Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
Hardly a week goes by without another Democrat mayor, San Fran’s Breed or D.C.’s Bowser, another Democrat member of Congress like Tlaib or Pelosi, or even Joe Biden, flouting their own mask mandates in public. There’s also no great reason to believe that they’re abiding by their own vaccine mandates. Not after it was revealed that Governor Newsom, fresh from his French Laundry scandal, hadn’t vaccinated his daughter despite mandating vaccines for children her age. But the more rules there are, the fewer of them apply to the rulers.
The two consistent themes of pandemic mismanagement have been the horrendous authoritarian overreaches, and the refusal of the elites to abide by their own rules.
Shortly after Fauci questioned whether Americans would be able to get together for Christmas, he announced that he would be getting together with his family for Christmas. That should surprise no one after Dr. Birx scolded Americans for making “mistakes” by getting together with family members over Thanksgiving and flew out to Delaware for a multi-generational celebration. But then again is there any expert, public health bureaucrat, or top official who has followed all of the rules and regulations to the letter?
Of course not.
As human beings we tend to overestimate our sense of responsibility and underestimate the responsible behavior of others. Other people drive badly, are rude, or don’t take proper precautions in the event of an accident. If only other people could be more like us.
When Mayor London Breed was caught partying maskless at a club, she attacked critics as the “fun police” even though she runs the fun police.
“Don’t feel as though you have to be micromanaged about mask wearing. Like, we don’t need the fun police to come in and try and micromanage and tell us what we should or shouldn’t be doing. We know what we need to do to protect ourselves,” she complained. “No one has been more conservative about protecting themselves than I have.”
People who complain that Breed isn’t following her own rules are the “fun police” while those who don’t follow her mask micromanagement are “dangerously irresponsible”. That’s because Breed, like most people, has very different standards for herself than she does for others.
That’s why the principle that no one is above the law breaks down so very easily. It’s also why a true constitutional understanding of civil rights minimizes the number of laws because every law is inherently abusive and the more laws a system has the more tyrannical it becomes.
Laws aimed at regulating the irresponsible behavior of a particular group tend to slide most naturally into abusive double standards because their underlying presumption is that the laws are only meant to apply to those other “bad people” rather than the “good people” like them.
Virtually every coronavirus pandemic regulation falls is about controlling the “irresponsible”.
Breed, Bowser, Newsom, and all the rest of the fun police believe that they are responsible people and we are not. It’s okay when they go to restaurants, nightclubs, and weddings maskless because they can be trusted to make those decisions and the rest of us can’t.
The only consistent thing about the pandemic lifestyle is that everyone, at some point, violates some of the written and unwritten rules. Some reject the rules altogether while others believe that, like Breed, they’re generally responsible people who should be able to have some fun.
And the rules were never meant for them.
That’s the unwritten excuse that Breed came closest to saying, but that every blue state mayor, governor, representative, and administrator really believes. It’s why they flout their own rules and why they’re so angry when ordinary people follow their example.
Worse still many COVID rules were not regulating their actual targets. Beaches were not shut down because there was any danger in lying in the sand, but to discourage people from leaving the house. Banning the unvaccinated from restaurants is less about the risk of contagion than a method of coercion and about treating people who are unvaccinated as inherently irresponsible.
Much like masks became a tribal marker of those who could and those who couldn’t be trusted, vaccination cards are being used to define who has elite privileges and who does not. This caste system has nothing to do with medicine and everything to do with defining those who are like us, whom we trust more, and those who are unlike us, whom we are prone to distrust.
It’s no different than African tribal warfare but with cultural and ideological markers. Masks and vaccine cards either signify a friendly member of the tribe or a disgusting enemy to be repelled.
The COVID regulatory state is about punishing a perceived untrustworthy class for the benefit of a trustworthy class, of enforcing compliance on one group while letting elites do what they like. The rules were never meant to apply to those who made them and when the elites violate the rules, it’s not an oversight, but goes to the heart of what’s wrong with the COVID regulations.
The mandates were not scientifically derived regulations meant to keep us all safe, but an expression of social mistrust between social and economic classes, between regions, races, and between elites and the public that reflected the deep tribal fractures that were already there.
Failed states are the way that they are because much of the population suspects, often rightly, that the authorities are running the system for their own benefit, for those of their family members, clans, tribes, and groups. Critical race theory dresses up this ancient tribalism in modern garb by using buzzwords like “systemic racism” which it promises to remedy with its own “systemic racism”. When the state is unable to command enough of the dominant tribe to purge the other tribes, it lingers as a dysfunctional anarchic tyranny where nothing gets done.
All efforts at reform devolve into tribal accusations of “systemic tribalism” with all of the viable alternatives consisting of the same corrupt system being misused to reward different tribes.
That’s the failed state future toward which the national elites of the Left are driving us.
Coronavirus tribalism and the flouting of pandemic regulations by those who make them is not an unforeseen tragedy, but a direct outcome of how the country is being run these days. Tribal systems can’t handle a pandemic or any other national problem except by dividing people into tribes and then running the system for the benefit of the favored tribe and especially its rulers.
Mistrust is the currency of authoritarian and tribal systems which all come with an innate social credit system. The leaders trust themselves the most, then they trust those who are most like them, and they trust everyone who is different than them to the degree of their difference.
The COVID regulatory state embodies this system of trust and mistrust using scientific terminology and Big Data to transform tribalism into policy. But these are not actually new questions. Behind the medical jargon and the appeals to expert authority are the same questions that every civilized society has grappled with and resolved in familiar ways.
Every society has a choice between trusting authority or trusting each other. The wider our circles of trust, the less government we need. When we trust governments more than each other, the abuses of government become the price we pay for a refusal to live with each other.