False Equivalence in the Time of COVID 19

What is a false equivalence? Politicians and many journalists uses it. It is basically comparing apples and oranges. Both are fruits but not the same.

In more formal definition, the false equivalence is “a logical fallacy in which an equivalence is drawn between two subjects based on flawed or false reasoning” (Ref: Wikipedia)

The daily press conference done by President Trump on March 23, 2020 had examples of false equivalence. He tried to downplay the very realistic possibility of devastating impact of COVID 19 with the road accidents to prove his political point. But the problem in this false equivalence example is that COVID 19 is killing people faster everyday and on a near vertical trajectory pointing to many order of magnitude of mortality than car crashes cause each year. This is comparIng apples and oranges.

If the near vertical rise of the curve is not hammered down, and the virus gets more opportunities to spread freely, the direct death toll will be enormous, causing deaths to millions of people in US, many of them will be the most vulnerable segments of the population. However, the indirect impact will cause more devastation because of the inevitable collapse of the already stressed out  healthcare system, then patients with health issues like heart attack, cancer, injuries from car crash will not get treated timely with care, therefore increasing death toll many times more.

President Trump also compared the seasonal flu with COVID 19, another apples and oranges comparison as flu is already well researched and we have vaccine and anti viral medicines for it. COVID 19 is a  new virus for which no vaccine or proven cure available until scientists create an effective vaccine and medicinal cures are in place and distributed to the wider population.

I think easing restriction  soon would be a monumental mistake as it will let the virus wreck more damages by killing more people, that will surely create more fear and panic and will have more dire consequences for the economy. Transforming US strategy like South Korea, as Trump mentioned, so quick would not be easy and now is not the time to do sudden experimentation. The prudent step would be placing more restriction for longer time, not years but a few months, then ease the restriction when the healthcare system is ready to take the similar approach like South Korea.

President Trump is not the only one who seems to be downplaying the impact of COVID 19. Some leaders of other nations, not necessarily the President or Prime Ministers, like Bangladesh, India and others doing the same, and in many cases utilizing the similar false equivalence examples to accomplish their political agenda.