Updated: Jul 3
Everybody has locked themselves away from the world for the time being, and in this time of isolation, it’s natural for one’s mind to wander. That’s what’s been happening to a few people over the past week, who have decided to pass the blame for this virus onto every man and his dog.
Ever since Coronavirus has been a concern, there have been conspiracy theories swirling around about its ‘true’ origins. Everyone’s brother’s best mate’s dad knows a guy who used to work for MI5, or was high up in the NHS and heard from his ex-colleagues that Coronavirus was created in a Chinese lab. We all hear this rubbish, and we all dismiss it (thankfully).
But as daft conspiracies begin to churn through the social consciousness, there’s always one man who can be relied upon to latch on: Donald Trump.
Yes, Trump somehow continues to astonish the world when he garbles out his latest conspiracy theory. This time, it was to label the virus “the Chinese virus”.
Now, on the surface, and with the rest of Trump’s repertoire in mind, this doesn’t seem like an overly troublesome statement.
Sure, he’s being a bit crass labelling it that, but nothing too bad, right?
Well, sources from inside the Chinese state have already begun making noises about how well this ‘joke’ (benefit of the doubt) went down. In fact, the Chinese government have warned that this could ‘heat up’ a second ‘cold war’.
When we move out from under the cloud of COVID-19 and into the brave new world before us, there will be significant economic and potentially social implications for virtually every country.
The United States has truly seen its position as global hegemon threatened throughout this crisis, with China seizing the initiative by sending aid in the form of medical supplies, doctors and nurses to countries suffering from COVID-19.
There have also been rumblings from the Italian government that they are no longer looking west for guidance, rather east. One can imagine that other countries in the traditional American sphere of influence will have had their heads turned in this chaos.
Since Trump took office, he has personally deteriorated relationships between some of America’s key allies; China, Canada, Mexico and Germany being some of the most prominent examples.
Trump’s bluster has turned to blunder. Blaming the Chinese for COVID-19, regardless of whether it came from there, is a sign of woeful leadership.
Trump was probed by a journalist about his “Chinese virus” comments, in which he was told that violence against Asian-Americans has increased, with many Asian-Americans feeling worried about their safety. Instead of distancing himself from his comments, he doubled down.
"It comes from China. I wanna' be accurate." said Trump.
It is still unclear whether factual accuracy is coming to be a newfound inclination for Trump. What is clear, is that because 2020 is an election year, and because the Coronavirus pandemic is entirely ill-timed as far as his electoral prospects go, he is desperate to deflect.
Not to mention that the United States’ response to the virus has been nothing short of abysmal. Cases are soaring each day, with medical personnel unable to get adequate personal protective equipment, and the for-profit healthcare industry in America is fatally flawed by the fact that working-class Americans are being made redundant in this crisis, meaning they lose their health insurance.
There are holes in the American system that Trump is simply not capable, nor willing to sow shut. The blame game he’s playing is potentially dangerous to world peace, potentially removing America from their position as world hegemon, and is potentially a cynical deflection tactic for his own personal gain – all at the expense of human lives.
"You may say Trump's irresponsible, but he's not the only one"
Unfortunately, the Donald isn’t the only one breaking the duck. Another reliable source for spewing out imprecise garbage is The Daily Mail. On the 28th of March, they ran a story claiming that Boris Johnson got Coronavirus from Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
In fact, the article goes so far as to posit whether it could be revenge for Johnson’s pro-Brexit stance. Though, it does later contradict itself and note that Barnier would have given it to Johnson while he was asymptomatic, so who really knows what’s going on? Certainly not the Mail.
Regardless, this again is a sad attempt at deflection. The UK government, while strong on the economic stimulus packages made available, have fallen short in their supporting the NHS. For too long, the ventilator saga has been ongoing, in which the UK knew they were woefully under-supplied with ventilators and failed to instruct companies to shift their manufacturing capabilities towards the production of new ventilators.
Moreover, the UK government supposedly failed to join the EU’s ventilator share scheme because they failed to reply to the email invitation. And yes, you read that correctly.
The UK government has gone from being one of a scant list of countries who adopted the ‘herd-immunity’ doctrine when the outbreak first hit our shores, to then U-turn into line with the rest of the world. This one-week period cost us a lot of time and potentially a lot of lives.
Adding to the dismal early response, the early stages of the outbreak saw government ministers accused of using ‘affable’ journalists in the UK media to leak government policy to, rather than hosting any sort of official announcement.
This storm culminated in Health Minister, Matt Hancock’s 14th of March Telegraph article debacle. The article outlined the government’s official Coronavirus plan. Initially, Hancock’s article was hidden behind a paywall. Though, after severe public backlash, the paywall was removed, as well as the article being posted up on the official government website the following day.
Subsequently, an until-then passive government sprung into life. On the 16th of March, Johnson gave the first of his daily Coronavirus briefings to the UK public and later introduced the rigorous measures we now know all too well.
Overall, this seemed to strike me as an attempt by the ardently pro-Brexit Daily Mail to keep the populace righteously outraged that the EU was still in existence. Given that Coronavirus rightly overshadows all of the nonsense around Brexit, at least for the time being, this is a gentle reminder from the Mail that it’s still terrorising us.
The 2016 European Union Membership Referendum, as is well documented now, did give rise to a spike in hate crimes, especially towards those of BAME ethnicity. I feel as though stoking those flames, regardless of the consequences, at a time when it is absolutely imperative that the country stays united, is a chancy game to play.
How the general public remember the government’s immediate reaction to the Coronavirus outbreak will depend on who seizes the narrative once all of the chaos has subsided.
Though blaming the Chinese, blaming the EU, or blaming anybody for that matter, shows magnificent cowardice on a titanic level. Undertaking the responsibility of guaranteeing safety and security leads to good leadership. Undertaking the assigning of blame leads to catastrophe.
The Politician will be continuing its news & opinion stories as normal throughout this crisis.
We will endeavour to cover both Coronavirus and our usual content throughout the coming weeks and months. You can read other Coronavirus stories here or by clicking the ‘Coronavirus’ tab under the ‘News’ section.