The Atlantic magazine featured an article earlier this week authored by Emily Oster, an economist and professor at Brown University. Oster looks back over the many grievous wrongs that were committed in the name of “public health” during the COVID-19 pandemic and invites us all to “declare a pandemic amnesty.”
I think not.
There should be no “amnesty” for those who held positions of power — people like Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, or the mayors and governors who locked down entire cities and states, or the CEOs who demanded that all their employees take experimental shots or lose their jobs. They have made no request for forgiveness. Whether they ultimately do so or not, the only proper response is to see to it that their hands never touch the reins of power again.
But Oster isn’t speaking as a power broker; she’s just an average American who was wearing masks outside as her 4-year-old son shouted “SOCIAL DISTANCING!” to another child who got “too close” when they were hiking. She’s asking for blanket amnesty for the millions of Americans like her.
She acknowledges — now — that COVID-19 was not going to be transmitted outdoors. She admits that cloth masks do nothing. She concedes that “schools were closed for too long,” and that American children have suffered monumental academic setbacks as a result. But it’s not as if getting these things wrongs was a “moral failing.” “The thing is,” she concludes, “we didn’t know.”
Oh, but you did know. We told you. You didn’t listen.
This willful deafness was not limited to the efficacy of masks. You didn’t listen when we raised serious questions about the origin of COVID-19. It turns out our government was funding “gain of function” research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and our State Department warned against inadequate safety protocols. Fauci lied about this to Congress. Is he going to prison?
You didn’t listen when people insisted that lockdowns would have little to no effect on transmission of the virus but would be devastating economically.
You didn’t listen when experts and parents warned that closing schools would harm an entire generation of schoolchildren, setting them back academically, socially and psychologically.
You didn’t listen when rational people stated that it made no sense to ban concerts, going to the beach or patronizing businesses but allow crowded public protests and riots.
You didn’t listen when physicians and other health professionals began to call into question the efficacy — and even safety — of the “vaccines.” You didn’t listen when young men who were boosted and vaccinated started developing myocarditis and pericarditis and dropping dead of unexplained “heart attacks.”
In her call for amnesty, Oster wants to leave aside those who were “willful purveyors” of false information and concentrate on the well-meaning but ill-informed. This glosses over both the source of the problem and its exacerbation.
From the very beginning, the information given to the public about COVID-19 was permeated with lies. But there were those who saw the deception immediately. They were actively looking for the truth. And when they found it or tried to disseminate it, they were called “kooks” and “conspiracy theorists” for their trouble. And the Americans on whose behalf Oster demands amnesty were the shock troops hollering that anyone asking legitimate questions or presenting actual facts be silenced, censored, doxxed, fired, canceled. These ignorant, ill-informed, manipulated mobs were a critical part of the effort not only to drive a false narrative but also to create a groundswell of opposition to finding the truth.
Yes, the government and social media played a huge role. But even their duplicity and oppressive practices could never have been as successful as they were had it not been for the millions of Americans carrying their water and demanding other citizens’ heads on a platter.
What happened with COVID-19 is inexcusable. But this same behavior that Emily Oster now wants us all to dismiss is playing out in every single other scientific inquiry that has become politicized: the impact of human behavior on the environment, the phenomenon of gender dysphoria, the nutritional value of genetically modified foods, the capabilities of the developing child in the womb, and much more.
So the answer to Professor Oster’s request is “no.” Not because those of us who were right want to “gloat” or “keep score.” But because if those of us who were demanding free speech, serious scientific inquiry and truth dismiss the past three years by saying, “Aw — they meant well,” they’ll be back next time — and there will be a next time — just as ignorant, haughty, shrill and authoritarian as ever.
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