Wednesday, May 12, 2021

MIT Researchers Infiltrated a Covid-19 Lockdown/Mask Skeptics Community: This is What They Found

There is an amazing paper out by mostly MIT researchers that was published earlier this year (ht Mark Changizi)

The researchers are unquestionably faucists but in their infiltration and reporting on COVID-19 lockdown/mask skeptics, they are forced to admit that the skeptics have a sophisticated understanding of how science visualizations are constructed and the skeptics' understanding is grounded in scientific rigor.

 From the paper: Viral Visualizations: How Coronavirus Skeptics Use Orthodox Data Practices to Promote Unorthodox Science Online by Crystal Lee (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Tanya (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Gabrielle Inchoco (Wellesley College), Graham M. Jones (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Arvind Satyanarayan (Massachusetts Institute of Technology):

This paper investigates how these activist networks use rhetorics of scientific rigor to oppose these public health measures. Far from ignoring scientific evidence to argue for individual freedom, antimaskers often engage deeply with public datasets and make what we call “counter-visualizations”—visualizations using orthodox methods to make unorthodox arguments—to challenge mainstream narratives that the pandemic is urgent and ongoing. By asking community members to “follow the data,” these groups mobilize data visualizations to support significant local changes.

Indeed, anti-maskers often reveal themselves to be more sophisticated in their understanding of how scientific knowledge is socially constructed than their ideological adversaries, who espouse naive realism about the “objective” truth of public health data.


Many of these tweets use area and line charts to show the discrepancy between the number of projected deaths in previous epidemiological and the numbers of actual fatalities. Others use unit visualizations, tables, and bar charts to compare the severity of coronavirus to the flu. In total, this figure shows the breadth of visualization types that anti-mask users employ to illustrate that the pandemic is exaggerated.

[A]nti-maskers value unmediated access to information and privilege personal research and direct reading over “expert” interpretations.

For these anti-mask users, their approach to the pandemic is grounded in more scientific rigor, not less.


The message that runs through these threads is unequivocal: that data is the only way to set fear-bound politicians straight, and using better data is a surefire way towards creating a safer community.


Anti-maskers have deftly used social media to constitute a cultural and discursive arena devoted to addressing the pandemic and its fallout through practices of data literacy. Data literacy is a quintessential criterion for membership within the community they have created. The prestige of both individual anti-maskers and the larger Facebook groups to which they belong is tied to displays of skill in accessing, interpreting, critiquing, and visualizing data...

Arguing that anti-maskers simply need more scientific literacy is to characterize their approach as uninformed and inexplicably extreme. This study shows the opposite: users in these communities are deeply invested in forms of critique and knowledge production that they recognize as markers of scientific expertise. If anything, anti-mask science has extended the traditional tools of data analysis by taking up the theoretical mantle of recent critical studies of visualization.
[T]he explicit motivation for many of these followers is to find information so that they can make the best decisions for their families—and by extension, for the communities around them.

In the end, however, the faucist MIT researchers then object to the independent thinking and bizarrely link the rigorous analysis to tobacco and fossil fuel industries promoting independent thinking and, get this, they also link it to the January 6 storming of the Capitol. They then conclude they are horrified by the independent thinking : 

Powerful research and media organizations paid for by the tobacco or fossil fuel industries [79, 86] have historically capitalized on the skeptical impulse that the “science simply isn’t settled,” prompting people to simply “think for themselves” to horrifying ends. The attempted coup on January 6, 2021 has similarly illustrated that well-calibrated, wellfunded systems of coordinated disinformation can be particularly dangerous when they are designed to appeal to skeptical people.

While individual insurrectionists are no doubt to blame for their own acts of violence, the coup relied on a collective effort fanned by people questioning, interacting, and sharing these ideas with other people. These skeptical narratives are powerful because they resonate with these these people’s lived experience and—crucially— because they are posted by influential accounts across influential platforms.



  1. Well I would expect MIT to get the facts correct in the dat collection part of the paper. The conclusions are usually where you spin the bullshit narrative the funding sponsors want to hear. The same goes for the climate and medical research papers. I speak from experience as a science researcher myself who has had to play this game from time to time. Just ignore the conclusion/interpretation portions of these studies and form your own conclusions. This MIT study is ironic in many ways. It a microcosm of the very subject of their own study, and their conclusion fails to make sense of their own data as do the studies the antimaskers refer to that they cite.

    1. "...narrative the funding sponsors want to hear."

      Funded by: DHS Domestic Terror Branch (and taxpayers, subsidizing "higher education.")


    2. "This MIT study is ... a microcosm of the very subject of their own study, and their conclusion fails to make sense of their own data."


    3. May I see your papers, please? You are accused of independent thinking!

  2. I have dabbled in many different areas of science since childhood. What I have found is that the educated anti-establishment position is almost always the stronger position. Why? Because it has to be. People who agree with the prevailing theories and narratives do not have to be rigorous and often can openly cheat violating rules often taught in grade school science classes. Those that disagree must have perfectly sound arguments. Flawless. No cheating, no misrepresentations, and using the best official data sets.

    The end result is just like that paper. They attack the person and appeal to authority and consensus. That is rely on political and social dominance not science.

    I have seen this in everything from climate change to archeology to geology to this pandemic and every other scientific field I have ever studied. It also appears in engineering where government gets involved. One of the first big instances I learned of was the support for the 55mph NMSL. Since then I see the same techniques over and over again to support a political lie that's called scientific.

    These aspects also extend into the so-called social sciences and economics and other fields that try to pretend they are scientific.

    The establishment is usually technically and scientifically weak, the opposition is forges their arguments in fire.

    1. Brilliant comment, nicely dissected!

  3. Iron Law of Woke Projection

    e.g. Big Pharma and their captured regulators are the Tobacco companies and their doctor promoters of old.

    It is fascinating that the conclusions that are currently considered fringe are the same conclusions that were reached by EVERYONE prior to the 99.9% survival plague.

    Nothing to see here folks.

    1. "law of woke projection" = perfect!

  4. Firstly, this is perhaps the most hilarious academic paper I've come across. It's going to age extremely well. If you like comedy. It's 18 pages telling you that "thinking" is bad. This whole paper reads like a Monty Python sketch.

    Secondly, since they name some names in here, many of which I follow on social media and greatly respect, let's ask a very important question (oh shit there I go again, thinking...):

    What has been the contribution to our knowledge of Covid-19 made by the authors of this paper?

    Crystal Lee
    Tanya Yang
    Gabrielle Inchoco
    Graham Jones
    Arvand Satyanarayan

    What great leaps in any field of knowledge have these fools made?

    1. As I suspected. This was posted on el gato malo's substack:

      "crystal Lee is funded by WEF/Gates crowd.

      Her only citations are her own posters referencing her own paper."

      Thread here:

  5. "faucist" = perfect!

  6. the conclusion of "attempted coup" throws the rest of their observations into doubt.

  7. Some additional nuggets from the article/study:

    "These individuals as a whole are extremely willing to help others who have trouble interpreting graphs with multiple forms of clarification: by helping people find the original sources so that they can replicate the analysis themselves, by referencing other reputable studies that come to the same conclusions, by reminding others to remain vigilant about the limitations of the data, and by answering questions about the implications of a specific graph."

    "Most fundamentally, the groups we studied believe that science is a process, and not an institution."

    "Its members value individual initiative and ingenuity, trusting scientific analysis only insofar as they can replicate it themselves by accessing and manipulating the data firsthand."

    "Many of the users believe that the most important metrics are missing from government-released data." "One user wrote: 'Coding data is a big deal—and those definitions should be offered transparently by every state. Without a national guideline—we are left with this mess'."

    "The lack of transparency within these data collection systems—which many of these users infer as a lack of honesty—erodes these users’ trust within both government institutions and the datasets they release."

    "We argue that anti-maskers’ deep story draws from similar wells of resentment, but adds a particular emphasis on the usurpation of scientific knowledge by a paternalistic, condescending elite that expects intellectual subservience rather than critical thinking from the public."

  8. As a MIT graduate, this paper is an embarrassment. It would never be published in a peer reviewed journal.

    1. As an MIT graduate, this paper is just the kind of ground breaking study in social studies other institutions should be pursuing.

  9. Who funded this study? Was it maybe Robert Kennedy, Jr.? Tucker Carlson? James Randi?

    No, no, and no.

    "This project was supported by NSF Award 1900991, NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant 1941577, an SSRC Social Data Dissertation Fellowship, and the MIT Programs for Digital Humanities."


    If you don't give Massa the results he demands, he'll never pay you for anything ever again.