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If That’s Not Devilish, I Don’t Know What Is

March 23, 2020

Wow, I bet Sylvia Browne, who “predicted” some kind of outbreak for 2020, is just kicking herself in the afterlife for not being around for the coronavirus. John Blake at CNN reports:

The prediction faded from public memory and the book’s author, Sylvia Browne, died in 2013. But the coronavirus pandemic has brought new attention to Browne’s book, “End of Days: Predictions and Prophecies About the End of the World.” It’s shot up to No. 2 on Amazon’s nonfiction chart, and physical copies are now selling for hundreds of dollars.

Of course, maybe it’s like works of fine art, where the value shoots up only after the artist dies. Anyway, Blake’s larger report is on the swell of doomsday predictions in the coronavirus era:

There is something about pandemics that cause panicked people to empty their minds along with supermarket shelves. Countless doomsday warnings like Browne’s prediction are spreading online, blending coronavirus fears with everything from political paranoia about a “#oneworld gov controlled by the UN” to Australian wildfires and swarms of locusts in Africa. …

… “Perhaps in these guys who create mass panic there is also a certain pride, a bloated self-confidence that ‘I have some special insight,”’ says [theologian Ulrich] Lehner. … “If that’s not devilish, I don’t know what is.”

Elle Hardy at The Outline looks specifically at one particular flavor of end-times eagerness:

A group of self-proclaimed “apostles” have a plan rooted in biblical prophecy to “invade” every sphere of life as we know it — and they have the ear of the most powerful man in the world. Unfortunately, the Seven Mountain Mandate is not a work of bad fiction, but a manifesto for evangelical Christians to “conquer” what proponents see as the seven key facets of life: education, religion, family, business, government, entertainment, and media. And while the Democrats are slugging it out to see who becomes the party’s nominee for the 2020 election, 7M, as often called, is coursing through the decrepit veins of the Republican party, offering a vision for total domination at a time when its core constituency is in demographic decline. …

… Behind the looming marine terror, positive Instagram posts, and Silicon Valley-speak, the movement remains a 21st century version of hardcore Christian Dominionism — that is the belief that God has called conservative Christians to exercise authority over all of us by taking control of cultural and political institutions. They are merging the biblical and secular worlds through President Trump, their heathen “King Cyrus,” the Persian leader in the Bible who conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews to return to Israel. Their modern day King’s decision to move the United States embassy to Jerusalem, and the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani believed to be accelerating America into the prophesied last days on earth, where, as Wallnau puts it, “there is no neutral territory.”

Hobby Lobby, Jesus’s own personal craft store, will not be closing and won’t let employees stay home because Barbara Green, wife of store founder David Green, had a vision from God.

At Skeptical Inquirer, Harriet Hall looks at some of the many ways people’s fears are being exploited with sham treatments for the coronavirus. She concludes, “I can’t help but wonder if the widespread toilet paper shortages are a response to the proliferation of bullshit.”

There are apparently conspiracy theories about the coronavirus that even I had not yet heard of, as reported by George Driver at Elle. I had no idea that folks were saying that COVID-19 is actually 5G wireless technology attacking our brains or that the disease might have something to do with a giant lasagne or loaf of garlic bread.

Frank Jacobs at Big Think says the virus might be fatal to Flat-Eatherism. I am skeptical, but he says:

One silver lining of earth-shaking emergencies like these is that they tend to reaffirm the value of common sense, fact-based discourse and rational leadership. Some have already argued that the coronavirus will sound the death-knell for populism. And perhaps it will prove the last straw for flat Earthism too. … The popularity of ‘flat Earth’ as a search term peaked at the end of 2017 and has since been in decline.

You no doubt heard that Sen. Rand Paul has tested positive for the virus, and apparently didn’t mind sharing it with others. His dad, former Rep. Ron Paul, says the virus is a hoax. WHICH IS IT???

Politico introduces us to a Democratic candidate for governor of Vermont and ally of Bernie Sanders, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, who is a leading anti-vaxxer at the exact wrong time.

Trump has decided the best thing for him to do is to make people hate the Chinese, and it’s working. From the New York Times:

Yuanyuan Zhu was walking to her gym in San Francisco on March 9, thinking the workout could be her last for a while, when she noticed that a man was shouting at her. He was yelling an expletive about China. Then a bus passed, she recalled, and he screamed after it, “Run them over.”

She tried to keep her distance, but when the light changed, she was stuck waiting with him at the crosswalk. She could feel him staring at her. And then, suddenly, she felt it: his saliva hitting her face and her favorite sweater. …

… “If they keep using these terms [like “Chinese virus”], the kids are going to pick it up,” said Tony Du, an epidemiologist in Howard County, Md., who fears for his son, Larry, 8. “They are going to call my 8-year-old son a Chinese virus. It’s serious.”

Mr. Du said he posted on Facebook that “this is the darkest day in my 20-plus years of life in the United States,” referring to Mr. Trump’s doubling down on use of the term.

Anthony Fauci, the poor guy who is always doing science-based cleanup for the president, talks to the journal Science about this and other humiliations at Trump’s propaganda sessions:

Q: You have not said China virus. …

A: Ever.

Q. And you never will, will you?

A: No.

Q: At Friday’s press conference, you put your hands over your face when President Trump referred to the “deep State Department,” [a popular conspiracy theory]. It’s even become an internet meme. Have you been criticized for what you did?

A: No comment.

Meanwhile, Trump is just tossing ideas out there for COVID-19 treatments. Vox reports:

At his daily coronavirus press conference Saturday afternoon, Trump made a similar claim, and told reporters the hydroxychloroquine along with azithromycin, an antibiotic the study suggested be used in concert with hydroxychloroquine, is “going to be distributed” to New York and other states.

Both drugs are already widely available, but are not currently recommended by experts as viable coronavirus treatments. Trump disagreed with those experts Saturday.

“What do we have to lose? I feel very good about it,” the president said. “We’re going to find out very shortly whether or not it’s going to work.”

What do you think about that, Dr. Fauci?

“I’m not totally sure what the president was referring to,” Fauci said. “Many things you hear out there are what I call anecdotal reports. They may be true, but they’re anecdotal. .. If you really want to definitively know if something works, you have to do the kind of trial that you get the good information with.”

Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she would like to extend the state’s ban on gatherings of more than 50 people to churches, but that the state GOP has, um, advised otherwise, telling Fox News:

“Well, you know, the separation of church and state, and the Republican legislature asked me to clarify that that’s an area that we don’t have the ability to enforce and control,” Whitmer said. “We are encouraging people though, do no congregate.”

But Kelsey Dallas at Deseret News checked, and yeah, you can close churches in times like these:

Policies don’t violate religious freedom laws if they’re created in order to save people’s lives, said Michael Moreland, director of the Ellen H. McCullen Center for Law, Religion and Public Policy at Villanova University.

“So long as those restrictions are neutral and applicable to everybody, religious institutions have to abide by them,” he said. …

… They actually have this power all the time, but it rarely leads to obtrusive requirements. For example, states are allowed to assign occupancy limits to church buildings for fire safety, just like they do for movie theaters or diners.

Houses of worship may not be guaranteed special treatment during a public health crisis, but they are guaranteed fair treatment. The government can’t force one faith group to follow stricter regulations than others, or crack down harder on churches than secular organizations within the community.

This is not easy. Vivian Yee at the Times digs into the struggle faced by believers around the world:

Religion is the solace of first resort for billions of people grappling with a pandemic for which scientists, presidents and the secular world seem, so far, to have few answers. With both sanitizer and leadership in short supply, dread over the coronavirus has driven the globe’s faithful even closer to religion and ritual.

But what is good for the soul may not always be good for the body.

Believers worldwide are running afoul of public health authorities’ warnings that communal gatherings, the keystone of so much religious practice, must be limited to combat the virus’ spread. In some cases, religious fervor has led people toward cures that have no grounding in science; in others, it has drawn them to sacred places or rites that could increase the risk of infection.

Ben Santer at Scientific American compares the administration’s response to COVID-19 to its response to climate change (Remember climate change? Throwback, amirite?):

Pandemics are not the only existential problem we face. Climate change endangers every present and future citizen of this planet. If we truly care about the health of our communities, countries and global commons, we must find ways of powering the planet without relying on fossil fuels. It would be a tragedy to survive the coronavirus but succumb to human-caused climate disruption. An abundance of caution demands that we address both problems.

The Good Men Project has an article up on postpartum depression (good for them!) that recommends homeopathic treatments (NO STOP WAIT WHY), and I’m wondering, like, did you guys get hacked or something? Stop that!

Sudan looks to be ready to abolish its death penalty for apostasy. That’s it. That’s all the good news I got. Stay safe out there. Or, in there, rather.


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