1. Stop coddling the liars and the millions who believe them. Neither our political leaders nor the media have come down hard enough on either the handful of purveyors of misinformation or the people who believe their falsehoods. This misinformation is resulting in the hospitalization and deaths of thousands of people.
With respect to the liars, the First Amendment does not protect their incendiary words. It is not an absolute. It is not a license to say anything. It does not protect speech that poses an imminent danger of physical injury to individuals. If Covid-19 does not fall within this exception, then nothing does. When the right to free speech runs up against the health of every American, the former must be restricted. While the courts have not specifically addressed the question of whether lies that jeopardize public health fall within the exceptions to the First Amendment’s free speech protection, perhaps the time has arrived to test that proposition.
Regarding the lied-to, it is time to label them for what they really are—self-centered naifs whose rejection of science and facts is jeopardizing the lives of all of the rest of us. Public officials and media pundits have been far too easy on these folks, believing that the misinformation they have soaked up can be squeezed out of them by appeals to logic and gentle persuasion. They live in a conspiracy-laden bubble that no entreaties to their supposed common sense can burst.
2. Impose legal accountability on the liars for putting the health of 330 million Americans at risk. Individuals who place others at risk of bodily harm should be charged with the entire array of criminal conduct statutes available under federal and state law. It is not a stretch to argue that those who intentionally expose people to the possibility of dying are chargeable with attempted murder. Let the courts sort out the legal nuances. In the meantime, this should make the miserable SOBs who perpetrate lies about vaccines and minimize the deadly dangers of Covid-19 supremely uncomfortable, not to mention straining their pocketbooks. The misinformers should be prosecuted for the incalculable damage they are doing to society. If they do not voluntarily stop, the justice system must button their lips for them.
In addition to the customary penalties meted out by the judicial system, part of their punishment should be public acts of contrition, i.e., admitting that they lied, that the vaccines are safe and effective, and that every American has a duty to his and her fellow citizens to get vaccinated.
3. Sanction the deniers. A handful of employers are beginning to get the idea that they have the power to force their employees to get vaccinated. New York City just mandated that its 42,000 public health workers must get the shots if they wish to continue being employed. There are many things employees are required to do to keep their jobs. This is just an additional prerequisite. If they continue to refuse the jabs, they can seek employment elsewhere. American employers throughout the economy should do likewise.
France is prohibiting the unvaccinated from going to restaurants, bars, cafes, and theaters or to ride in trains and planes. The only exceptions are for religious or health reasons. Of course, this requires proof of vaccination, something our lunatic fringe on the right is hysterical about.
4. Use the newly enlightened in PSAs. The most powerful vaccination advocates are those who refused to get vaccinated, then caught Covid-19, barely survived, and changed their tune. Public Service Announcements featuring converts who stared into the gates of hell are far more effective than the urgings of President Biden, members of his administration, politicians or healthcare professionals.
Those who persist in refusing to be vaccinated put everyone, even the fully vaccinated, at risk. You don’t get the shot only for yourself. You also do it in order not to infect others. A private action (in this case, inaction) that imposes public costs is intolerable. Resisting the shot is likely the most disrespectful act toward our fellow Americans since slavery.
No one—not the liars nor the multitudes who buy into their lies—has the right to behave irresponsibly in the face of a public health emergency. They are putting millions of Americans at risk of death. If Covid-19 is not controlled, we will have to accommodate ourselves to living with this incredibly dangerous virus forever. It is inevitable that it will mutate again and again and become even more transmissible and deadly than the current highly lethal Delta variant that now accounts for more than 80 percent of U.S. Covid-19 cases.
July 23, 2021