Pox populi

A demonstrator feeds the internet conspiracy that billionaire Bill Gates has something to do with the coronavirus epidemic during an April 20 rally outside the California state Capitol. (Photo by Karlos Rene Ayala)

Opinion: More than 1,000 COVID-19 doubters protested California’s stay-home order. (It’s unclear how many brain cells attended.)

Like too many of us, the main figure of this story starts with a conclusion and then works her way backwards to justify it.

For “Meaghan,” a Rocklin chiropractor who posts time-lapsed videos of her home workout routines and fortifies her young daughters on probiotics and kombucha, the conclusion is that the global coronavirus pandemic is overblown.

(“Meaghan” isn’t her real name. Even though this information is public on social media, she isn’t a public figure and hasn’t responded to an interview request. Also, this isn’t going to be flattering.)

Meaghan is one of about a thousand people who demonstrated outside California’s state Capitol this week against a stay-at-home order that is stretching into its second month. Similar crowds have gathered outside lock-downed state houses around the country, riled up and bidden by pandemic profiteers, Trump apologists, conspiracy hams, medical “entrepreneurs” peddling junk science in store-bought lab coats, loud-talking contrarians and confident fools who spew their delusional improv without a trace of self awareness or shame.

For them, there is no difference between correlation and causation. For any two points in all of existence, there is a YouTube video breathlessly laying out the “shocking” connection.

Meaghan’s Facebook page (at least the portion that’s public) is spattered with fringe hypotheses, including two (two!) videos accusing billionaire Bill Gates of engineering the COVID-19 crisis so he can make a killing off the cure. One features a man wearing too much hair gel and a baggy suit seated at a cheap-looking “news” desk as he “interviews” a “doctor” who blames Gates without—what’s the word?—evidence. Honestly, it looks like the setup for an adult film.

Meaghan sides with these naysayers. She presents herself as an unapologetic “natural parent” (code for: vaccinations cause defects) who believes that “bacteria and viruses are the way that we build our immune system.” Never mind that the United Kingdom briefly tried exposure therapy with disastrous results, or that virologists still don’t know whether recovering from COVID-19 transfers any longstanding immunity; Meaghan is a suburban chiropractor damn it and who would know better about how this contagion behaves?

“I cannot stay quiet anymore!” she posted to Facebook on April 20. “Our rights and freedom are being taken away. It’s like this slow trickle and I cannot just sit on the sidelines.”

Meaghan posted a photo of herself that day, because that’s what people do. It’s filtered through a “vivid cool” lens, because real life can no longer be unadulterated. In it, she stands on the Capitol’s front lawn, sharply in focus; the chalk-white and columned fortress of our secular chapel blurs in the background. She presents a cardboard sign that reads “#MASKOFF.” Beneath oversized sunglasses, Meaghan flashes a satisfied, naked smile.

It is the smug face of our doom.

I don’t mean to single out this one person. There are many “Meaghans.” The Reopen California Facebook group has raced past 90,000 members. And more “freedom rallies” are planned in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Encinitas (where a “Shred the Tidalwave of Tyranny” beach party is scheduled) and San Luis Obispo.

I try to remember that real economic desperation underpins at least some of these belligerent voices.

As a technically laid-off journalist working on borrowed (half) time, I sympathize. But, as a Pew Research Center survey reminded me, America is still home to a majority of grownups—people who understand that our collective situation sucks, but also realize that extreme measures are needed to contain a plague that wants to drown us in our own lung fluid.

These folks are also stressing over their mortgages, their jobs, their kids, their frozen-in-time social lives—they’re just not whining so much.

Police estimate that 1,000 people assembled outside the Capitol on April 20. It’s important to note that these squeaky wheels had government help to decry the government.

Like it did four years ago to white supremacists, the California Highway Patrol granted a permit to organizers despite advanced warnings about the risks. The CHP pulled the plug on issuing permits once it became clear that California’s self-styled liberators didn’t obey physical distancing requirements, increasing the possibility of spreading infection. As a result, only a few, paltry scraps of outlaws—numbering 15 in all—returned two days later. Police reported no arrests.

Being stupid may be dangerous, but it isn’t illegal. And there’s no vaccine for it.

Not that these people would take it anyway.

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3 Comments on "Pox populi"

  1. Basic. People who are not working and are not being paid will create many conspiracies, in mind.But state governors and mayors, and even presidents have a responsibility to millions of other people. So it is here. People fighting about their rights, great, but elected officials fighting for the rights of all. HM

  2. This is the exact type of article that will destroy your paper. Here is a hint – just because people disagree with you does not make them stupid. This seems to be a major premise for all left dominated media; that it is impossible for people to interpret the data differently so the only explanation is stupidity or racism.

    Did you ever stop to analyze whether the protesters could be correct that the lethality of the virus is overblown? Just this week we have 3 studies – 2 from CA and 1 for NY that point to positive antibody tests that show the amount of people that have had the infection is 50-80x more than shown in testing thus far. Of course, this comes as no surprise to most as we know the only people tested right now are those with symptoms coupled with the fact that it is well-known that this virus is asymptomatic in a large majority of those infected.

    So what rate of lethality should result in authoritarian lockdowns? Originally, the scare studies stated we would have 2.2M or more Americans die from this virus and mortality rates of 3% of those infected. Of course, all those numbers have been drastically revised down even in the face of changing standards to count every death possible as Covid-19 EVEN IF THE VIRUS WAS NOT DETECTED. With the new antibody tests, it is fairly certain that the death rates are ~0.1%. More deadly than the flu? Yes. 5x or 10x higher? Absolutely not. So in light of the new data, it should not be outrageous to ask what trade-offs are people willing to make to ward off something slightly more deadly than the common flu. Should you be pushed into bankruptcy and ensure an economic depression for the next 2-3 years? I would not think so but everyone can weigh the trade-offs differently.

    The most ironic thing about this virus is the lack of the Left’s coverage of the nations they usually fawn over as the shining example of everything right in the world. In this case, the nation of Sweden. While the rest of Europe has pushed harsh lockdowns – that seemed to have limited effect based on the antibody tests – the Swedes carried on with life as normal. Cafés and bars weren’t shuttered. Daily life didn’t grind to a halt. They accept the risks and ushered on herd immunity which is where the US is now headed despite the economy destroying shutdowns. And how have the Swedes done? It is a full-fledged zombie apocalypse? Nope – their infection and death tolls are better than most of Europe.

    As my last point, I would remind you again of the government’s stated reason for the lockdowns – ‘flattening the curve’ – again, the goal was to flatten and not to eliminate the virus. We have accomplished this goal. No one in the US was denied a respirator as the models were completely wrong at every turn even for hard hit areas like NYC. No one even talks about the respirator disaster. Gov. Cuomo cried about the lack of supplies constantly but never ran short. The sad fact is that nearly 90% of those placed on a respirator died – which points to early intervention being the effective treatment. With 90% death rate, the respirators or even if there was a lack amounts to nothing. In short, the models were wrong. Sweden shows that the curve would have flattened regardless of our actions and there was no risk to overrunning our medical system.

    It is time to admit that the Covid-19 threat was completely overblown. Unfortunately, it resulted in more death than the Y2K scare or the Mayan Calendar but it was not an earth shattering event. It is way beyond time we stop the self-inflicted suffering of the lockdowns. At risk groups should wear masks and practice social distancing. Stores should offer them special shopping hours. But for the rest of us – the threat posed by this virus is debunked. Out of Italy’s 20,000 deaths, a total of 8 have been people under 40. Enough with the fear. Enough with re-defining the mission. Open up the country and get on with life.

    • Julie Ostoich | April 30, 2020 at 9:40 pm | Reply

      Awesome reply Bill Bixby. You hit all the points on the head. Enough of this pandemic panic. We need to get back to living and stop this crazy fear-based insanity based on fatality rates similar to a severe flu season. We don’t shut down the country or world over tuberculosis which kills over a million and a half people worldwide yearly, is highly contagious and passed on by asymptomatic carriers. In the U.S.A. the fatality rate for TB was 2.8% in 2018. Thus far, the fatality rate for CVD19 is 0.1 to 0.2%. I can’t believe how people have fallen for this sham and remain in a state of stupor and fear willing to give up their rights.

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