Minor Inconveniences

All you have to do these days is question the legitimacy of using the coercive power of government to impose one’s preferred pandemic behavior on one’s fellow men, and voilà: You stand universally accused, by members of all political tribes, of lacking compassion, or of being callous, or of not caring about the elderly, or of not taking this virus seriously.

Today at Patterico, the site’s formerly moderate and reasonable host has been swept up in the “nothing else matters” single-minded alarmism of the moment — or, as I sometimes suspect, in that “last-chance-to-damage-Trump-before-the-election” mania that has gripped America’s mainstream media — and is joining the progressives (in more ways than one) in smearing all who would prioritize liberty and free will in this “crisis,” by way of strawman arguments and moral condemnation.

In a post bluntly entitled “The Right’s Callous Rhetoric About Coronavirus Deaths, he rails against those “on the right” (read “Trump supporters”) who dare to express concerns about the likely effects of an economic collapse at a time when humans are dying. In other words, he resorts to the standard Marxist trope about capitalists putting “profits before people.”

And what is richly ironic about much of this is that the same people who want us to care so deeply about the misery that might result from the fall of the economy are the very same people who have shrugged off the deaths from coronavirus as a minor inconvenience, like the flu or car accidents. President Donald John Trump being one glaringly obvious example.

See what I mean about strawman smearing and moral condemnation? Everything about the twisted illogic of single-minded alarmism (and single-minded anti-Trumpism) is revealed in that absurd phrasing, “who have shrugged off the deaths from coronavirus as a minor inconvenience, like the flu or car accidents.”

Who on Earth is Patterico trying to smear with that statement — other than himself, with the mud of incoherent obsession? Did any semi-sentient being worth noticing ever say that coronavirus deaths should be “shrugged off” as a “minor inconvenience”? 

More to the point, I will offer, for the umpteenth time, the following simple response, one which is warranted in this context, given that I am one of the “callous” people of “the right” to whom he is seemingly alluding. 

The implication of his strawman argument is that flu and car accident deaths are in fact a “minor inconvenience” when compared to the enormity of this coronavirus pandemic. Is that so?

Approximately forty thousand Americans die from flu-related complications every year. Approximately thirty-five thousand Americans die in car accidents every year. Together, that makes seventy-five thousand American deaths — not in a one-time aberration, but annually — from flu and traffic accidents. 

And now remind me how many Americans have died of coronavirus so far?

But diminishing those annual deaths as a minor inconvenience, at least relatively, is necessary for the coronavirus alarmists. For the question they cannot, and will not, answer — I know they will not, for I’ve been asking them for weeks, without a single straight reply — is why this case warrants so many extreme measures that those cases do not. After all, those seventy-five thousand annual deaths could certainly be drastically reduced by the permanent imposition of strict social distancing rules throughout American society. So why not do it, if preventing premature death is your overriding motivation? Are those deaths unimportant? Is a smooth-running economy worth more than all those tens of thousands of — strike up the strings — lost human lives?

I have already explained my own theory as to how the cases are different in their minds. And the ugliness of the reason explains their silence in the face of my simple and obvious question. In short, they are wearing the rhetoric of “compassion” over the hypothetical deaths of an abstract multitude as a moral mask to conceal their weakness in the face of irrational fears over the perceived threat to their own physical survival.

Flu and car accident deaths are certainly not a minor inconvenience, and I am not aware of anyone suggesting they are. The only “minor inconvenience” I see here is reality, which keeps getting in the way of the arguments being shoved at us by the advocates of tyrannical brutality as the “only solution” for a virus outbreak.

No, when people who speak this disdainfully about the defenders of freedom or the advocates of carrying on with community life as well as possible, natter on about the need for “social distancing,” they do not mean social distancing, or at least not primarily. What they are truly promoting and defending is the necessity of imposing social isolation as a universal legal command. In other words, they are demanding that everyone be forced to behave as they prefer.

They are not making their case — but of course people driven by irrational fear are rarely very good at making a reasonable case for anything. They are, however, quite successful as unwitting dupes and mouthpieces for progressive authoritarianism.

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