One of the reasons why it was easy to overreact to the Chinese coronavirus was because China was taking it so seriously. We all remember the Chinese Communist Party locking down Wuhan in January. We all remember those videos of hazmat suit-clad commissars taking people out of their homes and shipping them into quarantine camps, while others sanitized the streets.
We remember the stories about doors being welded shut as individuals starved to death inside their own homes in an effort to enforce the Wuhan lockdown.
As abusive and chilling as these images were, we thought at the time that if China was going to do something like this openly, the virus, which we had no idea about at that time, must be serious. The early data indicated just that.
But China is China and our first mistake was believing anything they said. With what we now know, we can conclude that China, with its typical incompetence, overreacted to the virus. With its typical dishonesty, it first covered up the coronavirus and then covered up its overreaction to it.
Because the people we might call “China hawks” (yours truly among them) typically watch that country with suspicion, we took their initial coverup of the coronavirus and their harsh reaction to it as proof that it was a Spanish Flu-type pathogen. The images of the hospitals in Italy seconded that feeling. By the middle of March, the meme had taken root. Italy locked down and most of the rest of the world followed within days.
And then the real data started coming in. While we always knew that the Chinese coronavirus affected older, sicker people to a much greater degree than younger and healthier people, the staggeringly lopsided nature of the severity of the illness wasn’t obvious at the time. We now know that close to half of all deaths have occurred in nursing homes. The median age of death is around 80 and most of those people had some kind of comorbid condition.
In other words, there was a good chance that the people who died “from” the Chinese coronavirus were going to die this year anyway. If you’re under the age of 50, your chance of dying from the Chinese coronavirus is probably less than the chance of you dying from falling down the stairs. Even if you’re older, but otherwise healthy, your chance of a bad outcome is negligible.
That’s not to say that these deaths should be written off as mere statistics, but when fear takes control of the mind, we must keep context in our thoughts. It’s an obligation. As Louis XIV warned: “whoever is poorly informed cannot avoid poor thinking.”
And if you think poorly, you will make the wrong decision.
We have been poorly informed, deliberately, by a panic-mongering media. 2020 has shown no doubt that they are indeed the enemy of the people. Just as China was covering up its data, so our media misleads by failing to contextualize the course of the epidemic. The actual full context suggests that the risks to most of the population are so small as to not justify any lockdowns, even if they worked, which no credible data suggests that they do.
As the Nobel-winning biophysicist Michael Levitt has shown, the shape of the epidemic is the same everywhere, lockdowns or not, with the initial wave of the Chinese coronavirus infecting about 20% of the population in any given area (with some exceptions) and then “burning out.” Using this insight, Levitt correctly predicted the course of the epidemic in China (all the problems with their data aside) in January. The severity of the epidemic instead depends on how well run the healthcare system is, how effectively it can treat people, and most importantly of all, how well the authorities can make sure that the most vulnerable people are not the ones in the 20% of people that get infected. This largely comes down to protecting closed areas like nursing homes and certain hospital wards.
The biggest predictor of the severity of the Chinese coronavirus in a specific area depends on that. For all the hysterical hullabaloo about infections in the Sun Belt, states like Florida and Texas have done a much better job protecting those people despite swelling “cases.” Their per capita death rate compared to places like New York and New Jersey is much lower as a result and will never approach the levels seen in the northeast in April.
So why, then, did the lockdowns happen? Why are they continuing?
The plutocrat-Chicom alliance strikes again
After China locked Wuhan down, it still let people from that city travel to the rest of the world. Naturally, the virus spread fast. As it started its course through Europe, Chinese propaganda outlets were pushing its approach to lockdowns hard. Italy was the first country it sold its lockdowns on and then it started focusing elsewhere, with hundreds of thousands of fake social media accounts pumping hysterical fear of the coronavirus China unleashed on the rest of the world. Once this emotion was in place, these Chinese trolls then praised the country’s lockdown. Sweden, the one country that famously refused to lock down, was a particular target of China’s ire. This thread summarizes these events and is well worth reading.
According to the article, the CCP launched a massive social media campaign in ITALY to advertise its coronavirus lockdown measures in early March.https://t.co/BEOkiFFPfm
— MPS (@MichaelPSenger) June 11, 2020
I’m skeptical about the magnitude of the impact of these Chinese “troll farms.” They are too reminiscent of the Russian collusion hoax and other cognitive dissonances that Democrats used to explain their defeat in 2016. The Chinese trolls likely weren’t among the most decisive factors in motivating Western “leaders” to lock their nations down. Nevertheless, that they made the attempt is notable. It suggests they want the hysteria and draconian lockdowns to last for as long as possible, so as to weaken the West economically and socially.
I’m reminded of the fight between Ippo Makunouchi and Alfredo Gonzales in Hajime no Ippo. Gonzales threw his long-reaching, dynamic left to unsettle Makunouchi.
After a while of this, Alfredo Gonzales would throw his right just behind his left to deliver a strong straight punch after the unsettling left jab, leaving Ippo Makunouchi vulnerable and with fewer options.
We can envision China doing the same thing. The coronavirus was the left jab. It wasn’t as strong a punch as we feared, but since it was an unfamiliar punch, it deeply unsettled the world. Just behind the virus came the far more devastating right straight, the lockdowns which the Chinese championed.
So now that we know this, why have our “leaders” persisted in these lockdowns?
In the first place, they have an election to win and an incumbent president that they want to defeat at any cost, no matter how damaging it is to the nation. Since Joe Biden is a reanimated corpse, their only chance of victory is to make the American people as miserable as possible so that the instinct for change can propel him into office at the expense of the incumbent. Unfortunately, it’s a strategy that might well work, if history is a guide.
But there is something else at play.
Our ruling class is nothing if not proud – proud of themselves, not their nation. Since this pride comes from nothing fundamental – no real accomplishments, and instead derives from social climbing and rent-seeking, this class is also deeply insecure. That they were wrong and overreacted to the Chinese coronavirus is not something they will easily admit. Pride gets in the way of necessary readjustments in the best of times. For a ruling class as arrogant and out of touch as ours, this is taken to the extreme. They will go to any length to cover their asses rather than admit failure. After all, these are the same people that plunged the nation into hysteria based on an insane, transparently false conspiracy theory for three years rather than admit they were defeated fairly in an election.
Would they refuse to admit they got the severity of the Chinese coronavirus, and hence the policy decisions based on it, wrong, particularly when they have an election to win, even if their refusal to change course only benefits China? You know the answer to that.
It’s par for the course, though. These plutocrats and their courts have long had an alliance with the Chinese Communist Party that is mutually destructive for the people of the entire world. This saga just casts that alliance in higher relief.
It shows us how badly lacking we are in leaders with good characters, and how building good character in the succeeding generations of leadership is so vital. Lives of the Luminaries will come out this month, aiming to help with precisely that.
In the meantime, read Stumped, because it predicted this dynamic would be a reason why Trump won in 2016.
If you liked this post, you can hire me to write one for you.