… the gods themselves contend in vain.i
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a field day for the cognitively challenged; and the more galactically egregious the “challenge,” the more indefensibly extreme has been the response. Infantile stupidity in this instance seems to break out roughly into two major groups that roughly correspond to the origins of the novel coronavirus (these, in turn, seem overwhelmingly to take the form of conspiracy theories of one kind or another), the other major class being purported “cures” that vary from the semi-serious to the dangerously crackpot. The semi-serious versions have, at this time, almost all been shown to be dangerously crackpot when actually employed on any scale, so the difference is entirely a matter of degree rather than kind.
Quite aside from the general disregard for trivially simple facts relating to the pandemic itself, these “source” and “cure” stupidities (one might even call them “before” and “after”) actively add additional layers of danger and risk to people’s lives. The “before” group, dominated as it is by conspiracy theories, is more than capable of singling out some one or few individuals as “the reason” for the disease. Such people can then have their lives torn apart by invasive internet searches and statements, inspiring acts of stochastic terrorism against purely innocent persons. Recall, for example, the self-appointed “hero” from North Carolina who traveled to DC with firearms to put an end to the non-existent child-trafficking ring Hillary Clinton was supposedly operating, the “basement” of a pizza parlor that had no basement. Nothing more than the bare, abstract possibility (never mind actual fact) of intelligence would have sufficed to see through the infantile nonsense of the whole “pizzagate” fabrication. But intelligence is never as sexy or exciting as the vicious lies that prop up conspiracy theories.
Indeed, we are already seeing at least one conspiracy theory ginning up COVID-19 oriented slurry of stochastic terrorism directed at a perfectly innocent woman and her family. Maatje Benassi has been accused – without a shred of logic or evidence to back up the charges! – of carrying the novel coronavirus to China, and thus instigating the pandemic. But why trouble one’s self with the mundanity of logic, principles, evidence, and facts, when one has the thrill of being one of “the insiders” on the “real story”? Such persons are, as Isaac Asimov once observed, “a strong and frightening force, impervious to, and immunized against, the feeble lance of mere reason.”ii The terrorism Ms. Benassi faces – as of the CNN story linked to above, at least – has not yet escalated to direct, physical violence, but it is terrorism all the same. It has been necessary to shut down all of her and her family’s social media accounts because of the threats and abuse that was pouring in from that “strong and frightening force.” She lives in fear for her life, lest some new “self-appointed ‘hero’ from North Carolina”iii decide to take matters into his own (and you know it would be a male) hands.
Let us be absolutely clear about this: novel coronavirus and COVID-19 have been conclusively shown to come from a natural source: not a lab, not a conspiracy, from Mom (Mother Nature) herself. The question has been asked and answered, and simply is not open to any further reasoned discussion. But, as conspiracy theory enthusiasts care nothing for reasoned discussion, it will remain a topic wild-eyed infantilism, uneducated ranting, and impenetrably obtuse blather for the foreseeable future. The actual number of conspiracy theories is nigh-on impossible to count, but one can get a flavor of a few of them HERE.
One should mention a related form of terrorism that has emerged in recent weeks: namely the armed gun fetishists who seek to force the government to open things up, in complete defiance of all available scientific data. These sniveling babies with their penis substitutes demonstrate an absolute disregard for the health and safety of others, given over as they are to their all-consuming narcissism and hopeless lack of even basic education. There is scarcely any measure of contempt or vituperation that could be heaped upon these individuals that would even begin to approach what they legitimately merit.
Let us turn now to the “afters,” to the “cures.” While the “befores” often give the impression that they are driven from below, in some populist manner (which is itself often fabricated), the “afters” definitely find the stupidity being led from the top.
And at the top, of course, is everyone’s favorite neo-fascist, Donald Trump. A person with an even more cynical attitude to the world than myself might suggest that we in the US are in a sense fortunate that reality intervened before Trump and his criminal enterprise in the White House could consolidate their position into genuinely hegemonic power (the intention of all fascists.) But anyone hoping to find the upside in over 100,000 deaths by this summeriv is someone whose moral faculty I would question.
Trump and his criminal enterprise have consistently failed in their response to the crisis, which they have consistently lied about and misrepresented. They are not alone in this, of course, as all of their variously sociopathic enablers have been enthusiastically sharing and amplifying the message that there’s nothing to see here. For example, a pair of physicians (MD’s only – neither of them have any background in immunology, epidemiology, or statistics, their extravagant claims to the contrary notwithstanding) recently posted a YouTube video claiming everything was OK, it had been blown out of proportion by the “liberal” media, and you should trust their non-existent authority and go back to driving the economy in ways that they freely admitted they had a significant stake. I’ll not degrade myself by linking to their self-absorbed sniveling, but you may find a systematic evisceration of their fatuous twaddle (and a link to the original) HERE.
As mentioned in the above linked article, the “argument” presented by these physicians is a blatant argumentum ad vericundiam.v The same appeal to non-existent authority is being exploited by Trump and his more official enablers, who use the bully-pulpit of the White House to declare as “facts” things that are demonstrably false. One might like to imagine that Trump and his fascist enablers are literally too stupid to understand the monstrous falsity of the nonsense they spew, but is that really an improvement?
Is it better that they are consciously lying, knowing that the deaths from COVID-19 will easily have doubled by election time this November? Or is it really preferable that they are warmly and impenetrably included in the embrace of those persons with whom the gods themselves contend in vain? There is a certain bitter attractiveness to the second hypothesis. Quite aside from the plausibility of Herstein’s First and Second laws, it absolves Trump and his enablers of calculated malevolence. But it doesn’t provide any succor or solace to the grieving, nor any extra shovels to bury the dead.
That said, it has been confirmed that the Federal government has ordered 100,000 additional body bags to deal with the situation that is likely to emerge in the next few months.
It is always good to be prepared.
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iMit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (“Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain”)
– Fredrich von Schiller
iiFrom one of Asimov’s innumerable essays. Since he wrote something between 500 & 1,000 of them, I hope I’ll be forgiven for not digging up the exact citation.
iiiHere I speak of North Carolina only metaphorically. The person would more likely be from Florida …
ivThe US will almost certainly hit 80,000 deaths by tomorrow, Wednesday the 6th, May 2020. Given the stampede to “open up” the economy, the second wave of deaths from COVID-19 will easily dwarf the first. 100,000 dead by this summer is likely optimistic.
vThe article mentions appeal to authority fallacies. They might have clarified by saying “false authority.” For my part, I just relish the pomposity of using the Latin name for the fallacy.