With a new global pandemic scare, the time has come to watch out for those who would exploit it. A severe public health crisis could lead to calls for a new cabinet position, and new government powers to intervene into the personal health of American citizens. This is especially likely given the broken state of the healthcare system due to all of the bad and politicized, crony policies that have been passed over the last couple of decades.
First of all, however, is this virus a big deal? Yes. It’s highly infectious, and may take a long time to produce noticeable symptoms. Most people won’t die from it, but a meaningfully high proportion of those infected could require significant medical intervention to save. Even with such intervention, a meaningful percentage of people will die anyway. This mortality rate is currently estimated to be around 2% (which is high), however, I personally wouldn’t trust any specific numbers at this point. What we can trust are the actions and events taking place. For one, China’s massive response. Second, the astonishing rate of infectious spread on the quarantined cruise ships. Third, the fact that cases are beginning to appear in places like Thailand and Singapore where the infected person never traveled to China. Based on the word of epidemiologists as well as a review of the basic time frame associated with this virus, a peak of cases globally wouldn’t occur until between mid-March and mid-April.
The United States may do relatively well in containing this outbreak, mostly because very few people use public transportation relative to other countries. In Japan where everyone uses public transit, for example, it seems as if even a minor outbreak would spread very quickly. Even so, even if the United States does better than other nations, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a panicked public narrative once cases begin to emerge.
The likelihood of a proposed new public health emergency cabinet position is high. Remember how the Democratic Party is always trying to get the CDC to study gun violence? With a full time public health emergency response department, we could see backhanded intrusions into civil liberties and constitutional rights via “public health concerns”.
No matter what else is going on: war, the economy, the drug war, etc., if a public health “PATRIOT Act” is proposed, fighting it should become the single unifying purpose of the libertarian, alternative media, alternative left and right wings of American politics. I can hardly imagine a more dangerous and insidious, invasive development in the law and politics than a “Bio PATRIOT Act”.
Imagine if alternative media, called “fake news rumors,” becomes classified as a public mental health epidemic. Next, speech is controlled, folks pointed to “trusted sources” to contain the mental health outbreak. Whether or not this is likely to happen, the radical left has applied this form of reasoning in the past. Imagine if saying that the US is funding terrorists in Syria is classified as “paranoid delusion”. A US Air Force psychologist, a Major, who interviewed me for my conscientious objector application, joked that this was what he was screening for (after I passed whatever the test was). His words were that a previous applicant claimed that, “the CIA created ISIS.” This was classified as paranoid delusion and that applicant didn’t pass the test. I’m serious. Military service members are subject to UCMJ which means they do not have the same civil liberties as civilians. Thus, if a public health emergencies act passed, and curtailed civil liberties in the name of public health, you can imagine what kinds of arguments the government would make.
All alternative media could end up treated like Chelsea Manning.
Public health emergencies are tricky. Terrorism, in my opinion, is sort of a “fake” crisis. Other than the one or two extraordinary cases, most people are not threatened by terrorism. However, a genuine global pandemic is a true threat to everyday folks. Moreover, if a bio-engineered disease is released into the world, even if people recover, any old terrorist group could get their hands on it since so many would be infected by it. It would be very very hard to convince regular folks to be skeptical of government calls to assume extraordinary powers to combat this kind of threat.
With this in mind, I propose that fighting this kind of political development might require the invocation of a little conspiracy theory. For example, do we really trust Bill Gates and all his money researching diseases? Why was his dad a public advocate of eugenics? Why did Bill Gates help pay for a study of a hypothetical coronavirus outbreak just a few weeks before one started in Wuhan? I honestly have no idea if there’s a connection, and I don’t care, frankly. However, I’d happily spread such rumors if only to promote the slightest skepticism in people’s minds. There is perfectly rational cause to be skeptical of an intrusive and powerful new government agency meant to fight public health emergencies. This whole situation is about our right to be skeptical. We would be fighting those who want to remove our right to be skeptical, in the name of public health.
So, get ready folks.