Stupid and Evil in Equal Measure
Mass containment as conspiracy and as emergent phenomenon.
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Very soon, millions of children will be vaccinated against a virus that is less dangerous to them than influenza. These useless vaccinations will kill some of them, and they will not save any lives. As outrages go, this one is very far up there. It is also the latest in a long line: Many countries have for months observed a sustained trend of elevated mortality in younger demographics, almost surely the result of vaccine-induced myocarditis. It is now plain that the press will downplay indefinitely widespread economic and supply chain chaos, following months of unprecedented and totally pointless closures. Suddenly millions of people cannot leave their supposedly open, democratic countries, or engage in economic activity, without submitting to medical treatments they don’t want. On top of all this comes months of media hysteria and repeated population-wide house arrests—all to box in a virus that, as pandemics go, clocks in at merely somewhat-bad.
A big problem, is how to understand this. As a rule, I am open to all plausible theories, and I find many conspiratorial approaches to the Corona phenomenon to be spiritually or metaphorically accurate, even if I disagree with their details. By and large, though, I’ve resisted interpretations that detect a specific, malevolent plan behind these events. I’ve preferred to see this cascade of unrelenting, self-imposed destruction as the fruit of bureaucratic incompetence and elite stupidity. Many disagree with me, including friends like Sandpiper, who are not content with leaving the whole stage to failure. At the link you’ll find an abstract formulation of this view, which is particularly attractive, because it does not require that we accept any particular theory, but merely a model of what is happening. Sandpiper posits an “inner conspiracy” and an “outer conspiracy.” The outer conspiracy is “the way the agenda is sold … what the True Believers actually think they are doing.” The “inner conspiracy,” meanwhile, “is the small circle of people … who created the vision for their own benefit, because they have political goals they want to achieve.”
Think of John le Carré’s cold-war spy novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. As it opens, we find the British intelligence services beset by rampant bureaucratic chaos. Events progress, and we discover that all of this apparent stupidity and failure is the doing, directly or otherwise, of a Russian mole, or double agent, who has worked his way up the ranks over many years, and succeeded in turning the agency inside-out. There is the outer conspiracy—all the lower bureaucrats destroying their institution in a blind eagerness to curry favour with and carry water for the guys at the top. There is the inner conspiracy, of the mole—working towards a very different purpose.
All containment policies, since March 2020, flow from two fundamental premises, that together form a Pandemic Doctrine: 1) All pandemic infections are regrettable and to be prevented. 2) It is possible to control pandemics via social or medical technology.
Before 2020, nobody anywhere believed either of these things—not despite, but because of long experience with semi-regular pandemic influenza outbreaks. Today, however, the Pandemic Doctrine has become one of the highest Western political orthodoxies. Asking whether the Corona response is at root a conspiracy or a failure is a less specific way of asking where the Pandemic Doctrine came from. This is a more crucial matter than even the laboratory origins of SARS-2, and so of course many details are hidden from us. We can only locate its approximate origins, somewhere in the unsettling three-act history of lockdowns and their origins:
Act I, The Mad Scientists: China admits to the Wuhan outbreak at the end of December 2019, and immediately thereafter — from the earliest days of January 2020 — Western scientists begin to act in subtle yet crucial ways. Christian Drosten develops a PCR test for SARS-2 on the basis of social media reports, before the virus has even been sequenced. Our Pfizer/BioNTech spike-based mRNA vaccines are invented just a few weeks later. Here, building blocks for what is to come are laid, but in a quiet way, out sight.
Act II, Chinese Quarantine Theatre. China quarantines Hubei, weird virus apocalypse videos flood the internet, and there is tense quiet as the World Health Organisation sponsors a joint mission to study the effectiveness of these novel containment measures. China claims success, and at the end of February a Sinophile faction within the WHO wins out; the agency recommends lockdowns to the world. Important things start to happen everywhere and all at once. Here in Germany, for example, Drosten gets his daily state media Corona-Update podcast, which guides a great part of press coverage to this day. More broadly, European media begins to report very heavily on Corona. It is on the news every night. Countries start to get WHO-adjacent Corona tsars, and a lot of narratives are seeded. The WHO begins ringing the alarm about ventilators.
Act III, Lockdowns for the West: Of all the initiatives blossoming at the end of Act II, it is mass testing in Lombardy that bears first fruit. These operations uncover community transmission of SARS-2, and Hubei-style lockdowns are announced for all of Italy by 10 March. There follows a massive pro-lockdown propaganda blitz across social media and the press. Crucial elements are directed from China. From here our national stories diverge. I will follow the German thread, which I know best: Around the time Neil Ferguson publishes his panic modelling study, on 16 March, Drosten and the head of the Robert Koch Institut (the German equivalent of the American CDC) pressure our interior minister to come up with reasons to deepen and extend containment in Germany. There ensue widespread efforts within the public health sectors of the German government to promote lockdowns to the media, to elected politicians, and to other bureaucrats. These efforts benefit from Chinese advice, laundered through low-level cut-outs. By the end of March, mass containment is firmly established, and it persists to this day, as a matter of broad consensus within the bureaucracy, the press, academia, and the private sector.
China is the red thread running through all three acts. It is the source of the virus, and of the Pandemic Doctrine as well. The belief that every infection is regrettable and that suppression is possible was first modelled for the world in Hubei, and then taken up by all of our respective governments in turn, with Chinese advice and encouragement. They used their leverage with coordinating international organisations, particularly the WHO, and also their reach within Western academia, to seed this doctrine. It then became a great fire that consumed our bureaucracies. These are institutions which are optimised for uniting around consensus positions and propagating them internally. This is a great source of power for them.
And this is also important: The bureaucrats did not merely sign on to the Pandemic Doctrine. They were converted to it, from a prior set of nostrums, which held that respiratory viruses are inevitable, and the best thing you can do is not worry about them too much. Unconvincing people is very hard, but de-converting them is basically impossible. This is toothpaste that will never go back in the tube.
Everything since then, has been the autonomous force of the Pandemic Doctrine and its terrible demands. As containment policies have failed, one after the other, they have left a vortex of disconfirmed expectancy in their wake, turning early political and bureaucratic advocates of containment into truly deranged zealots. The policies themselves, though they are articles of faith, have little or no real-world effect, and this has had curious consequences. It became important for all countries to do as many useless things as possible, and more or less the same useless things as everyone else. Bureaucracies that rejected a specific measure risked being blamed for whatever happened next. And without controls, the failure of containment could be rewritten always and forever as success: “Imagine how many more deaths we would have had, if we never locked down.”
Because they are not fixed in place by any function, containment measures have in time decayed as concepts and acquired different purposes. Masks have devolved into accessories for political signalling, and also social and psychological crutches. The press have so overplayed the risk of Corona, as to make even supermarket shopping an unacceptable risk. Masks are how you can go to the hairdresser and send your kids to school, while also believing you are at any moment likely to contract a fatal disease and that by the very act of breathing your child may kill Oma. Many of our measures, powerless against the virus, have been repurposed in this way—as social and scientific fictions that allow the necessary routines of daily life to coexist with widespread virus hysteria.
The vaccines are just a further stage in this inevitable process. Lockdowns and the rest of it did not work. But the Pandemic Doctrine that demands lockdowns cannot be abandoned; there can only be new methods. From the erratic zeal with which our governments embraced vaccinations, you can take the measure of how desperately they hoped to escape the destructive cycle of periodic mass closures. But now the vaccines are also failing, and vaccine policies have begun to experience the very same decay in conception and drift in purpose that transformed the non-pharmaceutical interventions. Every day, the vaccines become less about reducing transmission or reducing hospitalisations, and more about a whole array of other things: About making a terrorised public feel comfortable going outside, about making the operation of schools socially and politically acceptable, about signalling that you are on the side of science and responsibility.
This is already too long, so there will have to be a second part.
To summarise the ground we have covered so far: It’s true that bureaucratic initiatives and policies tend to originate with a specific circle of people—the “inner conspiracy” of Sandpiper‘s conception. But there are at any given moment a million nascent inner conspiracies. Most of them die in the womb. A select few succeed in propagating themselves throughout the system, and throughout other systems too. Thereafter the inner conspiracy ceases to matter, and there is only the “outer conspiracy,” that is to say the autonomous undirected actions of a million nameless faceless bureaucrats, which nobody can any longer control. Any further inputs would require another successfully propagated inner conspiracy, and you can’t will those into being, anymore than you can will yourself into winning the lottery. They are lightning in a bottle.
None of this is to say that things are hopeless, only that mass containment is at root a social and political process, with properties of inertia. The policies themselves will continue to drift and decay, as the forces that drive them are expended. The Pandemic Doctrine was not a slow burn, like climate change or the campaign against carbohydrates. It was a massive explosion. The bureaucrats will never de-convert, but they will more and more turn their attention to other things, as success against Corona even on their own terms proves impossible.
Continued in Part II.
UPDATE: Some in the comments (and on Twitter) complain that I’m not addressing Klaus Schwab, the World Economic Forum, and the Great Reset. That will come in Part 2. Here, I am interested in establishing how heavily bureaucratised Western governments operate in general, and what scope there is for manipulating or misdirecting their institutional apparatus.