MONDAY, MARCH 29, 2021
This is your brain on human: To what extent are we the people really the rational animal?
For starters, we refer you to Saturday's report concerning what Rachel Maddow said last Tuesday night.
Last Wednesday night, she offered an attack on Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) which struck us as almost equally fanciful. But Tuesday's report about Joe Manchin (D-West Va.) carried the culture of novelization all the way over to the realm of crazy/pure fairy tale.
As we've been noting since 2009, this sort of thing is quite common on this popular TV program—but so what? Here in Our Town, we love Our Own Rhodes Scholar's work—her "performance of the Rachel figure," as Janet Malcolm once strangely put it in a profile in The New Yorker.
The average viewer doesn't see that Maddow's work is frequently massively flawed. Meanwhile, career liberal journalists who know that it is are never going to tell us.
In the other tribe's towns, they're told about groaners like this. We aren't told Over Here.
On Our Town's channels, much as on Fox, almost everything is permitted. In a similar vein, consider a piece of reporting in today's New York Times.
We refer to Andrew Jacobs' news report about vaccine delivery in the South. Online, the headlines say this:
‘All Hands on Deck’: When Vaccinating Black People Is a Communal Effort
In the face of limited transportation, patchy internet service and threadbare medical care, community leaders in Alabama and Mississippi are trying to shrink the racial disparities in vaccine access.
In short, the news report seems to discuss racial disparities in vaccine access across the Southern states. But how bad is that racial disparity? We don't know, in large part because of work like this:
JACOBS (3/28/21): Across the Southern states, Black doctors, Baptist preachers and respected community figures like Ms. Oliver are trying to combat lingering vaccine skepticism while also helping people overcome logistical hurdles that have led to a troubling disparity in vaccination rates between African-Americans and whites.
Though local leaders have made headway combating the hesitancy, they say the bigger obstacles are structural: the large stretches of Alabama and Mississippi without an internet connection or reliable cellphone service, the paucity of medical providers, and a medical establishment that has long overlooked the health care needs of African-Americans.
As it is, this region has some of the worst health outcomes in the country, and the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately hit African-Americans, who have been dying at twice the rate of whites.
Alabama is one of the few states that does not require vaccine providers to report data on race, but health officials estimate that just 15 percent of the shots have gone to African-Americans, who make up 27 percent of Alabama’s population and 31 percent of all deaths from Covid-19. Whites, who make up 69 percent of residents, have received 54 percent of the vaccine supply, according to the state data, which is missing details on race for a quarter of vaccine recipients.
In Mississippi, 40 percent of Covid-19 deaths have occurred among African-Americans—a figure comparable to their portion of the population—but just 29 percent of the vaccines have gone to Black residents compared with 62 percent for whites, who make up nearly 60 percent of the state’s population.
That passage includes the following claim: African-Americans "have been dying [of Covid] at twice the rate of whites" across the Southern states.
That may well be true! But online, the report offers no link in support of that claim. And in the next two paragraphs, the report offers statistics from Alabama and Mississippi which don't seem to support that claim.
According to Jacobs' report, African-Americans "make up 27 percent of Alabama’s population and 31 percent of all deaths from Covid-19."
Assuming those numbers are accurate, that represents a mild disproportion. Meanwhile, in the next paragraph, we're told about Covid deaths in Mississippi:
In that state, "40 percent of Covid-19 deaths have occurred among African-Americans—a figure comparable to their portion of the population."
Citizens, do you understand that? Very frankly, we don't. In Alabama, there's a very mild racial disproportion in the occurrence of Covid deaths. In Mississippi, there seems to be no disproportion at all.
These data seem to fly in the face of Jacobs' claim about deaths in the Southern states as a whole. But no one at the New York Times seems to have noticed the oddness of this presentation—and consider what happens when we return to the question of vaccine distribution:
In Alabama, we're told that whites are 69 percent of the population, but are receiving 54 percent of the vaccine supply. In the case of Mississippi, we're told that whites are 60 percent of the population, but are receiving 62 percent of the vaccine supply.
Do you see any disparities yet? Very frankly, we do not—and since Alabama doesn't even have racial data for 25 percent of its vaccinations, there was never any reason to include that state's useless numbers at all.
One disparity does seem to turn up in the case of Mississippi. We're told that blacks constitute 40 percent of the state's population but have received just 29 percent of the vaccine supply.
Unfortunately, this creates a new statistical mystery. If blacks are getting 29 percent of Mississippi's vaccine supply, and whites are getting 62 percent, that means that 9 percent of the state's vaccine supply is unaccounted for.
Where did all that missing vaccine go? Please don't ask the New York Times! The Times doesn't even seem to see that a statistical problem exists in any of this material!
Does that passage make any sense? In one respect, it doesn't. In the case of these two Deep South states, it doesn't seem to document or support the claims about disproportionate Covid deaths and vaccination rates.
In another respect, the passage does make a type of sense. It shows us that, at newspapers like the Times, nothing has to make any sense just as long as it can be made to (seem to) support some preapproved Storyline.
That passage makes virtually no sense at all; neither did Maddow's long, upside-down report about Manchin. In Our Town, it isn't so much that nobody cares about howlers like these—it's more that nobody notices.
With regard to the Times report, what is the actual truth about these important topics? :Ladies and gentlemen, don't ask us! At this site, we read the Times, Our failing Town's leading newspaper!
Final key point: Your lizard will insist that what we're saying is wrong. Your lizard loves tribal Storyline. Your lizard believes that, by definition, everything else is wrong.
How did that passage get into the Times? When we posed that question to top anthropologists, the piteous sounds of weeping emerged from their dark, musty, unfurnished caves.