Dr Owain Williams By: Dr Owain Williams
Lecturer in IR and Human Security
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06 May 2020 : Opening Up

After having a self-imposed news holiday, I just had to check in today. I felt as if I was missing out and it was making me anxious.  Having checked I can confirm it was not great.

New cases in the USA are now at 20,000 per day and there have been of 71,000 official recorded deaths ascribed to COVID. In this context, May the 5th was a very busy day for President Trump, both on social media, briefings and interviews. There are plans to disband the virus task force, and it is clear that his mission and objective is to reopen the economy as early as June. And this is despite the fact that many of the states that have lifted measures, such as Texas, are now seeing rising numbers of cases. In one interview it becomes apparent that Trump is prepared to make sacrifices to get the economy going once more, and is playing to supporters who are openly hostile to lockdown:

‘I'm viewing our great citizens of this country to a certain extent and to a large extent as warriors. They're warriors. We can't keep our country closed. We have to open our country ... Will some people be badly affected? Yes.’

Rick Wilson, a former Republican strategist, makes a startling statement in response this:

‘They’ve decided in a very utilitarian kind of way that the political damage from a collapsed economy is greater than the political damage from losing as many as 90,000 more Americans just in June. We’re witnessing the full-scale application of a kind of grisly realpolitik that is a clear willingness to trade lives for the Dow Jones.’

He is of course correct in this assessment, that is precisely the calculation being made. Trump has a strategy now, and I seriously believe he will not be swayed. People will be thrown under the bus of the economy, and all guns are blazing, he comes out strong in the news cycle.

Trump suggests that the governor of Michigan ‘make a deal’ with anti-lockdown supporters, and uses the threat of withholding Federal assistance a weapon once more:

‘Well run States should not be bailing out poorly run States, using CoronaVirus as the excuse! The elimination of Sanctuary Cities, Payroll Taxes, and perhaps Capital Gains Taxes, must be put on the table. Also lawsuit indemnification & business deductions for restaurants & ent.’ This war is being conducted on Twitter and on Fox.

The media is also the target. Live feed of his Honeywell factory visit shows MAGA supporters berating and threatening the press outside. Trump himself is way beyond the boundary of dangerous conduct with regard to the press. Yesterday in response to reports in many outlets of the grim models that predict a shocking rise in fatalities in coming weeks, he lashes out on Twitter:  

‘The Do Nothing Democrats and their leader, the Fake News Lamestream Media, are doing everything possible to hurt and disparage our Country. No matter what we do or say, no matter how big a win, they report that it was a loss, or not good enough. The Enemy of the People!’

The reports that have irked him, as they clearly suggest lifting lockdown is a very bad idea given current and future infections. The reports are in fact based on government models recently published. No matter to that, as it just another inconvenient truth for the great denialist.

Globally there are now over 3.5 million confirmed cases, and the AFP wire reports that some 4.5 billion people are under restrictive measures of some form. There are countries spiking badly, such as Russia, Turkey, Brazil and India. In Russia the state is struggling to spin and suppress the true extent of what is occurring there. Provincial and metropolitan officials lead to estimations that the total infections are some 4 times the official state figure. It is also hard to disguise the fact that hospitals are full, and ambulances are visibly queuing in long lines for hours, and not just in Moscow.

Another denialist, the President of Brazil (Mr ‘So What’) continues his perversity. He meets supporters in Brasilia and insists on shaking hands with many. On Monday Brazil recorded 4,500 new cases in 24 hours and 7,921 deaths. That is an 8.4% rise in cases in one day, bringing Brazil up to 111,000 official confirmed infections. In cities like Manaus they are digging and filling mass graves.

Many domestic workers in Brazil have died from the infection already, and the workforce is getting angry and organised. The Guardian reports that there are some 7 million domestic workers in Brazil, the highest number in the world. These are mainly from the black population and the majority are women, who work as maids, nannies and cooks. Employers are withholding pay if they do not come for work, exploiting the fact that many of these people are working informally with little employment rights. But in solidarity, angry families have launched a manifesto for change, have set up a widely followed Facebook page and much signed petition. As is the case with increasing angry migrant workers in India, people are starting to organise and rebel openly at how inequalities have been exposed by the pandemic. As with Trump and Bolsonaro and their lies, the virus is exposing many things in global society as untenable and indefensible.

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