COVID-19 in Cartoon America

Watching “CBS Sunday Morning” this morning drove home a startling statistic: the United States ranks number 48 in the world for percentage of citizens who have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

I knew things were bad here.  A story on that same program revealed that the social media platform Facebook is, once again, under fire.  This time it’s for permitting the spread of misinformation on COVID-19—such as that the vaccine contains a microchip allowing the government to monitor us—that is leading directly to people’s deaths.

Researchers analyzing Facebook misinformation, not surprisingly, had their Facebook accounts shut down.  And Facebook, not surprisingly, declined a “Sunday Morning” request for an interview.

I’m far from being an admirer of Mark Zuckerberg, and I have a lot of issues with Facebook, despite being a moderate user.  But one thing Zuckerberg said hit me in the gut.  He implied maybe the problem isn’t so much Facebook, but America, since other countries are less inclined to get suckered by false information on social media platforms.  Ignoring his garbled English, he said “I think that there’s that’s something unique in our ecosystem here.”

My position is that, like other deadly pursuits such as tobacco use, hard drug experimentation, and irresponsible sex, if adults exercise their freedom of choice by choosing ideologically-driven rumors, conspiracy theories, and cartoon science, we shouldn’t bemoan any consequences befalling them.  The problem is, their “viral” stupidity have consequences for the rest of us.  And maybe there is something unique here in America that contributes to our embrace of lies and the lying liars that tell them.

What might this unique condition be?

I’ve always believed that education, not military or economic might, is the key to a population’s well-being.  However, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that, while the U.S. scores high in upper secondary education (i.e. high school) graduation rates, it is below average in student reading, math, and science skills.  Per the OECD’s latest (2015) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study, the U.S. ranks 25th out of 40 OECD-member nations. Just behind Latvia.

In other words, we’re spitting out high school graduates like assembly line widgets, but many of these widgets are flawed and mucking up the entire machine.

Certainly there are other factors in our embrace of polluted information: an inordinate (or perhaps warranted) distrust of government compared to other countries; a gaping ideological divide that drives the most fanatical ideologues toward irresponsible leaders and media outlets; deep-rooted cultural fears and prejudices.

But doesn’t education overcome much of the above?  Maybe not.

Just yesterday I learned that the father of one of our daughter’s friends tested positive for the coronavirus and is now resting not so comfortably in a hospital bed.  Of course, he’s unvaccinated.  Evidently he has, or perhaps had, a strong ideological opposition to vaccines (and evidently doesn’t care about spreading the virus to others).  His daughter, at one time livid with him for being so stubborn and selfish, is now wringing her hands with worry.  I don’t know his educational background, but his daughter attended one of the best and most expensive private schools in the city, so I’m assuming this guy has a college degree, or at minimum a high-school diploma.

And I have an old schoolmate who graduated with honors from high school, attended an Ivy League university, and who works in health care, yet who consistently lampoons the president’s Chief Medical Advisor and his attempts to educate Americans with scientific data on the coronavirus.

So maybe education isn’t a match for dogmatic ideology.  Or maybe American schools these days are less about knowledge and more about job training and income earning potential.  I don’t know. Does anyone?

Speaking of cartoons, where’s Mighty Mouse when you need him?

9 thoughts on “COVID-19 in Cartoon America

  1. As we come up to 15 weeks in lockdown here in NSW (“freedoms” coming on October 11th), I am certainly grateful I live in a place which for the most part has a population that puts the common good ahead of personal ‘liberty’. We are up to nearly 70% with the double jab. Of course, we have our ratbags too, but I *think* there are fewer of them per capita.

    There are of course the anti-vaxxers. The NSW Department of Education (my employer) has mandated vaccination for all school staff. No jab – no job. A small school in rural NSW – a famous “hippy” location – is advertising for new staff for nearly all its teachers. They are not getting the jab – so they won’t have a job. The Union supports vaccination.

    I shake my head at the microchip believers! They won’t get vaccinated because they worry they’ll get tracked. Meanwhile, they tweet about it on their very own sophisticated tracking device which they carry with them everywhere? The government doesn’t need a microchip! Not while we carry phones and share our lives so generously.

    I agree with your comments about education. The system is broken and mostly about churning out fodder for the consumerist culture. I do my best to be subversive, while still adhering to our code of conduct! 🙂

    Hope you’ve recovered from your long hike and stay safe!

    • Our daughter lived in Scotland, as you probably know, so I’m aware that other countries treat this virus much more seriously than America. We’ve had a thorny relationship with government since we were still a British colony. It’s worse then ever today. Anti-government feelings hit on both sides of the political aisle, but especially on the right (and we have a third party, Libertarians, for whom hating government is the single issue). There’s been little mandating here other than with private entities, just recommendations and pleadings, yet we STILL have people screaming about government overreach. “Screw everyone else, it’s all about ME and MY rights!” And they manufacture sci-fi scenarios about microchips and sterilizations to scare the little people. It’s like a black comedy.

      I’m distrustful of government, too. The pathetic “War on Drugs” alone tells me our country is run by idiots. But jeez, when you have a deadly pandemic, you suck it up and do your part.

  2. Pete I don’t usually chime in on this stuff (stick to music and film) but in my experience from the people I know ( Im talking friends, relatives), the ones that are saying no the the vaccine are all highly educated (even graduates from some of your most respected universities down in your country) so my take is the choice not to vaccinate covers a lot of different folk. Just to sum up. most the people in my life are all vaccinated. All walks of life.
    Been listening to lots of great music, watching some good film and reading some good books plus getting some fresh air and a nature fix. How a bout you?

    • Chime in any time you want, CB. It’s good to get perspectives from outside the U.S. Don’t know anything about Canada, but my observation down here is that it’s a mixture. Some people are lazy or indifferent, some fearful, and some who, how should I say it…have a particular partisan leaning, are listening to questionable sources, and view not getting vaccinated as a political act. But it all adds up to a bad scene when your country is ranked #48.

      Music, film, and books, (and family) are, like with you, my salvation in these screwed-up times. I’m reading a book by a guy I met on the A.T. called “Chesapeake Requiem,” about how water levels via climate change are destroying the crabbing industry on a small island off Virginia…and also swallowing up the island itself. Not sure where the U.S. is ranked right now on climate change action, but I’ll bet we’re pretty low there as well.

      Right now I’d be happy if, on education, we moved ahead of Latvia.

      • Id say it’s much the same up here but with a higher percentage getting on board. We dont have the population you have down there so it makes it easier to get the word out. Health issues should be a no brainer but apparently not with some folks. A lot of madness out there fella. I try not to add to it. Just keep doing those “salvation” things.

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