Jump to content

COVID and the Death of Common Sense


Recommended Posts


John Hinderaker

Aug. 7 2020

Why are so many panicked over the Wuhan flu, a relatively minor disease? Of course, COVID can be deadly, like virtually all diseases, but if you are 25 or under it is less lethal than an average seasonal flu, and it is overwhelmingly the very elderly and infirm who are at risk. So why the hysteria?

In part, at least, because most people have a wildly distorted idea of the disease’s impact. Lionel Shriver writes at the Spectator:


There’s nothing unprecedented about COVID-19 itself. The equally novel, equally infectious Asian flu of 1957 had commensurate fatalities in Britain: scaled up for today’s population, the equivalent of 42,000, while the UK’s (statistically flawed) COVID death total now stands at 46,000. Globally, the Asian flu was vastly more lethal, causing between two and four million deaths. The Hong Kong flu of 1968-69 also slew up to four million people worldwide, including 80,000 Britons. Yet in both instances, life went on.

What is unprecedented: never has a virus been so oversold.


Somehow, that basic reality check seems to have stopped operating. Many millions of Americans apparently believe that their compatriots are dropping like flies from COVID, when their own experience, if consulted, would belie that assertion. But in our world, media hype, the assurances of “experts,” and social media group-think seem to trump lived experience–that is, common sense.

The theory underlying democracy is predicated in large part on the idea that voters’ judgments on policy issues will be based on their own observations and experience, and while a single person’s experience may not be a sound guide to public policy, the experience of the majority usually will be. But if most people form opinions that are actually contrary to their own experiences and observations, based instead on media hysteria that is likely politically driven, the democratic process can go seriously awry.

That is where we are today. Examples of this phenomenon could be multiplied–claims about racial injustice are another obvious example–but for now let’s stick with COVID. If most Americans seriously believe that COVID fatalities are 188 times the actual number, they likely will vote for policies that are–to put it politely–sub-optimal. I can’t explain why so many Americans have seemingly abandoned their own observations as a guide to reality, but that does seem to be the point at which we have arrived.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • 1713415793
  • Create New...