Trump Diagnosis, Recovery Reveals America’s Two Competing Covid Myths

This isn’t about scientific facts anymore. It’s about narrative.

U.S. President Donald Trump removes his mask upon return to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on October 05, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump spent three days hospitalized for coronavirus. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images

If you scroll through reams of text on the CDC page entitled “COVID-19 Pandemic Planning Scenarios” (and hoo boy, you really do have to scroll), you will find that the novel coronavirus kills those whom it infects at the following rates (the Infection Fatality Ratio):

19 years of age or younger: 0.003% chance of death

20-49 years of age: 0.02% chance of death

50-69 years of age: 0.5% chance of death

70 years of age or older: 5.4% chance of death

By contrast, if you do a Google image search for “COVID transmission,” you will easily and immediately find page after page of nightmare cartoons in which apparently normal people spew poisonous particles from their filthy mouths in a manner that looks liable to choke anyone in the vicinity immediately upon contact. Perhaps you have seen some of these graphics yourself: it’s hard to miss them, plastered as they are all over public spaces in our new lockdown regime.

Now, of course, those graphics are not explicitly false: they usually include text describing how the virus is transmitted. But ask yourself: if this virus turns out to kill a vanishingly small percentage of those it infects, why is it so easy to find images of it that make it look like a cross between the Bubonic Plague and a weapon of domestic terrorism? Why is it so maddeningly difficult to find the data which tells you that, actually, it’s only a relatively minor threat?

There is one simple answer to this question: narrative. The menacing infographics and their threatening depictions aren’t works of science. They’re works of art, meant to depict COVID as some kind of apocalyptic fume that might lurk cunningly in the very innards of anybody on the streets. It’s a message, designed not to communicate the facts but to obscure them: Don’t let go of your fear. Stay submissive. Stay desperate. Stay down.

I’ve experienced this myself. When people go maskless in public, others initially recoil, but gradually relax the more they interact. Why should that be? Objectively, rationally, they haven’t learned anything new about the virus. But emotionally, on a subconscious level, they are having their real fear assuaged — the fear instilled in them by months of lockdown messaging, that visceral, pre-rational, emotional expectation that noxious gases are going to spill out of people’s mouths and choke them like in the infographics.

Over this past week, however, we have seen the most visible public figure in the country defy the COVID narrative. Donald Trump — overweight, 74-year-old Donald Trump — emerged from the hospital on Monday and defiantly took off his mask at the White House, after curb-stomping coronavirus with the help of his doctors. “Don’t be afraid of Covid,” he tweeted. “Don’t let it dominate your life.”

This simple, visible, emotional display of strength and courage in the face of risk is the counter-narrative to the Left’s campaign of fear. Bear in mind: We know nothing new now that we didn’t know before Trump got sick — at least, not in terms of scientific fact. But this hasn’t been about scientific fact for a long time. It’s about a studious campaign of false claims, promulgated by Joe Biden and his fellow travelers in the administrative state, designed to pump the chill of fear into America’s veins.

Joseph Campbell, the scholar of comparative mythology, said in The Power of Myth that “mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth — penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words.” From the Greek historian Herodotus to the English author J.R.R. Tolkien, the greatest tellers of tales have always known that stories exist to communicate some emotional truth, something that can’t be grasped with facts or figures.

America has now been presented with two starkly different myths about how deadly the virus is and how free men and women should react to it. The Joe Biden myth — the CDC story — is that our fellow man is poisonous and we should cower in fear from him under the direction of unelected expert autocrats. The Donald Trump story — the true story — is that fear should be no match for this great nation.

Those are the two options on the table this November. I hope America chooses wisely.

Spencer Klavan is host of the Young Heretics podcast and assistant editor of the Claremont Review of Booksand The American Mind. He can be reached on Twitter at @SpencerKlavan.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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