The Four Stupidest Responses to CoronaVirus and Why We Need to Shut Them Up
How many of you actually knew this was coming? How many of you genuinely anticipated that this disease was going to uproot your life, overrun our healthcare system, and crater the economy?
If you answered yes, you are probably lying to yourself just a little bit. But that’s ok. You weren’t supposed to know. Diseases and pandemics are hard to predict in real-time. Even the experts get it wrong. The models can fail and the projections can be off.
But that time for ambiguity and misjudgment is over. The models are now aligning, the data is in, and the experts agree. The time for getting this wrong has passed.
What has been so dismaying (to put it lightly) is the degree to which so many of our friends’ and loved ones still don’t get it. The degree to which their reactions to this crisis are still delusional, selfish, misguided, or some combination of all three. The degree to which many of our fellow citizens are failing to grasp the seriousness of the moment we now find ourselves in.
The modeling coming out of the CDC, UCSF, and Imperial College London is dire. Middle range estimates between 1 million to 2 million dead in the U.S. in the next 18 months if we do not drastically alter our course-heading. Just sit with that number for a second. 1.5 million dead. Try to wrap your head around it.
Just consider that approximately 2.8 million people die in the U.S. every year…total. From everything. Combined. Think about the fact that in raw numbers, it’s the equivalent of a Hiroshima sized nuclear bomb event dropping on the U.S. once a month every month for the next 18 months. It’s waking up and turning on the news to a new 9/11 attack on the home soil every day…for the next 500 days in a row.
And this is just Corona related deaths. Not even beginning to address the stress on the healthcare system, the second-order fatalities from those who can’t receive care for other illnesses and traumas due to limited resources and doctors, the economic impacts, the countless layoffs, the impending recession/depression. The list goes on.
These are the stakes. This is the reality on the ground floor. These are the sort of doomsday contingency plans that world governments are preparing for behind closed doors at this very moment while college kids are trying to shake off morning hangovers and urbanites are frustrated that their pilates class is canceled.
In case you haven’t been reading the news, there are no white knights on the horizon. No vaccines coming to the rescue anytime soon. No secret stash of medicine that will make this all go away.
The only tool in our weapon chest left is changing our behavior. The only lever left to pull is a massive nationwide effort to self-quarantine and dampen the spike in transmission. All in an effort to give our healthcare system time and space to survive this thing.
Pandemic modeling is built upon assumptions about how we will all behave in the future. This means even slight behavior modifications can alter those estimates in dramatic ways. Minor tweaks in how serious we take this disease can be the difference between a 4-month recession and a 2-year depression.
As a result, I have compiled a short primer for what I believe to be the four most dangerous attitudes to Covid-19 that some of my fellow Americans are still exhibiting and how to shut them up. If you happen to be one of these four people. Please stop. Please help the rest of us bend the curve. Please help the rest of us from keeping this thing to a couple of Hiroshima bombs instead of 15 or 20.
The Delusional Denialists
The Denialists are perhaps the easiest to spot. They are the ones who apriori assumed everything was going to be fine while some are still maintaining this hallucination even today.
I must admit it has been a sad pleasure of mine the past few months to see these fools and dopes reveal themselves so nakedly and proudly. Those who’ve brazenly exclaimed, “Oh, don’t worry. No big deal. This is just like the flu.” These are the same ones who continue to fraternize in public, go to bars and restaurants, and carry on as if nothing was wrong, displaying a form of civic recklessness and selfishness so shocking that the only corrective tonic is mockery and shame.
Perhaps I am being too harsh? I mean, who among us hasn’t viewed a global pandemic with the potential to crater the economy as a pretext to scrape a great last-minute spring break together.
These people have all delusionally convinced themselves that they have some credentialed insight into virology and epidemiology as if they understood the nuances of disease vectors and fomite transmission rates. It’s akin to publicly proclaiming, “I, knowing nothing about astrophysics, am confident that this asteroid hurtling toward earth is gonna swerve right at the last second. Whatever you do, just don’t listen to all the actual astrophysicists who seem pretty stressed out about it.
These are the same people who will then tout the unfalsifiable counterfactual to prove their point after the fact. If by some combination of luck, extreme measures, and tireless work by civil servants and health professionals, we as a country manage to escape this thing with only a few bumps and bruises, watch them as they all will proclaim, “See, I told you. You guys were all freaking out over nothing.” As if they had any idea what the real stakes were. As if they had any clue what the real dangers were on the front lines of this thing, how close we actually were from careening off the edge of the cliff.
The Selfish Stoics
Next are The Selfish Stoics. They share some similarities with The Denialist crowd save for the fact that The Stoic, unlike The Denialist, accepts the full risks and dangers associated with the pandemic, and yet their behavior remains unchanged. You can recognize the stoics as they bravely exalt, “I’m not gonna let a disease get in the way of my spin class”. A sort of fatalist Ivan Drago mantra; “If I die, I die.”
Except for the fact that these Selfish Stoics are gambling with house money, where the house is everyone in their nearby community. They are playing Russian roulette with the barrel pointed at their elderly neighbors or their neighbor’s kid who is immunocompromised. These people convince themselves they are brave for taking a heroic stance against a faceless, indifferent enemy, all the while trading off the real courage and bravery of those actually self-isolating and quarantining for the sake of their neighbors and community. Making sacrifices for the well-being of others is heroic. Carrying on as if your actions don’t have communal consequences is solipsistic narcissism.
If there was karma in this world, The Denialists and The Stoics would be the last in line for beds and ventilators when they or their loved ones inevitably get this disease. They are free riders of the worst kind. Depending on the heroic work of doctors and nurses and other citizens that they don’t even know they need yet, taking time and resources away from others who genuinely did their part to avoid getting sick and stay inside but got sick anyway.
Perhaps it is a bit unfair to lay this archetype or attitude at the feet of a single company. But it’s less the shortcomings of the company itself (GOOP) than it is the ethos of its fervent disciples, most of whom congregate in the liberal metropolitan strongholds most likely to be affected by Corona.
A quick scroll through these people’s Instagram feeds and Facebook walls unveils a menagerie of anti-vax blabber and articles like “10 foods to fight off Corona”. The scientific equivalent of “Detox weight loss teas” and “Natural supplements that cure AIDS.”
Watch closely as these will be the same people, who, after watching the devastation that falls upon a population without herd immunity and no vaccine, will be the first in lines at CVS to get their Corona booster vaccine next Christmas.
If The Denialist ignores the experts out of ignorance and stubbornness, The Gooper undermines experts by assuming they themselves are one.
The Goopers deserve our collective scorn not because they are bad people. In fact, I am friends with a great many of them. Many of whom I learn a great deal from and find to be sincere and genuine in their beliefs.
But this band of citizen-alternative-fact-scientists, sincere as they may be, have helped sow the public seeds of doubt regarding scientific consensus and expertise by flattening expertise hierarchies that help keep the snake oil salesmen and grifters at bay. To these people, a GOOP editor and a Johns Hopkins research fellow are a distinction without a difference.
The Goopers clog up the social media spaces with medically dubious health and wellness advice and then launder that advice through celebrity feeds so as to feign a patina of credibility. They are now only serving to drown out the signal of real experts trying so desperately to get the population to heed their warnings.
The Darwinian Masochists
This last cohort is a strange and compelling one. They don’t advertise themselves as loudly as the other three, but you are sure to find at least one in every family and friend group. They are loosely grouped by the ideological supposition that goes something like, “We deserve this.” or “This is just Mother Nature’s way of resetting the balance.”
It’s this kind of fatalist masochism derived from a misplaced sense of ‘humans defying the natural law” or “god’s law,” etc. To be sure, this compulsion is an ancient one, traditionally belonging to the religiously inclined amongst us. This innate desire to be punished by way of mother nature’s spankings traces all the way back to Zeus and Osiris.
What perhaps is novel this time around is how these “forgive us, father, for we have sinned” types are spread evenly amongst the religious and secular alike. It’s the same psychology that has pastors letting us know that Katrina happened because we allowed gays to marry or the Shamans that blame the drought on our failure to execute a proper rain dance. And it’s equally as evident in the secularist who takes a certain pleasure in watching Shamu turn on his trainers or the tiger maul the boy at the zoo who was throwing pine cones at him. Its a sense of cosmic justice because Eve ate the forbidden fruit and order must be restored.
The Masochists will pass off this ideology as practical sensibility and sober-mindedness as if this sort of thing is all out of our hands. Don’t be fooled. It’s cowardice. It’s rolling over and playing dead on behalf of a lot of people who have no desire to do the same.
It should not go unsaid that these attitudes are not without a degree of justification.
Who can blame The Denialists when we live in a world of non-stop frenzied news cycles. Where broadcasters use the same tone and seriousness to talk about Starbucks Christmas cups as they do global pandemics.
Who among us can really be upset with The Stoics? After all, being paralyzed by fear, hiding inside of your house all day, seeing every human and public surface as a hotbed for disease spread is to die a death of a thousand papercuts before Covid-19 ever reaches your front door.
The Goopers are not without cause either. Factor in the flooding of our food supply with multi-syllabic chemically produced garbage along with the multitude of Americans suffering from auto-immune and metabolic issues that have gone desperate and broke after the conventional medical community failed them so consistently and suddenly The Gooper mindset quickly starts to make a lot of sense.
And lastly, who could deny that The Masochists have a bit of a point. The palpable feeling that the U.S. and the world generally have been burning the candle at both ends for too long, revving the economic and political RPM’s well beyond their redline limits. It’s a sense that we have been living on borrowed credit for too long and mother nature has finally come to collect.
But even if we grant all of that, even if we admit some of these attitudes are justified in the abstract, they are still abhorrent given the practical circumstances we now find ourselves in. They are actively undermining our ability to fight this pandemic in the here and now.
We are all about to be faced with a national test. A test where our entire economic and literal livelihoods may rest upon us getting a passing grade. And more importantly, a test whose answer to 99 out of 100 questions is simple; We are all in this together. The longer it takes individual Americans to come to terms with this answer, the longer we will collectively suffer.
If you yourself are guilty of any of the above, you don’t need to bow down and beg for forgiveness for your trespasses here. Simply have the courage and humility to acknowledge it. And then set about changing your behaviors today. Stay at home. Try not to touch your face. Wash your hands like a maniac. Then start encouraging others to do the same.
And if one of your friends or loved ones is guilty of the above, send them this article, and I will shame them for you.