In March 2020, a profile of the typical COVID victim emerged from Italy. The average decedent was 80 years old, with approximately three comorbidities, such as heart disease, obesity or diabetes. The young had little to worry about; the survival rate for the vast majority of the population was well over 99 percent.
That portrait never significantly changed. The early assessments of COVID out of Italy have remained valid through today. And so it will prove with the Omicron variant.
The data out of South Africa, after five weeks of Omicron spread, suggest that Omicron should be a cause for celebration, not fear. Its symptoms are mild to nonexistent in the majority of the infected, especially the vaccinated; hospitalization rates are over nine times lower than for previous COVID strains; deaths are negligible. That assessment will only be confirmed as the United States and other Western countries gather their own data on Omicron.
Yet the public health establishment and the media are working overtime to gin up Omicron hysteria. The official response to the Omicron variant provides a case study in the deliberate manufacture of fear. The following strategies are key:
1. Create a group norm of fear
The media want you to believe that everyone around you is scared out of his mind, and thus you should be, too. Man-on-the-street interviews quote Nervous Nellies exclusively. A Dec. 17 New York Times article headlined “As Virus Cases Surge, New Yorkers Feel a Familiar Anxiety” trotted out a parade of paralyzed city residents:
“Monday I wasn’t even thinking about [Omicron], and Thursday I’m in a panic,” said a 59-year-old woman on the Upper West Side. A teacher at Manhattan’s New School confessed: “It’s literally all I’ve been thinking about. I’m really heartsick and worried.” A 36-year-old woman in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, said: “It’s scary — it feels like we’ve been here before.” A 62-year-old woman in Queens reported that her travel and outing days were over: “I’m going to go home, I’m going to stay home and just keep to myself.”