Antivaccine nonsense Medicine Skepticism/critical thinking

Coronaphobia: How COVID-19 minimizers shame the responsible

Dr. Lucy McBride, a concierge medicine doctor who has become famous as a pandemic minimizer and one of the drivers of “Urgency of Normal”, Tweeted an article that she had written over a year ago about “coronaphobia”. Whether she understands it or not, this is a very old antivax trope: To pathologize fear of infectious disease as mental illness.

I like to think that I’m plugged into social media, at least about the topics that I care about, such as medicine, quackery, vaccines, and, for the last couple of years, COVID-19. Occasionally, however, I realize that I’m not, which is what happened over a week ago, when I saw this Tweet from outspoken Yale epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves Tweeted a link to an article by Dr. Lucy McBride:

It didn’t take long for me to learn why Dr. McBride’s article had started making the rounds again over a year after its publication. Dr. McBride herself had Tweeted it again on Saturday, in essence doubling down on her year-old words:

So basically, Dr. Social Media hadn’t noticed that Dr. McBride herself was responsible for the reappearance of her old article. Mea culpa.

I also was pointed to another article by her that was published in The Washington Post only a week later titled “I’ve been yearning for an end to the pandemic. Now that it’s here, I’m a little afraid“. One can’t help but note how, just as Dr. Marty Makary prematurely (and very confidently) declared that the pandemic would be over in April 2021 due to natural herd immunity and so many other contrarian physicians kept predicting throughout 2020-21, Dr. McBride’s expression of being “afraid” now that the end of the pandemic was imminent (in March 2021!) has not aged very well. More importantly, her labeling her patients afraid of the virus as having “coronaphobia” or, in the WaPo article “fear of normal” (or FONO), has also not aged very well. It was also particularly vile in its time because by the beginning of March 2021, most of her patients had not been vaccinated, but, as Gonsalves noted:

Remember, the EUA for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was issued in December. After that, healthcare and other frontline workers were first in line for the vaccine, followed by those over 65, and then the rest of the population. March 2021 was less than three months after the first frontline workers started receiving their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and most of the US population was still not vaccinated.

The reappearance of this article provided me with a convenient excuse to address yet another example of how, during the pandemic, everything old is new again and antivaccine talking points keep popping up again and again from pandemic minimizers and COVID-19 contrarians like Dr. McBride. In this case, it’s the pathologizing of the fear of infectious disease, representing it as an anxiety disorder, specifically a phobia, that might even need treatment. In other words, according to Dr. McBride, if you are afraid of a COVID, you could be mentally ill.

It is not my intention to deny that there are people out there suffering from anxiety and depression due to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of whom might even require treatment. There are. What I am going to point out is how the messaging that Dr. McBride is doubling down on a year after she first promoted it is very similar to messaging that I’ve been encountering for many years coming from the antivaccine movement. Although Dr. McBride probably doesn’t realize it, she is echoing an old antivax trope that does exactly the same thing: Seeks to shame those who fear vaccine-preventable diseases. She denies up and down that that’s what she’s doing. For instance, in her HuffPo article, she wrote:

When anxiety takes on a life of its own — that is, when the cognitive, emotional, physical and behavioral manifestations of anxiety are rooted in reality but out of proportion to the actual threat — it’s time to see a doctor. After all, mental health isn’t something that we can opt out of like we can a feature on our iPhone.

Not coincidentally, her message was (and apparently still is) that anything that she doesn’t consider to be a rational fear is potentially pathological, a phobia, and her messaging has been consistent about this. As Jonathan Howard mentioned in February, her public appearances at least since those editorials have been all about minimizing the threat of COVID-19 and “helping” patients deal with their “anxiety” (coronaphobia in the HuffPo article, FONO in the WaPo article).

Dr. Lucy McBride’s messaging has been nothing, if not consistent. So “coronaphobia” is no surprise.

Let’s go back to a time before the pandemic, as much as that seems like ancient history now.

“It’s just a childhood illness”

I realize that I’ve referenced this before, but it’s time to do so again. Back before the pandemic, when fear of the MMR vaccine and thimerosal-containing vaccines, rather than COVID-19 vaccines, was the main terror being stoked by the antivaccine movement, I liked to divide antivaccine messaging into two broad categories. (There are more, obviously, but for purposes of messaging about vaccines and the pathogens targeted by the vaccines, there are two.) The first was to portray the vaccine as dangerous and/or ineffective, and the second was to portray the disease being vaccinated against as not dangerous—or even normal, a necessary experience to achieve that vaunted “natural immunity“. (Never mind that measles is actually more dangerous than had been commonly thought.) Obviously, as I’ve written many times before, these same two messages are being applied to COVID-19 and the vaccines against it, but back in the day these messages were mainly about measles, chickenpox, mumps, and other childhood illnesses.

Indeed, back in the day (e.g., in 2015), I used to refer to what I liked to call the Brady Bunch gambit, in which old sitcoms from the 1950s and 1960s where kids getting measles was played for laughs, with measles portrayed as “just a childhood illness that we all got”, were weaponized to argue that measles isn’t dangerous. I named the gambit after an episode of the classic sitcom The Brady Bunch that antivaxxers were widely referencing. The episode first aired in 1969 and featured hijinks that ensued when all the Brady kids caught the measles in rapid succession, a situation that was mostly handled humorously. It’s worth noting that this 52 year old Brady Bunch episode also features “natural immunity”. When Mike Brady (the father) and Alice (the maid) catch the measles near the end of the episode, it is revealed that they had never had measles as kids but that Mike’s wife Carol had and was therefore immune to it as an adult.

The reality was, of course, different from the fuzzy-headed nostalgic thinking of comedy writers in the 1960s, all of whom likely suffered from survivorship bias; i.e., that they had the measles and it wasn’t so bad for them, which led them to believe that it wasn’t bad for anyone. In fact—as I like to point out—according to the CDC, before the vaccine, 48,000 people a year were hospitalized for the measles; 4,000 developed measles-associated encephalitis; and 400 to 500 people died. By any stretch of the imagination that was a significant public health problem, and the introduction of the measles vaccine in 1963, followed by the MMR in 1971, made it much less so. As Dr. John Snyder reminded us nearly 13 years ago in his response to Dr. Sears making the same arguments in his vaccine book that touted an “alternative vaccination schedule”, measles is not a benign disease, regardless of what popular culture thought of it 50 or 60 years ago. (More recent data show that a severe complication of measles, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE), is more common than we used to think.) Meanwhile, over 13 years ago, Dr. Sears was claiming that “the risk of fatality from measles is “as close to zero as you can get without actually being zero”, or “one in many thousands”, in other words practically a rounding error.

Measles “phobia”: A precursor of “coronaphobia”

While it is obvious how such tropes might contribute to a message that you should be more afraid of the MMR vaccine (which, antivaxxers proclaimed, caused autism), let’s show some examples more directly related to Dr. McBride’s argument. For example, in 2017 in the comments section of an antivaccine blog that I’ve often referred to as a “wretched hive of scum and antivaccine quackery”, a pro-vaccine commenter named Curt Watkins (an allergist and immunologist who had apparently made the mistake of thinking that he could persuade anyone on this blog) pointed out that measles is dangerous and can kill children. He then realized the futility but still left the door open:

I guess I’m tilting at windmills by posting here, but it really gets my goat when someone claims that measles is this benign illness, shrugging off a one in 3,000 (or 1 in 10,000) case fatality rate for developed countries. In the third world the fatality rate is far higher. I challenge you to find a pediatrician with pre-vaccine experience and ask them about treating measles. If anyone cares to argue that measles is not occasionally a very serious disease, then I would be happy to engage in a discussion. I’ll check back.

A commenter named Grace Green promptly portrayed Dr. Watkins as having a phobia:

Curt Watkins, I’m very sorry for your phobia of risk-taking. I have survived measles, mumps. rubella, chickenpox and even scarlet fever! I must have been at much greater risk walking out of my front door, as a slate could have fallen on my head, and as for getting into a vehicle, the risk is huge. Come to think of it, most accidents happen in the home, so it’s not even safe to stay there! I have on the other hand lived with “mild” vaccine injury for 64 years, and it’s total misery, prevented me from working, or socializing. So I’ve seen both sides of this debate, including my sons having measles, chickenpox (twice) and whooping cough. People who haven’t had these experiences are being lead astray by fear-mongering into needlessly poisoning their children. The writers here are simply trying to warn others, from our own experiences.

The idea, of course, is that if you’re “irrationally” afraid of something as normal and not dangerous as measles, you must have a phobia, while the antivaxxer is, by comparison, the one who is rationally and carefully weighing risks and benefits. Indeed, another antivaxxer explicitly says this:

From the 1950 Merck manual on Diseases:


Measles usually is a benign infection with a low mortality rate and one attack apparently confers lifelong immunity. However, the disease may be followed, particularly in infants, by bronchopneumonia and other bacterial infections which may be fatal. Postmeaslcs encephalitis, which also may be fatal, occurs only about once in 1,200 to 1,500 cas

Benign doesn’t imply innocuous. Most parents I know who have elected by informed consent to decline the MMR vaccine, have an alternative medical philosophy in place on how they would support a child’s immune system, as they succumb to measles and other infections.

I must admit that I laughed, because benign actually does imply innocuous. If a disease is not innocuous, then how can it be benign?

Another common antivax message was that the fear of measles was due to physicians, public health officials, and the media “hyping” the fear and exaggerating the danger, for instance, in this antivaccine article, A Very Brady Measles, which invoked the Brady Bunch gambit:

Things are so different today. Illness is a bad word. What used to be called a common childhood disease is now viewed as impending doom. Fevers, rashes and sicknesses that last longer than a few hours are treated like the plague. Anything that can be passed from one person to another is a death sentence. These types of exaggerations fill many news stories.


Catching a disease can be scary. But as we saw in the clip, the Bradys survived the measles in America. In that clip, we’re given a peek at how a TV family, likely modeled after hundreds of real-life families, treated and managed the measles with common sense. Instead falling for scare tactics and being filled with doom and gloom, we saw that the parents used good judgment. We saw that the kids rode out the illness. They rested, they got better, and they survived. And God love her, Alice did too.

Sure, in a fictional idealized late 1960s suburban Los Angeles upper middle class white neighborhood, the kids all did fine when they got the measles, as did the two adults who had somehow never had it. Unfortunately, such was not the case for many thousands of others every year before the vaccine, at which time approximately 500 per year would die.

Dr. Bob Sears and Dr. Lucy McBride: Compare and contrast

It wasn’t just antivaxxers, either. It was some physicians, too, who portrayed the fear of measles as irrational and stoked by the media. For example, in 2014, Dr. Bob Sears, author of The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child, which was the original “alternative vaccine schedule” for antivaxxers, actually complained about parents asking him if they should be worried about measles, to the point where he got a bit…testy and basically told his patients’ parents to stop bothering him with their panicked questions about measles:

No doubt that Dr. McBride, should she even see this, will bristle at the comparison. She, after all, has advocated that adults be vaccinated. On the other hand, she also helped to found the “Urgency of Normal” astroturf effort to open up schools, in which she argued:

In addition to ending mask mandates in schools, she [Dr. McBride] told me, she wants required quarantines to end, as well as testing for asymptomatic children. “The problem right now is we’re isolating and quarantining healthy kids,” she said, arguing that the decision to quarantine a child who is exposed to the virus should be up to parents and pediatricians. (Public health experts have told me this policy would likely lead to further spread, since people are highly infectious before they ever show symptoms. This could be particularly problematic if masks are not required in classrooms.)

In fairness, though, Dr. Sears comes off as a prat complaining about his patients’ parents—whose children, of course, were mostly unvaccinated because, after all, this was Dr. Sears’ practice—being too fearful and anxious about measles outbreaks, to the point of being dismissive in the final part of his Facebook post above:

This year there will be more than usual, the way it’s looking so far, but it’s not a reason to panic. Make your choice – do vaccine, or don’t do the vaccine.

So, when SHOULD someone worry? If an actual direct exposure has occurred from a known case, then you might be at risk. This doesn’t mean a case in the county in which you live: it means that you’ve actually been in the same room with someone who has had measles. Or, at the most, maybe the same building. But transmission almost always requires close proximity (same room). There have been a handful of cases over the decades in which someone sitting across a stadium has caught it, but that is almost unheard of. You have to be in the same room, people. If THAT happens, call me. If not, then just relax and go about your life as usual.

IF we see more cases, I’ll let you know. Actually, just to give you a heads up, we probably WILL see a few more cases. But virtually all measles outbreaks are limited to 10 to 20 cases in any given county. So, the chance that any one of your unvaccinated children is going to be a case is very very very very very small. I love you all, and love caring for you all. But just chill out. Measles will never go away – it’s always going to be a very small risk. If you aren’t comfortable with that, get the vaccine. If you don’t want the vaccine, accept the risk.

Even eight years later, one can’t help but observe the reason why most measles outbreaks were small back then. Can you guess what it was? Obviously, it was because of generally high vaccine uptake in the communities in which the outbreaks occurred that tended to limit such outbreaks to the pockets of unvaccinated children living there.

From the perspective of 2022 compared to 2014, Dr. Sears’ message actually still sounds more than a little like the message that Dr. McBride and other COVID-19 pandemic minimizers have been promoting: COVID-19 will never go away. It’s on you how much risk you’re willing to accept. Vaccinate and mask if you’re worried, but don’t expect anyone else to do the same (or even to isolate if exposed or be quarantined if symptomatic). Chill out.

The only real difference is that Dr. McBride takes the narrative that people are afraid because of the media and government promoting fear-based messages, and kicks it up a notch by implying that a lot of this is “coronaphobia”, namely an actual, potentially diagnosable phobia, and, even worse, suggesting that the “cure” for this “coronaphobia” is to actually catch COVID-19, although she rapidly pivoted to deny that:

And to argue that we should “name” this fear and anxiety, while cynically invoking Mental Health Awareness Month:

Or you could just call it an exacerbation of a preexisting anxiety disorder. It is not necessary to give it a stigmatizing name to recognize this anxiety and then address and treat it.

Again, let me emphasize that there is little doubt that the pandemic has caused or exacerbated a lot of anxiety and depression. Also, to be fair, Dr. McBride is correct that some anxiety over a potentially deadly illness circulating through the population is normal and expected. However, by “naming” this anxiety (as she puts it) and calling it “coronaphobia” she is, contrary to what she thinks she’s doing, not making things easier. She’s pathologizing this anxiety while providing no real solution other than her anti-anxiety regimen that she describes:

To mitigate the expected anxiety — rational or irrational — we assemble a kit of coping tools. I commonly recommend breathing techniques, guided meditation, regular exercise, prioritizing sleep and spending time in nature, all of which tamp down stress hormones.

All of this is well and good, but also the sorts of things one would expect a concierge doctor practicing in an affluent DC neighborhood who doesn’t have any contracts with health insurance companies or maintain Medicare assignment to tell not just her patients who have anxiety over COVID-19 but the worried well. There’s also a degree of privilege here, in that her well-off patients can do these sorts of things far more easily than those who are less privileged and well-off.

Also notice how much she harps on “fear-based messaging.” One can’t help but notice that Dr. McBride isn’t above a bit of fear-based messaging herself, not only about mental health and the pandemic, but about the supposedly horrific effects that masks were having on children in schools with mask mandates in an op-ed with at least one…curious…co-author:

Then, of course, as I’ve written before, the entire “Urgency of Normal” campaign co-founded by Dr. McBride to end school mask mandates and oppose COVID-19 vaccine mandates for children to attend school has been associated with the Great Barrington Declaration and right wing astroturf efforts to oppose public health measures against COVID-19.

Perhaps, then, it should not be surprising that Dr. McBride, whether she realizes it or not or will admit it or not, regularly parrots longstanding antivaccine messaging about childhood diseases like measles:

  • The disease is not dangerous to children (and most adults).
  • The medical, public health, and media response are overblown and fueling panic.
  • Fear of the disease is an anxiety disorder, a phobia, that is now doing more harm than the disease (and was doing more harm a year ago).
  • People should vaccinate or not depending on their perception of risk.
  • Isolation after exposure is unnecessary and an overreaction.
  • No quarantines.
  • No mandates of any kind, mask or vaccine.

I will, however, admit that, unlike Dr. Bob, she’s smart enough to be self-deprecating, for instance, describing her accepting her first invitation to a gathering thusly:

With a mix of reticence and relief, I click “RSVP YES!” to my colleagues’ party and take my first step toward reentry. The next step? Buttoning my pants.

She also goes out of her way to claim that the reason she’s bringing up mental health issues and describing pandemic anxiety as “coronaphobia” is because of her incredible empathy for her patients:

Dr. Gonsalves had an excellent response:

All of which is true, but hasn’t stopped Dr. McBride from self-deprecatingly portraying herself as just “trying to work it all out”:

Apparently Dr. McBride’s idea of “not shaming” people is to paint people with fear of COVID-19 with the broad brush of “phobia” and anxiety disorder.

Also, I can’t help but cite something that antivaxxer Del Bigtree Tweeted over two years ago, before vaccines and when the virus was new:

I also would argue that “coronaphobia” is not unlike what Bigtree said in another context, either.

The problem is that, regardless of what Dr. McBride actually says to her own patients in the privacy of her clinic exam rooms, her public utterances do amount to a shaming of those who remain, often with very good reason (e.g., chronic health conditions), fearful of COVID-19 as having unreasonable fears out of proportion to reality; i.e., an anxiety disorder, a phobia. Certainly, her “coronaphobia” label contributes to that shaming:

I’ll conclude, as I do too often, by simply reiterating that in the age of the pandemic everything old is new again. Every antivaccine and disease minimizing/denying narrative and trope that I have seen thus far about COVID-19 existed long before the pandemic in one form or another. To this I will add the observation that in the age of the pandemic it has been disturbing to see how many doctors who consider themselves so very reasonable, science-based, and even—dare I say it?—provaccine have found those pre-COVID-19 narratives compelling. Implying that those who have an overwrought fear of a vaccine-preventable disease must have a diagnosable mental health condition, such as an anxiety disorder like a phobia, is just another example.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

58 replies on “Coronaphobia: How COVID-19 minimizers shame the responsible”

Once again john fails to find someone with an honest track record to quote. Oh — we’re still waiting for you to provide evidence for your

No unofficial opinions are allowed in medicine less you lose your license.

statement. I’m guessing you haven’t even looked up the meaning of “evidence” so you could start.

Mr. Labarge continues to be a real caution, as my late grandmother was wont to say about people demonstrating such a singular ability to reason.

That’s the system the folks here want to set up. Medics run by big pharma (it mostly is already).

That’s the system the folks here want to set up. Medics run by big pharma (it mostly is already).

Do you ever make a comment that has even a tinge of support in reality?

The point is that getting vaccinated is effortless, and that getting these diseases is almost entirely unnecessary. Why wouldn’t you do that, unless you are motivated by ideology?

But you still get the disease even if you’re vaccinated. And worse risk a slew of adverse reactions known and unknown.

Probability for getting the disease is muh lower. Do you understan conept o perentage ?

Operative phrase “reported to VAERS”.
You have been told over and over (with evidence) that you are misusing VAERS data and making dubious assumptions. And still you persist.

When it comes to population behavioral psychology I always like to fall back on the bell curve.

It’s a decent way to have more of an abstract thought process when thinking at a population level

In this case, the extremes would be: 1. Where you have locked yourself in your abode and you are scared to leave for long periods of time.

The other extreme: 2. Would be thinking that c19 is fake and nobody has died or been impacted by it.

(These are just my basic conception of extremes)

The bulk of the population will have varying opinions of how “bad” the disease is, how “important” vaccines are, how “necessary” lockdowns are/were, and how “impactful” masking mandates are/were.

And of course visually (on the bell curve)both sides will tail out to the extremes. An interesting question is how this bell curve graph would look?

Quite obviously, it would look a lot different depending on the demographics, the country, the size of population you are trying to think about.

I think mentally you have to take both sides of those extremes and turn that into a circle where they touch each other at 12 o’clock, and the bulk of the population is represented at 6 o’clock.

In this case I would put people from 11 to 1 o’clock in the “mild to severe mental illness”category, 6 o’clock as the majority category (which can be defined in many ways)

And the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock axis as the ones who will influence change as long as there a respectful scientific dialogue.

It could be a skewed bell curve, so maybe it’s an ellipse.

My bias would be on the side of
“not too worried,”
“didn’t stop working”
“lockdowns, masking not effective”
“vaccines have helped reduce hospitalization, but not necessary for most or at reducing transmission”
“kids should have stayed in school”

On the other hand, I have always respected others opinions.

I actually took advantage of the last two years of cheap travel and took the family vacationing to beautiful pacific islands and did multiple solo vacays! (It helped I wasn’t worried, scared or anxious about corona)
There’s always a silver lining!

Somehow all of us made it and we aren’t even vaccinated!

It could be a skewed bell curve, so maybe it’s an ellipse

There is no such thing as a skewed bell curve
“maybe it’s an ellipse” — makes no sense in this setting

Perhaps you have some meaning somewhere in your post, but those two lines are things that would make even my first semester students would read and go “Huh? That’s ridiculous.”

When he fell back on his bell curve, it seems he hit his head.

You can turn a graph into a circle by tying the ends of the X axis together, but that doesn’t make the plot – the “curve” – a circle. Rather, you’d have something like a polar response graph of a hypercardiod microphone turned upside down. But you still wouldn’t have a point.

The sine cosine pair represents a circular orbit. You can do an ellipse with a sine/cosine graph. Maybe that’s what is meant?

The sine cosine pair represents a circular orbit. You can do an ellipse with a sine/cosine graph. Maybe that’s what is meant?

All true, but nothing to do with a Gaussian, which is what the initial part tried to get to.

Safer to say it’s just mindless drivel.

There’s no such thing as a skewed bell curve?
Huh!?! Now THAT is ridiculous!

There certainly is such thing as a skewed bell curve.
I don’t think I need to go into detail because I think most people have (or should have) a grasp of this concept.

I will give you a very basic example:

Let’s look at the entire population of the United States political leaning. In this case we’re going to probably arrive at a fairly “normal” bell curve, or distribution.

Of course this is constantly skewing positively or negatively based on multiple factors, think of it as fluid.

Now, imagine the bell curve if we look at say the population of a large metropolitan area versus a rural area like northern Wisconsin.

Are you telling me those wouldn’t be skewed negatively and positively, respectfully?

Since I used the example of political leanings, maybe I can help explain what I meant about the circle and the ellipse concept.

Most people understand the political spectrum (in this reference, the population and their political leaning)as a circle, correct?

Meaning the two extremes usually meet at the top of the circle. And the bottom is made up of moderates.
(I broke it down into a clock, because I thought that might be easier to conceptualize), but ultimately that circle is still representative of a bell curve of a population (the more normal it is…the more circular, the more skewed…the more elliptical)

Does that make sense?

I was just trying to offer two different ways to conceptualize the fact that there is a large distribution of thought on Covid related topics (topics which I specifically mentioned in last post) ranging from crazy on both sides of the spectrum, to moderate or indifferent.

It’s hard to say if there is a skew one way or another.

One observation that I made the week after the mask mandate was shot down, was that 90%-95% of the people in Chicago O’Hare international airport were not wearing masks. My brain tells me that you would see a more normal distribution if people were A) still concerned about Covid and/or B) thought masks are effective. Doesn’t that seem logical?

Long story short:

I am not convinced that the “reality” portrayed here is 100% accurate.

Either way don’t mind me I just stop in to read occasionally.

It makes sense to me but you have to keep in mind that most of the regular posters here are not about gradation or nuance.

My brain tells me that you would see a more normal distribution

Sigh. What’s the kurtosis, Kenneth?

Most people understand the political spectrum (in this reference, the population and their political leaning)as a circle, correct?

It may be the case that that is most people’s understanding, but then they are suffering from the small problem that their understanding is incorrect. Just like your comprehension of bell curves.

There’s no such thing as a skewed bell curve?
Huh!?! Now THAT is ridiculous!

No, it’s a fact. By definition a bell curve is the graph of the density of a Gaussian distribution, which is the textbook perfect model of symmetry. We don’t even describe the densities of the standard double exponential or Laplace as bell curves even though they are symmetric.

There certainly are skewed distributions — but the plots of their densities aren’t bell curves. That’s stat 101.

It makes sense to me but you have to keep in mind that most of the regular posters here are not about gradation or nuance.

John, nothing he said about bell curves makes sense (neither does any of the other drivel). You do know that there is this topic called statistics (actually, discussions of Gaussians would fall under probability) that explains the background? Other people here know that: my grad degrees are in math and statistics and I’ve taught/worked in it for years. Your ignorance in the subject doesn’t carry any weight.


Actually, simplified models do have utility in both teaching and understanding complex topics.

Is Chemistry (an extremely complex discipline) still taught to students in 2d Lewis models or do they go right to resonance theory?

I haven’t been at a University in over a decade, but I will make the assumption that Lewis models are still taught and then those concepts are built on to develop more robust understanding.

What model do you prefer for understanding the complexity of US politics?
Please explain.

Just to be straight forward, I really would like to learn from you or others here if you are willing to teach.



Yea, I would’ve thought this rather straight forward to understand.

I understand Professor Pedant’s conniption with me using “Bell Curve” to describe a distribution in general, since he is a Math and Stat dude. Colloquially, this disc. works… and believe it or not 95/100 of his students would’ve understood what I was talking about just fine.

The simple concept of modeling Covid related behavior using a “bell curve” ( I put it in parentheses to not bother with the technical definition) is to me, logical. It puts into perspective that there is a huge number of people that are either indifferent or very moderate on the issue.

If there are “minimizers” there are “maximizers” the “bell curve” tells you that.



Haha, that was a good one!
I’ve always enjoyed your wit, even when it is demeaning.


Dynata called. They are intriqued with your break-out comprehension of the dynamics at play and wish to hire you. Really. I bet you got some algorith’ms in ya that could do perception of political mechanations right good.

What good did polling, understanding and communicating understandably ever do anybody?

Dynata. Call us. or we’ll just call you.

($7.50/hr + .05 quid (because were international) per call O.K? That is just the beginning. You ccan repidly work up to managing people whow make $7.50/hr and that is when the big bucks start to roll in. Good. See you monday 9am diggitydang!!

You can turn a graph into a circle by tying the ends of the X axis together, but that doesn’t make the plot – the “curve” – a circle.

You realize that a regular coffee mug can be smoothly deformed into a torus, right?

P.S. Cleanup in the sock aisle.

Colloquially, this disc. works… and believe it or not 95/100 of his students would’ve understood what I was talking about just fine.

It isn’t at all clear what point you were trying to make, but no, students would not understand it: if you base your “explanation” on a completely unfounded use of terms and non-sense like your circles, people who actually understand statistics will quickly identify you as floundering in crap you don’t understand.


Bro, Seriously… I’ve always wanted to work for Dynata. Such a stellar company, and the compensation to boot!

Thank you for this offer.

However, I will have to decline. I am currently working for Mynutsa (such an intriguing company that it would be difficult to switch gears)

BUT, but… They are hiring!!

In fact, they have been eyeing you up, Demiguy, for a while now. ACTUALLY…

The “Head Hanchos” think you would be perfect at servicing.. er’ I mean a service position. The pay is commensurate on your abilities as a “service engineer.”

Please kindly reply with your best abilities, so Mynutsa can make an swift decision.

We are an equal opportunity employer, and we can accommodate you at night, in the morning, whenever you want to provide your services.

Let me know what your schedule looks like and we can set up an interview to see if you are a good fit with Mynutsa.

Hot diggitydang you just got an offer!


The point I was trying to make is that what you see here at RI is both ends of the spectrum of the “distribution” of how people are thinking/handling Covid. Whereas, there is an enormous area under the curve that are just moving forward and either indifferent, or moderate on either side.

Like I said, based on an understanding of these concepts as a distribution…

then if there are “minimizers” there also have to be “maximizers”

Does that make sense to you? I am not trying to be condescending, just actually wondering.

I will defer to your expertise and experience when it comes to statistics, since that is your career. I do find it a bit strange that you think your students would all be caught in a box if someone said “skewed bell curve”

I just googled it for shits and giggles and you can read definitions of “skewed bell curve”

To me it seems that you just think about it for a second and it would be “Huh……. Oh! he’s just referring to a distribution as a “bell curve””

I wouldn’t imagine heads exploding thinking “he said “bell curve” a bell curve can’t be skewed because “Bell Curve” has a precise meaning, what does he mean”

TBH, I would be a little worried if your students couldn’t think outside the box, while at the same time noting that it wasn’t the technical definition.

Anyways, I don’t want to beat a dead horse anymore than the next guy!

Have a nice day

There is a phenomenon where hyper specialized people get caught up in definitions and probably use slight inaccuracies as sophistry to negate any opposing premise – but for the vast majority of us that haven’t over-specialized in their field it just looks like trying to erect walls with sophistry rather than address the concept. In legal circles they call these technicalities. Sometimes indeed technicalities are important, but in general the law (or let’s say good reasoning) does not deal in trivialities as is the case here with this hyper-formalized attack on your idea of a skewed-Bell Curve. The exclamation that a Bell-Curve can’t be skewed is just a sophisticated distraction from the point and tries to allege that the misuse of a technical term makes the entire logical premise invalid – sophistry and it’s what these folks deal in here and it’s the hole you have stepped into.

The bottom line is that the idea of some distribution of covid cautiousness could be graphed with mostly these triple-masked wearing quadruple boosted nutters (we can put them on the far left side of the graph since well they are usually left of center) on one end and those other nutters who don’t believe there is even a virus on the other (let’s say far right) with long tails, with the rest of us maybe a little left or right of the middle is not some insane concept that requires a Phd in statistics to grasp. It’s fairly obvious, at this point with the ‘skew’ or large hill or belly moving ever slightly more to the right of center as time moves on, the virus becomes less deadly and folks tire of the authoritarian responses. Again this takes logic and reason free from clinging to textbooks to talk about and most of the folks who post here are not original thinkers, but more like NPC repeaters of the far left (of the graph) narrative.

“then if there are “minimizers” there also have to be “maximizers””

You asked if that makes sense — since I’m not sure how you’re using these terms I’ll have to say “I can’t say right now”

RE “skewed bell curves”: my students (most of them) would guess, as I did, that you were somehow referring to distributions in general, but the use of skewed bell curve would be difficult to get past. A bell curve is the density graph of the (theoretical, real data is never normally distributed) normal distribution.

My final comment, for two reasons

things are so out of order it’s becoming difficult to suss them out
it’s getting far too far astray from the topic of our host’s points

The point I was trying to make was that you can think of the covid behavior as distribution, OR as a circular model. In my own mind, I can put the distribution and The circular model together

The problem with that is this: a normal distribution, or any skewed distribution that is represented by a density curve, is a model we use to describe, with probability, how values from a single numerical variable are spread from their lowest to highest values.

Circular distributions do exist, but in the variable is not a measured numerical value like height, weight, etc., but is almost always an angle. (I’m ignoring the extremely special case of the von Mises circular distribution since I’m not sure how it would fit the situation you describe, and its primary use is to approximate distributions that would be essentially impossible to work with otherwise).

Those are some of the reasons for my earlier comments. And as I said, in the two bullet points at the top, I’ll stop muddying the waters of the post’s main point with this discussion.


““then if there are “minimizers” there also have to be “maximizers””

You asked if that makes sense — since I’m not sure how you’re using these terms I’ll have to say “I can’t say right now””

First off, thank you for asking for an explanation cordially, that goes a long way.

Based on the previous discussion, I was trying to say that peoples’ reaction or behavior to Covid could be represented graphically as a distribution.

If that is so, then the tails of the distribution could be categorized as “minimizers” and “Maximizers”

With a huge swathe of people in between.

Also, based on my previous posts, depending on how intensely you are “minimizing” or “Maximizing” aspects of behavior towards Covid you would end up as an extremist.

Which segues into the analogy of “the circular political spectrum”

I was trying to articulate that there may be a “circular Covid Behavior Spectrum”

Albeit simple, it may have utility.

RE: “real data is never normally distributed”
That was kind of the point I was trying to get at, I will make sure I don’t use the term “Bell Curve” to describe that anymore… thanks.

I only took Biostatics at the University, and it was basic. I scored a 99.8% in the course. (that is not impressive at all, but some people failed it… I couldn’t even imagine. it was so easy.)

I just looked at my Textbook, Fundamentals of Biostatistics (7th ed.), By Bernard Rosner

And this is the intro:

This introductory-level Biostatistics text is designed for the upper-level undergraduate students interested in medicine or other health related areas. It requires no previous background in statistics, and its mathematical level assumes only knowledge in algebra.

I am exceptional at algebra and geometry, but not calculus….


I think we were generally on topic… but no need to respond, I just read your comment and had a thought about possibly how we are disconnecting.

“The problem with that is this: a normal distribution, or any skewed distribution that is represented by a density curve, is a model we use to describe, with probability, how values from a single numerical variable are spread from their lowest to highest values.”

“Single numerical variable” is our disconnect.

From my first post:

The population will have varying opinions on how “bad” the disease is, how “important” vaccines are, how “necessary” lockdowns are/were, and how “impactful” masking mandates are/were.

So If we were to construct that more formally:

On a scale of 0-10 (0 being not at all and 10 being extremely)

How bad was Corona Virus?
How Important is the Covid 19 Vaccine?
How necessary are/were lockdowns for Corona Virus?
How necessary are/were mask mandates for the corona virus?

Obviously these are just off the cuff poll questions to elaborate on what I am trying to point out.

So, lets say I respond like this: (n=1)


I have a composite score of 11, which is a “single numerical variable”

Orac responds: (n=2) (he didn’t… this is just a total guess by me)


Orac has a composite of 29.

If we were able to query any population (big or small) about this and take the composite score we would be able to generate a distribution, which would be a density curve (it may be skewed or closer to normal depending on the population that is investigated.)

Let me know if that makes more sense.

I am exceptional at algebra and geometry

Herstein level, perhaps? (I only recall two childhood meltdowns; one was early in the sixth grade, upon being presented with the axiom of closure without explanation.)


Lol… good one. I am not that good at Algebra (exceptional was the wrong adjective, more like average)

I get the reference though… I’ll be patiently waiting your wit the next time I come around.

Enjoy the holiday weekend!

If I remember you are in the Chicagoland area? (I am not sure why I have that in my memory because it may be totally wrong) If you are, we have a nice warm windy weekend coming (Im only 2hrs North)

“Somehow all of us made it and we aren’t even vaccinated!”

Seatbelts and condoms must not be necessary either, because plenty of people who don’t use them haven’t died in crashes, or contracted HIV.

Seatbelts probably aren’t necessary below a certain speed and particularly when stopped. If most of us only drove around at 5-10 miles an hour they may never be. That’s a more relevant amplify.

*analogy. You miss the point. In a car there are certain conditions in which the seatbelt is unnecessary. As it is with Covid interventions and children etc. There are always risks. Moreover the vax has a higher risk profile than a seatbelt. Deadly reactions from the mere wearing of a seatbelt without more (actually driving) are much more rare.

Seatbelts probably aren’t necessary below a certain speed and particularly when stopped.

I take it you’ve never been rear-ended when stopped outside the lane of traffic. (It was a hit-and-run,to boot. Kind of easy to do when you’ve just stunned your victims.)

Could you hire a 12-year-old to improve your material?

Perhaps but 1) at what rate and 2) that’s not the purpose of the seatbelt anyway. It’s like exclaiming that’s people have died of Black Plague when they didn’t get the Covid-vaccine or the Covid virus. Ok but pretty sure the Covid vax wouldnt have helped.

It’s like exclaiming that’s people have died of Black Plague when they didn’t get the Covid-vaccine or the Covid virus. Ok but pretty sure the Covid vax wouldnt have helped.

john, in what skewed world does that statement make any sense? (Not that you ever make sense, but this seems exceptionally stupid).

Forget to address “the circle nonsense”

The circle model of the political spectrum isn’t necessarily “nonsense”

The circle model for the political spectrum isn’t the “end all be all”
It’s just a model, just a way to conceptualize a complex topic into simpler form.

The point I was trying to make was that you can think of the covid behavior as distribution, OR as a circular model. In my own mind, I can put the distribution and The circular model together, but I am realizing that this isn’t the same for everyone, which is perfectly fine… everybody understands and learns things differently.

I will change my percentage, to maybe 20-45% of your students would understand.

“Seatbelts probably aren’t necessary below a certain speed and particularly when stopped. If most of us only drove around at 5-10 miles an hour they may never be. That’s a more relevant amplify.”

On the plus side, I bet this sounded more meaningful in your head?

@ohn labarge How many deaths should happen before an intervention is necesary ?
Nowadays, more people die beause of COVID tahn all accidents ombined,

I think there is also a reasonable risk that her commitment to downplaying COVID-19 and working against preventing it may color her assessment of her patients risk. I don’t know that she’s objective there.

Also, as a concierge doc in an affluent part of DC, she caters to a wealthier population, which is inherently lower risk.

Interestingly enough, in the last few weeks, there seems to have been less Covid related topics being spew… er broadcast by the usual prevaricators ( although Katie Wright persists in her perseveration on Twitter about the folly of public health measures) as they confabulate floridly about :
— the war in Ukraine leading to wheat shortages, food shortages, energy shortages, general food riots, gang war, criminal migrants, Nazi takeover and nuclear war
— hyper inflation, consumer goods shortages, crashing western currencies, economic meltdown
— censorship on the net, the death of free speech, surveillance by bots, nanoparticles and injected graphene neural networks
— the end of all private ownership, economic choice and freedom of thought
— climate disaster ushering in extinction level events, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, solar storms and fires ( for NN which denies AGW, just extinction level events and the Rapture)
— grooming children to be LGBTQIA+, racially indoctrinated and to love vaccines

HOWEVER despite all this, there are ways to cope if you acquire NN/ PRN guidance for coping with disaster ( some free/ some for sale) and stock up on Ranger Buckets so you won’t starve
In the oncoming endtimes, you’ll want to become strong and healthy so make sure you have enough SuperFoods, powdered vegetables/ fruits, supplements and herbal remedies. You will need a satellite phone when the cell network goes down, water filters for the end of public water works, gold and silver for the end of fiat currency and survival skills in order to become totally off the grid ( Mike is sponsored by precious metals sellers and satellite phone plans and Null sells water filters).

I’ve been enjoying the weekend NN irony machine. Did you know that the monkeypox outbreak was deliberately planned as psychological terrorism to keep humanity paralyzed with fear? (simultaneous headlines on NN for other stories refer to “psychic disintegration” leading to mass violence, Uvalde being a planned op, corporations masterminding genital mutilation of our young people, and above all that a Canadian gun crackdown will lead to “mass extermination” of its population as the “kinetic depopulation phase of globalism” kicks into high gear).

NN isn’t trying to scare anyone into stocking up on doomsday supplies, it’s the media reporting on monkeypox that are messing with people’s minds.

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