Thursday, October 8, 2020

October 7, 2020  

Herd immunity to clear thinking

President Trump made a mangled reference to herd immunity as a strategy for defeating the pandemic.  Others, including Senator Rand Paul, also have proposed that theory.  It may be for some, such as Senator Paul, a libertarian position but, with or without that philosophical gloss, its popularity has less to do with its viability as a method of control than with its usefulness as an excuse for avoiding sensible measures, such as masks, distancing and shutdowns.  A Republican State Senator was semi-candid about what that theory contemplates, more people infected: “I’m not as concerned as much as the number of cases, in fact quite honestly, I want to see more people because we start reaching an immunity as more people have it and get through it.”1  Will they all “get through it?”  Let’s not think about that. 

An aspect of the herd mentality is an inability to grasp simple concepts.  An example is a tweet by DeAnna Lorraine, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for Congress: “Does anyone else find it odd that no prominent Democrats have had the virus but the list of Republicans goes on and on?”  Could it be that Democrats are following medical advice?  That, of course, is not an acceptable answer, as it would violate the tribal doctrine that masks and other precautions are just more damned liberal bullying.  There must be a plot.

There are those who refuse to wear masks because they are symbols of political correctness or, as an anti-mask lawsuit put it, a “virtue signal.”  Some, possibly sincerely but inanely, oppose wearing masks because it restricts their freedom, thereby defining that concept as the ability to do anything one wants regardless of consequences.  That is a definition of freedom which would make civilized society impossible which, I sometimes think, is the true agenda of some on the right. 

Some make no effort to think, demonstrating what might be described as herd stupidity.  Perhaps inspired by Trump’s what-me-worry rallies, many have gathered and partied in a manner incredibly dangerous to self and others.      

Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) adopted a blithely dismissive position toward the pandemic: it’s no big deal and we can’t do anything about it anyway.  There is “a level of unjustifiable hysteria” about the virus, he said; after all, it has only, as of October 7, infected a little over 7,567,800 Americans, (42,553 the day before), and killed 211,453 (721 the day before).2  In any case, it’s hopeless: “Why do we think we actually can stop the progression of a contagious disease?”3

Trump continues to demonstrate his aversion to science, in this case medical.  After being infected and hospitalized, he returned to the White House prematurely, still probably carrying contagion, removed his mask and mingled with those of his staff not already infected and quarantined.  The White House, rather than being the source of leadership, has become a microcosm of the national disaster. 

All this anti-intellectualism reminds me of an exchange in Inherit the Wind. Matthew Harrison Brady, when faced with inconsistencies in a literal interpretation of the Bible, said: "I do not think about things I do not think about." Henry Drummond responded: "Do you ever think about things that you do think about?"

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<br>2. immunity-from-virus/

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