Flattening the propaganda curve in the age of the coronavirus

Photo by Kayla Velasquez on Unsplash

As we struggle to rationalize the minute-by-minute dread of this unfolding pandemic, the Washington Post ran one of the most surreal and outright alarming articles yet: “Coronavirus modelers factor in new public health risk: Accusations their work is a hoax.”

It’s not enough that we’re being attacked by a pernicious and unseen virus from the outside: we are creating a self-made enemy by denying the validity of the crisis itself. We are in danger of propagandizing ourselves to death.

This has been a problem in American politics for a long time, but perhaps never with such high stakes. Because if…

Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

An Open Letter to the People I Love

This is for the people I love, whose thinking I admire, but who are inexplicably supporting this president for reelection.

I’m not writing this to prove you wrong. This is not about taxes, or the economy, or your party versus mine.

This is about humanity.

This president is despicable. Not because a liberal newspaper told me so, or a cable talk show pointed it out.

He is despicable because of his actions that I experience with my eyes, ears, and conscience.

I know you see it too. Because our definition of honor is the same. …

Demonstrators reject government “telling them what to do”

Safety or oppression? Americans argue over forced blackouts. Source: Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau

December 14, 1941 at 6:35 a.m. EDT

Protesters quickly defied new blackout regulations Friday as Civil Defense officials announced plans to enforce blackout drills after the surprise aerial attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. The action came as the government revised the official casualties at last week’s attack to more than 2,300.

On the first day of the Illinois General Assembly’s special war session, the first order of business was to vote that everyone must participate in the blackout and hang dark drapes at home — a rule that passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support.

But there was…

And some reasons you could be optimistic too

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

I’ve always considered myself an incorrigible optimist. I’m optimistic about our future, about the generally positive leanings of human nature, about our ability to thrive as a species, and how we have slowly, yet inexorably, sometimes painfully, but inevitably, generation by generation, improved the overall experience of life, relative to earlier eras, for most people. This is not wishful thinking. In my view, it’s a simple reading of history, backed by inarguable statistics — the curve is, in a “big picture” sense, always improving over time.

It’s okay if you don’t agree. That’s not what this article is about.


Wherein your e-rider hits the road for a long-distance cruise

Credit: Google Maps

I recently wrote about the joy of e-bikes for Better Humans (“How an E-Bike Got Me off the Couch and Back in Love with Exercise”). A few people asked for updates along the way. Here’s the second one.

Well, it finally hit 55° in New Jersey on a weekend, and I got out for my first significant e-bike ride. I just did 20.5 miles, people. An hour and half, right into the teeth of the March wind. Am I tired? I am fucking tired. …

The ongoing saga of a man and his electric bicycle

Well, after way too much research, much of it at this awesome site, and also after driving most of the people in my life a little crazy, I took the plunge and bought an electric bike. I picked it up a few weeks ago.

And I think it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

I recently wrote about the joy of e-bikes for Better Humans (“How an E-Bike Got Me off the Couch and Back in Love with Exercise”). I’ve been shouting into the void here at Medium for a while, but that article got some serious read counts (due…

And how you can get started with e-biking too

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road. Photo by Eric Heller.

Let me stand up before this little corner of the web and testify: My name is Eric, I’m 53 years old, and I’m a couch potato. I do try and eat healthy. I take walks now and then. I even play the drums a little. But otherwise, I’m probably a lot like you. I sit at a desk for work, I watch too much TV, I’m addicted to my phone, and I’m worn out most of the time. My energy level stinks. I wake up tired. I’ve got the burned-out blues.

I know I need to exercise. Just about every…

And what his words meant to this particular misfit

Credit: cygnus-x1.net

Growing up, it all seems so one-sided

Opinions all provided

The future pre-decided

Detached and subdivided

In the mass-production zone

Nowhere is the dreamer

Or the misfit so alone

I’ve been reading those lyrics a lot since we lost Neil Peart, the extraordinary drummer, lyricist, and writer, and they keep breaking my heart. They’re from the song “Subdivisions,” from the album of the same name, and to be honest, I wasn’t even a fan of that album at the time. It had made the unforgivable mistake of being played on the radio. What can I tell you, I was sixteen…

It happens every year. Someone walks past my desk on their way home that last night before the break, happy and Christmasy, with their handshakes and ho-ho-hos, and then there I am, all Jewish and stuff, watching their ruddy cheer melt into low-level panic.

“Hey!” they’ll say, a little less cheery. “Merry…I mean, Happy… I mean…”

It’s awkward for them, it’s awkward for me. Because they hate not being able to say “Merry Christmas.” But they know it’s probably NOT COOL to hate that they can’t say “Merry Christmas.” And if I wasn’t Jewish they’d talk about how it sucks…

Credit: iStock

We are a schizophrenic society. In the real world, we’re reasonably well behaved. We don’t need laws that make you hold the door for the person behind you. We don’t have fines for pushing your way to the front of a checkout line. There are no cops looking to arrest people who don’t say “excuse me” when they bang your carriage at Target.

Outside of the occasional exception — which goes viral because it’s so unusual — no one really violates these basic social rules.

Until we go online. There, we attack each other like children. We snap at “the…

Eric Heller

Marketing guy, happy dad, citizen of the world. Find me at https://eric-heller.net/.

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