An Opinion Pandemic

Contrarian viewpoints on Covid-19 policy in mainstream opinion journalism risk provoking dire consequences

Amitha Kalaichandran
Elemental
Published in
13 min readSep 22, 2021

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Photo: Bank Phrom/Unsplash

Over the span of four long days in September 1918, two leading voices expressed dismay about what was then known as the “Spanish Influenza.” First, Lieutenant Colonel Philip Doane, who led the Health and Sanitation Section of the Emergency Fleet Corporation, “forcefully” voiced that the Germans were behind the epidemic which had reached American shores earlier in the year, theorizing that German spies may have spilled the virus in a locale where a large number of Americans had gathered, such as a cinema.

“The Germans have started epidemics in Europe, and there is no reason why they should be particularly gentle with America,” Doane opined.

Then, a few days later, another opinion, by Surgeon General Rupert Blue of the Public Health Service, in an article in the editorial pages of the New York Times, downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic, suggesting that smallpox, dysentery, and typhoid were much more worrisome.

Doane’s statement further fueled stateside anger towards the Germans, but may have helped shore up support for the remaining battles occurring thousands of miles away. Blue’s words may have swayed public opinion towards not taking the pandemic…

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Amitha Kalaichandran
Elemental

A physician, epidemiologist, medical journalist, and health tech consultant with an interest in the intersection of integrative medicine and innovation.