Forthcoming Book

I am joyful to announce that my first book, The Gull and the Bell Tower will be out in the world next month. I couldn’t be more delighted to share these poems, and to trust these pieces to the wonderful Femme Salvé Books. I am humbled by the care that I have been offered, and elated to see this work progress.

To learn more about this book or pre-order click here!

Power and Prerogative in the Time of Covid-19

Power and Prerogative in the Time of Covid-19 By Kari Flickinger

Timothy Caulfield’s article “Pseudoscience and COVID-19” points to a veritable “explosion of misinformation.” While he quantifies false information as “countless,” the World Health Organization does seem to agree, titling this phenomenon an “infodemic”. Caulfield suggests the major sources of this misinformation include politicians, universities, and healthcare institutions.[1] This is a serious problem as it offers credence to theories that can, have, and will kill the very people who are seeking respite from Covid-19.

When people look to authority figures as the most educated sources for treatment, they will trust that those treatments are efficacious. Unfortunately, the status quo of popular thinking applies many of the aspects of pseudoscience. Methods in Behavioral Research authors Paul Cozby and Scott Bates define pseudoscience as “the use of seemingly scientific terms and demonstrations to substantiate claims that have no basis in scientific research.”[2] Too little time in the research stages of potential treatments leads to inaccurate, vague, and untested data information. [3] For instance, President Trump has touted the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment. According to a Forbes article from March 2020, this irresponsible authoritarian compelled a Texas man and his wife to take chloroquine phosphate, which they confused for the drug, leading to the demise of the man.[4] This death could have been preventable if the authority figure in question had exercised due caution. However, this is just one of the many, many Covid-19 related deaths that we have experienced just in this country. When dealing with a proliferating illness, people need to be using their strongest tools. Our tools are too blunted by the range and aggregate of misinformation.

Part of the reason for the vast amount of misinformation has to do with the very method of dissemination that Caulfield suggests should be leveraged. He suggests that those with a professional responsibility “[t]weet.” While well-intentioned, a complication with this line of thinking is that Twitter provides a platform that may be too fast-moving to lend itself to the amount of time needed for research. We can share results eventually, and often do, but under a verifiable peer-reviewal process, a great deal of research comes too late to reasonably debunk per social media. The way we are consuming information is making it impossible to have accurate conversations.

While researchers and those familiar with the scientific method might have learned to question their world and the credibility of those that would offer them advice in it, there are too many who may look to leaders to provide that depth of thought in times of duress. Those who have the tools to think critically have a responsibility to society to use those tools. As Caulfield puts it, “[w]e need physicists, microbiologists, immunologists, gastroenterologists and all scientists from relevant disciplines to provide simple and shareable content explaining why this hijacking of real research is inaccurate and scientifically dishonest.” Sharing credible information and offering verifiable sources obtained through testable and peer-reviewed channels is just one step in the long march to beating Covid-19 and pseudoscientific practices.

For more reading on upping your media literacy skillset, I suggest JSTOR Daily’s article: “Media Literacy & Fake News: A Syllabus”


[1] Caulfield, Timothy. “Pseudoscience and COVID-19.” Nature. 27 April 2020. Online.

[2] Cozby, Paul and Scott Bates. Methods in Behavioral Research. 14th Edition. McGraw-Hill Education. 2020

[3] It does not mention it directly in Caulfield’s article, though it gives it a definite nod.

[4] Haelle, Tara. “Man Dead From Taking Chloroquine Product After Trump Touts Drug For Coronavirus.” Forbes. 23 March 2020. Online.

Clear

My dear friends, I want to express something in a loving way that I think may be unclear.

Keep in mind that it is because I respect you all so deeply that I even considered writing this. If you think this is personally targeted, it is not. Nearly everyone I know has shared some little bit or other. I know so many of you are brilliant brilliant human beings, and this is not an effort to undermine you in any way.

A cluster of good-natured and quite well-meaning friends and family members have been, to find and keep some joy in our dark moment, sharing tales of dolphins and swans in the Venice canals. About translucent waters, and clear skies in factory towns and big cities. About elephants drunk on corn wine nestling in flower-beds. We all love a story of pollution reduction, especially the tall, animal-featured variety. These images and stories have been truly enchanting. However, there is something more complex at play when we express our delight in these tales.

This whimsy is being attained through the unimaginable suffering and death of so many. As of the time of my writing this, there have been almost 50,000 Coronavirus deaths, and almost a million cases, worldwide. Those watching the progression of this virus believe it has not peaked in the United States, yet. People are frightened and overwhelmed. I myself am frightened and overwhelmed. Which is why I want to deliberately convey to everybody in my life in one fell swoop that it is okay to hold on to some whimsy, but please understand that when you express this on a social scale, you may consider the depth of this argument.

Clean air is being traded for the lives of our loved ones, our extended families, our global community. But it is more complicated than this, because those that suffer under the most degraded life conditions are those that will pay the higher tolls. This means, it is not just death, but the death of the poorest sections of society. Those without access to basic needs like healthcare, shelter, food and water. And this is a wedge of society that is disproportionately composed of minorities.

The suggestion that we have to sacrifice some contingent of our population to keep our economy moving is an ecofascist expression of the order of our society. Ecofascism is the sacrifice of individual humans for the benefit of the ecological whole (Zimmerman).  For example, when a political figure says we should return to work during a global pandemic (Levitz) in a bid to stabilize the economy, they have decided that the exchange of goods is of higher value than the citizens that should be considered under their purvey. And they know this. They do not consider the individuation of humanity, rather the net cost of human casualty.

It is treasonous against our survival to ignore that entire specific swathes of our society must be, now explicitly, sacrificed to ensure our way of life under late capitalism. If we are going to keep with the hopeful attainment of whimsy, then consider ours a moralistic fable. We are living in an Ursula K. Le Guin story. We are ignoring the perpetual misery of the most vulnerable to have beautiful horses with ribbons in their tails.

I think it is important to note that I am not so good as to believe I can lecture anyone about ethics. I have been equally delighted at the thought of seeing clearly through the Venetian Canals. After a month and a half of being barely able to breathe most nights, I am ecstatic about nearly anything that resembles the outside world. However, while the power imposing this situation in our time may be a virus, we cannot laud these changes without looking at the structural consequences of such an expression. 

Hold on to your whimsy. But, keep a light in your mind lit for what is sacrificed. When the virus moves on, and we are all facing one another on the other side of loss, what world do you want to build? We have lost hope in our time. We are letting down our children, our families, our friends, ourselves, who we have inundated with whimsical tales of the glory of goodness. Goodness holds no glory unless it is shared. All religion teaches this lesson. How can we reconstruct ourselves to offer the hope of a brilliant blue sky without imposing this continued sacrifice? 

 

 

Works Cited and Related Reading

Daly, Natasha.  (2020). “Fake animal news abounds on social media as coronavirus upends life”. National Geographic. Web.

Jackson, Shirley. (1948) “The Lottery” The New Yorker.

Le Guin, Ursula K. (1973). “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” New Dimensions, Volume 3.

Levitz, Eric. (24 March, 2020) “No, Trump Can’t Revive the Economy Through Human Sacrifice”. NY Mag. Web.

Zimmerman, Michael E. (2008). “Ecofascism”. In Taylor, Bron R. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, Volume 1. London, UK: Continuum. pp. 531–532.