Focusing on the recent death of Kelly Ernby, a southern California Republican who advocated against COVID vaccine mandates, the thesis of Hiltzik's argument is that mocking people who die from COVID and were not vaccinated against COVID is a sufficient "teachable moment" to scare people into complying with COVID vaccine mandates.
"It may be not a little ghoulish to celebrate or exult in the deaths of vaccine opponents. And it may be proper to express sympathy and solicitude to those they leave behind," Hiltzik wrote.
"But mockery is not necessarily the wrong reaction to those who publicly mocked anti-COVID measures and encouraged others to follow suit, before they perished of the disease the dangers of which they belittled," he continued. "Nor is it wrong to deny them our sympathy and solicitude, or to make sure it’s known when their deaths are marked that they had stood fast against measures that might have protected themselves and others from the fate they succumbed to."
"There may be no other way to make sure that the lessons of these teachable moments are heard," Hiltzik declared.
Interestingly, Hiltzik did not apply his argument to clinically obese Americans who are likely to develop cardiac diseases or diabetes, two of the leading causes of death in America. Nor did Hiltzik apply his thesis, for example, to smoking, which is known to cause cancer.
One thus wonders: Should those who die from lifestyle diseases also be mocked?
What was the response?
Hiltzik was thoroughly slammed by critics across the bipartisan divide for his admittedly "ghoulish" idea.
- "Appallingly heartless take. Nobody’s covid death should ever be mocked. They are all tragic victims, particularly so if they’ve been brainwashed into rejecting a vaccine that could have saved them," Piers Morgan said.
- "This is disgraceful, disgusting, and evil," former Rep. Justin Amash said.
- "I want people to get vaccinated but will never accept that those who fail to do so deserve a death sentence. This is a disgraceful (and typically right wing!) viewpoint. Should smokers deaths of lung cancer be celebrated? Addicts who overdose? Sick stuff," podcast host Krystal Ball said.
- "I was hesitant on getting the vaccine, but then when I heard that Michael Hiltzik is going to publicly mock my death, he made me feel safe about getting the jab —all my worries are gone, and now I’m totally convinced!" reporter Alana Mastrangelo mocked.
- "This embrace of ghoulish posturing by a pro-lockdown conventional media source, @latimes, is bad for public health. Who will trust public health if it does not convey compassion even unto the dead? De mortuis nil nisi bonum," Stanford professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya said.
- "Even if the vaccines are good and necessary — this ain't it, chief. Mocking deaths is one surefire way to not only be unconvincing, but also to push people away who would otherwise agree with you," one person said.
- "Each day I'm further convinced the way forward lies in abandoning Blue America. It's not just policy; just look at these people, overtaken by an arrogant, self-righteous delusion that's emboldened them to dance on graves with wanton, almost orgiastic abandon," another person reacted.
Hiltzik actually responded to Ball's question of whether his standard should be applied to smokers and other drug addicts. Hiltzik said it should not because "smokers and overdosing addicts don't commonly advocate that innocent people subject themselves to life-threatening disease."
However, being vaccinated will not prevent you from transmitting the virus, thus harming "innocent people."
After all, breakthrough cases happen every day, fully vaccinated people are still dying of COVID (although the majority have several co-morbidities), and the CDC even says that fully vaccinated people still transmit the virus.