Living as we do in a world of hordes of self-appointed "subject matter experts", positions on controversial issues take on the air of religious dogma. The most obvious place we see this is the risible topic of "climate change". Everyone agrees that the climate is changing, that the change is bad, that the change is man-made and that the only solution is to institute communism.
Agreeing to 95% of what they are saying isn't good enough and makes you a "denier". Deny any of it, you deny all of it. Climate change fundamentalists are far worse than the stereotypical fundamentalist Christians. If you so much as question the severity or the solutions proposed? You get labelled a "denier" and have an autistic teen-aged girl shriek at you.
Again, you don't have to flat out deny that the climate is changing, whatever that means since the climate is always changing. Any deviation from the ever shifting Absolute Truth As Of Today on the topic gets you labeled a "climate change denier" and that is almost as bad as being a "racist". The end result is we don't actually discuss the issue. If you can't so much as ask a question, why bother? The climate change cult keeps screaming that we are all going to die and the rest of us ignore their warnings.
There are other topics we aren't allowed to question, including a big one I won't even mention. The common feature is that for all of them, the "experts" devotion to their narrative borders of religious fanaticism and if there is anything a religious fanatic can't stand, it is having some peasant suggesting they might be slightly mistaken. The narrative is foundational to their own sense of being. If climate change isn't real or is even mostly exaggerated, it leaves them with no reason for being, no identity other than just another schmuck. It also means that they might have to find gainful employment and that frightens them more than melting icecaps.
The language of denialism has long been a mainstay on the Cultural Marxist Left as a way of deflecting legitimate questions of their sacred dogma. It is a neat trick, instead of contesting the facts you contest the character of the person asking the question. What we have seen in 2020 is this tactic bleeding over into people on this side of the great divide when it comes to the Chinese coronavirus epidemic.
It started off with people on the dissident right shilling for China and praising their response to the virus that they either created or covered up as way to own the Boomers and jab at Orange Man Bad. Others have joined the fray as the dire predictions of massive deaths has unraveled.
Early predictions claimed enormous numbers of deaths, in the millions, if we didn't lock the country down. We had to "flatten the curve" and that meant basically quarantining healthy people. Except we could go to Wal-Mart, but not church or Easter dinner. A couple of months into this fiasco and here is what we don't know.
- We don't have any idea how many people have the coronavirus or had the coronavirus and got better while never even realizing it. Not a clue.
- Because we don't have even a general idea of how many people have/had the Wuhan flu, we don't know how lethal it is compared to other viruses. It certainly seems to be less and less lethal as it comes to light how many people show signs of having picked up the virus and remaining asymptomatic. If you are reading this, there is a very good chance that you had it and never knew it.
- We are pretty confident when it comes to how many people are listed as dying of coronavirus. What is far less clear is how many people listed died specifically because of the Kung Fu Flu. As many others have pointed out, dying with coronavirus is not the same thing as dying of coronavirus.
- A related note: how many people have died with coronavirus reported as the cause of death but really died of something else? In my state of Indiana, it was quietly reported last week that the state would start to count "presumptive positive" deaths in the official tally of coronavirus deaths. In other words, people that died who never tested positive for coronavirus were still being counted. How can we have accurate numbers like that, especially as there is a lot of chatter about hospitals having a financial incentive to report deaths as Chinese virus deaths?
- On another related note, how many people listed as dying of coronavirus were going to die in this time period anyway? How many people were likely to die anyway? An obese 75 year old with heart problems and diabetes is on death's door, are people like that dying from chronic illnesses and just happened to also have the Wuhan flu that pushed them over the edge a little faster?
We simply don't know and anyone saying they do know is lying.
Herschel at The Captain's Journal has a good series on this and his latest captures the problem well, Concerning Covid-19: All Of Your Models Are Wrong, Part VI:
The second point pertains to number of deaths (especially when compared to number of deaths from flu or any other pathogen). In order for that ratio to mean anything, you must know the numerator and denominator. The denominator is number of people who have been exposed. We know that it’s a lot (millions), but the value is not reliably accurate.
The numerator is a complete joke. Doctors never logged number of patients who died with flu, or strep, or any other pathogen, if in fact it wasn’t the direct cause of death. Comparison of these ratios for Coronavirus and any other pathogen, you must formulate very strict definitions and boundary conditions for your study. Those very strict boundary conditions do not obtain.
Bottom line: we don't know very much about Covid-19.
That is OK. Disease is a weird thing. Diseases crop up, they mutate, they can be devilishly tricky to treat. If it were easy to deal with disease, we wouldn't restrict medical school to the smartest students or at least the students who check off the right boxes on diversity surveys. A lot of people, including people we assumed were the best qualified to address the virus at the CDC and WHO, were wrong from the get-go and seem to be wrong still. Again, people are wrong all the time.
When you take a stand on an issue and then later it turns out you were wrong, you can go one of two ways. You can admit you were wrong and move on with your life or you can get angry at people for noticing that you were wrong and hysterically denounce them for noticing. There are plenty of things I took a stand on that I later realized were mistakes. A big one is supporting the invasion of Iraq. At the time I was still angry about 9/11 based on the official explanation of what happened. I believed that Saddam was in the process of producing WMDs and that without intervention one would be provided to Al Qaeda and used on American soil, and soon. I thought the Iraqi people really would welcome us as liberators. t turned out that none of that was true, there were no WMDs and 9/11 was a lucky coincidence, that may or may not have been orchestrated by powers more sinister than Osama bin Laden. Iraq became an enormous quagmire and the Iraqi people have suffered for two decades. The instability resulting from toppling Saddam reverberated throughout the region and things there are a bloody mess. In short, I was wrong and I admit it.
Many of the Covid-19 cult are choosing the latter option and getting angry that other people are not buying what they are selling.
To state again, you can (and I do) recognize that the Chinese coronavirus is a very serious illness and that common sense and significant precautions can and should be taken, especially by those most vulnerable to the disease (the elderly, people with pre-existing chronic medical problems, etc.). What I question are the extreme measures that were taken to reduce the spread of this disease and whether the long term ramifications for the world will in the end prove worse than the disease itself. We all know the facts and these, unlike the number of Covid cases and deaths, are not really in dispute. In excess of 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment in six weeks, perhaps leading to Depression-era level of unemployment. The economy has dramatically slowed down and we are only at the early stages of the waves of layoffs, even if we start to re-open the economy soon. The food supply is a mess. Oil is completely out of whack. While giant globalist companies like Amazon and Wal-Mart are doing great, many small local businesses won't reopen. The disaster to the economy and our cultural fabric are very likely permanent. Apparently that doesn't matter, all that matters is the actual disease itself.
The common refrain is "How many people are you willing to kill to boost your 401k?" or some other similarly juvenile rhetorical trick. Most of the people saying this on social media likely have never had a job that offered a 401k and don't have families to provide for. Most decisions in our society are trade-offs of some sort. For example...
If you reduced the speed limit nationally to 5 mph, you could essentially eliminate traffic deaths. We have had 177,000 people die in car accidents in the U.S. in the last five years, a number that dwarfs the number of alleged Covid-19 deaths. Just make everyone drive 5 mph and we save over 35,000 lives every single year! I'm a genius!
Of course that would also mean that most of us couldn't get to work in a reasonable amount of time. Truckers couldn't deliver material without spending days driving from Indiana to Georgia. Raw material would take ten times as long to be delivered so production would come to a halt. Food couldn't get from the warehouse to the store. Get my point? There is a reason people like to pretend they envy the Amish but don't convert.
But we can't trade a life for the economy, right?
Only a moron would make that claim in this circumstance. No one wants to reduce the speed limit to 5 mph even though it is unquestionable that doing so would save a bunch of lives. The same is true in the case of the Chinese virus. We have quarantined hundreds of millions of people, the vast majority of them basically healthy. We have crashed the economy on purpose and tacked on trillions in new debt in a couple of months and the appetite for more and more spending is limitless right now. We have turned over the economic and business system to medical professionals who know a lot about medicine but not a damn thing about how the economy works and believe me, the medical community is far from unanimous on the issue of Covid-19, grandstanding nurses on social media notwithstanding.
The first lesson here is to avoid staking your reputation on an issue that has a great deal of variability and uncertainty.
The second lesson is to learn to admit when you are wrong with some grace and humor. Nobody likes a know-it-all asshole who can't admit when they make a mistake.
The third and perhaps most important lesson is one of the fundamental things I believe: the topics you are absolutely not allowed to question are exactly the topics you must question. The truth doesn't fear examination.