The tyranny of fear

The esteemed and estimable Heather MacDonald bats around my new least-favorite phrase—Stay saaaafe!—safetyism generally, and asshat Frank Bruni specifically, like so many cat toys.

We set highway speeding limits to maximize convenience at what we consider an acceptable risk to human life. It is statistically certain that every year, there will be tens of thousands of driving deaths. A considerable portion of those deaths could be averted by “following the science” of force and velocity and enforcing a speed limit of, say, 15 miles an hour. But we tolerate motor-vehicle deaths because we value driving 75 miles an hour on the highway, and up to 55 miles an hour in cities, more than we do saving those thousands of lives. When those deaths come—nearly 100 a day in 2019—we do not cancel the policy. Nor would it be logical to cancel a liberal highway speed because a legislator who voted for it died in a car accident.

We could reduce coronavirus transmission to zero by locking everyone in a separate cell until a vaccine was developed. There are some public-health experts who from the start appeared ready to implement such radical social distancing. The extent to which we veer from that maximal coronavirus protection policy depends on how we value its costs and the competing goods: forgone life-saving medical care and deaths of despair from unemployment and social isolation, on the one hand, and the ability to support one’s family through work and to build prosperity through entrepreneurship, on the other. The advocates of maximal lockdowns have rarely conceded such trade-offs, but they are ever-present.

Under today’s safetyism mentality, sacrifice and risk-taking become unthinkable. The martial virtues of courage and stoicism have been sidelined and pathologized. When Trump briefly left Walter Reed on Sunday in a motorcade to greet supporters, a doctor at the hospital complained that the Secret Service agents in Trump’s limousine “might get sick. They may die.” These are the same Secret Service agents who are expected to take a bullet for a president. They were behind a plexiglass barrier in the car; all occupants were masked. Under our feminized ethos, showing resoluteness during a crisis, reassuring the public about one’s well-being, are no longer positive traits in a leader; they are violations of maximal risk aversion. (Of course, medical information about a president’s condition should be transparent.)

Reopening is still the right policy. Mandatory outdoor mask-wearing is merely a way for government to turn citizens into walking billboards of fear, sending the false message that danger is everywhere. Infection rarely leads to death. Most of the infected recover. Given his governmental duties, the surprise is that Trump—as president, another kind of front-line worker—has not gotten sick before now.

Last week, Trump gave a debate performance embodying what the Left likes to call toxic masculinity. Today, anticipating his departure from the hospital, Trump tweeted: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.” The mainstream media blew its top, calling the tweet “dangerous,” “gross,” and “almost impossible to believe.” Let them fume. Trump is now modelling masculine leadership at its best: upbeat, rational, and unbowed.

Precisely so. And that’s also exactly why Proggy hates the man so viciously, with every fibre of his cowardly, emasculated being—the poor, sad little twerp-ass.

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