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No Pandemic Amnesty
A reckoning is required.
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Members of the covid cult have started requesting that we forgive and forget the way they conducted themselves during the pandemic.
There’s an Atlantic article going around Twitter, this one by Brown University economics professor Emily Oster, belatedly admitting that (some) “pandemic precautions were totally misguided,” and asking that we “declare a pandemic amnesty.”
That’s not how this works. There’s such a thing as accountability, and as it turns out, I’m not so sure that Oster is someone who should be writing articles for the national audience arguing that it’s time to move on and let bygones be bygones. She was a proponent of “taking away rights to drive actions” so long as we didn’t “shame people.” But to predicate the basic liberties of others upon an unwanted vaccination is itself a shameful act.
“But the thing is: We didn’t know,” Oster pleads.
While it must be said that she deserves some credit for being an important voice that advocated for the reopening of schools, there’s some question as to whether Oster did in fact know better. Given her past writing and tweeting and the fact that she describes herself as “data-driven,” it’s clear she followed covid data far more closely than the average American, but rather than honestly citing that data to argue, for example, that there was no justification for mask mandates in schools, it appears she chose not to do so, presumably because it required contradicting the mainstream orthodoxy, which would have put her at odds with her professional milieu at Brown, and likely her social circle as well.
Which is a bit cowardly, if you ask me, and certainly can’t be described as acting “in good faith.”
I submit that members of the covid cult don’t get to plead ignorance when they were ignorant of what they were most assured, and the scientifically bereft policies they championed and imposed were extraordinarily harmful and made a mockery of the Bill of Rights. The ignorance excuse doesn’t fly after systematically censoring and cancelling and persecuting people who weren’t as ignorant, people who expressed skepticism or questioned the prevailing consensus.
Even better is the notion that they “did the best they could with what they knew at the time.” Tell that to Drs. Jay Bhattacharya, Sunetra Gupta, and Martin Kulldorff, the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, who had the courage to call out the wrongs of health experts and policymakers in promoting sweeping lockdowns instead of the focused protection of high-risk populations; tell that to the scientists and public officials who maintained fidelity to the truth but struggled to make their voices heard in the face of professional retaliation and censorship driven by authoritarian bureaucrats and tech platforms functioning as private arms of the state. Had they been listened to, society would have been infinitely better off. Instead, they were demonized.
This was standard operating procedure for advocates of public health orthodoxy. They waged campaigns of disparagement, vilification, and censorship against those who dared to deviate from the official line. Aided by the mainstream media, which portrayed official pronouncements as unquestioned truths, dissidents, no matter how highly credentialed, were accused of spreading anti-scientific falsehoods. The intolerance of anyone who challenged the always-inconsistent, ever-shifting conventional wisdom remains arguably the most dangerous legacy of the pandemic, and yet by ignoring this pervasive, anti-scientific behavior, Oster and the amnesty crowd invite more of the same.
I imagine that members of the covid cult found it exhilarating to be part of a big, self-righteous, moralizing movement, even if that movement often took on the form of a mob. Surrendering the burden of personal autonomy and individual responsibility, reveling in righteous indignation, trading in relentless propaganda pumped out by corporate media, and joining ranks with shrieking spazzes on social media to condemn “The Unvaccinated” as the new official “Untermenschen,” an underclass of subhuman “others” that the docile, unthinking masses must be conditioned to hate—these things tickle the amygdala, I’m sure.
It no doubt felt good to think you were on “the right side of history,” even when you knew it was wrong to dehumanize those who declined conversion to your cult, to clap in approval as they were segregated, stripped of their jobs, banned from attending schools, denied medical treatment, and otherwise persecuted. But just as the normal rules of society were indefinitely suspended for “survival’s sake,” so too were the rules of civility. It seemed that civility was a luxury we could no longer afford.
The covid cult constantly lectured everyone else about all things “mitigation measures,” genuinely unaware that there could be any legitimate debate at all on said measures. And so this echo chamber they constructed precluded any talk about rational cost-benefit analysis from ever entering their frame of cognitive reference, which is why The Science™ was never actually about science. It was a clarion call invoked by the irrationally paranoid and authoritarian to silence those who caused the discomfort of cognitive dissonance that resulted from desperately trying to believe the absurdities of the official narrative.
The consensus was always religious in character, and the pandemic was a case study in authoritarian religiosity: Blind allegiance to conventional beliefs about right and wrong, respect for submission to acknowledged authority, and a tendency to project one’s own feelings of inadequacy, rage, and fear onto a scapegoated group. The blinkered refusal to countenance debate opened the door to opportunistic exaggeration and hysteria, whereby all manner of idiocies were justified under the pretense of “erring on the side of caution” to such a uniformly rigid degree that it massively distorted public perception of covid’s lethality.
Those with a fetishistic relationship with safety would have you believe that they’re noble, virtuous people who care about others just as much as themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. Safetyism is an existence premised upon fanatical self-regard. In the context of the pandemic, it manifested as a submission to fear by those so scared of dying that they were afraid to live. When all that matters is the calculus of the most risk-averse individuals, you end up with the pandemic’s oppressive imperative to health and all its disastrous socioeconomic costs.
Imagine how much better things would be — how much better things would’ve gone — if the timid and overly neurotic among us had, rather than happily submit to a vague, coercive public health apparatus, instead been forced to come to grips with their own mortality, their own finitude, and demonstrate bare minimum courage in the face of uncertainty rather than prostrate themselves before the altar of Faucism and a respiratory virus with an infection fatality rate under 0.2%.
Oster’s essay isn’t the first to explicitly call for “amnesty,” but it likely serves as the closest thing yet to an admission of guilt and wrongdoing. Even so, it’s still little better than any of the other manipulative propaganda attributing the disastrous consequences of pandemic policies to the pandemic itself, as if the resulting quagmire were heaven-sent rather than a product of the people in power and control of what could perhaps best be described as a Regime-run social engineering experiment based on overtly fraudulent pretenses.
Most of these manipulative articles and essays are uniformly predicated on feel-good lies—namely, that the covid cult did not in fact adopt preening moral certainty and performative theatric narcissism which, combined with the pious sadism, largely contributed to the zero-covid zeitgeist, which in turn paved the way for biomedical surveillance and vaccine mandates; and that the mainstream media’s pantheon of pundits did not in fact cling to a pre-vaccine paradigm until the position was no longer fashionable while turning the info-sphere into an epistemic free-for-all in which “the truth” was wholly a matter of perspective and agenda, fetishizing the situation and encouraging the lazy majority to accept draconian measures without really thinking about consequences and civil liberties, all the while cheering on authoritarianism like a bunch of petulant minions.
“Let’s acknowledge that we made complicated choices in the face of deep uncertainty, and then try to work together to build back and move forward,” Oster says.
Uncertainty. That’s a funny word to use, considering your camp arrogated to itself a priestly right to determine the proper social order and to excommunicate those who didn’t conform. It’s one thing to present yourselves as people just doing their best; it’s another thing entirely to style yourselves as the sole arbiters of truth who brook no dissent. Had you acknowledged any uncertainty, that would’ve allowed for debate.
But there was never any debate, and the consequences of the covid cult’s self-certainty, which was so intractable that it compounded ignorance, were disastrous. These people were so confident of their totalitarian policies that they sent police to record the license plates of those attending church on Easter; they were so convinced of their own moral righteousness that they happily threatened people’s ability to feed their kids if they didn’t take experimental injections for a disease that may have posed little risk to them, and for which many had already developed natural immunity.
Vaccine apartheid and punitive mandates, Orwellian censorship by Big Tech and policies of segregation, curtailment of liberties and the repression of the working class—for two years we were subjected to an ever-changing, neurosis-fueled faux existential crisis propagated by a hysteria-driven, fear-based media apparatus that itself was dependent upon induced societal responses disproportionate to the true level of risk posed by covid, an extremely age-stratified disease. And the folks who participated in increasingly authoritarian campaigns for overly-restrictive “mitigation measures” either explicitly or implicitly predicated on the zero-covid zeitgeist while simultaneously casting opprobrium on those who didn’t adopt the same degree of performative alarmism even when it became indisputable that the vaccines do not prevent transmission and no amount of masking, social distancing, or locking down can eradicate an endemic, highly contagious respiratory virus—their complicity cannot be written off as “psychosis” or the “madness of crowds” or some such excuse. They were cognizant of what was happening.
But now, as the damage they wreaked becomes irrefutable, the leading voices for lockdowns and school closures and mandates are attempting to evade accountability by calling for “amnesty” and framing the request as “for the good of the country.”
By definition, amnesty is an act of forgiveness for past transgressions. But forgiveness is contingent upon repentance, and no act of repentance has been forthcoming. Indeed, I have yet to come across a single establishment voice who has admitted wrongdoing.
Ergo, to declare amnesty now would be to forego accountability, which is essential to maintaining some semblance of social order, especially when we’re talking about gross harms that some people have committed against others. To discourage future wrongs, those harms must be rectified to the extent reasonably possible. There must be a reckoning, otherwise the architects of our pandemic response and their rank and file partisan jackals won’t ever have to atone for their sociopathy and solipsistic navel-gazing, which was masked as communitarian benevolence. Nor will they have to answer for why they applauded deeply divisive policies requiring forced acquiescence to the permanency of recurring, compulsory injections by decrees justified with constantly shifting and contradictory criteria, or why they pushed wildly alarmist propaganda to convince the public that contracting the virus would put one in mortal danger and it was therefore absolutely imperative that everyone stay locked in their homes like agoraphobes and treat each other like vectors of disease, kids included.
There needs to be an inquiry into the countless unresolved questions regarding the totalitarian policies that defined the pandemic response and the underlying motivations of the officials who imposed those policies. And the corruption of the scientific process, the self-dealing, and the self-righteousness must be acknowledged.
There is a way forward that was devised by South African President Nelson Mandela. Arguably one of the 20th century’s greatest acts of statesmanship was Mandela’s establishment of a post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This not only provided an opportunity for individuals who had been harmed by the evils of Apartheid to vent on how they had suffered, it gave wrongdoers a chance to confess their offenses before the Commission—thereby demonstrating atonement, and giving those who’d been wronged a reason to at least consider granting forgiveness. Mandela’s Commission wasn’t perfect, but the process encouraged people to do some serious soul searching and to acknowledge and reflect on the impact of their past deeds.
In contrast, the amnesty that Oster and others are calling for is, as Robert Graboyes put it, a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for those who foisted grievously misguided policies on a captive public and who sought the personal destruction of anyone who questioned their wisdom. It is simply not enough to say, “Mistakes were made but they meant well, so let’s just get back to normal.” There must be accountability and transparency, otherwise history is destined to repeat itself.