COVID-19 is exploding one-by-one the myths and disinformation built up so malevolently and painstakingly by populism, individualism and greed. Here is a virus that knows no boundaries, no privileged shelter, no ivory tower.

As the earth-shattering and almost unimaginable death toll soars across Europe, the full horror of this virus’ reach and danger is slowly dawning on those leaders who have ruled by sleight of hand and blame. Without “fake news”, they are nothing. They cannot protect their citizens.

In America, Trump’s Muslim ban, so quickly brought in to scapegoat a minority and appease the right-wing xenophobes at the start of his presidency, seems even more pathetic, short-sighted and bigoted in the light of the coronavirus.

He tried to keep Muslims out because of his desire to pinpoint an easy enemy and gain brownie points with his base. He even tried to keep the Mexicans out with his big old wall. But when it came to closing borders to the virus, he was utterly impotent, and this unseen foe crept through and into the lives of all Americans while he blamed the Democrats and called it a “hoax”.

It’s not news to say this president is woefully unequipped to lead a country, make policy decisions or indeed cope with an unprecedented pandemic. It’s not news to say this because Covid-19 has highlighted all his weaknesses, his inhumanity, his inability to empathise, reach out or rise to an occasion, in this case a deadly one.

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Trump’s attempt to reframe the pandemic as the “Chinese virus” shows just how little he’s got; just slogans and racism and finger pointing. Because this virus isn’t caused by Muslims; it’s not even caused by immigrants, Mexican or otherwise, the two betes noires for Trump and his axis of prejudice that spans the world.

In the UK, the hardened Brexiteers are also way out of their depth in this new ocean of facts and expert scientific opinion. The Wetherspoons boss, Tim Martin, advising punters to keep coming out to his pubs despite the lifesaving social distancing advice and risk of mass infection; Brendan O’Neill of Spiked suggesting that the UK will fall apart without the pubs staying open; Nigel Farage mirroring Trump by calling the virus “Chinese”; Rod Liddle advising folk to head for the Highlands despite the fact they will spread the virus into an area without the resources to cope, while also taking a nasty shot at MSP Kate Forbes; and journalist Sarah Vine blaming the EU for not helping Italy in its time of crisis.
It’s a litany of stupidity and head-in-the-sand nonsense. All these people have is grievance. If we listen to them, if we give them any airtime and credence, then all we will be left with is grief.

And then we have Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings, with their social experiment of what happens when you let someone with a pet project take over the Government. As journalists and analysts pull apart Tim Shipman’s article in last week’s Sunday Times, which revealed the timeline of governmental thinking on how to tackle this pandemic, it’s evident to anyone with a brain cell that Cummings is running the show and is way out of his comfort zone, even if he doesn’t realise it. Of all the people who could be leading us in this mess, Boris Johnson in public, and Dominic Cummings behind closed doors, they are the least experienced when it comes to real lives.

Here are two men that are all about mantras over truth, theories over reality, distraction over facts. Here are two men who have gambled on our health with their reluctance to initiate social distancing measures two weeks back, despite the horrific news coming out of Italy (or indeed Wuhan) on the rapid rise in cases and deaths and the resultant strain on their health system. They’ve cottoned on now, but how many lives have been put at risk by their “herd immunity” theory? Only time will tell.
As these populist leaders across their globe watch their legitimacy and influence run through their fingers like sand, all that is left for them to grasp hold of are emergency powers. Trump, Johnson, Orban, Duterte, the hardmen of politics, do not want to lose their grip. Although extreme times call for extreme measures, the possibility of abuse of these emergency powers is also a real danger, especially at the hands of men such as Trump, who will desperately want to reassert his authority no matter what it takes.

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Fortunately, thanks to pressure from MPs in the UK, these wide-ranging emergency powers will be reviewed on a six-monthly basis after the UK Government initially proposed a two-year clause.

Much of the electorate would not be happy with the thought of Cummings playing God with our human rights for 24 months, virus or no virus.

It would seem that much of the Conservative Party is concerned about this tin-pot agitator, too. Let’s not take any of this for granted though, we need to remain watchful.

Other nations however, may not be so fortunate. Because certain world leaders will know that, because of Covid-19, time is running out for their style of fact-lite, slogan-heavy, expert-bashing politics, and they will throw everything they’ve got at dismantling what little democracy is left in order to hang on to power. With an American election on the cards later this year, Trump will be looking at all the angles. Never has trust been in shorter supply in the world.