Confusion Fills Unclear Political Messages


If you had to survey random Californians right now and ask them:

"What is the goal of Shelter in Place?"

You will most likely get completely random answers as of May 13th, 2020. When California and a large portion of country start enacting "Shelter in Place" orders, the public was told non stop that we were to flatten the curve.


However right now, California's hospitals are vastly under utilized, and now the state is lending ventilators to other states. In addition deaths are remarkably low for the most populous state in the country. As of this writing it's 2,770 deaths of a population of 39.51 million, that math comes out to: 0.00007010883. The best would be if that number was 0, but we don't live in utopias.

What I find striking is that vast amount of Californians are starting to change their opinions on the stay at home orders. YCombinator's infamous Hacker News on the recent LA extensions discussions are of shear anger. In addition, Californians are starting to protest in public gatherings. Even the beloved Elon Musk is taking a staunch defiance to the shelter in place orders by reopening his factory in Alameda.

Why is this happening?

That's because our leadership has not been repeating the same message and goal to the public. The media and California governor himself has barely talked about flattening the curve in his daily briefings. The briefings are extremely confusing, highly verbose, and say very little. By now most of California cannot recite on command of the death toll or the number of positive infections because the numbers are now unremarkable. They're still higher than we would like, but now not surprising enough for people to focus on. So instead, people are starting to focus solely on unemployment and their limited lifestyle.

So if you mix in the public focus on the economy with extremely unclear messaging from leadership, you're going to leave people's imagination to fill in the gaps. This is where the dissent, the protests, conspiracy theories all have an opportunity to enrapture minds. If the governor of each state wants to make Shelter in Place a mandatory order, it must consistently repeat a concrete goal that it wishes to achieve. For example:

  • "We need do get to x number of tests a day"
  • "We need to eradicate the virus, until there is 0 deaths"
  • "We need to be less than 1000 new cases per week"

This allows people to gather around a common goal. Right now, there is no concrete goal that any leader is repeating day in or day out. Take this famous speech by John F. Kennedy Jr:

... But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

JFK makes it abundantly clear that we are going to the moon. The reasons are plausible and inspiring but the goal is clear. Even JFK's opponents can remember what the goal is.

But right now, Californians of the most liberal and conservative mindsets are all lost. Everyone is guessing what Shelter in Place is supposed to do in a racket of confusion.


Maximilian Alexander