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No, Let’s Not: Perpetrators of Pandemic Authoritarianism Cannot Be Forgiven

(Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

It must become embarrassing to admit one ever supported uninformed and nonconsensual participation in a medical experiment or mass house arrest and coerced isolation.”

The regime media’s orchestration of Coronavirus (COVID-19) hysteria and authoritarian response finally seems to be on the back foot. With this criminal social catastrophe over at last, we have the space to look back and analyze the phenomenon in sum. If I had to pick a single moment emblematic of its high tide, it would probably be The Atlantic’s April, 2021 character assassination of Alex Berenson as “The Pandemic’s Wrongest Man.” Suspicious even at the time, this sorry episode is all the more delicious given what has since come to light. Berenson had repeatedly chastised The Atlantic for being the most consistently and egregiously misinformed and misinforming peddler of regime propaganda on all things COVID-19 and was famously banned by Twitter for—literally—telling politically inconvenient truths, known now and then. It is worth keeping in mind throughout that real “misinformation” can be refuted; only the truth needs to be censored.

Berenson has since been reinstated following a lawsuit against Twitter that revealed not only did he tell no lies generally nor break any Twitter rules specifically but that Twitter almost certainly was acting at the express direction of the Executive branch of the United States federal government in clear violation of the First Amendment. While there are surely more juicy revelations to follow from that case, it also suggests that the true purpose of The Atlantic’s earlier piece was to agitate for exactly this now-proven-to-be-unwarranted censorship. Summarizing this, and more, Berenson would go on to write in his Substack that “when it comes to bad Covid takes, the Atlantic is the unquestioned champion.

And how prophetic Berenson has turned out to be, for The Atlantic just published the mother of all astonishingly, offensively awful COVID-19 takes, as the reader is probably well aware. In an October 31st piece titled, “Let’s Declare A Pandemic Amnesty,” Emily Oster effectively argues that, well, shucks, we did our best, and we couldn’t have known any better, so let’s just forgive and forget. The contrast to “The Pandemic’s Wrongest Man” is astonishing. The tide is well and truly going out.

The online backlash has been furious, and rightly so. There is a certain cathartic benefit simply to hurling abuse at an eager campaigner for the wanton destruction of human prosperity and well-being who deigns to lecture us to the effect that, even though she will not apologize, we should forgive her anyway and move on in rekindled harmony and unison. But I believe there is greater value still in a more thorough dissection of this pathology because it is nearly perfectly representative of what I will tongue-in-cheek call “the regime”: those institutions in and around the state that acted in clear coordination to instigate and maintain the state of COVID-19 hysteria and terror and perpetrate the crime of its authoritarian response. 

Oster is but a warm, fuzzy front for the regime. At a prior stage of its attempted control of the narrative, the regime would simply have told one that if he did not do what it said, he was going to die, kill his grandparents, or someone else’s kids, and so on. That Oster is presented so warmly and fuzzily is symptomatic of the regime’s dwindling leverage at this juncture. That said, the pathetically shifting mode of their presentation does not make the views any less barbaric than when they were first presented under the guise of unapologetic terror.

Hence, they deserve more than angry dismissal, for dismissal is precisely what the regime is seeking. This entire attitude—worldview, even—deserves to be remembered and debunked as a memorial to its victims and a guard against anything like this ever happening again. One is cynically tempted to imagine that Oster has been volunteered as tribute to distract the public and encourage the focusing of ire on a good-natured Ivy League economist rather than the regime at large. But we must not fall for this distraction. We must dig deeper.

To start with, we ought to take stock of the shift in regime propaganda that this plea for amnesty represents. The very word “amnesty” implies a pardon of the conviction for an offense. In other words, this is an admission of guilt—of criminality, even—if only as a kind of Freudian slip and sadly without legal weight…yet. This is an astonishing shift for which we should be relieved. This time last year, simply questioning the narrative was borderline criminal and certainly social suicide, never mind open disagreement and factual rebuttal. However, in the intervening period, so much evidence has come to light, and it can no longer be suppressed, banned, or gaslighted away. As such, the only option to avoid outright embarrassment (and possibly to stem violent retribution) is a tactical retreat. The Atlantic, unquestioned champion of bad COVID-19 takes, has sounded the horn. This is immense progress.

But momentum is key. The retreat must not be allowed to succeed. It must be crushed altogether and forever, and the crimes for which an amnesty is sought must be punished, lest we risk their recurrence. Let us study, then, the methodology of the retreat such that it can be routed as quickly, thoroughly, and decisively as possible:

We have tackled the word “amnesty” above, but there is more in the title and subtitle of Oster’s article with which we can rightly take issue. First, Oster says “pandemic” when she really means “authoritarianism.” Unlike the faux pas implicit in the real meaning of “amnesty,” this linguistic sleight of hand is very much deliberate. Indeed, it may perfectly capture the veneer of respectability with which this very authoritarianism has been ineptly packaged for public narrative consumption from the beginning. 

Calling things what they actually are and not by their regime euphemisms is a spiritual good.

Probably the most common trick of narrative-framing resorted to by the regime media throughout the catastrophe was to conflate the pandemic with the response. This superficially achieves several narrative ends: By suggesting a one-to-one relationship between the two, it plants the idea that only the chosen response was plausibly appropriate or responsible. This trick must be unstated in order to be effective, but it relies on obfuscating that there are, in fact, alternative potential responses to the single pandemic, hence not a one-to-one correspondence. 

This framing further suggests that to be opposed to the response is, in some or other manner, to deny the pandemic itself. This is extremely rhetorically powerful given that those skeptical of the (actual) response will not wish to be tainted with the accusation of denying the existence of the virus, SARS-CoV-2, or the callousness of trivializing the many deaths it caused. This could either be on the grounds of understandably wanting to avoid the smear of being a conspiracy theorist, or even more simply to avoid the hassle of having first to argue against this facetious distraction in advance of the intended topic of discussion, à la Brandolini’s Law.

There are two further tricks in the title and subtitle that rather nicely encapsulate COVID-19 hysteria and terror as a holistic phenomenon. The repeated use of cognates of “we”—“let’s,” “we need,” “one another,” “we did and said,” “we were”misrepresents the reality of entirely asymmetric oppression the COVID-19 hysterics and terrorists gleefully peddled as if it were a collective and self-inflicted happening with no relevant distinction between perpetrators and victims. And, last but not least, “in the dark about COVID-19” alludes to the perpetrators’ favorite excuse for their crimes: that we did not know any better. We will return to this many more times.

Having cleared up the framing, we are ready to speak truthfully rather than share willful distortions, at best, and outright lies, at worst. We have drowned in such morally and intellectually offensive propaganda for the length of this social catastrophe that the mere recitation of the facts will have a therapeutic benefit above and beyond conveying information. Calling things what they actually are and not by their regime euphemisms is a spiritual good.

COVID-19 is both a mild disease and one that is impossible to control. While clearly every death is a tragedy, everyone will one day die, and destroying all life to try in vain to prevent all death is arguably worse than death itself. An illness whose victims are, on average, older than life expectancy is, therefore, not a grave one by any sober assessment. Furthermore, COVID-19 does next to no serious danger to young people without comorbidities that, with the unfortunate exception of some congenital cardiac and respiratory conditions, amount to being generally unhealthy. By far the best defense against COVID-19 for the vast majority of people is to get fit. COVID-19 is also almost entirely harmless to children.

Lockdowns offer no medical benefit whatsoever. This was a fact that was universally and apolitically accepted by the medical profession for decades until the span of a few weeks in March of 2020 when this hard-won knowledge was first tossed aside, hastily scrubbed from history, and rebranded as murderous selfishness. Furthermore, “lockdown” is exactly such a cruel euphemism for preemptive mass house arrest and coerced isolation. 

Standard cotton masks likewise do next to nothing against COVID-19. While clearly useful in a variety of medical settings and against a variety of pathogens, it was, again, universally accepted by the medical profession that they are ineffective against aerosolized coronaviruses, right up until it became politically urgent in March of 2020 to contrive a rebranding. Not only did countless studies demonstrate this beyond any reasonable doubt within a few months of the emergence of this particular coronavirus, but the debate need not rise to recourse to any study given the argument can be settled on engineering principles—principles so simple one can demonstrate them conclusively in the comfort of one’s own home by blowing smoke through such a mask.

Not only are all these facts beyond dispute now, at the time of writing, but they were widely known to be true both in general and of COVID-19 by May of 2020 at the absolute latest. Oster’s repeated and exaggerated assertions that we didn’t know” (emphasis original) are patently false. We only knew them to be politically inconvenient truths because we knew them in the first place.

That the regime deemed liquor stores “essential” but not churches, and large retailers but not mom-n-pops, was suspicious enough in its transparent political and cultural targeting by April of 2020. But, by June of 2020, the jig was well and truly up when it was suddenly and opportunistically alleged that the medical danger of COVID-19 evaporates in the presence of fashionable enough political causes. We could at that point add to the above list the most despicable contrast of all: that riots were essential but funerals were not. Of course, The Atlantic, naturally, was on the case explaining away this cognitive dissonance to the confused regime faithful. 

And so, when Oster concludes her folksy tale with, “we didn’t know,” she is either willfully ignorant of vast swathes of information about COVID-19 that was, in fact, known two-and-a-half years ago, or she is lying, and The Atlantic is peddling her lies. 

In either case, the contrast to what The Atlantic seemed very sure it knew when it published “The Pandemic’s Wrongest Man” is rather amusing. This contrast touches on an issue that is in the background throughout the plea for amnesty yet which Oster makes no effort to resolve: If we really did not know, then why did the United States federal government conspire to make inaccessible any information than ran counter to the regime narrative and punish anyone who propagated it? If we really did not know, then why did we not encourage experimentation and open dialogue to try to find out? Why did every single action taken by the regime at least imply it knew everything there was to know, if not say so outright? What is “following the science” if not acting on well-established and understood knowledge? What is agitating for hundreds of millions of people to be removed from polite society, treated like second-class citizens, and potentially left to suffer and die outside the healthcare establishment, if not being pretty damned sure their views are not just false but false well beyond any reasonable doubt and dangerous to boot? 

Oster’s commentary immediately moves from the clueless and inconsistent to the offensive. She writes, “We’ve spent several lectures reliving the first year of the pandemic.” To Oster, “reliving” means “pondering,” and her pondering does not lead her much further than admitting that maybe her toddler did not need to be quite so well prepared to put on a mask on a hike after all. 

“Reliving” does not mean being coerced into a medical experiment without informed consent. It does not mean dealing with the horrific side effects of this experiment without recourse or, in many cases, even acknowledgement or sympathy. It does not mean having one’s livelihood removed and reputation ruined for resisting such coercion. It does not mean having one’s business destroyed. It does not mean being prevented by law from being with loved ones on their deathbed. It merely means contemplating that maybe, just maybe, mistakes were made. By all of us. Oopsie doopsie!

Some of these choices turned out better than others,” Oster tells us, with no contemplation whatsoever of how unprecedented, futile, and criminal these choices were, or what might have motivated such unprecedented, futile criminality. Also note the deceptive subtly of the word “choice,” as if, once again, we all made this choice. And even if, in many cases, individuals did strictly speaking choose their actions, we must ask who is really responsible if they were lied to in order to motivate the decision and lied to again when dealing with the consequences?

It should go without saying that we did no such thing. The victims wanted to be left alone but were forced to comply with the hysterical, terroristic, and authoritarian choices of the perpetrators. “Obviously some people intended to mislead and made wildly irresponsible claims.” This is true, but, to Oster, those people (a rare break from the collective “we”) were her political opponents, as unsubtly suggested by the surely deliberately disinformational meme of “bleach.” 

These people were not, for example, the Chinese Communist Party, which aggressively promoted the disastrously ineffective measures cited above in the West. “Misinformation was, and remains, a huge problem.” Quite. The impact of this particular spigot of misinformation, swallowed whole and amplified endlessly by regime media, as exemplified by The Atlantic, makes it all the more inexcusable that preemptive mass house arrest and coerced isolation have had tragic and devastating effects on mental health, domestic abuse, economic well-being, delayed treatment (of genuinely dangerous medical issues that unequivocally require treatment to avoid death), and the social fabric at large. Never before have we forbidden sunshine and exercise to those almost exclusively at risk of their absence. Never before have we jealously guarded the health of the elderly by forcing them to die alone. Politically inconvenient truths, known now and then, were censored rather than refuted because they were true.

None of this is to mention the staggering and horrific death tolls in developing countries that simply lack the consumable excess to withstand the economic insanity of shutting down vast swathes of production, just in case. It is offensively stupid to suggest that the consequences of these tradeoffs were “not known at the time.” It can be immediately deduced prior to such disastrous experimentation; hence, it was known, and it was ignored. More politically inconvenient truths, known now and then, were censored rather than refuted because they were true.

Masking has been less devastating than preemptive mass house arrest and coerced isolation but has nevertheless affected children’s psychosocial development in likely irreparable ways. It should be stated outright, and not tiptoed around, that the point of masking, given its clear ineffectiveness toward its alleged medical goal, is to dehumanize and to signal subservience. This is linked to the harm it does to children learning to speak and to socialize but has likely psychologically harmed adults in similar ways. Oster writes that, “the latest figures on learning loss are alarming. But in spring and summer 2020, we only had glimmers of information.” Again, this is false. We knew this at the time but were socially destroyed for saying so. We were not remotely “in the dark,” except by the choices made by censors.

And we have to mete out social punishment for the closet authoritarians every bit as extreme as the authoritarianism perpetrated, if not more so. 

Of course, the economic and psychological harm of communist-inspired preemptive mass house arrest and coerced isolation has been meted out exclusively on the poor, both within and between countries. The rich have had access to resources to overcome or avoid the psychological trauma of isolation, worklessness, or both simultaneously, or the political clout to feel comfortable flouting this cruelty. But, furthermore, the rich are disproportionately exposed to the only economic assets that benefited from preemptive mass house arrest and coerced isolation, be they in the form of equity in digitally native businesses or more indirectly given the nature of their remote-amenable knowledge work. Given the inflation we knew perfectly well at the time would follow, this Cantillon Effect-on-steroids has amounted to the single greatest transfer of wealth from poor to rich in human history. More politically inconvenient truths, known now and then, were censored rather than refuted because they were true.

The entire collection of COVID-19 hysterical and terroristic policies is best understood as a form of information class warfare, so novel as to lack a learned and practiced resistance on the part of the poor and politically unconnected. In its sociological totality, COVID-19 was a media phenomenon first, an economic phenomenon second, and a medical one a distant third. That we knew by the summer of 2020 (at the latest) that community transmission was happening in Europe in November of 2019 and in North America in December of 2019 (at the latest) and yet that “the pandemic” did not begin in earnest until March of 2020 ought to make one’s mind wander in this direction at least a little.

All of this senseless cruelty came to be justified, of course, in the form of the “vaccines.” The regime painted itself into the corner of needing the “vaccines” to work nearly perfectly as an excuse to end the cruelty without admitting any culpability. I put “vaccine” in scare quotes due to the hasty redefinition of the term in light of the old meaning—again, once universally and apolitically accepted by the medical profession and its legal appendages—becoming politically inconvenient as details about vaccine candidates started to emerge. Prior to 2020, for a drug to be a “vaccine,” it needed to have sterilizing immunity. An individual exposed to the pathogen against which he is vaccinated will not contract symptoms, as he is immune, and will not pass on the pathogen to others, as it will be sterilized. More politically inconvenient truths, known now and then, were censored rather than refuted because they were true, but do not forget, conveniently gaslighted by The Atlantic when this inconvenience first emerged.

Despite many and loud regime guarantees of both immunity and sterilization—subsequently revealed to be total fabrications with obvious commercial motivations and hence potentially fraudulent criminality—the “vaccines” achieved neither. They additionally have a profile of side effects that would be thoroughly unacceptable for the vast majority of potential recipients in any other context and with any honest and apolitical assessment devoid of hysteria, terror, and authoritarian impulse. It does at least seem clear that the relatively small demographic at extreme risk of COVID-19 has benefited from receiving these prophylactics (recall that the Infection Fatality Rate is ~0.15% and is massively skewed toward the elderly). But it is also as likely if not more so that those who did not need to take part in this mass medical experiment, entirely devoid of informed consent, went on to suffer from immunological imprinting and that this (seemingly paradoxically) drove higher rates of infection in the “vaccinated” for variants subsequent to the original Wuhan strain. More politically inconvenient truths, known now and then, were censored rather than refuted because they were true.

It also seems likely that those whose lives could potentially have been saved from COVID-19 by these prophylactics were entirely understandably put off by these drugs having been advertised primarily with fear, lies, and bewilderingly unrealistic dogmatism and generality. This was as opposed to the norm of compassion, a balance of evidence and merit, and personalized decision-making that characterize both intellectually sound medical practice and the layman’s intuition of how such interactions ought to occur. More politically inconvenient truths, known now and then, were censored rather than refuted because they were true.

It cannot be stated often enough or clearly enough that, “mostly safe and mostly effective” is not the same thing as “safe and effective,” and that, if one knowingly says the latter to someone who does not know any better, then he is a liar and a scoundrel. This is its own form of gross medical negligence which, of course, the regime narrative long ago ruled unacceptable for public discussion. This false equivalence bears a remarkable resemblance to the conflation of the pandemic and the response, and it achieves similar narrative ends: It allowed hysterical, terroristic, and authoritarian regime adherents to paint any dissenters with the linguistically absurd smear of “antivaxxer,” as if objecting to the coercive application of a single medicine about which we know very little besides that we probably do not need to take it is somehow equivalent to rejecting all medicine. This lie was told often enough to seem like the truth and, thus, the now-known-to-be-absolutely-correct skeptics mostly kept their heads down and their mouths shut. More politically inconvenient truths, known now and then, were censored rather than refuted because they were true.

On the lasting social effects of this particular component of the wider campaign of terroristic misinformation, Oster cannot help but notice that “routine vaccination rates for children (for measles, pertussis, etc.) are way down,” but she dares not make any connection beyond the bizarrely flimsy link that “many people have neglected their health care over the past several years.” That tends to happen when one is locked in his home indefinitely and for no good reason. It also tends to be exacerbated when one is forced to reckon with what seems like the entire public institution of medicine repeatedly and aggressively lying to his face for its own benefit, while people one thought he could trust go along with it all out of hysterical fear that they will be singled out for ruin. More politically inconvenient truths, known now and then, were censored rather than refuted because they were true.

Despite the best efforts of governments to avoid collating the relevant data, it is finally also becoming anecdotally undeniable that damage to the heart muscle and reduced fertility, blood clots and menstrual disruption, and miscarriages are unacceptably common side effects in otherwise healthy young men, young women, and pregnant women, respectively. More politically inconvenient truths, known now and then, were censored rather than refuted because they were true.

For now, and likely for several years, this will have to remain anecdotal because the large-scale trials that led to the emergency use authorization of the prophylactics were hastily unblinded upon the political imperative to declare them perfectly safe and effective. This means there simply are no relevant data from which to properly study long-term effects with the kind of rigor expected from such trials prior to 2020. Who are you going to believe, ladies? The Science™ or your lying vagina? Nevertheless, several jurisdictions worldwide have either strongly advised against or outright banned certain demographics from receiving these prophylactics as a result. 

And lest we get too caught up in reflexively opposing each and every component of the regime narrative, it is worth considering that the millions who did, in fact, die of COVID-19, even and especially if sensibly “vaccinated” given their demographic, were in no way helped by the various authoritarian diktats but were arguably the greatest victims. As I wrote previously in this magazine, the unprecedented top-down imposition of attempted control of each and every human interaction had the clearest effect of all in criminalizing local, knowledgeable, and usefully partial efforts to help those legitimately at risk from COVID-19 and leaving them to suffer and die alone. Just as we should not necessarily correspond the pandemic to a single response, we should not let the absurdity of the actual response distract us from the reality of the pandemic. We must be better than the hysterics.

So when Oster goes on to say that “most errors were made by people who were working in earnest for the good of society,” the article crosses a threshold of plausible deniability from laughable ignorance and incompetent offense to truly dangerous gaslighting. It is preposterous to think that the individuals making mistakes time after time and lie after lie were acting in anything other than indulgent and parasitical self-interest. The “mistakes” involved assigning themselves the power to crush their cultural and political enemies and enact their high-modernist schemes of social engineering of which they could only dream outside of a contrived emergency. 

The following paragraph is worth quoting in full to see the true extent of the gaslighting to which Oster, The Atlantic, and the regime are committed:

Given the amount of uncertainty, almost every position was taken on every topic. And on every topic, someone was eventually proved right, and someone else was proved wrong. In some instances, the right people were right for the wrong reasons. In other instances, they had a prescient understanding of the available information.

Let me clarify these weasel words. On every topic, the regime took the position of increasing top-down control and increased state power. On every topic, dissenters with a “prescient understanding of the available information” were shamed, silenced, or even criminalized. On every topic, the regime lied about its motivations and decision-making process, invariably hiding corruption of some or other sort, and on every topic was eventually proven wrong when the truth could no longer be suppressed.

In the face of so much uncertainty, getting something right had a hefty amount of luck,” writes Oster, failing to appreciate that this may be true once, but not every single time. “And similarly, getting something wrong wasn’t a moral failing,” she continues, apparently finding no moral significance to destroying people’s lives with lies and fear. Literal terrorism—the use of terror to achieve political endsis not a moral issue in Oster’s understanding. Of course, this is all building up to the core thesis: “we have to put these fights aside and declare a pandemic amnesty.” No, we do not. You ask to put aside a fight you know you are losing. We have to win this fight, by knockout. 

We have to reckon with how people behaved and were duped into behaving by the regime. We have to confront the cowardice and the shame on which this depended. And we have to mete out social punishment for the closet authoritarians every bit as extreme as the authoritarianism perpetrated, if not more so. 

This can never, ever happen again.

An amnesty would be a travesty of justice for crimes against humanity and would pave the way for yet more such crimes. It would signal that the reckless, politically motivated destruction of social capital and human well-being is acceptable if committed by the correct people and coated with the correct lies. When Oster writes that, “dwelling on the mistakes of history can lead to a repetitive doom loop as well,” what she really means is: I would prefer not to be held accountable for the horrors I enthusiastically endorsed yet from which I did not suffer at all.  

Oster’s ilk did not make, “complicated choices in the face of deep uncertainty.” They stoked fear, panic, anxiety, paranoia, and hysteria. They encouraged dehumanization and hatred. They targeted the breakdown of families and friendships by incentivizing snitching and excommunication at even the slightest hint of skepticism of the regime narrative, never mind something as paramount as preferring bodily autonomy over adherence to political propaganda. They instilled a reaction to genuine open-mindedness of sadistic resentment, predicated on a desire to pool suffering so as to avoid dealing with the psychological trauma of one’s own pathetically voluntary subservience. They inculcated a norm of desiring retributive state violence against anyone who resisted, or even questioned, their authoritarian lunges. As Berenson’s case shows, this was no passing trifle but a literal conspiracy that goes to the top of the most powerful state on earth.

These are not understandable accidents in the heat of the moment. This is evil. We all recognize this behavior in people we previously thought to be basically caring and decent, and we all know this analysis to be correct, even if we dare not say it out loud.

But it must be said. We can “try to work together to build back and move forward,” as Oster condescendingly concludes the article, easily enough knowing whom to trust privately, and who is basically decent and caring after all. But the root of the problem was always the constitution of public institutions and their power to overwhelm and corrupt the private sphere. While burning everything to the ground will have a tragically intensified appeal to many, I insist that we resist this urge. But we must also accept that the only way to avoid this otherwise inevitable and more disastrous outcome is to sacrifice tactically  the institutions that do not deserve to be saved, and for any worth preserving, purge them of the authoritarians who crawled out the woodwork. We cannot tolerate such a coup.

Similarly, having dared to publicly oppose any of this nightmare whatsoever ought to become immediately associated with bravery and integrity.

We should do this lawfully. The rejection of amnesty for crimes against humanity should not be vindictive or sadistic but should hold justice as its ultimate ideal. It is vindictiveness and sadism that we are setting out to oppose. The catastrophe has been, at root, one of lawlessness. It has been one of the seizing of power and wealth with lies and with force: of unfathomably powerful social engineering executed on an unwilling populace. It was a grave injustice, and we must confront it in the spirit of the law.

There must be thorough investigations into the behavior of those in power at every point of needlessly and opportunistically authoritarian decision-making, inside and outside of the state, be it the use of instruments of psychological warfare on the populace; the clownish corruption of the ideal of science; the flagrantly unscientific methodology employed to justify authoritarian measures at every step; the censorship of real scientific debate at each and every level of public discourse; the multiple decisions to abandon the entire body of relevant medical knowledge and usurp the norms of medical ethics; the total absence of cost-benefit analysis and holistic decision-making in disastrous and reckless “non-pharmaceutical interventions” (another cruel regime euphemism) even aside from their medical lunacy; the lack of respect for bodily autonomy rising both to a corruption of the paramount ideal of doctor-patient relationships and clear lawlessness in coercing medical experimentation…the list goes on. Regime officials must be held accountable. There must be purges, there must be reparations, and there must be prosecutions.

But the real shift must be in culture at large. The idea that we can rely unthinkingly on those legally entitled to wield authority is precisely part of the problem. We must use this collective trauma as a catalyst to inculcate a cultural allergy to such authoritarian tendencies. The dubious legality of any such tendency finding form should be all the more reason to overreact with immediate and intense suspicion, inspection, and rejection—not with the benefit of the doubt. Criminalizing illegality will only get us so circularly far. We must shame it. We must make its perpetrators afraid.

It must become embarrassing to admit one ever supported uninformed and nonconsensual participation in a medical experiment or mass house arrest and coerced isolation. It must be held against anyone vying for public office or private positions of responsibility for the rest of all of our lives. It should become a disqualifying feature and a go-to insult. 

Similarly, having dared to publicly oppose any of this nightmare whatsoever ought to become immediately associated with bravery and integrity. It should have a similar political appeal to having credibly dissented against communism in any country recovering from such an authoritarian disaster. When people start to exaggerate their resistance and cover up their compliance, we will know we are on the right track. When people start to use “COVID-19 hysteric” as an entirely baseless accusation, we can be happy with the rightful place in the culture this disgrace will have achieved.

These are long-term goals. They are principles we ought to embrace as we “build back and move forward,” but they are not actions to be taken today. Today, we must identify the tactical retreat of the authoritarian hysterics and rout it. If we are to take ourselves seriously as a civilization and if we are to have any hope of resisting the yet more emboldened authoritarian lunges that will surely follow if we do not act, we must not grant amnesty. These crimes must be punished. Justice must be done.

Allen Farrington lives in Edinburgh. He writes also at QuilletteAreo, and Medium. He can be found on Twitter @allenf32

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