Responding to "Dr. Volts"

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Browsing Twitter today—sorry, I guess it's "X" now—I saw this post from @drvolts. This is, apparently, a fellow named David Roberts, who runs a newsletter of some sort. I ran across this thread at random, and it captivated me. Let's review it for an old-school "fisking" (and that's probably a term you haven't heard for a while).

X doesn't enable you to post an entire thread in an easily readable manner, so I'll simply quote the relevant parts.

I still think frequently about the fact that a pandemic came & created an undeniable moral imperative for solidarity -- for acting together, on one another's behalf -- and it caused an eruption of fury among conservatives that is still raging.

"We all need to sacrifice a bit, undergo some inconvenience, to protect the weakest among us."

They try to pin it on Fauci or school closings or whatever, but really it was just that -- that basic call for solidarity -- that enraged the right. Fundamental brainstem rage.

You can Monday-morning quarterback the pandemic forever -- there are plenty of legit criticisms of public officials & policies -- but in the end there was never any chance that the right wouldn't erupt with fury over it. Their worldview is based on hierarchy & dominance ...

... & the structure of a pandemic calls for the opposite of that. They needed, on a deep psychological level, to reject the call for solidarity; they worked backward from that to all the (shifting, often nonsensical) reasons. They would -- & did! -- choose death over solidarity.

— David Roberts (@drvolts), December 25, 2023

COVIDUnlike Roberts, I have no insight into the inner lives of "the Right" so I don't pretend that I can accurately know what they actually think or feel. And truthfully, neither does Roberts, though he pretends to do so, primarily to set up a boogey-man that he can then deconstruct.

In furtherance of this, he elides past the actual problem, mentioning it only to discount it.

...there are plenty of legit criticisms of public officials & policies -- but in the end there was never any chance that the right wouldn't erupt with fury over it.

From my point of view, it was, in fact, the atrocious response of the authorities that directly fueled the anger he decries.

First, there was the economic shutdown, the "two weeks to slow the spread" that evolved into an economic shutdown that lasted for months. Large and medium-sized businesses can rather easily convert to a work-from-home environment, as mine did in March 2020. These businesses have both the resources and infrastructure to do business in the Cloud, and fully support operations online.

Most small businesse such as restaurants, the trades, corner stores, and the like must, on the other hand, perform their operations at the point of service. There is no online option for most small businesses. The people who were hurt the most by the shutdowns were those who could least afford it. A "basic call for solidarity" that benefits corporations while penalizing small sole-proprietorships is not really "solidarity".

One thinks of the LA restaurant owner who was not allowed to open her outdoor patio, while a film crew catering setup operated across the parking lot. Los Angeles, of course, declared that entertainment workers were "essential" employees. Nobodies whose entire income was tied into their small business were, of course, non-essential. Good luck feeding your kids, lady.

I seem to remember a Left that was...dubious about policies that promoted the interests of Wall Street corporations over the interests of Main Street small businesses. But, that was long ago.

Then, of course, the George Floyd protests came along. Our health and political officials, at the local, state, and federal levels, were keen to let everyone know that joining a massive outdoor protest with thousands of attendees had no public health implications. At the same time they were banning outdoor funerals for Grandma, or were arresting people who were paddle-boarding alone along the coast of California.

Solidarity, it seems, is not for everyone.

Certainly it's not for elderly, at least in New York, where COVID patients were transferred from hospitals to nursing homes by order of the state. (Which, by the way, the government of New York lied about to hide the numbers of both patients and deaths.) I suppose the elderly, who were among the highest risk groups for negative COVID outcomes, showed their "solidarity" by shuffling off this mortal coil, rather than being an ongoing drain on the state's precious resources by defiantly living.

But beyond this fake solidarity, the enraging COVID response went much further.

From the start, there was, as we now know, a concerted attempt to deny the possibility of a lab leak as the cause of the COVID pandemic, as I've discussed previously. We will now never truly know the origin of COVID, because Peter Daszak, among others, managed to delay and obfuscate any attempt at an unbiased investigation.

Then there were the vaccines themselves. Authorized under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) the government enabled them to be released prior to Phase III clinical trials. The government assured us that they were safe and effective, but absent Phase III trials, that was an assurance that the government couldn't possibly make. Much of the data needed to make that determination simply didn't exist. It was only after the release of the vaccines that we began to see the incidences of Guillain-Barre syndrome, myocarditis, or thrombosis. Indeed, in 2021 the Johnson and Johnson vaccine had to be removed from the market due to the growing number of adverse effects.

Moreover, despite the fact that the COVID vaccines were never tested to see if they reduced transmission, and were not required to, both state and federal governments tried to impose vaccine mandates. (Although not on immigrants who were entering the country illegally. They all got a free pass. Because science.) At one point, President Biden, in defense of his federal vaccine mandate, said "You’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.". This was at time when there were already "5,492 vaccinated people who tested positive for coronavirus and were hospitalized or died." People who were uneasy about the vaccines were publicly berated by the president, who called COVID a "pandedmic of the unvaccinated". This, according a UC Davis study, as well as one from Imperial College London and the UK Health Security Agency, showed the president's remarks simply weren't true.

But, even assuming they were true, the rational response would've been to target the vaccinations first to high risk groups, such as the elderly, or people with co-morbidities such as diabetes. A blanket mandate to include populations that were in much lower risk groups never made much sense. Even less sense was made when the government decided to mandate the covid vaccinations to children, who were the one group who were at the absolute lowest risk for COVID, yet among the highest risk for adverse sequelae of vaccination, such as myocarditis.

Yet, prior to 2021, we were expected to take on faith the government's assurances of safety and efficacy for the vaccines. Never mind that the vaccines used novel technologies without any long-term study of possible adverse effects. Every year, dozens of drugs are removed from the market, despite having been fully approved, and passing the full regime of clinical testing required by the FDA in the normal course of events. Those who declined vaccination over safety or efficacy concerns about their novel MRNA technologies were derided as anti-vaxxers.

Then there was the government's relationship with the clinicians who were actually treating patients in the field. Government treatment mandates from on high is not how pandemic response is supposed to work. Instead, clinicians who work with actual patients are supposed to determine what therapies might be effective, then transmit that information up the chain to the public health authorities. In general, public health officials are, after all, bureaucrats who do not treat patients. Anthony Fauci, for example, hasn't treated a patient in over 40 years. But clinicians who attempted to test alternative therapies had their medical licenses threatened.

Beyond that, the government rejected any claims that any other existing medications, such as hydroxychloriquine or ivermectin, had any promise as either a preventative or ameliorative therapeutic for COVID. Of course, from the government's point of view, that had to be true, because no EUA could be granted if any existing medication could be shown to be effective.

At the same time, the government mandated Remdesevir as the sole authorized treatment for COVID patients, despite the fact that the WHO had rejected it as a COVID therapy. After reviewing several studies, the WHO concluded that Remdesevir "did not improve survival rates for patients nor did it help them recover." Yet, it was the treatment mandated by the federal government's public health authorities.

In both the case of denying the efficacy of alternative treatments, and in the treatment the government mandated, both decisions resulted in large amounts of federal money being funneled to Big Pharma. I'm so old that I remember when the Left was concerned about the regulatory capture of the FDA by Big Pharma, but, apparently, that's some crazy, Right-Wing conspiracy theory now.

Beyond that, the government, as we now know, routinely pressured social media companies to hide and remove posts that ran counter to the government's approved narrative. When that failed, they simply pressured social media firms to deplatform users who were prone to contradicting the government's narrative. Again, I have some dim memory of an American Left that distrusted the government, based on, you know, the lies of Vietnam, CoIntelPro, Foreign coups promulgated by the CIA, and so forth. Apparently, distrust of authority is no longer a hallmark of the Progressive elements of our society.

I could go on and on, but my point is that, as far as I can tell, the response to the pandemic on the right wasn't based on some innate intellectual or moral flaw, but a rationally rebellious response to a government that promulgated nonsensical policies, then pursued them with a notable venom directed at dissenters. It is not enough to say "mistakes were made", then skip to some moral or ethical failing as the explanation for the response of one's political enemies. The government's miss-steps were not incidental to the Right's response, they were the cause of them.

Mr. Roberts' screed is little more than a virtue-signaling exercise. It is, in essence, a claim that he is rational and reasonable, while his opponents have sex with goats. His pretense that he understands the Right's response as the result of a "worldview...based on hierarchy & dominance" is nonsense on stilts. It's a strange sort of person with a "hierarchy & dominance"-based world view that rejects the demands of authority, and an equally strange sort of rebellious free-thinker who accepts them.

Having created this strawman in his own mind, however, he proceeds to smugly slay it. Presumably, we're supposed to be impressed with this exercise in mental masturbation, rather than finding it ridiculous.

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