Snark vs. Thought

I just saw this headline on my MSN homepage: “Leader of NC protests has coronavirus.”

My first reaction upon reading this phrasing: So what?

My second reaction was to imagine what I would think if the headline were about me: “Anti-hysteria writer tests positive for coronavirus.” 

My hypothetical response to that second, imaginary headline was the same: So what?

In other words, what is the story here? Obviously, it is being presented as snark, a “told you so” moment for the amusement of moral hyperventilators: “I guess you can’t wish away a pandemic, huh?”

But was this North Carolina protester trying to wish away anything? I decided to do what the majority of headline readers do not, namely read the article to find out what the protester in question is saying.

I found this at the top of the article, from Newsweek:

A leader of a Facebook group demanding that North Carolina allow businesses to reopen amid the Covid-19 pandemic has tested positive for coronavirus but is still insisting that Governor Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order be rescinded, saying it violates her right to freedom of religion.

So there you have it. This crazy protester lady, in spite of actually contracting the dreaded Pandemic that Ate a Planet herself, is “still insisting” that her state’s stay-at-home order is unconstitutional. 

And the story is…? The story, I suppose, is that a woman in modern Concentration Camp America still has the gall to care about a little thing like her constitutional rights, even to the point of placing those rights — her liberty, her soul, her faith, her life — above the cowardly and nihilistic imperative to material self-protection that is the exclusive motivation of most of her contemporaries. 

Contrary to her implicit critics and hecklers in the media and polity, this woman, through her protest, was not saying coronavirus doesn’t exist, nor that she herself could never get it. She was saying that there are principles and priorities that stand above such narrow, earthly concerns as hiding in the corner hoping that Daddy Government will make you live forever, if only you give him the tyrannical authority to do so. 

And if that was her belief before she contracted the virus, why wouldn’t it be her belief after contracting it? There are still, apparently, a dozen or so Americans who understand that a moral or political principle that can be reduced to dust by the first hint of personal risk is not a principle at all. 

I also see in the article, however, that this woman may have tested positive for the virus, though being asymptomatic, before she attended the protest rally, implying that she may have been under an official quarantine at the time. If it is true that by attending that public event she was in direct violation of a medical quarantine — as opposed to the irrational universal lockdown afflicting everyone in her state — then she may have some explaining to do. She is described, after all, as the leader of a protest group, and my general views on groups and group action are neither sympathetic nor ambivalent.

Nevertheless, whatever the ultimate facts of the case turn out to be, I wish this woman good health, if for no other reason than that she has provided a nice opportunity to remind those in the global majority today, who routinely confuse snark with argument and petty self-interest with a moral position, that fear is not a principle; rather, fear is the greatest threat to principle.

Headline: “Person who is sick continues to believe that people getting sick is no justification for instituting a police state in her community.”

So what?

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