we'll offer a final assessment:
Vallance's statement, if it's accurate, does seem a bit concerning to us. We'd like to see someone explain it. Mainly, though, we'd like to see someone flatly reject the impulse toward tribal war.
Tomorrow: Back to PITFALLS! In search of clear and cogent speech concerning Einstein's universe...