Saturday, March 6, 2021

The Most Valuable Lesson From COVID-19: Don’t Suppress Dissenting Voices | Opinion

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This Saturday, February 6, will mark the one-year anniversary of the passing of Dr. Li Wenliang, one of eight Wuhan whistleblowers who warned the public about the coronavirus outbreak toward the end of 2019. Wuhan police rounded up Li and the other doctors on New Year’s Day 2020 for “fabricating, disseminating and spreading rumors.” Each was forced to sign a pre-written, fabricated confession admitting their “wrongdoings” for “spreading rumors” and promised to never do it again.

After his release, Dr. Li immediately resumed his work at the Wuhan Central Hospital. On January 8, 2020, he treated a female patient who had glaucoma. What he didn’t know was that she was also infected with the novel coronavirus. Dr. Li ended up contracting the coronavirus himself and was hospitalized on January 12. Keep in mind that during this period, Chinese authorities still insisted that the likelihood of the virus’s ability to transmit from person to person was very low. Strangely, Dr. Li wasn’t tested positive for coronavirus until February 1. Tragically, he passed away on the morning of February 6, 2020. He was only 34 years old. Dr. Li’s passing sent shockwaves throughout the world.

According to epidemic experts, the Chinese authorities’ outbreak cover-up and crackdown of whistleblowers in the early weeks led them to miss a “golden time period” that could have been used to implement robust emergency measures. A study by the University of Southampton shows that had China taken preventative measures one week, two weeks or even three weeks earlier, such as having the public begin social distancing and wearing masks, the number of cases could have been reduced by 66 percent, 86 percent and 95 percent, respectively—thus significantly containing the geographic spread of the disease.

In other words, had Communist China not suppressed dissenting voices like Dr. Li’s, the coronavirus outbreak would have been contained, no country would have had to close its borders, no businesses would have had to shut down, no one would have had to lose their jobs and most of us would have been able to continue to live normal lives: celebrating new lives and new milestones, saying goodbye to loved ones, and not worrying about running out of toilet paper. Most important, far fewer people would have gotten sick and died.

Prior to his passing, Li said in an interview that “a healthy society should not only have one voice.” That’s the most valuable lesson he left with us. However, one year after his passing, some Americans are forgetting Dr. Li’s parting wisdom. There’s a growing movement in the United States to crack down on dissenting voices. This movement is led by progressive politicians and left-leaning mainstream media and academia, and is aided by Big Tech companies such as Twitter and Facebook.

Memorial for Dr. Li Wenliang
Memorial for Dr. Li Wenliang
MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images

For instance, right after last year’s election, Democratic operatives reportedly began to compile a blacklist of anyone who worked for, donated to or endorsed President Trump. Harvard students started a petition to ban former Trump officials from teaching at their university, and later joined with Harvard faculty to call for the revocation of degrees for various Trump officials and allies. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) was swiftly removed from a board position at Harvard for raising questions about election integrity.

CNN anchor Brian Stelter proposed to limit Fox News and Newsmax’s ability to reach viewers, framing it as a “harm-reduction model.” Some experts now recommend that the Biden administration establish a “reality czar” to tackle “disinformation and domestic extremism,” which in the Left’s Newspeak refers to conservative thoughts and ideas. Big Tech companies, acting more like state media rather than independent private companies, recently answered the Left’s call by taking collective action and swiftly killing their competitor Parler.

It seems that “unity,” to the Left, means we all must unite with only one ideology—one modality of thought and idea. Any idea that is not sanctioned by the Left is necessarily “disinformation” that must be eliminated. This is a very dangerous authoritarian trend, and we will lose our republic if we continue down this path.

Benjamin Franklin warned us that “whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” The most valuable lesson we ought to take away from the COVID-19 pandemic is that protecting free speech and tolerating dissenting voices are essential to the health and survival of our nation and the American people. On the one-year anniversary of Dr. Li’s passing, let’s never forget his parting advice: “A healthy society should not only have one voice.”

Helen Raleigh, CFA, is an American entrepreneur, writer and speaker. Helen is the author of Backlash: How China’s Aggression Has Backfired and Confucius Never Said. Follow her on Twitter: @HRaleighspeaks and visit her website: www.helenraleighspeaks.com.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

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