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COVID and the right wing epistemic bubble


This insane rant from right wing intellectual Victor Davis Hanson captures nicely the alternative universe that the American conservative movement now inhabits. I’m not going to quote it or even summarize it, because it’s impossible to do justice to its complete disassociation from reality without simply reprinting the whole thing verbatim (You have been warned. A tiger . . .).

One particular strand of the delusional world these people inhabit that interests me in particular is the ideological geography of COVID denial land. For the moment at least, COVID does seem to be slowly grinding its way into an endemic state, both in America and internationally. On the world stage official death counts — which of course are massive undercounts but are probably still good indicators of the underlying trends — are down nearly 90% since early February. In the USA, the seven-day moving death rate is now at the lowest point it has reached at any point in the epidemic, with the exception of the first two weeks of last July.

This has happened even though official daily case counts in America quadrupled between late March and mid-May. Yet despite this latest mini-wave daily death totals fell by nearly 50% between mid-April and the present. Of course another deadly variant is always possible, but for now we may — may — be finally moving into a situation where COVID kills something like 75,000 Americans over the next 12 months, i.e., the “really bad flu season” all the reasonable conservative critics [sic] were predicting back in March of 2020.

Since then, we’ve had 1.125 million excess deaths in the USA per the CDC’s very conservative estimate (A more realistic estimate is more on the order of 1.25 to 1.3 million, based on simply extrapolating pre-COVID mortality trends).

What is the lesson movement conservatism, aka revenant fascism American-style, will have learned from all this? Prediction is dangerous — this is a rhetorical gesture; in this instance prediction is incredibly easy — but I suspect something like the following will be the official conservative history of COVID in the USA. (Again this is assuming we really are moving into a long term endemic state at last).

The whole thing was massively overblown. Yes there were some excess deaths, but the official numbers are huge exaggerations, because they don’t take into account [insert some bizarre pseudo-scientific statistical mumbo jumbo here].

Also too, locking down the whole country for the better part of two years [note to people just emerging from a two-year-long coma: nothing like this actually happened] did more harm than good, because collective government action always does more harm than good, just like it says it does in the Bible.

Also the campaign to get as many people vaccinated as possible did more harm than good [see above], and was an example of Soviet-style totalitarianism, and Woke ideology. [Don’t believe this one? Read the linked VDH piece. I double dare you.]

Something like this was always going to be the narrative, whether the final death toll in the USA from COVID was 20,000 or 4,000,000, because conservative narratives are totally unaffected by empirical reality, since any contact with empirical reality inoculates against conservatism even more effectively than the mRNA vaccines protect against COVID-19.

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