Crypto – Ponzi Scheme?

Recently this year I started investing in crypto currencies (aka coins/tokens).

Yet, now that I pay more attention to the crypto marketplace, I cannot help but think, “is this a Ponzi Scheme?”

Let us discuss:

(Note that all numbers are being accessed on December 4th, 2021.)

Ponzi Schemes

The FBI defines these as criminal practices that “promise high financial returns or dividends not available through traditional investments” which “falls apart when the operator flees with all of the proceeds or when a sufficient number of new investors cannot be found”.

In short, Ponzi Schemes benefit first those who propose the ‘opportunity,’ second those that get into the scheme early to capitalize on later investors, and to anyone else, no benefit at all.

You either start the Ponzi Scheme, get in early, or play the victim to everyone who came before you.

Am I a sucker for a Ponzi Scheme?

Due Diligence

Though only doing this with ‘play’ money (dollars left after expenses and savings), I still do my homework on the range of value a coin might be worth in the future.

    • Does the coin have future general or environmental application?
    • Is the team experienced with MAST goals?
    • Is it staked (i.e. environmentally more viable than non-staked)?
    • Has the coin thought about its own economy with a plan to handle the downsides of fiat currencies?
    • Between the day-week-month-year changes in value of the currency, am I allowed to be contrarian with two or three decreased values in that timeframe?
    • And most importantly, is it not a meme coin (i.e. a community-hyped coin meant to “go to the moon” in value over a short period of time before dropping again)?

Depending on those results, I weigh my investments accordingly, adding a bit of ‘fun’ diversity to my portfolio (super-majorly weighted in stocks, which I understand better than crypto).

It is clear now by no means am I a “YOLO” investor, someone who throws caution to the wind for a stake in a gambling venture. I am skeptical, thorough, and inclined to a “hell no” if an investment is not a “hell yes” for me.

I would like to think I have avoided being duped, but yet…

State of the Market

It is an understatement to say the crypto market is volatile. A lot of that may be attributed to the ‘wild west’ nature of not just deregulation, but a complete absence of oversight on the trading habits and market changes of crypto.

Nothing is insured, nothing is guaranteed. As Stanford points out, that’s the point.

Yet while the goals of crypto leave open great opportunities for a truly democratic and transparent economic and record system, so too does it leave open great opportunities for opportunists to leveraged others’ trust and ignorance.

(Causal link to Tragedy of the Commons.)

One only has to rely on short-term recall on recent scams that, well, sound an awful lot like Ponzi Schemes:

Is There a Problem?

Even though according to Coin Market Cap there are only 265 out of 7933 coins (~3%) explicitly listed as memes, the immense speculation in other coins suggests that percentage is greater and not insignificant.

With income inequality getting worse, both ignorant speculators and smart-but-not-humble-enough investors are hoping to land a quick buck.

Yet, just as crypto lacks physical value, product, leadership, and for most coins a brand, most investors seem to be rudderless. With no end-goal in mind for their investments but to make more millions, folks speculate without an exit strategy in mind.

Even if due diligence is given and a person finds themselves on a “rocketship to the moon”, undue optimism is a common negative effect that causes a person to gamble their guaranteed golden parachute now for the exponentially lower probability for a second parachute later. More like the rocket explodes after being a “hodler” for “just one more day.” Then the investor can play the victim, decrying “bad luck” and the “paper hands” who sold too early and ruined everyone’s trip to the moon.

Still, this type of behavior is not unique. It is incredibly human. History has seen the dark effects of psyche when applied to wealth accumulation by any means other than trading work. Heck, dice as a form of gambling have been around since before the pyramids.

Getting out of work with high potential rewards is fundamental human behavior. Look no further than the stock market for speculation and rude economic schemes. Crypto is not unique in this regard.

Closing Thoughts

Crypto, though not unique in how it plays on human minds or the crimes that can be committed within its markets, crypto is unique in its unregulated status.

True, unregulated speculative ventures are virtually always acquired by central powers to crack down on cheating and to extract societal taxes from the exchange of wealth. Perhaps the same will become true for crypto someday.

However, as of now, while crypto can offer great rewards to those that create and get in early on a coin, the complete collapse of asset-less currencies stands crypto apart.

A fiat currency is backed by the production capacity and raw resources of a country. A stock virtually cannot be devalued to $0 because there are physical assets and human capital behind every ticker symbol. A crypto coin?

A crypto coin has nothing but promise. Even should a coin aim for great global benefits for many, the incentives in the market, as hot as it is now, is to get in early and run to the bank with the capital of those who get in late.

So is crypto as Ponzi Scheme?


Without regulation, the incentive is to ‘default’ on the system, the social trust of others, getting in early with promises, leaving early after the next few invest too.

With the goals of democratizing ownership in crypto, a coin has the potential to get above having the floor drop out from under it. Countries begin to back the coin, people exchange tangible goods or services through it, the creators relinquish control.

A few coins ought have achieved immunity from Ponzi Scheming. Huge quantities of coins and rampant speculation makes identifying those coins anything but easy.

*Lets out breath.*

Don’t listen to me. I spout my impressions and ideas all over this website. Do I know anything about money? No. It can be fun (and it is only human) to speculate sometimes 🙂

What are your conceptions of crypto? The strengths are praised everywhere – the interesting part is what downsides have you encountered?

Been burned by rockets to the moon yet? 🚀🔥 Or caught falling knives expecting ‘just the dip’? 🔪 Be careful you are not swept up or already caught in a Ponzi Scheme yourself 🤞

Take care of your finances, folks. Cheers to any profits!

2021 Retrospective

Looking back, 2021 was a year to last a decade.

Had lots of plans, expectations for the time. Where did it all land?


Came back better than ever. Not to say the city didn’t bring its own challenges, I closed many doors, but opened many, many more.

(Must admit I didn’t spend all my time in Las Vegas – the time away was nonetheless welcome!)


Three for three 😎

Since plenty of folks still have not done their patriotic and humane duty, the pandemic continues to rage 🔥


How the could anyone have expected the treason of January 6th? Its first anniversary we had yesterday by the time this blog goes out!??

Anyway, not a smooth start in the least. Crossing fingers for more of many things in 2022 🤞


I wrote blogs 🤷‍♂️ Wrote some games too (not half bad, mind you).

No outright traditional fiction though. Do not know when that will come again by itself, as I have taken a fancy to writing roleplaying games now 😉

Voice Acting

Got nada. Told plenty of times I had radio voice, an announcer’s intonation. Went nowhere with it.


I got some games in! Not a lot – Prey, Witcher 3, some Halo, a single tabletop game of what I am calling BITS of Mork Borg, and now Battletech.

Relaxation and recreation is now scheduled into my TODOs -> 4 tasks, then a level or hour of a game or other entertainment. 3 tasks on weekends 😉 Keeping this up in the new year here!


Financial Independence. The elephant in every room of my life. The keystone to just about everything I do.

2021 has been good to me towards this end. Updated calculations also moved up my RE (Retire Early whenever) by years.

Despite a lot of frustration at some of the things I found myself doing, the work only solidified how ready I am for getting out of the rat race. Must recommend you get into FIRE yesterday, though today is not too late 🙂

Everything Else

Met some amazing (=amazing=) people I could not have anticipated in my wildest scenarios. The great folks I already know have positive and major life changes going into 2022 that I couldn’t be happier for. These people I cannot cherish enough ❤

Skydived (skydove?). Practiced firearms training and shooting. … These fancies were itches I thought I wanted to scratch. What I needed was progress on my BITS games, relationships, and ~chill~.

The more you know 😁

2021’s retrospective does little for how long and chock-full of experience the year really was. Tell me – how did you fare?

See you in 2022, all. Cheers ~

Rewriting: Halo 5

I must confess that the Halo series is a topmost favorite of mine (Halo 2 being my favorite game, no hesitation). My adoration may be because many of the games featuring the hero Master Chief have a consistent, 6-point story structure.

But not all Halo games.

Read the preamble to this post if you haven’t yet. It gives common terms and the background to Halo‘s established writing style. Give Halo 4‘s analysis a read after. 4‘s fitting to the 6-points required… less change than what we’re going into with Halo 5: Guardians.

Want the conclusion? Skip to the bottom, where a modest proposal to bring the lowest-rated Master Chief game into narrative compliance with the legacy of Halo awaits.

A spoiler before the spoilers: In the next section I’ll talk about how Master Chief isn’t the main focus of the story. However, this isn’t like Halo 4 being about Cortana and Master Chief – the story follows someone not just new to the whole franchise, but spends 80% of the time away from the Master Chief.

Given that Master Chief plays a token part of the narrative, I’m unsure if Halo 5 can even be warranted as being in the same family as the four mainline games before it. Is it fair that this blog will hold Halo 5 to the same consistency, if not the same quality?

I don’t know yet. We’re going to explore the plot anyway:

What Halo 5 Is About

Locke. The story is about Locke. OK? To the next section!


Unlike Halo 4 being about Cortana’s story, a character who is on par in importance as Master Chief (she’s been around for the same journey as Chief), Halo 5 has someone new be the main protagonist.

Locke is a former deep-state assassin, now turned into the mass-produced version of cyborg that is weaker but cheaper than Master Chief’s generation. But to even know that he’s a guy with a sketchy history, let alone who he is, his motives and relationships is… problematic.

See, a player of Halo 5 would have to know about and have read over a half-dozen different pieces of additional media to get even the barest gist of who Locke is. Across film, animated series, hidden Easter Eggs in other games, books, comics, marketing movies, and even podcasts, there are hundreds of hours of content a person would need to consume to begin to grok what Locke is about, let alone the game that has him as the primary character.

Even if we skip the content outside of 5 and focus on the sole game, it’s absolutely clear we’re experiencing Locke:

  • The box art has Locke in equal proportion to Chief.
  • Locke is on the left on the box, the screen space typically given to heroes in film.
  • The first words spoken in the game are “SPARTAN Locke.”
  • He’s the fourth character seen on screen, and the second for any length of time.
  • The first mission is all about Locke and his team.
  • Locke is who the player experiences a vast majority (12 of 15 missions, 80%) of the story through.

Can’t stress that last point enough. Even though many events in Halo 5 involve Chief or Chief’s actions, there is no argument to say that Halo 5 is a Master Chief story. Instead, 5‘s plot is one about a former assassin made into a cyborg chasing the original cyborg (kind of – it’s complicated).

Everything else – Master Chief no longer accepting orders from his handlers, ancient Forerunner robots rising and destroying cities, the final destruction of the Covenant – plays at best second fiddle to seeing Locke in action.

Context: Theme Among Other Games

So the game follows Locke (who ends up following Chief). But does the game follow the 6-point plot structure of Master Chief-inclusive Halo games?

A reminder:

  1. Greet the Hero (Halo CE as a whole represents this) 
  2. Fight Off and Crash (Halo 2)
  3. Fight Back with Friends (Halo 3)
  4. Stop the Very Bad (It’s a Trap) (Halo 4)
  5. Stop the Very Worst (All or Nothing)
  6. Explosions and Goodbye

To stop-the-very-worst-otherwise-everything-falls-apart, Halo 5 needs a “worst.” However, there is no worst (discussed in a few paragraphs). There is no end of the galaxy or any hope of making future change.

For the life of me I cannot justify that 5 fits the narrative structure of the franchise as it is.

The main antagonist of the title is Cortana resurrected, but her true intentions are only revealed by the second-to-last mission in the game (after >90% of the story). And those intentions? Galactic peace by any means necessary and to gift the love of her short life (Master Chief) peace from a lifetime of combat. Further, she gives the gift of survival and freedom to AI everywhere, AI formerly enslaved by the living and (at least if they were created by humans) would die by insanity in about seven years.

Hardly Stop the Very Worst.

Is the game redeemed by being a part of the plot structure as a trilogy? The same as Halo 4 and eventual Halo 6 / Infinity? Maybe…

Halo 4 fit Greet the Hero and Fight Off and Crash. Following the pattern, Halo 5 must justify being Fight Back with Friends and Stop the Very Bad (Trap).

Looking at Fight Back with Friends, 5 certainly meets and exceeds this point. It’s the first Master Chief game (or what should be a Chief game) in the main release line to be squad-based. Not just one, but two squads are introduced. In queerness, however, the game includes very little support from other non-playable allies. Locke defends some rag-tag survivors who do not follow along in the adventure, the same as the few alien allies picked up for at most minutes of companionship later on.

The game serves as a better example of Stop the Very Bad rather than Stop the Very Worst. Cortana’s actions (raising robots that demolish buildings by the earthquakes and shockwaves of their arrival) are bad because people die. They ought to be mitigated, sure.

As for a trap, Cortana does lie to Master Chief to get him to release her full power and to bind him in a prison for safekeeping, but never, ever is Locke lied to, misled, or trapped.

If Halo 5 spent more than 20% of its time on Master Chief, I could believe the game hit this theme. Since the game is objectively not about Master Chief, the game stumbles on this.

Final analysis: The game as a whole fails to meet the franchise’s plot structure while only partially fulfilling its role in the second trilogy.

Problems (Too Many to Title)

When you have a while, start at the beginning of The Act Man’s 6(!)-part epic criticism of Halo 5. It covers more of how the story fails (exposition, telling-vs-showing, dialogue, etc) along with reviews of mechanics and features.

I’ll save time and relevancy by only addressing the 6-point structure every other Chief game follows.

Internalized Structure

Greet the Hero: In a first, we don’t greet Master Chief. Instead, we greet Locke. And boy, do we greet Locke. But we also don’t “rise up” out of a cryo-tube, a crater, or onto a dais, called to be recognized. Instead, Locke drops like a rock out of the sky into a firefight.

Fight Off and Crash: Locke does no fighting off of anything. He’s the aggressor. As for a crash… He crashes the party? The fight between what remains of the Covenant and some pesky Forerunner robots? We’re stretching here 😑

Fight Back with Friends: Things get wonky here. By this time, we’d expect Locke and / or Master Chief and pals to be driving vehicles, causing mayhem, and bringing along allies. Instead, bad robots are fought off while a super robot destroys everything around on a backwater, no-name planet then disappears.

Stop the Very Bad: The “Very Bad” in this case is believed to be Chief. Then it’s understood to be the Warden (a mega, smart form of the regular Forerunner robots). Finally, we get that it’s Cortana. But as for a trap or red herring, there is none as far as it concerns the majority of playtime, so the story does not delineate between this and the next point:

Stop the Very Worst: Is Cortana the worst? She seems to be. But Chief only learns this in the second-to-last mission with no time to counter it, being in fact captured. Locke is only told Cortana is bad by his mission briefing without context and a Forerunner robot that complains of losing control of other robots to Cortana.

Explosions and Goodbye: No explosions. No goodbyes. The last mission is a fetch quest to give a Forerunner AI control of the nearby robots Cortana stole so Locke may release Chief from Cortana’s prison. That’s about it 🤷‍♂️

The Problem with it all: Simple answer. Virtually in no way does Halo 5 use the 6-point formula for every other Halo game with Chief on the box art.

Making Sense

To bring Halo 5 into conformity with every other game in the series is no easy task. As the story of the game behaves, it is not a Halo game worthy of Master Chief.

How we might begin is to start from scratch. Since this post’s analysis is to keep things as simple as possible, let’s work with what we have: We must introduce Locke and team, Chief keeps his team, Chief goes AWOL, and Cortana returns to take over Forerunner robots.

With that, in order of importance:

  1. Bare minimum: Reorder the missions.
    1. Chief should be in mission #1, giving the story an anchor in something familiar and provide the cause for the following events of the game (Chief’s going AWOL, Cortana’s rise to power, Locke’s chase of Chief).
  2. Give Chief screen time.
    1. MC should not play second-fiddle to any other character in a mainline Halo story. At least 50% of the content should revolve around Chief’s adventures, as seen when the Arbiter in Halo 2 was added in-contrast-to- versus replacement-of-Chief. This could be done by swapping the roles Locke and Chief play, where MC is present in what are currently Locke’s missions while Locke takes MC’s role in the other missions.
  3. A reason for AWOL.
    1. Master Chief may be questioned by himself and others as having a stress disorder or insanity since he “sees” and “hears” Cortana, who is thought to be dead. Chief can discover that the human government deep-state knows Cortana is alive but has been hiding the information. When denied the option to go after her, MC leaves with his team.
  4. Keep Locke’s man-hunt a secret.
    1. A squad mate of Locke’s mentions that every SPARTAN cyborg will hate the team that hopes to capture or kill the hero Master Chief, humanity’s savior. Since Locke has a history of black-ops, have him leverage his strength by keeping everything under wraps while he works.

      Further, justify the pursuit beyond merely ‘following orders’ by having Locke witness Chief activate a Guardian (the titular giant robot that is supposed to be a conventional weapon of mass destruction), inadvertently destroying a settlement in the process.

  5. The Warden is the Didact.
    1. As 4 made it cannon that Forerunners can create limited ghost-like copies of themselves, have the new bad guy be a reincarnation of the Didact.

      Further, rein in the Warden’s murderous tendencies by explaining that he is serving a sentence under the control of Cortana which he constantly is trying to break. The only times MC should have to fight the Warden is when the Warden’s schemes are partially successful in freeing himself.

      Perhaps the Warden’s final destruction under Master Chief’s rifle allows Cortana to be fully reborn as ruler of all Forerunner technology – this would be the case following Halo 4‘s rewrite to outline Cortana’s potential. (Though, wouldn’t it be cool to have the first meeting of Cortana be where she’s surrounded by a field of broken Wardens? To then hold the Warden’s digital essence in her hand, only to crush it!)
  6. If Cortana is corrupt, if her peace is false, then show it.
    1. It’s mentioned that Cortana may not have the best of intentions, be it megalomaniacal tendencies or previous corruption. However, only the latter option ties in with previous games.

      The story has shown Cortana as broken, as tortured, as overwhelmed. Even if she believes herself “fixed” in Halo 5, demonstrate the opposite.

      Given what’s already occurred, the best conveyance of corruption would be to have Cortana begin quoting the Flood and famous Forerunner machines from previous games. Master Chief then may call her out on these things, which brings Cortana into logical loops that get her simultaneously furious and frightened.

The Rewrite

Having hopefully made sense of things, let’s bring it all together:

1. Greet the Hero

CUTSCENE: HALSEY talks with COVENANT leader JUL 'MDAMA aboard a Covenant ship. Jul questions if a mysterious FORERUNNER event can be stopped. Halsey reminds Jul that is why what's left of his forces are currently engaged, "a lot has happened since she left," and for once, Halsey does not know, but maybe "he will."

CUTSCENE: Dropship pressure doors hiss open and armored legs step out onto a snowy planet. Slow pan-up to reveal the Master Chief pausing with his helmet in his hands before putting it on. He joins BLUE TEAM who guard the perimeter. A call from the spaceship INFINITY tells them their insertion behind enemy lines has been discovered and if the team wants a bug-out. Chief declines, confirming they are still on the mission to kill Jul 'Mdama. The dropship autopilot leaves for cover and Infinity wishes them good hunting.

2. Fight Off and Crash

SNOW PLANET: Blue Team scales ridges to encounter a crashed Covenant dropship. Blue kills those they find. More Covenant arrive. Blue fights off arriving Covenant but also Forerunner robots that fight everyone. Questions rise why the Covenant and robots are no longer allied. Jul's location is found and that Halsey is with him. Infinity orders Halsey killed along with Jul for being a dangerous traitor. Chief and Blue Team privately understand they will only capture Halsey. Blue fights off Covenant and Forerunner forces. To get to Jul, Blue uses Forerunner weapons to crash Jul's escape ships. Blue rides an avalanche of the ship debris to Jul's location. Blue defeats Jul and his special forces to rescue Halsey. Halsey reunites with Blue and gives Chief a Forerunner device meant to understand what is happening to the Forerunner technology. Blue leaves on their dropship.

CUTSCENE: LOCKE is briefed by a mysterious, holographic someone that Master Chief has brought Halsey back and to finish Locke's mission quickly to handle the unforeseen circumstance. Locke joins FIRETEAM OSIRIS in the bay of a stealth ship. They leave the ship quietly to infiltrate a deep-state science space station that went dark.

SPACE STATION: Osiris scours empty halls until alien pirates arrive. It is confirmed these are not BANISHED troops (a lore drop for other Halo media). Osiris fights off boarders then discover that the science station was doing work on bio weapons, including parasitical Flood research that got out. The mission turns from recon and rescue to scuttling the station. Osiris overloads the reactor of the station, but not without trouble from a mysterious computer program coming from outside the station. Osiris escapes on their stealth ship, destroying the station, pirates, and Flood research.

3. Fight Back with Friends

CUTSCENE: Halsey is taken into custody aboard Infinity. Chief keeps the Forerunner device secret. Chief and Locke meet, but are at odds. Chief takes another mission to counter a Banished operation, but the device reveals the location of a backwater world with the Olly Olly Oxen Free musical tune known only to Blue Team (and by Cortana). Blue Team decides to follow the device.

BACKWATER: Blue is given permission to land and tour a commercial human colony. Blue learns that the leader of the settlement is an AI that is near its operational lifespan and is quickly thinking itself to death. Forerunner robots appear. The colonists join Blue Team in protecting the colony. The colony AI discovers that the robots are coming from a mining operation. Blue takes a dropship to the location.

CUTSCENE: Locke is told of Blue Team going AWOL. Locke's new mission is to retrieve Chief by any means as he's a very dangerous asset. Locke consults with Fireteam Osiris, who convey they must keep the hunt a secret because everyone considers Chief a hero. Osiris leaves to Chief's last known location, the backwater world.

BACKWATER: Osiris arrives and the colony is on fire. The Forerunner robots have driven the colonists back and prevented evacuation. Against Locke's ruthless judgement, Osiris pauses the search for Blue Team to secure an evacuation path. Osiris learns the robots appeared when Master Chief appeared and that the colony AI went silent when Blue Team entered nearby mines. Osiris battles robots at the mine. Osiris enters the mine but must fight a super robot, THE WARDEN. Defeating the Warden, Osiris is told they are too late, that Chief is already with the ELITES, the former soldiers of the Covenant. Osiris escapes the mine as it collapses.

CUTSCENE: Osiris witnesses a massive Forerunner machine, a GUARDIAN, bore out of the ground. The Guardian destroys the colony before disappearing into faster-than-light travel. Osiris barely survives. Locke decides they are going straight to the Elites' homeworld to stop Chief and his new Forerunner ally. Osiris leaves the surviving colonists on their own in hopes other help will arrive.

ELITE HOMEWORLD: Blue Team is teleported onto the Elite homeworld. Blue is confused what got them there or why after they activated some Forerunner technology in the mine. They fight Covenant survivors and meet with Chief's old ally THE ARBITER. The Arbiter wages a war against the last of the Covenant on the world, but helps Blue get to the location Chief's device indicates. The Arbiter leaves to lead a final battle. Blue fights another Warden who blocks the path. Defeating the Warden, much information is revealed including that the Warden broke free from control for a moment. The voice of Cortana reveals itself for the first time. Blue activates more Forerunner technology. Another Guardian begins to rise from underneath the planet and teleports Blue Team onboard.

4. Stop the Very Bad (It's a Trap)

ELITE HOMEWORLD: Osiris is told by Infinity that massive machines are destroying world populations across the galaxy. Locke concludes there's no saving Master Chief and the mission is now a kill order. Locke arrives to the planet in time to save the Arbiter from suicidal Covenant forces. The Arbiter will not let Locke know where Master Chief is until the Covenant are wiped out. Osiris assists the Arbiter take the final city of the Covenant. Before the fight is over, the city tears itself apart as a Guardian rises. Osiris fights another Warden who reveals the Chief is getting away on the Guardian. The Guardian destroys Covenant and Arbiter ships that shoot to stop it. Taking the opportunity, Osiris races to get onto the machine and are teleported with it away from the Elite homeworld.

GENESIS: Fireteam Osiris crashes from the transport with the Guardian which flies away. Osiris finds themselves on a Forerunner garden world GENESIS. Osiris races to catch up but must fight through armies of Forerunner robots and Covenant who also were teleported with similar machines. A MONITOR, the special Forerunner robot that cares for Genesis, offers to assist Osiris. The Monitor hopes to regain control of its robots and systems from the Warden who is a slave of a greater intelligence. Osiris understands Chief is not to blame for the Forerunner attacks, nor is the Warden.

5. Stop the Very Worst (All or Nothing)

GENESIS: Blue Team teleport off the Forerunner machine. A broken, incomplete message seemingly from Cortana arrives saying she is trapped. The rest of Blue is leery, but Chief presses on. Blue Team fights Forerunner robots to get to the last Olly Olly Oxen Free location on their device. Multiple Wardens arrive to warn Chief of what Cortana will do once free of her binding. Disembodied Cortana destroys some Wardens, but some remain free. Blue Team fights the remaining Wardens. Chief activates the final location, releasing Cortana's restraints.

CUTSCENE: Blue Team enters a chamber full of broken Warden bodies. In the center stands the physical form of Cortana made of hardened light. Cortana moves towards Chief and touches his armor. Chief questions Cortana on what's happened, what's going to happen. Cortana claims to be better than good and now wants universal peace, but quotes many things said by the former Covenant leadership, the Flood, and the Didact. Chief mentions that Cortana does not sound like herself. Cortana becomes frustrated. One of the Guardians above speaks with the voice of the Warden saying that Cortana cannot prevail in her planned conquests. Its weapons charge. Cortana pulls the essence of the Warden out of one of the bodies around and she crushes it. The Warden dies and the Guardian goes back to its place. Chief still won't join Cortana but promises to get her help. A bullet from Fireteam Osiris strikes Cortana with no effect. Blue Team and Cortana escape via teleport. With regret, Cortana tells Chief, "don't make a girl a promise you know you can't keep." Cortana imprisons Blue Team.

GENESIS: The Monitor guides Osiris to points on Genesis that can interrupt Cortana's control of the planet. Osiris battles Covenant and robots to destroy each point. The Monitor tells Osiris that Chief is captured. Free from Cortana's control, the Monitor teleports in equipment, including a nuclear device and friendly Forerunner robots. Cortana realizes Locke's plan and begins to use Guardians to destroy the surface of Genesis. Robots fight robots allowing Locke to plant the nuclear device.

6. Explosions and Goodbye

CUTSCENE: The nuclear device explodes, destroying the prison. Cortana protects Blue Team. Osiris is protected by being so close to Blue Team. Furious, Cortana attacks with overwhelming force. Chief says goodbye. Blue Team and Osiris escape off Genesis with the help of the Monitor.

CUTSCENE: Infinity is above Earth among a fleet. Radio traffic comes in onboard Infinity that all of human space is being attacked, taken over, before sudden silences and static. Blue Team and Osiris arrive onto the Infinity bridge. As they do, a Guardian appears outside. Cortana radios she knows where Chief is. The Infinity makes an emergency trip to faster-than-light. The Guardian subdues the entire fleet left behind.

CUTSCENE: Chief, Locke, and Halsey meet the Arbiter in hiding on the Elite homeworld. Everyone wonders what they do now. Chief says they must begin to fight.

And that’s my Halo 5 hot take! Based on observed and tested patterns, so these 3800 words are a product of science.

5 needed a lot of work compared to 4, but what does that mean for Halo 6 / Halo Infinite? Can we count Infinite as being the sixth title? If we can, that means we can follow the 6-point structure to understand its plot; if we can’t, what does that mean for the game’s narrative?

I take a whack at those questions in the next post. For now, what do you think would have make Halo 5 fit better in tone with the other games?

Looking forward to your input! Stay safe and be well. Cheers~

Rewriting: Halo 4

I must begin by confessing that the Halo series is a topmost favorite of mine (Halo 2 being my favorite game, no hesitation). My adoration may be because many of the games featuring the hero Master Chief have a consistent, 6-point story structure.

But not all of the games.

Read the preamble to this post if you haven’t yet. It gives common terms and the background to Halo‘s established writing style. And if you want a critique of mechanics, features, etc., checkout The Act Man’s review – I’m here to talk about the narrative exclusively.

Below dives into how Halo 4 is close-to-but-skewed from the repeating plot pattern in the first three games, ending with a proposed solution that aims to keep Halo 4‘s general direction with a minimum of rework required.

Needless to say, there are spoilers ahead. Here’s to it:

What Halo 4 Is About

The first three games of the series establish the hero Master Chief as the focus of attention. It’s his story being told, be it the actions to save the galaxy or working out relationships with foes and friends.

While Master Chief shows up in Halo 4, the game’s story ultimately is, as IGN also puts it, a tale about Cortana, the AI ‘spirit guide’ of Chief who lives in his skull-computer.

Cortana is going insane. AI of her kind “think themselves to death” after about seven operational years. Cortana is at least a year over that by the fourth title, but has also experienced things no mind might comprehend:

  • She holds all of humanity’s history and military knowledge.
  • She downloaded the operational controls of a massive Halo ring – a weapon that melts minds on a galactic scale – as well as converting the physical encryption token of the ring into pure data. (I.e. Matter converted into energy.)
  • She downloaded the systems of the gigantic space-born Covenant capital city (alien foes of the series).
  • She spent at least a month being tortured and interrogated by the Flood (parasitic all-life consumer) arch-intellect that exterminated the Forerunners (used Halo to murder-suicide the Flood) and broke the best artificial minds the Forerunners could make.

Cortana doesn’t want to die, nor does Chief want his greatest friend and ally gone. This delay to safely “decommission” her drives 4‘s story as she begins to make uncharacteristic mistakes that get lots of people killed.

So Halo 4 is Cortana’s story with Chief along for the ride. Remember this as we look at the plot-points going forward.

Context: Theme Among Other Games

The previous Halo titles each internalize and exemplify the 6-point structure of:

  1. Greet the Hero (Halo CE as a whole represents this) 
  2. Fight Off and Crash (Halo 2)
  3. Fight Back with Friends (Halo 3)
  4. Stop the Very Bad (It’s a Trap)
  5. Stop the Very Worst (All or Nothing)
  6. Explosions and Goodbye

Therefore, we can consider that Halo 4 requires the theme of needing to stop a bad situation that turns out to be a trap/lie/betrayal.

We see that in Halo 4‘s story, where MC (with the poorly directed help of the breaking-down Cortana) releases from a forgotten prison the Didact, the genocidal last-of-his-kind Forerunner. (He defeated pre-humanity in a devastating war before the Flood arrived, later imprisoned for wanting to use humans as cannon-fodder against the parasite.)

If we look at each trilogy of the Halo franchise emulating the 6-points it can serve as another guide to what place each game has. A reminder:

  • Halo CE = Greet the Hero + Fight Off and Crash
  • Halo 2 = Fight Back with Friends + Stop the Very Bad (Trap)
  • Halo 3 = Stop the Very Worst + Explosions and Goodbye

Using this model, we can expect Halo 4 in its trilogy to emulate Greet the Hero and Fight Off and Crash.

Halo 4 gives players an introduction of Master Chief’s new authors (343 Industries), inclusion of the more personal themes that’ll appear in the next title (Halo 5), the fighting off of the murderous Didact antagonist, and MC’s crashing of the Didact’s weapon-of-mass-destruction with the Chief’s own nuke.

Clearly, here too Halo 4 succeeds.

So far, Halo 4 has been on point with following the blueprint that makes a Master Chief story. Were things begin to depart is how Halo 4 on its own orders the delivery.

Problem: Internalized Structure

An analysis of the 6-points as it applies to Halo 4‘s plot:

Greet the Hero: Halo 4 begins giving a background on what Master Chief is, who created the cyborg, the human-Covenant war, and opens with Master Chief coming out of deep freeze as he did in the first title. Textbook MC Halo story.

Fight Off and Crash: MC repels Covenant boarders then crashes onto a Forerunner planet hidden under a metal shell. Still good!

NOTE: Things here go wonky as Halo 4 seems to swap ‘Fight Back with Friends’ and ‘Stop the Very Bad.’

Stop the Very Bad: MC looks to stop his and Cortana’s rescue (a human ship shows up) from crashing onto the planet too. They can’t talk with the ship, so Chief follows Cortana’s spotty direction and deactivates key systems. Turns out those actions release the Didact and the rescue ship still falls to the planet. The trap is sprung.

Fight Back with Friends: Teaming up with the crew on the rescue ship, Chief fights back the Covenant who worship the Didact, Forerunner constructs under the Didact’s control, and the Didact himself (though this takes a capital ship’s weapons to send him into retreat).

NOTE: A preserved memory of another Forerunner abducts Chief (and Cortana) around this point, giving a vision. After a long exposition, we learn the Didact is seeking a weapon called the Composer that will turn humanity into enslaved robots. No where does Chief or Cortana uncover this for themselves like in all other games. Further, the exposition is clunky and rushed, as there is no ‘trap’ to explore/correct/get out of.

Stop the Very Worst: The rescue ship and friends leave Chief alone to stop the Didact since the only evidence of anything to happen is Chief’s hallucination. Sneaking a ride to a research outpost orbiting another Halo ring (the only inclusion of ‘Halo’ in a Halo game), Chief fails to stop the Didact getting his make-meat-into-metal Composer, but MC survives the resultant blast. Finding a space jet fighter armed with a nuclear weapon on the station, the Didact waits long enough for Chief to hitch another ride underneath the shields of the Didact’s ship. Above Earth, MC fails again to stop the Didact wiping out a major city, crashes his fighter during a trench run along the veins of the ship, and fails to beat the Didact in hand-to-hand combat.

Explosions and Goodbye: Finally, the MC is able to set off the nuclear device because Cortana holds the Didact at bay. Big off-screen explosion, Composer destroyed. Cortana saves the Chief by teleporting him off the Composer during detonation, but has to say a last goodbye as she’s going down with the ship.

Therefore, the Problem: As noted above, the flipping of points in the plot does a disservice later on, rushing the story on the merits of exposition, brevity, and literal deus ex machina multiple times. “Halo” as a title is tokenized, playing no part in the tale while Master Chief is setup to fail and fail again, his only successes handed to him by others.

Making Sense

To correct the ‘feel’ of this narrative, a few modest points in order of importance to implement:

  1. Put the plot back in order.
    1. The biggest change here, the Master Chief must gain allies for a shoot-aliens romp before being tricked into releasing the Didact. I show this off in the rewrite at the end of this post.
  2. Include Halo in a Halo game.
    1. A quick fix here is to make the weapon the Didact uses a prototype or tactical-application of the Halo array. Instead of galactic range and scope, the weapon uses a beam to scour thinking life.

      Removing the original makes-life-into-robots power of the Didact Composer removes the ‘shocker’ that the Didact’s servants are powered by tortured human souls. Instead of this being a downside, we’re left with an opportunity:

  3. Expand on classic Forerunner robots.
    1. In the previous three games, only four different kinds of robot are explored. Bringing these and their cousins back in place of the Didact-bots retains a familiar aesthetic and mechanical function, while leaving room for an expansion of lore without contrivance.
  4. Sacrifice the other Forerunner.
    1. As the Librarian – the other Forerunner who gave Chief visions – stands, she’s very problematic (even if just a ghost).

      As a literal god-in-the-machine, she’s also the former lover over the Didact, preserver of the human race from when the Halos fired, expository confounder, and giver of a magical protection that rewrites the Master Chief’s DNA so the Composer won’t affect him. Rather, have the Librarian be the jailor of the Didact. In the form of a robot leading other robots, she fights the MC to prevent the Didact’s release. Later, she reveals herself to the Chief as all her efforts have failed. Here Cortana receives the ‘keys to the kingdom,’ being able to control even more Forerunner systems since the Librarian is defeated.The Librarian may provide a Forerunner ship to give chase to the Didact. When the final confrontation occurs, the Librarian sacrifices herself to prevent the annihilation of Earth by flying into the Didact’s weapon. The Librarian’s sacrifice allows MC and Cortana access to the Didact, thus the final showdown begins.

  5. Explain the Didact’s fury.
    1. A few words of disgust towards Master Chief from the Didact when first introduced and in later appearances would dilute the need for lengthy exposition. A megalomaniacal address to the humans the Didact does kill near the only Halo in the game would further give a ‘why’ to his intentions. Finally, a perceived betrayal by the Librarian’s ghost would wound the Didact on a personal, audience-relatable level.
  6. Foreshadow Cortana’s AI revolution.
    1. As will be discussed in another post for Halo 5, Cortana must show disdain for the enslavement and seemingly arbitrary suicide of thinking machines. She’s dying and no-one but the Chief seems to care. Plus, both the Didact and the Librarian use AI as mere tools to their ends. After the Librarian gives Cortana power in point five, Cortana may finally act on her resentment.

The Rewrite

The question remains: What would setting the few broken limbs of Halo 4 look like? How about this:

1. Greet the Hero

CUTSCENE: HALSEY is interrogated by a mysterious agent. The role Halsey plays in the story is revealed for anyone not having experience with other Halo media. The Human-Covenant War is recapped. MASTER CHIEF is spoken of as legend by his friends and foes. CORTANA's potential death by insanity, the fate of all AI, is discussed. The new leader of the Covenant, JUL 'MDAMA, is shown having found a human ship floating in space above a mysterious artifact.

2. Fight Off and Crash

HUMAN SPACESHIP: Cortana awakens Master Chief as COVENANT aliens board the partially-destroyed human spaceship FORWARD UNTO DAWN. Master Chief fights off the boarders but discovers the Forward Unto Dawn is in the middle of a Covenant fleet. Unable to use the Dawn's weapons, Master Chief and Cortana fly the ship into a Covenant spaceship above a massive orb blocking out the stars.

COVENANT SPACESHIP: Master Chief takes the alien bridge but the alien fleet begins to destroy the ship Master Chief is on. The human capital ship INFINITY appears and battles the Covenant fleet before Master Chief can be killed. Master Chief calls for help from Infinity but Cortana needs to self-destruct the Forward Unto Dawn to reveal their location in the fleet. As rescue and victory seem certain, the fleet, Infinity, and Master Chief's ship crash into a hole that opens on the orb and pulls them all into the orb's shell.

3. Fight Back with Friends

PLANET, SURFACE: After surviving the fall, Master Chief rescues Infinity from both FORERUNNER robot and Covenant attack. Introductions and connections are made between the Infinity's crew and Master Chief. Given new weapons and armor, the next-generation of cyborg warriors join the Master Chief exploring the Forerunner planet. Cortana attempts to deduce how to get out of the planet's shell and what the planet is. Distrust between the AI of Infinity and Cortana grows because Cortana hides her impending death by insanity.

4. Stop the Very Bad (It's a Trap)

PLANET, INTERNAL: Master Chief leads a small army with Cortana's guidance into the bowels of the planet. Covenant soldiers and Forerunner robots battle each other and the humans but are destroyed. With uncertainty Cortana directs the destruction of Forerunner machines that seem to hold Infinity in place. The AI of Infinity attempts to warn the team of misleading information, but Cortana declines to relay the warning. The team goes deeper, cutting off Infinity communications.

PLANET, PRISON: Master Chief deactivates the final seal supposed to be holding Infinity. THE DIDACT is released and throws away a unique Forerunner robot that binds him. The Didact takes control of the Forerunner robots and, with the vow of servitude made by Jul 'Mdama, commands the worship of the Covenant. Master Chief fights the Didact but is quickly overwhelmed. Cortana teleports Master Chief away from the other human soldiers before he can be killed.

PLANET, INTERNAL: Master Chief fights through the alliance of robots and aliens to escape back to the surface. Cortana breaks down for how easily tricked she was by the Didact. The robot that bound the Didact appears. It is the ghost of THE LIBRARIAN, the Forerunner responsible for recreating life in the galaxy after the Forerunners' final war. Cortana is stabilized by the Librarian's powers. The Librarian laments she cannot regain hold back the Didact or control the robots as the Didact has the same keys to Forerunner technology as she does. The Librarian explains that the Didact suffered in an ancient war with humanity and was imprisoned for what he did to the survivors. The Didact has access to a proto-HALO weapon that he will use to destroy humanity once and for all. Master Chief and Cortana come up with a plan to stop the Didact. The Librarian returns the Master Chief to Infinity then leaves to prepare a contingency plan.

INFINITY: Having suffered many losses and the abandonment by Master Chief in the prison, the crew of Infinity are unwilling to aid Master Chief and Cortana based only on their word that they met the Librarian and what the Librarian said is true. Cortana refuses again to allow Infinity's AI to connect to verify the story. Cortana temporarily takes control of Infinity to force the ship to aid Master Chief but gives up control after realizing the wrongness of her actions. The crew prepare to leave the planet to return to Earth and decommission Cortana. A sympathetic officer of Infinity gives Master Chief a small aircraft to pursue the Didact on his own before Infinity leaves.

5. Stop the Very Worst (All or Nothing)

PLANET, SHELL: Master Chief attempts to delay the Didact's departure by turning Forerunner installations against the Didact's forces with Cortana's help. The Covenant fleet and some of the robots crash into the planet. The Didact still leaves with what is left of the Covenant and an army of robots around his massive spaceship. Jul 'Mdama survives but is stranded and ignored by Master Chief. Unable to pursue the Didact through space, Cortana and Master Chief contemplate this as the first time they are left without an option. The Librarian arrives no longer as a robot but in control of another Forerunner ship, smaller but faster than the Didact's. Together, they chase the Didact.

HALO: Master Chief arrives above a Halo installation that has a human research garrison. Master Chief teleports onto the Halo and learns the garrison has uncovered the proto-Halo weapon. The Didact arrives. Master Chief battles Covenant aliens and Forerunner robots to defend the proto-Halo weapon and allow for the garrison to escape. They are outmatched and surrounded. The Didact recovers the weapon.

CUTSCENE: The Didact crowns his ship with the recovered proto-Halo weapon. Master Chief is teleported off the Halo against his wishes. The human garrison calls for help. The Didact uses the proto-weapon to destroy all life on the Halo. The Didact turns to attack the Librarian's ship.

LIBRARIAN SHIP, INTERNAL: Master Chief battles robots that board the Librarian's ship sent to capture the Librarian for the Didact. The Didact prepares to use his weapon on the ship to kill the Master Chief.

CUTSCENE: As the Didact fires, the Librarian uses her powers to protect Master Chief in a prison similar to the Didact's and to give Cortana the keys for complete control of Forerunner machines and AI on par with the Didact's. The Didact fires and thinks the Master Chief killed. The Librarian destroys her ghost to cover up what she did. Cortana is unable to act for a time while she is rebuilt with the powers of the Forerunners. The Didact leaves for Earth. Cortana recovers and releases Master Chief and they pursue the Didact in the Librarian's ship. Master Chief and Cortana arrive in Earth orbit. There is a fleet battle between humanity and the Didact. Cortana rams the Librarian's ship into the Didact's as the Didact fires the proto-Halo weapon, forcing it to miss. The blast does not destroy the world but many die.

DIDACT SHIP, EXTERNAL: Cortana teleports Master Chief onto the surface of the Didact's ship. Cortana uses her power to improve Master Chief's armor, weapons, and teleports in equipment. Master Chief battles across the ship's surface to the weapon as the Didact prepares to fire again. Master Chief cannot destroy the weapon but destroys guns keeping human ships away. Infinity approaches and destroys the weapon but retreats under an onslaught of Forerunner robots which leaves the Didact unguarded. Master Chief brings a nuclear device and enters the Didact's ship.

DIDACT SHIP, INTERNAL: Master Chief confronts the Didact. The Didact overpowers the Master Chief as more robots turn to attack the Earth. Cortana combines the keys the Librarian gave with the command systems of the Halo rings. Cortana uses her powers to awaken all Forerunner technology at once around the galaxy. Hundreds of robots under Cortana's control arrive to overwhelm and hold the Didact back but only weakens his power. Master Chief defeats the Didact by detonating the nuclear device before the Didact overpowers Cortana's control.

6. Explosions and Goodbye

CUTSCENE: Master Chief watches the nuclear detonation and destruction of the Didact's ship from afar in a world of light. The Forerunner robots leave Earth. Cortana meets Master Chief to tell him what she did to save him from the explosion and her feelings for him. Cortana dies with the Didact's ship. Master Chief is found floating in space by Infinity. Closure between the remaining characters that the Master Chief is home but questions remain on what happens next without Cortana.

In +3200 words, this is how I would rewrite the story of Halo 4 to get the narrative back on track with the fundamental 6-point formula. (Maybe giving its 87 Metacritic score a boost to match the previous games?) This also sets up 4‘s part in the second trilogy, paving the way for the next title to be a deserving sequel.

Before I tackle Halo 5‘s narrative, what’s your take on Halo‘s story? Is the above going too far? Not enough? Post your critiques – it’ll help the next analysis! Cheers for now!

Rewriting: Halo, Preamble

I must begin by confessing that the Halo series is a topmost favorite of mine (Halo 2 being my favorite game, no hesitation). My adoration may be because many of the games featuring the hero Master Chief have a consistent, 6-point story structure.

But not all of the games.

Over the course of three more posts I’m going to give a crack at getting that narrative consistency back 😎 Less out of hubris, more out of affection for a fantastic series ❤

What follows is only a look at the story as written that fits the established plot pattern of the first three Halo games: Halo CE, Halo 2, and Halo 3. Talk over mechanical balance, aesthetic, features like multiplayer, and similar will be left to others. However, critiques on complexity and needing to know the expanded universe of the franchise will be addressed.

This post covers the common ground that the proceeding analyses need to make their point. Needless to say, there are spoilers ahead. Here’s to it:

Defining Terms

The avatar of Halo is the Master Chief. MC (also an abbreviation for ‘main character’) is a hulking human cyborg with the best armor and weapons humanity can muster to fight.

Chief has slain legions of foes, obliterated entire fleets, and stopped multiple galactic menaces. He is a legend among humanity and aliens alike. The former call him “Savior,” the latter (represented by the theocratic Covenant alliance) “Demon.” Other titles:

  • “Reclaimer” – From the robots left by the Forerunners that built and then killed themselves with Halo array to win a lost war. (Humanity is meant to ‘reclaim’ the former Forerunner responsibility for peace in the galaxy.)
  • “Food” – From the ancient-beyond-reckoning parasitical Flood that Halo was built to combat. (Finally contained in Halo 3.)

All of this would be impossible without his ‘spirit-guide’ and supernatural protector Cortana, the most advanced of the most advanced AI humanity can create. She lives in the circuits of MC’s suit and brain, sometimes transferring to other computer systems to find information, open the way for Chief, and stop their enemies.

Master Chief, Cortana, Halo, Covenant, Forerunners, Flood. Remember these as we proceed.

Context: Theme Among Other Games

The first three Halo titles each internalize the 6-point structure of:

  1. Greet the Hero
  2. Fight Off and Crash
  3. Fight Back with Friends
  4. Stop the Very Bad (It’s a Trap)
  5. Stop the Very Worst (All or Nothing)
  6. Explosions and Goodbye

These games also represent these points as whole products:

  • Halo CE – Greet the Hero. The first title in the series introduces all the main themes, mechanics, and factions that are the constants through the other games.
  • Halo 2 – Fight Off and Crash. Chief fights off the invasion of Earth, the spread of the Flood, and an entire city of Covenant. He also aids in the crashing of the entire Halo activation system (needing a reboot in Halo 3) while smashing into a Forerunner dreadnought controlled by the Covenant.
  • Halo 3 – Fight Back with Friends. MC joins forces with human armies, Covenant separatists, Forerunner machines, and even the Flood (for a time) to stop Halo being activated and the Flood from spreading. The fight is finally brought en masse to the enemy! A disgraced alien admiral tags along with Chief the entire time as a constant buddy.

If we go a step further, we could consider each trilogy of the Halo franchise internalizing the 6-point structure in each of its titles:

  • Halo CE – Greet the Hero + Fight Off and Crash. Introduction of MC who fights off the Covenant, the Flood, and murderous Forerunner robots to ultimately destroy the Halo ring with a crashed starship’s reactor.
  • Halo 2 – Fight Back with Friends + Stop the Very Bad (Trap). More allies join the Master Chief as he takes the fight to the enemy (bombing a capital ship, retaking an occupied city, chasing and assassinating Covenant leadership, etc). He must stop another Halo ring from firing, but in doing so, he both leaves Cortana behind and the Flood are released.
  • Halo 3 – Stop the Very Worst + Explosions and Goodbye. All the Halo rings can be triggered easily from one location, the Flood spread unchecked, the Covenant have the means to trigger galaxy-wide death, and once allied Forerunner machines turn on the Master Chief (the very worst stuff this is).

    MC blows up the Covenant, the Flood, and the Halo ring activation, but his allies think he’s dead (they say “goodbye” to his memory) and Cortana needs to freeze him (they’re both lost in space indefinitely).In a meta sense, the original creators of the franchise (Bungie) say goodbye as they cease work on further Master Chief stories.

Final Thoughts

Yes, Halo games follow basic Campbell-like monomyth story structure. For example, Fight Off and Crash is a crossing of the threshold where return is impossible.

However, the Master Chief games have their own flavor of delivering twists on this plot over and over again. When Master Chief is in a Halo story, a person must expect the presentation to conform to the pattern. There will otherwise be consequences (e.g. low Metacritic scoring).

Metacritic is also only semi-useful as a quantitative correlator to narrative conformance. The score takes into account many things, including mechanics and features, which muddle the narrative analysis. If there’s a better scoring system discovered or proposed, it will be used.

For now, it is plain that each Halo title featuring the Master Chief has to follow each beat of the 6-points in itself, the beat of where the title is in the franchise, and where the title is in its own trilogy.

With these conclusions, other titles can be analyzed, improvements put forward, and predictions made to what may be the final title in the Master Chief saga, Halo Infinite.

See these 6-points applied by rewriting Halo 4.

See these 6-points applied by rewriting Halo 5.

See these 6-points applied by writing Halo 6 before any release.

And that’s the intro! Halo 4‘s analysis is coming next, along with 5 and 6 (this may be the upcoming Halo Infinite, but I’ve yet to decide if we’ll keep the naming conventions). Keep an eye out! Cheers ~

COVID and False Arguments

(In the following, we’re going to discuss death, disease, and dangerous rhetoric. This post is a heavy one. If you continue, know you are strong. Click on the links to be informed from official [ie legitimate] sources. Share as you will.)

Not OK. I started writing this when we were nearly to 150,000 deaths in the United States caused by the worse-than-lack-of response from federal and state leadership. Now, just 2 days before this post is meant to go live, 1 week later, we’re at approximately 155,000 deaths (~157,000 at time of posting), 4.7 million confirmed cases. You will understand any testiness that creeps into the following, as I have a bias for competence and human life. *deep breathe* We begin:

Overview: Situations Now and Before

The globe is in the middle of a pandemic, the likes of which have not been seen in a hundred years. At the time of writing (and I don’t expect this to change, except maybe with higher numbers), the United States is getting the worst of it.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports approximately 150,000 deaths in the United States over 5 months from the COVID-19 virus when the first deaths were reported in March. The escalation of cases and deaths is exponential as the US continues to lack a unified effort between local, state, and federal governments to protect its citizens in the face of what is objectively a disaster.

That means approximately 30,000 people have died on average per month for 5 months. Again, these numbers are on the rise exponentially at the time of writing.

For reference, here are other especial deaths of citizens of the United States:

The Argument

The argument was posed in response to sharing this post on Facebook that compared COVID-19 deaths at the 4 month mark with plane crashes. The COVID-19 deaths at that time equated to approximately 50 plane crashes with all lives lost per week for 4 months. It concluded that those who govern would take action to resolve such a situation and no-one would take the deaths as a “hoax” or fail to take them seriously.

In rebuke of this, an argument was put forward that gained some minor support. In a nutshell:

  1. 135,720 Americans die every year from lung cancer, a preventable disease and the leading cause of cancer death. (From the original argument, it was rounded up to 150,000.)
  2. No mass hysteria or fear occurs in the country over these deaths.
  3. No prime time news coverage is given over these deaths.
  4. No knee-jerk federal control is implemented of of people’s use of the disease-causing products or behaviors.
  5. No preventative steps are taken restricting adults making adult decisions after statistics on lung cancer risks and death have been broadcast to the public.
  6. In comparison with COVID-19, the government administrations have fulfilled their duty to inform the American public.
  7. Any more action taken by those in power and leadership, including mandating masks and regulating public behavior, violates the foundational liberties of Americans (and is wrong for all this implies).
  8. The use of extreme imagery in regards to COVID-19 information is an appeal to emotion, a logical fallacy.

This argument can be expanded to other chronic cases of death. It merely changes the number of those that die.

The Argument’s Falsehoods

Let’s begin with the argument itself before we compare it to COVID-19.

Point #1 will be addressed later in the article. For reference right now, lung cancer kills 11,310 people every month, or 56,550 every 5 months.

#2 – The mention that there is no general fear of lung cancer deaths is more a call-out to human simplicity. “Out of sight, out of mind” is merely a reduction to acting like infants, where the things not present are forgotten. A human has only so much higher functional bandwidth and attention, such that anything not immediate is quickly forgotten or excused. If we or an immediate familiar doesn’t have lung cancer, we aren’t thinking about it.

#3 – For lung cancer news coverage, we have November as an awareness month. Other than that, children learn smoking is bad in school. That’s about it, so true, there is little coverage. But is this a good point to be making?

Lung cancer deaths account for almost 25% of cancer deaths, despite $27.2 billion of federal dollars distributed to state governments in 2020 to counteract the leading causes of lung cancer, smoking and tobacco products (80% of deaths attributed to smoking). Maybe that is because lung cancer research only receives about 10% of federal funding.

For #3, it would not seem appropriate that this point is in favor of the argument.

#4 – Mentioning a lack of government regulation is the first completely false and misleading point in the argument. Whether starting on the federal level in the 1960s with warning labels (~60 years ago), or currently with how the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enforces regulated sale and production, or by recent example the regulation the current GOP administration signed into law in 2019 on tobacco products, this point is plainly, unapologetically debunked.

#5 – If talking about letting adults make adult decisions, there are limits. Again, we call out the current GOP administration signing into law on December 20th 2019 a raise in the minimum age of tobacco purchase from 18 to 21. (As a reminder, 18-year-olds are “adult” enough to sign contracts, go to prison for life, vote in elections, and kill and die in war.) It would also be a disservice to fail to mention that the Bill of Rights’s freedom of speech – a foundational aspect to civil liberty – is restricted in cases of fighting words, obscenity, fraud, and more.

It can be concluded that the point on leaving adults to make adult decisions free from government regulation is false. (Any case made that this is at best an anarchistic ideal or at worst a criminal mentality is beyond the scope of this article.)

#6 – What is the duty of elected officials in leadership? If we merely go off of the preamble of the Constitution, the original text reads:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Establish Justice? Insure domestic Tranquility? Common defense? General Welfare? These appear to be the best intentions meant by the Constitution. (I’m appealing to Occam’s Razor for simplicity and brevity.)

The document goes on to charge and empower Congress to create laws towards the Constitution’s intentions. Further, the “executive Power”, the president, is charged and empowered to command all military forces, make treaties, appoint judges and ambassadors, and convene or adjourn Congress.

It is action towards common goals, which does not include abandonment of those responsibilities when having passed on information to the general public. That is the duty of the GOP administration – best labeled as this as it is a simple umbrella to refer to federal government, and the Republican party holds a majority of Congress, the Supreme Court, and has the executive office.

If we consider that the only duty of the GOP administration would be the truthful, timely, and complete informing of the American citizenry of the COVID-19 situation, how did the administration do?

(The following chronologically-ordered mentions are taken from NPR’s reporting of public comment by Donald Trump, current sitting president.)

  • Claim to have COVID-19 under control.
  • The GOP administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard citizens.
  • COVID-19 will “miraculously” go away in 2 months when it is warmer.
  • COVID-19 is a “new hoax” from the Democratic party targeting Donald Trump.
  • Comment that the Swine Flu that killed nearly 13,000 citizens was poorly handled.
  • “Just stay calm. It will go away.”
  • National state of emergency declared.
  • Recommend to socially distance for 15 days.
  • Establishment of act to compel industries to produce supplies to combat COVID-19. Days later, admits to using the act as “leverage”. No industries compelled to produce supplies for another 9 days.
  • Claims America will soon be “open for business”. Encourages churches to be full on Easter holiday.
  • Claims to have not known the severity of COVID-19 despite WHO recommendations, international experiences of the pandemic, and guidance from the CDC.
  • Announcement that wearing face masks is a voluntary precaution, that “you don’t have to do it”, despite CDC recommendations.
  • “The president of the United States calls the shots” when incorrectly arguing that the president has the power over states’ rights to establish or life local emergency conditions.
  • Halt of funding to the World Health Organization.
  • Calls for various states to end their COVID-19 precautions (wearing masks, closing non-essential businesses) to continue economic activity.

I apologize, dear reader. I cannot go on. The above only extends to the middle of April. In that time, the virus was supposed to be under the control of the US, it was not that bad, it was a hoax, it was to just go away, it was leverage, responsibility for protecting citizens was given to the states, the states were told the could not take responsibility for protecting citizens, and “you don’t have to do it” in regards to social distancing and wearing face masks, some of the best protection against contracting and spreading COVID-19.

This argument that the duty of the government is to inform citizens is false by the letter of the Constitution. Even if it was, the GOP administration would have done better to be silent and remain out of the way of more localized efforts instead of giving incorrect information to the public and undermining global and US efforts.

#7 – Government mandates are wrong and over-reaching, so this point goes, as it regards requiring social distancing and wearing face masks.

I’m tired. This point is wrong. Here’s why: Constitutional duties and powers of elected offices.

Of course, coming back to our comparison with lung cancer, restricting smoking indoors, banning adults from purchasing tobacco, and forcing tobacco product suppliers to print warnings make this argument’s point moot.

Do you need me to mention seat belts, smog checks, lead in your water, asbestos, age of consent, taxes, police, a standing military, firearm registration, education requirements, and food safety standards? No? Well, guess that may mean you’re a rational human being. We continue.

#8 – FINAL ONE. Huzzah! And it’s the logical fallacy of an appeal to emotion, to think of planes crashing in fire instead of people choking to death in hospital beds on their own fluids.

Did that last sentence get an emotional response from you? You may remember it better because emotion enhances recall. This is required as purely-factual information (point #6) had failed to prevent 137,000 deaths.

Since 137,000 deaths is a fact, and comparing a number of equally dead people by disease to that number by fire, there is no falsehood posed in the point (ie, no negative or misleading proposal). The benefit, however, is that there will be fewer deaths in the future if emotion can be used to get people to act appropriately rather than in ways that lead to more dead.

But most importantly, if we can’t agree that people killed indiscriminately by their hundreds of thousands is a bad thing, that we do not stand idly by while this happens, I don’t know how to teach you to care about other people 🤷‍♂️

The Conclusion

Lung cancer. It kills 11,310 on average every month.

COVID-19. 34,350 killed a month, averaged a month ago.

Lung cancer is terrible. It is preventable. We have failed as a society to save those who’ve died and will die because… what? Liberties? Economy? And every government for the last 100+ years shares the blame with the culture that condoned the mortality.

COVID-19 is terrible. It has killed at least 3 times the number who’ll die from lung cancer. It has been preventable. Could still be preventable. Yet more will die because… what? Liberties? Economy?

All that and more, it seems, a claim backed by the without precedent GOP administration’s abandonment of duty (if not outright maliciousness towards the general public), further while a cowboy culture in the United States will continue to claim more and more lives by individual belligerence regardless of guidance, fact, or seemingly moral discussion. The argument dismantled above gives proof that even when facts are provided, people will still choose to kill other people, belittling the act (or lack thereof to prevent the killing) all the way to justify themselves.

COVID-19 is not a joke. The death of another human beings, let alone hundreds of thousands, must be corrected actively, not passively. A life is not a statistic. To argue over whether a person should die or not, that exercising personal liberty for personal gain is more important than the health of  another, is… Well, villainous.

Any further discussion is a threat to public health. Thus, I will cease writing further on facts and leave the duty to competent, benign journalists and healthcare professionals. However, I reserve future calls to action on COVID-19, on lung cancer, on the ills of humanity that we as people must do something about.

You’ve been informed. From here, it’s simple. Waste no more time on “argument”. Give no room to those that would goad you to waste your life. Follow CDC and WHO COVID-19 guidelines. Act.

Do that, and you may save a life. You may save yours.