We are now approaching two months since the CoronaPanic succeeded in breaking through, assembling a coalition around itself, seizing the initiative and routing the anti-Panic forces (such as they were at the time), seizing control of the government, seizing control of the culture, and establishing a form of martial law and state religion around itself. Over a flu virus that may be slightly worse than 2017-18 flu strains.
A lot remains to be sorted out regarding the Corona Big Mistake, by which I mean the shutdown and disastrous ‘lockdown’ decisions (which, evidence now suggests, were unnecessary and probably a net-negative, even in short-run public-health terms).
Several questions I am interested in are:
- Who found themselves in the pro-Panic coalition during the critical period? What sorts of people?
- Why did they join?
- Who was on the anti-Panic side?
- How did the pro-Panic side win so decisively in mid-March?
- Could the anti-Panic side have held out in some scenario, and maintained a Stay-Open, Sweden-style response (which was the correct response, given Sweden’s full vindication and the virus proving to be even more minor than the optimists argued)?
‘Corona’ may be remembered as a mega-scale mass-delusion event, destructive and incomprehensible.
Therefore the topic of the origins of the pro-Panic coalition certainly deserves a full treatment. I have my ideas and will publish them later.
Meet Haley Stevens, Corona True-Believer
As for “who found themselves on the pro-Panic side,” I want the offer the following:
Haley Stevens. A woman who deserves a footnote in a history of the Corona-Panic.
Haley Stevens is a first-term US Congresswoman from Michigan. While delivering a pro-Panic speech on the floor of the US House March 27 (the height of the Panic), her time ran out, at which point she demanded more time and immediately launched into histrionics, yelling and gesticulating about how terrible the virus is. The presiding officer tried to bring her under control but she ignored him, to jeers from other members of Congress.
Her speech took on apocalyptic, religious-cult-like overtones (a topic, the “Corona-Cult,” I wish to return to in another post).
(I became aware of the Haley Stevens case via a post at Peak Stupidity, April 9.)
The Haley Stevens Corona-histrionics incident is the kind that is usually forgotten quickly but is worth attention and further reflection. Consider the rest of this post a character study, with the goal/hope being to find some insight into the pro-Panic side and where they were coming from.
Maybe the conclusions will be obvious, but a close look at an example can often be more useful more than a general statement, however true.
(An addendum section also includes a brief comparison with, and other remarks on, fellow Michigander Gretchen Whitmer, who is now among the most notorious of the pro-Panic governors; Stevens supports her brutal, indefinite lockdown policy.)
This post is a complement to Part V, the profile of Knut Wittkowski, an epidemiologist who is definitely on the anti-Panic side (along with many other top experts). Part IX, this post, is a profile of someone definitely on the pro-Panic side.
(While Part V labels anti-Panic Wittkowski a “hero of the hour,” I wouldn’t consider pro-Panic Stevens a “villain” [Ferguson, he is a definite CoronaPanic villain; a few of the media ringleaders too]. Stevens is more a victim of the Panic created by others which was allowed to spiral out of control; the purpose of this post is not to blame her, but to say she is a quintessential “agitated pro-Panic activist” type.)
Here is Haley Stevens speaking on the US House floor, March 27, urging all who may hear to Embrace the Panic, before she starts going into hysterics:
Stevens’ performance here reveals a common mental state on the pro-Panic side during the height of the crisis, induced by the media drumbeat of the previous few weeks (continuing even as of this writing [May 5], with some new scare-story every day), and the escalation-spiral of overreactions. The mental state is highly agitated. Corona-Paranoia is what some would call this condition.
Here is a transcript I’ve made of the incident, the speech and the uproar as Stevens refused to give up the podium and tried to shout her way through:
STEVENS: I rise before you today in this chamber during this critical time in the United States of America, where our country faces a battle with a pandemic, the biggest battle we have faced as a nation together in generations. Amidst uncertainty, we work to keep Americans alive by stopping the spread of COVID-19. In these times, heroes will be made and not selected.
We are in a global pandemic. Many Americans may perish unexpectedly and suddenly in unfair circumstances. These are not pleasant words to hear.
Treatments and cures are needed. They will take time. Economic security must be guaranteed.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has spread throughout our land. Listen to the scientists and the doctors who have spent a lifetime in this space. Listen to Dr. Fauci. This is not a moment to provide the false comforts of times past.
We are so proud of Americans who are sacrificing so much right now. Our students, gone from their beloved classrooms and classmates we [?] for our manufacturers who have no – [speech time expires] – I request thirty more seconds, because I rise before you –
PRESIDING OFFICER: The gentleman from Maryland is recognized.
CONGRESSMAN FROM MARYLAND: I yield –
STEVENS: (ignores Presiding Officer and Congressman) – Not for personal attention! Not for personal attention but to encourage you –
CONGRESSMAN FROM MARYLAND: I’m going to give you more time.
STEVENS: – for every American who is scared right now! (Speaking quickly, begins shouting) To the families! –
PRESIDING OFFICER: The gentlelady will suspend. The gentleman from Maryland is recognized.
(Commotion in chamber; Jeers)
(STEVENS continues speaking in loud voice, words unclear in the commotion; “All of you will…” is audible)
PRESIDING OFFICER: the gentlelady is out of order.
NEXT CONGRESSMAN: I yield the gentlelady thirty additional seconds.
PRESIDING OFFICER: The gentlewoman is recognized for an additional thirty seconds.
STEVENS: – cause of their servitude. Sharing in the profession with those who have not come before you! Similar times of trying medical need, wars and flus pass! You will see darkness! You will be pushed! And (voice cracks) our society needs you! To stand together at this time. Our country loves you, to our doctors and our nurses. I wear these these latex gloves –
PRESIDING OFFICER: The gentlelady’s time has expired.
STEVENS: – every American! Do not be afraid! –
PRESIDING OFFICER: The gentleman from Maryland is reserved. The gentleman from Texas is recognized.
STEVENS (continues indistinct shouting)
(Sounds of commotion, jeers in chamber)
PRESIDING OFFICER: The gentleman from Texas is now recognized.
STEVENS (continues indistinct shouting)
PRESIDING OFFICER: The gentlelady from Michigan is out of order.
PRESIDING OFFICER: The gentlelady from Michigan is out of order.
STEVENS (continues indistinct shouting)
PRESIDING OFFICER: The gentlelady from Michigan is no longer recognized. The gentlelady from Michigan is no longer recognized.
STEVENS: (Trails off and exits podium)
A portrait of the psychological state of the pro-Panic side during the critical period?
What does one make of this display?
I suspect she may have ad-libbed a lot by the time she started yelling, given the decline in coherence. I just cannot believe she wrote the words: “You will see darkness! You will be pushed!” This is apocalypse talk.
I believe this does show something about the psychological state of the pro-Panic coalition in March. In other words, ‘we’ were making decisions based on the kind of thinking on display there, and not based on evidence or science. (Ironically, Stevens has an important role on the House Committee on Science.)
It’s also clear that there is just no way to rationally talk to someone in this kind of agitated mental state. Not about facts, not about context, not about alternative views or scenarios, not about the implications of the latest studies or the latest way the data misaligns with the narrative (such as those covered in posts here in the past month).
Once the Panic got rolling, having been pushed for by the media over a period of weeks (of “drumbeating” about Corona and for Panic), there may not have been a good way to contain it. Some of those who became infected with the Panic mind-virus became “super-spreaders” of the Panic, and Haley Stevens herself may count as one of the super-spreaders. If not, she is a close copy of the people who were Panic Super-spreaders.
How would Haley Stevens have reacted to a proposal to follow the Swedish model?
As a thought-experiment:
What if someone had engaged Haley Stevens in March, before the disaster of shutdowns, in a discussion on the merits of a Swedish-style response. What would have happened?
I am sure such an attempted engagement would fail. Stevens was too agitated. I am sure she would reject such talk outright, citing the need to prioritize “saving lives” over “the economy.”
Anything of almost any dissenting sort would be tantamount to treason in a time of national crisis (as declared by the media), or, maybe better stated, as heresy. The religious metaphor works because if you read or listen to Stevens’ own words, she herself uses apocalyptic, religious-esque imagery (“You will see darkness!”).
Stevens also uses wartime-like imagery (“Our society needs you!” “Stand together at this time”). She mentions the word ‘war’ itself, but by the time she did, she was incoherent. If you are on a war footing, you’re already lost and probably cannot return to the appropriate, limited response. The Stay-Open approach, protecting the vulnerable, would have done. No war-like extreme measures. No need for an apocalypse cult to fill the void in out religious lives as Lockdown-fanatic governors closed all churches.
The anti-Panic side would have said that such panicked responses as these involving war mobilization and religious apocalypse-like metaphors, for a new flu strain, was unnecessary and playing with fire in the extreme. The escalation-spiral of overreaction was a natural result of an emboldened pro-Panic element psychologically similar to Stevens that day.
It would be interesting if we could date when Stevens caved into the Panic, but I expect it was early:
What we are looking at here is a fully metastasized form of the Panic, and for people who follow the media as closely, as I am sure Haley Stevens does, March 27 was already a very late date in the Panic cycle. The time to intervene to prevent cases like this would have been weeks earlier.
Update, May 7: The day before the pro-Panic diatribe by Haley Stevens before the US House, in a sign that this kind of panic had spread, a prominent blogger wrote (morning of March 26):
How Long to Shut Down? Let’s Procrastinate on Making That Decision
When should we shut down? As soon as possible.
When should we decide when to open up again? As late as possible.
“As late as possible?” This was not rational thinking.
Young and pro-Panic
Some assume the dividing line may be something like “young vs. old,” given that the old are at some small risk while the young-and-healthy are at no risk. There are very many counter-examples of this reasonable assumption, and Stevens is one.
When this video was posted elsewhere in early April, one commenter (Mr. Anon) assumed, after seeing the grainy video, that Stevens had “Corona-Induced Dementia.” Miss Stevens is actually much younger than assumed, which in and of itself is a useful data-point: The threat of this flu-virus strain to someone in good health of Stevens’ age (turning 37 in June 2020) is zero, statistically speaking. She is not scared for her own life. Or maybe she was, it’s hard to say, but if she was it was a highly irrational reaction if she gets in cars without being terrified.
There are so many examples of this, of “young” people on the pro-Panic side and “old” people on the anti-Panic side, that it quickly becomes clear that such a simplistic dividing line will not do. So what will do?
Looking for clues in biography, personality: Who is Haley Stevens?
Why did Stevens cave in so totally, in March, to the CoronaPanic, and indulge in unhealthy Corona-Paranoia? Few were immune from the effects of the Panic Pandemic, but few also went as far as she did. To switch to the religion (semi-)metaphor, Stevens became a full-on convert, evangelist, and zealot for the new religion.
Here is life-trajectory profile:
HALEY MARIA STEVENS
– early 1970s: Haley’s parents-to-be meet while students at Oakland University in Michigan. Mother [b.1951?] graduates in 1973 and begins climbing corporate ladder;
– Haley is born June 1983 in Oakland County, Michigan (Detroit metro area) and raised there; mother was for a time the “CEO of a successful marketing agency” (1990 to 2007); father ran a landscape business and later was a high school teacher. Haley was their only child;
– In the 1980s and into the 1990s raised mainly in Rochester Hills, Michigan; in her youth, this small city of 60,000 was 95% White, 1% Black (see pdf of Michigan town results on 1990 census; note: As of 2020, the city is at 76,000 pop., 76% White, 12%+ Asian, 5% Hispanic, 5% Black); Stevens has said she “was raised in and have the honor of representing a district with a strong Jewish community;”
– 1994: Haley wins “a district-wide speech competition as a fifth grader. ‘I was always a performer and somebody who wasn’t shy being in front of large groups of people,’ says Stevens, who spoke of wanting to be an actress when she grew up. A love of history later sparked her political curiosity;”
– June 2001: Graduates from Seaholm High School nearby in Birmingham, Michigan, “where she served as student body treasurer, started the diversity club and peer mediation group, and delivered the graduation speech;” she had been accepted to American University in Washington DC, and by August 2001 she will have relocated to DC; in her first few weeks there, 9/11 happens;
– Late 2001? to June 2002: Gets her start in politics, volunteering for “Mark Shriver’s unsuccessful 2002 congressional bid” for a US House seat from Maryland; he lost the primary challenge to the incumbent Democrat by three points;
– 2003: Elected American University Student Government President, but cannot have served long, because she spent some or all of the 2003-04 academic year at Oxford; (perhaps the student government presidency was a rotating-door position or there were co-presidents);
– 2005: Graduates with BA in Political Science and Philosophy, American University;
– 2007: Graduates with MA in Social Policy and Philosophy, American University;
– ca. summer 2007: Joins Hillary Clinton For President campaign as paid staffer, “conducting research on economic and Native American policy and compiling the daily briefing;” and after Hillary drops out, moves on to the Obama campaign;
– 2009 to 2017: Holds various positions on the margins of government: “Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry;” “Director of a manufacturing innovation and economic growth program in Louisville, Kentucky, as part of a two-year fellowship with the City of Louisville sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies;” “Director of workforce development and manufacturing engagement at the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute [Chicago], a Department of Defense-funded initiative;”
– Late 2016: Enraged by the election of Trump, and probably bored with the types of positions she was floating around in (summarized above), she decides to return to Michigan and run for Congress; she announces her campaign formally in April 2017;
– Aug. 2018: Wins Democratic primary which is split five ways. Wins 27-22-21-19-11;
– Nov. 2018: Benefits from the anti-Trump wave, in which anti-Trump turnout famously surged; wins the general election (52-45) in Michigan’s 11th District. This district had elected Republicans in 38 of the previous 39 general elections back to Nov. 1938;
– As of 2020, unmarried (according to her Congressional profile), presumably no children.
– Role in Congress: Committee on Science, Chair of the Research & Technology Subcommittee.
Observations from Haley Stevens biographical material:
- Haley Stevens is a bright overachiever, evidenced from a young age by her victory in “a district-wide speech competition” at age 11, her role as student-body treasurer at high school and a study-body president at college;
- Family: Her mother was a CEO of a marketing agency, presumably meaning she was socioeconomically fairly well off;
- Personality: Stevens describes herself in her youth this way: “I was always a performer and somebody who wasn’t shy being in front of large groups of people;” an outward, social orientation
- She has an interest in politics that spans her entire adult life back to age 18 and worked for both the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Obama campaign in her 20s;
- Education: By her 24th birthday, she held two degrees: BA (Political Science and Philosophy) and MA (Social Policy and Philosophy);
- Choice of college: Being from Michigan, the move to Washington, D.C., for college at American University was not the most obvious; her choice to do so presumably reflects political interest and ambition when she was 17 and thinking about and applying to colleges in mid-late year 2000 (this would have been during the Bush-Gore election and post-election recount fiasco);
- Choice of majors: Her undergraduate major being Political Science lends support to the reason to move to Washington as wanting to get close to politics/power; her graduate degree in Social Policy is probably more of the same;
- She has spent her career either in politics or in organizations/roles that are in the overlap zone between private and public; arguably she has never left the outer tier of politics (see her activities between 2009 and 2017).
Lessons for ‘Corona’ and how she might fit into the core pro-Panic group: Unclear and subjective though it may be, there a lot to work with.
I do not want to insult Stevens. I do want to understand what may have led her (and others) down the path towards disaster, towards calling for the devastating shutdowns and extreme ‘Lockdown’ policies, towards suspending all skepticism.
Here is what I think may be the most useful lesson: The overall portrait of Stevens is as a woman to whom the System has been very good. Every indication is that she believes the System, and therefore believes the media. I am sure of it. There is nothing in her biography to indicate she has ever been, in adult life, the kind of person who would be skeptical of the media’s claims about any subject. She has always been close to power and has probably learned to trust it. The media, which has a clear role in the power apparatus, cannot be wrong (for someone like this).
Another, lesser observation: She has chosen to orient herself more towards social sciences policy than towards numbers.
That’s all I can think of on this character study on “Corona-Paranoia” and the case of this peak-CoronaPanic-era speech and its deliverer, Haley Stevens.
Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s pro-Panic Governor
Haley Stevens is a product of Michigan. During the Corona-Panic, a great deal of attention has been paid to that state due to the actions of its pro-Panic governor.
While this post is mainly about Haley Stevens, a first-term Congresswoman, a word on the governor is in order:
Many now know the name Gretchen Whitmer, a pro-Panic hardliner who has overseen one of the most brutal and destructive ‘Lockdowns’ of any state and has repeatedly pushed the limits of constitutional authority, receiving no peep of protest that I can tell from Haley Stevens.
The Whitmer story is covered extensively elsewhere and I don’t know that I can add any value, but I will make some comments anyway. Peak Stupidity, which is firmly on the anti-Panic side, had a post on Whitmer (sidenote: the Corona-Response must count as a ‘peak’ of stupidity in public policy). The post asked in part: “I wonder what her childhood was like?”
(Brief bio for Whitmer: born 1971 in Michigan and lifelong resident there; politically connected parents; BA, Communications, Michigan State, 1993; law degree, Michigan State, 1998; married in 2000; two daughters born ca. 2002 and 2003; divorced 2008; remarried 2011 [did not change name for either marriage]; lifelong politician since election to the Michigan State Legislature in 2000; elected governor in Nov. 2018.)
Whitmer has earned a place in the history books for her hard-line Lockdown, for repeatedly condemning her own citizens, and, in early May, for her unilateral decision to overrule her state legislature’s legal, binding vote to re-open the state (following six weeks of what evidence now suggests was a completely unnecessary shutdown; see, e.g., Part VIII), effectively dissolving the legislature for practical purposes until such time as she allows it to return and be more than a rubber-stamp.
I know of no parallel in US history to this kind of anti-democratic, rule-by-diktat regime she has introduced in peacetime. Even in wartime, outright rule-by-diktat would be a lot to bear, highly unusual in the US tradition. I don’t believe this happened during the 1918-19 pandemic influenza, which by a fair measure is some hundreds of times worse than the present minor coronavirus pandemic (See Part III, Section 6).
It should be said that Whitmer, like Stevens, is a true-believer, morally committed to the pro-Panic position, and these kinds of extremely damaging policies come from that.
Some on the anti-Panic side have made headlines by protesting. Their signs have read things like: “Stop the Tyranny; Open Michigan,” “Recall Whitmer,” and “Remove the Whitmer Regime.” One can only presume an inevitable radicalization of the protesters following Whitmer’s announcement of her indefinite, rule-by-diktat policy.
Whitmer’s brutal ‘Lockdown’ policy was bad enough (given that it prevents herd immunity), but she disgraced herself even more by promptly, publicly, and aggressively condemning her own citizens as “terrorists” for daring to protest her Corona-diktats.
“Don’t the protester-terrorists know the crushing ‘Lockdown’ policy I am arbitrarily extending to summer is for their own good? The peasants are always so much trouble. I mean…What’s that, you say they have ‘no income’? Let them eat cake!” snarls Whitmer.
This is such a bad look that she has presumably ruined her chances of getting the vice presidential pick this summer. She was once on the list of possibilities. I cannot imagine it now.
She later went on a PR blitz and decided to also call the protesters “racists.” It is said Blacks in Detroit are dying disproportionately.
A distant observer might conclude that Whitmer hates the people she governs, or at least a large portion of them. I think what she really hates are Corona-Heretics. In that, there is clear common ground between Gretchen Whitmer and Haley Stevens. Whitmer holds the whip hand over her own people to get them to show more respect for the new god, Corona.
(It will come as no surprise that Congresswoman Haley Stevens also chimed in, slamming the Re-Open Michigan protesters. Her twitter followers called them “terrorists,” following the governor’s lead. Elsewhere we see Stevens urging the lockdown to continue “Until it is safe,” and promising constituents she will keep cash (bailouts) flowing to them.)