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100 Tips for a Better Life

Yeah, I was also looking at the Far Eastern public health officials rather than the Western ones (and definitely not the US). So I forgot about the mask fiasco. I was wearing a mask on a flight back in Feb.

Although some people do exaggerate the claims regarding climate science (Extinction Rebellion), I have not seen government officials do so. If you could point me to a source, that would be interesting. Generally the threat of climate change has been de-emphasised, to the alarm of scientists.

100 Tips for a Better Life

Just for the record, climate change is not really controversial or doubtful in any meaningful, scientific way. I am sincerely puzzled by you viewing it as such. Maybe it is because of my scientific training and having looked at the data from the perspective of a scientist. Taking appropriate measures against COVID to avoid a public health crisis in the form of overburdened hospitals (even if I myself would probably be ok if I contracted it) also does not seem all that controversial to me. So I think those examples are fine, but I really don't want to start a debate about that. I would just refer you to the relevant literature.

My initial claim is your conclusion:

it’s misleading to equivocate between “someone tells you the truth” and “someone generates anxiety in you”

So I think that we agree now.

100 Tips for a Better Life

I think that the burden of proof is rather on you to prove that all statements that are anxiety-inducing and have solutions, are false. Or that all people who make such statements are grifters (have ulterior motives that do not include your wellbeing). I don't think it follows necessarily, and that is simply my point.

As you formulate your response, consider also this: there is another category of allegedly “honest, sincere ‘friendlies’”

That's why I said "sometimes" and "although grifters do this...". So I don't think that this is a valid point, and I'll skip it.

I could select other examples, such as measles ("those who tell you to get vaccinated are grifters"), cigarettes ("those oncologists are grifters"), climbing rope vendors ("those people are afraid of gravity and are grifters"), heart attacks ("Big pharma are selling you Warfarin! Grifters!"), car accidents ("who needs to maintain their brakes? People who sell brake pads are grifters!"), etc. The examples can get ridiculous, but the point is that there are real hazards out there and that there are people who are thoughtful and provide a solution. Often, they make money out of it. But that doesn't mean that it isn't a good product/service.

But if I wish to have a principled way to distinguish the true examples from the false ones—is there one? Can you provide it?

The examples depend on the claims being made. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to provide a perfect solution to distinguishing truth from falsehood in all situations in the answer to a blog post ;) 

[Edited typos]

100 Tips for a Better Life

59. Those who generate anxiety in you and promise that they have the solution are grifters. See: politicians, marketers, new masculinity gurus, etc. Avoid these. 

Although grifters do this, there are real problems and real solutions out there. Someone telling you the truth is not necessarily a grifter. They could be an honest, sincere "friendly". Easy examples: public health officials during COVID. Climate scientists. Sometimes, people who tell you not to be anxious are the grifters.

100 Tips for a Better Life

Great list!

26. Are you on the fence about breaking up or leaving your job? You should probably go ahead and do it. People, on average, end up happier when they take the plunge. 

Kind of true for less serious relationships, and especially true for jobs, I have found. But studies have found that married couples who stick it out through a rough patch are happier on average, five years later, than those who don't. Of course, it depends on the circumstances. We immediately think of abusive relationships. But for most instances of e.g. marriage, it is good for you to keep promises, not run away from your problems, and do the hard emotional work. Running away can be an easy short-term solution that causes more serious long-term problems. YMMV of course, depending on circumstances.