If you follow one corner of the media world, we’re all gonna die.
Over on other channels, all is good and any panic is just another conspiracy.
The truth about the world-wide outbreak of coronavirus, of course, lies somewhere in the middle.
Possibly the most intelligent analysis I’ve read about how governments should address a potential crisis like this comes from an article by Zeynep Tufekci in The Atlantic. She says that controlling an outbreak like this reveals “authoritarian’s fatal flaw”.
How did Xi Jinping—the general secretary of the Communist Party of China, who has been consolidating his power since taking over the post in 2012—let things get to this point?
It might be that he didn’t fully know what was happening in his own country until it was too late.
Xi would be far from the first authoritarian to have been blindsided. Ironically, for all the talk of the technological side of Chinese authoritarianism, China’s use of technology to ratchet up surveillance and censorship may have made things worse, by making it less likely that Xi would even know what was going on in his own country.
Tufekci illustrates how this approach has a long tradition in modern China, from the failure to see a massive famine developing in the 50’s to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. The result is that China’s leaders have constructed a closed system in which knowledgable people who see a problem are discouraged from telling anyone about it.
If people are too afraid to talk, and if punishing people for “rumors” becomes the norm, a doctor punished for spreading news of a disease in one province becomes just another day, rather than an indication of impending crisis. Later, under criticism, Xi would say he gave instructions for fighting the virus as early as January 7, implying that he knew about it all along. But how could he admit the alternative? This is his system.
Does any of this sounds frighteningly familiar?
Except our would-be authoritarian leader doesn’t suffer from lack of information. He just refuses to process it and aggressively discourages any idea that doesn’t fit into his tiny world view through denial, lying, and bloviating. The facts get lost in the noise, everyone is confused, and people suffer.
Anyway, the whole article is worth a few minutes of your time.
And, if you’re in a state holding a primary tomorrow, go vote. I will be voting for Elizabeth Warren, but everyone needs to make their own choice and start the process to change the current situation.
Only a semi-relevant picture today. An American flag painted on a garage door in Georgetown.