The Cootie Theory

We’ve lived through the most bizarre experience of human folly in my lifetime, and perhaps in generations.  Among the strangest aspects of this has been the near universal failure on the part of regular people, and even the appointed “experts,” the ones the government employs, in any case, to have internalized.

How does imposing or reimposing stay-at-home orders or mandating gym closures mysteriously manage to intimidate a virus into going away? “Run away and hide” seems to have replaced anything like a sophisticated understanding of viruses and immunities.

So I decided to download Molecular and Cell Biology for Dummies just to check if I’m crazy. I’m pleased to see that it clearly states that there are only two ways to defeat a virus: natural immunity and vaccines.  The book completely left out the option that almost the entire world embraced in March: destroy businesses, force everyone to hide in their homes, and make sure that no one gets close to anyone else.

A virus is not a miasma, a cootie, or red goo like in the children’s book Cat in the Hat. There is no path toward waging much less winning a national war against a virus. It cares nothing about borders, executive orders, and titles. A virus is a thing to battle one immune system at a time, and our bodies have evolved to be suited to do just that. Vaccines can give advantage to the immune system through a clever hack. Even so, there will always be another virus and another battle, and so it’s been for hundreds of thousands of years.

If you read the above carefully, you now know more than you would know from watching 50 TED talks on viruses by Bill Gates. Though having thrown hundreds of millions of dollars into cobbling together some global plan to combat microbes, his own understanding seems not to have risen above a cooties theory of run away and hide.

For many viruses, not everyone has to catch them to become immune and not everyone needs a vaccine if there is one.  Immunity is achieved when a certain percentage of the population has contracted some form of virus, with symptoms or without, and then the virus effectively dies.

This has important implications because it means that vulnerable demographics can isolate for the active days of the virus, and return to normal life once “herd immunity” has been realized with infection within some portion of the non-vulnerable population. This is why every bit of medical advice for elderly people has been to avoid large crowds during the flu season and why getting and recovering for non-vulnerable groups is a good thing.

What you get from this virus advice is not fear but calm management. This wisdom – not ignorance but wisdom – was behind the do-no-harm approach to the polio epidemic of 1949-1952, the Asian flu of 1957-58, and the Hong Kong flu of 1968-69. Donald Henderson summed up this old wisdom beautifully: “Communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted.”

And that’s what we did for the one hundred years following the catastrophic Spanish flu of 1918. We never again attempted widespread closures or lockdown precisely because they had failed so miserably in the few places they were attempted.

The cooties theory attempted a comeback with the Swine flu of 2009 (H1N1) but the world was too busy dealing with a financial crisis so the postwar strategy of virus control and mitigation prevailed once again, thankfully. But then the perfect storm hit in 2020 and a new generation of virus mitigators got their chance to conduct a grand social experiment based on computer modeling and forecasting.

Next thing you know, we had this new vocabulary shoved down our throats and we all had to obey strangely arbitrary exhortations. “Go inside! No, wait don’t go inside!” “Stay healthy but shut the gyms!” “Get away from the virus but don’t travel!” “Don’t wear a mask, wait, do wear a mask!” (Now we can add: “Only gather in groups if you are protesting Trump”)

People started believing crazy things, as if we are medieval peasants, such as that if there is a group of people or if you stand too close to someone, the bad virus will spontaneously appear and you will get infected. Or that you could be a secret superspreader even if you have no symptoms, and also you can get the virus by touching almost anything.

Good grief, the sheer amount of unscientific phony baloney unleashed in these terrible three months boggles the mind.

Now, something has truly been bugging me these months as I’ve watched the incredible unravelling of most of the freedoms we’ve long taken for granted. People were locked out of the churches and schools, businesses were shuttered, markets were closed, governors shoved through shelter in place orders meant not for disease control but aerial bomb raids, and masks were mandatory, all while regular people who otherwise seem smart hopped around each other like grasshoppers.

My major shock is discovering how much sheer stupidity exists in the population, particularly among the political class.  It was only last February when we seemed smart.  Actually we weren’t smart as individuals. Our politicians were as dumb as they ever have been, and massive ignorance pervaded the population, then as always. What was smart last February was society and the processes that made society work in the good old days.

Source: Smart Society, Stupid People,  by Jeffery R. Tucker, the American Institute for Economic Research – you can read Tucker’s article in its entirety at the link provided.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *