Friday, May 27, 2022
May 27, 2022

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In Our View: ‘Forced quarantine’ claims endanger society

The Columbian

The foolishness surrounding a recent meeting of the state Board of Health demonstrates the danger of allowing misinformation to fuel mass hysteria.

And it was, indeed, foolish and hysterical. As The Seattle Times reports: “By the time the health board convened Wednesday, the usually obscure panel had been deluged with more than 30,000 emails, hundreds of calls and requests from some 8,000 people to testify at its virtual public meeting. Some of the messages included threats to board members and staff.”

At issue were falsehoods about the agenda for the meeting. Online posts claimed that board members would discuss an emergency order allowing state officials to “involuntarily detain a person or group of persons to be isolated in a quarantine facility.” That quickly was interpreted as “concentration camps” for people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 — a notion that would warrant scrutiny if there were any truth to it.

Despite that lack of truth, the assertion was echoed by conservative media, conservative groups and conservative wannabe politicians. Joe Kent, who is running to unseat Jaime Herrera Beutler in the 3rd Congressional District, promoted a rally against “COVID tyranny” and “forced quarantine” on his Twitter page and on national platforms.

At the rally, according to The Seattle Times, Kent claimed the board had changed its tyrannical plans following public outcry. Board officials say that is false — there never have been discussions about rounding up unvaccinated people.

Joey Gibson, founder of Vancouver-based Patriot Prayer, also addressed the protesters. He reportedly urged them to show up at the homes of public health officials and said demonstrators “should not commit any acts of violence — we’re not at that point right now.”

The actions of Kent and Gibson are appalling demonstrations of the breakdown of societal norms and our ability to have reasonable discourse. Kent shares stories of an imagined bogeyman and then takes credit when the bogeyman does not appear. Gibson urges protests at officials’ homes — which should be taboo in a civilized society — and then implies that acts of violence might someday be warranted in this fabricated fight.

And it is fabricated. Assertions that government would consider rounding up unvaccinated people are so far beyond the bounds of common sense that they defy description. No state is going to willfully violate the First, Fourth, Sixth, 13th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Yet years of being told that the government is the enemy, that measures to slow the coronavirus pandemic are tyrannical, that lies are truth and up is down has tilled the soil for falsehoods to take root. Systematic misinformation campaigns — whether about climate change, election results or COVID-19 vaccines — have fractured our nation’s ability to discern the truth and find common ground in fighting genuine threats; the imagined ones are sucking up too much oxygen.

As one protester told The Seattle Times, he heard about fake plans for quarantines from “someone over the telephone.” He added: “Google it. There’s a lot of videos.” Such is our society’s inability to embrace reason and logic. When YouTube conspiracy videos displace common sense, then we truly are lost.

Making our voices heard by public officials, protecting our rights as Americans and defending our Constitution are sacred duties. But the required actions must be built upon a foundation of truth, rather than hysteria. Otherwise, that foundation will crumble.

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