Donald Trump’s war on coronavirus is just his latest war on truth

The coronavirus crisis is a war against a disease, but it’s also the most serious battle yet in the war on truth. That much was clear from the start, as China moved to hush up the first outbreak and gag the doctor who had spotted it. It was a classic case of what we might call Chernobyl syndrome: the tendency of authoritarian systems to react to disaster by rushing to downplay or cover up the problem, focusing more on shifting blame than tackling the threat head on. Viewers of last year’s TV dramatisation of the Chernobyl nuclear accident could recognise the pattern immediately, as the priority of those in charge becomes avoiding embarrassment rather than saving lives.