Opinion: The two commandments of tyranny

When the official narrative you are not allowed to question is later admitted to be not only false but unjust and deleterious then we should start approaching the current official narratives with more skepticism.

(Image: Clay Banks/Unsplash.com)

While away recently for a speaking engagement, I sat down to dinner in a parish hall in the time between Mass and my talk. I chatted affably with a couple at our table until the husband got up to get wine. The wife’s countenance shifted and she seethed, “Why weren’t you wearing a mask in Mass?” Taken off guard, I let out a nervous laugh which she imitated back to me with venom.

I asked why she felt threatened by me when I was at least ten feet away from her in Mass, but now at dinner felt safe although unmasked and just two feet away. She answered that she’s vaccinated and has trust in the experts’ policy decisions regarding sitting to dinner. Neither the appeal to the vaccine nor to the experts made up for the absurdity of the situation. There is nothing about sitting to dinner which makes a vaccine gain a new power it did not have moments before. Nor does a respiratory disease stay dormant when people sit down for a meal.

This small interaction crystalized the two essential conditions of tyranny: foster in citizens an unhealthy suspicion of one another and an unhealthy faith in the powers that be. Identity politics habituated us to this. COVID-19 has put it on steroids.

The remarkable disruption introduced to all our lives over the past two years has understandably left people anxious and isolated, and an enemy served on a platter is an intoxicating palliative. The natural suspicion toward the powerful and the profiteers is relocated to an obsessive suspicion of the person next to us.

Consider a recent Rasmussen poll. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democratic voters would favor a government policy requiring confinement of the unvaccinated to their homes at all times, except for emergencies.

Nearly half (48%) of Democratic voters think federal and state governments should be able to fine or imprison individuals who publicly question the efficacy of the existing COVID-19 vaccines.

Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Democratic voters support temporarily removing children from their parents’ custody if parents refuse the COVID-19 vaccine.

It takes the faith of a true zealot to have this level of contempt for your fellow citizens and this level of confidence in the incorruptibility of the powers that be. Never mind the planet of money amassed by the incestuous collusion of tech, pharma, and government through the lockdowns and mandates and the massive loss of livelihoods those same lockdowns and mandates have exacted on our neighbor.

Our distrust of our neighbor extends to a distrust of ourselves and our ability reason and discern what is true. The irrational, coercive policies that should prompt challenges and questions, instead become something we must overlook. To question the regime becomes akin to ceding ground to those neighbors we hate and for many that is far worse than ceding our ability to think. Expert thought is substituted for thought itself. The subtle sell is that, seduced by hatred, we trade trust in our own lyin’ mind for trust in the god-like omniscience of the ruling class. We think we are elevated in this association when it is profoundly diminishing.

But though media control and messaging are on their side, time is not. And the narrative falls apart in increasingly undeniable ways.

“We find no evidence that lockdowns, school closures, border closures, and limiting gatherings have had a noticeable effect on COVID-19 mortality,” researchers from Johns Hopkins wrote in a metanalysis of 24 studies on the effects of lockdowns.

Lockdowns, however, did have a notable effect on increased anxiety disorders, depression, addiction, suicide, fatally delayed cancer treatments, lives and livelihoods lost and an entire generation of children irreparably harmed.

When the official narrative you are not allowed to question is later admitted to be not only false but unjust and deleterious then we should start approaching the current official narratives with more skepticism.

Highlighting the importance of questioning the ruling narrative is an unlikely man who has been at the center of the battle over narrative and free debate.  In the aftermath of aging rockstars protestations, Joe Rogan made this statement:

The problem I have with the term misinformation especially today is that many of the things we thought were misinformation just a short while ago are now accepted as fact. Like for instance eight months ago if you said, ‘If you get vaccinated you can still catch covid and you can still spread covid.’ you would be removed from social media. They would ban you from certain platforms. Now that is accepted as fact. If you said, ‘I don’t think cloth masks work’ you would be banned from social media. Now that’s openly and repeatedly stated on CNN. If you said, ‘I think it’s possible that Covid 19 came from a lab’ you would be banned from many social media platforms. Now that’s on the cover of Newsweek. All of those theories that at one point in time were banned, were openly discussed by those two men that I had on my podcast that have been accused of dangerous misinformation.

Rogan holds beliefs that certainly are at odds with Catholic teaching and belief, and he has reportedly made regrettable remarks years ago for which he has apologized. But it is Rogan’s threat to the COVID narrative that has garnered such attention, including White House remarks pressuring Spotify to censor him for misinformation. 

He is an unlikely threat because he, a comedian by trade, is not a partisan hack or demagogue. He appears to be sincerely, if imperfectly, pursuing open and interesting conversations, exploring ideas he does not necessarily claim, while being unbeholden to any political tribe. That should be harmless (and even helpful) in a free society that values truth. But if the goal is not truth, but maintaining the failing narratives of the powerful, then he is utterly malignant. Truth does not need coercion or censorship. Power decoupled from truth demands both.  

The Narrative is unassailable until it isn’t. The pretense that it is science, and not fallible and corruptible human judgment, steering these policies is laid bare. The lies become too much and the scapegoating of our fellow citizens too little. 

The late political philosopher Roger Scruton once noted that tyrannical regimes are dependent on paranoia, “… a kind of grand conspiracy theory designed to manufacture illusory enemies so as to maintain itself in being.” And G.K. Chesterton, writing decades ago, observed, “You do not know tyranny until it is on top of you; until it has you in a trap. The tyrant is not present until he is omnipresent.”

Let’s hope it is not too late to redirect our distrust to those who deserve it.


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About Noelle Mering 4 Articles
Noelle Mering is a Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a scholar at The Institute of Human Ecology. She is the author of Awake, Not Woke: A Christian Response to the Cult of Progressive Ideology (TAN Books, 2021). She is an editor for the website TheologyofHome.com and the coauthor of the Theology of Home book series.

40 Comments

  1. Very good piece. One of the most heartbreaking things of this whole pandemic is seeing the division and “othering” even in the Catholic communities.

  2. Or, tyranny is a feature of the fallen human condition whenever someone gains power and uses it without maturity, conscience, or compassion. Gun nuts taking weapons to schools–somehow I think active shooter drills with young children are far more of a deterrence to young peace and confidence. Clergy sex abusers and the bishops that covered up for them. Victims who were shamed. People firing teachers for being pregnant and not hiding it with abortion.

    Sometimes a person you encounter is just having a bad day. Sometimes you might find yourself disagreeing with a tyrannized person. A Christian learns to have compassion and mercy regardless. The abuse stops with them. It has to stop somewhere.

  3. How many of the fact checkers have professional competence? How many are really practicing medicine without a license? At what point does a pandemic become a pretext for creating a medical police state? I’ve been following the legal side of the vaccines on YouTube live-streams of Canadian attorney Viva Frei and American attorney Robert Barnes. They did one where they were discussing forced vaccinations. It is on a highlight video titled: “Litigating Forced Vaccination / Vaccine “Mandates” – What you Need to Know – Viva & Barnes HIGHLIGHT”
    *
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ssDRGWBllk
    *
    Barnes says that the forced vaccine law is based on eugenics law. At the 2:45 minute mark they cover the Indiana University case. It was said that this case cited the Buck v. Bell case. Barnes said that the Nazis cited the Buck v. Bell case for the moral and legal authority for what they were doing in Germany. At the 5:35 mark Barnes also brings up the Nuremberg code of 1947. At the 10:45 mark they discuss the FDA approval process and legal concerns. At the 14:45 mark they also bring up the Jacobson and the Korematsu cases. At the 24:40 minute mark Barnes says that a person can assert a religious exemption without needing to go to church or have a religious authority to attest to the assertion.

  4. During World War II the United States intelligence agency (the Office of Strategic Services, OSS) wrote this of Hitler:

    “His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.”

    In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote:

    “…that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation…”

  5. You see here the divide that we see not only in the church but in the larger society especially. One camp takes righteousness as the primary moral compass while the other takes compassion. One takes the self as the significant moral determinant while the other cares more for the other. One places self-determination as top value while for the other it is common welfare especially for the others’ good. One’s source of thought and action is philosophy and ideology while the other is religious and spiritual.

  6. With the lack of faith that we find in our world today it is no wonder why so many cling to such lunacy as truth and castigate others who do not accept the lunacy. People need a reason to live. They need to feel they make a difference in the world and if God is not their reason for living and they are just an empty shell they will hold on to any idea or philosophy where they feel part of something. They feel themselves right and that they are saving the world from the “others” no matter how insane their position is. They are doing something, living for something and you are the enemy for not going along.

  7. Remember, being rigid about mask use and vaccines is a moral good. Being rigid about sodomy, adultery, fornication, preference for the Ancient Mass, etc… is bad. Got it?!

  8. This is clearly not the main point of the article, but I couldn’t help but wonder why that woman waited until her husband left the table before unleashing the vitriol. There is a problem in their marriage if she is unwilling accept her husband’s judgement about how they are to relate to the unmasked at church.

  9. Joe Rogan and Noelle Mering set up a straw man and knock it down. Nothing more. No scientist or medical doctor has ever said one would be immune to Covid-19 (or polio, or measles, or whatever) and never infect another person if they become vaccinated. Inoculation significantly reduces the probability of contracting a disease and spreading it. Nothing more. My question is why do Rogan and Mering chose to make this misrepresentation? Are they the ones with an aganda of tyranny?

    • Oh, please. In May 2021, Dr. Anthony Fauci flatly stated that those vaccinated will become “a dead end for the virus…” And:

      In March 2021, Rochelle Walensky, the head of the CDC, declared: “our data from the CDC, today, suggest, you know, that “vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don’t get sick…” …

      Also in May, the Yale School of Medicine published the views of Yale pathologist Ellen Foxman: “We need to get vaccinated as soon as we can so we can prevent the spread of COVID-19…”

      By June, the Centers for Disease Control had already acknowledged 750 deaths amongst the fully vaccinated, plus thousands of additional hospitalizations. Yet four weeks later, President Joe Biden pretended these tragedies didn’t exist.

      On July 21st, he told a CNN Town Hall audience: “it’s really kind of basic…look, it’s real simple.” COVID deaths had “come to a screeching halt for those who’ve been vaccinated,” he insisted. The evidence was “overwhelming.”

      There are numerous other examples. That, in fact, was THE message for the entire spring/summer of 2021. And then reality hit. No surprise that we have been seeing a rewriting of the narrative.

      • Carl,

        Neither Fauci nor the medical experts in agreement are simply making up a narrative about the efficacy of the vaccine. Infection trends clearly back up past statements such as the one you provided. The article you excerpted was from May 2021; the Omicron variant, which is “2.7–3.7 times more infectious than Delta in vaccinated and boosted people”, took on mass spread near the end of 2021. Delta, previously dominant in the US, has been outcompeted by Omicron.

        I was thankful for the diligence you took in writing Will Catholics Be Left “Behind”? back when I read it some years ago. I hope you’re able to apply the same quality of analysis when examining your current beliefs about the virus.

      • Unconvinced. Individual persons have misspoken or been in error or did not anticipate the outbreak of variants. Mr Blondin is right: vaccines and boosters were only ever going to reduce the level of outbreak. I’ve been reading all along that the best hope for the coronavirus is that the strains will weaken, but remain a part of human life like the flu. That message was pretty clear from late 2020.

        Maturity requires we examine our passions in the light of cold truth. Vaccines have likely prevented many (but not all) hospitals from being overrun with Delta and Omicron. Unless a vaccine itself will make a person deathly sick, there is no logical reason not to receive it. Declining to receive it calls into question the good sense of the individual. Such persons should remain masked, and distanced, especially from any vulnerable person.

        This is hardly a situation of tyranny, certainly not anymore than the 25mph speed limit on my neighborhood streets, no matter how late someone is for work.

        • Not a situation of tyranny??? REALLY? When people are being fired from jobs and even being socially isolated by family? When the Loudon school district in Virginia threatens to ARREST CHILDREN for not masking?? When strangers verbally attack you in a store, train or elsewhere for not masking? When prominent leftists in media start saying out LOUD that the unvaxxed should be denied medical care, arrested, confined or need a vaccine passport to board a train or travel from state to state? When you need to show proof of vaxxing to get on a plane? When, in violation of the constitution, churches are forced closed because you might get covid? When you are banned from social media sites in what again should be a violation of your free speech rights, THAT is NOT tyranny??? What planet are you living on honey? I am not an anti-vaxxer. I had covid in early 2020 before any vaccine was developed, and at age 67 I am NOT DEAD. I was sick but DID NOT NEED A HOSPITAL. Have since had two shots and a booster. And now, I would like the hysterics and crazies to get out of my face and leave me alone. In all frankness,and at the risk of sounding harsh, this disease have NEVER been shown to be as deadly as it was broadcast it was going to be. In point of fact, unless you are over 75 and with 4 co-morbidities as the stats have shown, you are unlikely in the EXTREME to die from this disease, or even need hospitalization. The hysteria, and the extreme damage done to our children, the economy, the social fabric and the skyrocketing death rate (suicide, abuse, drug deaths) resulting FROM lockdowns and masking, has simply not been worth the price. Except of course, to power mad democrats who simply are unwilling to cede their control.

          • I also saw tyranny in bishops disinviting speakers, firing pregnant or gay teachers, lawyering up against victims of sex abuse, and moving known predators. In the secular sphere, sentencing a woman to 6 years in prison for applying to get her right to vote restored. Not to mention many police blunders that resulted in the deaths of children, women, and other innocents.

            No, tyranny is a feature of the human condition. It has nothing to do exclusively with left, right, or in-between. It blankets anyone. People panic at times. They say or do dumb things which hurt their cause. Sometimes these are done with malice.

            Asking a person to wear a mask is not tyranny. It is a request. Not getting vaccinated is a free choice for anyone, but it comes with responsibilities. As long as the world has more than one person in it, we have responsibilities which balance our basic human rights.

          • Excellent response, LJ!

            You’re absolutely right!

            I would simply like to add that Ms. Mering’s characterization of the Democratic Party was spot-on:

            “Contempt for your fellow citizens.”

            You see that contempt played out in press conferences, in legislative bills, in urban riots, in illogical mandates, in election subterfuge — in short, in everything the left thinks, says, does or attempts.

        • ‘Leviticus: “he shall cover his upper lip.”
          To protect others from his breath – wear a face mask!’
          kevin your brother
          In Christ

          • Well, exactly. The fellow who has muffled his beard (masked up), and kept himself apart from the camp (quarantined) knows himself to be a danger to his neighbors and by those means warns them away. Those neighbors would be those who know themselves NOT to be a danger to each other. As evidenced by the fact that they aren’t muffling their beards and keeping apart from the camp.

        • Being “asked” to wear a mask is NOT a “request” if your failure to cooperate results in your arrest. Did you see coverage of the father at a school board meting in Pennsylvania dragged away by security yesterday for refusing to wear a mask? Murderers, looters and rapists are not treated this harshly. That is pure unfounded hysteria in action.

          Catholic institutions have both a right and an obligation to support Catholic teachings, visibly to the students and the public at large. An unmarried pregnant woman is in my opinion not an appropriate role model for small children because its clear she has not followed catholic teachings.

          As for Bishops canceling speakers, the same role model rule applies, and I have seen news reports too many to count of CONSERVATIVE speakers and organizations like Right to Life stripped of their right to appear on campuses for fear of “unrest”, according to many cowardly administrators. Better to let your students be propagandized by hearing only ONE point of view.

          Accidental deaths by police are not comparable to enforced government mandates which strip you of your rights. By my observation, most of those killed by police have been killed while engaged in resisting arrest, fleeing arrest, or actively attacking the police themselves.

          You can SAY that tyranny can happen from the left or right. But interestingly, the ONLY place I have observed it here is coming from the LEFT. A proven fake “Russia conspiracy” leveled against our former president, parents at PTA meetings threatened with arrest by a weaponized FBI, The IRS weaponized to prevent licensing of Conservative political organizations prior to Trumps election, Unarmed January 6th defendants kept in solitary and inhumane conditions without benefit of lawyers and medical treatment. And the woman who got 6 years in jail got it because SHE VOTED several times, when as former felon she had no right to do so. She was not sentenced for simply applying to vote. I for one am tired of the blatant double standard which excuses and allows those on the left to do anything they want but is allowed by the media and government to get away with blatant lies and fake news when they attack the right.The Nick Sandmann case is a case in point. The left manages to destroy lives simply by MAKING the false accusations. They dont need to be CORRECT, simply blabber what they wish to the uninformed and credulous. Its funny how the forced retractions never seem to get the same level of distribution. As for known predators being moved by the church, its only in the last 15 years or so that light dawned among mental health professionals that such people can NEVER be cured. Until then, for decades, it was assumed that a few sessions with a psychiatrist and moving to a new location would ensure the end of the problem. By the way, if you read the news you will observe that the Catholic church has no monopoly on predators. They are simply the most titillating stories and thus get the most coverage. If you want to jump every time the govt says so, help yourself. The rest of us will not be made slaves that quietly.

          • LJ to add to your comment. The Jan 6th riot started before Trump had finished his speech. Compared to the “mostly peaceful” 2020 “Summer of Love” looting and rioting, Jan. 6th was weak sauce. Evidently destroying lives and livelihoods is OK when it is the common folk who are made to suffer, but when anything close to this happens to the pampered ruling elites it is the end of the world as we know it. As I recall VP Kamala Harris was active in arraigning bail money for the “Summer of Love” rioters. Many progressive DAs let the SOL rioters walk. Too much rules for thee and not for me. This is the true face of the equity agenda.

        • Mr. Blondin stated: “No scientist or medical doctor has ever said one would be immune to Covid-19…(etc)” That is not true, and Mr. Olson proceeded to show that it was not true.

    • Most of the public discussion has appeared to have a vaccine obsession. Has there been any similar sense of urgency about treatments? Once there has been vaccine failure what is plan B? As I recall when Hydroxychloroquine and the like were first proposed there was no vaccine and the only “treatment” was ICU and ventilators. One reason to oppose alternative medicine is if it prevents the use of known effective treatments. Where were the known effective treatments at the start of the pandemic? There as been a lot of the behavior of the public health and medical authorities that has been very odd. Silencing of people who don’t support the narrative. Actions that have more in common with political science than medical science.

  10. Excellent article. The current administration has capitalized on our current society’s fear of death. This fear of death has been stoked to such a high degree that people have turned violently against anyone that the government tells them is a threat to their own health. This has caused such an emotional response that rational thinking is not possible. I saw this in the hospital when I worked. People would think the doctor was a god and would follow whatever they were told without question. Fear, especially fear of death, is vital in getting people to comply. This administration has used that knowledge to its own advantage. No one asks where all the money goes that the drug companies are making. The whole thing is diabolical.

  11. COVID has proven to be very disruptive. The Trump economy was doing very well until the pandemic and the economic lockdowns. In ways the pandemic looks like a less lethal version of an Andromeda Strain Wildfire incident. Biowarfare doesn’t need to be totally lethal to have an effect on an adversary. China’s uncooperative conduct has been suggestive of an opportunistic version of biowarfare. It got rid of Trump, who was a thorn in China’s side. Of course, all of this is speculation, but the panicked response of the world, with people at each other’s throats, and the shredding of civil rights and liberties, has exposed vulnerabilities to the effects of biowarfare. The pandemic could be considered to be a case study in low intensity biowarfare.

  12. I resent having to wear a mask when Obama, Biden, Pelosi, Feinstein, Gavin Newsom, AOC and her group, etc. do not bother to wear a mask during large birthday celebrations, sitting out on Capitol steps, eating at expensive restaurants, posing for group photos, including Stacy Abrams posing unmasked with a group of children, etc. As usual we are being threatened into obeisance, rules for thee but not for me. I am so sick of the hypocrisy of the Left!

  13. Excellent article. Thanks to the author for the analysis.
    Yes, the trust of many has been seriously damage by public health experts, government agencies, media, corporate medicine and the pharmaceutical industy.
    And not unrelated to your experience about masks with the woman at the Catholic parish, Cahtolic Bishops also have a lot of ground to recover. They were on board with taking the vaccines from the beginning. Their vaccine directives continue to push the vaccine as our moral responsibility to our neighbor. From the pulpit, Catholics are hammered over and over to go and do our duty and accused of being uncharitable to choose otherwise.
    So wrong on so many levels–trust in Catholic Bishops has plummeted to a new low.

  14. Excellent article, and I’ve read others with a similar theme. The question I continue to find myself returning to is this: why do these people turn over their minds, really their souls, to these so-called experts? That is the one thing that I cannot comprehend. Is it because these “experts“ have become their God? I honestly don’t know.

  15. Wrong. I can absolutely guarantee that in Vermont our Chief Medical Officer and Governor told us that the vaccine would protect against transmission and provide immunity for all those vaccinated. We were urged to get “herd immunity” and that life would return to normal when we achieved 80% vax levels. That whole episode is history and they changed their strategy but don’t ever believe those things weren’t said.

  16. While I did not do a microscopic review of the comments, I did gain a sense that most seemed politicizing in nature. The best course for me is to reign in the tendency to pick apart all the comments and avoid judging everyone. Thank you

    • This article concerns how we discuss healthcare issues. The field of medicine involves the need to diagnose and recommend treatments for health problems. Symptoms, examinations, and lab results are a vital part of this delivery of sound healthcare. A good doctor has the good medical judgment to evaluate all of these factors correctly. Bad medical judgment is called malpractice. What kind of doctor would you want to go to for healthcare and healthcare advice? Silencing people is a good way to cover-up malpractice.

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