I have to hand it to the staff of the Los Angeles Times: they are going to toe the Party line no matter how wild or insane their Orwellian gaslighting has to be:
Yes, that is a real headline from one of America's largest newspapers in the Year of our Lord 2021.
Before I launch into an analysis of this garbage, here were a few responses. Note that the paper's tweet got ratioed into outer space for this lunacy:
My favorite was this reply, which compared the article to The New York Times' infamous 1933 article where they claimed Russians were just "hungry" under the Soviet regime:
Now for a detailed breakdown of this madness:
The article is basically a defense of California Supreme Leader Gavin Newsom by business columnist Michael Hiltzik, attacking the recall efforts against him by saying his lockdowns were actually great and wonderful and beautiful.
California's relatively stringent and far-reaching lockdowns are a centerpiece of the Republican Party's campaign to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. Never mind that due in part to its residents having taken stay-at-home rules, social distancing and masking seriously, California now boasts among the lowest case, hospitalization and death rates in the nation, as well as a recovering economy.
Doesn't matter: The lockdown appears to be all the recall backers have against Newsom, other than campaign slogans that consist of a noun, a verb, and "French Laundry."
A little fact-checking is in order here. The LA Times is technically correct that California has a lower case rate now than most states. Here's data from May 20 directly from The New York Times showing how California and New York – two of the states with the most extreme lockdown orders – compare to Florida and Texas:
What writer Hiltzik doesn't tell you is how California had much worse numbers than Florida and Texas throughout the majority of the pandemic. It's easy to look at the numbers at the end, when vaccines have been administered to at least half of U.S. adults and the virus has burned its way through a large chunk of the population.
Note that infection rates in California were the same as Florida back in March, despite far fewer vaccines and Florida's much older population.
That doesn't matter. This piece is obviously an ode to Newsom, so it takes a direct shot at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for good measure:
Florida's Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis thinks he'll be able to run for president in 2024 based on his having outlawed lockdowns in much of his state without suffering in COVID statistics and protected his economy. Neither claim is true, as we've shown, but that doesn't mean he won't be repeating them.
Hiltzik went on to say that lockdowns saved lives, and that is certainly true if you're only considering half the equation.
The question is, they saved some lives at the cost of how many others? This isn't a simple equation where there are no consequences for imprisoning people in their homes.
While the virus poses a small risk to the vast majority of healthy people under the age of 50, the risk of suicide, addiction, overdose, and abuse was significantly higher for these individuals as a result of having society shut down.
Some studies and reports have directly contradicted Hiltzik, saying the loss of life from lockdowns will far exceed the lives that were saved.
But that isn't even the most ridiculous claim of Hiltzik.
He not only argues that lockdowns were awesome and we should praise Gavin Newsom (May He Live Forever), he had the audacity to claim lockdowns didn't hurt the economy!
There's very little evidence that lockdowns themselves damaged local economies more than individual behavior that would have happened anyway, lockdowns or not. Nor is there much evidence that lifting lockdowns produced a faster recovery.
This, despite massive evidence to the contrary.
From the conservative Foundation for Economic Education:
A new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found important correlations between sales losses and lockdowns across counties in California.
Economists Robert W. Fairlie and Frank M. Fossen used state data from all taxable sales in California during the first two quarters of 2020, finding sales of $152 billion in Q2, which represents a drop of 17.5 percent from the same period in 2019.
The article also offered this thread of raw statistics showing how states that didn't lock down suffered worse initial COVID numbers but quickly plateaued and recovered economically while locked-down states prolonged their high case rates and destroyed their economies to boot.
Or take this article from the American Institute for Economic Research, which provides an enormous amount of data across the country.
Hiltzik also tries to argue that reopening in Texas didn't really affect "foot traffic," or increasing the flow of people in public. To debunk that, may I present Texas about five minutes after restrictions were lifted a few months back:
But here's Hiltzik's REAL argument:
Government-ordered shutdowns did less to force people to stay home than to give them legal grounds to do so.
Foot traffic fell by about 60% during the pandemic, Goolsbee and Syverson concluded from their study of smartphone mobility statistics. But government orders accounted for only seven percentage points of that.
In short, it wasn't government policy that kept people home. It was fear.
I would agree with that last sentence. It's this technical loophole – the idea that official orders didn't affect people's behavior as much as primal fear – that the newspaper is relying on to paint the Party in a good light.
But who was stoking that fear?
Would it have been, I don't know, media outlets like the freaking LA Times?
Was that fear rational and data-driven? Did most people display a sane and well measured amount of caution?
Or did they believe we were ALL GOING TO DIE because government leaders told them so and their allies in the media put MASSIVE DEATH TRACKERS on the side of their reporting 24/7 so that Orange Man Bad could be defeated?
The media doesn't want you to trust your lying eyeballs.
Consider for yourself how many people you know who lost jobs in the community around you.
Think about how many relationships have been destroyed.
Think about the established businesses around you that have been shuttered.
Think about how many kids still aren't back in school and how inflation, unemployment, and the welfare state are ramping up.
These people really think we‘re stupid, blind, or both.