What’s Wrong With Us?

By far the best article I’ve read about the society-wide hysteria about Covid19 is this one: https://spectator.us/salem-thanksgiving-coronavirus-panic-safetyism/, by Heather MacDonald. It’s a welcome antidote to the panic porn peddled by most of our media. By setting the Covid19 statistics into a broader context, MacDonald eviscerates the thinking behind the lockdowns and most of the restrictions on our customary liberties.

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Many of our governors and big-city mayors clearly believe that their emergency powers are almost unlimited in scope and can remain in place as long as they believe the ‘emergency’ is ongoing. They and our healthcare mandarins are drunk on the seemingly limitless power that the combination of the virus and open-ended laws regarding emergency governance have given them. They undoubtedly feel ever so much more important than they used to. 

At least they’re having fun. Who doesn’t like feeling important?

For the most part, though, as MacDonald very ably illustrates, their edicts have been unnecessary, ineffective as regards the virus, harmful in their economic and social effects and of course inimical to our basic liberties. So there’s that.

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When Kipling wrote the wonderful poem If, which begins: “If you can keep your head when all about you/Are losing theirs and blaming it on you” and runs to the happy conclusion that “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it/And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”, he clearly wasn’t thinking about the likely reactions of a crazed crowd to a level-headed person.

Pace Rudyard Kipling, if others all about you are losing their heads – meaning, in this instance, their ability to rationally evaluate the risks of, and make their own decisions about how to respond to, the virus – and you are both keeping yours and acting on your thoughts, they will indeed be “blaming it on you”, and if you live in my world there’ll be Hell to pay rather than the Earth to gain. 

The most effective limits on our liberties arising out of the presence of the virus come from … us. Even without the force of law, an astonishingly widespread attitude that MacDonald calls safetyism (defined, perhaps, as an excessive focus on small risks that itself can cause great harm and is doing so now) effectively controls the behavior even of those – including yours truly – who hold that attitude in low regard. As long as people you care about – or even just others with whom you need to interact – exaggerate the risks we face and think that following the arbitrary and foolish edicts laid down by our governors and mayors is a per se obligation and will make us safer, irrespective of whether or not those rules are Constitutionally proper, or enforceable in any practical sense, or even rationally derived and implemented, if you don’t follow them, you’re out.

So millions of us – those who disapprove of the edicts as well as those who approve of them – can’t do what we’d like, such as spend time with varied other (either perfectly healthy or at least asymptomatic) friends and family members, let alone walk around outdoors in many places without a mask – without being shunned or worse.

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(Unless you’re working class. Carpenters, plumbers, checkout clerks, restaurant servers who still have jobs and delivery people – to say nothing of many so-called ‘essential workers’ – all of whom work in the constant presence of a merry-go-round of other people – are not only legally exempted from many of the edicts, they’re often effectively exempted from the social strictures, too. Or they exempt themselves with impunity.

Their presences and otherwise presumed ability to transmit the virus are often ignored even by those who are so terrified of it that they will eagerly shun healthy-or-asymptomatic friends and family who they think might have been exposed to someone who might have had the virus, but didn’t get tested and/or wait for the prescribed periods before seeing others.

It’s almost as if there are different rules for different classes. Go figure.)  

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I have no quarrel with anyone who, whether due to specific vulnerabilities or simple anxiety, wishes to protect him or her -self through isolation or other protective measures. Covid19 can be a nasty disease, even a fatal one in rare instances. I just hope that when people make such choices, they’re acting on good information – and think that very often, they’re not.

I do have a problem, though, with the undemocratic management of our daily lives via edicts from power-drunk governors and mayors. The arbitrary distinctions they often make between mass-gathering protests (just fine) and communal religious services or funerals (not okay) — and the fact that in some states Walmarts can remain open, but not smaller stores — and that if we cross state lines, even where the states have identical infection rates (almost certainly not the right metric, as MacDonald explains, but the one that’s used anyway) we might be ordered to isolate for two weeks, whereas we can travel greater distances within our own states without such strictures — and that none of these rules will be, or really even could be, enforced against either arbitrarily defined ‘essential workers’ or the working class people who do the physical work that keeps the country moving — and that many of our schools should be closed when it seems pretty clear that kids neither get nor transmit the disease — and that innumerable small businesses must close, probably bankrupting their owners — drive me crazy.

Here’s a radical thought: in a free country, people should be able to choose their own levels of risk tolerance. And another: micromanagement has utterly (and predictably) failed to stop the disease’s spread.

I also have a problem with the media’s overt suppression of information that indicates that the virus’s lethality is greatly exaggerated, like this https://web.archive.org/web/20201126223119/https://www.jhunewsletter.com/article/2020/11/a-closer-look-at-u-s-deaths-due-to-covid-19 recent study from Johns Hopkins indicating that the number of net US Covid19 deaths to date has been zero or close to it, i.e., that deaths recorded as resulting from Covid19 are generally more properly attributable to other causes or take the place of deaths that would have happened anyway due to the flu, heart disease, etc. Johns Hopkins was forced to retract the study, not because its statistics were wrong or uninteresting, but because it might be ‘misunderstood’ as being contrary to public policy (https://pjmedia.com/news-and-politics/matt-margolis/2020/11/27/johns-hopkins-study-saying-covid-19-has-relatively-no-effect-on-deaths-in-u-s-deleted-after-publication-n1178930). Since when do scientific articles get retracted in this country because they’re contrary to public policy?

I am not qualified to judge whether the hypothesis of the retracted article is, in fact, correct, but my guess, based on the average age – 80 – of those Americans who have died with Covid19, is that the virus’s role in the chain of causality that led to these deaths is very frequently mischaracterized. As MacDonald reminds us, even Dr. Birx told us repeatedly that the reported Covid19 death totals include those who died with, but not necessarily of, the virus.

The media’s eager suppression of information like that contained in the retracted Johns Hopkins study, and their constant belittling of those who, like Sen./Dr. Rand Paul, Dr. Scott Atlas and the many distinguished scientists who signed the Great Barrington Declaration, which dissented from the policy of enforcing large lockdowns, or the scientists who posit that asymptomatic ‘sufferers’ of the virus cannot pass it along, does great harm to our society’s previously sacrosanct ideal of free and open inquiry/debate (in ways that, yes, remind me all-too-clearly of the recent suppression of information about the Biden family’s pay-to-play scandal by the same media) and, indirectly, did grievous harm to the millions of people whose livelihoods have been devastated by our nation’s political response to the virus.

And finally, the public’s panic-driven response to the virus – which causes innumerable personal and interpersonal problems, some of them quite serious and all of them greatly inconvenient – is surely attributable in significant part to the media’s constant scaremongering. The media are not providing their audiences/readerships with balanced information about Covid19 as much as they’re providing entertainment of the horror show variety.  

The public cannot be wholly let off the hook for its irrational (if you accept MacDonald’s thesis, as I do) panic about the virus, though. After all, at some level the media have been peddling panic porn because that’s what their markets want.

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Ours is becoming a less and less free country, and we are letting it happen, with the more privileged classes among us most heartily cheering the process along.

How depressing is that?

M.H. Johnston    

P.s., When I wrote ‘society-wide hysteria’ in the first sentence, perhaps I should have capitalized Society; it’s not the people who work with their hands who are hanging their hopes or willingly basing their behaviors on the latest government pronouncements. Their individualism is hardier than that of those who work through screens.      

One comment to What’s Wrong With Us?

  • Peter J. lefeber  says:

    There’s an old saying: “Beware of those guys who think they know so much they don’t know nothin’.” I’m sure MacDonald would agree.

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