I’m retired and don’t eat out a lot or attend crowded events, so the effect of this virus lockdown on me personally has been minimal -- excepting a sizable hit to my IRA portfolio and the closure of local golf courses. But as the weeks have worn on, the incessant drumbeat of commercials, public service announcements, and local news hairdos declaring that “we are all in this together” and imploring everyone to “stay inside” have become insufferable. Often these directives are conjoined with salutes to the “heroes” in masks who are credited with saving our secluded backsides from a dreaded plague. (Yes, health professionals almost exclusively in the New York City area have done heroic work, but hospitals around the country have been laying off employees and suffering huge financial losses due to a shortage of patients.) Another flood of commercials piggyback on the panic with assurances that “take out” is available during these “difficult times” and that your friendly auto dealer is prepared to postpone car payments should you now be unemployed. A wistful hope about getting back to normal in some distant future accompanies a few ads devoted to slavish obedience to unseen authority.
A few signs of actual courage, however, have begun to emerge. A salon owner in the North Dallas suburb of Frisco opened her establishment and tore up the citation she’d been issued for defying a government pronouncement that classified her work as “non-essential.” Even more impressive is the New York City tailor’s commitment to open up in the virus “epicenter” -- a metropolitan area that accounts for about half of the (inflated) Wuhan deaths in the entire country. By doing so he defied the imperial arrogance of Gov. Andrew Cuomo who snarkishly told beleaguered protesters to “get an essential job” if they wanted to work. Protestors in Michigan finally began to see the light when it became clear that it’s not about your health when a governor tells you that you can go to Home Depot to buy a sponge but not to buy seeds for your garden!
It isn’t exactly a portrait of “the home of the brave” that we’ve witnessed over the last month. Instead, a docile population (about 70% in one poll) seem content to do whatever Dr. Fauci tells them to do, ignoring the fact that even as late as February 29 the long-time NIH epidemiological bureaucrat assured Americans that it was safe to go to the mall, the movies, and even the gym! That pronouncement followed his comment on January 21, “This is not a major threat for the people in the United States.” Nor have the cascade of predictive errors given most Americans pause when it comes to trusting the white-robed authorities who are now ceded more credibility than was recently accorded holy scripture.
For those willing to penetrate the blizzard of media obscurantism, there are many scientists and even a whole European country whose approach to this epidemic differ radically from that of the shutdown-obsessed Fauci. One of many examples is Dr. Knut Wittkowski who for 20 years was head of the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design at The Rockefeller University -- hardly a “country doctor” as the New York Times described a physician on the other side of its anti-hydroxychloroquine jihad. Here’s what Wittkowski said about the epidemic: “With all respiratory diseases, the only thing that stops the disease is herd immunity. About 80% of the people need to have had contact with the virus, and the majority of them won’t even have recognized that they were infected.” That was also the approach taken in much-vilified Sweden, which undertook precautionary measures far short of shutting down the economy and shutting up much of the population in their homes. Wonder of wonders, statistics actually show Sweden doing better than most European countries in terms of deaths, though Fauci fanatics will insist one only compare it with its less densely populated neighbor, Norway.
What is clear in any comparison, however, is that the Swedish approach disproves conclusively the panic-producing numbers emanating from the Imperial College of London study that predicted up to 2.2 million U.S. deaths and 500,000 U.K. deaths absent radical measures -- numbers endorsed by Fauci and consequently repeated by the President. But nothing like that apocalypse occurred in non-lockdown Sweden which seems on its way to “herd immunity.” Swedish epidemiologists, of course, have explained their approach to the few uncomprehending journalists who dare to engage them, but obviously these voices, along with many other likeminded health experts in the U.S. have not been heard by Americans whose eyes and ears are glued to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx, and the panic-loving MSM whose delight over a Trump-defeating economic catastrophe is impossible to conceal!
So why has the country that used to tout itself “the land of the free and the home of the brave” so quickly become “the land of the docile and the home of the shuttered”? I proffer two related reasons. First, Americans possess an inordinate and false belief in “science,” incorrectly assuming that it is next to infallible and that all scientists pretty much agree. “Follow the science” has been a mantra in the U.S. for a worldwide experiment that’s never been previously undertaken. And if an experiment is the first of its kind, it cannot be settled science.
Moreover, anyone with intelligence and a degree of honesty can see, as noted above, how wrong the scientists anointed as our Corona pontiffs have been thus far. Secondly, the propaganda power of media, both political and commercial, has reinforced to an incredible degree the panic-laded message of the public health bureaucrats in charge, thus making the slightest deviance from the promulgated orthodoxy a blasphemous heresy. Mindless mask-wearing conformity and panic emerges based on burgeoning COVID case numbers that to a non-addled mind prove the virus is nowhere near as lethal as previously advertised and that herd immunity may soon be attainable.
It has taken far too long to break through these almost impenetrable cognitive and emotional barriers and to challenge stay-at-home and wear-a-mask-when-walking-your-dog dictates that go well beyond wartime mandates or anything “science” can vouchsafe. I, like Dr. Wittkowski, have been chagrined beyond measure at Americans’ willingness to comply with these more-than-dubious requirements, and I concur with his ominous warning: “I think people in the United States and maybe other countries as well are more docile than they should be . . . if people don’t stand up [for] their rights, their rights will be forgotten.”
Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy: "Who's to Say?" is also available on Kindle