Complex human institutions, which have eschewed rigid hierarchy and command discipline for a looser, consensus-based administration, are characteristic of western societies and their liberal democratic governments. Such institutions have a lot of idiosyncrasies, and among them is the inability to pursue any kind of complex strategy. Strategies are birthed in the minds of individuals or small groups; they require clear lines of command and a lot of people willing to follow orders unquestioningly. Institutions that have succumbed to committee government have tendencies instead of strategies. Western Corona policies reflect the diffuse, profoundly demobilised attitude of the institutions that sustain them. We might say that these are tendential rather than strategic regimes. Their policies are not machines, carefully assembled to produce a desired outcome, but instead a random assemblage of everything that a few thousand different committees managed to dream up or copy from other committees in other countries doing the same thing, all because they seem to serve the same basic end. Tendential policies will always be less than the sum of their parts.
The aims of consensus-based administrative governments are not hidden. They cannot be, because the high degree of self-coordination these institutions demand. Thus their aims are always both painfully overt and shamelessly simple, to the point of seeming stupid. The aim of containment and mass vaccination policies, quite clearly, is the eradication or the long-term suppression of SARS-CoV-2. This is not to say that every last person participating in this circus genuinely sincerely in their deepest self cares about whether SARS-2 goes away. It is only to say that no other purpose unites or explains the system, as a whole. Cynical profiteers and grifters and opportunists all find themselves very much at home in western institutions, which do not plan or plot, but merely tend.
Recognising this is clarifying and important. Without an understanding of what it is our governments are trying to do, we will never be able to assess how they are progressing, and – most importantly – the kinds of mistakes they make along the way. A lot of overtly conspiratorial analyses tend to reconstruct mistakes as in fact clever elements in highly complicated evil plots. This is demoralising, because it serves the myth of an omnipotent, omniscient adversary, but it is also confusing. The truth is that our adversaries make mistakes all the time, and many of these mistakes have typical characteristics from which we can learn.
There is, for example, the mistake of overvaccination. I know that a lot of you think the vaccines are themselves the goal, and for some of the grifters and opportunists in Pharmaceutical Land that’s surely the case. Nevertheless, imposing medications on people who don’t need them is pointless, it cultivates unnecessary opposition, and it is the sort of the thing that, in the longer term, might even entail serious political and legal liability.
Why can’t you prove that you’ve recovered from Corona with a positive antibody test, and thereby achieve coveted ‘recovered’ status? On 25 May 2021, some benighted intern at Germany’s Federal Centre for Health Education was compelled to explain this absurd but universally observed rule on the internet:
Both full vaccination and recovery from infection usually result in protection against COVID-19. It is not yet known, however, how long protection conferred by recovery or vaccination lasts. Currently available data suggest post-recovery protection persists for at least 6 to 8 months. An antibody test is not suitable for determining for certainty whether this protection is still in force. This is because a person may have experienced COVID-19 and still not developed measurable antibodies. On the other hand, infection from another coronavirus (not SARS-CoV-2) can cause positive antibody results without COVID-19 infection.
Moreover, it is still unknown how many antibodies must be present to assume reliable protection after surviving an illness. The quality of tests on the market for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies also varies widely. There are differences in the specificity of the tests: this means that depending on which test is used, the result is of varying reliability.
In summary, the results of antibody tests do not currently allow reliable statements about protection against COVID-19. Even with a positive antibody test—without PCR evidence of a passed infection—it can therefore not be safely assumed that a person has passed a SARS-CoV-2 infection.
It would be embarrassing to refute these inadequate, desperate paragraphs, and so I won’t bother. This is what somebody who doesn’t have an argument sounds like. In view of the goals of Corona containment, this is a clear unforced error: Early in the vaccine campaign, when doses had to be rationed, it was obvious folly even on the terms of the vaccinators to jab the seropositive. Now that we know the recovered enjoy vastly better immunity to SARS-2 than the vaccinated, it makes even less sense. Sure, the megaphone of the press can overcome mistakes like this and shout down the naysayers, but that’s wasted energy they might have spent on some other project. Vaccinating the recovered is just a stupid thing to do.
Another glaring, ongoing error is the failure to exploit seasonality, even at the level of cynical messaging. I’ve already discussed early efforts in this direction, but I did so behind the paywall, so I’ll risk quoting myself:
This effort had both a Chinese and a western end … By mid-February, Hubei had endured three weeks of lockdown, and new Corona infections were in decline. Yet the middle of February is also past the peak of the Chinese flu season (see the second figure here). Were cases merely declining in Hubei because of the weather? Scientists in the circle of Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch threw together this co-authored pre-print from 18 February (likely begun before the 10th) that answered this question in the negative: “Changes in weather alone ... will not necessarily lead to declines in case counts without implementation of extensive public health interventions.” A fuller study, more directly relevant for the unfolding Western pandemic, ensued on 6 March. Here, Lipsitch and his colleagues argued that the first pandemic wave would be largely undeterred by summer. Lipsitch made similar statements on his blog around the same time: “Changing seasons and school vacation may help, but are unlikely to stop transmission.” Lipsitch’s decree, now totally discredited by experience, echoed around the world. Within days, Christian Drosten, director of virology at the Charité hospital in Berlin and a preeminent European Corona prophet, declared that seasonal effects would be “relatively small” and that Germany would face “a peak in cases in the period between June and August.”
Early containment advocates were at pains to supply their favoured policies with an exit strategy. Ascribing the waxing and waning of Corona to government policies rather than the seasons opened the way for governments to declare an early victory for lockdowns and retire the more burdensome aspects of the containment circus. It thus seems highly probable that these attacks on seasonality were deliberate, part of a strategy by eradicationists to reassure governments that they had a way out, if it didn’t work.
This is precisely the exit ramp that China took. Western governments, however, still have trouble internalising the seasonal patterns of Corona infection. Germany walked into the Fall 2020 infection spike totally oblivious, believing that the decline in cases seen in April was down to things like masking and capacity limits. In Fall 2021, they did the same thing for different reasons, having spent the entire summer declaring victory for the vaccines. State-adjacent modellers repeatedly underestimate seasonality and routinely make fools of themselves in the press.
The total inability of our policies to come to terms with how Corona is actually transmitted represents a third key and revealing mistake. SARS-2 spreads like a gas. The virus particles leave your lungs suspended in very tiny droplets, and they can remain in the air for hours. Inhaling these infected aerosols is mostly how people get Corona. Aerosolised transmission was obvious from very early on; contact tracers knew it just from studying the particulars of specific outbreaks. Yet the focus on fomites and droplets just won’t go away. Obsessions of this nature might have some side benefits for the Zero Covidians, in that masks increase the cost of social interaction and keep the pandemic visible, but these must be totally swamped by the downsides of planting in the minds of millions of people a false transmission model.
How many other people like Christina Pagel are out there, who think it’s fine to go shopping despite respiratory symptoms, because they have “been so careful” with all of that masking and two metres of distancing and hand sanitising and whatever else it is that the Pagels of the world get up to?
There are other glaring mistakes as well. There is the mistake of publishing vaccine efficacy statistics, especially in the UK and Israel, in a moment of overconfidence. There is the mistake of failing to address the problem of Corona’s origins in mainstream media outlets, even as the lab leak hypothesis has become the favoured theory – effectively ceding this entire delicate subject to DRASTIC and a few other internet dissidents.
There is a lot to learn from mistakes like these, but the biggest lesson is about the incredible rank-and-file inertia driving Corona containment policies: Hundreds of thousands of poorly informed dim people in the middle bureaucracy bought very hard into the propaganda they helped create, and they now believe that vaccines, not recovery, are the only solution to Corona; that SARS-2 is only weakly seasonal if at all and that infection waves are driven entirely by human behaviour; and that fomites are a significant transmission vector and masks will save you. There is no turning off or redirecting or adding nuance to a broadly distributed consensus like this, which just marches on and on, oblivious to everything. With a very loud and insistent messaging campaign, led by the right collection of Corona saints, it might be possible to mute the fervour of the faithful on some of these points. But the effort would prove costly, it would risk alienating some of the most ardent supporters of the containment regime, and there is no prospect of more than marginal success.
Despite all the limitations of our aimless, drifting tendential institutions and policies, there are here and there clear attempts by specific people and organisations to strategise, even to conspire. These strategies are always subverted by the rampaging hysterical mob. The single-mindedness and myopia of this ideological system has become a serious problem, and no few of our Corona conductors have noticed this. The SARS-2 variants offered a transient opportunity to construct a new, parallel version of Corona, attended by a different collection of more realistic or more useful doctrines. This is probably a major reason that the discourse around variants was so overplayed. Yet before long all of the variants bled into each other, and we just ended up with Variant Corona, which was like Vintage Corona in almost every way, save for being slightly worse.
Omicron is qualitatively different from all prior SARS-2 lineages, and it’s encouraging that establishment mouthpieces have been open about this so far. If they aren’t able to take this exit, they will have to wait for the ideological fervour of the Corona enthusiasts and the vaccinators to subside, and that could take a very long time.