Everything You Never Wanted to Know About "Operation Lockstep"
This is the second instalment (the first is here) in an ongoing series, in which I propose to examine the various pandemic wargame and planning scenarios in detail, one after the other. My purpose is to put to rest the enduring myth that these documents call for or in any way predict the mass containment forced vaccination regime imposed on us in 2020.
Be warned: “Operation Lockstep” may sound like an exciting topic, but in fact it is really, really tedious. I will try to make it interesting, but I have very little to work with here. I would not post this at all, if not for the hope that doing so will silence some of the many people yelling at me to look into “Operation Lockstep,” because if only I would look into “Operation Lockstep,” I would see that I have been totally wrong in everything I have said about the pandemic response all this time.
Contrary to many claims, “Lock Step” is not an “operation” or a “simulation” (Kennedy’s term) or a pandemic planning document at all. It’s rather a chapter in a May 2010 pamphlet called “Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development” (SFTID), which the Rockefeller Foundation commissioned from the Global Business Network (GBN) – a now-defunct consulting firm co-founded by relentless self-promoter and alleged “futurist” Peter Schwartz.
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“Global Business Network,” said the Rockefeller Foundation, “the 2008 financial crisis has unsettled us. Please tell us how the Rockefeller Foundation may continue to meddle in the lives of poor third-world peoples in the coming decades despite the economic chaos our donors have unleashed upon the world economy.”
“Certainly,” replied GBN. “For the right fee, we’ll write up 54 pages saying anything you want.”
The GBN claimed to specialise in something called “scenario planning,” which, to judge from this document, amounts to spinning up alternative stories about the future which “spark insight,” “engage exploration” and “highlight undiscovered areas.” Other consulting firms write lengthy reports detailing risks and opportunities, but not the GBN. They take these risks and opportunities and bury them beneath underrealised egregiously boring pulp-fiction narratives that distracted self-important philanthropist types find much easier to read.
To be specific, the GBN concocted four short stories for the Rockefeller Foundation, for the purposes of “build[ing] on the … Foundation’s growing body of work in the emerging field of pro-poor foresight.”1 These stories – and I apologise that I cannot find any more engaging way to phrase this sentence – explore how technological innovation and globalisation might interact to shape the future of philanthropy. The text considers possibilities along two axes, namely the degree to which peoples of the future will be subjected to nebulous international forces beyond their oversight and control (“political and economic alignment”), and the degree to which they will benefit from cool new technology and stuff (“adaptive capacity”).
These parameters yield four possible future scenarios: 1) An internationally integrated world abounding in cool new tech (“Clever Together”), 2) an internationally dis-integrated world that still manages cool new tech (“Smart Scramble”), 3) an internationally dis-integrated world without cool new tech (“Hack Attack”), and most notoriously 4), an internationally integrated world also without cool new tech (“Lock Step”).
Obviously, the philanthropists at the Rockefeller Foundation and their GBN consultants would prefer to live in a world characterised by strong globaloid influencers and new gadgets. “Clever Together” is therefore their preferred scenario. They would very much like not to live in a world of no globaloid influence and no new gadgets, which is why you’d think “Hack Attack” would be their alternative dystopian nightmare. Indeed they’re not happy about it, but for reasons we’ll explore below, “Lock Step” is equally if not more abhorred. This is the first point I hope to impress on the discourse surrounding this thing: “Lock Step” is not a plan, it is not a simulation, and neither the Rockefeller Foundation nor the GBN want “Lock Step” to happen. “Lock Step” is a world in which a pandemic marginalises the influence of the globaloid goons and everything sucks.
But, I am getting ahead of myself. “Hack Attack” and “Smart Scramble” are the least interesting sections here, but worthwhile for gaining a sense of how wretched this whole thing is.
In “Hack Attack,” a series of “asynchronous catastrophes” in the 2010s drain the coffers of “aid agencies” and “overstress” the “global economy.” Basically it’s a permanent 2008 financial crisis deepened by unending natural and man-made disasters. Political power atrophies, there’s all manner of violence and crime and terrorism. “Criminal networks” start “counterfeiting licit goods” like vaccines for some unaccountable reason, and these bad products kill a bunch of African children, which fuels dreaded vaccine hesitancy. “Hackers” cause massive public- and private-sector losses because that is what hackers do. In this “wild west environment,” nobody gets their iPads and precious “innovation” goes down the toilets. It’s dark days for the philanthropists.
In “Smart Scramble,” the 2008 crisis drags on not in response to specific crises but just because. American international influence wanes, and China, facing its own financial problems, withdraws from the developing world. The twin evils of “unemployment” and “xenophobia” abound. Immigrants abandon Europe in droves, “taking their education and skills with them,” and just like that the West is deprived of its cherished diversity. A “returning Ghanaian MIT professor,” however, invents “a cheap edible vaccine against tuberculosis that dramatically reduce[s] childhood mortality” in Africa. These fruitloop vaccines notwithstanding, local inventions generally can’t get very far because the globaloids aren’t there to facilitate interconnectedness. In “Smart Scramble,” nobody gets iPads either, but a lot of poor brown people have steam-punk jerry-rigged PCs to help them develop genetically modified crops. For the philanthropists, it’s still not great.
Importantly, “Hack Attack” and “Smart Scramble” hardly differ from each other and read like they were both written in crayon on the back of a pub napkin. Our GBN consultants dreamed up this stupid dual-axis global integration vs. technology scheme, and they have to fill in all four boxes, but they really only care about two of them.
These two are “Lock Step” and “Clever Together.” “Lock Step” imagines a globally integrated future dominated by authoritarian nationalist politics, while “Clever Together” is all about a globally integrated future steered by international organisations like the UN and Western philanthropists like the Rockefeller Foundation. “Lock Step” sounds bad, in other words, because it’s supposed to. If authoritarian nationalism wins, then the Western international blob can’t foster innovation and fight climate change and we’ll all end up subjected to hypernationalist dystopian security states.
Notably, there are no disasters in “Clever Together.” “Strong global growth” follows on the heels of the 2008 financial crisis and drives the explosion of the middle class in India and China. This leads to the “big problems” of rising inequality and carbon emissions. Sea levels surge, flooding lower Manhattan, and the entire world has an epiphany: Climate change has to be stopped or everyone will drown.
There is a need for “systems thinking – and systems acting – on a global scale.” In 2015, “a critical mass of middle income and developed countries” agree to counter global risks collectively, and two years later they reach “an international agreement … on carbon sequestration.” Yes, you read that right. In “Clever Together” they get to just suck all the superfluous carbon out of the atmosphere, avoiding the difficult deindustrialisation entailed by energy transition policies. As early as 2022, “atmospheric carbon levels” are under control and the future looks bright. The globaloid stock has never been higher:
Inspired by the success of this experiment in collective global action, large-scale coordinated initiatives intensified. Centralized global oversight and governance structures sprang up, not just for energy use but also for disease and technology standards. … Nation-states lost some of their power and importance as global architecture strengthened and regional governance structures emerged. International oversight entities like the UN took on new levels of authority … The worldwide spirit of collaboration also fostered new alliances and alignments among corporations, NGOs, and communities.
National politics marginalised, the UN in control, local life managed by some unholy alliance of “corporations” and “NGOs” – this is the wet dream of the Rockefeller Foundation. There are “enormous strides … to make the world less wasteful, more efficient and more inclusive.” The foremost problem is “demand,” which grows “exponentially.” The only dark spot at the end of “Clever Together” is a growing realisation that “the world [can] not support such rapid growth forever.”
“Philanthropic organisations” take a victory lap and reap the rewards. They “collaborat[e] with governments, businesses and local NGOs to improve standards of living.” Before long the philanthropists themselves no longer have to go to the office anymore, and can graduate to “work[ing] in a more virtual way” with “wikis, blogs, workspaces, video conferences” and something called “virtual convenings.” Happily there are “considerable flows of talent between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors” and “the lines between these types of organizations become increasingly blurred.” In this way, the philanthrobros can collect piles of cash while still scratching their consciences. Everybody wins.
“Lock Step” is the dystopian counter-vision to these heady fantasies of technocratic international utopia. It opens in 2012, with an “extremely virulent and deadly” pandemic influenza, which infects 20% of the world population, killing 8 million people in seven months (a .57% IFR). The US issues mere travel advisories but never interferes with international travel, “accelerating the spread of the virus not just within the U.S. but across borders.” China, however, resorts to authoritarian measures, including “quick imposition and enforcement of mandatory quarantine for all citizens” and the “instant and near-hermetic sealing off of all borders.” These measures “save millions of lives, stopping the spread of the virus far earlier than in other countries and enabling a swifter post-pandemic recovery.”
Other nations react much the same way:
China’s government was not the only one that took extreme measures to protect its citizens from risk and exposure. During the pandemic, national leaders around the world flexed their authority and imposed airtight rules and restrictions, from the mandatory wearing of face masks to body-temperature checks at the entries to communal spaces like train stations and supermarkets. Even after the pandemic faded, this more authoritarian control and oversight of citizens and their activities stuck and even intensified. In order to protect themselves from the spread of increasingly global problems—from pandemics and transnational terrorism to environmental crises and rising poverty—leaders around the world took a firmer grip on power.
“Citizens” at first accept the new draconian regime and are “eager for top-down direction and oversight.” The first-world imposes “biometric IDs for all citizens” as well as “tighter regulation of key industries whose stability was deemed vital to national interests.”
This dystopia is not all downside. Somehow, authoritarianism manages to improve air quality in India and clean up the water in Ghana. There is, however, no magical carbon sequestration as in “Clever Together,” and elsewhere, “irresponsible elites” exploit the new political mood for their own benefit. There is a rise in “virulent nationalism”; the “top-down rules and norms” harm “entrepreneurial activity,” and in the longer term there is political unrest:
By 2025, people seemed to be growing weary of so much top-down control and letting leaders and authorities make choices for them.
Wherever national interests clashed with individual interests, there was conflict. Sporadic pushback became increasingly organized and coordinated, as disaffected youth and people who had seen their status and opportunities slip away—largely in developing countries—incited civil unrest. In 2026, protestors in Nigeria brought down the government, fed up with the entrenched cronyism and corruption. Even those who liked the greater stability and predictability of this world began to grow uncomfortable and constrained by so many tight rules and by the strictness of national boundaries. The feeling lingered that sooner or later, something would inevitably upset the neat order that the world’s governments had worked so hard to establish.
“Lock Step” is a world in which “philanthropic organizations … face hard choices” and “Many governments … place severe restrictions on the program areas and geographies that international philanthropies can work in.” Also too, “organizations interested in promoting universal rights and freedoms” are “blocked at many nations’ borders.”
SFTID is, in short, a morality tale about why we need enlightened globalists running the international scene and helping us to achieve the nirvana of prosperity and technology. “Clever Together” is the Rockefeller Foundation’s vision of what this would look like. “Lock Step” is an alternative universe in which their benevolent policies do not guide us to our best life and the hygiene-obsessed Chinese together with a gaggle of authoritarian nationalists lead the way instead.
Not only is “Lock Step” not a sequence of events even remotely desired by the Rockefeller Foundation or the GBN, but there is also nothing all that prescient about its details. They are lifted, very transparently, from the Chinese response to SARS. After an initial period of reluctance to acknowledge the outbreak in 2003, China responded with extreme aggression, quarantining not only contacts of documented cases but also imposing proto-lockdowns on select hospitals and housing units, and closing all manner of public-facing businesses and institutions in affected areas. They even mobilised the population in a “People’s War” against the virus to encourage community-level case reporting, and they established temperature screenings at the entrances to public buildings and offices. Community masking became the norm across Asia.
Theses of “Operation Lockstep” as a pandemic plan for the Corona era represent a complete misreading of SFTID. Lurking between the lines of this text is a whole doubtful political philosophy of catastrophe. The disasters of “Hack Attack” contribute to a disintegrating and diffuse global order, as does the economic downturn of “Smart Scramble.” The pandemic alone favours the rise of an alternative political order inimical to the globalist vision, implicitly because it demands a response that the flabby liberal globalists themselves feel unable to deliver. In this scenario, it’s the nationalist right-wing who are most aligned with the interventionist virus suppression programme. It’s hard to imagine how you could get Covid more wrong.
At the end, the scorecard:
Seriousness: A global influenza “pandemic” is a plausible event that has happened before, but given the lack of detail I won’t award many points here. If you’re fuzzy enough, it’s easy to be plausible.
Prescience: Talk of undefined “quarantines” derives from the Chinese response to SARS and only anticipates Covid-era lockdowns in a roundabout way – that is, because these lockdowns themselves trace their origins to the SARS response. Otherwise, there’s no vaccinator mania, the Western response is “lenient” rather than three years of intermittent hygiene hell, the virus seems to go away after 7 months, and “healthy young adults” are the primary victims. This is anything but a thinly veiled outline of the SARS-2 outbreak.
Rigour: “Lock Step” is not a pandemic planning document at all, it has no contact with epidemiological literature, and is vague on almost every point that would matter.
Comedic value: Absolutely none, I hope that I never have to address this extremely boring monument to philanthropic globalist verbal diarrhoea ever again.
Comedic value: 0/10
eugyppius: a plague chronicle is a reader-supported publication. maybe you subscribe?