When Will Government Take Its Foot Off Of The Public’s Neck?

The Old Biddy History Professor Who Failed To Warn America Of The Consequences Of Social Distancing, Mask Wearing and Lockdown Practiced During The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic

The old biddy* (*crazy elderly woman who is out of touch with the world yet thinks she knows something relevant and feels compelled to share it) history professor who created the “scientific” substantiation for the current lockdown/mask-wearing, social distancing that has destroyed the American economy is Nancy Tomes PhD, history professor at Stony Brook University and Bancroft Prize Winner.

Given that Tomes’ books and journal articles are now used by public health authorities to justify destructive lockdowns of modern populations, Tomes has now made herself a part of history by her “failure to warn.”

Her authoritative 15-page report published in Public Health Reports in 2010 provided a historical permission slip for public health agencies to over-step their authority, something Tomes never mentions even in a recent lecture recorded by CSPAN.

Tomes does say: “The playbook now is the same playbook they used in the Great Influenza of 1918.”  Public health authorities distributed information about the deadly flu epidemic which was “exactly the same stuff they were telling people at the turn of the last century.  We have not evolved” beyond what we did in a WWI era,” said Tomes. Remaking the American ... Tomes, Nancy Best Price: $12.55 Buy New $33.77 (as of 03:17 EDT - Details)

Professor Tomes describes “public education” efforts used in the 1918 Spanish flu as …… “you might call it propaganda.”  At least she got that right.

It’s not that Professor Tomes doesn’t provide two sides of the story, but that she fails as a historian to warn, to advise against a repeat of the failures of the 1918 flu pandemic.

Women were slighted

Where she did take umbrage with prior public health efforts was when posters used to advise the public to wear masks, not spit on public streets, or to “turn away when you cough” were directed at men, not women.  In the current feminist era, I guess that women were slighted in public health messages of the time was in some way evidence of discrimination.

Most important lesson

Tomes goes on to write: “Perhaps the most important ‘lesson’ taught by the pandemic was the realization that those measures that worked the best to control a highly infectious disease—bans on public gatherings, school closures, and strict quarantine and isolation—were precisely the ones most difficult to implement in a modern mass society,” as if the American public today should have learned to be more servile to their overseers.

Significant Changes

Tomes goes on to say the 1918 flu pandemic did make “significant changes” in our society.  Such as: “the rise of facial tissues (Kleenex), a product developed for women to remove their makeup was now being used by Americans to blow their noses.”  Say again. Unreported Truths abou... Berenson, Alex Buy New $5.99 (as of 03:17 EDT - Details)

Were lockdowns effective?

Tomes asked her classroom rhetorically: “Did any of this work?”  Her answer: “Historians found that cities that opted for a total lockdown or some restrictions did seem able to control their death rates.”  But then says: “You can’t 100% show it.”  So, which was it: beneficial or harmful?

Locking down a society so its citizens can survive only to face massive unemployment, abject poverty, hunger, and early death, I would take my chances with the flu.

Masks that raise morale but don’t reduce mortality

While Tomes concedes mask wearing in 1918 was ineffective, she says: “I think that making people feel safe is not a bad thing to do.  If a mask makes you feel better, wear the mask,” she says.  Wouldn’t that be false assurance?

Mask wearing was roundly criticized and ineffective, but Tomes fails to ask why public health authorities haven’t learned from the past.

“When cities lifted public-gathering bans, they often did so with the proviso that people wear masks when attending theaters. Mask wearing gained considerable popularity as an emblem of public spiritedness and discipline.” At least the masks were good for morale.

Here is how far Tomes was willing to buy into today’s misdirection: The Big Nap: How We Fa... Simon, James Buy New $8.97 (as of 02:45 EDT - Details)

Still, gauze masks had their detractors within the public health community. One notable critic was the Detroit health commissioner, Dr. J.W. Inches, who declared “.. . these masks are worthless.” They were so porous that not only “.. . a mosquito could jump through them,” he remarked, but, “I have sprinkled granulated sugar through them,” telling proof that a microbe could get through the mask’s defenses.  No comment from Tomes about useless masks today.

Tomes: “Nor was it easy to get the public to practice the rules of modern nose/mouth/hand hygiene. Even at the height of the pandemic, people who should have known better broke the rules.”

Tsk, tsk, those evil rule breakers.  Aren’t lockdowns an impossibility?

Yea or nay?

In reference to the 1918 Spanish Flu Tomes writes: “Recent historical work suggests that the early and sustained imposition of gathering bans, school closures, and other social-distancing measures significantly reduced mortality rates during the 1918–1919 epidemics.”

But then Tomes concedes the disease control methods of that era were less than effective.  Tomes:

“In the two principal cities where influenza first broke out, Boston and Philadelphia, the illness and death rates rose so steeply and quickly that the municipal authorities felt they had no choice but to impose sweeping public-gathering bans. Yet their decision to close schools, theaters, and other gathering places came too late to prevent the wide spread of the disease.”

“Public-gathering bans also exposed tensions about what constituted essential vs. unessential activities. Those forced to close their facilities complained about those allowed to stay open. For example, in New Orleans, municipal public health authorities closed churches but not stores, prompting a protest from one of the city’s Roman Catholic priests. If churches had to be closed, Father Bandeaux argued, then the “.. . big business establishments, which are crowded from early morning until closing hours in the evening, [should] be also required to close.” Because the board of health was doing such a poor job of stopping the disease’s spread, the priest suggested, people had all the more reason to go to church to ask for divine help.”

Tomes does cite a critic of that era’s public health prohibitions: Over the Counter Natur... Ellison, Shane Best Price: $5.81 Buy New $9.56 (as of 03:17 EDT - Details)

“The best way to interrupt the chain of infection was to isolate flu victims, or as a Massachusetts physician expressed it more colorfully, “.. . put each diseased person in a diver’s suit and provide him with a pair of handcuffs.”

More duplicity

Continuing to talk out of two sides of her mouth, Professor Tomes writes:

Even in cities that passed sweeping bans on public gatherings, people could not live in total isolation. Due to the necessity of working and eating, most urban residents had to venture out of their homes into the germ-ridden realm of public spaces.

In other words, in practice there was no strict lockdown.

Strict lockdown required

A recent study published in EUROSURVEILLANCE concludes:

“Transmission (of infectious disease) will continue to occur unless the most stringent community quarantine measures are being taken in a lockdown setting, which means near-complete reduction of all activities in the community.”

In communities with high-population density like Wuhan, China, where the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic was supposed to have originated, “even with near 100% restriction of outdoor activities, all transmission will continue to occur” writes European researchers.  Transmission still continues in small communities of 5,000.  In the U.S., people were still allowed to go grocery shopping, so no stringency was enforced.  The only redeeming value of the current lockdown was it was good for drill.

Political over medical measures

Tomes continues:

“In retrospect, some of the preventive measures practiced during the 1918 pandemic seem painfully ineffective. For example, so strong was the belief in the infective power of street dust and dirt that cities all over the country, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Fall River, Indianapolis, and Nashville, invested considerable time and money in daily street washing.”

So then, as today, there were practices that were more political than medical.

Tomes says news reporters have been calling her over the recent measures taken by public health authorities.   She should have sounded an alarm.  Instead, Americans got more of the same archaic practices of 100 years ago.

Tomes asks but never answers: “Do we have any better chance of controlling a “crowd disease” such as influenza in the early 21st century, compared to 1919?”

Tomes: “Yet despite our renewed fear of the germs, the implementation of social-distancing measures still faces many challenges today. Public-gathering bans, school closures, and transportation restrictions are difficult to enforce for the same reasons they encountered resistance in 1918–1919. Nor are we any more likely than our World War I forbearers to be able to sustain an exacting hygiene of nose/mouth/hand prevention.”

As for the cause of all this, Tomes then says: “Nearly 100 years after the great pandemic, we have no program of national health insurance.”  I guess Medicare for all would fix everything.  Tomes need to collaborate with Joe Biden.

After listening to a recent hour-long lecture by Professor Tomes on CSPAN and reading her decade-old article in Public Health Reports, I felt if she had been assigned to recount the historical medical atrocities that included deliberate exposure to typhus and malaria and forced sexual debauchery as part of human experimentation by Adolph Hitler, she would have recounted it without a moral twinge.

Tomes closes her March 10, 2020 lecture by saying to her classroom of students: “Don’t worry about what is going to happen.  We’re going to be fine.  We will know by Thursday.” The rest is history.

Political Theatre

LRC Blog

LRC Podcasts