August 23, 2020 Reading Time: 10 minutes

Storied minds have argued that a failure to critically examine our beliefs makes us culpable for adverse outcomes. Beliefs lead to actions, which impact other people. 

As Voltaire wrote during the Enlightenment — when society still had time away from the screen to reflect on philosophy, morality, and fundamental truth — “those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

This has never been more true than in the age of social media, when information and opinions constantly bombard us from all sides, isolating us from our own thoughts and values. We have a moral duty to critically examine our beliefs — especially our belief in “lockdown,” the most oppressive and universally destructive public policy implemented in our lifetimes. 

Is it the least-restrictive means available to minimize casualties in this pandemic? 

Our belief in it was formed when we felt legitimate fear — this can lead to irrationality — so we really cannot answer this question in good conscience unless and until we take the time to conduct a proper, honest examination with the benefit of hindsight.

Any number of atrocities can occur when human beings act on unfounded, unexamined beliefs. 

Consider the example of the shipowner in William Kingdon Clifford’s 1876 essay, “The Ethics of Belief.” Troubled by the condition of his aging ship, which others have suggested is not well-built and is in need of repairs, he eventually pacifies himself with these comforting thoughts: “She had gone safely through so many voyages and weathered so many storms that it was idle to suppose she would not come home from this trip also.” The shipowner develops a sincere conviction that she will not sink, and acts on his belief.

“He watched [the ship’s] departure with a light heart, and benevolent wishes for the success of the exiles in their strange new home that was to be; and he got his insurance-money when she went down in mid-ocean and told no tales.

What shall we say of him? Surely this, that he was verily guilty of the death of those men. It is admitted that he did sincerely believe in the soundness of his ship; but the sincerity of his conviction can in nowise help him, because he had no right to believe on such evidence as was before him. He had acquired his belief not by honestly earning it in patient investigation, but by stifling his doubts.”

The shipowner’s belief was built on sand — he knew he had questions to answer, but instead he took the comfortable path, and other people had to pay with their lives for it. While it may appear that he personally got off easy, his reputation, confidence and conscience surely suffered. 

People who harbor false beliefs and ignore warning signs routinely end up grievously harmed: consider the investors in Elizabeth Holmes’ Theranos scam, or Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, or the parents of Larry Nassar’s little-girl gymnasts. These examples prove just how easily the trust and credulity of very intelligent people is easily exploited. It happens like magic, in broad daylight — millions are lost or gained, irreparable actions are taken — with the victim all the while believing he or she is choosing to participate in a beneficial relationship or situation.

The passengers trusted the shipowner. The investors trusted the entrepreneurs. The parents trusted the doctor. Should WE be trusting the government?

Perhaps, instead of taking the easy path of blind faith, we should challenge our government’s assertions about COVID-19 and how to deal with it. After all, governments have already admitted to manipulating us in writing:

Perceived threat: A substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened; it could be that they are reassured by the low death rate in their demographic group . . . The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging.

I respectfully submit to you: anyone willing to adopt this shady tactic is not worthy of your blind trust. Governments know that emotional people are easy to manipulate. As Robert Greene wrote in the authoritative tome on human nature, “You like to imagine yourself in control of your fate, consciously planning the course of your life…[b]ut you are largely unaware of how deeply your emotions dominate you. They make you veer toward ideas that soothe your ego. They make you look for evidence that confirms what you already want to believe…” 

Logically, terrified people want to believe in the existence of a sturdy lifeline. They like that lifeline even more if grasping onto it makes them “good people,” and turns those who prefer to swim with the tide into “killers.” Knowing what it knows about human nature, we can be certain our government knew that proposing lockdown to us at this particular moment was pretty much guaranteed to succeed. 

It would be wise to take the government to task now that we’ve calmed down. What have they asked us to believe, why have they asked us to believe it, and what are the grounds for doubt?

Belief #1: “Lockdown saves lives.”

Blind faith in lockdown rapidly took hold in March 2020 like a fire in a haystack. The spark that ignited it was terror, lit by the media’s sensationalist reporting of the “disaster” in Northern Italy, shortly followed by the doomsday predictions from fancy-sounding (“Imperial College! London!”) modelers. Those same modelers offered a lifeline: — lockdown, the long awaited real-life opportunity to test a pet theory. Too bad we never stopped to question their credibility (“they sound so fancy!”) and motives (“we’ve been waiting for this moment!”) before taking any action — particularly drastic, life-altering action.

“Every man who has accepted the statement from somebody else, without himself testing and verifying it, is out of court; his word is worth nothing at all. Two serious questions must be asked in regard to him who first made it: was he mistaken in thinking that he knew about this matter, or was he lying?” ~ William Kingdon Clifford

A second, even bigger credibility issue is found when we consider the first lesson we ever learned about “lockdown.” That lesson came from China. None of us — or even our parents — had ever heard of a population-wide quarantine until the Chinese government planted the idea with a highly-publicized “lockdown” of its own. 

This normalized the concept, preparing our minds to accept it as a scientifically-supported measure to manage infectious diseases. Then, after bombarding us with images of its citizens’ sacrifices, China predictably declared, “It worked! We defeated the virus! Disease is gone!”

The lifeline. The island of escape. Thank you, China — because of you, we will not die.

Little did we know that decades of public health work unequivocally established the opposite: “There is no basis [in science] for recommending quarantine either of groups or individuals.” 

From the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention:

“It is hard to imagine that measures like those within the category of social distancing would not have some positive impact by reducing transmission of a human respiratory infection spreading from human to human via droplets and indirect contact. However, the evidence base supporting each individual measure is often weak.

From the United States Center for Disease Control’s 2007 Interim Pandemic Planning Guidelines (p.25):

“[M]athematical models that explored potential source mitigation strategies that make use of . . . infection control and social distancing measures for use in an influenza outbreak identified critical time thresholds for success. . . the effectiveness of pandemic mitigation strategies will erode rapidly as the cumulative illness rate prior to implementation climbs above 1 percent of the population in an affected area.”

Even the Washington Post, in late January 2020, published an article soundly condemning the Chinese lockdown:

“This is just mind-boggling: This is the mother of all quarantines. I could never have imagined it.” ~ Howard Markel, University of Michigan medical historian

“The truth is those kinds of lockdowns are very rare and never effective . . . They’re doing it because people who are in political leadership always think that if you do something dramatic and visible that you’ll gain popular support. They couldn’t have any sound public health advice.” ~ Lawrence O. Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown University

We can now confirm the accuracy of these statements with live data from our lockdown experiment. We even have the scientific gold standard — a control group — Sweden. Swedish mortality data proves that not only does lockdown not “save lives,” it leads to increased mortality. Sweden has far less “excess” (above-average) all-cause mortality in 2020 than heavily locked-down areas such as New Jersey, Michigan, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and the U.K. Sweden’s all-cause mortality this year is similar to that of its Scandinavian neighbors: they each have moderate excess mortality, in line with historical averages.

Sweden also proves that COVID’s true mortality impact — when additional lives are not lost due to terrifying propaganda and draconian government actions leading to fear, despair, and the destruction of medical and social systems — is that of a severe flu. For weeks 1–32 of 2018, Sweden had 56,770 deaths. For the same weeks of 2020, it has 59,346 deaths — a difference of 2,576 or ~4%, and going down from there since mortality is now running below average

In short, many of the weakest citizens in Sweden sadly died a few months early. While all lost time is regrettable, it is unlikely that any dying 86-year-old, in order to extend his own life by 5–9 months (the average remaining life expectancy of 70% of Swedish COVID deaths), would propose that a 30-year-old father be sentenced to lose his business and hang himself.

Yet that’s exactly what happened in countries that did lock down. The elderly we were supposed to be “saving” didn’t get to speak on the matter— instead, they got COVID secretly sent straight into their places of residence, like a fox to the henhouse. According to the government officials who issued these orders and their ideologically-aligned media, Sweden is the bad guy. We accept this perverse, overtly-biased claim and resulting atrocity only because we firmly believe in the effectiveness of lockdowns. Otherwise, we would be rioting in the streets, recognizing that the same people who created the problem sold us the remedy. Their remedy.

“We all suffer severely from the maintenance and support of false beliefs and the fatally wrong actions which they lead to, and the evil born when one such belief is entertained is great and wide.” ~ William Kingdon Clifford

Belief #2: It is imperative FOR EVERYONE to avoid COVID-19 infection.

Some people, particularly the very elderly with serious comorbidities, should indeed try to avoid infection. But for the millions of people at low risk, COVID should be treated the same as the flu. They should circulate normally, serving humanity by exposing themselves to the virus without hysteria, as the Swedes did. This will minimize overall mortality by reducing the duration of the epidemic, freeing the high-risk elderly from confinement earlier, and avoiding all of the lockdown deaths and other traumas. It is a scientific fact that every epidemic ends at the threshold of “herd immunity” — not before.

The alternative we have chosen — an epidemic identical in size, but longer in duration, with people at statistically zero risk hiding inside their homes getting more stressed, fatter, and sicker — is utter madness. The most tragic part is Imperial explained this to us on March 16, and posted it online for everyone to see:

“Once interventions are relaxed . . . infections begin to rise, resulting in a predicted peak epidemic later in the year. The more successful a strategy is at temporary suppression, the larger the later epidemic is predicted to be in the absence of vaccination, due to lesser build-up of herd immunity.”

While Imperial designed lockdown as an ICU-capacity management strategy, it apparently did not foresee the difficulty in persuading people terrified by lockdown to go right back out and live two weeks later. “All clear! We have thousands of ICU beds staffed and ready for you! Good luck!”

Good luck indeed.

Thankfully, now we know that COVID is much less deadly than Imperial, WHO, and mainstream media led us to believe. Most of us know no one who has died — only .05% of the population has, after all. We do indeed have the all-clear, and we should feel perfectly fine conducting ourselves exactly like a Swede — and thanking others for doing just that, instead of bullying them with life-defeating, authoritarian mandates.

Belief #3: If she doesn’t wear a mask, I won’t be safe.

See above. If she acquires the infection and recovers, you will be safer than you were before. Unless you are routinely pounced on by sneezing strangers, you can wear your own mask and maintain your distance. You don’t need any help from anyone else. Established science says that masks and distancing don’t work, anyway — COVID-19 spontaneously shows up on naval ships 49 days into isolation, and similar viruses have appeared during the 17th week of perfect Antarctic quarantines. But at least you will feel like you’re doing something.

Belief #4: If I was wrong about lockdown, that makes me gullible and unintelligent.

No, it makes you human. To err is human. Admitting this is noble and altruistic, while persisting on course despite red flags is pathological and damaging. We should all aspire to be like Socrates, who understood his human fallibilities: “I know that I am intelligent because I know that I know nothing.” 

There is no shame in falling for such a sophisticated propaganda scheme. Most people did. A few shining stars have since emerged to admit their mistake, quietly adopting the Swedish approach. You would be wise to join them, avoiding the fate of Don Quixote: 

“As long as he fought imaginary giants, Don Quixote was just play-acting. However once he actually kills someone, he will cling to his fantasies for all he is worth, because only they give meaning to his tragic misdeed. Paradoxically, the more sacrifices we make for an imaginary story, the more tenaciously we hold on to it, because we desperately want to give meaning to those sacrifices and to the suffering we have caused.” ~ Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow

Belief #5: COVID-19 is much more dangerous than the flu.

Nope. As stated above, in terms of mortality impact, Sweden already proved that COVID-19 is indeed similar to the flu. The diseases are similar in other respects — both can have long-term health effects, both kill random outliers (the flu even kills young teachers), and both can cause hospitals to overflow, as influenza did as recently as two years ago. They have similar survival rates: ~997 out of 1,000 for COVID, ~999 out of 1,000 for flu. Over fifty percent of Americans don’t even get the flu shot, yet we have destroyed the planet to “stop” COVID-19.

Why did it happen? Because the media chose to depict this virus as Black Plague — and we believed it. Now that we know that the media can do this, we can understand why the U.K. Prime Minister — and others in his position — was afraid of its powers. He reportedly imposed lockdown because he was threatened as follows: “If he didn’t lock down, journalists will ask him on national television to accept responsibility and apologise to the families of those who have died as a result of Covid-19, because the rhetoric would have been that it was his fault for not locking down.” In other words, the media had a three-step plan: (1) convince us that politicians have the power to stop death, (2) put the politicians in the position of needing to do what the media suggests will “save our lives,” (3) watch as we drive ourselves over a cliff.

The media cannot do this without our participation. We can stop them immediately by refusing to believe their superstitious, pseudo-scientific proposition that this is the only disease in history that needed a politician-imposed lockdown to abate. They cannot trick us into burning down our own houses once we simply stop believing that politicians have the power to stop death. Standing firmly on this foundation of scientific truth, we will finally be at peace, realizing that COVID-19, like every disease in history, will infect a certain number of people, kill a minute percentage of them, and then move along, lockdown or no lockdown. 

We really must stop believing otherwise. Our credulity is destroying us. So long as we do believe the myth, we are avoiding the responsibility to manage this virus the way intelligent societies always have, by permitting medical professionals to treat sick people as individuals, one ailment at a time. One cannot merely unleash a total state on the whole of society–even on nearly the entire planet–in a futile effort to scare the virus into going away. 

That’s completely mystical thinking that unleashes the very catastrophe that smallpox eradicator Donald A. Henderson predicted in his 2006 plea never to lock down. 

“The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things, though that is great enough; but that it should become credulous, and lose the habit of testing things and inquiring into them; for then it must sink back into savagery.” ~ William Kingdon Clifford

Stacey Rudin

Stacey Rudin

Stacey Rudin is a writer and former litigator. She lives in Short Hills, New Jersey. Read more from Stacey Rudin on Medium.

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