CDC Rigs Its Own Monkeypox Case Reports by Not Including Questions on Airborne Transmission

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

This short and sweet post will have two parts. First, I will show that the CDC Monkeypox case report form omits amy questions about airborne transmission. Then I will show why that’s a bad idea, inexplicable given CDC’s previous documentation on this point.

Caveat: I am not saying that “Monkeypox is airborne.” To my knowledge, we don’t have epidemiological studies of the same quality we have with Covid; the kind with seat charts and diagrams of airflow (as in the famous Skagit Valley chorus study, but with many others); that is the kind of evidence I rate highest, most of all because such studies show me how to imagine the ground and what to do. However, we do have sufficient information not to rule out airborne transmission altogether, as I will show. That CDC does this a priori — and at the start of what we all hope is not the start of another global pandemic on the order of Covid — is mind-boggling, or would be mind-boggling if we had not, by this time, had plenty of experience with how “The Centers for Disease” operates. They have form.

* * *

First, let’s look at the CDC case report, “OMB No. 0920-1011.” We have the “Short Form,” designed to be filled out by state or local health officials. We also have the “Data Dictionary Codebook” (same OMB number), which documents the database fields that will be populated by Short Form data entry. Both are embedded in the Appendix to this post. (The name “Short Form” suggests the existence of a “Long Form,” probably populating database fields unused by the Short Form, but if such a form exists, I haven’t seen it.

From transmission, the key section in the Short From is “History of Possible Exposures.” Here it is:

As you can see, the structured portion of the form (i.e. checkboxes and radio buttons) does not permit any representation of airborne transmission (certainly not a “fleeting contact” such as has occurred with Covid); airborne tranmission is ruled out a priori[1].

An interviewer desperate to somehow cram information about airborne transmission into the form could use the following text fields (“location of exposure,” “additional details”):

However, exactly because such data would be unstructured and unstandardized, it’s not likely to make it into any reports generated from the database.

We now turn to the Data Dictionary Codebook. As you can see, fields on the Short Form are mapped to fields in a database. Here is an example of how the documentation is structured:

As you can see, the basic structure is a series of field/value pairs, mutually exclusive (ORed radio buttons) or not (ANDed checkboxes). Hilariously, I found this field while searching for “air” (“prairie”); no such luck. “Prairie Dog” strongly suggests that the Data Dictionary dates from no later than 2003, when “All people infected with monkeypox in this outbreak became ill after having contact with pet prairie dogs. The pets were infected after being housed near imported small mammals from Ghana. This was the first time that human monkeypox was reported outside of Africa.” But no doubt our thinking, and our fields, have been updated since that time.

We can also see from this example that the CodeBook contains many fields that are not used in the Short Form. Here is another example:

The word “mask” does not appear in the Short Form.

I scanned the entire codebook, and I can’t find any fields that would store data relevant to airborne transmission in the general case. (You can check my work in the Appendix.) For example, the famous Japanese 3Cs — closed spaces (with poor ventilation), crowded places (with many people nearby), and close-contact settings (such as close-range conversations), are highly structured and would lend themselves well to representation in a database. Here are more suggestions:

We can conclude, then, that CDC simply is not enquiring into airborne transmission of Monkeypox. They have ruled it out, a priori. However, if you go by existing literature — including from the CDC itself — there’s plenty of reason consider it a real possibllity. To that literature we now turn.

* * *

First, from KHN, “CDC Posts, Then Deletes, Guidance On Airborne Risks Of Monkeypox“:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it removed the recommendation that travelers worried about monkeypox should wear a mask because it was causing confusion. Although public health officials have been linking many of the cases in this outbreak to close sexual contacts, monkeypox can also be spread through the air for short distances.

This is one of KHN’s handy wrap-ups. From the New York Times, “Monkeypox Can Be Airborne, Too.” So why not collect data on airborne transmision of monkeypox, if only to rule it out?

Then there’s Nature, “How does monkeypox spread? What scientists know.” What we “know” seems solid:

Several studies… show that few people contract the disease from an infected household member with whom they didn’t have sexual contact. This finding, paired with the data about viral load, suggests that respiratory droplets and airborne particles probably aren’t the primary transmission route… If corroborated by further research [which CDC has decided not to do, because reasons], it could call into question whether people should isolate for the entire duration of infection, which might be difficult because the illness seems to take up to a month to resolve, she adds.

But what we “know” melts into air:

Even if the virus can be sexually transmitted, it’s unclear how large of a role this mode of transmission has, compared with simply being in close, skin-to-skin contact with a person or inhaling their respiratory particles [gawd, they can never say “aerosols”] — which also occur during sex.

Put more pointedly, during sex — hear me out — people share air, so any theory of skin-to-skin contact has an enormous confounding factor. So why not collect data on airborne transmision of monkeypox, if only to rule it out?

Now let’s do a (frankly cursory) review of the literature on airborne transmission of monkeypox.

CDC, “Smallpox & Other Orthopoxvirus-Associated Infections.” Here is CDC scrubbing it:

CDC, “Hospital Respiratory Protection Program Toolkit“:

CDC, “Potential Exposure to Person with Confirmed Human Monkeypox Infection” (via):

CDC, “Monkeypox in the Democratic Republic of the Congo“:

Coughing and sneezing is possibly droplets (loogies, ballistic). Talking (like singing) certainly includes aerosols, i.e. transmission is airborne.

But wait, there’s more from the CDC:

GOV.UK, “High consequence infectious diseases (HCID)“:

And finally, Clinical Infectious Diseases, “The Clinical Characteristics of Human Monkeypox, and Risk Factors for Severe Disease.” Figure 1 lists the upper and lower respiratory tract symptoms — arguably related to breathing, not touch — the researchers studied.:

Oddly, the CDC’s “Short Form” has eliminated all these symptoms, even coughing:

Again, why not collect data on airborne transmision of monkeypox, if only to rule it out?

* * *

In list form:

1) Why won’t CDC collect data on airborne transmission of monkeypox, if only to rule it out?

2) Why won’t CDC collect data on airborne transmission of monkeypox, if only to rule it out?

3) Why won’t CDC collect data on airborne transmission of monkeypox, if only to rule it out?

4) Why won’t CDC collect data on airborne transmission of monkeypox, if only to rule it out?

5) Why won’t CDC collect data on airborne transmission of monkeypox, if only to rule it out?

6) Why won’t CDC collect data on airborne transmission of monkeypox, if only to rule it out?

7) Why won’t CDC collect data on airborne transmission of monkeypox, if only to rule it out?

8) Why won’t CDC collect data on airborne transmission of monkeypox, if only to rule it out?

9) Why won’t CDC collect data on airborne transmission of monkeypox, if only to rule it out?

10) Why won’t CDC collect data on airborne transmission of monkeypox, if only to rule it out?

And so forth. One hesitates to use the word “farce” for CDC”s “science” here, if only because stronger words come to mind.


[1] CDC might not be so strong on transmission, but hoo boy! Did they lavish attention on data structures for gender and race (although not, naturally, proxies for class like income or education level).

APPENDIX: CDC Form OMB No. 0920-1011E (“Short Form”) and Data Dictionary Codebook

The Short Form:


The Data Dictionary Codebook:

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Bsn

    Oh My, CDC, Center for Disease Confusion. It’s sad the when (most likely) the Republicans take control of congress in a few months, they may chase down people like Fauchi, Walensky et all, but …. the Repubs are beholden to Wall St., Blackrock etc. So, just as with the Democrats it will continue to be a clown show as more and more people die needlessly.

  2. drumlin woodchuckles

    Why would they do that? To help it spread better by keeping its spread a secret from every single person who doesn’t read this post?

    If that isn’t the motive ( secretly facilitating the secret spread of WHOpox deliberately on purpose), then what is the motive? Does anyone else have any ideas? “On purpose” is the only motive I can think of.

    1. Raymond Sim

      “On purpose” is the only motive I can think of.

      This is where I was with Covid back in mid-2020. I think it’s pretty clear now that CDC’s policy was indeed to promote the spread of the disease. I think that’s what’s happening with monkeypox now.

      I think there’s an escalator effect with coverups, and perpetrators don’t generally perceive the one step too far that brings things crashing down before they take it. Unfortunately, outsiders who can can identify the coverups as they happen aren’t necessarily any better positioned to know what it will take to remove the scales from people’s eyes.

  3. Tibbett

    Sometimes I wonder if Hanlon’s Razor is being twisted around to enable malice via feigned incompetance.

    1. Acacia

      Yeah, and maybe we need a revised version of Hanlon’s razor that incorporates Upton Sinclair:

      It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

      …because it really seems like that’s what we’re dealing with here.

      USian leadership and organizations like the CDC are incompetent because all of these people are essentially front men (bag men?) for corporate interests. That’s mostly what these high-level bureaucrats are doing, really, and so actual competence isn’t required. Ditto for all the Congresscritters who just rubber stamp contracts laws prepared for them by corporate lobbyists and lawyers.

      1. Medbh

        “USian leadership and organizations like the CDC are incompetent because all of these people are essentially front men (bag men?) for corporate interests.”

        That was my initial explanation too, but you’d think CEOs would be able to think more than 3 months in advance. The airlines demanded the elimination of mask mandates, and now flights are constantly being cancelled and airports are in chaos.

        Covid has cognitive effects, and a significant portion of people end up with long covid. They’re going to run out of employees who can do the work, even if they reduce licensing requirements. Pilots cannot be conjured out of thin air.

        Same issue applies to hospitals and clinics, or IT, or any the other business that requires years of training or experience, and complex cognitive work.

        The CEOs’ behavior makes no sense. The consequences of their actions and going to hit them now, not 10 years in the future.

        I understand that there are sociopaths out there, but what’s really scary is not understanding what they’re up to. Their decisions don’t make any business sense, even if they were only interested in their own success.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          How many of the CEOs themselves have either long covid and/or stealth after-covid brain cell damage and hence have bio-physically compromised brains organically non-capable of any kind of coherent thought at all?

          In other words, how many mid-and-high-level executives of various kinds already have the covid-equivalent of early alzheimers and are high-functioning dement@rds at this point?

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Covid has cognitive effects

          See this post on brain-damaged elites. It’s hard to believe that they’re all going around infecting each other, but it seems to be true. They hate masks, they love their parties and conferences, they’ve had their shots and can take a drug, and they think they’re invulnerable (possibly because of the superior genes that enabled them to take their exalted positions). It’s nuts.

          “A sociopathic elite is one thing, that we’re used to; but a sociopathic elite with brain damage is quite another.”

          1. Basil Pesto

            one of the perhaps more ~out there~ hypotheses I’ve seen floating around is that Covid infection can alter human (and perhaps other mammal?) behaviour by making the infectee more gregarious, and therefore more likely to contribute to attend social situations with superspreader potential. I can’t attest to how much weight this hypothesis holds but it is an interesting idea.

  4. Tom Stone

    The answer is to require those making less than $200K annually to wear masks in all public settings on penalty of 10 years in Prison.
    Exemptions could be granted on a case by case basis with those so exempted being tattooed on the forehead with an appropriate symbol.

  5. Lex

    Of course monkeypox can be transmitted through air. It is unlikely to be fully aerosolized as Covid can be, but rather do its airborne transmission through droplets. Not only is that common for viruses, but it’s a known means of transmission for related viruses like smallpox. The CDC is proving itself worse than worthless.

    1. Raymond Sim

      I think terms like ‘fully aerosolized’ are extremely misleading (Nor do they seem to be well-defined.). As someone said here recently, a cow in a tornado is an aerosol particle.

      All the evidence I’ve seen points to monkeypox being sufficiently effective at aerosol transmission to spread rapidly via that route in our largely naive population.

      1. JBird4049

        The ability of Monkeypox and its relative Smallpox to spread via the air is supposedly well understood. Unlike HIV’s means of transmission fifty years ago. Trying to pretend otherwise is just foolish as it will only destroy whatever is left of the CDC’s reputation. One can muddy the waters, but “it spreads via the air” does not change. So what is the point especially, if the fools do truly attempt to blame the gay sex as the cause, since this will eventually mean intense blowback if entire schools, offices, and families are getting sick. Sex is probably the easiest way, but will they start saying that classmates, coworkers, and families are all having orgies because of that?? I almost think that this is the intent. I joke, but just.

        If I live long enough, I look towards reading this generation’s version of And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts. It has only been thirty-five years since the book was published, and while I know that folly has always been with us, to see the same astounding lack of wisdom that made the AIDS Epidemic so interesting just confounds me. And while I understand, even somewhat forgive, those who failed us in the seventies and eighties because it was a newish, misunderstood, and horrifying disease, I cannot forgive, nor forget, those who are now not only failing, but actively betraying the nation. This time there is no excuse.

        1. Rui

          What really gets me is that this time the most vocal gay voices are actually applauding being named a risk/diseased group and – shoot me know – are actually calling homophobic anyone that questions why would a virus that was never considered an STI (sexually transmitted infection) suddenly become a gay only STI.
          We are going back decades, and as you say, this time there is no excuse for such ignorance.

  6. ArvidMartensen

    So it is apparent that the CDC is actively gaslighting the US into believing that monkeypox is a disease of adult males having sex with each other.
    I ask why?
    Effort, and therefore money, is being spent on developing this story, so there has to be some motivation that makes it worthwhile for the CDC, that helps the CDC offset these costs of narrative creation, and perhaps profit from the narrative some way.
    I can’t think why off the top of my head, but no agency expends resources on any project for no reason.

  7. ACF

    On the short form as pictured in the post is “identified air contact” as one source of transmission. The next to last, above “other”.

    I skimmed this post on the phone, didn’t see you mention that option, but maybe I missed it. Apologies if i did. Just, it seems to be trying to capture airborne transmission, no? I mean, people don’t normally talk that way—‘air contact’—but I can’t think of another meaning

    1. Acacia

      Yes, it’s on page 6 of the short form. As you say, “identified air contact” is a strange phrase.

      E.g., suppose that I frequent different buildings with varying degrees of ventilation (office, supermarket, mall, etc.), and at one point I was in a room just after somebody infected with the virus left. I contracted the airborne virus, but later I would be hard pressed to say when/where it actually happened.

      That’s “air contact”, but how is it “identified”? It’s like the short form is asking me to tick a box, but only if I can “identify” something that isn’t exactly available.

      1. lambert strether

        Quite right. The whole point of aerosols is that they spread to fill a space, and hence contacts are not immediately identifiable through a questionaire.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Adding, I looked at what the Data Dictionary had to say on the semantics of “identified air contact” (sorry for the delay, I overscheduled myself). Here it is:

          You can see all the other checkboxes in the form mapped to these fields; the only one left for “identified air contact” is “other” (i.e., the mapping from “identified air contact” to database field exists only in the documentation (somewhere), and not in any form that a SQL developer would immediately think of using, i.e. a field devoted to this form of data with a self-documenting name).

  8. Raymond Sim

    What the CDC is doing now is thoroughly evil, and I can only pray they won’t be able to hide it for more than a month or two.

    But what then?

  9. Tom Stone

    Identifying Monkey pox as an STD confined to or primarily transmitted by Gay men typicalof the sociopaths running the USA.
    Think you have MonkeyPox?
    Are you a Faggot?
    Kids come back from daycare or school with symptoms
    “Has anyone at school been touching you?, TELL ME!”
    Can’t blame the Juice, AIPAC has too much money and influence but the Fa,Ho,Qu, Gays… are always a good substitute.
    The “Hamburger Helper” of blame,so to speak.
    Remember the good old days of August 2020 when Biden promised to marshal the full force of the Federal Government to eradicate Covid?
    Good times,Good times.

  10. Mira Martin-Parker

    What I want to know is why “progressive” media sources, like KPFA here in the San Francisco Bay Area, have actively been promoting such confused and thoughtless COVID and monkey pox coverage on their Monday morning Up Front radio call-in show with Dr. Swartzberg at U.C. Berkeley. I recall listening to him a few weeks back discussing monkey pox transmission and why it is primarily afflicting gay men. His response was wildly confused–he said something silly about the high degrees of intimacy in gay relationships, or something along those lines. What? And this was on KPFA! His attitude to COVID is equally limp and his responses to caller’s questions are highly predictable, a sure sign that one is not really thinking or listening, but merely applying an ideological lens.

    Can someone please tell me what zombie virus has infected “the left.” I no longer recognize many of the voices coming from this political realm.

    1. Jeff

      CA public health leaders are a joke. We have an analogous moron here in the LA area – Barbara Ferrer.

    2. Acacia

      Perhaps because they’re not “the left” any more, just PMC liberals? I guess the question might be: what supports the ideological lens? One of the better accounts I’ve read (h/t NC for the link) was Scipio Sattler’s article on ‘Warren liberals’. Sattler calls them “Professional Class Left” but again I would say “liberals, not left”. Otherwise, the article gives a compelling summary of the matrix of forces that produce groupthink in professionalized and highly insular academic communities like Berkeley (scroll down to the section entitled “Professional Class Ideology”). In the present, this groupthink is aligned with CDC discourse, which doesn’t receive even the slightest scrutiny.

      Perhaps the zombie virus is a mutant form of post-Trump derangement syndrome (PTDS) that fried many brains in academia (exhibit A: a putatively critical thinker like Judith Butler committing to print her deeply embarrassing fantasy about Trump starting WWIII).

      1. Carla

        “Sattler calls them “Professional Class Left” but again I would say “liberals, not left”.

        Thanks for this whole comment. In my experience, PMC liberals are some of the biggest enemies of leftist politics in existence. After all, a politics that is truly of the left threatens everything they have, and are.

        1. Mira Martin-Parker

          I refer to them as the “left” mainly to highlight the fact that the right is absolutely dumping all progressives into this category, and the right is getting very angry at much of what this fake “left” is doing. I can’t help but foresee all of the progressive/labor community being dumped into this same one category and aggressively punished should the extreme right assume power in the near future. In my opinion, for this reason alone, the actual left needs to expose this toxic and false attempt to monopolize the progressive voice. Here in the Bay Area, a ton of foundation and charity money and other forms of behind the scenes financial influence has been exerted on local activists, artificially manipulating and limiting left discourse. This is HIGHLY noticeable on KPFA. It’s hard to distinguish it from NPR these days, especially when it comes to COVID and Ukraine. I think this is going to haunt all of us, but most especially those active in genuine organized labor. I think we need to be more vocal about calling this toxic form of influence out now, rather than later when we’re all being punished collectively for the corrupt political manipulation by a handful of control freaks.

          1. Acacia

            Okay, but this seems to assume “the right” is somehow responsible for this change and only repeats their refusal or inability to make a distinction between liberals and left. From my perspective, the issue is not so much what the right is saying or which terms they are mixing up, but that it is liberals who are shutting down genuine left discourse. They call themselves “left” but then they impose all sorts of identitarian requirementsts. E.g., they will only express ‘solidarity’ with labor activists if those activists also ‘recognize’ ethnicity, gender, etc. etc. At that point, it is no longer “left”, because the decisive question has become whether or not labor recognizes an endless list of ‘identities’.

            So then you get the usual infighting between different stripes of liberals, e.g., the fight between trans activists and feminists. Or, as in the case with Monkeypox, it is turned into a fight over attitudes about gays, and ‘inclusivity tests’ instead of being deemed a public health issue that affects everybody, because it is very likely airborne.

            1. Mira Martin-Parker

              I think I completely agree with you. I’ve been trying to hustle up an academic willing to openly challenge the logic of the left-right political binary, but no one will touch this sacred cow. It reminds me of Karl Popper’s book The Open Society and Its Enemies. The problem with his argument, is that the open society and the closed society are the same one society (he knew this). Societies are like rooms with doorways. We can close their doorways and we can open their doorways, and we can leave their doorways open or closed in varying degrees. Philosophers–mathematicians–are trained to understand and navigate relations of both division and of logical difference regarding matters of identity (i.e., number). Popper knew the open society and the closed society were the same one thing. But he also, like most philosophers, understood that the vast majority of people do not understand that numbers can be expressed in multiple symbolic ways: cardinal units, ordinal units, geometric shapes, and geometric radians. All of these symbolic languages express the same one thing, number/identity. When we talk about democratic equality we NEVER discuss matters of institutionalized systems of education. Where did such institutions come from? Historically such institutions of learning were not known for their democratic practices, nor were they known as open societies. Rather, they were called the mysteries…

              Today’s society pretends mathematical truth is explicit and democratic, when it’s anything but. Especially when it comes to the transmission of knowledge between teacher and pupil. Now there’s a tender topic involving matters of gender and identity…tops and bottoms, that sort of thing…

              Complexity when it comes to social power relations is taboo in our simplistic times..instead it’s all equality, all cardinal units of one…a game that blinds us to the nature of truth.

          1. Mira Martin-Parker

            Yes, but who are They and who are WE? This question deals with matters of mathematical identity.

            There are multiple ways of expressing relations of identity/number mathematics, but you have to explicitly select one and remain consistent in its usage if you wish to provide a reasonable argument, at least if we are playing according to the commonly accepted three laws of thought and not going totally postmodern.

            Sorry, but the left is equally guilty of dancing lovely circles around the problem of identity. And the religious right–especially the orthodox of all Abrahamic faiths–understand advanced mathematics (and logic), especially geometry and how it relates to physical power.

            The left, on other hand, is intellectually dishonest with itself here. (I’m not a conservative right winger, anything but.)

            The “democratic” West has an identity problem, specifically its relationship with its own philosophy. Plato’s teacher Socrates was not a fan of democracy. He certainly appreciated its diversity and beauty, but he recognized its flaws/weaknesses. He tried warn his interlocutors that things were not how they seemed on the surface. (Athenian society was run behind the scenes by members of the mystery cults–priests and such, with lots of strange practices…and these practices all centered around math. Of specific interest to them was light/energy. We are still right there in Ancient Athens engaging in the pretend-its game, fooled by mathematicians behind the scenes playing with the social lights.)

            All of Western thought is a series of footnotes to Plato, as they say, and yet our “founding Fathers” (now there’s a one!) deliberately created a form of government they understood to have such weaknesses. (They were almost all philosophers, especially Ben.) We moderns do not sit right with our own system of thought, and the more sophisticated elements within the religious community know this (see Book 4 of the Republic, the strategy of divide and conquer used by religious communities since ancient times in self defense is explicitly described). We pretend democracy is “secular” when it’s not. It’s simply not, and never has been. It’s connection with academic and religious institutions is veiled under the false pretense of equality, which is actually simply a clever form of flattery and seduction of the military caste (i.e. the right, physical force, might makes right) by academic elites (i.e., the left, intellectual influence, soft power, “knowledge is power”).

            Wittgenstein, like Socrates, tried to guide the fly (us) out of the bottle (social traps like divide and rule. Karl Popper’s Open Society is a trap. He knew this because he was a member of a closed society of intellectual elites. He was also George Soros’ teacher.

            1. Mira Martin-Parker

              P.S. I wrote a master’s thesis on totalitarianism and argued against Popper’s view. Wittgenstein was right, and Popper was wrong in their little poker disagreement.

              I suspect that Popper, like many that share his ideology of social power, had a huge social inferiority complex and Wittgenstein clearly triggered it.

              Wittgenstein had other issues…no doubt having to do with matters of identity…

            2. Lambert Strether Post author

              > you have to explicitly select one and remain consistent in its usage if you wish to provide a reasonable argument, at least if we are playing according to the commonly accepted three laws of thought and not going totally postmodern.

              It would more helpful if you were to state the theory of which you approve, rather than assigning me work. I might even adopt it. But I don’t have a lot of time for logic-chopping just now. Got it?

              1. Mira Martin-Parker

                All I meant by remaining consistent (sorry if I was unclear), is that in the same persuasive argument, the key terms used to describe relations of identity cannot shift meaning. For example, if one is discussing things using ordinal units (numbers describing position, i.e. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) one cannot suddenly shift the meaning of their terms to that of cardinal units (numbers describing the size of sets). A little child and Bill Gates might both be standing in first place in a line (they can both be described as being number one, using the language of ordinal units). But obviously, I can’t turn around and claim that Bill Gates and the Little child are equal without clarifying my meaning. I need to specify that their relation of identity is positional, not in terms of size.

                Oftentimes when people discuss political relations they mix up mathematical languages regarding identity (cardinal, ordinal, and geometric) and this leads to verbal disputes (as opposed to real ones). People often don’t realize that mathematical languages are not equal in terms of their corresponding thought images. There exists a hierarchy of levels of abstraction between them. Someone who is only familiar with cardinal ones (the counting numbers of money) and isn’t familiar with this conceptual hierarchy and the spectrum of possibilities available for discussing relations of identity between things, is highly likely to fall victim to such linguistic confusion.

                For most people, one is simply one. They do not see the various options available to scientists and physicists when it comes to discussing relations between things. They can talk about things purely at the level of ideas (cardinal objects), as occupants of various positions (ordinal objects), in spatial terms (using abstract shapes- circles/spheres, and degrees of difference), or in terms of relations of energy (radians). They can even use mathematical language to talk about things aesthetically, as Pythagoras is known for discovering.

                There’s a lot more to the symbolic languages we use to express number, and hence to the political language of democratic equality, than is commonly acknowledged by elites. This has obvious class implications that I’ve noticed people simply do not want to talk about–either because they are embarrassed because they don’t know what they thought they knew, or they knew all along and are embarrassed for going-along-to-get-along with a system that was obviously ethically compromised…

                1. Mira Martin-Parker

                  P.S. Ironically, men are the most common victim of this pernicious form of political flattery in which relations of equality are deliberately left open to ambiguity. Women and youth understand intuitively actual power relations between themselves and other things and people–they are more aware of their vulnerability to predators. Also, society at large is more aware of the need to act as guardians of these groups. Men, however, have a difficult time fathoming themselves as being preyed upon by other men. It makes them feel uncomfortable imagining themselves linguistically in the position of “bottom” relative to one another…And sorry, but the vast majority of men (the working-class of all colors) are linguistically “bottom” to other men (elites of all colors)…

    3. Basil Pesto

      Much of the Monkeypox ~discourse~ on the twitter seems to have descended into who loves gay people more: the people who think this is overwhelmingly and will forever and always be a problem for gay men; or those who understand this is overwhelmingly affecting gay/bisexual men now but could have potential implications far beyond that cohort if the disease continues to be uncontained (the position which I hold). There are gay men in both groups. Each side accuses the other of being homophobic in some way. Meanwhile spread of the disease continues apace. It’s a miserable state of affairs.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > The nature of Twitter extracts the worst in most of us

          Very, very careful curation is critical, along with turning off Twitter’s algos. (Facebook doesn’t even permit this, which is why FB is orders of magnitude worse.)

    4. Raymond Sim

      Can someone please tell me what zombie virus has infected “the left.” I no longer recognize many of the voices coming from this political realm.

      It took fifty years, and multiple national crises, for me to be emotionally capable of even beginning to wrap my head around the extent to which our oligarchy’s information operations have shaped the American left.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Also massive rolling arrest-and-conviction operations and assassination operations and so forth.
        And the disinformationists call any such referrence to such things by the name “conspiracy theory”, so as to suppress any discussion of things like COINTELPRO and then amnesiafy it.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > our oligarchy’s information operations have shaped the American left

        I think the best way to categorize liberal Democrat NGOs is as a counter-insurgency operation (not necessarily COIN doctrine, though). And remember the key lesson of the pandemic for elites: It’s possible to slaughter a million people without civil unrest.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          But what if the survivors decide to realize that that’s what was done deliberately and on purpose, and was not an accident?

          Will the survivor-society take kinetic action to make more such slaughter difficult?

  11. The Rev Kev

    This is really going to blow back something shocking down the track. I made the comment before that the main reason that there was a refusal to acknowledge that Coronavirus was spread as an aerosol was the fact that to do so would mean a reconfiguration of society to deal with that fact. Things like ventilation, building design, social habits, etc. and when society’s leaders saw that, they balked. It would be too expensive and too disruptive to the economy to actually deal with it properly if it was an aerosol so the consensus was reached to deny that fact. Perhaps too that explains the resistance to masks as they are an acknowledgment that yeah, this virus is spread as an aerosol. And so here we are.

    But here is the thing. In doing so with the Coronavirus, an unofficial doctrine was reached that the same would have to be done with any other disease spread as an aerosol. So along came Monkey Pox which already has a history as being partly spread as an aerosol and so the guideline was already there to deny and censor aerosol spread. Now here is where it can get really dodgy. Suppose, just suppose, that another virus comes out of the wilds. Could be from Africa, Asia, South America – doesn’t matter. And this bad boy is much more lethal and more to the point, has an aerosol spread component. The doctrine is already there to deny aerosol spreads and so the same may happen with this new virus. Just pry that it won’t be a zombie virus.

    1. SlayTheSmaugs


      Already young people are rightly furious at everyone for climate change. When school kids today understand that they have long covid or other profound damage to their bodies b/c of avoidable covid (say, by their mid-20s) and they realize that the most basic, big picture protective steps were not contemplated, much less taken, like funding the upgrade to school ventilation nationwide, their fury will be (should be?) unmatched. What will be their target? Will constructive change be fueled, or wanton destruction?

    2. Rui

      Just think Measles. Everything is aligning for a major measles comeback in the near future: low vaccination rates; immunocompromised general population; new found allergy to international travel restrictions and masks.

      Measles is THE airborne disease, even after COVID. And – what fun – measles wipes out previous acquired pathogen immunity from people. So measles and COVID can really have fun together.

      2020 saw a major reduction in measles cases due to lockdowns, etc. But it also saw a reduction in vaccination coverage.

      I think measles can really be the one to show why we need better ventilation in the near future.

      1. Raymond Sim

        I think measles can really be the one to show why we need better ventilation in the near future.

        If we have eyes to see.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          The powerless majority can see all it wants to, but if it can’t torture and terrorise the powerful minority into acting on what is seen, then the powerless majority is stuck with having cassandra vision.

    3. Raymond Sim

      Personally I had never even heard of Human Metapneumovirus till it turned up on the SCAN wastewater tracking. Now I’m reading about severe cases in adults being part of the current excessive burden on our hospitals.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Things like ventilation, building design, social habits, etc. and when society’s leaders saw that, they balked. It would be too expensive and too disruptive to the economy to actually deal with it properly if it was an aerosol so the consensus was reached to deny that fact.

      CDC School Reopening Guidance Suppresses Aerosols Based on Thin Evidence and Driven by Budgetary Concerns (February 2021):

      But why the backsliding? (Walensky’s message discipline is such that she didn’t mention either aerosols or ventilation in her interview on Face the Nation.) I believe the answer is to be found in the source cited in the very first footnote of our second document, Transmission. From The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “Reopening K-12 Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Prioritizing Health, Equity, and Communities,” at section “The Role of Airborne Transmission of COVID-19“:

      In the process of writing this report, the committee repeatedly returned to conversations around the role of airborne transmission of COVID-19. As described in Chapter 3, indoor air quality in U.S. public schools is notoriously poor, which can have innumerable deleterious health impacts on students and staff. However, because there is not yet scientific consensus on the role of airborne transmission in the spread of the virus, it is also unclear how the indoor air quality of schools matters in the spread of COVID-19. Given the considerable cost associated with updating aging facilities, it is particularly important to understand the exact role of airborne transmission such that stakeholders can assess the relative value and utility of that investment.

      Needless to say, this is a budgetary — hence political — constraint, not “the science.” Nor could it be! And sadly, by reducing the question of aerosol transmission and indoor quality to facilities they enable the CDC to deny children, parents, and teachers simpler methods of mitigation

      The rot at CDC set in a long time ago, and I imagine it has only spread since then.

  12. Kevin Smith MD

    Is it possible that the MSM/gay community have prevailed upon CDC to eliminate questions about airborne transmission because public concern about airborne transmission could lead to discrimination against people who were considered to be MSM/gay?

    1. Rui

      Public Health authorities around the world are now more concerned with not ‘panicking’ people than avoiding the spread of disease. By fraiming monkeypox as a MSM/gay disease they managed to make most people believe it didn’t concern them. There is also an honest element of pure prejudice that never really got away and the minute a few MSM guys showed up with things in their dicks all reason left some people’s minds.

      At the same time, they were seen to be very liberal focused and come to the ‘rescue’ of the gay community, by distributing meager vaccine stocks without any criteria besides claiming to be a men who has sex with men. And because it was positive discrimination, many gay guys decided to skip the discrimination part and applaud. They didn’t really think it thru, they just didn’t want their hipster, sex marathons to be disrupted.

      By the way, I’m gay, I’m just pissed off that a certain vocal, professional, liberal section of the community is ready to accept being called part of a diseased community just so they can have preferential access to the vaccines.

      1. Raymond Sim

        By the way, I’m gay, I’m just pissed off that a certain vocal, professional, liberal section of the community is ready to accept being called part of a diseased community just so they can have preferential access to the vaccines.

        It’s ironic, in the sense of Greek Tragedy. (Double entendre not intended.) and terribly painful to watch.

          1. Basil Pesto

            Returning to the twitter ~discourse~, it was recently suggested by some that healthcare workers should be prioritised for the monkey/smallpox vaccine. This caused some backlash from prominent and obnoxious gay members of the “monkeypox is strictly a gay problem” community saying they deserved priority for the vaccines, and using an identitarian/accusation of homophobia argument to rationalise it. Ugly shit. Especially considering the beating healthcare workers have taken over the last 2 years.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Public Health authorities around the world are now more concerned with not ‘panicking’ people than avoiding the spread of disease.

        Elites always panic about panic*, and always, they are the only ones who panic. (IIRC, the British government was worried about letting Londoners go down into the Underground to sleep during the Blitz, for fear they would never come up, a fear that was groundless).

        1. Basil Pesto

          Not to set a homework an assignment but I’m interewted in seeing this idea fleshed out a little more. It certainly rings true based on the last couple of years.

          1. Raymond Sim

            I remember an oft-repeated vignette from the Battle of Waterloo. Wellington, watching some of his own troops break and run, said something like “Even the best troops will run sometimes. The question is, ‘Will they come back?;;

            Wellington could usually count on his soldiers coming back. Perhaps not coincidentally he was famous for doing things like having his troops lie down on the far side of a slope if they were being cannonaded. For some reason other European officers seem to have regarded standing in lines while being blasted with cannister as good for the troops’ character.

        2. Raymond Sim

          The ‘bomber doctrine’ that held sway in the RAF actually was predicated on the idea that bombing of population centers would lead to the ‘slum element’ running wild. So the Brits were defending against themselves, as one does.

        3. Jim Whitman

          The government during the blitz rigorously issued gas masks and education in the masks being carried at all times (inducing panic or not) then let the whole thing dwindle away. I wonder if *moral panic* (identified by sociologists) is the most powerful/likely kind of elite panic? The elites were moral panic prone around questions of work & workers doing what the elites needed, docilely/compliantly serving their wants and dictates/functions of the class structure and gender.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Or on the other hand, is it possible that the MSM/gay community wanted to monopolize all the anti-monkeypox resources for itself and its members and did not want to share so much as a single dollar of monkeypox money or a single person-hour of health care worker time with anyone outside the MSM/gay community?

  13. Linda Amick

    Anybody not learning from the CDC performance over the past 2 1/2 years who still trusts anything coming out of that corrupt organization, is likely promoting false information.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      And if the CDC discovers that everyone thinks the exact opposite of what the CDC says, then the CDC will learn to say the opposite of what it actually wants its victims to think. When that happens, we are in a world of meta-disinformation and stuck in a Wilderness of Funhouse Mirrors.

      At that point, we will have to have our own sources of information discovery, development and spread, without any referrence to what CDC says . . . . neither accepting it nor accepting the reverse. We will just have to have our own separate brainspace world separate and apart from CDC contamination and CDC information well-poisoning.

      1. Acacia

        At that point, we will have to have our own sources of information discovery, development and spread, without any referrence to what CDC says …

        Heh, it seems that’s pretty much where we’re at already, and more or less how NC is working for me now. The discussion here has been the go-to for all matters relating to COVID, not only because there are sensible people with decades of practical experience in medicine speaking their minds (e.g., IM Doc), researchers who understand the nuts and bolts, but a community of level-headed people willing to submit official discourse to criticism and BS testing. Do I follow any “guidance” from the CDC? Nope. The only reason I see to pay attention is to have some idea about the disinformation they are spreading and how it affects others around me.

        Again, kudos to all at NC for providing clarity on this, and many other matters!

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