Covid-19: The Great Pause
April 11, 2020 10:17 AM   Subscribe

It’s the greatest gift ever unwrapped. Not the deaths, not the virus, but the Great Pause. It is, in a word, profound. Please don’t recoil from the bright light beaming through the window. I know it hurts your eyes. It hurts mine, too. But the curtain is wide open. What the crisis has given us is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see ourselves and our country in the plainest of views. " It is also ... "..a perfect time for Best Buy and J. Crew and Gwyneth Paltrow to help me feel normal again... Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting. Here. The Great American Return to Normal is coming!
posted by IndelibleUnderpants (84 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
 
I read this this morning. Maybe I'm not the right audience but the last thing I need right now is for people to tell me "When things get better, they're actually getting worse".
posted by rebent at 10:19 AM on April 11 [17 favorites]


This piece is really fucking good, thank you for sharing it.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:25 AM on April 11 [12 favorites]


This piece really opened my eyes to the fact that companies use advertising to convince people to buy their products and services. Revelatory and profound.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:30 AM on April 11 [48 favorites]


rebent: " the last thing I need right now is for people to tell me "When things get better, they're actually getting worse"."

Huh, I got the opposite reaction: the piece felt overly cheery and sunny and optimistic to me; the whole thing about people being basically good and caring because of some facebook posts and zoom events and about how capitalism is not essentially evil, etc.
posted by signal at 10:34 AM on April 11 [8 favorites]


Here's why this pandemic is a once in lifetime opportunity... for me once again grind this here axe and use this here cudgel that, by the way, I use every day anyway.
posted by Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza at 10:36 AM on April 11 [26 favorites]


Can y’all like take a beat maybe and if you wanna critique the post do so using your words rather than immediate knee jerk threadshitting
posted by lazaruslong at 10:44 AM on April 11 [84 favorites]


I doubt the 'essential' people who are currently fighting their employers for PPE, those who got laid off, those who don't have companies to return to, and those who have lost friends and family are going to be easily swayed by advertising.
posted by meowzilla at 10:44 AM on April 11 [9 favorites]


There will be no more normal. The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry and this one has gone fully sideways. People think this is going to be a normal distribution curve and that once we crush the curve (and the virus) things will start up again.

It won't.

We're going to have a sine wave of a death curve. It's going to wreak havoc on us for months to come. It will be a slow, tortuous ramp as we edge out, letting the immune try and hold up the economy, as it rips through the rest of us as we make the mad dash for a vaccine, a drug, a monoclonal antibody, anything we can use to fight the battle. The best we can hope for is that we don't crap out when we get to be the shooter.

There are going to be a lot of frustrated and scared people as we ease and tighten restrictions, almost mirroring the sine wave of our upcoming death numbers only lagging by two weeks. It will be at least another six months of this chaos, maybe 12. Treatments will be developed which help survival but nothing will stop the spread short of a vaccine. Anything prior to that is just Vader throwing Palpatine down a shaft. Yeah it looks done and dusted but the Emperor is still in the shadows ready to fuck everyone up.

I'd like to be more cheery or optimistic but our current leadership couldn't organize an orgy in a brothel and being able to restore normalcy is probably outside their skill set. We need to have wide scale testing and surveillance and I don't think the administration has the skill or inclination to supply a wide scale testing initiative or the public trust to be able to pull it off surveillance of the population. Everyone else is trying their damned hardest but "BLOOD FOR THE CAPITALISM GOD" will be the overarching theme of the executive branch and half the state governors. Being able to restore normalcy means no holes in the dike and for the next six months that dike may as well be Swiss cheese.

Be excellent to each other, people because we're all going to need it.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 10:53 AM on April 11 [151 favorites]


my consumer life is limited to weekly trips for groceries and ${APPLE_PRODUCT} every year or three so even the current pandemic that has made tens of millions of people temporarily jobless hasn't altered my daily pattern much at all (fortunately the abstract nature of my work allows 100% WFH).

I put down my $100 on a cybertruck when it was announced since I've been wanting to go off in an offroad camper for many years, to be able to live a life out in nature with peace & quiet, albeit without total monastic simplicity, as cooking for oneself can add a a lot of complexity to daily life if you let it ...

Now that I'm in my 50s the Ten Foot Square Hut story I was exposed to in college has more meaning now...

But I'd like to think Calvin describes my somewhat-stunted-yet-incredibly-fortunate life best...
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 10:54 AM on April 11 [2 favorites]


The 1950s tried it on people who had been through economic collapses, world war, and displacement and on a lot of people it worked really well. With, of course, the background of the Great Compression, but no one in the 1950s knew that was going to work.
posted by clew at 10:54 AM on April 11 [5 favorites]


Well, the treadmill you’ve been on for decades just stopped.

Counterpoint: because I can no longer run outside, I bought a treadmill, and it just started! And, thanks, mainsplainer.com, but people are not hamsters on a wheel, mindlessly running nowhere towards some imaginary goal. They are individuals doing the best they can with what they've got. And I'm sure, despite your flowery turns of phrase and exhortations to both be awed and horrified by what has happened, that you sure as fuck don't have everything figured out. Yours is just another insidious form of advertising, a commercial for your thought leadership cloaked in a warning about - galaxy brain emoji - capitalism.

I see people in all spaces - work, Facebook, blogs - jockeying for ownership of The Answer. Just cut it out. One day at a time is the only way.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:59 AM on April 11 [48 favorites]


OK; rather than sitting on the sidelines and lobbing shit, let me explain exactly why this piece is so terrible.

First, it's ignorant. By which I mean it is not informed by any historical, sociological, political, economic, public health, medical, or artistic knowledge or perspective.

Example: The thesis seems to be that after this catastrophe, there will be corporate and political forces working to return the country to a state identical to the pre-catastrophe state. An interesting idea, sure. But let's think about it in historical terms. There was a large-scale catastrophe within the living memory of most Americans--9/11. An analysis of the societal changes that 9/11 did or did not lead to may support or undermine the thesis, but it seems worthwhile to explore. Similarly, we could look at Europe and the Black Death, or the 1918 flu.

I'm not saying the author needs to take a historical perspective, but the piece should be informed by something. Some knowledge, some understanding. But it isn't, which makes it bad.

There's also the rhetorical style which is, frankly, sophomoric. This literally reads like something a college sophomore would write.

First of all, the idea of gaslighting, which is, in 2020, a hoary cliche. And he finds the need to define it at the top of the piece? This is almost comic.

Then there's the tone. I will admit that I immediately disliked it upon reading the Metafilter post because it is so arrogantly talking down to me. I might accept that kind of rhetorical device from a thinker I greatly respect, but not from some rando on Medium. And no thinker I greatly respect would write like that.

I could go on... There are the usual suspects of "corporations" and "advertising". Yawn. These are things worth talking about, sure, but this is at dorm-conversation level. Again, it's not informed by any understanding. There's the almost surprised tone upon revealing that Trump is a moron. OK.

Anyway, it's bad.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:04 AM on April 11 [68 favorites]


Cool. I look forward to your newsletter. You can skip shit you don’t like by the way.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:05 AM on April 11 [6 favorites]


Exactly. It’s a classic “subscribe to my newsletter” writing style
posted by mr_roboto at 11:10 AM on April 11 [15 favorites]


your sophomoric
posted by team lowkey at 11:13 AM on April 11 [8 favorites]


It seems sophomoric to offer 9/11 as a point of comparison to me, so horses for courses, etc.

While the tone bugged me a bit too, and I am no lover of randos-on-medium trying to grab the spotlight by sheer force of Dunning-Kruger effects, I am personally thrilled to see lots of people sharing and discussing the notion that a return to ‘normal’ is hugely problematic.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:14 AM on April 11 [26 favorites]


I fear we won't be capable of doing the right thing in our eagerness to return to normal. Will we choose to cook and eat at home or will we rush to support our favorite local eatery/drinkery an be grateful that they will cook for us even as they admit it's too expensive to pay the waitstaff a living wage, or provide them with PPE in a post-covid world? Will we respect the sacrifices athletes make to their future bodies and stand behind efforts to change the NCAA,or will we rush to pack stadia and refill the coffers of coaches and nike and athletic departments across the country? Will we see the return of clean air as a future we can achieve or will we shrug and pack the ferries as we head to the coast or clog I-5 on our way to the mountains ? I don't think it will take much to gaslight a populace who still believe that their true sacrifice in all of this is their inability to support the consumer economy.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:14 AM on April 11 [11 favorites]


I really don't know how big business is going to change our priorities from staying alive and making rent quickly enough to... make sure we can continue to make rent. I'm certainly not going to believe the government as soon as they say it's okay to make social calls and eat at restaurants again. If I'm not going anywhere besides the bare minimum because I'm scared to death, there's no real need to buy a significant amount of what we buy for non-necessities. Our economic problems are going to persist and a one time payment of $1200 is a band-aid on a broken kneecap.
posted by Selena777 at 11:20 AM on April 11 [4 favorites]


It's not that I particularly disagree with the main points of the piece about advertising and capitalism, but the author seems to be making a lot of assumptions about his audience. Like, that this is a "pause" for them, and not an even busier or more stressful time. This does not align with the lived experience so far of at least half of the people I know.
posted by eviemath at 11:38 AM on April 11 [73 favorites]


Poor sophomores.
posted by benzenedream at 11:38 AM on April 11 [15 favorites]


Well perhaps the article should be 'Recovery Lite' then... My personal take on it was just that. One vision of many but with no real SOLUTION. My take-away from the article is... people are going to need to have a serious rethink regarding how they live their lives. How they work, how they eat and feed others, how they consume.

People have been buying a LOT of crappy, poorly made, pointless, needless, junk for too long and disposing of most of it once the thrill has gone. Visit any charity store and you will see various themes within books (Dan Bro0wn, Cussler etc), electrical goods (the big one used to be humidifiers and is currently bread machines - I suspect the next will be the One-Pot variants), and vast quantities of clothing (much never worn and with original price tags on) which were either impulse buys or past a return date. Most of it pointless crap diverted temporarily from a landfill or sending off on a boat to make it a problem for someone else. And do not even get me started on seasonal lawn inflatables!!!

Mrs. Underpants and I have been living a 'simpler' life for about 8 years now. Avoiding shopping mainstream retail as much as possible, we find it difficult going out to eat anywhere because we are both good cooks/preserve foodstuffs by canning, dehydrating, vacuum storage, Foodsaver freezing etc, and leading a relatively uncomplicated life. We do not own a TV and have not for 20+ years, relying upon the usual suspects of online streaming IF we need it.

So, rather than attacking the article, what is YOUR vision of 'The Future To Come'. Let's be constructive here.
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 11:49 AM on April 11 [10 favorites]


Whatever your take on this, it has been interesting to watch Mother Nature and her little virus comment on 100 years of "there's nothing we can do to slow global warming/climate change."

Oh yes there is: do nothing.

(I think the caesura will be short-lived; the main change that will result is even more travel hassle, this time medical, as well as invasive tracking.)
posted by chavenet at 11:49 AM on April 11 [11 favorites]


Oh yes there is: do nothing.

It's a mixed blessing, though. Oil is going to be very, very cheap for the foreseeable future, which will make the transition to a sustainable energy economy all the more difficult.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:54 AM on April 11 [11 favorites]


Cool. I look forward to your newsletter. You can skip shit you don’t like by the way.

Strange reaction from somebody who asked that people critique the content rather than kneejerk threadshit.
posted by Pendragon at 11:56 AM on April 11 [26 favorites]


[Folks please keep it cool in here, and please drop the focus on other people in the thread and stay focused instead on the article or the real-world situation.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:58 AM on April 11 [17 favorites]


I've been gloomily thinking that every effort to reduce pollution or GHG is now going to be met with "Oh, you want to crash the economy AGAIN? You really liked it when everyone died, didn't you?" which doesn't make a lot of sense but is so close to the responses we got *before* that we know it will work, now with extra self-righteous anger!
posted by clew at 12:01 PM on April 11 [6 favorites]


I did not RFTA because I landed on this tab accidentally after I finished reading the Fabio vs Goose essay. I thought you guys were being surprisingly harsh about Fabio’s ill-fated Greek roller coaster stunt.
posted by Maarika at 12:32 PM on April 11 [50 favorites]


eviemath: "Like, that this is a "pause" for them, and not an even busier or more stressful time. This does not align with the lived experience so far of at least half of the people I know."

This. I'm working longer hours, and keeping my business going, and all the 'what to do with your spare time' covid posts just leave me cold.
posted by signal at 1:05 PM on April 11 [46 favorites]


Well, the treadmill you’ve been on for decades just stopped. Bam!

That has not been my experience or that of anyone I know. For most people, the treadmill just got way harder — some out of work and worrying about bills, some working from home and simultaneously keeping home schooling going, worrying about health and social isolation, and so on. Economically, ecologically, whatever the metric, it isn’t as simple as a pause.

Personally, I agree that this is a sophomoric piece. More generously, it has clearly found an audience and is speaking to some people, so perhaps there is more depth here than I am seeing, or I am just not the right audience in some way.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:38 PM on April 11 [21 favorites]


The article does have its flaws, but agreed with the collective thoughts upthread about what individual people may be learning or relearning right now. Every institution I personally interact with is looking around, trying to figure the odds on how quickly things can get back to exactly the way they were before COVID-19, or maaaaybe fucking people over a little harder. Many institutions won’t survive at all, of course, but inertia’s a Hell of a drug. Any article, essay, novel, vlog, tweet, or comment that can shift things toward a brighter, more just future is a gem in my book.
posted by cupcakeninja at 1:50 PM on April 11 [5 favorites]




I think it makes a solid point on the narrative that'll be pushed: the medical crisis was fabricated and any shortcomings in leadership can be blamed on the subversive Left.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:06 PM on April 11 [2 favorites]


This has been making the rounds in my social circles, and a lot of people who aren't normally super left or woke or anti-capitalist whatever are really appreciating it's message, so for that alone I really appreciate its usefulness.

Something I try to remember is that good ideas that are ultimately subversive (in the case of this essay, being openly critical of the role that advertising plays in normalizing and propping up a fundamentally unequal American economy) take a lot of very different messengers to make them mainstream, and to be humble and not "God I can't believe you just figured this out" when people encounter a messenger that helps the light bulb click for them, even and especially if that messenger is not how I would have presented things. This is really hard. But I'm glad his essay has resonated with a lot of people who may not be as advertising-critique-literate as the average MeFite.
posted by mostly vowels at 2:27 PM on April 11 [52 favorites]


This has been making the rounds in my social circles, and a lot of people who aren't normally super left or woke or anti-capitalist whatever are really appreciating it's message, so for that alone I really appreciate its usefulness.

I'm having the same experience, and feeling a similar gratitude. I'll admit that I bounced off this piece on my first pass at "the cell phone ringing and the laptop pinging," and was not much more impressed upon completion, but if this is working for folks, then it's working for me.

Same deal with the whole "Comrade Britney Spears" thing. Regardless of what memes she reposts, I don't yet expect her to lead us to the barricades. But she did record a shoutout to workers on her Instagram the other day, then rerecorded it the next day while wearing all red. Whatever, I'll take it. I care less and less what gets people people to See It. I can't point to exactly what it was that got me to see it anymore - it was probably hundreds of little things that added up to become undeniable. There might not be much meat in this piece for a leftist of much experience to chew, but it seems to be resonating nonethless. That's not a bad thing.
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:49 PM on April 11 [18 favorites]


This has been making the rounds in my social circles, and a lot of people who aren't normally super left or woke or anti-capitalist whatever are really appreciating it's message, so for that alone I really appreciate its usefulness.

Same, and I'm glad there are articles like this to help people try saying it out loud for maybe the first time, or first time in mixed company anyway. Many people arrive more slowly to these things than those lucky revolutionaries to whom it is delivered whole all in one moment.

And I was 29 on 9/11; there are absolutely parallels, and lessons we either did or didn't learn then that are useful now. I'd already been on unemployment for several months in the dotcom bust, and that economic recovery - from an incident that shut down only a couple of cities for a few days plus a slightly longer-tail hit to the travel industry - sucked and was painful and was weirdly self-unaware, which I think is something people are trying to counter with essays like this one. I remember the constant messaging that spending money was patriotic and was the path back to "normalcy", which people clung to like a teddy bear. A lot of real shit decisions got made in the distraction of people trying to "heal" and get everything back to normal again. You have to fight that kind of narrative early, before it gets roots.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:37 PM on April 11 [21 favorites]


the treadmill you’ve been on for decades just stopped. Bam!

Like several others, I had to demur. More than 1/2 of my income just vanished over the past month (I do a lot of face-to-face work in and around academia; while a few have shifted this online, most have not). I've been doing 16 hour days for weeks now to keep my family alive. I do not have time to stare out the window.
posted by doctornemo at 3:58 PM on April 11 [25 favorites]


This piece also made me itchy on behalf of essential workers and the masses of unemployed.

For me, however, there are in fact a few questions I’m glad I’m being prompted to ask.... many of them not the same questions that this author is interested in! That’s ok. My “never waste a crisis” questions:

- All this family time is kind of great. How can I get more of it later on?
- We’re doing school differently now. Does Little e like it? What’s hard and what’s actually easier?
- I’ve got a radically reshaped relationship with work now. What am I learning from this about what I want out of work, and where I can contribute?
- We’re eating out a lot less and making our way through the pantry more. What’s that like?
- Mr. e gets to cook and he’s so happy. (That’s how life went, before Little e went to kindergarten. It isn’t my forte.) How can we rework chores to give him more time at this?
- Some of the things that don’t happen because I don’t have time, still aren’t happening. Why not? - Most of all, am I doing what I want to with the time I have here?
posted by eirias at 4:48 PM on April 11 [27 favorites]


A friend forwarded this to me this morning. A friend who has never, until now, revealed any particular dissatisfaction with the status quo. So while I found the content a bit off the mark and not that compelling, the real point of interest was that my friend felt moved to send it. Meanwhile, I have another close friend, highly educated and endlessly curious about many things but shockingly lacking in knowledge about or interest in anything to do with politics, and it seems like she's been completely radicalized by COVID-19. Suddenly she knows who all the political players are, what they said and did and what it means, and she is pissed. It's fascinating.
posted by HotToddy at 5:32 PM on April 11 [33 favorites]


I've been gloomily thinking that every effort to reduce pollution or GHG is now going to be met with "Oh, you want to crash the economy AGAIN?

I've been thinking it will be met with "All those reports that we have to act now are wrong. We learned that things can be turned around within a couple weeks. Therefore, no need to worry or act now."
posted by Stargazey at 5:48 PM on April 11 [2 favorites]


Example: The thesis seems to be that after this catastrophe, there will be corporate and political forces working to return the country to a state identical to the pre-catastrophe state.

do you see any reason to doubt this thesis? i sure as hell don't

Similarly, we could look at Europe and the Black Death, or the 1918 flu.

oh, yes, let's look at WW! and the 1918 flu

America's present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality

-- Warren G. Harding running for President, 1920

the author of this piece is not as ignorant of history as you suppose - he just doesn't have a need to make the reference obvious
posted by pyramid termite at 5:53 PM on April 11 [13 favorites]


The piece didn’t sit entirely well for me (or, I’m guessing, for a lot of people here) because of the author’s weird need to placate critics in advance, for example, the “woah there, I’m not saying capitalism is bad” and their urgent need to reassure everyone that yes, indeed, America is Exceptional! It felt like they were sure that presenting the idea that companies care more about earnings than consumers’ lives would be a shock to people, and that they needed to insulate themselves against the most likely attack responses that the piece would face.

That said, I don’t think the author is wrong, even if stating the obvious. I think, maybe, some of our reaction to this is that this is 101 style writing, and we (the folks who think it could go further, be less basic) are well on our way to finishing our thesis. That doesn’t mean 101 style content has no place, or that this might reach people that might need a primer on late stage capitalism and how it will do anything, sacrifice anything, to remain the dominant system in America. In other words, maybe we’re not the intended audience for this, so it lands badly, but the intended audience certainly could use this sort of thing.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:56 PM on April 11 [13 favorites]


The plain truth is that no matter our ethnicity, religion, gender, political party (the list goes on), nor even our socioeconomic status, as Americans we share this: We are busy. We’re out and about hustling to make our own lives work. We have goals to meet and meetings to attend and mortgages to pay — all while the phone is ringing and the laptop is pinging

The fact that he takes as a given that being 'busy' is somehow something uniquely American, as if the rest of the world didn't "have goals to meet and meetings to attend and mortgages to pay ", is a big part of the general lack of self-awareness or relevance of the piece.
posted by signal at 6:04 PM on April 11 [22 favorites]


As a non-American, I really feel he is taking American exceptionalism too far.

This part didn't sit well with me either:


The greatest misconception among us, which causes deep and painful social and political tension every day in this country, is that we somehow don’t care about each other. White people don’t care about the problems of black America. Men don’t care about women’s rights. Cops don’t care about the communities they serve. Humans don’t care about the environment. These couldn’t be further from the truth. We do care. We just don’t have the time to do anything about it. Maybe that’s just me. But maybe it’s you, too.

posted by daybeforetheday at 6:12 PM on April 11 [13 favorites]


The author, I feel, is coming from a place of youthful and economic privilege - hence maybe the "sophomoric" divide in our responses here.

Privilege and not-a-little ignorance.

I don't know why I read my city's subreddit, but this piece is very much in alignment in tone with the performative "woe is us but I'm smarter than all y'all" and the "I'm boooored, this is all bullshit" college/ university-aged crowd ... who's parents are paying their rent.
posted by porpoise at 6:18 PM on April 11 [7 favorites]


mixed blessing, though. Oil is going to be very, very cheap for the foreseeable future, which will make the transition to a sustainable energy economy all the more difficult.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:54 AM on


Oil is as cheap or expensive as we make it. Enforce the Clean Air Act, Enforce Superfund, and tax it appropriately, and renewables are more stable during these crises.

Oil just needed a bailout 6 years ago, now it s trying to wash all the Fracking debt by hiding it in the COVID emergency. It 's more obvious than ever that we, in the form of the US government are the ones determining the domestic oil markets.

Given the massive layoffs the Oil Barons are causing, it s probably in the US's economic interests to nationalize this unstable industry from here on out.

If oil workers are so essential, why are they all being laid off?
posted by eustatic at 7:04 PM on April 11 [10 favorites]


I saw this on Facebook first, and notice that most of the people sharing it have not had a "pause" in the sense of "rest". They're somewhat insulated - not in financial distress - but their lives have been derailed, and now they're on a new path where everything is harder and takes longer, and less is getting done, with no clear path back to pre-Covid 'normal'.

Meantime we're all getting spam from the corporations about cheap flights, available hotels, discounts, sales, and shopping opportunities! Our leaders (U.S.A.!) are talking about getting everything running again soon. This does not mesh with the actions of local governments or national news.

So there's a fair amount of suspicion circulating about how the institutions are going to try to enforce 'normal' against medical advice, and who will suffer for it, which I think this piece is speaking to. And, the probably vain hope of controlling which aspects of normal do return.
posted by mersen at 7:27 PM on April 11 [9 favorites]


I’m a little exhausted by the number of Takes about all this. So many people are writing with such certainty about how various aspects of the crisis will unfold. It’s in many ways unprecedented, at least in most of our lifetimes. I feel like making these projections is partly borne out of anxiety and a desire for normalcy (in the sense of events behaving in a way that we are familiar with and can, with some accuracy, predict) — the same sort of impulse that, on a bad day, makes me refresh the news too many times to check on the virus.

Whether these takes are full of doom and despair or not, I can always sense in the writing that the author is jerking off about how deeply certain their prediction is.

I think most of these people with their Takes would be better served by waiting patiently and carefully watching events unfold. If you’re caught up prematurely crafting narratives you’re liable to miss something important.
posted by Gymnopedist at 7:36 PM on April 11 [26 favorites]


TL;DR: Wake up, sheeple!
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 7:45 PM on April 11 [7 favorites]


Another thing I find jarring both in TFA, in other FAs and in this thread is the assumption some people seem to have that the pandemic might somehow make people 'change', realize some truths, change their lifestyle and build a better, more just society as a result.
What in the history of humanity or in the current apocalyptic clusterfuck political satire reality we're living in would cause anybody to think that the end result of all this will be anything other than a noticeable increase of the pressure applied by the boot stamping on our collective faces and maybe a slight adjustment to its angle of attack?
posted by signal at 8:19 PM on April 11 [24 favorites]


What in the history of humanity or in the current apocalyptic clusterfuck political satire reality we're living in would cause anybody to think that the end result of all this will be anything other than a noticeable increase of the pressure applied by the boot stamping on our collective faces and maybe a slight adjustment to its angle of attack?

I’ve seen unions at a queer bar and a doughnut shop in my town go public in the past month. In both cases it was precipitated directly by the crisis. Unions! In the service industry!

Currently every worker in the United States is getting a glimpse at what a general strike could look like. I see a lot of reason for hope in all this.
posted by Gymnopedist at 8:35 PM on April 11 [30 favorites]


the author of this piece is not as ignorant of history as you suppose - he just doesn't have a need to make the reference obvious

Your saying that the piece contains a subtextual reference to Harding’s 1920 campaign?

I don’t think so.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:26 PM on April 11 [2 favorites]


I’m a little exhausted by the number of Takes about all this.

This!!!!

I guess this is the main reason I responded so negatively. I’m so sick of the takes. I can read stuff about it so long as it’s moored in expertise, or thoughtful investigation.

For instance, there was this piece in the arts section of the LA times last weekend that used the current crisis as a jumping-off point for a discussion of how the Black Death changed art in medieval Florence. It was well-reasearched, used compelling (and beautiful) examples, and restricted speculation on the effects of the current crisis to the most conservative conclusions possible.

More stuff like that, fewer takes like this.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:31 PM on April 11 [8 favorites]


Example: The thesis seems to be that after this catastrophe, there will be corporate and political forces working to return the country to a state identical to the pre-catastrophe state.

do you see any reason to doubt this thesis?
Yeah, of course. Look at Hungary: the fascists are using this as an excuse to take over. They are emphatically not returning to the pre-Covid state. Or look again at 9/11. Corporate culture embraced the changes that strengthened the security state.

I think his fundamental thesis is not just unsupported, but wildly unviable
posted by mr_roboto at 9:42 PM on April 11 [17 favorites]


Agreed. I think the reason this is getting shared among people who aren't that political is that it the article is actually quite optimistic - all we have to fight is corporatism and consumerism, not fascists and Russian-style gangster oligarchs. But we have a goon/relative of the president doling out livesaving "favors" to Governors and killing people selectively in blue states to either own the libs or gain electoral advantage. To think we are coming back from this to "Drink Coca-Cola" as our biggest problem is comforting fiction.
posted by benzenedream at 11:56 PM on April 11 [10 favorites]


This is going to be an interesting reread in X amount of time.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:27 AM on April 12 [5 favorites]


I think most of these people with their Takes would be better served by waiting patiently and carefully watching events unfold. If you’re caught up prematurely crafting narratives you’re liable to miss something important.

Agreed, it’s a terrible time for answers. Pretty okay time for questions though.
posted by eirias at 4:16 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


There are so many Takes that I look at bylines first to see if the author is a frontline healthcare practitioner, infectious disease specialist, epidemiologist, or medical journalist. When this phase has passed, then I’ll happily read Takes from almost anyone else.

I use the same process when encountering especially Doomy comments on website communities.
posted by kimberussell at 5:56 AM on April 12 [6 favorites]


I understand it's insulting that the guy thinks we need gaslighting explained. That his writing is not up to our standards is a second insult. I am personally further distressed that I wasn't the first to comment that Metafilter is not his target audience. And I'm sad that I can't link to adequacy.org's "Why The Bombings Mean That We Must Support My Politics" (Where did they go?) At least I think I'm first to notice the similarity to how "It's morning in America" got us to elect Reagan so we could feel good again. We all have mental treadmills to get off and some of us have managed to remain on ours. So far I'm still able to hang on to some of mine.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:31 AM on April 12 [4 favorites]


I saw this being passed around on a basketball message board I frequent. It was well received. I wasn't sure how to react to it, but I was pretty sure I wasn't necessarily the target audience. I'm not sure of the author's politics, but I don't think its a bad thing to remind people that the current crisis revealed problems in our society and that it would be a mistake to ignore those problems in an understandable rush to return to normal.

I've been thinking a lot about the idea that "politics is a disease" lately. Basically, a greater understanding of politics doesn't really bring a lot of benefit to the average person. How often do we look upon a famous or successful person and think: "God they know nothing about politics". Yet those individuals appear to lead happy or successful lives. On the other hand, how many people tune out of politics because they don't want to deal with the stress and conflict it brings over and above the stressors and conflict already present in their day to day existence?

Yet, as the current crisis demonstrates, a society needs to have a collective understanding of and participation in politics to function. It is possible you have to walk a delicate line to persuade apolitical people to put forth the necessary energy to develop that those capacities.
posted by eagles123 at 6:52 AM on April 12 [3 favorites]


"I understand it's insulting that the guy thinks we need gaslighting explained."

Anyone who was insulting to have gaslighting explained up front in the article can consider themselves to be in the ivory tower. Seriously. Lots and lots of "regular" people - the ones we all make fun of the NYT for interviewing ad nauseum - have never heard the term. Merely introducing the term and planting the seed of the idea of gaslighting into the vernacular is a huge win.
posted by notsnot at 7:39 AM on April 12 [22 favorites]


Maybe so, but the author should've mentioned the Hitchcock film with Ingrid Bergman.

I tried but gave up after a paragraph or two since I don't share the hopeful assumption that 'this' will all be over someday soon and all will revert to as it was before.
posted by Rash at 8:59 AM on April 12 [2 favorites]


I was familiar with the concept of 'gaslighting' and knew of the Hitchcock film — but couldn't remember why it called 'gaslighting'. A google search turned up this link to an Encyclopædia Britannica article, which referenced a 1938 stage play Gas Light, and United Kingdom and America films adapted from it.
In the play and films, for example, a deceitful husband drives his wife to near insanity by convincing her that she is a kleptomaniac and that she has only imagined the sounds in the attic and the dimming of the gaslights in their house, which were actually the result of his searching for her aunt’s missing jewels.
Re: the article itself, I thought it was worthwhile reminding people there would be a push for a 'return to normal' that would not be to everyone's benefit.

I recall a TV interview with a woman who had a factory job during WWII — and the 'return to normal' following the war pressuring woman out of the workplace. She admitted she'd bought into it at the time, but looking back on it after the emergence of feminism in the 70's, she felt she'd been conned. I believe this had been in the context of a documentary that said the government used propaganda techniques to encourage women to 'return to the home' so jobs would be available for returning soldiers.
posted by rochrobbb at 9:42 AM on April 12 [4 favorites]


Maybe so, but the author should've mentioned the Hitchcock film with Ingrid Bergman.

Which would itself have been an example of gaslighting as Gaslight was not a Hitchcock film.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:44 AM on April 12 [16 favorites]


I think that defining jargon (like "gaslighting") is excellent practice; that was something the writer of the article got right. My disagreements are with their argument and where they went with it; the writer clearly did an effective job of writing approachably and not assuming knowledge on the part of the reader.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:22 AM on April 12 [3 favorites]


Maybe so, but the author should've mentioned the Hitchcock film with Ingrid Bergman.

Which would itself have been an example of gaslighting as Gaslight was not a Hitchcock film.


And the star was Ingrid Berenstain.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:19 AM on April 12 [16 favorites]


I made the mistake of reading some of the comments. (And wow, Medium has the most convoluted and unhelpful comment navigation system I have ever seen; I'm not sure it's possible to make conversation-in-the-comments more difficult.)

The negative comments are not full of "ugh American exceptionalism" nor "the gov't and corporations may not try for what they had before; some of them are going to push for total fascism." The detractors are "how dare you imply Trump is making the media untrustworthy - 'the media killed journalism' ages ago!" and "how dare you call hydroxycloroquine an 'unproven miracle drug' - it worked great in China!!!"

I don't think his message is for us, in the sense of "communities of people who consider the nuances of political and social movements, who analyze the news for accuracy, who are aware that people are biased and influential groups of people strive to convert their biases into policy."

For most of us, I suspect the main value in his article is "make plans now for how to fight the gaslighting and rights grabs that are going to come as soon as the are-we-all-gonna-die pressure eases off." And while we pretty much knew that was coming, we may not have consciously thought about it.

For people who don't normally analyze their news intake, though, it may be eye-opening to hear, "Remember, normal-before had serious problems. You don't have to give up on whatever good things have happened during a time of mass tragedy. Some of those changes are worth keeping; start thinking now about how to make that happen."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:41 AM on April 12 [5 favorites]


I don't understand the whole "people who have already had it will then be immune and be able to go back to their normal lives" assumption.

Why would people who've had it once be immune from catching it again? Wouldn't it work like other cornaviruses? Catching a cold once doesn't make you immune from ever catching a cold again. I've caught multiple colds in the same year.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:59 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]


Why would people who've had it once be immune from catching it again? Wouldn't it work like other cornaviruses? Catching a cold once doesn't make you immune from ever catching a cold again. I've caught multiple colds in the same year.

Most common colds are caused by rhinoviruses that are somewhere around 7-9 thousand base pairs. SARS-CoV-2 on the other hand is a giant RNA virus at 30 thousand base pairs. When a virus has more base pairs it generally has more interconnected parts, which means more things can go wrong, and the greater number of mutations can actually be harmful rather than helpful. This is why SARS-CoV-2 has coding for its own RNA polymerase. Instead of randomly copying RNA and hoping for the best with something like HIV or influenza, SARS-CoV-2's RNA polymerase proof reads the RNA of the virus and will correct any errors it picks up, ensuring accurate transmission and stopping most mutations before they happen. So what we see is a comparably low mutation rate for such a huge virus.

In fact, SARS-CoV-2 has mutated so slowly away from its SARS-CoV cousin that some people who have survived SARS-CoV have antibodies that are still effective against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. This is why, at the moment, the general consensus is that antibodies will bring immunity for most people. This is also why convalescent serum treatments for COVID-19 are being fast tracked. The immunity that other people have can be transferred in a limited way to other people to hold off the virus while their own adaptive immune systems ramp up (which can take a while). Basically, it will stop the virus from getting as much as a beachhead as the virus can before the immune system's own antibodies can be produced en masse and step up to fight.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 12:09 PM on April 12 [19 favorites]


One correction, SARS-CoV-2 has a 3′-to-5′ exoribonuclease to proofread its RNA, not RNA polymerase.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 12:15 PM on April 12 [5 favorites]


Just because this guy got a C+ in Comp 101, doesn't mean there isn't a legitimate point buried in here. Take this section from the end paragraph:

If we want cleaner air, we can make it happen. If we want to protect our doctors and nurses from the next virus — and protect all Americans — we can make it happen. If we want our neighbors and friends to earn a dignified income, we can make that happen. If we want millions of kids to be able to eat if suddenly their school is closed, we can make that happen. And, yes, if we just want to live a simpler life, we can make that happen, too.

While this has always been true, it's suddenly much more obvious than it has been in the past. People are so busy taking care of their day to day, that they lose touch with the political power they actually wield.

Back to the C+ issue, if I was his comp teacher I would make they guy do this over in a classic 5 paragraph format (with allowances for additional paragraphs) and trade out his thesis. Instead of 'we're going to get gaslit', go with 'this experience shows change is possible'.

Then state your thesis, state your supporting arguments, expand on each argument in its own paragraph, restate your thesis.

Something I've learned from experience it to trust the reader - but don't expect them to make it to the end of your essay.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:25 PM on April 12 [8 favorites]


Obscure Reference: "I understand it's insulting that the guy thinks we need gaslighting explained. "

This is ... eponysterical.
posted by chavenet at 12:51 PM on April 12 [6 favorites]


the massive gaslighting that is about to come. It’s on its way. Look out.
FFS this is so important to keep in mind and if a poorly-written or overly-dramatic Medium essay gets it into people's heads then that's what gets it into people's heads and that is a good thing. We don't have to beanplate and be Statler and Walfdorf over everything.
posted by treepour at 2:06 PM on April 12 [11 favorites]


There are many good ideas in there for thought and discussion even if presented in a muddled way, so thanks.

I do get the Great Pause though. That is the feeling hitting me most personally. I am fortunate enough to still have my job, but my hours have been cut 30% and what a difference it makes. I didn't realize how burned out I was even working a job I love. I'm also fortunate that I should have enough holiday pay saved up to keep me going for a while and realize many do not have the luxury of enjoying a reduced pace.

It does, however, put into clear focus what satanic hamster mills all of us are on. Besides personal experience, there is also the greater quietness, the fresher air as mentioned - not only us but the whole world able to breathe. That is where the focus should have been, on the insane neoliberal hypercapitalist program that requires all of us to to more and more for less and less, using up more and more of the planet. That is the return to a "normal" but accelerated evil that wouldn't have to be so if enough work to make it not so.

Here is a link I posted in another thread to various other ideas of what might happen in the pandemic's aftermath, many of them more hopeful.
posted by blue shadows at 2:53 PM on April 12 [3 favorites]


Why would people who've had it once be immune from catching it again? Wouldn't it work like other cornaviruses? Catching a cold once doesn't make you immune from ever catching a cold again. I've caught multiple colds in the same year.

Most of what people think of a "the common cold" is actually the immune response to one of several hundred viral strains. Only a few of these strains are coronaviruses. For other coronaviruses, immunity to reinfection seems to last 5-10 years and reinfections are much less severe. Most people get infected first as kids when the response is very mild so we never see much lethality from the other coronaviruses.

SARS-CoV-2 does indeed have.a RNA polymerase, but is an RNA dependent RNA polymerase. The RNA proofreading enzyme seems to render the virus immune to many common RNA viris antivirals such as ribavarin.
posted by benzenedream at 4:56 PM on April 12 [7 favorites]


Why would people who've had it once be immune from catching it again? Wouldn't it work like other coronaviruses? Catching a cold once doesn't make you immune from ever catching a cold again. I've caught multiple colds in the same year.

There are several hundred variants of "the common cold." Catching one does give some immunity (although it's not clear how long that lasts; it could be only a few years)--but the next one you catch won't be the same one, and the immunity won't cross over.

There are solid reasons to believe that surviving COVID-19 will give immunity to it. What's not known: Is that lifelong immunity, or immunity for anywhere from 18 months to 4 years? That would leave us all vulnerable to a next wave after it gets handed around in isolated communities for a few years.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:30 PM on April 12 [4 favorites]


Things changed after 9/11; there was a big power grab, we spend even more on military, we lost some civil liberties and went into a couple very ill-advised wars, and a lot of other stuff.

Things are changing and will change. The Right is very opportunistic, what with having zero scruples or decency, and is and will grab power, wheedle money, and consolidate power. There will be no consumer-, worker-, peoples- revolution unless people work extremely hard to make it happen.

I recently remarked that I feel Trump is gaslighting all of us. No, I didn't say that. You must have imagined it. I had an exchange on fb today with a neighbor who doesn't just believe Fox News, but embraces it, and doesn't give a crap about being better informed. I am not sanguine about the future. But with Covid-19, maybe I won't get to have one. Problem solved!
posted by theora55 at 8:07 PM on April 12 [3 favorites]


There are solid reasons to believe that surviving COVID-19 will give immunity to it. What's not known: Is that lifelong immunity, or immunity for anywhere from 18 months to 4 years? That would leave us all vulnerable to a next wave after it gets handed around in isolated communities for a few years.

Given our current experiences with coronaviruses, immunity will probably be longer rather than shorter. If it's not antigen shifting (which it doesn't appear to be) and everything is normal then immunity should stick around for quite some time.

If there is another wave of a slightly different strain it will have to breed a lot of lethality out of itself to become endemic to the human biome. The virus can't have its cake and eat it too. In its current state it probably has too much lethality and if there isn't a change in the virulence the virus risks burning itself out after the pandemic. Dead people and isolated people don't transmit viruses so attenuation is usually required to become endemic. Like the myxomatosis virus that was released in Australia, in a couple of years the virus had evolved a lot of the virulence and lethality out of it and it became endemic to rabbits.

The other thing is that immunity isn't a binary thing. Even when immunity wanes there is still some immunity. As the number of antibodies drop after the primary response ends the chance of missing the virus during its incubation period increases which increases the chance of the virus establishing a foothold but the immune response is still going to be faster than waiting for a B cell with the right random antibody to show up and then waiting for a helper T to activate the B cells. Memory B cells on the other hand can start directly turning into plasma cells upon encountering their antigens. So even if it comes back the infections will be far less serious than the first wave.

The chance of it being a thing where you roll a D20 on a coronavirus check every few years is vanishingly small.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 8:50 PM on April 12 [8 favorites]


I've got intersections of interest with the points it made and I'm not going to knock the author for style. I don't connect with my neighbours, and I will work on that; I do believe we can change in my ways when we reflect on what we want and take a new assessment of what's possible; a number of my friends are hit by their businesses closing, but they sprung up a decade ago after 2008 had a swathe of people without graduate jobs (though the forces which get people to start businesses always see opportunity); in terms of existing institutions, it has been remarkable to see transformation achieved by hard work. Finally, I live in a country where government messaging is riven with deceit and corporate messaging treated with the cynicism it deserves -- I expect both of them to lie to us, but I can see that we have time to pause and reflect and come together to make something different and better.

An example: I'm still busy WFH as my company suddenly reassessed their tardiness to upgrade and deliver a WFH solution. I want to know the root causes of the delay not for blame but so we can stand by our claims to continual improvement and transparently share lessons learned. That rush also means I have colleagues who want to look busy in the middle of the transition when they can't return to the stability they are used to -- they're the audience for this, perhaps not some of my fellow commenters here.

That's why I said intersection -- where does it overlap with your circumstances? If you accept it's not perfect, what does it suggest we have in common?

On the thread, and tongue in cheek:
>First of all, the idea of gaslighting, which is, in 2020, a hoary cliche.
[Waves jedi hand] Nobody you know is (and definitely not you yourself are) being abused by people in power over them causing us to doubt our own memories by the lies they tell, especially the lies that get told to hold on to power.

Clichés and stereotypes arise from their prevalence. That this is a cliché doesn't detract from its power to describe accurately what's going on. Hoping we'd dismiss the experience by denouncing it as cliché is weak rhetoric. (Plus :-P it smells like gaslighting.)
posted by k3ninho at 1:44 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


And do not even get me started on seasonal lawn inflatables!!!

Sadly, my plan for post-covid reconstruction requires 30% of global industrial capacity be turned over to lawn inflatable production.
This crisis is an opportunity to change the world. Lawn inflatables will help us heal.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 7:39 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


Sadly, my plan for post-covid reconstruction requires 30% of global industrial capacity be turned over to lawn inflatable production.

As long as this doesn't turn into a whole Lawnsraum thing that involves invading Poland I'm strangely ok with this.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 7:42 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]


No plans for Poland, although we do have a contingency to forcefully defend Sudentenland lawn ornaments should the crisis demand it.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:03 AM on April 13


I wasn't quite so bothered by the tone, actually. Or by the initial argument. I did, however, find it a little naïve.

The author guesses - correctly - that there's a big chance that people may just revert to their old patterns after this, and abandon this glimpse of "a different way of being" that we're being given now. And while they may be right about that, I'm not so sold on the idea that "gaslighting from corporations" is going to be the biggest reason that happens. I think it's more that the changes we would need to make to make permanent this way of being would be way more chaotic, and would take way longer, than the author is aware.

The author says that "And we can do it nationally in our government, in which leaders we vote in and to whom we give power. If we want cleaner air, we can make it happen. If we want to protect our doctors and nurses from the next virus — and protect all Americans — we can make it happen. If we want our neighbors and friends to earn a dignified income, we can make that happen. If we want millions of kids to be able to eat if suddenly their school is closed, we can make that happen." But they neglect to consider that voting in leaders is something we only do every couple years, and that even voting in those leaders doesn't mean jack-diddley unless we are also contacting them at least occasionally to express our views. Especially since there are other communities who have different priorities, and that the leaders they vote in may actively work against our own visions - or at least, the details thereby.

But say we do vote in someone who supports cleaner air. And say that the neighboring states do as well. Great! But when they go to craft the bill, our congressman supports hiking the carbon emissions tax as the way to go. But another congressman says that "hang on, funding alternative fuel sources would work better." Our congressman says "but that does a lot for you, because your state has this big solar panel factory, and my own state would be harmed by that because there's nothing in your bill that would be cleaning up pollution from the existing factories and requiring them to convert to solar." The other congressman says "but carbon emissions taxes don't require them to do that either, they'd just be paying more tax. And we have a factory that would relocate to Mexico if they had a carbon emissions tax and it would put people out of work." And our Congressman would argue...

And on and on, and in the meantime, those of us who voted in these congressmen because we wanted to see cleaner air aren't seeing it, and we can't pay attention because our landlords have said that now that the crisis is over we have to start paying rent again, so we have to focus on work again, and...

Modern problems are much too nuanced to have a single cause. We do have the chance right now to see what a different life would be like, and we are seeing flaws in our system, but there are multiple solutions and not everyone is satisfied by every solution, and hammering those solutions out takes time, and everyone has to get on with their lives in the meantime - not because they're being seduced away by government payouts or because of gaslighting, but because we do have to take care of our own selves in the meantime.

Unless the author is suggesting a massive societal upheaval that universally replaces our system with an entirely new economic approach, and that usually goes down even less well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:13 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


A friend told me, "any societal fix that's based on the enlightenment of the masses is doomed from the start." I very much believe that.

And yeah, our current problems aren't going to be fixed by deciding clean air is better so let's do... stuff... that gives us clean air. But we might be able to argue for something like: Let's have a one-week-a-year shutdown of all non-essential services, to allow the air to clear up a bit, allow people to connect with their families and communities, and allow governments to fix up infrastructure that's a pain if people are actively using it. (The practical details of that would be a nightmare of logistics and without threat of thousands of deaths, there'd be too many businesses insisting they are "essential.")

Or businesses might realize: a whole lot of work can get done remotely - maybe we can have a smaller main office with the people who need access to equipment that's just not available at home, but a lot of our management and administrative work, along with a whole bunch of coding and digital tech work, can be done at home. (Cue: "we don't need to pay for super-internet anymore; that'd be the workers' jobs." So a big work-from-home push needs to include better support for at-home work.)

If I were in control of all gov't and business facilities, I don't know that I could come up with an answer for "maintain normal activities + the silver-lining good things that have come out of this." (If there were simple answers, we'd've found them ages ago; people have been looking.) But I'd like for it to be talked about: what's working better because so much is shut down, and how can we keep some of that?

And having those discussions will mean not buying into the message that's already being pushed: Well, it was a horrible tragedy but it's [almost] behind us now and let us never speak of it again.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:40 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


I didn't fully understand all the responses to my question about immunity but all y'all seem to know what you're talking about so I will follow your conclusions that yes, having it once should make you immune for at least a while. Thanks!!!!
posted by Jacqueline at 11:39 AM on April 14


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