TOTW: Expertise

Last week (or was it the week before? What’s time anymore? In any case, it happened before this post) there was a meme circulating claiming that, in this time of increasing state repression, anarchists don’t obey the state but “listen to” health experts. This was offered as a corrective to a previous meme joking (?) that anarchists were urging people to obey the state with regards to the pandemic.

The actual quote from Bakunin is as follows:

“Does it follow that I reject all authority? Far from me such a thought. In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the bootmaker; concerning houses, canals, or railroads, I consult that of the architect or the engineer. For such or such special knowledge I apply to such or such a savant. But I allow neither the bootmaker nor the architect nor savant to impose his authority upon me. I listen to them freely and with all the respect merited by their intelligence, their character, their knowledge, reserving always my incontestable right of criticism and censure. I do not content myself with consulting a single authority in any special branch; I consult several; I compare their opinions, and choose that which seems to me the soundest. But I recognise no infallible authority, even in special questions; consequently, whatever respect I may have for the honesty and the sincerity of such or such individual, I have no absolute faith in any person. Such a faith would be fatal to my reason, to my liberty, and even to the success of my undertakings; it would immediately transform me into a stupid slave, an instrument of the will and interests of others.”

- Bakunin, What is Authority?

As this meme suggests, the concept of expertise is one that anarchists have been wrestling with or felt the need to justify for a very long time. Even those who may hesitate at the power exercised by experts and the authorities they abet may find themselves looking to those same people for life-and-death knowledge or treatment in the current pandemic. Yet the seemingly non-critical view of expertise voice in the meme above is certainly not the only instance I’ve seen of anarchists embracing technocrats and other medical authorities wholeheartedly.

How have you been relating to the medical establishment or public health authorities during the current pandemic? Do the essay by Bakunin or the meme reflect your own feelings on authority, and how or how not?

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All of these experts have skills that sound complicated, requiring a high level of labor division and sacrifice for the good of commodities. Anarchy probably requires more primitive living than boots, houses, and canals.

along with the economy, overcoming the dependency on western reductionist medicine is possibly the most difficult, and brings to mind what Isaac Cronin, interviewed on the Brilliant, observed as "from born in the hospital on drugs, to dying in the hospital on drugs."
the pandemic certainly has challenged me to study alternatives and nutrition much more than usual, but still feeling overwhelmed considering how little I was taught, have yet to understand, and what to trust. hello internet!

of disease, death, and discomfort to overcome that, and our current medical system has done an incredibly good job of eliminating the first 2.

It has not done a very good job of eliminating discomfort though, pain killers have really awful side effects and funny enough the sick have been made to be dependent on them.

The latter part of this Bakunin quote is the most salient principle that brought me to anarchy. Beyond just a culture of refusal or negation of external regulations, the "higher" form of anarchism involves a rational tabula rasa, or epistemological nihilism, which puts into question any claim regardless of who produces them, and the "consensus" of people supporting them. This may be putting us too close to conspiracy theorists for their claimed rejection of all consensus coming from "above", yet that doesn't invalidate the method.

While there is rational consensus based on p2p fact-checking in scientific research -and any modern science cannot hold together without (1) a core peer review process and (2) an open access of the data which allows everyone to verify shit on their own- science has evolved as a language and a social relationship that grow bigger than the research process in itself. That was unintended on the part of most scientists in history, and more due to academia becoming an increasingly exclusive and profitable business.

Like, it takes a degree in biology -which like in economics consists mostly in the acquisition of a language, beyond the math- to really understand what is the novel Covid-19, how it works and especially why it went so big. What are the N and S proteins... what is are the ACE2 receptors.. how does it interact with the body's immune responses... Is this a weird synthetic virus like some are claiming or is this just a bat virus that for some reason leaked out of a lab?

So expertise exists due to the arcane language of which unassumed purpose is to exclude the laymen from understanding what's happening, or in other words, a hierarchy -a "rule by the secret"- where the language and math are being used to maintain a pyramid of knowledge and its relate knowledgeable people (the "experts").

Hence, the role of the anarchist in this context would be yet again the same old deal... breaking shit open for everyone to be able to read it, beyond just accessing the episteme on your own. obviously to make this knowledge accessible by deterritorializing its language, opening up the semantic gates as in a kind of Biology for Dummies approach, but everywhere conversations are happening. It's the best way I see around of fucking up Expertise as a social institution of power.

tldr: question everything!

of course experts must be questioned. just as non-experts should NOT be assumed to be less competent than those that claim expertise. like everything, it fucking depends on the context!!!!

This point of view still places science on a pedestal as the rational solution to pandemics or more generally an understanding of each other and our relationship to the world around us. I would argue that science is woefully inadequate both at connecting with ourselves, and our world and at helping us support each other through pandemics or other similar events. I don't think the core problem of science is that the words are too hard or the barriers for getting a university degree are too high, but that it relies on and creates experts in a way that isn't desirable.

The scientific method attempts to find solutions to well-defined and self-contained problems such as "this person is sick with virus X, how do we treat the illness that results"? I recently learned from a discussion with a friend that the natural remedies that have been used for thousands of years to treat malaria are currently the basis for many anti-malaria medications, and that overuse of these medications has caused the traditional dosages and treatments to become ineffective due to increasing drug resistance. Something that had been working for thousands of years no longer works and can't be produced outside of the industrial processes that caused the problem in the first place. It's easy to blame this and other cases of drug resistance on industry and capitalism, but I would argue that it's a direct consequence of the both the scientific method and reliance on "expert" knowledge. Instead of the lived experience of generations of people that have intimate knowledge of their bodies, the land, and the balance and harmony of the two, we're now facing the consequences of listening to experts and their science.

Personally, I don't think science can exist without experts. Using more friendly words doesn't change the fact that science places all of its weight on the measured outcome of constructed experiments and evaluated hypotheses. If you don't know the outcome of previous experiments, you have to conduct them again. If you don't have the labs or the materials to do so, you can't conduct "scientifically valid" experiments.

Whether people specialized in healing and passing down knowledge through generations are experts is an interesting question. I'd say that this type of knowledge engages with the idea of "expertise" in at least a very different way than the scientific experts this topic of the week is referring to.

Not my favorite moment for Bakunin... Especially as it plays into boring interpretations of anarchy 150 years later. Prime example:

But I do care for many early @ texts precisely for how they differentiate between authority and leadership as a fundamental distinction for anarchists. This (imo) avoids a lot of semantic confusion when introducing @ ideas. Authority requires some degree of threats or violence to exist. Leaders are those whose initiatives are voluntarily followed because they are helpful and make sense. The line can and will get blurred in our context and we can decide for ourselves whose ideas and practices are worth adopting. I personally think healthcare professionals and disease experts have really good ideas, so I'm going to listen to them. I can also oppose authoritarian measures at the same time.

expertise =/= authority.
one has expertise regardless of how another views them. it is when another somehow conflates the expertise with some sort of authority, that the terms get confused. it points directly to a core issue i have with many people, who look at some singular aspect of another (expertise, writing, action, whatever) and make that one aspect the entirety of how they see that other. like saying james brown's music sucks because he allegedly hit his wife. or dismiss everything bob black ever wrote because he allegedly snitched. to me, that is NOT critical thinking.

>expertise =/= authority.

They aren't the same thing, but the former certainly implies the latter. The thing that makes expertise distinct from skill is the associated power dynamic. Someone good at medicine isn't necessarily an expert, but even the worst doctor is.

>one has expertise regardless of how another views them. it is when another somehow conflates the expertise with some sort of authority, that the terms get confused.

Most forms of authority, in practice, exist even without lenses. The cop on your corner doesn't need you to acknowledge his authority, he can make you do what he wants just fine.

>it points directly to a core issue i have with many people, who look at some singular aspect of another (expertise, writing, action, whatever) and make that one aspect the entirety of how they see that other. like saying james brown's music sucks because he allegedly hit his wife. or dismiss everything bob black ever wrote because he allegedly snitched. to me, that is NOT critical thinking.

I agree that there is a lot of this type of reasoning lately, but I also think there is the converse problem as well, and these two phenomena feed into each other. There's a tendency among some people to try to divorce ideas from their context. If someone listens to James Brown's music and it immediately gives them unpleasant reminders of domestic violence, then the music *does* suck; the fact that the displeasure comes from the association with the artist's image rather than the composition doesn't make it less valid. But no, for some people, the author is completely dead, and there is no context involved with the song (which is on its face absurd, given how obvious it is that musical taste varies around cultural norms). This causes people to react, saying shit like not only is the song bad, *you* are bad if you enjoy it, and this death spiral feedback loop just ends up shitting all over any real dialogue or discourse.

The word "authority" gets used in different ways. It can be used as a synonym for "power" or "domination", and it can be used to mean "expertise" or "legitimacy". If a pig drags someone to the cells because they don't do what the pig wants, the pig just has physical power, not authority. If someone obeys the pig because they think pigs are legitimate, the pig has authority. If someone obeys a pig because the pig will hit them if they don't, it's a bit indeterminate whether that's "power" or "authority". But "power" also gets used in lots of different ways. There isn't much difference between "epistemic power" and "authority".

It's important not to focus on the word, but on the different meanings. I don't think it's anarchist to say "I'm going to obey this person because they have legitimate authority" or "I'm going to obey this person because I think they're smart and they're an expert". Obviously being dragged off against one's will doesn't make someone any less of an anarchist. Nor does reading something which makes a good argument and accepting the argument because it makes sense. I'm less clear whether an anarchist can obey a pig because they're more powerful and still claim this was an anarchist act. A lot depends on context and intent in that case, we need to think about strategy and hidden/public transcripts.

> If a pig drags someone to the cells because they don't do what the pig wants, the pig just has physical power, not authority.

Really? Whose cell is it? Would anyone else on that street with the physical ability to drag you somewhere be able to do the same?

More broadly though, the point being made here was that cops have authority over you regardless of whether or not you as an individual recognize that authority (in response to the original claim that this what distinguishes expertise from authority). I can deny the legitimacy of the state all I want but it doesn't change the fact that the state exists and that it shapes what my life looks like. Sure, authority is given by society as a whole, but I as an individual am not the one deciding who gets it.

Would a criminal gang, or an armed so-called terrorist group, be able to drag someone off the street by sheer force and lock them in a dungeon or cellar or somesuch, guarded by other members of the gang/group? Yes, of course they would. Prisoners can take guards hostage too. How different is any of this from a cop arresting someone (as they call it) using sheer force? There will even be cases where the abductee in the other cases goes quietly with the criminals/paramilitaries/insurgents so they don't get hurt, or because they freeze up. And someone like Patty Hearst - if we believe her account - gets Stockholm syndrome and just keeps obeying them (same thing happens in abusive relationships quite often). At what point does it become authority?

I guess you're trying to factor in something I excluded in the definition - whether the person using force is seen as legitimate by others, whether "society" puts up with it. The old "monopoly on legitimate violence" of liberal sociology/political science. That's a factor but I don't think it's an objective factor, it's am opinion or a discourse (though of course it also affects whether these other people use their power etc). The whole field of social meanings is actually just a reification of subjective meanings into abstractions. It creates an illusion of objective structures but they're really just fragile alienated aggregates.

It may look simple in America or Europe, the pigs "have authority" and everyone knows it, but in the poor countries there's very often multiple armed state-like forces operating and they all have some kind of power/authority in local areas. All of them have some kind of legitimacy or legitimacy-claim, none of them recognise the others as legitimate. There's gangs in the Brazilian favelas enforcing their own curfews or whatever, which are different from the state ones. Some people obey them because there's a threat of "punishment" - being murdered, maimed or tortured by the gang. But people also obey them because they're scared of the virus, or because the gang has legitimacy because it provides some minimal welfare functions and all its members are locals. And of course, some people don't obey, some people get away with not obeying because they're connected to the gang or the gang thinks they have a good excuse, or they just don't get caught disobeying. Can we call this authority? If so, then is it also true that the Brazilian state has authority in the favelas? What about a civil war scenario, like Afghanistan - does the "legitimate" Afghan state have authority, or does the Taleban have authority in the zones it controls? How, at what point, does sheer violence turn into authority? ... And once you start picking at it, there's a lot of exceptions even in the North, either to whether the state can use violence, whether others can legally use violence (e.g. stand-your-ground laws, private security guards, parents and teachers...) or whether others use violence anyway and it's accepted by certain strata as legitimate. So when a pig murders a black kid, against the letter of the law, but the pig has public support and gets acquitted, is that authority or not? What about when Weinstein made women have sex with him otherwise he'd ruin their careers, even though that's completely illegal? Did it stop being authority when Weinstein got jailed? Was it never authority at all? Or a parent who smacks their kids in a country where that's illegal?

And how do we know whether the public who don't stop the pig arresting someone, actually accept the pig has a legitimate right to arrest, or whether they just think (rightly or wrongly) that they don't have any power to stop it, or whether they're just scared of the pig?

To be honest, I don't really feel the threat posed by the pig is all that different in relation to my will from the threat posed by a gang or an abuser or an opposition group. I can't find any amorphous object that the pig has and all the other people using violence don't. The pig's a bigger enemy because they have more power and more support, is all.

"Someone good at medicine isn't necessarily an expert, but even the worst doctor is."

not in my world. a doctor who is not good at medicine is not an expert. the system - and you - may call them one, but i sure as hell don't. i see no substantial difference between skill and expertise; you apparently do. how does your "expertise" in a given area create a "power dynamic" (especially when nobody else is involved)?

"The cop on your corner doesn't need you to acknowledge his authority, he can make you do what he wants just fine."

good point, by and large that is probably spot on. but no, a cop with authority is not guaranteed to be able to exert their authority. otherwise there would be no cops killed at the hand of anyone over who they have "authority".

>not in my world. a doctor who is not good at medicine is not an expert. the system - and you - may call them one, but i sure as hell don't.

Oh come on, when people tell you to "consult a medical expert", they are not talking about making friends with someone who knows about medicinal herbs. They're talking about going to someone who can legally write a prescription, and going to them in that capacity. You might as well say politicians aren't politicians in your world, because you don't consider them to be.

>i see no substantial difference between skill and expertise; you apparently do. how does your "expertise" in a given area create a "power dynamic" (especially when nobody else is involved)?

Again, expertise is entirely defined by a power dynamic (one that is supposed to imply skill); further down the thread I made the comparison of "expert" to "worker", which I think is apt. The thing that makes a worker a worker is not their capacity to do work, it's the social role they play. An expert is not an expert because they are skilled, they're an expert because of the social role they play. And just like being a worker comes with a particular power dynamic (bosses, wages, unions, etc.), so does being an expert (enforcement and shaping of norms, gate keeping, etc.). Someone who knows how to make a car is not necessarily in the same role as someone who works in an auto factory. Someone who knows how viruses work is not necessarily in the same role as someone who tells people whether they should stay home.

>but no, a cop with authority is not guaranteed to be able to exert their authority. otherwise there would be no cops killed at the hand of anyone over who they have "authority".

I strongly disagree. Authority doesn't need to be perfectly enforceable to exist, and is often made stronger by a lack of perfect enforcement. But this is veering off topic.

See, "expert" is a bit of a weasel-word:
1. an expert is someone who has legitimate knowledge or skill in something (objectively or from my point of view)
2. an expert is someone who is socially defined in dominant discourse (by the state, law, majority, elite...) as having legitimate knowledge or the right/privilege to exercise a skill.

As long as someone's a conformist, and trusts "society" to recognise objective knowledge or skill, or their own view of knowledge or skill is the same as "society's", then the two definitions mean the same. The moment they're separated, there's people who are both 1 and 2, people who are 1 and not 2, people who are 2 and not 1. Which of the three groups should be called "experts"?

Because it's a definitional question, it's not really soluble (the word in everyday use is used in both senses). But it's pretty clear how most anarchists relate to the two groups. OK, so let's call the first group "artisans" and the second group "mandarins". I suspect we can all agree that being a mandarin is a social role, that mandarins have power/authority in the same way as bosses, and that anarchism is against mandarins. With a few exceptions (the stronger versions of primitivism), we can also say that anarchists don't object to artisans, that being an artisan is a good thing or at least is compatible with anarchism, that people should listen to artisans and give some weight to what they advise, that an artisan does not necessarily have power/authority to command others, and that doing what an artisan advises because they know their shit isn't itself submission to authority. I think Bakunin is saying "respect and learn from artisans, but don't let them become mandarins". The problem is that artisans are sometimes also mandarins. So the question in the TOTW is about whether anarchists can obey artisans on artisanal grounds if they're also mandarins, and obeying them reinforces their social command power. It's also about whether we trust mandarins to be artisans in the first place, and whether the public health experts pushing for lockdowns/distancing are actually artisans as well as mandarins, or just mandarins. If we decide they're both, then we're caught in a dilemma because we both want to respect their knowledge as artisans and the power it gives (to save lives), and to undermine their power as mandarins. I don't think an anarchist can ever support mandatory lockdowns, but it makes some sense to support/practice voluntary distancing if one trusts the "experts" to be artisans as well as mandarins.

We could also get into Foucauldian power/knowledge and Deleuze's book on Foucault - I don't think Foucault sees all power as authority/domination (power of some over others), he sees it more like (say) electrical power (power is a productive force), as well as domination there is also cooperative power, resistant power, and power to act, and there are corresponding knowledges. Local knowledge of where to find herbs or the power to share pleasure in sex are cooperative power. Knowing how to fuck shit up and not get caught, is resistant power. Knowing how to repair or grow something, is power to act. All of these powers can be held by artisans and shown, taught, explained to others; all of them make an anarchist "more powerful". They only become sources of domination when they're too concentrated or too unequally distributed, or if there's gatekeeping. Hence why we need plenty of skillsharing and to make sure everyone has at least some power.

Yes, thanks for stating that so clearly.

This is a point I've tried to make irl to .. people..

"I don't think an anarchist can ever support mandatory lockdowns, but it makes some sense to support/practice voluntary distancing if one trusts the "experts" to be artisans as well as mandarins."

your responses make sense in the context of a mass and system oriented worldview. if you could see individuals and not purely social roles, you'd see my point.

"... individuals ..." => "individuals and their relations"

Except that my criticism of experts is precisely that they only exist as social roles. If you are engaging with someone *as an expert*, you are not engaging with them as a person. Like I said, "consult an expert" doesn't mean "make a friend".

clearly you define "expert" differently than i do. i have a friend that i know has great expertise in plant identification. when i am dealing with plants i do not know, i see that friend as an "expert". there is not some shift in our relationship for those moments when i share in that expertise. i can and do relate to an individual - who happens to have expertise in an area of my interest - as a person. their expertise is nothing more than an attribute of theirs in which i have an interest in a given situation; it is not some badge of authority. no need for social roles. it is unfortunate for you that you are not capable of envisioning such dynamic and autonomous relations.

I literally just do not believe you. I think you are re-framing your social interactions to win an internet argument. I have absolutely never interacted with someone simultaneously as an expert and as a friend. I've sought advice from friends, I've consulted friends who know more about something than I do, but to claim that I've treated friends as experts makes no more sense than saying I've treated friends as police officers. I agree that either you are using the word differently than I (and everyone else I know), or you live a very unfortunate life that views friends as mere tools.

Also, Bakunin has said, that, if there ever was a governement by scientists, it would be the most disgusting. And insofar he called for an "insurrection of live against science"!
And the problem is: the current mainstream experts aren't the leas trustworthy.
Like: if you make shit shoes, i'm not gonna ask you for help. Problem is: if there's only shit shoes left...
Btw. fuck WHO! Fuck Bill Gates!

I can’t eat shoes and niether can a shoemaker. However, the social dynamics of specialization provoke dependency with should be countered.
If my community has only one person that knows how to hunt in our area and that person dies the whole community is fucked. Continuing with that metaphor, if someone has shaky hands or different sensibilities and can’t shoot the deer they are ansolutely useful elsewhere. I’m not talking meritocracy, but of a culture of personal awareness, communal familiarity, and general understanding which would certainly make it hard to fall into the traps of the shoemaker. Anyways why can’t Bakunin make his own damn shoes?

In the matter of shoes, refer to the authority of skin cells and walk on callouses.

- there are experts with little authority and authorities with little expertise
- neither expertise or authority can be reduced to a quantitative evaluation though in both cases this attempt is made by both (#votes, years of study, quantity of research, ...)
- parents and teachers are our first authority with vague expertise based on some combination and degree of command, control, influence, shame, praise, duty (wrapped in the comforting blanket of love) for the greater good of the social group
- the state bases and enforces its authority in much the same way as parents and teachers, plus cadres of subject matter experts sufficiently educated, experienced, and marketable for the mega groups betterment
- these experts are accepted as authority when the mandates of the managers need reinforcing; especially since state and church and corporate and institutional managers are mostly only experts in rhetoric, organizationalism, gladhanding, and other pandering and kowtowing exercises
- earliest civilization was manufactured out of the acceptance of the authority of the godhead and its cryptic managers whose expertise was charismatic abstraction, poetic mumbojumbo, and enforced ignorance - the fear factor was prominent
- latestage civilization exists (slowly dying) from the acceptance of the authority of the sciencehead and its cryptic managers whose expertise is charismatic abstraction, poetic mumbojumbo, and enforced ignorance - the fear factor is prominent
- current civilization's escalating and more frequent crises - actual or invented - allow authorities to pretend they are experts in both the source and resolution by using and abusing subject matter experts as they see fit
- these experts vie for the limited, coveted positions of ever greater authority by insinuating themselves in the good graces of the managerial authorities that be or want to be
- the rest of us are required to trust [you pick which ones] blindly or by some act of enlightened discernment
- can you discern what these self-congratulating geniuses are themselves incapable of: the correct path, the right choice, the proper response, the best timing?
- "just listen to science" says the favored pop-science guy of the moment when asked about how to "do our part"; pronounced only moments after doing the opposite of what "science" says to do (hugging rather than "social distancing")
- but don't do as i do, do as i say - genuflect and dip your cup into the big bucket of science and quench your terrible thirst for truth and right action
- don't worry if its tasteless or even putrid – just suck it up
- science has the perfect fool-proof fallback position: what was true yesterday isn't false tomorrow (to mask or not to mask), knowledge is evolving, progressing, yes its getting better its getting better all the time
- because science (or god) cannot be wrong – except it seems to each other

- the expert is the authority whenever authority needs an expert

decent points, all. but you could have left it at this:

"- the expert is the authority whenever authority needs an expert"

that really says all that needs to be said.

to advance more evidence based critiques on the science godhead and the unquestioned necessity to self isolate.

but also every citizen's.

My mother died of cancer due to a medical "expert", but also due to over-reliance on their expertise, of not double-checking with other MDs, or doing their own research. The latter is always dodgy, tho.

Even at that, the expert IS "legit"; they gotta. As they'd lose everything they have if proven wrong. Being discredited in the science world, or, say, the airline pilots milieu, means you're on your way to the welfare office. They go through a process of intense socio-professional pressure, and that means insane exams at medical school that little people here would be able to pass. The expertise as social role requires a stiff discipline and that often means snorting coke to keep up with all of it.

Yet on the other hand, they're really just people with more advanced knowledge/know-how in a specific field; that makes up their character of being COMPETENT, i.e. reliable due to their professional liability. The tendency in authoritarian relations is to be attributing them with this golden aura of being 100% reliable, due to their position, is the problem here.

I know a few medical tricks on efficiently dealing with injuries and some infections with stuff that is found for free outside of the pharmacy or the hospital. That is not expertise, just empirical knowledge. The MD is the expert, yet due to their liability, can't easily prescribe most of these things, yet will prescribe dubious drugs that might be causing other issues, like for instance the highly toxic Benadryl (proven by studies to be causing cognitive disorders). Trust is expensive...

The real nihilist is independent of social structures and infrastructure, seperate from social desires and libidinal needs, free of moral and ethical restraints. WHOOPEE

I agree completely with what Bakunin says. Listen, respect, but assess the evidence. Consult multiple sources - and not just the most ideologically comfortable ones. Make your own decisions. I think Bakunin is saying that you should listen and try to understand the arguments they make - NOT take their conclusions on trust. If you can't understand the argument then suspend judgement. I also think we should attach more credibility to people who know a range of alternative views over those who only know one, and to those with good politics and existential stances (ones we have affinity with) over those with shit ones.

I also sympathise with why some people are rejecting science out of hand - as expert authority and as an alienated relationship. Qualitative knowledge, such as that derived from local knowledge, is usually superior to things done in labs or using math. But we can often repurpose the top-down stuff, and it's important when we're arguing with more mainstream types.

The trouble this time, is that people are trusting the experts without understanding the arguments. Partly this is because the arguments and evidence are being presented in very confusing ways, in scientific jargon. Partly it's because people are receiving the same message over and over (repeat a lie enough and it seems true). I think some of these specialists write in an obscurantist way to stop casual readers assessing what they're saying. It's always been a maxim of modern science that it's accountable only to the scientific community, not the public. But with the public health modelling stuff, it's not THAT hard to figure out what they're saying and why. And the resistance I've encountered when arguing with pro-distancing people about the facts, suggests to me that they aren't REALLY convinced by the facts, they're reacting in panicky sheep herd-morality mode and uncritically accepting what they're hearing from the "experts" who happen to get media coverage.

So strategically, the question is: how do we get people to stop trusting the "experts"?

And it takes a bit of understanding of scientific methods to do that.

First point: good science depends on evidence. Nobody has good evidence a few months into a new disease. So when you hear the WHO say in January "there's no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of covid", and in March "there's no evidence masks work", they're technically telling the truth, but also lying (there's no firm evidence either way).

Second point: the models behind lockdowns, distancing, etc ARE NOT medical science. Medical research is very restrictive in what counts as evidence. Randomised clinical trials are very high-standard proof, there's false negatives but very few false positives (except when they're relying on subjective reports, as with psych meds). Lab research is also very precise (though they can always fake the results). (BTW there's already antivirals which treat covid symptoms with a high level of effectiveness in non-random trials, and a vaccine which has reached the human trial phase, but they won't release them to the public until they've gone through all the strictest scientific hoops). Public health statistics IS NOT medical science, it's statistical modelling using computers. Guesswork. It's no more reliable than any other kind of sociology or psychology statistics. And you don't have to be able to follow the math or understand the biological composition of the virus molecules to follow them. You just have to be able to say: what assumptions are they putting in, and why? And are the assumptions valid? So it's easy for instance to look at the data in the Imperial College study that's used to justify lockdowns, and see that all the data comes from Wuhan. If the Chinese state is lying, the entire study collapses. It's easy to look at the curves of infections and deaths (I prefer the latter because recorded infections depend so much on testing) and say, is there a big downturn or flattening happening when lockdowns are brought in, or at a period a certain number of days after lockdowns are brought in (factoring in delays from infection to death, and from death to reporting)? If we assume a 17-day period from infection to death and a 5-day reporting delay, we'd expect lockdown effects after 23 days, but there's a decline well before this in most countries, suggesting infections had peaked and were declining before lockdown. You can check this yourself on the graphs, and you can look up reporting times and times to death and make your own informed guesses. We can also compare the curve in countries with and without lockdowns, with stricter and less strict lockdowns, and in those with testing, masking, etc. Though of course one has to make decisions as to whether one trusts particular countries' figures.

Third point: there's disagreement in the scientific community, there's doctors and health statistics experts who will tell you the opposite of the accepted wisdom - lockdowns don't work, masks work, antivirals work, lockdowns will kill more than they save, etc. I think the state is selecting the experts it wants. The WHO chief is a politico, not a medical expert, and he's closely tied to the Chinese regime and pushing their line. There's a lot of statistics in the wordpress thing that got posted earlier, from different sources. If we triangulate all the published research then it doesn't necessarily support the official line at all. For example, there's no specific proof that masks stop covid-19 but there's lots of evidence they stop all other coronaviruses and related viruses to a high percentage. The famous Imperial College study is based on Chinese evidence of dubious accuracy, and has already been falsified by subsequent events. And that's just WITHIN mainstream science.

Fourth point: expertise depends on discourses, paradigms. For example, the mental health advice being given during the lockdowns is bullshit. It's based on behavioural experiments done with samples of "mentally healthy" American psych undergrads, plus customer feedback surveys done by psychiatrists. And it's being used to hide from the fact that the lockdown is driving thousands to suicide, addiction, violence, etc.

Fifth point: expertise can't decide values, desires, or morals. If you've already decided "saving as many lives as possible is the ultimate ethical principle", and scientists are saying "social distancing saves lives" and you believe them, then you'll be in favour of social distancing (though if you're logically consistent, you'd also give anything you own to charity and then run off to the border to smuggle migrants or go attacking fossil fuel companies or something). If you've decided "living a free life is more important than mere survival", or "we're responsible for the people we harm but not the ones we fail to protect", or "the most important struggle today is the struggle against state control", then scientific evidence on whether lockdowns work is IRRELEVANT. Like if you had evidence that washing your hands reduces immigration - for an anarchist that wouldn't be a reason to wash your hands, whereas for a bigot it would be. A lot of people are hiding from existential issues behind arguments about science and it's frankly sickening. If you've decided you'd rather live like a rat in a cage because someone who you don't understand has told you that you/someone else will live longer this way, then fuck you.

> A lot of people are hiding from existential issues behind arguments about science and it's frankly sickening.

I agree with this point, and it can be extended to a more general critique of experts. While (hopefully) most wider discourse has rejected the idea that science is neutral, there is an underlying moral imperative attached to progress. If someone believes that society is generally progressing towards a better place then it makes sense that they would also value and strive to give authority to expertise.

The converse is probably also true. If someone is constantly appealing to experts, I'd bet they also believe in linear progress. This is a large part of where my criticism of experts comes from tbh. I don't see how experts offer anything other than a progression of the status quo which is not what I'm interested in.

> The trouble this time, is that people are trusting the experts without understanding the arguments. Partly this is because the arguments and evidence are being presented in very confusing ways, in scientific jargon.

I disagree with this. I think a lot of people generally understand the arguments, but for the parts people don't understand I also don't think that scientific jargon is the problem with experts or science. I'd say the problem is more what you said above, that the underlying values attached to advice given by experts isn't being challenged.

To break out of the pandemic example, security and op-sec trainings in digital technology is another area in which many anarchists seem to both appeal to experts or consider themselves an expert that should be listened to. I take steps to mitigate my own risks using this information, but I've never seen a digital security training session that didn't make assumptions or come with values I disagree with. I'd rather not use any of it and have a world without experts. The fact that we've created a world where we rely on experts for harm reduction makes me uncomfortable in the same way that I am about how I've become reliant on other parts of civilization.

I'm realizing that the pro/anti-expertise perspectives are breaking along similar arguments to pro/anti-tech. Which makes a lot of sense, and leads me to believe that expertise could itself be considered a form of technology. I would definitely consider things like the engineering of supply chains a form of technology, and from there it's not too hard to make the jump to experts being a technological component in those chains. Once that connection has been made, it's easy how we're in the process of rehashing the same disagreements -- is possible and/or desirable to use the masters tools for our own liberation? In any case, just like it seems painfully obvious to me that the status of "worker" (in a proletarian sense) sucks and if it were possible, should be abolished, so should the status of "expert".

people not understanding the arguments, it's that they are all willing to accept very watered down ways of confronting the current realities under the guise of safety and morality, which i understand, if someone told me there was all these people in my town dieing from ebola i would at least try to verify that through another source.

All the science indicates that COVID-19 is a very clever and sly virus, bringing what i thought were formidable institutions to their knees. Beautiful!

>there is an underlying moral imperative attached to progress

Yes, of course - although I wonder how widespread that is nowadays. I still see a lot of this shit in so-callled underdeveloped countries, idealising western lifestyles and technology. There's a scent of it round the neoliberal and Third Way development projects, 4th/5th industrial revolution and cybernetic discourse as well. But a lot of the shit about covid-19 is much more about survival and holding onto what people think they have, not about building a better world. If you asked people to compare a world in permanent lockdown, or a world with pervasive tracking technology, to one without, people wouldn't say that's utopian progress, they'd say it's regress. But they'd justify it as "necessary", "temporary", all that shit. It might actually be a way for capitalism to "progress" to its next stage, to build a cybernetic control society, but that's not the justification being used, and if it was promoted in these terms, it would be horribly unpopular. And the role of "experts" isn't so much as the priests of progress so much as being the authorities which panicked people run to for protection - like the lord who opens up his castle when there's bandits invading.

>I disagree with this. I think a lot of people generally understand the arguments, but for the parts people don't understand I also don't think that scientific jargon is the problem with experts or science. I'd say the problem is more what you said above, that the underlying values attached to advice given by experts isn't being challenged.

Yeah, maybe. Certainly people take for granted the idea that preserving bare life at any cost is more important than quality of life, living a full life. But what's creeped me out from talking to people drawn into the lockdown discourse is that they just don't care whether the experts are wrong or corrupt or keep changing their minds. Like, we're seeing these really abrupt shifts in what the WHO or the CDC or the Robert Koch Institute say, first it's just a flu and then it's armageddon, one moment it's not transmissible by humans then it is, one moment masks don't work and the next they do, one moment Chinese-style lockdowns wouldn't work in the west and the next they're everywhere, and people on the lockdown side (that's 90% of people in some countries) don't notice and don't care if it's pointed out to them. And they seem very resistant to being shown things from "experts" which contradict their account, or for example the "experts" who are now worried the crash will do more damage than the virus. If I argue that lockdowns don't work, or that the evidence is dodgy, they automatically react that I'm a conspiracy theorist or I don't care about people dying. It seems the trust in the authorities, or the inability to understand the scientific issues involved, wipes out any kind of critical faculty. I think some of them have desires for social suicide which are actually a kind of distorted nihilism, some of them have desires for authoritarianism or sadistic abuse of minorities or submersion in a totalising collective which have just found a hook, some of them are reliving some Hollywood version of World War 2 with "the virus" as the enemy. But some of them are scared and looking for protectors, or they mix up the public health gurus with their local doctor or the people at the hospital who earned their trust.

>To break out of the pandemic example, security and op-sec trainings in digital technology is another area in which many anarchists seem to both appeal to experts or consider themselves an expert that should be listened to. I take steps to mitigate my own risks using this information, but I've never seen a digital security training session that didn't make assumptions or come with values I disagree with

Yeah, I agree. They provide really important information, they're experts in the artisan sense, but there's a whole discourse involved which is dubious. There's cybernetic root-metaphors which are actually quite disempowering. Psychology would be another example. Some of the self-help techniques work to some extent, but they're embedded in an ideology which gives them a bad taste. It's hard to get into yoga without buying into the Buddhist renunciation-of-desire stuff, or psychoanalysis without buying into the Oedipus complex. And in the CBT toolkits there's a bunch of stuff which has been appropriated from healthier traditions and plugged into behaviourism.

>I'd rather not use any of it and have a world without experts. The fact that we've created a world where we rely on experts for harm reduction makes me uncomfortable in the same way that I am about how I've become reliant on other parts of civilization.

Yeah, I semi-agree, though I wonder... even if we were all hunter-gatherers, wouldn't we have to learn at some point how to make traps, build shelters, make fires, learn which plants are poisonous, where particular things grow and so on? I mean, in western society, bushcraft has also become a specialism of sorts and there's often ideologies (either survivalist or hippy) attached. Unlike a lot of mammals, we're born knowing fuck-all. So there aren't really any unskilled humans, it's just that some skills (and maybe corresponding ideologies?) are learnt by nearly everyone and others aren't.

i agree with most of that comment, some well-articulated thoughts there.

the one thing i would question is the comparison of humans to other mammals. i think all mammals, including humans, gain skills from some combination of instinct (is that genetically encoded?) and observational/experiential learning. humans (especially in the "developed" world) have been so deeply domesticated and mediated from the rest of the natural world, that the instinctual part of that has been largely either lost or been displaced in the more accessible parts of cellular memory by more recently necessary survival/defense mechanisms. (i know my terminology ain't perfect, hopefully my point is clear). modern mass society also causes most humans to be deprived of those direct learning experiences, except for specialists who choose to spend years of formal academic education - and more money than i'll probably ever see - in single areas of expertise. creating "experts" that most everyone else is presumed to rely on.

i guess my point being, just as earlier humans had to "learn" to make shelters, traps, etc, so have other mammals, birds, etc. it's just that the path humans have taken over the past 10-15,000 years has resulted in the large-scale degradation of the ability to survive in their natural surroundings without civilization.

coffee, anyone...?

"i think all mammals, including humans, gain skills from some combination of instinct (is that genetically encoded?) and observational/experiential learning."

there's also the enormous problem with even the idea of "genetic encoding", all the experts are barely scratching the surface in terms of empirical knowledge. The anarcho-primmie in me says there's no social benefit to deeply analyzing the mechanics of reality, the laws of physics if you will...but that is a less fun and limiting perspective for some if i am correct?

I am having a candle-lit date tonight with my new future partner, covid-19. Wish me all the best!

Roni is a very cunning and charming fuckboi... He knows where to put his hand precisely at the right place when approaching you, and knows the tricks for a good convo that leads exactly where he wants to, while keep his intents under several layers of double entendre. And it is not surprising, as he is a well-grown, skilled maaaan who knows how to please.

Brash, young, intelligent, independent, you'll get on with him soon enough. It's not surprising how he's big with you, impressionable Americans.

I'm a big fan of illegal nonessential group coffee breaks. Bring it on.

Yes, a lot of animals learn (not just mammals - there's lots of birds can learn too, probably lizards as well). At the so-called "low" end, some animals such as ants don't seem to need learning at all. Interestingly, ants are the usual root-metaphor for cybernetic swarms because of their feedback-based swarm intelligence - the system would like humans to relate like ants, even though it also makes a fetish of learning. (I wouldn't call ants "low" because they're very good at what they do and probably more resilient than humans - there will probably be ants a million years from now, but probably no humans). At the other end we have animals which are probably more intelligent than humans, such as whales. They could probably change their environment the way humans do, but they're too smart to, or don't see a need to. Still... I think humans are more reliant on learning than other animals. Not sure if it's because we're meant to be social animals, because we're not niche-specialised, or because we are born so prematurely compared to everything else. But we don't seem to know what we're doing a lot of the time. So for example, cats seem to be born with a hunting instinct, but need to be taught what prey animals to go after in their environment (if they're raised on balls of wool, they'll chase balls of wool their whole life). Humans don't seem to have this. Even with children raised by wolves, it seems they learn this stuff off the wolves. Where does instinct go in humans? I don't really know. It's possible that what's called the "unconscious" in psychoanalytic accounts is the remnant of instinct (pleasure principle, libido, self-preservation, etc) but these are repressed or channelled. It's also possible that the irrational herd responses we see in modern society are actually a subset of instincts designed to deal with rare crisis situations, but which are unnaturally activated constantly in modern society. So modern humans are reacting quite naturally to an unnatural world.

But learning is more complicated than we usually think. Learning isn't just adaptive behaviour. Learning involves cultures, meanings, worldviews, values - in traditional indigenous as much as in modern cultures, more so in fact. Learning has to be plugged into the Imaginary, particularly in childhood (children learn by playing, and by experimenting). Everything I've read about indigenous learning, there's these dense webs connecting survival and utility to play, art and creativity, spirits and religion/magic, like the Aboriginal ley-lines which are at once a useful mnemonic for hunting and orienting in the wild, a set of supernatural stories with existential importance, and a set of constantly recreated works of art (when the god or hero walked this way, s/he cried at this place and left a pool of tears, then built a mound which is now a mountain, then crossed the desert... etc). I think Graeber's article on play is spot-on - animals aren't functional, they don't set out to survive; they play, and in the course of playing, they survive and flourish. (Quite often, pleasure is attuned to what's beneficial and pain to what's harmful... there's exceptions of course). And the human ideologies of adaptivity, instrumentalism, utility, survival, are actually a particular kind of play, a kind based on reactive desires disguised as anti-desires, but with a whole fantasy-investment around them (whether it's preppers' desire to bug-out and escape civilisation, or Fauci's OCD desire to abolish handshakes for good, the bigot's sadistic pleasure in punishing others, or the ego-boost of the Darwinist struggle to survive... all of which are disguised as necessity). It's only once we already have the functionalist, utilitarian fantasies in place that we can learn "skills" as something "adaptive". This is inevitable because desire is the only possible source of meaning.

Where does authority fit in? Well, command authority is counterposed to desire, but it has to be based on (reactive) desire. Without command authority, people can still influence others by producing effects in the Imaginary. This isn't necessarily benign - this seems to be how advertising works, and the Spectacle in general. Before we had philosopher-kings we had god-emperors and high priests, probably the earliest form of authority, and they worked in a very similar way to shamans. But where along the continuum from personal entheogenic experience and group animism, through shamanism and totemism, to priests and poets with non-coercive influence and then to high-priests acting as dictators, does the consensual ability to influence turn into authority as such?

the real issue is giving authority to "experts". Whereas so yeah medical professionals know that covid is contagious, that's fine, no fucking shit common knowledge, use at your own risk. The problem is people looking at this cruel reality and using it to issue preposterous mandates, "stay in your fucking house!". The arrogance of these jerkoffs offended me at first but typing that in quotes is just so funny so i guess i need to just appreciate it.

"Even those who may hesitate at the power exercised by experts and the authorities they abet may find themselves looking to those same people for life-and-death knowledge or treatment in the current pandemic."

yeah, and be careful about that to. I'm an expert in being disappointed by the medical system, the costs of trusting these sleep deprived workers can be pretty grave, and praising and thanking them in the way people do that for/to vets has some pretty sinister implications.

there's no bar to set for how concerned or scared people should be at the moment, all we can do is sit back and see what life hands to us.

Hey thecollective, good work on the TOTW this time around. This has been a subject I've been thinking a lot about lately.

As an autodidact, I struggle with this a lot. I have amassed a lot of knowledge and made connections between ideas, and lately I have been wanting to use this tendency of mine to be useful in some way. In some ways, this can be done simply by living: being very intentional with people in my life, communalizing resources, not falling for society's tricks and traps, etc. But I also want to be able to write things that are meaningful and useful to others, about things that people care about. Yet, every time I start researching that I know a little bit about in-depth, I'll see some rad expert publish something similar to what I was aiming for, but much more fleshed out.

Maybe the problem is trying to find a "hot take" that nobody else has said yet about a hot topic. I don't know. But yeah, it's hard for someone who spends a lot of time reading, who's not an expert, to feel like I am using my "talents" and knowledge to good use.

finding the "hot take" is kinda like looking for fools gold.

What you just wrote sounds so much of what i feel and experience on a regular basis. As someone who has written a lot of material that i don't consider worthy of publishing, and the things i consider very worthy aren't publishable anyways, i would say the best advice i can give is let the ideas take on a mind of their own with maybe a little discipline if that helps. Don't think in terms of depth of knowledge in a subject matter, think in terms of questions you ask yourself. The thing i like about anarchist writings in general is they often transcend these subject matters.

and of course finding environments that support your desire to write inspiring/helpful shit like this website are mostly necessary. Real life meeting groups are even better in my experience but good fucking luck with that hahahaha

writing is one of the toughest things i've ever done, i've concluded a lot of my obstacles with it are an inability carve out a good pyschological space to for myself to be more productive about it.

I agree, great topic.

In terms of writing, I think there's a lot of space for translating complicated stuff into simpler or more anarchist-friendly language. And sometimes there's a need for wider insights to be explained in terms of precisely what they mean for anarchist practice. There's a load of stuff I've picked up from radical academics which either doesn't have any good introductory materials written or isn't known to anarchists. Things like deviance amplification, cybernetics, psychoanalysis, world systems analysis, and pretty much anything arising in anthropology since the 70s. Like, when fascism was a hot topic a few years back, nobody really rehashed the stuff from Reich and Theweleit. There are loads of critiques of IDpol but nobody's really dug into the theoretical models they're working with either.

In terms of writers' block: regular breaks, nootropics, take lots of notes, and don't be afraid to write a "bad first draft" (you can edit it later).

of authoritative and expert opinions about authority and expertise is what I'm reading here, haha.

But are any of you experts on your own bodies? Do you know how to stay well? Do you know how to not get sick? Would you know what to do if you did get sick, with covid19 or the common cold? How did you learn any of this?

Do you believe in the germ theory of illness? Is there more to getting sick than pathogens in the environment? What are those other factors, for you or for another? If pathogens are a factor, can you describe how they spread? Do you know the best ways to halt their spread? How do you know? How did you come to these conclusions?

If you wish to be free of experts you may want to be able to answer these and 1,000 other questions. Which is not to say you should listen to experts, not at all. What all my questions are about though, is this, can you take care of yourself by yourself and for yourself?
(Yourself meant broadly, ie you & your people)

I usually put more trust in medical science than in social science. Like most of us, I can't make sense of full-scale science papers (I can deal with the low-end health statistics crap well enough). And I've never seen a germ under a microscope. My only evidence for the germ theory is that I've seen some of the drugs that result from it work some of the time. On the other hand, I put no faith whatsoever in mainstream psych because it's not worked for me or anyone I know.

I know a lot of the (sociological) science/tech studies stuff and a lot of the sociology of health stuff, as well as a lot of alt psych, and I feel I can make informed judgements on this stuff (and quite frankly, if you can understand racial inequality or alt education or permaculture, you can understand STS and alt psych). I take a Korzybskian position that reality is an event-level of unique objects, and perception and theorising select some of these and ignore others, also drawing particular lines between them. So I try to read evidence in a way which picks out the event-level dots behind the researcher's particular narrative of how they join up. I also keep my eyes peeled for other dots which the stuff I've already read has missed.

Social circumstances have a huge effect on health. Social struggles and resistance are absolutely crucial in relation to health outcomes. Stress and fatigue are bad for health. Packed cities are less healthy (once healthcare is factored out) than wildnerness or rural areas. There's a weird trade-off with hygiene that reduced exposure keeps pathogens out but stops you developing resistance. Psychology is complex, but I'm completely convinced the unconscious exists and we can't understand ourselves or each other without this concept. Everyone in modern society is fucked-up to varying degrees. Autonomy, affinity, and empowering action are good for wellbeing. I can cite studies on all of this, but it also feels experientially true once I think about it. I'm also a big fan of multiplying alternative theories as lenses on a problem, because often there's some truth in them all.

Often, when I read a theory or "fact", I pay attention to how it feels. Does it feel plausible, threatening, incomplete? Does it contradict something else I "know"? Sometimes the new theory or fact actually makes sense of some feelings or experiences which were previously inchoate. Sometimes it feels like a power-move, like the sort of things authoritarians say. I won't blank out a theory which might be "true", just because it feels bad at first sight or contradicts previous beliefs. But I'll really probe *why* it feels so wrong to me - is this a blockage in myself, or something in the theory that's threatening me?

IMO empirical research is a kind of guessing and testing of guesses where communities of researchers decide particular evidence decides if the guess is right. There's different levels of evidence and reliability

As a rule I trust qualitative evidence over quantitative, and within quantitative evidence I trust stuff that's been reconfirmed and is based on large numbers over stuff which isn't. However, I'll usually look into whether the test is really testing what the researcher says it is, whether the research situation has anything in common with the contexts it's applied to, and where they're getting their data from (a claim about universal human psychology drawn from a study of 200 American undergraduates can be dismissed pretty easily). With covid I largely trust the lab research and large-number aggregate studies because the methods have proved other things that seem to be true, though of course they could be faked or incomplete and they're very early-stage. I don't trust the statistical models because this is a far less reliable method. Straightaway when the Imperial College study came out I looked it up online and determined that all their base data came from Wuhan, and I know enough about Chinese information management to distrust the data. Because of looking into STS, I also know about medical evidence and the exceptionally high bar which is set by peer-blind clinical trials - so I find it quite plausible that antivirals work but haven't been fully validated yet. I'm primed for lockdown skepticism because I'm anti-lockdown, but I've come across lots of inconsistencies and U-turns which have confirmed the skepticism. I also know international politics and economics to some degree and so it makes sense to me to see this as a recomposition of capitalism and/or as related to the rise of China. I've always had the suspicion that masks work, because it stands to reason that something spread by droplets is blocked by an obstacle. And I've distrusted government denials because governments have ulterior motives in discouraging masking-up. My initial response was that handwashing is an OCD fad, but I've come round to it once people started explaining the mechanisms of how they think the virus works. I suspected very early that lockdowns would have devastating psychological effects because I've already concluded that a lot of people are struggling, I know a lot of people who are close to the edge and I just scale this up. I also read the covid crisis through the lens of 9/11 and other similar events where the state response is an overreaction and the medicine is worse than the disease. I've been noticing a fad for lockdowns and similar repressive bullshit escalating for decades and my previous models of herd psychology and state dispositions are being confirmed, and this makes it hard to believe the lockdowns are "just medical". I also use a lot of consistency-checking and if-then logic as well, and it seems suspicious to me that states are doing some drastic, extreme, exceptional things and at the same time not doing much easier, cheaper, or more basic things (like encouraging people to wear DIY masks, making sure health workers have proper protective gear, mass-producing testing kits, making sure workers are distanced and masked at workplaces, housing homeless people, making sure shanty-towns have water). To me this contradiction between things believed by medical science and things that are being done is evidence that the real reason is not medical - it's either deliberate exploitation or some kind of kneejerk default to police-state methods. So basically I try to use a mixture of finding multiple sources of empirical evidence, testing these against each other and against everyday knowledge, checking the methods and the logic, and reading evidence in relation to general trends.

I'm acutely aware that the crisis looks very differently depending if someone's *only* thinking about medical evidence or if they're also factoring in economics, geopolitics, mass psychology, and discourse analysis (e.g. securitisation).

The main limit to this is that I don't have the time, energy, or skill to read *everything* on a topic, and this leaves me vulnerable to my own or others' selection bias.

It’s also interesting to consider more broadly how much weight and value one gives to this or that person’s statements, testimony and opinion.

It’s not just taking experts at their word that may harm you, but also any layperson you may come across offering hearsay, rumors, anecdotes.

One takes in information from many sources daily, and we all have our biases in our sources, filters, interpretation and understanding. How good is our judgement of character? How good is our intuition to detect when someone is lying? What critical thinking tools, including attentive and focused observation and examination, do we deploy and hone daily?

As good or bad as it may be, we rely on our judgement, and other’s, every day.

To all this. There is a reason anecdotal evidence is suspect. And yes to honing our critical thinking skills.

note: sadly I think the moment has passed but there was a moment of standstill that was exquisite. It could be looked at as the state telling us what to do or (there are, of course, more than two options) it can be looked at as the machine screeching to a halt. I like the latter. The state was so panicked they THEY shut down most commercial spaces! All we had to do was not go back. And yet here we are, arguing to be allowed to start it all up again.


for me personally, the whole capitalist machine never screeched to a halt: all that's happening right now is that certain elements of the whole thing are being shut down so that everything can go back to normal in a few months to a year. Could be good for the whole range of earthly beings, could be bad.

I'm glad you really like the walls of your house, that to me is a positive sign

I dunno if Nettle's confusing totalitarianism with some anarchistic social arrest, but that thinking here is pretty unclear.

Let's not talk about the surging cases of domestic abuse due to confinement, the prisons where it's become hellish as well as the elderly being basically put into indefinite detention for an unknown period of time and not able to see their close relatives... All fancy details for them "Leftists" and "pro-civ", rite.

About should/shouldn't, a lot of factors get left out of the discussion. In order to even engage you have to start with what was brought up.

One thing that's being talked about by mainstream news, and not so much here, is the drastic disparities of blacks vs. Non blacks where being killed of. From what I've read these proportions are even worse than blacks vs. non blacks who are in the prison system.

One thing I'm personally sickened by are all these crisis anarchists who are advancing an accelerationist narrative of the coronavirus, saying this is the time for revolutionary change. But plz, keep your ear a little closer to the ground: my theory is the existing oppressions are getting worse, and revolt based on public health narratives are not quite adequate.

And then theres nettle lamenting what ppl are doing now when they were just as capable of doing that before...what a wierd historical period we are enmeshed in. I hope every living being, including the capitalists and idiots, can suffer as little as possible b4 they die

As with every situation opportunities are opened and closed by events. I don't see anyone in this thread at least saying that there is an opportunity for a revolution, but clearly the fact that the economy of basically the entire world ground to a halt is food for thought.

How I would use it to my advantage, or use it to better connect with others to make my life more meaningful.

Overall my more self preservation and danger avoidance side of my self says that this is just a different shade of neoliberal-normal.

However, if the US keeps totalitarian lockdown going for a year or maybe even less, there will be some crazy changes that will take place, and I'm extremely curious about what would happen to me and the ppl I know.

You bring up some good points. Blacks, prisoners, the poor, all are disproportionately affected by covid19. In part because of existing (pre-existing) disparities in healthcare, policing, generational trauma, racism, and all the things. For sure.

To be clear(er) - I in no way am cheering on coronavirus. I was trying to get at shutting things down can also be seen as an opportunity, an opportunity to keep it all shut down.
There are many factors to consider here, one being there is no best (good) way to view our current situation. What is positive for some is definitely negative for others. No dispute there.

I don't believe in revolution. But now is the time for change. Now is always the time for change. In that it is always Now, it is never not now.

As to suffering, here I follow a Buddhist path. There is suffering and there is an end to suffering. May each soul get the lessons they earn.

in the more positive or somewhat anarchist sense, is that if we want to strike a blow against the exploiters/capitalists, we have to do it for our desire not to live like that anymore, a desire not to be enslavers or the enslaved.

I don't think a shared concern over a novel virus is really going to make that happen, this is a fine time to highlight demands and ask for better treatment as a lot of prisoners have been doing, but i more or less just feel cynical and pessimist of how this drama/trauma/crisis is going to turn out, and i overall get bothered by the vague nature of our discussions on here so i apologize if i came off as overly assertive or crass.

This site's comment section but especially the somewhat-related IRC has lately become a whole sea of vague... so much I ain't sure how to navigate through, or if I should even bother. French pun intended.

I'd rather be having those painfully long and incoherent textwalls of hyper-hyphenated incoherent ramblings like in 2014 than those "dry", superquick one-liners that make you feel like you're dealing with some really edgy early high-school kid or something. Latter reference makes sense since there's some kids who just don't grow up... they remain arseholes as they accumulating more and more cultural baggage. And when they're rich kids, this appears to make it worse.

I guess it's cool to surf through the several layers of entendre with his Gentoo box in between two bricks of po-mo theory just to make belief in his own intellectual supremacy, but doesn't it make him come off as just like another foolish supermacho blowhard who's got something to prove to some archetype?

Naufrage happens once in a while.

Your powers of projection are impressive. Whereas Nettle, without minimizing the ways in which things are clearly fucked, pointed out that there was indeed an opportunity presented, you feel the need to come in and shame people for trying to think about those possibilities. Perhaps you can speak a bit more about your own experience rather than using others experiences as a cudgel.

Notice that the control freaks will often use 'we' and they use it liberally speaking as if 'we' is I. I am I. So stop including me in your analysis.... speak only for you want and don't presume my choices.

There is a perennial level of expertise that I think is legitimate, however, expertise can become a runaway quantitative problem if not kept in check by a baseline of skepticism and even cynicism. One of the problems with quantitative expertise in the form of experts is that specialized experts tend to lose the ability to think in more creative lateral multi-referential ways.

When you think of renaissance minds for instance you do not see them among the experts who have a specialized way of thinking. There is a balancing act between trusting believingexperts(which you should not do) and falling into cultish conspiritorial charismatic thinking which is also not anarchic. Anarchic thinking is more tailored to renaissance thinking which is a balance between specialized thinking and autodidactic thinking.

There is the swimming body of
living things

they each have their place,
the system is beautiful because
it gives me the framework i need
to survive.

When I'm tired of that i have
these organisms known as friends,
never helping me grow the
bacteria in my lab.

...bitches they come n go: saturday thru sunday monday, monday thru sunday yo!

...maybe I'll love you one day. Maybe we'll one day grow? Til then, just sit yo trunk ass on dat fuckin railway ho!

Another angle on this. Does the evidence or the expertise make any difference? Or is it just a hook for the authoritarian desires of sheep, bigots, and opportunistic politicians?

First question. Why isn't there more reaction against *medically irrational* elements of the lockdown, i.e. those which make no sense epidemiologically at all?

Take for instance this piece:
which is by a bioethicist who uses utilitarian reasoning - measures are justified only if they are proportionate and save lives. She opposes a lot of aspects of the lockdowns - but singles out the bizarre rule in Italy that people can go for walks for exercise, but not jogs. She's criticised this, but people are just responding "it shows respect". As if they don't care about the evidence or the experts, it's about signalling that you're against the virus.

I can think of a lot of other bizarre rules. The fad of stopping people exercising in remote areas, even though this reduces transmission risk compared to the now overused urban parks. Bans on mountain-climbing and surfing. Rules saying people can walk on the beach but not swim. Preventing internal and international travel, even when there's already high infection rates in both places. Lots of Third World countries are using curfews - allowing most ordinary activities except between certain hours. California has tried to stop people going to beaches in the hot weather - then encouraged people to gather in indoor sites if they don't have air conditioning. I've also been hearing about bans on alcohol and cigarette sales in some countries. New Zealand banned people living in vans except on their own land. This increases risk because they have to move into crowded temporary facilities or live on the streets. All totally irrational. Yet why isn't there any backlash from the people who otherwise rely on "science"?

Second question: why are changes - especially loosening of the lockdown - either not following from new scientific research or are massively delayed? For example, why have findings that the virus dies quickly in sunlight not affected the "stay home" mantra? Why have findings that very young children are not infectious had no effect?

Third question: why do the same people who take pro-lockdown science as gospel, seem oblivious to mounting evidence (much of it from scientists) about the impacts on so-called mental health, the deaths which might be caused by the crash, etc?

I'm asking because I suspect these questions blow wide open the fact that lockdowns are a kneejerk reaction based on irrational herd-morality and desire to be part of a fascistic collective effort which splits friend from enemy and sacrifices the enemy. But I'm interested in whether there's other explanations.

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