Incremental Steps Toward Punishing Politically Incorrect Speech?

The San Diego County Board Tuesday evening adopted a resolution declaring misinformation a “public health crisis.”
Today, the California State Assembly (i.e., state house of representatives) adopted a similar resolution. The San Diego County board member who led the movement dismissed critics of the move as “right wing anti-vaxxers.” The story posted by the local public broadcasting outlet did not mention free speech until the twentieth paragraph: “Some opponents worried that the measure would quash the free exchange of ideas.

“You can believe in science and also ask questions. In fact, science is all about asking questions,” San Diego nurse Ciana King told the board.

She added: “Science is a constant discovery and we know that the evidence is always changing. You can be a medical professional and respect a patient’s right to choose. In fact, you must. This is called autonomy, and it’s the first principle in the nursing code of ethics.”

She is quite right and anyone who knows the least bit about the history of science knows it. Our study of Covid-19, its transmission, its mutation, and its treatment is relatively new and there are, in fact, disputed questions among scientists and physicians. For a political body to declare, even if only in a relatively meaningless resolution, that any contrary opinion to that published by “public health authorities” (who are themselves not always physicians or scientists) are dangerous is itself a dangerous thing.

The San Diego County Public Health Officer was trained in public health bureaucracy before she became a General Practice and Sports Medicine physician. It does not appear that she is a specialist in virology or related fields. So, when she opines on the proper treatment of Covid-19 she has as much authority as any other General Practice physician who might disagree with her. Remarkably, the Director of Public Health in LA County is not a physician at all. Dr Barbara Ferrer holds advanced degrees in public health administration but no degree in medicine.

In the United States of America freedom has traditionally been defined as the relative absence of governmental restraint on movement, thought, and speech. The Bill of Rights restricts what the government may do not what the people may do but that order is increasingly reverse. In many parts of the USA it is assumed that something is illegal until it is permitted when, in fact, the American view is the opposite: something is legal until it is not.

That includes the right to dissent from official government policy, even in matters of public health.

Americans should be very wary of the growing number of attempts to characterize everything as a “public health crisis.” This is intentional. What the bureaucrats have learned from the Covid emergency is that they have much latitude in exercising authority under the rubric of a “public health emergency.” Under such a declaration, mayors, governors, and their functionaries have found that they can exercise considerable authority by executive action without consulting a legislative body.

If the redefinition of political questions as public health matters is unchecked, liberty, including religious liberty, will be seriously diminished.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.


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  1. this is not a new idea, the categorization of views as public dangers, and it does have a parallel in the Temple discussions during the Lord’s ministry, where some were saying about Jesus that “he is leading the people astray (John 7:12).” Authorities often feel the obligation to say, when they think something is wrong, and feel they have a right to be heard. Heard yes, but that doesn’t mean they have a right to be never wrong. Behind that thinking has always been the error of assuming the converse, that, because authorities are obligated to tell us the truth, that implies we are obligated to believe the authorities, as if they are speaking God’s words.

  2. “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

    H. L. Mencken

  3. I received two Pfizer injections in January. In fact, I called my local health dept., my state representative and my federal representative to demand access to the vaccine because I work with immune compromised adults.

    Yet, I find that what CA and San Diego is doing is ridiculous. CA would label me as an “anti-vaxer and all that entails. I’m a vaccine advocate. It is just me or might CA’s brightest minds have disseminated medical disinformation about me?

    This policy will open the door for lawyers to sue public officials who still cannot produce a consistent message. What did Gavin Newsome communicate when he broke protocol to dine with his pals. He suggested that COVID is no big deal. Is that disinformation? Yet the establishment will re-elect him.

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