The Bed-Wetter Awards: Best Performance By A Media Organization

In our last episode, we nominated best performance by a politician for the First Annual Bed-Wetter Awards. This time we’re moving on to best performance by a media organization. Spoiler alert: I’ve already picked the winner.

There’s no shortage of bed-wetters among the media, of course. Most media types have been dutifully supporting the view of The Anointed that by gosh, we can’t get back to normal gatherings UNTIL IT’S SAFE! Well, that is … uh … unless people are crowding together for purposes that meet with their approval. Then the idea that crowds will spread the coronavirus just kind of vanishes. There’s a strange lack of embarrassment among news organizations that put out articles like these on the same day:

So there you have it. Large gatherings are extraordinarily dangerous, but only if you don’t like who’s gathering. Got it.

The Bed-Wetter nominees were by no means limited to American news organizations. Here’s a superb bed-wetter performance by a BBC host:

Lord Sumption, her guest, points out that coronavirus is mostly killing people who are old and have multiple health conditions. Somehow the BBC reporter interprets that as it’s killing people who would have been with us for many years.

Uh, no. It’s mostly killing people who already have one foot in the door marked EXIT. I’ll give you a close-to-home, somewhat painful example: when I spoke to my mom back in April, she told me she was very worried she would catch coronavirus and die. Had she caught the virus in her fragile condition, it may indeed have killed her, in which case she would have been counted as a COVID death. But she didn’t catch the virus. She died from a hemorrhagic stroke instead.

She was almost 84 and her brain health was deteriorating. I’m sorry she died and I’ll miss her, but I accepted more than a year ago that she was headed for the door marked EXIT. It was only a question of exactly when she’d be gone.

When Lord Sumption pointed that we will never live in a risk-free world, and that people who are afraid of the virus can self-isolate, the reporter immediately responded with But what if you’re a carrier of the virus and go to the theater and infect the person next to you! Perfect bed-wetter sentiment … which Lord Sumption dismissed by explaining the obvious: the person next to him at the theater would be there voluntarily, and could just as easily be a carrier of the virus.

I could go up and down the list and find articles and newscasts warning that WE CAN’T RETURN TO NORMAL UNTIL IT’S SAFE! from nearly every major news organization. No surprise there. Besides largely being mouthpieces for The Anointed, news reporters aren’t losing their jobs because of the lockdowns. In fact, the lockdowns have simply granted many reporters the luxury of doing their jobs from home. (Same for me: no bothersome commute since March.) If lockdowns were causing massive layoffs in the news business, I suspect the narrative would be different.

Since there are simply too many bed-wetters to choose from in the major media, I’ve selected a dark-horse winner: PsyPost.org, which describes itself as a psychology and neuroscience news website dedicated to reporting the latest research on human behavior, cognition, and society.

The winning performance was an article titled Psychopathic traits linked to non-compliance with social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic. Let’s take a look:

New research provides some initial evidence that certain antagonistic personality traits are associated with ignoring preventative measures meant to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The study has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science.

Ah, well, as we know, peer-review in psychology is a rock-solid guarantee that we’re looking at valid research … so rock-solid that most experiments can’t be replicated.

Anyway, here’s a quote from the study’s author:

“It was clear from reports in the media very early in the COVID-19 pandemic that some people were rejecting advice to socially distance and engage in increased hygiene. There can be many reasons for this, and I thought that personality may play at least a small role in it.”

And what would those personality traits be, oh wise one?

“I knew that traits from the so-called Dark Triad (narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy) as well as the traits subsumed within psychopathy are linked to health risk behavior and health problems, and I expected them to be implicated in health behaviors during the pandemic.”

Goodness. People who ignore orders to stay off the beach exhibit traits subsumed within psychopathy? Can you explain how you reached that conclusion?

“People high on the Dark Triad traits may knowingly and even deliberately put other people’s health at risk, e.g., by engaging in risky sexual behavior and not telling their partner about having HIV or STIs.”

Hmmm … seems like a rather giant case of bait-and-switch to me. I’m no psychologist, but I’m pretty sure engaging in sex without telling your partner you have the HIV virus isn’t quite the same as ignoring a governor’s orders to stay off the beach.  That’s like putting people who have two glasses of wine in a restaurant and then drive home into the same category as people who chug a fifth of gin and then pilot a commercial airliner.

“Early in the pandemic, and in subsequent months, there were numerous reports of individuals purposefully coughing, spitting, or even licking door handles in public, either as a way to intimidate others or as a way to rebel against the emerging new norms of social distancing and hygiene.”

Again, I’m no psychologist, but I’m pretty sure people who spit on fruit and lick door handles in public during a virus outbreak do indeed have issues. I’m also pretty sure people who spit on fruit and lick door handles in public when there’s no outbreak of any disease whatsoever have those same issues. I’m also pretty sure people who spit on fruit and lick door handles in public don’t belong in the same category as people who ignore orders to stay off the beach. But the article goes to great lengths to link them:

People who scored higher on the psychopathic subtraits of meanness and disinhibition tended to show less interest in social distancing and hygiene. Meanness and disinhibition also predicted the endorsement of behavior that puts others at risk of infection, such as touching or sneezing on high-use surfaces in public.

Ah yes, the old A is linked to B and B is linked to C, so A must produce C nonsense. Yes, I’m sure mean, disinhibited, psychotic people are less compliant with social distancing … and I’m sure mean, disinhibited, psychotic people are more likely to spit on fruit and lick door handles and otherwise intentionally put others are risk. That doesn’t mean people who go the beach, get together with more than four friends, or otherwise resist social distancing are mean, disinhibited and psychotic.

Here’s an analogy: Compared to the rest of the population, criminals on average are less intelligent, less trusting, less emotionally stable, more violent, more psychotic, and more likely to be drug and alcohol abusers. Criminals are also far more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans. Therefore, we conclude that supporting the positions of the Democrat party is linked to being less intelligent, less trusting, less emotionally stable, more violent, more psychotic, and more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs.

Stupid conclusion, right? Sure is … but it’s pretty much the same (ahem) “logic” used by the study’s author. In fact, the study reminds me very much of the (ahem) “studies” that conclude libertarians and conservatives suffer from a form of mental illness. If you don’t agree that The Anointed should tell you how to run your life or your business, you might be mentally ill!

If you’ve ever read up on how those studies are designed … well, let’s just say they make Walter Willett‘s nutrition studies look like solid science by comparison. The perfessers simply design the study to produce results that confirm their own political views. Something like this:

“Jenkins, I have an idea for a study. Let’s conduct a survey to see if there’s any correlation between political preferences and traits such as paranoia, mental inflexibility, and callousness towards others.”

“Excellent idea, sir!”

“Now, we need to think of some questions for the survey. How shall we determine callousness towards others?”

“How about something like, I believe people who want to become American citizens should go through the legal naturalization process instead of sneaking into the country.

“Not bad, Jenkins. But it’s a little verbose. Let’s tighten that up to I am opposed to open borders.

“Very good, sir.”

“Indeed. How shall we define mental inflexibility?”

“Hmmm, that’s a tough one. Maybe something like, I believe what is or is not constitutional should be determined by what’s written in The Constitution.”

“Outstanding, Jenkins! You’re really getting the hang of psychological research. Finally, how would we define paranoia?”

“I’ve got it: I worry that the people running our government are secret Russian assets.”

“Jenkins!”

“Sorry, I meant, I worry that some Middle Eastern immigrants might be secret members of terrorist cells.

“Much better, Jenkins. Now get out there and make some phone calls.”

(47 minutes later)

“Well, Jenkins, what did you find?”

“Well sir, according to our completely objective data, political conservatives are far more paranoid, mentally inflexible, and callous then political liberals. “

“Good work, Jenkins! Let’s write it up and send it out for publication.”

Yes, that’s an exaggeration … but not by much. Point is, these “studies” are basically meaningless. They’re designed to give the answer the researcher wants.

This particular researcher wanted to link people who ignore orders to stay off the beach to people with psychotic traits who actually enjoy putting other people in harm’s way. And so, with a little A is linked to B and B is linked to C so A is linked to C magic, he did.

When I commented on the study on Twitter, I received a few replies along the lines of But bruh! If you ignore social distancing, you’re going to spread the disease and kill muh grandmuh! That’s callous, bruh!

That’s roughly as logical as saying that if I’m sexually promiscuous, I’m going to spread STDs and then you might catch one from your wife. If that happens, I didn’t infect you. Your wife did. If you’re afraid grandma will catch coronavirus, tell grandma to stay inside, observe strict social distancing, and refuse to let anyone in her house who hasn’t also observed strict social distancing. If you pick up the virus somewhere and then pass it on to your grandmother, I didn’t infect her. You did. So if you’re that worried, stay away from grandma UNTIL IT’S SAFE!

Does that sound a bit callous? Maybe. But if I were designing a study to determine who’s heartless and callous now that coronavirus is here, I’d start with this agree/disagree question:

I haven’t lost my job or experienced a reduction in my income during the mandatory social distancing that has bankrupted countless businesses and put millions of people on unemployment, and I support ongoing mandatory social distancing if there’s a teeny, tiny, itsy-bitsy chance it will prevent me from ever being exposed to the coronavirus.

A bed-wetter would agree. Clearly, so did our winner of Best Bed-Wetter Performance by a Media Organization.


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30 thoughts on “The Bed-Wetter Awards: Best Performance By A Media Organization

  1. George Henderson

    I’m pretty sure that Machiavelli would have advised Cesare Borgia NOT to get the Covid. He didn’t recommend the Prince expose himself to the plague, although admittedly it is a while since I read the book.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I just hope Machiavelli wouldn’t try to convince Cesare Borgia that if he locked himself away for several months, the virus would disappear.

      Reply
  2. LyndaS

    I used to have great respect for you Tom. I liked your logic and thinking but on covid-19 I totally disagree. You showed a photo of a black lives matter protest – everyone I could see was wearing a mask and they were outside. You simply can’t compare that to 22,000 plus 40,000 (according to Trump this morning, he’s opening up two venues) inside and probably not wearing masks. They have been told that masks are an option and given that Trump won’t wear one I’m sure his base will follow his lead. There is no comparison here that can be made.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Surely you realize that thousands of people packed into a small area violates social-distancing mandates whether they’re wearing masks or not? (People who violate orders to avoid beaches and parks are outside too.) And surely you realize cities all over the country have been packed with thousands of protestors, many of whom were not wearing masks, yet the major news organizations didn’t chide them for their “extraordinarily dangerous” behavior?

      https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jun/06/george-floyd-protests-uk-anti-racism-campaign

      https://www.mynews13.com/fl/orlando/news/2020/05/30/george-floyd-protesters-march-in-downtown-orlando-

      https://www.usnews.com/news/world-report/articles/2020-06-03/the-world-is-watching-us-protests-over-george-floyd

      Reply
      1. LyndaS

        Of course I realise that protesters, especially those without masks, violate social distancing and I’m not saying that I agree with this. The major difference I see is that protesters have been moved by a current event that should never have been acceptable whereas the rally is a folly, held with government consent, for a narcissistic man to massage his ego.

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Bingo, you just confirmed what I wrote: if we like who’s gathering, we don’t worry about spreading disease; if we don’t like who’s gathering, suddenly it’s irresponsible and dangerous becuz COVID.

          You should have simply written “the major difference I see is that I like the protestors but can’t stand Trump or his base” — which is fine, but it’s not fine for supposedly objective news organizations to let that hypocritical attitude inform their news reporting.

          A Trump rally is known as “campaigning” and doesn’t require government consent unless the First Amendment was repealed while I was asleep.

          Reply
          1. Don

            There’s no way to upvote comments here but you get a thousand for that one. Free speech is on life support thanks to decades of brainwashing in schools. The above poster said there is no comparison that can be made, but what she actually means is there is no comparison she will listen to. The next step, already being taken, is there is no comparison that will be allowed to be made. I’m sure she believes they’ll never come for her, but no person can have all the right thoughts, especially when the right thoughts change depending on who is in power. Scary times.

            Reply
            1. Tom Naughton Post author

              Exaaaaaactly. If you won’t stand up for free speech even when you don’t like or agree with the speaker, you have no right to complain when someone in power decides your free speech is hateful, harmful, too controversial, whatever, and doesn’t need to be heard anymore.

    2. Kate

      I’m with you, Lynda. I’ve read your blog with great interest and respect for your independent thinking for years, Tom. You have definitely left the mindset of open-minded sceptic for something more idealistic and less logical. However, it is your blog so go to it. You may notice the number if your followers dwindling, however.

      Reply
      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        You’ll have to explain what you mean by “less logical.” I believe I’m approaching the coronavirus issue logically and critically, as opposed to those approaching it with more emotion and fear than the virus warrants. Questioning the official line on coronavirus and criticizing the rules various governments have imposed to deal with it … isn’t that what an open-minded skeptic would do?

        Reply
  3. PrimalPhil

    One reason I suspect some commenters above are turned off by some of your COVID posts is that you seem a lot less charitable than usual, leaping to the worst interpretation of opponents while ignoring the alternatives.
    For instance, your example of media hypocrisy contrasting the media’s framing of the BLM protests and the Trump campaign rally assumes the media is following the principle: enforce the rules on people you disagree with and look the other way with violations you agree with. In this case that would be: “mass gatherings should be discouraged to avoid the risk of COVID unless you agree with the message or purpose of the mass gathering.”

    That’s clearly hypocritical, but there are other plausible interpretations. They may be following the principle: enforce the rules on everyone unless there is a good reason for an exception. This may seem the same, but it’s very different.

    Consider the rule, children ought to be well-mannered at formal dinners (say with the royal family or a US President you respect.)
    Scenario 1: Children dump their food, break the china and obnoxiously declare: I REFUSE TO EAT ANOTHER DEAN ORNISH INSIPRIED MEAL! Low carb meals are healthier, and we’re tired of eating this evil junk!
    Scenario 2: Children dump their food, break the china and obnoxiously present compelling evidence that they sincerely believe they are the victims of uncontroversial accounts of child abuse and demand an investigation.

    I suspect almost everyone here will agree with the ideas of the children in Scenario 1 but would still think the outburst was inappropriate and worthy of criticism. Scenario 2 however seems like a justified violation of the rule. It would be wrong and disingenuous to consider this an instance of hypocrisy rather than a principled legitimate exception. Even the first amendment has principled exceptions.

    So, what evidence do we have to think the media has any grounds for believing there is a principled difference? Well, Biden and politicians of both parties have cancelled all their political rallies for COVID concerns. That’s not because they don’t like adulation or because they think the election is less important than Trump supporters do, (on the contrary under Trump derangement syndrome, this election should seem to be the most important ever!) rather they might just believe it would be irresponsible. So, in the media’s minds political rallies from any party for an election, months away, are not important enough to break social distancing guidelines. Why would Trump rallies be any different?

    For the record, I agree with your dismantling of that so-called “study” and am generally in support of a Sweden style COVID response. (Note that Trump’s rally would’ve violated Sweden’s more relaxed rules too). Your point would be stronger if you contrasted the media’s approach to the “Stay at Home” protests vs. the BLM protests. By using a Trump campaign rally as your example, it seems lazy and uncharitable since campaign rallies and the two protests reflecting ostensibly two different kinds of pent-up rage, are not really in the same category.
    Trump derangement syndrome can cut both ways. In either case, he isn’t worth it.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      You certainly have a more generous interpretation of the media’s motivations than I do. Keep in mind, they weren’t just hypocritical when it came to Trump rallies vs. recent protests. They were also very concerned about people who showed up at state capitals to protest the inconsistent lockdown rules. Some even suggested the anti-lockdown protesters should sign documents saying they’d forgo medical care if they became infected. So those protests were dangerous and irresponsible, but the recent ones … muh, no big deal.

      Also keep in mind, I was a journalism major. We were taught about bias and how to avoid it as best we could. Now I see media organizations violating those principles all the time. Sharyl Attkisson does a fine job of describing just how far the journalism industry as a whole has veered away from any attempt at objective reporting in her book “The Smear.” Like me (and she’s been a reporter for decades, including a long stint at CBS), she believes many if not most journalists these days see themselves as advocates for a particular “correct” view, not as objective reporters of events.

      Reply
      1. Firebird7479

        I spent 20 years in broadcasting and saw censorship and agendas first hand.

        I don’t buy the analogy of protests vs. Trump rallies to a child’s behavior in different social settings.

        Reply
    2. Colin MacDonald

      Correct, they’re not in the same category, one’s part of the democratic process and has to be conducted before the election, not much point in a campaign rally after the election! The protests are in response to a problem that has beset society for the last 300 years, it didn’t just appear with Floyd’s killing, it’s important but not urgent. There seems to be no attempt to weigh up the risks and benefits of protest, neither have we done this calculation for lockdown. So ironically we have lockdown as an unmitigated good, and then we also have mass protests as a unmitigated good, as if you can unreservedly support two contradictory things.
      And Trump! The MSM do love to take him literally! We get forensic analysis of some infelicitous turn of phrase, his latest outburst is headline news. But we don’t take him seriously, and I think throughout this crisis he’s shown a lot more consistency than the anointed elite. It’s the elite that peddles unthinking “safetyism”, they are fixated on this, they have no concept of a downside. Trump on the other hand has shown a serious response to Covid but understands that there are other considerations, you can’t run a country using just one metric to guide your policy.

      Reply
  4. Robert

    CNN and MSNBC seem to be the worst offenders of bias in the media. Prime examples of this come from reports on the riots…peaceful protests. One reporter saying this has been largely a “peaceful protest” when the predominant light source in the shot is a building on fire. Or another reporter saying the same thing…er…except when people throw bottles, bricks, and other hard, heavy objects and scream obscenities. And both wetting themselves over people on the beach without masks while all but egging on the rioters…I mean “peaceful protesters.” The mainstream media has lost all credibility with me.

    Reply
  5. mike

    I think that you are right that the media has tended to be less interested in investigating the COVID risk of the protests, and I agree that they should be chided for this inconsistency. Where I don’t agree is that you seem to be taking this as evidence that COVID isn’t really a serious consideration that is only useful in bashing those the media doesn’t like. Where the media is falling down is in downplaying the risk for the protests. The administration is also falling over itself to downplay the risk everywhere else, while the news today is that the administration is taking more and more elaborate precautions to protect the president.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      No, I’m not taking the biased coverage as evidence that COVID isn’t serious. I’m simply pointing out the hypocrisy of the coverage.

      I believe the coronavirus outbreak is serious for the elderly, but no worse than a flu season for younger people.

      Reply
  6. Firebird7479

    From the CDC’s website:
    Test for Past Infection (Antibody Test)

    What do your results mean?

    If you test positive
    A positive test result shows you might have antibodies from an infection with the virus that causes COVID-19. However, there is a chance a positive result means that you have antibodies from an infection with a virus from the same family of viruses (called coronaviruses), such as the one that causes the common cold.

    Having antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 might provide protection from getting infected with the virus again. If it does, we do not know how much protection the antibodies might provide or how long this protection might last.

    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/serology-overview.html

    Also from the CDC: Survival rate is 99.9996%.

    Reply
  7. Paul

    Hi Tom,

    I agree with your media bias. It’s BS that the protests are “essential and important”, but Trumps rally is dangerous. Large public gatherings are large public gatherings and should be treated the same. As a lefty myself, this kind of nonsense is a real problem for everyone. I agree with the principle behind the protests, but they shouldn’t be exempt from social distancing criticism just because it’s a worthy cause. I also think Trump is a fool for holding his rally now, especially as it was only 6000 or so people, and they could easily have spread people out in that stadium. But they packed them together for his ego, so the footage would look better.

    I do disagree about the virus though. The US is currently spiking at around 50000 confirmed cases a day, and is goign to be hitting 200000 deaths pretty soon. For the whole country to pretty much just shrug their shoulders and go “ah, well, they’re mostly going to die anyway”, is pretty awful. The bigger problem is a total lack of strong, consistent leadership.

    That said. Coronavirus isn’t going anywhere until there is a vaccine, and there would be a whole host of unintended consequences if the lock down carried on for much longer.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      The number of cases is spiking partly because more people are being tested. The spike in deaths happened back in early May.

      https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=covid+deaths+usa

      Also keep in mind that many of those deaths were counted a COVID deaths because the person tested positive, but COVID wasn’t the actual cause of death.

      Shrug our shoulders? No, but we have to accept that the virus is here, it’s not going away, and staying in lockdown won’t prevent people from being exposed unless we stay in lockdown forever.

      Reply
      1. Firebird7479

        A new commercial has emerged from one of the Big Pharma companies. The propaganda behind it is all the these lab workers, feverishly, tirelessly working in their labs, coming up with the Covid Vaccine because “we care”. The tag line? “Better Health Through Science” 🙄

        I just saw a video from Mid-May. A county judge in Texas showing concern in a meeting about the testing process and how “lowering” the standards could bring a “spike” in cases via false positives. Apparently in Texas, if you show symptoms of the common cold (a Coronavirus), you’re diagnosed with Covid.

        What we are seeing in Texas is that very spike the judge was concerned about. Makes me wonder if the same thing is happening in Florida.

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Since the spike in cases isn’t accompanied by a corresponding rise in deaths, I’d say that’s a good bet.

          Reply
          1. Firebird7479

            The media doesn’t want to tell you that. It went from flattening the curve, to total deaths to it being all about the cases. They’ll never report the number of recoveries. They won’t report that the CDC is saying we are a couple of weeks away from an “endemic” due to the drop in people dying. So now they’re reporting on cases of Bubonic Plague in Mongolia. 🙄

            The Double Speak has been tremendous and it’s a shame so many people don’t pick up on it. For example:

            Great risk of getting infected if you go to the beach, the bar, a birthday party, church or a Trump rally.

            No risk if you peacefully protest for a good cause or chuck a brick through a window.

            The media’s collective heads would explode if they learned that many of those people who self-righteously protested went to the beach, the bar or a birthday party when they were done protesting and chucking bricks through windows.

            Reply
    2. Firebird7479

      I could break my leg and die from a fat embolism. If they were to test me for Covid during the autopsy and found me to be positive, they’d list the cause of death as Covid, not the fat embolism.

      Geez, I cannot believe we are still having these discussions.

      Reply
  8. Ulfric Douglas

    “you just confirmed what I wrote: if we like who’s gathering, we don’t worry about spreading disease; if we don’t like who’s gathering, suddenly it’s irresponsible and dangerous” Hit the nail on the head, amazing.

    Reply

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