Another Product of the Pandemic: The Covid Jerk

We all know the type. First appearing in the spring of 2020, the COVID jerk strutted unmasked through the supermarket, exhaling clouds of risk on worried shoppers and employees, and daring low-paid workers to try to enforce the new policies. Flaunting their disdain for scientific consensus, they stepped close behind you in line, breathing on your shoulder, complaining about maximum-occupancy requirements.

Jerks fail to appreciate others’ intellectual perspectives. Those who disagree, they see as idiots. They don’t recognize that their preferred opinions might be mistaken. They have no interest in exploring alternative views. Conversation aims at winning, or embarrassing another, or simply announcing the truth they know. Listening with an open mind is for other people.

Jerks also fail to appreciate others’ emotional perspectives. Unless in alignment with the jerk’s own goals, other people’s feelings, priorities, and values barely register in consciousness, or register only as targets for ridicule. Everyone around the jerk, except the few they care about most, inhabits one or another negative social stereotype. Strangers and acquaintances are not unique individuals with diverse and worthwhile concerns. Instead, the world swarms with slimy salespeople, dippy party girls, clueless retirees, losers who couldn’t find a real job, illegal aliens, empty suits, cheaters, suckers, sheep.

Recently, I spotted a COVID jerk in the news. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who proudly and publicly refuses COVID-19 vaccines, last month created a fracas by dining indoors in a New York restaurant, violating the city’s mandate that indoor diners must be vaccinated. After testing positive for COVID, she returned to the same restaurant. Although during her second visit she remained outdoors, Palin violated federal guidelines by failing to isolate, and she exposed nearby staff and diners to what most would regard as excessive risk. She did this, presumably, without their knowledge or consent. Palin’s behavior was obviously improper.

Jerks culpably fail to appreciate the perspectives of others around them. That is, they do so in a blameworthy way. Babies aren’t jerks. They aren’t blameworthy for failing to appreciate others’ perspectives. And some perspectives are too foolish or noxious to deserve appreciation—for example, the perspective of a neo-Nazi. Sympathetically understanding Richard Spencer’s politics is optional. (more)

The Atlantic