Navigating Through The Noise

SIG*INT  intelligence obtained through the interception of transmission signals

HUM*INT : the gathering of political or military intelligence through secret agents

“May you live in interesting times.” —Sir Austen Chamberlain

One of my professors, who I remain convinced had actually been a spook before academia liked to say “The majority of spying is done by normal people, who offer real-time, on the ground reports of the things that they are seeing, and while it can seem really mundane, you can learn more than any spy satelite or electronic intercept can tell you about actual conditions.”  At the time, I was skeptical, but then I started practing law, and after a few years, I have come to value HUMINT a great deal more than SIGINT when it comes to what is going on around us.

I think it is safe to say that the conditions in which we live today are far outside the contemplation of all but the most scheming and fanciful among us even a year ago.  I know that if you had told me that a virus was going to have the majority of the country home-bound for months on end, receiving ever-increasng amounts of welfare to survive, while various malcontents would coalesce around an eggregious exageration regarding racism, and literally run riot all over the country, defying, with the tacit approval of cynical politicians, the same “emergency” mandates by which the average American was made to kill their own economic prospects and small businesses, and relentlessly assail various aspects of American culture under the same tired and untrue rubric of “racism”, I would have had a difficult time believing it.

We live in an age where everyone is a few keystrokes away from information.  Unfortunately, there is so much that sifting through it to find something meaningful requires sometimes serious effort, making understanding the world a more arduous task than it it seems to be on first blush.  With regard to our own country, SIGINT abounds.  There are no shortage of broadcasts, blogs, and digitized magazines and newspapers today.  Sadly, too many of them focus their efforts on telling us what to think, rather than giving us information and letting us draw our own conclusions, making this SIGINT-rich environment difficult to draw any meaningful intelligence out of.  At this time, any value SIGNIT about our own country and culture has is as a secondary source, once carefully sifted, in order to confirm the HUMINT that has revealed itself to be more reliable.

When I became an attorney, I realized that most people get very honest and candid with their lawyer than I would have believed when I was in law school.  So much so that I can honestly say that I know things about people that I don’t want and NEVER wanted to know.  But at the same time, they will be remarkably frank about other things.  Like how they are getting by in a Covid lockdown, or their experiences or lack of experiences with the virus.  This has been interesting in trying to flesh out the true nature of the experience, along with direct information from people who work in the health care profession.

Starting with the health care professionals I know and trust who have first hand experience, I would say that (a) the virus is real, and not a hoax; (b) those who are doing the frontline work are tired…this has gone on for months, and the people with the “oin-demand” skillsets for dealing with Covid patients haven’t had a meaningful break; (c) standards for hospitalization and treatment have been relaxed from where they were at the beginning, as certain protocols have proven to be more effective than others (meaning that while there are increased cases to follow the increased testing, the hospitalization numbers may not always indicate the same degree of severity that we would have expected in March or April).  I have no doubt that it feels like a neverending grind with the days all mashing into each other, and it undoubtedly sours some dealings with others who don’t see the same thing from day to day.

Then there is the everyday perspective.  Many of the clients I have met with in the last two months are 50 or older.  While almost all of them were wearing masks before the governor “mandated” it, several of them were doubtful about the daily information from government and the media, and a few made it clear that they felt that some of the “experts” had destroyed their credibility by talking out of both sides of their mouths.

And then there were the others.

One client came in to sign a lease-related document.  He sat in my office, wearing a mask, and reading through the eight page document, occasionally asking a question about it.  When he got to the end, he took out a pen, signed it, and handed it back to me so I could notarize his signature.  He regarded me quietly for a minute, then asked “You aren’t worried about this virus?” (presumably because I wasn’t wearing a mask…he was six feet away from me, sitting on the other side of my desk).  I looked up and said “Not really.”
He seemed to ponder it, then said “I can’t even go to work.  If I get this, I’m dead, what with all my other conditions.”  I looked at him and said “I’ve been coming to work since this started.  I’m essential personnel, and the things I do for people don’t stop just because there is a virus.”  He nodded, then volunteered “My cousin got it a few weeks ago.  He’s dead now.”  I stopped and looked up, saying “I’m genuinely sorry to hear that.”
He asked me “Do you know anyone who has had it?”  I replied “A few people who might have had it, but weren’t diagnosed.  A few online acquaintances who said they had it, but recovered.  And my sister-in-law had it.  She was diagnosed because she had a fever when she went to work.  She recovered without ever really feeling sick.”  We discussed the document and some additional information, and he left.

Another client came to visit me so that they could sign some real estate conveyance documents.  While this person was masked, they expressed no concern about my lack of a mask, and we even exchanged some jokes about it, until she said “Well, it isn’t like we’re in a church.”  I looked her in the eye, and said “We’ve been back to church for more than a month now.  And I’ve even been singing up in front every Sunday!” as I let a smile cover my face.

The client became visibly unconfortable, and asked “Don’t you have any senior citizens in your church?”  I replied “About half the congregation.” They asked “Have they been coming?” and I said “Most of them, yes.”  I could see the face cloud up “But they’re wearing masks, right?”  I shook my head and said “No, only two of them wore masks.”

As they signed the documents, they asked “Why is your church open?”  I smiled and said “Because when our governor, who said that it was fine to go to the grocery store and Wal-Mart, who allowed the riots demonstrations to continue, but decided he was going to dictate to US how we conducted communion, it was a bridge too far.”  After a pause, the client looked me in the eye and said “I can respect that.”  Then they asked “Aren’t you scared?”

I waited to answer, then said “I don’t think most people want to die or suffer a serious injury or illness, but can you say that being told you can’t go to work, the movies, out to a ball game, church, or even a friend or family member’s birthday party is actually living?  Our “two weeks to flatten the curve” started how many months ago?”

I could see the activity behind the client’s eyes.

I added “Do you know anyone who has actually died from this?  Do you know anyone who has had it?  In my case, I know ONE person who doesn’t work in health care who knew someone who died from it.  I have a family member who had it, and she’s fine, and some accquaintances who had it, who were slightly ill for a few days.  I know one person who has had it, and has had a few months now of some lingering effects.”

The client looked at me, and said “I know some people who tested positive, less than 5 who were sick, and no one who died.”  I asked “Does this in any way conform to what we’re hearing on the news daily?”

They looked at me for a minute, then said “You know, everytime I come to see you, you say something that I’m going to think about for a while after I leave.”

I’m not about to pretend that I know everything about this pandemic, but it should be fairly obvious that the legacy media isn’t telling the full story, either.


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