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COVID-19 policy and the mechanism of control

There are two primary reasons why the prevailing policies ought to be seriously called into question.

An aerial view of vehicles in Madison, Wis., lining up at a drive-through COVID-19 testing site is seen Nov. 5, 2020. Picture taken with a drone. (CNS photo/Bing Guan, Reuters)

The most common platitudes in the midst of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic apparently run along the following lines: “listen to the science,” or “facts are facts.” Such assertions certainly have a ring of truth to them. At the same time, however, such euphemisms distort some of the more fundamental issues that must be addressed. SARS-CoV-2 has not only exacerbated a host of social and political problems but, even more than these, has brought to the surface a pervasive epistemological and anthropological crisis.

The very nature of this crisis strikes at the heart of the prevailing COVID-19 public policies in the United States.

There are two primary reasons why the prevailing policies ought to be seriously called into question. The first concerns the inability for citizens to properly contextualize what we know about the virus. The longer we are guided by policies that make the data appear a particular way, the more likely it will be for citizens to become unintentionally open to manipulation.

The second reason is that the prevailing policies have been harmful to individuals and local communities. The policies have excluded certain fundamental components of life that are vital to human flourishing. It is not simply that COVID-19 public policies have been destructive for individual and communal health (physically and mentally). Rather, the policies themselves tended to neglect the very nature of what it means to be human. And in so doing, our economic, social, mental, physical, and religious lives have suffered in disastrous ways.

The precise nature of this two-fold crisis requires further elaboration. The crippling force of the epistemological crisis is on display with the constant barrage of numbers and data. Our diminishing capacity for attention is consistently attacked with hourly updates on the number of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and death rates. Additionally, the metrics we are told to focus upon often shift, becoming a moving target. The initial worry in the early stages of the pandemic was hospital capacity and the infection fatality rate (IFR). Over the last several months, the policies and narrative have shifted towards an emphasis upon cases and various non-pharmaceutical interventions to slow the spread of the virus (mask mandates, social distancing rules, plexiglass installations, and reduced capacities for businesses and public gatherings). For example, in the world of professional and collegiate sports, each week we are informed of new cases of infection amidst players and coaching personnel. Little to nothing is known of the actual condition of those who test positive. All that needs to be known is that they tested positive.

Apart from the perceived stigma of contracting the virus that such constant reporting indicates (i.e., an individual got the virus because they did something wrong), the average person is likely to be be either puzzled or frustrated by all these numbers and shifting points of emphasis. Understandably, one wonders what to make of it all. “I don’t know what to believe anymore” is a rather normative judgment these days.

A palpable result of this confusing condition more often than not is the conflation between what seems to be the case, and what is actually so.

Since “facts are facts,” then whatever the news tickers or political “experts” reveal to us must be understood as something which is self-evident. There is no interpretation needed beyond the appearance of what we see, or might be permitted to see. And it is precisely at this point that our epistemological crisis comes to light: the public conversation of the”facts” with respect to COVID-19 presupposes almost no reference to a theory of how to understand and interpret those facts.

The specific aspect of this crisis recalls the work of the Scottish political philosopher Alasdair MacIntrye. Our observations of the world, said MacIntyre, presuppose a theory of what we are actually observing. We are incapable of properly seeing what is right before us without possessing certain received concepts that makes the object, and the world as a whole, intelligible. Imagine telling someone who has no experience, or concept, of track-and-field that the fastest recorded 40-yard dash time is 4.22 seconds. Some preliminary theoretical framework is necessary for one to contextualize how fast this really is. Otherwise, the time recorded is relatively meaningless.

In a similar vein, the supposed self-evident judgments regarding various statistics such as deaths, or even the sheer number of infections, is not possible. Nuance to further understand these statistics presupposes (and necessitates) a more substantive lens that expands our judgment and understanding. And the lurking and difficult reality beneath this is that many people do not have such a capacity.

We must acknowledge that the conditions fostering this inability to intellectually contextualize the frequency of information concerning the virus is not accidental. There is an intentional effort to bombard and overwhelm the public with a plethora of data in order to make citizens incapable of being able to understanding what they are seeing. And it is this recognition that aligns with the second part of the crisis, which is more anthropological in nature.

Since the gap between appearance (“what seems to be the case”) and reality (“what is actually so”) is rather significant, there is an ever-increasing inclination to bridge such a gap. “Facts” are more often than not being utilized by the managerial ruling class to prop themselves up as experts. Since citizens are struggling to synthesize much of the COVID-19 information, the temptation begins to solidify where reliance upon experts becomes the path to increased forms of social and political control. The elite managerial class will happily allow American citizens to put their faith in them, and in hope we will collectively chant the saving motto of being “guided by the science and the facts.”

But faith in science and trust in expertise has been crumbling, even eviscerated. What makes the contemporary notion of expertise questionable, especially in light of the Coronavirus, is that the overall policies have overwhelmingly sought to protect only a part of what constitutes human flourishing at the expense of certain higher goods.

To justify prolonged lockdowns of an economy (or even proposing additional ones) ultimately undercuts the goodness of labor and the virtuous opportunities in providing for the good of one’s family. Likewise, economic lockdowns touted as “necessary” have produced an illusory distinction between those businesses or forms of work that are “essential,” and those which are not. Such a declaration not only seems to fall outside the legitimate scope of political authority, but has been used for social control underneath the umbrella of “following the data”, as some have noted.

Additionally, lockdowns have also been an assault on the social nature of human life. The atomization of modern democratic life has given rise to despairing experiences of loneliness and a malaise about the meaning of life. Add to this all the social restrictions related to COVID-19, and such destructive realities have only been further heightened. The need for sociality is not a deficiency, nor is it reducible to some evolutionary adaptation. Essentially speaking, we cannot flourish as the kind of beings we are without the experience of being embedded in actual, living communities.

Finally, as Fr. Thomas Joseph White, OP, has recently argued, “the longer such a public health crisis endures…the greater the risk that the situation affect not only the bodies of human beings, but also their long-term spiritual health, the state of their souls.”  The restrictions upon public worship in this country were understandable in the early part of the pandemic. Now, however, it seems that citizens are being told that there is no higher good than that of bodily health. The transcendent nature of human life does not diminish one’s physical or emotional health, but properly contexualizes it within the scope of the highest goods of the human person. If we err in this anthropological manner within the midst of a public health crisis, then our ordinary lives will only suffer all the more when we return the normalcy.

The epistemological and anthropological flaws that have surfaced in the midst of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic should be cause for both serious consternation and contemplation. The legitimate scope of expertise can certainly grasp certain human goods and illuminate their importance. Yet, it belongs to wisdom to know and understand what is truly good for the human person, so as to see the proper limits of expertise and to avoid the temptation towards idolatry. This is especially the case in the midst of a public health crisis.


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About Brian Jones 31 Articles
Brian Jones is ia Ph.D Candidate in Philosophy at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. His works have appeared in The Public Discourse, Strong Towns, and The American Conservative.

21 Comments

    • This is a Chi-Com Globalist coup, as is the attempt to take over the eorld’s peoplr’s economy and freedoms of all kinds just as the attempy to take the US Presidency.( May our all powerful GOD intervene NOW to destroy these evils at their core roots!!!!! Thank YOU GOD!!!!!Amen!!!!!)

  1. That’s okay. As you can see on the news broadcasts on Saturday night, the pandemic is over now that Biden has been declared the winner. Throngs of maskless people are standing shoulder to shoulder in cities all over the country, reveling and shouting. Not a single governor nor TV commentator is chastising them for failing to mask or distance, and nobody is saying “science says” you should take precautions. It was all a ploy to throw the election to Biden, in addition to the ballot counting malfeasance.

    • Temporary reprieve only. Once Biden is in office, the mask mandate will probably come by executive Presidential order.
      .
      You don’t think they are going to waste the huge surveillance system they set up, do you?
      .
      There’s another election in two years they need to steal. The Socialist Democrats did not gain sufficient majorities this time around. Once they have them, they will need to continue the lock downs and mandates in order to stay in power.
      .
      There has been little reprieve in Europe or Australia. Not sure why the US would be any different.

  2. “The restrictions upon public worship in this country were understandable in the early part of the pandemic.”
    .
    I disagree. The government had no business telling the Church, or any other entity, what to do.

    • Kathryn, the government most certainly has no business dictating to religious authorities how and if they and their flocks are “allowed” to undertake strictly religious activities.

      • But the Bishops haven’t acted as though they are in charge, either. They timidly “ask permission” from the State to open their churches, look to them for “guidelines” on regulations, then expect the pastors to enforce laws, which has created a huge conflict of interest. Canon law clearly states that pastors cannot refuse sacraments. I am in the Seattle Archdiocese. Some pastors are afraid of having their faculties removed if parishioners don’t wear masks. Some have been known to turn people away at the door (or the staff or ushers do) for refusal to do so. This pressure/fear is from the Bishop, not the governor. So it’s a real insult to injury. They’ve become agents of the State. The Biden supporters in the parish are the ones who complain about “violations” (such as communion on the tongue) by hassling the priest, and calling the Bishop’s office. Neighbor vs. neighbor…can you say “East Germany?”

        One thing is certain: this pandemic has put the integrity, or lack thereof, of all Catholics on full display.

  3. Thank you for this article.
    Two grammatical corrections (yes, spelling counts) – third last para. “The atomization of modern democratic life has given rise . . .” and second last para. “If we err . . .”
    With Kevin above, I look forward to finding out how election of Mr. Biden resolved the health crisis.

  4. Kevin, it’s typical of the left, ‘Do as I say not as I do.’ It did look like the Biden celebrants had more masks on than the Trump protestors though; but social distancing was not even thought of and they stood around in circles smoking dope – who will pay for their lung damage from that?

    Fox this (Sunday) morning commented that “apparently the covid is over…”

    Schumer took his mask off to chant, “na na na na…” musta been drunk on power and wasn’t thinking straight

  5. I wish the principal and board of trustees at my daughter’s private Catholic high school would meditate on this article and change their minds about keeping the school entirely virtual. The students are suffering from all virtual school.

  6. The left sees this as a way to control the every move of the population, terminating school, worship,and normal socialization. At the risk of sounding cruel, we have not lost enough people to justify this draconian hit on our lives and our economy with this extreme shut down. Lets remember almost 400 MILLION people in the US are ALSO affected by these shut downs , isolation and the shuttering of “non-essential ” services. Lack of jobs and money means lives will be ruined.Its not only those who died from covid who were affected. Many months into this, all know to wear a mask, wash hands, and if you are ill and sick YOU should isolate. Locking up the WHOLE population ( for years?Indefinitely????) is not the way to go. If the new socialist Biden administration opts to close churches again it is my hope the Bishops will refuse to comply. And refuse to pay any attendant fines. Many of us are willing to go to jail in a show of civil disobedience to make our feelings known.This is no longer about covid. This is about the American way of life. Sadly many health hysterics voted for solitary confinement in voting for Biden.Evidently they didn’t get the memo that this flu has a recovery rate exceeding 99%. I had covid. I am not dead nor did I need hospitalization, and I am not young. Americans, find your spine again.

      • the mask policy is for one thing! so its always in the forefront of your mind! to keep people in a constant state of fear that this mysterious virus is still there! its another mechanism of control. not to mention another cause of increased illness. a moist and warm piece of material in front of your mouth catching bacteria that you usually exhale along with anything else floating round, and then culturing within the material, only for you to breathe it in and for no where for it to go you get increased upper reparatory infections! why do you think that they should be only work in clean environments and for short periods of time before changing!

  7. Mr. Jones is correct: The lock-down response has had disastrous consequences. The United States may have just elected its first president with Alzheimer’s disease.

    • Dementia would at least be an excuse for allowing himself to be used as a tool for social agenda extremists. But I don’t think that’s the case. It’s more about ambition.

  8. I am, for lack of a better word an atheist! I have nothing against religion per say but find it about as believable as this pandemic! anyway that aside, I am a man of science so far to say I ahve studied biochemistry and engineering, I hold degrees in both and worked in both field, also a combination of those fields! now with this knowledge/keen understanding of biology, virology, immunology, etc. I can see right from the start how this pandemic was and is completely fabricated, non of the science made much sense and contradicts what is known. the problem we ahve is that most peoples biology spans to high school possibly college level and that is it. so they are at the mercy of what they are being told via the government and media and have to believe it, much like how most people believe what they are told by Doctors to be “absolute” truth (I have found on many many occasions, not just my own health but those of my family, mother, father, partner, etc. the doctors have been very wrong and I have diagnosed them correctly from the very beginning!) but all the biology aside the alarm bells must be ringing for most on the morals of what’s going on! I live in the UK, and it has become for lack of better terminology a benign dictatorship, I use benign as there hasn’t been any physical force (although I have seen videos showing the police being extremely over bearing and using violence/threat of violence to drag people from their homes) we are living under totalitarian rule that we haven’t seen since the Nazis and I don’t use that lightly, we are being told not to leave our homes and its for our safety, we are told not to see our family or friends as its for our safety, we are being told not to take part in any activities that involves in any other human contact and again its for our safety! the rules of what we are not allowed to do that are our basic born freedoms have been taken away from us, if you are exempt from wearing a mask due to a disability then you are now being told to wear a badge or a flower lanyard or carry proof (should people ware a yellow star perhaps?) if you do not then you risk not only being stopped and questioned by the Gestap …sorry police and questioned as to why you where out of your confines.. but again its for your safety… funny that the phrase for your safety was used so much as this was the same phrase that the Nazis used when first implementing their rules. Now the difference here is that the group they want to subjugate is anyone who disagrees with the rhetoric, this can be proved that anyone who ahs any differing of opinion to the rhetoric is silenced and even faces being arrested as they are considered to e spreading misinformation or fake news, which is the usual phrase that we ahve been bombarded with for quiet a while when people want to silence a narrative! in the end the goal is control, in this case control of us all, the big push to a cashless society along with it a digital passport, brought in via the over arching theme, its for your safety! so it will start with vaccine and testing results, this will be needed not only to travel but also to go in to work and in fact is already a requirement for certain people to carry on going to work as a lot of employers either out of ignorance, fear or forced under wanting to remain open are implementing that all must use the track and trace app to sign in and sign out of work, that people must have regular testing, if they refuse then they are fired! this will spread to going to shops, the cinema, your place of worship, etc etc. this can been seen (at least for the UK) if you go to the BMJ web site and search for article m3558 which stipulates:

    Are there any plans to get the public on board?
    The documents show that there have been discussions over how to incentivise people to be tested. They point to enforcing testing “via a sanction-based model” or through “offering individuals opportunities/access from being tested,” such as being able to attend events.

    What is a digital passport?
    Testing for access to certain spaces features heavily in the documents, with reference to “immunity/virus free passports,” likely to be available through an app. The plans say that testing could be used to “give people assurance that, at least for a limited time, they are unlikely to have the virus and are at low risk of transmitting it to others.”

    They say, “A negative test result (or potentially a positive antibody result) may inform not just whether you could attend an in-patient appointment, but if you go to work that day, access a venue, get on a flight or visit an elderly relative.” The documents also point to a “significant expansion” of testing funded and delivered by the private sector, such as in football stadiums to allow access.

    So rather than force punitive measures if you refuse to comply!

    I have torn down every single argument that has been put forward, from the death toll, which is the normal number of deaths across the globe, with increases during winter like there always is (people unfortunately die and we as humans tend not to talk about it and live in a semi ignorance as that’s how we go on living!) to even the people making videos of them selves supposedly suffering from this mysterious kill virus, in hospitals, when they have been put on IV antibiotics (FYI you do not treat ANY viral infection with antibiotics and most certainly not IV antibiotics as they are complete useless against viruses and carry their own risks as they are extremely powerful and have been known to kill “good” bacteria like those in the gut making you extremely ill and can also be fatal!)

    I am sincerely worried about the state of our world right now, I am worried that people have been worn down so much that they will give away their liberties to see it end, when all they would have to do is use common sense!

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