Hacks and Quacks (Plague, Day 140, July 20, 2020)

I rarely interact on Facebook anymore, but last week, I vented. I wrote,

COVID rates are up, because people didn’t wear masks. Which means that teachers and professors will refuse to go back. And that means women won’t be able to go back to work, which will permanently destroy their careers. The entire economy will struggle, because half their workforce is home teaching their kids to read. Teenagers will become depressed without school and jobs. The poor, small children, and disabled kids and their families will suffer the most immediately, but the pain will be felt broadly. College students who are struggling academically and economically will drop out and never return. All because of masks.

The post made my friends uncomfortable, because many of them are teachers and professors, and they don’t want me to remind everyone their unwillingness to enter a classroom will have negative impact on poor people, disabled people, and women. But my friends are also sensible people who avoid fights and pretty much ignored what I had to say.

A high school friend shared this post on her wall. She lives in Iowa and Chicago, and is interior decorator that works for the super-rich of the midwest. She knows a lot of people. And they all went bananas.

A number of them simply did not believe that masks would help stop the spread of the virus and, in fact, were utterly convinced that the masks were poisonous, evil objects. They said that no mask would ever be put on their kids’ faces. Their rants went beyond the “freedom” argument for not wearing a mask. There was something supernatural about these objects, according to the commenters on this post, and these women hyperlinked to some quacks who supported their point of view.

According to the New York Times, some people are now saying that they won’t get a COVID vaccination, when it happens, because vaccines have already been branded as witchcraftery.

If the right has its mask-witchcraft, then the left has its own mobs trolling Twitter looking for Karens to burn at the stake. Has everyone gone crazy?

In the midst of this increasingly insane world, I have to figure out what will happen to my boys in two months. Both desperately need to go back to school, but the Magic Eight Ball tells me that school is doubtful.

I need to pull together my backup plans for Ian. I’m lining up tutors for the fall. I need to reserve them now, before they get totally booked up. Jonah’s school is going to be totally online, but I’m still sending him to an empty dorm; he needs to be around peers. I am so exhausted that I’m turning down writing gigs, but I have to start creating my own school and college for the boys.

I’m hearing stories from other friends. One friend, whose daughter goes to Harvard, said that parents are pissed, because the college will be totally online and, at the same time, the school is raising tuition. Parents at Harvard don’t want to pay more, for less schooling. But they are totally open to spending money in other ways. They are reserving Air BnB’s for their kids and their friends in cool places like Colorado or Canada. They kids will do their virtual classes in a cabin in the woods.

There are hacks to get around the inconveniences of the pandemic. And the upper middle class and the rich are figuring it out. Their kids will get educated. Their jobs are intact. Their stock portfolios are doing better than ever. They are insulated from the mobs, the uneducated rants, the breadlines, the gun violence, the record crime rates, the conspiracy theories, and the quacks.

Hacks on one side, quacks on the other.

32 thoughts on “Hacks and Quacks (Plague, Day 140, July 20, 2020)

  1. “If the right has its mask-witchcraft, then the left has its own mobs trolling Twitter looking for Karens to burn at the stake. Has everyone gone crazy?”

    Both sides do it!



    1. Actually, no, a snarky comment isn’t enough. This kind of pissed me off.

      I know it’s horrible to think that you or I or someone we know might be shamed for inappropriate behavior in public via social media BUT it bears absolutely no resemblance to the kind of paranoid insanity that motivates the anti-mask movement. Please do not put them in the same sentence (after you just showed how absolutely insane the anti-mask people are, no less!) with an if-then construction, subtly equating them. They are not the same.

      The comparison should be between the Karens who tremble in hysterical fear over a Black person in their vicinity and the Karens and Kens who tremble in hysterical fear over the idea that they will look stupid in a mask so they will gin up ridiculous arguments about “freedom” or latch on to paranoid conspiracy theories to justify their own patheticness.

      This post also brought to you by my husband’s cousin’s recent FB post about how “antifa and BLM” are coming to his town in NC to take down some random statue, “big crowd expected.” I will never understand how my sweet sane husband came from these people.


  2. We have the strange mask deniers here too, although hopefully with less clout. I’m like – look, underwear is restrictive and gets sweaty and I sometimes get a rash under my bra, but I still wear pants…and they aren’t saving anyone’s life, really. I also wear scarves and even sometimes balaclavas in the winter. I also wear a bike helmet and a seatbelt. I’m okay to wear a mask for say, 100 days and see if we all do it if infection rates go down.

    I’m starting to appreciate what must have been a very uphill climb for handwashing as a form of disease prevention back around when germ theory was developing. Although at least at the time people couldn’t Google all the counterarguments so easily. 🙂


  3. “ But they are totally open to spending money in other ways. They are reserving Air BnB’s for their kids and their friends in cool places like Colorado or Canada. They kids will do their virtual classes in a cabin in the woods.”

    This probably doesn’t cost more than room and board at Harvard. And it makes sense to me — they are creating pods for their kids, and it could be anywhere that’s convenient. Though apparently not the Bahamas right now. And Hawai’i says not ‘til September now. Hawai’i might be worth the self quarantine but not the time zone shift to Harvard.


    1. Not as much as police love beating up women.



      1. The sad thing about Malkin is that the police standing behind me at that event were making racist jokes about her. She’s beyond naive.


      2. Ah, the mistress of rhetoric rummages through her toolkit, and comes up with . . . the tu quoque! More colloquially referred to, these days, as whataboutism.


      3. I was trying to educate you about what beating up women really looks like, but it only works if you keep your eyes open when the video plays.


    2. Two women friends of mine (one from high school, one from college) married policemen and later divorced them. Both of the policemen physically abused my friends. One of them, post-divorce, routinely cruised by his ex’s house and called in the license tags of any car he found parked in the driveway.


  4. Canada is out as they are very politely keeping their border closed (in 30 day increments). Canadian experts are suggesting earliest possible time to reasonably open the Canadian border back up is 2021.


  5. re: hacks and quacks. Who’s on what side? I don’t think that those who will survive the pandemic intact are necessarily from one economic class, region, or political party. After all, there are a whole lot of UPM families who believe that vaccines cause autism. Crazy, but it fits into their natural food/yoga/healthy lifestyle mentality. Today’s Daily has a great episode about how vaccine deniers are in all levels of society. Excellent. Worth a listen. I am not even sure that Trump’s leadership on this issue would make much of a difference. That suspicion of science runs really deep and is bi-partisan.

    I do think that those that are going to be insulated from the economic downturn are UPM or protected by unions. I’m still surprised by stories that I’m hearing from contractors about all the high end home remodeling going on right now. It’s going to take me a month to get a contractor in here to repair the damages from the burst sewer pipe.

    re: the problem with Karens. Do I think that the destruction of nasty women on the Internet is the equivalent of people not wearing masks or refusing to get vaccines? No. I have no idea how one would actually put those problems on a scale. But I do think that Karen destruction is a problem for a lot of reasons. I can’t stand the blatant misogyny that undergirds much of the online gangs. They mock these women for the appearances. And they gleefully destroy their lives. I’m too squeamish to watch.

    There are people who have the resources to weather these storms — economic, ideological, and medical storms. But the inequities between those who merely survive and those who actually thrive are going to be huge, with long-lasting implications.


    1. The high end remodeling, education pods, Harvard/elite students renting cozy/fancy spaces to study in are income inequality trends. The phenomenon is scary, a dystopian future in which the very wealthy live in sky worlds while the rest of the populace fights it out on the street. There’s a dystopian version of this but there’s also the version that exists in the developing world where there’s rampant income inequality, and it does feel like we are moving further and further from an egalitarian shared ideal.

      I watched a webinar/seminar on an analysis of the effect of cholera on Paris by an economist and there were sad parallels, the poor dying and the rich retreating into ever more isolated worlds to protect themselves.


      1. The same phenomenon is described in many histories of New York City, as rich people commonly fled the city during plagues. Most often for yellow fever, I think, but sometimes for cholera.


      2. The info presented in the seminar was a contrast to the frequently circulated version where the “lower” class was able to extract more wages because so many people had died during the plague (the moderator asked the question). I think a key for Paris was that cholera devastated cities more than the countryside, thus leaving a supply of servant labor available.


      3. I think the “higher wages post-plague” narrative is more of a 14th century thing. In an agrarian society, where the only factors of production are land and labor, if the supply of labor goes down and the supply of land stays the same, the landowners (feudal lords) will get less money and the laborers (peasants) will get more. The resulting class conflict will lead to peasants’ revolts, the deposing of kings, etc. In contrast, European cholera is to my knowledge only found in urban environments during and after the age of exploration. I never encountered the theory that plagues of that nature raised wages.


    2. “re: the problem with Karens. Do I think that the destruction of nasty women on the Internet is the equivalent of people not wearing masks or refusing to get vaccines? No.”

      OK, good. You’re a writer, so be sure that’s more clear when you’re writing it.

      “But I do think that Karen destruction is a problem for a lot of reasons. I can’t stand the blatant misogyny that undergirds much of the online gangs. They mock these women for the appearances. And they gleefully destroy their lives.”

      “They.” Who? Within an online “gang,” as you all it (be careful about the racial connotations of the word “gang,” also, as these are usually the Black victims of the white women’s racist outbursts that are the ones publicizing what is happening to them) there are lots of things being said. Some of it is unwarrantedly misogynist. But each individual in the group is not necessarily responsible for the misogynist things said by others.

      I’ve been thinking a lot about shame for a while now, ever since I saw Season 2 of Big Mouth and again more recently watching the 2020 version of Emma. In S2 of Big Mouth, the Shame Wizard is a major character making all the kids feel ashamed of their sexuality, thoughts, and behaviors. But then they manage to get rid of the Shame Wizard, and all hell breaks loose. So, is shame good or bad? Or is there a healthy amount of shame that leads to a civil community? And then in Emma, the turning point of the novel/movie is when Emma acts badly, and basically Mr. Knightley shames her. Granted, he does it in private, but it’s a powerful moment where Emma feels true shame for her behavior – and class privilege/power – and changes for the better.

      I think it would be more useful to analyze the best ways to use shame to enforce civil and non-racist behavior. Instead of complaining about social media dogpiles on Karens, maybe we can think about how we can make people ashamed of having racist outbursts again. Personally, I don’t want to ruin anyone’s life. I just want them to stop having racist outbursts.


      1. “I just want them to stop having racist outbursts.” Yup, and, honestly, though I would like to see sincere self examination of the words and actions I will aim for just not doing these things (i.e. questioning other’s presence in spaces or access to activities).


  6. What shocks me about “karens” is how prevalent the behavior seems to be, and, I’m using it to describe entitled racism expressed by anyone (including men). I try to avoid making comparisons of bad things (including, say here, the natural comparison of whether the backlash or misogyny is worse than the “karens”.) Misogynous backlash is bad. Private entitled racism that is being uncovered by video is bad.

    (and, I personally have disliked the use of given names to describes types since I did it poorly in a critical thinking and writing class and was rightly chastised by a teacher. I’d borrowed the technique from some essay I’d read but then I did not write it well and, this was terrible, used a name shared by a classmate, though I really was not trying to target her — I just liked the name for the type).


    1. That woman in Central Park who called the cops on the black man who asked her to follow the leash rule was the one that surprised me first. Usually people don’t commit crimes on camera when they know they are being recorded.

      And then the next week about half the police forces in America did the same thing except physically.


      1. ” Usually people don’t commit crimes on camera when they know they are being recorded. ” Is that really true? I’m finding it surprisingly common.


  7. I do think that the rich can insulate themselves from many of the effects of the pandemic, and the more serious life altering ones. But except for the billionaires (and maybe not even them unless they also have political power and really don’t care at all what anyone else thinks, for example, Peter Thiel & Mohammad bin Salman) can get the world they want. The suburban gated community might benefit, but even The Villages is being impacted (in the I learned something new all the time, I hadn’t heard of the Villages until a week ago when the golf cart video in which a Villages resident shouted “white power” circulated). Parents can buy pod tutors/teachers for their child, but there’s a reason why rich people pay 80K for two kids to go to private schools like Dalton and it is not to get private tutoring for their child. They want their kids to be socialized in a community, and one broader than just their own friends. People can buy from Goldbelly, but that’s not the same as eating your food at Rauls (review of Goldbelly in the New Yorker).


  8. An artist I follow, who, like so many other artists started a project for the pandemic (she has been drawing her hand) asked herself how long she would continue the other day. She, like many of us, had been imagining a month, or a hundred day project. Now, we’re on our fourth month and Day 120+. Laura gave up numbering her posts.

    The artist has decided to continue for “however long it takes”. “For me, . . . the day I feel safe again to be with other people, masked or not, and feel free of fear (at least of this virus).”

    I want that, too, and no amount of insulation will get me that until . . . . The artist believes that will be when she is personally vaccinated for the virus. Unfortunately, I don’t have that degree of confidence in a vaccine and my personal safety will be insufficient (say, it won’t open the schools). So for me, it isn’t until our public health environment is uprighted. And I have much greater fears about when that might be.


  9. This is interesting:

    That’s an article about how terribly wicked and racist it is to form educational pods for your kids for when schools are closed.

    “Many will read this article and ask what they’re supposed to do instead. I don’t have the answer. Parents are in an unimaginably hard position. Raising children without the in-person schooling so many families rely on can be a nightmare on the most personal level. Whatever parents ultimately decide, they must understand that every choice they make in their child’s education, even the seemingly benign, has the potential to perpetuate racial inequities rooted in white supremacy.”

    That’s helpful.

    “We can either take this moment to continue that pattern by retreating into the comfort of our own advantages, or we can act to dismantle racist educational policies, fight for equitable distribution of school funding and build authentic community with one another. Now is the time to reimagine our beliefs, our lives and what we’re willing to do to create a future that works for all children.”

    You may wonder how exactly that is supposed to be achieved during the pandemic with schools closed. Me too!


    1. I came across the anti-pod NYT piece via Reason guy Robby Soave.


      His take on the piece:

      ““Many will read this article and ask what they’re supposed to do instead. I don’t have the answer.” Great, thanks for this.”

      “Me: We should just pretty much re-open all the schools per normal.
      Ed “experts”: STOP KILLING US.
      Me: Okay…. uh, I guess parents need to coordinate daycare with their friends, then? Probably we should make it easy for them.
      Ed “experts”: RACIST.”

      “Later, Me: I guess we have to let kids run feral in the street while their parents return to work?
      Ed “experts”: RIGHT-WING WAR ON EDUCATION”

      “It’s pathologically unhelpful, and speaks volumes about the education industrial complex.”


    2. We learn at the bottom of the anti-pod piece that “Clara Totenberg Green is a social emotional learning specialist in Atlanta Public Schools.”

      You might think that (as a social emotional learning specialist) she might be able to share some professional insight on the impact of isolation and peer-deprivation on the development of school-aged children, but apparently not.


      1. Any education industry person who doesn’t like the job that American parents are doing at home, on their own dime, is more than welcome to start doing more racially and economically equitable teaching themselves in person for free.


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