Needless to say, we did not heed any of this advice in March of 2020. We instead forged ahead with lockdowns, masks, social distancing, and the rest. When faced with covid, we rejected time-tested principles of public health and embraced instead the untested biosecurity model. We are now living in the aftermath of this choice.
There is a broader legal context for these extra-legal developments in mass surveillance of civilian populations. Since the war on terror began, Western nations have legislatively scaled up their increasingly intrusive networks of mass surveillance (often referred to with the euphemism “bulk collection”).
These new digital surveillance and control mechanisms will be no less oppressive for being virtual rather than physical. Contact tracing apps, for example, have proliferated with at least 120 different apps in used in 71 different states, and 60 other digital contact-tracing measures have been used across 38 countries. There is currently no evidence that contact tracing apps or other methods of digital surveillance have helped to slow the spread of covid; but as with so many of our pandemic policies, this does not seem to have deterred their use.
Participation in the ritual, which lacks pragmatic advantages and requires sacrifice, demonstrates that the collective is higher than the individual. For this portion of the population, it doesn’t matter whether the measures are absurd. Think of walking into a restaurant with a mask on, and removing it as soon as one sits down, for example.
Our ruling class saw in Covid an opportunity to radically revolutionize society: recall how the phrase “the new normal” emerged almost immediately in the first weeks of the pandemic. In the first month Anthony Fauci made the absurd suggestion that perhaps never again would we go back to shaking hands. Never again?
How and why was the bulwark of 20th-century medical ethics abandoned so quickly, and with so little opposition from the medical and scientific establishment? What were the immediate effects? What will be the long-term, consequences of the shift back to a crass utilitarian ethic governing science, medicine, and public health during a pandemic?
Some old friends have disappointed while others have surprised me—including some new friends I had not previously known while at the University. Recently, a professor of English at UCLA sent this unsolicited letter to the UCI Chancellor. I am publishing his extraordinary letter here with his permission.
Along with fellow scholars at the Ethics and Public Policy Center I sent a letter today to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, urging him to immediately revoke his declaration that a Covid-19 public health emergency exists. The current emergency declaration, which was renewed for the 8th time on January 16, is set to expire next month.
The hour is later than we think; twilight is near. Continued compliance with manifestly unjust and often absurd mandates will not return us to a normal functioning society. Every good-faith or selfless act of compliance on the part of citizens has only resulted in more illogical pandemic “countermeasures” that further erode our civil liberties, harm our overall health, and undermine human flourishing.
In violation of every basic principle of just and fair employment, the University tried to prevent me from doing any outside professional activities while I was on unpaid suspension. In an effort to pressure me to resign, they wanted to restrict my ability to earn an income not only at the University but outside the University as well. It was dizzying and at times surreal.