With Pandemic, Societal Hallucination Yields Real Misery

By Roger Kimball
Roger Kimball
Roger Kimball
Roger Kimball is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. His most recent book is “The Critical Temper: Interventions from The New Criterion at 40.”
May 17, 2020Updated: May 19, 2020


Just a few more thoughts about the CCP virus, aka the Wuhan flu or (for people who like scary acronyms) COVID-19. I am not sure we can yet say that the dust has settled, but the building that is our society has assuredly collapsed and the air is thick with hysteria.

The news is full of scenes of resistance to the universal one-size-fits-all lockdown that was imposed upon the country in March. Some states are gradually reopening, to the delight of their residents and consternation of the virtue-signaling left.

Perhaps the most egregious example of the latter was the pathetic piece in The Atlantic called “Georgia’s Experiment in Human Sacrifice.” That putrid piece of partisan provocation was published on April 29. Here we are more than three weeks on, and Georgia is opening like a watered blossom.

Guess what? No holocaust.

Pretending that we faced a choice between the economy, on the one hand, and human lives, on the other, was always a bogus distinction. “Economy” may sound abstract—it comes from a Greek word meaning “management of the house”—but actually, it is in many ways synonymous with life.

Do you care about human lives? Then what about the prediction that—as John Hinderaker noted—“hundreds of thousands of children worldwide may die because of governments’ overreaction to the COVID-19 virus.” Hundreds of thousands. And that’s not just his opinion. It’s part of a prediction made by the United Nations.

“Economic hardship experienced by families as a result of the global economic downturn could result in hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths in 2020.” Moreover, “an estimated 42 million to 66 million children could fall into extreme poverty as a result of the coronavirus crisis this year.”

Note that all this suffering and death is a result not of the virus but of our insane, hysterical, and antiscientific reaction to the virus. As I have written several times, this whole episode belongs in an addendum to Charles Mackay’s classic, “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.”

Clarifying Facts

We’re not quite there yet. The body blow that we have delivered to ourselves has left us stunned and disoriented. The pain will creep up on us only gradually. Here are a few clarifying morsels from a new report from Swiss Policy Research, “an independent nonprofit research group investigating geopolitical propaganda in Swiss and international media.”

“1. According to data from the best-studied countries and regions, the lethality of Covid19 is on average about 0.2%, which is in the range of a severe influenza (flu) and about twenty times lower than originally assumed by the WHO.

“2. Even in the global ‘hotspots,’ the risk of death for the general population of school and working age is typically in the range of a daily car ride to work. The risk was initially overestimated because many people with only mild or no symptoms were not taken into account.

“3. Up to 80% of all test-positive persons remain symptom-free. Even among 70-79-year-olds, about 60% remain symptom-free. Over 95% of all persons show mild symptoms at most.

“4. Up to one third of all persons may already have a certain background immunity to Covid19 due to contact with previous coronaviruses (i.e. common cold viruses).

“5. The median or average age of the deceased in most countries (including Italy) is over 80 years and only about 1% of the deceased had no serious preconditions. The age and risk profile of deaths thus essentially corresponds to normal mortality.

“6. In most Western countries, 50 to 70% of all extra deaths occurred in nursing homes, which do not benefit from a general lockdown. Moreover, in many cases it is not clear whether these people really died from Covid19 or from extreme stress, fear and loneliness.

“7. Up to 50% of all additional deaths may have been caused not by Covid19, but by the effects of the lockdown, panic and fear. For example, the treatment of heart attacks and strokes decreased by up to 60% because many patients no longer dared to go to hospital.

“8. Even in so-called ‘Covid19 deaths’ it is often not clear whether they died from or with coronavirus (i.e. from underlying diseases) or if they were counted as ‘presumed cases’ and not tested at all. However, official figures usually do not reflect this distinction.

“9. Many media reports of young and healthy people dying from Covid19 turned out to be false: many of these young people either did not die from Covid19, they had already been seriously ill (e.g. from undiagnosed leukemia), or they were in fact 109 instead of 9 years old.

“10. The normal overall mortality per day is about 8000 people in the US, about 2600 in Germany and about 1800 in Italy. Influenza mortality per season is up to 80,000 in the US and up to 25,000 in Germany and Italy. In several countries Covid19 deaths remained below strong flu seasons.”

I think my favorite tidbit from the above is the person who was born in 1911 but was reported to have been 9 instead of 109.

Embracing Panic

The report—and the whole thing is worth reading—carries an epigraph from Camus’s book “La Peste,” “The only means to fight the plague is honesty.”

Our political masters, drunk on their newfound powers of intimidation, have abandoned honesty and embraced panic. They claim to be following “the science” but in fact are following arbitrary projections from discredited models, above all the ur-model disseminated by the wretch Neil Ferguson at Imperial College, which initially predicted 500,000 deaths in the UK and 2.2 million in the United States unless extreme measures were taken.

That model has now won the distinction of being “the most devastating software mistake of all time.” An article by two software professionals in The Telegraph notes that “those of us with a professional and personal interest in software development have studied the code on which policymakers based their fateful decision to mothball our multi-trillion pound economy and plunge millions of people into poverty and hardship. And we were profoundly disturbed at what we discovered. The model appears to be totally unreliable.”

Two more observations from the Swiss Policy Research report: 1. There is no evidence of the virus spreading through the air or from infected doorknobs and the like, and 2. There is no evidence for the effectiveness of face masks for healthy people. On the contrary, the masks may themselves be carriers of disease.

The time is not far off when we will wake from this societal hallucination. We will then wonder why we were prevailed upon to commit collective suicide because of a disease that affected mostly the elderly and infirm and whose lethality was that of a bad flu.

To the enraged question “Who did this to us?” the sad but truthful answer will be, “We did it to ourselves.”

Roger Kimball is the editor and publisher of The New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. His most recent book is “The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.