Høitider for Herman Cain

“Don’t speak ill of the dead” used to be a thing.  So did “Black lives matter.”

Not at Berlingske, however.  Not anymore, at least:

“Kendt Trump-støtte fornægtede farligheden i coronavirus. Så slog den ham ihjel.”

The “så” is a nice touch: is it the adverbial form meaning “then,” or is it being used as a conjunction meaning “therefore?”

Either way, the headline seems intended to provoke from the reader something along the lines of, “Well, that’ll teach him! He denied the virus, and it killed him!  Haha!  What a sucker!”

Herman Cain was a 74-year-old businessman, high level civil servant, and one time presidential contender with a substantial resume.  He was married and had two children.  He has died—and that’s obviously too rich an opportunity to pass up.

Poul Høi’s coverage of America has always struck me as wildly inappropriate for a supposedly “borgerlig” paper—he’d be a much better fit at Information, Politiken, or the New York Times.  So I was not at all surprised to see his byline beneath that ghoulish headline.

Høi opens things up by noting that Cain denied the danger of the virus and last month attended Trump’s big Tulsa rally and tweeted afterwards that “Folk vil have frihed, ikke formynderi.”

“Det blev Herman Cains sidste politiske budskab,” Høi states ominously.

He then quotes resolute Never Trumper Evan McMullin as tweeting that Cain was “the first senior casualty of the science denial Trump cult,” and quotes David Graham of the Atlantic as noting that although was Cain was not a dumb man, he paid the price for putting his life on the line out of loyalty to the party line.

Got that? Political adversaries of the president feel very strongly that this ally of the president only got what was coming to him. (McMullin and Graham are two white men sneering at the death of a black man, which would normally be problematic, but since Cain was a Republican I suppose that’s only a venial sin.)

“Herman Cain er ikke den første, som på grund af sin politiske opfattelse bevidst eller ubevidst stiller sig midt på smittevejen,” Høi writes, then drops two ridiculous examples.

For eksempel Wanda and Gary Lenius i Arizona. De lyttede ikke til videnskaben eller myndighederne, men til deres egne informationskilder, som hævdede, at malariamidlet chloroquine var et vidundermiddel. Ægteparret mente, at deres akvarierensemiddel indeholdt det pågældende stof, og derfor drak de hver en teskefuld af rensemidlet blandet op med sodavand. Kort efter blev de begge hasteindlagte på sygehuset. Wanda overlevede, men Gary Lenius døde.

Erin og Brian Hitchens i Florida havde også deres egen mening om coronavirus.

De troede, at virussen var fup, forårsaget af 5G-netværket eller i værste fald bare en ufarlig influenza, fortæller Brian Hitchens til BBC. Så de fortsatte med at leve, som om smitten ikke eksisterede – også selv om de begge som overvægtige var i risikogruppen. Han arbejdede som taxachauffør, hun arbejdede som lægprædikant, begge uden mundbind og social afstand, og så væltede coronavirus dem omkuld. Da BBC talte med Brian Hitchens, lå han stadig stakåndet og lungeskadet på sygehuset. Men han var uden for livsfare. Det samme var ikke tilfældet med Erin Hitchens.

There’s all kind of static around both of these stories, but Høi makes a huge category error in lumping them in with Cain as as people who died because of their political beliefs.

Herman Cain was a champion of individual liberty: he believed in the importance of individuals being able to assess risks and make decisions for themselves.  If you want to laugh on his grave for having used his own judgement poorly, and for having made a bad decision, fair enough. I think you’re a ghoul, but that’s your right.

What Wanda and Gary did in Arizona was also a bad decision. Ditto for Erin and Brian in Florida. They also made their decisions based on their beliefs, but those beliefs were about as “political” as my belief that I can make it rain by washing my car.

Neither Donald Trump nor anyone else ever recommended that anyone consume fish tank cleaner, or even suggested that its active ingredient (chloroquine phosphate) was the same as hydroxychloroquine.  Whether Trump was right or wrong, he was boosting the medicinal drug hydroxychloroquine, not cleaning supplies whose ingredients may contain the word chloroquine.

A scientist told me that citric acid gives candies a nice fruity taste. I’d like to sweeten up a bowl of punch I’m preparing for a party. This bottle of toilet cleaner contains citric acid. If I sweeten up my punch with a couple of shots of toilet cleaner, is it fair to say the scientist made me do it?

As for the Hitchens couple, their belief that the pandemic was caused by 5G networks has not been endorsed by anyone in any position of power, anywhere, that I’m aware of, and if they believed it was “i værste fald bare en ufarlig influenza,” that’s a tough one to trace back to any particular political belief system:

Høi then explains that these couples, and others like them, shouldn’t be blamed for their mistakes anyway, because they were only doing what they thought to be the right thing based on what their leaders were telling them.  He approvingly quotes the American doctor Duncan Maru as saying that you can’t hold people responsible for drinking chlorine any more than you can hold pedestrians accountable for being struck by drunk drivers, an analogy so bizarre I had to look it up in the original English to see if it made more logical sense.  It does not.

Drinking chlorine is something someone does. Being struck by a drunk driver is something that is done to someone. One is responsible for things one does to oneself. One is not responsible for things others do to them.

Even if a politician you respect—curiously Wanda was an active donor to Democrat candidates and causes and she disliked Donald Trump, so that doesn’t appear to be the case here—even if anyone you admire and respect tells you, “hydroxychloroquine looks really promising,” they are not telling you to consume things that are not hydroxychloroquine.  If you see them at a press conference asking whether—and here’s the exact quote—

And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it [the virus] out in one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that, so that you’re going to have to use medical doctors with, but it sounds interesting to me. So, we’ll see, but the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute. That’s pretty powerful.

If you saw that press conference, or even just that one moment of the press conference, and concluded that you should drink bleach, or borrow a needle from your favorite junkie to just shoot the stuff into a vein, you have taken a wild leap from reason.  It would be like watching Churchill say “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills…” and then running off and beating up a stranger for standing on a hill or sunning himself on a beach.

Høi quickly points out that these excuses aren’t applicable to people like Herman Cain anyway, because they have the “education, power, or money to know better.”

Because everyone with an education, power, or money is super smart, right?

We’re then treated to a straightforward review of Cain’s impressive biography (although it contains a completely extraneous whack at the Tea Party), and we roll right out of that into Høi’s thrilling conclusion:

Det er uvist, om Herman Cain fik coronavirus ved Trumps vælgermøde i Tulsa, og det er også uvist, om den tidligere videnskabsmand og erhvervsleder virkelig mente sin modstand mod sagkundskaben. Eller om det blot var skuespil for en bestemt politisk målgruppe?

David Graham fra Atlantic er ikke i tvivl.

»På et tidspunkt fremstod Cain som et forbillede for, hvordan et menneske kan opnå den amerikanske drøm. I dag fremstår han som en påmindelse om, hvordan et menneske kan blive ødelagt af amerikansk politik.«

This is a very interesting conclusion, giving everything that came before.

Høi has been trying to make the point that people are dying because political leaders like Herman Cain are giving them bad advice and now–haha!–now that poor fool has died because of his own stupid Trump-lover lies.

He’s tried to make the point that those people died or got sick because they believed stupid things that no one ever actually told them.

And now his big finish is a weaselly “we don’t actually know this, or that, or the other thing, but isn’t it possible he was just playing a part for political purposes?”

There’s not a single kind word about Cain in the entire article.

Herman Cain genuinely believed in individual liberty. I think he knew the virus was real, and was dangerous to a man of his age, and I see nothing inconsistent or blameworthy in his having chosen to accept the risks and live as he wished to live.

But you don’t even have to agree with that to believe he deserved better than this hit piece by Poul Høi.