Montana is 46th out of 50 states in coronavirus deaths as of yesterday, with only North Dakota, Alaska, and Wyoming with fewer casualties. With the United States at what is likely its peak deaths, Montanans will fare better than most states. Our hospitals are not overcrowded or overrun. Our state healthcare industry is not overwhelmed. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, some counties are employing incredibly harsh measures that aren’t even seen in more densely populated urban coronavirus hotspots.
Carter County has been what many people would consider draconian in recent weeks, threatening to close Ekalaka’s only grocery store, demanding to know who is visiting local homes, and telling people to report to the health department if they leave the county.
Bozeman has fielded numerous complaints from residents snitching on their neighbors for drinking too closely with one another and having their stores still open (see below).
However, in Bozeman, the snitching seems to be citizen-on-citizen. But in Powder River County (Broadus), the health department is actually providing a form for neighbors to complain about their fellow citizens.
In conjunction with the municipality of Broadus, Power River County has placed the form outside the Broadus town hall with lines provided to put the infractor’s name, location, infraction, and contact information.
For some, the idea of encouraging citizens to complain about each other’s activities anonymously sounds dystopian. The Gestapo of Nazi Germany incentivized and encouraged citizens to tattle on each other, even if their hunches were speculative. The Hitler Youth were particularly valuable in expanding the snitching network far beyond the Gestapo’s one-thousand uniformed officers, as the society was trained to live in fear of the lurking eyes of neighbors who were convinced it was their patriotic duty to tell on others.