by Armando Simón (June 2021)
Aggressor, Philip Guston, 1978
There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true. —Kierkegaard
It has been both my professional and personal observation that a particularly strong emotion tends to cement a belief, even when it is contrary to reason, logic, or facts. If (for whatever reason) I am of the deep belief that Kyoto is the capital of Japan, but you bring me a map showing Tokyo to be the capital and show me newspapers and articles referring to Tokyo as the capital, or tell me of people who have been to both cities, I will nonetheless still believe that Kyoto is the real capital of Japan—and refuse to see the contrary facts. Period.
My father adhered to a conspiracy theory and while I was in my teen and twenties, we would occasionally argue about it. I cited facts, used reason and logic, and almost always he ended up sincerely admitting that I was right in the end. The next day, he would be back at square one, as if the previous debate had never happened. In the end, I simply gave up and let him enjoy his belief.
Likewise, I have known women whose boyfriends or husbands were constantly unfaithful and/or abusive, even stole from them, yet were convinced that those men loved them, despite reality.
And, many years ago, religious adults came to believe that the role-playing game of Dungeons & Dragons was Satanic. When told otherwise, they refused to believe it and would scurry away when invited to simply sit in in one of the games.
And to this day, there are people who still are absolutely certain that Richard Jewell was the Atlanta bomber, even though there was no evidence and the real bomber was caught and confessed.
Another example: videos showed that Nick Sandmann, the Covington high schooler had done nothing wrong and was actually the one being harassed by Chief Drunken Beaver and a group of psychotic black people who hurled obscene insults at both the children and a handful of Native Americans. Yet, for days after the revelation, the boy was still being showered with abuse, threats and harassment. Not only that, but now, years after the facts, the same is still going around with individuals who still fervently believe that he was the guilty party.
I, also, am guilty of this. For decades, I was certain that looking into the microwave oven while it cooked food would result in physical damage, particularly to my eyes. It made complete sense that the escaping microwaves would cause blindness. The fact that the microwave oven had a window in which you could look at the food being cooked which window would not be there because of the number of lawsuits resulting from cases of blindness, I acknowledged but, nonetheless, continued in my aversion, which I strictly enforced on my children. Recently, I read an article by a scientist disproving my belief. Yet, even now, I refuse to look at food being microwaved in the oven for longer than a second, two seconds at most.
One issue that always elicits strong knee-jerk emotion in some people is the question of racism. There have been numerous instances in universities where white supremacist-racist-Nazi-anti-Semitic kitsch was found that turned out to have been placed not by Nazis in colleges but by black students. Nonetheless, even after the hoaxes being discovered, numerous students and staff continued mouthing anti-racist apologies, marching around in circles chanting the usual moronic slogans, and promising to do better to combat racism in universities.
Mark Twain’s quip that “No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot” was off the mark in emphasizing a person’s intelligence as the reason for not willing to change an opinion. It is intense emotion (anger, love, fear) that solidifies a belief in a person.
Which brings us to the present. Be prepared to experience cognitive dissonance. But, first, I must inform the reader that I regularly read the news given from the full political spectrum: liberal, conservative, libertarian, neutral (consider this a trigger warning).
Anyone who can still think for himself knows that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a big fiasco. The politicians and the media instituted a panic. Yet, the 65 million / 11 million / 2.2 million deaths that we were promised were going to happen never did happen. The masks that we were told would stop infection were/are useless and served only to enforce conformity. The number of fatalities attributed to the virus was exaggerated to the point that deaths from traffic accidents and gunshots were put down as deaths from coviddied from other physical ailments, but their blood had antibodies for the virus were registered as dying from covid as opposed to dying with covid. A report from National Vital Statistics System March 24, 2020 states: “COVID-19 should be reported on the death certificate for all decedents where the disease caused or is assumed to have caused or contributed to death.” “Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike has been the calm, yet commanding voice we’ve needed over the year,” while NBC Today declared “Dr. Azike (sic) is Superwoman” (this profuse adulation is one that is typically bestowed on any black person in position of responsibility, particularly if the person adopts an African-sounding name. It is almost mandatory). She is the same person who stated, with a straight face that, “If you were in hospice and had already been given a few weeks to live, and then you also were found to have COVID, that would be counted as a COVID death. It means technically even if you died of a clear alternate cause, but you had COVID at the same time, it’s still listed as a COVID death.”
It is now past one year after “the 6-week lockdown to slow the spread” was imposed in the US. States and countries (such as Japan, Taiwan, and Sweden) that did not impose a lockdown, or lifted the lockdowns early, did not have a greater incidence of cases or deaths. Although this was realized early on—the numerical data was in—the lockdowns nevertheless remained and woe to anyone who did not conform! Authorities suppressed unfavorable facts. And journalists played right along, the miniscule doubters too cowed to risk their livelihood. Many people died from other illnesses that could have been treated but had been so scared by the media and the authorities that they refused to go to what they falsely thought were hospitals overflowing out the windows with covid patients.
In Germany, an attorney who was against lockdowns was put in a psychiatric hospital and a judge who ruled against children being forced to wear masks, based on scientific merits, had his house and car ransacked afterwards by security police. Meanwhile, health experts in Spain mandated that masks should be worn while swimming at the beach, and if you think that that is reasonable, then you are too far gone.
Here is an embarrassing bit of information. According to Drs. Richards, Axe and Briggs, writing in The Price of Panic, the mantra of “social distancing” was the brainchild of a 14-year-old high school girl; it went against the advice of an experienced epidemiologist, but was instantly accepted and put in place. Recently, the CDC changed the 6-feet social distance mantra to the new, improved, 3-feet social distance.
Throughout the epidemic, Dr. Fauci and the CDC have been sanctified by the media as being the source of all wisdom when it came to the epidemic whose words had to be rigidly obeyed. Yet, they changed their minds on an almost weekly basis, and continue to do so to this very day. It got to the point that even Dr. Deborah Birx said, “There is nothing from the CDC that I can trust.” And Dr. Sanjay Gupta recently stated on CNN, “I think for a long time, the concern was the CDC was providing guidance at the beginning of the pandemic that was not scientifically based. And as a result, we didn’t do things that we should have done in this country that could have greatly mitigated what has happened here. And now I think it’s almost a little bit of the reverse problem. The science is not necessarily being followed to the same extent. And as a result, we’re probably doing things that we don’t need to be doing. So, in the end, the CDC needs to be just a science-based organization. What does the science say? You don’t need to wear a mask outside. It’s just one of these things that, again, we’ve known this for some time.” Drs. Birx and Gupta are not the only ones disgusted with the CDC’s ineptitude.
That the supposed virulence of the virus had been greatly inflated had become patently obvious by the end of May of last year. In fact, all of the above had become obvious by May 2020 (which I pointed out), as well as the fact that the survival rate was 99.08% but because the authorities and the media had created such a panic, and inflated deaths kept being repeated, lockdowns and enforced masking continued as vast numbers of the population were petrified with fear who refused to consider contradictory data, refused to listen to physicians who pointed out the obvious (my daughter is one of these people who becomes exasperated anytime I point to data or reports that indicate the pandemic is not as bad as it has been made out to be, and refuses to see it; even after receiving a vaccine, she still wears a mask in public). In fact, many persons have become enraged when confronted with evidence or professionals contradicting the panic. They also become indignant when states (particularly Florida and Texas) end the lockdowns, persons open up their businesses, or individuals refuse to conform by not wearing masks (in Arizona even after the governor canceled the hated mask mandate, local school bureaucrats insisted on it). The attack on Florida’s governor, using the trope “war on science” took a particular bizarre turn when the media went on a binge glorifying one Rebekah Jones, a lunatic who accused the governor of falsifying scientific data in order to relax the lockdowns. She recently admitted the hoax. The network news ignored the admission.
When large groups of people congregated for an event, such as a holiday, the journalists repeatedly condemned such gatherings as “superspreader” events, though no “superspreading” took place afterwards. Ask yourself this question: of all of the mass groupings of people, be they at parties, at clubs, at riots, at rallies, that have been hysterically denounced, how many tens of thousands dropped dead right afterwards? And how many thousands, or even hundreds, of people have you yourself seen drop dead on the streets from the virus?
Some physicians who voiced differing medical opinions (that’s right: medical opinions) on the subject were treated with insults, scorn, physical threats and censorship, with one physician being fired from her 20-year job simply for voicing a medical opinion (others have been similarly retaliated against) and one had his license revoked. YouTube became famously notorious in frantically censoring these physicians’ reports, especially those of Drs. Erickson and Massihi, in what was tantamount to a game of Wack-A-Mole. Incidentally, if the reader listens to that conference, one can note the calm report of these two physicians contrasted with the hostile tone of the journalists covering the event. And very recently, the CDC fired Dr. Martin Kulldorff for voicing views it adopted a few days later. What is particularly galling is that those persons and authorities parroting the slogan “Follow the science” like NPCs have trampled science underfoot, since it is axiomatic in science to question everything, doubt everything, demand incontrovertible proof of any assertion and, in medicine, ask for second opinions. Censorship of facts and contradictory opinions by YouTube, Facebook and television networks continue unapologetically. Recent scientific studies have shown that wearing face masks are harmful, while numerous studies have shown that outdoor transmission of the virus is practically nil, yet the media deliberately ignores science. And, again, woe to anyone who truly follows the science.
Ask yourself this question: has any network bothered to interview any of these medical dissenters at length? Or at all? And, for that matter, as one lone journalist wondered, why has no media outlet explored the true origin of the virus? Why has not one network done a story on the Great Barrington Declaration (whose website is periodically attacked)? That should give you a clue that something’s not right.
And were you one of those people whose fear of the pandemic increased by bingeing on Hollywood’s pandemic movies which are designed to instill terror? (and we all know how scientifically accurate Hollywood tries to be)
Recently, even now, one year after the 6-week effort “to flatten the curve,” the governor of Texas, and Mississippi finally lifted mask and other restrictions and were showered with abuse. Nonetheless, a domino effect has taken place as more people are fed up (these protest songs are circulating: (“As I Walked Out,” “Lockdown,” “Take This Mask and Shove it!”). The intense emotion of fear and panic solidified the belief of the con (I’m talking as a psychologist here: It would be a great psychological research study to see what type of people fervently adhered to the pandemic porn and who were skeptical), which is why people to this day believe in the hyped panic.
Meanwhile, even now, some authorities insist that the lockdowns and the masks and all the other restrictions on basic freedoms should go on. And on. And on. And on. And on. And on.
What we have also seen is that the police will carry out oppressive orders, no matter how stupid, or how unjust the rules and regulations, or how illegal because, hey, they “are just following orders.”
Part of the problem is that, as bizarre as it sounds, the epidemic became politicized early on, due to the present toxic atmosphere in society, so that even the CDC became politicized. This means that the emotions of hate and anger were heaped on top of fear and panic. I will elaborate on this, but here I must remind the reader that I regularly read the news given from the full political spectrum, liberal, conservative, libertarian, neutral. I repeat this warning because a large section of the population fervently believes that the news and viewpoints being put out by one side should be and must be ignored, that anyone who reads/listens to them belong to the legion of the damned, that the best way to deal with such news and views is to shut our eyes as tightly as possible and stop up our ears. And it is precisely this rigidly dogmatic attitude that made a bad situation so much worse with the pandemic. Thus, when I point out that Group A got it right on the issue of the pandemic, that is a fact whether Group B likes it or not, but, does not mean that Group A is right on other political and social issues. I fully understand that if the reader belongs to Group B, because of strong emotions, he/she will automatically dismiss any credit given to Group A and will, furthermore, become hostile to this writer. Here, for example, is a typical eloquent response of one Paul Goldner, an educator from Newbury, Massachusetts, when somebody asked him about hopefully reopening school:
“Yes you’re [sic] fucking asshole of a president lied to you and so now you don’t fucking believe that people are dying at a rate that surpasses 9/11 on a daily basis, and this was fucking preventable. But the number of deaths is reconstructible about 7 fucking ways but fucking morons won’t believe that, yes, people are fucking dying. And so more people die. Fuck you for killing people.”
This vomit of hatred directed at persons who are nonconformists is very typical. It can be seen, again, in Nicole Griggs, a teacher from Steinert High School in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, who shrieked at teenagers listening to music in a deserted park, “You are the reason that we are in this situation! You’re the problem, not the solution! But die! OK? I hope both of you get the coronavirus! I hope you both die a long, painful death!” She herself was out, breaking lockdown, walking her dog.
Another wonderful teacher (looking like a walrus) screams insults a student for not wearing a mask while eating, even though he had the vaccine, which begs the question: why get vaccinated? The same question can be asked of media-created celebrity David Hogg who stated that even though he got the vaccine, he would continue to wear a mask so no one would mistake him for a conservative; he voiced what most people have known all along: that wearing masks—even now, when it goes against public-health guidelines—is an expression of political identity and conformity (but this individual does one better: he insists on constantly wearing the mask, even during sex, and both he and his wife have been vaccinated).
Three coeds from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst were off-campus and had a picture taken. They did not have masks on. A snitch sent it to the university administrators and the students were suspended (the university graciously kept the tuition money).
A school bus driver slapped a little girl when she refused to put on a mask.
And lastly, there is the case of two maskless men peacefully talking to each other while having lunch in a bench in the open air, with no one around them, and a masked couple walks by. After objecting to their not wearing masks, the female throws hot coffee in the face of one. And feels very self-righteous about it.
I, myself, was accosted at a convenience store by another customer who ordered me to wear a mask. I simply said “No.” He began insulting me and I returned the insults, at which point I suggested that we take it outside. He declined, though he kept mouthing off, which I reciprocated.
These incidents are far from rare. A journalist named Kurt Eichenwald wanted to find anti-maskers and beat them to death, while a doctor proclaimed that persons not wearing a mask should be seen as enemy combatant, which led to one reader exclaim, “Dear Lord, what has happened to us?” In other countries, retributions against those who doubt or do not obey their overlords is swift and harsh. As can be seen, reactions against nonconformists tend to be hysterical. In California, someone in authority even tried to get the National Guard air branch activated against anti-lockdown protesters!
Look at the Gallup poll of beliefs on covid by both Republicans and Democrats compared to actual recorded facts. Democrats are by far more out of touch with reality (i.e., facts, data) than their counterparts. Poll after poll have revealed that Democrats fervently embraced the hysterics as opposed to independents and conservatives.
From personal experience, I can testify that it is impossible to have a calm, rational, debate with someone who has embraced the panic with gusto, the type of individual that wears a mask inside a car with the windows up, or who still wears a mask after having been vaccinated. Either they repeat the mantra, over and over and over like an NPC, without listening to any data or logic that is presented, or, they will go into hysterics and scream obscenities, insults and threats.
It may stick in one’s craw to admit it, but the undeniable fact is that the conservatives got it right and the rest did not, and not only that, but the rest REFUSE to admit it and REFUSE to look at the data (which brings to mind Galileo and his visitors), even while arrogantly parroting the phrase “Follow the science,” as if they had a monopoly on science. Such is the effect of strong emotion on reasoning. And arrogance.
These, then, are the facts: 1) Not only did lockdowns not help cut down the spread of the virus, the lockdowns actually caused deaths from other causes, not to mention the economic and emotional suffering. 2) Being in large groups were not superspreaders—no mass casualties resulted 3) Schools should never have closed since almost all children had an innate immunity. Studies have shown that school closures were political. 4) Masks were useless. 5) Being outside in the open air was healthier than being enclosed. 6) Social distance was useless. And a joke. 7) Politicians—particular Democrats—went on a power trip. (note the Freudian slip here) Criminalization of freedom is a small price to pay, they said. It’s all for our own good, they said. Typically arrogant was Dr. Leana Wen in CNN, “How are we going to incentivize people to actually get the vaccine? So that’s why the CDC and the Biden administration needs to come out a lot bolder and say, ‘If you’re vaccinated, you can do all these things, here are all these freedoms that you [can] have.’ Because otherwise people are going to go out and enjoy these freedoms anyway.” (And some wonder why many people get their backs arched up when they hear words like this, with the underlying assumptions!)
There is a relevant tangent that I wish to bring up, namely, that our overlords did not really believe in the pandemic’s virulence, even as they fanned the emotions of fear and panic in the population. California-in-Texas Austin mayor Steve Adler urged the city’s residents to stay home to avoid spreading the virus—while partying in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and then later went on to Denmark. Los Angeles’ Supervisor Sheila Kuehl voted to ban outdoor dining, then right afterwards went dining to an outdoor restaurant. Dr. Deborah Birx urged people not to celebrate Thanksgiving, which could become a superspreader event, then traveled state lines to celebrate Thanksgiving; likewise, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo broke quarantine for Thanksgiving, as did Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. In New Year’s Eve, New York City Mayor de Blasio told everyone to stay home and not be out, then went dancing with his wife in Times Square. Equally beloved California Governor Gavin Newsom was caught dining at a supposedly closed restaurant with comedian George Lopez; Newsom’s office claimed that he did not eat there, just inhaled the smell of food; he then traveled to a Napa, super-expensive restaurant to dine in. Not to be outdone, San Francisco mayor London Breed did the same. An owner of a restaurant had to shut down but a Hollywood catering event was allowed—fifty feet away. Biden signed an order that everyone on federal property must wear masks; White House press secretary Jen Psaki and John Kerry does not, nor does Kerry wear a mask in planes while others have to. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told her subjects to stay home to avoid spreading the virus—then went to Washington DC. Twenty California lawmakers traveled to Hawaii at taxpayers’ expense. Los Angeles teachers’ union, which has been screaming against going back to school while they get paid because it is too dangerous, warned its members not to display their stories and photos of trips that they took on spring break. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney traveled everywhere he felt while advocating not traveling. Prof Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist who created the computer model predicting 2.2 million dead was found breaking quarantine/lockdown to hook up with a married woman. And while most of them owned up to their actions and gave perfunctory apologies or excuses, at least one flat out lied about it.
I could continue, since there are many other similarly hypocritical examples, but three points need to be made: (1) with the exception of Ferguson, they are all Democrats (2) the national conservative news outlets have been the ones breaking the stories (including the one involving Cuomo and the nursing homes deaths) (3) there has been no outrage from the national television newscasts, something which has been noted by nonpartisan news agencies, though the news media has been lambasting people for not adhering to the guidelines.
Apparently, it will be years before we get the full, accurate, picture of this pandemic. But one thing is clear and it was best said (written, actually) by Drs. Martin Kulldorff and Jay Bhattacharya were scathing in calling the mask & lockdown pseudoscience the “biggest public health fiasco in history.”
The good news is that some truly good satire has come out of this absurd scenario. The bad news is that real life is equally absurd.
In summary, strong emotions, particularly those of fear and panic, tend to solidify beliefs, no matter how much those beliefs contradict reality or logic. Just as obvious is the emotion of anger and hate when confronted with facts that contradict the beliefs, thereby solidifying further those beliefs. In the case of the Wuhan virus, there is a stubborn resistance that what doesn’t work should continue to be implemented. “For the last year, anyone questioning let alone rejecting CDC/WHO guidance on COVID was vilified as an anti-science crank, to the point of being censored off the internet,” tweeted heterodox liberal Glenn Greenwald. “Yet it’s now totally common for liberals with no scientific training to go on TV & reject new CDC guidance.”
In the case of covid, there is additional anger against those who do not conform, who defy the herd, or whose politics are assumed to be the enemy. And these strong emotions further solidify the beliefs.
Which, once again, brings to mind Mark Twain: “It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”
One last question: if you say you don’t believe everything that the media tells you, why are you still wearing a mask?
Armando Simón is a retired psychologist who has published several fiction books and stage plays.
Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast