Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

People don’t like Freedom. We talk like we do, and sometimes LARP it by going for a Walk in the Woods, but the moment a deadly virus shows up, it all goes out the window. People are scared and demand that the government Do Something.

Massive lockdowns? Check. Invasive checkpoint searches? Of course. Ministry of Truth to keep people apprised of the situation? Yes please!

Facebook has taken the initiative to remove misleading hashtags about the virus outbreak. Google will boost “reliable” search results related to public health. Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok are all working to “deprioritize” misinformation. Ordinarily we’d complain about such heavy-handed censorship, but this is an Emergency.

Once the emergency’s over, we’ll do a post-mortem. Create a new bureaucracy to figure out how we can be better prepared for the next pandemic. Maybe put out a color-coded chart to tell the public how scared we should be.

The coronavirus may or may not be a Really Big Deal, but it’s nothing if not convenient. Every powerful government knows that if a population starts feeling too plucky and independent, all it takes is a healthy dose of Fear to get everyone cowering in submission. Look, those Hong Kong protesters finally went home.

Hospital construction has been turned into a new reality TV show. Security theater, but literally.

Sometimes I worry about Bitcoin and Self-Sovereign Individualism. A scared populace is a docile populace, and people are awfully easy to scare. During the Panic of 1907, JP Morgan called up all the newspaper editors and told them to run burglary stories as often as possible, to scare people into leaving their money in the banks. It worked. When it comes to Freedom versus national security, security always wins.

See Also: US Department of Fear