They speak of ‘liberty’ and demand ‘freedom’. They express outrage that both are being threatened by some shadowy “Them”, an unholy alliance of liberal government parasites and multinational drug company executives trying to undermine our free will and control our bodies for their dark experiments. They cheer their hubris, applaud themselves for their disregard and bask in a god-like halo of self-importance that comes from standing up to some imagined tyranny. They wrap themselves in impenetrable layers of superiority that protect them from the heard mentality and the pleas of others. Everything is cloaked in secrecy and intrigue, buckling under the weight of ulterior motives — It’s all overreaction; It’s just a plot to force compliance and sell snake oil to the masses. The fear of SARS-CoV-2, they tell us, is much more dangerous than the virus itself. They constantly cite a 99.7% survival rate and drone on about By now you’ve probably already had it and are immune or you aren’t going to get it. The vast majority of the world, it appears, is paralyzed by hysteria and only a select few enjoy the clarity of mind to see through the charade and resist Dr. Anthony Fauci’s siren calls.
Then, almost in the same breath, they start to prattle about the preparations they have made for the coming showdown between the unvaccinated rebels and the forces of Them. They share stories of how much bottled water, canned food and firearms they have stockpiled to survive a second Revolutionary War, seemingly unaware that their dismissal of the pandemic-driven fear has been replaced in their minds by a different, even less rational fear. This could be likened to the prescription medication Suboxone, a combination drug meant to replace the body’s ‘need’ for opioids while also producing an undesired reaction if opioids are consumed. In some ways, this is what the anti-pandemic agitators have embraced. They have substituted legitimate medical inquiry with fringe paranoia while vehemently rejecting any suggestion their own behaviors might be reckless or even hazardous. The unifying factor among this relatively small but highly visible group is not their supposed skepticism or their insistence that their ‘research’ is somehow better than everyone else’s, but rather it is their shared substitution of one fear for another. Their fear, rather than contracting or spreading a demonstrably crippling virus, is that They are using lockdowns, masks and vaccination campaigns to weaken individual sovereignty and bring about, at best, the End Times or, at worst, the New World Order. Like some ancient doomsday cult they huddle together, whispering about how they, the chosen ones, are blessed to know the truth. Everyone else is stumbling in darkness, blind to the fact we’re being manipulated by Them, too frightened to stand up straight, rip off our masks and tell the entire public health system and infectious disease disciplines to fuck off.
A significant part of this growing distrust in authority and expertise can be attributed to the piecemeal response to what should have been an immediate and global response to a novel viral threat. What we experienced was the developing pandemic being wielded like a political grenade by heads of state to conceited or ignorant to act effectively. Since the pandemic’s early days there have been more than a few times where government officials and the scientific community were unsure how to move forward. When that supply of reliable and professional information became scarce or the demands became too much of a sacrifice, a nervous public fed from a steady diet of misinformation and disinformation, some of it disguised to look like legitimate news, much of it sporting the letterhead of the White House. Hardly an action has been taken or a word uttered during this entire ordeal that hasn’t been dripping in political rhetoric or partisan posturing. From the outset there has been enormous pressure, mostly from the political right, to minimize the threat and eliminate any inconvenience in the name of The Economy. A byproduct of this rush back to normality was the increasing radicalization of certain MAGA zealots who ignored masking orders, subverted social distancing requirements and, in some extraordinary cases, planned acts of terrorism under the guise of being modern-day Minutemen opposing the intolerable public health mandates wrecking The Economy and eroding liberties. Between the Trump administration’s pathetic handling of the emerging crisis and its widespread dissemination of opinions, half-truths and outright lies via social media and press releases, it is small wonder so many people still feel lost and unsure about what they can and cannot, should and should not do. Thanks to the combination of politicization and confusion, no one, certainly no one in the general public, has a firm grasp of what the pandemic has done, is doing or might still have in store.
But what is most disheartening is the growing bloc of people within the medical profession who have simply discarded their masks and have chosen to ignore institutional requirements and administrative guidelines. Some of these individuals have been suspicious of the pandemic response since the beginning, embraced the more unorthodox therapies that have emerged and have spent much of the past several months proselytizing their gospel of resistance. Slowly but surely they have attracted more and more followers into their fold. They are quick to dismiss COVID testing, condemn telemedicine, ridicule visitor restrictions and excoriate many of the basic assumptions and theories on how the pandemic has unfolded. Asymptomatic spread is the greatest hoax foisted upon the cowering public, the vaccines are unproven golden geese for Big Pharma and the social and economic chaos wrought by extended lockdowns, school closures and movement restrictions have only reinforced the nation’s cowardice and allowed Big Brother to further extend its tendril into our everyday lives. At the far reaches of this delusion lies the realm of fantasy where, the story goes, the entire pandemic is a campaign of “asymmetric warfare” being conducted by China, a plot more suited for a TV series writers’ room discussion than the closely held beliefs of a practicing physicians.
Now, there may be some elements of truth to the fringe’s raving. We cannot go the rest of forever maintaining social distance and avoiding public gatherings, whether for economic or psychological purposes. Yes, the vast majority of people who have contracted SARS-CoV-2 and developed COVID did recover, most without long-term damage. Perhaps there is some evidence to suggest people treated early with hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin saw some benefit and avoided more dire complications. There have been reactions, some of them serious, that can be attributed to the COVID vaccines. But where does that leave the many people who technically survived COVID but developed severe and irreparable lung damage from the infection? What if the successes reported from unapproved treatments were purely anecdotal? What of the now tens of millions of people across the globe who have received a vaccine and suffered no significant side effects? Does this count for nothing? The pandemic naysayers have become so hyper focused on alternative therapies and the statistically rare vaccine reactions that they are arguing connections that don’t really have a basis in reality. It is almost like they want the public health responses and precautions to fail so they can feel vindicated. Why else would we see medical professionals trawling the FDA’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System for ‘evidence’ that the vaccine is toxic and that regulators have silenced reporting on their true danger. How else can we explain those same practitioners congratulating themselves on talking family and friends out of vaccination in spite of their insistence that vaccination should be an individual choice. What other reason could there be for nurses and doctors basing treatment plans advice on unpublished literature reviews of dubious origins rather than reviewed conclusions from studies and trials hundreds of times larger? Why then would the very foundations of scientific methodology be chipped away to fuel renegade pseudo-science and sectarian medicine? How could a simple surgical mask be decried as a yellow fabric star for the 21st century?