Civil Liberties, RIP: Big Brother’s Lethal ‘Cure’

May 7, 2020 Updated: May 12, 2020

Commentary

The evidence (as opposed to the vastly inflated official “projections”) is now in. As a number of refuseniks of the state-sponsored panic predicted ab initio, the mortality rate of COVID-19 has turned out to be almost identical to that of the seasonal flu (.12 percent compared to .1 percent), while the number of fatalities will be less than half, the overwhelming majority coming from the already infirm or elderly residents in chronic care homes.

Nonetheless, to “mitigate” this manufactured crisis, the world’s governments have cancelled their economies and constitutions, and their citizens have blithely acquiesced to their own pauperization and self-imprisonment.

The blatant propaganda about the number of infections, deaths, and mortality rates aside, there remains no evidence that social distancing and the closing of factories, restaurants, and shops have been ameliorative. (Several countries and a number of U.S. states that did not lock down seem to have done at least as well as New York, Michigan, or California.) Has anyone even asked that such evidence be presented by our political caregivers, either among the public or the purportedly “adversarial” press, which continues ludicrously to burnish its Sixties-era liberal credentials for “questioning authority” and “speaking truth to power” while applauding government decrees that have overnight turned erstwhile free societies into giant prisons?

My own city currently resembles one of those European villages after its population had been wiped out by the Black Death of the 14th century, or the cholera epidemic of the 19th. Except that there are no corpses with hideously distorted visages lying in the doorways of Toronto’s houses and no swarms of avian scavengers blocking out the sun. As of May 8, there have been 567 fatalities attributed to the coronavirus in this city of 2.5 million, scarcely more than the number of Torontonians who have been killed by automobiles, household accidents, and stray bullets over the same period, and substantially fewer than those who have succumbed to cancer, heart disease, or the common flu.

Yet in a perfect demonstration of the fact that irony is the first casualty of campaigns of official concern, even the gates of cemeteries (where I sometimes like to walk) are posted with signs reading “CLOSED DUE TO COVID-19.” Why cemeteries? Full up already because of the pandemic? Fear of communication of the virus to/from the underworld? The impossibility of “social distancing” between hikers and mourners? I doubt it. On the most pleasant spring afternoon, if one herded all of the graveyard joggers and amblers together around a single tombstone, they would still be able to leave more than the mandated space between them. (A catchy little admonitory couplet that the nanny state might wish to employ: Stand six feet apart/Lest you lie six feet under.)

Fortunately, most of the security guards stationed at the entrances to our grocery stores and home centres do what security guards almost always do: nothing, except stare at their phones. But the ugly reality of the state-manufactured coronavirus panic is that it has brought out the naked will to power of those petty functionaries who, as The Bard described them, are “dressed in a little brief authority.” You see these officious bullies everywhere now: the bylaw officers who issue $800 summonses to families for going out together for a walk or Good Samaritans who stoop to feed the homeless. Then there are the LCBO employees, now wearing industrial face shields and ensconced behind plexiglass barriers, who refuse to handle anything touched by a customer and turn on them for coming a foot too close. Or the grocery store clerk who threatened to call the police because, while I was standing in line outside, my foot encroached upon a four-inch wide orange “social distancing” line by one inch.

It’s hard to decide whether the current atmosphere is more reminiscent of Orwell’s “1984,” a medieval leprosy scare, or scenes from any of the dreary, dystopian films we all now possess the unwonted leisure to watch on the sci-fi channel.

If the “evidence” our governments and medical experts have deigned to provide us consists in astrological guesses at best—consistently bad guesses, one must add, with apologies to astrologers—they are deliberately manipulated political propaganda at worst. Indeed, they are almost certainly the latter, since like the polls that universally predicted Hillary Clinton’s landslide victory in 2016, their purpose is not to predict the future but to bring about the future they predict. Not the catastrophic death toll per se—although the economic devastation caused by the projected apocalypse may well have that effect—but unless one is incurably naïve, it is just conceivable that there are certain ideological partisans in the United States and around the world who might be entirely sanguine about the collapse of the Trump economic boom. These same people might be positively gratified by the unprecedented expansion of state power, its conscription of private enterprise, its massive new spending and redistribution of wealth, its new social programs and no-strings-attached benefactions, and its abolition of such antiquated protections as the right to private property, free association, and religious assembly.

Since his inauguration, Trump has been reflexively accused by the Democrats of posing a grave threat to the U.S. Constitution. In this instance, he is guilty, though his enemies have hardly noticed. Indeed, they accuse Trump of not having done enough to violate Americans’ constitutional rights and freedoms. But then, both in this instance and otherwise, most politicians pose a grave threat to their constitutions.

Consider this brief exchange from a 15-minute interview that the excruciatingly patient and deferential Tucker Carlson conducted with New Jersey’s Democrat Governor Phil Murphy:

Discussing the arrest of and criminal charges laid against 15 congregants in a New Jersey synagogue, Carlson said, “The Bill of Rights, as you well know, protects Americans’ rights—enshrines their right to practice their religion as they see fit and to congregate together to assemble peacefully. By what authority did you nullify the Bill of Rights in issuing this order? How do you have the power to do that?” Murphy answered, “That’s above my pay grade, Tucker. I wasn’t thinking of the Bill of Rights when we did this.”

But Carlson, alas, is labouring under the illusion that the Constitution and the rule of law still mean something. Long before the outbreak in Wuhan, half of America already regarded the country’s age-old civil liberties as anachronisms, minor impediments to the progressive desiderata of “diversity,” “inclusion,” “social justice,” and (above all) the removal of a deplorable, dictatorial president—even if it required the dictatorial expedient of suborning the IRS, the FBI, the CIA, the DOJ, and the FISA court to illegally “surveil” their political opponents.

For the enemies of Trump, a police state is more or less the price Americans are expected to pay for the restoration of the Democrats to power (the only natural right they recognize).

Of course, government is despotic by nature, exactly in the way that sparrows are libidinous by nature, and hyenas cruel. Government is persuasion backed up by legalized violence. If you doubt that, try to protest your government’s confiscation of your wages by withholding your taxes; try to remain faithful to your religious conscience while operating a private business; or to pray too close to an abortion clinic. You’ll end up in jail.

The exercise of force is in the historical DNA of government, and it’s in any case unlikely that the universal human lust for power is less entrenched in those who seek and exert power for a living. The mark of the modern progressive state is the nauseating affectation of superior wisdom and righteousness by its ruling class, which justifies it in telling the rest of us what to do, say, and think; and the advice they offer us is always backed up by the threat of violence. As we have seen in the case of what former president Obama now belatedly laments as the “cancel culture,” when it comes to shutting down unauthorized speech, government and criminal gangs are in it together. Antifa is merely the community outreach arm of our human rights tribunals.

Historical amnesia has undoubtedly contributed to our current credulous willingness to imprison and beggar ourselves. Few today can imagine what it was like during the Great Depression (though even our “experts” may find out soon enough). Similarly, few today have the least understanding of totalitarianism, though it was the dominant form of government for most of the 20th century, still exists, and remains a constant temptation for our rulers.

As most political historians have observed, tyranny, despotism, and totalitarianism have been the norm rather than the exception; liberty and the rule of law are aberrational states. It takes little for democracies to revert to the normative state of things. Indeed, Western democracies seem to have been regressing steadily in that direction since the early 20th century.

Harley Price has taught courses in religion, philosophy, literature, and history at the University of Toronto, U of T’s School of Continuing Studies, and Tyndale University College. He blogs at Priceton.org.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.