Debarkle Chapter 73: Covid, Contrarians and Cons

The exact start of the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t known. At the time of writing this chapter (November 2021), it is believed that via some means a variant of a coronavirus found in other mammals made its way into the human population[1]. A less likely possibility (on current evidence) is that the virus outbreak was due to an accidental exposure from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It’s likely that there will never be a wholly unambiguous answer to this question because viruses don’t keep diaries or film their activities for Tik-Tok. This chapter isn’t the story of a virus or a pandemic though — there are better places to read about how Covid-19 spread around the world. This is a story about fear, uncertainty and doubts both natural and manufactured but also about how people coped with a challenging year.

The Covtrarians[0]

From early January 2020, the spread of the virus and the reaction of governments and health agencies to the virus become increasingly well documented. Through that time, understanding of the nature of the virus, how it spread, what it did to people and who were most likely to suffer ill effects increased rapidly. However, during that period of shifting understanding, public advice was changing rapidly while governments and health officials scrambled to make policy. It was not even clear initially whether there had been cases of human-to-human transmission of the virus even as (as we know in retrospect) it was spreading rapidly.

Culturally, the idea of a global pandemic wasn’t new. The 21st century had already seen the 2003 SARS outbreak that had impacted South China and Hong Kong in particular but which had also spread to parts of South East Asia and even Canada[2]. The 2009 H1N1 (aka “swine flu”) pandemic had proved to be less fatal than many had feared[3] but had still been a notable cultural and political phenomenon. The 2015-16 outbreak of Zika fever[4] had led to particular concerns over the impact on pregnancies while the 2013-16 outbreak of ebola in West Africa[5] had even become a minor issue in the 2016 US Presidential campaign. The Ebola outbreak had been deadly but geographically limited. However, the high fatality and gruesomeness of the disease meant that it was particularly fearsome in the public consciousness.

That public consciousness of epidemics and pandemics had been shaped for decades by popular culture. Crossing genres of horror, thrillers and science fiction, stories of pandemics, contagion and biological weapons are plentiful. H.G.Wells’s seminal War of the Worlds isn’t a pandemic story as such but it presents disease as the ultimate undoing of the invading Martians. Works from writers as varied as Alistair MacClean, Stephen King and Margaret Atwood have played on the themes of potential or realised pandemics[6]. The 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel imagined a world rebuilding in the ruins of civilisation destroyed by an influenza pandemic[7].

There are multiple layers of fantasies in these works. On the one hand the idea of disease as an external and essentially foreign threat — a deliberate or accidental invader from “abroad”[8]. On the other hand, science fiction’s double-edged view of science as both saviour and existential threat, with researchers into disease either as the heroic people battling the disease or as the Frankenstein-like figures who push the boundaries of knowledge too far[9].

So it was not surprising that early in 2020 there was much speculation that a novel virus might be a bioweapon on one hand or an accidental release of medical research on the other[10]. At any time, the discovery of a major new disease might have led to speculation on both these points but in 2020 the world was already in a state where wild or even absurd theories could gain rapid attention (for example Qanon). In addition, among much of the American right (already at a high degree of conspiracy ideation) China was the international enemy du jour. US President Donald Trump had been escalating a trade war with China since 2018 and the violent crackdown of pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong was alarming people across the US political spectrum[11].

What was in January/February a perceived danger of a potentially disruptive epidemic was also regarded by many on the right as the fault of the Chinese government or the Chinese people and culture more generally. Whether this was via intention (a bioweapon)[12] or by accident (a lab leak) or because of a culture gone awry (typically via the demonisation of so-called “wet markets” selling unusual wild animals for meat), there was an insistence on the right that China in some broad sense be held responsible for any consequences of this new virus. This first stage of folding the future pandemic into the partisan US culture war, therefore, focused on the name of the disease.

There had already been a substantial pushback by public health agencies against the mainstream media naming the disease after its apparent point of origin in Wuhan, China. This pushback was not a new thing and similar work had been done to pushback against the H1N1influenza names of “Mexican Flu” and “Swine Flu” (less successfully) as names like these caused public confusion on how the disease was spread.

On the right, names such as “wu-flu”, “kung-flu”, “xi-disease”[13] were used partly to maintain the association with China and also as a counter-protest against the official pushback against the name “Wuhan coronavirus” which had initially been used in news coverage. On February 11 the WHO officially named the disease Covid-19 and the virus SARS-CoV-2 and the mainstream media followed suit. The pushback against this name continued on the right for some time. In March 2020 the anti-Communist/pro-Trump Epoch Times argued:

“There has been controversy recently about what to call the virus that has unleashed a worldwide pandemic. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) prefers “novel coronavirus.” Others have referred to it as the “Wuhan virus,” after its place of origin, as is common in naming diseases. The Epoch Times suggests a more accurate name is the “CCP virus,” and calls upon others to join us in adopting this name.”

https://web.archive.org/web/20200319150457/https://www.theepochtimes.com/giving-the-right-name-to-the-virus-causing-a-worldwide-pandemic-2_3277200.html

At Sarah Hoyt’s blog, this nominal confusion was demonstrated by a repeated error of thinking that Covid-19 was somehow essentially Chinese and that this Chinese characteristic would prevent the disease from spreading to Western countries even after it had already done so.

“Even in Italy, the mortality is mostly among Chinese transplants. And before you tell me I’m racist (rolls eyes), no, I’m not. Leaving aside the protein in the lungs this thing might or might not bind to, there are co-morbidity factors for Chinese (and to an extent for Italians. Definitely for Iranians, particularly Iranian males.) One of them is smoking like a chimney. The other is that China (where the mortality seems to be way higher, honestly) is more polluted than you can imagine.  Iran might be too. You know dictatorships don’t really much care for the environment, and I remember Portugal in the early sixties, when going out early in the morning during rush hour was like putting your face fully in the exhaust of a car. I have no clue as to Italy air quality, and I have a full schedule ahead, so I refuse to fall down that rabbit hole.

Right now we know it’s spreading like wild fire. It’s known as a “virgin field” epidemic.  What it doesn’t seem to be is all that deadly. NOT among countries which actually give a f*ck about their citizens.  For the others, everything is deadly. Remember North Korea telling their citizens that pine needle soup was nutritious?”

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2020/02/28/dont-fear-the-wu-flu/

Hoyt was telling her readers not to be afraid of Covid-19 in late February even as the disease was already running rampant in Iran. (The Iran connection would later lead Vox Day to spread the idea that Covid-19 was actually a US deep-state biowarfare attack on China and Iran[14]). The stickiness of this idea that the virus was somehow essentially Chinese as if it remembered its origins, would still be there with Hoyt many weeks later in April when the body count in the US was already climbing exponentially.

“It’s hard to deny the disease presents in weird clusters.  I have a friend whose Georgia County is about the same level of bad as Italy.  Which makes no sense whatsoever, as they have no high Chinese population.  And while the  cases might be guess work (with tests only accurate AT MOST 70% of the time, it’s guesswork all the way down) the deaths aren’t. The community is small enough they all know each other. And they’re losing relatively young (still working) and relatively healthy (no known big issues) people.”

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2020/04/03/assume-a-spherical-cow-of-uniform-density-in-a-frictionless-vaccum/

Whatever the origins of the disease, by early March Covid-19 had already moved beyond them. However, this sense of Covid-19 as a distinctly Chinese or perhaps East Asian phenomenon continued as wishful thinking that the new version of SARS would follow the same script as its older cousin. This disconnect between the feeling of relative safety and a disease spreading rapidly through international travel was encapsulated in an account by former Sad Puppy supporter and Dragon Award finalist Declan Finn who in early March 2020 took a trip to Italy with his new wife. Covid-19 was already spreading quickly in Italy at this point but as Finn noted:

“But yeah, Italy decided to freak out over the Corona Virus.
You’re probably wondering, Declan, why go there in the first place?
Because when we went, it was Lombardi that was the problem. Milan and Venice, et al were the problems.
Lombardi was “under lockdown.”
I figured, “It’s Lombardi. It’s a quarantine. How do you fuck up a quarantine? Close the roads, the border, and shut down planes and trains in and out of the area.”‘

https://web.archive.org/web/20200316225157/http://www.declanfinn.com/2020/03/i-have-returned-from-italy-part-1-oh.html

Finn would find himself having to flee Italy (breaking airport security in the process) as a wave of international shutdowns of air travel to prevent the spread of disease left millions of people stranded[15]. Air travel allowed the epidemic to quickly become a pandemic, jumping from one major international transport hub to another. By the time Declan Finn had returned from Italy, New York had begun to shut schools as a public health measure against the virus. By April 6, New York was one of the largest outbreaks of Covid-19 in the world at the time with over 2,000 people dead[16].

I’m emphasising the partisan disinformation aspects of this early phase of the pandemic but in this first quarter of 2020 right-wing websites were not exclusively pushing nonsense about the pandemic. Only a few of the former Sad Puppies could reasonably be called “Preppers” (Peter Grant of Tor Boycott fame for example) but the widespread sense of looming disaster or Communist take-over did mean that there was helpful advice on preparedness including warning people to make sure they had sufficient supplies of food, medication and clean water for a potential period of quarantine. Sarah Hoyt’s blog carried a guest post about the need for infection control measures written by a registered nurse[17]. Warnings against panic buying could also be found, which was particularly pertinent in March 2020 when a wave of panic buying of toilet paper spread around the world fueled primarily by a fear of shortages caused by the self-same panic buying. Sarah Hoyt (as our main example here) also correctly identified in early March that the group under greatest threat of death from Covid-19 was old people in nursing homes and that insufficient attention was being paid to keeping these people safe[18].

The arrival of a pandemic while not wholly unexpected was also a surprise to everybody. For the American right that prepper/self-reliant strand of the culture was almost disappointed in Covid-19’s almost anti-climatic progress. Not only was survival common rather than limited to a special few, for many people Covid was asymptomatic. The deadly nature of Covid lay in its capacity to easily spread, often via the more wealthy people[19]. At least initially, many developing nations were spared the impact of the disease while America and Western Europe became the areas with the fastest growth. Forcing Covid into a partisan narrative would be difficult but it would be necessary because there was no simple free-market response to a pandemic — what was going to be done in response was going to require a coordinated national response. In late March with many parts of America locking down and the federal government initiating new spending, Sarah Hoyt began to frame the response to the pandemic as a plot by the left.

“This brings us to Enemies-domestic: the left is flexing everything that remains of its power to convince the population that they’re all going to die and that only government can save them. It might work long enough to elect their spokes-zombie, Joe Biden, D-mentia, to the presidency.  That’s what they’re counting on. Because once they get it, we will never, ever, ever vote our way out. Shooting our way out is the only thing we can hope for.

And we must count on Trump to turn the corner on that.  I’m not sure about it. They’re trying to pass the second stimulus bill to repair what the first undid. (As always, government pretending to fix what it broke. The quarantine broke things, and now the stimulus bill broke more things…. Pardon me I’m going to be ill.) But the second won’t pass, because Malig-Nancy and the House Wreckers will not want the mess repaired. They want us to go down in flames, so socialism looks good.

Enemies, domestic.”

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2020/03/19/seven-days-in-march/

Hoyt’s claim was not that Covid-19 was fake but that the left and the Democrats and the media had created a panic which had duped everybody, including Trump and much of the Republican Party into implementing an economic shut-down and deficit spending. These measures were certain, in Hoyt’s view, to be a disaster on a scale far beyond the pandemic and by March 24 her predictions had escalated.

“Every part of the machine is interlocked. And what is happening is taking the wheels off. It’s smashing into the center of the economy with a hammer. BTW when I say there will be famine and people will die, I mean in the US. PEOPLE WILL DIE.  Of hunger. Of lack of heat. Of lack of medicine. PEOPLE WILL DIE.  And not all of them the insane people who are instigating this. In fact, most of the power mad governors will be just fine. And one can only hope that the idiots roaming facebook and saying this is their chance to smash capitalism get to FEEL what they’re encouraging. Dying of hunger ain’t pretty.

In the rest of the world? If people starve in the US, the rest of the world will starve worse.  Russia thinks it can be resurgent. So does China. They’re going to find mostly they die. Their despotic systems only work in an hyper abundant world. But what this whole thing adds to is that the Chinese Virus was not the problem.  The people imposing crazy quarantines and measures are.  The idea that you can shut the country down for two weeks is bad enough. The people trying to stampede us into doing it longer, are ignorant of the realities of economics, or indeed of reality.”

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2020/03/24/cures-and-diseases/

By April, the idea that Covid-19 was some uniquely Chinese disease was no longer tenable even for Sarah Hoyt. Instead, she offered a new theory why the disease was running rampant in many parts of the world but that major public health measures were largely unwarranted. The answer was too many people were hugging.

“also think if you go and look at the clusters, you’ll find that there are reasons why it got exceptionally bad there, but not anywhere else. And it was never going to get as bad anywhere else. And the measures should have been taken specifically in those places, without the ruinous cost of crashing the economy. For instance, my friend in Albany, Georgia, tells me he assumes part of the reason it got so bad in his neighborhood (the worst per capita in the U.S. last I looked) is that “we are the touchiest, most social people I know,” i.e., there is a lot of touching and hugging.

At a guess, this is the reason it got so bad in Italy, too, but not nearly as bad in Germany, where, frankly, people aren’t that touchy/feely/huggy.

New York City — do I really need to say this? — is not Colorado. I can go months without using an elevator. I can’t remember the last time I used a subway, and the last time I used public transport was last year while visiting my parents in Portugal – and even then, only when I was going to downtown Porto because it’s almost impossible to park. If I keep the curtains closed in the bathroom, I can’t see my closest neighbor (who admittedly is close, but that’s on one side). That’s in Denver. I have open space in the front and back of the house, and the only people I share air with are my family.

Now, in NYC, besides the fact they all live in modified closets with shared air, you can’t get anywhere without rubbing elbows with strangers. Subways and elevators are simply parts of daily life for most New Yorkers. And as for social distancing… well! Every time I go East, when I hit the first layover, I want to start singing, “Don’t stand so close to me.” So, would a complete lockdown of the city, with perhaps distribution of food so the grocery stores could be closed, make sense for NYC? Sure it would. Of course it would.

A grave violation of everyone’s rights? Sure. No doubt about that. But perhaps necessary for a limited time in a limited space. Does a complete lockdown in places where the culture is completely different make any sense? No. Also no. With a side of no.”

https://pjmedia.com/blog/sarah-hoyt/2020/04/12/modeling-covid-19-and-the-lies-of-multiculturalism-n384188

Nor was this just the strange ideas of a minor science-fiction writer. Hoyt’s PJ Media column expounding this theory was picked up by veteran right-wing talk radio personality Rush Limbaugh who amplified her claims.

“We assume everybody must live in New York. Everybody must live the dense populations. In other words, there’s no state of Washington model for Texas. Well, there might be, but it doesn’t get used and it’s overshadowed and overused by the nationwide model.

Now, she [Hoyt] makes it clear. “I don’t think,” she writes, “COVID-19 is a hoax. … I do think it has got really bad ‘in clusters.’ I also think if you go and look at the clusters, you’ll find that there are reasons why it got exceptionally bad there, but not anywhere else.” Like why is it not bad West Virginia? Why is it not nearly as bad in California as it is in New York? Why is it not nearly as bad originally in the state of Washington as it is elsewhere? Where are there places where it isn’t really bad at all? Is that of no interest to anybody? Or do we sweep that under the rug in order to protect the integrity of the models?”

https://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2020/04/13/the-covid-19-models-cant-account-for-culture/

In reality, Covid-19 was already growing exponentially in Hoyt’s home state of Colorado and was firmly entrenched in the less populous states of America. Cases were declining in New York but that was just the end of the beginning of America’s pandemic. Nonetheless Tucker Carlson of Fox News was busy claiming that the pandemic was now receding[20].

In this period from April to May 2020 a position on the Covid-19 pandemic among the US right began to crystalise around the central idea that Covid-19 was no worse than a seasonal flu and that the only appropriate measures was to continue as per normal with perhaps an extra emphasis on personal hygiene. Not only should there not be lockdowns but the potential damage to the economy was such that people needed to be actively encouraged to be economically active and that public health messaging in general was causing fear and panic, which was also hurting the economy. Further, this growing viewpoint on the right saw the public health measure being implemented not just as an error or a mistaken policy born out of over cautious thinking but as a deliberate attempt by the left (even in the form of Republican governors) to push an authoritarian agenda. Naturally, within this paradigm of the pandemic as an excuse for a left-wing plot which would lead to mass starvation, the only appropriate response was to rebel:

“Here’s the thing, though, the way things are RIGHT NOW, you can rebel now or rebel later.  You can rebel now, and go back to your life, or you can rebel later, when you’ll have to shoot anyone asking you for papers or keeping you from growing beans.

If you don’t assert your rights now, you’ll have to assert them in blood, when you’re starving and sick, cold and broken in winter, when the lights go out (we’ve already been having brownouts and blackouts) when your cars are not working, when getting factories back in a state to produce anything is almost impossible, when airplanes have been taken to “graveyards” in the desert forever, when your local hospital has shut its doors and has no money to reopen.”

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2020/04/10/olly-olly-oxen-free/

The idea of anti-lockdown protests as a part of the culture war would continue throughout the pandemic and in the process subsume within it genuine fears, anxieties and legitimate complaints about the severe measures that would be implemented in multiple nations. However, it was not just the most aggressive anti-Covid measures that would be caught up in the backlash, it was the symbols of the pandemic as well and no symbol was pervasive than the light blue of the surgical mask.

“Over and over, everywhere, they’re out in force.  “I wear a mask because I care.”

The fact this phrase is always used tells me it’s not original. They heard it somewhere, and it sounded good to them and they’re going to use it buckle and tongue whenever anyone challenges the UTILITY — or the sanity — of their wearing a mask.

In fact their wearing a mask is tying a yellow ribbon in their front yard during the Iran hostage crisis. It is flying the flag after 9/11. It’s a way of showing their feelings, their emotions.  It’s also a way of feeling part of a crowd.  (Yes, I flew the flag after 9/11. But my dears, I fly the flag all the time, up to and including when I get a wild hair.)

They don’t even TRY to argue it does something useful. They just view it as a symbol to tie to their faces, to show they “care.””

https://accordingtohoyt.com/2020/05/13/the-danger-of-masks/

From here on in the complexity of responses to a pandemic would be filtered through the conspiratorial lens of the partisan culture war to the point of absurdity. Within this lens Sweden, a nation normally demonised by the US right for its social-democratic policies, was lionised for its relatively light touch (with the right ignoring reasons why Sweden had a better chance of avoiding lockdowns than the US, including the country’s approach to healthcare, better work/life balance and high civic trust) while Australia’s centre-right government was demonised for strict border controls. President Donald Trump’s chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci became a figure increasingly demonised by Trump’s supporters because he continued to communicate the seriousness of the disease. To be seen as taking Covid-19 seriously was in itself regarded as a partisan act tantamount to undermining the position of Trump and giving aid to “enemies, domestic”.

The conspiratorial and contrarian culture war response to Covid-19 would not abate in the coming months. Folded into the anti-factual narrative came alternative cures, initially hydroxychloroquine and later the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin as well as older quack cures such as mineral bleach that had been circulating prior to the pandemic but which was co-opted as Covid cure as early as January 2020[21]. Once Covid-19 was perceived as a front in the culture war it became axiomatic that the official narrative (i.e. more evidence based sources) was a lie and the “truth” must lie somewhere else. Forced to choose between science and fiction, America’s right chose fiction while the case numbers and the death toll continued to grow.

Meanwhile, in the reality-based community…

While some parts of the science fiction community were using their imaginative capacity to perceive public health as a leftist coup, everybody else was contending with the challenge of the new world of the pandemic. What nobody knew was how long or how severe the pandemic would be. Neither popular culture nor recent history was much of a help here. As bad as Covid-19 was proving to be, it was clear that the world was not facing a scenario like Station Eleven or other post-apocalyptic literature but nor was the disease going to have a lesser impact than expected like the H1N1 outbreak. In The Andromeda Strain, the rapidly mutating alien virus shifts to a non-lethal form that consumes plastics and while this plot twist was highly fanciful the idea that Covid-19 might burn itself out by spreading so quickly that the majority of people in a country might become immune was an idea that initially, the British government found attractive enough to consider[22].

Fandom at the start of the 21st century’s third decade[23] was more international and more online than at any point in the past. Like many parts of society, the social and commercial infrastructure that existed via the internet would prove to be an important part of how fandom (and wider society) would cope with a global pandemic.

Where US fandom in particular would find the uncertainty of the pandemic to be a problem was with conventions.

On the scale of the problems the world was facing in 2020, how to run science-fiction conventions was tiny in comparison with a worldwide public health crisis, the potential collapse of international supply chains and the ethical issues of widespread government-enforced lockdowns. Nevertheless, it was a minor conundrum that reflected the multitude of major & minor conundrums faced by communities of various kinds.

As US states enacted pandemic measures in March and April of 2020, many conventions hoped that events would be able to be held from May onward. Hopeful messages in March gave way to likely cancellations in April. Conventions scheduled for later in the year held out hope that things would be better in the second half of the year[24]. However, the realities of Covid-19 were becoming clearer. The virus spread especially well in indoor events, older people were especially vulnerable and events, where varied groups travelled to meet each other, were especially effective at spreading the disease. I don’t believe any science-fiction convention was ever identified as a super-spreader event but this was more likely due to their widespread cancellation than their inherent nature.

Some larger pop-culture conventions examined ways of organising as smaller events that could enforce social-distancing measures. Atlanta’s Dragon Con spent several months planning a reduced size convention but in July 2020 was forced to announce that the physical convention would be cancelled for that year[25].

Worldcon faced a more layered conundrum for 2020. The peripatetic convention was scheduled for Wellington, New Zealand. This was an almost prescient choice for 2020 as New Zealand would prove to be one of the nations with the fewest Covid-19 cases by almost any measure. However, it had achieved this status by almost completely shutting down international travel and using swift lockdowns to control any outbreaks. Even in the event that case numbers would be low enough for a convention to be allowed to run, it would be impossible for members not based in New Zealand to attend.

The very particular problem of a Worldcon being held in a country that had closed its borders reflected an issue that had been building with Worldcon from long before the pandemic. Donald Trump’s aggressive anti-Muslim travel policies had raised fears in 2017 that Muslim fans might face issues travelling into a Worldcon held in the US. Likewise, non-US locations presented a problem for US-based fans whose immigration status might be challenged by the more aggressive immigration controls at the US border. Leaving or entering the US had become more of a challenge to many fans. Nor was this a uniquely American problem. Brexit had made it harder for many EU citizens to freely enter the UK and UK government immigration policies made international travel for UK-based non-citizens more fraught. The 2019 Worldcon in Dublin had no fans attend from Nigeria after the Irish embassy failed to provide visas in time for a set of fans to attend[26]. Broader questions of what kinds of countries would be safe for fans of multiple nations and backgrounds to attend were raised by Worldcon bids from China and Saudi Arabia as well as a speculative potential bid for Israel[27].

CoNZealand (as the 2020 Worldcon named itself) attempted to solve its very specific problem by moving to a virtual online convention which it announced in April 2020 [28]. This pivot online reflected a broader international trend forced by the pandemic to use of web-based conferencing software such as Zoom to enable people to stay in touch during lockdowns, as well the increased use of services such as Discord and Twitch for people to communicate during online activities such as video-games. These services had all existed prior to the pandemic but the incentives to use them had increased with the increasing difficulty of meeting in person during 2020.

A World of Virtual Cons

Perhaps inevitably CoNZealand ran into some of the same issues that had impacted other recent Worldcons. As with the 2018 Worldcon, several Hugo Award finalists raised concerns about the programming for the conventions. Best Fan Writer finalist and podcaster Alistair Stuart organised an open letter by a group of finalists expressing their concerns.

• Many Hugo finalists have not been offered programming and panels relevant to their nomination.
• We believe that many of our panels cannot be adequately performed without more diverse participants and/or a reframing of the topic.
• Communication with Hugo finalists about the financial requirements for participation has been inconsistent or absent, with contradictory information on whether or not we were able to participate in programming without a full attending membership. This issue particularly impacted Black, Indigenous and people of color (“BIPOC”), leaving them more likely than other finalists to receive no programming.

Statement of 2020 Hugo Finalists re: Worldcon Programming, Google Doc https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UNlCm4aNr62qNGRVw1z_ysTwosRcKWUzpURDf0h8lVg/edit

Part of the issue had been confusion about what status of membership finalists needed to take part in what had become a virtual convention[29]. The issue with how to juggle these competing demands led to a further innovation to conventions in 2020: a fringe convention.

Led by several of the finalists who had raised their concerns in the open letter, CoNZealand Fringe described itself:

“In the tradition of Edinburgh Fringe and other international collateral events, CoNZealand Fringe has been created as a complementary programming series to the annual science fiction convention Worldcon. All our livestreams take place outside core CoNZealand programming hours and are not official CoNZealand programming items. CoNZealand Fringe is not endorsed by CoNZealand.”

http://www.conzealandfringe.com/

While virtual conventions lacked the physical restrictions of in-person conventions there were still organisational ones. However, for some, the shift to virtual conventions opened up new opportunities, such as FIYAH magazine announcing its own inaugural online convention to be held in October 2020[30].

Sadly the online Hugo Award ceremony for 2020 managed to encapsulate the shifting culture within fandom in ways that further heightened issues from old and new perspectives. CoNZealand had early on in its planning scored George R.R. Martin as the celebrity toastmaster for the Hugo Award ceremony. On paper, Martin was an obvious choice given his enormously high profile after the success of Game of Thrones and his long-standing connection with Worldcon. However, the pre-recorded video presentation was overlong and under-edited. This would have been bad enough given that the potential audience for the ceremony was higher than ever but Martin’s presentation included the frequent mispronunciation of names and both he and Robert Silverberg (in his own segment) went to some lengths to defend the legacy of John W. Campbell — a decision that went down poorly with Hugo voters who had picked Jeannette Ng’s 2019 Campbell Award acceptance speech as the winner in the Best Related Work category. The anger was summarised by fan writer Natalie Luhrs:

“What I haven’t forgotten is this: George R.R. Martin repeatedly mispronounced the names of nominees and, in one case, a publication which was nominated. All the nominees were asked to provide pronunciations for their names in advance. The fact that Martin chose not to use that information is disgusting and racist as fuck, as nearly without exception the names he mispronounced were Black and brown. He mispronounced FIYAH, a publication owned, edited, and written by Black people.

This is thoroughly beyond the pale, especially since those segments were pre-recorded and CoNZealand could have asked him to re-do those segments and pronounce peoples’ names correctly. Names are important. They have power.

There was also a whole segment about the Oscar statuette and its crotch. It was gender essentialist and transphobic. It was so gross I don’t even want to talk about it to be honest. CoNZealand tweeted a non-apology apology about it to people who were offended. I’m not particularly gender non-conforming, but if that segment made me feel gross and unwelcome, imagine how it made not only the trans and other gender non-conforming nominees feel, but also all those who were watching. It was a gigantic “fuck you, you’re not welcome here.””

https://www.pretty-terrible.com/george-r-r-martin-2020-hugo-awards/

The convention also came under criticism from New Zealand fans for the lack of representation of NZ fandom[31].

Yet despite these issues, CoNZealand had delivered an extraordinary step in the evolution of Worldcon. A virtual, internationally distributed gathering of fans with all the features of a historic Worldcon (including fannish controversies).

Meanwhile, the culture war had other challenges to present in 2020 but that’s another story.

Next Time: Trump, Puppies and Stop the Steal


Footnotes

113 thoughts on “Debarkle Chapter 73: Covid, Contrarians and Cons

  1. Hoyt was born in 1962. The notion that she remembers going out in Portugal in the early 1960s is laughable.

    Then again, almost everything Hoyt claims is laughable.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I remember that the first time I came across one of Hoyt’s screeds about Communists taking over Portugal I asked my Dad (who visited Spain and Portugal several times during the dictatorship years in the 1960s and 1970s), “Uhm, so was the Portuguese dictatorship communist? Cause I always assumed it was fascist, like Spain’s.” My Dad confirmed that of course it was fascist and asked how I had come by the idea the Portuguese regime was communist. “Uhm, I read a blogpost by someone who claims to be a Portuguese immigrant to the US and she was going on about communists taking over the country.”

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Wikipedia’s canned history of Portugal says that there was an interregnum in the mid-70’s after Salazar’s death, which included a bloodless left-wing coup, followed by a series of left-wing vs. right-wing coups, counter-coups and various events of political violence for two years or so. I’ve always presumed that this period is what Hoyt’s referring to when she tells her tales of being threatened by ‘Communists’.

          Since I don’t know of her personal history, I recognize that it’s a complete guess on my part that her family were supporters of Salazar who fled the country during or after that period, and which informs her more rabid right-wing rants. In some ways she reminds me of Ayn Rand, except for the failure to produce best-selling books.

          Liked by 5 people

          1. It’s pretty clear that when Hoyt talks about communists in Portugal, she’s a) talking about stuff that happened after the Carnation Revolution in 1974 and b) extending “communism” to include people who are leftists but wouldn’t call themselves communists.

            But the Estado Novo, the authoritarian regime in power from before WWII to 1974, are Hoyt’s good guys. She’d never call that communism.

            It’s not unlikely that she personally, and/or her family, had bad experiences in the years after the Carnation Revolution. It’s possible real communists where involved – although it might have been people of some other ideological bent. It can be something mostly random and accidental, like being uncomfortably close to violent street protests, or more targeted, like loosing a cushy government job or even having property confiscated as part of land reform. And it’s impossible to know whether she has a legitimate grievance, or is complaining about loosing privileges that where unfair to begin with.

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        2. I remember how the US news covered the fall of Salazar in 1974 (a minor news item) and the threat of communism there (a much bigger deal). The big concern was that Portugal was a NATO member, so if it elected a communist government, there was no way to keep it from giving secrets to the Soviets. Worse, the NATO charter provided no means for expelling a member.

          I turned 16 at the end of 1974, and I definitely remember talking about it with my friends in school. That summer, a teacher took a bunch of us on a 6-week trip to Europe (not including Portugal, obviously) and we all talked about the international news a lot. (Indira Ghandi’s “State of Emergency” was another big topic.)

          In Portugal, as I remember, the big contest was between the Socialists and the Communists, leading one of my high school buddies to remark, “I never thought I’d be rooting for the socialists.” Ultimately, the communists fell short, but I can well believe that many people living in Portugal would be alarmed enough to flee the country. And how that could leave a life-long impression on a young person.

          Not that that really excuses her seeing communists under the bed in the 21st Century.

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    1. I was born in 1961 but although in many ways I was a developmentally unimpressive kid–didn’t speak until I was 4–I distinctly remember the London smogs of my toddlerhood, because despite the Clean Air Act the air quality in London was pretty bad, the smogs made it much worse and I was asthmatic.

      (and then my doctor assured my parents my double-bronchial pneumonia was nothing to worry about, and we should go on a driving tour of Europe. West Germany had top notch hospitals back then)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. She’s too young and newly-arrived to remember the truly terrible smog in Colorado in the 60s and 70s, and into the early 80s. It approached LA levels on many days. It’s a wonder I can still breathe, and that my asthmatic schoolmates survived.

        Recess was canceled sometimes (the horror for kids!) and the asthmatics had to stay inside even more days. I vividly remember a friend collapsing on a walk — not even a run — around the track during PE in 1978. I had to help hold her inhaler, then help her walk back into the school and to the nurse’s.

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        1. Regarding Hoyt, wasn’t she the one who claimed that environmental SF abruptly pivoted from global cooling and global warming stories sometime in the 1980s?

          Cause I just reviewed an episode of Space Patrol Orion (which Hoyt probably isn’t familiar with) which had a global warming plot, albeit they got the cause wrong, in 1966.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I’ve seen the “but they talked about global cooling” thing a lot, but aside from a few speculative and soon debunked articles and experiments (Which is standard for science, but which newspapers often run without questioning as if they are fact and not “we’re checking this to see if it’s a thing.”) MOST of what I remember talking about global cooling wasn’t related to pollution or environmental issues, it was theories about *nuclear* winter, as part of Cold War worries. Environmental stuff I remember was either deforestation, the ozone layer, or global warming.

            Of course, I was born in the later 70s so all my recollections are skewed by what they do or don’t tell kids.

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            1. Global cooling caused by pollution was an SF staple in the 70s. Just off the top of my head, I remember stories by Ursula K. LeGuin (“The New Atlantis”; 1975) and Poul Anderson (“There Will Be Time”; 1972) with that premise.

              Of course James Blish’s “We All Die Naked” (1969) was probably the first SF story to present the idea that CO2 emissions would lead to sea-level rise, but I’m pretty sure that was unusual.

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      2. Not sure if West German hospitals were top notch in the 1960s and 70s, since my experience with them was very limited (basically being born, getting treated for a head wound and visiting grandma in hospital). But having seen what British hospitals looked like in the 1990s and beyond, ours were definitely an improvement.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Typo patrol:

    China was the current international enemy de-jour.

    First, “du jour” not “de-jour”. Second, since it’s a French phrase, I suggest that du jour should be in italics. Third, “current” and “du jour” seems a trifle redundant.

    the disease was already running rampant in Iran .(The Iran

    Need to swap that space with the period.

    Covid was was wholly

    the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin

    Since ivermectin is the generic name of the medicine, not a brand name, it doesn’t get capitalized.

    Sweden might have reasonably hoped that lockdown’s could be avoided

    No greengrocer’s apostrophe please.

    Covid-19 was percieved

    Perceived

    Niether popular culture

    Neither

    other post-apocalytpic literature

    apocalyptic

    attempted to solve it’s very specific problem </blockquote
    its

    Dean Koontz’s novel The Eyes of Darkness which features

    Italics goes on two words too far.

    the BBC’s post-apocalyptic series Suvivors

    Survivors

    the evidence against covid19 being a bioweapon

    Covid-19

    Black Live Matter protestors

    Lives

    Tenessee’s Liberycon

    Libertycon

    Liked by 3 people

        1. A well-known fan once wrote a review of a William Tenn book – but his autocorrect decided to be “helpful”

          Like

  3. With regards to Sweden, I have never heard anyone here mentioning work/life balance or even healthcare as a reason for lighter measures. What has been mentioned here is always that it is a marathon, not a sprint, and that measures needs to be easy to follow for a long time. If factors have been mentioned at all, it has been paid sick leave, possibility to work from home, more single households and high civic trust.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Sure, but you write “why Sweden might have reasonably hoped” and it just isn’t reasons that were used in Sweden (apart from high civic trust).

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    1. Of course the right was pretending that COVID was no worse than flu; their God Emperor was doing nothing to fight it and he is “Never Wrong”. Bitterly funny now that COVID death rates in the US show a distinct political gradient, with the highest levels in the most Trump voting counties 4 times those in the most Biden voting counties.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m kind of missing the opinions from other puppies. What did Correia, Freer, Beale and others have to say about lockdowns and other measures? Right now it feels like painting the whole Puppy movement with the opinion from one single member.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Correia said very little in the time period (I covered some of it at the time here https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/larry-correia-bullshits-about-anti-infection-measures/ ) Brad was similar.
      Beale was a lot more prolific, I’ve got an equivalent number of posts from him on Covid as Hoyt but it’s all very aimless. I think he was a bit at a loss for a take on the whole thing until the vaccines showed up and he could go to town on that aspect.
      However, Beale and Correia are going to dominate the election stuff in the next chapter whereas Hoyt is sort of superfluous. I was going to quote Wright complaining that the church “cancelled easter” but the quote is from July (https://www.scifiwright.com/2020/07/secular-sharia/) and is just flippin’ weird even for Wright (and yet brief for a change!)

      Hoyt, for all her odd writing style tracked the trends a bit ahead of the curve.

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      1. Here in the U.K. there was a distinct split between the initial wave of anti-mask, anti-lockdown stuff – professionally produced with astroturf-y websites that linked to mostly libertarian and New World Order content on YouTube – and the wilder QAnon material that replaced them after the US election. Makes me wonder if Hoyt and Beale were getting their prompts on covid from different sources

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I think with Beale, he was either in northern Italy or Southern Switzerland and got a good look at covid doing its worse early on. So his posts are much more about different bioweapon theories – which are nonsense but don’t underplay the danger of the pandemic (if anything overplay it). US lockdowns were never as severe as the Northern Italy one and also that lockdown was obviously not some plot against Trump. So he ends up off message during this first period of the pandemic and it’s hard for him to recalibrate.

          These days he’s full-on vaccine-disinfo because he can work that into the plot.

          Put another way: the covtrarians were more than pseudolibertarian-boogaloo-militia RWNJ than the 4Chan-Gater-Alt-Right RWNJ at least initially

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            1. Especially since Trum had zero to do with any of the vaccines. The Biontech/Pfizer vaccine was developed by two Turkish immigrants to Germany. The Astrazeneca vaccine was developed by scientists at Oxford university in the UK. The Sputnik V vaccine was developed in Russia, the Sinopharm and Sinovax vaccines in China and one whose name escapes me in India. Only the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines were developed in the US and definitely not by Trump.

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            2. Dolly Parton would not make a bad US president at all. Not just better than Trump, cause a slice of toast would make a better president than Trump, but better than some of the reasonable ones.

              Liked by 2 people

            3. Dolly’s too smart to take the job. She just wants to compose and sing and donate massively to charity (including giving books to poor kids). Growing up unbelievably dirt poor, she has a lot of compassion and uses her money for good (Also her hair and makeup probably don’t take as long as TFG’s do).

              TFG was all bragging about his Operation Warp Speed on the vaccines and was all ready to take the credit for saving America, but then — oops — he deservedly lost the election and the GQP had to pivot to them being evil, to the point of him being booed over mentioning his at one of his Nuremberg rallies.

              Whereas Dolly got the shot of the vaccine she paid for with the money she EARNED (not inherited or swindled) live on YouTube, singing new words to “Vaccine” to the tune of “Jolene”.

              Liked by 2 people

        2. In Germany and Austria, some existing rightwing news sites jumped on the anti-covid bandwaggon. Some of the critical articles were not even bad, e.g. the so-called panic paper, where the German government admitted deliberately using the media to cause panic in populace to get them to take covid seriously (which was later proven to be 100% real) was first leaked via one of those fringe news sites. However, the environment in which those articles appeared – evil migrants, solar power will cause blackouts, we hate Angela Merkel, Putin is our friend, climate change is a fraud – was so awful that no one could link even to the few reasonable articles.

          By now, thankfully, there are a few mainstream newspapers and sites who offer critical coverage of anti-covid measures, while the fringe rightwing have gone back to the usual conspiracy theory mongering.

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  5. It’s funny to see Hoyt writing this: “And they’re losing relatively young (still working) and relatively healthy (no known big issues) people” when the later right wing Pravda would be the Covid was harmless to young healthy people (and that older, less healthy people had no value to society)

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I think you probably should acknowledge in there somewhere that there were early whistleblowers in China who were disappeared, and that the Chinese did initially try to cover up that there was an epidemic spreading there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My understanding is that it was the local authorities in Wuhan who initially tried to downplay the outbreak (but that the central government bears some responsibility in that it created a culture where admitting the existence of problems is discouraged; when the central government found out what was going on they jumped in both boots first.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I read somewhere that more recent research is thinking bats, due to genetic sequencing of bat guano near Wuhan matching the initial coronavirus.

        Also, spell check needs to add “coronavirus”.

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        1. SARS-CoV-2 is very closely related to a horseshoe bat virus called RaTG13 found in southeastern China, and also has sequences in the receptor binding domain that are closely related to pangolin viruses previously identified: the thinking is that these viruses had a divergence from a common ancestor of SARS-2 within the last 70 years… https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/7/20-0092_article … note for the conspiracy-prone: a “recombinant virus” does not mean *human-caused* “recombinant virus” the genetics of these kinds of entities recombines all the time on its own in nature

          Liked by 1 person

  7. the pre-recorded [Hugo ceremony] video presentation was over long and under-edited

    This well-sourced but somewhat scattershot observation is the Understatement Of The Year. 😀

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Imagine how much angst would have been save if somebody had just said the ceremony had a strict time limit. OK, we’d still get the mispronunciations and the weird ‘astoundings’ so maybe not that much angst

      Liked by 2 people

      1. To be fair, the mispronuciations were not fully GRRM’s fault. GRRM is apparently notoriously bad about pronouncing names and words. And CoNZealand had all the pronunciation info, because we gave it to them. But somehow, it never got passed on to GRRM.

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            1. At least online, people who were smarter than I am and who didn’t live tweet the ceremony could have slipped out of the hall once their category went by. That’s what Sarah Tolmie (my rep) did in 2019, and I was _so_ worried she’d tried to attend the losers party in my place. Huzzah, she did not.

              Liked by 2 people

            2. AH I DELETED PART. What I meant was

              At least online, people who were smarter than I am and who didn’t live tweet the ceremony could have logged off. Although in real space they could have slipped out of the hall once their category went by. That’s what Sarah Tolmie (my rep) did in 2019, and I was _so_ worried she’d tried to attend the losers party in my place. Huzzah, she did not.

              Liked by 3 people

            3. Well, lots of us did switch off the livestream, once our category had been called (and James and I were both lucky and only had to wait for two hours or so) and decamped to the virtual after-party.

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        1. I’ve heard the same thing–that GRRM never received that info. (My source was private and highly credible.)

          However, I speak 2 languages besides English, and I’ve lived and worked in 4 countries besides my native one, as well as traveling (sometimes for long periods) in many other countries. I have often mispronounced words and names in my own language and various other languages, and people all over the world, including fellow Americans in my own town or profession, have frequently mispronounced my name (and many of the titles of my books, too).

          This may be dismissed or even reviled as an attitude of white privilege (and if so, fair enough, since I am indeed white and have always been privileged by that condition), but I disagree with taking offense over mispronunciation unless you believe it was deliberately done to dismiss or insult.

          I didn’t watch the ceremony and don’t know what GRRM’s manner was in making those mispronunciations (and, again, I was subsequently told by a private, reliable source that GRRM was not given correct pronunciations).

          So: Was he attempting to offend, dismiss, and insult? Or was he just fumbling through names and words unfamiliar to him, as best he could

          The first would be inexcusable and merit the condemnation he has received. The second, however, is an honest but unsuccessful attempt at pronunciation, and I disagree with reviling, condemning, and humiliating someone for that.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I do believe that GRRM did not receive the pronunciation instructions. My issue with that is that if I was given the honor of emceeing a prestigious award ceremony, I would request — nay, demand — that I be provided with pronunciations in advance. And then I would practice them. That’s what a professional who is asked to emcee would do. It’s a matter of respect for the finalists, and of taking pride in doing a competent, professional job on the part of the emcee. GRRM did not care enough to do this.

            This was the comment I posted on File 770 in response to someone who insisted there was nothing malicious in GRRM’s Hugo Ceremony performance:
            I would buy that the chronic mispronunciation of finalist and winner names was the result of non-malicious arrogance, disinterest, and lack of respect, but there’s no one who will be able to convince me that the excessive, continuous repetition of Campbell’s name and stories about him was anything other than malicious retribution for the renaming of the Astounding Award.

            Liked by 1 person

  8. Tyop:
    On the other hand, science-fictions double-edged view of science as both saviour and existential threat…

    science fiction’s

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Again, Dangerous Tyops:

    “It was not even clear initially whether there had been cases of human-to-human transmission of the virus even as (as we know in retrospect) that it was spreading rapidly.” Delete “that”

    “This first stage of folding the future pandemic into the partisan US culture war therefor…” S/b “therefore”

    “The pushback against this name continued on the right for sometime.” S/b “some time”

    “At least initially, many developing nations were spared the impact of the disease while America and Western Europe became the areas with fastest growth (at least initially).” Delete one “at least initially” — the last one?

    “Hoyt’s claim was not that Covid-19 was fake but that the left and the Democrats and the media had created a panic which had duped everybody, including Trump and much of the Republican Party in to implementing…” “in to” S/b “into”

    “Naturally, within this paradigm of the pandemic as a an excuse for a left-wing plot…” Delete first “a”

    “(with the right convenionately ignoring all the reasons why Sweden might have reasonably hoped that lockdown’s could be avoided there, including the country’s approach to healthcare and work/life balance and high civic trust)”. S/b “conveniently” (or “conventionally?”) S/b “lockdowns”, no apostrophe.

    “Even in the event that cases number would be low enough for a convention would be able to run…” Possibly “case numbers”. Also “to be able to run”?

    “…that Muslim fans might face issues travelling into a Worlcon held in the US. Likewise non-US location presented a problem for US based fans who immigration status might be challenged by the more aggressive immigration controls at the US border.” S/b “Worldcon”. S/b “a non-US location”, or “non-US locations”. “who” s/b “whose”

    “CoNZealand (as the 2020 Worldcon named itself) attempted to solve it’s very specific problem…” S/b “its”

    “Perhaps inevitably CoNZealand ran into some of the same issues that had impacted other recent Worlcons.” S/b “Worldcons”

    Never heard of the Fringe Worldcon. Sounds like a great idea!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. So I read the Declan Door Disruption after the part 6 overview. Had it had any kind of self-insight, I’d have pegged it as a fannish tall tale instead of a forest of face palms. However my brain didn’t stop pestering me until I wrote this down:

    There are doors, as Gene once said
    but Declan didn’t believe
    except for “rules not for me but thee”
    There are regulations, they warned
    by signs and papers and pandemic sources.
    Especially Airport forces.

    There are doors, just as Gene said,
    and Declan’s faith was tested
    general alarm screamed and guards congested
    and ignored all his faith.
    As they hit Declan in both face and rump.
    A heavily fined chump.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I suspect that saga of Declan, Disruptor of Doors (even the name sounds like a lowrent sword and sorcery hero) will eventually become fannish legend, albeit one that is 100% true.

      Though I shouldn’t complain, cause I got a short story out of it.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I’m looking forward to seeing the Hugo short story long list to see where the Cold Crowdfunding Campaign showed up (I don’t think I’m the only one to have nominated it)

        Liked by 5 people

          1. Given how strong the short story ballot is this year, I’m not disappointed that “The Cold Crowdfunding Campaign” didn’t make it, though I have to admit I’m curious to see the longlist, too.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Also, in the extremely unlikely case “The Cold Crowdfunding Campaign” has not only been nominated, but won, I would have been obliged to thank Declan Finn, which would have been a very surreal experience.

              Liked by 3 people

  11. Declan, Disruptor of Doors

    Sounds like a low fantasy siege weapon. Or perhaps a hapless wizard who knows only one spell.
    “My liege! They’re bringing up Declan, Disruptor of Doors! We need to escape!”

    Liked by 5 people

    1. “We’re standing behind a wall, we’re fine. Besides,” the duke continued, “it takes him twice as long to cast that spell as it should. I asked our wizard if all the uncouth language is part of it, and he said no, Declan just can’t go that many sentences without foul words when he’s upset.”

      “Ah. I take your point, my liege. Oh, look, several of the men-at-arms have gone through the door and taken him into custody.”

      “Nothing to worry about there, let us concentrate on more serious matters.”

      (something something Dragons)

      Liked by 4 people

  12. I don’t think footnote 15 really is enough.

    Declan’s Door Disruption fits in perfectly with the White American Conservative mindset in general, and specifically about their lax attitude towards responsibility during the pandemic.

    I think you could usefully edit it to read “By the time Declan Finn had returned from Italy (breaching airport security on his way out),….”

    It’s such a pointed example of both the RWNJ and Puppy attitudes, and it only takes adding one clause!

    Then footnote 15 could instead explain the door, the fine, whatever.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Regarding footnote 19, the ski resorts in Colorado had some of the earliest non-East Coast cases, thanks to white people bringing it from Europe. My FILs nursing home closed down *way* before any widespread lockdowns because of that.

    So much for Hoyt’s purity.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I faintly recall that ski resorts in Colorado also ended the season early and sent remaining holidaymakers home.Plus, ski resorts heavily spread the virus early on. I think a third of all early European cases can be blamed on a single ski resort in Austria, where infected staff members spread the virus in packed bars.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think it was an Italian skier who had the first reported case in Colorado. He was definitely the case that locked down my FIL’s nursing home (up the interstate from Hoyt’s house), and probably others. The Italian might have gotten it from Austria, directly or indirectly. This was 3 weeks to a month before the major lockdowns happened in March.

        Probably about the same time she posted the fact-free rant in footnote 19, since I clearly remember they locked down so MIL couldn’t visit for Valentine’s Day, which naturally made her sad she couldn’t be with the only man she ever dated.

        Apparently Hoyt doesn’t even follow her local news. Quel surprise.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m in Colorado too, and it took a weirdly long time (from my perspective, which is decidedly non-expert) for the virus to get out of Summit County and into Denver. I was surprised.

      Also, I had not heard of Declan Finn’s adventure before this Debarkling, and I am amazed. Aside from everything else already mentioned, my favorite part is where he complains that he’s been awake for 12 hours and is tired, even though he’s also been sitting in an airport for that whole time and could have probably tried to sleep (I realize some people just can’t sleep in airports, but that’s not a detail that he provides).

      Liked by 3 people

            1. Three Days of the Disrupdoor: A Sad Puppy and his companion leave the Florence airport to pick up lunch from the American Embassy, and return to find that everyone has been murdered  closed up and gone home because of the pandemic, and the next-to-the-last plane out is already out on the runway. They panic and push through a door onto the tarmac, where they are chased by evil Carabinieri brandishing carbines who are trying to kill them  demanding that they pay €4,000 Euro or be held prisoner indefinitely.

              It turns out that the Pope’s last mass in Rome was actually a coded message about a rogue operation to persecute reactionary SFF writers, and the Italians were attempting to eliminate the monolingual Puppy who had witnessed it without realizing what it meant, so that the world would never find out that all of Italy hates reactionary SFF writers and intends to make their life a living hell. But the Puppy spoils their plan by escaping on the last plane out of Italy and releasing the story on his blog, where it is read by all 37 subscribers. The rest of the world remains blithely unaware of the Pope’s nefarious plan, which continues unabated.

              Liked by 2 people

        1. “Aren’t people generally awake for more than 12 hours on a daily basis?”

          To be fair to Declan (never thought I’d say that) a mid-day nap can be a thing of beauty. Not every day though. And usually only if I’ve done an early morning yoga class or something. Not, like, been sat around waiting for something, doing very little.

          Like

        2. He was saying 12 hours after having had less than 4 hours’ sleep the night before, and while frustrated in an airport. I can see it feeling like a ridiculous and exhausting stretch, even as I note almost all of it was self-imposed. I find air travel disproportionally exhausting when everything is going well, and I have never tried to breach airline security while deciding to fly to a place hit hard by a Pandemic.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. I’ve had some harrowing airport experiences, usually ending up in pain, no sleep AT ALL before/on a trans-Atlantic one (I think I pulled about 3-4 hours’ broken sleep in 36 or more), and several times getting the last plane of the night out of wherever to wherever, but I’ve never once been tempted to breach airport security, even before 9/11, even when sitting on the hard floor of an airport gate area surrounded by all my stuff and many other cranky people. None of which was my own doing, it’s always been planes diverted/unavailable or cancelled/late because of severe weather.* Yet I managed to suck it up and not whine during or afterwards.

            Without ever deciding it was a swell idea to travel during a pandemic, or even a minor unpleasantness.

            I did run across the tarmac once, but the gate was open and they were holding the plane at the small airport just barely long enough for me to run and hustle up the stairs so I could make a connection at the big airport to get said last plane home. The lovely gate agent was on the horn with the pilot “Here she comes!” and the stewardess brought me water immediately.

            I suspect he was too stupid (“Well, yeah, Lurkertype, we’ve established that.” “Hush, let me finish.”) to have bought trip cancellation insurance, so he felt he had to go even though it was going to suck. It really doesn’t cost that much, particularly vis a vis intercontinental travel; certainly less than all his to-ing and fro-ing and being arrested and fined by the cops did.

            I mean, Italy and the Vatican have been there for centuries, I’m thinking they’ll still be there in a couple years. And fully open to boot.

            *The airlines are very reluctant to let small planes fly during thunderstorms/tornadoes in the Midwest for some reason.

            Liked by 2 people

  14. Same. Long driving trips and air trips tend to just suck everything out of me. And I can’t sleep well in planes, trains, buses, or cars, so by the time I get where I’m going, I’m a lot more tired than when I started. If I have to fly to other countries, I always build in an extra day at the beginning and at the end, for personal well-being recovery.

    But yes, everything here was pretty much self-inflicted by Declan, and for him, my sympathy jar is empty.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Good grief. Looking at these direct quotes, and reading a couple of the blog essays in full (you previously posted a long set of links to SH blogs relevant to this essay), my jaw is hanging open. She comes across as a perfect storm of ignorance, misinformation, toxic paranoia, arrogance, malice, and paranoia.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. And I said paranoia TWICE, didn’t I?

        My excuse is that I guided 9 tours in 2 days and am a zombie today. A little while ago, I kept asking head of my rescue group for the date to take these foster kittens in for their surgery. She kept reply, “12/14.” And I kept replying, “But I need the date.” So… I am not at my most coherent and lucid today….

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        1. Given Hoyt’s comments along the lines of ‘I’ll continue posting as long as I’m allowed on line. I’m sure it won’t be a full year.’… I don’t think stating paranoia twice is overstating it.

          Liked by 3 people

          1. It is the perfect word, so might as well use it twice. I don’t think the thesaurus contains any better ones. You could have been putting the extra one in for emphasis. Particularly as “toxic paranoia” and “paranoia” are slightly different things, which I’d buy both exist in her; the latter personal, the former what she spreads.

            Also, kitten rescuers have a good excuse for many minor tyops.

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  16. Gah! You’re killing the Footnote Patrol with that [0] coming after [1] in the body of the chapter.

    Footnote [8]: Cold War

    Need [10], [16], [19], [24], and [26] in the body.

    Liked by 1 person

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