Keep Asking Why

In that late autumn of 1968, a novel virus swept across the entire world, entering America in December of that same year– a virus that quickly became known as the Hong Kong virus. It was, as Bojan Pancevski recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, a virus “responsible for eventually killing more than 1 million people, over 100,000 of them in the U.S.

“The novel virus triggered a state of emergency in New York City; caused so many deaths in Berlin that corpses were stored in subway tunnels; overwhelmed London’s hospitals; and in some areas of France left half of the workforce bedridden. Severely ill patients suffering from acute pneumonia were put on ventilators.”

A few commentators, some of whom are smart and sensible, have said that in terms of total fatalities, Covid-19 will probably end up being worse than the Hong Kong virus, but I’m not so sure: if you adjust for all factors, as you must in order to get a more accurate idea, the metric changes — with regard to infant deaths and death among the elderly over 70, in particular. We now have well over a million more people in the country than in 1968. In addition to which, the population then was less obese. The average life expectancy then was 70. Today it’s 78. This is significant because, among those over 70, the Covid-19 fatality-rate, particularly in nursing homes, is astronomically high, whereas there were many more infant deaths with the Hong Kong virus than with Covid-19. Extrapolating from these demographics, it is reasonable to say that the Hong Kong virus could have killed more than 300,000 today, and that is not my estimate. Of course, no one can know for certain either way. But two things that I think are certain:

First, by any standard imaginable the Hong Kong flu was very bad — certainly in the same realm as Covid-19 — and, second, if Covid-19 were the Hong Kong virus today, the collective hysteria and societal panic would be at the same crazed pitch that it is right now, with Covid-19.

Can you guess how it played out in 1968?

There were no shutdowns or lockdowns at all: no school closures, no daycare closures, no business closures of any type. The restaurants, diners, pubs, bars, night-clubs and concert venues were open for business-as-usual, and there were not even masks or modifications made. As a matter of fact, Woodstock’s famous festival happened near the very peak of the Hong Kong flu pandemic — August of 1969 (July and early August was the peak) — and yet no one gave any undue thought to the virus.

Governments did not issue draconian mandates. Congress did not hear any legislation, let alone pass any. The Fed did nothing. The stock markets did not crash. No state governor decreed social-distancing guidelines — forced or suggested — and even though hundreds of thousands of people were hospitalized because of this flu, there were no laws banning crowds or gatherings of any size, as there were also no attempts to “flatten the curve.”

Private citizens were not fined for wanting to get out of the house, and parents were not handcuffed in front of their children for taking them to the playground.

Taser-wielding police did not punch people for failing to social distance properly.

State governors did not shut down all beaches — and this was not because these governors were aware that virus doesn’t do well in open air, or when exposed to UV light.

Neither was there a spike in unemployment rates.

As there was no spike in suicides, spousal abuse, child molestation, and no surge either in drug overdoses because of the virus; neither any spike in binge drinking.

The only actions governments took [during the Hong Kong pandemic] was to collect data, watch and wait, encourage testing and vaccines, and so on. The medical community took the primary responsibility for disease mitigation, as one might expect. It was widely assumed that diseases require medical not political responses. And it’s not as if we had governments then unwilling to intervene in other matters. We had the Vietnam War, social welfare, public housing, urban renewal, and the rise of Medicare and Medicaid. We had a president swearing to cure all poverty, illiteracy, and disease. Government was as intrusive as it had ever been in history.

Why, then, was this different?….

Was the difference that we have mass media invading our lives with endless notifications blowing up in our pockets? Was there some change in philosophy such that we now think politics is responsible for all existing aspects of life? Was there a political element here in that the media blew this wildly out of proportion as revenge against Trump and his deplorables? Or did our excessive adoration of predictive modelling get out of control to the point that we let a physicist with ridiculous models frighten the world’s governments into violating the human rights of billions of people? Maybe all of these were factors.”

(Link)

We could learn an inestimable amount today from reading about the history of the 1968-69 pandemic, and the reason I’ve written about it here is to partially illustrate how we all — the entire world — has been bludgeoned by politicized science and corrupted journalism.

The following is something you should see — an unadulterated example of CNN’s manipulation and propagandizing:

If you’re asking yourself how a major media organization could be so obvious in its manipulation tactics, the answer is that they don’t care if people discover it. Ninety-nine percent of readers and viewers won’t even notice the error at all, as CNN and all the others of course realize, and these same people will now have it in their minds that Orange County indeed saw a twenty-two percent increase in Covid cases — all because of these hateful ignorant protesters who don’t care if they spread the disease. These same people will then mention it to their friends and family and post or repost it on all their social media and so on, and in this very way the propaganda spreads.

The propaganda machine, meanwhile, will have accomplished its mission, which is the spreading of untrue and scientifically impossible information, and they then move onto another. The fact that a comparative handful spotted the deliberate manipulation doesn’t register as a blip on CNN’s radar because it’s meaningless compared with the sheer volume of CNN’s successful manipulation.

Similarly, when the New York Times got caught and called-out for falsifying dates so that they could to manipulate the Covid timeline, the Times’s editors made the changes after being publicly called out, but never admitted the error. And so it goes.

As recently noted:

Whether the crisis is environmental, terroristic, proletarian, pandemic, privilege, labor, geo-political, racial, religious, or any others, both known as well as the yet-to-be-conceived, or any cross-combination, the forces that work tirelessly against individual rights are legion and multiplex — and they are constant because, like virus, they can’t survive exposure to light, and they thus mutate from year-to-year, decade-to-decade, generation-to-generation: God-or-Devil-appointed kings and queens one generation, Monarchy the next; Marxism one generation, Socialism on the NAZI pattern next; Neo-Marxism one generation, environmentalism the decade following — right after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent implosion of the Soviet Union; deep ecology one decade, inequality the next; privilege one year and then the year following, democratic socialism is all the rage. And so on. One generation plagiarizes another. The only thing different about them are the concretes: the principles remain precisely the same.

In this same vein, Wired magazine today put out a shameful hit piece on Stanford epidemiologist Dr. John Ioannidis, who is guilty of committing the unpardonable sin of questioning Covid-19 dogma, and who, along with some of his Stanford colleagues, refuses to toe the party-line and instead prefers doing precisely what scientists should do: investigate actual data and conduct studies.

The results of these studies, about which I’ve recently written, infuriated those for whom Covid-19 has become a religion, with scriptures and edicts the disobeying of which will incur the wrath of the almighty masses and social-media mobs.

Yet the most spectacular thing about Wired magazine’s hit piece is that the writers cannot and do not name a single thing that contradicts Dr. John Ioannidis’s studies. None. Read it and see for yourself. Which is a remarkable thing indeed when you stop and think about it, since the entire reason Wired commissioned this hit piece was in an attempt to discredit and refute Stanford’s seroprevalence studies — which, incidentally, have been confirmed by a number of other studies and locations.

The article failed. Arrantly. The only thing these writers could do was attempt to smear John Ioannidis with puerile points of ridicule, and even those were pathetically unpersuasive. Ioannidis and his work remain untouched, and Wired degenerates deeper into third-rate, tendentious journalism.

The following is a fascinating and exceptionally instructive piece by a Swedish economist named Joakim Book
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Michael Ryan at the WHO’s Health Emergency Program caused indignant headlines to ripple across the globe faster than the corona virus can infect your respiratory tract cells. Sweden’s somewhat diverging corona fighting strategy has been treated with outrage, anger, and disbelief in global news coverages.

“If we are to reach a new normal,” said Ryan, “Sweden represents a future model.”

That can of worms should have remained closed, reasoned newsrooms across the planet. How dare you celebrate this irresponsible, cruelly capitalist exercise in human sacrifice and their Don’t-Care approach to the biggest global disaster and suffering of our times?

Yes, hysteria and overreaction have been major features of the world’s response to this virus, among politicians, journalists, and everyday people alike.

To recap: the Swedish government, judging its country to be sufficiently different from others and on advice of their surprisingly competent public servants, opted for less restrictive tools in fighting this disease. Sweden did not do nothing. The chief epidemiologist of the Public Health Agency, Anders Tegnell, has repeatedly stressed that Sweden follows the same strategy everyone else does: reduce the transmission of the disease; flatten the curve; expand hospital capacity; protect vulnerable groups.

The difference so far has been that Sweden does so by trusting that its citizens would opt prudently. That is: work from home if you can, which hip companies like Spotify urged their employees to do before the authorities did; avoid gatherings, which meant that a bunch of festivals, concerts, and events cancelled on their own and frequently reimbursed participants; wash your hands and use hand sanitizers, so universally embraced that even my town’s coolest kids – whose classes are naturally not cancelled – do so with fervor; don’t cheek-kiss your friends and family, which no self-respecting and intimacy-shy Nordic person would do anyway.

In other words, these are some of the same social distancing advice that various U.S. governors have forced down Americans’ unwilling throats. In addition to that, Sweden avoided policies that projected political decisiveness but had no scientific rationale behind them, like closing borders and schools.

Life here is completely different, but still remarkably normal. Runners and park visitors keep their advised distance; supermarkets open early for the elderly and put out hand sanitizers for all to use; restaurants separate their tables a bit more – and everything else stays open.

With extremely individualistic inhabitants that trust their public institutions to a remarkable degree, austere epidemiologists merely had to issue guidelines to get a large behavioral effect – strengthened by a media that arranged nuanced Q&As with professors and other specialists reporting statistical reality and prudent advice rather than clickbait-y hysteria and political pie-throwing.

(Link)

Finally, Farr’s Law continues to be vindicated: