“Anti-Lockdown” Protests Appropriate Real Movements

These artificial anti-lockdown demonstrations organized by wealthy conservatives are appropriating messaging from real movements.
Columbus coronavirus protests at the Ohio Statehouse – April 18, 2020 (Ɱ/Creative Commons License)

Columbus coronavirus protests at the Ohio Statehouse – April 18, 2020 (Ɱ/Creative Commons License)

You may have heard of the recent “anti-lockdown” protests in the news, which see protesters coming together to detest quarantine not only verbally, but physically; simply being there sneers at social distancing.

The protesters don cardboard signs with familiar slogans, some of which this article will dissect as the appropriation of real movements – movements that would never show up to the anti-lockdown party, and which have been rejected, mocked, and satirized by the powerful conservative groups now financing the protests. Important to note that a wide majority of Americans support the lockdowns, so this is a very small minority

While protesters assert “anti-lockdown” to be a freedom movement, they dangle around like puppets, squawking on about “land of the free.” But their strings find “home” in wealthy conservatives’ pockets and ignorance. Is that “brave”?

Before we begin, a few terms:

  • Etymology = linguistic origins.
  • Cognitive dissonance = the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

The second term delivers a loaded definition, so let’s work with a few examples of the anti-quarantine protests.

Before we do, it’s important to remember that humans don’t like to be confused. To avoid or resolve confusion, we might

  1. try to investigate and understand the situation, or
  2. rationalize the dissonance in the following ways, which all require less mental effort:

“My Body, My Choice”

Cognitive dissonance: Protester doesn’t understand how she can be expected to wear face masks and social distance in the United States, “the land of the free.”

Slogan Etymology: Feminism, supporting bodily autonomy and legal access to abortion. Pro-choice, not pro-abortion.

Makeshift mental solution: Protestor also doesn’t understand the etymology of the slogan, which the candidate she’s promoting here doesn’t support. Still, she just likes that it seems to describe her frustration in a catchy way – maybe she heard it before once or twice, and held it in her subconscious to use for emotional reactions that lack logical understanding later.

“Dr. Fauci is not our president”

Cognitive dissonance: Protesters cannot understand trumping their figures, Trump and Jesus, with science.

Slogan Etymology: From the “Trump is not my president” movement, rejecting Trump’s election in 2016.

Makeshift mental solution: Protestors use “liberal” slogan, originally used against Trump, to support Trump, and to assert that we listen to their figures, who have no formal training or experience in health care, over national experts on infectious diseases during a public health crisis.

Comparing “anti-lockdown” movement to the Civil Rights Movement and Rosa Parks

Cognitive dissonance: Lockdown cannot be happening. The economy cannot stop, and my right to move in the world cannot be hampered, as I’m probably a white man and have never struggled with social discrimination of my body.

Slogan Etymology: Rosa Parks, as summarized by Bess Levin: “the African American civil rights activist who refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white person as part of a protest against Alabama segregation laws that effectively dictated black people were lesser than their Caucasian counterparts, and who reportedly had Emmett Till, the 14-year-old who was murdered in Mississippi after speaking to a white woman in a grocery store, on her mind when she declined to move.”

Makeshift mental solution: Freedom, I guess? Rosa Parks represented freedom, anti-lockdown represents freedom. Obviously the same.

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Various of socialism/communism (because there’s apparently no difference)

Cognitive dissonance: Protesters don’t understand how they can be expected to work in a team on a national scale, and for the greater good.

Slogan Etymology: Socialism and communism are discrete terms, but both emphasize establishing the equitable provision of basic human rights, such as health care and education, irrespective of the economy. These lead to “socialist” public programs. As defined here, “Even in decidedly capitalist countries such as the United States, some services are thought too important to leave to the marketplace alone. Consequently, the government provides unemployment benefits, social security and health insurance for seniors and low-income earners. It’s also the main provider of elementary and secondary education.”

However, socialism and capitalism often summon up images of Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, and the Soviet Union, which many have been taught to see as all-around bad, without distinction as to their successes and failures.

Makeshift mental solution: We’re all expected to do some version of quarantine, even though it varies by state, so this kind of looks I guess like communism? And communism is bad, because, Soviet Union.

“Freedom of speech”

Cognitive dissonance: Protesters don’t agree with wearing face masks, as they seem to hamper the freedom exercised through the speech hole.

Slogan Etymology: The First Amendment of the US Constitution, which also states that “The Supreme Court requires the government to provide substantial justification for the interference with the right of free speech where it attempts to regulate the content of the speech.” Perhaps the risk proposed by the virus could offer that justification.

Makeshift mental solution: Having always heard people beat the “freedom of speech” dead horse to rationalize anything, they do it especially in this moment as, again, it seems that their speech hole is being threatened.

Honestly no idea what you are saying

Cognitive dissonance: ???
Slogan Etymology: ???
Makeshift mental solution: ???

The whole thing, summed up:

Cognitive dissonance: To wear a face mask, or not to wear a face mask?
Makeshift mental solution: I’ll cut a speech hole, missing the entire point.

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Opinion // Coronavirus / Donald Trump / Republican Party