When YouTube star Jake Paul hosted a party at his California mansion in the middle of a pandemic two weeks ago, he garnered the ire of the mayor of Calabasas and local police. But the legal ramifications were not enough to get him to stop hosting ragers in the coronavirus hotspot. According to Paul, that’s just not how he lives. “I’m not the type of person who’s gonna sit around and not live my life,” Paul explained in an interview with Insider. And on Wednesday, just two week’s after Paul’s party, FBI are now investigating his home.
Paul is not the only ultra-wealthy, extremely privileged American to be flouting lockdown rules. On Monday, another mansion party in L.A. that boasted over 100 guests also ended badly, with one person killed by gunshot and another four injured, demonstrating some of the other risks of massive underground parties during such precarious times. While the outcomes of both events were inherently different, they share a reckless quality, one that exposes the carelessness of privilege.
Earlier in the pandemic, stories and photos of similarly large gatherings went viral on social media, with an accompanying degree of condemnation, as people called out the “dumb hicks” in Kentucky and Alabama hosting “coronavirus parties,” or folks traveling for a Memorial Day rager at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.
But now, the viral party stories aren’t centered around average people, and are instead squarely focused on the elite. Just weeks after attending a maskless Bridgehampton party and testing positive for coronavirus, Trump re-election campaign advisor and girlfriend to Don Jr, Kimberly Guilfoyle is planning to host fundraisers in the Hamptons. And, Ashley Taylor Bronczek, a Washington D.C. socialite, threw a party at her home for over two dozen people after the Washington Ballet’s online fundraiser, which she co-chaired; after the event, Bronczek and several guests tested positive for the virus.
Also, late last month, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon DJed a “drive-in” Chainsmokers concert in the Hamptons with “thousands of people in close proximity,” according to CBS News. Finally, in the very wealthy town of Greenwich, Connecticut, parties hosted by teens have led to a jump in coronavirus cases.
Obviously these wealthy party-goers are not the only ones ignoring the rules of how to act like a compassionate human during a pandemic. For his part, President Trump was only seen wearing a mask in public for the first time last month. But as we close in on six-months of enduring this global emergency, one thing is clear: Coronavirus is not a great equalizer when it comes to class, and it’s only further exposing the massive divide between the rich and the poor in this country.
That’s why these mansion parties feel so particularly frustrating to witness: They’re examples of the behavior of privileged people acting like they are exempt from the rules that govern most of us, because, well, they always have been. Ultra-rich people break rules more often, Brad Klontz, a psychologist who works with millionaires and billionaires, told the New York Times in 2017. “They have this feeling that rules don’t apply to them, although that mind-set is often the key to much of their success,” Klontz said. “If they’re told something can’t be done a certain way, they think that doesn’t apply to them and find a way around it.”
That type of entitlement — combined with the utter failure of our government to contain the virus when it had the chance — has resulted in an ongoing public health crisis in which the people who know they can take risks will continue to do so, even if it jeopardizes the lives of those who literally can’t afford to take risks at all. Paul admitted as much when asked about his mansion party: “No one has answers, our leadership is failing us, and everyone kind of just doesn’t know what to do.”
Except, of course, that for someone who has all the privileges in the world, there are ways of knowing what to do and what not to do. There is no way to think that throwing a huge party right now is a good idea. But capitalism — a system from which Paul and all these other party-throwers directly benefits — doesn’t teach you that you get ahead by caring about other people. And the pandemic, which is making the rich richer and the poor poorer, is clearly not teaching them that either.
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