SocraticGadfly: More coronavirus tribalism about Vietnam

April 26, 2021

More coronavirus tribalism about Vietnam

Vox reports on Vietnam's alleged COVID miracle (with noting some caveats), which I've questioned before, along with other pro-developing world tribalism, noting late last summer that it was easy for Vietnam to claim it had "beat COVID" when it hadn't tested anybody to see if they had it in the first place. Since that time, it's gotten WORSE! From 164th to 175 in per capita testing! Neither Vox nor the Western reporter of a trio — nice polite Canadian, if her Twitter handle's correct — responded to a callout. Shock me. So, I've called it out — AND commenters swallowing the Vox Kool-Aid, presumably BlueAnon / BlueMAGA tribalists — on its Facebook page.

I've still not received feedback from there, either, at least from Vox.

In addition, Vox and the other touters of an alleged Vietnamese COVID miracle also ignore that the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the COVID-stricken aircraft carrier, appeared to pick up the coronavirus from a stop in Da Nang. For the carrier to have been that COVID-stricken, it had to hit a number of COVID-positive residents while on leave.

Anyway, this is tribalism at its most simplistic.

(And, update May 29, it's even more fallacious than ever. Vietnam didn't "crush" COVID either earlier this year, nor last year per my "questioned before" link, and it now faces a new wave, based on the Indian variant reportedly combining with the British one.)

First (and doorknob help me for sounding like Robert Wright), but this type of tribalism engages in zero-sum thought when this isn't a zero-sum situation. That is, even if Vietnam WERE a miracle, that by itself is no proof that the US blew it. Or, for the Trumpeys, even if Trump WERE right on everything from interior heat and light (cue Sarah Cooper) to HCQ (cue Ben Carson) that doesn't mean Vietnam was wrong. 

(There may be some types of tribalism that aren't founded on zero-sum tussling, but, in general, it seems to be a foundational idea.)

Second, with Vox being one of those net-only news sites that likes to talk about ideas similar to "fearless journalism" of Daily Beast, my inductive undercutting of their whole story took FIVE SECONDS. I've already got Worldometers' US data for COVID as a standing tab in my browser. I just had to Mac-right-click "countries" to get that to open in a separate tab, click the "testing per 1M" row header to get countries to list by that, do an Apple-F and search for "Vietnam" and then see a "175" next to its name.

Third, such tribalism, especially when of the easily refuted type, is often within the two duopoly parties, or related conservative-vs-liberal arrangement. It's inside a narrow political box and is shallow and stale. It also reflects that, to riff on Clauswitz and per a recent post, a reflection that American politics is becoming ersatz religiousness by other means. It gets even worse when SJW types populate the left hand of the duopoly's tribalism. It's the same type of tribalism that leads BlueMAGA types to give a pass to Fauci for his telling of Platonic noble lies.

Fourth, it's lazy and bad journalism. Plenty of Westerners have shown that elsewhere by naively and uncritically buying claims of the White Helmets while making no effort to be anywhere near Syria.

This all said, why Vox didn't respond, a Vietnamese national DID on its FB page. Here's our dialogue starting with his response to my testing numbers:
Tran Hai 
because why would you test the entire population if there is no breakout? Waste the money for what? Now, if you just look at the tests done per case - you would be in for a ride.  
Why would you assume there's no breakout if you're not doing more testing? And, tests per case vs general population testing is apples and oranges.  
Tran Hai 
Because 1st: mass testing were done after every breakout and the number of cases can actually be tracked 2nd: Covid is not invisible, as soon as an outbreak hits the hospital will be alerted 3rd: testing per case is using contact tracing, and contact tracing is vastly more efficient then using the whack-a-mole method 4th: using all that money for border screening and immigration testing is money well-spent  
Since you're 175 in per-capita testing, I don't think mass testing was done every breakout. Besides, if Vietnam had only 35 or whatever deaths, there weren't mass breakouts in the first place, were there now? Ooops. Worldometers testing includes contact tracing as part of total tracing; your whack-a-mole comes close to strawmanning. 
Also, contra the first ... the USS Theodore Roosevelt got its mass coronavirus problems from leave on Da Nang, obviously.  
Tran Hai 
what apples and oranges: Taiwan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia - all successful countries with the same application of contact tracing having a similar level of tests per case is too tough for your brain to comprehend? You are the one who play apples and oranges here. 
Australia, 57th in per capita testing; New Zealand 84th; South Korea 121st; Taiwan 179th. And, all claim low COVID death rates, too. Rather than cite all as success stories, perhaps we need to be suspicious of all of them, too.
Let's go beyond this.

First, re all those countries above, asymptomatic transmission means that looking only at contact tracing means some numbers are missing, surely.

Second, re Vietnam itself? Not sure if the Rainier Sheas of the world would excoriate Vietnam for either right deviationism or left deviationism vs Glorious Xi Jinping Thought, but, it is a Communist nation exercising hard control over data release, just like Beijing:
In the case of Vietnam, only the Ministry of Health can declare the number of positive cases. Hospitals and clinics cannot independently publish numbers, while any unofficial counts can be subjected to a penalty.  ... 
Vietnam’s reporting of a low number of infections and zero deaths helps the Communist Party (CPV) overcome domestic distrust in light of recent legitimacy crises. Before the outbreak, the CPV was under intense pressure from dissidents at home and aboard. A deadly clash between the government and villagers over a longstanding land dispute took place in early January. ... 
However, the Covid-19 outbreak gave the CPV an opportunity to burnish its image after the land grab and other charges of corruption.
Now, it's true that the Lowy Institute of Australia is sort of a Down Under version of neocon-leaning, winger-leaning within the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, so these grafs above should be taken with a small grain of salt. But not, I think, a huge one. One of the links within the Lowy piece has the Vietnamese government claiming this:
According to information from the Ministry of Public Security, taking advantage of the COVID-19 epidemic, hostile and reactionary forces at home and abroad spread on cyberspace a lot of false information, distorting the epidemic situation. and the direction and administration of the Government, the Ministry of Health and ministries, branches and localities in epidemic prevention efforts.  
In addition, many people take advantage of the epidemic situation to spread false information or give information that is inaccurate, unconfirmed, and speculated according to their views, personal perceptions to sentence views, like sentences, and cause confusion. bring in the public opinion.
If a local hospital can't officially report a case as COVID, maybe it's not allowed to do contact tracing, among other things?  Given this above, I'd assume that's likely.

I would like to thank Tran Hai for inspiring me into the additional round of internet search on this issue.

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