Political Blindness During National Health Crisis Isn't New

Political Blindness During National Health Crisis Isn't New
(Amr Alfiky/The New York Times via AP, Pool)
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I’ve been bemused listening to the venerable Dr. Anthony Fauci and those who insist, even defend, his take on the Covid pandemic. He is considered the final authority on this particular disease and the course that our nation is taking with it. Yes, some states, some renegade states like Florida and Texas have bucked the Fauci line with what seems like success, but nonetheless it is Fauci’s word that matters most not only to the public at large but also the media. Generally, they are so in his corner they act as rabid dogs should anyone dare to challenge his prescription of double masking (or is it one again now—it was once none), six foot social distancing, and self quarantining, unless vaccinated, in which case one must still “mask-up”, social distance and only gather with immediate family. There are more caveats but you get the idea.

There are other voices out there though that proscribe completely different methodologies. There are even specialists in masks and their efficacy such as industrial hygienists, many who insist that masks make things worse rather than better. People such as Kristin Megan and Stephen Petty, experts in their field, insist and even scientifically argue that masks do nothing to stop the spread of Covid, nor do lockdowns. 

The backlash against anyone who pushes back against masking or lockdowns is akin to questioning the Catholic Church in the 14th century — it’s only a matter of time before one is burned at the stake and branded a heretic. Once something is accepted by the general public and aided by a complicit media, there is no fighting it, or at least very little hope. This is nothing new. In fact, this has happened before. 

Ineffective treatments not new in epidemics

In 1793 and then again in 1797 there was a yellow fever epidemic on the east coast, specifically, Philadelphia, the capital of the fledgling nation.

Dr. Benjamin Rush was the Dr. Fauci of the period, and his prescription for fighting the epidemic was bloodletting along with forced enema and vomiting up to three or four times a day. Bloodletting was not anathema to 18th-century thinking at all as it was a staple of medicine during the period. Needless to say, Dr. Rush’s “cures” were not cures at all, but rather akin to torture, but seen by many as well as the print media as the only way to cure the disease.

Alexander Hamilton came down with a rather virulent cast of the same malady, but as luck would have it, his friend from St. Croix, Dr. Edward Stephens, was in town. Dr. Stephens had extensive experience with malaria and yellow-fever, and he treated Hamilton with quinine (now known as a proper treatment for malaria), cold baths, and “glasses of brandy topped with cinnamon”

The net result was that Hamilton and his wife were cured within five days. Hamilton proceeded to write a published letter touting the wonders of Dr. Stephens, a letter that had significant influence but also undercut the “cures” advocated by the renowned Dr. Rush. Hamilton’s letter had so much force the media immediately rose to condemn it.

Moreover, the argument over cures took on overtly political overtones as well, with Dr. Rush, a strong advocate of Thomas Jefferson, he who was engaged in a political war with Hamilton which wound up with Mr. Jefferson resigning as Secretary of State in 1793. This suggests, as Ron Chernow postulates in his book Alexander Hamilton, that Dr. Rush may have been predisposed to side with Jefferson and take offense at Hamilton’s support of Dr. Stephens’ cure, publicly denouncing it. Further, it might be said that Stephens’ cure dealt a political blow to Dr. Rush and his credibility too. 

Using a pandemic for political gain unconsionable

Fast forward to today. Despite evidence to the contrary, mandatory mask wearing and lockdowns are the order of the day for most states, and are fostered by Dr. Fauci and the media at large. Dissenting voices and evidence are effectually silenced, despite experts opposing Dr. Fauci including those who wrote The Great Barrington Declaration along with the aforementioned industrial hygienists. As they go against the accepted narrative, they are cast aside as quacks, no-nothings, and “not Dr. Fauci”.

At this juncture, it should also be pointed out that deaths spiraled under the auspices of Dr. Rush in 1793. In an even more telling note, Chernow informs us that deaths became so prevalent under Dr. Rush’s treatments that in order to save him, then President John Adams promoted him to treasurer of the U.S. Mint. Failing up isn’t just a 21st century anomaly.

I am not saying deaths during this Covid event are Dr. Fauci’s fault. What I am saying is that for the media and those in power to be unwilling to look objectively at alternative practices in the name of party/political loyalty or face saving have no place in government when it comes to public health. It was true then and is just as true now.



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