Pandemics and Freedoms
Most Koreans are currently furious with that proportion of the Christian minority which, having been vilified and demonized by the Moon Jae-in government for months due to their desire to pray together in spite of COVID-19, has taken to holding public demonstrations in Seoul and elsewhere in protest of the government’s restrictions on church gatherings.
The government, in response to these conscientious objectors, has escalated its rhetoric campaign against them, actively rallying the population to an anger bordering on genuine hatred — even crossing that border, in truth — towards Christians, and singling them out, including by name and location, as all but intentional “spreaders” of the virus.
I think of “Goldstein,” the imaginary enemy of the state in Nineteen-Eighty-Four, and the purpose of the government-mandated “two minutes hate” as a repository and deflector of blame.
The position of the Moon government, like its counterparts throughout the world at the moment — Sweden excepted — is that all dissenting views on the pandemic and on the “appropriate” public response are to be regarded as misinformation, and publicly dangerous misinformation at that, which must therefore be quelled or outright banned from the public square. This is no time for freedom of speech or association, say the states of the world (not to say the World State), but rather a time for compliance.
Here is the dilemma, however: If a time of social upheaval and intensified government restrictions on community life is a time in which dissenting speech and (peaceful) anti-governmental gatherings are intolerable and may therefore be restricted, then there is no freedom of speech or association. For a society does not need to protect speech for discussions of dinner menus and sports outcomes, but for discussions of government policy and for questioning the majority view on current issues. And a society does not need freedom of association for singing patriotic songs together, but for camaraderie during a crisis of faith in temporal power.
Yes, public health risks may be a mitigating factor in this matter. And if this pandemic looked anything like the sort of the public health catastrophe that bubonic plague is — or that the mainstream progressive media is desperately trying to persuade you COVID-19 is — then I would have sympathy with the “exceptions” argument. It absolutely and verifiably does not, and therefore I do not.