Thursday, March 12, 2020


Despite the obvious fact that one knows nothing about medicine, viruses or pandemics one feels obliged to say a few words about the coronavirus. Not as a scientist but as a commentator on the current state of the national mind.

Last we mentioned it, many of America’s elite intellectuals were thrilled to see that the virus had begun in China. After all, China does not have first amendment protections-- in that it’s like American universities-- and clearly, free expression would have inhibited the spread of the virus. In other words, our great thinkers were thinking that with the coronavirus China’s ruling authorities had lost the mandate of Heaven, and thus were about to be replaced by a liberal democracy.

Of course, this was nonsense. For the record, two authors, by name of Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes have just written a book called, The Light That Failed: A Reckoning, where they argue that nations around the world are hesitant about adopting more democratic institutions because they can see, as anyone with eyes can, that ours are not exactly working well. If democratic elections means being ruled by the Squad, would you run out to embrace them?

By now, the evidence seems to suggest that China, what with its authoritarianism, has managed to get control of the virus. The same seems to be true of South Korea, less authoritarian than China, but surely less democratic and less chaotic than the USA. 

So, our elite intellectuals have now turned their ire, focused like a laser beam, on the true cause of the coronavirus, the epidemic and everything bad that has happened to the human species since the dawn of time. That would be, President Trump.

If we only had Barack Obama in the White House, there would be no virus, or else, the government would be acting consequentially to limit its damage, or else, the media would happily be reporting that the Obama administration had done the best job anyone had done since the dawn of time.

For those who hate Trump the coronavirus is a godsend. It promises to bail them out of the assumption that they are simply loud-mouthed ranters. After all, if you have been running around screaming that the sky is falling, and if the sky is not falling, you start looking like an imbecilic maniac.

Thus, you pray for the sky to fall. You pray for rain. And when something bad happens you are so giddy for having been rescued from the presumption of madness that you immediately rush out to blame it all on President Trump. It doesn't matter what Trump does. It's always bad.

Chuck Schumer, a man who recently threatened Supreme Court justices, seem to believe that he can hid his own moral depravity by shrieking about Trump.

The arguments that the Trump haters had been marshalling over Russian collusion and the Ukraine-- remember when people pretended to care about the Ukraine-- have now been trotted out, recycled and applied to the coronavirus.

It’s as though God had sent a virus to save the Democratic Party from utter destitution. When you see the enemy as the coronavirus, Joe Biden’s demented babbling looks like an improvement. Or, at least, that will be a Democratic talking point, one that you will be hearing repeatedly. Compared to the coronavirus, what's an innocent hair sniffing fetish.

The American left now has a vested interest in sowing panic. And damaging the economy. And blaming it on Donald Trump.

Writing on the Powerline blog John Hinderaker suggests that the reaction has been hysterical. (via Maggie's Farm) After all, we did not shut down the country for other viruses. 

He writes:

Coronavirus is a significant public health issue, but the response to it, in many quarters, has been hysterical. Events of various kinds are being canceled or modified: schools are closing or going online, the NCAA basketball tournaments will be played without fans in the stands, New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade has been canceled, countless businesses (like my old law firm) are closing their offices and telling employees to work from home. I think there are several reasons for this, beyond legitimate concerns about spreading the disease.

Hinderaker mentions that Democrats and Trump haters are happy to use the virus to cudgel the president. And he notes that the threat of liability hangs over the nation, in good times and bad.

But, he also adds, thoughtfully, that self-quarantine is not exactly a novelty in today’s America. Communicating with people face-to-face, in person, has largely gone out of fashion. So the movement toward self-quarantining is simply more of what we already have.

I will recall that Harvard professor Robert Putnam called it hunkering down. He showed in extensive research that people who live in multicultural societies are more likely to hunker down and less likely to want to interact with people who follow different rules, who obey different norms and who practice different customs. Multiculturalism produces social division and divisiveness.

As Hinderaker points out, personal contact is always risky. Now, we have iPhones. So, we communicate mostly over text message. The agrammatical scribbling that constitutes text messages bears a close resemblance to Joe Biden's incoherent rants.

Hinderaker continues:

People who may have been exposed to the virus are being urged to self-quarantine, which means staying home and interacting with other people only virtually, or failing that to strive for “social distance,” which means not getting into close physical proximity with others. A great many people are self-quarantining, in part because they have been liberated by their employers to do so. But isn’t staying home and interacting with other people only virtually pretty much where we have been headed for the last 20 years?

Why go out? You can save a lot of money cooking at home, you’ve got a giant flat-screen TV (or several), there is beer in the fridge, you would rather spend time with your wife and kids than attend boring business or social events. So why not stay home? To the extent you want to keep in touch with other people, you can do it via email and text. You can post photos on Instagram to let them know what you are up to (i.e., staying home). You can Face Time, Tic Tok, or whatever. “Social distance” is much what most of us are increasingly used to. Why risk personal contact?

But, what about movie theatres and sports arenas? How will the country survive if we cannot all become part of massive crowds cheering for the home team? As it happens, the NBA canceled its season after Hinderaker wrote his post, but the NCAA tournament seems to be a go, though probably without cheering fans.

Here, Hinderaker makes an interesting point. The games are not being played for the fans in the stadia. They are being played for the television audience:

I have long said that attending a professional or major college sports event means being part of the studio audience, like at a sitcom or game show. They aren’t playing the game for you, they are playing for the people watching on television. You are just part of the colorful background to the game. If you doubt this, go to a pro football game and observe how much time is spent with the players standing around while the crowd in the stands waits patiently: TV time outs. In the future, they could do away with live crowds altogether. They easily could create a pretend crowd and fake crowd noise via CGI, and who would know the difference? Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority would rather watch the game on television, the medium for which the event has really been created, rather than attend in person.

So, social isolation is not a hardship. It will feel more like a goal we have been tending toward for a couple of decades now. 


UbuMaccabee said...

Way ahead of the curve.

Anonymous said...

It's just a move to this kind of future:

Have you read? The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster.

370H55V said...

"I have long said that attending a professional or major college sports event means being part of the studio audience, like at a sitcom or game show."

Then they should give out the tickets for free, like they are required to do by federal law for other studio audience TV shows.