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pandemic management

Nothing Like This Ever Happened Before


In a statement accompanying a recent US Supreme Court Decision, Justice Neil Gorsuch addressed the frail relationship between politics and the law concerning pandemic management:

A leader or an expert who claims he can fix everything, if only we do exactly as he says, can prove an irresistible force. We do not need to confront a bayonet, we need only a nudge, before we willingly abandon the nicety of requiring laws to be adopted by our legislative representatives and accept rule by decree. Along the way, we will accede to the loss of many cherished civil liberties—the right to worship freely, to debate public policy without censorship, to gather with friends and family, or simply to leave our homes. 

Through 2020-21, ruling by edict did not happen only in US but all around the world. “If emergency decrees promise to solve some problems, they threaten to generate others,” Justice Gorsuch alerts.

Although now new through history, that frailty has been recently reinvented as a deafening spectacle whose lies scenes became “true” and transform polity (and society) by endless echoes engineered through social media. This shock-and-deceit process shows recurring features, summarized by Thomas Harrington’s in The Treason of the Experts (Contrived Spectacles of Protecting and Caring for the People, p. 35 ff. ) as follows: 

  1. The very early and constant repetition in the media that the attack was an absolutely “unprecedented” phenomenon in the history of the country, and quite possibly in the world. 
  2. The constant repetition in the media, from the first moment following the attacks, that this day would “change everything”. 
  3. TINA or “There is no alternative.”
  4. Create a body of television commentators who, with very slight variations in style, political affiliation and policy proposals, subscribe to all the basic assumptions mentioned above. 
  5. To create, with the full indulgence of the big media, a regime of public punishment for those who were opposed to the prescriptions of the small group of experts mentioned above. 
  6. The seamless and non-sensical substitution of one supposedly important “reality” for another. 
  7. The invention and repeated deployment of ‘floating” or “empty” signifiers —emotionally evocative terms presented without the contextual armature needed to imbue them with any stable and unequivocal semantic value — designed to spread and sustain panic in society. 

In this way, alternative pandemic management approaches were banned, and so was scientific advice and statistical evidence going against the overflowed propagandaTruth.

Both Justice Gorsuch and professor Harrington concur on a couple of lessons from what happened: 

Fear and the desire for safety are powerful forces. They can lead to a clamor for action —almost any action— as long as someone does something to address a perceived threat. 

But maybe we have learned another lesson too. The concentration of power in the hands of so few may be efficient and sometimes popular. But it does not tend toward sound government. 

“The number of declared emergencies has only grown in the ensuing years”, reminds Justice Gorsuch. ‘The few in charge keep claiming ‘unexpected threats’ and ‘unprecedented times’ from weather change to viral spreads. 

And rule by indefinite emergency edict risks leaving all of us with a shell of a democracy and civil liberties just as hollow.

Republished from the author’s Substack

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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