The Eeyore Syndrome

Victor Davis Hanson // National Review

In A. A. Milne’s classic Winne-the-Pooh children’s tales, Eeyore, the old gray donkey, is perennially pessimistic and gloomy. He always expects the worst to happen.

Milne understood that Eeyore’s outbursts of depression could at first be salutatory but then become monotonous. The outlook of the pessimist (“if you think it’s bad now, just wait”) always enjoys advantages over both the realist (“so what, life goes on”) and the optimist (“oh, come on, it can’t be that bad”).

When the pessimist frequently errs in his gloomy prognostications, he can plead that they were intended to be didactic, if not therapeutic. Only by offering scarifying models can the glum epidemiologist and statesman sufficiently terrify the public and thereby allow policymakers to enact the necessary draconian shelter-in-place protocols. That strategy could apply to the recent near celebrity Neil Morris Ferguson, OBE FMedSci, the British epidemiologist and professor of mathematical biology at the Imperial College in London, whose “2 million” possible deaths terrified America into lockdown, just as his modeled “500,000” fatalities in Britain did the same in his own homeland.

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