Brownstone » Brownstone Institute Articles » The Origins and Development of Upside-down America

The Origins and Development of Upside-down America


The Covid-Lockdowns, masking orders, hovering Virus Patrols and Fauci-fear campaigns were bad enough—along with the associated escalation of corporate social and MSM media censorship to a wholly new and frightening level. And it wasn’t just the virus coming out of the Wuhan blue in January 2020, either

The Ordeal of the Covid followed hard upon the lawless four-year high-jacking of the national security apparatus to prosecute the RussiaGate re-litigation of the 2016 Trump election. And that occurred side-by-side with the growing political class hysteria about an imminent climate crisis which is nothing of the kind.

There has also been the flat-out woke racialization of political and social life culminating in the BLM riots of summer 2020. Whereupon followed a relentless attempt to transform the January 6 outbreak of piss poor Capitol Hill policing and the unruly vandalism by a rearguard of mainly Trumpite yokels and yahoos into the American equivalent of Lenin’s storming of the Winter Palace.

That is to say, it already smelled like unprecedented authoritarianism and incipient tyranny was wafting in the air of American democracy, nay even fascism wearing a progressive mask. But upon the arrival of Joe Biden’s mandatory vaccinations and what amounts to an internal “papers” edict……well, now we know.

It’s the real thing. A hybrid progressive left/corporate media/ Big Business form of one-party Fascism now stalks the land and threatens to the quick America’s 234 year-old democracy and the liberty and human rights of virtually every citizen.

And make no mistake. This is about total social control, not a public health threat. It involves sacrificing personal liberty and the protections of constitutional law to a threadbare narrative about the collective good as conceived by the statist left but which is contradicted and refuted by the real “science” at every turn.

Ronald Reagan famously said that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction”, but he was a great man of the last century. Now, in the digitized, hyper-accelerated 24/7 world of breaking news and social media noise, make that not one generation but one year, even a few months and weeks.

That is to say, thanks to the left/progressive dominance of today’s web of communications accelerators—like the Facebook of $419 million Biden man Mark Zuckerburg—once a predicate gets implanted in the digital flow it becomes yet another version of Matt Taibbi’s Vampire Squid. Wrapped around the flow of what should be news, its blood funnel relentlessly jams all the facts, content and especially factoids into the reining narrative.

But with respect to the Great Covid Hysteria, like the other above mentioned threats to democracy and liberty as we have known them, the reining narrative is dead wrong. Covid’s not the Black Plague or even a widespread public health menace. It presents no existential threat to society’s survival and well-being—at least not one which even remotely justifies setting aside normal civil liberties or regimenting and ruining daily commerce and social life.

We will momentarily get to all the flaws in the insane numbers diarrhea about tests, case counts, hospital counts, death counts and heart-rending anecdotes about individual suffering and loss on end. But the single most important thing to grasp is that when it comes to the heart of the narrative—-the alleged soaring death counts—the narrative is just plain bogus.

The undisputed fact is that the CDC changed rules for causation on death certificates in March 2020, so now we have no idea whatsoever whether the 713,000 deaths reported to date were deaths because OF Covid or just incidentally were departures from this mortal world WITH Covid. The extensive well-documented cases of DOA from heart attacks, gunshot wounds, strangulation or motorcycle accidents, which had tested positive before the fatal event or by postmortem, are proof enough.

More importantly, what we do know is that not even the power-drunk apparatchiks at the CDC and other wings of the Federal public health apparatus found a way to change the total mortality counts from all causes.

That’s the smoking gun unless you consider the year 2003 to have been an unbearable year of extraordinary death and societal misery in America. To wit, the age-adjusted death rate from all causes in America during 2020 was actually 1.8% lower than it had been in 2003 and nearly 11% lower than it had been during what has heretofore been understood to be the benign year of 1990.

To be sure, there was a slight elevation of the all-causes mortality rate in 2020. That’s because the Covid did disproportionately and in some ghoulish sense harvest the immunologically vulnerable elderly and co-morbid slightly ahead of the Grim Reaper’s ordinary schedule.

And far worse, there were also extraordinary deaths last year among the less Covid vulnerable population owing to hospitals that were in government ordered turmoil; and also to an undeniable rise in human malfunction among the frightened, isolated, home-bound quarantined, which resulted in a swelling of homicides, suicides and a record level of deaths from drug overdoses (94,000).

Still, the common sense line of sight across this 30-year chart below tells you 1000 times more than the context-free Johns Hopkins case and death counts scrolling across America’s TV and computer screens day-in-and-day-out. It tells you there was no deadly plague; there was no extraordinary public health crisis; and that the Grim Reaper was not stalking the highways and byways of America.

Compared to the pre-Covid norm recorded in 2019, the age-adjusted risk of death in America last year went up from 0.71% to 0.84%. In humanitarian terms, that’s unfortunate but it does not even remotely bespeak a mortal threat to societal function and survival and therefore a justification for the sweeping control measures and suspensions of both liberty and common sense that actually happened.

This fundamental mortality fact—the “science” in bolded letters if there is such a thing—totally invalidates the core notion behind the Fauci policy that was sprung upon our deer-in-the-headlights president stumbling around the Oval Office in early March 2020. That is, there was no reason for a sweeping intervention by the public health apparatus at all, nor for the coercive one-size-fits all, state-driven mobilization of quarantines, lockdowns, testing, masking, distancing, surveilling, snitching and ultimately mass vaxxing with experimental drugs—all which followed hard upon the fatal March error at relentless, breathtaking and virtually unchallenged speeds.

To the contrary, the virus’ spread was an intensive but manageable challenge to America’s one-at-a-time doctor/patient health care system. The CDC, FDA, NIH and state and local public health departments were only needed to dispense solid information per their normal education role, not orders and sweeping regulatory interventions into every nook and cranny of the nation’s economic and social life.

Likewise, the “task force” that was actually needed was not the hideous daily Unreality TV show orchestrated by Fauci, the Scarf Lady and the rest of the Donald’s unabashed enemies among the Federal public health apparatchiks in Washington; rather, it was simply more intensive application of medical care system resources and the proven ability of America’s decentralized health professionals to find, innovate and spread treatments and prophylactics, even in the face of a quasi-novel form of respiratory illness that essentially visited serious medical effects on less than 10% of the population.

In a word, this chart proves that the entire Covid strategy was wrong and unnecessary. Lock, stock and barrel.

Indeed, it would not be going too far to say that the eruption of irrationality and hysteria in America last year most resembled not 1954, when Senator McCarthy set the nation looking for communist moles behind every government desk, or 1919, when the notorious raids of Attorney General Mitchell were rounding up purported Reds in their tens of thousands, but the winter of 1691-1692. That’s when two little girls—Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams of Salem, Massachusetts—fell into the demonic activity of fortune-telling, which soon found them getting strangely ill, having fits, spouting gibberish, and contorting their bodies into odd positions.

The rest became history, of course, when a malpracticing local doctor claimed to have found no physical cause for the girls’ problems and diagnosed them being afflicted by the “Evil Hand,” commonly known as witchcraft. Other ministers were consulted, who agreed that the only cause could be witchcraft and since the sufferers were believed to be the victims of a dastardly crime, the community set out to find the perpetrators.

Within no time, three witches who were famously accused —the Parris’ slave, Sarah Good, an impoverished homeless woman and Sarah Osborne, who had defied conventional Puritan society. Many more followed, and as the hysteria spread, hundreds were tried for witchcraft and two dozen hanged.

But there is a lesson in this classic tale that is embarrassing in its verisimilitude. Namely, one of the best academic explanations for the outbreak of seizures and convulsions which fueled the Salem hysteria was a disease called “convulsive ergotism”, which is brought on by ingesting rye grain infected with a fungus that can invade developing kernels of the grain, especially under warm and damp conditions.

During the rye harvest in Salem in 1691 these conditions existed at a time when one of the Puritans’ main diet staples was cereal and breads made of the harvested rye. Convulsive ergotism causes violent fits, a crawling sensation on the skin, vomiting, choking, and, hallucinations—meaning that it was Mother Nature in the ordinary course working her episodically unwelcome tricks, not the “Evil Hand” of a spiritual pathogen, which imperiled the community.

The truth is, in 2020 it was also Mother Nature—likely abetted by the Fauci-sponsored gain-of-function researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology—who disgorged one of the nastier among ordinary respiratory viruses. Such viruses, of course, have afflicted humankind over the ages, which, in turn, has evolved marvelous adaptive immune systems to cope with and overcome them. So again, there was no Evil Hand sci-fi pathogen at large that was something new under the sun, nor a disease that was extraordinarily lethal for 90% of the population.

In the great scheme of things, therefore, the Covid-19 pandemic has already been recorded as an unfortunate bump on the road to longer and more pleasant lives for Americans and the much of the rest of the world, too. That truth is strikingly depicted in the chart below.

While the all-cause mortality figure for 2020 shown above did not exist when the CDC published this chart, the green line would have depicted it as only a tiny upward blip—of which there have been several during the last 120 years shown below. Indeed, the true analogue is the year 1918 when an estimated 675,000 Americans succumbed to the Spanish Flu from a population (100 million) just 30% of today’s level.

In that case, the green line (all cause deaths) pushed up by nearly 400 per 100,000 population compared to the pre-war baseline (1914). By contrast, the excess rate in 2020 over 2019 was just 118 per 100,000.

And, yes, there is the sad fact of senseless dough-boy deaths on the killing fields of France embedded in these 1918 numbers, but it turns out that upwards of 45% of the conventionally reported 117,000 GI deaths were not from German bullets, but the Spanish Flu that ripped through the massive US training camps that were hastily-assembled after Wilson foolishly declared war in April 1917 with no meaningful standing army to fight it.

So on the true measure of pandemic lethality—deaths from all causes—the Covid-19 was not even in the same ball park as the Spanish Flu. And as the chart also shows, the former occurred way down the green line curve that is actually the ultimate rebuke to today’s on-going Covid-policy disaster.

The US age-adjusted death rate in 2020 (828 per 100,000) was actually 67% lower than it had been in 1918 (2,542 per 100,000) because since then a free capitalist society has gifted the nation with the prosperity and freedom to progress that has ushered in better sanitation, nutrition, shelter, life-styles and medical care. It is those forces which have pushed the green line relentlessly to the lower-right corner of the chart, not the Federales atop their bureaucratic perches in Washington.

At length, perhaps some future historian will need to find the “convulsive ergot” theory of 2020 to explain the Covid-Hysteria because the explanation will not be found in the “science” embedded in what will be a tiny blip in the green line of the chart above. But to do so, they might well be advised to look due westward in the state of Massachusetts from Salem in the east and site of the original hysteria, through Camp Devon in the middle, where the worst of the Spanish Flu breakouts occurred, to Great Barrington on the western edge of the state, where a ray of enlightenment finally burst upon the scene in October 2020.

The Great Barrington Declaration was penned by three fearless world leading epidemiologists—Dr. Martin Kulldorff of Harvard, Dr. Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Sanford—and was a powerful antidote to the Evil Hand theory then raging through the MSM and political class of almost every stripe.

At essence, it said the real science was that America was not being attacked by a Grim Reaper visiting death upon one and all regardless of age, health status or physical circumstances, but, instead, was a highly selective respiratory disease variant that honed-in tightly on the immunity-impaired aged and co-morbid. Accordingly, the one-size-fits all Lockdown policy was dead wrong, and what was needed was highly targeted help, protections and treatments for the smallish minority of the vulnerable, which policy would presently lead to the attainment of “herd immunity” and the ultimate extinguishment of the pandemic in the normal way.

Keeping these (across-the-board lockdown) measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.

Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing. We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza. 

As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e.  the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity. 

The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection. 

Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19. By way of example, nursing homes should use staff with acquired immunity and perform frequent testing of other staff and all visitors. Staff rotation should be minimized. Retired people living at home should have groceries and other essentials delivered to their home. When possible, they should meet family members outside rather than inside. A comprehensive and detailed list of measures, including approaches to multi-generational households, can be implemented, and is well within the scope and capability of public health professionals. 

Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold. Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.

On October 4, 2020,

Among the many virtues of this lucid framing of the matter was that it sharply and diametrically differentiated the Covid-19 from the Spanish Flu which had devastated nearby Camp Devon during 1918, as well as much of America and the world.

Thus, subsequent studies of the US have estimated a wide band for the infected population, ranging from about 4 million to upwards of 28 million. That would put the Spanish Flu IFR (infection fatality rate) somewhere between 2.5% and 16.5% against the firmer figure of 675,000 deaths.

But either way, those risk ratios are in a wholly different zip-code than today’s more careful and current estimates from the CDC itself. A few months back it estimated that as of May 19, 2021 about 120 million Americans had been infected by the virus, of which only about 6% had been hospitalized.

At the time the death count stood at about 590,000—so the implied IFR was about 0.5% or only one-fifth to one-thirtieth of the 1918 rate. And, of course, this 0.5% risk of death ratio is based on the expansive WITH Covid counting system stood up by the CDC in March 2020.

Even more importantly, the current CDC figures validate in spades the fundamental thesis of the Great Barrington Declaration in contrast to what is known about age and health status based risks of the Spanish Flu. Startlingly, it is estimated that 50% of the 1918-1919 deaths were among the healthiest 20-40 age population, many of them actually soldiers in training camps like Fort Devon.

By contrast, as of October 2021 only 2% of the WITH Covid mortalities had occurred among the prime 20-40 age population. The mortality curve was the exact inverse of the far more lethal Spanish Flu.

Indeed, the CDC’s own figures leave nothing to the imagination. One size fits all was a horrid mistake because the IFRs tell the very opposite story—the one embedded in the Great Barrington Declaration and its recommended strategy. Here are the IFRs by age cohort using the CDC May infection estimates and the October WITH-Covid death counts:

Infection Fatality Rates By Age Cohort From CDC Data:

  • Age 0-17: 0.002%;
  • Age 18-49: 0.07%;
  • Age 50-64: 0.62%;
  • Age 65 plus: 4.44%.

In a word, the risk of death from Covid-19 infection was 2,220 times higher for the over 65 population than for children under 18 years and 63 times greater for the elderly than the main working age population.

Moreover, these figures are based on estimates of the infected population in each age cohort, not the total population. As it happens and logically so, the infection rate per capita is estimated to be much higher by the CDC for the younger and working age population than for the more elderly and presumably less socially mobile. To wit, the infection rate per total population figures are 37% for the 0-17 age cohort, 44% for the working age 18-49 cohort, 32% for the 50-64 age group and just 22% for the 65 and older population.

What this means, of course, is that the WITH-Covid mortality rates for the total population in each age group are vastly different and skewed powerfully higher from young to old. The data below, therefore, is the real “science” of the matter, making the Great Barrington Declaration strategy about as fit for purpose as could be imagined.

WITH-Covid deaths/ Covid Deaths per 100,000/ Normal ( 2019 )All Causes Mortality/100,000:

  • Age 0-17: 513 deaths/ 0.7 Covid deaths per 100k/ 50 total deaths per 100k;
  • Age 18-29: 3,888 deaths/ 7 Covid deaths per 100k/180 total deaths per 100k;
  • Age 30-49: 39,503 deaths/ 47 Covid deaths per 100k/ 408 total deaths per 100k;
  • Age 50-64: 125,812 deaths/ 200 Covid deaths per 100k/650 total deaths per 100k;
  • Age 65-74: 160,596 deaths/ 510 Covid deaths per 100k/ 1,750 total deaths per 100k;
  • Age 75-84: 187,611 deaths/ 1,180 Covid deaths per 100k/ 4,300 total deaths per 100k;
  • 85 & above:195,007 deaths/ 2,950 Covid deaths per 100k/ 13,225 total deaths per 100k;
  • All Ages: 712,930 deaths/ 217 Covid deaths per 100k/ 715 total deaths per 100k.

The above data are surely dispositive. They show that the very elderly (over 85) suffered the brunt of the mortality impact with a rate per 100,000 that was 4,220 greater than for children under 18 years, 421 times greater than for young people surfing the malls and bars and 63 times greater than for the core working age population 30-49 years of age.

Likewise, the minuscule 0.7 per 100,000 WITH-Covid mortality rate for the under 18 population represented only 2% of the normal all-causes death rate for this cohort—a figure that rose to 10% for the core working age population age 30-49 and 27% and 22% for the 75 and older and 85 and older populations, respectively.

So how did we get we get a policy of universal lockdowns, masking, distancing, testing and now vaxxing that is obviously not fit for purpose?

As we will essay in Part 2, it was based not on “the science”, but on the day #1 statist drive by the Federal public health bureaucracy, the Washington political class and their media allies to foolishly, unnecessarily and impossibly attempt to stop the spread of the virus cold, thereby empowering themselves to excersize heretofore un-imagined power and control over the daily life of Americans at home, school, work, worship and play.

We have called this Progressive Fascism because at bottom it turns the very idea of America upside-down by subordinating the citizen to the state and by attaining the collective good through the centralized exercise of political power rather than the liberty-based endeavors of a free people.

Republished from ContaCorner

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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  • David Stockman

    David Stockman, Senior Scholar at Brownstone Institute, is the author of many books on politics, finance, and economics. He is a former congressman from Michigan, and the former Director of the Congressional Office of Management and Budget. He runs the subscription-based analytics site ContraCorner.

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