Saturday, April 9, 2022

Authoritarianism in a time of Covid

 The New Authoritarians | Tablet - Alex Gutentag:

March 29, 2022 - "...After Trump’s election, many commentators expressed anxiety that his followers would plunge the country into far-right authoritarianism. Instead, it is the class of college-educated Democrats that now openly argues for the value of blind submission to authority and the elimination of personal freedoms.... It no longer poses a mere threat to democracy — it has become a full-fledged attack on basic democratic principles. Far from upholding civil liberties, the self-proclaimed 'resistance' to Trumpism has itself exhibited many hallmarks of authoritarianism: suppression of dissent, demand for unquestioning obedience, and tight control over the flow of information.... 

"The TV production of Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale premiered on April 26, 2017, and was widely touted in liberal media outlets as a 'prescient' 'mirror' of the country under Trump.... Yet based on the domineering COVID-era behavior of the show’s own target audience, The Handmaid’s Tale appears to have been less of a warning to viewers and more of a handbook. Forced and coercive medical procedures, adoption of mandatory new garbs, censorship, and frozen bank accounts were central to the totalitarian state depicted in the novel and the show. In the end, this program found its real-world parallel not in autocratic moves from the right, but in liberal-approved measures like vaccine mandates, mask requirements of dubious medical value, restrictions on speech, and seizure of protesters’ financial assets—all of which were vocally supported by the affluent laptop class.

"This is not simply a matter of hypocrisy. It is only by painting themselves as victims fighting against their oppressors that college-educated professionals can rationalize their own authoritarianism. The cult of victimhood conjures the specter of fascism, misogyny, or white nationalism in order to justify blatantly repressive measures. This is why, for example, the professional class consistently portrayed unvaccinated people as Trump supporters even though in many major cities vaccine passports mostly excluded Democrat-voting Black residents from indoor establishments. Under the guise of combatting anti-vax extremism, woke liberal politicians embraced segregation and the exact kind of 'systemic racism' they claimed to oppose. While considering themselves to be on the side of righteousness and rationality, commentators called for hospitals to reject unvaccinated patients, and some even celebrated their deaths. This is precisely the type of punitive, regressive tendency that progressives warned would be a consequence of Trump’s election....

Photo: Miles Probyn, Associated Press

"President Biden likewise encouraged Big Tech to deplatform anyone with alternative views about COVID vaccines by presenting the people sharing these views as literal murderers who were 'killing people.' Sweeping censorship that amounted to digital book burning helped create an illusion of consensus even though many of the claims prohibited on social media (such as the fact that the vaccines did not prevent transmission) proved to be true. Far from private companies exercising discretion over how their platforms are used, these tech companies operated in coordination with the executive branch, meaning their clampdown on speech was in violation of the First Amendment. This is exactly the type of orchestrated silencing effort we were once told only happens under dictatorships.

"Moreover, it is not social media but mainstream news outlets that have been the largest purveyors of 'misinformation.' One accusation often made against Trump supporters is that they blindly and unthinkingly believe false claims. But during the pandemic this was consistently true of college-educated Democrats, who still hold the most skewed and erroneous views about COVID. In 2022, 48% of 'very liberal' people still believed that COVID posed a 'great risk' to children’s health despite widely available evidence that the risk COVID poses to children is miniscule. Between January 2021 and September 2021, the CDC reported that 280 children died with COVID (later the CDC would admit that it had inflated its total death numbers by almost 25%). According to the latest available data (from 2015-19), flu and pneumonia killed more children annually. Heart disease, firearms, drowning, and motor vehicles all pose a much greater risk to children than COVID. Believing that COVID is a 'great risk' for kids, justifying child mask mandates and school closures, is exactly the kind of persistent scientific illiteracy of which journalists accuse Trump supporters.

"College-educated Democrats have also expressed growing support for the national security surveillance state.... In 2017, 69% of Democrats said the FBI was doing a 'good' or 'excellent' job, compared to 49% of Republicans (and 44% of Democrats in 2003). Also in 2017, the CIA had a net favorability of 32% for Democrats, compared to a net favorability of just 4% for Republicans. Democratic support for federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies has coincided with increasing cooperation with tech companies and media outlets. This was demonstrated by the suppression of the now 'verified' 2020 Hunter Biden laptop story, which was restricted on Twitter and Facebook while the media and dozens of intelligence experts attempted to discredit it as 'Russian disinformation.' 

"The beneficiaries of a mounting culture of censorship, silence, and exclusion are not just Democrats who see some political gains. More significantly, it is their financial backers. Throughout the COVID era, the party and its affiliated voter base of white-collar workers have solidified their role as ideological enforcers for billionaires and corporations. During lockdowns and vaccine mandates, tech and pharmaceutical companies made astronomical profits and were aided and abetted at every turn by their pajama-class foot soldiers. While lockdowns plunged millions of Americans into conditions of unemployment, despair, and hunger, it gave professionals a luxury: a time to rest at home and be free from stressors like commuting. As billionaires saw their wealth surge, the upper-middle class stayed silent or complicit.... 

"This silencing had serious repercussions. It is now commonly acknowledged, for example, that school closures were a mistake, but those who spoke up early lost friends, jobs, and opportunities. What is dismissed as cancel culture is actually central to the authoritarian project. A new idea ('flatten the curve,' 'save Grandma,' 'two weeks to stop the spread') can be introduced at any moment, and if it’s framed as morally necessary and unquestionable, it will receive resounding support from the most well-educated class.... When new moral panics, rigid rules, and speech codes are constantly being introduced, the main function they serve is to test people’s loyalty to the dominant ideology."

Read more:

1 comment:

  1. Some people only believe what they want to hear. I believe what I don't want to hear. I will not be assimilated.