A recent New York Times article about “social distancing informants” describes behavior that is truly disturbing to anyone who values liberty or individual rights. This phenomenon is exactly what it sounds like – people who rat out and publicly shame others for violating authoritarian measures designed to stop the coronavirus.
The article describes these excuses for people as “Americans frustrated by fellow citizens violating government orders to wear masks, close nonessential businesses, and refrain from gathering in groups.” Some of them “said they thought that calling out violators was a civic duty and a matter of public health.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. To criticize fellow citizens who are doing nothing wrong is the opposite of a civic duty – it is morally wrong. It is incomprehensible to me why someone would be frustrated by people minding their own business.
In one example, a Wisconsin cardiologist attended an anti-lockdown protest and posted a picture on Facebook. A man named Kevin Rusch saw the photo on Facebook and was “furious.” He decided to contact the hospital at which the cardiologist worked, and shared the photo with his network of friends, warning people to visit the hospital “at your own risk.” As a result of Rusch’s actions, the hospital suspended the doctor, and congratulatory messages poured in on Facebook. How could someone be happy about an innocent person, who did nothing wrong, losing his job? How could someone be “furious” at a person who did absolutely nothing wrong?
The cardiologist wrote a thoughtful post on Facebook calling the events an “orchestrated slander of my name and reputation.” He added:
“Most disturbing was the vulgarity involved and a clear sense of an orchestrated political hit job… They vandalized my home by scattering feces on the front steps prompting me to file a police report. They also mocked Christianity. Nobody should have to put up with this evil. No human has the right to inflict this pain on others. America’s Constitution enshrines the right to assemble peacefully and voice opinions. Blood from our forefathers has paid for this right countless times… We shouldn’t be so willing to give up these rights when we feel the government is on the wrong course… To those who showed an unsubstantiated vile toward me and my religion, I feel sad for you, and I pray that you find peace.”
In another instance of social distancing snitching, when a Colorado restaurant, C & C Coffee & Kitchen, bravely opened in defiance of the governor’s orders, dozens of people flooded its Yelp page with complaints, and one customer named Nick Whitehill filed a complaint with the county health department in addition to posting photos on Twitter to “shame” the restaurant. A lovely person on Twitter wrote, “You’ve given up your right to treatment at a hospital. Worms for brains.”
Another individual, Delaney Kalea of Alabama, witnessed a group of teenagers committing the horrific crime of hanging outside a bowling alley while dancing and playing football. She “made the responsible decision as we were driving off to call the cops.” She added: “My blood boils almost every day when I think about this. Where is the human decency?”
Excuse me? How could someone’s blood boil at the thought of people doing absolutely nothing wrong whatsoever? How is it “responsible” to call the cops on people minding their own business? You, Delaney Kalea, are the one who lacks human decency for so harshly criticizing innocent people. You are a bully.
Nadine Campbell of New York publicly shamed people on Facebook for existing on a beach. “People were milling around. It was really upsetting,” she complained. How can it be upsetting to witness people minding their own business and doing nothing wrong?
On Twitter, people use the hashtag “#FloridaMorons” to describe those who have committed the evil deed of visiting beaches.
On Facebook, I personally have witnessed people use the word “idiots” to describe those who are bravely protesting against authoritarianism in Boston and the term “selfish disease spreading morons” for those who go to the beach.
How dare these individuals personally attack their fellow citizens by calling them idiots and morons? This behavior is cruel, mean-spirited, and nasty. It is bullying.
Other snitches persecute their fellow citizens on local websites such as Patch. “Four teenage girls with lacrosse sticks and white hoodies just walked past our place. Parents, you need to do better,” posted one individual.
Do better? The teenage girls did nothing wrong. How would it be “better” for parents to prevent their children from doing something that the children have every right to do?
My hometown newspaper, the Melrose Weekly News, has provided additional examples of social distancing snitching. Every week in the local police log, there are entries describing citizens calling the police on such innocent activities as a father and daughter shooting hoops, people exercising in parks, children building a bridge in the woods, small groups of people gathering in backyards, and DPW workers performing maintenance work on a field. Also according to this newspaper, a couple from Melrose who visited Ogunquit, Maine, were accosted while eating lunch near their car and told to go home so they would not spread the virus in Maine.
In Manhattan, one excuse for a human being put up posters reading: “Dear jogger, bicycle douchebag, yuppie/millennial, narcissist swine: Put on a f***ing mask. Please respect your community and the lives of others. You do not live alone.”
Narcissist swine? Seriously? How dare you so crudely and nastily insult your fellow citizens? What is the purpose of stereotyping people based on their age and socioeconomic status? How does jogging or biking without a mask disrespect your community or the lives of others? And what is meant by “You do not live alone?” Lots of people do live alone. If this sentence is supposed to mean that everyone who lives in a community is connected somehow, I suppose this is true to some extent, but that does not give people the right to control the lives and decisions of others. People have a right to decide for themselves whether or not to wear a mask. It is possible that not wearing a mask might indirectly affect others, but this indirect effect does not outweigh each person’s right to make decisions about his/her own body. The person who made these posters, by presuming that he or she has the right to dictate what others wear, demonstrates a lack of respect for the lives of others. The person who made these posters is truly a narcissist swine.
Wisconsin talk radio host Vicki McKenna described the mentality of the social distancing snitches as “a creepy Orwellian sensibility.” She’s got that right. To criticize, shame, or attempt to punish innocent people who are doing nothing wrong is an act of aggression. The attitudes, words, and actions of these social distancing informants are morally wrong and despicable.