America The Current Situation

Recent COVID-19 deaths and “sadopopulism”

Recent COVID-19 deaths

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From the New York Times article, U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Surpasses 700,000 Despite Wide Availability of Vaccines:

The recent virus deaths are distinct from those in previous chapters of the pandemic, an analysis by The New York Times shows. People who died in the last three and a half months were concentrated in the South, a region that has lagged in vaccinations; many of the deaths were reported in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. And those who died were younger: In August, every age group under 55 had its highest death toll of the pandemic.

The article points out that of the 100,000 who died of COVID-19 since mid-June, only 2,900 were vaccinated. Or in other words, more than 97% of the people who died of COVID-19 since June were unvaccinated.


You may have heard of the term sadomasochism: It’s getting sexual jollies from inflicting pain or humiliation on someone else (sadism, derived from French noble the Marquis de Sade) or yourself (masochism, derived from Austrian novelist Leopold von Sacher-Masoch).

The word sadopopulism is a play on sadomasochism, and it’s used to describe a government body that operates without policy and causes pain in its citizenry.

It was coined by Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale, a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, and a specialist in the history of Central and Eastern Europe and the Holocaust. Simply put, he’s a student of self-inflicted human misery.

In a December 2017 video (it’s the one above), Snyder uses sadopopulism to describe the way Trump and Putin operate. He puts forth the idea that they only pretend to be populists and in reality create policies that hurt their bases, all the while convincing their bases that they’re hurting those bases’ perceived enemies.

That’s why one of the defining quotes of the Trump administration was one (Florida) woman’s lament: “He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”

Synder has this to say about the Republicans in the Trump era:

These are policies that are deliberately designed to administer pain, to add to the total amount of pain in American society.

If you hurt people you create a resource of pain, of anxiety and fear which you then direct against others.

If, in the long run, the way that you govern is by hurting people who don’t mind being hurt because they think other people are hurting worse, what you will tend to do is take the vote away from people who expect more from government, what you will tend to do is try to suppress the vote and keep the vote down to the people who accept that government can do nothing except for administer pain. And then that moves you away slowly from democracy.

Part of the reason that COVID-19 still progresses despite the fact that masks and vaccines are cheap and plentiful is that the sadopopulists have taken these common-sense health measures and reframed them as a signifier of “belonging to the wrong tribe”. As a result, they’re killing their very own supporters, and convincing them that it’s a good thing.

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