About one in twenty cartoons by Michael Ramirez is actually worth a read; most of the time he produces far-right nitwittery that, rather than providing balance or nuance to my openly socialistic and lefty views, simply represents cognitive noise. It’s unfortunate, too, because Ramirez is actually one hell of a skilled illustrator. He clearly puts a lot of time and effort into his single-paneled gibes, but that seems to be the extent of his effort involved in creating them.
Case in point is this simple fallacy. See if you can spot the problem (and in this case it has nothing to do with his politics):
What Ramirez seems to be missing here is that the Y2K bug, the H1N1 outbreak, and the I-405 problems didn’t come about because there was a hell of a lot of work done to prevent them happening in the first place.
We’ll start with Y2K. Indubitably it was true that modern software was capable of handling a double-nought in the year field; however, quite a lot of embedded and entrenched systems had not been modernized for years prior to 2000. Those systems were, in fact, quite vulnerable to year-related errors, and it was only the work of a large team of engineers that prevented a widespread failure of these systems. That nothing bad happened is evidence of their success, not the unreality of the problem.
H1N1 has a similar story. There was in fact a threat to human populations from a vector of avian flu a few years ago; again, it was a campaign of education and immunization which forestalled widespread outbreaks — not a Chicken Little (so to speak) overstatement of the threat.
Finally, the I-405 modifications … are recent enough history that I don’t think I need to go into what happened there. Public awareness campaigns obviously worked.
Why does this even matter? Because as soon as we begin to take as fact that averted threats were nothing we needed to worry about in the first place, we’re apt to become complacent, and downplay the reality of other perceived threats — possibly to our ruin.
If we want to mock possible threats, it’s probably safer to mock the idea of surgically implanted bombs in terrorists (or the sexual assaults performed daily by TSA) than to make fun of measured, sensible, nuanced responses to situations that are generally agreed to be valid problems.
Can you think of anything else that might be a problem which is being downplayed (by right-leaning interests, as it happens) as insignificant despite overwhelming evidence?
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