‘Stovepiping’ COVID Preprints and the Punditocracy

A while ago, I wrote about how people, especially those not trained in biology, can ‘misthink’ about biology. Given that The Discourse has spent the last week making the same fucking stupid pro-war arguments from 2001, I was reminded of one of the failings that led to the Iraq War–’stovepiping‘ (boldface mine):

Stovepiping (also stove piping) is a metaphorical term which recalls a stovepipe’s function as an isolated vertical conduit, and has been used, in the context of intelligence, to describe several ways in which raw intelligence information may be presented without proper context. It is a system created to solve a specific problem. The lack of context may be due to the specialized nature, or security requirements, of a particular intelligence collection technology. It also has limited focus and data within is not easily shared. Alternatively, the lack of context may come from a particular group, in the national policy structure, selectively presenting only that information that supports certain conclusions.

One problem a lot of pundits have is that they are forced to assess, what in foreign policy terms, would be considered ‘raw intel.’ Quite simply, they are really not equipped to assess a COVID-related preprint themselves, yet they are forced (or ‘forced’–they could just shut their fucking holes for once, see Silver, Nate) to assess these documents, or else wait and accept someone else’s interpretation. They lack the context, in terms of knowledge, experience, and natural history to figure out if some preprint is actually worth the paper its printed on (or the electrons it spins), and, if so, if It Changes Everything We Knew.

I’m not sure I have a solution for this, but it is a problem that leads to a lot of HAWT TAEKS (and bad ones).

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