Brown University economics professor Emily Oster appeared this week in The Atlantic to petition for a “pandemic amnesty.” As the evidence gets harder to bury that the ruling class’s responses to Covid were, as some of us predicted in March 2020, worse than the disease, Oster wants to deflect rising public acrimony over these devastating leadership failures.
“In the face of so much uncertainty, getting something right had a hefty element of luck. And, similarly, getting something wrong wasn’t a moral failing. Treating pandemic choices as a scorecard on which some people racked up more points than others is preventing us from moving forward,” she writes. “We have to put these fights aside and declare a pandemic amnesty.”
She concludes her article, “Let’s acknowledge that we made complicated choices in the face of deep uncertainty, and then try to work together to build back and move forward.”
Yet it’s simply not true there wasn’t enough information for leaders to make prudent decisions back in January to April 2020. Indeed, they were certain enough about their patently cruel policies that included leaving the elderly alone to die, requiring women to give birth utterly alone except for masked strangers, and forbidding families from holding funerals.
Oster is not actually advocating for amnesty, but for a complete lack of responsibility-taking and accountability. That will make our nation’s future worse, less able to address the problems lockdowns created. There is no such thing as “moving forward” from mass civil rights abuses until their root causes have been discerned and steps taken to provide recompense and prevent repeat abuse in the future.
Yes, the Data Was Available to Reject Lockdowns
Oster has built a personal brand on “data-based parenting.” She describes herself in her Twitter profile as “unapologetically data-driven.” But Oster is over her skis, both professionally and as a citizen, to make such a poor argument masquerading as a moderate position in The Atlantic. Especially since her essay is likely the beginning of a pivot among the ruling class to avoid accountability for using Covid to destroy our peace, prosperity, and ancient rights, it deserves the public beating it has received.
We the people were never told by the Covid totalitarians that their predictions were “uncertain” and “complicated.” They were so certain of their false claims that they sent police to record the license plates of people who attended church on Easter, a constitutional and human right. They shut down schools while keeping abortion facilities and marijuana dispensaries open. They were so sure of their moral righteousness that they seemingly gleefully threatened people’s ability to feed their kids if they didn’t take experimental injections for a disease that may have posed little risk to them. The vaccine mandates led to dangerous employee shortages at hospitals, police departments, and now in the U.S. military.
None of this deliberately inflicted mass suffering was necessary, and that was all known early on. It wasn’t, as Oster claims, a matter of “deep uncertainty.” Among others, Dr. Scott Atlas very publicly presented strong evidence that mask mandates and shutdowns were poor policy choices throughout 2020. He was brutalized in the media and his own Ivy League university for pointing out this data. So were the eminent authors of the Great Barrington Declaration that made similar data-based arguments, Drs. Jay Bhattacharya, Sunetra Gupta, and Martin Kulldorff.
It had also been long-established that lockdowns should never be employed and that forcing people into isolation and medical treatments they don’t want are bright red, flashing human rights violations. Multiple Western governments and nongovernmental organizations including the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considered the idea of lockdowns and mass quarantines years before Covid emerged and rejected these policies for both practical and ethical reasons.
Covid wasn’t that “complicated.” The global left simply believed Covid chaos would benefit their forever goal of consolidating power. So they simply suspended our constitutional and natural human rights to worship as we believe God commands, to speak and assemble freely, to be protected from search and seizure, to use our labor freely, to decide what medical treatments we will accept into our bodies, and to be governed by officials we can vote in or out instead of lifelong bureaucrats who are endlessly rewarded for devastating failures.
These evil policy choices that could have been avoided cost lives and inflicted immeasurable human suffering. We deserve justice, not to live under a “new normal” in which our constitutional rights can be subject to indefinite suspension at any time based on amplified panic. It’s the height of gaslighting to pretend otherwise.
Supporting Mass Violations of Human Rights Isn’t Just an ‘Oops’
Anyone who had ever heard of the Nuremberg trials also should have known that forcing people into medical procedures is an absolute no-no. No exceptions, and no further data needed. Yet anyone who mentioned during Covid-tide this major cultural precedent to prevent future atrocities was socially ostracized and professionally punished. Google, YouTube, Facebook, and other controllers of public discourse still continue to punish people for saying this truth, in conjunction with federal agencies, even though that is wildly unconstitutional.
Oster has at times courageously taken stands unpopular among her Rhode Island community and Brown University colleagues, such as in her titrated support for opening schools in fall 2020, when the ruling class believed following that science wasn’t politically advantageous. As other people have noted online, however, Oster has also publicly advocated brutalizing policies including employer and school Covid vaccine mandates. She also supported unnecessary and unscientifically backed measures such as masking parents of unvaccinated kids indoors.
It seems that, despite her noble commitment to making conclusions based on data instead of on peer pressure, that pressure still affects Oster’s interpretation of scientific information. Oster’s argument even denies her professional commitments.
If making accurate predictions is essentially random, there is no point in either discourse or scientific research. Both are supposed to be a search for truth. If we can’t more or less ascertain truth using the tools of reason, wisdom, and evidence, then there is no point in the existence of Brown University, for one thing.
If economists and medical researchers gather data and then put their finger on the scale in their description of the data, that’s not “data-driven” and it’s not science. It’s politics and manipulation. It likely resulted in millions of unnecessary excess deaths. And it’s something Oster wants to gloss over.
Amnesty Requires Admitting What You Did Wrong
Amnesty requires a specific admission of guilt and a commitment to repairing the wrongs done. Instead, Oster is pretending to advocate for reconciliation in a way that insists no reconciliation is actually needed.
Accountability is essential to social order and advancement. A good society does not ignore gross harms people commit against others. It seeks to rectify them to the extent reasonably possible, for the sake of justice and to discourage future wrongs.
Getting the facts wrong may not be a moral failing, but smashing and grabbing fellow citizens’ natural rights because you were scared is indeed a major moral failing. That’s another reason the guilty must confess what they’ve done. Admitting “I was wrong about lockdowns and vaccine mandates” is the first step toward re-establishing the trust lockdown advocates have broken.
Refusing to take accountability for what you’ve done is an indication that you’re going to do it again. That’s why people are reacting so strongly to Oster’s essay.
We Want Justice and Mercy, Not Dodges
Now that we see that America’s next generation has been intellectually handicapped for life, that people will never forget being banned from holding their mom’s hand as she died, that it’s increasingly clear lockdowns will cause far more deaths than Covid, and that these experimental shots maybe have some terrifying side effects, it’s too much for Oster to accept that she played a part in legitimizing these obscenities. So her essay is just a cope. It won’t be the first.
We do have to deal with what has been done. As Aaron Renn noted recently, without requiring accountability for Covid atrocities, “We’re going to just continue having debacle after debacle after debacle, where the people who are responsible for it are going to be the people who basically get rewarded.”
Lockdowns should be taken completely off the table forever. Every legislature, including Congress, needs to limit executive emergency powers. Atlas has more ideas on what else our society needs to do to honor lockdown victims with a real reckoning, not an insulting “amnesty” that seeks to wave away their suffering and allow any of what we’ve experienced to happen again.