In psychology, denialism is a person’s choice to deny reality as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth.
It is a defence mechanism in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and instead, they reject it. They insist that the information is not true, even when faced with what may be overwhelming evidence.
On a local level, we can use the example of health issues. Many people wait until symptoms are overwhelming before they see a doctor. Other examples include the obvious drug or alcohol addiction of a family member or, the ominous event of a policeman showing up at your door, unannounced.
There are also political, historical and economic denial.
Freud believed that there were three types of denial. The first, mentioned above, but then also, there is –
2. “Minimization”, when a person admits an unpleasant fact while denying its seriousness.
3. “Projection”, when a person admits both the seriousness and reality of an unpleasant fact but blames someone else. For example, the alcoholic who blames the family for his drinking, or the patient who insists the doctor is using the wrong methods of treatment.
Freud may or may not have considered another human emotion – pride. The greater the level of pride within an individual, family, institution, race or country, the greater will be the level of denial in the face of a disaster that may have been caused by that entity’s inherit weakness.
For more on the relationship between pride and denial, see Transcending the Levels of Consciousness, David R. Hawkins, M.D./Ph.D.
There is a lot of denial and blame being passed around today regarding the present virus, but this isn’t the first time we have suffered from denial on such a massive scale.
1. The earliest influenza pandemic for which detailed records are available is the 1889 Russian flu, a.k.a. “Asian” flu (Bukhara, Uzbekistan). In the USA it got the nickname, “the Grippe”, after the French nickname for the illness.
That traveled the world in four months when there were no planes.
Instead, it was the newly formed European railroad connections. 125,000 miles of train lines, more than Europe has today, and this flu killed about one million people.
At the time, many different ideas for what caused the disease were postulated. Science at this time wasn’t great, and some doctors seriously considered earthquakes as a cause.
Other theories held that electrical and magnetic phenomenon were ‘likely agents’.
It was hypothesised that electrical currents in the air could produce ozone, which intensified the illness.
Some of the continent’s most prominent leaders—the czar of Russia, the king of Belgium, the emperor of Germany—had fallen ill with the virus.
To Americans however, it was safely over there, a vast ocean away.
It came to America in December, 1889, on ships, through the East Coast Port Cities – New York City.
Initially, public health officials played down the dangers, and in January, 1890, NY city had over 1,200 dead from the flu or its’ complications.
Meanwhile, the disease spread inland, helped, as in Europe, by America’s vast network of railroads.
2. The “Spanish” flu, 1918. The name itself is another case of denial. It was never clear where this pandemic began, because 1918 was also the beginning of World War I. Censors hid the existence of this flu to maintain morale in the armed forces. No foot soldier wants to go where there is an outbreak of a deadly virus, so, they didn’t report illnesses and death in Germany, England and France. Spain however, was neutral territory – no soldiers are going to be sent there – so reporters could report on Spain.
This is how it got the name “Spanish” flu. The flu had actually nothing to do with Spain.
This also explains the wildly different estimates as to how many died (20-50 million). It was all kept secret because of the war.
3. 2014 – MERS. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. HCoV-EMC/2012 is a species of coronavirus which infects humans, bats, and camels. The species is a member of the genus betacoronavirus. CoV viruses in general have a large genetic diversity, yet the samples from patients suggested a similar genome, and therefore 1 common source.
Human to human transmission was at first denied by WHO and the American National Institute of Health, but this theory was later put into doubt.
a.) this isn’t the first time we have had a serious epidemic and
b.) this is not the first time that we have initially denied its potency.
Doctors in the epicentre at the time, stared in shock – denial is sometimes inevitable – but they passed messages of the frightening possibility to each other, until stopped by a more authoritative source of denial.
After all, it’s also never fun being the bearer of bad news – especially in a Communist State.