Oprah Winfrey published a popular compendium of platitudes entitled What I Know for Sure. The title struck me as funny because, when I scanned that book’s pages, most of the notions expressed rang hollow. At best, some were arguably true, though as trite as a 1970s college dorm poster.
But if Oprah is sure that these bromides make sense to her and inspire her readers, great! Oprah speaks to a much bigger audience than I do. Though I have a strong, fun marriage, raised three responsible kids and maintain an appropriate weight. So maybe I know some stuff that Oprah doesn’t.
On our respective life journeys, we all reach various places where the road splits in two—or more—ways and we must make a consequential choice. Often, these decisions are difficult because neither option is obviously superior. One might, at these times, feel uncertain regarding the choice one has to make. Weighing such a decision can keep us up at night, for a series of nights.
Some people posture and say that they make choices and never look back. And sometimes, the choice that one makes turns out well and causes no regret. But at other times it takes a while for a decision’s results to reveal themselves and/or results are mixed. Often, there’s no way to know or compare how taking the alternative path might have worked out. And sometimes things clearly turn out poorly. People can front all they want: both pre-and post-decision uncertainty can be appropriate.
That’s what’s been really weird about support for the various Covid “mitigation” strategies: despite the obvious illogic of these interventions and the vast, lasting and foreseeable harm they caused, many people were certain that the lockdowns, the school closures, the masks, the tests and the shots were good ideas.
None of these measures made scientific or social sense, not even for fifteen minutes. Respiratory viruses are ubiquitous. We can’t stop their spread. Coronaviruses, including those of the past three years, threaten only a small, clearly identifiable slice of the population. Thus, we shouldn’t have locked down, closed schools, masked up, tested the asymptomatic or taken experimental shots to try to do what had never been done before, despite decades of research, i.e., immunize people against a Coronavirus.
To the contrary, since mid-March, 2020 and despite the conventional unwisdom, I suspected, wrote and said to anyone who would listen that each intervention would fail and cause much harm. People hated my message and, consequently, me. But it turned out that I was I was prescient. About all of it. I’m not bragging; even though I was in the minority, it was a very easy call.
Throughout the past 33 months, it’s astounded me that people advocating such extreme, unprecedented interventions were not only plainly wrong about these measures’ efficacy, they were simultaneously sure they were right. None of the Coronamaniacs said, “I think the government’s measures might be a good idea and I’m going to follow them to protect myself. But it’s a free country and I understand that you might disagree. So you do you.”
Instead, those who were poorly informed and afflicted with misplaced certainty took their poor judgment and ran 180 degrees in the wrong direction with it: they demanded that others share their panic and their foolish overreaction.
They were certain that Coronamania detractors were “selfish” and “anti-Science” for questioning the mitigation measures and for declining to adopt them. Team Panic unreservedly, arrogantly and ignorantly bought the propaganda and aggressively backed the authoritarian craziness. Even though they had no factual or logical reason to be certain, the Corona Mitigators were a stampeding herd that tolerated no discussion, much less dissent. In-person and on-line, the Mitigators vilified, and blocked the messages of, those who disagreed with them. They argued that non-vaxxers should be barred from schools, lose livelihoods and forfeit medical treatment. Some even wished the non-hiders/non-maskers/non-vaxxers dead.
At every opportunity during the past 33 months, I’ve challenged people to defend the various interventions. I’ve typically received angry and unrealistic responses. When I asked, for example, whom they knew that had died from the virus, most admitted they knew no one. Several expressed indignation that I would ask such a question. One self-righteously answered that his friend’s father-in-law had died in his late eighties. Another cited her 93 year-old, Alzheimer-ed mother-in-law; as if some old, sick people didn’t normally die. Moreover, the Mitigators could never explain how lockdowns or masks could cause a virus to vanish into the ether. Throughout, Team Panic members were oblivious to the costs of the interventions.
Overall, regarding lockdowns, school closures, masks, tests and the shots, the Mitigation Mob parroted demagogic, propagandistic phrases they heard from Birx, Fauci, Pharma execs, NPR, PBS, NYT and The Atlantic, etc. The Coronamaniacs trusted these sources instead of trusting what they should have witnessed in real life, namely that this virus simply did not threaten basically healthy, non-old people.
Why were some people certain that various governmental interventions made sense, when uncertainty would have been far more appropriate? To begin with, inertia is powerful; psychologists have long known that after someone makes a decision, they tend to become more certain they were right; a classic study about gift selection supports this conclusion.
Once people take sides, most people won’t consider logic or facts that contradict what they initially believed. Changing their minds would result in loss of face. Admitting an error damages most peoples’ self-esteem. They lack the strength of character to admit they were wrong.
Perhaps intransigence is biochemically-driven. Perhaps having made up their minds, people avoid spending any additional mental energy on thinking.
Yet, as Socrates said, “To be uncertain is to be uncomfortable, but to be certain is to be ridiculous.”
Especially here. It’s odd that, in a subculture that purports to value “nuance,” shades of gray and continuums—even of gender—that so many took such a polar, irrational and deeply destructive approach to Corona management. The many who easily fell prey to peer pressure jumped on the Covid bandwagon, never considering that they could be wrong or that their stance was wrecking the lives of many other people. Instead, they illogically and angrily insisted that those who were unwilling to participate in the mitigation charade were somehow threatening others. How could this be? If hiding from others, wearing masks and taking tests and shots worked so well, why did those who used these methods feel vulnerable?
Coronamania was fundamentally tribal. Orwell was right: The Left tolerates no dissenters. It ostracizes and cancels those with the audacity to think and disagree. Liberals fear a raised voice or even a raised eyebrow. The Japanese say that “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” Progressives have internalized Japan’s conformism; it’s as if they’re turning Japanese. I really think so.