Constitutional attorney John Whitehead at the Rutherford Institute thinks about rights vs public health during a mandatory quarantine/travel restriction in This Is a Test: How Will the Constitution Fare During a Nationwide Lockdown?
“It takes a remarkable force to keep nearly a million people quietly indoors for an entire day, home from work and school, from neighborhood errands and out-of-town travel. It takes a remarkable force to keep businesses closed and cars off the road, to keep playgrounds empty and porches unused across a densely populated place 125 square miles in size. This happened … not because armed officers went door-to-door, or imposed a curfew, or threatened martial law. All around the region, for 13 hours, people locked up their businesses and ‘sheltered in place’ out of a kind of collective will. The force that kept them there wasn’t external – there was virtually no active enforcement across the city of the governor’s plea that people stay indoors. Rather, the pressure was an internal one – expressed as concern, or helpfulness, or in some cases, fear – felt in thousands of individual homes.”—Journalist Emily Badger, “The Psychology of a Citywide Lockdown”
This is a test.
This is not a test of our commitment to basic hygiene or disaster preparedness or our ability to come together as a nation in times of crisis, although we’re not doing so well on any of those fronts.
No, what is about to unfold over the next few weeks is a test to see how well we have assimilated the government’s lessons in compliance, fear and police state tactics; a test to see how quickly we’ll march in lockstep with the government’s dictates, no questions asked; and a test to see how little resistance we offer up to the government’s power grabs when made in the name of national security.
Most critically of all, this is a test to see whether the Constitution—and our commitment to the principles enshrined in the Bill of Rights—can survive a national crisis and true state of emergency.
Here’s what we know: whatever the so-called threat to the nation—whether it’s civil unrest, school shootings, alleged acts of terrorism, or the threat of a global pandemic in the case of COVID-19—the government has a tendency to capitalize on the nation’s heightened emotions, confusion and fear as a means of extending the reach of the police state.
This coronavirus epidemic, which has brought China’s Orwellian surveillance out of the shadows and caused Italy to declare a nationwide lockdown, threatens to bring the American Police State out into the open on a scale we’ve not seen before.
If and when a nationwide lockdown finally hits—if and when we are forced to shelter in place— if and when militarized police are patrolling the streets— if and when security checkpoints have been established— if and when the media’s ability to broadcast the news has been curtailed by government censors—if and when public systems of communication (phone lines, internet, text messaging, etc.) have been restricted—if and when those FEMA camps the government has been surreptitiously building finally get used as quarantine detention centers for American citizens—if and when military “snatch and grab” teams are deployed on local, state, and federal levels as part of the activated Continuity of Government plans to isolate anyone suspected of being infected with COVID-19—and if and when martial law is enacted with little real outcry or resistance from the public—then we will truly understand the extent to which the government has fully succeeded in recalibrating our general distaste for anything that smacks too overtly of tyranny.
This is how it begins.
The coronavirus epidemic may well be a legitimate health concern, but it’s the government’s response to it that worries me more in the long term.
Based on the government’s track record and its long-anticipated plans for instituting martial law (using armed forces to solve domestic political and social problems) in response to a future crisis, there’s good reason to worry.
This is not a government with a rosy view of the future.
To the contrary, the government’s vision of the future is particularly ominous if a Pentagon training video created by the Army for U.S. Special Operations Command is anything to go by.
Obtained by The Intercept through a FOIA request, the training video titled “Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity” provides a chilling glimpse of what the government expects the world to look like in 2030, a world bedeviled by “criminal networks,” “substandard infrastructure,” “religious and ethnic tensions,” “impoverishment, slums,” “open landfills, over-burdened sewers,” a “growing mass of unemployed,” and an urban landscape in which the prosperous economic elite must be protected from the impoverishment of the have nots.
Add health contagions to the mix, and we’re arrived there, ten years ahead of schedule.
The training video is only five minutes long, but it says a lot about the government’s mindset and the way its views the citizenry. Even more troubling, however, is what this military video doesn’t say about the Constitution and the rights of the citizenry: nothing at all…(continues)