Three things Texans can do to fight COVID-19 disinformation and political hackery

A few weeks ago the White House had a plan to confront COVID-19. They abandoned it in favor of a political disinformation campaign. Similarly, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a plan to gradually reopen the Texas economy… and then swiftly ignored his own advice.

We are witnessing a propaganda campaign that follows the same playbook as climate denialism: Blame the problem on effete nerds who, with their pesky “data,” want to enact socialism and deny Trump’s reelection chances.

Our elected leaders—John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, and our House GOP reps—are trying to cowboy their way through a pandemic. They blame China. They cast doubt on the numbers. But the virus doesn’t care. The virus doesn’t care about party affiliation. It doesn’t care about state or party lines. The virus just wants a host. And because it’s an animal virus unaccustomed to human carriers, it is reckless in who it kills.

America’s massively disproportionate body count was completely preventable. But prevention would have required leadership. We don’t have leaders anymore. We have lapdogs and pundits. They all need to be replaced in November, but in the meantime we have to slow the bleeding. We can do this in three ways.

1. Pressure Gov. Abbott to ignore Trump and follow the science on COVID-19

Abbott and Trump at White House

After initially appearing to take the coronavirus seriously, Gov. Abbott met with Trump and then immediately decided to reopen Texas despite mountains of evidence demonstrating that this will put many more people at risk. Along with Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, Abbott has decided to wage a culture war instead of dealing with the pandemic. A Dallas salon owner—who was jailed for contempt of court, not for reopening her business—has become the latest symbol in the “but mah liberty!” disinformation campaign. The virus does not care about our culture wars.

Reopening the Texas economy is important. But people won’t stop dying preventable deaths just because politicians are impatient and in denial. Gov. Abbott should look for guidance from other countries and states that have successfully mitigated the coronavirus’s economic impact.

Germany, which is roughly the same square mileage as Texas and with three times the population succeeded through a combination of good health care and mass testing—including from the private sector.

Taiwan, which has almost the population of Texas, succeeded in flattening the curve by acting early and applying rigorous contact tracing. They did so without massive lockdowns.

Had Gov. Abbott confronted the coronavirus head-on, rather than stumbling and staggering in the political winds, Texas could be reopened and thriving by now. It’s not too late to start doing the right thing. The model varies country to country, but the basics are:

  • Lots of testing
  • Isolating those who test positive
  • Contact tracing

And, of course, quality health care. (Expanding Medicaid should be a no-brainer for the governor.)

Write Greg Abbott a letter telling that mass casualties is not a plan

2. Pressure Cruz and Cornyn to pass meaningful COVID-19 legislation

Ted Cruz and John Cornyn

Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn have gone all-in on the culture war, choosing to stir up partisan division at the expense of lives and livelihoods. Cruz went so far as to get his hair cut by the Dallas salon owner who opened her business in defiance of state law. Cornyn is seeking protections for business owners who might be sued by their employees for being forced back to work and getting sick or dying as a result. And of course, both senators deflect from their venality by blaming China for everything. (Sure, investigate China—after we contain the pandemic in the US.)

Once again, for the senators in the back: The virus does not care about our culture wars. The virus does not care if you are in a red state or a blue state. It is here to kill—and it’s disproportionately killing and sickening workers in “essential” roles—workers who more often than not are black or brown. Rather than defend one white business owner against the “tyranny” of public health, the senators should focus on the majority of their constituents, including workers, the elderly, and people with pre-existing conditions.

Write your reps in Congress to demand relief for working people 

3. Fight disinformation by sharing the facts on COVID-19 with friends and family

Disinformation is the next battleground. Trump, Abbott, Cornyn, and Cruz—along with Reps. Mike McCaul, Chip Roy, Roger Williams, and John Carter—have given up on solutions to the pandemic and are retreating to their comfort zone: lying.

The Trump/Abbott plan appears to be human sacrifice. It is  mass casualties to “own the libs.” The US has more than 1.3 million coronavirus cases. We’re approaching 80,000 deaths. Compare these numbers to their favorite bogeyman, China, which has a much larger population and fewer than 5,000 deaths.

Because our leaders believe only in preservation of their own power—not in representation or good governance—their “plan” is to lie to us until they are reelected. They have massive support in the form of the White House bully pulpit, propaganda outlets like Fox News and OAN, social media bot armies, and an immovable base of supporters who will believe absolutely anything that comes out of their mouths.

What can we do? Remember that the virus is nonpartisan. While some populations are more at risk than others, Trumpies do not have herd immunity. The virus is indiscriminate; we are in this together. We can share facts compassionately. We can counter false claims. We can shine a light on the truth. Despite what our electeds say, most Americans, including Texans, are more concerned with opening the economy too quickly than too slowly.

Below are links to credible sources of information. As always, do your own research and be skeptical of miracle cures and statistical outliers. Follow the facts, follow the science, and do your part counter disinformation by sharing the truth with your friends and family.

Resources

Austin and Travis County

COVID-19 Information (City of Austin)

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information (Travis County)

City of Austin Utility Bill Relief

Texas

Coronavirus in Texas: How many cases, deaths and tests (Texas Tribune)

COVID-19 Trends tracker by Christopher Tackett

https://www.texastribune.org/2020/04/29/black-texas-coronavirus-health-care-disparities/

United States

Early Herd Immunity against COVID-19: A Dangerous Misconception (Johns Hopkins)

COVID-19 Map – Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center (Johns Hopkins)

The US Still Has No Plan to Ramp Up COVID-19 Testing (Atlantic)

Thresholds States Must Meet To Control Coronavirus Spread and Safely Reopen (Center for American Progress)

I’m an Investigative Journalist. These Are the Questions I Asked About the Viral “Plandemic” Video. (ProPublica)

Why It’s Important To Push Back On ‘Plandemic’—And How To Do It (Forbes)

Recommendations for Election Polling Locations Interim guidance to prevent spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) (Centers for Disease Control)

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