When you spend as much time as I do watching television or surfing the net—especially Facebook—you can inoculate yourself against any accusation you’re productive. But you can also view or read or otherwise encounter a lot of drivel. Here are four types of drivel you can safely ignore.
First, public service announcements by media celebrities claiming “We’re all in this together.” We’re not. They’re a lot richer than most of us, and therefore far better placed to weather the economic side of the catastrophe afflicting us. They’re less likely to experience the loss of business, the loss of jobs, the loss of earnings, and the loss of certainty and hope for the future than those whose livelihoods are being destroyed. I don’t begrudge them their wealth—I think everyone should have the right to earn as much money as his talents allow, by whatever means possible, without breaking the law or hurting others. And I’m willing to concede the sincerity of their remarks. But whether they’re stars of our favorite television shows, or the cast of Fox News, they should stop patronizing the rest of us. Talk is cheap. If they really want to help out, let them use their wealth to purchase more equipment, gowns, facemasks, and drugs for use by our grossly overworked and underpaid health care professionals.
Second, memes or other announcements that assert that the casualties from the pandemic are much smaller than those from heart disease, the flue, auto accidents, whatever. Such statistics, even if true, are cold comfort to those who actually contract our current plague, and they won’t restore to life to those who’ve actually died. Moreover, we’re still in the early stages not only of fighting the pandemic, but even of learning about it as well. We don’t yet really know how many have contracted the disease and then recovered, or how many will get it in the future, or whether it will be a seasonal occurrence. In the absence of more data, we can’t possibly draw any definitive conclusions about how mild or severe it may be, or how long it will last, and we shouldn’t trust those who claim to know more than what has been documented. We need more facts, not wishful thinking.
Third, demands for an early reopening of the economy. Some make such demands on the basis of the relatively low casualty rates discussed above. Others say we should be willing to run the risk of sacrificing some, especially the elderly, for the sake of those who are economically suffering. Now, there’s no question but the economic suffering is real and that the economy should be reopened as soon as safety permits. But we should not make the cold calculation that we can sacrifice some for the sake of others. One can recover from economic suffering, but not from death. We must continue to keep the economy shut down until it is medically safe to re-open it. And we can move up the time for re-opening by using the full force of the Defense Production Act to compel the production of needed supplies, equipment, drugs, etc. Until then, we must provide financial aid to those who are economically suffering, while seeing which parts of the economy in which parts of the country may be safely re-opened. Given our current ignorance of our current plague, all this will be quite difficult, but nonetheless necessary. And we should, of course, remember that since the economic catastrophe is the product of the medical catastrophe, we can best cure the former by curing the latter.
Fourth, conspiracy theories based on little or no evidence. No, the United States Army did not develop and release the virus. No, the virus is not the tool of those who want to ruin the economy, promote the suppression of our civil liberties, and throw the presidential election to Joe Biden in November.
Many unsubstantiated conspiracy theories are products of the same minds which claim that Bush and the Israelis caused 9/11, or that Obama was born in Kenya (or Indonesia, or on Mars), or that the Earth is flat, or that we never really landed on the moon. But one conspiracy theory that’s beginning to develop is downright dangerous—that the government will not reopen the economy until a vaccine is developed and everyone is forced to take it, for no reason other than to enhance the profits of “Big Pharma” at the expense of everyone else. Apparently, flattening the curve and acquiring sufficient equipment and medicines to treat the symptoms will not be enough to reopen the economy. No doubt opposition to taking the vaccine, when it’s finally developed, will also develop, and if enough loons buy into this nonsense and refuse vaccination to stick it to the government or Big Pharma, then we will lose the ability to prevent a resurgence of the virus when—not if—it returns. This entire issue of whether to vaccinate or not will be the subject of a future column, in which I shall do my best to advocate for mandatory and universal vaccination, if medically necessary, no matter who might profit from it.
In the meantime, we must do our best to stay safe, healthy, and sane. My advice on what drivel to avoid is my microscopically small contribution to the maintenance of collective sanity.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.