Why we shouldn’t just ‘forgive and forget’ the Covid authoritarians

November 1, 2022 in Columnists, News by RBN Staff


Source: Substack


Emily Oster argues for amnesty in The Atlantic, here’s why ‘we made a mistake’ won’t cut it.

Yesterday in The Atlantic, Emily Oster called for a “pandemic amnesty,” saying, “We need to forgive one another for what we did and said when we were in the dark about COVID.”

I swear I’m not being petty when I say, “HELL NO.”

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People’s behaviour during Covid revealed something important that would be dangerous to simply forgive and forget.

Oster argues that the hysterical, nonsensical behaviour of the Covid nutjobs was defensible because “We didn’t know.” And indeed, at first, we all didn’t know.

And then we did know.

And once we did know, one group of people fought for reality, rights, sanity, and humanity, and another fought for authoritarianism, ostracization, and vilification.

Sure, we didn’t know how the virus spread initially, but can you really claim to have “not known” that labelling those opposed to unconstitutional mandates and lockdowns that were clearly causing more harm than good “conspiracy theorists,” “racists,” “misogynists,” the “far right,” “plague rats,” dangerous terrorists, and “extremists” was wrong?

You cannot claim to have not known that it is wrong to take people’s rights away because of a virus they know won’t kill them. You cannot claim to have not known it is wrong to cast out your friends and family because they aren’t sufficiently terrified, or because they don’t wish to take an experimental vaccine that, as it turns out, doesn’t work. You cannot claim to have not known that it is wrong to fire people who want to make informed choices about their own health. You cannot claim to have not known that banning, censoring, and libeling people who present scientific information that fails to align with your preferred political narratives is wrong.

These people are in fact dangerous, because they’ve revealed themselves to be the kind of people who will turn in their neighbour should the Nazis come a-knocking.

These are people who tried to destroy society over cloth masks. Who tried to bully people into taking vaccines without knowing what those vaccines actually do and whether or not they might endanger our health. These are people who called for those who stood up for themselves and for rationality and rights to lose their livelihoods and ability to survive. These are people who mocked the working class and smeared them as white supremacists, when it was in fact those members of the working class — regular Canadians — who saved us all from the authoritarianism being enacted across North America, supposedly justifiable on account of Covid. These people fought for our freedom and legions of progressives said they deserved to die.

Amnesty? No way.

For approximately one month I also believed we should “stop the spread.” I was naive, in retrospect, and once I realized I was wrong, and that we were headed in a dangerous direction, I admitted I had made a mistake, corrected myself, and fought back. But many more, rather than lose face, dug in their heels for two more years, cheering as our government created division in our country not yet seen in my lifetime.

In December, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said those who had chosen not to get the Covid vaccine “don’t believe in science/progress and are very often misogynistic and racist.” Ironic, as he revealed himself to be a bigot in the next breath, suggesting these Canadians should not be “tolerated.”

In January, as the truckers and their supporters braved the Canadian winter, risking their livelihoods to show the world we were not all hateful curmudgeons, hell-bent on a virtual reality, Trudeau accused the convoy of “stealing food from the homeless” and of championing “hate, abuse, and racism.”

Did those now pleading for “amnesty” speak out against these lies? Or is it just now, that we’ve all been forced to acknowledge these “hateful conspiracy theorists” were right, that they want to pretend it all away?

I don’t trust people who are comfortable with cognitive dissonance. I don’t trust people who are willing to turn in their neighbour, shun family and friends, take away the rights of all citizens, and freeze people’s fucking bank accounts because they don’t buy what the CBC is selling.

Oster claims “most errors were made by people who were working in earnest for the good of society.” She writes:

“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.”

I do not accept this rewriting of history. What happened was not in earnest. What happened was that inconvenient science was censored in favour of a political narrative. What happened was that the media and government spun a story they knew was untrue, to create a culture of fear and division and to support Big Pharma profit. Those in favour of Covid lockdowns and mandates ensured the “available information” was not available, and attempted to silence and censor anyone who even entertained alternative views (including Joe Rogan!) and science that did not support their cult-like narrative.

Oster complains that those “who got it right, for whatever reason, may want to gloat” and that “those who got it wrong, for whatever reason, may feel defensive and retrench into a position that doesn’t accord with the facts.” She complains that “All of this gloating and defensiveness continues to gobble up a lot of social energy and to drive the culture wars, especially on the internet.”

This is not about “gloating” — it is about attempting to ensure we avoid something like this happening again. It is about what we observed, in terms of the willingness of far too many of our fellow citizens to choose fear over truth and over standing up for what is right.

“Retrenching into a position that doesn’t accord with the facts” is dangerous, because it signals a willingness to choose ideology over truth — a willingness to lie to protect one’s ego or personal comfort. These kinds of people are why we are seeing kids’ bodies being mutilated and violent men being transferred into female prisons. Because being a progressive means pretending men can be women.

If you refuse to tell the truth because you don’t want to lose your status or tribe, you are not an innocent — you are part of the problem.

If you refuse to engage in critical thought because it might challenge your preferred truth, you are not someone I can trust.

If you are willing to engage in hate, to the point that you advocate for the death or persecution of those who disagree with your beliefs, you are dangerous.

This is not about “heated and unpleasant discussions.” This is about people’s lives and rights. This is about a wholly just fear of fascism, and about opposing actual bigotry — you know, the kind that engages in “prejudice against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group.”

Getting something wrong isn’t a moral failing, but these were not harmless mistakes. They demonstrated that we are dealing with immoral people — people who are willing to put ethics aside in order to engage in “culture wars” connected to law and policy. It’s not just a “culture war” when people are being fired from their jobs or jailed.

The saying, Oster notes, is that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. She worries that “dwelling on the mistakes of history can lead to a repetitive doom loop” and suggests we “acknowledge that we made complicated choices in the face of deep uncertainty, then try to work together to build back and move forward.”

If we were actually dealing with people who were being accountable for what they did and said during the pandemic, I might agree. But I have yet to see an apology from anyone who supported the mandates, who spread lies about the vaccines, who advocated for the removal of our constitutional rights, or who vilified those who pushed back.

I will not forget history, and I suggest the rest of you do everything in your power to ensure no one else forgets either.