Hypocrisy in Social Distancing and Other Contentious Issues

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Current and former New York City mayoral staff gather to call for reforms during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, NYC, June 8, 2020. (Brendan McDermid / Reuters)

Impromptus today is the usual mélange, beginning with social distancing — and not distancing. What gives? I cite an article from Politico: “Conservatives charge liberals with social-distancing hypocrisy.” Yes, and it’s a solid charge.

To protest against lockdowns was irresponsible and reckless — an endangerment of public health. But to protest against police brutality is kosher? How does the virus know the difference?

People were told not to visit their dying relatives — their parents and grandparents — because to do so would be reckless. But it’s fine and dandy to mass in protest against police brutality?

(I grant that the recent mass protests have taken place later in the year — later in the pandemic, if you will — and that the risk in such protests has perhaps lessened. Don’t know. The country is now “reopening.”)

In that Politico article, Tom Nichols was quoted. He said he was worried that people would simply tune out our public-health officials. Their expertise would be viewed as political — as tainted by politics. As guided by politics. Not real expertise.

Here’s Tom: “You can’t say, ‘Listen to the science and keep your churches at 25 percent occupancy and socially distance your choir singers,’ and then say, ‘but thousands of people pressed together in a giant mass while screaming is worth the risk.’”

Exactly.

You have to be careful about crying wolf. When the wolf is actually at the door, who will believe you? Credibility is key, for public-health officials and many another. Also, it won’t do to say, “Social distancing for thee, but not for me.”

I have never been on the anti-Whitmer bandwagon — “Heil, Whitmer,” and all that. I have never believed that the governor of Michigan is a tyrant, or would-be tyrant, licking her chops at keeping people in and the economy down. I have always thought she has acted out of her sense of the public interest, and prudent policy, whether she is right or wrong.

But when she joins protests? She acquires a whiff of hypocrisy. (On the plus side, the governor wore a mask.)

Further in my column, I discuss the New York Times — you are familiar with the uproar and upheaval over there. I thought of the phrase “without fear or favor” — and that got me Googling. I found a statement by Adolph S. Ochs, made in 1896. He had just taken control of the Times. And he placed the following statement on his editorial page:

It will be my earnest aim that THE NEW-YORK TIMES give the news, all the news, in concise and attractive form, in language that is parliamentary in good society, and give it as early, if not earlier, than it can be learned through any other reliable medium; to give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved; to make the columns of THE NEW-YORK TIMES a forum for the consideration of all questions of public importance, and to that end to invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.

As I say in my column, “Sounds good.”

Into every column — or almost every column — a little Trump must fall. The president was none too pleased with Mitt Romney’s participation in a march the other day, so he issued a sarcastic tweet: “Tremendous sincerity, what a guy. Hard to believe, with this kind of political talent, his numbers would ‘tank’ so badly in Utah!”

“In my observation,” I say, “Trump never takes on Romney at the level of argument. Instead, he says, in some fashion, ‘I’m more popular than you.’”

But what about the veracity of Trump’s tweet? What about the claim that Romney’s numbers are tanking in Utah? This morning, I saw an article in the Salt Lake Tribune, which says, “Actually, Romney polls better in Utah than the president, and his approval rating has actually risen in the state.”

Trump also said, “I built the greatest economy in the World, the best the U.S. has ever had. I am doing it again!” Once upon a time, Republicans would have risen as one and cried, “You didn’t build that!”

#nostalgia

Speaking of nostalgia, let me end this post the same way I do my column: with a clip of Herman Munster, that extraordinary gent, talking to his son Billy in 1965. Fantastic.





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