Dominic De Bernardo
In the fall and early winter of 2019, as the novel coronavirus (now COVID-19) was spreading intensely but tacitly within the Chinese province of Hubei, word of the disease was spreading less rigorously but just as furtively throughout the country. The Chinese government was keen to maintain a sense of stability and calmness among its citizens, portraying the unfolding pandemic as something to be taken seriously—as evidenced by the harsh lockdown measures in the region—but not so seriously as to suggest the powers that be did not have unmitigated control of the situation.
In January 2020, the salience of the disease was becoming impossible to ignore, much to the chagrin of China. In the U.S. and throughout the rest of the world many news outlets started reporting on the spread of the virus in Hubei, as well as in South Korea, Iran and Italy. In Shanghai, where I was staying at the time, wearing masks outside became more prevalent, even among foreigners who normally forewent doing so on days when pollution made breathing slightly cumbersome. The unknown and precarious nature of the disease made it frightening to many, and justifiably so based on videos and images that were being posted by users on Chinese apps like WeChat and Weibo. The sheer number of new infections and deaths being reported by the government in their daily updates certainly did nothing to alleviate fears.
China forged ahead in their strict efforts to stymie both the disease itself and, more to their concern, the bad PR that was percolating from their early handling of the crisis. A friend in Shanghai, too afraid to message me on WeChat, which is heavily monitored by an army of social media moderators, texted me on iMessage about the measures being taken to censor private conversations regarding the virus and the government. After one conversation on the app extended past the realm of acceptable discourse, the police went to my friend’s house, escorted her to the local police station and took a statement from her acknowledging what she had done. They presented her with a transcript of the messages in question and had her sign a guarantee that she would not partake in such conversations in the future. Before being released, she was instructed to “study Chinese law deeply” and profess her love for and allegiance to the country.
There is clearly a firm demarcation between what does and what does not fall within the bounds of suitable dialogue in China, not only with regard to COVID-19. During the 2019 Hong Kong protests, we witnessed flagrant violations of the rights of Hong Kong citizens and rampant censoring throughout their struggle to maintain some autonomy from China. It has been the MO of the government to stifle dissenting or even skeptical speech from citizens for decades. The most blatant example of abuses is that of reeducation camps in the northwestern province of Xinjiang where Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic group, have been subjected to perverted human rights violations.
Sadly, the severity and extent of these totalitarian limits is widely unbeknown to U.S. citizens, facilitating their cognitive manipulation by condescending elitist intellectual types offering deluded critiques of seemingly every American institution in the name of dismantling purportedly widespread yet dubious societal phenomena like “white privilege” and xenophobia. Not only are such criticisms unsubstantiated, but they also ironically come from a place of privilege and ignorance. The fact that woke “intellectuals” and celebrities have a platform to criticize America, and are widely glorified for doing so, is in stark contrast to the reality for many in other parts of the world. Chinese citizens do not have the luxury of speaking out, publicly or privately, about grievances they have with their government, let alone “systemic” racism or institutional systems of oppression.
The affected virtue signaling done constantly by the mainstream media and corporate elites is at best an affront to the subjects of the CCP regime, and at worst a harmful and deceptive substitute for a shamefully wasted opportunity to gain valuable sobering perspective. If globalist elitists and their mouthpieces in the media truly care about human rights and the underprivileged then they stand to learn much from insight into the situations Chinese citizens face on a daily basis. But if draconian measures during a pandemic still yield no self-awareness and encourage no introspection, then one can only logically conclude that nothing will. They seem to be suffering from cognitive dissonance that suggests they do not care about human rights at all, and their moral grandstanding is not only greatly exaggerated, but a complete façade. It’s time for our ruling class to stop distracting from their self-important, mercenary ulterior motives and be realistic and deliberate about actual dilemmas facing everyday Americans during this crisis.