September 11, 2021

The covid monologues: Recalcitrance versus reason

by Hal Gershowitz

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People have a right to be recalcitrant about vaccines and mask mandates, and to be left alone. So, yes, they should be left alone. Very alone.

As of yesterday morning, 4,634,549 people had died of CO VID worldwide, 677,037 in the United States. With 4% of the world’s population, we account for nearly 15% of the entire world’s COVID fatalities. Well over 40 million Americans have caught COVID, and over 1,100 Americans a day are dying of the largely preventable disease. Make no mistake about it, our COVID score is miserable, and frankly, disgraceful. We’re rushing toward 700,000 COVID deaths in the United States. Last week alone, we logged over 7,000 new deaths. Too many cases and too many unnecessary deaths.

Now, perhaps, we shouldn’t force people to get vaccinated or to wear masks. Anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers are entitled to their views and are entitled to be left alone…very alone. Every school, or business, or airline, or government office, or venue where people gather should respect every anti-vaxxer’s and anti-masker’s right to be left alone and should, in fact, insist that they be left alone. Every venue can and should augment that right by doing their part to leave the unvaccinated and unmasked alone by keeping their venues anti-vaxxer and anti-masker free.

Recalcitrance versus Reason

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, as the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynahan liked to remind us, but no one is entitled to their own facts. A mighty wide gap yawns between many of the widespread and unfounded opinions regarding COVID and the verifiable facts regarding the disease. It represents an information chasm that has claimed, and is claiming, too many lives every day. Some of the misinformation is simply misunderstood reality. Much of the misinformation, however, is carefully nurtured by media personalities and politicians who seek a following for power or for money and who prey upon those who are fearful or distrustful, or both.

Make no mistake about it, there is power and wealth to be mined from fear and uncertainty, and it seems we have no shortage of prospectors eager to mine the nation’s miasma. That is what happens when politics pollutes reason; when politically motivated people see benefit or gain by tapping into people’s fear and uncertainty. The misinformation and the suffering it has caused in our country is heartbreaking, and much of it is deliberate, and, sadly, it continues unabated.

NewsGuard, a truth-in-reporting service, founded by Gordon Crovitz, former Wall Street Journal Publisher, and Steven Brill, prolific best selling investigative author, reports that of more than 6700 websites it has analyzed, 519 publish false information about COVID-19, some of which publish dubious health information or political conspiracy theories, while others were “created specifically to spread misinformation about COVID-19.”

These deliberately placed misinformation stories disguised as news are then shared and multiplied millions of times. “It has become virtually impossible for people to tell the difference between a generally reliable site and an untrustworthy site,” Crovitz says. “And that is why there is such a big business in publishing this information.” Of the sites on NewsGuard’s list, 339 cater to American-based readers. having an audience predominantly based here. Some such as InfoWars and, have, according to NewsGuard, a history of promoting conspiracy theories and dubious health claims. Some try to confuse readers by using domain names similar to real news outlets, such as and, Small wonder tens of millions of Americans refuse to get vaccinated or wear masks. For these people, recalcitrance trumps reason.

Many people believe the vaccine was developed too fast, and therefore isn’t safe. Actually, most of the work in developing this vaccine was painstakingly done over many years. Researchers have been developing and researching an mRNA vaccine for coronaviruses for more than ten years. When COVID-19 appeared, its genetic sequence was quickly determined and it took just a short time to make the mRNA vaccine for this new coronavirus.

Many of the routine sequential functions that are usually followed in approving a new vaccine were conducted simultaneously to expedite the process. The data accumulated from tens of thousands of people participating in double-blind studies were extraordinarily affirming of the efficacy of the new vaccine, and a very effective vaccine was made available in record time. It has saved thousands of lives. Those who are being hospitalized and dying from COVID-19 today are almost all unvaccinated people.

Some people believe it would be better to get and survive COVID-19 than it would be to be vaccinated against the disease. There have been conflicting reports regarding this question. According to a HealthDay report in US News and World Report, “Vaccinated individuals had the highest antibody levels, nearly three times higher than that of convalescent individuals recovering from symptomatic COVID-19.” What’s more, according to one study conducted in Israel, 99.4% of vaccinated people tested positive for COVID-fighting antibodies in blood samples just six days after their second dose of vaccine, while the number of these “seropositive” people fell to just under 76% for people recovering from a COVID-19 infection. Other data from Israel indicates that antibodies generated from COVID-19 represent a stronger defense against the disease. Nebraska Medicine, earlier this week, cited a number of studies strongly indicating that vaccinations create more effective and longer-lasting immunity than natural immunity from infection. It appears that the jury is still out on whether one gets better protection from the disease-generated antibodies or from the vaccine-generated antibodies. It would appear, however, that many survivors of the disease may have longer-term residual health issues with which they will contend long after the disease itself has run its course. The strong consensus within the medical community is certainly for individuals over the age of twelve to be vaccinated. (This paragraph has been updated to include reference to the information published by Nebraska Medicine this week).

Facebook, which is caught up in a maelstrom of its own has, according to Monika Bickert, Vice President of Content Policy, determined that over 3,000 of its accounts, pages, and groups have repeatedly published more than 20 million pieces of content that were simply vaccine misinformation and have, belatedly, been removed. The number of times this calculated misinformation has been shared and copied is all but incalculable. Small wonder vaccine recalcitrance has, for millions of Americans, become a badge of honor. Recalcitrance trumping reason.

As Medical Analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, of George Washington University Medical School, observed regarding the tens of millions of Americans who have been convinced not to get vaccinated, “We live in a country that has some basic rules. You can’t smoke in most buildings in the United States, and you can’t drive drunk. You can’t smoke on planes, and you can’t blow viruses into my face. That’s how it has to be in this country. And if you’re going to be a persistent threat to public health by refusing to get vaccinated, well your actions have consequences.”

Sadly, the unvaccinated represent just about all of the active COVID cases in America, and it is only in these active COVID cases that variants such as the deadly Delta Virus and the other variants that are certain to follow can emerge.

We have many legitimate issues to debate in our country. Whether or not to wear a proper mask, or to be vaccinated against a terribly virulent, mutating, deadly disease aren’t really issues over which we should be fighting. Reason over Recalcitrance!

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the essay’s subject or are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

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12 responses to “The covid monologues: Recalcitrance versus reason”

  1. Susan Duman says:

    Your remarkable literacy along with your vast amount of information is mind boggling.
    You combine that with your constant effort to avoid being punitive to those who disagree with you.
    My gratitude.

  2. evg says:

    I was so happy to read your research regarding the misinformation of COVID that has been forth as truth. Likewise I am even more concerned about the political misinformation that has no truth to back it up.

  3. Jerry Mathews says:

    An informative piece Hal! We are collectively in World War III against an invisible enemy and the U.S. is taking 15% of the casualties.

  4. Prover Stephen E. says:

    I can find nothing with which to disagree. I will await with interest for the comments, if any, by the more conservative readers of this immaculately researched and elaborated column.

  5. Steve Hardy says:

    Good article. I agree with everything except the quote from Dr. Reiner. Unvaccinated people are only posing a threat to other unvaccinated people, all of whom have chosen to take this risk. They pose no risk to the vaccinated, so the drunk driver analogy doesn’t apply.

    • Response to Steve Hardy There are, of course, nearly 50 million American children under the age of twelve who are among the unvaccinated, and who, at this time, can’t be vaccinated. Let’s take a shot in the arm for them.

  6. ptl says:

    A study by researchers from Tel Aviv conclude that natural immunity to SARS-CoV-2 infections is more robust against the Delta variant than two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine BNT162b2.

    This from a recent study at Maccabi Healthcare Services led by Tal Patalon and Sivan Gazit at KSM, their research and innovation arm.
    Two analyses found that never infected people who were vaccinated in Feb and Jan were in June, July and Aug. 6 to 13 times more likely to get infected than unvaccinated people who were previously infected. In one study(32,000 people in the health system) the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 was 27 times higher among the vaccinated , and the risk of hospitalization 8 times higher than the previously infected.
    This does not disparage the value of vaccinations but it clearly shows the positive effects of previous infections and should open up the question of whether vaccines are needed in non vulnerable previously infected people, esp youngsters.

  7. Steve Hardy says:

    Ok, Hal, I get your point. But let’s put this in perspective. According to the CDC, there have been 486 Covid deaths for children ages 1 to 17 through 9/8/21 in the US. Approximately 800 kids die EVERY YEAR from drowning, mostly from swimming pools. 390 kids from 1 to 4 years old die from drowning EVERY YEAR on average. Maybe for the kids’ sake, we should be more concerned with swimming pools than Covid.

  8. Response to Steve Hardy: Good point, Steve. Both problems seem to have reasonable fixes.

  9. Steve says:

    Unfortunately we don’t seem to have any acceptable cures for COVID. There are only three outcomes that I’m aware of: (1) assymptomatic cases; (2) cases where the patient gets so sick before recovering that they want to die along the way, and (3) cases where they actually do die.

    So should people take vaccines that work (and prevent death or serious illness in case there’s a breakthrough) or play Russian Roulette?

  10. Judy says:

    Just call me crazy but we’ve been double vaxxed and easterly waiting for the third. Hoping our 11 yr old granddaughter qualifies soon. In the interim wears a mask to her 5th grade classes and practices other protocols…. washing hands, etc. Thankfully her mom is a P.A. and reads every study that comes out, our personal physician is one of the brightest researchers and was a leader in seeing the pandemic coming and keeping all his patients safe early on. Much appreciated.

  11. GSM says:

    To Steve Hardy,

    What about the immunocompromised? What about those with waning immunity that are potentially more at risk?

    The attitude of “I am fine, it is their problem” shows there is just a bit too much “I” in the world today and not enough “we.”

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