Back in post 10 of this series I noted that the story we have been telling ourselves during corona is the modern version of The Plague Story. The modern Plague Story is the same as the old one except it has a different ending. In the new ending, the experts save the day with a cure. There were two main problems with this story right from the start. Firstly, corona is clearly not the plague i.e. not in the same league as Spanish Flu or the black death. So, the story was a lie. Secondly, the new ending was make believe. The idea that experts could come up with a cure in time to end the plague had no historical precedent whatsoever. It was something cooked up in the imagination of Hollywood screenwriters. The only other time we tried something similar in real life – the swine flu false alarm of 1976 – it was a complete failure. To overturn society to pursue such an outcome was, to put it politely, reckless. But that’s what we did. Not only that, the thing that was going to save the day was a brand new technology that was all but untested. What could go wrong? In the movies, the process of finding the cure and rolling it out happens immediately. But we don’t live in the movies, we live in the real world (well, some of us do). It took just over a year for the “cure” to be rolled out in the form of the various vaccines. During this time the public was led to believe that the vaccines would bring the matter to an end. We just had to sit tight and wait for the experts to save the day. It’s important to understand that this is still what the average person thinks is going to happen. At least, that is what they have been thinking until the last few weeks where the wheels have started to fall off the story. We’re now entering the next phase of the corona event which I’m going to dub The Twilight Zone in honour of the old tv series that specialised in the abnormal and dystopian. Of course, for most people reading this blog, we have already been in the Twilight Zone for a year and a half but I think things may be about to get even more surreal.
The timeline of the vaccine rollout has varied substantially from country to country. Britain, the US and Israel were three of the fastest and they have accordingly been the three where the most early data is available. Each has had a period of “freedom” in the last few months where it seemed that maybe the vaccines were working. In the US, this came earliest in the states of Florida and Texas but the rest of the country eventually caught up and the summer there has, by all accounts, been mask free and quite enjoyable. Britain staggered towards its “freedom day” with “case” counts spiking substantially. No sooner had the day arrived, however, than counts began to fall and are still falling rapidly which is no doubt helping Boris Johnson to sleep at night. This is in contrast to Israel which has seen cases rise again after an initial burst of normality where all restrictions were dropped. It is here that the efficacy of the vaccines is most being called into question. Restrictions are now back and the country recently became the first to roll out a “booster shot” for the elderly and at risk. All these developments have been accompanied by a change in language from the authorities. The phrase “breakthrough case” is the latest bit of newspeak to enter the lexicon. We’re hearing of “booster shots” and, of course, the “vaccine passports” to go to nightclubs and cinemas etc. There was nothing in the movies about this stuff. In the movies, people take the cure and get on with their life. As of the last few weeks, we are no longer following The Plague Story. We have gone off script and the public is just starting to realise that fact.
There’s a couple of important points to make about this. First is the political. Here is how I think about the politics of corona so far.
The Branch Covidians are what I have called the acquiescent children (aka Orphan archetypes manifesting their shadow). They are the ones who have been psychically overwhelmed during corona. The unbelievers are mostly the rebellious children but there has been a substantial split within that group and many have followed the official narrative. In any case, for our purposes here, the unbelievers are ones who are sceptical about corona. This can include people who still believe there is an underlying health issue but are aware that the response has been hysterical and counterproductive. In my estimation, neither of these groups is particularly attached to The Plague Story, albeit for very different reasons. The unbelievers don’t believe The Plague Story was ever valid and so the fact that it has not worked according to plan is not surprising to them. The Branch Covidians are not worried that the story is not coming to an end as they have been quite happy with the re-arrangement of society and have no problem if it continues indefinitely. For these reasons, the recent change in the narrative doesn’t really affect either of these groups.
The average people are the ones who have believed in The Plague Story most firmly and their expectation has always been that the vaccine would end the story. Although it might not seem that way due to media bias, these are the majority of the population. The average person has followed along with the narrative influenced by the media and the politicians but they are not true believers. They have always wanted The Plague Story to end with the vaccine. It’s for this reason that the recent change in the narrative was most likely to affect this group. If I’m reading the room correctly, this is exactly what has started to happen. In the US, the reaction has been caused by the re-introduction of an indoor mask mandate by the CDC a measure which will apparently also be enforced for children at school. The news about the falling efficacy of the vaccine in Israel and Iceland has also started to circulate. In the meantime, politicians have started talking openly about booster shots and vaccine passports. Here in Australia, the Prime Minister, who has been three steps behind the whole way through corona, came out and announced that Australia too will have vaccine passports. The vaccinated will be given extra liberties when Australia finally does open up which is supposed to be by Christmas. His reasoning? The vaccine makes you “less likely” to get infected and “less likely” to get sick. Perhaps he ought to look at the statistics coming out of Israel to check the truth of such statements. In any case, this new language is not going to cut it with the average person. The whole point of the vaccine was that it would end The Plague Story. If it does not, then the story has not ended properly. Vaccine passports and booster shots are not an ending. On the contrary, all they promise is endless extension.
It’s beginning to dawn on the average person that the story is being changed and the new story has no ending. That was always the main political risk of putting all our eggs in The Plague Story basket. We had no idea whether we could bring that story to an end. Now it seems that we can’t. Politicians have backed themselves into a corner with no way out. What is going to be politically crucial in the next few months is how angry the average person gets once they realise they’ve been sold a dud and what they can do about it. It looks like the Republican party in the US is setting itself up to capitalise on the anger. Meanwhile, leaders in different countries (most notably Israel) have already shown a willingness to scapegoat the unvaccinated. This makes sense politically. What politicians cannot allow is a sizeable segment of the population turning to the unbeliever side. That would threaten the entire narrative. Until now, the politics of corona has progressed in a relatively orderly fashion as the majority of the population was happy to wait for the vaccine. If those people now get angry enough to push back, things could get very tense indeed although it’s hard at the moment to see where this anger could find a (productive) outlet.
The other aspect of this is the factual, scientific angle. The vaccines are still in trial mode. They have been given emergency approval and part of that process is presumably to observe very closely to see if they work and what side effects they cause. The chances of objectively judging these matters was already almost zero as the political concerns have overridden any proper evaluation. Now everything is about to become even less clear. As booster shots get rolled out, the number of statuses under consideration increases. There will be the unvaccinated, the single vaxxed, the double vaxxed, those who’ve had the booster and, inevitably, those who’ve had every other booster that gets rolled out. In the meantime, we’ll have an endless parade of variants arrive on the scene. So, now you’ll get effectiveness of different vaccination states against each variant. Well, booster one works against the delta variant but not the omega. For that you’ll need booster two – and so on. On the other side of the ledger are the side effects and also the risk of major issues such as antibody dependent enhancement. Robert Malone was talking about that this week and seems to think there is early evidence that ADE is a thing. Interestingly, he was doing so with Steve Bannon. I don’t know enough about US politics to understand what that means or how influential Bannon still is there. But if other republicans get a hold of that side of the story things could get very interesting politically. Scientifically, though, I think we are unlikely to get any clear signal. There will be enough evidence for and against any side of the argument you want to take. Viral disease is complex enough without throwing experimental “vaccinations” into the mix. Ergo, the “science” is not going to solve any of the political problems. Of course, this is nothing new. If it had, we wouldn’t be in this mess to start with.
We are now moving into a new phase of corona where things are probably going to make even less sense than they have so far, if that was even possible. Spare a thought for us here in Australia. Enormous amounts of political capital have been spent keeping Australians locked up to prevent the spread of the virus. This was all done on the promise that the vaccinations would be rolled out by the end of the year and then we can go back to “normal”. It looks almost certain that the story will fall apart just as Australia gets vaccination rates high enough to open up. I’m imaging the Prime Minister getting up in December and telling the nation that everybody who is vaccinated has to go back for a booster shot before we can open the borders. That will go down like a lead balloon. It’s hard to predict what will happen but just last week we had the two largest corona protests so far in this country and the authorities were clearly taken by surprise. It may just be that things are going to get interesting politically in Australia for the first time in decades. I don’t mean that in a good way. I think we may be headed for a genuine political crisis. But, then again, so may many other countries. The post WW2 order appears to be falling apart right before our eyes. The free movement of people, a cornerstone of the neoliberal ideology, has gone up in smoke. The same people who two years ago would have insisted on it now can’t even bear to let people leave their own homes. That’s life in The Twilight Zone.
All posts in this series:-