Keeping Fear Alive • City Journal

By John Tierney

Throughout the pandemic, American political and public-health leaders have been following Rahm Emanuel’s classic dictum for power-seeking officials: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Now they’ve adopted a corollary: you never want a crisis to end.

So they are prolonging the national misery instead of easing it, which could be done with a few simple strategies. Explain to the public that the virus will never disappear but is no longer a mortal threat to the vast majority of Americans. Encourage the minority still at risk to get vaccinated by honestly discussing who is in jeopardy and what scientists have learned about infections. Promote treatments proven to prevent infection and speed recovery while avoiding unproven treatments and mandates that cause collateral damage and generate mistrust. Above all, make it clear to Americans that we finally have reason to celebrate: what once seemed an unprecedented danger is now just one of many pathogens that we know how to live with.

But the nation’s crisismongers aren’t about to relinquish their hold over the public, so they’ve set new goals that are as unachievable as they are unnecessary and harmful. Making vaccines available to every American adult is no longer sufficient; now the crisis cannot end until the entire population has been vaccinated. Instead of focusing efforts on vaccinating the vulnerable, officials obsess on compelling universal obedience, even if that means squandering vaccines on people who already have acquired natural immunity or are at minimal risk of serious illness.

The same progressives who regularly denounce “systemic racism” and “Western imperialism” are now enforcing policies that disproportionately punish minorities and the poor, both in the United States (the majority of black teenagers and young adults in New York have been banished from much of public life by the city’s new vaccine-passport policy) and in the rest of the world. The hypocrisy was deftly captured in a tweet by Martin Kulldorff, the Harvard epidemiologist: “If you favor university vaccine mandates for low-risk American and European students, when there is not enough vaccine for older high-risk people in Asia, Africa and Latin America, please remove your #BLM tags from your Twitter/Facebook profiles.”

Children are being sentenced to another round of unnecessary mask mandates and probably more school closures based on evidence-free warnings from Anthony Fauci and others that the Delta variant will be more deadly to them than the original virus. While the variant is more infectious, the evidence does not show it to be any more lethal. In fact, the current mortality rate among American children with Covid is lower than it was last year—and last year many more children died of the flu than of Covid. One of the most thorough studies, in England, shows that the survival rate for those under 18 with Covid is 99.995 percent. But instead of emphasizing these reassuring statistics, public-health officials like Jerome Adams, the former surgeon general, keep looking for new ways to scare parents and children.

“I’m an anesthesiologist,” he tweeted last weekend. “And a dad. And I can assure you in both capacities that your child will be far more comfortable if they’re in a face mask, than on a ventilator. If you’re making a choice on behalf of a child, please choose based on their comfort, vs yours.” He offered no new evidence that children are at heightened risk from the virus, much less any evidence that a mask would make any difference, but he did make sure to include a gruesome photograph of a child on a ventilator.

It was a new low in public-health demagoguery, but unfortunately not so different from the fearmongering of other officials, the press, and social-media platforms. They lament that a minority of the public remains reluctant to get vaccinated without recognizing that their own tactics are likely a chief cause of this reluctance. They have been misleading people for so long—and censoring challenges to their misinformation—that it’s no wonder polls show that an overwhelming majority of unvaccinated Americans say they don’t trust Fauci or the CDC.

Many of these unvaccinated people have mistaken ideas about vaccine side effects, but they’re not wrong when they tell pollsters that the dangers of the virus have been exaggerated and exploited for political purposes. The White House and its Democratic allies in the press have seized on the seasonal surge in the Sun Belt to attack Republicans for not mandating masks—while largely ignoring surges in Democratic strongholds with mask mandates and other restrictions, like Hawaii, Oregon, and San Francisco.

This political cherry-picking of data has been the norm during the pandemic. During surges last year, Florida and Sweden’s failure to lock down and mandate masks was blamed for the outbreaks—never mind that both places did better than average in limiting mortality over the course of the year. In Sweden, which kept its schools open without masks or social distancing during the spread of the Delta variant this year, the overall mortality rate this year has actually been lower than normal.

The CDC continues to undermine its credibility by claiming strong evidence for the efficacy of lockdowns and mask mandates. Dozens of studies have found that lockdowns are ineffective, and one recent analysis of trends in the United States and other countries found that lockdown policies are associated with an increase in excess deaths. The evidence offered by the CDC for mask mandates is weak, as Jeffrey H. Anderson has documented, and the most rigorous research—from more than a dozen randomized clinical trials—suggests that masks are ineffective (and possibly counterproductive) at stopping viral spread. One recent study, which tracked Covid case growth across the United States, concluded that “mask mandates and use are not associated with slower state-level Covid-19 spread during Covid-19 growth surges.”

Even Robert Redfield, who made unsubstantiated claims for mask efficacy last year while he was directing the CDC, now concedes that there is a “paucity of data” to support mask mandates. When asked if the CDC is wrong to be recommending masks for schoolchildren, he replied, “I’m saying that I haven’t been able to review data that supports that recommendation.”

His successors at the agency, unfortunately, seem less interested in reviewing data than in hiding it. As David Zweig reported in New York, when researchers from the CDC compared Covid-mitigation techniques at 169 elementary schools in Georgia, they found no statistically significant reduction of infections in schools that required masks for students, enforced social distancing, or installed barriers between desks. Those were important findings because it was the first such large study, but the CDC did not even mention them in the summary of research that it published. Instead, the agency went on recommending masks for all students.

The European Union’s equivalent of the CDC, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, has sensibly recommended against masking students under age 12 because of the physical, psychological, and social harms to children, but American officials have made no effort to weigh the costs and benefits. The National Institutes of Health hasn’t even bothered to study the negative impacts of its mask policies on children. Dozens of other researchers, though, have demonstrated an array of problems called “Mask-Induced Exhaustion Syndrome.” The problems include decrease in blood oxygen saturation; increase in blood carbon dioxide; increase in heart and respiratory rates; difficulty breathing; dizziness; headache; drowsiness; and decreased ability to concentrate and think.

Masking children at minimal risk from the virus was justified last year on the grounds that it might prevent infections of vulnerable adults who had no defense against the virus. But now that vaccines are readily available, why harm children for the sake of adults who have deliberately chosen not to protect themselves? Since when do children bear responsibility for adults’ decisions?

The mask mandates for children can’t be justified on ethical or scientific grounds, but they persist because they serve the interests of a certain class of adults. The purpose of this hygiene theater was described with blunt accuracy by Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor and one of the few politicians who has actually been following the science during the pandemic. “Politicians,” he explained, “want to force you to cover your face as a way for them to cover their own asses.”

Source: https://www.city-journal.org/will-policymakers-let-the-covid-crisis-end

The New Normal in the Permanent Emergency

Just when the authorities allow us to take off our masks, they demand that we put them back on. Americans might reasonably wonder if there will ever be a return to “normal.” But obey we must, lest we be in gross violation of the mandates …

Source: The New Normal in the Permanent Emergency

When Will the COVID Revolt Come? – from American Greatness

At some point, there will be a revolt. The longer the arbitrary insanity persists, the more violent the reaction will be.

The most cheerful headline I have seen in weeks was on Glenn Reynolds’ New York Post column: “No, Karen, we’re not masking again.” I hope he is right. I do wonder, though. I have no doubt that the second part of his headline—“A winning GOP message for 2022 [and] beyond”—is correct. At least it’s correct if it is expressed as a conditional: It would be a winning strategy were it adopted. As Reynolds notes, “There is a great deal of pent-up frustration and resentment over the inconvenience, the loss of freedom and the general climate of hectoring that the government’s pandemic response has created.” Indeed. And he’s right, too, that

It’s irritating to be lectured by officials who claim to be smarter than you. It’s infuriating to be lectured by government officials who claim to be smarter than you—but clearly aren’t.

The on-again/off-again claims on masks and vaccination are just part of it. Tired of masks? Get vaccinated, they told us. Now they’re saying wear a mask, even if you’ve been vaccinated and even if you’re associating with others who’ve been vaccinated.

And there’s talk of more lockdowns, which a growing body of scientific evidence suggests were perfectly useless and downright harmful.

As Molly Bloom exclaimed in a different context, Yes, Yes, Yes!

But to return to the question of hope, I am reminded that hope was said by some cynics to have been the last evil in Pandora’s pithos. It seems like only yesterday—in fact, it was just this past May—that both the president and the vice-president of the United States insisted that (as Joe himself put it) “Folks, if you’re fully vaccinated—you no longer need to wear a mask.”

Of course, that was more than a year after “15 days to slow the spread,” Anthony Fauci’s steady stream of contradictory, though authoritatively delivered, advice, not to mention the recent advent of (cue the scary music) The Delta Variant.

It was the New York Post, again, that cut to the chase on the latest (unless we’re on to the epsilon variant already) with its cover of July 30. “Insanity!” read its oversized headline and below was a large grid with a tiny bit of the upper right square marked. Of the 161 million people who have been vaccinated, only 5,601 have been hospitalized with the new version of the virus. Of those, only 1,141 have died. That’s .0007 percent. (And how old, one wonders, were those who succumbed and from what comorbidities did they suffer?)

Now it turns out that the latest CDC advice was based largely on an outbreak at Provincetown after the informal party time of “Bear Week” in early July. Andrew Sullivan treated the news with some portion of the skepticism it deserves. In fact, as another commentator pointed out, what the Provincetown outbreak really shows is that “even under perfect conditions for a superspreader event, the vaccine works spectacularly well.”

But even to talk about studies and statistics and “expert” advice is to assume that we are talking primarily about an issue of public health. We aren’t. Consider this list from Jim Treacher:

  • Absolutely do not wear a mask
  • You must, must, must wear a mask or you’re killing Grandma
  • Don’t leave the house or you’re killing Grandma
  • If you can’t avoid leaving the house, stay at least six feet away from any other human being you see or you’re killing Grandma
  • Wash your hands 20 times a day
  • Do not touch your face or anything else, ever
  • Get vaccinated so you don’t have to wear a mask
  • You have to wear a mask even if you’re vaccinated
  • When the above rules change, and then change back, and then change back again, shut up about it or you’re a stupid MAGA-head
  • Don’t forget to vote Democrat!

Of course, the last item is more often left unspoken than it is overtly expressed, but it is a sentiment, an assumption, that infuses the whole shifting kaleidoscope of contradictory advice. Treacher is right. “This isn’t about science. It’s about control. You will do as you’re told, peasants, and your moral, ethical and intellectual betters will continue to do whatever they please.”

I think Glenn Reynolds is correct that opposing the tyrannous spirit that stands behind the lockdowns, the mask mandates, and the smug, hectoring, politically correct demands for proof of vaccination would be a winning strategy for GOP politicians. Will they adopt it? Most will do so timorously, if at all. That’s my prediction.

Last year at Encounter Books, we published an admonitory book by Joel Kotkin called The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning To The Global Middle Class. Some people thought Kotkin was overstating things with his talk of an increasingly stratified society in which a tiny elite lorded it over an increasingly pauperized and disenfranchised mass. It turns out, though, that if anything Kotkin understated the trends. The weaponization of public health diktats, their enforcement by a vast and increasingly overbearing cadre of nanny-state bureaucrats, is simply the latest manifestation of the profoundly anti-democratic spirit that has taken hold in Western societies.

It’s all about social control, as Jim Treacher says. At some point, there will be a revolt. The longer the arbitrary insanity persists, the more violent the reaction will be. The question is whether we are at or are approaching the point of crisis. Will the voters stand for another lockdown as we approach the 2022 election? Lockdowns markedly increased the opportunities for voter fraud; 2020 showed that. That is precisely why the swamp is prepping us for another go. Let’s see if we stand by grumbling impotently or if, finally, we actually do something. I am not holding my breath.

Source: https://amgreatness.com/2021/07/31/when-will-the-covid-revolt-come/

The Propaganda War (And How to Fight It)

Every totalitarian system in history has used the power of visual propaganda to generate a new “reality,” one that reifies its official ideology, remaking the world in its own paranoid image. New Normal totalitarianism is no exception. For example, take a look at this panel copied from the landing page of The Guardian — one […]

The Propaganda War (And How to Fight It)