Some interesting news both locally and internationally over the past few days.
Bob Woodward has written a book that suggests that for political reasons associated with his re-election chances Donald Trump downplayed the severity of the Covid threat, even though he was well aware of what the risks were. From CNN:
President Donald Trump admitted he knew weeks before the first confirmed US coronavirus death that the virus was dangerous, airborne, highly contagious and “more deadly than even your strenuous flus,” and that he repeatedly played it down publicly, according to legendary journalist Bob Woodward in his new book “Rage.”
“This is deadly stuff,” Trump told Woodward on February 7.
In a series of interviews with Woodward, Trump revealed that he had a surprising level of detail about the threat of the virus earlier than previously known. “Pretty amazing,” Trump told Woodward, adding that the coronavirus was maybe five times “more deadly” than the flu.
Trump’s admissions are in stark contrast to his frequent public comments at the time insisting that the virus was “going to disappear” and “all work out fine.”
The book, using Trump’s own words, depicts a President who has betrayed the public trust and the most fundamental responsibilities of his office. In “Rage,” Trump says the job of a president is “to keep our country safe.” But in early February, Trump told Woodward he knew how deadly the virus was, and in March, admitted he kept that knowledge hidden from the public.
“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward on March 19, even as he had declared a national emergency over the virus days earlier. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
Panics caused by the spread of a crippling pandemic that causes multiple fatalities are obviously bad for re-election chances.
And the United States influence has been shown recently with news that a New Zealand church with links to the US evangelical movement being blamed for the continued spread of the virus locally. From Anusha Bradley at Radio New Zealand:
Health Minister Chris Hipkins has said some of the 43 people linked to the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship church cluster in Auckland were sceptical about the seriousness of the pandemic, as church and community leaders say they face a battle to check the spread of false information.
Pakilau Manase Lua grew up in the Seventh Day Adventist church and said his own friends and family were guilty of spreading conspiracies and false information about Covid-19.
“I’ve personally received lots of private messages regarding information that people think is useful but is purely disinformation, either about the virus itself or fear around the vaccine,” he said.
Lua, who is the chairman of the Pacific Leadership Forum’s Pacific Response Coordination Team, said this spread was especially rife among those with links to conservative evangelical or pentecostal churches in the United States.
“It’s been spreading like wildfire through social media.”
There is a report that the police shut down a gathering at the church which was in breach of Covid restrictions and leaders were warned they could face prosecution if they gathered again.
The leaders of the church need to get this under control. Covid is clearly is not part of a conspiracy. It is a deadly virus that has caused the deaths of at least 900,000 people world wide. Locally we can beat it. But everyone needs to follow the advice of people who know what they are talking about.
Social media, especially Facebook has a lot to answer to and has been central in the spread of anti science information that is threatening to undermine . Kathy Errington in Stuff explains why:
Conspiracy theories are highly engaging content online. It can be politically useful to get them behind your cause because they will relentlessly push your key messages out again and again. Yet they are leading people all over the world to ignore the necessary public health measures in place to protect their lives.
In a crisis this severe humans are hard-wired to be drawn towards conspiracy theories – we like big problems to have equally big causes, a term psychologists call proportionality bias. Surely something as catastrophic as COVID 19 must have an equally large, dark and complex origin story? Can it really be just a bat that likely caused all of this?
Well, yes, that’s it. There is no sinister world government involving Bill Gates and the United Nations getting together with governments globally to invent a pandemic. I worked in government long enough to say with certainty no government could ever pull this off. Even in the ‘before times’ it took months of planning for the Prime Minister to simply leave the country for a day and go to a rugby match.
This puts Gerry Brownlee’s just asking questions episode into perspective and shows how damaging to collective action it was.
For a local example of a political movement attempting to take advantage look no further than Jami Lee Ross’s and Billy Te Kahika’s Advance NZ Party. The party has recently had a complaint concerning donations sent to the Serious Fraud Office then forwarded to the Electoral Commission. No doubt this will be regarded by some of further evidence of deep state action to suppress dissenting voices.
We can hold the virus at bay. But we need to not follow the leadership or example provided by the United States. Especially its current President.