Covid Wrecks Authority (2021 Nov)

by Barry A. Liebling

The Covid pandemic that hit the United States hard in 2020 is mostly a terrible tragedy. However, the ways many government agents have foolishly responded has had a positive effect. It has convinced some citizens (but not enough) to be skeptical of authority. The more state officials are shown to be wrong or powerless or power-hungry, the more people realize that they should not trust government edicts to guide their decisions.

Consider some well-known examples.

Early in the pandemic a famous, high-ranking federal bureaucrat urged citizens to avoid wearing masks. He proclaimed that masks were not effective in protecting people from Covid. Within a few weeks the bureaucrat turned on a dime and insisted that masks should be worn by everyone to prevent the spread of the dreaded disease. When questioned about his changing advice he said he wanted to prevent mask shortages among healthcare workers, so he discouraged civilians from obtaining them. Once there were enough masks for everyone he gave the green light to ordinary people.

What does this reveal? It is a clear case of lying where the “justification” is that it will serve the “greater good.” To an outside observer the implication is that you cannot rely on this person’s statements. His intention is to control you – and veracity is not on his agenda.

This same federal official later said it would be a good idea for Americans to wear two masks instead of one. His rationale for the directive (according to his supporters, which are many) is that people who are reluctant to use masks might compromise – meet in the middle and wear one – if the official advice is to smother yourself with two. Again, this is a transparent demonstration of attempted manipulation where the truth about health and safety is not respected.

In New York City, where I live, the official rule as of this writing is that upon entering a restaurant you have to show proof of vaccination. Customers without documentation are not permitted to dine indoors. The approved etiquette is to wear your mask when walking into the restaurant, then remove it when you are seated, eating, talking, and laughing for the duration of the meal. As you leave the dining area you put the mask back on, which you can remove once you are outside.

How can it be safe to consume an entire meal at a dining table without a face covering, but dangerous to enter and exit the establishment maskless?

Every week there are multiple examples of federal, state, and local government officials insisting that citizens wear masks in all public venues. Then these same powerful scolds break their own rules as they celebrate and live it up with their elite friends and do not cover their own faces. Again, the clear message is that the big shots who are haranguing their low-status subjects do not believe what they are saying. And the take-away is that they are not a reliable source of information about what to do in the world of Covid.

Americans are responding to officials’ bad behavior in various ways. Many are playing along with the ruling class directives and are self-righteous as they comply. Instead of thinking through the issues themselves, these conformists surrender their judgment and do what they are told. Their mindset is similar to that of those who play childrens’ games such as Simon Says or Mother May I. The objective is to obey literally, quickly, and without question the instructions of Simon or Mother. Do this a lot and you learn to be a robot. And Also

Of course a lot of citizens are repelled by the hypocrisy and power-lust that is displayed by high ranking officials. Unfortunately, many react inappropriately and become anti-conformists. If the big shots say wear a mask, I will do the opposite. If they demand that I document my vaccination status, I will refuse to do so. The error is that automatically doing the reverse of what the bosses are demanding puts the anti-conformist in the same category as the compliant puppet. To reflexively defy everything is just another way of avoiding thoughtfulness and good judgement. The anti-conformist is not free.

The correct response to government malfeasance is to recognize it as proof that the officials are untrustworthy, that there is no justification for giving weight to their opinions. The implication is that thoughtful citizens have to do their own homework in sorting out policies that make sense from those that are patently foolish. In deciding what to do the “expertise” of those who have been caught lying should count zero. Notice that in the fable The Boy Who Cried Wolf the conclusion is not that what the boy claims is false (there really was a wolf at the end). Instead the lesson is that whatever the boy says is worthless.

As of this writing the Covid pandemic remains a terrible tragedy. But many Americans are recognizing the corrupt behavior of government authorities. This could lead to more citizens thinking for themselves and exercising good, independent judgment.

*** See other entries at in “Monthly Columns.” ***

Comments are closed.