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Compelling Interests for Pansies

March 19, 2020

Let’s start with coronavirus racism! There is apparently a conspiracy theory stating that black people are immune to the virus (obviously false), which of course would be a big surprise to actor and guardian of the Bifrost, Idris Elba:

Something that is scaring me, when I read the comments and some of the reactions, my people, black people, please, please understand that coronavirus is … you can get it. There are so many stupid, ridiculous conspiracy theories about black people not being able to get it. …That is the quickest way to get more black people killed. And I’m talking about the whole world, wherever we are. … Just know you have to be just as vigilant as every other race.

Plus, the Trump campaign is already casting this not only as a “Chinese virus” but specifically referring to the pandemic as an “attack” by the Chinese. No, really. They said, “America is under attack — not just by an invisible virus, but by the Chinese.”

Chrissy Stroop stands agog at the Christian extremists who refuse to accept the reality of the coronavirus:

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, however, Christian fundamentalists have made a spectacular show of their rejection of modern science in their pigheaded refusal to adopt common sense public health measures. And even I have to admit that a news cycle like this makes it difficult to object to the common atheist assertion that religion and science are inevitably at odds. …

… Must we admit that religion, or at least Christianity, is inevitably in conflict with science and as such a threat to humanity’s survival?

The AP’s Elana Schor reports on the differing responses from Christian leaders to the limits on public gatherings, but what it all comes down to is “compelling interest”:

Religious organizations could make a constitutional claim to being singled out by a law that treats secular activity differently, said Eugene Volokh, a UCLA Law School professor and First Amendment expert. “But if you’re just imposing the same burden on everybody, for reasons completely unrelated to religiosity of the behavior, that is likely to be permissible even” under state-level religious freedom laws, he said.

Those religious freedom laws ask whether government restrictions are the least burdensome way to further a “compelling interest.” When it comes to coronavirus, Volokh said, courts are likely to find “there’s a compelling interest in preventing death through communicable disease.”

How’s this for a compelling interest: Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne says:

I’ve got news for you: This church will never close! The only time the church will close is when the Rapture is taking place. This Bible school is open because we’re raising up revivalists, not pansies.

Point of clarification, pastor, sir, um, I do not believe that pansies, or any vegetation for that matter, can contract or be sickened by COVID-19. Anyway, Jack Jenkins reports that the White House is not interested in pressuring churches to play along:

The White House … has not made any statement about the churches’ defiance, and when a senior Trump administration official was asked this week about faith groups that insist on sharing physical space, the official did not specifically call on religious organizations to halt their services.

Jeremy W. Peters at the New York Times points out five public figures who are muddying the waters about the threat of the virus. You already know about Jerry Falwell Jr. and Sean Hannity. But there’s also Sen. Rand Paul (“People should ask themselves whether this coronavirus ‘pandemic’ could be a big hoax”), anti-vaxxer has-been Rob Schneider, and the guy who taught many Gen-Xers about sex, Dr. Drew Pinsky. Pinsky also pushed the conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton was gravely ill during the 2016 election, so.

Twitter lays out how it intends to deal with coronavirus misinformation, via the Post:

Examples of tweets that will now be deleted, as outlined in the blog post, include: denials of expert guidance, such as the declaration that “social distancing is not effective”; promotion of actively harmful coronavirus treatments and remedies that are ineffective; unverified claims that spawn mass panic, such as a false statement that food shipments will end for two months.

Twitter said it is also creating a “global content severity triage system” — prioritizing the violations it addresses first by the harm they present. The company says it’s trying to reduce users’ burden to report problematic content.

Here’s a good reminder: Vitamin C supplements will not help you fight the coronavirus, and wearing gloves isn’t much use either. Also not useful: gargling warm water, drinking gallons of water, and blasting hot air at your face. (Seriously, people?)

Francesca Marino at The Quint reports on, sigh, witches. Yes, in Italy, villages are dispatching their evil-eye-inflicting witches to fight the virus.

Singing my song is the Chapman Survey of American Fears, which tracks people’s feelings of fright in a slew of harrowing scenarios, from needles to zombies and public speaking to volcanic eruption. Ryan Burge (thank goodness for Ryan Burge) parses the numbers to find some interesting stuff:

What do Americans fear the most? The clear outliers are cyber-terrorism and a financial collapse. Biological warfare and a terrorist attack are next in line, then a concern about personal data being tracked by the government or private business. It’s notable that all of these problems are decidedly political. In comparison, natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes are fifteen to twenty points lower than these political fears.

Obviously, “nones” aren’t worried about demons, nor are we afraid of Yahweh. But in whose boots is quaking taking place? Catholics:

Catholics are more afraid in almost every scenario compared to Protestants or the religiously unaffiliated. I cannot find a single instance when Catholics are significantly less afraid of something than a “none.” And there are many instances where Catholics show a much higher level of fear than Protestants (Hell, Satan, Technology). For reasons I can’t fully explain, Catholics are a concerned bunch.

Hey, um, where the aliens at? Here’s who knows: SETI’s Seth Shostak. Here’s his presentation at CSICon 2019.

Remember how surprised I was that Maine rejected that ballot measure that would have overturned the new vaccine law? Lizzy Francis at Fatherly talks to pediatrician Laura Blaisdell, founder of Maine Families for Vaccines, about how it happened:

The opposition is much louder than they are in numbers. And I think that’s important for many to remember when they stick their neck out on this issue. The opposition tends to take a very loud, and vitriolic approach, to shutting down those voices. And, if one expects that to happen, it makes it much easier to tolerate, and just keep moving forward and do what’s right for children’s health.

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. We have to continue to monitor community immunity. We have to continue to monitor legislation that’s being put forward, and make sure we put forth these laws and protect our communities with our vaccine rates.

Meet Elpistostege watsoni, a five-foot-long fish from 380 million years ago that looks to have been evolving the beginnings of fingers.


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