Arrogance has always been distasteful to me, but recent “debates” on this website and in the public arena about COVID have demonstrated a great deal of arrogance. Two categories, in particular, stand out: arrogance of the able/entitled and arrogance of the comparative young.

I will freely admit that I had advantages growing up, particularly being raised in an intact, caring, economically stable, and quietly disciplined family; being given the advantage of a good education by my family; and inheriting decent genes. None of these advantages were my doing, but those basic advantages gave me a far better personal foundation upon which to build a future and several different careers than millions of people who were born at the same time. This is nothing new. It’s been that way at least since the beginning of towns and cities.

The problem is that far too many people of modest or even greater accomplishment discount those basic but unseen advantages and claim, variously, that they accomplished what they have all on their own, or that others could do the same if they weren’t lazy, or that their superiority is innate. Yet study after study has shown that accomplishments are the result of a myriad of factors, roughly half genetic and half environmental, most of which factors we do not control, especially when we’re young. But too many people of “ability” and/or accomplishment, especially, disproportionately, Caucasian males, have the arrogance to assert or imply that the failures of those less fortunate are entirely their own fault, and, even if that’s not so, there’s no reason to help them or even try to improve equality of opportunity in society.

The other form of arrogance revealed in the COVID debate is the dismissal of older people, immuno-compromised people, and others who are not healthy young adults as not worth protecting because the length or type of life they have remaining is somehow less valuable.

I did a quick check of people who accomplished notable achievements late in life, and that list is anything but short, but I include some examples. Winston Churchill was 65 when he became Prime Minister at the beginning of WWII, and it’s doubtful that there was anyone else who could have done what he did (since every other leading British politician had already botched matters). Peter Roget created the first effective thesaurus when he was 73. Darwin didn’t publish On the Origin of Species until he was 50. Louis Pasteur was 63 when he developed and proved the effectiveness of his rabies vaccine. Rita Levi-Montalcini won a Nobel Prize for her discoveries about the nerve growth factor at age 79 and made additional significant discoveries for almost another decade. At 55, Pablo Picasso completed his masterpiece, Guernica. At 88, Michelangelo created the architectural plans for the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri. Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the “Little House on the Prairie” book series, was 64 when she published her first work, Little House in the Big Woods. Benjamin Franklin was 70 when he signed the Declaration of Independence. Then, of course, there’s Stephen Hawking, who was anything but hale and healthy for most of his life.

The value of a life can be “measured” in many ways – by accomplishments, by character, by the changes in the lives of others resulting from one’s acts or failures to act, by the amassing of influence and power, but why are those, or other measurements, not applied to older, immuno-compromised, or disabled individuals, rather than considering them of less worth or consideration merely because of their age or physical frailty? Or is youth, which is so often wasted on the young, so much more important?

I certainly learned more from older teachers and older mentors than from those younger, yet many of the views I’ve seen expressed suggest that, rather than require a minimal effort of others, such as a vaccination, politicians and policy makers would rather subject older people and those more vulnerable to greater danger. And if those who suggest such an approach do succeed in establishing such a precedent, will they go “gentle into that good night” or will they “rage against the dying of the light” [of civility and care] when it comes their turn to be minimized or disregarded? [With thanks to Dylan Thomas].

21 thoughts on “Arrogance”

  1. Ryan Patrick Jackson says:

    What’s truly sad is you can absolutely see the signs of environmental and outside influences in even successful people.

    Look at the founding fathers. I’d argue Hamilton was more influential to our country’s establishment and development than Jefferson, definitely more impactful than Adams. Would he have been anything if Washington hadn’t seen something in him and sheltered him while he went about his goals? Without Washington would he be just another immigrant who was ignored by the wealthier people in power?

    The reality is that no matter how talented, brilliant or skilled any of us are, some of our success lies at the feet of our parents, our social circles, our luck in the time we’re born. That includes if we happen to be younger people in this day and age. The idea that I deserve life more than someone older just because they’ve lived longer is ludicrous. Always has been.

    But, and I despise saying this, I think your essay ignores something in the responses you are showing concern towards. They’ve actively selfish and understand that. This isn’t someone refusing a mask because they think it doesn’t work well to protect themselves and no one’s explained that it’s to protect others. No, these are people saying flat out that no matter how good it would be, no matter how many lives it would save, if it mildly inconveniences or forces a choice for them, then it’s wrong.

    And honestly, I am slowly losing hope that there’s a way to reach through that level of innate callousness.

    1. R. Hamlton says:

      What’s wrong is not inconvenience, it’s imposing requirements on free people, regardless of the benefit. I think many people that resist would be far more willing to follow a well substantiated recommendation than to quietly comply with a mandate.

      Heck, I’m old enough and out of shape enough to be vulnerable myself, so of course I’m careful; and I don’t want to harm anyone, although I STILL think that like myself, the rest of the vulnerable (including those more vulnerable than me) are responsible to protect themselves rather than demand that others protect them.

      But any politician that feels entitled to command me, certainly for longer than a very brief emergency (90 days at the absolute max no matter how long the hazard lasts) is unworthy of office or respect. And I think that’s about valuing liberty, not devaluing other people. After all, it’s their liberty too, and even if they disagree in this instance, I’d support their liberty in most (yes, there is at least one exception) instances where I disagreed with it.

      1. Ryan Patrick Jackson says:

        Again, I have to ask. Have you been valiantly opposing seatbelts? How about Speed Limits when you drive?

        Do you shout things like Fire in Theatres and Bomb on airplanes?

        Do you walk into Libraries, Schools or other places with gun bans wearing a weapon because they can’t deny your freedom?

        The reality is the cost of having a society dictates we cannot have true 100% freedom and we’ve never had it. Your freedom stops where it endangers others.

        You cannot functionally survive in this idea of never imposing requirements on a free people. Because there’s someone stronger than you who’d like your stuff. And we can’t stop them from injuring or killing you and taking it, because that’d be imposing limitations on their freedom. You don’t have any right to expect anyone to help you because, per your idealogy, it’s purely your responsibility to protect yourself.

        And yet I’m betting you’d call the Police if you felt there was a dangerous situation. You’d call the fire department if your home caught flame. You go to the doctor when you’re sick.. All these things that involve others taking action to help and protect other than themselves. Which according to you is unethical.

        This thread from you really is disappointing. To draw on Mr. Modesitt’s work… You’re Anya from The White Order/The Magic Engineer/Colors of Chaos. But it’s worse, she accepted she’s a villain and her particular bend of nihilism just justified it in her mind. You somehow think you’re the good guy. I really don’t get it.

        1. R. Hamilton says:

          I don’t oppose traffic lights, I’m indifferent but not opposed about seat belts (except that not wearing one when alone in the car does NOT endanger anyone else, so why require it then, just don’t let 1st responders endanger themselves in that situation), and I’m neither nasty enough nor stupid enough to yell “fire” if there isn’t a fire.

          I don’t expect 100.00% individual freedom, nobody in their right mind does; that’s a straw man argument.

          I DO expect that government refrain from attempting to protect everyone from everyone, solve every problem, meet every need, use fear to obtain obedience, or condition people to expect to be obedient and fearful. Free people SHOULD NOT TOLERATE any of that. That’s REGARDLESS of whether the mandates are sensible in and of themselves; sensible people will follow recommendations, and non-sensible ones probably won’t follow mandates, period.

          There are actions and occasions for which rules are necessary, but a tendency toward rules, regulation, big spending and the associated taxes, IS NOT ABOUT SOLVING PROBLEMS, it’s about the pursuit of power, which is just plain EVIL.

          You want to save lives? Get some more attention (not just sound bites) on the difference between a poorly fitting inadequate mask, and a properly fitting good one. Not a blasted mandate, it’s unenforceable in most cases, but information, widely publicized and accessible, mass mailings if needed.

          1. R. Hamilton says:

            I forgot: there are a lot of cases where rules if they must exist should be more flexible. A mask mandate in a gym makes sense if and only if the number of people per unit of space taking into account ventilation exceeds some number. Otherwise it doesn’t so much (esp. since one DOES need to breathe harder when exercising!). Something with such flexibility would tend to encourage people to avoid peak times, too, which might help.

            Yet if one tries to create rules that flexible, they’re likely unenforceable, difficult for people to know what they are, and become a multi-volume monster.

            That’s yet another reason why well substantiated and publicized GUIDANCE is frequently better than rules. You don’t get 100% compliance either way, so you might as well at least let sensible people use a little judgement and initiative.

    2. Martin Sinclair says:

      Malcolm Gladwell did an interesting podcast where he talked about Bill Gates early work with computers while he was at school. Their district was wealthy enough to be able to afford to provide computing facilities and he and his colleagues took full advantage of it. The point was that he was in the the right place at the right time so that his talent and work could actually do something for him.

  2. Tom says:

    Free People is an American bohemian apparel and lifestyle retail company that sells women’s clothing, accessories, shoes, intimates, and swimwear. It also has a beauty and wellness category, which includes products such as cosmetics, skin, and oral care, oral supplements, crystals, and books.

    I do not think that the various national governments are imposing anything specific upon these Free People.

    In our various world groups, societies, nations, there are no free people (Free- Adjective – autonomous, freestanding, independent, self-governed, self-governing, self-ruling, separate, sovereign) not even in Bundy’s group.

    Even if one uses the definition of Free – obsolete : BANISH: so that a person is isolated from other human beings; the laws of nature restrict the choices that any individual, including Rambo, may have.

    Since we humans are primarily social/societal animals we have found over thousands of years that our ability to cooperate is our single most valuable tool which gives us a chance to control the universe and free us from specifics of our environment.

    I do not know everything. Perhaps there is an example of a Free Person or even Free People somewhere outside of Utopia? If we choose to be part of any society we have responsibilities, not just to our sovereign selves but to the group we have elected to belong to. The question I have is why there is a complete disregard for others: and this disregard is world-wide, cutting across cultures and involving the have-nots as well as the usual suspects.

    1. R. Hamilton says:

      The question is not and never has been about absolute individual liberty, save for a few who imagine each individual as a sovereign nation. Nor HOPEFULLY about absolute collectivism with the individual merely a cog in the societal/collective machine.

      There is a balance. The debate is about where that balance should be, whether it’s headed way too far towards collectivism and authoritarianism.

      I think guidance does NOT exceed that balance, but MANDATES, except in very limited situations (masks in public transport, for instance) tend toward exceeding that balance.

  3. Joe says:

    I find part of your argument frighteningly out of touch.

    There’s a reason children and young women were let off sinking ships first. It’s simple biology and has nothing to do with moral worth. Women of reproductive age, and children, are key to keep the species/country/genetic line going.

    The notion that one should instead privilege the interests of those with only a few years left to live leads to the loss of the species/country/genetic line.

    Yet, that is what we have been doing again and again over the last decades. Most recently with COVID. And this reversal of standard morality does actually bring up the question of moral worth.

    The people in power whose decisions failed to control COVID, indeed possibly created it, are mostly over 70. In the 1960s such people would mostly retire, or, in the case of Europe, many would be dead because of World War 2. Peace, and demography are why the boomers had such an easy time getting a job. But now they won’t retire and let anyone else do the job. On average they have a decade or so left to live.

    The policies being followed today mostly benefit those over 60 and the not very many immunocompromised. On average these people have two decades or so to live.

    The policies being followed are mostly harming the young or those still dependent on work who have between 3 and 7 decades left to live. These people may never recover from the educational damage, the loss of their businesses and/or the coming recession/stagflation due to the lockdowns. If vaccination does have long term effects, it is the young that will suffer the longest.

    Despite your anecdotal counter-examples, most people contribute most before 60. The likelihood of senility increases sharply around 70.

    So, practically, we’ve been very kind to the elderly. In fact, I think a good argument can be made that society has been overly-kind to them.

    Do they deserve such kindness? Well it’s not like the greatest generation who had to fight a world war. Most of them didn’t. Instead they had wonderful lives. They got to be incredibly free in the 1960s, thanks to the invention of contraception. And then, they got to be rich, pulling the proverbial ladder up after them. They pushed globalization, destroying the social fabric of the US to benefit themselves by moving all manufacturing to China, taking what their ancestors had created and selling it to make a quick buck. If China dominates this century, and I think it will, this will be due to the corruption of the West by the Boomers. They were happy to increase costs on the young, so much so that the number of young men going to university is collapsing. And they’ve been happy to participate in social monstrosities such as Sugar-Baby University, where young women pay for their University education by being sex-toys for old men. Yet apparently they still think they’re entitled to even more.

    So sorry, but no, I do not believe we need to privilege your generation any more than we already have. In a sane world, any generation would care about their children and grandchildren who follow them more than they would about themselves. Indeed, the only evolutionary value of the elderly is that they can provide a better chance to the youngest generation. If humans hadn’t done that since time immemorial, we’d die off as soon as we were no longer reproductively fit. In most cultures, the decent thing is for the young to tell their elders they are still valued. But equally for the elders to sacrifice to benefit the young. But the Boomer generation clearly broke that pattern themselves, both when young, and now when old, and thus has no right to expect other generations to follow this generational contract regardless of their own behavior.

    1. MRE says:

      Hi Joe,

      That was a pretty bonkers post. While I disagree with almost everything about it, I feel like there’s a Three Stooges effect, where I don’t know what to talk about first. To be clear, I think that reasonable people can have differing opinions, so it’s sometimes worth trying to change their minds. We’ll see if this is one of those times.

      First of all, you argument assumes a pretty strange interpretation of how basic fairness and morality evolved in the first place. People don’t save women and children first out of a deep seated genetic imperative, they do so because society and upbringing tells them to. There are plenty of examples of man regressing to the state of nature and leaving women and children to drown so that the individuals aboard ship can save their own necks. That’s evolutionarily efficient too, according to your stark Darwinian interpretation of social and political behavior.

      You might respond by saying that successful societies will train themselves to save the women and children first so the *society* will flourish, and you might be right. Or at least half right, since flourishing societies tend to value things like keeping their word and behaving honorably, behaviors that matter when you live in close proximity with people you have to interact with repeatedly. They remember when you break your word or let innocent children drown, and won’t trust you. The point is, once you enmesh yourself in societies that allows trade in goods and services and enforceable contracts, you’re going to get distributions you don’t like (wealth, opportunities, etc…). That doesn’t mean you should just seize the wealth of the group that can do the least to stop you. Or throw out the contracts we find onerous. Sure it happens, but there’s a reason public opprobrium is usually attached to such behavior.

      The thing is, the same argument holds for how we treat our elderly as to how we pay off our debts—be they personal or intergenerational.

      Now maybe you’re suggesting that society has somehow miscalculated, and that you are privy to the secret worth of the aged and the actuarial tables of intrinsic human value? But why should we believe that over what they’ve done and earned over their own lifetimes? They may not reproduce and can go senile at higher rates, but they can still spend the money they’ve earned improving their kids’ lot in life—not to mention benefiting society with their day jobs. I actually think our host undersold the contribution of older people. I know from personal experience that most academics don’t publish seriously until their mid forties. And arguably their best work has to wait a few years for them to mature even then.

      And as I mentioned above, advocating for policies that harm them flies in the face of some basic societal tenants of fairness and moral behavior. We take care of our elderly because we love them…and if you don’t, then we do it anyway because we will all be old one day, and don’t want to get thrown out of the boat. You might be okay with that, but your own biological determinism suggests society has evolved more caring attitudes to make living with each other easier…no matter how much the impersonalism of the internet makes it feel otherwise.

      I’m not going to address your general dislike for Boomers and Nostradamus-like predictions of stagflation and economic disaster, I’m not Milton Friedman and neither are you. It’s possible it’ll happen, but I’ll hold off worrying until our borrowing reaches European levels of poor judgment.

      Anyhow, I doubt this will change anybody’s mind, but it’s Canadian Thanksgiving and I was bored. But now I’ve got to go to bed, need to be up early to take my dad to the oncologist tomorrow…even if he was a draft dodger.

      1. Martin Sinclair says:

        This “we save the women and children because they’re of more future value to society” thing actually tends to work counter to Darwinian evolution anyway. It’s unlikely that a semi-random group of people would be related to you so your personal gene-line would die out for the benefit of someone else’s entirely. I tend to agree with Stephen jay Gould when he made the observation that the natural environment is not a good place to be drawing your morality from 🙂

      2. Joe says:

        Goldman Sachs, Blackrock, Nouriel Roubini are all concerned about stagflation. Inflation is here. No “Nostradamus” needed.

        40 is not 80. COVID’s harm to people grows exponentially with age. Therefore if we shut the economy down, we are doing so to benefit the aged.

        Our “leaders” are aged. Fauci is 80. Biden is 78. You really believe they are the best the country can offer? Trump? Biden? Pelosi? Are these truly the best and the brightest a nation of over 333 million people has to offer? The fact we have yet to have a Gen-X president is astounding. I doubt 2024 will break the mold.

        Simply because a phrase only appeared in print in the 1860s doesn’t mean that hasn’t been common practice across the world. I’ll grant you that Asia, with its reverence for the elderly, might be different. But even so, that rule has different implications when a population pyramid is more triangular (few older people as in the past) and flat at the top (many more older people, today’s situation)

        Misogynistic people do not save women. Most of 7 billion people on this planet still inhabit the “misogynistic time” you bemoan.

        Power tracks wealth. Power determines what happens in society. You might think my argument is based on greed. In fact, it’s about much more than that. Brexit harmed the young, but those who no longer depend as much on a healthy economy and will soon die voted for it.

        Here’s another Nostradamus prediction: most boomers will get their full retirement. Most of those who follow won’t. Reasoning? Look at the money left in most social security systems. Look at the fact, that in many European countries the age of retirement keeps being increased.

        Simply because we like our elders, doesn’t mean we have to agree with them that their choices benefit all of us. Indeed, we can be saddened by their self-centeredness.

        I never said we should take our morality from evolution. Indeed, placing others from our society before oneself is an adaptation that benefits one’s society/culture more than one’s particular genetic line. However it should at least be somewhat consistent with it. Saving the elderly at the expense of the young is a fast path to bye bye.

        1. Ryan Patrick Jackson says:

          Unsure why you replied to my comments in a different response, but we’ll address that specific section.

          I’m not saying the phrase “Women and Children First” couldn’t have existed before 1860. I’m saying that’s the first time it appeared in print and it is stated further that the phrase only existed since around 1852.

          I Further went on to point out that even if it was somehow a noble statement of protection the species as you incorrectly state, it is no longer the rule. The current rule is, again, “Help the most vulnerable to leave the scene first, likely to be the injured, elderly and young children.” which does not specify gender, only vulnerability. Which includes elderly.

          I also find it comical that you somehow think a society that is patriarchal dominated somehow wouldn’t protect women because… why again? Oh, you don’t provide actual thought there, just an insistence that you’re right.

          Look, Joe. Despite the conspiracy nuttiness I’m detecting (You’ve repeatedly brought up the idea that Covid was a deliberate creation, now apparently one made by the elderly to… what?) I’m willing to go with MRE’s assessment that it could just be fear and lack of information going on here.

          If you’d care to discuss further, please actually know the subjects you speak to and have sources and reasoning for why you state your side.

          1. Joe says:

            If you’d care to discuss further, please actually know the subjects you speak to and have sources and reasoning for why you state your side.

            Wow. Speaking of arrogance…

            the idea that Covid was a deliberate creation

            The lab leak hypothesis is currently held to be the most likely scenario. NIH, lead by Fauci, paid for work on what most scientists consider to be gain of function research to be done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology through the EcoHealth alliance.

            The likelihood that the furin cleavage site occurred naturally is infinitesimal.


          2. Ryan Patrick Jackson says:

            Arrogance would imply I feel I’m smart and you’re not. That’s not the issue, the issue is your lack of any type of coherent narrative or source.

            For instance, you just said the lab leak is the most likely scenario. Without context or citation. Yet a cursory review of available news on the situation says it’s not impossible but there’s no evidence either way. That’s not the same as “The most likely scenario”. It is not the most likely scenario, it is one scenario that has no evidence to support it, but is not impossible.

            In fact, one source: goes so far as to say while the possibility was dismissed too easily, there is no evidence to support it still and there is growing evidence to support it made a zoonotic jump to humans.

            Again, you do not cite sources, give reasoning. You just make a claim without merit and present it as a fact. If that is how you are planning to discuss, I see no further purpose in responding to you. Your call.

          3. Joe says:

            It is arrogance to tell me I do not know whereof I speak, that I may only speak under certain conditions, and that you somehow are the arbiter of truth. You were also extremely rude to R Hamilton: “kindly close your mouth”.

            There is currently more evidence for the lab leak hypothesis than there is against it.

            Bats cannot even be infected by Sars-Cov-2. That means they were not the most recent source of it. Indeed, no animal has been found from which it could have jumped to human hosts. That should tell you something. As time goes on, there is less and less evidence for the non lab-origin hypothesis. Without an a priori belief, there is no reason to consider the natural origin source hypothesis as more realistic.

            You require of me that I provide a source for everything I write. That’s an unreasonable demand. I don’t have time for that. Nor would you. It’s not up to me to write entire class notes for you each time I say something. You can research it yourself. I suggest not just following US media if you wish to do so.

            There’s a very good reason for many virologists to not want Sars-Cov-2 to have been released by a lab. If it were, their work might be banned by an angry public. However, even Ralph Baric, who pioneered the methods used at the Wuhan Institute of virology by his student Shi Zhengli (aka Bat Lady), is concerned this could be a lab leak. and and

            China also hasn’t been forthcoming with evidence (which is unsurprising if you know China), and the UN investigations involved 3 hours at the Wuhan Institute of Virology after they had had a year to clean it up. So shockingly (not) they didn’t find anything.

            Unfortunately even scientific Journals haven’t exactly been paragons of virtue. The initial letter published in the Lancet to discredit the lab leak hypothesis was orchestrated by Peter Daszig, the guy behind Ecohealth alliance. Look it up. There have been other such incidents.

            So we have bad data. The little we do have favors the lab leak hypothesis. That is not “conspiracy nuttiness” as you claimed.


    2. Ryan Jackson says:

      MRE did far better and with far more patience than I can muster. But I wanted to touch on something very simple here.

      “Women and children first” you posit as some deep genetic behavior.

      The phrase originated around 1852. It first appeared in writing around 1860. The idea was not to protect the young and the people who could bear children. It comes from the misogynistic time where men did all the work. Specifically it started with a ship that was on fire and the women, children and some men (To keep an eye on them and lead them of course) were in the boats while all the other able bodied men stayed to fight the fire. Getting the “helpless” and “Not useful” out of the way.

      Being used as a noble thing comes later. Mostly in an attempt to romanticize it. Much the way Bushido is portrayed as this noble devotion and loyalty while carefully glossing over the classism and corruption.

      Do you know what the modern stance on such things is? “Help the most vulnerable to leave the scene first, likely to be the injured, elderly and young children.” Nothing about women specifically.

  4. Joe says:

    Hi LEM,

    I do not appreciate you letting Mr Jackson defame me by writing that I do not know of what I speak, that I am indulging in conspiracy theorizing, but when I point out that I am not the one who needs education on a particular topic, you delete or edit my messages.

    That is not a fair playing field, and it suggests only certain viewpoints are welcome here: those that agree with yours.


    1. I didn’t edit your last opening statement, which was more than a little caustic.

      Ryan Patrick Jackson did not attack you personally; he attacked the way you presented evidence. Your comments that I deleted were a direct personal attack. I’ve let you have fairly broad discretion in attacking what others have said. I have not deleted anything factual or theoretical that you have posted. I’m not an arbiter of truth. I am trying to maintain a degree of civility. You keep pushing those bounds. On this site, you can express your ideas about issues and facts, but you have a tendency to get angry and personal with those who don’t agree with you. You made an excellent series of points about the origin of COVID, and I happen to believe your comments on that are more accurate than those of Mr. Jackson. So please don’t make assumptions about whose “side” I happen to be on.

      1. Joe says:

        Thank you for the clarification, LEM.

        We happen to disagree on what is a personal attack, it seems, and what is an expression of irritation. I don’t happen to find my opening paragraph particularly caustic, just honest. Anyway, I guess we soldier on.

      2. R. Hamilton says:

        “and I happen to believe your comments on that are more accurate than those of Mr. Jackson.”

        That’s refreshing. 🙂

        Now, if someone would connect the dots between PRC domestic but not international travel ban, early talk by their government about COVID not being transmissible between humans, very high activity detected at PRC crematoriums, and various other events in a similar pattern, and posit that the ChiComs were quite harmed by their own blunder and decided to ensure the rest of the world was also harmed (in effect an act of war that killed over a million worldwide) so as not to gain an advantage over them, I’d be downright giddy. (note, I do NOT suggest the release itself was intentional, rather that they may have weaponized a blunder by the way they handled it)

        NOT to say that it’s proven, and of course even if true, there are certainly those with interests in covering up (who may get desperate if they think their power is at risk). But I think it’s at least as much a plausible suspicion as it is a conspiracy theory.

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