Do you think we need a Pentagon for public health to wage war on new pathogens? Not likely, and that is based on recent experience. The pandemic planners wrecked our lives. We have yet to recover.
Cities are still suffering from business closures, learning losses and school absenteeism, and rampant crime. Trust in once-revered institutions is at an all-time low, as is public health generally (depression, obesity and substance abuse). We could go on and on.
One man thinks the problem is that we didn’t go far enough. Next time, he says, we should go much farther in locking down. No travel. Jail doctors for dissenting. Force everyone to accept whatever pharma dishes out. Censor all critics. Nonprofits who object should be targeted by the IRS. All dissenters should face “severe consequences”.
That’s because “the Western focus on personal liberty above all else can kill”. You might say that sounds fascistic. He admits it too: “The longer I cover disease, the more of a public health fascist I become.”
And that sentence is what is weirdly wonderful (if chilling) about the book The Wisdom of Plagues by Donald G. McNeil. As outrageously wrong as the book is about nearly everything, it is brilliantly written, engaging, gripping and frank. It’s his way, and it is probably why he was fired from the New York Times. This is his apologia pro vita sua.
You see, McNeil was the very first English-language voice who on February 27th 2020, in a NYT podcast, alerted the whole of the Western media as to what was coming: lockdown.
It was not so much a warning but a promise. The public health wisdom of one 100 years was about to be tossed in the fire. In its place would come a new experiment in totalitarian control of our lives.