It Really Was the Stupidity

 

“Never attribute to conspiracy that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” — Hanlon’s Razor

The systemic damage done to the world’s democracies during the COVID-19 pandemic was so great that it is tempting to imagine the hidden hand of powerful figures orchestrating the Great Reset.  The horrifically costly NPIs were so obviously futile that there had to be deliberate organized malice at work to suppress the statistically obvious need to change policy.

There was indeed malice but not of Bond villain caliber.  In reality, we put morons in charge and when their failures became evident, they and their moron-adjacent allies in media and academia doubled down and attacked and silenced dissidents. The Great Reset was perhaps merely a secondary infection.

In his depressing account of his time on the White House COVID task force, Scott Atlas describes weeks and months of utterly pointless meetings over which the incomparably mediocre Dr. Deborah Birx presided.  She had a penchant for meaningless statistics and like Anthony Fauci and CDC Robert Redfield, she never seemed to notice the rather pronounced regional case curves and continued to attribute increasing numbers to a failure to implement NPIs and any declines as proof of policy success.

Unlike anyone else involved, Atlas kept bringing actual data and studies to these meetings.  He repeatedly made the point that lockdowns and school closures have horrific costs and do not address the real problem of protecting a well-defined vulnerable population. The needle never moved.

After quite some time, he organized a heavyweight panel of actual experts which panel was repeatedly stalled before finally getting to speak to Trump.  And their message (the eminently sane recommendations of the Great Barrington Declaration) was somehow reported in the media as a “let ‘er rip until herd immunity” plan—Trump advisors want us to die!

This panel was not proposed until the September before the election so (a) it was rather late in the game and (b) was thus always going to be turned into a partisan football no matter how much distortion was required to do so.  Lots of people who knew better viciously piled on the Harvard, Stanford, Oxford all-start team Atlas assembled because the choice had been reduced to “the science” or Trump.  The moron-adjacent social media, major news outlets, and campus hive mind framed the issue in terms that made the morons seem like responsible actors.

[By the way, Gov. DeSantis gets rave reviews from Atlas because, unlike so many others, DeSantis got into the weeds on facts and numbers and was able to discuss them and implement policies accordingly.  Despite an enormous elderly population, Florida’s senior death rate remains lower than most states likely because of a particular focus on their protection rather than futile general suppression mandates.]

Mike Pence oversaw the task force and was not inclined to buck Birx.  His inertial instincts failed the country but he reasonably feared the media-driven political blowback from dumping someone many in the White House already knew was an idiot. They still got hammered on the COVID issue anyway and lost the election largely because of it.

You get the impression from Atlas that Trump had better instincts about the futility of the lockdown/closure approach than Pence but overall the administration (and Kushner) was afraid of being accused of turning against “the science” and thus stand accused of endangering lives.  So morons still called the shots to the virtual end of the Trump Administration and still do.

The terrifying takeaway from Atlas’ book is that American COVID policy was never the result of a well-grounded good-faith, empirically disciplined policy debate.  It was simply the inertial byproduct of incredibly mediocre people placed in charge of policy.  How is it possible that a collection of vaguely malignant buffoons could have so much unchecked authority and power in a developed democracy?

On Ricochet, we were discussing COVID “seasonality” using actual data as early as the summer of 2020.  Atlas describes being stunned that in mid-2021, the head of the CDC held up a Worldometer graph from a single state and opined that this proved masks worked.  Even the lay political members of the task force realized that this was nonsense. Redfield was clearly clueless about the form and regularity of regional COVID case waves, regardless of policy differences within the region.  How can that be?  I can identify at least ten people on Ricochet who appear to have done more detailed work on COVID policy than the trio that ran the national policy:  Birx, Fauci, and Redfield.  Even when we disagree, people here provide links to papers and numbers.

Consider how Fauci, et al., handled the issues raised by the Great Barrington Declaration:

Collins is the head of NIH, the premier medical research institution in the USA and he is not only flat wrong about the science behind the Great Barrington Declaration but offers the weirdly vicious notion that these prominent scientists are “fringe” types who need to be “taken down?!”

Presumably, the distinguished Dr. Fauci would respond to this email with a number of key studies at his fingertips given that he is a major architect of the national strategy and personally represents and speaks for science itself:

A cite from a junk piece in Wired!  This is the level of exchange by the great minds running national health policy! But if that wasn’t persuasive enough, in follow-up emails Fauci later links to The Nation and an article in the WaPo quoting–Fauci. [More on this at Brownstone.]

That was around the same time Redfield went on TV and said masks provided more protection for the elderly than vaccines and spewed venom about the Atlas/Great Barrington view of COVID with additional misstatements.

If you ever clicked on a link provided in a COVID post on Ricochet, there is a good chance you’ve done more substantive research than the buffoons who destroyed so much wealth, so much serenity and so many lives to the continued praise from lazy idiots who claim to be professional journalists.

Could people that mediocre ever concoct an actual conspiracy to bring down western civilization or is it the sheer weight of pure stupid that has brought us to this state of affairs? Be afraid either way.

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I liked Atlas from the start, and still do. But I think I’ll wait a bit to read his book. I’m depressed enough about Covid. Then again, I just have to think about my governor.

    I must say that those of you on Rico who kept us abreast of reliable data on Covid were exemplary. Thank you!

    • #1
  2. Mad Gerald Coolidge
    Mad Gerald
    @Jose

    Never attribute to conspiracy that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.  –Hanlon’s Razor

    This is one of my favorite sayings.  I first heard it with “incompetence” instead of “stupidity” but they both apply.

    Great post.  Another of the infinite number of arguments for limited government.

    • #2
  3. DonG (CAGW is a hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a hoax)
    @DonG

    Old Bathos: How is it possible that a collection of vaguely malignant buffoons could have so much unchecked authority and power in a developed democracy?

    Because politicians are cowardly survivors that put all their effort into avoiding being responsible for decision-making. 

    As for conspiracy and malice, never forget that The Lancet (the world’s foremost medical journal) published a completely bogus study on the ineffectiveness of HCQ.  Somebody invented a data company that fabricated the data and got MDs and PhDs to write a bogus study, which was published in the #1 journal, which probably requires serious connections.  The whole thing stinks of a Big Pharma disinformation campaign.  That whole thing was evil.

    When trillions of dollars are at stake, it is very easy to corrupt “the science”.

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    DonG (CAGW is a hoax) (View Comment):
    As for conspiracy and malice, never forget that The Lancet (the world’s foremost medical journal)

    If the Lancet has this reputation, we’re in trouble.

    From The American Thinker, July 2021:

    The Lancet is a journal driven as much by politics as by science. Last month, says the Daily Mail, it emerged that the magazine “refused to publish an article critical of China’s horrifying repression of Uighurs as it might cause problems for staff at its Beijing office.” And I certainly remember the deeply flawed studies The Lancet produced in 2004 and 2006 grossly overestimating the number of Iraqis who died in the first phase of the Iraq War.

    At this point, it seems that people are taking their lives in their hands if they trust The Lancet without carefully verifying that its information isn’t corrupted by political bias.

    I seem to remember that they also published a manufactured study on vaccines and autism. 

    • #4
  5. Mad Gerald Coolidge
    Mad Gerald
    @Jose

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Last month, says the Daily Mail, it emerged that the magazine “refused to publish an article critical of China’s horrifying repression of Uighurs as it might cause problems for staff at its Beijing office.”

    In 2003 it was revealed that CNN had decided not to report on the atrocities of the Saddam Hussein regime out of fear that he would close their Baghdad office.  That was when I decided that CNN was untrustworthy and should be ignored.

    • #5
  6. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    It might be – and probably is –  that there was inadequate handling of the COVID situation at the Trump White House.

    But where should Blame for COVID really land? At the feet of inexperienced responders, or at the feet of the Criminal Cabal Of The Global Medical Mafia?

    When you look at the history of the activities of those super influential people who created the COVID crisis, rather than a group of people totally unfamiliar with the state of corrupted health research, once you examine the fact that Fauci was a deliberate mass-murderer-for-profit going all the way back to 1987 and 1988 with his handling of The AIDs crisis, plus the full and very incriminating history of Bill Gates and how he brought this to fruition, with an assist from Fauci, Daszak and others, then we must ask ourselves “is it fair to blame those at the WH?”

    Birx is and was a Bloomberg puppet. Had a wiser, better informed and more honest Trump been the one being presented “the facts” from rat bastards like Fauci and Birx, the American public would have been offered a kit of ivermectin and HCQ along with zinc and COVID would have sunk into the annals of history as the rather contagious but easy to beat virus that it was.

    Trump left the virtue honesty and integrity in the gutter when he refused to meet with Robert F Kennedy during the Big Pharma push for mandated multi-valent jabs for measles for school kids. I’m thinking that  someone told Trump if he wanted to win in 2020, he needed Pharma on his side.

    Too bad Trump didn’t realize Pharma and its major American players  are in bed with the CCP. Had Trump examined things closely, he would have shafted Pharma, stayed friends with Kennedy, and held down the fort.

    Instead at the time of the measles vaccine mandates, he acquiesced to Powers of Ultimate Evil. This strengthened their hand so that by Spring 2020, the ball was in their side of the court. As were the referees, as were the scorekeepers.

    The American people have lost everything. (Unless there is some last minute Hail Mary play that comes about in the next ten days.)

    Sure some people still believe the official narrative. They got their jabs and boosters, and their buddy who died of a massive, unexpected heart attack a few short weeks after his first jab, well, he had heart problems before anyway, right?

    But when in 30 months, only The Party Members get their ration cards, when using a car requiring actual fuel is forbidden, when two weeks to fight the virus becomes “Two months to bring in smart cars that never have accidents and will drive powered by sunlight” the people who are believing the narrative today might wake up.

    That is, if no longer having an immune system and having to continually battle ADE hasn’t left them too impaired to think about anything at all.

    • #6
  7. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    I enjoyed this book very much, and recommend it whole-heartedly.

    It was nice to see that there was indeed someone in the administration saying the same things, voicing the same head-scratching incredulity that we were all saying around the dinner table all through that first year. The lockdowns seemed ridiculously illogical, and the damage from them that would transpire was obvious to all of us.  Scott Atlas was saying the same things, but nobody was listening to him.

    • #7
  8. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    Thanks a lot for the review – it is now solidly on my “to read” list.

    I have one question, though: What is NPI?  I did an internet search and found a lot of terms (Nickle Pig Iron) that don’t quite fit the context.

     

    • #8
  9. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    Thanks a lot for the review – it is now solidly on my “to read” list.

    I have one question, though: What is NPI? I did an internet search and found a lot of terms (Nickle Pig Iron) that don’t quite fit the context.

     

    Non-pharmaceutical intervention. (Closures, mask mandates, quarantines, border closings)

    • #9
  10. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    The Swedes keep making us look stupid. No mask mandates, no school closings or lockdowns. Sweden is now 56th in COVID deaths per million.

    • #10
  11. Nanocelt TheContrarian Member
    Nanocelt TheContrarian
    @NanoceltTheContrarian

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    DonG (CAGW is a hoax) (View Comment):
    As for conspiracy and malice, never forget that The Lancet (the world’s foremost medical journal)

    If the Lancet has this reputation, we’re in trouble.

    From The American Thinker, July 2021:

    The Lancet is a journal driven as much by politics as by science. Last month, says the Daily Mail, it emerged that the magazine “refused to publish an article critical of China’s horrifying repression of Uighurs as it might cause problems for staff at its Beijing office.” And I certainly remember the deeply flawed studies The Lancet produced in 2004 and 2006 grossly overestimating the number of Iraqis who died in the first phase of the Iraq War.

    At this point, it seems that people are taking their lives in their hands if they trust The Lancet without carefully verifying that its information isn’t corrupted by political bias.

    I seem to remember that they also published a manufactured study on vaccines and autism.

    Yes they did. And it took the Lancet  a decade after the study had been proved fraudulent to retract the study. I’m a physician and have been in practice for forty years. It has ever been thus , but probably is getting worse. The Tuskegee syphilus study was exposed in 1972, the year before I started Medical school. The prior three quarters of a century had been dominated by the ultimate politicization of ‘science’ which was Eugenics, and this has not only not gone away, but is rapidly gaining steam.

    Arguably,  the most egregiously politicized medical study ever done was the Women’s Health Inititive study. In my view that study was a crime against humanity. It was a study pushed hard by Bernadette Healy, the first woman to direct the NIH. if you have any interest I will explain why. To this day that study is touted as one of the most definitive studies ever done to give a clear indication of what medical practice should be regarding post menopausal hormone replacement therapy. It is actually the opposite of that.

    The list goes on. And on. And on.

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Nanocelt TheContrarian (View Comment):
    Arguably,  the most egregiously politicized medical study ever done was the Women’s Health Inititive study. In my view that study was a crime against humanity. It was a study pushed hard by Bernadette Healy, the first woman to direct the NIH.

    I vaguely remember that because I was on hormone therapy. Didn’t they essentially warn women of being on the therapy with very sketchy reasons? I won’t go into my personal regimen, but my doctor left it up to me, and at my age, I decided to go off hormones. It worked out fine; I didn’t even have hot flashes afterward. But I remember there was controversy (if I’m remembering the same study)/

    • #12
  13. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Please catch the song at the end of this week’s London Calling.

    • #13
  14. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Old Bathos: “Never attribute to conspiracy that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

    No reason it can’t be both.  More specifically, a lot of the people in charge are incompetent, and a handful are evil.

    • #14
  15. Hans Gruber Pfizer President Inactive
    Hans Gruber Pfizer President
    @Pseudodionysius

    British Cowboys, the lot.

    • #15
  16. GlennAmurgis Coolidge
    GlennAmurgis
    @GlennAmurgis

    The real conflict is the citizen and the permanent bureaucracy. The DOJ, FBI, IRS and FDA have shown us in the last decade they crave power and are not afraid to use it.

    • #16
  17. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    It’s clearly not just ineptitude.  The white house in part as always with him and senility hasn’t helped, and most of the cabinet are inept, but also ideological.  What it all does is make it easy for the Chinese who are the only clearly focused in the entire cabal.       You don’t rush into this kind of self destruction without guidance.  Chaos and ineptitude require guidance to achieve this kind of systematic destruction.

    • #17
  18. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    The Swedes keep making us look stupid. No mask mandates, no school closings or lockdowns. Sweden is now 56th in COVID deaths per million.

    Please give me a cite for this graph

    • #18
  19. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    The Swedes keep making us look stupid. No mask mandates, no school closings or lockdowns. Sweden is now 56th in COVID deaths per million.

    Please give me a cite for this graph

    At the bottom it says it’s based on “worldomteres” data.  I’ll take a look.

    So I took a look.  https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

    It checks out.  The ranking and totals of both Peru and Sweden are consistent with the graph above.

    Took me all of two minutes, including writing this comment.

    • #19
  20. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Lilly is one of 3 or 4 corporations that seem to have near veto power in Indiana.  Pence had to swim in that pond to get elected to Congress and to the statehouse. 

    • #20
  21. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Please catch the song at the end of this week’s London Calling.

    Enjoyed the episode and the song.

    • #21
  22. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    The Swedes keep making us look stupid. No mask mandates, no school closings or lockdowns. Sweden is now 56th in COVID deaths per million.

    Please give me a cite for this graph

    See @ianmSC on Twitter or his substack.  He does great number-crunching. Jay Bhattacharya, Kevin Roche and some other heavyweights like and use his stuff.

    • #22
  23. Hans Gruber Pfizer President Inactive
    Hans Gruber Pfizer President
    @Pseudodionysius

    • #23
  24. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Old Bathos: In his depressing account of his time on the White House COVID task force, Scott Atlas describes weeks and months of utterly pointless meetings over which the incomparably mediocre Dr. Deborah Birx presided.

    The natural tendency in any bureaucracy is to reward and promote mediocrities–people who are first and foremost political animals and who are last and least highly competent in their putative fields of expertise. The only way to avoid this natural decay requires that the members of the organization place a high priority on excluding and eliminating political mediocrities while attracting and rewarding talented, honest people. Unfortunately that has not been the case for a long time.

    • #24
  25. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    • #25
  26. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):

    I presume the text is from GEOD or similar?

    • #26
  27. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    BDB (View Comment):
    I presume the text is from GEOD or similar?

    This says it is “A letter to CHOAM Attributed to The Preacher”, from Children of Dune. That novel was first published over 45 years ago, so I am trusting the creator of Calvin & Muad’Dib.

    • #27
  28. DaveSchmidt Coolidge
    DaveSchmidt
    @DaveSchmidt

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: In his depressing account of his time on the White House COVID task force, Scott Atlas describes weeks and months of utterly pointless meetings over which the incomparably mediocre Dr. Deborah Birx presided.

    The natural tendency in any bureaucracy is to reward and promote mediocrities–people who are first and foremost political animals and who are last and least highly competent in their putative fields of expertise. The only way to avoid this natural decay requires that the members of the organization place a high priority on excluding and eliminating political mediocrities while attracting and rewarding talented, honest people. Unfortunately that has not been the case for a long time.

    One of the problems is that many decision-makers are unwilling to hire people who are more talented and skilled than they are.  

    • #28
  29. Ontheleftcoast Inactive
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    The WSJ Editorial Board (paywalled.)

    In public, Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins urge Americans to “follow the science.” In private, the two sainted public-health officials schemed to quash dissenting views from top scientists. That’s the troubling but fair conclusion from emails obtained recently via the Freedom of Information Act by the American Institute for Economic Research.

    The tale unfolded in October 2020 after the launch of the Great Barrington Declaration, a statement by Harvard’s Martin Kulldorff, Oxford’s Sunetra Gupta and Stanford’s Jay Bhattacharya against blanket pandemic lockdowns. They favored a policy of what they called “focused protection” of high-risk populations such as the elderly or those with medical conditions. Thousands of scientists signed the declaration—if they were able to learn about it. We tried to give it some elevation on these pages.

    That didn’t please the lockdown consensus enforced by public-health officials and the press. Dr. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health until Sunday, sent an email on Oct. 8, 2020, to Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

    “This proposal from the three fringe epidemiologists . . . seems to be getting a lot of attention – and even a co-signature from Nobel Prize winner Mike Leavitt at Stanford. There needs to be a quick and devastating published take down of its premises,” Dr. Collins wrote. “Is it underway?”

    These researchers weren’t fringe and neither was their opposition to quarantining society. But in the panic over the virus, these two voices of science used their authority to stigmatize dissenters and crush debate. A week after his email, Dr. Collins spoke to the Washington Post about the Great Barrington Declaration. “This is a fringe component of epidemiology,” he said. “This is not mainstream science. It’s dangerous.” His message spread and the alternative strategy was dismissed in most precincts.

    Dr. Fauci replied to Dr. Collins that the takedown was underway. An article in Wired, a tech-news site, denied there was any scientific divide and argued lockdowns were a straw man—they weren’t coming back. If only it were true. The next month cases rose and restrictions returned.

    Dr. Fauci also emailed an article from the Nation, a left-wing magazine, and his staff sent him several more. The emails suggest a feedback loop: The media cited Dr. Fauci as an unquestionable authority, and Dr. Fauci got his talking points from the media. Facebook censored mentions of the Great Barrington Declaration. This is how groupthink works.

    On CBS last month, Dr. Fauci said Republicans who criticize him are “really criticizing science, because I represent science. That’s dangerous.” He isn’t “science.” And it’s also dangerous for scientific officials to mobilize to quash dissent, without which it’s easy to make tragic mistakes. A scientific debate over pandemic policy was and still is in the public interest, especially during a once-in-a-century plague.

    Stupidity. Mm hm. You bet.

    • #29
  30. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    DaveSchmidt (View Comment):

    Paul Stinchfield (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: In his depressing account of his time on the White House COVID task force, Scott Atlas describes weeks and months of utterly pointless meetings over which the incomparably mediocre Dr. Deborah Birx presided.

    The natural tendency in any bureaucracy is to reward and promote mediocrities–people who are first and foremost political animals and who are last and least highly competent in their putative fields of expertise. The only way to avoid this natural decay requires that the members of the organization place a high priority on excluding and eliminating political mediocrities while attracting and rewarding talented, honest people. Unfortunately that has not been the case for a long time.

    One of the problems is that many decision-makers are unwilling to hire people who are more talented and skilled than they are.

    Sometimes it is because mediocre people have trouble recognizing talent, but most frequently it is because political animals recognize talent and integrity as threats. Speaking of which, have you read Thomas Sowell’s accounts of his time working in the federal Department of Labor?

    • #30
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