The Coronavirus and the Conservative Mind – The New York Times

So what has happened? Well, several different things. From the Wuhan outbreak through somewhere in mid-February, the responses to the coronavirus did seem to correspond very roughly to theories of conservative and liberal psychology. Along with infectious-disease specialists, the people who seemed most alarmed by the virus included the inhabitants of Weird Right-Wing Twitter (a collection of mordant, mostly anonymous accounts interested in civilizational decline), various Silicon Valley eccentrics, plus original-MAGA figures like Mike Cernovich and Steve Bannon. (The radio host Michael Savage, often considered the most extreme of the rights talkers, was also an early alarmist.)

Meanwhile, liberal officialdom and its media appendages were more likely to play down the threat, out of fear of giving aid and comfort to sinophobia or populism. This period was the high-water mark of its just the flu reassurances in liberal outlets, of pious critiques of Donald Trumps travel restrictions, of deceptive public-health propaganda about how masks dont work, of lectures from the head of the World Health Organization about how the greatest enemy we face is not the virus itself; its the stigma that turns us against each other.

But then, somewhere in February, the dynamic shifted. As the disease spread and the debate went mainstream, liberal opinion mostly abandoned its anti-quarantine posture and swung toward a reasonable panic, while conservative opinion divided, with a large portion of the right following the lead of Trump himself, who spent crucial weeks trying to wish the crisis away. Where figures like Bannon and Cernovich manifested a conservatism attuned to external perils, figures like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity manifested a conservatism of tribal denial, owning the libs by minimizing the coronavirus threat.

Now we are in a third phase, where Trump is (more or less, depending on the day) on board with a robust response and most conservatives have joined most liberals in alarm. Polls show a minimal partisan divide in support for social distancing and lockdowns, and some of that minimal divide is explained by the fact that rural areas are thus far less likely to face outbreaks. (You dont need a complicated theory of the ideological mind to explain why New Yorkers are more freaked out than Nebraskans.)

But even now, there remains a current of conservative opinion that wants to believe that all of this is overblown, that the experts are wrong about the likely death toll, that Trump should reopen everything as soon as possible, that the liberal media just wants to crash the American economy to take his presidency down.

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The Coronavirus and the Conservative Mind - The New York Times

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