The Lockdown Caste System

by | Jun 11, 2024 | POLITICS

Like Black Lives Matter, the Democratic Party enjoyed an exemption from the lockdown measures.

Beginning in March 2020, Florida attorney Daniel Uhlfelder dressed as the Grim Reaper to shame parents who brought their children to local beaches. Instead of questioning his sanity or explaining that sunlight killed the virus, liberal news outlets celebrated this unhinged lawyer, his cloak, his scythe, and his ideology.

In normal times, Americans would hear Uhlfelder barking from a street corner about end times. “Just keep walking,” they’d tell their kids as they caught glimpses of his signs predicting rapture. But these were not normal times, so lunacy elevated Uhlfelder to adoring media coverage and a political platform.

“It’s a macabre plea to beachgoers to stay home,” CNN wrote alongside a picture of Uhlfelder standing in front of a beach umbrella covered in a black cloak. He handed out body bags to families playing near the ocean. Saturday Night Live, Vice News, and The Daily Show hosted him, celebrating rather than mocking his efforts. “If we don’t take measures to control things, this virus is going to get really, really out of control,” he warned.

The New Yorker published a glowing profile on the Sunshine State’s Grim Reaper. “I’m not a liberal,” he said. “I’m logical.” He compared his publicity tour to his family’s experience in the Holocaust. “My grandfather escaped Nazi Germany as a teenager. His whole family was incinerated in gas chambers,” he said. “It was always ingrained in my head: ‘You can sit around and bitch and whine, but what are you going to do about it?’’ So, to honor the memory of the Holocaust, Uhlfelder responded to national fear by scapegoating political opponents and urging the suspension of their liberties.

Uhlfelder held higher aspirations than terrorizing local families. He used his publicity to launch the Make My Day PAC, a political action committee supporting pro-lockdown Democrats. Later that year, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for Florida Attorney General, receiving 400,000 votes. CNN later welcomed him as a public health expert on mask mandates.

On May 26, 2020, he posted photos of his continued efforts to shame his neighbors into sitting alone inside. He even had multiple costumes, incorporating a hazmat suit into his outfit rotation.

But there was a notable carve-out to Uhlfelder’s attitude toward public gatherings. One week later, he celebrated millions of citizens gathering across the country after the death of George Floyd. He personally attended BLM rallies in Florida and endorsed marches in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. These socially fashionable beliefs apparently warranted a departure from his zealous advocacy for lockdowns.

A country with 300 million people will always have narcissistic, hypocritical lunatics; more alarming, however, was how leading officials in government, media, and medicine were nearly indistinguishable from Uhlfelder.

The Black Lives Matter Exception

Politicians and bureaucrats throughout the country overturned equality of law in favor of a Covid caste system. The lockdowns, the edicts, the house arrests, the arbitrary deprivations of liberty, the capricious assaults on constitutional rights, and the irrational executive orders were all reserved for citizens with the wrong political persuasion.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was one of the country’s most ardent enforcers of lockdowns. Her citizens lost their basic rights to petition government, travel, and assemble. In April, she called protests against her stay-at-home order “racist and misogynistic.” She threatened that resistance would make it “likelier” that the lockdowns would continue.

But Whitmer’s tune changed when BLM protesters and rioters arrived in Detroit in June. She greeted them with enthusiasm, marching side-by-side with the group. Whitmer willingly violated her executive orders, which required “social distancing measures…including remaining at least six feet from people.” She was clear that politics drove her decision to march arm in arm with her voting bloc. “Elections matter,” she shouted from a microphone. “We cannot be defeated!”

Like Uhlfelder, Whitmer combined dictatorial arrogance with cognitive dissonance. At the time of her BLM political rally, she threatened citizens with 90 days in jail if they violated her stay-at-home order, though enforcement depended on their political persuasion. Thousands gathered in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and the State Capitol, but Whitmer refrained from punishing the lawbreakers. As political allies of the administration, they were not subject to the edicts that applied to the broader citizenry.

Illinois took a similar approach. When asked about the ramifications for violating stay-at-home orders, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told reporters, “We will arrest. That should never happen because people – meaning you – have to comply.” Governor J.B. Pritzker was similarly stern in his house arrest demands. “All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are prohibited,” he decreed. For non-favored citizens, it was the most extreme form of totalitarianism: all gatherings at any place with any persons were banned. As was “all travel, including, but not limited to, travel by automobile, motorcycle, scooter, bicycle, train, plane, or public transit.”

Illinois’s lockdown enforcement continued into the summer. In late May, Chicago Police issued warnings that they would arrest and fine anyone who biked on outdoor trails, even if riding alone. When a local group of Republicans planned an outdoor Fourth of July picnic, Pritzker went to court to enforce his arbitrary crowd limits. But none of these standards applied to Black Lives Matter.

“We want people to come and express their passion,” Mayor Lightfoot told reporters weeks after she scolded citizens that they “had to comply.” Thousands of protesters gathered in cities across the state, with looters inflicting over $100 million in damage. Unlike public policy aimed at solo bike rides, there was no concern for viral transmission.

Civil liberties hinged on political persuasion under the governor’s regime. Like Whitmer, Pritzker personally marched alongside hundreds of activists in June. Months later, he banned the Illinois Republican Party from holding rallies in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election. It was clear viewpoint discrimination – the Governor marched alongside a political group he supported and banned marches from a party he opposed.

Local media was largely silent as the governor suspended political freedom under an irrational public health excuse. Without explaining how his marches differed in safety, he argued that curbing the activities of his opponents was “necessary” to prevent the spread of Covid.

In November, President Biden won the election, and the standards for political demonstrations shifted again. The obese Pritzker marched through Chicago with thousands of supporters. Like Black Lives Matter, the Democratic Party enjoyed an exemption from the lockdown measures. “It’s clear the governor keeps one set of rules for the people in politically advantageous photo ops and another for the rest of Illinois,” Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider said in response.

Mayor Lightfoot joined thousands in celebrating President Biden’s election. “It’s a great day for our country,” she shouted to the crowd. Her political allies filled the streets around her, packed shoulder to shoulder. Five days later, Lightfoot returned to authoritarian impulse. “You must cancel the normal Thanksgiving plans,” she demanded of her citizens. According to Lightfoot, it was simply too dangerous to interact with “guests that do not live in your immediate household.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York implemented a similar two-tiered legal system in the Empire State. “How many people have to die before the people ignoring social distancing get that they have a responsibility?” He asked on Twitter in April 2020. “One person sneezes – another person gets intubated… STAY HOME. SAVE LIVES.” Just weeks after he shut down church pastors for hosting drive-in sermons, BLM protesters were immune from law enforcement.

Thousands gathered in the streets and blocked transit across the state. Two months earlier, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio personally escorted the NYPD to Brooklyn to shut down an outdoor funeral for a local Rabbi. “Something absolutely unacceptable happened in Williamsburg tonite: a large funeral gathering in the middle of this pandemic,” the mayor posted. “When I heard, I went there myself to ensure the crowd was dispersed. And what I saw WILL NOT be tolerated so long as we are fighting the Coronavirus.”

“The time for warnings has passed,” de Blasio later posted. “This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period.” But Cuomo and de Blasio changed their tune when the New York Times reported that thousands of BLM protesters “tore off the plywood that boarded up Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square, swarming by the dozens inside to steal whatever they could find before being chased down by the police. Others smashed the windows at a Nike store, grabbing shirts, jeans and zip-up jackets. They crashed into a Coach store, ransacked a Bergdorf Goodman branch and destroyed scores of smaller storefronts along the way.”

De Blasio did not lead the NYPD to shut down the gatherings and lootings; he did not even condemn the violation of his decrees. Instead, he justified the double standard: “When you see a nation, an entire nation, simultaneously grappling with an extraordinary crisis seeded in 400 years of American racism, I’m sorry, that is not the same question as the understandably aggrieved store owner or devout religious person who wants to go back to services.”

In neighboring New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy embraced the double standards as well. Murphy was one of the strictest enforcers of lockdowns beginning in March 2020. That spring, New Jersey police charged citizens for crimes including:

  • “Congregating without maintaining a distance of 6FT, and without a destination, in violation of the Governor’s order;”
  • “Failing to obey a governor’s Ex. Order by taking part in non-essential travel & failing to social distance;” and
  • “standing in violation of Governor’s orders.”

When asked about Murphy’s enforcement of corona-law, an attorney from the ACLU of New Jersey remarked, “It’s a little breathtaking, the scope.”

But when thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters gathered in Newark, there were no similar citations. Murphy was clear: the application of the law depended on whether he found the group’s cause morally sufficient. “I’ll probably get lit up by everyone who owns a nail salon in the state,” he said in June. “But it’s one thing to protest what day nail salons are opening, and it’s another to come out in peaceful protest, overwhelmingly, about somebody who was murdered right before our eyes.”

Later that summer, New Jersey police arrested owners of a local gym for operating their business in defiance of his orders and homeowners for hosting a pool party without social distancing. The gym owners hadn’t flipped over cars or torched police vehicles like the BLM protesters in Trenton, and the pool party didn’t descend into gang violence like the “anti-racism” movement in Atlantic City. Murphy’s standard was clear: ideology was the dispositive factor in the application of the law.

Unelected ideologues were not immune from the hypocrisy. Former CDC Director Tom Frieden warned in a Washington Post op-ed that violating stay-at-home orders and lockdowns could “overwhelm health-care facilities, killing doctors, nurses, patients, and others.” Protests against shuttering businesses and schools was akin to mass homicide to Frieden, but there was a policy exception for the George Floyd riots. “People can protest peacefully AND work together to stop Covid,” he insisted.

1,300 public health workers signed an open letter that explained why the “anti-racism” protests should be exempt from the restrictions that other groups faced. “Protests against systemic racism, which foster the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on Black communities and also perpetuates police violence, must be supported.” Meanwhile, protests against stay-at-home orders “not only oppose public health interventions but are also rooted in white nationalism and run contrary to respect for Black lives,” they explained. 

“Freedom for me, but not for thee, has no place under our Constitution,” US Circuit Judge James Ho later explained. But that was exactly the double standard that politicians and health officials applied through the summer of 2020. 

In June 2020, the American Public Health Association declared, “Racism is a public health crisis.” Their members reasoned that this supported their defense of the BLM movement after promoting house arrests for months. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American College of Physicians issued similar proclamations, as did groups at Harvard, Georgetown, and Cornell and local governments in California, Wisconsin, and Maryland.

By June 2020, the “American Creed” – the Jeffersonian principle that all men are created equal and must be treated equally before the law – was overturned in favor of blunt-force partisan politics. Petty tyrants like Whitmer, Pritzker, Cuomo, and Murphy implemented a two-tiered system of justice that rewarded allies of the regime and punished its opponents.

Supposedly serious people acted as insane as a man dressed in a grim reaper costume at the Florida beach. They wielded their power capriciously, weaponizing the legal system against political opponents. They lived in luxury while denying basic freedoms to their citizens. Their grandiose moralizing became a thin façade for their overwhelming incompetence.

Their media, their police departments, their “public health experts,” and their corporate donors were unwavering. They cared about power, not democratic accountability or constitutional norms.

The contrast between the lockdowns for the virus and the widespread tolerance and encouragement of gatherings to protest racism, followed by lockdowns once those were over, followed by gatherings to celebrate Trump’s defeat, all in the course of one political season, was just too much for many observers. It was this back-and-forth, selective manipulation of public-health messaging that began to unravel the entire Covid regime. It broke the psychology of compulsion and control, and revealed the underlying vacuity of the entire calamity.

The Brownstone Institute for Social and Economic Research is a nonprofit organization conceived of in May 2021 in support of a society that minimizes the role of violence in public life.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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