Viewpoint: Think twice about shaming your neighbors  

By Blake Rosso 

In his 2019 book “Judge Thy Neighbor, author Patrick Bergemann examines the ways in which denunciations (public snitching/whistleblowing/tattling) were encouraged by governing authorities to propel the Spanish Inquisition, Romanov Russia and the rise of Nazi Germany. Bergemann documents how everyday people in each of these cases were convinced to turn in their friends and neighbors for deviance at the request of governments and institutions. He found that most often, people turned in their neighbors in order to gain reward or to avoid punishment. When rewards and punishments were absent in a society, he found that most denunciations were made “as a means of resolving private disputes or grudges in order to harm another individual.” Governments and institutions wishing to install a new system of control (or maintain an old system) have historically found denunciations extremely effective. After the tragic events of 9/11, denunciations against the Muslim community were encouraged by right-leaning politicians and media outlets here in America. Reporting “suspicious activity” of anyone wearing a turban became common practice across much of the country. Rampant islamophobia and a never-ending “war on terror” was the result. It should be noted here that wars make a lot of money for certain industries. If you are a liberal-leaning individual, you most likely see all of this with a clear set of eyes. If you are a conservative, you probably deny or are unaware that any of these coercion tactics were ever used.  

With the arrival of COVID-19, the political script and use of denunciations has flipped. Public shaming and the reporting of deviants are again being called for, but this time the request is coming from left-leaning politicians and media outlets. All across this country and especially here on this island, we are being conditioned to report our friends and neighbors for not wearing masks. Democratic politicians in New York and beyond have encouraged people to take pictures of non-mask wearers and send them in to authorities. Facebook and Twitter have become public forums for character assassination and sentencing of individuals without trial. While there is credible science on both sides of the mask debate (up until July of this year, The World Health Organization held up science showing that masks were ineffective against the spread of COVID-19), that discussion will be left for another editorial. Masks are not the issue here. Denunciation is. Over the next few months, the expression “wear the damn mask” will transition to “take the damn jab.” Shaming your neighbors for not wearing a mask will soon turn into shaming your neighbors for not taking the coronavirus vaccine, or the yearly influenza vaccine. Coronavirus vaccinations are on the way and current polls show that nearly two-thirds of Americans do not want to roll up their sleeves due to safety concerns. This is a big problem for a government that has paid billions of dollars to the liability-free pharmaceutical industry in order to come up with a vaccine in record time. The U.S. National Institutes of Health has partnered with Moderna (a Bill Gates funded vaccine maker) to create and test a vaccine for this virus, so there is a lot of pressure from a lot of different angles being directed at the American public right now. All of that pressure is meant to turn public support back in favor of widespread vaccinations. Immunization papers will soon be required for travel, work and school. That is our reality. U.S. healthcare agencies anticipate a fight from the American public on these issues, and one way of turning the public relations tide would be to convince the public to lean heavily on their neighbors to go out and get the jab. What better training for that than a practice-run using mask shaming? The denunciation encouraged after 9/11 resulted in a national phobia (fear of Muslims) and a never-ending war on terror that continues to profit certain industries. The denunciation we are seeing now with COVID-19 will also result in a national phobia (fear of germs) and another war on terror (COVID-19). Non-mask wearers (and pro-choice vaccination advocates) are the new Muslims, and a new sector of industry is positioned to profit.  

If you really believe in the science behind mask wearing in certain situations (as I do), get out and educate, but please think twice about publicly shaming or turning in your friends and neighbors. Denunciation is a means of control, plain and simple. Look at world history. Look to our not-so-distant American history. One hundred percent compliance on mask wearing would be great, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that we are being conditioned to deliver a much larger prize.  

 Blake Rosso resides in Southwest Harbor 

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