Friday, July 17, 2020

Suffering Matters: When Political Leaders Get Covid-19

Boz has an ungated post from his newsletter about Latin American leaders who have Covid-19. I had been thinking of writing briefly about this as well, and he mentions what I had been thinking about:

In a presentation last week, I said my big concern was “Bolsonaro is going to survive coronavirus and then double down on being an idiot because his own survival will give confirmation bias to his belief that the disease is not that bad.” I stand by that comment.
I think this merits more attention, in Latin America and everywhere else. However, it's not about "surviving." I would call it "non-suffer bias." Those who get it and suffer are never the same. Those who get it and have only mild symptoms have a very different narrative. For them, it's just the flu or maybe just an irritating cold.

The Governor of Oklahoma announced he had Covid-19 even as he refused to mandate masks. He said he was achy but not too bad. Bolsonaro got it (tested positive twice!) and seems similarly little affected, which is the case for a lot of people. Covid-19 is not the Superflu of The Stand but rather a more crafty thing that kills the vulnerable and also kills and maims others in unpredictable ways. If you are a skeptic when you get it, you come out feeling more sure of skepticism if it only touched out lightly.

Politically, this is potentially huge. If a skeptic gets the virus and recovers easily, their ongoing story is that this is no big deal, just a bad cold, just a flu, and their platform gives that wide dissemination. They have "proof" in their own experience.

Contrast that to Juan Orlando Hernández, who was in the hospital, feared for his life, and made an emotional plea when he left the hospital. And that's a very conservative president. He survived but suffered, so his narrative is different. Boris Johnson suffered and now wants mandatory masks in shops, which fellow conservatives don't like.

I see lots of "ha ha, karma" tweets when skeptics are tested positive, but that entirely misses the point. It is the opposite when the virus treats them gently, and that has political repercussions.


Alfredo 7:54 AM  

Something like 40% are just how bad is it...most deaths are people who already have other deceases and have overall poor health...

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