For those of you who have been reading my blog of late, you know that I am critical of the societal reaction to the Wuhan virus. In this essay, I want to discuss several issues that have me troubled, foremost establishment and popular apologia for the Chinese Communist Party.
First, it is clearly the case that the Chinese Communist Party suppressed information about the virus and allowing infected persons to leave Wuhan and travel the world. Despite evidence of a novel virus in November 2019, as late as mid-January, Chinese officials were denying or downplaying human-to-human transmission of the virus and censoring doctors and scientists, for example Dr. Li Wenliang, who himself became a victim of the virus altering being accused of “spreading rumors” for alerting other doctors about the appearance of a new form of pneumonia. By the time China finally publicly confirmed human-to-human transmission, it was already too late to stop the global spread of the virus. And China continues to deceive by censoring research on the origins of the virus, compelling any work to be reviewed by the Ministry of Science and Technology.
China’s lies were amplified in a disinformation campaign organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), led (since 2017) by Ethiopian Tedros Adhamon, whose praise of the totalitarian regime’s respond to the virus has been effusive. In the face of the obvious, that had China acted sooner the frequency of cases in Wuhan could have been reduced by up to 95 percent (University of Southampton), Tedros identified China’s actions as a model for the world. This was quite a turnaround from the WHO’s crisis of China during the SARS outbreak in 2003, when that organization criticized China for its obfuscations and lack of preparation. For its part, the WHO under Tedros did not declare a global health emergency until a week after China confirmed human-to-human transmission. It would take more than a month before the WHO would declare COVID-19 a pandemic. At this point, the virus had spread to nearly every continent.
In an email to The Atlantic’s Kathy Gilsinan, White House trade advisor Peter Navarros writes, “Even as the WHO under Tedros refused to brand the outbreak as a pandemic for precious weeks and WHO officials repeatedly praised the [Chinese Communist Party] for what we now know was China’s coordinated effort to hide the dangers of the Wuhan virus from the world, the virus spread like wildfire, in no small part because thousands of Chinese citizens continued to travel around the world.” When Trump criticized the WHO, the media quickly told the story as the efforts of a president to deflect criticisms of his response. “Where were the warning signs? Who should have blown the whistle?” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo asked at a recent daily briefing. “The president has asked this question, and I think he’s right. The president’s answer is the World Health Organization should’ve been blowing the whistle.”
Why didn’t the WHO blow the whistle? It is useful to know the background of Tedros, whose official title at WHO is Director-General. Tedros is a member of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front and associated with the Ethiopian People’s Liberation Front, openly Marxist-Leninist organizations until the demise of the Soviet Union led to the abandonment of communist rhetoric. In October 2017, in an early indicator of Tedros’ quality of judgment, the Director-General appointed Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabi, notorious for human rights abuses, to serve as WHO Goodwill Ambassador. It was payback for Mugabi having engineered Tedros’s candidacy for the position. This decision led the editor-in-chief of the prominent medical journal Lancet to call Tedros “Dictator-General.”
The headline of Gilsinan’s Atlantic article (“How China Deceived the WHO”) attempts to portray the organization as a victim of Chinese deception. But Tedros’ background and his actions suggest otherwise. Taiwan notified Tedros at the end of December that a new form of pneumonia had been identified in Wuhan and that there was human-to-human transmission. In January, Tedros met with Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping, about would be identified as SARS-CoV-2. The WHO stated in a January 14 tweet: “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus.” That tweet echoes a declaration by the Wuhan Health Commission. Indeed, Berkeley research scientist Xiao Qiang, who closely monitors official statements coming from China, finds the WHO’s messaging routinely echoes those of the Chinese government. In February 2020, Tedros stated that there was no need to address the matter in the manner taken by US President Donald Trump, who, on February 2 imposed travel restrictions on China, as it would interfere with “international trade and travel.” Tedros said: “Such restrictions can have the effect of increasing fear and stigma, with little public health benefit.” Throughout this period, Tedros praised China for its containment of the virus. In April, in response to criticisms of Tedros and the WHO by US President Donald Trump, Tedros admonished critics of his leadership with this highly disturbing statement: “If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it.”
Second, I am skeptical of the approach the government has taken in terms of its purported efficacy, effects, and ambitions. Sweden is pursuing a less restrictive model without the consequences suggested by those who push the more restrictive model. Health officials are well aware of the fact that, for most children and adults, infection from this virus is asymptomatic or mild. I have reported this on this blog. In the United States, most people could have continued to go about their lives, learning and working. And living. They would in the course of the pandemic acquire herd immunity, which would reduce the frequency and severity of future outbreaks. This virus is now part of the viral mix that circulates the planet every year. The practice of social isolation has severely damaged the economy, which itself comes with health effects, as well as imposing heavy emotional and psychological burdens populations.
Governments have not before responded to a virus in this manner. Governments have, with little public resistance, expanded police and surveillance apparatuses. Once instituted, such constraints on liberty are rarely lessened. Those who violate shelter-at-home and quarantine rules are being punished, forced to wear ankle bracelets. Dr. Anthony Fauci has suggested an immunity registry. Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy is advocating the idea. Why stop with this virus? Why not have certificates for every virus antibodies? What if someone forgets and leave their certificate at home? Should individuals be chipped? Or how those little tattoo animals get? Visible under a certain frequency of light? Like 9-11, this virus represents an opportunity to pull a lot of things off the shelf. House arrest, cell phone tracing, mandatory vaccination, and antibody registries are just a few of them.
Third, the way the media and governments have presented the facts of this virus feeds the hysteria that governments need to obtain compliance from the public for the shuttering of social life. For example, by reporting a case death rate in light of confirmed cases instead of a realistic model of the number of actual cases, which is likely at least 10-20 times greater than confirmed cases, the lethality of the virus has been exaggerated. Even the observation that with more testing death rates will decline is spun as if more positive cases would make the threat of the virus even greater. Once a narrative of deadly pestilence is up and running, suggesting greater numbers without at the same time helping the public understand that this makes the virus more ordinary fuels panic. Another example is the routine failure to use proportionality in reporting. The big headline of late is that the death toll in United exceeds the total death toll in Italy. But the reporting failed to remind the public to keep in mind that the population of the United States is much larger than Italy. Same with Spain. Proportionally, the US death toll is about a sixth of that in Italy and Spain.
Anticipating that some will accuse me of downplaying the severity of this health threat, I have said all along that this virus is deadly to the elderly, those with comorbidities (such as high blood pressure and type II diabetes), and those with compromised immune systems. At the same time, influenza is deadly, yet we have never shuttered our society on account of this. The Hong Kong flu of 1968 (influenza A [H3N2]), to take a notable example, killed some 100,000 persons in the United States alone (around a million worldwide). Like the Wuhan virus, most deaths were among those 65 years of age or older. H3N2 continues to circulate as a seasonal influenza A virus. The 2017-2018 flu season also took many tens of thousands of lives in the US (H3N2 was the predominant strain). Of course I am not saying that this virus is the flu. It’s not. They’re different viruses by definition. What I am comparing is the response to viruses. As a sociologist, I am trained to ask about the societal reaction piece. Why is the reaction so radically different this time?
Recently the media prompted Dr. Anthony Fauci to confess that an earlier lockdown of US society probably would have saved lives. It’s an obvious answer. If you believe that the mitigation regime advocated by Fauci saved lives, and it is intuitive for anybody who understands the germ theory of disease that it would, ignoring everything else, then you would have to say that, the earlier the intervention, the more lives would be saved. This response is so obvious that to ask the question of Fauci is a bit dishonest. That is, there is an ulterior motive here: in the current political climate, the no-duh answer is meant to be used against a president the establishment media has endeavored to delegitimize, first claiming Trump was a Russian agent, then claiming he sought help from Ukraine to destroy his eventual 2020 rival, currently former Vice President Joe Biden. But whether the federal government could have acted earlier depends on the information on hand. A lot of countries were caught flat-footed by this. Why? Because the Chinese Communist Party was determined to suppress vital information. The question is part of an effort by the mainstream media to lay at Trump’s doorstep the connivance of the establishment to hold China blameless for its machinations.
The establishment White House press corps is, frankly, embarrassing. It’s not just about going back to work—what they constantly harp on when Trump talks about ending or lessening the lockdown. It’s about getting back to life. The question, “Should Americans have to choose between health and work?” is asking “Should Americans have to choose between health and life.” I guess you don’t have to choose between them and you can be a germaphobic agoraphobic shut-in (hope you have an independent source of wealth to draw on). But most of us don’t want to live like that. Establishment journalists ask questions as if we will never get back to life. “Will cases spike when we get back to life?” Of course they will. These people act as if humans have never had to deal with a virus before. People contract and die from the flu. Higher per case death rate with the flu, in fact. Do we shut down life on account of it? I haven’t seen that before. The same logic that says we cannot get back to life because people will get a virus means that we can never get back to life. The level of absurdity is astonishing. Orwellian double consciousness.
Finally, apologia for the Chinese Community Party is the piece that has me most troubled today. That so many Americans, from the establishment commentariat down to our young people, so readily apologize for the action of the Chinese government is a testament to the social logic of globalization and the corruption of common sense by postmodernist thinking. For the Chinese Communist Party, truth is subjective, serving whatever ends the party sees fit. The CCP is the epitome of the postmodernist regime. Maoism is the foundation of identity politics and New Left ideology. This is where this “woke” rhetoric comes from. It’s anti-Western in fundamental attitude. It’s Third worldism run amok. It’s why Tedros can be such an appealing figure. For those who loathe the West, an African is a powerful substitute for an objective Director-General. We are being told that China was wounded by Western imperialism, so who is the West to complain about the behavior of its totalitarian government? In other words, we had this coming to us. We hear the same nonsense when the West highlights China’s human rights record, which is appalling. What about the West’s human rights record? They decry. Please. There’s no comparison.
When I hear about how the United States’ response to the virus is the worst, but that China handled it brilliantly, and any criticism of the Chinese Communist Party is portrayed as an attack on the Chinese people and therefore “xenophobic” and “racist,” and that we should trust the China-centric WHO, my mind, in search of an explanation for such insanity, turns to the images of mobs of social justice warriors at American universities surrounding professors and hurling woke slogans at them. Such scenes are reminiscent of something else that many of you may remember: Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The parallel is not coincidental.
The New Left fascination with Maoism, anti-colonialism, and Thirdworldism in the 1960s-70s had an enduring effect on left-wing thinking. In time, leftwing ideologues became cultural managers at universities pushing anti-Western sentiment in various programs and administrative offices. If you’ve even been compelled by your employment contract to participate in a “diversity and inclusion” seminar, to learn about “microaggressions,” to be accused of “white privilege,” made to feel guilty for being of European ancestry, to go through what is essentially a reeducation camp, then you have experienced Maoism. Elites have joined regressive leftwing ideas with transnational corporate ambitions. The culture industry encourages the masses to mock and marginalize those who ask why their leaders would sell out the working classes of the West, to smear their comrades as “nativists” and “nationalists.” A new generation of politically-active Americans have been swimming in a profound anti-American stew that serves up the interests of globalists as progressive politics. The New Left has produced a menagerie of useful idiots.