21 August 2020

COVID and the internet

The internet is a perfect example of the invisible hand in action. It has grown into a magnificent informational resource. I find it hard to sympathise with the naysayers who focus on misinformation; I rarely come across anything that might count as misleading, and when I do it usually has some fairly obvious markers about possible lack of reliability. (Avoiding Twitter may help.) As far as I can gather, the vast majority of individuals, including younger people, are perfectly able to perform the necessary discrimination between useful and seriously slanted.
   For most problems or questions about DIY, cooking, clothing, language, history, books, music, gardening, there is helpful free information available on the web. And I suspect that, for the most part, it hasn't got there because of altruism, but because its authors are hoping to get something out of their efforts — notoriety, approval, or financial rewards down the line.

An Atlantic article about COVID long-haulers deserves careful reading. The long-term aspects of COVID may turn out to be as important as the short-term ones, though initially they were largely ignored. I was not convinced, however, by author Ed Yong's invoking the usual line about insufficient state support:
These people are still paying the price for early pandemic failures. Many long-haulers couldn't get tested when they first fell sick, because such tests were scarce. Others were denied tests because their symptoms didn't conform to a list we now know was incomplete.
Perhaps what would have helped is not tests, but a body of individual reports about symptoms, so that people could draw conclusions from first-hand data and discussions of experiences.
   Unlike many other medical conditions, no internet discussion forum about personal experiences of COVID seems to have developed in the early months — at least none that came up on Google searches. I wonder whether this has something to do with people being ordered not to spread misinformation, and a resulting inhibition re setting up websites without backing from the medical establishment. Maybe the establishment being less arrogant about owning medical truth, or the media enabling this arrogance less enthusiastically, would on balance have been more helpful.
   Ed Yong refers to some doctors refusing to accept symptoms as COVID-linked and dismissing them as psychosomatic, particularly in the case of women and even more so for women of colour. Refusal to accept patients' stories at face value is a symptom of medical authoritarianism, which is discussed in The Power of Life or Death.