Coronavirus, Social Justice, and the New Religion

When Per Capita Lives Matter and When They Don’t

David Shuey
9 min readJun 28, 2020

Today I learned yet another lesson in how ideology can trump reason. I affirmed there’s a new religion where methodologies for favored issues are tossed aside when arguing a political point.

This mostly has to do with Donald Trump, of course.

We’re not dealing with coronavirus in the United States like other countries. We’re dealing with it in a divided country. I’d call it a cultural and political Civil War, but apparently you can’t use that term anymore.

What’s scary is this is being done by intelligent people with advanced degrees.

I posted a screenshot Friday of an image in a coronavirus Facebook group that at times I noticed was fairly anti-Trump, as arguably much of the media coverage has been since March, both fairly and unfairly. It was in response to a post by the group’s founding member that the U.S. tallied a record 47,000 new Covid-19 cases this past 24 hours, with him adding a comment alongside a photo of President Trump and Vice President Pence:

“These guys have done a fantastic job. 120,000 dead. 7 Trillion spent. 20 Million on state unemployment. 10 million on federal pandemic unemployment. Thousands of small businesses shut down for good. ZERO progress on COVID”

The image I placed under that was from the Worldometers website and it shows the U.S. ranked 9th in deaths per million. My message and comment was simple:

“All I can say is: At least we’re not UK, Belgium or Spain. USA was #13th in deaths more than 2 months ago and we’re #9 in deaths now. Who thinks that is a huge jump?”

I didn’t get any direct answers in the sub-thread. However, I did get suspended from engaging in the group after a few back-and-forth comments on the validity of this screenshot with one of the socially conscious, left-leaning Facebook Group administrators. In fact, it was this admin — with a science PhD, no less — who made the sudden decision that I was nothing more than an internet troll.

I admit: I can be spicy in comments, but I’m almost never banned or suspended on social media. I make my arguments and carry on.

Also, anyone who has spent more than two hours posting in political forums knows that talking past people and missing key points is as common as, well, coronavirus infections in New York. Still, this feels more sinister.

June 26 screenshot: U.S. is 9th in Coronavirus deaths per capita. SOURCE:

The image shared was of Covid-19 data I’ve shown before on social media. The reception is almost always divisive. It’s easy to understand why. The narrative has been set since March that Trump and the federal government is uniquely terrible at controlling coronavirus. This may very well be true, but it’s also important to be consistent with the metrics in which you judge outcomes.

I can’t think of anything more common sensical than per capita measurements.

The U.S. is not numero uno. Yet since around the moment in late March when The New York Times declared the U.S. was “hardest hit” by Coronvairus, even when they weren’t, that’s been the overriding media message and Democratic talking point.

I still recall when New York Times on March 26 said the USA was “hardest hit” by the coronavirus pandemic without recognizing per capita numbers. In fact, I screen captured that moment. Intellectual inconsistency is contagious, as this would be the lead story across media and political circles with no mention that around 20 other countries were ahead of the U.S. in the rate of cases and deaths. Similarly, a month later NBC, NPR, The Intercept, and even National Geographic said the U.S. has more deaths from coronavirus than the Vietnam War, as if reading from the same 2020 Democrats talking points memo. The 100,000 deaths mark led to extensive and historical New York Times coverage. Which leads me to wonder about the counterfactual: Would Hillary Clinton receive such headlines? And how many more lives would be saved if she were president?

Per Capita vs. Sum Totals

The new record one-day spike is certainly horrible news and will certainly lead to U.S. most likely going up the global death count rankings. Will the U.S. pass France? Maybe. The U.K., Belgium, Italy, or Spain? Doubtful. Though, admittedly, the trends aren’t looking positive.

Interestingly, the death rate is lower in the U.S. and that could be one reason several European countries still have far higher death rates as of June 27, 2020. Many of the new cases are from younger people. SOURCE: CNN

Back to that Facebook group and how I ended up with the two-day commenting ban. It happened for one reason: I decided to push back on an admin who insisted the U.S. was doing the “worse than any other country in the world” because the U.S. had the most sum total deaths. This argument is akin to saying China consumes the most calories or Russia has the most trees. He insisted my own measurement of the U.S. ranked #9 in the world based on the screenshot on the Worldometers website is meaningless, irrelevant, “cherry picking,” and worthy only of derision.

Insults about my intelligence never truly bother me, but he doled out a few. I admit I was semi-snarky and came close to an insult once or twice myself, but never pushed it. I admit also to reading his comments several times, and not knowing what the hell he is going for other than gaslighting me.

These are direct quotes from the anonymous admin:

“It makes NO sense to compare deaths per capita, while it makes sense to compare total deaths.”

“USA is doing worse than any other country in the world since it has the highest number of deaths, hospitalizations and reported cases.”

Never mind that the U.S. has 330,000,000 people, the 3rd highest population in the world.

This admin has a PhD. Which he wielded as an appeal to his authority. I know this because he said the following after he gave me the boot: “We have another episode of Troll vs PhD.”

He does contact tracing for a major tech company, too.

He has a Black Lives Matter filter surrounding his Facebook photo. At one point he said I indulged a “boring ad hominem argument” by speculating his politics ran to the left and anti-Trump.

The founder and lead admin of this group endorsed his comments. He was also the person who wrote the original post.

Virtually no one understood my rather innocuous attempt to say three things:

  1. This is where we are now in our death rate, and haven’t gone up very far the past two months.
  2. We’re obviously not the country hardest affected by Covid-19, with six major European countries doing much worse.
  3. We’ll see how we go after this sudden spike in cases. (This last point I never quite got a chance to get to due to the first two being completely dismissed as irrelevant.)

Where The Hypocrisy Rubber Meets The Road

Rather than dropping out of the conversation, I simply asked this admin if white people were “doing worse” because white Americans had double the “sum total deaths” at the hands of cops compared to black people. I also stated that by his logic white Americans were the #1 hardest hit group by having the most sum total Covid-19 cases and deaths.

That didn’t quite go over too well.

The past two months have been filled with stories on disproportionate impact of coronavirus on black people.
Graph from CDC posted in a CBS-affiliated news station in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Of course, we all know it’s blacks and Latinos who are disproportionately suffering from Covid-19.

In fact, this point about double standards was completely ignored. The admin then delivered an extensive and unnecessary explanation on differential equations, P-values, and correlations.

Another person questioned my question (“Let me ask you: Is the USA doing worst in the world at handling coronavirus?”) by stating:

Dear sweet Jesus please tell me this is not a serious question.

It is serious. Because the focus should almost be on per capita outcomes and not sum totals. Only ideologues on the right talk about “more white people” being killed by police as relevant, although there are several nuanced studies on why those disparities exist.

You can argue the country would have done better without Trump. You can argue we’re doing many things wrong now. You can mutter what I’ve heard several times one way or another since I started churning out Covid-19 data. Just you wait. We’ll be #1 soon.

The assumption on the left is nearly always that the U.S. is flailing worse than any other country. This is despite Spain still having almost double the amount of coronavirus deaths as of today.

I believe the per capita outcomes will be the best indicator in the end about how countries faired in tackling this pandemic. That metric was important to NPR when Trump flubs up in his White House Covid-TV spectacles and says the United States has the most tests per capita.

The per capita measurement is more meaningful than whole sum outcomes. Period. It’s a logic that consistently extends to Black Lives Matter and social justice issues in general, with any gap indicating racism or sexism.

People that are inconsistent in their score keeping on the rights and wrongs in society provide me this horrific insight: Reason and logic are disappearing in a world awash in ideology. This is the true swamp that needs draining.

But we must always look to ourselves. I know it takes two to tango.

This is part of my comment that got me kicked out:

“I, David Shuey, Doth Confess that despite the reality of Belgium having a three times higher death rate than the USA, that the USA is doing much worse.”

Because at this point, it’s agree with Dear Leader or be gone.

This is what modern political religion looks like.

John McWhorter wrote in 2015 of antiracism as religion, but all ideology strongly embraced can become just that: Dogma.

Galileo argued through science and reason that the Earth was not the center of universe against the teachings of the Catholic Church, which led to his house arrest. He did not kneel to the Vatican and its rigid beliefs. The Church later admitted wrongdoing a mere 359 years later in 1992, acknowledging his findings and scientific reasoning — precursors to Enlightenment values — were true. Now we live in a world where those same Enlightenment values are under attack by those controlling the keys of academic and intellectual power.

The question is: Are we willing to pay the price and stand up to flimsy ideas, inconsistency, and hypocrisy?

Addendum I: April and May Screenshots of Coronavirus Deaths Per Million

April 21: U.S. is 14th in coronavirus deaths per capita. SOURCE:
May 29: U.S. is 13th in coronavirus deaths per capita. SOURCE:

Addendum II: Religion is Taking Over Politics, Our Lives

And if you want to hear about

and his next book plans, check out this video below. For five years he’s been speaking of antiracism based on reductive critical theory as a new sort of religion. Especially in how the masses genuflect and repeat certain words and concepts as if on cue — or worse, when coerced out of them. After bringing up yet another social justice controversy on a racialized situation that didn’t have to be racialized or a big controversy, McWhorter makes his literary intentions known at the beginning of a recent episode with Glenn Loury after the death of George Floyd:

“I’ve decided to write a manifesto on antiracism as a religion” — John McWhorter declairing his next book topic

I’m looking forward to reading it.

Addendum III: I Got The Boot Again

This is getting to be quite humorous, in a way. But I chalk it hubris and that ideological “religion” that tends to not directly engage with the arguments of heretics. I’ve only seen this one thousand times before. It’s the internet!

Worth noting: The four people I tagged (redacted above) were all leaving comments directed at me after I was suspended from the group. However, I couldn’t respond until today (Sunday, June 28). One person is currently trying to lobby for my return after I got this one comment. I believe she personally phoned the admin. These four also “liked” the admin’s comment saying this utter foolishness: “USA is doing worse than any other country in the world since it has the highest number of deaths, hospitalizations, and reported cases.” For me, there’s no clearer example as to how seemingly smart people have gone off the deep end, as I’m in another group with near universal agreement that “per capita” matters more than sum total. They inspired me to write this post.

Addendum IV: The Future & a Reminder to Wear Your Masks!

Even I know the basics. Wearing masks in closed public spaces could save tens of thousands of lives.

Earlier projections showed a stabilization at this time at 60,000 deaths. As of June 28 the U.S. is at 123,000. Current projections for October 1 are at 179,106 deaths. SOURCE:



David Shuey

Writer. Researcher. Designer. Human seeking better outcomes for all. Empiricism, relevant facts, and logical arguments > simple narratives.