Editor’s Note: Part 4 of a five-part series challenging the conventional wisdom and media/government response to the Wuhan virus. Click here for Part 1, click here for Part 2 and click here for Part 3.
In Part Four of our series examining the Wuhan virus and the societal effects we’re allowing it to have on our country, we look at what happens sometime this summer, or perhaps sooner, when the event is over and the trouble peters out.
7. What long-term effects come from the Wuhan virus?
Specifically here we’re talking about the precedent that is being set by local and state governments running completely amok with respect to the reaction to this event. As Hot Air notes…
Hundreds of local governments are banning assemblies of more than 250. Austin forced South by Southwest to close. Ohio ordered the closure of all bars and restaurants starting at 9p on Sunday (take out and delivery is okay, for now). California’s executive order on coronavirus includes the power for agencies to commandeer “hotels and other places of temporary residence, medical facilities, and other facilities that are suitable for use as temporary residence or medical facilities as necessary for quarantining, isolating, or treating individuals” who may have coronavirus or might be in the incubation period. The city of Dallas made a similar decree. San Antonio ordered coronavirus evacuees at Lackland Air Force Base to not come into the city. Social media wants a national lockdown until the danger passes.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wrote in The New York Times it was time for President Donald Trump to use the military to fight coronavirus by leveraging “its expertise, equipment and people power to retrofit and equip existing facilities — like military bases or college dormitories — to serve as temporary medical centers. Then we can designate existing hospital beds for the acutely ill.”
We’re not getting FEMA camps, but we might get coronavirus camps. Lovely (please note sarcasm and any coronavirus camp suggestion should be tossed in a burn pile.)!
Yes, yes – most of these are identifiable as short-term, one-off responses to a novel threat.
But are you sure they all are?
You shouldn’t be.
It took a long time after World War II ended before a newly-elected Republican Congress was finally able to yank Harry Truman into peacetime economic policies. That Congress took office following the 1948 elections, three years after the war ended. And the federal government never really did shrink back down to its pre-war size, nor did the regulatory state particularly diminish.
Government doesn’t shrink. Not in size, not in scope and not in mission. And now it has a precedent that it can impose curfews and closings whenever elected officials deem it prudent to do so.
Particularly at the state and local level, how confident are you that this precedent won’t be abused? And why would you be so confident? What makes you think a Gavin Newsom or John Bel Edwards won’t repeat their current actions the next time there is some unusual threat to the normal order of things, however slight that may be?
Particularly now that we’re seeing people become conditioned to accept these kinds of restrictions on our daily lives thanks to social media and other outlets, where there is a non-stop virtue-signaling competition in which online do-gooders and slacktivists not only loudly boast of their shut-in status, and not only demand others voluntarily follow suit but that government force them to.
Do you think those hooting and screaming for community lockdowns will forever repudiate their current statements when this event is over? Think again. They’ve got that virus in their systems now, and they’ll be spoiling for similar actions again and again.
Our readers likely understand what the Overton Window is. If not, it’s a theoretical approach to defining the spectrum of governmental policies the public will tolerate. Public officials can only act within the acceptable range the Overton Window encompasses. If you can shift the Overton Window, you change that range of actions.
Well, the Overton Window is now shifting. You can close bars, restaurants, schools, casinos, sporting events, festivals, legislative sessions, church services and more, and you can do it based on an event being reported in the news with less than 5,000 positive cases and less than 80 deaths. And not only can you get politicians acting on this, you can get the public to accept it with only polite grumbling.
This is a problem. Especially when these people see how easy it has been.
8. When this event turns out to be less deadly than the swine flu was, what will the consequences be?
Specifically for the media which has fanned this viral outbreak into the global panic that it has become, whipsawing the public along the way between calling it the Wuhan virus and then declaring that to call it the Wuhan virus is racist, screaming about President Trump’s travel bans and then screaming for a ban that ordinary people travel to public places, and so on.
Let’s set the benchmark for this event at the 2009-10 swine flu epidemic. We lost more than 12,000 Americans to the swine flu that year, and it was not – it was not, we should emphasize – a particularly drastic increase in the normal number of deaths from the flu. In the event this causes a level of morbidity less than that specifically attributed to the swine flu, and it’s essentially 12,000 victims short of that mark so far, by any objective standard this will have been a vast, media-driven overreaction which swept along our political leaders from the local level all the way to Washington, DC (we shouldn’t let Trump off the hook for this, either, though in his defense most of the restrictions on civil society emanating from the White House have been suggestions rather than mandates).
In the event this turns out to have been a vast overreaction, there will be a great many needless casualties. Lost lives from factors outside of the coronavirus (we discussed things like suicides, heart attacks, strokes, drunk-driving incidents, drug overdoses and domestic abuse in Part 2, all of which are likely to be negatively impacted by disrupting American life), lost livelihoods, societal breakdown, mental health issues involving people swept up in the panic…the list goes on and on.
And what about the people who fueled the overreaction? What consequences to them?
The defense, we can already hear. “Ohhh,” they’ll say, “but for our fueling it, this could have been much worse.”
Really? Tell that to the widow whose husband the bar owner is dead of a stroke or a suicide because his business was ruined. Tell that to the waiter or guitar player who died of a drug overdose, desperate and destitute.
There are real costs to spreading hysteria. Unless those costs are attributed to their sources and those people made accountable, this will only get worse and worse.
For a long time we’ve seen the media abuse the power given them by the First Amendment. Now that abuse is beginning to tear apart the very fabric of society, and it’s a very good bet it will have come without much reason.
There had better be consequences if that turns out to be the case, as it likely will. Hopefully the market will impose them, good and hard, so something else doesn’t.