I thought I should do a quick post for those who have been following along.
I have mentioned that I was considering turning this series of posts into a book. That is what I have now decided to do and I am working on that book as we speak. Readers might have noticed that the posts have been all over the place thematically. With the book I will be presenting the argument in a more orderly and rational fashion. I am also filling out the argumentation where it was lacking and just generally cleaning things up. The general gist of the posts won’t change much but there will be substantial revisions in particular to the chapters on the epidemic of testing and the panic principle.
Where I have ended up as far as my explanation for the corona event, and the direction that the book will take, is as follows:-
High modernist ideology is a faith that uses the prestige of science to advance utopian social programs. Such programs purport to be for the good of everybody, that’s why they are utopian. The problem is that they are predicated on simplified and naïve science that doesn’t work in the real world. Under normal circumstances they simply don’t get off the ground. However, when they are combined with authoritarian government and prostrate civil society, they can be made to ‘work’ because what happens is that government, through bureaucracy, re-structures society to make them seem plausible.
Such programs have never been tried in western countries before because we have neither authoritarian government nor prostrate civil society. However, there are a couple of ways in which you can get a western society to change into an authoritarian state. One is war. Another is plague (pandemic).
The early warning system set up by the WHO is designed to trigger a plague story. It’s a warning for plague. It has false alarmed several times in the past two decades but those false alarms didn’t cause much real trouble because the criteria for establishing a ‘case’ were too cumbersome. They required both a doctor to diagnose clinical symptoms and a bureaucrat to do the contact tracing on a suspected case. In addition, suspected cases were mostly limited to those who made it to hospital thereby excluding all asymptomatic and mild cases. Also, as David Crowe pointed out, the criterion that required contact with an existing case ensured the number of cases was self-limiting. Once quarantining of the sick began, the numbers dried up immediately because no more contacts could be generated.
This all changed with the corona event because of the PCR test. The test gave bureaucrats the perfect, simplified criteria needed for a high modernist intervention. Clinical symptoms and contact tracing were thrown aside and a ‘case’ was now defined purely by a single test result. All that was needed was to carry out the test. The infrastructure to do that was already in place due to the WHO’s influenza surveillance programs and thus the testing machine was able to ramp up very quickly.
In addition, suspected cases were no longer confined to hospital patients but expanded to include anybody with flu symptoms and even people with no symptoms. The test allowed such people to now be included as ‘cases’ and this massively expanded the available pool of suspected cases relative to previous pandemics alerts. By defintion, the actual medical status of ‘cases’ became irrelevant. All bureaucrats now cared about was the test result. This new case definition also ensures that the pandemic can never end because there will never be a shortage of people with flu-like symptoms to put through the testing process.
Once governments opted for lockdown, politicians became married to the plague story interpretation and will now defend that narrative at all costs. Smart politicians would have to know that the only way out of this is a vaccine and that is why we have a ridiculous situation of governments buying millions of doses of vaccines that don’t even exist yet. Many politicians have now staked their political careers on a vaccine.
High modernist ideology is tied to what Mary Midgley called reductionist megalomania. This is what was behind the public’s desire to see heroism during the corona event. It is also the driver for Nassim Taleb and his ilk who have reduced the whole thing down to a so-called risk analysis and thereby promulgated the idea of ‘smashing the curve’. Other obvious examples of megalomania can be seen in Bill Gates and his billionaire mates. All of this is simple hubris. But hubris goeth before a fall.
The fall-out from this event is going to define the years ahead and politicians can be expected to do everything they can to avoid taking responsibility for the collateral damage. One of the ways to do that is to continue to try and repress civil society so that competing narratives do not arise. They have the exact means to do that with the testing and the continued threats of ‘second waves’ and the like. It seems the plan at the moment is to play that card and hope to hell that a vaccine arrives as that is the only thing that lets everybody save face.
The longer the vaccine takes the more the pressure will build and this pressure itself is now a danger. On the other hand, it seems very likely that the official narrative won’t be able to hold and this does offer a glimmer of hope that the neo-liberal/globalist consensus, of which the WHO’s early warning system is a part, might be genuinely challenged in the years ahead. The globalists, meanwhile, seeing their opportunity have already started pushing for a high modernist reform of society through such catchphrases as the ‘new normal’.
In the background of all this is the actual science of microbiology where it has become the norm not to attempt to reproduce or challenge published studies about new viral disease. This is part of the larger replication crisis in the sciences in general but particularly in the biomedical sciences where enormous sums of money are up for grab. The inherent analytical problems with viral disease have not been resolved and, in fact, new research is calling the germ theory of disease into question. The fact that more scientists have not spoken out during the corona event speaks to the fact that their incomes and career are largely dependent on government money and/or private investment money some of which has blatantly obvious political motives. In short, the sciences are in very bad shape and have failed the public during the corona event barring the few lone voices such as Professor Bhakdi.
That will be the main thrust of the book which will also include the chapters on germ theory, the economics of pandemic, the denial of death which, while less relevant as causes, are nevertheless part of the broader social and cultural trend that got us to where we are.
The book, tentatively titled “Viral Narrative: The Story about the Story about Coronavirus”, will be about the start of the corona event and will trace out the elements that led us into it as described above. How it’s going to end is anybody’s guess at this point.
I hope to have the book finished in the next week or two and released very shortly after that. I’ll be sure to post here when it’s available.
All posts in this series:-
The Coronapocalypse Part 0: Why you shouldn’t listen to a word I say (maybe)
The Coronapocalypse Part 1: The Madness of Crowds in the Age of the Internet
The Coronapocalypse Part 2: An Epidemic of Testing
The Coronapocalypse Part 3: The Panic Principle
The Coronapocalypse Part 4: The Denial of Death
The Coronapocalypse Part 5: Cargo Cult Science
The Coronapocalypse Part 6: The Economics of Pandemic
The Coronapocalypse Part 7: There’s Nothing Novel under the Sun
The Coronapocalypse Part 8: Germ Theory and Its Discontents
The Coronapocalypse Part 9: Heroism in the Time of Corona
The Coronapocalypse Part 10: The Story of Pandemic
The Coronapocalypse Part 11: Beyond Heroic Materialism
The Coronapocalypse Part 12: The End of the Story (or is it?)
The Coronapocalypse Part 13: The Book
The Coronapocalypse Part 14: Automation Ideology
The Coronapocalypse Part 15: The True Believers
The Coronapocalypse Part 16: Dude, where’s my economy?
The Coronapocalypse Part 17: Dropping the c-word (conspiracy)
The Coronapocalypse Part 18: Effects and Side Effects
The Coronapocalypse Part 19: Government and Mass Hysteria
The Coronapocalypse Part 20: The Neverending Story
The Coronapocalypse Part 21: Kafkaesque Much?
The Coronapocalypse Part 22: The Trauma of Bullshit Jobs
The Coronapocalypse Part 23: Acts of Nature
The Coronapocalypse Part 24: The Dangers of Prediction
The Coronapocalypse Part 25: It’s just semantics, mate
The Coronapocalypse Part 26: The Devouring Mother
The Coronapocalypse Part 27: Munchausen by Proxy
The Coronapocalypse Part 28: The Archetypal Mask
The Coronapocalypse Part 29: A Philosophical Interlude
The Coronapocalypse Part 30: The Rebellious Children
The Coronapocalypse Part 31: How Dare You!
The Coronapocalypse Part 32: Book Announcement
The Coronapocalypse Part 33: Everything free except freedom
The Coronapocalypse Part 34: Into the Twilight Zone
The Coronapocalypse Part 35: The Land of the Unfree and the Home of the Safe
The Coronapocalypse Part 36: The Devouring Mother Book Now Available
9 thoughts on “The Coronapocalypse Part 12: The End of the Story (or is it?)”
I was considering rereading all the posts, but if there will be a book, I’ll wait for that.
Again, I think looking at it as a story is a very useful angle. As all viewpoints, it reveals some aspects and hides others.
Another way to look at it is the conspiracy angle. There may or may not have been a conspiracy to begin with, but certainly by now there would be plenty. You cover part of that when you talk about politicians fighting for survival. Definitely conspiracys there, but i think it goes deeper.
This french shepard explains it:
And there is the phase change angle. If you take a bucket of water, put it out on a cold night, if the conditions were just right, the water will still be liquid in the morning, but if you drop a pebble into it, it will instantaneously freeze. Really works. I have seen it happen. The water is supercooled, and thus primed for a phase change. I think this is a useful metaphor to explain what happened.
With swine flu, bird flu and whatnot in the past, society was not primed for the phasechange. This year it was. And the pebble was dropped…
A phasechange means a discontinuity. Properties and behaviour of a system changes in unpredictable and possibly quite drastic ways.
This is very much what the events in march felt like to me. It would have been completely unreasonable in january to claim, that by august Victoria would make North Korea look good. Still that is what happened. It was not thinkable in the old phase. In the new phase it makes perfect sense.
I wonder what else will be possible.
New normal is a useful term here. If I am correct, this will not just be a matter of politicians finding a way to save their sorry asses on the slow slide back to business as usual, but some fundamental change that will never go back to what was before.
I sure hope I am wrong.
The story based approach seems to miss this a bit. Maybe I misunderstand it, but to me it sounds a bit like the story plays itself out, and things go mainly back to normal.
I guess what I am trying to say is, that events of the last few months are best looked at from several viewpoints.
Come to think of it, I wonder if there have been phase changes in societies in the past and how did they play out?
I think the WHO in general is an organisation based on the high modernist ideology and the whole idea of preventing some kind of catastrophic pandemic is a classic high modernist scheme. Sounds great in theory. Hard to argue against it. But in practice it causes, well, exactly what we’ve seen. I think that was all implemented in the background by faceless bureaucrats over the past decades. It looks to me like pure luck that the PCR test came along and accidentally gave bureaucrats all the control but maybe somebody was smart enough to create that outcome for their own benefit.
I think war and plague both classify as state changes in society. It’s hard for you and I to understand, but apparently a lot of people still think we are in a plague and the government needs to protect them. I suppose if you believed what was on the news then you would think that.
Totally agree about the need for multiple perspectives. That’s why I introduced Weinberg’s systems thinking concept where he makes that point explicit. For that reason I’ll keep the book focused on things where I feel I can add to the discussion knowing full well that it could never be the whole picture. I think both the plague story analysis and the high modernist ideology work as analytical frameworks irrespective of whether the whole thing happened by accident or was designed.
Nice work by the French shepherd. There were a couple of ‘black sheep’ that got made examples of in Victoria this week, so he was spot on in that regard.
You are right, it is hard for me to understand how people can still be scared of the corona virus. Let alone that the majority of the population, as seems to be the case here.
But then again, a general atmosphere of fear has been building up in society for decades. Not even fear of something in particular. Just fear. And a desire for safety and risk aversion at any cost. This is what I meant by primed for a phase change. Something was building up .
War may be a phase change in certain cases. I am not quite sure. Plague however is not. Almost by definition. It is a disturbance. An external event, that can trigger a phase change in a properly primed medium. If you throw a pebble into a bucket of water that is not supercooled, all you get is a few ripples.
The swine flu was such a pebble. Corona is a similar pebble but society was finally ready and maybe the phase change would have happened without corona. Something else could have served as the pebble.
The buildup of a gargantuan WHO buerocracy is part of the priming i guess.
You are probably aware that the WHO changed their definition of pandemic in 2010? Just as a side note.
I think we need to be clear about where the phase change takes place. I’m thinking of it in two ways:
1) There is a political phase change to a state of emergency. This means power is now given to the chief medical officer. This is exactly the authoritarian state change required to attempt a high modernist intervention because it also makes civil society prostrate by law.
2) There is a phase change in the minds of many people who now believe they are in a plague. This makes civil society prostrate emotionally or intellectually.
I agree that there has been a buildup of fear and now that fear got a specific object to focus on. It got channeled into the plague story. What are some of the reasons for that buildup of fear? I think denial of death is one. The fact that we have been going backwards economically for five decades. The general failure of heroic materialism: no more real breakthroughs in science. Then throw in globalisation which caused rapid social change that made a lot of people worse off. Basically, society has been stagnant for many decades now and people probably sense that at some deeper level.
Interesting fact I learned a couple of days ago. Swine flu was the first time the case definition relied solely on the PCR test (prior to that it was clinical symptoms and contact with an existing case). BUT, the US CDC literally ordered the health bureaucracy to stop testing in July 2009, which was only a few months after the outbreak started in the US. There was some weird excuse given at the time. Obviously, they knew what would happen if they kept testing. This, of course, raises the question why we haven’t done the same this time. China did it but we haven’t. So, I agree, whatever is going on now doesn’t make any sense and it’s almost certain there’s something larger at stake.
Which should give me the perfect material for a second book when the time is right 🙂
i see what you mean.
I think i was only talking about 2). This seems to me what matters. Where the people go, everything else will follow. Even in a totalitarian system.
1) follows a rather predefined and predictable path, whereas 2) can go anywhere and is therefore a lot more interesting.
Denial of death is certainly a big factor. So is stagnation and decline. Plus i see a change in values from for want of a better word masculine traits to feminine ones. This has been going in for a long time too. And it lead to overly emotional reactions where stoicism and and rational assessment would have served better.
Didnt know the thing about the swine flu. Interesting.
There is also the thing that covid makes a good whacking stick for the left to hit Trump with. At least they think so (erroneously in my opinion). Not saying this is causally related to what happend, but not saying it ain’t either. So maybe after Trump has finished wiping the floor with Biden things might settle down a bit. One can hope i guess.
There is one more element I’ve been thinking about but haven’t been able to formulate properly. I saw recently that Britain is planning to spend billions on a mass testing program. Germany has doubled the number of tests in recent weeks. Every man and his dog (I think they’re doing house cats too) in the US wants to get tested.
So, there is a huge desire among people to get tested. I remember right back at the start of this in Melbourne, there were people queued up around the block to get tested. There was no social distancing then so you had all these people who supposedly believed there was a super infectious disease going round and they went and stood next to a bunch of strangers on the street. Completely irrational behaviour.
So, there’s definitely something going on psychologically with the tests. It feels to me like a religious pardoning of sins. We still believe in God, only now he’s a scientist and he speaks to us through PCR tests.
I still think that for quite a large percent of the population, corona is literally a mass hysteria or a kind of moral panic and the only way for the politicians to try and stop it is a combination of testing and vaccine. If that’s true, then the state change should only be temporary as that’s exactly what happens with a mass hysteria. The real lasting changes will be economic but politicians can blame that on the virus.
I agree. There is definitely a religious aspect to the whole thing. That is one of the most scary aspects of it. Religions don’t go away when their fundamental tenets have been disproved. The become more fanatical.
Here is what a high profile German psychiatrist had to say about that at the start of this insanity:
And here’s what G.K. Chesterton had to say. You probably know this one.
When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.
I certainly hope you are right about all this being temporary, but for 3 reasons I would not bet the sheep station on it.
1) If it is a religious mania there will probably some permanent damage. As a general rule, religions don’t go into that good night quietly.
2) Politicians have tasted blood now.
3) conspiracies. If the whole thing did not start as a conspiracy, there certainly are plenty of them taking advantage of it now. Some of them might have a certain amount of success.
3.5) humpty dumpty and all the kings whores and panta rei and you can never cross the same river twice and so on…. A lot of things in this universe are unreasonably irreversible.
we will have to wait and see.
I think the religion in question is the religion of progress. This is the time when a religion that is explicitly about having no limits decided to take on the ultimate limit: death. Of course, it was never going to win that battle. So, you’re right, that’s going to cause a lot of dissociation. Actually, that’s already happened. We’re now totally off with the fairies.
I’ve been re-reading Roszak’s ‘Where the Wasteland Ends’ and he makes the distinction between ‘suave technocracy’ (western countries) and ‘vulgar technocracy’ (China, Russia etc). I think that’s a very useful distinction because what’s happened here is that we have reverted to a vulgar technocracy. That’s interesting for a number of reasons. It means we lose our supposed moral superiority over those other countries. We’re now no better than them. But now the question of democracy vs technocracy comes into view quite explicitly. Are we a technocracy or are we a democracy? I think people are starting to realise that we haven’t really been a proper democracy for some decades. This is seen in the fact that opposition parties haven’t been able to make a single criticism of what’s happened even though there’s a thousand things they could have raised. So, the one glimmer of hope here is that maybe out of all this democracy will become ascendant again. Of course, the opposite could just as well be true and we could devolve into proper vulgar technocracies.
I agree that we havent seen real democracy in decades with the possible exception of Switzerland, but they too gave up on the idea this year.
The real problem here is that democracy has no defense against money.
You cannot have billionaires and democracy in the same society. Above a certain bank balance money easily translates into political power that is not subject to the checks and balances absolutely vital for a democracy.
This has been a blind spot of conservatives for about half a century now.
Maybe democracy just has a used by date.
And maybe people don’t want to be free anyway. Looks a lot like that at the moment.