Keeping up with the FITs, 3/2
Emily Oster on masking in schools; The Zvi vs. Tyler; Yascha Mounk on Ukraine; Garry Kasparov on Putin; Glenn Greenwald on war propaganda; Amanda Ripley on conflict
Where I live, in the third week of January, the daily case rate was about 500 per 100,000. It’s now 24. This means that the risk of any given person having COVID has reduced by a factor of about 20. So even if the risk of infection doubled for my child with the removal of masks, the overall risk is still down by a factor of 10. If, instead, we assume masks only reduce transmission risk by 10% — which is what was observed in the randomized trial in Bangladesh — then the risk is 18 times lower now than at the January peak.
This is all to say: if you put it in perspective in terms of changes, a removal of masks at this moment in the pandemic is extremely unlikely to result in the highest infection risk your child has experienced at school, even in the past month or two. (This same argument, turned on its head, is why it may ultimately make sense to return to masking during future surges).
About Tyler Cowen’s claim that wokeness has peaked, Zvi Mowshowitz writes,
The post also seems to confuse rates versus levels. The school board elections in San Francisco and the events in Virginia and the failure to fully cancel Joe Rogan (although he was forced to apologize and had a number of his past broadcasts censored) all point to the current level of the power of wokeness not being as high as some might have feared or hoped. That seems clear.
What it does not establish is the rate, which is what would determine whether something has or has not peaked. Are these fights that one would have expected different results from in the past in a way we could attribute to a ‘decline in wokeness’
Also, Christianity did not fade out after Rome defeated Jesus.
many of my ancestors lived and died on the territory that is now being targeted by Russian missiles. My grandfathers, Leon and Bolek, and my grandmothers, Chava and Mila, were all born in or around Lviv. Their lives were deeply shaped by the vicissitudes of history. They lost their parents, their grandparents, and most of their siblings to the ravages of the Holocaust.
. . .I once took for granted that my world would look a lot more like that of my parents than like that of their forebears. I was, I thought, lucky enough to be born in a more enlightened time, in which mutual understanding was on the rise, and dictators waging wars of conquest on the wane. But the lesson of Putin’s ruthless war on Ukraine is that even this modest hope may yet turn out to be an illusion.
Here is Garry Kasparov:
In my first years as an activist I often said that Putin was a Russian problem for Russians to solve, but that he would soon be a regional problem and then a global problem if his ambitions were ignored. This regrettable transformation has come to pass and lives are being lost because of it. It is cold comfort to be told, “You were right!” It is even less comforting when so little is being done to halt Putin’s aggression even now. What is the point of saying you should have listened and acted when you still aren’t listening or acting?
That is from Winter is Coming, published in 2015.
It is of course possible that the Western consensus is the overwhelmingly accurate one and that the moral framework that has been embraced is the correct prism for understanding this conflict. All sides in war wield propaganda, and that certainly includes the Russians and their allies as well. This article is not intended to urge the adoption of one viewpoint or the other.
It is, instead, intended to urge the recognition of what the effects of being immersed in one-sided, intense and highly emotionalized war propaganda are — effects on your thinking, your reasoning, your willingness to endorse claims or support policies, your comfort with having dissent either banished or inherently legitimized. Precisely because this propaganda has been cultivated over centuries to so powerfully and adeptly manipulate our most visceral reactions, it is something to be resisted even if — perhaps especially if — it is coming from the side or viewpoint you support.
My reading of the history of wars is that they usually seemed very exciting and morally certain early on. But most of them did not up that way.
when you’re in high conflict, and you’re in a position of authority, the instinct is to be super decisive and confident and never let them see you sweat. But in fact, we know from all the research that that doesn’t work either. You basically end up making yourself a target of convenience because you don’t look human anymore. So, if you show a little bit of humanity, and acknowledge that there’s no good answer here, every decision we make has a cost, that you lie awake at night worrying about the effects on families and kids from these decisions — that feels risky and dangerous. But in fact, if it’s genuine and authentic, it makes you human again. And it’s much harder for people to demonize you when you are human.
Pointer from FairForAll.
"My reading of the history of wars is that they usually seemed very exciting and morally certain early on. But most of them did not up that way."
Moral certainty and excitement index where I live is disturbingly high, whatever one thinks of the merits of the cases on either side of the war. Pro-Ukraine solidarity merchandise signaling is expanding around 10% per day, viral meme sharing at 100% per day. I barely go out during the work week and I've already seen t-shirts, hoodies, flags, bumper stickers, decals, lapel pins, and - no joke - Ukraine flag athletic socks.
Zelenskyy is already getting the hero champion savior treatment, and we're just getting started. The stage is set and people's psychological pumps have been primed. It wouldn't take much at this point to throttle this up into full-blown war hysteria. Americans are more than a little nuts lately about literally everything, and it wouldn't surprise me if we totally lose our minds over this and react in some suicidally unwise ways. Pray for calm, pray for peace.
These posts make me feel like there's about 35 other substack letters I should or would like to be subscribing to, but I don't have the money or the time to read them all....