Prospectus for BadCOVID19Takes
What this newsletter is about
Why I’m starting a substack
I’ve spent entirely too much time this year observing, chronicling, curating, and explaining Bad COVID19 Takes on my Twitter account of that name. I spend most of my time researching and explaining how and why takes are bad. I think these “context” tweets are the most valuable thing I add.
But as the year closes, I see that the most successful tweets have little to do with any time I spend. The most successful tweets feature (1) widely-hated minor celebrities saying something that can be (2) easily understood and (3) easily mocked. I can’t control what Twitter celebrities say.
On Twitter, the time I spend researching bad takes translate into thoroughly scattered extemporaneous remarks—virtually useless long-term.
I’d like to create something of more enduring value than dragging minor celebrities.
What will I write about
I will be writing about bad COVID takes, how they spread, and the people who spread them. I aim to write posts at least twice a week; sometimes they will be short.
You should not follow this substack for breaking news about the virus. First, bad takes are always a lagging indicator. It’s December, but the urban legends from March still haunt us. Second, as discussed below, I am not an expert on SARS-CoV-2 or related issues. My expertise (the time I’ve spent) is in tracking rascally misinformation spreaders.
Who I am
I am a lawyer with no specialized knowledge about virology or epidemiology.
That said, through work experience, I am fluent in pharma. I used to litigate pharmaceutical patents (Hatch-Waxman litigation, which is when generic drug companies sue patent-holding brands to launch a competing generic drug). In this role, I waded through new drug applications, which are ponderous things submitted to the FDA on cross-linked DVD-ROMS spanning tens or even hundreds of thousands of PDF pages. Public briefing documents about vaccines are practically just abstracts summarizing new drug applications, which few people ever see because they are considered confidential business information and therefore exempt from FOIA. (Also, before going to law school, I worked as a lowly quality control chemist at an medical devices company.)
Again, I do not want to pretend expertise. But at the same time, I will not hesitate to call out cranks for misusing scientific and FDA documents, and I will liberally link to folks who are experts.
Why you should read my substack
I hope that you find it interesting. I do.
And if you don’t, I’m fatalistic about it. A friend of mine said that BadCOVID19Takes is one of the worst and most toxic recent accounts on Twitter. He might be right!
I think documenting the spread of misinformation is interesting and actually useful to the world. Maybe by starting this substack I’ll learn no one else agrees.