Tuesday, June 30, 2020


Speaking as a longtime observer of the conservative movement, let me say this: It has gone off the rails at such hyperspeed that, really, who even thinks of it as a movement anymore? The people who currently write for National Review, RedState, et alia, and columnists like Ross Douthat and Michelle Malkin may call themselves conservatives, but they don't promote anything like a coherent political philosophy -- unless white supremacy and donor service count as such.

And they don't advance ideas -- not even the shitty ones promoted by the "reformicons" in the days before Trump, with his open graft and brutality, made them look ridiculous -- but instead promote memes and conspiracy theories to try and keep their candidates in office and their larders full.

A big one these days is the crackpot idea that the national protests of the past month have caused the COVID-19 spikes we've been seeing in some states. The available evidence says otherwise, as those of us who live in major protest centers like New York City and Washington, D.C. who have seen their COVID-19 numbers go down will recognize; in fact, it's practically an object lesson -- if you shut down big disease vectors like bars, restaurants, and concert halls (as both polities have done until very recently), having protests in which nearly all participants are masked and considerate appears not to make too much of difference.

I mean, DC's just ten miles square and has had demonstrations of one kind or another every day for a month. And look:

Minnesota, where the George Floyd murder kicked it all off, has seen a rise in cases -- but, unlike NYC and DC, their state accelerated its reopening in early June, "allowing movie theaters, bowling alleys, gyms and pools to open to the public" and loosening restrictions on bars and restaurants, per KSTP.

Not dispositive but I have yet to hear a better explanation. Nonetheless trolls on Twitter -- including celebrity trolls like Ari Fleischer -- and elsewhere declare that the incredible vertical spikes in states like Florida, Texas, and Arizona are not due to their famous recent surges in bar-cramming and water sports, but due to protests. And it's not just obvious trolls -- Michael Brendan Dougherty, a tradcath National Review writer who usually commiserates with his fellow ecclesiastics about man's fallen state of liberalism (here's a ripe example in which MBD laments that by talking with a "potty-mouth," Kirsten Gillibrand is becoming just like Trump, whereas godly guys like Dougherty merely support Trump's policies, which is blessed in the sight of the Lord), is now putting his shoulder to the protest-COVID wheel.

Dougherty attacks Paul Krugman's assertion that Republican malfeasance has caused America's world-leading COVID wave, which would seem beyond dispute -- considering that the top Republican is Donald Trump, whose grotesque malingering on national COVID-19 policy, promotion of bleach and chloroquine as cures, and finally complete peaceing-out on the process as our numbers shot into oblivion, are the textbook definition of management by depraved indifference.

But Dougherty argues that New York -- which is full of liberals, see! -- is really to blame for "seeding the rest of the nation" with the virus because they let foreigners into the United States, under cover of being some sort of port. Also, "New York’s leadership, addled by partisanship, reacted to Donald Trump’s travel restrictions to and from China (and, later, Iran) by tacking in the opposite direction." In defense of this bizarre idea, Dougherty links to a tweet by a New York City Council member celebrating the  Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown, on... February 9.

(If that vaguely racist bit about associating Chinatown with China -- the country where what Trump calls "Kung-flu" came from -- looks familiar to you, congratulations, you've been paying attention.)

But the meat of Dougherty's argument is that Republican governors yelling "Belly up to the bar, suckers!" doesn't cause virus spikes because protests do.  First of all, "The New York Times reports that it is the youngest cohorts of adults who make up most of the latest cases." And what do young people do? Cram into bars and clubs the second they're open because they think their youth makes them indestructible? No! They all go to protests because they're SJW snowflakes who are "the least likely to be Republicans or to take their health cues from Donald Trump." (I guess that last bit means they're not likely to become morbidly obese and spray on a tan to look healthy.)

Dougherty blames his lack of evidence for this assertion on Democrats failing to have contact tracers ask test subjects if they've been to demonstrations -- and libs say they "are so concerned about science," LOL! The idea that, when you want to get people to volunteer for tests, you try not to act like an FBI front organization surreptitiously identifying protestors seems never to have occurred to Dougherty. Also I guess the COVID charts for New York City and DC aren't loading for him; he should call the IT Department.

Anyway, you're going to be seeing a lot of this bullshit, not only in the fever swamps but also on the loftiest perchs in wingnutdom.

UPDATE. I should also mention Megan McArdle's contribution: Back on June 5 she did her best to pre-denounce the protests as disease vectors, passive-aggressively insisting that if they didn't cause COVID spread, then all that stuff about social distancing was malarkey:
In a few weeks, one of two things will have happened. Either covid-19 cases will abruptly reverse their decline in some of America’s largest cities, and we will know that they were seeded by the days of rage we are living through . . . or they won’t. Either way, social distancing is over. 
In the happy scenario, the protests will have performed an enormous public service, even beyond agitating for justice. They are basically running a natural experiment that scientists could never have ethically undertaken: Do massive outside gatherings — including singing, chanting, screaming and coughing... 
Boy, it's like she was there, huh?
...— spread covid-19, or not? Along with evidence from the Memorial Day weekend parties at Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks, they may well demonstrate, once and for all, that the risk of spreading covid-19 outdoors is negligible.  
Pretending not to know the difference between marches and demonstrations where nearly everyone is masked and water parks full of people packing their faces with food and booze is why McArdle gets the big bucks. Anyway by her June 19 column she seemed to have abandoned this trope, worrying instead that under DC's upcoming Phase 2 "Washingtonians will soon spend a lot more time indoors with strangers, including in activities, such as exercising at the gym, that seem particularly prone to spreading the coronavirus" -- a concern I share! But if the increase in bar and gym traffic is accompanied by a rise in COVID cases, expect another column about how social justice gave us all a superbug.

UPDATE 2. Noah Rothman tries the same bullshit at Commentary, saying it stands to reasons that "leading young people into the streets to crowd each other and issue spittle-flecked screams of outrage into the air contributed to the virus’s resurgence as much as any other social behavior." He says reports that say otherwise are lying ("'No association was found,' they determined falsely"), though he shows no proof to the contrary, and even says reports that demonstrators tend to be good about masking -- which I have observed myself through a month of DC protests -- are also lies,  because protestors are young and "a May survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control found that people age 18-29 were the least likely to 'always' 'wear a cloth face covering when in public.'" And why would the protestors' behavior be any different than that of the kids chilling at The Lake of the Ozarks? Except, of course, more spittle-flecked!

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