What Medical Stories Do We Trust?

Let me tell you a medical story; you decide what you make of it. A person has a routine medical experience, the kind that all their neighbors have had as well. But afterward they have weird symptoms, odd forms of pain, fatigue that just goes on and on and on.

The medical system can’t help them, so they join online communities that provide validation but not a cure. And they develop a strong sense of betrayal, a belief that the system knew this was possible and just let it happen to them.

Now, let me give you a few more details. The person I’m describing is an overweight 50-something Indiana man who watches Fox News and refused to wear a mask in the fall of 2020. The routine medical experience that preceded his mystery illness was his taking — because his employer required it — the Covid vaccine.

Are you suddenly forming a theory of what’s wrong with him? Are you inclined toward psychosomatic explanations, thinking that he’s taking the aches and pains of age and blaming them on the liberals and their vax?

Well, hold on, because I’ve deceived you: Actually the person is a 35-year-old college educated woman living in Brooklyn who works out five days a week, takes anti-anxiety medication and marched, fully masked, in the 2020 George Floyd protests. Her medical experience was getting Covid itself, despite her multiple vaccinations, and thereafter falling into a long-Covid trough she can’t escape.

Now if you are, like her, a liberal professional, maybe you’re less likely to default to psychosomatic explanations. On the other hand, if you’re a conservative, her description may be what you expect to hear: Another blue-state long-Covid hypochondriac, obsessing over every twinge the way she obsesses over every passing mood, all to justify her desire to keep everybody in a mask.

We are having trouble retrieving the article content.

Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.


Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.


Thank you for your patience while we verify access.

Already a subscriber? Log in.

Want all of The Times? Subscribe.