As regular readers have probably noticed, the subject-matter with which I engage here is generally prompted by something I’ve read or seen. I do try very hard not to rely on lengthy quotations in these daily blogs–instead, I try to distill the message being conveyed, and to add my own observations/analyses/pontifications.
But sometimes I encounter writing that absolutely begs to be quoted, an argument framed so perfectly that an attempt to rephrase would be less effective. That’s the case with this essay from The Week, titled “The Republican Pandemic Response Is Breaking My Brain,” by Ryan Cooper. So with your indulgence, I will share more quotes than usual, beginning with his sub-head “Give me horse paste or give me death?”
Cooper began with a recitation of what sentient Americans know: despite the availability of an effective vaccine, the pandemic is getting much worse, especially in several states governed by Republicans.
At the same time, conservative elites are doing their level best to spread the virus as much as possible, even as COVID-19 is killing conservatives by the thousands. It’s willful, malign negligence on a mind-boggling scale…
Yet Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is still in a ferocious dispute with his state’s school districts about mask mandates, as his state’s pediatric ICU beds are swamped. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently issued an (almost certainly unconstitutional) order banning any institution receiving public funds from requiring vaccines. South Dakota recently held the Sturgis motorcycle rally again with the furious support of Gov. Kristi Noem — despite the fact that the state is trailing in vaccination and last year the rally created a pandemic charnel house. Unsurprisingly, cases there are once again shooting through the roof.
Cooper writes that the story currently breaking his brain is the “recent plague of conservatives poisoning themselves with veterinary deworming paste.”
As Jef Rouner explains at Houston Press, the formula is simple and lucrative: raise fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the vaccines with complicated but false arguments that are hard for a layman to untangle, launder extreme claims by interviewing total lunatics, all while recommending unproven miracle remedies the shadowy Big Pharma conspiracy is supposedly suppressing. Then when you get in trouble for spreading antivaccine lies during a global pandemic, scream that you’re being “censored” to get more attention, and watch the subscription numbers jump.
Cooper goes through the reasons sane people would not consume a deworming paste (somehow, he omits noting the inconsistency of “curing” a disease these people insist is a hoax) and points out that deworming paste is “flying off the shelves, some doctor in Arkansas is giving it to prisoners, and calls to poison control centers are skyrocketing across the South. Facebook groups are full of stories of poisoned people suffering severe diarrhea and expelling “rope worms,” which turn out to be almost certainly shreds of intestinal lining.”
The horse paste saga is a perfect window into the conservative mindset that is currently the biggest force fueling the pandemic. The core behavior here is muleheaded, selfish spitefulness, adhered to even at great personal risk. “Freedom” for movement conservatives is entirely one-directional: They get to spray virus fog whenever and wherever they want, and they also get to force you or your kids to not wear a mask.
Because that behavior is so monstrous, there is a large incentive to make up comforting lies about how the pandemic is exaggerated or fake, or the vaccines don’t work — much facilitated by the fact that consuming right-wing media for very long tends to turn your brain into horse paste. Some right-wing voices pushing this line actually believe it, as shown by the lamented dead above. But others are just cynical — Abbott recently came down with COVID, but it turns out he had not only been vaccinated but also had already gotten a booster shot, and was getting daily tests, so had a very mild case.
Finally, because the financial engine of the conservative media complex is tricking gullible retired people into buying brain pills and reverse mortgages, conservatives are easy pickings for cynical and/or deluded grifters hawking snake oil remedies when they do contract COVID after coughing into each other’s face at the Cheesecake Factory to own the libs.
Yet another wave of completely pointless death seems to be motivating a lot of people to finally get vaccinated — but thus far the procrastinators, not the ideological, hard core antivaxxers. Even when Donald Trump tried to argue for the vaccine at a rally in Alabama recently, he was booed. It seems the pandemic will keep burning out of control until just about every conservative vaccine refusenik has gotten COVID. Another few months ought to do it.
We need a cure for crazy. Probably not a vaccine…