The popular humours of a great city are a never-failing source of amusement to the man whose sympathies are hospitable enough to embrace all his kind, and who, refined though he may be himself, will not sneer at the humble wit or grotesque peculiarities of the boozing mechanic, the squalid beggar, the vicious urchin, and all the motley group of the idle, the reckless, and the imitative that swarm in the alleys and broadways of a metropolis.
—Charles Mackay, The Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1852)
I don’t know whether we are over-reacting to COVID 19 or merely reacting. When sober people I know and trust like Matt Ridley, Ron Bailey, and Scott Gottlieb (who normally debunk scaremongering and doomsaying) are concerned about it, then I know to take the matter seriously.
But there’s one aspect of this that illuminates clearly the nonsense going on: Amidst the fear of a pandemic that may require an extended shelter-in-place by everyone, what are Americans doing to prepare? We’re going out and buying huge quantities of . . . toilet paper. Toilet paper?
This shows how crazy ideas (like socialism) can be more contagious than a virus. Talk about epidemiology: how does the idea that you need to hoard toilet paper get started and spread? How, exactly, does a big supply of toilet paper help you ward off a virus? Has circulation of the New York Times fallen so low that you feel compelled to stock up on toilet paper? Was this panic buying because people thought Bernie Sanders was going to be our next president? (Um, news flash. . .)
I’ll refrain from cliche jokes about picking up the coronavirus at Taco Bell (and hence needing the soft paper product), that what the hell? I joked today that I was heading to the store to buy a single roll of toilet paper and a bottle of vodka just for grins, but while the vodka was in ample supply (as was food and water), both large grocery stores in my vicinity were completely sold out of toilet paper. And there hasn’t been a single case of coronavirus identified in my county (San Luis Obispo). If Charles Mackay were alive today to write an update of his classic book referenced above, he’d write a new chapter about this current crowdsourced madness.
Well, there’s only one thing to do. Because I’m buried by an avalanche of memes for this Saturday’s photo/meme gallery, I may as well post the toilet paper memes here:
And finally. . . because it is not just happening in the U.S.:
See you back here Saturday morning everyone!