Hulett: Shaw stepped over the line
In his April 11th column , Jim Shaw wrote: “In the last two weeks, Forum columnists Mike Hulett and Ross Nelson have written columns about the coronavirus that are irresponsible, ignorant and reckless. They would be laughable, if they weren’t so dangerous. Hulett foolishly argues that we are overreacting and should resume our regular lives.”
Nonsense! Shaw totally missed the intent of the first portion of my column. It was a personal history of deadly virus outbreaks I experienced as a child and intended for readers to have a look back at small town life in the early 1950s. Without television, computers, and government officials telling them what to do, people instinctively took health and safety into their own hands. I wrote: “Back then, even in the face of dreadful medical perils, we continued our regular lives.” End of history lesson.
Moving on to the Wuhan virus outbreak, I offered relevant statements and posed germane questions regarding what steps America should take next. I wrote: “Two or three weeks (of businesses being closed down) are one thing, but after about 3 months our economy will be destroyed.” Respected economists and business leaders are intensely addressing that prospect. I asked a pertinent question: “Are we willing to trade massive small business failures, depression level unemployment, widespread poverty and loss of hard-earned retirement savings in exchange for a short-term virus victory?” Is that not the primary question being discussed today?
I posed another question relating to accountability for personal behavior: “Or, should we each be very cautious, considering age and underlying health concerns, and continue our regular lives?” It was a question, not a statement. The key words are cautious, age and health concerns. For example, I am a prime Wuhan virus target based on age and medical status. I “cautiously” placed myself in social isolation early in March. I employ masks, gloves and other extreme measures. Considering my “age and underlying health concerns,” I have individually taken steps to slightly modify my previous regular life. I did not need prompting from the Minnesota governor or Shaw.
Discussion of long-term economic shutdown versus timely reopening of the economy is deemed by Shaw to be “ignorant and reckless.” He has a right to his opinion. However, well-researched data is available from numerous sources indicating business failure and job loss are among the top causes of depression and suicide. Almost half of America’s small businesses have closed down. Millions of them may never be able to reopen. That is a matter of economic life and death for those folks, far more serious than the small probability of death from the coronavirus. It is neither ignorant nor reckless to have that conversation.
Shaw concluded by lashing his fellow columnists with a harsh, self-righteous scolding: “Having a newspaper column is a real privilege. With that privilege comes responsibility. The responsible thing to do is emphasize the seriousness of this pandemic. Pushing a false narrative of COVID-19 is both dangerous and columnist malpractice.”
More nonsense! Shaw launched an unwarranted, immature personal attack and wrong-headed “malpractice” reprimand against fellow columnists. He stepped over the line of responsible journalism.