Archive for roger kimball

Is The Cure Killing Us?

Posted in uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2021 by andelino

In two lightning-quick weeks in March, America went from caution to hysteria to lockdown. You’d have thought people were dropping dead in the streets by the millions.

Not so. Out of the 7.8 billion people on Earth, only a few thousand had actually died from the Wuhan virus. Yet America tilted into full-scale panic. Granted, this particular coronavirus seems especially contagious, and it poses significant risk for people with chronic health problems. Initial expert projections about death rates were shockingly high, some of them in the scores of millions.

However, while politicians, the press and public fixated on infection rates and death counts, evidence that the virus’s lethality was far lower than originally believed was ignored. When prominent authorities backed away from their worst-case scenarios, it went virtually unreported. America was too busy executing the strictest response to a disease ever recorded.

Each day brought new and more heavy-handed restrictions and wilder interventions: Sports leagues, suspended. Flights, grounded. Schools, closed. Public gatherings, dispersed. Nonessential shopping, banned. Leaving home, illegal. Trillions of dollars, spent. Government emergency plans were more draconian than perhaps any modern peacetime measures, and more expensive than anything in history.

These measures will no doubt save lives that would have been cut short by this virus. But they are also coming at incalculable cost—to our economies, our livelihoods, our civil liberties and freedoms, our social cohesion, even mental and physical health. In many ways it appears the ramifications of the reaction to the coronavirus will dwarf and far outlive the virus itself.

When people panic, they tend to do unreasonable things. To whatever degree this happened on a national and a global scale with this pandemic, it is important we understand why this danger is potentially so much more serious than the physical threat of a contagious virus.

These past few months have showcased a wild range of behavior. It started with whatever wrong practices produced this disease in human beings. It continued with the disease spreading due to ignoring biblical laws of health, sanitation, hygiene and quarantine. It continued with the cover-up by China’s police state government, which worked harder to stop the spread of news about the virus than to stop the virus itself.

Once the virus spread beyond China, we saw the World Health Organization (WHO), an agency of the United Nations, provide cover for the Communist Chinese government. The WHO director general downplayed the disease’s seriousness in January and said China’s government had done an outstanding job of containing the virus.

Following the impeachment trial of United States President Donald Trump in February, we saw his enemies in the media pivot immediately to propagating coronavirus panic. An army of medical experts rushed to the spotlight, equipped with incomplete data, wild speculation and frightening comparisons. Millions were about to die, they said. At the breathless demands of medical and media experts, governments hastily began closing entire economies. Citizens’ rights evaporated. One after another, like dominoes, whole nations went into shutdown.

Panic ensued, not just because of the disease, but also because of government overreach. Hoarders and profiteers cleared supermarket shelves and loaded their pantries and closets with cleaning supplies and toilet rolls. Everyone, it seemed, exploited the crisis. Those who didn’t seemed content to follow the confused and disoriented herd off the cliff.

Buried deep beneath this mass hysteria, sensational and politicized reporting, authoritarian overreach, and audacious assault on liberty was the first casualty of this contagion: “the truth.”

Communist Cover-up. In mid-December 2019, the Chinese city of Wuhan began witnessing an uptick in pneumonia cases. Local doctors realized they were dealing with a new disease and began to sound the alarm. They were quickly silenced by the Chinese government. By month’s end, after a weeks-long outbreak, China finally alerted the WHO that it was dealing with an unknown contagious disease. During those crucial weeks, 5 million people had traveled through Wuhan. On January 15, the first case arrived in the U.S.

On January 23, with the disease already far beyond its borders, China’s regime decided to lock down Wuhan. It enforced the quarantine just as you’d expect an authoritarian government to: Police drones watched foot traffic and blared commands at people not wearing face masks. The government started tracking smart phones to monitor individuals who may have been exposed to the virus. Those who’d been exposed couldn’t simply isolate themselves: “Video footage revealed police dragging people from their homes to put them into quarantine camps.”

The WHO director general downplayed the disease’s seriousness in January and said China’s government had done an outstanding job of containing the virus.

Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization, (L) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, on January 28, 2020 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Naohiko Hatta – Pool/Getty Images)

On January 30, WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a Marxist from Ethiopia with no medical experience but a noticeable loyalty to China, declared a public health emergency. He tweeted, “In many ways, China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response. Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems.”

The next day, President Trump took the first serious action to stop the spread of the contagion by restricting travel into the U.S. from China. One doctor quoted in the New York Times called this decision “more of an emotional or political reaction.” Presidential candidate Joe Biden later said it was hysterical and accused President Trump of “xenophobia and fear-mongering.” Other detractors called the president a racist. Even the WHO director general criticized the travel ban. On February 4, he said, “Such restrictions can have the effect of increasing fear and stigma, with little public health benefit.”

Meanwhile, mainstream media showed no interest in covid-19. On February 1, Washington Post ran this headline: “Get a Grip, America. The Flu Is a Much Bigger Threat Than Coronavirus, for Now.” USA Today reassured us that “Coronavirus Is Scary, but the Flu Is Deadlier, More Widespread.” At that time, the talking heads were too busy trying to convict President Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress so they could remove him from office. On February 5, the Senate acquitted President Trump. The Democrat media complex immediately pivoted to the story it had ignored for weeks: “coronavirus.”

Weaponizing the Crisis. On February 12, the Dow Jones Industrial Average peaked at 29,551, its highest mark in history. It didn’t stay there for long. Around that time, covid-19 was spreading rapidly in Iran and southern Europe. To that point, President Trump had been the one Western leader who took measured action to actually contain the outbreak. But suddenly, pundits began saying he wasn’t doing enough.

At a campaign rally in South Carolina on February 28, President Trump accused Democrats and the major media of using the “epidemic” to try to destroy his presidency. “This is their new hoax,” he said. The radical left swiftly accused him of saying the virus itself was a hoax.

At the end of February, Spectator columnist Roger Kimball predicted, “No one knows exactly how far or how fast the coronavirus will spread. Nor does anyone yet know what its toll will be. But those predicting, at times, their eagerness makes it seem they are hoping for something as deadly as the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 (when some 50 million were killed) are likely to be disappointed.”

The day after his rally in South Carolina, President Trump called for calm. “We would respectfully ask the media and politicians not to do anything to incite a panic,” he said. “There’s no reason to panic at all. This is something that’s being handled professionally.” In Europe, many talking heads were panicking for other reasons. Medical experts were saying the disease was spreading so fast that Europe’s nationalized health-care systems would be overrun with sick patients. Something drastic needed to be done to “flatten the curve.”

A Perfect Storm. On March 3, WHO Director Tedros, who had praised China for containing the virus and criticized President Trump for the travel ban, made this shocking announcement: “Globally, about 3.4 percent of reported covid-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected.”

It turned out that Tedros was frightening the world with dishonest math. He based the death rate for influenza on the estimated number of people infected with the common flu each year. He based the alarming 3.4 percent figure on the number of known cases of coronavirus, those who actually test positive for the disease. The vast majority of those infected are never tested. Other experts issued even more-ominous death rate predictions, some as high as 4 and 5 percent.

To his credit, President Trump dismissed these terrifying predictions. He said on March 5 that the 3.4 death rate was a “false number” because of all the mild cases of coronavirus that are never reported to doctors. Regarding the actual death rate, President Trump said he believed the number would be “way under 1 percent.” For this, he was castigated as being ignorant and irresponsible. He doesn’t even believe the virus is real, said the radical left.

On March 9, America’s anti-Trump media had seen enough. CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta said, “Starting today, you will notice that CNN is using the term pandemic to describe the current coronavirus outbreak. It is not a decision we take lightly. While we know it sounds alarming, it should not cause panic,” which it immediately did. That day, the U.S. stock market plunged more than 2,000 points.

Why would CNN be ahead of the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in declaring covid-19 a pandemic? Because like so much of what CNN now does, its organizational aim is not to report news, but to make news, much of it to hurt the president.

Fox Business commentator Trish Regan noted this on her show the same day Gupta was inflaming coronavirus hysteria. She accused the radical left of “weaponizing” the health crisis against Donald Trump without regard to how much it might hurt the U.S. economy and ordinary Americans. This caused a storm of criticism, and by the end of the week, Fox News executives had suspended Regan, buckling under pressure from leftists who denounced the network for “downplaying” the crisis and covering up President Trump’s “mismanagement” of it. They later fired her.

The World Health Organization followed CNN’s lead on March 11, declaring covid-19 a “global” pandemic. President Trump responded by broadening the travel ban to include incoming flights from Europe. On March 13, he declared a national emergency. But the response measures, drastic as they were, had barely begun.

Junk Science. Together with the radical left, the Democrat media complex, the WHO and China’s Communist government, plenty of Western scientists and medical experts were available to create terrifying models, charts, graphs and reports to show that covid-19 was a catastrophe in the making. For the United States the most authoritative and influential team of experts came from “Imperial College” London. The New York Times wrote, “With ties to the World Health Organization and a team of 50 scientists, led by a prominent epidemiologist, Neil Ferguson, Imperial is treated as a sort of gold standard, its mathematical models feeding directly into government policies.”

What did the “gold standard” of scientific research uncover about covid-19 and its threat to society? According to the Imperial model, if we took no action to arrest the virus’s spread, 2.2 million in America would die of the Wuhan flu. “These kinds of numbers are deeply concerning for countries with top-drawer health-care systems,” wrote the Washington Post. “They are terrifying for less-developed countries, global health experts say.” In other words, if the U.S. lose 2.2 million people, think about what that means for the rest of the world.

Ferguson’s March 16 report began by saying the public health threat of covid-19 “is the most serious seen in a respiratory virus since the 1918 H1N1 influenza pandemic.” It said that if the U.S. employed more ambitious measures to mitigate the spread (case isolation, household quarantine, face masking and social distancing of the elderly), the death count could be reduced to 1.1 million in the U.S.

“Finally,” wrote the Post, “if the government quickly went all-out to suppress viral spread, aiming to reverse epidemic growth and reduce the case load to a low level, then the number of dead in the country could drop to below 20,000. To do this, the researchers said, we would have to enforce social distancing for the entire population, isolate all cases, demand quarantines of entire households where anyone is sick, and close all schools and universities.”

In other words, do what the Chinese did in Wuhan: “Lock it down.” China’s crackdown, remember, was praised by Tedros as a “new standard” in confronting outbreaks. And Western officials saw Ferguson’s team of epidemiologists as the “gold standard” of scientific research and theory. Not surprisingly, the Imperial team, with its “ties to the World Health Organization,” reached the same conclusion the WHO did.

Ferguson told the New York Times, “Based on our estimates and other teams’, there’s really no option but follow in China’s footsteps and suppress.” Follow Communist China’s lead, or millions and millions of people will drop dead.

And how long would Western governments need to impose a Communist-style lockdown? The “gold standard” recommended up to 18 months. Shutdowns, social distancing the entire population, quarantining the infirmed and their families, for a year and a half!

Covid-19 task forces in Washington accepted the catastrophic “Imperial” forecast without objection. As the New York Times opined, “It wasn’t so much the numbers themselves, frightening though they were, as who reported them: Imperial College London.” The “gold standard” had spoken: “Lockdown is our only option.”

The Rule of Experts. Before “Imperial” spoke, America favored promoting commonsense guidelines: “wash hands frequently, sneeze or cough into your folded arm, stay at home if you are sick, etc.” President Trump disinclined to use government agents to enforce more stringent guidelines. The virus might spread more rapidly without strict measures, he reasoned, but the vast majority of people survive and build up a greater “herd immunity,” which helps shield the public from disease in case it returns next season.

Over the weekend of March 14-15, the Trump administrations were briefed on the “Imperial College” forecast. The sudden, profound impact this model had on America, and indeed the world, was disastrous.

The president’s own medical expert, director of the “National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases” Flip Flopping Anthony Fauci, took to the Sunday shows on March 15 and said, “If it looks like you’re overreacting, you’re probably doing the right thing.” Even if you are young and healthy, he said, you could be a “carrier” who might spread it unknowingly.

On March 16, President Trump’s covid-19 task force released its 15-day “stop the spread” campaign. During the briefing, the president emphasized the commonsense guidelines, but also admonished all Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and eliminate discretionary travel; he also asked the elderly and vulnerable to self-quarantine.

In a Trump briefing in Washington, Dr. Deborah Birx referred to models the coronavirus task force had been working on with “groups in the United Kingdom.” It was Ferguson’s forecast, the New York Times wrote, that “triggered a sudden shift” in America’s “comparatively relaxed response to the virus.” Thus, it was the “Imperial College” model, which was essentially based on the WHO model, which was essentially based on the Communist Chinese model, that “jarred” the U.S. into taking the actions that would fundamentally transform the U.S. in ways a contagious disease never could.

World War Flu. The week before the “Imperial” model was published, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte imposed a national quarantine on Italy. This followed earlier lockdowns in the regions of Lombardy and Lodi. On March 14, Spain and France closed their borders, shut down businesses, and chased people off the streets.

In the United States, the changeover was swift. On March 10, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that for most people, this disease “basically acts like a common cold or flu” and that the elderly and sickly were most vulnerable. He gave commonsense guidelines for city residents to remember to protect the elderly. But on the whole, New Yorkers are “pretty tough,” he said, adding, “We cannot shut down because of undue fear.” Just four days later, this same mayor said his staff was on “full crisis footing” and had entered a “wartime dynamic.”

Many state governors and city mayors followed a similar pattern. That same weekend, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered all bars and restaurants to close. He had to take this action because his chief medical adviser said the state already had 100,000 cases of covid-19 and that it would double every six days. Hospitals, he said, needed to prepare for inundation. Just days into the crisis, covid-19 was shutting down America in ways that the Second World War never did.

Media “sensationalism” played a significant role in stoking fear and panic. Columnist Peggy Noonan wrote, “‘Don’t Panic’ Is Rotten Advice,” on March 12, saying “Sometimes paranoia is just good sense.”

On March 14, the New York Times “reported” that as many as 214 million Americans could be infected, 21 million could require hospitalization and 1.7 million could die. This invisible killer would rampage for months, maybe more, and we would have to go to war to stop it.

“I think this could be a six-, seven-, eight-, nine-month affair, watching the trajectory of the virus,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on March 13. Coronavirus, said one Bloomberg headline, would change the way we shop, travel and work for years.

The Solution: Socialism. Is it a coincidence that these dire predictions have major political ramifications? Is it a coincidence that the solutions demanded by the press and the political left are massive socialistic interventions? Is it coincidence that disobeying covid-19 guidelines feels like the new racism, and that governments are encouraging people to report their neighbors for such “crimes” as taking a walk? Is the coronavirus reaction interrupting the radical leftist agenda, or is it part of it?

A reporter asked President Trump about the U.S.’s heavy-handed covid-19 countermeasures. He pointed at the medical experts. He said that a “few people” walked into his office and said, “We have to close up the country.” The president added that had he not taken these draconian steps, America would have been “unbelievably criticized.” He then made this remark: “Somehow the word got out that this is the thing we’re supposed to be doing.”

It’s never been done before, but somehow, this is what we’re all supposed to be doing. This is the new normal. This is World War Flu. We’re fighting for our survival, and we’ve all suddenly decided that a sort of public health totalitarianism is our only hope. Anyone who would dare question these wartime rules and regulations must immediately be silenced or branded as a heretic. Everyone must go along. It’s what we’re “supposed” to do.

The same week President Trump released his 15-day plan to stop the spread, the Department of Homeland Security began to distribute passes to broadcasters allowing them access to their facilities, to travel “during curfews and restricted travel periods,” during these uncertain times. Before 2002, Homeland Security didn’t even exist. Today, it has 240,000 employees and the power to decide which Americans are important enough to travel unmolested.

Then, the last week of March, Congress passed the $2.2 trillion “Cares Act,” the biggest spending bill in the history of human civilization. The act “cares” about ordinary Americans, and also “the Kennedy Center, the National Archives, NASA, the Forest Service, the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities, and the Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture and Arts Development,” all of which received generous coronavirus “relief.”

Kimberley Strassel wrote at the Wall Street Journal, “A rough calculation suggests the single biggest recipient of taxpayer dollars in this legislation, far in excess of $600 billion, is government itself.” As liberals often say, never let a crisis go to waste! Strassel wrote, “This legislation may prove the biggest one-day expansion of government power ever.” America’s “cure” for the crisis: “Broaden the power of the central government, expand the welfare state, and mortgage our future and the future of our children.”

Republican Rep. Thomas Massie made the mistake of clinging to some principle of constitutional representative government: “He demanded that all members of Congress be present for the vote on the $2.2 trillion bill, thus delaying the House vote.” He said legislators should be in some small way accountable for the largest expenditure in human history by at least signing their names to it.

Judging by the vitriolic reaction to Massie, you might have thought he was responsible for spreading covid-19. President Trump called Massie a “third-rate grand-stander” who only wanted “publicity.” Republicans called on Massie to lose his primary to another Republican challenger during the next election cycle. Former Secretary of State John Kerry said Massie needed to “be quarantined to prevent the spread of his massive stupidity.”

Massie became the least popular man in Washington for demanding a recorded tally for the vote, rather than the anonymous “voice vote” directed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and preferred by almost every other powerful member of Congress. Pelosi quickly assembled enough representatives in the chamber to overrule Massie, and the “voice vote” easily moved the bill through to the president’s desk.

Rep. Peter King of New York later said that if anyone in Congress got infected with the virus as a result of having to be present at the capitol to overrule Massie, Massie would have blood on his hands.

This is how it works during this “wartime dynamic.” Constitutional norms are suspended. Lockdowns are commonplace. Big government determines who’s essential. And obscenely huge bailouts meet with zero resistance in Congress. Anyone who would dare question these “wartime” rules and regulations must immediately be silenced or branded as a heretic. Everyone must go along. It’s what we’re “supposed” to do.

The Still-Elusive Death Rate. On March 21, Medium ran an article questioning many of the outlandish predictions for covid-19. To author Aaron Ginn, a Silicon Valley technologist with no background in medicine or infectious disease, the numbers didn’t add up. He said that as testing for the virus increased, the mortality rate would inevitably decline. And sure enough, the two nations that have tested for the disease the most, the United States and Germany, had mortality rates of 1.7 and 0.78 percent at the time of this writing. These rates were not as low as the seasonal flu, but nowhere near as high as Tedros predicted on March 3.

The death rate of 0.1 for seasonal flu is based on the estimated number of flu cases, not of patients who are actually tested. Since we don’t know the number of mild cases of covid-19 that go unreported, the actual death rate for the disease is probably much lower than 1 percent. This was the main point of Ginn’s post. Soon, Medium deleted it for violating Medium rules. As more information on the covid-19 crisis emerges, it is not Ginn who is being proved wrong, but the public health experts.

Another study in America received a lot of attention. It was headlined “U.S. Virus Deaths May Top 80,000 Despite Confinement.” With most of America now glued to the daily death tracker, this study was used to incite more fear and hysteria. The truth behind the headline, however, is that it represented another rapid retreat from the original projections of Spanish flu-like devastation. Eighty thousand deaths from coronavirus is not a repeat of the 1918 pandemic. It’s more comparable to the ferocious flu season of 2017–18, when 45 million Americans were infected, 810,000 were hospitalized and 61,000 died (0.14 death rate). That happened two years ago. “And no one cared.”

CNN’s Sanjay Gupta also reversed course on March 27: “The vast majority of people, even if you are elderly, aren’t going to need hospitalization. The vast majority are going to recover. The vast majority are not going to die.” Just one week before, Gupta said U.S. hospitals were unprepared for what was about to happen. And the week before that, when Gupta declared covid-19 a pandemic, he relied on case studies in China that said 5 percent of those infected became critically ill.

Even “Flip Flopping” Anthony Fauci, who had originally said covid-19 was “10 times more lethal” than the common flu, wrote in the March 26 New England Journal of Medicine: “If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1 percent. This suggests that the overall clinical consequences of covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza  or a pandemic influenza.”

After the Virus Dies. By the end of March, President Trump hinted at a possible end to the lockdown madness, sooner rather than later. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” he said on March 22.

Two days later, during a virtual town hall at Fox News, the president spoke about how contagious and deadly influenza can be, but America never closes down. “We can’t let this virus destroy our country,” he said. “We have to get back to work.” He suggested April 12 as a possible date for reopening the U.S. economy.

This statement alarmed the experts. Even as they were dramatically lowering their early death toll projections, America was still in grave danger. “Flip Flopping” Fauci rushed to the media, telling them America might lose 100,000 to 200,000 people even under a strict lockdown. The president again decided to comply with their counsel and extended the social-distancing guidelines through the end of April. “The experts, you see, are right, even when they get it spectacularly wrong.”

As for the left-wing media, they were committed to “sensationalizing” this crisis for as long as possible. The longer it lasts, the more it benefits their ratings and their political objectives. Though early polls suggested that a majority of Americans were pleased with how President Trump handled the crisis, the Democrat media complex knew that the only chance for success at the ballot box in November was if the coronavirus death toll keeps rising and the stock market and the economy keep dropping.

Whenever America finally does reopen for business, the president seems confident of a turnaround: “We will come back strong,” he said. And that might be true, at least for the short term.

But what will be the long-term cost of all these “cures”? Once the virus subsides, will governments roll back the socialist programs and release the authoritarian reins? Will the radical left ease off on their unrelenting, irrational and vicious attacks against the presidency and America’s founding principles? Will this be the end of sensational reporting and scaremongering? Will teams of experts return to the university and correct the mistakes that helped to incite a worldwide panic and economic meltdown?

We’ve seen large numbers of people whipping themselves into a frenzy before. The world has grown more and more radical, emotional and panicked, especially over the last few decades. But nothing has illustrated this quite like the reaction to covid-19.

We shut down the world, suspended our constitutional republic, ground economies to a halt, drove millions to joblessness, drained the stock market, spent more money than ever before, massively expanded and empowered government, and ballooned the size of the welfare state. In the end, will it prove to all be in hasty response to the equivalent of, as “Flip Flopping” Fauci said, “a bad flu season”?

None of this makes sense, unless you realize that it all traces back to one cause. I’m not talking about leftists in America or in other countries, I’m talking about the original source. That one source is Satan the devil.

Satan is a real, actual evil spirit being. He is active in the world. In fact, he has power to influence people, and he has successfully deceived the whole world. As Ephesians 2:2 says, the god of this world actually isn’t God the Father or Jesus Christ, it’s Satan! That’s what your Bible says. Isn’t that what you’re seeing on the news right now?

It is crucial to understand how Satan preys on out-of-control emotions! “Whenever people are fighting to survive and emotions are flying the devil is going to exploit that every time!”

Whether covid-19 has affected or will affect your health, your livelihood or your freedoms, you need to take note of what has just happened to the world. The immensely powerful and self-destructive reaction to a bad flu season illustrates the power of Satan to prey on emotions. He can wreak havoc worldwide. And he can do it in your life too.

The battle here is not just against a virus or confusion or misinformation or an agenda. For the world and for you individually, it’s against Satan. The world won’t see it until it’s too late, will you?

Self Censorship

Posted in uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 11, 2021 by andelino

While many Americans worry about ever-increasing censorship, those responsible for it have managed to amplify its effects by creating a climate of self-censorship.

Due to the psychological mechanisms of self-censorship, a single account blocked, a single video deleted, or a book banned can result in a broad chilling of speech. Important policy debates don’t occur, news story ideas aren’t pitched to editors, and books aren’t accepted for publishing, or written to begin with.

In some cases, it appears the censors employ the psychological tricks on purpose, achieving maximum suppression with minimal responsibility. These methods aren’t new—in fact, they have long been employed by “totalitarian regimes.”

 

The principle of “self-censorship” is that people, just to be on the safe side, refrain from saying even things that aren’t outright banned by some applicable rules.

An example is the effect of the Johnson Amendment, a law that prohibits tax-exempt nonprofits, including religious organizations, from endorsing or opposing political candidates.

Even though the law doesn’t prohibit discussion of political topics and stands virtually unenforced, opponents have long argued that pastors have avoided political topics in their sermons just to be sure they can’t be accused of running afoul of the law.

Here are a number of methods used to enhance self-censorship.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the world’s most notorious “censor of free speech”, has for decades used the method of making its policies intentionally “vague rules.” During its past political campaigns, for example, the central leadership would issue a decree that “rightists” and “counterrevolutionaries” were to be punished.

The next lower rung of Party officials wouldn’t be told what exactly makes one a “rightist” or a “counterrevolutionary” and perhaps not even what the punishment should be. No official, however, would want to be seen as too lenient—that would carry the risk of being labeled oneself.

As such, each successive level of bureaucracy would intensify its interpretation of the policy, leading to ever more extreme results. In some periods, the hysteria went far beyond self-censorship, as even refraining from political speech wasn’t enough.

“During the Cultural Revolution, people couldn’t buy food in canteens if they didn’t recite a quotation or make a greeting to Mao Zedong. When shopping, riding the bus, or even making a phone call, one had to recite one of Mao’s quotations, even if it was totally irrelevant. In these rituals of worship, people were either fanatical or cynical,” the “Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party” states.

In contemporary China, dissidents are often targeted for “subverting the state” or “spreading rumors.” The regime has proven that virtually any political statement can be subsumed under one of these charges.

The method appears to now be in play in contemporary America.

Amazon recently updated its policies to ban books that contain “hate speech,” without explaining what it considers as such. Since Amazon controls more than 80 percent of the book retail market, publishers are left to guess whether a book may get the “hate speech” label and thus be much less profitable to publish.

Roger Kimball, the publisher of “Encounter Books” and an Epoch Times contributor, said he so far hasn’t considered avoiding titles that may be targeted by Amazon, but he called it “a very worrisome harbinger.”

“It is possible that other publishers will do that. Certainly, I think that the atmosphere for opinion is much narrower now than it was in the past.”

He gave the example of Simon & Schuster, a publishing powerhouse that recently canceled its publishing of the book of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) due to Hawley’s questioning the “integrity of the 2020 presidential election.”

If publishers “bow” to Amazon, authors may go even further, altogether avoiding topics that may “spook” the publishers.

Other tech platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter usually provide some “definition of hate speech” and other content rules, but have acknowledged that they intentionally keep at least “part of their policies secret” to prevent people from circumventing them. The effect is that users try to guess the “boundaries” of censorship themselves.

Those who invested great efforts to build their online followings are likely to adopt especially stringent self-censorship, as they have the most to lose. YouTube, for example, bans any content that says the 2020 election result was affected by fraud.

The policy seems relatively clear, yet it appears to have nudged YouTube personalities to avoid the topic of election integrity altogether, just to be on the safe side.

Another method to induce self-censorship is “selective enforcement.” During the CCP’s past political campaigns, it would pick targets for persecution seemingly at random. Even the targets wouldn’t necessarily know what exactly had brought the Party’s wrath upon them. In response, people would scramble to make sense of the situation, drawing red lines of self-censorship based on guesswork.

Elements of this method can be seen in various settings in the West.

When Amazon recently banned a book that criticizes transgender ideology, published by Encounter Books in 2018, it didn’t explain why. Instead, Amazon quietly updated its book policies on hate speech. It then left it to the public to connect the dots and label the book as hate speech themselves.

Similarly, other tech platforms commonly refuse to comment on specific cases of censorship or even tell the accused what exactly they did wrong. This method can also work through changes and exceptions to the rules.

The CCP has been notorious for constantly changing its policies. Allies of the revolution of yesterday found themselves enemies of the Party today, but could expect to be called upon to cooperate with the Party tomorrow. Hence came the saying, “Party policy is like the moon, it changes every 15 days.”

People have found themselves in a position of constantly trying to figure out how to be in alignment with what the Party is currently saying and even anticipating what the Party might say next and preemptively avoid saying anything that might be deemed problematic in the future.

The tech platforms of today openly acknowledge that their content policies are a work in progress. Over the years, new rules have been repeatedly added and are usually applied retrospectively.

Thus, content that was acceptable yesterday may get banned and removed today. More restrictions can be expected tomorrow, or the companies may reverse themselves on some issues.

Rules can also be bent for political convenience. Facebook, for example, considers verbal attacks on people based on their race, sex, or sexual proclivities to be hate speech. But its contracted moderators were informed in 2018 that for a period of time, attacks on straight white males would be exempted as long as they were “intended to raise awareness for Pride/LGBTQ,” an internal memo revealed.

 Another method is using “denial or resistance” as evidence of guilt.

In current progressive ideologies, denying that one is racist or has “white privilege” counts as a confirmation of the charges. In fact, any resistance to the ideology and its labels is often labeled as “white fragility” or “internalized oppression” and thus illegitimate.

Leaving no room for rightful criticism, the ideology discourages debate. Rather than deal with the grief of being pejoratively labeled, many keep their objections to themselves.

Jodi Shaw, a former student support coordinator at Smith College, an elite women’s college, recently left her job over what she described as a “dehumanizing” environment.

In 2018, the liberal arts institution put in place a number of initiatives to fight “systemic racism” at the school. Yet the efforts didn’t sit right with her. She was instructed to treat people differently based on their race and sex, which in practice meant projecting onto people one’s own stereotypes.

She said it felt fake. “There’s a script for white people and a script for people who aren’t white. And it felt like you kind of had to stay on the script.” It was clear to her that there was no room for disagreement or even doubt.

“You just cannot talk about it out loud,” she said. “You can’t express your doubt out loud.” A staunch liberal, she tried to get along with the program, telling herself it’s just being done “to help.”

When the doubts persevered, she even questioned her own morality. “Does that mean I’m racist?” she asked herself. “I think a lot of people on the left have this issue where they feel a little confused. They feel like something doesn’t feel right, but I’m not supposed to think that something’s not right,” she said.

The staffers in her department were “true believers,” she said, but she talked to seven or eight people from other departments who privately shared her concerns.

“Whispers, you know, in hallways and stuff, alone, they’re like, ‘Yeah, this is just like, something’s really messed up about this. Ultimately, she concluded that there was no ‘inner racist’ talking, it was her conscience, and the ideology was just messing with her psyche. It’s how this ideology works. It gets into your head, and I think it’s damaging,” she said.

Another way to impose self-censorship is extending “blame beyond the target” to anybody even tenuously associated with it. Totalitarian regimes have long used this tactic, punishing family, friends, colleagues, supervisors, and other associates of dissidents.

Examples of “guilt by association” are common today. Media, universities, and other institutions willing to host speakers from another political camp are criticized for “giving a platform” to “hate” or some other pejorative. Anybody uttering a word of support for one of the censored figures can expect to be targeted next.

When Shaw started to talk about her concerns publicly, she found that the Smith staffers who privately agreed with her suddenly became unavailable. “The fear of guilt by association is so terrifying that people won’t even text me,” she said.

That not only induces self-censorship in one’s circle but also further isolates the target. “You get isolated, and you’re not able to talk it through with somebody else and determine that, yes, indeed there’s something wrong,” Shaw said.

Kari Lake, former news anchor at Fox 10 in Arizona, faced criticism for merely setting up an account on alternative social media sites “Parler” and “Gab.” The critics argued that she was “guilty by association”, since Parler and Gab had been labeled as a favorite platform of “Nazis.”

While the attacks never made Lake question her beliefs, it did prompt her to self-censor. “I actually find myself not posting stories that are just factual because I’m like: ‘Oh, just posting that, even though it’s true, might anger some people. It might just get the left mad and I don’t want to, you know, kick the hornet’s nest,’” she said.

It’s been especially disheartening for Lake to see “censorship” endorsed by many fellow journalists. “They’re just fine with it, and it saddens me,” she said.

She’d like to see more diversity of viewpoints among journalists, estimating that most in the profession lean left. Even the few conservative ones she knows are “very, very closeted about it.”

“The people I know might even act or pitch stories that might appear left-leaning to kind of show people, ‘look, I’m not conservative,’” she said. A few weeks ago, Lake quit her job.

“I realized, well, I’m part of that. I’m part of this system. I’m part of the media, and if I don’t like it and I can’t do anything to change it, then I need to get out,” she said.

Censorship in America is peculiar in its form as it’s largely not the doing of the government. It’s not even necessarily the result of government pressure, though that now seems to be underway as well. Rather, it’s based on actors both in and out of government across the American society aligning with an ideology that’s totalitarian at its root.

It’s unlikely that Americans can rely on somebody pushing against the ideology from the top. In fact, the ideology appears to now be endorsed by a majority of the government.

Yet it may be that government measures wouldn’t offer a solution as long as a significant share of the population still subscribes to the ideology or is willing to go along with it.

As Judge Learned Hand said in his 1944 speech The Spirit of Liberty: “Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.”

It appears Americans’ stand is now to rekindle that spark of liberty in the hearts of their peers.

Facebook Censorship Has Become ‘Outrageous,’ Whistleblower Says

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