Those who previously thought that contracting the virus was proof of a character fault have abruptly changed their thoughts. Don't hold your breath for an apology.
Earlier this week, CNN's Chris Cillizza bemoaned that "societally we unwittingly made having Covid into some sort of judgment on your character" throughout the pandemic. Cillizza proposed a solution to this problem, “We need to recognize that getting Covid isn’t a moral failing! It’s a super infectious disease that you can protect against, sure, but can’t guarantee you won’t get it.”
Which is a good thing! We need to recognize that getting Covid isn't a moral failing! It's a super infectious disease that you can protect against, sure, but can't guarantee you won't get it.— Chris Cillizza (@ChrisCillizza) January 5, 2022
“Unknowingly”? “We need to recognize”? “Societally”? Does Chris Cillizza live in a sensory-deprivation tank?
The idea that catching Covid is proof of a "moral deficiency" has never been "unknown." It has been at the heart of the disease's increasing response. Someone who disagrees with the maximalist approach to lockdowns, limitations, or regulations is dubbed a "Covidiot," as we see all the time. We see it every time Florida's governor is dubbed "DeathSantis," Texas' governor is accused of being a member of a "death cult," and any politician or journalist with a different risk calculus than Anthony Fauci is accused of trying to "murder grandmother." We see it insinuated by figures such as the New York Times’ Paul Krugman, who has compared the states experiencing a seasonal surge to the slaveholding Confederacy. We see it indicated every time that those with rational objections to pandemic-mitigation measures are characterized in the press as conducting an “experiment in human sacrifice.” We saw it last week, when “health-care expert” Gregory Travis warned a group of youngsters swimming at a Holiday Inn that if they drank too much, five out of ten of them would become infected and one would die. We saw it in the ridiculous assumption made in summer 2020 that COVID would spread more slowly if the mob was protesting against racism. When a Republican celebrity declares that he has the virus, he is immediately blamed for his own illness. We see it in every hysteric who tells desperate business-owners that their desire to reopen betrays a preference for “money” over “love.” It has been the motivation behind the schizophrenic manner in which COVID has been routinely covered by the media — the tone of which has depended almost entirely on where the virus is currently surging, who is being affected by it, and who is the president of the United States. And it is what Nicolle Wallace means when she complains that despite being “a Fauci groupie” and “a thrice-vaccinated, mask adherent” who buys “KN95 masks by the, you know, caseload,” she is beginning to sense that she won’t be able to “outrun” Omicron.
When Cillizza says that “we need to recognize,” what he should mean is, “We need to apologize.” Cillizza and his ilk are avoiding the God's Judgment premise that has dominated the press's coverage of Covid for almost two years for one reason and one reason only: The ruse is no longer viable now that they've collectively contracted Covid. It's one thing to look to the hicks down South and infer that they're coughing because they've chosen the wrong politics; it's another to consider what infection means when your own city is flooded, your own friends are sick, and your own policies have failed. It’s different when it’s you and people like you. It’s different when the “adult” president proves as hapless as the “moron” president. It’s different when the Buzzfeed Christmas party, rather than Spring Break at the Lake of the Ozarks, becomes the super-spreader event of the season.
Our censorious press came to think of itself as the Keeper of Science and Public Health, just like Antifa appears to have convinced itself that it must be Good since it is opposed to anything that is Bad. Then it lost its sense of taste all of a sudden.
And boy, was it unexpected! President Biden has abruptly dropped his sickly savior persona and confessed that the federal government can't do much to help. Suddenly, the teachers' unions are being chastised for their hypocrisy and cynicism. Suddenly, the efficacy of cloth masks and the viability of the zero-risk strategy are being called into question, and some of our most powerful voices are admitting that closing off the world may have some drawbacks. Suddenly, heretofore undervalued terms like "endemicity," "seasonality," "risk tolerance," and — God forbid! — humility are being discussed.
Many of the defectors want to claim that their shift in strategy is due to their new discovery of Covid's actual nature. Others make the jittery claim that Omicron is "different." However, it isn't - at least not in the sense that matters. Omicron is refreshingly distinct from earlier varieties in terms of lethality, but the practical dilemma remains the same: Can our public-policy approaches effectively prevent its spread? And, as previously, the solution to this question is the same: Certainly not. Yes, the ramifications of this incapacity are less severe. But that’s not the point. The point, as Matt Shapiro has observed, is that now, as ever, it is “impossible to understand COVID by looking at voting patterns or mitigation regimes or by setting two regionally disperse states against each other,” and it is especially impossible to understand Covid by looking to the moral character of the people who have contracted it.It doesn't care whether you believe you're virtuous. It makes no difference who you voted for. It makes no difference if your mayor has a lovely yard sign. It's a condition.
Isn't it time we acknowledged that obtaining Covid isn't a moral failing? Chris, no. Yes, you do.