On July 26th, 2020, President Donald Trump retweeted a post criticizing Democrats for politicizing the drug hydroxychloroquine, which Trump has suggested as treatment for COVID-19; some Democratic politicians have refuted it as not viable. This is, perhaps, one of the most beautiful and glaringly obvious incidents of what could be considered near-cinematic irony, especially since Trump has done the exact same thing with COVID-19.
REPORT: A Yale Epidemiologist has said hydroxychloroquine could save 100,000 lives. If only Democrats hadn't politicized it… via @DBongino https://t.co/qn2O6QI78e — Tea Party Patriots (@TPPatriots) July 26, 2020
Trying to follow Trump’s public stance on COVID-19 is enough to cause whiplash. When asked if he had criticized Joe Biden for wearing a mask, he responded “Why would I ever do a thing like that?” and then proceeded to claim that the very same journalist who had asked about Biden was only wearing a mask to be “politically-correct.” He applauded China for their handling of the pandemic, then referred to COVID-19 as the “China Virus;” doing so encourages others to associate COVID-19 with Chinese people, not to mention that diseases are not typically labeled with their country of origin.
He condemned protesters in Portland, Oregon—who were protesting police brutality—for violating social distancing guidelines, but demanded that schools reopen in the fall. He criticized the Obama administration for their handling of the 2009 H1N1 swine flu wave, specifically making note of the thousands of deaths during the pandemic—yet as of publication (merely six months after the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S.), there have been 150,283 deaths in the U.S. attributed to COVID-19, while H1N1 caused 12,469 deaths across a year. In all matters, but especially in regards to the virus, Trump has chastised and blamed the left even when his own administration and party have fared worse.
Even when his words have not been drenched in hypocrisy, they still are not backed by science. He has retweeted posts citing various studies supporting the use of hydroxychloroquine against COVID-19, but many of the trials in which it was successful also involved other drugs, like steroids, which may have contributed to positive results. Additionally, there have been many more trials in which hydroxychloroquine has not worked, and the FDA currently discourages its use, declaring it neither safe nor effective in treating COVID-19. Trump also claimed that the U.S. had the lowest death rate in regards to the pandemic; this was not true then, and it still isn’t. And, in one of his most dangerous statements yet, he suggested injecting disinfectants to combat COVID-19, sparking responses from Lysol and Clorox telling consumers to refrain from doing so.
Fascism is defined as a philosophy that “exalts nation… above the individual” and promotes an “autocratic government headed by… social regimentation and forcible suppression of opposition.” Trump’s track history as president—which includes constantly belittling journalists who question him, showing favoritism toward white supremacists, and threatening military force on protesters exercising their First Amendment rights—is full of examples in which he has exhibited, supported, or condoned behaviors characteristic of fascism. It would, therefore, not be too far of a stretch to suggest that he has demonstrated tendencies that support fascism.
It would appear that Trump is following a path to an Orwellian government. In the presence of tyranny, science is nothing but a tool to support a dictator—when theories and results are convenient, then science is to be trusted, and when they are not, then facts and evidence are of little importance. While it may appear surprising that, of all things, Trump would politicize a virus, it was actually only a matter of time before he so easily disregarded science.
It is not necessarily a matter of whether or not the information is true or even helpful toward the Trump administration—it is simply that the COVID-19 pandemic is a tool by which Trump exercises control over the country. He has established himself, time and time again, as a president who values authority over constitutionality and self-interest over patriotism.
His indifference and hostility toward scientists is not a shocking move arising out of thin air; rather, it is simply the next natural step toward dictatorship. Trump has created a cult of personality where many of his fans blindly follow him and disregard all criticism—even when logically valid. It is unfortunate that his presidency has produced such an environment in which he constantly backtracks or simply looks past science even though he possesses neither proof nor a scientific background, but it is not surprising. The question was never if he would discredit scientists, but when.