Source – epsilontheory.com
– “…It’s what the Best and the Brightest always do … they convince themselves that the people can’t handle the truth, particularly if the truth ain’t such good news. They convince themselves that they can buy enough time to win the real-world war by designing and employing a carefully constructed “communication strategy” to win the narrative-world war”
Body Count – By Ben Hunt
‘Over time, continual bad news will discourage any civilian population, and Americans had the lowest tolerance on the planet for bad news’. – Karl Marlantes, “Matterhorn” (2009)
Have you read Matterhorn, by Karl Marlantes? You should. It’s not just the best novel I’ve ever read about the Vietnam War, but it’s also one of my irreplaceable sources of inspiration for understanding The Maw – that unlimited gluttony of the violent State to chomp on our bones and suck out our minds … and the oddly not-so-rare instances of individual human bravery to persevere regardless.
I would bet my life that there are thousands of instances of individual human bravery persevering against The Maw happening right now … in Wuhan … in Wenzhou … in dozens of other quarantined cities throughout China.
And in Xinjiang, too.
What was my first experience with The Maw? It was as a seven-year-old boy watching the nightly news on our little black-and-white set, where every night … EVERY NIGHT … we were told exactly how many American and South Vietnamese and North Vietnamese soldiers had been killed that day.
The American numbers were accurate, I guess, and the South Vietnamese numbers were probably in the right ballpark. But the North Vietnamese numbers of wounded and killed? Pure fiction.
The daily body count of killed and wounded North Vietnamese soldiers was, in Epsilon Theory-speak, a cartoon – an abstraction of an abstraction in service to the creation of Common Knowledge.
Hey, everyone knows that everyone knows that we’re winning the war in Vietnam. Didn’t you see the body count numbers on CBS last night?
Once you start looking for cartoons, you will see them everywhere.
Inflation numbers? Cartoon.
Employment data? Cartoon.
Asset allocation? Electoral coverage? Financial journalism? Cartoon, cartoon, cartoon.
And yes, we write a lot about cartoons. You can read more here, here, here, here, here and here. For starters.
But this is the kicker.
Because it was so important to maintain the fiction that we were Winning the War ™, and that fiction required metrics like a body count of North Vietnamese that was always a multiple of the South Vietnamese casualties and always a factor of the American casualties, American war-fighting policy was soon driven by the narrative requirement to find and count the “right number” of North Vietnamese casualties!
These were the infamous search-and-destroy missions of the Vietnam War.
This is The Maw in action.
Do a little research on search-and-destroy. Read about My Lai and Son Thang. Read Matterhorn.
And then take a fresh look at the coronavirus stats coming out of China.
Here’s the core post in a reddit thread that’s Matterhorn-esque in its truth (and a heck of a lot shorter to read).
The point of this quadratic regression on Chinese infection and death numbers as reported by the World Health Organization from the first official announcement through February 4 was the publication of this projection.
Sure enough, the WHO announcements since this prediction was published have been eerily close.
2/5 — 24,363 cases — 491 fatalities
2/6 — 28,060 cases — 564 fatalities
2/7 — 31,211 cases — 637 fatalities
2/8 — 34,598 cases — 723 fatalities
2/9 — 37,251 cases — 812 fatalities
2/10 — 40,171 cases — 908 fatalities
Crazy, right? The deaths being reported out of China are particularly accurate to the model, while the reported cases are leveling off (which is what you’d expect from a politically adjusted epidemic model over time … at some point you have to show a rate-of-change improvement from your epidemic control measures).
But wait, there’s more.
The really damning part of Antimonic’s modeling of the reported data with a quadratic formula is that this should be impossible. This is not how epidemics work.
All epidemics take the form of an exponential function, not a quadratic function.
All epidemics – before they are brought under control – take the form of a green line, an exponential function of some sort. It is impossible for them to take the form of a blue line, a quadratic formula of some sort. This is what the R-0 metric of basic reproduction rate means, and if – as the WHO has been telling us from the outset – the nCov2019 R-0 is >2, then the propagation rate must be described by a pretty steep exponential curve. As the kids would say, it’s just math.
Now I don’t want to get into the weeds as to whether it’s possible to model this specific data set with an exponential function (it probably is), and we’ll never have access to the detail of data we’d need to be certain about all this. And to be clear, at some point the original exponential spread of a disease becomes “sub-exponential” as containment and treatment measures kick in.
But I’ll say this … it’s pretty suspicious that a quadratic expression fits the reported data so very, very closely. In fact, I simply can’t imagine any real-world exponentially-propagating virus combined with real-world containment and treatment regimes that would fit a simple quadratic expression so beautifully.
I believe that the Chinese government is massively under-reporting infection data in the pandemic regions of Hubei and Zhejiang provinces.
Just like the American government massively over-reported North Vietnamese casualty data in the Vietnam War.
It’s not only that I believe the numbers coming out of China are largely made up.
More importantly, I also believe that Chinese epidemic-fighting policy – just like American war-fighting policy in the Vietnam War – is now being driven by the narrative requirement to find and count the “right number” of coronavirus casualties.
nCov2019 is China’s Vietnam War.
From a narrative perspective, China is fighting this war against nCov2019 exactly like the US fought its war against North Vietnam.
It’s what the Best and the Brightest always do … they convince themselves that the people can’t handle the truth, particularly if the truth ain’t such good news. They convince themselves that they can buy enough time to win the real-world war by designing and employing a carefully constructed “communication strategy” to win the narrative-world war.
That strategy proved to be a social and political disaster for the United States, as the cartoon tail (gotta get more NV casualties for Cronkite to report) ended up wagging the policy dog (send out more counterproductive search-and-destroy missions).
I think exactly the same thing is happening in China.
And I think the social and political repercussions will be exactly as disastrous