Moral Compass? 3 The Quality of Media is Most Strange

October 29, 2020

“A leading government adviser has warned the UK is on course for "tens of thousands of deaths"

This advisor (not adviser) had the following credentials and was speaking from the following public platform: [He was] “ infectious diseases expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), [and he] was addressing a committee of MPs as part of a panel of experts..”

There’s an old Buddhist teaching:

The Buddha taught there were five things to consider before speaking. Is what you’re about to say:

  1. Factual and true
  2. Helpful, or beneficial
  3. Spoken with kindness and good-will (that is, hoping for the best for all involved)
  4. Endearing (that is, spoken gently, in a way the other person can hear)
  5. Timely (occasionally something true, helpful, and kind will not be endearing, or easy for someone to hear, in which case we think carefully about when to say it

Clearly ‘tens of thousands of deaths’ forecast, off the cuff, and on the sole basis of one’s authority as being a learned person, a governmental advisor, possibly in an appropriate field, - and as far as I see things – is not true nor is it helpful.

It is pretty much speculation. It may – God forbid! - become true, but it is not true at present, no speculation on the future can be, by definition.

Helpful? To the general welfare, certainly not. To the interests of sections within that general body, perhaps.

Another of this same expert’s gems was this statement:“He said no one thought that Tier 3, the toughest restrictions currently being imposed in England, would bring the virus's reproduction rate below one.”

More doom and gloom. Not “most people”, nor “most experts” but “no-one” - absolutely no-one thinks the 3 Tiers will be effective. Where is the benefit to the ordinary person in having aired before us all this glum prophecy? What is this guy doing – and moreover, why have these citations from the meeting been selected to head up and to fill out the BBC news platform article? Is there method in this madness; besides that media madness which will try to draw in readerships at too high a price?Hard upon the opening statement, which has an effect alone upon the general reader, which I would I believe fills him/her with dread, there comes this light relief:

But he struck a note of optimism on the prospects of a vaccine..”

The drift of these revelations appears clearly to me to be telling us that we should pin our hopes, (all our hopes?), on a vaccinne forthcoming soon. A bit like: The bad and the good news, The carrot and the stick, The good cop and the bad cop? A stale routine; or an effective ‘opinion forming’ exercise? You decide.

The next put-the-wind-up-us statement is:

England's deputy chief medical officer ……..[__person’s name]... has previously described coming deaths from the infections that have already happened as being "baked in".

Another doom-laden predictive speculation; this time that, if at present you have the virus and are in hospital because of it, you are among those of whom a portion are already condemned to die from the infection. Imagine you’re in a ward and you read this, or worse, you hear the thought spoken from your ward in your bed being, and being expressed on the TV in front of you. Does it bear any warrant of acceptability to say such a thing, at a meeting which inevitably will be publicised, and which is known to be such, by participants? Not true; not helpful. Not true unless one reads it as meaning that in a sense all of us, all living things, are already thus condemned

Remember these are living flesh and blood people these guys are talking about, and are talking to – they are not mere abstract numbers.

Now the BBC writer to whom this article is ascribed goes on to delineate what an “R” number is, by teling us that:

An "R number" - the number of extra people infected by each case of the virus - above one means the epidemic is growing; below one and it's shrinking”

This statement is utterly wrong. The writer is an eductated person – I can only think that the article was written in haste and that it was not properly, carefully reread before it was posted up. This is the most kind, and the most likely explanation; which however does imply negligence in its author, and in turn this negligence implies - in my own eyes at least - that its author had no proper regard or respect for his/her readership. (There may be time constraints for getting breaking news out there – but discerning people will wait five minutes for cogent informative news from a source they regard.

The statement should be phrased thus: “An "R number" – is the likely number of people who will be infected by each person who already has the virus – whilst the “R” number is ascending, the epidemic is growing; whilst the “R” number is descending, the epidemic is shrinking”

And this delineation is nothing like the version of “R” we have put before us by The BBC here.

Back to the “l__eading government adviser” on 10,000s of deaths, who then went on – or is cited as having said:

"Let's say Tier 3 works and keeps the reproduction number at about one - and I don't think anybody really thinks it's going to reduce it to less than one - that means that in Liverpool and Manchester and the north west, now we'll keep the incidence at this high level which is putting hospitals under strain."

I think I understand what he’s saying here – but surely it could have been made more intelligible by a little minimal editing and without altering the sense? He’s merely saying that “if one person infected were to continue to infect other people at a rate one one person only catching it from him/her, then in those places where infections are presently very high, there would be, and there could be, no change in levels of infections for the better or for the worse”

The article’s author then adds immediately after this : “Any area in a lower tier will see its epidemic keep growing, [the leading government advisor] said, until it has to be brought into Tier 3.”

Surely this statement, placed where it is here immediately after the ‘Let’s say Tier 3 works...’etc statement is here placed either completely out of its context, or else it has to be wholly nonsense?

Think about it– how can any area which presently is in a lower level, Tier 1 or Tier 2, possibly be brought into the highest level Tier 3, whilst its “R” rate is remaining constant at 1?!!

But this is BBC News which ‘brings you all the news, covers every angle, with experts that will tell you all you need to know, everything about the issues of the day, and covering all corners of the globe...etc etc” [my remembrance, but I think a very near paraphrase]

At this point in the article the same expert is cited has having said: "I think it's an almost certainty that we'll have a vaccine that will help us manage this epidemic" in the "not too distant future".

And he said: it was "certainly possible" there'd be a vaccine for the highest risk groups by the end of the winter.”

Again bright hope following after great doom – why is the article arragned in this way – is someone playing with us? Why the vacillations from deep gloom forecasts, to rosy horizons?

Now a woman professor enters the article and she – a “director of the Joint Biosecurity Centre” is said to have said: , “She gave as an example of "somewhere in the region of" 150 cases per 100,000, a positivity rate of about 7% and a rate of change of about 60% per week.”

My arithmetic is nowhere above GCSE level but I make this calculation again to be an utter nonsense. My untaxed brain gives me a figure percentage based on 100,000 and 150 of less than around 0.2% - a magnitude at least of 35 times less or thereabouts than the figure given of 7%!! Some mistake here surely?

Now we return in the article back to the original “l__eading government adviser” who had apparently “..__exchanged words with health and social care select committee chair..” who had asked him “why Sage did not model test and trace as a national strategy for tackling the pandemic, alongside a lockdown and herd immunity.”

The “l__eading government adviser” returned an answer thus, that “a previous paper had been published on test and trace” . “__But he added that at that point, when there were "perhaps 100,000 to 200,000 infections a day, there is no way that anybody can test and trace their way out of that".

This answer of his concerning testing and tracing one’s way out of 200,000 infections a day, is quite offensive – to me myself – and I’ll say why it is so.

Firstly it is not an answer to the quesion put – it is a rebuff of the question put. It is as if to have said – wh__at his the point to clos__ing the stable door after the horse has bolted? The crucial fact is that there are other, many many other horses still in the stable and able and likely to bolt and to continue bolting, and so to close the door at any time, the sooner the better, via implementing or at least beginning discussing implementing track and trace, would always be a very good idea and proper action to take.

The answer offered approaches insolence. It is flippant and it is unbecoming for a man of science, and in this present time, to have been said.

Moral Compass?