Ezra Levant, a Canadian hero in the cause of freedom, and naturally branded “far right” and worse by his enemies, has done a powerful, indeed, a gut-wrenching story to camera about the hottest place in hell, and those who are destined to occupy that hideous place. He and others have referred to this as the curse of those who do nothing in the face of evil.
According to Scott Horton of Harper’s:
One of John F. Kennedy’s favorite quotations, which he attributed to Dante, was that “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality”. Of course Dante never actually said that, but the sense of the statement is clearly to be found in these lines from the third canto of the Inferno.
Many of those who are merely standing by during the Covid State crisis, in the view of many, the worst crisis in the history of modern “liberal” democracies, cluelessly look back and chastise those who in 1930s Germany did little or nothing to oppose the Nazi tyranny but simply went quietly, to get by. Don’t rock the boat, and they won’t notice us. We don’t really know what they are up to. Today we reassure ourselves that we would never have behaved like all those compliant Germans.
This essay appeared in a recent Quadrant.
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Levant chose to focus on a particular German who did stand out and stand up during the oppression. His name was August Landmesser (pictured above). He has become famous for the photograph of his refusal to perform the Nazi salute during a rally. His arms were firmly folded, in defiance of the overwhelming, lunatic majority all around him—the madness of a German crowd.
Levant also referred to the so-called Asch conformity experiment (named after Solomon Asch), which demonstrated that individuals in a group situation can feel pressured to go along with the answer to a question offered by the majority, even when they know the answer is wrong. Other experiments (conducted by Stanley Milgram) referred to by Levant showed that most of those involved would willingly inject fatal doses of shock treatment to innocent parties if persuaded by “an authority figure”.
Two excuses might be proffered for going along with tyranny—we didn’t know what was going on, and I thought I personally would be safe from the tyranny if I played along.
Take the first excuse. Dr Robert Malone, an inventor of the mRNA vaccine, has noted, “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention”. He was speaking of the hideous truths about the jab. Malone’s accusation implies the first excuse. We didn’t know. We perhaps suspected something, but we excused the political class for mere “mistakes”. We made a choice not to think too deeply about the emerging “new normal”. We didn’t try very hard at all to comprehend what was going on. We found excuses to justify our own compliance. Going against the crowd is too much like hard work. People will think I am … an anti-vaxxer! Thinking hard about difficult issues will only give me the guilts, and make my life complicated, so I will park it.
Is not paying attention a reasonable excuse? I wonder. For the second excuse, let us recall Pastor Niemoller calling out (in 1946) the cowardice he had witnessed:
First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me
These are the ones for whom narrow self-interest is the guiding principle. The ones who take the jab so they can holiday in Portugal or escape the lockdown. (Yes, they are ludicrously ill-informed as well.) The ones who go along to get along. The ones who post selfies with band-aids on their arms on their preferred social media platform, with big cheesy grins of contempt for the unvaccinated. The ones who believe that the benign Covid State with the thug police will leave them alone when things get nasty. The woke corporates who enforce Covid mandates on customers and who are too scared to inflame governments which threaten to fine them for not policing the edicts delivered from on high. They just want to be left alone to count their ever-shrinking profits. The cheerful, clueless millennials for whom the contact tracing technology and the QR codes are a hoot, and not a threat to freedom.
Some of this behaviour might be termed “strategic obeying”. This is self-regarding conduct whose aim is to protect the things that are important to us while ceding minor freedoms to the Covid State. Anyone who hates mask mandates but obeys them in order to get the shopping done, rather than risk a fine or risk getting spat at by angry CovidManiacs, is a strategic obeyer. A reluctant obeyer, perhaps, but an obeyer nonetheless. If I just do this, maybe they won’t come for me. If they come for the unvaccinated, maybe they won’t come for me. Strategic obeyers sustain the Covid State. They form a key part of the group that remains silent, and no doubt all the various Nudge Units will have figured this all out.
Niemoller’s much-quoted poem and the non-salutary example of August Landmesser speak to the problem of those who stand by and do nothing in the face of unbridled evil, and how we should view them. Who knows how many there are in our societies during the current Western crisis? There are some, though, who are quite visible, and hopefully, one day on either side of the grave, they will be called to account.
A particular example of “not speaking up” has recently been drawn to our attention by Noah Carl, speaking about a recent study by Mikko Packelen and Jay Battacharya that focuses on the silence of the economists (specifically, about the economic costs of lockdown). In their paper, Lockdown Harms and the Silence of Economists, they note that:
almost all professionals are members of the “laptop class” (ie, people who sit around on their laptops all day). Lockdown didn’t affect their lives nearly as much as it affected those of small business owners, or workers who couldn’t access a furlough scheme.
So, only speak up if you are yourself seriously affected. A totally plausible hypothesis, yet a morally awful approach to life. Worse, they conclude that:
academic economics has formed a rather cosy relationship with big business, particularly the investment banks of Wall Street and the giant tech firms of Silicon Valley. It’s less surprising, therefore, that “the dismal science has had very little to say about how lockdowns have favoured big business”.
So, don’t speak up if your interests are aligned with those of your paymasters, even if your job as an academic, even an academic now working for a corporation, like that of the journalist, is to speak truth to power. Seriously disappointing. Perhaps most economists really did (and do) think that the benefits of lockdowns and the like outweigh the costs. If so, they really need to pay a little more attention.
Rod Dreher’s book Live Not by Lies (published in 2020, written before the emergence of the Covid State, and borrowing the title from a 1974 essay by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn) provides a way forward for Christian and other dissidents confronting the new totalitarianism and unsure what to do next. He does this through stories of brave resistance from the old communist world. The “soft” totalitarianism described by Dreher focuses on the emerging Western practices of woke bullying, corporate censorship, the marginalising of inconvenient minorities and sneering at those who value tradition. Where you can lose your job for simply expressing an unpopular opinion.
While itself little short of terrifying, the world described by Dreher (and others like Douglas Murray) pales into insignificance when stacked up against the Covid State. The dust-jacket of Dreher’s book suggests this emergent society is more Brave New World than Nineteen Eighty-Four. Well, since March 2020, there is little doubt which world we face now and which of the two books better describes what we confront. As Dreher states, “Too many of us are sleeping through the erosion of our freedoms, assuming that totalitarianism can’t happen in America” (or name your own liberal democracy).
The image of the slowly boiling frog comes to mind. If we had known in March 2020 that we would be banned from seeing our unvaccinated families, while being locked away and deprived of everything but life’s basics, and be brutally attacked by police if we dared to protest, what would we have said then?
The lies we tell ourselves to avoid the painful truth of our predicament would make Pastor Niemoller blush. We would be too embarrassed even to ask August Landmesser his opinion of our compliance and submission, bordering on cowardice. This, it would seem, is the generation who, as described by Stuart Lindsay in Quadrant, are satisfied with “Netflix, a full belly and a warm place to defecate”. Don’t trouble us with difficult questions that test our knowledge and moral spine. Will Dan Murphy and Bunnings (fill in your own British, European or American counterparts) still be open, come the final tyranny? We might well term this moral laziness. And sloth, as we will recall, is one of the seven deadly sins. Those who go along to get along enjoy what Levant terms “the peace of surrender”.
Fr Pius Noonan of the Notre Dame Priory in Tasmania has some words about those who act with heroic virtue in the face of oppression, real or threatened, who don’t go along to get along. Christians might call these people “saints”. Or martyrs. Either anticipating or following the example of Christ, who chastised the Jewish leaders for their sins and so signed His own death warrant, Fr Noonan draws attention to Susanna in the Old Testament. She chose to deny the advances of lustful judges, knowing they would try her for adultery if she said no. Then there was John the Baptist, who called out Herod for his ways, and St Paul, who preached Christ to the heathens and paid the price. These are the ones who would fold their arms at a Nazi rally, who might say, along with the late American songster Tom Petty, “I won’t back down”:
Well, I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down
No, I’ll stand my ground
Won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground
We should all aspire to say, “Je suis August Landmesser.”
But what of those without the strong faith, let alone the heroic virtue required, to speak truth to power in the manner of the storied martyrs and anti-totalitarian heroes? Can heroic opposition to tyranny be crafted out of hopelessness in the face of existential threats to our freedom? Sharon Penman addressed this question in a 1994 historical novel, When Christ and His Saints Slept. Penman drew upon many sources, including the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. She described the anarchy of twelfth-century Britain, when the battle for the throne fought by two competing royal aspirants, Stephen and Matilda, reduced the country to despair for two decades. “Men said openly” that “Christ and His saints slept”, hence the title of Penman’s book. A little like 2021, one might think. At least the churches stayed open during The Anarchy, unlike today when they have been brutally shuttered across the West.
Christ was also asleep on the boat that rocked during the storm on the Sea of Galilee. His saints were wide awake and very frightened. He eventually woke up, and all was well again. These are testing times, too, for people of every faith and none, as our modern, increasingly totalitarian rulers seem to be quite happy to strike fear into their people, to crush their spirits, while claiming all the while, with utterly hollow words, to be battling an evil virus. In our name. Men of sublime faith like St John Paul II and George Cardinal Pell might seek to reassure us, “be not afraid”. For the rest of us, the fight to be brave is tough, with fear all around, and the temptation to shrug our shoulders and go with the flow is great.
So much for the hopeless who cannot raise themselves to fight. What about the ignorant innocent? What can be said of these who seem not to know that we are in a war against, not a virus, but Covid State tyranny?
There are many good and intelligent people who are utterly shocked when you explain to them some of the well-hidden truths about Covid, about lockdowns, about hidden deaths due to lockdowns, about the efficacy of “vaccines”, about the dangers of the vaccines, and about the realities of the coming vaccine apartheid, the worst form of discrimination since Jim Crow and the gauleiters of the ancien regime in South Africa. Many of the truths about Covid realities are very well hidden indeed. They are buried by clever politicians and devious bureaucrats, by compromised journalists and by media executives. The devil is, as always, in the detail, and the ruling class of today is best-in-show for concealing the truth.
I do not count them among the numbers headed for Nuremberg Two when the pandemia (as Alex Berenson calls it) is over. Those that knew, or should have known, and stayed silent. Just like those at Nuremberg One who said they “were simply following orders”.
Are those who know what is going down and simply stand by as evil as the actual perpetrators of Covid tyranny? That is a question for the moral philosophers. Dante might be recruited to help us identify the engineers of evil and to allocate to these their own circles of hell:
- The venal politician only concerned about staying in office, or preserving his or her career within the party to whom they owe everything;
- The convinced-as-all-get-out public health official for whom, like the hammer, every problem looks like a nail;
- The media cheer squad hack doing the work of the politicians (and of Blackrock and Vanguard, which own much of the world’s media, which have massive cross-links approaching a monopoly stake in Big Pharma and which have been termed a “shadow government”), while parking their unwritten oath-of-office, to investigate all things;
- The compromised corporate Pharma executive, totally indemnified against the risk of prosecution, who places super profits above human health—remember all those pesky adverse reactions, far greater than for any previous “vaccine”;
- The university modeller who enjoys research funding from Bill Gates and who churns out the fictitious data that are allowed to drive government policy;
- The church leader who, in conforming to the dictates of “Covid safety”, in effect becomes merely a third party enforcing the tyrannical policies of the Covid State;
- The retailer who executes vaccine mandates in order to stay in business and avoid fines, just like the church leader, becoming an enforcement arm of a dehumanising apartheid society;
- The Big Tech fact checker who shuts down any view that challenges the official Covid narrative, and gaslights the rest;
- The Karen who faithfully calls CrimeStoppers or its equivalent at the very whiff of neighbour impropriety;
- The thug police officer who seems to be enjoying the activity of smashing the freedom fighters of the protest movement.
All are perpetrators of tyranny. They are more than simply useful idiots, they are all creator-partners of the Covid Oligarchy. They generate fear based on lies. They form the architecture of the Covid State. They do know better. They prevaricate daily, perhaps to themselves, and certainly to us.
Genuine ignorance due to media lies of omission, wall-to-wall Covid State infomercials on the television, a brilliant propaganda effort, journalists effectively going on strike, truth-tellers being denied their platforms by Big Tech censorship, blind trust in what doctors say, have all helped to conceal the truth. Many intelligent and well-motivated, morally upright people truly do not know the half of this. Others, with the merest smidgeon of curiosity, broader reading and a little independent research, might have been able to escape the bubble of deceit and to begin to self-question and to challenge the veracity of information they might otherwise have assumed to be true. Perhaps there is a fine line between these two groups. Perhaps extreme naivety is not good enough as an excuse.
But for those who did know, who said nothing, for whatever reason, and who chose comfortable neutrality in the face of evil tyranny, we shall leave you to your Dantean fate. And what of August Landmesser himself? Let us leave the final word to Ezra Levant:
He was a German who fell in love with a Jew. They got engaged, but they couldn’t get married—because the Nuremberg laws were passed, forbidding Jews to marry non-Jews. Call it a vaccine passport of the day. Landmesser was a dissenter; he refused to salute.
But that’s not how it ended. Here’s how it ended. His fiancée was sent to a concentration camp where she was killed. And Landmesser was arrested and imprisoned, and was sent into a prisoners’ battalion—prisoners forced to fight for Hitler. And he was killed in action.
So yeah. You think you’d be like Landmesser. But you wouldn’t. I mean, not one in a million would.
Who among us will be the August Landmessers of the Covid tyranny, refusing to live by lies?
Paul Collits is a frequent contributor to Quadrant Online.