COVID myths and anti-Semitism. What would Einstein think?
Updated: May 31, 2021
“We’ve come a long way to the establishment of a fascist regime. The similarity of the conditions here to those of Germany in 1932 is quite obvious.”
I read a shocking article in a medical publication recently. A public health doctor, one who is on the front line of those demanding that we all quarantine ourselves and wear masks, has raised the clarion call of antisemitism. Why? Well, because fringe groups are blaming COVID on Jews (really, are they really doing that any more than they ever do, I must be deaf and blind) and are blaming the COVID cure on the Jews too. Mostly, he’s upset that people are comparing the quarantine and the shutdown of our society at the hands of public health officials like him to the Nazi state, something this author claims is anti-Semitic. It seems that anyone who dares question the policies he advocates, policies I have debunked scientifically in my two nonfiction COVID books—COVID Communication and A Picture is Worth more than 1,000 Words—and which I show in Geriatrics Vengeance Club to be contrary to the humanistic and scientific creed to which all doctors should adhere, must be anti-Semitic, since he is a Jew who supports those policies, and since some of his critics are comparing those policies to the Nazi regime, which killed millions of people.
I am a Jew, and in Geriatrics Vengeance Club I do what this public health official abhors; I compare the excesses of our COVID culture—our willingness to put dogma over science to justify taking away people’s rights and imprisoning them in often brutal quarantines—to Hitler’s Germany. My main character is a Jew, and he does too. Are we not allowed to look back at history and question if we are following the script of one of the most horrendous regimes in modern history? Is this antisemitism?
The parallels between COVID and the Nazi state are real and frightening; I lay them out in Geriatrics Vengeance Club very methodically. The use of fear by our government to justify tearing away our Constitutional rights, not concerning ourselves with the human toll of our actions, basing our policies on myth and ritual that are draped in faux science, turning our back on real science, demanding absolute compliance with what our “leaders” and the media say lest they label you as an anti-American murderer, following the words of a charismatic demigod who we dare not question or ask him to provide evidence for his draconian declarations that are bereft of scientific legitimacy, being hit by a non-stop media barrage that is as misleading and bullying as anything Goebbels could have concocted, that’s COVID, that’s the Nazi state. In fact, in my book, I call our approach to COVID Faucism, named after our very own dictatorial leader whose proclamations are absolute and unassailable, and whose cure is just as barbaric and just as rooted in myth and just as antithetical to humanism and science as anything uttered by Fascists. And yet, I’m an anti-Semite for comparing the two?
The quote at the top of this blog was uttered by none other than Albert Einstein. He was speaking about the McCarthy Hearings, an anti-Communist witch hunt embraced by both conservatives and liberals who believed that a epidemic of covert communists embedded in top government positions posed a grave threat to our nation, and that we had to do anything and everything possible to stop that threat, from censorship to destroying people’s lives to unraveling democratic society itself. Einstein, who was in Germany during Hitler’s rise and would have been killed if he stayed, smelled the very same odor of dogmatic zealotry in the McCarthy Hearings as he did in Nazi Germany, and so he believed it appropriate and necessary to say so. So, I guess Einstein was an anti-Semite too?
Looking to the past for guidance is crucial if we are going to understand the present, understand the risks and benefits of our actions, understand the dangers of repeating the mistakes of others who also faced a crisis that they considered as grave a threat to their nation as some believe COVID is to ours, understand why they responded to the threat in ways that we believe to be abhorrent but which eerily mirror our own. Like I have said, the Nazi’s considered themselves men of science; much of what they preached was buttressed by the prevailing scientific gospel being promoted by Eugenicists in the United States. Virtually all of Germany’s Nobel prize winning scientists not only stayed in Germany, but became enthusiastic Nazi’s. Most University scientists and doctors also embraced Nazi ideology, gladly shoving their Jewish colleagues aside. Nazism was not perceived as anti-science. It was built up the bricks of the day’s most vigorous scientific orthodoxy, and drew doctors and scientists into its ranks more than almost anyone else.
You see, when we as a nation (and as a world even) elevate a threat to so dramatic a level as we did with COVID—believing, as did Senator McCarthy, that we must do everything and anything to stop the threat, even if that means stripping people of their lives, their careers, their education, and their freedoms—then we are running the risk of over-reaction. History podcaster Dan Carlin, who wrote a wonderful book called The End is Always Near just a little before we ever heard of COVID, presciently wrote that: “Reading today’s expert literature makes it clear that modern authorities are as worried about the dangers associated with fear, uncertainty, and irrationality on the part of the public as they are about the actual direct dangers of any future pathogen. History would suggest they are probably right to be so worried.” He is a soothsayer!
Yes, for those of us who understand and are guided by history, we all trembled about how the media, our doctors and scientists, and so many of our politicians stoked so dense an atmosphere of fear as to justify a suppression of people’s rights; a reliance on dogmatic thinking bereft of any scientific or humanistic meat and which no one was allowed to question; public shaming and censorship of those who dare defy the public will and seek an approach that verged from the dogma of Fauci and any of his self-anointed experts; a diminution of concern for any other threat or illness but the singular one that is COVID, a complete shut-down of society that led to depression, despair, the loss of jobs and businesses, and the loss of education; and an unwillingness for people to try to be reasonable and balanced in their approach. It was all out war against an unrelenting enemy, and our nation’s leaders were willing to ruin and destroy lives and the very soul of our democracy so they can win it. We’ve seen it all before; it starts with a real threat (yes, there were communists in Germany who allied with the Soviet Union in Hitler’s day, yes there were communists in the state department during McCarthy’s) that is exaggerated and warped into something apocalyptic, that takes over our thoughts and minds, that induces so much fear that we become compliant accomplices to what we may have once felt to be anathema to our core values, and that in the end drives us into ruin. One book about Germany called the German people "Hitler's Willing Executioners" since Hitler enjoyed broad public support right up to the end of the war. Are we not allowed to call those who blindly allowed our nation to dismantle its democratic values and push us into an anti-science, anti-humanistic pit as "Fauci's Willing Executioners?" I do in my book!
As Einstein said in the 1950’s: “America is incomparably less endangered by its own communists than by the hysterical hunt for the few communists that are here.” We could easily substitute COVID in that sentence, and you can see where Einstein—and all of us who fear repeating the mistakes of history under the guise of ‘Our threat is worse than theirs’ thinking—would be today. I’ll say this much; there is no way Einstein would be wearing a mask!
Hence, I suppose, he’s an anti-Semite, maybe anti-science too. Hell, the scientists of Hitler’s regime called him just that; they called his science “Jew science” because he dared to question the established dogma of physics that they had established. Well, he would certainly be doing the same to Fauci’s brand of scientific foolery too, and this public health doctor would likely call him an anti-Semite as a result.
In the Geriatrics Vengeance Club, Julie tells Ben that the power of myth in human evolution is far greater than anyone, even those who claim to be liberal and embedded in science, care to recognize. When we create myths, and when those myths become part of the fabric of our belief system, then even facts won’t dispel them. People are wiling to die for myths, to murder for myths, to unravel the bricks of progress and human decency and of science itself for myths. The myth of the mask is not going away; even after the CDC said we don’t have to wear them, even after more data has surfaced (that we have known about for eons) that they don’t work against viruses, I went to my Costco—where masks are now optional—and only me and one other guy weren’t wearing one. Some had gloves on, shields, full body face ware. Hell, one guy had a cart-load of junk food and was hardly in shape, but somehow the mask was going to save his life. Another lit a cigarette when she stepped out of the store, and slid on the mask between puffs. Smoking and obesity together kill a million of Americans every year, while there is no evidence that masks have saved a single life, yet to these people and millions more, wearing a mask is THE difference between life and death, THE most important action to save themselves and all of humanity, THE symbol to distinguish the "good guys" trying to help society versus the right-wing Trump fanatics who are cruel and anti-science. I have shown some of my friends all the evidence that masks don't work, and even evidence that they can be harmful, but they shake their heads despairingly at me. "Well, if they're good enough for Doctor Facui and all those high level doctors on TV, then I guess they must work. "
This is the power of myth. As we watched blindly and enabled it, the myth of the mask metastasized across our society during COVID, stopping us from approaching this rationally and scientifically, and plummeting us into a faith-based autocracy that liberals embraced as being necessary. We watched, we called it science, and we stifled any who dared to dispute the myth. COVID became the one and only thing to fear, the mask became the symbol of our compliance to those who sought to root it out. Everything else that came along with the myths of COVID—from 6 foot separation, to strict quarantines, to school and business closings, to the imprisonment of our elderly—followed from the mask myth.
Yes, we have seen this dance before, and it didn’t end well. It never does.
Had we looked back to the past regarding flu epidemics, we could have learned more about how to handle COVID. The 1918 epidemic far dwarfed this one in its lethality; that one killed 5% of the population and 10% of all people on earth under the age of 30. COVID killed barely anyone young and only about 1/4000 of the population. COVID was much more similar to the 1957, 1968, and (believe it or not) 2017 flu outbreaks. We discuss that in our books on COVID communication and present the facts about prior outbreaks; we could have learned from the past but chose not to. We were blocked from looking backwards by another pervasive myth: COVID can never be compared to flu! To do that, well, maybe that’s anti-Semitic too! But COVID spreads like flu, it’s similar in size to flu, and thus we could have learned a lot for studying flu. Myths and dogmatism prevented us from doing so. When you are hit by a threat that a few vocal scientists and the media tell us is unlike anything we have ever seen, that we will all die from it lest we do everything that Dr. Fauci and his band of sycophants tell us to do, that we must follow the “science” that is draped in myth and ritual, then history can’t be a guide; that’s what the Faucists say. That’s what they always say. Masks didn't work with flu, they don't work with COVID, but myths are far more compelling than facts.
In my book, Yadel the Dreidel, which is a sweeping journey across Jewish history through the lens of a mythical figure named Yadel, we see the face of real antisemitism. Yadel travels to Jewish towns year after year from the Roman Empire to the present, and the virulence of anti-Semitism is shown for what it is: a horror perpetrated by people who hold to their own myths and who are willing to break God’s first commandment to fulfill those myths, the myths of the Jew as the murderer of God, who poisons wells and drinks the blood of Christian children, who is plotting to overthrow Christian society, who is “the other” and needs to be expunged. In The Great Stupidity, which chronicles a blacksmith’s quest during the Black Death to find the cause of plague, his friend is a Jew, and we see again how the myth of a Jewish plot is used to justify slaughtering tens of thousands of Jews—burning them alive often—by people who believed they were doing it for God. My grandfather’s family was massacred by the Nazi’s, and even my father had his career curtailed due to barricades placed in the way of Jews. Hell, even my medical school, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, was created in the 1960’s because Jewish admission to all other medical schools was strictly limited. As i write, the flames of anti-Semitism are being stoked on America's streets by those who believe in other myth demonizing the Jews. understand antisemitism. I understand the danger of myth. I also understand that calling out deleterious myths is not anti-Semitic. It’s the very opposite of that. It is heeding the lessons of the past. Einstein knew that too.
Yadel’s story begins in the year 70AD, when a group of zealot Jews take over Jerusalem and instigate a holy war against their Roman oppressors. Yadel himself had no quarrel with Rome and enjoyed being part of the Roman Empire; he detested the zealots more than anything. Ultimately, more than a million Jews died in that revolt, not at the hands of the Romans, but mostly at the hands of the zealots, of fellow Jews. Yadel vows to spend the rest of his life fighting the appeal of zealotry—the power of a myth that perverts the word of God, of humanism, of science in the name of a simplistic solution to all the world’s dangers—as he seeks to instill a beneficent version of Judaism (the Hillel school) that uses religion as a path to individual and communal happiness. Well, I guess that makes Yadel an anti-Semite too. After all, he is critical about certain Jews, and he seeks to crush the power of myth and ritual that he believes has poisoned his religion. He can join me and Einstein and other anti-Semites who fear the over-reach of zealotry and myth and dogma in the wake of a magnified threat that becomes justification for the suppression of our rights and liberties and existence.
No, we are not anti-Semitic if we challenge the myth of those who seek to promote their singular unassailable approach to COVID. To many of us, the people who manufactured these myths are as dangerous and antithetical to humanism and science as are so many of those we vilify in history. Einstein would be appalled. I am too. And we both have a right to be, as humanists and scientists who dare to understand the risk of myth-making and over-reacting to a threat, and as Jews who know our history and who fear repeating the mistakes of the past.