In the ongoing, tense conversation over how long America has to remain locked down during the coronavirus pandemic, one of the more absurd moments came two weeks ago: Carolyn Goodman, the mayor of Las Vegas, called for the immediate reopening of her city’s casinos, offering her constituents up as a “control group” to test whether stay-at-home measures are actually effective. The notion baffled public-health experts, who maintain that a rigorous adherence to social distancing is essential to overcoming the outbreak. It drew swift condemnation from other Las Vegas officials, who referred to Goodman as “reckless” and “an embarrassment.” And, as is so often the case in public blunders, it received its harshest criticism online. Goodman was called “an idiot,” “an actual monster,” and, maybe most damning, “a real Karen’s Karen.”
On the internet, a Karen is not always named Karen. The title has been used to decry a woman named Diane who attended a protest of Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order carrying an American flag and announcing, “What do I say to your science? I don’t believe in your science.” It’s been thrown at a woman in a local Facebook group demanding private medical information about a person in her neighborhood, and a woman in Tennessee carrying a handmade sign that read Sacrifice the weak, re-open TN. Becky Ames, the mayor of Beaumont, Texas, was declared a Karen after she was photographed breaking the state’s stay-at-home order at a nail salon.