bookmark_borderThe protesters are not the problem

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s decision to require covid vaccination as a condition of entering restaurants, gyms, concerts, and sporting events is truly despicable. What is equally despicable is the fact that many in the media treat the people with the audacity to protest against this totalitarian policy as the problem, as opposed to the policy itself.

For example, the Boston Globe put out an article entitled, “Racist, misogynist vitriol continues against Wu after vaccination policy announcement.” The fact that the Globe would choose to do an article dissecting and scrutinizing opponents of the mandate, as opposed to dissecting and scrutinizing the mandate itself, is disturbing. The article, by Danny McDonald, details the allegedly racist and/or sexist content of protesters’ signs, calls to the city’s 311 system, and online comments. The article criticizes the fact that non-racist and non-sexist people who oppose the mandate have not spoken out against their allegedly racist and sexist compatriots. And the article provides examples of other female politicians of color who have allegedly received racist and/or sexist comments, including U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, who calls criticism of both herself and Wu “exhausting” and “distressing.” You know what is exhausting and distressing? Being subjected to a government policy that requires you to undergo a medical procedure in order to exist in public, and then being treated as if you are the problem for expressing your dissent. Opponents of the vaccine mandate are not perfect. There may indeed be some racist and sexist people among our ranks. But that is true of people on every side of every issue. By focusing so much negative attention on the opponents of the mandate, and the fact that some of them have expressed their opposition in non-ideal ways, the Globe completely ignores the entirely legitimate underlying grievance: the fact that the mandate is morally wrong. It is twisted and backwards that the Globe considers a few discriminatory comments (and the failure to actively condemn these comments) to be a bigger problem than a policy barring people from public life because of their personal medical decisions.

Continuing with the theme of criticizing mandate opponents for not actively condemning alleged prejudice in their ranks, WGBH also did an article about the alleged racist and sexist comments that Wu has received. Wu made some truly objectionable comments in the article, which I will discuss in detail in another blog post, but it is also notable that the article condemns “abusive” anti-Wu comments containing “slurs and threats” that people made on gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl’s facebook page. WGBH reporter Adam Reilly apparently interrogated Diehl about these comments despite the fact that the people who made them are private citizens who have nothing to do with the Diehl campaign. “The standard that a politician should denounce public commentary on social media by people not connected to his campaign is not a standard that you, or most in the media, would apply to any other politician, and, as such, we are expecting that it not be applied to the Diehl campaign either,” his campaign manager correctly pointed out. Like the Globe, WGBH fails to acknowledge that the vaccine mandate itself is the bigger issue here, not the manner in which its opponents express their views. Forcing people to undergo a medical procedure in order to participate in public life is far more abusive than a few politically incorrect social media comments. 

Another example of treating mandate opponents as the problem is the article and accompanying tweets by Boston news website Universal Hub about the press conference at which Wu announced the authoritarian vaccine requirement. 

As you can see, Adam Gaffin, the author of Universal Hub, refers to protesters against Wu’s policy as “yahoos” and “screamers.” It is unprofessional for what is supposed to be an objective news website to refer to anyone in such blatantly derogatory and insulting terms, particularly protesters speaking out against a totalitarian and immoral policy. 

In both the article and the tweets, Gaffin comes across as annoyed, irritated, and perturbed at the fact that anyone would protest against a policy that violates people’s rights. The possibility of being annoyed, irritated, and perturbed at the actual policy itself, which would make a lot more sense, apparently does not occur to him. Gaffin tweets about his desire to visit the humorous website zombo.com to take a break from his stressful day, as if the existence of people with dissenting views is something to be exasperated about. This is infuriating and demonstrates a lack of empathy. The mayor of Boston enacted an unjust and immoral policy that Gaffin obviously supports, and he is stressed and exasperated that people had the audacity to express dissent? How about the people who are being harmed by Wu’s authoritarian policy? How about the people whose rights are being violated? How does he think we feel? How does he think the protesters feel about the fact that the mayor enacted a policy that violates their rights, and the media are personally insulting them and treating them as the problem? We are the ones who have a right to be upset, not those who support the policy that was just enacted.

This tweet is, frankly, beyond the pale. An immoral policy that violates people’s rights was just enacted, and Gaffin again decides that the best thing to do in this situation is to personally insult and ridicule those who are protesting against said policy. God forbid that he actually, you know, criticize the immoral policy. That would be too right and make too much sense. Instead, he insults and ridicules those who are (correctly) opposed to the policy and also makes completely unsupported and bizarre generalizations about their gender, family status, and living arrangements. 

He does the same thing in this article at Universal Hub in which he refers to opponents of Wu’s policy as “dregs of the suburban earth” and accuses them of having “stubby little fingers” and “spittle-flecked keyboards.”

This brings me to my next point, which is that many in the media seem to hold the belief that, somehow, living in a suburb of Boston disqualifies one from having an opinion about the fact that the mayor of Boston decided to violate people’s fundamental rights. I wasn’t aware of any rule requiring one to live in the city of Boston in order to be allowed to have an opinion about what is happening there. Why is it relevant that Geoff Diehl and Tony Federico, whom Gaffin names as being among the protesters at City Hall, live in the suburbs as opposed to the city itself? Why does Adam Balsam, another alleged journalist, mention that people who called/emailed the city’s 311 number to criticize the mandate are not residents of Boston? People who live in suburbs near Boston and who work there, eat at restaurants there, visit museums there, attend Bruins, Celtics, or Sox games, or go into the city for any reason, are directly and substantively harmed by the mandate. More importantly, if something is unjust, then criticizing it is always the correct thing to do, regardless of whether or not one is personally affected by the injustice.

Also lost on Balsam is the fact that a policy specifically intended to keep people out of a city because of their personal medical decisions is cruel, discriminatory, reprehensible, and despicable. He is so busy criticizing those who intend to stop visiting Boston because of the mandate that he apparently doesn’t think to criticize the policy that is “SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED TO KEEP THEM OUT” in the first place.

In conclusion, it is infuriating that the media reacts to a totalitarian, unjust, and immoral decision not by criticizing the decision itself but by criticizing those who oppose it. When a policy is implemented that requires people to undergo a medical procedure in order to exist in public spaces, everyone on earth should join forces in doing whatever they possibly can to fight against the policy and get it repealed. Yet many “journalists” not only openly support such a policy but also ridicule and personally insult the few brave people who voice dissent. It says a lot about today’s society that protests against a totalitarian policy are seen as the problem, as opposed to the policy itself.

bookmark_border“Nothing more American than coming together and taking care of each other”

Disgustingly, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced today that people will be required to give up their rights to bodily autonomy and privacy in order to be allowed to enter restaurants, bars, gyms, museums, theaters, and any other indoor eating, drinking, sports, and/or entertainment facilities.

One of the most disturbing things that she said in the press conference announcing this decision was, “There is nothing more American than coming together to ensure that we are taking care of each other” (source: MassLive).

I could not disagree more strongly with this statement. In my opinion, coming together to take care of each other is not American at all, nor is it morally virtuous. I believe that it is each person’s responsibility to take care of his/her own self, and that the world is a better place when people concern themselves with their own goals and their own happiness and allow others to do the same. People are not morally obligated to take care of others.

Even if one considers it morally virtuous to take care of each other, doing so cannot come at the expense of individual rights. The right to privacy, the right to make one’s own medical decisions, and the right to freely come and go in public spaces are all fundamental rights. People deserve to have all of these freedoms, and it is morally impermissible to take any of these freedoms away or force people to choose between them, as Wu’s policy (along with similar ones around the country and world) does.

It would be a true statement to say that there is nothing more American than individual rights. The concepts of individuality, freedom, and liberty are quintessential American values, and contrary to Wu’s assertion, policies that sacrifice these for the sake of “taking care of each other” are both morally wrong and un-American.

Gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl eloquently voiced his disagreement with the vaccine mandate:

“These mandates are clear violations of the civil rights of anyone who lives in, works in, or travels to the city… While I openly acknowledge and share concern over rising case counts in Massachusetts, infringing on citizens’ right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is never an acceptable solution.”