Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is no stranger to controversy. The New York Democrat and self-described socialist went viral this week when she attended the bougie New York City Met Gala — tickets cost upward of $30,000 — in a dress emblazoned with “tax the rich.”
Critics have already, quite rightly, pointed out the grotesque hypocrisy in Ocasio-Cortez’s stunt: partying with the rich and famous while pretending to oppose them, the audacity of cosplaying as a socialist champion while enjoying the most ostentatious and extravagant celebrations of capitalism’s excesses.
But, while this hypocrisy has garnered most of the attention so far, it shouldn’t actually be considered the biggest scandal of the evening. The real Met Gala scandal is the way the elite trotted around maskless while forcing the serving class to cover their faces with masks, an ugly reminder of the harsh inequality of COVID-era restrictions.
From Ocasio-Cortez herself to Vice President Kamala Harris’s stepdaughter to celebrities, many elite figures were photographed maskless while attended by masked workers. (Both the congresswoman and Harris continue to implore citizens, even the vaccinated, to mask up indoors.) In one particularly disturbing video, a maskless Ocasio-Cortez literally has a masked servant trailing her and holding up her “tax the rich” dress so it doesn’t touch the ground.
— The Cut (@TheCut) September 13, 2021
The poors don’t get to show their faces pic.twitter.com/ZfRlrxyTQs
— verum obdurat 🌺⏳ (@leucinedreams) September 14, 2021
An unmasked AOC literally has a masked servant carrying her dress so it doesn’t brush against the ground. https://t.co/M9glPEuLKu
— Brad Polumbo 🇺🇸⚽️ 🏳️🌈 (@brad_polumbo) September 15, 2021
This dichotomy is nothing short of grotesque.
As dissident left-wing journalist Glenn Greenwald put it, “There is something uniquely disturbing — creepy even — about becoming accustomed to seeing political and cultural elites wallowing in luxury without masks, while those paid small wages to serve them in various ways are forced to keep cloth over their faces. It is a powerful symbol of the growing rot at the core of America’s cultural and social balkanization: a maskless elite attended to by a permanently faceless servant class.”
The same people who sneer at us to “follow the science” and “listen to the experts” apparently think the necessity of mask-wearing depends on whether you can afford the $30,000-plus ticket or are there as a worker. Combined with the litany of examples of left-leaning politicians caught violating their own COVID-19 restrictions, the gaudy affair is another ugly reminder that the elite have little intention of living by the pandemic restrictions they would impose on the masses.
The Met Gala’s glaring inequality is emblematic of the broader impact restrictions have had throughout the pandemic to date. It wasn’t white-collar workers or the laptop class who had their livelihoods destroyed by the government; it was working people. It wasn’t the rich whose businesses went belly-up (they got bailouts), it was small businesses.
Indeed, an analysis by Harvard University, Brown University, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation showed that the economic destruction of pandemic restrictions almost exclusively fell on the middle and working classes. It compared employment levels in January 2020 (pre-pandemic) to March 2021 to gauge the job losses for different income levels. The analysis found that high-wage workers actually saw a 2.3% increase in employment. Meanwhile, middle-wage employment dropped 4.5% — and very low-wage employment plummeted 23.6%.
Ultimately, a dress is just a dress. And one appalling celebrity event isn’t that consequential in the grand scheme of things. So, the outrage over Ocasio-Cortez’s hypocritical “tax the rich” dress and the Met Gala will fade soon enough. But we should never forget the grotesque inequity of COVID authoritarianism that this affair symbolizes — and never submit to it again.