The Great Barrington Herd Immunity Hoax

The moron Trump, perhaps the crudest specimen of capitalist cruelty these days, takes the matter one insane step further with his ongoing public and personal opposition to mandated lockdowns, mask wearing and social distancing necessitated by the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19.

Trump’s current pandemic science adviser, Stanford University’s Hoover Institute Dr. Scott Atlas, last spring put his name to the so-called Great Barrington [Mass.] conference and its  declaration that calls for allowing COVID-19 to spread “naturally” in order to achieve “herd immunity” — the so-called point at which enough people have been infected, and allegedly then become immune, to effectively stall transmission of the pathogen in the general community. “Leading lights” from prestigious Harvard and Oxford Universities were conference participants presumably to lend “scientific legitimacy” to this auspicious gathering.

The Great Barrington nationally-orchestrated spectacle was sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research, a rightwing think tank that partners with the Charles Koch Institute, founded by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers. Their proclamation claiming endorsements from some 40,000 “science and health specialists,” insists that everyone must be “free” to return to “normal life” with zero restrictions, that is, no masks, social distancing, testing, quarantines, etc. Among these endorsers, according to a skeptical UK source is one “Dr. Johnny Bananas.” We have yet to check out the others. None of the Great Barrington declaration’s “scientific” assertions have been peer reviewed. Yale Assistant Professor of Public Health Gregg Gonsalves stated, “They’re staking out a radical claim that has very little support in the scientific community, so it’s not as if there’s like a scientific debate. It’s sort of flat earth versus the world is round.”

While neither the Trump administration nor its now chief science adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas, again, of the Great Barrington confab and co-author of its ludicrous declaration, have formally endorsed it as official government policy, Trump’s Oct. 22  debate remarks all but confirmed his adherence to its basic principles. Indeed, Dr. Atlas couldn’t restrain himself when he recently tweeted his view that masks were unnecessary, only to have his anti-science missile removed by Twitter’s fact checkers as unsubstantiated!

Capitalism’s prime directive

“Survival of the fittest” is the prime directive of capitalism, especially of its current neo-liberal, free market, and unregulated variant. Trump, a staunch opponent of masks, demonstrably and repeatedly speaks at mass rallies where few are protected. He boasted during the debate that be had quickly recovered from COVID-19 and was now immune, “no one knows for how long,” he felt compelled to add. Serious scientists have countered that if Trump’s “herd immunity” orientation is pursued the number of U.S. deaths could exceed one million by February 2021. Even if current standards are applied to these calculations, wherein today only 50 percent wear masks in public, the death toll is expected to surpass 500,000 in the same time frame, and countless more thereafter.

Here one might ask the simple question, what’s in it for Trump and his Koch libertarian billionaire friends in promoting, not to mention seeking to implement, the conception of herd immunity? There appears to be no rational answer to this question and especially so when most all scientists agree that with zero efforts to control COVID-19 the projected numbers of deaths will be astronomical.

Trump: Embarrassment to the ruling class

I can only guess that some proponents of this reactionary “theory” believe that there are those among us, perhaps the egomaniac Trump himself, who are “naturally” in the category of the “fittest,” along with their billionaire associates whose “superior intelligence” earns them the right to rule. The moron Trump has participated in televised interviews with “medical specialists” who routinely administer “intelligence” examinations to him aimed at detecting signs of dementia. Trump, touting his test-affirmed ability to remember the names and order of five previously stated words, claims to have “aced the test”! Need we pursue Trump’s absurdities further other than to conclude that he has become an embarrassment to the ruling class itself, who increasingly indicate that he needs  to be dumped, albeit without anyone fully revealing how it came to pass that the likes of him ever made it to the White House in the first place.

That Trump could state during the debate that “We have rounded the corner” in the fight against COVID-19, in the face of the fact that the week of his debate marked the largest number of coronavirus infections on record, attests to the tragic truth that for some, at least in his inner circles, “the naked moronic emperor does have clothes.”

The tragedy of science under capitalism

“Herd immunity” notwithstanding, Trump’s handling of the search for an effective vaccine is a case in point, with at least five major behemoth corporations, financed by billions in federal grants, competing to secure the lion’s share of the expected future billions in profits. The simple notion that scientific research in a sane society should operate as a collective endeavor, wherein all discoveries are immediately shared by everyone for the common good, is unknown under capitalism. Neither Biden nor Trump uttered a word on this matter. A final point; might we ask the question as to whether a vaccine is needed at all, since Trump’s “herd immunity theory” postulates that the fastest way to stop COVID-19 is to do nothing and allow “nature” to take its toll… I mean course?


Jeff Mackler is a staffwriter for Socialist Action. He can be reached at  socialist