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If you want to see who missed the boat on the coronavirus, don't look at me. Look at everyone.
Especially the experts.
First, let's talk about those who told us to go about our daily lives, and not to panic.
They were wrong, but, with good intentions. They thought it was for our own good, to lie to us.
They knew this virus was bad news, but doctors are trained in giving bad news, so the bad doesn't create more bad.
Being in panic mode makes you less likely to focus on important information.
To use a clumsy analogy, America is the patient, and the experts had to give bad news to America, without freaking it out.
The diagnosis: You're gonna get sick.
And part of you isn't gonna make it.
Hopefully, you will lose no more than a toe. But it could be more.
Initially, this was a highly contagious, deadly disease with no therapeutics in sight.
No vaccine. no drugs – and what's just as bad: no real information to soothe our itching curiosity.
China wasn't forthcoming.
To use another clumsy analogy ... China and its Wuhan virus are like the guy at a bar who keeps saying that pulsing thing on his lip isn't a sore.
So experts had bad news for "Patient America."
And they relied on their experience as deliverers of bad news.
When you give it, you have to deliver it in a way that reduces the panic. Panic leads to fear, which leads to hopelessness, hoarding, then savagery.
This is why the medical experts did not level with us on a few things. In the back of their minds, they saw us as dumb animals – incapable of facing a pandemic head on.
To buy everyone time – so hopefully, we might become psychologically ready – they said a few things that were false.
Those things were:
- live your life as normal, because the disease isn't here
- there's no need for you to wear a mask – heck, that could make matters worse
- priorities, people: the flu kills more, yearly.
These were not mean-spirited lies, or even cover-your-ass lies – they were simply well-meaning responses that the future proved misguided.
Let's tackle each error.
First, telling people to live life normally – a suggestion not just from Andrew Cuomo, Bill de Blasio, but top doctors too, early on – was a soothing line designed to keep a population stable, while the experts figure out the plan when the crap does hit the fan. It was meant to buy time.
Maybe they felt that panic will only make our response worse, as the true reality sets in. For me – I'm not sure that's a good strategy.
I was panicking early on. And I think my panicking helped. I went on “The Five” and said, "Shut down travel!! Now!!"
I wouldn't have done that if I wasn't panicked. And remember, I'm a skeptic in general.
So while their deflection is understandable – maybe we could have benefited from a little panic. Not a lot, but a little.
A little panic might have prevented New York from placing the sick and contagious among the vulnerable in rest homes. Which led to an increase in deaths.
As for experts telling you that there was no proof masks help you reduce transmission? That claim, on its face (no pun), makes little sense.
Why the hell do people wear them in hospitals? It’s such an absurd lie, I have to ask: why tell it?
Well, the experts operated on a sufficiently plausible belief that if you or I were wearing a mask it would mean fewer masks for nurses or caregivers.
I accepted that lie completely. They also said that we – the United Republic of Morons – wouldn’t know how to use a mask effectively. Which is hilarious: given that even a dolt like me can operate a car and an electric toothbrush.
We know masks reduce transmission. After all, you cover your mouth with your arm (not the hand!) when you cough or sneeze. Any obstacle, even one with a high fallibility rate of prevention, creates some friction between your action (a cough) and a consequence (droplets ending up on your friend).
Even a crappy fence is better than no fence (a burglar loses time and effort navigating that fence). It's the same thing with masks and viruses.
Doctors and nurses don't wear masks because it's Halloween. Barriers work.
Problem was, no one could get masks in mass quantities. We don't need millions, we really need billions.
We didn't have that. The experts didn't want to tap that resource out. So they told us we didn't need them.
Now we realize that masks were needed, and could have cut viral transmission.
If the experts had leveled with us, and said, “You know what, we don’t have enough masks for you guys; We need them for health workers. Meanwhile, try making one of your own, something reusable. There are YouTube videos that show you how to make one yourself.”
If an expert has said that in January, perhaps May would look a whole lot better.
But hindsight is 2020, and most people who engage in it are hind-minds. Meaning, they have their heads up their asses until it’s safe for them to blame someone they hate.
I’ve noticed this a lot, and it prompted me to come up with “Gutfeld’s Law,” which states: “If you’ve offered no advice on how to deal with an oncoming problem, you lose your spot at the table for discussion when the problem hits.”
It’s easy to condemn people for wanting to go back to work, when you’re working, and don’t feel the need to say when we should return.
The people who do this will look at people who offer advice on returning to work as callous monsters who want to see people die.
These amateurs belong to what’s known as “the kiddie table.” If a person cannot comprehend that every decision carries a risk, not simply a benefit – then they must not be allowed at the adult’s table.
They must be quarantined, because not only are they hindering the adults who must make such brave but routine decisions, they are cowardly too. They don’t want any skin in the game, but they want to punish you for having the guts to do what they can’t: which is, to share the risk.
When S.E. Cupp castigated Chris Christie for his sober reflection that people will die when we return to work – she was merely mimicking the infantile response of so many sheep that comprise her pathetic industry.
None of her shrill, mindless peers could say when a civilization must return to life, but they could certainly condemn you as evil, for taking the adult stand and offering a suggestion based on the facts of future suffering.
I have taken a look at all these shameless hacks who’ve called people “callous” or “grandma killers” – and I can’t find a single one who had the guts to suggest what to do next. Instead, they sit in their home studios and wag their fingers at people – especially at those who desperately want to get back to work.
Those people don’t have the luxury of a Chris Cuomo, or Cupp, or any of these like-minded clowns: meaning, a job that pays during misery.
Hence my second rule: you can’t leave the kid’s table, until you tell us what you’re willing to risk.
So back to lies: the last lie – that the flu kills more people so clearly coronavirus isn’t as big of a deal. It was also good-intentioned but misleading.
First, we’re told that the flu killed 34,000 people last year. And 60,000 the prior year. We aren’t sure how real those numbers are, but that debate is for another time.
Regardless, this rhetorical response was meant to contextualize our priorities. And there's a good reason for that.
Here's why: if you don't contextualize death and risk, you are forever paralyzed. You can never leave the house (even though people die daily in their homes – falls, poisonings, fires, choking – hence the Life Alert commercials).
But the contextualization is often taken incorrectly.
People love to compare the coronavirus to car accidents. The comparison doesn't downplay the deaths from the virus, however – instead, it reveals how humans make decisions that accept risk every day.
Cars are missiles made of metal, in which you readily place yourself and your family. These missiles are all around you – some driven by careful grandparents, texting teens or drunk a-holes.
We lose tens of thousands of loved ones a year in car accidents and have friends and loved ones permanently maimed.
Yet not only do we accept it, we love our precious death machines! Our cities are built to indulge a technology that kills 38,000 people a year.
Within that mentality is where we solve the coronavirus threat. The virus isn't a car. It's a car accident – a result of life's risks.
Car accidents taught us to manage risk. It's hard to believe that cars never had seat belts (I even own one that doesn't; it’s from 1957), but it took decades to make buckling up part of daily life.
Airbags are still only a few decades old. The coronavirus is the result of biology unleashing something novel into our world of enhanced transport. So now that it’s here, and there is no cure – we must manage risks.
If you look at that threat like the risk of auto collision – then proper and permanent hygiene adjustments become the seat belts and airbags in this daily fight against a deadly hazard.
Remember how the beeping noise in your car was there to remind you to strap yourself in? We could probably use the same idea when it comes to washing our hands, touching faces, tossing our dirty masks. I also see doorknobs disappearing, replaced with doors that require no hand involvement at all.
Of course, one way to avoid car accidents, and also the virus, is to never leave home. That’s not in the cards (unless you have a home studio and a cush job in TV).
So that's likely how we learn to live with a murderous virus – the same way we learned to live with murderous machines.
This is not a callous thought – in fact, it's the opposite. It's the adult assessment of life's risks, which then helps everyone (you and me, plus our leaders and experts) to figure out novel ways to reduce the odds of a novel virus ending our lives.
The people who keep screaming, "But people will die if you go back to work," love to ignore that people already die when they go to work, in their cars, thousands of times a year.
Last, I want to bring up an interesting phenomenon, coined by Scott Adams, called Cheryl’s Law.
It’s based on the wisdom of a restaurant server who noticed that any major change in the daily routine can essentially make business “stop.” Meaning, if you own a café, and it starts raining in the morning, you might not get a customer all day. People change their plans. But, likewise, if the weather becomes miraculously sunny and warm – then no one shows up your café either. They went to the park.
But once the “change” becomes routine, then the people return. They get used to the rain, or the heat, and start returning to their daily lives. And customers return to the café.
I noticed this in my job. At the start of the pandemic, I (along with others) repeatedly stressed the importance of unity and cooperation. Let’s put aside our petty political squabbles, we’d tell ourselves – because we have a war to fight against an invisible enemy!
And you know what? It worked!
For maybe two days.
The novelty shock of the pandemic – like a change in weather – might have been enough to quell our normal ideological, team sport beefs. But, after we got used to this new world, and the novelty wore off … others were back to our old tricks.
Liberals screamed at Trump. Trump mocked them in return. Pundits started blaming everyone for not seeing this pandemic coming … the same pundits who were binging on the impeachment miniseries, while the virus exploded.
CNN mocked people wanting to go back to work, while at least one employee violated quarantine.
The media proved Cheryl’s Law: their finger-pointing divisiveness stopped until they got bored of the novelty. Then their pettiness returned, in full force. And, you can bet, as the election nears, it will only get worse.
Finally: if there is no vaccine in the near future, and other therapies remain iffy – what's left?
Changing our behaviors, which will allow us to resume something akin to a normal functioning society.
How long will that take? Who knows?
It turns out even the experts don't.
The good news – we're learning a lot every day. Good stuff about you and me: How we handle this, how we can improve on our handling of similar crises for the future.
We see the resilience of a country, and how polarization only exists with pundits and politicians.
We're doing fine.
And we'll keep doing fine.
As long as we level with each other.
The truth hurts, but we can take it.