A Problem on the Horizon for Virus Alarmists?

One of the most interesting trends in coronavirus propaganda since the virus hit North America — or rather, since it hit an American news media desperate for a new political strategy for defeating Donald Trump, if we are to be perfectly honest — is the frequent appearance of “shock” stories about celebrities testing positive for the virus. 

First it was Sophie GrĂ©goire (Trudeau), then actor Tom Hanks and his wife, then some other famous person (sorry, I don’t follow such things) named Idris Elba, then a couple of U.S. congressmen, and so on. Today, I see a staffer for Vice President Pence has tested positive. 

At first glance, it is obvious that the U.S. media is exploiting these celebrity positives to push the alarmism. “Oh my god, even the rich and powerful are being felled by The Dreaded Pandemic of Doom.” You might notice, however, that after the initial thrill over each new celebrity victim, the story quickly dies down until the next celebrity tests positive. 

Why is that? The answer is simple: These stories die down quickly because the celebrities involved are not dying down quickly. On the contrary, they are sending out messages and videos to their fans and well-wishers, talking about feeling a little low but otherwise fine, as would be normal in any mild case of the flu. Because that is essentially what they have.

See the problem? Let me spell it out, in two clearly defined points.

First, the more public figures from all walks of celebrity life test positive for this virus, the harder it becomes to maintain the fantasy that locking down entire states will stop the thing from getting around. It has already gotten around, very widely. Forrest Gump has it, for gosh sakes!

Second, and even more strikingly, the media’s and government’s propagandistic defense of instituting tyranny as “the only way” to stop this deadly disease will be weakened to the point of absurdity every time a famous person is found to have contracted it, suffered very little from it, and then easily recovered from it. That is, the propagandists are counting on the appeal of fear to trump the appeal of reason, common sense, recorded facts, and the love of freedom. But where facts and common sense speak against alarmism, sustaining public fear requires the maintenance of a sense of abstract terror of the unknown. Every beloved actor, prime minister’s wife, singer, congressman, or sports star who gets this virus and easily recovers from it, without any matching celebrity death stories to offset these awkward optics of non-tragedy, undermines the hoped-for abstract fear with the balm of concrete reassurance.

Eventually, at least in theory, it will get increasingly difficult to see, from a reality TV fan’s (i.e., American’s) point of view, why this virus warrants the suspension of liberty.

Or at least that’s what I would believe if I were a little drunk. Since I don’t drink, I’m stuck with the sober reality that all facts — even reality TV facts, celebrity facts — aside, if the government says, “We need to confiscate your soul today, for your own good of course,” 99.9 percent of Americans will fall to the ground immediately and cry, “Oh, thank you, my lord and savior, Government!”

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