The Cost of Lies and Political Folly

Well, at least we all now know that eating bats is not the delightful culinary jamboree we had assumed.

What about you? Not even remotely curious to clench your teeth into a little pangolin? The poor creature might resemble a poodle wrapped in tree bark, but its scales possess “healing powers,” if you believe that kind of thing.

Not at all tempted? Me neither.

Yet, such a delicacy is wildly popular among Chinese elites. So is telling lies.

Chy-nuh, as President Trump enunciates, is home to the Wuhan virus. That deadly virus locking one billion people indoors, freezing their livelihoods, and killing thousands.

Of course, the president is under tiresome fire for pointing this out. To call it the Wuhan or Chinese virus is “xenophobic.” Take a guess how Ebola got its name.

Perhaps in a time of global crisis, a little honesty wouldn’t go amiss. After all, lies, fabrications, and cover-ups exported Wuhan virus around the globe.

Back in November, the Chinese government crushed the concerns of doctors. Rather than erupt their façade of competence, President Xi and comrades branded dissenters as “rumor-mongers.” Such rumors cost Dr. Li Wenliang his 34 years of life.

This willful self-deception pushed the infected back to work in Italian factories and to do their business in Iran. The Wuhan virus began its drip-drip flooding of lungs before most of us knew its name.

Italy counts more dead than China (assuming the Chinese numbers are accurate—a shaky assumption at best). The faces of doctors are flush with helpless harrow.

Not until January, did the Chinese government admit something was up.

This is not to play the blame game. The truth matters. Studies suggest that honesty would have reduced cases by up to 95 percent.

Instead, Italian doctors leave the stricken to expire. Some wade through the desperations of not one or two patients, but 1,200. Their hospitals overrun, helpless in the viral squall.

One Italian doctor told Al Jazeera: “The disease is unpredictable. Patients are like candles that start flickering, before becoming feeble and eventually going out. Wheezing and shortness of breath precedes death. Patients with several underlying conditions are not taken to the ICUs. We do all we can,” he said, “to accompany them gently into their deaths.”

“They are afraid, alone and isolated. It is excruciating to see them dying like this. It is devastating to call their families.”

That is the cost of lies. And regimes built on lies have precedent.

Soviet authorities said the Chernobyl disaster was a routine fire. In truth, 500 Hiroshima bombs exploded, rendering strips of Chernobyl uninhabitable for 20,000 years. The official death toll? 31.

The balm of honesty might have shut down all flights from China. (As President Trump had such valuable foresight.)

That brief honesty could have relegated this horror-show to an unknown curiosity. We wouldn’t be locked inside our homes, fretting whether businesses, or the vulnerable among us, will see the summer.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week announced the strongest curbs to freedom in our recent history.

Now 62 million people are locked inside their homes. We are allowed out once per day.

I won’t bore you, dear reader. There is little less respirating than a Millennial prattling on about how “life will never be the same.” Piffle. A delivery man with a pipe-yellowed grin cradles French wine to my door. Another deposits literature. There’s classic football on TV. Bricks of cigarettes loom like Stonehenge. For me, at least, this is not the Tet Offensive.

For millions of others, however, the precarity drums an ominous din. Already, hundreds of families have lost a loved one. Our best hope in the UK is to escape this with under 20,000 deaths.

Yet, in times of crisis, true colors emerge. The Red Tory government announced last week a slew of measures. Workers will get 80 percent of their wages. Businesses have £350 billion (around $426 billion) in grants and tax cuts, to buoy them through.

Remarkably, half a million people signed up to Boris Johnson’s call for volunteers to help the NHS “flatten the curve.” He hoped for 250,000. Clearly, there is such a thing as society.

Perhaps, better news is slow to cross the Atlantic. Indeed, more than 3.3 million Americans filed last week for unemployment. An extraordinary figure tempered only by extraordinary circumstance. And not taken into account is the stimulus package. Painful, not yet permanent.

Doubtless, a figure some would like to make permanent. Many are eager for the Wuhan virus to ventilate their narrow interests.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whose corrosive theatrics seem to honor the improperly medicated, found the time to scotch a rescue package for ordinary Americans. After all, she’s worth millions. Why not play games with the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Americans?

Because those still beguiled by political fantasy can scent what comes next. This global crisis has furloughed identity politics. Pretend problems dissolve like snowflakes hitting the lake of real problems.

While President Trump tries to mail $1,200 checks to desperate Americans, Pelosi demands a scroll of progressive fantasies. No doubt, $1,200 to Pelosi is a mere trifle.

Never has identity politics burned so fatuous. An intellectual luxury for idle times.

Of course, they still try. Nobody cares. Ask Main Street why the president calls it the “Chinese virus,” and they’ll tell you it’s a virus that emerged from China. Ordinary people can’t afford such exotic intellectual vacations.

Many agree. President Trump’s shaky start, no doubt hampered by impeachment, has steadied into decisive calm. Sixty percent approve of his handling of the crisis. Democrats, and independents have noticed.

Which is terrible news for Pelosi and company. This time, as detractors insisted, really is the end of the Trump presidency.

Hardly. This crisis has etched “open-borders,” “free trade,” “off-shoring,” into the post-Corona dictionary of folly. This crisis too shall pass.

China knows this, hence the risible attempt to blame America. Their left-wing American cheerleaders remain desperate to derail the president’s command. Think about that. They would rather thousands of American deaths amid the ruins of a new Great Depression than witness the president inoculate Americans against total ruin.

I suspect most can see that for what it is and in November, once this is history, will vote accordingly.

Yet a Great Depression will soon announce itself. Democrats will find their party has tested positive for a hapless, yet benign ailment named Joe Biden. And the Chinese government will vaccinate itself against the truth.

About Christopher Gage

Christopher Gage is a British political journalist.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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