why politicizing coronavirus will only make you sick or kill you

Pundits who turn every topic into a partisan contest or controversy are now doing it with a pandemic. It's a stupid game and the only prizes are a nasty illness or a painful death.
coronavirus 3d model
Image by NEXU Science Communication

Across the English-speaking world, partisan pundits are playing the same awful game they’ve been playing for the last three decades, unable to realize when it’s time to stop. This is in no small part why something as simple as social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has become a partisan charade in which many moderates and liberals are trying to stay clear of others and apply sanitizer as much as possible while conservatives demonstratively flaunt the guidelines in a display that could easily be mistaken for a manifestation of severe oppositional defiant disorder. In fact, some are very publicly and actively going out of their way to defy stay-at-home orders and pleas from healthcare workers and experts.

But that’s just the tip of the excrement iceberg now towering over the deck. President Trump, who tried to pretend that the crisis wasn’t happening for months, quickly grew infuriated with pictures of empty streets, airports, and offices making “his beautiful economy” look bad and tried to more or less order Americans back out into the streets to work and consume. His allies and like-minded right wing demagogues in Canada quickly backed him up with rhetoric which painted the ill, elderly, and anyone else who succumbs to coronavirus as acceptable sacrifices at the altar to the gods of the stock market, sounding less like TV personalities and more like cult leaders demanding we drink poison so they can ascend to investment heaven.

Even more alarming and disgusting, are his recent efforts to send new rapid tests for COVID-19 to rural GOP states a great deal of his voter base calls home instead of the blue states and cities that actually need them. In short, not only do Trump and his swarm of toadies, yes men, and Stepford wives view their fellow Americans as lesser humans, they’re willing and happy to let those who disagree with them suffer and possibly die as punishment for failing to give them the adoration they believe they deserve. Meanwhile, foreign governments and pundits are flooding social media with conspiracy theories and propaganda designed to exploit the political void left by a global powers that decided their own people were their worst enemies.

play stupid games, win stupid prizes

Here’s the problem with partisan posturing on coronavirus, or to use its scientific name, SARS-CoV-2. As a coiled strand of RNA in a spiky shell of proteins, the amount of fucks it gives about your opinion on government debt, carbon taxes, or political affiliation is precisely zero. You’re not going to invite it in for a beer and a long chat and sway its mind on immigration or political correctness. It doesn’t have a mind. Hell, it’s not even alive in a traditional sense. Its parasitic biochemistry to which you’re nothing more than a vast surface on which to latch on and try to reproduce as quickly as possible. Who you voted for in the last election matters to it about as much as the exact position of Russel’s teapot does to you.

All those high fiving and patting each other on the back for “seeing through liberal hysteria” or thinking they’re smarter than epidemiologists in their ridiculous attempts at modeling how the virus will spread or how to treat it, or “being woke to the globalist conspiracy to take over the world under the cover of a bioweapon” unlike the expert-listening, staying-at-home sheeple, are little more than COVID-19’s next spawning ground. Their only accomplishment is in making themselves feel better by confirming their longstanding worldviews and biases, ones that nature is physically incapable of caring about, which is why their only reward will be becoming victims of forces they’re going out of their way not to understand.

It’s at this point that I would call on pundits and demagogues turning this crisis into a partisan and geopolitical blame game to hang their heads in shame, but we all know that they’re no longer capable of that and lashing out at those who point out their egregious behavior while doubling down on it is their new drug of choice. And because there’s nothing they’re not willing to crassly politicize, we’re failing to do something as simple as unite against a common threat that has no geopolitical or even human affiliation and should be a no-brainer to fight with our combined resources and wits. Instead, we get narcissists and cretins posturing in the middle of a pandemic leaving tens of thousands of their citizens dead in the wake of its warmup act.

the shameful revelation of this pandemic

It feels surreal to have to write an article telling people that a virus, a virus for the sake of Yog Sothoth’s rashy fifth testicle, is not something to which your response should depend on your party preference or political orientation. Yet here we are in no small part because the world we’ve built for ourselves over the last 40 years has become objectively awful, an always on factory worried solely about growth and production for the sake of growth and production, designed to extract value and channel ever more of it into select pockets. And if that stream of money ever stops growing, much less declines, men in suits have a hysterical meltdown on international TV and demand we treat their account balances as our top priority.

People tired of quantity over quality are, of course, feeling powerless and undergoing a lot of stress. Unfortunately, that stress has revealed that a lot of those affected by the painful and protracted transition of the modern world into the post-industrial age by incompetent leaders may very well be just bad people at their core. Instead of coming together and advocating for systems that work and take changes in technology, culture, and the environment into account, and demand new productive directions to apply human ingenuity and talents, they spend their days in fanatical pissing matches with those who disagree on literally anything, openly gloat at the thought of their political opponents suffering, and hoard all the toilet paper in a crisis.

Sure, we can pile on China for handling the emergence and containment of the coronavirus poorly, and continually lying about it. If its government actually cared about helping its people and the world instead of saving Uncle Xi’s face, it could have reduced global cases we see today by some 95% and they should absolutely be taken to task for that. But how does repeating that China lied and continues to lie about its coronavirus cases help get healthcare workers missing protective equipment? How does it help get us new tests and get more people tested so we’re not using the blunt measure of social distancing with all its attendant economic costs? At some point, you have to stop looking for scapegoats and start solving the problem.

we have to fight the virus, not each other

While in many parts of the world people don’t get much of a choice who leads their country, and some have lost that ability due to their awful choices, surrendering to conspiracies and fear, those of us still electing our governments get the leaders we deserve. The current crop of simpletons, grandstanders, and lunatics we’ve elected should really say something profound and unnerving about us, mainly that we’re in the mess than we’re in because we enable and empower bad people to do stupid things, have nauseatingly low standards for our politicians and leaders, refuse to take responsibility for our shitty actions, and eagerly let leaders who refuse to lead or fail at it repeatedly pit us against each other to stay in office.

Of course, COVID-19 doesn’t care about any of that. It will kill you just the same. But it’s going to do it much faster and easier with egomaniacal morons, poster children for upwards failure, and their demonstratively defiant, contrarian fan clubs in charge of the response to it than skilled experts, truly empathetic leaders, and citizens who demand long-term, big-picture thinking, competence and accountability at the ballot box. Our economies, jobs, and entire governments are just abstract constructs we developed to organize our lives. They’re not immutable laws of nature and we can and should change them when they no longer work for us and throw out the bums who broke them while we’re at it.

# health // coronavirus / epidemiology / partisan politics


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