John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Fighting the government’s harmful overreaction to COVID-19

Posted on May 5, 2020
A cytokine storm is the immune system’s overreaction to a virus and is thought to be one of the major causes of death of COVID-19. The cytokines are the storm-troopers of the immune system and they start shooting at healthy cells and tissues as well as the virus itself during a cytokine storm.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that he would rather overreact than underreact when it comes to fighting off this novel coronavirus.

In that process, he is following the footsteps of his international brethren, from Europe to Asia. For the first time in history, whole populations in a country have been ordered to shelter in place, healthy or not healthy, to fight off COVID-19. The notable exception to that rule has been Sweden, which has embarked on a historically normal response to a new virus and so far, fared fairly well, despite the media criticism.

The Washington, D.C., region is notorious for overreacting, especially to weather events. How many blizzards have canceled school and kept non-essential personnel at home, and yet yielded less than an inch of snow? From personal experience, I can tell you the answer is many.

In those cases, the government overreaction begets eyerolls and increased cynicism. But in this case, the cytokine storm can undermine our democracy, destroy our economy, and break social bonds in profoundly disruptive ways.

We all know about the economic costs. We are hopeful that they are short term and that the economy will start roaring again by the end of the summer. But that is not a sure thing. How can consumers be expected to fully embrace old habits if the media keeps reminding them that death through Covid, no matter how unlikely, stands just around the corner?

Our republic is united by a foundational belief that we have the ability to petition our government and have our voices heard by our elected leaders. But our nation’s governors are implementing policies that make no sense in rural America. This is exacerbating historic tensions between the city and the country while fraying the bonds that bind America together. If a governor can order health people in small-town America to shelter in place while destroying their livelihoods for a virus that has had no impact on their community, that diminishes the value of democracy to them.

Socially, we have become a snitch-state, actively encouraged by some of our mayors. This is not conducive to building trust or affection with our fellow citizens. These days, Twitter mobs roam the internet, working hand-in-glove with the media to shame those who don’t comply with the latest government policy. Masks are the latest example of virtue-signaling everywhere. Three weeks ago, the CDC, the Surgeon General, the European CDC, and the WHO all advised against wearing masks. Now, if you don’t wear one, you are somehow betraying your country and killing your grandmother.

Generationally, this overreaction has sparked even more tension. Younger Americans have dubbed COVID-19 the “Boomer remover,” a wry acknowledgment that this has almost no impact on folks under the age of 60. Adding $5 trillion to our national debt, mostly to keep these boomers alive, probably hasn’t crossed their minds as of yet, but the direct impact of canceled proms, graduations, sports leagues of all kinds, has made a distinct impression. The post-millennials already struggled to reconcile the huge costs of tuition with the limited value that they are currently getting from the college experience. Now they have to confront a devasted economy, destroyed by a virus that lays not a glove on the vast majority of their generation.

Artificial Intelligence is not the cure for the COVID-19 infodemic Health workers warn social media misinformation is threatening lives.  All of this has come from the government-created “cytokine storm.” Certainly, other countries have faced similar responses from their restive citizens, but no nation is as vulnerable as the United States. America, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all people have the right to life and the pursuit of happiness, doesn’t do well when the government tramples on its citizens’ freedom, no matter how worthy the cause might be.

This overreaction will cause long-lasting damage to our republic. Our only hope is that the people who love freedom express more clearly to policymakers their dissatisfaction and that our leaders understand and respond positively to that message.