More Joy Of Coronapanic
When children are small it’s easy for them to become agitated and over-excited. They become very emotional, run around frantically for a while, then have a meltdown. After that they succumb to exhaustion and fall fast asleep, to wake sometime later refreshed and with their emotions re-set to normal levels.
Unfortunately, when children grow older they become less likely to exhaust themselves and far less likely to achieve emotional re-set after a much-needed nap. This means that most people who manage to live past the age of ten can remain in an over-excited condition for astonishingly long periods of time. This perpetual state of agitation is exacerbated by our modern mass media that relies entirely on generating a never-ending stream of sensationalist nonsense with which to grab for a few precious moments as many monetizable eyeballs as possible.
Not entirely surprisingly, the current pandemic offers a host of opportunities for enthusiastic journalists to pump out an endless river of lucrative fear-inducing reportage that predictably results in a great many people being convinced the world is coming to an end.
In the USA, attitudes to SARS-COV2 are largely determined by political affiliation. Republicans-Trumpists believe (i) that covid-19 is a Chinese bioweapon while simultaneously (ii) being a hoax invented by Bill Gates to provide an excuse for injecting tiny clones of George Soros into people so UN black helicopters can confiscate patriots’ bibles and rape their guns. Democrat voters conversely believe so many people will die of covid-19 that the USA will have to import foreigners simply to meet mortality projections and that it’s the worst catastrophe in human history apart from Friends coming to an end after only ten seasons.
Meanwhile in Europe, attitudes are largely decoupled from political affiliation and more dependent on national characteristics. The stolid Swiss mostly refused to panic until the French cantons buckled under the never-ending barrage of scaremongering spilling over from France. The French themselves, meanwhile, despite endless media sensationalism modeled on the US and UK variants, have a healthy tendency to remain skeptical of government and of ivory-tower “experts.” Sweden looked at the data and refused to panic, while their Nordic neighbors did the opposite. The British, self-isolating post-Brexit on their gloomy little island, have had the pleasure of being entertained by a gloriously incompetent government that lurches comically from one fiasco to another.
In contrast to the USA, the British are treated to one political Party that is insisting ever-more-absurd and counter-productive measures are necessary in order to “save the NHS” and another Party that insists these measures should be even more absurd and draconian. It’s like listening to two drunks, one arguing that he’ll run faster if he takes a chainsaw to his left leg and the other arguing that he’ll run faster if he takes the chainsaw to both legs.
Brexit, of course, sits behind many of the government’s decisions. As Brexit was primarily a racist movement aimed at getting rid of “bloody foreigners” it’s not surprising that the Brexiteer government should seek to pretend foreigners are the “real” problem when it comes to SARS-COV2.
Thus all foreigners arriving in the UK must henceforth self-isolate at a hotel at their own expense for fourteen days, despite the fact that every single county on Earth except Belgium actually has a lower rate of covid-19 mortality than the UK. More amusing still, the UK government has now created a law that will impose a ten-year jail sentence on anyone who fails to disclose properly their country of departure. Someone coming from Portugal via France who writes France in the box marked Country Of Departure is liable to be jailed for a decade. Far better to attack someone with a knife (seven year maximum jail sentence) or rape them (seven year mandatory sentence) or have illegal explosives or firearms (seven year sentence) than to fail to disclose you left Portugal a week earlier before flying from Paris to London.
So while different States in the USA are dealing with the coronapanic according to political allegiances, so that California has imposed mandatory lockdowns and Texas is operating business-as-usual, the UK is offering a menu choice of completely mad or even-more-mad.
Speaking of California and Texas, it’s interesting to look at the data rather than paying any attention to the misleading noise pumped out by the mass media. What does the data tell us?
As of last week, California — the noble State of facemasks and lockdowns– has experienced a mortality rate from covid-19 of 104 people per 100,000, or fractionally over one-tenth of one percent of the population. If things are this bad in California despite all the actions taken, surely Texas must be experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe!
Curiously, the data refuses to corroborate this narrative. Texas has experienced a mortality rate from covid-19 of 127 per 100,000. Given that Texas has a much higher incidence of obesity than California, and given that obesity is one of the top three risk factors for covid-related mortality, what’s astonishing here is how little difference California’s facemasks and lockdowns have made. In fact, when we statistically adjust for obesity rates and demographics including age, race, and access to healthcare, it turns out that more than all of the difference between the two States is accounted for.
Which means that all the hygiene theater and lockdowns imposed by California, at great cost to its citizens and its economy, have had zero effect in reducing covid-related mortality. There’s no reason to believe the situation is different elsewhere. Indeed, when we look at the data we see an interesting pattern: facemasks and social distancing and obsessive hand-sanitizing and lockdowns don’t appear to correlate strongly with outcomes.
Let’s look at the per-capita mortality rates for some of the nations that went in for strong measures: Belgium (0.187%), UK (0.171%), Italy (0.152%), USA — partial measures here, as each State has made different choices (0.143%), Portugal (0.142%), and Spain (0.134%). Now let’s look at wicked Sweden which failed to impose much of anything: 0.119%.
Oh dear. So much for the standard narrative about keeping safe thanks to hygiene theater and lockdowns.
But nobody cares about data. We humans believe what we believe and we resolutely ignore inconvenient facts. Nobody will change their minds based on real-world information and so our wonderful carousel of folly will continue to spin round and round, throwing people off with merry abandon while those still clinging to the wooden horses will remain convinced they’re being saved by the decision of the fairground carney to keep speeding up the ride.
Governments the world over have found they can use our fashionable coronapanic to tighten their grip on power. Across Africa, parts of South America, and much of Asia, autocrats and tyrants have used SARS-COV2 as a marvelous excuse for locking up opponents and banning public protests. Western politicians have learned that for the most part they can gain approval by passing legislation that provides the illusion of purposeful action because fearful people want to be “saved” and have no concept of the real costs being imposed — costs their children and grandchildren will be paying their entire lives.
We’ve moved from desperate flailing to somewhat cynical posturing, as politicians have convinced themselves that the more draconian the rules they arbitrarily impose (and regardless of how harmful these rules are) the more votes they will win.
And so the carousel spins on, picking up a little more speed with every rotation.
Were this all for a disease that was really dangerous we could perhaps excuse some of the harmful folly. Smallpox, for example had a 30% — 50% mortality rate. But SARS-COV2 has a mortality rate of less than two-tenths of one percent of the population. We’ve wrecked the world economy and thrown 1.5 billion people out of work — most of them so poor that they are literally starving to death — while we in the West grow even fatter by eating ourselves silly during our recurring lockdowns.
Politicians have learned a powerful and dangerous lesson: we want to be controlled. We want to be told we can’t do things any more, that we can’t stand near each other or touch each other or even see each other’s faces properly. We think this makes us safe.
When politicians come to understand how easily the great mass of ordinary people can be manipulated, it’s unreasonable to expect them to forebear. The US Republican Party, after all, has been cynically manipulating ordinary ignorant foolish people since before World War II and it’s paid handsome dividends. Why should European politicians and autocrats elsewhere ignore the power of scaremongering and then reaping the benefits?
Trump and Brexit showed how half the population could be duped into voting for massive self-harm. Covid-19 has shown how so much more than half the population can be terrified by empty sensationalism to the point where they beg for “strong, firm action” to “save” them.
It really didn’t take much to undermine what little civilization we’d managed to create. Just a greedy irresponsible mass media and the usual troupe of incompetent blustering political charlatans.
This century is shaping up to be even more spectacular than the last. Hold onto your seats, try to hold on to your wooden horse, because it’s going to be a very uncomfortable ride.