Donald Trump Rewrites the Narrative

Perhaps when President Trump said that he “had to confront [the coronavirus] so the American people stopped being afraid of it so we could deal with it responsibly” he understood that his personal battle would create an entirely new narrative about the virus. Defeating it would be a powerful symbol that there is little to fear. Succumbing would dramatically prove the opposite.

Now that Trump, by his own reckoning, has got the better of the virus in just three days, and in doing so has done more to break the psychological stranglehold the virus has on citizens in the US and around the world than any social-distancing measure, vaccine, or mask-wearing ever could. He has embodied the journey that the US and the rest of the world must go through to relinquish their fear of the virus.

As Trump texted from the Walter Reed Medical Centre to former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, “If I had handled it any other way, I would have created more panic, more fear in the American people.”

Yes, the virus can be lethal. But we have known for months that is the elderly and those of otherwise ill-health who are disproportionately affected, as is the case with most health maladies. In Australia, no one under 30 has died from the virus. Just six Australians are in an intensive care unit as a result of it. And the population-wide infection rate is one-in-a-thousand and the population-wide fatality rate is one-in-three million.

As Trump said in a statement released following his return to the White House, “Don’t let it dominate you, don’t be afraid of it. You’re going to beat it.”

Just as pro-lockdown news organisations have paraded the rare cases of those under 40 succumbing to the virus, so now will the personal experience of one man represent the counterview in the debate over the coronavirus.

Contrast Trump’s handling of the virus with that of another larger-than-life figure, Boris Johnson, who contracted the virus in late March and required treatment in an intensive care unit. We don’t know the exact details of his condition and treatment, but we do know Boris missed his moment. Rather than lifting up the nation, he chose to poke fun at his weight, saying “I’m only about 5 foot 10, at the [most], and, you know, I was too fat.”

His personal experience of COVID-19 has been used to further empower the Nanny Staters of the public health bureaucracy with a licence to impose more regulations on an even greater variety of human activities, such as through the expansion of the NHS “weight management services”, a ban on junk food advertising before 9pm, plus the requirement that calorie counts to be added to restaurant menus.

Meanwhile, his government’s handling of the virus has failed, and failed miserably. Rather than sticking to his original instinct and following a Swedish-style approach of issuing advice and trusting citizens to act in their own best interests, Johnson capitulated to the health bureaucracy and ordered lockdowns based on highly erroneous modelling. Now, six months on, the only thing the lockdowns did was destroy Britain’s economy and society. The virus is still on the loose, and Britain is now in a second lockdown, more brutal than the first.

Other than the Brits, Australians are perhaps more irrationally fear-stricken than the citizens of any other nation. A survey prepared by CT Group in September found a staggering two-thirds of Australians believe they are going through a “second wave” of infections — the highest out of all of the surveyed countries which include the US, UK, India, Hong Kong, and the UAE.

This view is held despite the fact that only 28 per cent of Australians live in Victoria, the only state to be living through a resurgence of the virus. And even in Victoria, it is only pockets of metropolitan Melbourne that have recorded diagnosis spikes over the last two months. Such fear defies logic even as it ignores the fact Australia has some of the lowest coronavirus numbers in the developed world. (Perhaps this is evidence of the well known phenomenon that the less frequent an event becomes, the more people claim to be witnessing or living through it.) Or perhaps it is the incessant wall-to-wall media coverage which has a breathlessly reported all the bad-news developments while seldom bothering to provid context. The media has certainly not given much attention to how benign the virus has been for so many.

Trump has shown the only way to pierce the official narrative is to live life to its fullest and confront, rather than cower from the virus. And it is Trump’s apparent defeat of the virus which may now have placed him beyond defeat in November.

Daniel Wild is Director of Research with the Institute of Public Affairs

15 thoughts on “Donald Trump Rewrites the Narrative

  • Forbes says:

    Not too sure about your population wide 1 in 3 million fatality rate, but who can say what the true number is?
    “more irrationally fear stricken than citizens of other nations” ? Take that back!
    The statement does not refer to me.

    I am happy that Trump has gone the way he has, I hope it works for him, maybe his hydroxychlouroquin(?) worked?

  • deric davidson says:

    Trump v Biden
    Spartacus v Chicken Little

  • Stephen Due says:

    This argument does not address the widespread belief that Australia is defeating SARS-Cov-2 by creating fear in the population and implementing lockdowns. In my view this belief is ill-founded. But Trump does nor disprove it, whether he thinks so or not.
    Government-designed and -enforced lockdowns are an entirely new method of dealing with a respiratory virus – as are border closures. They have never been standard public health practice because they cause immense social and economic damage, and are incompatible with democratic freedoms which in turn are the basis of a healthy society. Lockdowns and border closures were stupidly adopted around the world by panicked governments in imitation of the Chinese Communist Party. The CCP had perfected the technique for political purposes, and applied it ready-made to Wuhan.
    The correct, scientific public health policy is the one adopted by Sweden (and several US States, along with a few Asian countries). The proof is the graph showing the progress of the virus in Sweden, and the minimal social and economic harm experienced there. The Swedish government followed stock-standard public health practice and refused to deviate, in spite of an onslaught of criticism from outside observers. To their credit the Swedish epidemiologists continued to present their case to foreign governments and media, putting up with a continuous stream of hostility and ridicule based on scientific ignorance. Their message was that fear is harmful, lockdown is harmful, border closures do not work, government must not trample on the liberties of the citizens.
    The policy that continues to be pursued by the Victorian government in particular is so destructive that no rational person could countenance it. The method is political dictatorship dressed up as ‘science’. The results are appalling and long-lasting.
    Chinese communism already has a lot to answer for. This latest contribution includes the perversion of scientific public health with bad science and totalitarian methods. If the current pandemic proves anything it is that Australia and the West must repudiate communism and its works. It must reject police state methods. It must reject the use of surveillance technology to control the public. It must never again renounce the liberty on which rational, scientific public health policy depends. Forget Trump. I hope the class action against the Andrews government is successful. That might put some heart back in the oppressed people of this State.

  • lbloveday says:

    Forbes: “Not too sure about your population wide 1 in 3 million fatality rate, but who can say what the true number is?”
    I cannot say what the true number is, but I am sure that more than 9 people (based on 25 million population and a whole number of deaths) have died in consequence of COVID-19.

  • lbloveday says:

    Further, “the population-wide infection rate is one-in-a-thousand” is obtained by dividing the number of positive tests by the population, in rough figures 27,000 / 25,000,000. But the vast majority of the 25,000,000 have not been tested – according to Dept of Heath, as of yesterday around 7.8 million tests have been conducted, but many people have been tested multiple times, so well less than 7.8 million people have been tested, of which 27,000 tested positive.

  • pgang says:

    I love the Messianic overtones in what Trump has done. ‘I have defeated this evil for all of you though my own sacrifice’.
    This is a guy who understands leadership.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    “Trump has shown the only way to pierce the official narrative is to live life to its fullest and confront, rather than cower from the virus. And it is Trump’s apparent defeat of the virus which may now have placed him beyond defeat in November.”
    Trump came out onto a balcony, and did a pseudo-dramatic balcony scene looking as if he had been plastered all over the face with tomato sauce and had just run a marathon. (Pant, pant, pant.)
    Over 200,000 Americans have died of Covid-19. Only a short time ago, there was only one person in the whole world who had it, thanks to eating a bat in Wuhan.
    The ostrich approach is just one possibility. Another is social isolation, and vigilance until we have a vaccine; remembering that the virus causes damage to the lungs and other organs: how permanently is presently contentious.
    It is possible to follow Trump’s lead and ignore the Precautionary Principle, and to live the ‘carpe diem’ lifestyle advocated in the above quotation: “tomorrow do thy worst, but I will live as I please today” – to paraphrase John Dryden.
    Trouble is, one cannot do that without endangering others: whether they know you are infected or not.
    The other approach is to do what was the standard practice for lepers in Biblical times: informing all and sundry with a cry of ‘unclean! Unclean!’ Wherever you went; and let the informed make their own arrangements accordingly..

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    Readers of Quadrant Online might care to add their names and qualifications and experience to The Great Barrington Declaration, an international project, where three world-famous epidemiologists put the anti-lockdown case and many public health and medical specialists have put their name now to this document to give it weight; plus concerned members of the public.

    It’s here:

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Good piece Daniel, I agree and keep up the good work at the IPA.

  • T B LYNCH says:

    Today, I cancelled my subscription to the New England Journal of Medicine.
    Reason: the President knows more about Wuflu than a journal which has descended into a Green Rag.
    For complete idiot virology see Ian MacDougall above.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    TBL: And a merry Christmas to you, too.
    Elizabeth: Elizabeth: After people read the anti-lockdown case in The Great Barrington Declaration, “an international project, where three world-famous epidemiologists put the anti-lockdown case and many public health and medical specialists have put their name now to,” they might care to read the opposing expert case at https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-barrington-declaration-an-open-letter-arguing-against-lockdown-policies-and-for-focused-protection/
    And from Julian Borger in the Groan: “No one really thought that Trump would emerge chastened from his brush with the virus (if the encounter is truly over – his doctor has stressed he is not ‘out of the woods’). But not only was he unrepentant about the White House’s cavalier approach to masks and social distancing, he has reinforced it.
    “‘Don’t be afraid of Covid,’ he tweeted. ‘Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge.’
    “Entirely absent was any acknowledgement of the more than 200,000 dead, the many more suffering serious and long lasting symptoms – and the reality that some of the ‘really great drugs’ he was given at Walter Reed hospital were experimental and way beyond the reach of ordinary patients. (My emphasis – IM)
    “These facts are evident to most Americans. In a new survey commissioned by CNN from the polling organisation SSRS, two-thirds of them said Trump acted irresponsibly in handling the risk of infection to himself and those around him. Joe Biden’s nationwide lead has widened further.” (Link next.)

  • Doubting Thomas says:


    Try this for size, Ian MacD. While far from trivial, 665.6 deaths per million in the US is comparable to and, in some cases, significantly better than some European nations. I’ve read, but can’t immediately find a reference, that if New York and other high population density cities like Chicago, Detroit and others were removed from those statistics, the American deaths per million figures would be significantly lower.
    For exactly the same reason that Australia has difficulty arriving at an agreed national policy on such emergencies, it’s fatuous to blame President Trump for America’s situation. In a federal system, he has very limited powers, something that the American people very clearly prefer – unless and until they need a scapegoat to blame for disasters like COVID-19, or even the odd angry hurricane that punishes people for their own states’ failures to protect them from natural disasters.
    Given the political situation there, and the irrationality of the American media, it would not have mattered what Trump chose, or chooses, to do, he will be blamed. And quoting the Guardian as a credible source on politics is ridiculous, Ian.

  • Doubting Thomas says:

    I didn’t say Trump has no power, but vis á vis the individual states he has very limited power. And if you’d been paying attention, unlikely I know, you’d have been aware of the furore whipped up by the left when Trump threatened to send in the Army to put down the Antifa and BLM riots. You ought to know this, Ian, because you live in a country where the Federal Government has very limited power in state governance.
    Real Clear Politics samples news from across the political spectrum, something the Guardian, like the ABC, never does. It’s a left wing rag, and proud of it, and for that reason alone is untrustworthy, like all things leftist where telling blatant lies is a feature not a bug.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    Your way of being specific is to retreat back into waffly generalisation and to play ‘shoot the messenger’, concentrating on the alleged failings of the journal publishing the piece rather than the journalism of the piece itself. That article was about the irresponsibility of Trump, once infected, of prioritising his own re-election above the health of his own staff and the wider public.
    In the eyes of a despot, any protest is a ‘riot’, and it is in the despot’s interest that all protests be seen as such. Moreover, violent protestors can never win against the armed forces of the state, so turning protests violent is in the despot’s interest, including the use of agents provocateurs. Such may have been used. I stress may have been. The command for their use can come from a lower echelon, and does not require Trump: if you can comprehend that; unlikely I know. But perhaps your school librarian can help you.

  • Phillip says:

    Some die with Covid
    Some die of Covid
    But Covid died of Trump !!

    Does anybody have the data on how many deaths per week occurred in Aged Care facilities before the Era of the Mask? Has that previous death rate risen or fallen during the current chronologic epoch? Are those deaths due to Covid or just because after 3 score and ten years of hard yakka the body mortal is in speedy decline?

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