Entrepreneurial capitalism rocks! Christian Britschgi reports on a fake mask, one that better enables proper breathing as it fools Covidocrats and Covidians. (Of course, this ‘mask’ still masks that key form of communication: facial expressions.)
As was the case elsewhere in society, pandemic fears overwhelmed civil libertarian concerns about privacy with public health arguments that prioritized limiting the spread of disease. Companies that ran into headwinds peddling surveillance products in normal times eagerly latched onto concerns about contagion to market their products.
“As offices and schools around the country plan to reopen, the Volan system offers the only private location tracking and geo-fencing option available that provides [a] precise and fast contact tracing solution combined with emergency response capabilities,” boasted Volan Technology, which sells tracking badges among other things, in June 2020.
Volan touts the use of artificial intelligence to ease contact tracing and social-distancing enforcement. That’s a feature also included in the modern incarnations of surveillance cameras, which claim the ability to not just monitor hallways and classrooms, but even to automatically identify what the lenses see.
“Motorola Solutions—whose security and communications systems are already installed in thousands of schools around the country—has developed artificial intelligence compatible with its existing cameras to recognize when an individual isn’t wearing a mask,” The Wall Street Journal reported in August 2020.
Today, March 31, 2022, a headline in the New York Times reads: “Caution Urged as States Slow the Virus Fight” with a subhead “Experts Voice Concern as Variant Spreads.”
The article occupies a 7-paragraph column on the front page and continues to fill an entire half page inside.
A person confronted with such a headline naturally asks herself: What newsworthy event has triggered this story not just on the front page of a major national newspaper, but at the very top? Has a panel of SARS-CoV-2 experts issued a statement? Who are the “experts” and in what forum are they “voicing concern?” Was there a press conference or announcement made by someone in charge of Covid policy?
The answers the reader gathers from the first seven paragraphs of the article are that, in fact, no event triggered the story, and there was no statement or forum or press conference or announcement. The rest of the article confirms this total lack of actual news.
Okay, the reader thinks. Who, then, are these experts who are voicing concern? Maybe the reporters scored exclusive interviews with prominent epidemiologists or public health leaders who issued serious warnings that are important to publicize. Perusing the article once again, she gets to the seventh paragraph before any “experts” are mentioned at all.
The first is identified as “Dr. Ben Weston, chief health policy advisor for Milwaukee County, Wis.,” and he is quoted as saying that when a boat has just gotten off a large tidal wave it “would be a strange time to throw out the life jackets.” So… nothing newsworthy, medically or scientifically relevant, or in any way helpful there.
To summarize: A top headline on the front page of arguably the most influential newspaper in the United States makes it sound like states are doing something wrong by scaling back their Covid response efforts and that experts think we should worry about a variant that’s spreading. The actual content of the article reveals that there is no new evidence or reason to believe states are doing anything wrong, no new evidence that we need to be concerned about the variant, and the experts are mostly local public health officials and doctors with little expertise or research in fields related to SARS-CoV-2.*
The only purpose this reader can infer for such a front-page headline and article is to continue fueling public anxiety. To what end? Maybe the reporters and editors at the Times believe they’re advancing the cause of public health by stoking panic, even long after it is justified by the level of the threat (if it ever was justified in the first place). Or maybe, to be a bit more cynical (or realistic?) about it, the reporters and editors know that fear and panic draw readers, especially around Covid, so they just can’t let go.
Bad news out of New York City: Mayor Eric Adams reverses his decision to unmask young school children. (DBx: It’s almost as if the Chambers of Commerce in Florida, Tennessee, and Texas are paying Mr. Adams under the table for his help in drumming up new residents for those southern states.)
First, there’s what I would call “institutional risk aversion”, as evidenced by Imperial College London still requiring graduation ceremonies to be watched online. Parents have been banned from witnessing this huge moment in their children’s lives in person because of “safety first” social distancing – despite all measures having been scrapped (and most students spending their free time nightclubbing and becoming romantically involved with each other).
Universities in general have spectacularly failed to move on from 2020, with many still reluctant to bring back 100 per cent face-to-face learning despite Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi saying there was “no excuse” for online lectures.
Other public bodies like the Passport Office also appear to be clinging onto mask diktats. A colleague went to its office in Victoria, London, this week and was told masks were mandatory inside, even though they are no longer required by law.
Seemingly oblivious to the sheer “covidiocy” of requiring people to cover their faces in one place but not in another, these publicly funded organisations, in which many staff still appear to be largely working from home, remain stuck in a quasi-lockdown.
As Russia dominates the headlines, China’s collapsing zero-Covid strategy lurks in the background, causing havoc in some of its biggest cities, cracking down on the daily routines of millions of people – and creating disturbances in supply chains that will hit Western consumers in the months ahead.
And in the medium-term, China’s decision to flick the switch off and on again with its own economy will present as great a threat, if not a greater one, than the energy crunch being created by Russia right now.
China has been playing economic yo-yo with its cities for the past month. Two weeks ago, Xi Jinping’s regime placed manufacturing city Shenzhen, with a population of close to 18m, under lockdown, in a bid to curb rising infection.
Now, parts of Shanghai (covering roughly 25m people) are being put under harsh lockdown restrictions, including quarantine.
In response to this truly horrifying news of the depths to which Covidocratic tyranny will sink, Jay Bhattacharya tweets:
I thought preventing dying patients from seeing loved ones was the cruelest covid policy I would see during the epidemic. I was wrong. There were further depths of cruelty to plumb, apparently.
For two years the left has championed policies of surveillance and exclusion in the form of: punitive vaccine mandates, invasive vaccine passports, socially destructive lockdowns, and radically unaccountable censorship by large media and technology corporations. For the entire pandemic, leftists and liberals – call them the Lockdown Left – cheered on unprecedented levels of repression aimed primarily at the working class – those who could not afford private schools and could not comfortably telecommute from second homes.
Almost the entire left intelligentsia has remained psychically stuck in March 2020. Its members have applauded the new biosecurity repression and calumniated as liars, grifters, and fascists any and all who dissented. Typically, they did so without even engaging evidence and while shirking public debate. Among the most visible in this has been Noam Chomsky, the self-described anarcho-syndicalist who called for the unvaccinated to “remove themselves from society,” and suggested that they should be allowed to go hungry if they refuse to submit.
In Jacobin, a magazine claiming to support the working class in all its struggles, Branko Marcetic demanded the unvaccinated be barred from public transportation: “one obvious course of action is for Biden to make vaccines a requirement for mass transport.” Journalist Doug Henwood has scolded the unvaccinated with: “Get over your own bloated sense of self-importance.” But Henwood has championed shutting down all of society in the name of safety, while refusing to engage counter-arguments – a combination that suggests a bloated sense of self-importance of his own.
Other left intellectuals, like Benjamin Bratton, author of a Verso book on the pandemic called Return of the Real, are notable for hiding amidst academic blather: “the book’s argument is on behalf [of] a ‘positive biopolitics’ that may form the basis of viable social self-organization, but this is less a statement on behalf of ‘the political’ in some metaphysical sense than on behalf of a governmentality through which an inevitably planetary society can deliberately compose itself.” This is, as the late Alex Cockburn once said, “what dumb people think smart people sound like.”
Even the American Civil Liberties Union – long a bastion of objective thinking and civil liberties absolutism – has supported the mandates, lockdowns, and censorship. David Cole, the group’s legal director, debased himself in the New York Times with a tortured op-ed explaining how everything the ACLU stood for over the last 100 years suddenly did not apply during the season of freakout and overreach.
When activist left influencers did stray from the official line, it was to occasionally harumph about how school closure would be ok if we just had “free childcare for all.” That argument is so flimsy one wants to respond with: “Yes, and let’s call these new socialist childcare centers: public schools!”
All of this unmasks the Lockdown Left’s blue-city provincialism. Its adherents drink high-quality coffee and enjoy bike lanes, but have revealed themselves to be as narrow-minded, clannish, mean-spirited and faith-based as any group of small-town “deplorables” might be. If you don’t agree with the consensus in Cambridge, Brooklyn, Bethesda, or Berkeley, then you are very obviously insane. End of story. For this set, Covid vaccines have become a fetish, a talisman to wave against the specter of “contagion”; while lockdowns and censorship are treated as purely technical, apolitical interventions. Prominent left intellectuals have embraced the weaponization of solidarity and made it into a lifestyle via their obsessive masking, scolding, and hiding. They pretend to care for society while actually applauding deeply anti-social and scientifically ungrounded policies like the indefinite shuttering of schools.
All of this is contingent upon the status of Lockdown Leftists as relatively privileged laptop workers who can operate from the comfort of home, dependent on anonymous “frontline workers” ferrying food and Amazon packages to their doorstep. Prior to the pandemic quarantines, many left intellectuals already lived as if they were on lockdown. I know this because I am part of that class.
Covid repression portrays itself as apolitical and purely “scientific.” Sadly, most leftists accept this canard. But class war from above is always masked as “merely technical.” Proponents of the War on Drugs never described their open-ended campaign of domestic repression and surveillance as a war on workers and the poor. Likewise, proponents of the War on Terror never described their campaign of forever wars as a permanent assault on the Global South and a war to maintain American hegemony. The left saw through those concoctions. We opposed drug testing not because we were in favor of sharing the road with stoned truck drivers, but rather because we saw the political utility and inherent value in workers having autonomy from coercion by bosses. Alas, the War on Covid, has (at least temporarily) erased our side’s analytic capacities. For large parts of the left it is still March 2020.
Arguing reason against Covid hysteria is like attempting to put out a magnesium fire using water.
Before Covid, the left led the critique of captured agencies, but now even the likes of Chomsky take the official pronouncements at face value; even as those pronouncements change to the point of self-contradiction, as in: Do not wear masks, do wear masks. The vaccines stop the disease, no the vaccines merely blunt its lethal edge. Asked by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman why people should trust large pharmaceutical companies like Moderna and Pfizer, Chomsky waved away the issue with, “If the information came from Pfizer and Moderna, there would be no reason to trust it.” But of course much of the most important information does come directly from these companies.
The real IFR demonstrated by [John] Ioannidis suggest that the approach called “focused protection” put forward in the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) – a statement drafted by several prominent epidemiologists that promoted an alternative strategy which sought to protect the most vulnerable, for example the elderly with pre-existing health problems, while minimizing the social harm of overly broad lockdowns – would have been the most effective public health strategy. But the left, like the liberal mainstream, immediately attacked “focused protection” not on the merits of the argument but with guilt by association – because the GBD was associated with a libertarian think tank.
Death, or “all-cause mortality” increased during the pandemic but not all of it was caused by Covid. This fact is often overlooked. A study out of the UK published in January 2022, found that non-Covid deaths due to delayed medical care quadrupled during the Covid pandemic. This sort of dangerous unintended consequence from lockdown was predicted during the pandemic’s first year. A study published in late 2020 estimated that over-zealous Covid restrictions would lead to 18,000 extra cancer deaths in the UK that year.
Most left intellectuals however, following in lockstep with the Democrats, refused to acknowledge that lockdowns also kill. They could not do so for a very simple reason: Trump had done it first, when he called for the economy to reopen. “Permanent lockdown is not a viable path forward…Ultimately [it would] inflict more harm than it would prevent,” Trump said during an April 3, 2020 White House briefing. “Lockdowns do not prevent infection in the future. They just don’t. It comes back many times, it comes back,” Trump said.
Trump’s concerns about the risks of lockdown were immediately excoriated and mocked in the press. But we now know he was right – lockdowns also kill. The pandemic has seen record surges in fatal drug overdoses and homicide. The CDC found a 28 percent increase in drug overdose deaths from April 2020 to April 2021. While the homicide rate increased by 30 percent. Bizarrely, traffic deaths went up by 7 percent in 2020, even as the total number of miles driven declined by 13 percent.
Early on, the New York Times briefly acknowledged the health risks from lockdowns. An op-ed by two physicians turned healthcare executives noted that: “The toll from deaths caused by lockdown related impacts may have killed as many as the disease.”
The left has turned its back on liberty. Worse yet, the left now campaigns against freedom. ACLU luminaries editorialize for de facto forced vaccination and vaccine passports. This has devastating social, political, and economic consequences; and the left’s failure to acknowledge and understand this will haunt it for years after the pandemic.
The left invokes “the greater good” to justify support for vaccine mandates, vaccine passports, lockdowns, and censorship; in so doing the left supports undemocratic rule by unaccountable bureaucrats. During the Covid crisis, there have been no lockdown and mandate related periods of public comment, no environmental impact reports, thus there has been no public scientific debate about disease severity, vaccine efficacy, and the unintended consequences of mandates and lockdowns.
Left forces, broadly defined, have for our national history fought for personal liberties while elites have opposed such freedoms. The Bill of Rights itself is a concession to the people. The only way the framers could compel the states to ratify the new US Constitution was to agree that ten amendments protecting personal liberty and autonomy (the Bill of Rights) would be passed into law upon ratification.
Recall all the struggles: Abolitionists vs. slavery, the Slave Power, and the gag rule. The Industrial Workers of the World’s multi-year, nationwide campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience in defense of free speech. The now pathetically debased, pro-mandate and pro-lockdown ACLU was born of resistance to the Espionage Act of 1917 and Sedition Act of 1918.