The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Told Ya So ...

On May 21, 2020, Yinon Weiss began an in-depth commentary on the worldwide response to COVID-19 with these words:
In the face of a novel virus threat, China clamped down on its citizens. Academics used faulty information to build faulty models. Leaders relied on these faulty models. Dissenting views were suppressed. The media flamed fears and the world panicked.

That is the story of what may eventually be known as one of the biggest medical and economic blunders of all time. The collective failure of every Western nation, except one [Sweden], to question groupthink will surely be studied by economists, doctors, and psychologists for decades to come.
Weiss presents actual COVID-19 data collected from around the world and uses it to criticize: 
  • the recommendations of those medical experts whom a corrupt media elevated to oracle status while excluding others who disagreed, and  
  • the political leaders at the federal, state and local levels who were led astray and ultimately took actions that have wrecked our economy and the lives of tens of millions. 
Weiss' summary paragraph (read the entire article) says it all:
There were, of course, people warning us all along. Among them was as John P.A. Ioannidis of Stanford University School of Medicine, who ranks among the world’s 100 most-cited scientists on Google Scholar. On that pivotal day of March 17 he released an essay titled “A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data” — but it got little attention. Mainstream media was not interested in good news stories or dissenting views. The world instead marched lock step into its man-made calamity.
Although I do not have a large audience and am not a medical expert or an economist, I was one of the people who tried to offer a warning. Way back on March 18th, I cited Dr. Ioannidis in a post entitled, Killing the Elephant, arguing that the shutdown—even then—was a gross over-reaction based on known data at the time:
To date, we do not have statistical evidence on the virus that is trustworthy and accurate across all age groups and populations. Lacking that, we don't know whether morbidity is 5% as some claim or 0.5 percent as some data suggest. Ioannidis uses an interesting metaphor: 
That huge range markedly affects how severe the pandemic is and what should be done. A population-wide case fatality rate of 0.05% is lower than seasonal influenza. If that is the true rate, locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences may be totally irrational. It’s like an elephant being attacked by a house cat. Frustrated and trying to avoid the cat, the elephant accidentally jumps off a cliff and dies. 
We need statistically valid, time-sequenced random testing across the United States before still more draconian measures are put into place. Hard decisions may very well be necessary, but only after statistical evidence is compelling. If we choose to proceed driven by emotion rather than data, we may very well kill the elephant while the cat runs free.
Now with 3+ months of data collected and analyzed,  we have undoubtedly injured the elephant (hopefully it will not die) and the cat continues to run free.

But even before I read Dr. Ioannidis' analysis in March, I had grave reservations about the catastrophist hysteria that drove politicians to make what we know know were really bad decisions. In a March 17th post, Pump the Brakes, I wrote:
At a recent news conference during which he announced near-draconian measures (school closures, shuttering of bars and restaurants, cancellation of any event with more than 10 people, etc., etc.) NY Governor Andrew Cuomo was asked whether the potential economic and societal damage caused by those measures (and related federal measures) had been weighed against the threat of COVID-19. With righteous indignation, Cuomo responded that when human lives (particularly the most vulnerable) are at stake, other costs have relatively little weight.


Every day humans make and very often accept the consequences of decisions and policies that result in life or death. Consider two examples:

Every year, approximately 39,000 people die in auto accidents—young, old, children, minorities, men, women. That's over 150 people—a day! Yet, there are no media scoreboards for automobile deaths, no mass wringing of hands, and absolutely no attempt to ban cars or demand that they drive single file at 20 mph separated by 10 car lengths. As tragic as each of the automobile deaths are, our society is willing to accept them because car travel is an integral part of our daily lives and cars themselves are a major economic engine within our country.

Every year, there are about 70,000 deaths from drug overdoses. That's almost 200 people—a day! Yet, there are no media scoreboards, no mass wringing of hands and although there have been decades-long policies to outlaw drugs and interdict them, in recent years, there have been attempts by a majority of Democrats and a significant minority of Republicans to reduce the penalties for drug use and distribution. As tragic as each of the overdose deaths are, our society is willing to accept them in order to avoid a police state.
On March 15th, I argued that the "gross irresponsibility" of the mainstream media was creating a level of hysteria that was both dangerous and destructive. Just this week, after reflecting on the enormous damage the media encouraged (not to mention their underlying political objective), I labeled these fake news hacks as the #1 villain in the COVID-19 saga.

On March 13th, I related the history of the 2009 H1N1 virus pandemic, and asked why that virus's death toll and infection rate was accepted without shut-downs or hysteria. On February 29th I asked why vast amounts of data and the conclusions drawn from that data that argue against hysteria and a shutdown were suppressed by the media. Later on May 5th, I made the same argument and asked the same questions about the 1968-69 H3N2 Hong Kong flu pandemic.

In matters of virology, public health and economics, I am nothing but a lowly layperson, and yet, early on (in late February and throughout March) I recognized that there were many, many issues that mitigated against the draconian measures that our leaders ultimately invoked. There were many, many reasons not to succumb to fear or hysteria that was encouraged by media hacks who had an agenda. How is it that a simple layperson could see this, but our leaders did not? How is it that reasoned analysis was shunted to the side while catastrophist emotion won out?

Over the past three months, I have written dozens of posts on the COVID-19 milieu. Nearly all have criticized a group that I call Team Apocalypse, a collection of politicians (mostly Democrats), media types, and public health "experts" who have done everything possible to exaggerate the threat, while at the same time, locking down younger citizens who have little to fear from COVID-19 and negatively impacting our economy as a consequence. They shuttered businesses using authoritarian controls, ruining lives and livelihoods along the way. At best they were stupid and fearful. At worst, they were political and uncaring.

Many of my friends and acquaintances rejected my positions during February, March, and April, buying into the fear, uncertainty and doubt that was purposely fostered by the media. They argued that the shut-down was necessary, that 'flattening the curve' was paramount, that Anthony Fauci was a medical genius who must not be questioned, that the projections of "scientific epidemiological models" were "scary." How could I be such a contrarian? they asked. Don't I care above "lives?"

Many of these friends and acquaintances remain gripped by fear, some by hysteria. They are true believers who reject new information that challenges their beliefs. Encouraged by irresponsible and despicable media hacks, they continue to shelter in place. They would prefer to continue the wreckage they have created, just so they can feel safe. In essence, for fear of death, they're perfectly willing to commit [societal] suicide.

Now, as the very first detailed analyses of the response to Covid-19 are published, it looks like the positions I took in February, March, April and May have been validated by real world data and outcomes. A few of the true believers and many who were not gripped by hysteria are beginning to ask hard questions about why we did this to ourselves—the same questions I've been asking for 3+ months. As the answers begin to emerge, I can only say, "Told ya so."