But COVID-19 was not the first pandemic in human history, just the first pandemic of the Digital Age. Many compared COVID to the Great Influenza of 1918–1920. During that pandemic, comparable to if not worse in scope than COVID, governments ordered social distancing and mask mandates, but they were typically brief, not years-long as at present.
Looking at how normal life was amid the Great Influenza is startling. The 1918 midterm elections were held as scheduled. There were no major, Big Tech oligarch–funded efforts to fundamentally alter the administration of voting, though campaigning periods were shorter in some areas. Republicans handed a major defeat to President Woodrow Wilson’s Democrats and raised Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Calvin Coolidge to the top of Beacon Hill. The 1919 World Series went down in history, not for short seasons, neutral-site games, player “bubbles,” and limited spectators, but for the infamous game fixing of the Black Sox.
While liberals laugh heartily at the Anti-Mask League of San Francisco, the group was perhaps more effective than any contemporary anti-lockdown pressure group outside the state of Florida. It organized a protest meeting one week after the city instituted a mask mandate in January 1919. After the league presented a petition, the city repealed the mandate on February 1, 1919.
And lockdowns? They were unthinkable in a world that was still at war until the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The BBC notes the rarity of lockdown-style measures in the UK during the Great Influenza: