Trying to sum right-wing reactions to the Covid-19 situation

As you all know, I read a lot of right-wing/conservative blogs to try and make sense of what people I disagree with are thinking. Nobody who has been following the cognitive decline of the right will be surprised to learn that the uniform reaction to the potential pandemic is that it is all somehow beset by lies. Conservative thinking is no longer just beset by conspiracy theories but rather has become a process of generating and sorting conspiracies.

So beyond the general notion that there is a secret truth hidden behind the virus coverage, there is no other consensus. Instead, positions vary wildly sometimes even within the same article by the same person. The positions include:

  • The virus is a hoax and the deaths are just regular flu.
  • The virus is not a hoax and is in fact more deadly than we are being told.
  • The Chinese government is exaggerating the numbers.
  • The Chinese is hiding that the number of deaths is much higher.
  • WHO/governments/media are exaggerating the danger and there is no need to panic as it will all turn out to be nothing. (e.g. former Sad Pup & Tor Boycotter Peter Grant: “I continue to believe that the current “panic stations” response by many to the threat posed by the coronavirus epidemic is overblown.”)
  • Prepare serious doomsday prepping right now. (e.g. same article “We already have sufficient food and essential supplies for a good three months. It’s comforting to have them available, in case local quarantines become necessary.”)
  • It’s not actually a pandemic.
  • It is actually a pandemic but WHO are pretending it isn’t because of reasons.
  • The virus is a Chinese biological weapon released deliberately for reasons (that make no sense obviously).
  • The virus is a Chinese biological weapon released accidentally.
  • The US economy is in serious danger.
  • The US media are just saying that the economy is in danger to hurt Donald Trump.
  • The left are trying to pretend that Trump will impose martial law and cancel elections.
  • Trump should impose martial law and cancel elections (that’s Vox Day in case you were wondering).
  • This is just like {insert past thing: swine flu, SARS, the Y2K bug} and they told us we were all going to die then {they didn’t} and so we needn’t doing anything {ignoring that those past things weren’t an issue because people took them seriously and did stuff}

There are obviously multiple things going on here. Firstly communication among the American right has become predicated on the idea that the news media in general and any kind of government official/civil servant is lying. Of course, “lying” doesn’t tell you a great deal and in that translate to the twin claims that situation is less serious and more serious. The “they are all lying” heuristic that’s been adopted only eliminates the possibility that things are as they appear to be.

Secondly, there is a lot of shotgun punditry going on. In the face of having no actual insights or extra information, a pundit makes multiple (even contradictory) claims. One of them will turn out to be right. Covid-19 is unlikely to be exactly as serious as health experts are saying and hence will either be a bit less serious or a bit more serious with a distribution of scenarios of varying probability spreading out from there. Speculate about enough scenarios and later on you can claim to be prescient.

Thirdly fear and anxiety have become the defining qualities of right-wing thought. You might respond that isn’t everybody feeling fear and anxiety currently and that’s true but the right has adopted free-floating fears as an ideological goal. It’s not so much Orwell’s image of a boot stamping on a human face forever as the dark figure lurking in the shadows behind you forever. Ramping up racial fears is part of the conservative strategy but also finding ways to exploit the crisis to attack immigration.

But fourthly…public health crisis are exactly those kinds of situation where well organised government responses work well. The potential economic fall out are also circumstances were stimulus spending is a smart idea under any moderately coherent economic theory. So the Covid-19 situation is seen as both natural territory (it provokes fear and insular attitudes) and as a ideological threat (because people will look to governmental solutions).

I don’t think will see a simple narrative emerging from the right on Covid-19. It will keep shifting an evolving although the core theme that the media is lying will stay as a constant.

In the meantime, wash your hands.


23 responses to “Trying to sum right-wing reactions to the Covid-19 situation”

  1. And of course many of the leaders on the right seem to fall into this trap, too–which will only make it worse. You can’t respond effectively to a situation if you don’t know what’s going on. The fact that Mike Pence and Larry Kudlow are in any way involved with US policy on this does not bode well.


    • True but there’s a paradox with Pence’s involvement. On the one hand he’s more likely to say stuff that is wrong and he’s likely to enact counterproductive policies or through inaction exacerbate the impact. On the other hand if Pence or Trump tell the 20% of Americans who believe everything they to wash their hands then there’s a good chance that they will. Whereas if an official from the CDC or a doctor tells the same group to wash their hands then they probably do the opposite because it’s clearly a Deep-State Soros-funded plot or something.


    • Jim Macdonald posted pretty similar advice on Making Light awhile back.

      (I wonder whatever happened? He was a prolific poster and commenter up until he just vanished without a trace. Surely there is a story there.)


      • If perchance this is the same Jim Macdonald who is an SF author, critic, and frequent collaborator with his wife Dr. Debra Doyle, then happily that Jim Macdonald appears to be thriving and even has a published Gmail address, on his and Dr. Doyle’s Web site.

        (Aside: Some years ago, I was curious about the surname Doyle because of a friend and fellow local SFF fan, Dr. Christine Doyle. Is it a typical Irish surname, I wondered? Turns out, not quite: Best guess is that it’s from the Gaelic Dubgaill, which is from dubh = dark + gaill = strangers. Which basically means accursed Danish-subvariety Viking invader, in distinction to Finngaill (‘fair foreigners’) meaning accursed Norwegian-subvariety Viking invader. So, I was able to gleefully say to Chris Doyle ‘One of us! One of us!’ (meaning descendants of us accursed Viking interlopers).


  2. Trump’s solution is to yell at the virus: “It’s all okay! Everything’s going to be all right! The stock market is doing great!” His next step will be to tweet insults at it. He doesn’t seem to get that his usual box of tricks isn’t going to work this time.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Since America is set up so no one in the food service industry can afford a three week self-quarentine, I foresee everyone being exposed. We’ll be lucky if humans are the only species capable of transmitting COVID-19.


  4. You forgot my favourite, according to son the virus effects East Asians at a much greater rate which apparently shows that race is a factual biological reality and not just a social construct, of course people on the right have no idea what a social construct is but apparently this is supposed to show us that there are distinct biological differences between races which we shouldn’t ignore.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. In Germany meanwhile, our rightwingers are all clamouring that the spread of the corona virus proves that we need to close the borders (even though we are affected worse than our direct neighbours) and that all of those people who dare to – gasp – travel are selfish and should instead enjoy holidays (because obviously there is no other reason to travel) on the cold, wet and stormy North Sea coast.

    Also – and this made me sad – a Chinese translator colleague asked at our monthly meet-up, if it was okay to sit down next to the rest of us. She also reported that she had to switch hairdressers, because her previous hairdresser was scared she might be transmitting the virus.She hasn’t even been to China in more than six months.

    Liked by 3 people

    • In 2003, we went to China to receive our daughter, and two days before we went, China announced the existence of SARS. When I came back, they offered me an extra week with pay off work, and I took it.

      Liked by 3 people

        • Oh, I was thrilled to be able to bond more with her. We were out of the cocoon of the group we were with, so it was much more personal time. Got to spend every day with her, pretty much all day, except for running out and getting her a walker.

          Liked by 3 people

  6. I had to listen(for the last time I promise you!) to the racist rantings of my best friend’s husband on the weekend. He has bought four very expensive face masks that don’t even fit him properly! I’m in one of the at risk groups & I still think the world is over reacting.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I just read the Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and I strongly recommend it to anyone trying to keep up with the facts about COVID-19. A team from the World Health Organization (WHO) went to China and studied in detail what’s happening there with an eye towards learning how the virus really behaves and what works against it.

    Some things that stuck out for me:

    There are no symptom-free forms of the disease. Everyone who is infected gets symptoms.

    Since February 1, the fatality rate of new cases has dropped to just 0.7% as they’ve learned how best to treat the disease, but 20% require hospitalization for weeks.

    At present, there are no medicines proven to help the disease nor are they currently recommending any. It seems they’ve brought the death rate down mostly by making oxygen therapy more broadly available.

    They’ve brought the infection rate down via a program of aggressive testing and contact tracing. They’re producing 1.6 million test kits per week.

    In the next few weeks, there should be reports on the effectiveness of different treatments. They’re trying things ranging from existing drugs for other illnesses, to failed drugs, to experimental drugs, to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Robust tests with big randomized trials are a ways away, but this ought to give some idea of what’s worth focusing on.

    Liked by 1 person

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