President Biden has decided to go hard on the virus. No more Mr. Nice Guy. Sadly for him, those tiny little pathogens don’t pay taxes, don’t vote, don’t have Social Security numbers, can’t be drafted, and don’t answer phone calls from poll takers, which is to say that he and his agencies cannot really control them. That must be frustrating, poor man.
Instead his plan is to control what he can control: people, and, most immediately, federal workers and the employees of large regulated companies. For him, the key to crushing the virus is the vaccine. Not enough people are obeying his demand for near-universal vaccination.
In a maniacal move of wild desperation – or as an excuse to try out the most extreme powers of his office – he is using every weapon that he believes he has to assure compliance with his dream of injecting as many arms as possible. Only then will we crush the virus, all thanks to his leadership, all the complaints about “freedom” be damned – and never mind that the realization of his dream did not work in Israel or the UK.
What are the immediate problems here? At least five:
1. The Biden mandate pretends that the only immunity is injected, not natural. And so it has been from the beginning of this pandemic, even though all science for at least a year – actually you can say centuries – contradicts that. Indeed, we’ve known about natural immunity since 400 B.C when Thucydides first wrote of the great Athens plague that revealed that “they knew the course of the disease and were themselves free from apprehension.” Biden’s mandate could affect 80 million people but far more than that have likely been exposed and gained robust immunity regardless of vaccination status.
2. This natural immunity is long-lasting and broad, and we’ve known that since last year when the first studies revealed it. You can say that the addition of a vaccine provides even more but it’s new and untested relative to most drugs approved by regulators, and many people are concerned about possible side effects of this vaccine that was approved much faster than any drug in my lifetime – and there is not one living human being in a position to say with certainty that these skeptics are wrong.
3. The mandate presumes that everyone is equally susceptible to severe outcomes from getting exposed to the virus, which we’ve known is not true since at least February 2020. In this entire 18-month fiasco, we’ve not seen any serious high-level communication about the huge range of demographic gradients in infection based on both age and overall health. This ignorance is a consequence of poor public-health messaging, and is grossly irresponsible. The aggregated mandate from the Biden administration ignores this completely, as did the models that suggested lockdowns in the event of a virus from the Spring of 2020.
4. Biden seems still of the belief that vaccines stop infection (he claimed this many times) and spread but we know with certainty that this is not the case, and even the CDC admits it. The best guess at this point is that it can help in preventing hospitalization and death but this experiment is still in its early stages, and the relationship between cause and effect in human affairs is not as easy as throwing around two data sets and saying one caused the other. Most cases in the developed world now are occurring among the vaccinated – and we all know this because we have vaccinated friends who got Covid anyway. Some have died. We are not idiots, contrary to what the Biden administration believes. Nor do any of us have all the knowledge and answers. And it is precisely because science is uncertain that the decisions surrounding it need to be decentralized, depoliticized, and open to correction rather than being imposed by top-down mandates.
5. Biden’s order flies in the face of basic human freedoms and rights. There is no other way to put it. And it is this fact that is the most prescient for the multitudes who are right now seething in anger that one man who happens to hold power can make health decisions for the whole population regardless of their perfectly rational judgements. When the needle filled with liquid is forced into the arms of people who either have natural immunities or do not fear exposure to the pathogen, it gets personal, and people get really mad, especially after they are still forced into masks and denied other essential rights.
Truth is that my phone has been blowing up all evening since Biden’s speech. People are demoralized, panicked, furious, and even at the point of losing it completely over this despotic moment in which we are living. Most of us believed that we live in a scientific age in which information would be broadly disseminated to the world and this technology would somehow prevent us as a society from falling prey to charlatans, mob mysticism, and brutal methods of population control, not to mention to the deployment of superstitious talismans and quackery. That turns out not to be true, and this is perhaps the greatest shock of all.
Scientists worked for many hundreds of years to understand pathogens. They worked to understand their effect on the body, the range of susceptibility to both infection and severe outcomes, the demographics of vulnerability, the means by which we come to be protected from them, and the opportunities and limits available to people to protect themselves and others. After all this, humanity put together institutions that protected human freedom, individual rights, and public health, while preserving peace and prosperity in the best of times.
In the last 18 months, all that hard work and knowledge seems to have been shredded, replaced by superstition masquerading as some kind of new science of social and pathogenic control. In this year and a half, we’ve observed no clear successes and unrelenting flops. One year ago, humanity had the opportunity to embrace the wisdom of the Great Barrington Declaration to protect the vulnerable while letting society otherwise function. Governments instead chose the path of ignorance and violence. The list is long but it includes: travel restrictions, capacity limits, business closures, school shutdowns, mask mandates, forced human separation (“social distancing”), and now mandates of vaccination that, quite apparently, vast numbers do not want.
It’s all designed so that governments can prove to the world that they are powerful enough, smart enough, educated enough to outsmart and manage any living organism, even an invisible one that has been part of the human experience since humans had experiences. In this, they have completely failed – in more ways than it is possible to count.
We keep thinking that surely, surely, we will come to the end of this madness. I personally believed it would end the second week of March 2020. Instead, it gets worse and worse, the illusion of control having seized the barely functioning brains of the ruling classes of the world’s richest nations. If this doesn’t prove the astonishing stupidity of the world’s most powerful and educated, nothing else in history does.
The great myth that has clouded our vision and our expectations has been that we as a people had progressed beyond the kind of statist shibelboths and fanatic brutality that define our age. The truth is that we are not.
This very day, a Karen attacked me for being maskless. I looked at her and thought only of the poor people in Colonial America who dared being caught wearing buckled shoes and therefore running afoul of the sumptuary laws, or of the religious minorities in Medieval Europe who were scapegoated for every plague (look up the origins of the the phrase “poisoning the well”), or the demonization of rebels in the ancient Roman empire or the disapprobation of heretics in the hundreds of years that followed the fall of Rome.
It is a mark of a primitive society to attribute to political compliance or noncompliance what rational science shows is a feature of the natural world. Why? Ignorance, maybe. Power ambitions, more likely. Scapegoating is apparently an eternal feature of the human experience. Governments seem particularly good at it, even when it is less believable than ever.