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Los Angeles Protest

If you’ve followed my writing at all you know that I was an early and unrelenting skeptic of the entire Wuhan virus hysteria and of thrashing our economy and reducing millions of Americans to poverty.

From the beginning, all we’ve seen is a series of bizarre and improbable outcomes of the Wuhan virus touted by alleged ‘scientists’ being met by an equally totalitarian and dysfunctional set of policy options foisted upon us by ‘public health experts’ who successfully cowed elected officials into implementing those policies through dire threats of Granny dying if they weren’t imposed. For a more detailed exposition, read Can’t We Just Say It? This Wuhan Panic Was a Fraud Driven by Politics and for the Aggrandizement of Power.

While I’m not a believer in conspiracy theories, it is useful to keep in mind that all you need for a conspiracy is for a group of people to act in concert towards a common purpose. In the words of noted legal expert Jack McCoy, “Basic conspiracy theory, Your Honor. The left hand doesn’t have to know what the right hand is doing, so long as they share a common criminal purpose.”They don’t need to have meetings and keep minutes. Because as business executive Stringer Bell noted, that just isn’t done:

I don’t think there was some massive contingency plan developed by the left for brutalizing the United States…though, should one want to play that game one would certainly look at the actions of the Obama National Security Council. What I do think is that Wuhan virus served as a prime mover for a lot of disparate actors with related interests to use the virus as a catalyst to achieve ends that had zero to do with public health and even less with keeping you alive and healthy. But it has become increasingly obvious that there is a clear movement to carve out a role for ‘public health experts’ in government the nation that is wrong and dangerous and diabolical.

This is how it works.

For years, the left, which has made a highly politicized fiefdom out of the ‘public health’ profession. If you read anything at all by anyone touting themselves as a ‘public health expert’ you know upfront what you are about to hear is Marxist claptrap that is designed to deprive you of your agency as a freeborn citizen of this nation in order to keep you safe from yourself…or, conversely, to protect politically sacrosanct demographic elements. For instance, when AIDS first erupted and the main classes vulnerable to that venereal disease were declared to be male homosexuals, intravenous drug users, and Haitians, you found immediate resistance by ‘public health experts’ to the idea of contact tracing even though, as with all venereal diseases contact tracing is the way best intervention. We’ve seen a move to decriminalize having unprotected sex by someone with AIDS. In this case, actual laws were changed to placate ‘public health experts,’ changes which were driven purely by politics.

Likewise, obesity became an ‘epidemic’ with the ‘public health’ Karens eventually being able to demand that restaurants place calorie counts by menu items; that schools buy foods kids won’t eat on the theory, I guess, that if you pretend to feed them, the fat kids will lose weight naturally; firearms have become a ‘public health’ crisis with doctors being urged to hector patients (that is, customers) about their gun ownership and storage behaviors.

What you see is a clear shift from protecting public health, to using that authority to protect leftist interest groups, to setting public policy for the nation, to attempting to interfere in the exercise of Constitutional rights.

That latter stage has been in full force since the advent of Wuhan virus. Almost immediately churches were made a specific target for unreasoning regulations. Where a big box store that requires a business license to operate could have a certain percentage occupancy (in the abstract, I think this regulation of a licensed business is licit). Churches, which are not subject to business licensing procedures and which are the locus of a Constitutionally protected right. The regulations imposed had nothing to do with preventing the spread of a virus, they were imposed to stamp out religious practice. How do we know? People were forbidden to gather in their cars in church parking lots. Doors to churches were ordered closed, regardless of occupancy. In short, under the guise of protecting the public from a virus Freedom of Religion ceased to exist in much of the United States.

Now we’re seeing another phase. The left has seen that elected institutions and even the courts can be cowed into finding a Wuhan Exception to the Constitution. In California, where churches are effectively closed you see this:

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Similar scenes come in from Washington, DC, New York, Washington, and many other states. How is it even possible? And why aren’t ‘public health experts’ loudly mewling over these violations of ‘social distancing’ regulations like they did when people protested illegal orders limiting the movements and activities of healthy, non-incarcerated citizens. That’s because only ‘public health expertps’ get to decide on a ‘public health crisis.’ In this case, the experts have declared racism to be a public health crisis more severe than Wunan.

READ
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In this case, they are even differentiating one kind of a protest as an acceptable risk while saying protests against the very real tyranny of the lockdown regime are not permissible.

Indeed, they have even claimed that there is no dissonance between the two positions.

OK, let’s address these “why did we lock down if BLM protests are ok” takes.

There are lots of pundits arguing this means public health advice is all relative to ideological sympathies.

That’s not it. It’s about balance of risks.

I’ll say up front: I think there’s a chance these protests will amplify transmission. But I also think there are steps that can be taken (and visibly are being taken, frequently) to mitigate that risk. [I’ll take it even one step further. I’m willing to bet that there is no noticeable increase in Wuhan cases after this nonsense ends just as there has been no noticeable increase in states that have ended lock down.]

We know far more about COVID transmission than three months ago when US social distancing started. Guidance at that time was based on emerging evidence from China and on diseases thought to be similar, e.g. SARS and influenza.

We now have growing evidence on COVID itself.

The evidence tells us a few things (this all predates the protests):

Risk reducers:
– Outdoor/full sun activities
– Masking
– Brief (<10 minutes) or distant contact
– Limiting group size

Risk amplifiers:
– Prolonged close contact
– Large crowds
– Enclosed spaces
– Vocalizing

The highest risk of super-spreading events (which we now suspect drive the bulk of transmission) are those that combine multiple risk amplifiers without the risk reducers.

So something like packed bars (as in WI after their stay-home order was annulled) fall in that category. [Actually, there has been an inconsequential change in Wisconsin’s Wuhan rate, but let’s go on to the the next trope.]

The protests are less clear cut.

They have some of the risk amplifiers:
– large crowds
– vocalizing

As well as some of the risk reducers:
– masking, which has been pretty widespread from what I’ve observed
– outdoors in sun
– some movement to reduce prolonged contact

So risks probably higher than grocery shopping, lower than going to church or a bar. Important to actively mitigate risks as much as possible.

Protesters should:
– stay masked
– practice hand hygiene
– avoid prolonged contacts in crowd
– pre-emptively self-isolate for 2 weeks

That last bit is important. Pre-emptive self-isolation can block those who might be exposed in these protests from infecting others in their lives.

ALSO REALLY IMPORTANT: police behavior can undermine the mitigation measures and elevate transmission risk.
– tear gas & pepper spray can cause coughing, force people to remove masks
– obstructing movement (like NYPD cordoning protesters on a bridge for hours) prolongs exposure
– detention tactics can also worsen things – holding detainees for prolonged periods in enclosed spaces like paddy wagons or mass cells elevates risk

So then the question becomes – if the risk can be mitigated to an extent, how does the remaining risk relate to the importance of the activity itself?

From a public health perspective, many experts are saying it merits the remaining risk.

Racial bias in policing is a direct and unresolved threat to the lives of black and brown Americans. As we have seen over and over. And racial bias in society more generally underpins why COVID has hit communities of color so much harder than white Americans. [Factually, about 200 people per year are killed in police-involved shootings and black Americans are killed by police in nearly identical proportions to their representation in the population.]

So a mass public mobilization to address such deep and longstanding societal problems has important public health relevance, even if the timing is less than ideal.

Unfortunately, spontaneous mass political awakenings do not happen on a pre-planned itinerary.
This is why public health advocates aren’t criticizing the protests.

Their advice doesn’t suddenly evaporate depending on a political cause. Instead they assess relative public health risks of these protests vs continuing to accept a status quo that kills many people of color.

So, a plea to the contrarians out there: do your homework. Most of the takes I’ve seen on this (and I’ve quote-tweeted a few previously) are reacting to their own caricatures of public health advice, and failing to grapple with the actual dilemmas at play here.

The risks of protesting in the age of COVID are not totally clear cut. But that doesn’t mean this should be treated as a punditry Rorschach test that inevitably ends up reaffirming everyone’s priors.

We are now entering an environment where ‘public health experts’ have arrogated to themselves the authority to decide what is or what is not a ‘public health emergency.’ The precedent has been established that actions taken in such an emergency supersedes core Constitutional rights. We have a case study showing that protesting for the ‘right’ reason, as a response to a ‘public health emergency’ invented by ‘experts,’ can be permitted while other protests cannot. Given the way the left has tried to use ‘public health’ as a pressure point on the Second Amendment, it isn’t hard to see how homicides and assaults involving firearms would be ruled a ‘public health emergency’ and the powers used to ‘combat’ Wuhan virus used to greatly limit the availability of firearms. It is not only not hard to see Child Protective Services descending upon the home of gun owners who were informed on by the local Karenwaffe and sweep their children away to safety and to have this upheld by the courts just as the closing of churches has been allowed. What if ‘triggering speech’ is determined to have adverse health effects (this is already being alleged)? Then the First Amendment has been effectively abolished.

In short, we are on the cusp of governance by ‘experts’ who have no interest in anything but power and being able to control the lives of their fellow citizens. We need to identify these people and we need to act to ensure they are ridiculed and discredited (I say this because I’m reliably informed that summary executions are not permitted) and driven from all positions of power and influence. Until this happens, our rights are not secure and the republic is in jeopardy.

streiff
Managing Editor at RedState
Former infantry officer, CGSC grad and Army Operations Center alumnus.
RedState member since 2004.
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