This article from the Daily Beast (so read it with a grain of salt) is supposedly about how Donald Trump claimed that he “didn’t know people died from the flu” when in fact his grandfather died from the Spanish flu. The article points out “The president’s grandfather, in fact, was one of the first domestic casualties of the world’s worst modern pandemic, which ultimately killed millions.” But is Trump lying about easily disproved things considered news anymore?
More interestingly, the article goes on to talk about president Woodrow Wilson, and how his efforts to downplay the virus was instrumental in helping the Spanish flu turn into the historic killer that it became. Not only did Wilson get the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 passed, which made criticism of the government (including spreading “pessimistic stories” calling for peace, or belittling the US effort to win WWI) a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison, he also created a propaganda arm of the US government at the urging of Arthur Bullard. Bullard claimed “Truth and falsehood are arbitrary terms… The force of an idea lies in its inspirational value. It matters very little if it is true or false.” Sound familiar?
The government telling citizens that everything was ok and suppressing public health officials from telling people how to combat or even avoid the disease led to uncountable deaths, estimated at 50 million people worldwide, more than the total number of people killed by WWI, and estimated to be almost the total deaths from WWII.
Ironically, president Wilson himself was eventually hobbled by the flu in the midst of peace talks (of course, the government publicly lied, saying that it was merely a cold).
So now, we have a president who claims that everything is alright, saying there is nothing to worry about from the coronavirus, while slashing funding for the CDC and eliminating the government team responsible for fighting global pandemics. He doesn’t need to create a propaganda arm because he already has the right-wing media. He even put his vice president in charge of combating it, a man who claimed in 2001 that “smoking doesn’t kill” and, when he was governor, tried to deal with the worst outbreak of HIV in his state’s history by praying it away.
UPDATE: The US is dead last (no pun intended) in testing for the coronavirus. South Korea is first with 2,138 tests per million people, Italy is next with 386 tests per million, but the US has only tested 1 person per million. And the US has far more people without health insurance that most civilized countries.
What could go wrong?