People Who Are in Denial About Coronavirus
Eric Zuesse, originally posted at Strategic Culture
There are basically two different policy-approaches to the coronavirus problem: One is the passive approach, waiting for ‘herd immunity’ to develop naturally. And the other is the active approach, in which the Government does take action — not just wait while the most-vulnerable individuals die off from the disease. The “herd immunity” approach is libertarian; it assumes that “let nature take its course” is always best; it is “laissez faire.” The “take action” approach is the exact opposite — very restrictive (including strong disincentives — “punishment” — for individuals’ misbehaviors that transmit the disease and endanger other people). This is the old debate between some form of anarchy on the one side, and some form of “socialism” (legally enforced governmental policies) on the other side.
The earliest popular ideological debate regarding coronavirus-policy was between advocates of Denmark’s socialistic approach, versus neighboring Sweden’s laissez-fair approach. EuroNews headlined on March 26th “Neighbours Denmark and Sweden miles apart on coronavirus confinement”, and reported that “when it comes to handling the coronavirus crisis, they are on very different trajectories,” which were Denmark’s socialism, versus Sweden’s libertarianism.
At that time, there was no clear indication, yet, as to which approach would win out. For example, on April 19th, Denmark had 1,275 Covid-19 cases per million, whereas Sweden had 1,424. So: per million inhabitants, they were about the same.
Even as late as 12 May 2020, three libertarian co-authors at the prestigious U.S. neoliberal and neoconservative Council on Foreign Relations’s journal Foreign Affairs headlined, confidently, that libertarianism would win out: “Sweden’s Coronavirus Strategy Will Soon Be the World’s: Herd Immunity Is the Only Realistic Option—the Question Is How to Get There Safely”.
But, by the time of June 29th, the data had become clear to the exact contrary, and so I headlined “‘Herd Immunity’ Is a Failed Response to Coronavirus”, and reported the subsequent increases in each of these two countries’ numbers.
On April 22nd:
DENMARK = 1,329 (up 4%)
SWEDEN = 1,517 (up 7%)
On May 10th:
DENMARK = 1,782 (up 34%)
SWEDEN = 2,567 (up 69%)
On June 17th:
DENMARK = 2,123 (up another 19%)
SWEDEN = 5,404 ( up another 111%)
And here it is as of June 28th:
DENMARK = 2,188 (up another 3%)
SWEDEN = 5,450 (up another 1%)
And, finally, on 22 August:
DENMARK = 2,783 (up another 27%)
SWEDEN = 8,515 (up another 56%)
Furthermore, one of the leading libertarian arguments against taking action has been that supposedly the economy will perform better if there are no coronavirus-restrictions placed by the Government. However, Sweden’s unemployment-rate has been hit at least as hard by coronavirus as Denmark’s has:
Denmark’s unemployment-rate was 4.1% in March, 5.4% in April, 5.6% in May, and 5.5% in June.
Sweden’s unemployment-rate was 7.1% in March, 8.2% in April, 9% in May, and 9.8% in June.
So, on that day, August 22nd, I sent to an influential libertarian website (not as influential as Foreign Affairs, but more populist — not funded by billionaires like the CFR is), which has come to specialize on coronavirus, the following article for them to consider, since it discredits their many libertarian articles about coronavirus:
and the response from them three hours later was:
I appreciate you’re willingness to engage on this topic, but your choice of source is poor. The logic is bad, and whole areas of policy are ignored.
Firstly, comparing Sweden only to Denmark and Norway is absurd. Sweden imposed no lockdown, yet fared far better than many countries which did so (Belgium, Netherlands, UK, Spain and Italy). This alone is a perfectly strong argument that lockdowns are totally ineffective for their stated aims.
Secondly, it at no point talks about deaths caused by lockdowns, which is a huge factor (accounting for nearly half the excess deaths in the UK).
Thirdly, it mentions GDP but doesn’t discuss that the economy is MORE than that. A suffering economy is not about money or finance, it is about well-being for the working class. Good wages, affordable rent and the freedom to run your own small business. All of which have been destroyed by the lockdown policy, which Sweden shows was (at best) pointless.
I promptly replied:
The Belgian policy-response was unclear, unfocused, and such a mess that nothing has even been generally reported regarding their contact-tracing (which is such a crucial aspect of effective policy-response to the virus).
None of the countries with good results have achieved them via an expectation of ‘herd immunity’. No country is anywhere near the 70%-infection-rate that produces herd-immunity. It’s a myth; it’s just a lie.
For example, though the imperialistic libertarian country United States warns travelers that the coronavirus risk is exceptionally high in Uganda (warning “Level 3,” which is their highest), Uganda is actually one of the world’s lowest coronavirus-risk countries, and they achieved it by stringent policies, which is exactly what you reject. Whereas U.S. now has 17,587 cases per million, Uganda has 47. The country that has a 374 times higher percentage of its population coronavirus-infected, warns its suckers to stay away from the country that has 1/374th of the risk.
Why is [your site] feeding into this deception of its readers, instead of exposing it to them? Have you switched to being pro-imperialistic (pro-neoconservative, which is a variety of neoliberal or “libertarian”)? All of a sudden, the neoliberal countries, such as U.S., Brazil, and India, which are or have been the world’s worst on coronavirus-performance, are the ones to emulate? Why? Or else: which countries ARE the ones to emulate on this? Say it. Prove it. The statistical data by now are certainly sufficient to do this. Why don’t you do it, instead of continue to deceive readers? Why do you deceive readers so that they would support, instead of condemn, the imperialistic U.S. Government’s alleging that Uganda is more coronavirus-dangerous than the U.S. itself is? It’s a lie, but how would your readers be able to know this?
I don’t get it. You seem stuck in your existing false beliefs. Please explain so that I will become able to understand. Right now, I don’t.
I received a reply that said I should “apologise” because “We have never expressed any support for the US or its Imperial policies in any way, shape or form,” and “the statistics speak for themselves — the virus is harmless to the vast majority of people, and in no way justifies any of the draconian or authoritarian laws being imposed opportunistically in many countries around the world (including the United States).” In other words: the U.S. under Trump isn’t being sufficiently laissez-faire about this matter. The evidence that I had cited was ignored, not discussed, by him.
Subsequently, I checked a few of the other nations that are among the best on coronavirus-performance. For example, there’s China. It has 59 coronavirus-19 cases per million population, and the U.S. has 298 times as many cases per million, but the U.S. Government rates China also in the highest-risk category, “Level 3,” for Americans to visit, on account of its supposedly higher-than-U.S. danger of becoming infected with that virus.
Then, there’s Vietnam, which the U.S. Government had tried to conquer but couldn’t. Vietnam has only 10 coronavirus cases per million inhabitants. America has 17,587 per million; so, obviously, that’s 1,759 times as many. Vietnam also is rated “Level 3” — the worst, most coronavirus-dangerous, category. The Government of Americans is warning Americans to avoid visiting Vietnam because it’s just too dangerous a coronavirus-risk for an American, whose country has 17,587 cases per million. Obviously, no intelligent person trusts a government such as this. (No more than such a person would trust the Government that had promised it was certain that WMD existed in Iraq in 2002, or that Syria had gassed people on 7 April 2018, or that the overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President in 2014 was a ‘democratic revolution’ instead of a U.S. coup — or on, and on, such as about “Russiagate”.)
Then, there’s Burundi, with 36 cases per million, and it’s likewise a “level 3” country — 488 times safer on coronavirus than U.S. is, but rated by the U.S. Government as being instead too coronavirus-dangerous for Americans to travel to.
Then, there’s Myanmar, which has only 8 cases per million inhabitants — 1 divided by 2,198 times as many cases-per-million as the U.S. does — and the U.S. Government refuses even to call that nation “Myanmar,” but instead calls it by what the British did when they had it as a colony, which is “Burma,” and the U.S. regime’s travel-advisory rating of “Burma,” for ‘Burma’s would-be now U.S. imperial masters, is likewise exactly the same as they rate Uganda: “Warning — Level 3”. The U.S. regime is telling its citizens that a country which is 2,198 times safer on the coronavirus danger than the U.S. itself is, is instead too unsafe on coronavirus for Americans to travel to. They care so much about the safety of their own citizens, as to warn them against visiting a country that’s thousands of times safer. How sincere is that? But some people still respect the lie, and the liars (serial-liars), as if they weren’t.
Perhaps people who are in denial about coronavirus are simply in denial about reality — the broader, global, reality.
On coronavirus-19 — this pandemic — the best data regarding the international reality is this, which is the constantly up-to-date listings of all countries and their respective numbers. To see the rankings there of all countries on the crucial outcome-variable of “Tot Cases/1M pop” just click onto that column’s heading and countries will be ranked that way. Same for the other crucial outcome-variable “Deaths/1M pop,” and for the far less-crucial process-variables (such as “Tests/1M pop”). Two successive clicks onto the given column-heading will reverse the ordering of the countries regarding that variable. You’ll be seeing there the existing rankings, as of that given moment. To see the trends within any given country, just click onto the name of that country, and then scroll down to the charts “Daily New Cases” and “Daily New Deaths” (tracking both of the crucial outcome-variables)
However, people who are in denial about coronavirus-reality avoid those numbers like the plague. Perhaps they do that because, to their libertarian ideology, these numbers are “the plague.”
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.