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Coronavirus, can of spam, snake oil salesman, Chicken Little, fear of own shadow.

Coronavirus and Spam: The Fear Is Worse Than The Disease



By Duane Thresher, Ph.D.          March 23, 2020

What do Coronavirus and spam have in common? The effect of the exaggerated fear, the overreaction, does far more harm than the actual "disease".

People won't admit this, but they don't care how many people die of a disease, just how easy it is to catch or hard to avoid and what the death rate is if you do catch it. The 2019-20 U.S. flu season resulted in 24,000 deaths. The 2017-18 U.S. flu season resulted in 61,000 deaths. Even 24,000 is probably far more people than you've ever been within six feet of in your entire life. Nobody cares. That's because the flu is relatively easy to avoid and even if you do catch it, the death rate is only around 0.1% (0.06% for 2019-20 and 0.14% for 2017-18) and mostly among the old.

Not at all miraculously, I've lived through numerous "pandemics" (epidemics over whole countries) in the U.S. that the fearmongering media and academia, and scared politicians, have declared as the end of the world and whose biggest harm was not the deaths, but the effect of the exaggerated fear, the overreaction.

The media loves to hype a deadly pandemic because it sells (ads for companies) -- the saying "sex sells" really should be "sex and sickness sells". Academia loves to hype a deadly pandemic because it opens the research funding floodgate. (Note for comparison that terrorism is just using fear to achieve a political goal.) Politicians are afraid if they don't do enough and someone dies, that will be the end of their career, particularly after George W. Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina.

And now we have another factor: the self-centered Baby Boomer generation, a.k.a. the Me generation, the most spoiled generation in the history of the world, is getting old. Not only do they (who include many politicians) think everyone else should pay for their extravagant retirement, they think everyone else should pay extravagantly to protect them from even the slightest risk of death. And they fear their own shadows.

Let's take a trip down fearmonger memory lane (most death rates are at the time of discovery, when the disease was still a mystery and most frightening, and went down after):
Not to mention:
We are still here as a species after all of these, and cars -- yes, including "environmentally friendly" hybrid and electric cars -- still kill far more people in a year in the U.S. than these end-of-the-world pandemics did. But the effect of the exaggerated fear, the overreaction, to these pandemics caused billions of dollars of damage to the economy, which in turn harmed and even shortened the lives of many people, in one way or another. Poverty kills, through lack of affordable healthcare, suicide, drug abuse, riskier ways to make a living, etc. And yet doctors swear to "first do no harm".

And now there is Coronavirus, originally and rightfully called Wuhan, which is the city in China (again) where it started. "Rightfully" because by useful convention, diseases (often viral) are named after where they started, e.g. Ebola (River), Lyme (Connecticut), West Nile (Valley).

Due to political correctness -- the CDC ranks "avoid stigmatization" up there with "washing hands" -- Wuhan was renamed Coronavirus. (Not surprisingly, the most politically correct states, California and New York, are being hardest hit by Coronavirus. I used to live in both states and feel bad for the many good people that live there.) Coronavirus actually refers to a whole group of viruses, including the one that causes SARS, and some that cause the common cold, so it was renamed yet again to COVID-19, which no one knows how to pronounce exactly, and then to New Coronavirus. (I like the unofficial "WuFlu".) At some point people are going to think there are 4 deadly virus diseases.

Coronavirus has a death rate in the U.S. of no more than 1.2% (calculated today from the reported cases and deaths) and probably far less due to there being many times more unreported non-fatal Coronavirus positive cases, especially since testing has been so restricted. The Coronavirus death rate may be as low as any seasonal flu, which too kills mostly the old. (And if you do care, the total number of Coronavirus deaths will very probably be less than the total number of 2017-18 flu deaths.)

[Update: In a bombshell study reported today, 21 April 2020, actual Coronavirus testing was done among the general asymptomatic population of Los Angeles. There were 28 to 55 times more Coronavirus positive cases than had ever been estimated since the pandemic was declared. This means that the Coronavirus death rate was 0.1% to 0.2%, which is that of the seasonal flu. (And the total number of Coronavirus deaths is on track to be less than the 2017-18 flu.) The entire Coronavirus Scare has been a disastrous extraordinary popular delusion perpetrated by criminally irresponsible media, scientists, and politicians.]

And yet the U.S. economy is essentially being shut down, with most people being told to stay home from work. Schools are being closed (homeschooling is now advocated by those who used to try to make it illegal). Some cities are basically under martial law. All this will harm and shorten the lives of many people, one way or another.

Scientists who (pretend to) predict hurricane landfalls/intensity and volcanic eruptions know all too well that there is great cost to predicting an event that doesn't occur. Some will die during the evacuations and the evacuation will cost millions of dollars, which again will harm and shorten the lives of people, one way or another. Perhaps more importantly, the "boy who cried wolf" syndrome will mean many more will die during real events. Scientists who (pretend to) predict climate and earthquakes should take heed.

There is a correlation between death rate of a disease and how hard it is to catch (or how easy it is to avoid; assuming how it is caught is known, which it wasn't throughout most of history). The deadlier a disease, the harder it is to catch. If this were not true, humans would have been extinct long ago. Thus, the easier a disease is to catch, the less it should be feared.

This is not to say that precautions shouldn't be taken, just that they should involve "strict scrutiny", to borrow a term from constitutional law, which is currently being trampled on. Preventing deaths is certainly a "compelling objective" (but then shouldn't cars be outlawed?), but the means should be necessary and with no less-restrictive alternatives.

Stopping people coming from and going to where the disease started -- Wuhan China for Coronavirus -- is a tried-and-true precaution. (Why naming the disease after where it started is useful.) This "law", as it often was, has been a part of most long-lasting cultures since civilization began.

While it's true that even a low death rate among a large population is a lot of deaths, as described people don't care how many people die of a disease and most of the deaths for the flu-like diseases like Coronavirus are among the old. And nowadays, with old people more isolated -- old folks homes, senior communities, shut-ins -- they are easier to protect. This is where precautions should be concentrated.

If precautions are to be taken among the general population, if just to calm them, there are some simple highly-effective less-restrictive alternatives to the ridiculous stigmatizing one of telling everyone to stay at least 6 feet away from everyone else ("social distancing", which is doublespeak for "antisocial distancing"). Most places, like the post office where I first saw this posted, don't have room for lines long enough for all their customers to have 6 feet between them and so some have restricted how many can be in the establishment.

Wear masks and glasses. Many people everywhere already wear glasses (although cheap readily-available safety glasses would be better) and many people in countries like Japan, where I used to live, often wear masks daily even when there is no epidemic. You could even make this fun by making a fashion trend out of it; masks of different colors and designs, like ties.

Ignore Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who is only a lowly anesthesiologist (and no C. Everett Koop) and apparently can't think logically.

Adams says to stop buying masks ... because healthcare providers need them. Then he says masks are not effective in preventing catching Coronavirus. Then why do healthcare providers need them? To keep hospitalized infected people from spreading Coronavirus? If so, then masks are highly-effective for the general public because a big part of the problem is Coronavirus positive people who are asymptomatic (as in the early stages of infection) going around spreading Coronavirus.

Adams says masks are dangerous because they give people a false sense of security. Then he says to make sure to get the seasonal flu vaccine so that medical resources aren't wasted on "normal" flu (which may actually have an equivalent death rate as Coronavirus). But seasonal flu vaccines are nowhere near 100% effective -- the 2018-19 flu vaccine was only 47% effective, which is high for most years -- so give people a false sense of security.

Jerome, go back to passing gas.

(Speaking of stupid members of the Coronavirus Task Force, two of the most influential, Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci, are members of the frightened old self-centered Baby Boomer generation. Many people have started hoping Birx and Fauci catch Coronavirus.)

[Update: Most Americans simply ignored Surgeon General Adams's orders about masks and took to wearing whatever masks they could come up with. That makes Adams of below average intelligence. Deborah Birx was ridiculed by most Americans for ordering them not even to leave their homes to go to the grocery store for food. That makes Birx of below average intelligence. Being stupid does not excuse being criminally irresponsible.]

Of course, as already suggested by officials, don't shake hands, sneeze and cough into your sleeve (sleeve cuffs actually started as handkerchiefs), and wash your hands (although this may only be possible too late to help).

Just don't tell everyone to stay home and shut down the entire economy. That's cutting off everyone's head to prevent headaches.

Spam is much like Coronavirus in that the effect of the exaggerated fear of it, the overreaction, is doing far more harm than the actual "disease" -- spam has been described as a plague, which is just an epidemic/pandemic, and of course, some spam carries computer viruses.

With all the hype from the IT incompetent fearmongering-for-profit media and spam filter companies, people think that if they receive a single spam, their identity will be stolen, their bank account will be emptied, their computer will explode, their car, clothes, spouse, and house will vanish, and they will be terminated. This is particularly true among the frightened old self-centered Baby Boomer generation.

Much like a criminal protection racket, in exchange for protection from this end-of-the-world spam, people pay ridiculous amounts of money and accept not being able to receive or send -- without even notification of this -- important emails, like from/to their financial institutions, government, clients, lawyers, patients, doctors, relatives, utilities, etc. (Ironically, many emails about Coronavirus from these people are being rejected as spam.) Businesses accept losing thousands of customers and millions of dollars.

The effect of the exaggerated fear of spam, the overreaction, is starting to make email unusable, even while email is the best form of communication, and one of the most important. Major email service providers like Google routinely block legitimate emails -- often from smaller email service provider competitors -- without notifying the recipient or sender, or put them in spam folders that they intentionally make hard to check.

There are also important hidden costs. Email service providers who allow sending spam -- and even major email service providers (e.g. GoDaddy) allow sending spam, for a price -- sully the reputation of the IP addresses of their email servers. Then these same email service providers reject emails based on the IP reputation of the sending email server IP address, but only their smaller competitors' of course, not their own. IP reputations are usually compiled by other companies, like spam filter companies, as a costly service.

The more fly-by-night email service providers discard an IP address when its reputation is so sullied it's unusable for an email server and get a new one. (Actually, there are no new IPv4 addresses; the IPv4 address space was exhausted years ago. "New" IPv4 addresses are all recycled and a scarce resource.) The major email service providers will just contact the IP reputation company (which may be themselves) and say they had an isolated spamming incident and demand cleaning of the reputation of their email server IP address, which is easy for the powerful major email service providers like Google to demand.

When an email service provider like Apscitu Mail gets an expensive new email server IP address, a lot of time and money is spent "scrubbing" the reputation of the recycled IP address. All the IP reputation companies -- and there are many -- have to be contacted and convinced that you are a non-spamming email service provider with a new IP address.

All this is a huge costly pointless system created as an overreaction to an exaggerated fear of spam.

Yes, some spam is dangerous. There is spam that tries to trick you into clicking on a link to download a virus from the Web. There is spam (phishing emails) that tries to trick you into divulging important private information.

However, you should learn to recognize this spam and not get tricked into anything. Even with the best spam filters, some spam will inevitably get through. If you depend on a spam filter, thinking it's infallible and any email that gets through can't be spam, you will have a false sense of security and inevitably get hacked.

For important regular email between known associates -- like with your financial institutions, government, clients, lawyers, patients, doctors, relatives, utilities, Amazon, etc. -- you should get a separate email account that uses a whitelist, like Apscitu Mail.

In your email client, you should also turn on the "block remote content" setting to prevent automatic downloading from the Web.

On the lighter side, like making wearing anti-Coronavirus masks fun, some spam is amusing, perhaps even enough to make it worth turning off your spam filter, as it was for a couple of authors of books about Nigerian scam spam.

You've probably gotten Nigerian scam spam before, I know I have many times, and you might even have enjoyed it, like I do, particularly the rich variations. Basically though, you're emailed that some foreign wealthy bigshot (you've intentionally never heard of) has died and you can have his millions if only you send a relatively small processing fee of a few thousand or hundred to the spammer.

This is so stupid it's funny. If the millions were actually available why wouldn't the spammers just get it for themselves? Why tell you? (This is true of all get-rich-quick schemes.)

Nigerian scam spammers are also a little sad though. They're probably poor and were actually scammed themselves. Some crooked email service provider, who ruin IP addresses as I described, sold them the scheme along with the right to send out just a few thousand spam emails. The crooked email service provider knows the scheme doesn't work, otherwise why wouldn't he keep it secret -- the fewer doing a scam, the more successful it is -- and use it to make himself rich?

Then there is the spam from India offering to do website design for you. These are hilarious because they are in broken English offering to do your English-language website. "We doing you website design good cheaply."

I would suggest no one is stupid enough to have their English-language website done by someone who doesn't speak English but I have seen enough websites of companies and organizations to know this isn't true. "Cheaply" is the most important word in this Indian website spam. Amazon pretends its India-based customer service speaks English, much to our frustration.

Plus these Indian website spammers get email addresses off of websites. I've done many websites so know this firsthand. If you already have a website, why would you need them to do one?

So, for both Coronavirus and spam, calm down and think. Don't listen to the self-serving fearmongering media, companies, academia, politicians, or Baby Boomers. That's absolutely the best precaution you can take to protect yourself. Stupidity is the deadliest disease of all time. Ever hear of the Darwin Awards? Or how about Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds?