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The Monstrousness of the Covid Truthers

As the coronavirus continues to ravage the world, a breed of particularly repugnant person has begun popping up: the Covid truthers.

These people have decided to spend their time telling us that coronavirus—which has killed about 100,000 people in the world to date—is an overblown crisis, and was never something people should have been so worried about.

I’ve lost track of how many times health experts have said that it will feel like an overreaction if the lockdown and social distancing measures we are undergoing do what they are supposed to do, and flatten the Covid curve. This makes pretty basic sense, but the truthers are falling into exactly the trap we were all warned about and wailing about how overblown everything has been.

Perhaps the most prominent of this breed is Alex Berenson, a former New York Times reporter who recently wrote a widely condemned book about the supposed dangers of marijuana and who is now spending all of his time insisting that there isn’t actually a Covid crisis happening and that we have put America on the funeral pyre for nothing. A typical sentiment of his:

To recap, Berenson is saying that we should treat a virus that is projected to kill as many people in a few months—even with the vast majority of the country completely shut down!—as the ordinary flu did in an entire year is not something that should concern us a great deal. I cannot begin to delve into the mind of a person who makes that assertion.

Not surprisingly, Berenson has become a fast regular on Fox News, which has a lot invested in the hoax narrative. On Thursday, though, Berenson went too far even for Fox:

To be clear! There is a serious risk to young people! From the coronavirus! And they can still spread the virus! And kill people! To be clear! Hello!

Imagine being so out in space that Sean Hannity has to reel you back in. Imagine pushing such irresponsible claims about a disease that Sean Hannity—Sean Hannity!—has to correct you. That is embarrassing on a scale that I’m not sure humanity has the capacity to measure. I don’t know how I would get out of bed the next morning if I made Sean Hannity look like the reasonable person in our conversation. Berenson has no such shame.

This line of thinking is particularly offensive to me because of where I live. Like me, Berenson is based in New York (according to his Twitter account, at least). New York state has more Covid cases than anywhere else in the entire world. Nearly 5,000 people have died in New York City in the last few weeks, and that is almost certainly a low number. There are hundreds of people dying here every day. There are sirens from morning till night, endlessly. Families are being completely torn apart because of this disease. Hospitals are drowning in death and trauma. There are literally too many dead bodies for the system to handle.

What is more, the people dying at the highest rates in New York are not people like Alex Berenson. They are poor and working class people, black people and Latinos, subway workers, prisoners. They are all of the kinds of people a racist, classist, oligarchic, cruel society like the United States considers to be less than human—the people who always bear the brunt of our country’s tragedies. These kinds of disparities are happening all over America, but New York is its own special hell right now.

I don’t understand—in a fundamental way, in the basic building blocks of my psyche—how a New Yorker could look around at what is happening and decide that we have all been hoodwinked, or that the best thing to do is to let the floodgates open again, which will almost certainly condemn many more of the people I just mentioned to die while the Alex Berensons of the world get to feel smug about being able to go back to the bar. Berenson could be screaming at the top of his lungs for the kinds of social welfare provisions that would ease the economic and societal pain he is so seemingly concerned about. Instead, he is talking to Sean Hannity about how young people shouldn’t give a shit about what is happening around them.

This is a particularly insidious kind of inhumanity, the kind that wraps itself in a veneer of scientific dispassion but ultimately comes to the same conclusion as the venal elites who have been pushing to “reopen” America: that it is worth sacrificing some supposedly irrelevant people’s lives for the sake of the already comfortable.

Image: Fox News