Annual Sociology Lecture explores Trump as a vector for pandemic denialism, Feb. 25

Featured illustration of the novel coronavirus

The 2021 Sociology Annual Lecture will explore how former United States President Donald Trump served as a vector for pandemic denialism and the anti-lockdown revolt.

The lecture will place on Thursday, Feb. 25 from 5 to 7 p.m. via Zoom at

Presenting this year’s lecture will be Mike Davis, a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Riverside.

In his lecture abstract, Davis writes that the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 across the United States is an unnatural disaster that has turned nursing homes into morgues, essential work into Russian roulette, and hospitals into viral infernos. The mainstream news media across the world has blamed this on the incompetence and indifference of the Trump White House, but Davis contends that the reality is more sinister.

Donald Trump at a MAGA rally
Trump’s campaign rallies eschewed social distancing and the wearing of masks. The former president led the denialism and downplayed the dangers of COVID-19

Since the beginning of armed anti-lockdown protests at state capitols last April, Trump instigated and inflamed a national backlash against basic public health measures, while simultaneously spreading massive amounts of misinformation and medical nonsense across the Twitter-sphere and through Fox News. His campaign rallies eschewed social distancing and the wearing of masks, as per Trump’s own example. As a result, the rallies became emblematic super-spreader events. It has been reported that some of his stricken supporters continued in their pandemic denialism until the moment of their death.

Mike Davis
Mike Davis

For millions of others outside the Trumpian bubble of anti-science and biblical literalism who faced a ‘Sophie’s choice’ between income or health, the president remained the most convincing ‘jobs’ candidate. Many small business owners who were threatened with mass extinction chose economic survival over public safety. Davis will argue that Trump weaponized the pandemic, and despite the economic disaster caused by his own policies, netted 74 million votes in the November election.

Since Trumpism exports its DNA to authoritarian and racist movements throughout the world, anti-masking and anti-quarantine protests have grown to mass proportions in parts of the United Kingdom, Central Europe, Brazil and elsewhere. Davis will show that like climate and electoral denialism, epidemiological denialism is now an integral part of the repertoire of the far right in many countries.

More about Mike Davis

Davis was named a Macarthur Fellow in 1998, he was also honoured for distinguished achievement in nonfiction writing this past fall by the Lannan Literary Foundation. Davis is the author of more than 20 books and more than 100 book chapters and essays in the scholarly and elite popular press. His scholarly interest spans urban studies, the built environment, economic history and social movements. Perhaps his best-known book, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (1990) was named a best book in urban politics by the American Political Science Association and won the Isaac Deutscher Award from the London School of Economics and has been translated into eight languages. Davis is Distinguished Emeritus Professor of creative writing at UC Riverside. He is the author of Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World (2000). His most recent books are The Monster Enters: COVID-19, Avian Flu and the Plagues of Capitalism (2020) and Set the Night on Fire: L.A. in the Sixties (with Jon Wiener, 2020).

The lecture will also be available on YouTube at and on Facebook at