‘Madness of Crowds’ Shakes American Freedoms

May 19, 2020 Updated: May 20, 2020

Commentary

Back in 1841, the Scottish author Charles Mackay published his seminal study of mass lunacy, “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” which included chapters on economic bubbles like the Tulip mania of 1637, the Crusades, witch hunts, and alchemy.

More recently, the British writer Douglas Murray treated the current “Madness of Crowds” concerning “gender,” race, and sexual identity that has driven society with constantly shifting definitions and demands.

In the current climate of unreasonable fear over the CCP virus, the cognitive dissonance of this not-so-fine madness can’t be overestimated.

With blue-state governors such as California’s Gavin Newsom, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, New York’s Andrew Cuomo, Illinois’s J.B. Pritzker, and Oregon’s Kate Brown acting like petty tyrants as they unconstitutionally restrict personal freedom, religious observance, and the right to free association—over what is essentially a nursing-home disease that strikes the very elderly—Americans are being driven mad by this sudden assault on our most basic freedoms, once thought unshakeable.

And yet here we are, two months into what increasingly appears to be a manufactured “crisis” whose cure will end up being far worse than the disease—one that will cost us a huge percentage of our formerly booming economy and the effective loss of our constitutional protections under the Bill of Rights—bovinely acquiescing in our own imprisonment and loss of livelihood. And being told it’s for our own good.

Incipient Fascism

Even as the death toll from a virus that has still killed fewer Americans than the 1968–69 Hong Kong flu (about which nobody caused a fuss) continues to drop, there are ominous signs that the incipient fascism that marks state control of our lives is about to get worse.

Already, the goal posts have been moved, from “flatten the curve” (which only delayed the inevitable) to “crush the curve” (impossible), to “we cannot return to normal without a vaccine” (highly unlikely), to “get used to the new normal” of privation, random restrictions, and arbitrary lockdowns.

Even worse is the threat of mandatory “contact tracing,” which is being sold as helping to curtail the spread of the disease, but which is ripe for abuse, including intimidation, invasion of privacy, and even restraint.

For decades, abortion has been legal in this country because of a “right to privacy” unearthed in the Fourth Amendment by the Supreme Court justices who decided Roe v. Wade in 1973. Over-exuberant contact tracing, perhaps via mandatory cellphone apps, as in China, could easily result not only in the loss of privacy, but of freedom of movement and even personal liberty itself.

Never mind that Congress hasn’t amended the Constitution, nor that the states have no right to abrogate federal protections that are implicitly “incorporated” into their own constitutions. Never mind that 30 million have lost their jobs. Never mind that municipalities that have reopened haven’t seen any meaningful spike in infections, much less deaths. (The always helpful media has now effectively and dishonestly conflated infection with certain doom.)

Never mind that not a single American has voted for any of this—not gubernatorial tyranny under the guise of a (relatively minor) medical emergency, nor rule by unelected doctors. As Murray observes in his book, “As anyone who has lived under totalitarianism can attest, there is something demeaning and eventually soul-destroying about being expected to go along with claims you do not believe to be true and cannot hold to be true.”

Rule of Law

But who cares about the “rule of law” anymore? Truth used to be the first casualty of war, but in this battle against the Chinese Communist Party virus, also known as the novel coronavirus, it’s the law itself that’s been gut shot.

Some are fighting back. On May 18, a county judge in Oregon ruled that Brown’s social distancing restrictions were “null and void” because they hadn’t been approved by the state legislature within the statutory 28 days; the suit had been brought by a coalition of churches arguing on behalf of the free exercise of religion and the right to peaceably assembly. Later that same day, the Oregon Supreme Court granted a temporary stay to the lower court’s order.

They might well have also argued that the two-meters metric of “social distancing” (more correctly, “anti-social distancing”) is unscientific and inhumane.

The only time human beings need six feet of separation between them is when one of them is six feet under. Anything else destroys social trust, alienates people from one another, and creates a legion of busybody snitches.

Anyone wondering how 1 in 3 East Germans could have spied on their fellow communist prisoners in the German Democratic Republic need look no further than America’s own burgeoning contingent of hectoring “Karens”—the handle given the buttinskies who want to mind everyone else’s pandemic business.

It’s not enough, of course; indeed, where are the Republican lawyers? Where, in fact, is the supposedly nonpartisan American Civil Liberties Union, ready to sue at the drop of a subpoena over any of the “woke” social issues, but strangely silent over this blatant attack on the fundamentals of liberty.

True, back in March, the ACLU noted: “We should be skeptical about calls to embrace Chinese-style tracking as a helpful measure in the current emergency. And any uses need to incorporate privacy protections if they are not going to be counterproductive. If location data is to be used, there must be strict policies ensuring that, whenever possible, the patient has consented to such uses; minimizing any data sharing; requiring deletion of the data when there is no longer a need to hold it; and, where it is anonymized, ensuring that no effort be made to re-identify it.”

Good luck with that, especially when cops in California are rousting beachcombers, owners of beauty salons are being broken on the wheel of the state, and New Jersey gym owners are getting summonses from the police for defying Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order to stay closed.

“We truly believe that if we don’t do this, in the end, we will have zero rights and no say in what happens,” said Frank Trumbetti, who was ticketed for disorderly conduct. But we’ve yet to see a full-throated frontal legal assault on the governors who have abused their authority.

Then again, “safety” is always what’s promised when “slavery” is actually what’s on order.

Get Over It

The longer this unconstitutional state of affairs is allowed to persist, the less chance Americans have of restoring the rule of law. President Donald Trump’s ill-advised daily press conferences with Drs. Fauci and Birx only serve to damage him by frightening the public and making him look subordinate; far better, in the early stages, would have been short briefings by Vice President Mike Pence with perhaps a couple of apolitical questions from the media, and then a resumption of business as usual. Nursing homes should have been put on lockdown, but civil society could have and should have continued as normal.

Instead, the comorbid elderly have been frightened out of their wits, and some of them—as in Cuomo’s New York—have died needlessly. Meanwhile, working-age folks have been denied an opportunity to earn a living, as many people have been put on welfare via special (and entirely unfunded) government giveaway programs, while children, who don’t suffer from the disease, have been characterized by a virulently anti-Trump media as potential “superspreaders,” as words like “fears” and “worries” are once again flung around with abandon.

On the opportunistic left, the perfect must always be the enemy of the good—and if that benefits them politically, then so be it.

Still, “if it saves just one life,” can’t be national policy. America has endured and survived far worse than the CCP virus, including the Spanish flu at the end of World War I, the 400,000 deaths occasioned by World War II, and the 620,000 fatalities of the Civil War. No doubt, worse might be yet to come someday. But that day is not this day.

What’s needed now is a multi-pronged attack on official lawlessness, a combination of legal action, judicious civil disobedience, and political activity. Just as face masks have now become a symbol of the left-right divide (with the ovine, conformist left now squarely on the side of brute authority), so will the coming presidential election be a referendum on the once-independent and ornery nature of the American citizen.

It’s been clear, nearly from the start of this panic over a pandemic, that the virus would have to run its course, it was unlikely to be curtailed by a vaccine, and herd immunity would have to be the major part of the solution, as it has been for all such diseases.

In short: Get it, get over it, get on with it. That’s always been the American Way. Why should it be different now?

Michael Walsh is the author of “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace” and “The Fiery Angel,” both published by Encounter Books. His latest book, “Last Stands,” a cultural study of military history, will be published in December by St. Martin’s Press. Follow him on Twitter @dkahanerules.

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