Google recently reported that a record number of internet searches reflect the depths of our loneliness epidemic. More than ever, people are seeking ways “to make friends,” and looking for places where they might find friends.
That report came on the heels of Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s special advisory on America’s loneliness epidemic. Glowing interviews and stories about Murthy’s 81-page report — titled “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation” — have been making the rounds in podcasts, medical journals, and “news” outlets. The reporting is peppered with friendly platitudes about bringing people together and “reaching out” to loved ones.
Don’t be taken in by that hype. This advisory and the strategy it proposes are fraught with threats to freedom. Keep this in mind: “Advisories are reserved for significant public health challenges that require the nation’s immediate awareness and action” (emphases added).
I recently offered an in-depth analysis of the “six pillars” of the strategy here at The Federalist. Here I summarize the dangers they pose.
The advisory foreshadows an unprecedented invasion of private spaces by the federal government that could completely undermine our most fundamental freedoms. If fully implemented, the project could place the federal government in de facto control of your local community and social associations of every kind. It also threatens to dictate what you can say, what values you should have, and what associations are acceptable. It seems poised to reinforce that control with surveillance.
Government Won’t Acknowledge Helping Create the Problem
Loneliness and social isolation have been in the headlines for a very long time. Few deny that isolation has an adverse effect on health. Decades of studies document the connection between the stress of loneliness and an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, early onset of dementia, and, ultimately, premature death. Plenty more studies reveal what we all know in our gut: Loneliness increases the risk of depression, mental illness, and suicide.
While the problem is real and growing, the report offers no analysis of the root causes of the loneliness epidemic. That’s likely because government policies have long played a huge role in causing social isolation. Policies that promote fatherlessness, welfare dependency, urban blight, homelessness, deaths of despair, and abortion (i.e., infanticide) weaken human bonds.
The current administration is also committed to identity politics, which infuses society with all kinds of resentments that divide people. There are other causes, of course, including the destructive effects of new cyber technologies. But the role of the state is key.
The government is doubling down on other policies that weaponize loneliness. Its cooperation with Big Tech and Big Media to punish wrongthink puts a chilling effect on our conversations. So do its recent attacks on due process and basic self-defense, as well as law enforcement now being used to punish beliefs and speech with pre-dawn FBI raids.
Let’s also not forget how Covid lockdowns and mandates literally enforced our isolation from one another. They brutally separated the dying from their loved ones in the hour of greatest need. Even in supposedly red states like Indiana and Kentucky, officials pressed hard to shut down churches and synagogues during the high holy days of Easter and Passover. Our government demonized the un-injected and unmasked, which cultivated hostilities that destroyed friendships and estranged family members.
Perhaps most disturbing is that so much suffering was inflicted on us because of a virus that we very soon learned was nearly 100 percent recoverable, especially for anyone without other serious health issues. So, in retrospect, those actions look like a prolonged experiment in social control.
Despite all this, in Murthy’s report you’ll find no admission of the government’s key role in promoting anti-family, anti-faith, and anti-speech policies that drive people into social isolation, nor for its responsibility in brutally enforcing our isolation during its Covid era. Rather, the report comes up with politicized tropes like “historical inequities” that can “shape” social connection or disconnection.
We can’t expect any action by the current regime to reverse those policies. Quite the contrary. Murthy and his allies in government, media, Big Tech, and the corporate world remain committed to the censorship-industrial complex. The advisory comes from the same surgeon general who told Big Tech to cancel those with different opinions about Covid.
The Definition of Insanity
Now, the current administration plans to prescribe our “cure” under the pretext of rescuing us from the loneliness it plays a key role in cultivating. It seems poised to do so with a vast expansion of the power and influence of the federal government in our private lives. The sheer hypocrisy of the proposed strategy is breathtaking. Yet we are expected to trust it without question.
The advisory’s strategy first calls for building a vast “infrastructure” to promote social connection among people. As I reported here at The Federalist in my analysis of the advisory’s six pillars, it’s designed to ensure federal dominance over all departments of government in all localities and all manner of associations, including service organizations, sports clubs, religious organizations, and recreational and special interest clubs. It also calls for federal involvement in local physical infrastructure so that housing, libraries, parks, transportation networks, and every place people might interact will promote the government’s instructions on how build social connection.
The project also calls for mass compliance with leftist agenda items embedded within the report. Here’s a choice quote: “government has a responsibility to use its authority to monitor and mitigate the public health harm caused by policies, products and services that drive social disconnection. … Diversity, equity, inclusion, [DEI] and accessibility are critical components of any such strategy.” This can only result in the perpetuation of social hostilities and coercion inherent in DEI policies.
The report also notes that people with strong families and social networks gain all kinds of benefits — economic, material, educational, emotional, health — that are not accessible to those who are socially disconnected for various reasons, including race, sex, “historical inequities,” and poverty. It’s not clear how statists plan to spread the wealth of social connection. But I think we can presume they’ll try in ever more dystopian ways that will end up imposing social isolation on the noncompliant.
Government Tracking of Kindness and Friendliness
The report also calls for a culture of “kindness,” “respect,” and “responsibility.” This sounds delightful on the surface. But the current administration does not interpret those words to reflect traditional virtues. Rather, their Orwellian definitions have taken over. They echo the social and emotional learning curriculum (SEL) that currently imparts school children with woke values and tells them how they must relate to others.
The advisory also calls for “stakeholders” in all institutions — with special attention given to sectors of health care, education, and technology — to track and monitor the social connection and social disconnection of individuals. This portends bias response teams as well as government-mandated surveillance and training in all institutions regarding how people should and shouldn’t connect socially.
Finally, according to Murthy’s report, too much social connection can be dangerous because it can lead to “extremism” and “polarization” if you are connected with too many like-minded people. We therefore need to “bridge” our connections to let “outsiders” into our social circles, with government oversight to prevent the harm and violence that comes with certain kinds of (unnamed) social connections.
Meddling with Private Life Defines Tyranny
Will this advisory really lead to federal regulation of the private sphere of life? Well, if we leave it to its own devices, that’s where we’re headed. After all, infiltrating private life is the default pattern in the history of all unchecked bureaucracies and tyrannies. It always happens in the name of a greater good. The surgeon general’s advisory is in line with this pattern since it sets America up for the vast expansion of government control in an area where it has never been firmly in control before: the private sphere of life.
As I described, this project also appears to build on disturbing trends of censorship, surveillance, and suppression of traditional values and constitutional protections. History has warned us that such trends lead to the end of freedom.
We can begin to push back by remembering President Ronald Reagan’s warning that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”