The progressive silo’s Covid-19 blind spots

20 June 2020–A friend, colleague and brother-in-arms whom I’ll call Rusty sent me this New York Magazine piece. He said a left-leaning friend had shared it, with the comment, ‘remarkably even-handed and unemotional.’ Rusty had scoffed, at first. But on rereading the article, he admitted that the writer, for a progressive, was shockingly critical of the public-health establishment. Moreover he had echoed some of the lockdown skeptics’ strongest arguments (though ignoring others). But in the end, the writer, David Wallace-Wells (whom neither of us had heard of) just didn’t ‘get it.’ He ended up, predictably, blaming America, and conservatives, for a nonexistent failure; for a disaster that isn’t happening and probably won’t.

I’m no mainstream conservative. Many of that crew weren’t skeptical enough of the manufactured Covid-19 crisis. But I agreed to pick apart the article for a blog post, so here we are. Deconstruction of progressive text often ends up several times longer than the original, and this is no exception: There are often many layers of interlocking fallacy to dismantle before toppling the preposterous conclusion. 

The article is indeed studded with luscious tidbits. I especially enjoyed Wallace-Wells’ belated preference for a more ‘targeted approach’ (which lockdown skeptics had yelled themselves hoarse over, from the beginning, while nobody listened); his criticism of ‘America’s jury-rigged, Rube Goldberg health-messaging apparatus’; and his apparently unique insight, at least in NY, that respiratory viruses preferentially spread indoors, where politicians tried to herd us. I was struck by his near-admission that the riots (he calls them ‘protests’) proved lockdowns were unnecessary.

The problem is, when you sprinkle tasty toppings on a soggy half-baked casserole, jerks like me are just going to pick ’em off and turn up our noses at the main dish.

Wallace-Wells suffers from two huge blind spots.

First, he appears completely unaware of the keystone of scientific consensus regarding Covid-19, which has never budged: Respiratory viral illnesses, like influenza and Covid-19, are generally impossible to contain.

Hence ‘flatten the curve’, shorthand for ‘slow the rate of inevitable person-to-person transmission so that hospitals don’t get overwhelmed all at once.’ Depending how long it takes to develop a safe vaccine, just about everyone may get infected by SARS-CoV-2. The best we can hope for is to protect the old and sick til there’s a vaccine, while the rest of us get infected and develop enough immunity that symptoms are milder next time round.

We know Wallace-Wells doesn’t grasp this basic point, because he repeatedly uses weird unscientific language, or cites purported ‘scientists’ who do:
‘…[lockdowns] prevented as many as 60 million additional cases …’
’ … 70% and 99% of American deaths could have been avoided. Instead of 120,000 deaths, we might have had fewer than 2,000.’
‘…“all or nothing” was a misleading way to approach the question of how to combat the spread of the disease …’
‘… the country seems now to be giving up on defeating the disease …’
‘… the deaths of almost a thousand Americans a day has retreated into a sort of cultural background noise …’

Not a single Covid-19 case has been, or could be ‘prevented’ – only delayed. We weren’t trying to ‘combat the spread,’ just trying to slow it. Not a single Covid-19 death has been, or could be ‘avoided’ – only postponed. We won’t ‘defeat’ this virus any more than we have defeated influenza. We’re going to have to live with it, as we live with flu, and some of us will die from it. Progressives, for reasons we’ll discuss some other time, have trouble facing that truth.

Wallace-Wells plainly has no clue how many Americans die every day already, or from what. There’s reason to believe that the Covid-19 death toll has been inflated by at least 25%. (I reckon it’s closer to 50%, but I can’t prove it.) There’s also evidence that the lockdowns caused a huge spike in cardiac, cancer, stroke, sepsis and flu deaths – really prolific, reliable killers, year after year – among patients who were afraid, or forbidden to to go see their doctors. We’re not even counting suicides, unintentional drug ODs and alcohol poisonings yet. The deaths caused by the lockdowns almost certainly surpassed those saved by them. (Remember how few rioters got infected.)

The fact the virus can’t be contained renders irrelevant the article’s graph showing continued high infection rates in the US compared to the EU. Wallace-Wells calls this a ‘failure.’ It’s actually just a refusal to accept European priorities. What that graph actually shows is that we’re developing herd immunity and the ability to return to normal life much faster than the Eurotrash are.

Likewise, it’s irrelevant that ‘the world’s richest country and as recently as the Ebola crisis of 2014 the planet’s leading disease-response force, has become, in this outbreak, the single most significant global incubator of the pandemic.’ (It also proves Wallace-Wells to be an overwrought, pop-eyed, spluttering douchebag, for daring even to mention Ebola in the same breath as a virus with a 0.25% mortality rate.)

Wallace-Wells’ second big blind spot is related to his obsession with what he calls ‘technocratic policy.’ This is what marks him as a globalist and a progressive ideologue. He can’t accept, or even really grasp that most Americans – by far – regard infectious disease prevention (outside nursing homes and other settings where individuals can’t care for themselves) as an individual responsibility; and specific measures, like masks and social distancing, as individual prerogatives.

Thus he hallucinates that ‘the failure on the right has been considerably larger [because] … leaders in the states reopening first have done basically nothing to ensure that they [did so safely]’ … Meanwhile he ignores that New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan’s nursing home death tolls (6,000 in NY alone) were the direct result of orders, issued by each state’s governor, that nursing homes must accept Covid-positive patients. Since we knew early on that SARS-CoV-2 had it in for the old and sick, we should deem that mass murder, at least until those governors explain themselves.

Wallace-Wells’ ideology lures him into bizarre rhetorical gaffes. To his undying credit, he notes how few rioters were infected; then, how almost all ‘superspreader’ events took place indoors. A great start, but then he ignores the elephant in the room – the death tolls were highest in the states most rigidly locked down. He segues straight into a partisan gibe about a Trump rally, in a state with an official death toll of 368 (and thus a real death toll likely less than 300.) A two-hour stadium rally isn’t ‘indoors’ in the same way, or to the same extent, as weeks of round-the-clock confinement to a cramped apartment. It’s telling that barbers, bartenders and Trump rally attendees know this, but those in the progressive media silo don’t.

Wallace-Wells’ ideology influences his enthusiasm and low evidence threshold for indiscriminate mask-wearing. Like progressive governors and mayors who have mandated masks ‘in public,’ he appears not to understand that ‘in public’ has no meaning with respect to viral epidemiology. There’s no evidence, as doctors use the word, for masks’ efficacy outside clinical settings. Their presumed utility (which I don’t contest, in the correct setting) is inversely related to your ability to maintain social distance, and nothing more. Anyone jogging or picnicking in a mask, more than six feet from anyone they don’t live with, is not just stupid, but probably suffers from a personality disorder to boot.

Wallace-Wells’ world-view drives his fervent acceptance of a fake ‘spike’ in Southwestern Covid-19 hospital admissions. That’s because most, if not all progressives suffer from ‘progressive math deficiency disorder,’ which renders them unable or unwilling to process statistics that undermine their world-view. He quotes another progressive hack’s hysterical assertion that ‘the only thing that can save Arizona’ (from a disease with 0.25% mortality!) is universal mask wear.

In fact, the purported spike results from the recent policy of testing all admitted patients, regardless of ailment, for Covid-19. Arizona admissions for Covid-19 continue to decline. Overall admissions, including many with asymptomatic Covid-19, have risen because of chronic conditions that got worse while patients were deprived of medical attention during lockdown. 

Wallace-Wells harshly criticizes our ‘health-messaging apparatus,’ though not always on the grounds it most deserves. But his progressivism blinds him to a point that he still manages – inadvertently – to make obvious to perceptive readers: Granting ‘technocratic policy’ a dominant role in infectious disease prevention is fundamentally un-American. Among other things, we now know it means letting mayors and governors get away with flagrantly illegal executive orders and police bullying.

He’s honest enough to note that riots and parties produced few new infections. But like all progressives, he’s reluctant to face up to real-world outcomes. In this instance, he gives undue weight to non-falsifiable claims in a non-medical, retrospectively prospective public policy study (perhaps better described as a ‘what if’ or ‘parallel universe’ study) … which the real-word outcome conclusively contradicts.

The study’s abstract notes, ‘[The lockdowns’] benefits cannot be directly observed and are currently understood only through process-based simulations.’ The researchers compiled ‘new data’ from 1,717 localities in 6 countries, then applied ‘reduced-form econometric methods, commonly used to measure the effect of policies on economic growth to empirically evaluate the effect that these anti-contagion policies have had on the growth rate of infections.’ Do tell.

To his credit, Wallace-Wells understands that Americans are smarter than public health officials imagine. What he doesn’t get is, most Americans would rather take a low calculated risk with this not-so-deadly virus, which is likely going to infect them eventually anyway, than impoverish themselves and their families. Wallace-Wells sees the graph of our continued high infection rate as an American failure. Again, no: It’s a deliberate, collective American refusal to accept the priorities of the EU or the progressive media silo. 

Ordinary Americans aren’t just smarter than the ‘experts’ imagine. They’re smarter than the ‘experts,’ period. By that, I just mean they know better than the ‘experts’ what’s good for them and their families. Certainly they know more than Anthony  ‘Weathervane’ Fauci, who has fully earned the distinction of being the least trusted medical doctor in America.

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