On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump hosted an ABC town hall in Philadelphia for undecided voters. It was one of few instances where Trump voluntarily entered a room full of people who weren’t already singing his praises, though he still took the opportunity to congratulate himself on how he’s handled the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, according to Trump’s assertions, he handled it so well that the coronavirus will just go away, with or without a vaccine, thanks to what he calls “herd mentality.”
“And you’ll develop – you’ll develop herd – like a herd mentality,” Trump told ABC’s town hall moderator, George Stephanopoulos. “It’s going to be – it’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen. But with a vaccine, I think it will go away very quickly.”
Although Trump touted “herd mentality,” it’s more likely that he meant herd immunity, which occurs when a virus is no longer able to spread widely because a large enough percentage of the population has become immune. As a result, even those who are not themselves immune are unlikely to contract the disease because it is so unlikely to spread. Herd immunity is often achieved through the development of a vaccination, but it can also occur naturally; however, it does require approximately 70 percent of the population to develop antibodies which could equate to an enormous death toll in the process.
But Trump’s “herd mentality” statement became an immediate subject of ridicule on Twitter — not just because Trump had a slip-up and said the wrong thing, but because of the underlying subtext.
This is the key point. Everyone on Twitter is mocking Trump’s misstatement (“herd mentality” v “herd immunity”). That’s a goof.
But if Trump’s strategy is to simply let the virus “run its course,” that could mean 2m deaths in the next 12 months. That’s the real headline. https://t.co/RxeTWUMDfl
— Ronald Klain (@RonaldKlain) September 16, 2020
Lemme take a second to laugh at the Freudian slip “herd mentality” instead of “herd immunity”. Yeah, Trump relies on herd mentality alright. #TrumpTownHall
— Quinn (@lil_neurotic) September 16, 2020
Sorry, Mr. Trump. Herd mentality is the brain fog you’re counting on to get reelected — not what happens when 60% or more of the population has been infected and become immune. Although in your case the two might not be so different after all . . . https://t.co/keMbCWe3uO
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) September 16, 2020
“You’re going to develop, like, a herd mentality”
— Arlen Parsa (@arlenparsa) September 16, 2020
Twitter users were quick to point out the irony of Trump’s “herd mentality,” pointing to the fact that many of his existing voter base and devoted MAGA followers behave in a “herd”-like way. For example, Trump’s early suggestion that injecting disinfectants would cure the virus led to multiple people actually attempting this, several doing so fatally. Trump has also rebuked the wearing of a mask for months of the pandemic, igniting his herd to literally protest wearing masks en masse, disputing scientific claims that masks will decrease and nearly eliminate the spread of the virus.
But the town hall wasn’t just about herds. Trump said plenty of other problematic things about COVID-19 and his poor management of the outbreak: He contradicted his own confession to Bob Woodward that he downplayed the severity of the coronavirus. To illustrate just how much he didn’t downplay the virus, he insisted at the town hall that he actually “up-played” the pandemic. “Well I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it in terms of action,” Trump said in response to a question from an audience member.
But, perhaps the only people who can defend Trump’s statements are his…herd.
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