I have no idea if this is plausible, and I’m fairly certain the editors of the Wall Street Journal don’t either. Whether it’s correct or not, op-ed pages seem like a pretty obviously horrible place to float technical empirical claims like this.
If it’s correct, or at least has a good chance of being correct, it should be reported in the news pages after peer review. If it’s wrong, you’ve leapfrogged that process and given it unwarranted currency. Either way, this is not a useful “opinion”.
Which is to say, it does not present an argument that the normal reader (or, really, 99.9% of the readership) has any meaningful capability to evaluate.
I’m among that 99.9% and have no idea if this claim holds water, but I do find it bizarre that a couple of scientists would opt to present it in this venue, rather than, you know… to their peers.
Obviously lots of op-eds turn at least IN PART on an expert assessment readers have to decide how much weight to give based on credentials, but this is ENTIRELY that. I see no possible benefit to foisting it unmediated on a general audience.
Honestly, running a piece like this seems borderline unethical. *At best* you’re very lucky & rushing a true claim around the normal validation process. At worst you’re presenting misinformation to an audience totally unequipped to evaluate it. And you have no idea which.
A cursory search shows that one of the authors, Quay, uploaded a paper advancing his argument to an open-access repository in January & then pushed out a YouTube video & press releases touting it.
While I am, again, no more qualified to evaluate the substance than the modal Wall Street Journal reader, this is not how reputable science normally operates.
…and this is not what the bio line on serious research by credible researchers normally looks like.
The more I look at this guy’s site the more red flags pop up, and the more appalled I am WSJ decided to run this.
Muller is a retired physicist. Quay is what we might charitably call an “aggresively self-promoting” MD & entrepreneur (subscribe to his wellness newsletter, or book him to speak!) whose specialty until about a year ago appears to have been breast cancer.
So these are a couple of guys who, while accomplished in other fields, don’t appear to be specialists in virology, given a massive national platform to advance a highly technical thesis without submitting to the peer review proceess that normally filters such claims.
Whether or not they’re right—again, I don’t know, and don’t have any particular dog in that fight—this is journalistic malpractice. You’re accountable for scientific claims you present to readers who can’t directly assess them, even if you put them on the “opinion” page.
In case anyone else was confused, my claim is not “newspapers should banish any mention of scientific research in opinion essays.” It’s that a mass-readership op-ed page shouldn’t be where nonspecialist researchers go to launder novel assertions that haven’t survived peer review.
I can’t tell whether their claim makes sense, but if it does they should pitch it to the NEJM or the Lancet, where it will be reviewed by people who are equipped to render that judgment. Then if they want to write an op-ed summarizing their published paper, godspeed.
Contrast, say, this recent Washington Post op-ed. Here, the authors ARE actual subject matter experts, but they’re not just offering their own conclusions based on personal authority; they’re using that expertise to guide the reader through a survey of the published literature.
Here’s the link I babbled too long to fit in the previous tweet. Maybe Rasmussen & Goldstein turn out to be wrong and Quay & Muller turn out to be right, but this is what a responsible mass-audience science essay looks like. washingtonpost.com/outlook/virus-…
Quay & Muller do link published research on the COVID genome, but they’re not telling you *what the authors of that study* concluded. They’re telling you what novel inference a physicist and a breast cancer specialist think follows from that research…
…and they’re doing it in a forum that bypasses the usual nicety of having actual virologists assess that claim before it sees print.

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More from @normative

5 Jun
Starting to feel almost bad for Mike Lindell. Mr. Lindell, I’d like to offer you my services. In exchange fo a fee to be negotiated, I will help you construct a body of slightly-less-obviously-bogus body of evidence for imaginary election fraud. My package includes...
* One (1) superficially plausible backstory for how I have visibility on traffic to hundreds of municipal government networks. At your discretion, I will pepper this backstory with references to actual monitoring tools like “nmap” and “Wireshark” for extra verisimilitude.
* One (1) properly-formatted fabricated pcap screenshot, suitable for use in online videos, guaranteed to provoke less mockery than just converting publicly available voter data to hex. At your request, I can create a version in green Matrix font that dribbles down the screen.
Read 8 tweets
4 Jun
Apropos my thread from earlier on the “Absolute 9-0” video. Lindell is the ideal mark: He’s rich, wants desperately to believe, doesn’t understand the subject matter at all, AND has an elaborate ideological defense mechanism in place against being alerted to the con.
All cons thrive to some extent on the resistance to the humiliating admission you’ve been duped, but with Lindell you’ve got it on steroids (with a side of cocaine).
He’s built a whole public persona around pushing the con. He’s relying on it in multiple lawsuits! And anyone trying to explain how he’s been gulled gets dismissed as Part of the Liberal Cover-Up looong before they manage to walk him through the basics.
Read 8 tweets
4 Jun
Out of sheer masochism just looked at the latest PillowGuy video “proving” election rigging, and it’s even cringier and more incoherent than I’d expected. Among other things, it seems almost certain Lindell himself is getting conned.
I don’t have much pity—never was there a more willing victim—but it’s comically apparent from the video that a bunch of dudes decided they could bill a rich moron for months of “cyber forensics” work & feed him nonsense, because he wouldn’t know enough to be able to tell.
Assuming Lindell isn’t in on it partly because if he were, he would have come up with something a LITTLE more superficially plausible looking. This is the kind of half-assed thing you throw together when you’re certain the mark doesn’t know anything.
Read 9 tweets
2 Jun
This isn’t how I’d have framed it, but I think it’s right we’re in danger of overcorrecting away from lazy both-sides neutrality in a way that would accelerate epistemic fragmentation & make journalism worse.
Human beings all have biases & opinions & blind spots. The inference from this used to be “so we need strong professional norms to compensate.” My sense is there’s a growing camp for whom the inference is “so objectivity is a fraud & we should stop pretending.”
I think it needs to be stressed that this is as much about the economics of journalism as about norms. Both-sidesing is easy. Objectivity is hard. It requires time, work, subject matter expertise, and hard judgment calls about when reporter umpiring serves the reader.
Read 4 tweets
1 Jun
Apparently Michael Flynn’s derangment is tempered by cowardice: He’s now attempting to retcon his endorsement of a military coup at a QAnon event & pretend he said the opposite of what he is caught on video saying. texasnewstoday.com/michael-flynn-…
He’s now claiming he said “there’s no reason [a coup like in Myanmar] should happen here. Horseshit. Watch the video. Even if hadn’t already previously called for martial law to overturn the election, it’s not ambiguous. At all.
Question: “I wanna know why what happened in Minnamar [sic] can’t happen here?” [HUGE cheers from crowd]

Flynn: “No reason. I mean, it should happen here.” [more cheers from crowd] “No reason. That’s right. One more!”
Read 10 tweets
25 May
If you could actually do this, it would entail wiping out ~$250 billion in assets, much of that held by people who engaged in lawful transactions. It’s not really clear how you could in fact do it, though.
All the major ransomware groups & most bitcoin exchanges are outside U.S. jurisdiction. So in practice you’re just making it illegal for U.S. victims to pay ransoms. Which… we could just do directly, if we wanted to do that.
There are also thorny definitional issues. Is any digital asset tracked via blockchain a “cryptocurrency”? If so, you’re banning NFTs too. If not, ransomware groups ask for payment in the form of some digital asset that falls outside the definition of “cryptocurrency.”
Read 4 tweets

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