The Valorization of the Tyrants

The Valorization of the Tyrants
Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern speaks at the 77th session of the U.N. General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York on Sept. 23, 2022. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Jeffrey A. Tucker

This is surely one of the strangest twists in official narratives in perhaps hundreds of years. The bad guys have been christened as the good guys, and the good guys have been purged, deplatformed, canceled, and demonized. It’s a turn of events that none of us could have imagined back in 2020. It cries out for an explanation. I truly fear knowing the answer as to why.

Just consider the fate of former New Zealand Prime Jacinda Ardern. She locked down her country, trampling all rights of the people under the guise of controlling the spread of a virus. You couldn't go to church. You couldn't be unmasked. You couldn't leave the country and return. No one could travel there without official permission.

As bad as the United States and Europe were during this period, New Zealand was worse, and it was backed up by speech controls. Anyone protesting the policies was risking everything. And when the vaccine came along, Ms. Ardern outright said it: The people who get it will have rights, but those who don't won't. It was a new biomedical caste system.

Eventually, the country did open. Now speakers decrying the whole period are attracting audiences in the thousands, and Ms. Ardern is widely unpopular. Her successor—who continues to defend all of this despotism—is under a cloud and also deeply unpopular. The tables have completely turned. Of course, the virus came anyway, as it must, so the junta that did this has turned its attention to climate change, the defense of censorship, and the escalation of the Russia–Ukraine war.

Five years ago, anyone would have supposed that a leader who acted this way would live in shame. I certainly assumed so. My supposition is that Ms. Ardern had made horrific misjudgments and would be widely decried as a confused tyrant. She would live out her days in disrepute, surely.

The opposite has happened. She's now the subject of celebratory biographies. She's lauded by mainstream media. She addressed the United Nations in September 2022 in a speech that was an open call for a new global censorship regime. True, the fact-checkers disagree with this interpretation. Instead, she was merely calling out “the weaponization of free speech societies and platforms by misinformation agents.”


In any case, in my imagination, I couldn't have dreamed up a specimen of error and tyranny more deserving of devaluing than Ms. Ardern. Everything that she did during the COVID-19 era flies in the face of values that the West has held for almost 1,000 years since the Magna Carta.

But I was wrong. Completely. I underestimated just how broken the world is. Instead of being disgraced, she's enjoying not one but two fellowships at Harvard University, where she enjoys massive prestige and adoration by faculty, staff, and students. To me, this seems like "The Twilight Zone"—an ending to the story that I couldn't have imagined. Aren't we supposed to be against segregation, house arrest, forced medical treatments, locking people in nations, and censorship? I thought at least we would agree on that much. Apparently not. Apparently, it's the opposite. Everything that I believed was deprecated is exalted, and all of the public virtues that I believed we extolled are now denounced.

It’s not just Ms. Ardern. The whole tiny but global junta that imposed all of these policies has seemed to be enjoying a glorious send-off by the entire establishment, even though it has been 100 percent wrong about everything. Dr. Anthony Fauci’s successor is Dr. Fauci II, and it's the same with Dr. Rochelle Walensky’s successor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the media propagandists who for three years lied to the public about lockdowns, masks, school closures, and vaccines are now writing books that are calling people like me the bad guys!

I almost can't imagine that this has happened, and I can't fathom why.

As another example, The New York Times' op-ed page has carried an amazing and very long article by Yoel Roth, former chief censor of Twitter 1.0 before he was summarily fired by Elon Musk. The New York Times let him tell his tale of woe on how oppressed and beaten down he is merely for enforcing trust and safety. He was only doing his job to stop online lies!

The Twitter Files revealed that the company was obeying government priorities and blocking and throttling content that took issue with COVID-19 policies, questions surrounding election integrity, and vaccine effectiveness. Mr. Roth, in cooperation with federal agencies, set himself up as the arbiter of truth and arguably distorted information flows based on his personal bias.

Like Ms. Ardern, I might have expected that he would retire from public life and deploy his considerable communication for a small company somewhere. But I was wrong again. Instead, he holds a coveted position at the University of Pennsylvania and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

For that matter, Dr. Fauci himself is enjoying a comfy sinecure at Georgetown University.

This isn't just about how high-end academia has become a haven for "woke" politics, censorship, and wildly pro-statist thinking across the board. That battle seems to have been won by the bad guys perhaps two decades ago. The problem is much larger. It has to do with the entire academic, corporate, political, and deep-state establishment that was heavily involved in imposing a despotic turn for the entire globe.

They're right now in the business of protecting their own, trolling the rest of us by granting awards and honors to the absolute worst offenders of core Western values. It’s like the world has been turned upside down. As grim as I believed the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns that began in March 2020 were and as much as I expected some terrible economic and cultural fallout from that period, I never would have imagined that the lockdowners and mandaters would be riding high at 42 months of this.

And at the very same time, the purges of the people who were right all along are continuing at a furious pace. Every day, we observe sneaky attacks on the greatest champions of basic liberties on which I thought everyone agreed back in 2019. Every unflattering bit of personal information on the resistors is fair game, amplified by the media and then realized in the form of demonetizations by big tech, the courts, and the professional circuit generally.

The battle lines are very clear, and only one side stands for the rights and liberties for which humanity worked for a millennium. The other side stands for controls, impositions, divisions, surveillance, censorship, degrowth, and corporate cartelizations. Can someone explain to me why we're supposed to think that the bad guys are now the good guys? In short, how can we account for the valorization of tyrants?

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Jeffrey A. Tucker is the founder and president of the Brownstone Institute, and the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press, as well as 10 books in five languages, most recently “Liberty or Lockdown.” He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He writes a daily column on economics for The Epoch Times and speaks widely on the topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.