Preventing COVID-19 deaths has been elevated to a “sacred value” in society, such that those who question pandemic restrictions are morally condemned while deaths, abuses of power and public shaming that occur in the name of “preventing COVID” are deemed acceptable
The unprecedented restrictions placed upon Western civilizations in 2020 would likely have been met with protest a year earlier. But, when issued in the name of COVID-19 mitigation, people are more likely to accept what otherwise might be regarded as abuses of power, even when it leads to death, according to a team of researchers from the U.S. and New Zealand.[i]
COVID-19 has become a highly visible, politicized and publicized event, such that efforts to combat it have become moralized and even regarded as “sacred values.” Once something is elevated to the level of a sacred value, even questioning anything that goes against it can “elicit moral outrage, disapproval, and a desire to reaffirm one’s moral commitments.”
This is certainly what’s been seen with COVID-19 policy, in which people have been shamed, threatened and physically assaulted over their choices to not wear a mask[ii] or refuse to shutter their business.[iii]
The researchers predicted that when COVID-19 efforts become moralized, it would generate asymmetries in judgment that make people more accepting of harms generated as a result — and after conducting two experimental studies, their prediction was confirmed.
Moralization Makes People More Tolerant of Public Shaming, COVID-19 ‘Deaths of Despair’
Lockdowns, business closures and social distancing enforced to combat COVID-19 involve trade-offs that researchers described as collateral damage:[iv]
“Those costs include unemployment or underemployment, extreme stress and substance abuse, and delayed cancer diagnoses, among others. Left unaddressed, these forces may generate ‘deaths of despair’, whereby individuals perish from behaviors or worsened illnesses as a result of perceived bleak prospects.
Other costs include the public shaming of those who violate or question health-based policies, abuse of law-enforcement and government power, and deterioration of human rights.”
Yet, because “fighting COVID-19” has been turned into a moral issue, people tend to be more accepting of the very real harms induced as a result — including deaths, abuses of power and mental illness — than they are of harms they attribute to COVID-19, the illness.
In the first study example, Americans were asked to evaluate human costs, including public shaming, deaths, illnesses and police abuse of power, that resulted either from efforts to minimize COVID-19’s health impact or from non-COVID efforts, such as for economic purposes. In another example, participants were asked to evaluate the harms caused by a police officer abusing authority to enforce either COVID-19 restrictions or speed limits.
“In both cases, the degree of human suffering or cost was held constant, such that the officer cited and detained the same number of people to reduce the same number of deaths,” study author Fan Xuan Chen said in a news release.[v] Yet, the participants’ tolerance of human suffering was not constant; deaths, public shaming and abuse of power were deemed more acceptable when they occurred as a result of minimizing COVID-19.
In a second study, New Zealanders were asked to evaluate research proposals. One asked whether human suffering resulting from efforts to eliminate COVID-19 could outweigh those from abandoning the elimination strategies, while the other asked if the opposite were true.
According to Chen, “New Zealanders were more favorably disposed to a research proposal that supported COVID-19-elimination efforts than to one that challenged those efforts, even when the methodological information and evidence supporting both proposals were equivalent.”[vi]
Questioning COVID-19 Restrictions Is ‘Morally Condemned’
The study’s findings suggest that questioning efforts to eliminate COVID-19 is a “morally condemned” behavior[vii] in today’s society and highlights a double-standard that has emerged, such that deaths from COVID-19 restrictions are acceptable while those said to be from COVID-19 are not.
Not only were the study participants more likely to accept social shaming, illnesses, deaths and human rights violations when they resulted from measures to control COVID-19, but they expressed stronger negativity when human costs were associated with measures not related to COVID-19 control, including:
- Significantly greater moral outrage
- Stronger punitive intentions toward those responsible
- Diminished evaluations of the competence of those involved
Those who were most concerned about COVID-19 risks personally were especially likely to overlook the harms caused by COVID-19 restrictions and express greater moral outrage. Media depictions of COVID-19 may also amplify moralization, the researchers noted, “such as by activating disgust.”[viii]
Harms of COVID-19 Restrictions ‘Under-Acknowledged’
The ideology of “fighting COVID-19” (C19) has been elevated to the level of sacred value while many are turning a blind eye to the suffering that’s resulted from lockdowns, unemployment, economic crisis and isolation, among other resulting human costs of COVID restrictions.
As a result, the researchers suggested that “potential human costs beyond C19’s direct health effects may be relatively under-acknowledged, deprioritized, or granted less moral weight.”
The loss of human lives is now being given different moral weight depending on their cause, and even scientific research that could delve into the true human costs of COVID-19 restrictions is likely to be “discouraged, unfunded, or dismissed,” the researchers revealed, adding “the current findings identify and underscore a prominent obstacle in evaluating those costs dispassionately or through empirical scrutiny: moral outrage.”[ix]
There’s still time to take a step back from this altered reality and view the COVID-19 pandemic objectively, without allowing an ambiguously imposed, and media-driven, measure of morality to cloud your judgment. If you want to learn more, QuestioningCovid.com is a great place to find open-minded discussion. And if you’re looking to get involved and take action, Stand for Health Freedom is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting human, constitutional and parental rights.
[i] J Exp Soc Psychol. 2021 Mar; 93: 104084. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7717882/
[ii] Daily Star July 21, 2020 https://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/disabled-lawyer-disgusted-after-being-22394105
[iii] The Jerusalem Post January 9, 2021 https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/falafel-shop-owner-claims-police-assault-after-opening-amid-covid-lockdown-654773
[iv] J Exp Soc Psychol. 2021 Mar; 93: 104084. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7717882/
[v] Science Daily December 14, 2020 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201214123611.htm
[vi] Science Daily December 14, 2020 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201214123611.htm
[vii] J Exp Soc Psychol. 2021 Mar; 93: 104084. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7717882/
[viii] J Exp Soc Psychol. 2021 Mar; 93: 104084. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7717882/
[ix] J Exp Soc Psychol. 2021 Mar; 93: 104084. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7717882/
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