Have you fallen in love with your fear of COVID-19?


Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 
The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News

The Star Spangled Banner
Fort McHenry bombarded by the British in 1812

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

These two lines are probably the most familiar words to most Americans of their national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key. When people sing the anthem before sports events, it is these lines alone which everyone clearly knows and sings out robustly. For the rest of the song everyone kind of goes along, mouthing the words based on what they think the entire crowd is singing.

We tend however not to think about what the words mean. That last line especially describes precisely the American nation as Key and his fellow Americans in 1812 saw it, as a land of free and brave people. They understood that they were free, but they also understood that it is impossible to be a free person if you are afraid. You must be brave to be free, because freedom carries risk and danger. The rewards are gigantic, but with those rewards comes the real risk of failure and even death. To be free you need accept that risk and face it boldly.

The results of that courage are evident by what the citizens of the United States of America achieved in the two hundred years since Key wrote these words. We fought a Civil War that killed more than 600,000 people to set everyone in our nation free. We fought two wars in Europe, with the second setting that entire continent free as well because we came not as conquerors but as liberators.

And we built a nation so prosperous, for all its people, that multitudes flock desperately to come here and be part of this great experiment in human freedom.

That noble experiment is now threatened. Within our nation are many people who hate it, and are striving hard to destroy it. Along the way they eagerly long for the day that freedom itself is squelched, a day when they by edict can decide what every citizen is permitted to do, and when they by edict will be able to arrest and destroy anyone who defies them.

It is very simple. They want power. Freedom for everyone denies them that.

Sadly, these power-hungry thugs have achieved many of these goals during the Wuhan flu panic of the last three months. First they were able to put everyone under house arrest, doing so in a manner that in many ways acted to nullify the Bill of Rights, the primary American document for protecting our freedom. Then they encouraged bigoted riots and looting supposedly in response to the death of George Floyd but really prompted by that hate of America. Both actions, the COVID-19 lockdowns and the riots, were designed to instill fear and obedience in all Americans so that they will not oppose these thugs in their power-grab.

These jack-booted actions by these haters of freedom however are not going to be the reason this noble experiment will or will not fail. What will cause it to fail is that fear that Americans now feel, and seem unwilling to let go.

Right now, as I try as a science journalist to document the real scope of the COVID-19 epidemic, I am discovering a remarkable phenomenon. No one wants to hear any good news about the virus.

When I reported, at the beginning of this epidemic, that the early data suggested that (at worse) it will have a manageable mortality rate, not much higher than the flu, and like the flu that mortality will mostly be limited to the elderly sick, few people wanted to hear. “It is deadly! We have to extend the lock downs! We have to social distance! We can’t get near each other!”

When I reported, more recently, that this early data has turned out to be mostly right, and that this virus is not the plague that these fear-mongers have claimed, even fewer people wanted to hear. “How dare you minimize the threat!? It is deadly! We need to wear masks! We need to shut down society! We can’t return to normal!”

When I reported that the science of masks is uncertain at best, and quite possibly harmful to the wearer, far too many people continued to have their fingers in their ears. “How dare you disrespect the fears of others?! So you want me to die, do you? How dare you question the authority of those telling you do something!?”

When I reported that the death rate is finally dropping to very reasonable levels even as the number of detected infections skyrocket, which further proves the virus’s low mortality rate while showing its relative harmlessness to almost the entire population, the fingers in the ears seem to get stuffed even tighter. “Quiet! You will make people stop taking this disease seriously! More people will die! Shut up!

Arizona daily deaths, new cases, new hospitalizations
Arizona daily deaths, new cases, and new
hospitalizations due to COVID-19, as of July 5, 2020.

My descriptions above of the reactions to my reporting are not made-up hyperbole. They are actually based on real experience. For example, on one of the Arizona caving listservs I belong to someone whom I respect highly put out a warning notice, noting that because people appeared to be going caving again they need to exercise care and discretion to avoid spreading the virus. I responded by noting that though I agree with her entirely, people should be aware of the recent good news, that the Arizona death rate remains relatively low even as new cases are skyrocketing (as shown in the graph to the right) and that disease seems to be fading as a big risk. I included this graph in my listserv response, and also made reference to my various other reports based on actual data.

I was trying to let people know that there is simply less reason to be afraid.

I was immediately lambasted in exactly the way I describe above, with the clear implication that somehow Bob Zimmerman was irresponsible, that by reporting these encouraging facts he was going to cause careless behavior that thus will cause the virus to spread and kill people. To quote: “It is NOT about just the death rate. It is about stopping the spread.”

Since we can’t stop the spread (which we originally recognized as impossible) I am not sure what this person was attempting to accomplish except to heighten the fear in everyone that he himself still felt.

This is not an isolated experience. Another friend described to me recently how when he simply tried to communicate the real mask rules imposed here in Tucson, which allow for many exceptions and in fact do not require a mask if you can maintain social distancing, he was confronted with disbelief and horror. How dare he consider not wearing a mask, as ordered!

What I think is happening now is that many people have been emotionally captured by their fear of COVID-19. They have been convinced, on a gut visceral level, that it is very dangerous to everyone, and to reject this conclusion means they have to let go of their fear and resume life with the kind of nonchalant courage that was once taken for granted. We didn’t cringe in fear in our homes over the flu, the measles, the Hong Kong flu, pneumonia, or any number of other infectious diseases that are as dangerous, if not more so. We accepted that risk so that we could live our lives freely and boldly, even if that meant taking on a risk we could not control.

I am finding that too many people simply can’t do this anymore. Their emotional fear controls them, and they can’t let go of it to take a breath and process new data that contradicts that fear.

This marriage to fear carries with it a greater danger. If people are now willing to let their fear rule them when it comes to COVID-19, it means they will likely let their fear rule them in many other circumstances, such as when some government thug (like my Republican governor Doug Ducey) decides to arbitrarily shut down some businesses but not others by edict, because he himself is irrationally terrorized by a virus that presently appears to be fading in strength.

Someday some government thug will decide to silence others, not because of the fear of a virus, but because those individuals simply opposed that thug. Freedom will die, and tyranny will then rule, because now we let fear rule us.

Maybe Franklyn Roosevelt said it best during his first inaugural address on March 4, 1933 when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself–nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Fear kills the mind. It makes rational thought impossible. And right now too many Americans are paralyzed with fear, of COVID-19, of Black Lives Matter, of Antifa, of all kinds of bigoted fascist thugs. They have let their fear take control of them.

If we wish to remain “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” we need to let go of that fear. We need to be brave again, in order to be free.

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16 comments

  • V-Man

    Tell me about it. Our city just announced that face masks will be mandatory in public — starting *three weeks* from now. Apparently, people “need time to prepare.” Prepare for what?

    This is the same government that was telling us not to wear masks back in March/April.

  • Gealon

    I wonder when the burka will become mandated. It provides just as much protection as the dew rags I see people wearing and is an excellent example of restricted rights. Should be right up the lefties alley.

    I myself am planning to buy a novelty space helmet and print in big letters on it “Don’t forget your mask of fear.” It too would provide the same protection as these ridiculous masks, IE none and allow me to make a statement.

  • John C

    This might sound a little bit extreme, but I believe if there was a cure, or vaccine found and able to be distributed tomorrow, that people would still remain locked down and those in power would still advocate for a lockdown. They would give some reasons to continue it because of “safety” and “the virus is still out there” who knows what their lame-brain reasons would be, but this entire Covid fiasco has given a massive amount of cowardly people reasons to stay at home and be afraid of everything in life. Have fun in your house. See you never.

  • F16 Guy

    If every conservative or reader of BTB wore a mask that had TRUMP 2020 on the front, would we be asked to stop wearing masks ?

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “Right now, as I try as a science journalist to document the real scope of the COVID-19 epidemic, I am discovering a remarkable phenomenon. No one wants to hear any good news about the virus.

    It is notable that this same phenomenon happened with global warming. When it was shown that the Earth had not warmed in well over a decade then many people insisted that this was wrong, the scientists made up excuses (e.g. the heat was “hiding” in the oceans), and the politicians changed the story to climate change (because a lack of change in temperature must be a change in climate, right?). No one wanted to hear about success.

    The Kyoto agreement was said to have been made in order to save us from global warming. The U.S. did more than its share of reducing CO2, and Kyoto was followed by many other countries (buying or selling carbon credits to create an overall reduction in CO2 output), but when the temperature failed to continue to rise and became steady, how many people cheered and declared Kyoto a success? (“Yay! We are saved from global warming! Kyoto worked!”) Instead, the world’s leaders went to Paris in order to continue the fight against global warming — er — climate change. No one wanted to hear about success.

    New York City had a drastic reduction in crime and murders, a quarter century ago. There was not much cheering at the time, and these days the city is reverting its policies to those they had during the years of heavy crime, with a return to high crime rates. Some people just don’t learn. (What can we say about their intelligence?) Oh, and are the policymakers taking the blame for this devolution? No. Why? Apparently, some people prefer a bad news story over good news, so there is no blame to assign to anyone. Don’t let facts get in the way of a good story.

    It certainly seems as though Goebbels — er — the news media have succeeded in making people believe that this shutdown, lockdown, smackdown, Great Oppression was necessary, and that it has saved lives (probably even yours, more than once). Perhaps being a Chicken Little is similar to spreading juicy gossip; it doesn’t matter whether it is true, it only matters that people believe it, and spreading the prevailing tale makes it easier to believe. Once people have bought into that religion, it is hard to convince them that theirs is a false god — government can easily seem godlike to those who have no other god. They fell in love with their fear.

    Whatever happened to “question authority”? The generation that advanced that philosophy has become the authority — not to be questioned, just obeyed.

    However, even in my navy-blue county, few people truly obey the directives. Not everyone is going gently into that good night. The government has screwed us pretty hard, over the past four months, so we are having trouble walking,. However, we are discovering how little power or opportunity we have to screw them back.

    We the People do not have many methods of protest, in which we are not fined, shutdown, or jailed by the police, but we seek them wherever we can. As I write this sentence, I am viewing three unmasked young men being unsocially distant. My thought is that the emotional Chicken Littles are more forceful at shaming and blaming than are those who have science, reason, and fact on their side. It is certainly difficult to overcome emotion, as Robert has discovered.

    I suspect that it is more likely that being Chicken Little is a natural flight or fight response, where fear either makes us flee or is overcome and a natural defense mechanism makes us behave bravely.

  • commodude

    It’s easier to control the herd when they’re scared and looking for someone to provide succor.

    The media and politicians have made sure that the herd is willing to blindly follow them, but it will only last as long as they can keep the skeer in ’em.

  • wayne

    F16 Guy–
    –If everyone wore a TRUMP 2020 mask, the Crisis would be over yesterday, and Google would have already scrubbed all mention of the Chinese-virus.

    commodude–
    …this comes to mind….

    Planet of the Apes
    1968
    https://youtu.be/pBMvR_RnKu4
    1:50

  • the hawl

    John C – I believe you are correct. It’s fashionable to be afraid of this, terrified of this, and I have already heard many say that a vaccine will change nothing in their approach, that they will not get the vaccine or allow their children and family to be inoculated, because it won’t be proven yet, and they won’t “risk” sending their kids to school, going to church, or stop having meals and supplies delivered until the virus is eliminated. Seriously…like that’s ever going to happen.

  • pawn

    Robert,

    Thanks for writing this. I finally have something far more eloquently written to share with my “Data Driven” colleges than my ramblings on needing to glom the data without bias or agenda. I have found it difficult to communicate this perspective without being shut down.

    This is indeed “Love of Fear”. I always knew that being rational was a ticket to being unpopular but now it makes you a target so the rational folks like me are laying low.

    No matter how evolved people pretend to be, it is go old “Fear” that wins the day.

    I shall persevere, despite my sadness over the continued selective ignorance of the collective due to your bravery in speaking out despite the ongoing narrative of the openly hostile media.

  • C. Kalina

    I’ve encountered EXACTLY the same reaction discussing this in community forums like Nextdoor. Certainly at least a large and vocal minority, although it’s difficult to gauge how representative they are. Schools reopening (or not) in another month is starting for focus people’s attention and forcing them to take sides.

    However, my impression is that it’s less about fear than snobbery, and the frisson of feeling morally superior. “PEOPLE LIKE US value human life” (emphasis added, but direct quote from a neighbor) — which makes me/us so much better than YOU slobs.

    One verbal tic is that they tend to preface comments with the “Az-Uh” construction: “As a [type of person], I think/want/say…” Another is that they talk about “respect” rather than actual health risks. These are tells that this is really about them, and their social status and authority.

    So when you present contrary evidence, you’re taking that away from them, it feels like a personal attack and they react accordingly. They’re not afraid of the virus; they’re outraged at the lese-majeste.

  • Robert:

    You are the 1st media figure I’ve heard address the issue of bravery in the face of danger, (or the lack thereof). We’ve been attacked for bringing up the fact that lock downs were a cowardly flinch in the face of a potential crisis, (the biggest flinch in history). We just want you to know We’re with you. We’ve been trying to report the good news on this epidemic since March, and have noted the phenomenon you lay out as well, (just not articulated as well as you have done here). When it comes to COVID-19, good news travels slow.

  • Doug McBurney: Thank you for the kind words. They are very much appreciated.

  • John

    I also think that much of the reaction is just a result of conditioning of the mindless woke idiots. The masks are a security blanket, social acceptance, and such an easy way to feel good about ending covid.

    If there was a real body count beyond an extra bad flu season, if everybody saw more than a token death or two around them, then we would have seen real chaos. Can you imagine the hysteria if children weren’t practically immune? Karen would be even more unhinged.

    If they were really scared, they would not have assembled for mass protests.

    Free and brave? At least when they change the national anthem, we won’t have to pretend anymore.

  • John

    It is a peculiar thing, but I kinda like being locked down.

    I always try to make the best of whatever situation I find myself in, and the lockdown has been no exception.

    I kinda like working at home. I enjoy having my family around, and my spouse is saving hours a day commuting.

    I enjoy my on-line worship and find that Zoom meetings are miraculously efficient. I talk to my extended family every week, even though we are spread all over the World. That never happens.

    I enjoy the simplified lifestyle. Cooking at home, baking bread, time to read and garden and pursue my hobbies. It really has been a wonderful time, for me, personally.

    When it all ends, I will kinda miss it, you know?

    Of course, when we go back into the World, I will make the best of that situation, too. I know this about myself, so I am always happy to take on new situations. No matter where I wind up, I always seem to be able to be happy.

    And, obviously, it would be much better for everybody else who has not been as lucky as me. Many people have been suffering greatly during the lockdown, and it would be monstrous to suggest extending it for my own comfort.

  • In WA state, we now have no medical exemptions. You must wear a mask. And Inslee says we will wear them until there is a vaccine, although I suspect he would find a way to continue mandating them after that. People are hysterical and I just don’t get it.

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “I am finding that too many people simply can’t do this anymore. Their emotional fear controls them, and they can’t let go of it to take a breath and process new data that contradicts that fear.

    It may be more of a Cinderella syndrome than an irrational fear of the Wuhan flu. Those who blindly obey government truly believe that government is there to save them, like some Prince Charming in shining armor on a white steed. What they don’t understand is that any government is made up of people who are there to help themselves, and the only thing that saves us all from tyranny is them following rules that prevent tyranny — if those who run government disobey those rules then tyranny reigns. No one is coming to save them (welfare programs look like saviors, but half a century of experience shows that they are traps into perpetual poverty). It frightens them to say that government isn’t their savior, because they feel a need to be saved by someone, and they think that only government is strong enough to do it.

    We elect the people who are supposed to ensure that government protects our liberty from tyranny, but the Chicken Little Cinderellas are afraid of liberty, because that requires that they save themselves without the prince, the shining armor, or the steed. Or that they find their own prince. It is easier for them to assume that the government is the savior than it is to find a real savior, or to do the scary, hard work to save themselves. Assuming that government was the savior is what happened to Venezuela and in Weimar Germany, whose people actually needed rescue from the government’s bad policies. Too bad they chose tyrannies with worse policies.

    I don’t think that the fear is so much a fear of the Wuhan flu but more a fear of being on their own. Freedom can be scary, because independence carries a responsibility that many are not yet ready to take. This is why it seems that the people who believe government will save them from global warming (or climate change, when the warming stops) are also the same ones who believe the police will save them from the guys breaking into their houses and are the same ones who believe the government knows best when it comes to shutting down the economy, locking down the populace, and smacking down anyone who does not blindly obey during this Great Oppression.

    The best part for these same people is when they get to do the smackdown by trying to shame those who disobey stupidity. They get to feel the same thrill of being a tyrant that their tyrannical leaders feel when they dictate their stupid unconstitutional rules. We have nothing to fear but fear itself? We also have to fear those who are fearful. They insist upon tyranny rather than liberty. Lording tyranny over others is part of their hunger for power, and if it takes a form of thuggery, then that is just good practice for when they are ready to join antifa (Anti-First-Amendment) or whatever group.

    Why is it that these rules are continually in flux, anyway? It is because the goalposts keep moving in order for the government to continue rationalizing the shutdown, lockdown, smackdown, Great Oppression. Power corrupts, but this absolute power has absolutely corrupted.

    The rest of us tend to think that their inability to take responsibility — their need for some form of parental unit — makes them seem to have the emotional maturity of three year olds. Ah, no wonder so many liberals live in their parents’s basements. Some people have not matured enough to take care of themselves, their spouses, or their children, and they think that they need a strong government to give a hand out — er — hand up to those who cannot yet care for themselves. Especially when it is the responsible people, not themselves, who will pay for the expensive government. Who remembers the couple in San Francisco who liked Obamacare but hadn’t realized that they would have to pay for it?

    So, is it falling in love with the fear of the Wuhan flu or is it falling in love with the parental controls imposed due to the inappropriate reaction to the Wuhan flu? Like three-year-olds, many of these people are so in love with rules and following the rules that they take part in telling the rest of us to obey these rules, too.

    Directing us to follow the rules makes them feel the power that they long to have one day, when they grow up.

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