Are We Obligated to Snitch on and Publicly Shame Coronavirus Deniers?

Illustration for article titled Are We Obligated to Snitch on and Publicly Shame Coronavirus Deniers?
Screenshot: ABC News

If you’re the type of person who believes, for instance, that AIDS can be cured with paprika, your belief is definitely dangerous, and you probably need some lotion. But because the Venn diagram of “people who think mailboxes cause diabetes” and “people living in their aunt’s basements who still write their names on their orange juice so their aunt won’t drink it” is close to a perfect circle, you’re not that much danger to the public, because you’re just not a person who matters enough for your opinion to greatly impact people’s lives. (Sorry.)


Anyway, considering the existence of flat-earthers, Moon landing deniers, 9/11-truthers, and Dr. Sebi stans, of course—of course!—there would be coronavirus deniers among us. Some of this is transparently political, as there are people who believe, still, that this is somehow a plot to hurt President Trump and damage his reelection chances. That a virus is nonpartisan is inconsequential; it makes Trump look bad, so it must not be real.

But then there are your cousins on Facebook still comparing COVID-19 with the flu. And also saying shit like “They definitely paying celebs to say they have it just to make us panic. That probably where all the Bitcoin went. And also there’s the couple down the block, who just hosted a fucking game night—with 15 guests—yesterday.

With all we know now about the dire gravity of social distancing and curve flattening, the people who aren’t taking this seriously are a legitimate social health danger. And unlike Paprika Boy, it’s not enough to just ignore them. Because, well, they will kill people. So what are we supposed to do when education doesn’t work?

Asking law enforcement to resolve this problem is complicated for obvious reasons. Doing this acknowledges and accepts that their presence might escalate instead of deescalating, and could endanger lives. (And the chances of escalation increase dramatically if the people the cops are called on happen to be black.) Also, all law enforcement here, from the people writing the laws to those paid to enforce them, is bad. There’s no level of government—not federal, not state, not city—that has earned our trust. But if people deciding to have cabarets and BBQs now are also endangering lives, what choice is left?

Well, what’s left is public shaming—putting whichever spotlight possible on the people acting recklessly. That’s naming names, posting pictures, and detailing their behavior. (“John Wilson lives on Brighton Road, and I know bruh just had a game night because he invited me to it. Plus he posted the pics on Facebook the next day, and I saw Kim Jenkins there too.”)

Doing this has its own dangers as well because drawing that sort of attention to them might endanger their lives, too. Also, sometimes shame does the opposite of what it’s intended to do, where said shamed responds by doubling down on their behavior. You rat him out for this, and next weekend he’ll have a Fuck You Cookout. And then there’s the chance that when this ends, you’ll be the social pariah for putting people on blast. Of course, it’s better to be ostracized than dead, but I’d rather not be either!


None of these options are good, so what are we supposed to do now? Social distancing, washing your hands, and not touching your face just ain’t enough to battle stupidity. I guess someone could build a time machine, just to go back and convince them to take notes during 8th-grade biology. It seems like we’ll be here for a while, so we definitely have the time.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


Babylon System

Anyone who wears American (freedumb!) flag attire can get coronavirus as far as I am concerned.

(They all seem to be of the same type)