The Totally Cracked COVID-19 Denialist Movement Turns Militant
If you have been a frequent reader here on National Compass and more particularly, our frequent short form essay / news commentary feature, “Writer’s Lounge” – you know we’ve been more than casually focused on the politicization of COVID-19 or more generically, Coronavirus Denialism.
It’s a fancy way of describing the plethora of unfounded views and opinions centered around dismissing proven science about the virus, how it spreads, how to be physically safe, community mitigation and how to flatten the curve, as well as actively promoting false narratives (debunked medical claims) about the pandemic and its origins.
What has become obviously apparent in the last 6 months, is twofold. Donald Trump’s only interest in COVID-19 and the disruptive public health threat it continues to pose, is his political calculus – (the “base strategy”) and his personal interests.
“Wartime President”? On What Planet?
I’m always a little put off when I hear the (impeached) president’s name mentioned in a sentence that contains the descriptive term, “Wartime President.” Why? Two reasons.
One – serial draft evader Trump is unfit to lead anyone, even himself. His self admitted brush with combat, was, in his words, his “personal Vietnam” – struggling to avoid contracting sexually transmitted diseases in New York City as a newly minted socialite, launched into the stratosphere of Manhattan real estate by his father’s half billion in ill gotten gains.
Two, as the pandemic can truly be classified as a war, Trump is the vanguard of the enemy. He has politically weaponized the response (lack thereof) to the outbreak and has persistently misled the wide swath of Americans that employ his statements as a barometer of reality.
You can’t even call the people who have died as a result of his destructive negligence, victims of “friendly fire”. They are simply casualties – 167,437 as of August 11.
What he inspires is what I and others in the media call denialism and COVID-19 “truthers.”. However, in the last three months, garden variety denialism on the virus, has metastasized into aggressive, militant denialism.
Passive-Agressive COVID Denialism
Militant COVID-19 denialism is a sibling to passive-aggressive COVID-19 denialism, characterized by the scores of people who flocked to parks, beaches, crowded bars and restaurants and various other large public gatherings, scoffing at public health directives and exhibiting contemptuous disregard for social distancing.
That sort of denialism continues apace, as demonstrated by the recklessness of large house parties hosted by the likes of Jake Paul, in Calabasas, California (300 people), Ronald Chatman in Monmouth County, NJ (300 people), and a notorious pool party in Bergen, County, NJ earlier this month hosted by “Sha Boogie”.
The problem is so severe in Los Angeles, that the Mayor – Eric Garcetti, has had to resort to directing the municipal utilities, LADWP, to turn off water and power to homes that have been identified as holding large, unauthorized gatherings. Florida has been out of control, as you might expect, as well.
Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson, regarding the events his agency has had to shut down, told reporters:
“They’re being referred to, from what I’m being told, as COVID-19 parties where they’re actually getting together and they’re trying to mingle to potentially spread the virus amongst each other if they’re asymptomatic or whatever the case might be. We’ve just seen a tremendous spike just here in Osceola County.”
And, most recently – Sturgis, South Dakota, this week, where as many as a quarter of a million motorcycle enthusiasts (Trump voters in the majority), are congregating in the 90th percentile or more, with no protective facial coverings or social distancing.
So, that’s the passive aggressive side of the matter. Actually more aggressive than passive, considering that all the people showing up in Sturgis, came from every point of the compass in America – Arizona, Florida, California, Nevada, Georgia, Texas, Alaska, Nebraska, Utah – you name it. They’re all being exposed to asymptomatic carriers and in large numbers are going to return to their homes and bring the virus with them.
For you folks in Bedford, Pennsylvania and Idaho Falls – that’s what’s known as a “super spreader” event. There will be new spikes in cases and more deaths as a result of the recklessness.
Militant COVID-19 Denialism – Meet Lenka Koloma
Militant COVID-19 denialism is an amped up version of denialism. It displays itself not only in the acting out of quarrelsome defensiveness about public health directives, but goes a step beyond into pugnacious behavior and activism.
A new manifestation of this is the deranged activities of Lenka Koloma, a “detox maven” and self described “spiritualist”, who, says she, helps her clients “unlock miraculous powers.”
Don’t tell me you didn’t see this coming.
Koloma is also the head of the Trump administration agency, the “FTBA”. Never heard of it? Probably because there is no such agency. FTBA – a fictitious government bureau created in the ferment of Ms. Koloma’s imagination, stands for the “Freedom To Breathe Agency.”
No – I am not making this up. I don’t have the talent for conjuring up people or activities this bizarre. This video depicts one encounter that whack job Koloma had with an employee at a Whole Foods styled grocery, “Mother’s Market” in Laguna Woods, an Orange County, California suburb, in which she impersonates a Federal agent and accosts a mask wearing store employee.
Since Koloma, a far right, anti-Vaxx, ‘holistic’ lifestyle guru originally hails from the Czech Republic,, her comments in the video might not be entirely discernible, so we’ll recount the conversation here, which began with Ms. Chavez, the store clerk informing Koloma that “in order to be inside the store you’re required to wear a mask.”:
“Federal Agent Karen” as she’s now being dubbed, told the young staff member:
“We’re with the Freedom to Breathe Agency FTBA. We are a We The People Organization that ensures people’s constitutional rights, civil and federal laws are not violated, okay? And so you have to personally take this to your manager because you could be sued for it in person, okay? ”
“I am currently following my store policy,” the employee replied. Then Ms. Koloma indulges in a bit of elitist wage shaming.
“You’re probably paying $ 12 an hour or $ 15 an hour, okay? But you’re putting yourself in a huge legal liability. You personally. Okay? You have to be careful.”
Real Activist – Fake Credentials
Koloma, in addition to wearing a bit of flair, in the form of a bogus, identification badge featuring an imitation of the Department of Justice Eagle motif logo, designed to enhance the impression that Koloma and her accomplice are officials enforcing a (non-existent) law prohibiting retail businesses from requiring protective face coverings, handed out an informational screed to the Mother’s Market clerk.
“The piece of paper they gave me was basically telling me I could go to prison for up to 3 to 5 years and I could get fined up to $10,000 for telling them to wear a mask if I’m not a doctor”, Chavez told reporters.
Ms. Koloma and her cohorts have been distributing – actually selling, laminated “exemption cards” to mask ordinance objectors.
“The fact is, these cards aren’t issued or endorsed by DOJ, or any other federal agency,” warned actual federal employee, Colleen Tressler, a Consumer Education Specialist at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
And Department of Justice (DOJ) officials have issued a warning about the cards and their lack of authenticity.
“Do not be fooled by the chicanery and misappropriation of the DOJ eagle,” reads a press release from Matthew G.T. Martin, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. “These cards do not carry the force of law. The ‘Freedom to Breathe Agency,’ or ‘FTBA,’ is not a government agency.”
It may be dawning on Ms. Koloma that she could be in legal jeopardy. Koloma’s website, https://www.ftbagency.com, has been taken off the internet. The link renders a “502 Bad Gateway” error, which indicates that the server the site resides upon, is not actively distributing the site.
Koloma had a Facebook group, but it has also mysteriously slinked out of town sans culottes. In its place is now a fan group, of which it is not known if is directly under her control.
The mission statement of the group, “Freedom to Breathe”, is “a safehaven for those who refuse to wear a mask.” All who subscribe to any of the following views and opinions are welcome to join:
- Dont want to be forced to wear a mask.
- Believe masks are pointless.
- Believe covid is just a distraction for what’s really going on in the world e.g. The huge paedophilia ring.
- Possibly don’t believe in covid.
- Believe covid may have or does have an agenda.
- Dont want to be judged for not wanting to or being unable to wear a mask.
- Believe in conspiracy theories regarding Covid or the ongoing situation surrounding Covid.
This photo leaves nary a shred of doubt as to what Lenka’s political orientation consists of:
Lenka Koloma not only masquerades (if you will excuse the pun), as a federal agent, but as someone with medical knowledge and expertise (we usually think of them as licensed physicians) to address “chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, thyroid disease, arthritis, cancer and many other serious health conditions.”
Ms. Koloma has no discernible educational pedigree, but just as with televangelists and reality TV presidents, there are evidently no shortage of gullible people able to be conned into paying money for nonsense they could find on one end of the internet to the other, especially on YouTube, for zero bucks.
How do you save such people from themselves? You don’t.
While to clear thinking people who follow credible science, Koloma’s elevator may not seem to reach the top floor, remember that she is a little less crazy than her paying clients.
It Ain’t Legal
The hitch in all of this, beside the audaciousness and insanity, is that what Swami Koloma with the all seeing Eye of Horus tat on her left bicep, is doing in this instance and presumably elsewhere, is apparently a violation of Federal statute, namely the following provision of 18 USC 912 prohibiting the impersonation of a Federal officer of employee of a federal agency:
Whoever falsely assumes or pretends to be an officer or employee acting under the authority of the United States or any department, agency or officer thereof, and acts as such, or in such pretended character demands or obtains any money, paper, document, or thing of value, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
-18 U.S. Code § 912. – Officer or employee of the United States
Renato Mariotti, legal analyst on Politico and former federal prosecutor, noted in reaction to the video of Koloma’s confrontation with the grocery store employee, that, “this is a crime and these people should be prosecuted.”
Koloma is responding to the furor and criticism her actions, possibly indictable, have engendered, stating on Twitter:
Message to all the haters that stormed my IG account today: “Thank you. Thank you for showing your ignorance to what the United States of America stands for. Our republic was built on promises of freedom and… https://t.co/bf448OlV73
— Lenka Koloma (@clubdetox) August 7, 2020