More Notes from the End (Updated with more End!)
U.S. Senate majority leader and Trump puppet-master Mitch McConnell, speaking about the senate vote on Congress’s “emergency relief package” for coronavirus:
“My counsel to them is to gag and vote for it,” he said.
“We’re able to rise above our normal partisanship and many times our normal positions because these are not ordinary times. This is not an ordinary time,” he said.
He’s right. This is not an ordinary time. It is a time of panic and hyperbole and confusion and uninformed decisions and the fear-driven mass overlooking of all principles of liberty and self-determination.
Gag and vote for it is perfect advice for the time. One’s “normal positions” — i.e., public pretenses — should certainly go out the window with great haste when there is such a wonderful opportunity to exploit irrational fear in the name of yet another expansion of government power.
If McConnell were a Democrat, and the “crisis” were a mass shooting, conservatives would be arguing that it is precisely the purpose of constitutional republicanism to put the brakes on such precipitous emotional lunges in the direction of tyranny, and to allow reasoned judgment time to reconsider rash responses. Luckily for the cause of global tyranny, McConnell is not a Democrat, and he is aligned with the One True God, Donald Trump, which means there is no faction left either in the United States Government or among that government’s compliant subjects to demand deliberation and moderation.
New York mayor Bill de Blasio has been out of the box early on the American craving for totalitarian government as the preferred solution for the coronavirus outbreak. One of his decisions was to go to the YMCA for a workout at the same time he was telling New Yorkers not to dare going to a gym, a bar, or any other public gathering place.
When challenged on his apparent hypocrisy, de Blasio set the record straight in the most honest manner possible:
“I did not think for a moment there was anything problematic because I knew the dynamics,” he said. “And again, I have to stay healthy so I can make the decisions for the people of this city.”
You see? He has to stay healthy — whereas presumably you don’t — so he can make the decisions for the people of New York.
It’s all quite straightforward, actually. The logical model for this form of argument was set down seventy-five years ago:
The mystery of where the milk went to was soon cleared up. It was mixed every day into the pigs’ mash. The early apples were now ripening, and the grass of the orchard was littered with windfalls. The animals had assumed as a matter of course that these would be shared out equally; one day, however, the order went forth that all the windfalls were to be collected and brought to the harness-room for the use of the pigs. At this some of the other animals murmured, but it was no use. All the pigs were in full agreement on this point, even Snowball and Napoleon. Squealer was sent to make the necessary explanations to the others.
“Comrades!” he cried. “You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples (this has been proved by Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organisation of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for YOUR sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples. Do you know what would happen if we pigs failed in our duty? Jones would come back! Yes, Jones would come back! Surely, comrades,” cried Squealer almost pleadingly, skipping from side to side and whisking his tail, “surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones come back?”
— George Orwell, Animal Farm, Chapter III
I just saw this New York Times headline: “Deaths in U.S. surpass 100 as virus reaches all states.”
From the irrational and panic-stricken, that headline elicits — and is intended to elicit — breathless rounds of “Oh my god!”
From me, it elicits two responses:
First, one hundred deaths from a bad flu virus, in a nation of three hundred and fifty million people? That sounds too good to be true. If any other flu virus claimed only a hundred American lives, it would be cause for hallelujahs in the medical world. But with this virus, which is being exploited as the greatest ratings and clicks boost of the media’s year, that tiny number (by flu standards) is being presented as a harbinger of Doomsday. Of course more will die of this. But having established the public perception that ten was a huge national tragedy, and one hundred an emergency of world war standards, every new death — and especially every new zero on the end of the number — will create an emotional impression of unprecedented catastrophe. The kind of catastrophe that causes a morally weakened and dependent people cry out for even more government controls.
Second, the virus has reached all fifty states. That means the fantasy of stopping this from “getting around” is officially over. Trump can talk about his “hot spots” all he wants. He and the state governors can trip over one another competing for the glory of being first to declare a police state in each and every region of the country. This is all fantasy and imaginary “managing” at this point. Except, of course, for the imposition of tyrannical restrictions on individual freedom — that’s no fantasy, and the precedents being established here will be cited and used again and again, ever more ferociously, in the years to come.
On that last point: Right now, people are being suckered into thinking these draconian measures are necessary and benevolent, because they are being prodded into irrationality by fear. Down the road, this outbreak will likely look a lot less dire than it looks in the media today. That’s a danger in itself, because it means the next time there is an alleged (or real) public crisis, the perceived threshold for imposing extreme violations of individual rights will be very low, as today’s precedent-setting “crisis” will, at that future time, look far less severe in hindsight than it seems today. In other words, tyranny will look like little more than a common sense solution at that time.