by Bruce Hendry
A reflection on popular delusions and the madness of crowds.
In 1841, Charles Mackay wrote a 702-page book titled Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. The book details investment hysteria and panic, but it’s really about human nature, something that doesn’t change throughout recorded history. I will show the reader, in this essay, how we are experiencing popular delusions and the madness of crowds, right now, with the current corona virus, COVID-19 hysteria and panic.
Today’s social psychologists use the term “groupthink” to describe the modern versions of crowd madness. “Groupthink” represents the prevailing beliefs and rationalizations that influence the decisions of the general public as well as the experts. Their groupthink beliefs are shaped by the opinions of others (think CNN, New York Times and Twitter) and not by the rigor of their own personal and independent analysis. The current hysteria and panic over the COVID crisis is a modern example of groupthink. This essay will examine that claim.
My career history, in distressed investments, was predicated upon an independent analysis and sometimes a rejection of the accepted investment community beliefs. My rule is that when everybody accepts a belief or story, it’s time to critically examine the assumptions. Community-held investment views are often correct, but many times they are wrong too. Challenging accepted community views is not a way to win a popularity contest, but it’s important for someone to state the truth and I intend to do that here. I will use my skill in questioning popularly-held assumptions and share my thoughts with you on the COVID crisis.
Diversity of opinion is the lifeblood of a democracy. My opinion on the COVID crisis will differ from the accepted community view — and probably from your own view too. This essay was removed from Facebook — just like the Nazis’ burning of books that differed from proscribed ways of thinking. I hope that you will read this essay carefully and with an open mind.
COVID is a serious health issue, although just how serious it is in relation to other threats is never discussed. COVID is never put into any context so that you can compare the threat to something else. Accompanying that silence is the requirement that you accept that COVID is the most serious crisis that you have ever faced. But is it? Although cancer and heart attacks are not communicable like COVID, their numbers do provide context. There are 1.2 million deaths of heart attacks and cancer in the U.S. each year. The suicide deaths are about 50,000 and the U.S. population is 328 million. The “COVID alone” deaths are about 30,000.
In the beginning of this pandemic, little was known of the virus and so the working assumption was that it was as deadly as the 1918 Spanish flu that killed as many as 100 million people, and swept around the world in record time. Based on the 1918 flu experience, early estimates of the COVID death rate were 2.5 million in the United States and the politicians and the press used these figures to instill fear and panic in the public and to justify draconian measures — such as mandatory mask-wearing and a lockdown of our economy. When it became clear that COVID was not as dangerous as the Spanish flu, the draconian measures and the authority to use them remained.
The official death rate of COVID is now at 500,000, about 20% of the original estimate — a cause for celebration that is never talked about. The 500,000 number is also vastly overstated, and here’s why: when the official deaths were 151,000 the CDC examined each and every death and found out that only 6% of them were “COVID alone.” That means that 94% of those deaths had other health issues associated with them and that the majority of those who died were elderly. This fact alone takes the credibility out of the reported 500,000 deaths.
Illinois Governor J.B.Pritzker introduced his no-nonsense Commissioner of Health, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, at a press conference where the reporters were interested in what constituted a COVID death. Her response was, “if the deceased died in a motorcycle accident and we found COVID in their system — that’s a COVID death; if someone goes into hospice for something not related to COVID and is expected to live two days and we find COVID in their system, that’s a COVID death too.”
COVID deaths are definitely greatly overstated. In addition:
The CARES ACT pays hospitals 20% more for Medicare patients that have COVID and reimburses health care providers for uninsured COVID patients. While I can’t document any intentional cheating, I can point out that there is a financial benefit to healthcare providers to diagnose seasonal flu sufferers, or other flu-like patients and uninsured patients, as COVID patients.
Putting sick people into quarantine has been a historical standard for a thousands of years. Forcing well people into quarantine is a modern experiment that has never been tried before, and hopefully will never be tried again.
There are many diseases and other things that can hurt you, and so we look to the math of getting sick and dying from COVID. Here it is. So far, statistically there is a 91% chance of not getting COVID, and if you get it, and you’re not in an elder care facility, a 99% chance of not dying from it. This math should help you put the danger of COVID into a proper perspective and help you decide if you want to take a chance on a vaccine that doesn’t yet have a history for its long term effects. Additionally, these statistics should give you comfort that you and your loved ones are very unlikely to die of COVID.
It’s possible that you don’t know the facts I’m about to talk about because of the omission of information that doesn’t fit the official narrative or outright censorship in our media. For instance:
Early on, the CDC reported that the virus did not transfer well on hard surfaces. In the meantime the public was/is washing down everything with disinfectant. At golf courses, golfers couldn’t touch or remove flagsticks, ball washers were covered, and the rakes were removed from sand traps. At our condo, the elevators were/are disinfected every day. None of this was necessary, but helpful in creating and maintaining fear and panic in the public mind.
Although the CDC eventually changed its mind on this, possibly from political pressure, it found that the virus doesn’t spread until symptoms appear. This is significant because even if you have COVID, you are not going to transmit it until you have symptoms. Therefore the 14-day lockdown was not necessary, and the CDC changed the suggested quarantine period from 14 days to 7-10 days along with that announcement.
That CDC notice also means masks are not necessary in a crowd of people that aren’t exhibiting symptoms. That also means that grandparents do not have to stay away from their children and grandchildren if they’re asymptomatic. The unnecessary and excessive mask requirements do serve the purpose of reminding the public that they should remain fearful and panicked, and that they should obey the rules set up by politicians without question or complaint.
“Follow the science”: The left says that but doesn’t actually mean it. What they mean is that you should follow the advise of the personal opinion of a scientist like Anthony Fauci. Fauci has changed his mind so many times as to what we the public should believe that you would think he would have lost all of his credibility, but he is now a top official in the Biden administration with millions in the groupthink crowd still giving value to what he says.
Science is the result of a carefully-designed and -controlled experiment that correlates something with something else. A good example of good science would be the twenty-one separate Ivermectin studies. You probably don’t know about these studies because the results don’t corroborate or correlate with the official version of the disease and have been censored.
Ivermectin: a safe drug that has been around for 50 years to treat parasitic worms. Twenty-one separate controlled scientific studies, involving thousands of patients, have shown 100% favorable results in treating and preventing COVID, but you probably have been protected from that knowledge by censorship from Google, Facebook, U-Tube, Twitter, CNN, the New York Times and the many other censors. I’m going to guess that the big drug companies and their political supporters aren’t too interested in solving the COVID problem with a drug that costs $1/month.
Hydroxychloroquine was patented in 1951 to be used for malaria and has been around for 70 years and therefore we know that this low-cost drug is safe with minimal side effects. It has significant benefits for COVID patients, and I personally know of two people that have gotten that benefit, but for some reason it has been rejected as beneficial to COVID patients, probably because Trump introduced it as a hopeful treatment. Although it is recognized as safe for malaria, it is somehow “potentially dangerous” when used to treat for COVID — nonsense, of course, but still believed by the groupthink crowd. This is another low-cost drug that apparently works well for COVID patients, but because of its low cost it would not be well received by the drug companies and their political supporters.
When it comes to COVID, the question should be: “Does locking down businesses correlate with a better outcome for the community?” No studies that I’m aware of would make that correlation; however, there is a large-scale study, reported in “Scientific Reports,” that included 18 European countries that suggest the opposite.
I’d like to emphasize that COVID is a serious public health issue and there should be a strategy to deal with it, a plan for anything should define the hoped-for benefits and compare these benefits with the costs to obtain them. If the costs outweigh the benefits, like our current approach to COVID, you should abandon the plan and try to come up with a different and better plan. To look only at the benefits and totally ignore the costs, as public officials have done with COVID, is reckless and irresponsible.
Wrecking the economy, destroying healthy peoples lives, and keeping children from school are all costs of the current COVID plan. The additional suicides, spousal abuse, alcohol and drugs addictions are costs that should be considered and weighed against the benefits of lockdowns and other COVID measures, but never are. Because of the small COVID danger to most people, the cost of the lockdown outweighed any hoped-for benefits. The cost/benefit ratio is seriously out of whack with our current approach and should be discarded.
If this virus was as dangerous as politicians and the media want you to believe, then there would be a big spike in deaths of the doctors and nurses that attend to COVID patients. That hasn’t happened.
There is a certain logic to wearing masks and keeping your distance when around sick people. People have been voluntarily doing that for centuries. Tom Kennedy, the CEO of TSI, a company that tests and certifies the efficiency of masks for medical applications, told me that the kind of masks that most people wear don’t actually work and that for a mask to actually work, there needs to be a seal around the face.
Tom didn’t tell me this, but I found that you can test the efficiency/inefficiency of the mask that you are wearing by inhaling cigarette smoke, then put your mask back on and exhale normally. What you’ll find is that the smoke squirts out at many places around the mask, just like the breath that you cannot see. It works the same way in reverse, taking in air from around the mask, rather than through it. If you are a medical professional, you need to wear a mask, one that seals around your face and actually works, but for most of us, with the kind of ineffective masks that are popular, it’s a waste of time.
If masks don’t work, then what is the purpose of them? Four things come to mind.
1. Masks remind you to be fearful, and fear is the emotion that is used to justify taking your civil liberties away from you by government employees who are telling you when and where to wear masks and how many people, if any, you can have at a restaurant or a church.
2. The purpose of a mask is what I call “virtue signaling”; the mask wearer is signaling to you that he/she cares more than you do and is more virtuous than you are.
3. The groupthink crowd is being trained to shut up and obey. It’s the government, mostly Democratic governors, that is using the mask for “shut up and obey” training that will be useful to the government in the future. The Nazis started small like that too.
4. Probably most important is that most Democrats felt, before the gift of COVID, that Trump would win the 2020 election if the economy remained strong. Wrecking the economy was a providential godsend opportunity for the Democrats and allowed them to get rid of Trump.
Saul Alinsky, the grandfather of the modern Democratic Party, said it best in his book Rules for Radicals: if there is a real crisis, try to make it worse, and if there isn’t a real crisis, make one up because it’s only during a crisis that you can transfer individual liberty to the government. My friend, Dr. Bob Fulton, a retired professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, taught me the important lesson that most people develop their opinions based upon emotion, not logic. He also advised that fear is the most important of the many emotions when trying to control people — therefore the masks and lockdowns.
Using facts, logic and common sense, this essay has shown that COVID-19, although “dangerous,” especially to older people, does not reach the level of danger to justify suspending civil liberties, wrecking the economy, keeping kids from attending school and putting the public in danger of such things as increased drug/alcohol use, spousal abuse and suicides.
When the costs of solving a problem exceed the benefits for a society, people should reject the defective plans and insist on a common-sense approach to the problem. What’s going on now in this country with the COVID crisis is “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.”
Bruce Hendry is a retired businessman who began from humble origins to become a highly successful investor and captain of industry. He embodies the American dream having earned his way to becoming the president and chairman of the Erie Lackawanna Railroad and Kaiser Steel. He is one of the leaders of the economic revolution that has made America the envy of the world, and also the target of resentful and spiteful leftists who want to destroy it.