Dismounting the COVID Tiger

Riding fear of COVID-19, our oligarchs persuaded millions of Americans to join in masked pantomime, to deliver themselves to something like house arrest, and to blame Donald Trump for their troubles. But as much as the oligarchs enjoyed COVID powers and dreamt of segueing them into a “new normal,” they knew that America could not be locked down forever.

They especially knew, were they to unseat Trump and become responsible for the country, their charges that he had failed to stop the pandemic would come back to haunt them. “Why can’t you stop it?” would be the natural question they would have to face as the virus did what airborne viruses do: spread. Hence, after January 20, dismounting the COVID tiger, albeit gingerly, became the order of the day.

And so it happened, on January 22, Joe Biden spoke the truth: nothing that anyone could do can alter the trajectory of the virus’ spread. 

A few grumbles notwithstanding, there was silence from very same media and “experts” who had accused Trump of responsibility for hundreds of thousands of deaths because he had not implemented a nationwide test-trace-and-quarantine system. The futility of such measures in preventing an infectious disease from running its course once it has entered a population was as obvious in 2020 as in 2021. But then, denying it served the oligarchy’s prosecution. Affirming it now serves its defense.

Already on January 16, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that his state could not wait to reopen until herd immunity had been reached naturally or through a vaccine, because “If we wait, there will be nothing left to open.” 

Across the country, some of the Democratic mayors and governors who had most vigorously imposed COVID-19 restrictions hastened to remove them, even though the number of “cases” is higher than it was in April. By the third week of January, California Governor Gavin Newsom revoked his December stay-at-home order along with a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew he had imposed in the face of rising case numbers. One reason for Newsom’s move may be the fact that just over 1 million Californians have signed a petition to force a recall election.

But there is a larger reason why the ruling class seems intent on distancing itself from responsibility for the COVID restrictions. The oligarchs and their press agents had argued the COVID troubles were 100 percent Trump’s fault, and defeating him would alleviate them. Preserving the lockdowns is unsustainable politically. But lifting the restrictions in the apparent face of rising cases risks uncovering the fact that COVID was less a plague than a political ploy. To repeat President Biden’s true statement of how little government can do with regard to COVID is an indictment of the entire oligarchy’s conduct since March. It exposes that conduct as political predation with deadly consequences for millions. Hence, dismounting the COVID tiger in a way that preserves the powers it gained for the oligarchy requires some prestidigitation. 

Fortunately for the oligarchy, there is a way of making sure that each lightening of restrictions dovetails nicely with a drop in the number of “cases.” How is that? Because vaccines notwithstanding, the “softness,” the very plasticity of the number by which the oligarchy scared the hell out of America in 2020, makes it possible, presto magico, gradually to ease the fear. 

In April, I explained in these pages how changing definitions of the term “case” made it possible to substitute the oligarchy’s agenda for COVID’s reality in the minds of Americans. The same dishonest process can be used in reverse.

The reality is that we do not know how many people have been infected with COVID-19, and the standard PRC test only muddies the waters. On Inauguration Day, the World Health Organization, after consultation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, issued a two-part directive intended to reduce the number of what it calls “false positive” COVID cases that clarifies only the corrupt political nature of everything surrounding the pandemic.

Throughout 2020, doctors and hospitals had been encouraged—if not pressured—to label as COVID any set of symptoms that looked remotely like it (explaining why cases of influenza almost disappeared from the United States last year). Now the WHO asked them to make sure that in order for a case to be labeled COVID, symptoms must also match positive results of the standard PCR test. 

Simultaneously, the WHO strongly suggested that those who administer the PCR test reduce the number of cycles through which samples are processed. Through 2020, most jurisdictions in America had run samples through 40 cycles. Running that many cycles radically increases the chances of a positive result. This not only inflated the number of “cases,” but it also attributed hospitalizations to COVID-19 rather than to other causes. It led to patients being treated as if they had COVID rather than for what really ailed them, and attributing deaths to COVID that in fact were not. 

The new guidance guarantees that, in the coming months, the number of “cases” will drop. The oligarchy will credit the reduction to its wise management. Loosening its grip gradually, it will claim benevolence and prudence. By thus dismounting the COVID tiger, it will try to validate the harm it did over the previous year.

There being nothing especially artful about this stratagem, and most Americans not being utterly stupid, its success depends exclusively on the media’s near-unanimous complicity in it. That unanimity, however, may be getting harder to maintain. Not only is the binding objective—getting rid of Trump—no longer there, documents are surfacing that show the material complicity between Anthony Fauci, the oligarchy’s fountain of authority in all matters COVID-19, and the development of the virus itself. Covering for that level of professional incompetence and corruption may be a bridge too far, even for today’s media.

 

About Angelo Codevilla

Angelo M. Codevilla is professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace (Hoover Institution Press, 2014).

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

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