I’d like to write something on this. Covid is similar to Y2K and Global Warming and the Kosovo Massacres and Russiagate in illustrating liberal fantasies. Maybe covid will turn out to be a significant problem, but what is clear now is that the predictions of March were totally wrong and that the experts had no idea what they were talking about– but that the media’s beliefs in them are stronger than ever, even though in many cases the experts have actually contradicted what they were saying confidently earlier (e.g. with the efficacy of masks).
This is different from the earlier episodes, though. With the Kosovo Massacres, President Clinton and the Establishment needed something to distract people from his ethical problems. With Y2K, people were gullible about listening to experts who stood to make huge amounts of money over preventing impending doom. With Russiagate, people wanted to believe that Donald Trump was a Russian agent, so they were ready to believe falsified evidence, even though it was implausible and weak. With Global Warming, the real target is Capitalism (as shown by the disregard for the cheap and obvious solutions of climate engineering and nuclear power), and there was immense amounts of grant money going to scientists and subsidies going to politically connected Green companies.
But Covid is different. Lockdowns and masks are not creating profits to any great extent, or achieving crypto policy goals. Panic is useful for grant money for scientists, and for an excuse for politicians to shovel billions of dollars to voters and donors, and the lawsuits will be a windfall for trial lawyers, but I don’t think that is really driving this. I see liberals are genuinely scared, fearful of death, cowering in their cars wearing masks and afraid to be exposed to air. They think masks matter a lot, and that lockdowns will help. But at the same time, only economists seem to be talking about genuinely useful and obvious policies like mass testing, tracing, and subsidies for vaccines and treatment. There is tremendous fear combined with a refusal to think seriously about what to do to solve the problem.
To be sure, there is a lot of profiteering. Hydroxychloroquine v. remdesivir is a good example. Hydroxychloroquine, May 17, 2020. I count 37 experts on the US covid treatment panel that pans HCQ now, in July.
When it comes to money, we checked financial ties among experts on the government panel devising coronavirus treatment guidelines— which had the effect of dialing back hydroxychloroquine use and giving an edge to remdesivir.
We found that of 11 members reporting links to a drug company, nine of them named relationships to remdesivir’s maker Gilead. Seven more, including two of the committee’s leaders, have ties to Gilead beyond the 11 months they had to disclose. Two were on Gilead’s advisory board. Others were paid consultants or received research support and honoraria. Nobody reported ties to hydroxychloroquine which is now made by numerous generic manufacturers and is so cheap, analysts say even a spike in sales would not be a financial driver for the companies.
But I think what is central to the psychology of this is:
1. The media likes scare stories because people like to read them.
2. The use of Twitter and Facebook promote scare stories— all those anecdotes back in March about healthy athletes dying overnight.
3. Policies have become partisan, so the media, being liberal and Democratic, feel they must promote panic, lockdown, and masks, quite independent of truth or falsity. We see how Facebook and Twitter actually ban people for trying to quiet the panic or suggest that hydroxychloroquine might work.
4. Herd, Bubble, Cascades, effect. Educated people, oddly enough, are far more prone to this than simple folk, perhaps because they trust the media, who are, after all, on their side in politics and economic interests and are controlled by people of their social class. Also, college education has not taught critical thinking for many years, and instead teaches conformity to the intellectual fashion of the day.