Why Be Rational When Panic Is an Option?

The previous pandemic, commonly know as Swine flu, was caused by a type of influenza virus known as H1N1. Spanish Flu was also caused by an H1N1 variant. The disease was first detected in Mexico in 2009, and initial reports gave what was eventually seen to be an exaggerated view of the morbidity and mortality of the disease, but, as a paper on the response of Australian emergency departments put it

…although the severity was subsequently shown to be of less concern, the initial response was, and necessarily had to be, based on the information available at the time.

That assumption is invalid, for reasons to be outlined. Nonetheless, the response to that pandemic was somnolent compared to our betters’ instituting a totalitarian state (with a sunset clause) just ten years later.

When a new disease strikes, it is necessarily the most severe cases that draw attention. Consider, for example, all of the upper respiratory tract and cold-like infections that sweep through the population regularly. Only researchers with a particular interest in obscure viruses would even bother to isolate the agent of these ailments. Assume that a new disease appears, and that in the small population in which it manifests there is a range of morbidities from life-threatening to barely noticeable. Members of the medical profession will rapidly become aware of the severe cases, but will have no awareness at all of the mild ones. Until accurate tests for infection are developed, they will have no way of knowing what the contagiousness, the range of morbidities, or the fatality rate are. The “information available at the time” will “necessarily” be skewed to the point that almost any scenario for the progress of the disease can be imagined, and none can be asserted with any confidence.

There has not been, nor will there ever be, a disease whose infectiousness, morbidity and mortality are identical across any population sample you care to draw. The most critical shortage in any epidemic or pandemic is information. So the first order of business for researchers is a reliable test. Once the test is available, the first portion should be reserved for frequent testing of pre-selected sample populations, both from communities in which the virus is active, and from those which have not yet, to anyone’s knowledge, been exposed, but are expected to be. These cohorts must be tested frequently – at least weekly. I believe that such studies are underway in a number of countries. If they are happening in Australia, they are being done quietly. According to the latest figures available at the Worldometer tracking site (as of April 27), Australia has performed 515,079 tests, a rate of 20,199 per million of population. By comparison, Israel’s rate is 34,971, Portugal’s 32,414, Germany’s 24,738, Holland’s 11,319 and the UK’s 9,867.

Had a portion of our testing been dedicated from the beginning to the sort of study proposed here, we would by now have a compelling picture of the reality of COVID-19. It would, I expect, demolish the rationale of the lockdowns. Such a picture is emerging, but not systematically. It arises from discovering, when particular small populations are tested en masse, that most cases are mild or asymptomatic. Absurdly, these revelations were used as further justification for lockdowns, rather than as what they were – indicators of the relative mildness of the disease in the general population.

The largest question that arises from all of this, of even more concern than the incompetence of our public health officialdom, is how we have come to this pass? Should anyone doubt the downward spiral of Western polities, he should consider the order of magnitude difference in the response to COVID-19 from that to H1N1, accompanied as it was by the same misinformation. It’s not always true that things get better with time.

Peter West blogs intermittently at http://pbw.id.au/blog/

11 thoughts on “Why Be Rational When Panic Is an Option?

  • Warty says:

    Forgive me for repeating my last comment following Peter Smith’s article, but it is particularly pertinent to Peter West’s article.
    I couldn’t agree more that we know very little about this particular strain of coronavirus, all we can go by (and I deliberately avoided ‘rely on’) are the statistics, and this is where governments around the world have failed us, in that they have taken the advice of ‘scientists’ who desperately need to be weaned off their addiction to computer-generated modelling.
    There is so much to marvel with regards to science: it has given us literally millions of cctv cameras to save us from crime, yet observing us with precisely the same rigour meted out to the crims. There are an equal number of facial recognition devices designed to keep tabs on rule breakers and political dissidents in the land of Confucius, serendipitously protecting its more pliable citizens. In the same way that social science can devise a points-based system to reward those self same pliable citizens, whilst ‘re-educating’ those who stumbled on an ability to think for themselves.
    To think there were those in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, even the USSR who were prepared to sacrifice their own lives for the Truth, yet our own irrational fear of death has made us almost as compliant as the average citizen living behind the Iron Curtain. In order to get a fetch for what it is that we are letting ourselves into, we really need to read our history.
    What will say in two, three years time when this coronavirus is as distant as Sars? Will we lament becoming a Keatingesque ‘banana republic’, or take on the chin the Great Depression we had to have? What will it be like to live in an entirely Orwellian world?
    May the Lord have knocked me off my perch long before this ever eventuates.

  • Stephen Due says:

    It appears that the Australian people are remarkably supine when governments decide to take away their freedom. Furthermore it is clear that all the surveillance and other infrastructure needed for a totalitarian regime is already in place in Australia. This must strike the impartial observer as a very dangerous situation. We have allowed governments, appealing to our need for ‘safety’, to lead us as sheep to the slaughter.

  • Michael Fry says:

    We witnessed all this 10 years ago. On a bright and cloudless day I went into work at a Northern UK University and was told that European airspace was closed due to a ‘volcanic dust cloud’ from Iceland. I walked over to the window and said that there was no dust cloud evident in the sky, it was a lovely day. I was met with blank stares.

    The dust cloud was of course based on a model, not empirical evidence, just like the Imperial College (my alma mater) model and all climate models, aka bullshit.

    Yet, just as 10 years ago, politicians are prepared to close economies, put citizens in distress, to save their back sides.

    The problem is that the citizenry accept this.

  • Alan Barber says:

    Unfortunately humans are imbued with dna and it seems the ‘lemming’ culture is one of them. AlanIO

  • ianl says:

    Michael Fry

    > “The problem is that the citizenry accept this”

    Well, enough to form a de-facto Stasi informant database.

    There are many, including almost all of the forever despicable MSM, who agitate for 2nd class citizenry to be applied to anyone who doesn’t install this Bluetooth application, even those who don’t actually own a phone, or those who do but it isn’t the approved brand (Apple Iphony or Google Droidy). By 2nd class citizenry, these people mean no airflights, no entry to workplaces or entertainment venues, probably not even food markets. The CCP is way ahead here in development, so there is actually a workable template.

  • Warty says:

    The whole sound behind the app. evangelist is ‘this is the truth’. The truth is that in attempting to propel the lemmings towards the cliff is that they are treating (ideally) sovereign beings not unlike a mesmerised audience at a B grade conjurer’s performance. The tragedy is that we respond in kind. Actually this is a mixed metaphor, ‘kind’ being pigs.

  • Davidovich says:

    In trying to understand why our politicians and vast swathes of the populace are now panicking over this pandemic, I opine that we have been so imbued with the precautionary principle that any issue which might cause us harm is elevated to high alert with corresponding actions. Evidence may not exist but the panickers say we need to act, just in case. A relative, highly educated in science and otherwise intelligent, once remarked that, as a precaution, we should take action against carbon dioxide emissions even though he was well aware no evidence had been produced to support the thesis of anthropogenic climate change or global warming.

  • Rob Brighton says:

    Resisting the urge to don a tinfoil hat is something that all participants in this discussion should strive for.
    I try and fail but at least I wear it at a rakish angle.
    If this silly app helps sort the problem out and release us from gaol then what’s the issue?
    Unless you believe Morrison et al fancy switching the name of their party from LNP to CNP? Does the tinfoil hat feel tight yet?
    We should not forget that Morrison holds the gig because he was not Bill Shorton (thankyou FNQ and WA), at some point in the future, if not Shorton, then some other oxygen thief will have the gig…what then?
    We might think on that before we snarl at Morrison’s responses to what was the expert advice he was getting at the time, anyone fancy Albo for PM?
    At the most generous interpretation of policies, we can see the labour-green alliance is at least totalitarian in part and no believers in law and decency towards those they deem as irretrievable. (Andrew’s Victoria a case in point). The same concept will be used to police all manner of luvvie inspired absolute must fix issues. Local councils will want it, state governments will tell us that we will be murdered in our beds without it. These are the same people that fine me if I ride my pushbike at 4kph in the park without a helmet they will be all over this, it’s too juicy, too tempting for their totalitarian nature to deny.

    Its already the case that I cannot do business with the ATO without an app and voice ID, nor can I use my bank, I cannot even log into my accounting software without an app. All three are used to protect my money and identity all are worthwhile for that reason, not that I get a choice.

    I wonder if it’s not that this app will be used poorly, its what the next numbskull in the lodge will do with it.

    My dear ole Dad told me once don’t give them a stick with which to beat you. Wish the old boy was still with us but he passed 8 years ago of an upper respiratory disease, I watched it, it was an awful prolonged death that, if me using this app, stops you from dying the same way, well I better get on with downloading it.

  • Stephen Due says:

    Davidovich. Yes, many scientists and their camp followers support ‘action on climate change’ because it addresses a ‘risk’. I’ve never see the risk quantified. But so great, in fact, is the alleged risk, that we must even take ‘action’ regardless of cost and regardless of any known probability of success.
    To me this is symptomatic of a society that is deluding itself as to its own rationality. When we find ourselves living in world in which a surgeon can slice off the breasts of a teenage girl to make her into a boy, and a baby can be slaughtered in the womb because it is only a bunch of cells, we have already descended along way into the pit of intellectual darkness. There are many other examples. As our experience with the pandemic unfolds, no doubt there will be many more.

  • Guido Negraszus says:

    What scares me most of the current situation is the potential aftermath. Federal and State governments turned a free liberal democracy into a de facto socialist totalitarian system that didn’t even hesitate to implement East German Stasi rules. The Liberal Government of Australia behaved like a hard left Labor government. All this happened within 2 months. No opposition. Why should the Labor party or the Greens say anything? They got what they would do. Now the scary part. Latest Newspoll suggests that people love it! Almost all leaders are flying high. Nobody questions anything. Nobody complaints. MSM dead ignorant. Everybody seems happy. How is this possible? Political leaders now got a free pass for implementing totalitarian rules. No doubt they will test in years to come how far they can go.

  • en passant says:

    You did not tell the whole story: the Australian experience 25,000,000 people recorded 6,731 total cases, 84 deaths (13 from the Ruby Princess), only 8 cities affected, 11 new cases, all but 1,021 recovered (and many of those are just awaiting clearance. Side-effects? Just a coupe, such as a ruined economy, sky-high debt, 25M confined to the Oz Gulag, depression, lost dreams, an instant police state, etc
    For comparison, try the Vietnam experience – 90,000,000 people recorded 270 total cases, ZERO deaths, only 5 cities affected, 8 new cases, all but 15 fully recovered (and many of those are just awaiting clearance). Side effects? A booming economy, no slow down, no social distancing and exclusion for entry without a month’s quarantine (at your expense).
    Whose the clever country now …

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