Stupider and Stupider: Does Keeping Up with Covid-19 Lower Your IQ?

I swear there are days when I slap my own head to make sure I’m not imagining the covidiocy streaming in from the outside world through my tiny cocoon’s ten inch tech portal. There’s no other way to describe it, I’m afraid, despite the fact that particular trite pandemicism was coined less than two months ago, so should already be outta style.

‘Full-on fuckery’ comes to mind, but I hate to offend.

By now, keeping abreast with pandemic facts has become part of my working day, which I believe is the responsible approach to take. But man, it’s difficult to find only the facts, the real truth and nothing but, in a world where opinion reigns supremo. Literally. Check the live-streamed daily circus conducted by the Pandemic Pumpkinhead himself, who’s Dunning-Kruger rating is at least a Level 4 – “Sovereign of Stupidity”, if not a full throttle Level 5 – “Fuckwit King”.

A PSA from The Milwaukee Independent on 24/04/2020

In hope of conserving my IQ points, I don’t go near the daily feeble-minded task farce. I wait for the funny guys to rip it apart overnight and give me something to smile ironically at in the morning with my coffee. The filter I choose is humour, although it helps that they’re all on the same page as me in terms of a general world view. They’re also – sad to say – not as funny as they used to be. A syndrome called Late-Night-Host Burnout started to set in three years ago with the election of a monomaniacal manchild, and now they can’t find enough ways to say “I feckin’ told you so!” from the comfort of their own homes.

After getting away from the big-screen luxury of hotel quarantine, I started off watching two official briefs every day – the first was Governor Cuomo’s from New York around 11am [same time zone as me] and the second was from an ever-growing cast of UK government spokespeople a bit later [five hours ahead of me]. My quest for solid information was taking more than two hours every day.

For two weeks, my usual working-at-home habits were perforated with lengthy live streams of death statistics, testing needs, wildly differing models, cheesy slogan mantras and undistinguished Powerpoint 101 presentations in a “political-but-trying-to-sound-not-at-all-political” tone that eventually started sounding too much like marketing.

Sometimes irony is on the nose…

The commentary around the daily UK brief became dense with explanation from numbskullian newsreaders that these numbers were the UK numbers but not quite because Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland number counters count theirs differently, on a different schedule, therefore mucking up the whole credibility and concept of a daily brief. Why England’s numbers still don’t include care home deaths is beyond me, and sounds like more marketing. Why they can’t just make one accurate collated statement a day is symbolic and shambolic.

The trouble with cable TV news in a pandemic is that you end up knowing a few things very well, because they are delivered 10 times x 24 hours a day in biteable chunks – if you get obsessed with watching for hours like I did in my quarant-otel room. You only know those ‘facts’ through the filter of the news corporation on screen at any one time: CNN, BBC, EuroNews being the limited options on Flow’s shitty basic package. One ‘fact’ can generate ten minutes of passionate coulda-woulda-shouldaing from talking heads who all this time have essentially been just faces in boxes on talk shows masquerading as news.

Believe me, I CAN HANDLE the Truth!

Verified truths unskewed by politicism, emotion or opinion.

Who thought it would be so difficult to feel confident in ‘facts’ delivered by elected governments ‘live and direct’ across the internet, at a time when we need to trust those facts for our personal survival?

Choosing which filter you watch the news through is a reasonably young phenomenon for 50-somethings like me who grew up with two TV options: BBC and ITV. In Northern Ireland around tea time, we had the local news, then the national news, and you watched your loyal parents’ channel of choice religiously. Well, the adults watched and there was only one TV set. The kids were expected to shut up or disappear, and the latter was preferable to me and my primary schooler siblings. We’d bolt into the sitting room to play Monopoly or run around outside if the brighter evenings were in.

Anyway, around 6pm on the streets of West Belfast, you’d rarely see any adult on the street gossiping because they were ensconced on the sofa – with a tray of dinner if they were lucky – watching the Evening News like their lives depended on it.

And they did. It was the 1970s, so The Troubles supplied plenty of gritty newscast content from riots to bombings to shootings to shouty politician pastors who yelled so loud, one of us kids would have to jump up and turn down the volume knob if we hadn’t already escaped the scene.

Years later, we discovered just how much that daily fix of “news” was biased and twisted by self-interested journalism, political corruption and worse. Just watch Netflix’s affecting documentary about the community-shattering slaughter of the Miami Showband if you want an insight on how it is to relearn the “facts” of your past.

Lost Lives: A 2004 book by a group of friends that became a heartbreaking film in 2019.

That’s just one of thousands of of stories created by 40 years of ‘political struggle’, in which 3637 people lost their lives through violence.

In the UK, Covid-19 has taken 33,614 lives as of today {14/05/2020].

So here I am, with a world of internet news feeds at my fingertips and all the paranoia of a conspiracy theorist on a bad acid trip, at which point there’s a brown-out in my melted brain and I ask myself why the hell it matters at all, what’s going on hour by hour in the world outside these 238 square miles of Saint Lucia? And off I go to watch something to remind me of “the old normal” for an hour or two – like Shrek or Finding Nemo.

Of course, reading is the answer. Watching and listening to “facts” spewing forth from some horses’ mouths, can [allegedly] cause mental anxiety and high pressure, leading to increased alcohol consumption, spontaneous episodes of Tourettes directed at the TV and other unusual symptoms deleterious to your already threatened health. Reading is this writer’s preferred method of taking in data – although I do love a great bar chart thrown in for the edification of my inner science nerd.

More accurately, the Covid-19 forecast models and relentlessly changing numbers scratch a corporate memory itch, a reminder to flex the same neurons that once allowed me to apply acrobatic mental arithmetic to the nuanced trends of six different countries’ merchandise sales performance v budget on a weekly basis. And an OECS one of all that! To say nothing of being conversant in EBITDA…

There are two sides to everyone’s story.

My left brain had a daily workout for almost thirty years in a career that evolved from computer operations in Brighton to retail buying in Saint Lucia. Wordsmith came about when my whole brain disintegrated under the pressure of a director-level corporate job that required me to care more about cents on the dollar than any human being or their wellbeing. But that’s another chapter in my story.

Right now, there has to be some sort of data-intake strategy if I’m going to stay productive and earn a kwas with my right brain, so adopting the voluntary post of Personal Pandemic Correspondent for Marisule, I’ve settled on a once-a-day-towards-the-evening global-research-roundup that covers Belfast, UK, Caribbean with focus on Dominican Republic and Saint Lucia. Enough to keep me unfearful for my family and friends, and to have an informed conversation with the regulars at Boardwalk Bar should the opportunity ever arise.

But please don’t ask me what the hideous hell is going on in the big, wide world. I jus deh, minding my own business.