Shifting the Burden, Social Class, Hate Speech, and an Antisemite in Congress

The COVID-19 pandemic is being used to shift the burden of proof in a manner that is profoundly un-American and anti-Enlightenment. In a rational society, an individual is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There must be a proven crime and the person accused of that crime has no obligation to provide any evidence of his innocence. The government has the burden to prove the case against him. In contrast, authoritarian social orders presume guilt and use that presumption to control the people. Burden shifting under COVID-19 is a means to end. The end is a totalitarian social order made in the image of the People’s Republic of China.

Vaccine passports are here

Vaccine passports and other methods of discrimination surrounding the ostensive control of SARS-CoV-2 presume one is sick until the suspect proves to an authority or a power that he is well. To show that he well, he must provide proof of vaccination or submit to tests. Otherwise, he is denied access or othered by being forced to wear a mask. It doesn’t appear to matter to the authorities that researchers have shown that the vaccine does not guarantee that an individual is free of the virus. It is now well known that individuals carry and transmit the virus (The Official Vaccine Narrative Completely Falls Apart; Will the Vaccinated Do the Right Thing and Mask Up or Stay Home?). Moreover, PCR tests may wrongly report individuals as sick (false positives), as well as wrongly clear individuals of infection (false negatives).

If determining disease and controlling SARS-CoV-2 isn’t really the point of passports and tests, then what is the point? Passports and tests are elements in a program to condition the masses for life in a totalitarian social order. The coming regime of control will include the total surveillance of individuals moving through restricted spaces. Unelected gatekeepers across private and public spaces will control the fate of individuals. By their nature, bureaucratic systems subject individuals to disciplinary regimes by suspecting them of deviation a priori. Technocratic schemes default individuals to the status of guilty person. In a world where public heath authorities control the movement of people and access to resources, all are presumed disease vectors unless formally shown otherwise.

You see a similar logic with antiracism. As a white person, you are automatically guilty of the oppression of blacks. You guilt is an assignment. Your skin condemns you. Your white ancestry de facto implicates you in unjust enrichment at the expense of black people. To be sure, you cannot prove you’re innocent of this collective and intergenerational crime. But you can confess it, seek forgiveness and atone for it. For many workers, just as they must prove their wellness with tests and vaccines, they must prove their commitment to erasing their presumed racial privilege by testifying to it (which proves the legitimacy of the exercise) and pledging to work to move the project of equity forward. A diversity training session presumes you are a racist in the same way COVID-19 passports and tests presume you are sick. Like a vaccine passport, swearing allegiance to the anti-racism project is about erasing your privacy and your right to be presumed innocent of sickness and racism. It signals that technocratic corporate state power own you. In the nascent totalitarian social order you are by default these things—guilty, sick, and racist—and must account for the problem of your existence as a condition of your status as a serf of the oligarchy.

* * *

We can always count on CNN to provide fine examples of propaganda. Yesterday they delivered this one: The unvaccinated still think Covid vaccines are a risk, survey finds. Of course, the vaccines carry risks. All vaccines do. The vaccines for COVID-19 appear to be particularly risky. The mRNA vaccines turn one’s cells into a factory producing spike protein, which, among other things, inflames the body. For example, because the mechanism of the disease is the toxicity of the spike protein associated with SARS-CoV-2, many vaccine recipients present with the same condition as long-haul COVID-19 patients. But that is not the only example of adverse consequences. One is at risk for a long list of negative health outcomes with this vaccine—autoimmune disorders, blood clots, inflammation of the heart, paralysis, and so one. The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS, records tens of thousands of serious reactions to the vaccines including thousands of deaths.

CNN knows this, but the impression CNN wishes to leave is that there are no risks to the vaccine, or at least none that would warrant skepticism. The article claims that belief that the risk of the vaccine is greater than the risk of disease is dispelled by overwhelming evidence. But this is untrue. For many demographic groups, there is no evidence that the disease is riskier than the vaccine. Most Americans are not at significant risk from this virus (see “COVID-19 is Worse than the Flu”—For Whom?). That’s just a scientific fact, one you can determine for yourself by visiting the web site of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). But CNN knows their audience, whom they have successfully terrified for more than a year. They misrepresent the facts without consequence.

* * *

USA Today recently published an op-ed by Erin Keith “More police presence won’t save communities. Defunding police will.” Erin Keith is an attorney at the Detroit Justice Center. According to her blurb, her work focuses on combatting racial injustice and economic inequality within the criminal punishment system. Keith’s op-ed is a call to put the black people of Detroit at more danger. She should know better. As I have shown on Freedom and Reason, racial injustice is not a feature of the criminal justice system. However, this quote from her essay is crucial to grasp: “The Detroit of my childhood is one where Black affluence and Black poverty coexisted. A city where local business owners and my doctors and my dentist looked like me, but also where Black hardship was evident.” Inequality does play a role, as the historic and present function of the system its controlling the dangerous classes. It’s not about race. It’s about class. Activists should stop obsessing over racial injustice and start focusing on economic inequality. Racial resentment is a dead end for working people. It’s part of an authoritarian project. Class struggle is the true politics of liberation.

* * *

At its most basic level, hate speech is speech some people find hateful. Everybody I know is allowed to hate some person or some thing or a category of things. I hate Nazis. Is that hate speech? People can agree to define hate speech as abusive, intimidating, or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, but what speech or writing is to be considered abusive, intimidating, or threatening?

Nor is silence

Presumably it would be hate speech for a white man to frighten or overawe a black person on the street using racial slurs. However, isn’t it already illegal to intimidate another person on the street whatever the content of one’s speech? Isn’t the problem with intimidation not the content of speech but the act of frightening or overawing a person? Put another way, how does speech expressing prejudice for a person or group of persons intimidate apart from the act of intimidation? Same with threats. A threat is a statement or the presence of an intention to inflict damage, injury, or pain on someone. Beyond specific intent, what in the content of speech indicates this? A person may utter a racial epithet, but what in his utterance constitutes a threat? Isn’t the content indicating a threat independent of other content? Finally, abusive speech is speech a person finds extraordinarily insulting or offensive. For example, a Muslim may find a cartoon of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban insulting or offensive. So what? He should get over it. And if he cuts off the cartoonists head over the cartoon, it should be the murder that should be punished.

Isn’t enhancing a penalty because of the content of the speech really punishing somebody for speech? Isn’t that thought crime?

* * *

Speaking of hate, Congresswoman Rashid Tlaib recently made a connection between the situation in Palestine and the situation in Detroit. “We also need to recognize—and this is for me as a Palestinian American—we also need to recognize as I think about my family and Palestine that continue to live under military occupation and how that really interacts with this beautiful Black city that I grew up in.”

What is the connection? Tlaib is often not clear in her words (she is, frankly, a stupid and unstable person), but she says a lot here so let’s take a look at it.

“You know, I always tell people cutting people off from water is violence from Gaza to Detroit,” Tlaib said. “And it’s a way to control people, to oppress people. And it’s those structures that we continue to fight against.” What are these structures? Is it the structure of capitalism? The structure of racism? How do structures cut off people from water? Don’t people cut off people from water? Who are those people? Are they capitalists? Racists?

Congresswoman Rashid Tlaib

Progressives are supposed to know who she is talking about. “I know that you all understand the structure that we’ve been living under right now is designed by those that exploit the rest of us for their own profit,” she said. Now we are getting down to it. There are people who designed the structure that cuts off people from water. And they do a lot more evil than just that. “I don’t care if it’s the issue around global human rights and our fight to free Palestine or to pushing back against those that don’t believe in the minimum wage or those that believe that people have a right to health care and so much more.”

So there is a group who has designed a structure that explains all these oppressions: the occupation of Palestine, the effort to thwart a minimum wage hike, the effort to prevent universal health care. Tlaib explains: “if you open the curtain and look behind the curtain, it’s the same people that make money and, yes they do, off of racism, off of these broken policies.” She continued: “There is someone there making money and you saw it!” There, behind a curtain. Can you see him? The Great and Powerful Oz? I think Tlaib thinks he is a Jew. Isn’t the Jew behind the occupation of Palestine? The same person who is behind the occupation it behind the situation in Detroit. Tlaib said so.

I have no problem criticizing capitalists. But when you announce a rant with “As a Palestinian American” and tell your audience that the same forces behind the Israeli occupation of Palestine are behind bad things happening to minorities across the world, and then claim that this is all the result of a structure they designed for profit, including the oppression of black people, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to hear a reference to a certain notorious cabal trope. Remember when Tlaib said that the slaughter of millions of Jews gives her a “calming feeling”?

Tlaib sounds like Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. It appears Detroit elected an antisemite.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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