Covid Fear Exhibition (By Those Greedy for Status)

by Don Boudreaux on December 24, 2021

in Country Problems, Curious Task, Media, Risk and Safety

This essay by Freddie deBoer on Progressive elites’ reaction to Covid is very insightful. (HT Arnold Kling) Here are several slices (but do read the whole thing):

Covid is a serious disease that has killed a lot of people, but it does not kill different people at the same rates. Obviously, one of the greatest risk factors is being unvaccinated. But you’d still rather be a child and unvaccinated than be a 50-year-old and vaccinated if you’re trying to avoid Covid. Nor do different adult populations have the same risk profile. The vast majority of those people who have died of Covid have been elderly, immunocompromised, or ill. Those who have been hospitalized by Covid have also been disproportionately obese, to a startling degree. Covid discriminates, and not just against the unvaccinated. I don’t know why our media has decided that reflecting the plain scientific reality that different people have profoundly different Covid risks should be so taboo, but it’s precisely the sort of thing that causes a loss of trust among the skeptical. In any event, I’m not among the highest risk, or particularly close to it – I’m 40 years old, generally healthy, overweight but not obese, and vaccinated. People like me have died from Covid, but they are a very small minority of the deaths. Most who catch it from my demographic profile experience the disease the way I did in April of 2020: as an unpleasant but entirely manageable fever and mild respiratory illness.


Imagine my confusion, then, at the number of vaccinated people, almost all of them educated, liberal, and upwardly mobile, existing in a state of constant anxiety and dread over Covid, despite the fact that these feelings confer no survival advantage at all. While I have no issue with people feeling what they’re naturally feeling, I would argue that those with large platforms have a responsibility not to contribute to panic. Unfortunately many people with huge followings are being remarkably irresponsible, openly spreading fear and engaging in baseless speculation about mass death. This despite the fact that almost all of them fall in demographic slices with low risk. The immense popularity of overstating one’s personal risk from Covid, and of structuring one’s whole life around that exaggerated risk, can’t be explained in logical terms. It can only be understood with the animal logic of the force that dictates the living conditions of our entire elite class: their competition against each other.


Something like 5.3 million people across the world have died of Covid, which is indeed a tragedy. But the 1918 flu pandemic killed ten times that amount, when the world population was about a fourth of what it is now. Yet life went on. Institutions still functioned. There were stock markets, they held parades and fairs, people got married in grand halls. And the flu was very, very bad and it killed a lot of people. But what is the purpose of this kind of serial exaggeration of the impact on day-to-day life for the vast majority of people? 40% of people who catch Covid-19 never develop symptoms, a number that jumps to >60% among young adults. More than 80% of symptomatic cases are mild. We have vaccines that have proven remarkably effective at preventing hospitalization and death, and though Omicron appears to spread more quickly we have no reason to believe it undermines those benefits of vaccination. The vast, vast majority of people are going to survive this pandemic, and the remarkable efficacy of Pfizer’s upcoming antiviral will fundamentally change treatment, dramatically lowering deaths. I write all of this knowing that what I’m saying is responsible and buttressed by evidence. But the environment our media has created is so wildly sensationalistic and addicted to doomsaying that I get anxious just writing this. I’m afraid I’ll be called an antivaxxer for… asserting the power of vaccines.


When this major international crisis arose, they [Progressive elites] felt a lot of legitimate fears and worries, which just makes them human. But when it became clear that the public health response to Covid involved denying ourselves things we wanted and enjoyed, including non-negotiably important things like in-person schooling and face-to-face human contact, they (subconsciously) saw an opening: if denial of human pleasures is virtuous, I can be more virtuous than my peers. If caution is noble, overcaution must be even nobler.


For some people, it seems, being more freaked out about Covid is quite like an I Voted sticker or a BlackLivesMatter sign in their window. It’s another way to let everyone know that they have the greatest wealth of all, the wealth of superior character, of greater moral standing. They’re fond of pointing out those 5.3 million people who have died, in the midst of their self-aggrandizing diatribes. I would perhaps invoke the dead in a different way: even this, even now, even them, you turn into yet another way to let the rest of us know how advanced you are.

The danger is far from over. But when we got the vaccines case rates decoupled from the rate of hospitalization and death. Therefore if you are breathlessly reporting increases in case rates without reference to those other metrics, you are engaged in, yes, misinformation. For you normal people out there? Get vaccinated. Get boosted. Be smart. Then live your life. Defy the virus. Defy it.

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