Fox Bytes 15 – The uh-oh issue

The deadly game

There’s been a nasty spike in measles in Europe. This shouldn’t be the case; there’s a safe and highly effective measles vaccine. So why is this happening?

The overall effectiveness of any vaccine relies on ‘herd immunisation’. If sufficient numbers of a community are immunised, it prevents a disease taking hold in that community. Then it can’t strike those unable to be immunised, such as small children or those too ill to receive vaccines.

This is why vaccination is known as a ‘positive-sum’ game – a conscious collaboration where the net outcome for everyone is positive: a win-win. This is different to a ‘zero-sum’ game, where a positive outcome for some is offset by a negative one for others; the net outcome is zero. Some win, some lose.

Those parents who don’t want to put their children through the momentary discomfort of being vaccinated because they hold some bizarre idea that vaccinations are harmful, are playing a zero-sum game.

They’re opening a small crack in herd immunisation, where the measles virus finds a foothold and other people’s children get ill. If the virus adapts enough to become resistant to the vaccine, the overall result will be a ‘negative-sum’ game. 

And you can just imagine what that means.

Image: Vecteezy


They’re back!

This past week, Statistics SA ruffled more than a few feathers. It announced that the South African economy has slipped into recession – the first time since the 2009 global financial crisis jammed the breaks on economic growth.

If there was a saying that was uttered more than any other thereafter it was probably this: the chickens have come home to roost. It means that sooner or later, the consequences of bad actions catch up with the perpetrator. 

The Sowetan identified the chickens: wastage, mismanagement of government departments and state-owned enterprises, and the entrenching of patronage and corruption in the public service.

The ANC – the ruling party in South Africa – responded by laying much of the blame on the country’s former president, Jacob Zuma. A bit late.

Also, they conveniently forgot that the current president – Cyril Ramaphosa – was Zuma’s vice president for four years!

President Ramaphosa has been swift to instigate a succession of probes and inquiries to stem the rot, reverse South Africa’s economic woes, and instil some measure of confidence in the country.

Perhaps someone should tell the chickens.

Image: Kisspng


Dimming the lights

It seems Americans believe The New York Times is failing. The complete opposite is true. In terms of subscription, revenue and share value, The New York Times is flying.

So why, in the face of clear evidence, would Americans think otherwise? A trusted authority has persuaded them so: the president of the United States.

It’s called gaslighting. It gets its name from a 1938 play called Gas Light’ (later popularised in the 1944 film ‘Gaslight’) in which a murdering husband manipulates and confuses his wife by dimming the gas lights in their home and then denying it’s happening.

Gaslighting isn’t simply lying; it is the deliberate deception by a trusted authority to the point the victim questions what is real. In psychology, it is considered mental abuse.

Isolation is important for gaslighting. In the original play, the husband confines his wife to the home where he can control what she sees and hears. 

But how could this happen to multiple citizens surrounded by news? Easy. The perpetrator – who is trusted, remember – encourages them to isolate themselves: he tells them what they’re hearing and seeing on the news is fake.

Once they believe him, and not the evidence, they’ve been gaslighted.

Image: Freepik

[These articles originally appeared in Issue 15 of Fox Bytes (you can view it here) in the week of 10 September 2018. Growing Foxes is a school strategic intelligence programme designed by mindofafox. It is being piloted in a number of leading schools in the UK and South Africa. Fox Bytes is published weekly to support those students currently engaging with the programme. Click on the logo to find out more]