Analysis: The new authoritarians exploit panic, shut down voices of reason

by WorldTribune Staff, April 15, 2020

In Philadelphia, cops dragged a passenger off a bus for not wearing a face mask.

In Brighton, Colorado, cops handcuffed a father in front of his family for playing T-ball with his daughter in an empty park.

Police in Philadelphia pull a man off a bus for not wearing a face mask.

Three Massachusetts men were arrested, and face the possibility of 90 days in jail, for crossing into Rhode Island to play golf.

Is authoritarianism getting out of hand amid the coronavirus crisis?

While banning large, avoidable gatherings “makes sense,” it is “an astonishing abuse of power to issue stay-at-home orders, enforced by criminal law, empowering police to harass and fine individuals for nothing more than taking a walk,” David Harsanyi noted in an April 13 analysis for National Review.

“There is no reason to close ‘public’ parks, where Americans can maintain social distance while getting some air or space for their mental and physical well-being — or maybe see a grandchild from afar,” Harsanyi wrote. “In California, surfers, who stay far away from each other, are banned from going in the water. Elsewhere, hikers are banned from roaming the millions of acres in national parks. Millions of lower-income and urban-dwelling Americans don’t have the luxury of backyards, and there is absolutely no reason to inhibit their movement, either.”

Two days before Easter, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer “attempted to unilaterally ban drive-in church services for the most holy day in Christianity,” Harsanyi noted. “It’s one thing if people are purposely and openly undermining public health. The constitutional right to assemble peacefully and protest or practice your religion, however, is not inoperable in presence of a viral pandemic.”

Harsanyi continued: “Under what imperious conception of governance does Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer believe it is within her power to unilaterally ban garden stores from selling fruit or vegetable plants and seeds? What business is it of Vermont or Howard County, Indiana, to dictate that Walmart, Costco, or Target stop selling ‘non-essential’ items, such as electronics or clothing? Vermont has 628 cases of coronavirus as of this writing. Is that the magic number authorizing the governor to ban people from buying seeds for their gardens?”

“The question of how many lives would be lost if we didn’t shut down economy is a vital one, but it is not the only one,” Harsanyi wrote. “There is an array of factors that goes into these decisions. One of them should be preserving our laws and our freedom in times of crisis.”

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian wrote for Axios that “Citywide quarantines, travel restrictions and obsessive public health checks aren’t authoritarian. They’re the kind of total mobilization that happens during major national crises such as war, regardless of the system of government.”

Harsanyi noted that “This position, often repeated, is utter nonsense. For one thing, we aren’t at ‘war.’ There are no coronavirus spies and no coronavirus sabotage. Affixing ‘war’ to societal problems — the war on drugs being the most obvious example — is typically a justification for expanding state power. Also, authoritarianism isn’t defined as ‘strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom except when there is a pandemic.’ Your declarative sentences and forceful feelings do not transform the meaning of either authoritarianism or freedom. Though if we dump our principles every time there’s a crisis, they might as well.”

Writing for American Greatness on April 14, Angelo Codevilla cited an April 8 press conference during which Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was asked about his agency’s guidance for classifying the relationship of COVID-19 infections to deaths, specifically: “In cases where a definite diagnosis of COVID-19 cannot be made, but it is suspected or likely (e.g., the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), it is acceptable to report COVID-19 on a death certificate as ‘probable’ or ‘presumed.’ ”

The question proceeded from the fact that, as the number of deaths attributed to the Chinese coronavirus has risen, the number of deaths normally attributed to causes such as influenza, pneumonia, heart failure and complications from diabetes has declined significantly. Fauci was asked to explain why. Since the vast majority of serious COVID-19 cases occur in people with precisely such conditions, is it not possible that the high count of COVID-19 deaths is in part an artifact of CDC’s guidance?

Fauci dismissed the question and the questioner’s right to ask it, saying: “You will always have conspiracy theories when you have very challenging public health crises. They are nothing but distractions.”

Codevilla wrote: “Leave aside that Fauci and other unelected persons have no authority to decree anything; that, at most, they speak for the president of the United States. For anyone to dismiss legitimate questions and questioners, thereby claiming a right to rule in defiance of reason, is to negate nature as our civilization understands it — especially in America.”

“The integrity of the numbers regarding infections and deaths is of the highest importance because these numbers are the basis on which Fauci, followed by model makers, followed by politicians, have estimated COVID-19’s lethality. And that estimate is the basis on which the state of emergency has been imposed, which is revolutionizing millions of lives. Besides, these estimates are diverging from reality ever farther with each passing day,” Codevilla noted.

The practical meaning of “all men are created equal,” Codevilla wrote, “is that no one may rule anyone else without his consent. And the consent of equals must be obtained by persuasion. To impose strictures on someone else while dismissing reasonable questions as to the basis for them is no trivial offense. It is an offense against our regime quite as much as it is on the individuals being treated as beings so inferior as to be placed beyond reason’s reach.”

Just as galling, Codevilla noted, “is the coalescence of America’s ruling Left in demanding that the country remain shut down indefinitely, pending their own decision to release some restrictions conditioned on obeisance to their prescriptions for new ways of life. Fauci himself has said that he would allow those who can be certified to have recovered from a COVID-19 infection to return to work — subject to twice-daily temperature checks. Who gave him the right to so order?”

Codevilla concluded: “The most consequential of the consequences of all this is precisely the dismissal of argument. Who are we, the presumably non-expert to question the experts? Reasonably, the question should be turned around: Who are you to presume to rule over me? Who gave you such authority? I did not.”

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