Almost two weeks ago, subscribers to Politicalmath’s substack were able to watch a dialogue I had with him about reconciliation, learning from opposing points of view, and life. Kevin Glass wrote that the video is “kind of about COVID, but definitely about how Twitter is bad.”
Below the video, I outline it for those who don’t like watching videos. I add a few links and additional comments in brackets.
0:25-1:20: My introduction. I explain what first inspired me to create the BadCOVID19Takes account—this snippet is from the original March 15 version of Richard Epstein’s infamous “Coronavirus isn’t a Pandemic” article:
1:20-4:30: Poli explains our relationship: how my account seemingly nuked him out of nowhere for a couple of tweets deep into threads. [I wrote about this at length from my perspective in “the Politicalmath take.”]
4:30-7:30: Poli fast-forwards to August when he realized I was not being mean to him and “kept coming” with fair commentary. Poli says our followings might learn from a dialogue, and that it might be useful to learn how we can meet in the middle and understand different perspectives generally.
7:30-9:30: I explain that I’ve come to believe that cheap dunks on people—like the tweets I featured from him—are not helpful in a pandemic.
9:30-11:50: Poli says he’s trying real hard not to dunk. [I have to link this clip.] He tries to be charitable. Screaming doesn’t help. Twitter is not real life. [I agree! Honestly, it’s embarrassing to me that some of my most successful tweets are cheap dunks.]
11:50-13:35: I reply that understanding is very important for running BadCOVID19Takes—I need to at least understand what kinds of takes will be interpreted as self-owns or backfire among the audience of persuadable people I’d like to reach. I mention the widely-believed story that COVID restrictions are only disappearing because of the Biden inauguration, when in fact restrictions have eased because the virus is currently retreating.
13:35- : Poli observes that many on twitter are incapable of viewing events outside the lens of politics, which is weird because health departments are professional and generally apolitical. Some of the biggest failures are not partisan political.
16:00-20:30: I agree, and complain that the Overton Window for virus policy has been remarkably narrow and mostly unenforced. I opine that senseless exceptions to restrictions make people angry and more inclined to disrespect all rules without overarching logic. I wish we had tried something more ambitious. [I was thinking of this Yglesias tweet:]
Stephen Judkins @stephenjudkinsAll the people ascribing East Asia's success at containing the pandemic to some sort of inscrutable oriental collectivist culture thing [gong sound] need to shut up. Goddamn Australians were able to figure it out, why couldn't we?
20:30-25:00: Poli notes that Hawaii has been the most successful in the United States at something like suppression. Life without in-person schools is hard on kids and parents. The social norms in Seattle are much stricter than Georgia, probably because of everyone in tech working from home. In Washington he’s treated like a daredevil, but in Georgia he’s perceived on the extremely cautious end of the spectrum.
25:00-28:00: I agree. Tech was ahead of the curve. Private mitigation is underrated and makes it hard to compare states based on formal policy because the norms are enforced mostly voluntarily. I agree with his Hawaii point, but think Vermont and Maine also offer clues to how compartmentalized isolation could work. (Also some talk about Utah, where I was raised.)
28:00-29:20: Poli notes that interstate travel makes it hard to do something like Australia; state boundaries are arbitrary and metros span them. I agree, but just wish we had tried.
29:20-34:20: More talk about Utah and how the LDS Church approached the pandemic. We both agree it was good. Teaser: Political math has unpublished work about church responses to the virus, and wishes evangelical churches had the organizational capabilities of the LDS Church. I also confirm that some large Mormon families get COVID at the same time.
34:20-38:30: Poli talks about how he lost his dad about two years ago and was struck by how I wrote (in “the Politicalmath Take”) that I’d lost mine at almost the same time. I’m a little coy, but explain I believe lives can be saved at the margins—that’s why I run the account. As advice I offer: don’t be angry with people for dumb reasons. I was often angry with my dad through my life, but had made complete peace before he unexpectedly died, and our last meeting was happy. [When you’re forced to say goodbye, it’s much easier to do on those terms.]
38:30-42:10: Poli agrees, and talks about reorienting his life due to the pandemic, to be closer home. Don’t be angry for dumb reasons; you don’t want to regret dumb things. When movies come out about this era, the realignment will be a big deal.
[He says in another section of his subscribers-only post featuring this video “I believe very strongly that, in 10-20 years, the children of this pandemic are going to start making art about their experiences. I don’t think it will be gentle or kind.”]
42:10-43:00: I agree there’s a realignment of priorities. People aren’t moving to resort towns; they’re going home, to be with people they care about.