Written by Richard Underhill.
I’ve always considered myself a connoisseur of myths, legends and tall tales, be it the Homeric epics, the Nordic Eddas or Grimm’s Fairly Tales. Such tales of fantasy and legend have captivated me ever since I was a boy; from bed time stories at night to studying the polytheistic heathen mythologies of the Pre-Christain British Isles.
The minds of humanity have always been captivated by tales of the unknown, urban legends and other such delights. Tales in days of old would be spread by travelling bards, troupes of performers and wandering poets, be they the adventures of the mighty Thor, the tenacious Odysseus or the mysterious Woden.
The latest tall tale along with many others to sweep the land and captivate our minds has been ‘The Myth of the Asymptomatic Spreader’. A frightful fable to scare both adults and children alike. As with the wandering acting troupes and performers of the past these tales of suspense, horror and superstition would bypass the logical faculties of their rapt audience and hit straight to the emotions activating the lizard brain.
The true believers ensnared by this modern day myth presented to them by the various performers on their television set or hand held devices demonstrate their belief in this spurious superstition by wearing masks, keeping their distance and carrying out regular invasive tests. The asymptomatic spreader could be lurking anywhere and can present in many forms, from a passer by in the street, the amazon delivery driver or most terrifyingly of all… it could even be themselves!
Tall tales such as this reach deep down into our subconscious and trigger our flight or fight survival instincts however irrational they may be. We have all checked beneath our beds, quickly glanced away from the bathroom mirror at night or thrown salt over our shoulder to cast away the devil, at least once.
However the greatest pedlars of this superstitious old wives tale do not appear to be true believers of the fantasies they spread. While they encourage others to act as though they have a deadly plague, they themselves will drink beers and BBQ with friends on a beach, have romantic trists with employees and attend crowded sporting events. It would seem from the televisual troupe there is actually nothing under the bed after all, no phantom stood behind you in your bathroom mirror and no devil over your shoulder.
Many amongst us now appear to be unable discern fact from fiction and will make many appeals to the newly installed usurping deity that watches over them; ‘The Science’.
‘The Science’ however just like the ‘The Myth of the Asymptomatic Spreader’ is another modern day mythological construct by the televisual performing artists, which upon closer scrutiny rapidly disappears without a trace. For there is no ‘The Science’ only science itself, which is neither based on perceived consensus, hearsay, submission to authority or repetition. The so called ‘scientific’ claims used to bring this myth into being will tend to use words like ‘may’, ‘might’, ‘potentially’ but many things ‘might’ be, for the capacity of the human imagination as demonstrated is incredibly vast, such as how there ‘might’ be creatures underneath our bed.
Those captivated by this fabled legend stalking the land would cry ‘but it must be true’ as they have heard endless talk and whispers of its presence. But as we discussed above, repetition does not make something ‘true’ unless perhaps this fabled fantasy can be willed into existence through sheer belief and continual affirmation.
While blind belief can be a powerful force it’s unlikely to upend the entire history of virology, epidemiology and germ theory regarding respiratory viruses. Before the cognitive faculties of many were seized by this fanciful tale we all ‘thought’ we knew that only sick people could infect you. Some may remember back to a long forgotten age when the newly anointed asymptomatic were simply referred to as ‘healthy’. The idea of ‘catching’ a virus from a perfectly healthy person is a scary bedtime tale but of course a preposterous unscientific fiction.
This urban legend sweeping the world has still yet to be proven even after 15 long months of scrutiny and study. In fact it has been largely disproven in the case of the apparent plague sweeping the land within multiple peer reviewed studies. Despite the extensive efforts to scrabble for evidence for this newly popularised myth, the weavers of such fabrications have consistently come up short beyond smoke and mirrors. Despite the lack of evidence and the upending of what was previously considered common sense the myth still prevails with the catastrophe thespians never appearing to break character.
This myth only exists within the imagination of the terrified and mystified public and within the calculations of extremely dubious government computer models that have consistently been proven wrong by actual real world data. Another place the mythology can be discovered still circulating is in legacy media infographics and in sensational Hollywood movies like Contagion.