The Atlantic has published an article titled “Let’s Declare a Pandemic Amnesty” by Emily Oster. The byline is “We need to forgive one another for what we did and said when we were in the dark about COVID.”
The gist of the article is that there should be a so-called Pandemic Amnesty because people didn’t know better, only realizing now in hindsight that some of the views and decisions regarding the pandemic measures and vaccines were wrong.
Given the amount of uncertainty, almost every position was taken on every topic. And on every topic, someone was eventually proved right, and someone else was proved wrong. In some instances, the right people were right for the wrong reasons. In other instances, they had a prescient understanding of the available information.
The people who got it right, for whatever reason, may want to gloat. Those who got it wrong, for whatever reason, may feel defensive and retrench into a position that doesn’t accord with the facts. All of this gloating and defensiveness continues to gobble up a lot of social energy and to drive the culture wars, especially on the internet. These discussions are heated, unpleasant and, ultimately, unproductive. 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.
I am not suggesting ignorance is not a valid defense morally. Ignorance may or may not be culpable, especially if it is not willful. And it is consistent to justice that a view or decision proven to be incorrect after the fact but was correct given the data available at the time should not be punished.
However, Oster’s argument does not apply to what has happened (and still is happening).
The problem is that the measures were imposed on the population without discussion. Any view that contradicted the mainstream narrative was suppressed and/or dismissed (obviously without consideration) and those who expressed said views, including highly qualified medical professionals, were demonized. Whilst this may have been executed by those with the power and means, plenty jumped on the bandwagon using social media. To be fair, Oster may not belong to this group, but some of the population do. There is no shortage of mask-holes and vax-holes.
The consistency at which this occurred cannot be dismissed as “We didn’t know”. One cannot claim the lack of “luck” or inculpable ignorance after having willfully dismissed data. By the way, “data” in philosophical terms is anything one uses to make a decision, it is not limited to so-called scientific data. For example, experience is a form of data.
Personally, this isn’t about gloating. It is about justice. Forgiveness is impossible without an admission of guilt and forgiveness does not exclude “penance”. There is always a price and some people need to pay.
I am not against a “Pandemic Amnesty” but not before a “Pandemic Nuremberg” and, if the individual case demands, a “Pandemic Public Execution”.
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