Douglas Murray

Douglas Murray


Anti-Israel protesters aren’t really scared of COVID — they’re hiding shame of their prejudice

Remember when we were all told to “Mask up”? Well perhaps it’s time for us to change that rule. How about: “Mask off.”

It still astonishes me how many New Yorkers still scuttle around this city with their N95s clasped to their faces. Assistants in shops. Straphangers on the subway. Even people hurrying through the windy streets.

With some people I get it. A few have underlying health conditions — like morbid obesity. Or different-bodyness. Or whatever it is we’re allowed to call what we used to term “overweight.”

And sure some elderly folks now on their 9th boosters have decided to treat COVID as they once did the winter flu season.

But how to explain all the young people — particularly the young protestors — who seem to be so unnaturally scared of COVID?

How to explain all those rage-filled keffiyeh-wearing students who just happen to mask up whenever a camera is around?

Perhaps the students at Columbia and other campuses really do have a mortal fear of COVID.

In which case let me set their minds at rest.

New York State no longer has a COVID-19 problem. At the height of COVID, in the week ending April 11, 2020 the CDC reported that there were 6,900 total NY State COVID deaths that week. By last month the total was down to 15 deaths in a week.

What is more, young people are at the lowest risk of dying from COVID. Last year COVID was the eighth leading cause of death for young people in the United States.

According to the official data people aged 18-29 comprised just 0.7% of COVID-related deaths in the US. And that is from a group that makes up 16.4% of the total US population.

College-age Americans are more likely to die by homicide, suicide or being hit by a bus than they are through complications caused by COVID.

Even better news for the mask-wearers — NY State is one of the most vaccinated populations in the world. Fully 81% of NY State’s population is fully vaccinated. While a full 95% of the state’s population has gotten one dose of the vaccine or more.

So rejoice, oh brave protestors. The masks can come off!

And yet, with something like inevitability, there is one thing you can predict about protestors in New York today.

Which is that anytime that they are protesting they will be strangely scared of COVID. At the height of the BLM protests in 2020 you might say that there was some excuse for this.

There’s nothing like a fear of COVID to keep you cautious as you smash up a store.

Indeed I am sure that it was always perfectly natural that people swiping a set of sneakers for social justice would at the same time mask up to protect their respiratory system.

But why is that in 2024 today’s brave protestors in New York are nearly always wearing a mask?

Why should it be that the students making their demands for ceasefires in the Middle East and humanitarian aid at home have to holler their demands through a piece of cloth?

What is it about the outside trouble-makers who come onto this city’s campuses that makes them at one and the same time brave enough to cause disruption to students and citizens and yet terrible hypochondriacs over COVID?

Well I would like to suggest a reason. And it has nothing to do with CDC data, vaccination rates, COVID or anything similar.

The reason is that they are bullies. And like all bullies they are at the same time terrible cowards.

Despite pretending that they are world-beating revolutionaries the protestors who now push people in this city around are trying to keep their identities hidden.

Perhaps it is because they are professional agitators — drafted in by a range of left-wing “grass-roots” organizations to cause trouble. That is certainly what many people — including the police — believe.

Perhaps these people want to cover their faces because the media in this country might just notice that the same professional revolutionaries tend to turn up wherever there is trouble, almost as if they are paid to do so.

Presumably they want to keep their identities hidden as much as possible.

But what about the students at Columbia and elsewhere who want to sit in their tents and “bravely” protest about something they don’t know anything about?

Maybe, just maybe, they too are not actually afraid of COVID. What they are afraid of are the opinions they are espousing.

Because they know, at some level, that bullying other students and shrieking about things they don’t know about is not a good look. They want to intimidate people, but they never want to be intimidated themselves.

So I have a suggestion. At all future protests in New York State let’s have a masks off policy.

The KKK was the last organization in America that was so proud of their beliefs that their members covered their faces during protests.

Now “Students for Jihad” are doing the same job. For strangely similar reasons.

So let’s demand they take the hoods off too.

Sorry — I meant masks.

Shame of a canceled commencement

Talking of Columbia, yesterday morning I was invited to give an “alternative” Commencement address to students who have completed their studies.

Since the leadership at Columbia had canceled their official graduation ceremony, a number of faculty and student leaders arranged an alternative event for students and their families.

Attendees at the event in the city included students who had served in the US military, Jewish students, Christian students and conservative students. All from a bewildering variety of backgrounds.

We also heard from one of the students who had protected their campus when student radicals were trying to trash it earlier this year.

It was a great honor to speak with them all. And a great pleasure to give them a few words of advice as they set off on what I’m sure will be great and adventurous careers.

But what an indictment that students at Columbia who can actually think have to organize a graduation for themselves.