Perhaps there’s something wrong with a system that allows a 35-year-old, unelected, Trump-nominated judge — whom the American Bar Association deemed unqualified — to strike down the travel mask mandate for the entire country?
Yet sensing that you find Reich’s tweet to be a brilliantly damning indictment of U.S. District Court Judge Kathyrn Kimball Mizelle’s ruling against the CDC’s mask mandate, I feel obliged to explain why I think Reich’s tweet is, to put it mildly, moronic.
Seventh, because the CDC is a federal-government agency, its diktats generally cover the entire country – a fact that should be doubly obvious in the case of diktats affecting interstate commercial air travel. Judge Mizelle could hardly have ruled against the mask mandate for only a subsection of the country.
Eighth, Reich skates alarmingly close to implicitly endorsing a totalitarian proposition that Fauci recently endorsed explicitly – namely, that government-employed public-health bureaucrats are above the law. About Judge Mizelle’s ruling, Fauci declared: “We are concerned about that – about courts getting involved in things that are unequivocally public health decisions. I mean, this is a CDC issue; it should not be a court issue.”
To propose that any government action be immune to judicial oversight – that is, immune to oversight by the formal guardians of the law – is to propose that the officials who perform that action are above the law. As Reason’sEric Boehm wrote in reaction to this authoritarian outburst by Fauci, “This is either a complete misunderstanding of the American system’s basic functions or an expression of disdain toward the rule of law.”
Sincerely, Donald J. Boudreaux Professor of Economics
Donald Boudreaux Donald J. Boudreaux is a senior fellow with Brownstone Institute and with the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University; a Mercatus Center Board Member; and a professor of economics and former economics-department chair at George Mason University.
Back in the 1980s and ’90s, innumerable films, TV documentaries and history textbooks instructed us that the 1950s were years of conformity and conventionalism: “The Donna Reed Show,” McCarthyism, “The Organization Man,” TV dinners. In fact, the ’50s were a time of extraordinary artistic creativity, boundless technological innovation, original thinking in politics, intellectual diversity in journalism and higher education, new energy in religion, and enormous progress in race relations. What the ’80s and ’90s mistook for conformity was a naturally evolved cultural solidarity—something nearly everybody, on the left and the right, longs for now.
An informed observer of present-day America might reasonably conclude that our own decade—at least among the educated and advantaged classes—is far more imbued with the spirit of conformism than the ’50s were. Corporate managers and military leaders parrot nostrums about diversity, inclusion and sustainability that few of them believe. Museums and orchestras studiously avoid programming that might offend ideologues. Reporters and producers in the mainstream press seize on stories—or ignore them—solely because that’s what everybody else in the press is doing. Large majorities in wealthy cities dutifully comply with public-health restrictions they know to be largely ineffective, mainly because refusing to do so would invite the ire of friends and neighbors complying with those restrictions for the same reason.
Maybe America’s deciders and describers (to use Nicholas Eberstadt’s phrase) aren’t the independent-minded lot they think themselves to be.
These and related ironies were on my mind in February when I received a galley copy of the playwright David Mamet’s “Recessional: The Death of Free Speech and the Cost of Free Lunch,” published Tuesday. The book is a collection of essays written over the past two years on an array of cultural and political topics: pandemic zealotry, Donald Trump, terrorism, California’s punitive tax code, Christianity and Judaism, Broadway and the movies. The essays are by turns witty, insightful, affecting and cryptic. What struck me most about the book, though, was how superbly out of place its author must be in the eminent environs of his chosen industry.
In March I visited Mr. Mamet’s home in Santa Monica and asked him about, for lack of a more original term, the Age of Conformity. What is the source of this sudden impulse to go along with the crowd that we see at high levels of American society?
“It’s that time-wasting machine,” he says, pointing to the cellphone with which I’m recording the conversation. “We’re all connected. But connected for what purpose? The idea that everybody has to behave the same way is part of the breakdown of what was a cohesive society.”
He brings up the 1950s without prompting. “When I was a kid,” he says—Mr. Mamet was born in Chicago in 1947—“people went to different churches, they were from different ethnic backgrounds, their parents came from different countries, but somehow they managed to have a collective life. All of their self-worth didn’t come from belonging and staying connected to this one uber-group.”
Mr. Mamet’s works include the Pulitzer-winning play “Glengarry Glen Ross” (1984) and the screenplays for “The Untouchables” (1987), “Hoffa” (1992) and “Heist” (2001). He speaks the way he writes: in short, forceful sentences and with constant recourse to wild anecdotes, uproarious jokes and literary quotations bent to his purpose.
Do people in the entertainment industry censor themselves? “They do not walk around saying things that are dangerous to express, no. People whisper out here. They have to. To say, ‘Well maybe Trump did some good things’—you can’t do that. You’d risk your home, your job, your family, your friends.”
Mr. Mamet is convinced that the “woke agenda” (his term) is basically an act, so in some ways it works well in Hollywood. “Nobody really believes it,” he says. “Nobody really believes boys turn into girls and girls turn into boys—no one does. But it’s put into a different category, so that it becomes dangerous to question it. If you question it, you’re out.”
Are the young buying it? My own observation suggests some substantial minority do not. Academics and college students I’ve spoken to since 2017 indicate that social pressure to signal assent to a rotating series of orthodoxies, from public health to race and gender theories, has sparked a quiet revolt. Post a black square on Instagram to show that America is systemically racist, even if you don’t think that’s true; wear a mask even though you know it doesn’t work and you’re 20 and vaccinated; share your pronouns whether you accept or reject gender ideology—a reaction seems almost guaranteed.
“People of that generation,” Mr. Mamet agrees, “a lot of them just aren’t scared anymore.”
Not that he expects anybody among our institutional leaders to admit they were wrong, on Covid or crime or anything else. He mentions Stacy Schiff’s “Witches,” a 2015 history of the Salem trials. “The delusion ran for about 18 months,” Mr. Mamet says, summarizing the book, “and after that, since they couldn’t explain it, they just forgot it. It never happened.” The phenomenon by which authorities and experts make a hash of things and then move on as if nothing happened is one attentive readers will recognize. Mr. Mamet offers some encouragement. “The thing about history,” he says, “is not that people change. People don’t change. But people die. So a new generation comes up and says, ‘Yeah, I get it, that’s stupid, I’m not gonna do that.’ ”
As if to demonstrate noncompliance, one of Mr. Mamet’s poodles, Ruby, jumps on the couch and sniffs my face. “Manners!” he shouts. “Come on, you’re embarrassing me in front of my guest. Sit!” The dog pays little attention. Made at last to submit, Ruby reluctantly goes elsewhere.
On the coffee table between us are several books by and about James Joyce, and an oversized edition of the Torah. “It’s all there,” Mr. Mamet says, pointing to the holy book. “Everything we’ve been living through.” The habit among America’s wealthy, privileged influencers of reviling the country that gave them privilege and influence, Mr. Mamet says, is in various way a re-enactment of biblical events. He refers to the narrative in which God provides manna for the Israelites in the wilderness: “The people are hungry, there’s nothing to eat in the desert, so God says, I’ll give ’em manna. They say, What does manna taste like? Answer: It tastes like whatever your favorite food is. They say, I don’t want whatever my favorite food is. And so they stage another rebellion.”
That is a heavily abridged version of the accounts in Exodus and Numbers, but he is right about the biblical pattern: Prosperity, particularly unearned prosperity, tends to generate folly and vice. “When do violent revolutions happen?” he asks. “They happen when things get too good.” We live in the “most prosperous country in the history of the world, and so what’s our response?” Mr. Mamet waits for me to answer, but I keep silent. “The response is: We don’t need God. We don’t need the Constitution. We don’t need anything. Go study semiotics. Go become an energy therapist, whatever. Someone will take care of you and tell you what to do.”
Mr. Mamet announced a turn to the political right in a 2008 essay for the Village Voice, “Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal,’ ” but he was a black sheep long before then. His 1992 play “Oleanna,” for instance, features a male academic whose life and career are ruined by a calculating female student’s spurious accusation of sexual harassment.
Was there a moment when he decided to break ranks altogether? “I met a guy at my synagogue here maybe 20 years ago,” he says. “He was talking about Milton Friedman and [Friedrich] Hayek and Thomas Sowell. It didn’t make any sense to me, but I was impressed by his attitude. He wasn’t strident or arrogant. It was that guy’s attitude that impressed me.”
The man lent Mr. Mamet some books by these authors. “I said to him, ‘Good, I’ll read them. But,’ I said, ‘when my friends come over, I’ll have to hide them.’ He said: ‘I don’t.’ And that changed my life. What was I saying? Did I really think I had to hide books from my friends? How sick was I? It was a Road to Damascus moment.”
(Mr. Mamet, an observant Jew, freely uses Christian imagery, as in this reference to the Apostle Paul’s conversion. In “Recessional” he remarks, apropos of Billy Graham’s oratory, that he “would be thrilled to accept the Christian tradition and Christ as my Savior” but that “I am prohibited from doing so by my own religion.” Here, at least, he conforms.)
He recalls another incident around the same time, not long after he bought his house in Santa Monica. The house was, and still is, surrounded by enormous hedges—you can hardly see the building from the nearby street. He received a letter from the City Council demanding that he cut the hedges down to a certain height or be fined $25,000 for every day the hedges remained too high. He eventually won that wrangle, he recalls, but the episode led him to believe that many government officials simply enjoy forcing law-abiding people into compliance with arbitrary dictates.
“I thought at the time: I’ve seen these people before.” The “hedge commissioners,” as he calls them, were the theater critics he’d known earlier in his career. “They would come in on opening night and strut around and stand with their backs to the stage, looking at the people coming in. People used to say, and maybe they still do, that the critics just liked having the power to shut the play down. And the critics would say, ‘No, ha ha, we don’t have that power.’ But they did have it, and they loved it.”
Like many people who find themselves dissenting from the dominant outlook of their cultivated and post-religious peers, Mr. Mamet felt that modern conceptions of human nature had become hopelessly naive. A rosy view of human proclivities leads easily to groupthink and its invariable accompaniment, scapegoating. Since the existence of evil is undeniable, if it isn’t intrinsic to all of us, it must come from some disfavored person or group.
Which led him back to biblical religion. “The Bible starts with perfidy, and perfidy is everywhere in it. There are very few people in the Bible you want your kids to be like,” he says. We exchange our favorite bits of biblical realism. Mr. Mamet notes that the genealogies of David and other heroes don’t bother skipping over—indeed they seem to go out of their way to mention—adulterers. “What the Bible is telling us is that the human race is unalterably flawed. It’s not a matter of doing away with the ‘haters’ or with this group or that group. We have to deal with our own mind.”
A robust understanding of your own and others’ propensity to bad behavior, he seems to suggest, has a way of inoculating you against groupthink.
Woke signaling, blind compliance with public-health authoritarianism, deference to theater critics and tyrannical city officials—Mr. Mamet doesn’t play along. I’m reminded of the line spoken by Richard Roma, the aggressive and highly successful real-estate salesman in “Glengarry Glen Ross” played by Al Pacino in the 1992 film adaptation. “I subscribe to the law of contrary public opinion,” Roma says. “If everyone thinks one thing, then I say bet the other way.”
From Robert Barnes: Art of the Day: Saturday, March 26, 2022
A favorite pastime meets a favorite art: speeches. As a study of them since a kid and a practitioner since a young teen, the older speeches still speak more to me, aside from those of Martin Luther King, Jr., who often spoke in the language of a time past. A reminder whenever accused of being “unpatriotic” for opposing foolish interventionism abroad that there is no greater patriotism than opposing foolish interventionism abroad, as this excerpt from John Quincy Adams 1821 speech to Congress reminds us:
“And now, friends and countrymen, if the wise and learned philosophers of the elder world, the first observers of nutation and aberration, the discoverers of maddening ether and invisible planets, the inventors of Congreve rockets and Shrapnel shells, should find their hearts disposed to enquire what has America done for the benefit of mankind? Let our answer be this: America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government….She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force…. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit….America’s glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace.”
San Francisco, CA – March 16, 2022, America’s Frontline Doctors’ (AFLDS) Senior Affiliate Attorney, Heather Gibson, represented San Francisco firefighter, Michael Kricken, who faced termination for choosing not to comply with the unconstitutional vaccine mandate implemented by the San Francisco Fire Department.
Public comment was permitted before the hearing. Due to the overwhelming number of callers in support of Mr. Kricken, and against the mandate and actions of the Department, time limits for comment were reduced to two minutes per person. One caller described the actions of the San Francisco Fire Department as “…detrimental to fire service nationwide, frustrating, and disgusting.” Another stated the Fire Department was “…participating in mass genocide and violating the Nuremberg Code.”
Following public comment, Attorney Gibson expertly presented an opening statement and evidence that it was impossible to comply with the San Francisco Fire Department’s vaccine mandate as the mandate requires firefighters to “receive a vaccine approved to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.” Ms. Gibson presented evidence that no vaccine yet exists that prevents the transmission of COVID-19, therefore the mandate is relying upon patently false information. The opposing side, in their concluding statements, concurred that no vaccine exists that prevents transmission, but then made the shocking request that the Department should be able to simply disregard the words in their regulation.
Attorney Gibson also presented evidence that Mr. Kricken, who was infected with COVID-19 in 2020, still has antibodies two years later. The panel dismissed this scientific information. Attorney Gibson presented evidence that after having a fully vaccinated force of firefighters, the department still had had hundreds of Covid cases. Even with these undisputed facts the Department denied Mr. Kricken’s request for a religious exemption, stating he posed too great of a “threat” to others.
AFLDS coordinated testimony from world-renowned scientific health expert, Dr. Michael Yeadon, on behalf of Mr. Kricken. Dr. Yeadon, former Pfizer executive, is the most qualified expert in the world to testify on the topics of COVID-19 injections and natural immunity. Dr. Yeadon provided scientific testimony to the superiority of natural immunity and the failure of any COVID-19 vaccination to prevent infection or transmission. The Department provided no expert rebuttal to Dr. Yeadon’s testimony.
After testimony and closing arguments, the board voted unanimously to deliberate in a private session. Following a brief recess, the board returned with a unanimous decision
to terminate Mr. Kricken for noncompliance with their farcical mandate. Mr. Kricken will appeal. AFLDS will continue to follow Mr. Kricken’s story.
The entire hearing may be accessed here, but was not yet available at the time of this press release.