Will Corona Virus Wake up the Science Deniers?

March 23, 2020

Jennifer Rubin in the Washingon Post:

A worldwide crisis that scientists warned was coming threatens the lives of people in every economic, social, racial and partisan segment of the population. The economic impact alone will devastate families for years to come; the demands placed on our health system put us all at risk. That is the climate-change crisis, but these days we find a parallel in the global covid-19 pandemic. The climate crisis’s timeline is longer (although not much longer) and the solutions are more complicated than the coronavirus crisis, but both the pandemic and climate change are inescapable facts with deadly outcomes unless our behavior radically changes.

Right-wing populists obsessed with fanning xenophobia and distrust of intellectuals have been denying climate change for years, painting it as a “hoax” cooked up by China to undermine America’s way of life. It is scarily familiar to the coronavirus, huh? Authoritarian leaders bent on concealing reality and discrediting objective truth see every event as a contest between “them” (foreigners) and “us” (“real” countrymen who support the leader). Having attacked government as the “deep state” and the “swamp,” they are uniquely unprepared to harness the powers and resources of government when it cannot be directed at a foreign, largely invented threat.

President Trump’s use of “Chinese virus” (not even “China virus”) serves not only to cast blame elsewhere but to convert a science and math problem (stopping community spread, flattening the curve) into a political issue. Trump knows how to address the latter — by demonizing critics, enticing the mainstream media to cover his circus, presenting himself as the sole depository of truth, substituting spin and lies for results — because it mirrors his career.

At bottom, Trump has always been a huckster, a failed operator of everything from airlines to football who cons people (bankers, Trump University students) out of their money. He promises a coronavirus cure and millions of tests just like he promised customers delicious steaks and a university degree. It’s all showmanship; there is no real accomplishment. He has suffered from overselling and underperforming his entire life.

When the problem is concrete, factual, unspinnable, Trump is at a loss of what to do. He has no superior understanding of complex issues. He chases away bad news so the problem cannot be quantified and addressed properly. He has not even learned how the federal government operates. Trump is worse than useless; he stymies others from acting (as he did despite months of warnings about the pandemic from national security personnel) and misleads the public, undermining the cooperation we need to effectuate social distancing.

The question raised by the coronavirus is whether it will recalibrate the thinking of Republicans in any material way. Decades of demonizing government and the degree to which Trump’s anti-truth, anti-reality mentality (enabled by a right-wing echo chamber) have seeped into the Republican bloodstream are hard to ignore. They have placed us in grave peril. And now even Republicans must turn to science and to government.

Will all of this translate into the right’s willingness to acknowledge the reality of climate change, a process nudged along by extreme weather catastrophe’s in red states such as Texas, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma?

Several factors will determine whether Republicans step back from their know-nothingism — a massive Republican electoral defeat, an after-report from an independent commission explaining what we knew and how we knew it, and the ability of the next president to make clear that science denial cannot be a matter of partisan identification. How the next president navigates through the ongoing crisis and his ability to create government processes and structures that elevate scientists will make a huge difference. (Instead of a Space Force,” why not a “science force” or Department of Science?) If voters trust that scientists provide an earlier warning system and a solution to mass- causality events, Republicans may be required to renounce Trump’s war on facts, reality and science. Their political survival and our physical survival will depend on it.

Washington Post:

PETERSBURG, W.Va. — The church parking lots were full. Bob Milvet, head of the hospital, saw them as he drove to work last Sunday morning. Packed lots meant packed pews. That meant danger in a rural county with more than 60 churches, from large flocks to tiny country congregations.

The novel coronavirus would surely burn through them like coal fire.

Milvet knew he needed the churches to close. He had to sound the alarm about an infectious disease that, like so many topics in the country, was viewed across a partisan divide.

Milvet understood why so many of the 12,000 people in Grant County, just 2½ hours from Washington, viewed the dire predictions about the coronavirus as another partisan attack, like the Russian hacking of the 2016 election and Trump’s impeachment.

“It sounded like just something else we don’t have to believe in,” Milvet said.

Washington Post:

WELLSVILLE, Kan. — Here in northeast Kansas, in a small town set amid tidy farms and ranches, a Walmart worker named Brandon Crist was growing frustrated with the panic terrorizing the American public. He didn’t understand the need for lockdowns, closing schools, limiting public gatherings and shuttering bars and restaurants. Altering almost all facets of life.

As he often does, Crist found a meme online that amplified his feelings and posted it to his Facebook page.

“Does anyone know anyone who has the coronavirus? Not just heard about them but actually know them,” the meme said in bold white letters on a blue background. “Statistically none of us are sick . . . yet concerts are canceled, tournaments are canceled and entire school districts shut down. Out of total irrational fear. If you have not previously feared the power of the media you should be terrified of them now. They are exerting their power to shut down America.”

The post struck a chord with Crist’s friends here in Wellsville and beyond, many of whom are similarly frustrated with the pandemic-induced havoc in their daily lives. “Amen!” said one commenter. “I’m not changing anything I do. This is BS,” said another. A captain from a nearby fire department, Dustin Donovan, liked the message, then added a hoax meme of his own.

Even as President Trump has asked Americans to stay at home and has called on the nation to come together to fight the “invisible enemy” known as the illness covid-19, virus doubters like Donovan and Crist persist. They call reports of more than 200,000 sickened and 9,000 dead worldwide a sham. Republican legislators have continued to brag about their dinners out, some beaches remain packed with spring breakers and Hollywood starlet Vanessa Hudgens was forced to apologize for complaining on Instagram that “people are going to die, which is terrible, but like, inevitable?”

Virus deniers vow to continue on with their daily activities with little adjustment, convinced that the unprecedented reaction to the virus is nothing more than a plot by the media or liberals out to get Trump. The Pew Research Center released a poll Wednesday that found that 62 percent of adults say the media is exaggerating the risk of the virus.

17 Responses to “Will Corona Virus Wake up the Science Deniers?”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Jennifer Rubin’s piece is one of the best I’ve seen—-short and sweet, and to the point about where the Republicans find themselves today. Rubin is actually quite conservative, or at least she was back in the Obama days when she sometimes sounded like a “mini Rush” in her writings in the WashPost. Glad to see that her brain has finally overcome her politics.

    As for the morons in WV and KS and other “deep red” parts of the country, this week and next re likely to be “wake up call” time for them—-the laws of science can only be ignored for so long.

    • indy222 Says:

      DOG, You beat me to it – yes, Rubin’s piece is exactly the right kind of blunt and honest yet not hysterical truth-telling the modern world seems to have tip toes away from.

      A Failed Huckster.

      Someone with artistic skills should take that and some unflattering Trump images and get creative, and viral in a good way.

  2. jimbills Says:

    You can’t fix stupid.

    A common mistake in intelligent and reasonable people is to assume that most people are basically the same as them (thinking perhaps they are not as intelligent, but at least prone to reasoned persuasion). However, most people use the intelligence they have for motivated reasoning – they create their own realities to support a pre-existing belief.

    From the beginning and to the the end of this, there will be plenty of conspiracy theories. Before long, there will be plenty of people arguing for just allowing the virus to run its course, because their own wealth is more important to them than scientific facts (or other people). It’s already happening, and with Trump himself:
    https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/23/politics/trump-coronavirus-15-days-social-distancing/index.html

    Years from now, people will be looking back at what different nations did right, and what they did wrong. The intelligent and reasonable will draw reasonably correct answers. The majority won’t care, go back to their daily lives, believe what they want to believe – and history repeats itself.

    • jimbills Says:

      Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick: ‘I’m all in’ on risking my health to lift social distancing guidelines for economic boost
      https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/23/politics/coronavirus-texas-social-distancing-guidelines/index.html

      No word from him about if he’s “all in” about risking thousands to millions of other people’s lives. His own skin is the only one in his thoughts, apparently. Also no word why he ‘thinks’ weakening checks on the spread of the virus and allowing it to go out of control will somehow give an economic boost – as if that’s not a recipe for chaos. Maybe he ‘thinks’ NYC and Italy can only happen in those places.

      But hey, at least his “heart is lifted tonight by what I heard the President say because we can do more than one thing at a time.”

      • dumboldguy Says:

        I don’t know how it can be accomplished, but we must somehow get Trump out from behind the microphone and let the doctors and scientists speak instead. All his press conferences are is just more of the egocentric and it’s all-about-him “Trump Show”. And where was Fauci last night? Is he another one who is going to be “disappeared” because of his loyalty to the truth rather than El Orange Sicko?—-we become more like a banana republic every day.

    • al mar Says:

      Also, they’ve decided the truth doesn’t help them. They want the world to be a way that it isn’t so they lie about it, even to themselves. If they started telling the truth about one thing they’d have to face the truth about other things – and that scares them. I live my life by the words “evidence separates truth from fiction” but if they did that… most of what they believe isn’t supported by evidence, and some is disproven by it. If they give up on what they believe what do they have left?

  3. Keith McClary Says:

    “independent commission explaining what we knew and how we knew it”

    Unlike some previous commissions, which were mandated not to assign blame.

  4. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Here’s an example of the difference between Kentucky’s (D) governor and Tennessee’s (R) governor responses.

    Kentucky Gov. Beshear’s early action has helped flatten the curve.

  5. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Hey Crist! How about:
    “Does anyone know anyone who works in a hospital? Not just heard about them but actually know them.”

    Idiot.

  6. J4Zonian Says:

    Jennifer Rubin’s piece was what? Fundamentally based on nonsense, you say?

    “climate crisis’s timeline is longer (although not much longer)”

    Economic and health effects from both.
    A few months to a few years vs. a few thousand years to millions.
    (Since we need to count the effects of a shortage of masks in one and the effects of millions of extinctions in the other.)

    Sure. Not much difference.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Jeffy’s latest attempt at deep thinking and fancy language has confused this old plain-speaker. WTF are you trying to say, Jeffy?

  7. Gingerbaker Says:

    Here is a little dose of reality for those who think we should lift isolation protocols, or just get yourself infected to put this behind you.

    Read this article. Then try not to think about the symptoms of the 1918 flu, when healthy young people fell ill and died overnight with frothy pink exudate from their lungs.

    Try not to think about how virulent Covid (infection factor of 3) is compared to the flu (infection factor just over 1), which means after 10 transferrences the flu would infect about 14 people, and Covid would infect 59,000:

    Flu – 1 -> 1.3 ->1.69 -> 2.2 ->2.9 -> 3.7 -> 4.8 -> 6.2 -> 8.1 ->10.5 -> 13.7

    Covid – 1->3 ->9 ->27 -> 81 ->243 ->729 ->2187->6561->19683->59049

    Your moment of “Holy S**t”, the comments of a hospital Respiratory Therapist:

    https://www.nola.com/news/coronavirus/article_701fcccc-6b7f-11ea-a78e-4b0eb098d207.html

  8. jimbills Says:

    Best article on the virus I’ve seen today:

    How the Pandemic Will End
    https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/how-will-coronavirus-end/608719/

  9. Keith McClary Says:

    265 academics to Trudeau: No bail out for oil and gas in response to COVID-19
    https://www.nationalobserver.com/2020/03/25/opinion/265-academics-trudeau-no-bail-out-oil-and-gas-response-covid-19

    “… However, decisions made by the federal government at this crucial moment will shape the future of Canada, and must reflect the interests of all Canadians, and a vision for rebuilding sustainable economies in recognition of the confluence of global shifts currently unfolding. Given that the proposed bailout package has been negotiated secretly with the United Conservative Party (UCP) government of Alberta and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Canadians have a right to be concerned that its contents may represent only a narrow set of perspectives and interests. …”


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