Over the years, I have seen numerous ridiculous and offensive things on Twitter. But I may have found the most offensive tweet yet. In the below exchange, Bethany Mandel very reasonably explains her opposition to Covid-19 lockdown orders. Joe Lockhart responds by… calling her a killer. Yes, you are reading that right.
Yes, Joe Lockhart actually tweeted: “You’re a grandma killer yes. But you’re also a nurse killer, a doctor killer, a cop killer, a grocery clerk killer, a student killer, a 5 year old killer, a bus driver killer, a father killer who just had a child killer, a family killer. Good people take care of their community.”
This claim is ludicrous. How on Earth is a person considered a killer merely by going about his or her business?
True, a person who goes about his or her business is not actively going out of his or her way to prevent transmission of the coronavirus. But to equate this with killing is to completely disregard one of the most basic tenets of philosophy: the distinction between actively doing something and merely failing to prevent something. People are morally obligated not to harm other people (in other words, not to aggress against other people). They are not obligated to go out of their way to prevent harm to other people. They are not obligated to place the well-being of others above their own. They are not obligated to take care of others. They are not obligated to sacrifice their own freedom and happiness for the sake of others.
When it comes to contagious viruses, this means that it is morally wrong to deliberately infect another person with a virus – perhaps by intentionally coughing on them, for example. (I’m not sure why someone would do this, but it would be morally wrong if someone did.) There is nothing morally wrong, however, with simply living one’s life without taking measures to prevent infection. There’s nothing morally wrong with going outside as much as you wish, whether that is to a park, a gym, a restaurant, a bar, a store, a church, or a protest. There’s nothing wrong with assembling in a group of however many people you wish. There’s nothing wrong with moving around in the world, either with a mask or without.
It is true that avoiding leaving the house is the best way to reduce the risk of virus transmission. Strict social distancing measures could possibly result in people not catching the virus who would have caught it otherwise. But people are not obligated to take every available measure to reduce the risk or virus transmission, and no one has the right to demand that others alter their habits and activities to reduce the risk.
For similar reasons, it is simply wrong of Lockhart to claim that taking care of the community is a requirement for being a good person. The only requirement for being a good person is not aggressing against other people. Some people enjoy volunteer work, doing good deeds for their neighbors, or taking care of the community in other ways. Some people do not, and prefer pursuing their own happiness and taking care of themselves. As long as you do not aggress against others, you are a perfectly good person no matter where on this spectrum you fall. Unless Bethany is engaging in activities with the express purpose of giving as many people as possible the coronavirus (which her tweets make clear she is not), she is a good person and is not doing anything wrong.
Lockhart, on the other hand, is not a good person. He is aggressing against Bethany by calling her a killer and by saying that she is not a good person because she does not take care of the community. Shame on him for writing something so cruel, mean-spirited, and wrong.