These past five months have just been so strange in so many ways and the further we go into this pandemic, the harder it is to remember how strange it really is. Today I got a good reminder as I went to the barber shop for the first time since the pandemic hit. During the worst of the lock down, I took the plunge and got a COVID haircut with assistance from my wife. She took my beard trimmer and basically removed all the hair on my head. That left me looking a bit too much like Leon Kompowsky from the Simpsons, but that only lasted for so long as the hair grew back.
So today I went in and got what my hair had grown into cut and cleaned up to look more normal. I walked into the barbershop and it was different for sure; all the chairs in the waiting area were gone, half the barber’s chairs were closed off to ensure social distancing and everyone had their masks on. And once I got into the chair and the barber got to work, the conversation was different too. We talked about the differences, how some people have acted in response to these changes, those who refuse to do their part and those who deny that there is even a pandemic.
It was a nice chat to have with a relative stranger, something I haven’t done in a long time. It was also nice to hear that I wasn’t alone in my observations about what’s happening. But part of that conversation kept ringing in my ears after I came home and came across a simply insane story that speaks to not just these strange days, but the disbelief that the barber and I were expressing just an hour before:
When I first saw the headline in this story, I wasn’t sure if this was a news piece or a bad 2020’s Madlib. When chatting with the barber today, he was talking about how he couldn’t believe how in the US there is such a resistance to wearing masks, that is supported by medical proof, while the same people have such an acceptance of supposed “miracle cures” with no proof to support them. We all remember the debacles that took place just months ago around Donald Trump’s preferred miracle cure, hydroxychloroquine. We saw the stories about not just the studies that proved it was dangerous and didn’t work, along with the stories of Trump ignoring all the science and telling people to take it because “what do you have to lose?” It turns out that many people had their lives to lose, and they lost them.
You might have thought that episode would have chasten this President or would have served as a strong warning to the American public about unproven “miracle cures”, but of course not. Seriously, it would be way off-brand for that segment of the American population to “get it” all of a sudden and sober up to the facts around there. Still, despite that fact, we could hope, right? Well then we got this story which, of course, involved of all people Mike Lindell. You know, the bloody “MyPillow” guy. Yep, the dude who can be seen hocking his pillows with a heavy rotation of commercials on Fox News, who has no medical background at all, he is claiming to have the miracle cure to COVID. Well Hallelujah, right? Saints be praised everything is solved, right?
Of course not. In normal times, if someone who had been previously fined for over $1 million for deceptive advertising practices that involved making unfounded claims that his product allegedly “alleviated the symptoms of anxiety, migraines, acid reflux, menopause, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and post-traumatic stress disorder” among other things, they would be ignored by government and government regulators. In normal times, if someone with no medical background or education came forward with a product claimed to cure the disease that was reason for a global pandemic, that person wouldn’t get the time of day.
Yet almost as predictably as it is sad, as a big booster and backer of Donald Trump, Lindell got more than an open ear. Trump cabinet member Ben Carson got behind Lindell’s push to get oleandrin approved as a COVID cure, despite no peer-reviewed, independent proof at all that it worked. Axios reports that there is one non-peer reviewed lab study out backing the product, but “one of the authors of the study also chairs the scientific advisory board of the company that produces it, and was previously listed as its president.” So yeah, you can easily point to his biases there. Furthermore while Ben Carson is a neurosurgeon, which is nothing to sneeze at, he has no professional background in drug development nor infectious diseases. But he and MyPillow dude are friends, so of course that means this got to Trump, whose reaction was a predictable as could be. And if you thought that this story wasn’t crazy enough, last night it all blew up live on CNN when this interview happened that really needs to be seen to be believed:
I know that recently here on this site I have expressed a few times my concern about what’s happening to our south and the declining state of the United States as the leaders of the democratic world. I’ve also talked a fair bit about the issues around the closure of our border with our American neighbours and how most of us in Canada are happy to keep it closed until they get a hold of this bloody virus. We Canadians are not only concerned for the health and well being of friends and family we have in the US, but just for the general well being of their society. It does us no good to see the US implode and tumble into the ranks of the failed states of the world, live and on our doorstep.
But that story, all of whatever you want to call that series of clown car crashes I just pointed to above, it speaks to a deeper problem and something akin to a psychosis that our American neighbours need to deal with. While I’m sure that most Canadians across the political spectrum are not fans of Anderson Cooper, I do believe that most Canadians across the political spectrum were nodding their heads along with Cooper as he interrogated Lindell in the way he deserved. Using works like “snake oil salesman” to describe Lindell in this moment were on the mark, but let’s face it; if Lindell was getting ignored by government and didn’t have the ear of this unstable President, there would never be a need for Cooper to expose him for what he was live on national TV. Through out history there have been lots of snake oil salesmen and saleswomen, there’s never been a shortage of those. But never in history have these people been elevated and given credence by the Leader of the Free World. Never have we seen these kinds of spurious claims being given more importance than scientific evidence and facts.
The fact remains that while our American neighbours are spinning their wheels trying to fight this global pandemic, this President is wasting the precious time and resources of the FDA to study something that isn’t a cure and offers no independent proof that it could be. So instead of pouring every resource and ounce of manpower into finding a vaccine or real treatments for COVID-19, you know that part of those resources and that manpower has been sent on a wild goose chase, all because some goofy dude has a personal bestie in the White House. Seeing that plays out just leaves so many of we Canadians thinking “yeah, let’s keep that border closed a while longer” because when you see insane stories like these, it’s clear that our American neighbours are no closer to getting it together when it comes to fighting this disease. I’m glad to see some voices of clarity like Anderson Cooper speaking truth to power, but what’s disturbing that it’s not clear his voice is in the majority. We hope it is, but the fact that it’s in doubt is not comforting. Neither is that entire story, and it’s just another one we can add to the pile that only reminds we Canadians that the border needs to stay closed a bit long. That story only makes it easier for us to do that. I can’t help but wonder what the barber would have thought about all of that.