Conservative War on COVID-19 is more than disinformation: it’s about control

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

“We need to have the American people’s backs,” McConnell — March 21st, 2020

Across the United States, we have seen conservative governors and elected official's not doing enough to combat the spread of COVID-19 within their jurisdictions. Florida's governor Ron DeSantis and Texas governor Greg Abbott (who recently tested positive for the virus himself), been at war with their school districts over mask mandates that could save peoples lives.

Healthcare workers themselves have reported being threatened by crowds outside of their healthcare facilities were protesting mask mandates but also her but it's a conspiracy theories that they feel justify threatening the safety and security of our ‘essential workers.’

It's heavily ironic, but last summer we were banging on pots and pans to show our appreciation for healthcare workers, but this summer almost a year later into the crisis, we are still not increasing their pay or promoting safe staffing levels in hospitals. Along with the surges of Covid cases around the country, we're also seeing the rise in vaccinations. President Biden has prioritized the vaccination efforts across the country. However there still remains in international apartheid in access to the vaccine.

Just like there have been leader ship vacuums in the prevention of wars in certain countries, there has also been an attempt by American leaders to prevent their states from being fully vaccinated in order to gain power and leverage for elections over peoples lives. I did a deep delve into what happens when you have a permanent state of crisis and how that creates a power vacuum that can be used to curtail our rights and put our country -and planet at immense risk.

When Politicians Exploit a Pandemic to Keep Power

Human rights watch, has detail the ways in which authoritarians around the world are using COVID-19 as a way to expand the security stay in their own country and provide a footprint to other would be authoritarians to take a health crisis and turn it into a power-play. Even if it means that their population dies from a completely preventable pandemic.

Here are some ways they found authoritarians around the world are using COVID-19 for their own political gain according to Human Rights Watch:

  • The Chinese government illustrated the disastrous consequence of ignoring that reality. When doctors in Wuhan tried to sound the alarm in December about the new coronavirus, authorities silenced and reprimanded them
  • It is expelling journalists from several leading US publications, including those that have produced incisive reporting, and has detained independent Chinese reporters who venture to Wuhan
  • In Thailand, Cambodia, Venezuela, Bangladesh, and Turkey, governments are detaining journalists, opposition activists, healthcare workers, and anyone else who dares to criticize the official response to the coronavirus.
  • Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, for example, downplayed the coronavirus threat for weeks, apparently wanting to avoid harming Egypt’s tourist industry.
  • The government of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan implausibly denies that there are any COVID-19 cases in its prisons, and a prosecutor is investigating a member of parliament — himself a doctor — who says that a seventy-year-old inmate and a member of the prison staff have tested positive.
  • US President Donald Trump initially called the coronavirus a “hoax.” Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called the virus a “fantasy” and preventive measures “hysterical.”
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ostentatiously held rallies, and hugged, kissed, and shook hands with supporters
  • Viktor Orbán used his party’s parliamentary majority to secure an indefinite state of emergency that enables him to rule by decree and imprison for up to five years any journalist who disseminates news that is deemed “false.”
  • Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has also awarded himself emergency powers to silence “fake” news.
  • The Trump administration had cited the coronavirus to discourage requests under the Freedom of Information Act, suddenly insisting they be made by only traditional mail, in spite of the greater public health safety of electronic communication.
  • The Algerian government has halted regular protests seeking genuine democratic reform that have been under way for more than a year.
  • The Russian government has stopped even single-person protests against Vladimir Putin’s plans to rip up term limits on his presidency.

Alarmingly, Human Rights Watch also mentioned that in addition to threats on democracy, free movement, free speech, journalism, that the bigger threats we face collectively is also the electronic monitoring of our activity.

  • China has deepened and extended the surveillance state that is most developed in Xinjiang, where it was used to identify some of the one million Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims for detention and forced indoctrination.
  • South Korea has broadcast detailed and highly revealing information about people’s movements to anyone who might have had contact with them.
  • Israel’s government has cited the coronavirus to authorize its Shin Bet internal security agency to use vast amounts of location-tracking data from the cellphones of ordinary Israelis.
  • In Moscow, Russia is installing one of the world’s largest surveillance camera systems equipped with facial recognition technology.

Countries did not hesitate to step up the surveillance state under the guise of protecting their citizens from the threat of COVID-19. Now when we go over to America and we try to figure out the deeper nuances of faxing this information and intentional sabotage, we see the undercurrent of a capitalist system that also benefits from people who are diseased. It's no secret that America has profited off the misery of people both abroad and at home but with COVID-19. We’ve seen some very alarming rates at which people have become infected and the stories that they spread false information with. Government officials who have wide platforms also choose to become a part of this when they decide that they want to prevent doctors from being able to disseminate accurate information. The biggest example of this was under President Trump but dealing with Dr. Fauci.

Dr. Fauci’s War on Multiple Fronts

During President trumps term in office that oversaw the coronavirus response under his administration, Americans were witness to how executives of treated those with the experience and knowledge to combat deadly infectious diseases.

When President Trump was still on Twitter and had access to spread misinformation, we were witnessing the rapid spread of false information. Trump also used the COVID-19 crisis to undermine:

Since the day he entered the Oval Office, Trump has been focused on closing and sealing the border between Mexico and the United States. Incrementally, his administration had moved from incarcerating upwards of 50,000 migrants and asylum seekers attempting to enter the United States at that border to — in the wake of the coronavirus — closing it completely to nonessential traffic and anyone trying to claim asylum. Migrants who enter the US illegally now will be returned to their native countries illegally. “Border security is health security,” the president claims. Now, with more than 37,000 men, women, and children confined, the risk that the virus will spread among them is obvious and inevitable. As a former acting director of ICE puts it, the crowded conditions of detention, “which are designed to have people remain in close contact,” are “the opposite of the social distancing that is needed to save lives.” — Karen J. Greenberg

  • The Census — the Trump administration did everything they could to prevent an accurate count of everyone in the United States -which occurs every ten years and determines how Congress and other elected offices are composed- and deliberately threw roadblocks in the ways of organizers in communities to be able to count their constituencies.
  • Putting a Target on the Asian American Community: As The Nation reports, the influence of Trump on the Asian American community has been significant.

Now, he’s labeled Covid-19 the “Chinese virus,” using that label to escalate tensions with China (and provoke a xenophobic backlash here at home). He recently mentioned a friendly hour-long conversation with that country’s president, Xi Jinping, about combating the virus. But while he is reportedly preparing temporary relief when it comes to tariffs generally, Chinese imports are expected to be exempted from the proposed pause in payments.

  • Under the previous administration, America had taken one giant step backwards when it came to being part of a unilateral foreign alliance that could also help us with COVID-19.

The spread of the coronavirus gave that urge new oomph. In the post-Covid world, the America First–style isolationism that Trump values has become even more emphatically the name of the game. The border with Canada is now closed. He’s banned travel from European countries. Visa offices are shut worldwide. Using the virus as its excuse, the State Department has even halted indefinitely the addition of a new class of 179 foreign service officers to the diplomatic corps. During the Covid-19 outbreak, American disengagement from the world has taken another step forward.

  • Democracy of course also took a major backseat during COVID-19 and its initial days under President Trump. Attempting to replicate the authoritarian nature of the international community and dealing with COVID-19, President Trump during his term took a solid aim at the ability of our ability to vote in our elections.

By March of 2020, it had become clear that the Presidential nomination fight would come to Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden. Voters still had a daunting task of having to stand in long lines outside of polling sites, and have to deal with the potential infections that came with having their voices heard. States around the country were either opening up access to no excuse absentee voting or preventing people from voting by mail. Also had become difficult to find people to administer the elections and to ensure a quick and timely process in voting.

Whether it comes to air travel, the courts, the census, or the voting booth, keeping people apart and grounded makes perfect sense right now, but all of this is also providing dangerous opportunities for the president. — Karen J. Greenberg

COVID-19 Fight Takes Aim at The School Year

Similar guys of leadership vacuums I wanted to touch on how Joe Biden has been expanding his power to fight back against Republican Governors who are intent on fighting mask mandates. In a standoff between Florida and federal government, Biden has decided that the federal government will fund the salaries of teachers who are fighting back against by Governor Ron DeSantis, who is preventing entire school districts from masking up to stop the spread of COVID-19. Classroom conditions do not allow for appropriate social distancing. Which is why it's more important than ever to make sure that American children can remain in school and be protected by wearing face masks. The acceleration of cases stemming from young people has been alarmingly on the rise, and with Texas and Florida teaming up to put their residents at risk, it isn’t hard to understand why.

According to Dr. Fauci, the number of cases in young people is rising.

The U.S. is now seeing an average upwards of 11,000 new hospital admissions over the last week, and the country is on track to break a hospitalization record for all ages set this past January, the CDC has said. Although initially, the original strain of Covid-19 (Alpha) was most damaging to the elderly, the Delta strain appears to be more contagious and has severely affected younger people as well as older.

“There’s no doubt there are more children getting infected,” White House medial advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told reporters recently. “The Delta variant is much more highly transmissible than was Alpha. Given that, you will see more children likely to get infected. And even though the percentage is small, a certain percentage of children will require hospitalization. So quantitatively, you will see more children in the hospital regarding the severity of illness.”

On social media, one mother shared the breathing difficulties experienced by her 3 year old child, in Oklahoma. Her mom works to treat COVID-19 patients.

Aurora Cannon, of Fort Gibson, is hospitalized at Saint Francis Children’s Hospital, in Pediatric Intensive Care. She got sick last week and now is on a level of forced oxygen that’s one step below intubation, according to her family. Aurora’s mom, Amelia, is an emergency room nurse, who believes she brought the virus home from work. Because of her age, Aurora is too young to be vaccinated. She shot the video to show the reality of Covid.

Texas Loses Bid to Prevent Mask Mandates

Texas lost it’s case against the ban on mask mandates.

In an emergency order issued last month, Abbott reiterated his ban on mask mandates by any government entity, although federal agencies have mandated masks in their facilities. The governor and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have said they would sue any entity that does not comply with the emergency order. No such lawsuit has been filed. The Texas Supreme Court has upheld the ban, but that hasn’t stopped dozens of entities from imposing mask mandates.

The TEA guidance was issued in the wake of multiple court challenges mounted by parents, advocates for disabled children and local governments and school boards. Seven counties and 48 school districts have implemented mask mandates, Abbott’s ban notwithstanding.

But even with that consideration, the Texas COVID-19 surge could be it’s worst one yet as vaccination rates remain low and the hospitals remain above capacity. The Texas Tribune is reporting that:

“ Between 93% and 98% of hospitalized COVID patients, depending on the area, are unvaccinated, officials said. With just under half of Texans fully vaccinated, the state still has some 16 million people who have yet to be protected from the virus.

And they are filling the state’s intensive care units rapidly.”

Governor Abbott himself -like former President Trump- contracted COVID-19 recently, but also like Trump, has the best medical treatment available to him to not be seriously impacted by the virus.

Abbott, who is fully vaccinated, is not experiencing any symptoms and is isolating at the Governor’s Mansion, spokesperson Mark Miner said in a statement. He is getting Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment.

Public health officials have noted that while breakthrough cases like Abbott’s are occurring, vaccines are still proven to be effective at reducing the severity of the virus.

It is an interesting dynamic to see the states rights vs federal oversight push and pull between conservative governors and the Democratic federal government in the ways that mask and vaccination mandates on federal properties are necessary and required -even in red states- while the rest of the society has to figure out whether wearing a mask and getting vaccinated is being too considerate of our collective safety and well-being.

As of this writing, here are the states that are fighting life-saving mask and vaccine mandates that could bring us of this pandemic faster:

Freedom to Infect vs Freedom from Infection

It’s clear that theres a push and pull between the federal government and the states that are hostile to the Democratic administration. Some governors would rather their constituents get infected, than having to tell their allies in big business and their supporters in conservative society that they would need to be considerate of everyone in making sure people get vaccinated.

Facebook and other social media giants may have added the link to verify COVID-19 information, but that hasn’t stopped conspiracy theorists from continuing to spread false information about getting vaccinated. Among the top three stories about COVID-19 dominating the news are:

  1. Facebook not sharing data with the White House and researchers trying to figure out the role in online mediums that can be used to spread disinformation
  2. A staggering 20 MILLION posts about COVID-19 misinformation were taken down on Facebook and the sister companies it has.
  3. According to Euro News, Facebook has been shifting blame for the spread of false information and not taking accountability for the pages that continue to post false or misleading information.

Some social media users noted that the spread of disinformation was also seeping into the charter school-public school- home schooling fight in which, the refusal to mandate face masks in public schools will compel parents to take up home schooling as a permanent measure for their kids.

https://twitter.com/gamingangel/status/1428578098895757315https://twitter.com/gamingangel/status/1428578098895757315

Members of the New York City Council, such as CM Carlina Rivera have advocated for proper resources for students who need to quarantine after exposure to COVID-19 in classrooms.

People across political spectrums have butted heads over personal freedoms vs constitutional rights. It’s deadly consequences are being seen in the number of people who continue to suffer from COVID-19 and the lack of protections in place for people.

In the midterm elections and for the conservative argument against ‘big government overreach’ we can fully anticipate the right-wing using COVID-19 as a wedge issue. Whether or not that actually works remains to be seen. In the mean time, here are some COVID-19 resources to share with your community and to fight back against disinformation:

Senate Minority Leader may have said that “we need to have the American people’s backs” but clearly the rest of the GOP does not think they need to protect Americans and fight for them where it really matters.

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Navjot Pal Kaur

Navjot Pal Kaur

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