Please accept my apologies for my being absent from Mr. Berkwitt’s great and wonderful Ringside Report for the past several weeks. However, and I trust that you do understand, I have not only had a great deal of business work, but, also, of personal work and duties which have distracted me from my dutiful work as a columnist hereon. I have promised Mr. B. that I will try to be more aware of time, but have also asked that he—like you—try to understand that, while also like he and you I am pretty much “stuck at home,” my various entities continue to keep me active for a great part of each day.
Now, this marvelous piece from USA Today appeared on July 25 of this year and while I am a bit behind in sharing it with you I sincerely feel that it is of such importance that you would want to be aware of it, written by the paper’s Opinion columnist, Tom Nichols.
You will note the editorializing following the column and as I have made clear numerous times, I will never—unlike no few people who many of you likely know, including at least two in South Florida whose work it has been my displeasure to have had the opportunity to show as being plagiarized—engage in that form of falsification. The “editorializing” following Mr. Nichols’ column is from a person I am quite cordial with but who has requested that his name not be used as his employer may not have the same feelings as he does. I am honored that he has not only allowed me to use his work but, also, to share it with you.
Tom Nichols, Opinion columnist
As America tops 4 million COVID cases, the cult of Donald Trump has become a death cult
America has now passed the milestone of 4 million COVID cases, and we’re still arguing with doctors and epidemiologists about masks and school closures. I expected some of this, because I literally wrote the book over three years ago on why so many Americans think they’re smarter than experts. What I did not expect is that this resolute and childish opposition to expertise would be hijacked by the president of the United States and an entire American political party, and then turned into a suicide cult.
It did not take a lot of foresight to know, even before the coronavirus arrived, that the United States was leaving itself vulnerable to a crisis that would require the public to trust experts. We long ago became a narcissistic nation whose citizens believe they can become competent in almost any subject by watching enough television and spending enough time on the internet. But I was certain that a true national crisis — a war, a depression, or yes, a pandemic — would snap people back to reality.
I was wrong to be so optimistic.
Endangering others as empowerment
Some states (including Rhode Island, where I live) have had great success in asking their citizens to cooperate for the common good. Other communities, unfortunately, have had to endure shouting matches with bellowing ignoramuses who think it is intolerable that they be asked to wear a mask while shopping or ordering food — two things people in other countries would gladly do wrapped in aluminum foil and with prayers of thanks on their lips if they got to do it in the United States of America.
There is no one more responsible for this particular moment than President Donald Trump, but all he has done is play to a gallery whose seats were already full by the time he ran for office. Trump appealed to a powerful sense of narcissistic grievance among millions of Americans, nurturing it and feeding it. An entire claque of enablers joined in, knowing there was plenty of money to be made feeding this self-centered, anti-social nihilism.
When the pandemic arrived, these enablers in the conservative media and among the cowardly Republican political class took their cues — masks, no masks, closing, opening — from Trump, whose statements for months were a fusillade of nonsense that reflected only his own pouty anger that Mother Nature had the sheer brass to mess up his presidential grift.
Not all of those who have been reckless and irresponsible are Trump supporters. There are, as always, young people who believe they are invincible. And some experts inflicted a huge wound on themselves right in the middle of this crisis by blessing the Black Lives Matter protests rather than repeating stern warnings they gave to other Americans that such events are dangerous.
But the Americans who are now driving the pandemic are not sudden skeptics about masks or distancing or expert opinion because of street protests. Some of them reject expertise because of the previous “failures” of experts. This is always one of the reflexive explanations for the refusal to listen to the educated and experienced. Expert failures are real and happen every day, but the people who sullenly refuse to wear a mask during a pandemic are not doing so because the United States failed to find Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, or because the housing market crashed in 2008.
Rather, they are doing so because they see endangering others as empowerment, a way of telling people whom they believe look down on them that no one, no matter how smart or accomplished, can tell them what to do. For these people, our national motto is not “In God We Trust” or “E Pluribus Unum,” but rather: “You’re Not the Boss of Me.”
Reject expertise and trust Trump
So committed are these Americans to assuaging their sore egos over their imagined lack of status that they are literally willing to die for it. Unfortunately, they seem all too willing to take many of us with them. This is not Jonestown or Heaven’s Gate, whose cult members fled society to go and die together. This is worse. This is an attempt to create a Jonestown in every American city and town and then invite the rest of us over for a cool drink.
The irony here is that the same people who reject expertise because they believe they are smart and clued in to the mistakes of experts will accept the word of Donald Trump — a man who has obliterated most of the projects he’s ever been involved with and who stands as the uncontested champion of American public liars — as the gospel truth.
But that is how cults work, and woe to anyone who crosses them. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for over 35 years, has endured attacks from the White House and some members of Congress because some Republicans believe that he is somehow trying to use the pandemic against the president. Worse, Fauci now has to travel with security, as Americans treat the rest of the world to the shameful sight of one of the most accomplished scientists in one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world having to be guarded against unhinged cultists in his own country.
On the same day that America hit a grisly new record, President Trump went on television to explain both that he must cancel his cherished plans for a political convention while insisting that children be sent back to school in the coming weeks. Millions of Americans nodded along with him, secure in the knowledge that scientists are quacks and that no one understands viruses like Donald Trump. They will likely still believe that even as they lie in a hospital bed and are given last rites with a ventilator down their throats.
If only the rest of us did not have to risk being in the bed next to them.
Tom Nichols is the author of “The Death of Expertise” and a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter: @RadioFreeTom
From H. S. V.:
As I asked you to note above, the material below is not from me but from my friend who has allowed me to refrain from attaching his name, but with his permission for it to be used. I must state, categorically and absolutely, that I concur with all you will now read below:
Now comes my editorializing: the nonsense of ‘taking away your right’ with regards to social distancing and wearing face masks does not hold up well when you think about it in a slightly different light.
Do YOU have a RIGHT to drive a car, or is it a PRIVILEGE earned?
Can you just go up anywhere and take a motorized vehicle at any time, for any reason, with or without permission
Likewise can you drive on any street, any roadway, in any direction at any time, regardless of posted safety regulations?
From H. S. V., as an addition:
Do you have the right (no, you do not) to operate a motor vehicle without a current and valid driver’s license?
Can you carry a firearm and go firing it into the air or elsewhere indiscriminately?
Can you enter anyone’s house or any office any time for any reason because being told you cannot do so is “taking away ‘your rights’?”
Can you go out to a commercial airport and barge in and across the tarmac and hijack an aircraft just because it is ‘your right’ and then try to fly it out into the wild blue yonder?
Can you go barge into any office, any building, government or private also because to limit your access is ‘an infringement upon your rights’?
While some of these might sound a bit extreme, they really are not, and show some of the differences between a privilege or a right, be it minimal or to the extreme.
That’s what is at stake here regarding masks, not to mention using a little bit of common sense. We all live by sets of rules, some of which we may not like at a particular moment, but we do, and to ignore such rules, and common sense of protocols just is wrong, especially when it comes to potentially endangering others around you.
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD and for a whole host of reasons. The whole excuse of ‘he or she is doing it’ doesn’t hold much water in my book.
Finally, from H. S. V.:
Two other items for you to consider:
First: Laws have been made throughout the country disallowing the so called “right to smoke” indoors in public or private facilities, other than one’s own home or car. Why, then, do the MORONS who still smoke not protest that not being able to poison everybody in their proximity violates their first amendment right? I am glad you asked and I will tell you: the great philosopher, Isaac Asimov, once said, “Your right to smoke ends at my nose,” which, obviously leads us to the next point.
Second: Although I am certain that the MORONS who FALSELY claim that they have a NON-existent First Amendment right to NOT wear a mask, I, who am not a betting person, will still be—and am—more than will to bet that not one of those damn fools, who have no concern for anybody but themselves, have ever heard of the great Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, nor have they ever heard of one of the most important judicial pronouncements ever made in this country, which I ask you to note below:
“In discussions of the First Amendment and the limits of free speech, it is common to hear references to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous quote from Schenck v. U.S. 1919 – “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.”
As part of the Second item, I will also bet that not only have those falsely protesting a NON-existent right NOT to wear a mask not heard of the fabled Justice Holmes, but that, in addition, they have never heard of or about that comment.
So allow me to bring it down to base and brass tacks: You MORONS who think, in that deformed brain of yours, that you have a right to infect others because you are such g-d idiots, not only DO NOT have that right but, in addition, you have no idea what the hell you are talking about. You, you damn fools, have no more right to inflict your Covid-19 on others than you do to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater. In short, this is a country of laws, and we do not pick and choose which laws we wish to follow.