Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Covid-19 denial is feeding irrationalism and masking elite culpability

As Covid-19 continues to ravage the globe, the tragi-comic denial of the crisis shows no sign of abating. 
The scale, severity and very existence of this mass public health calamity is being wilfully denied by the most powerful and irrational forces on the planet.

An already infamous exchange between Donald Trump and a reporter on contrasting global death rates and the crisis gripping America is but the latest 'did that actually happen' moment in this all-too-real 'comedy show'.

As with climate change, Trump's waving of infantile 'America is doing better than the world' graphs is yet another alarming illustration of the cornered clown simply ignoring vast bodies of scientific evidence.

Boris Johnson, likewise, stumbles around like a clumsy circus act, evading responsibility for the carnage and playing the 'persevering populist'.

With so much at stake, it's humanity's terrible misfortune to have so many dangerously vacant and narcissistic people running the show at this most critical juncture. 

As with Trump's and Johnson's coming to power, the problem is deeply systemic rather than aberrational.

We've long been governed by corporate-serving, war-seeking, people-sacrificing, planet-destroying 'leaders'.

How fitting that the same life-denying, globe-killing neoliberal system which produced this continuity of villains should now give full stage to such a troubling troupe of virus-denying/minimising crazies.

From Trump to Johnson, an entire political elite are directly responsible for the tragic failure to protect lives and prevent the staggering extent of avoidable Covid-19 deaths. 

From the outset, their business-first priorities have been nothing less than a class assault on the poorest and most vulnerable.

As in the US, Tory 'interventionist' measures have been primarily capitalist-protecting, from concerns to insulate big corporate interests to handing out crony contracts for PPE and tracing services. 

So many lives uselessly lost. So much political negligence. So much unnecessary dislocation.

Masking the realities

As this self-serving class engage in every squalid effort to disguise their culpability and protect their positions, we should be equally focused on exposing their criminal actions.

Yet, rather than holding them, and the system that created them, directly to account, the same tragi-comic irrationalism seems to have infected a range of figures and platforms purporting to be of the 'indie left'. 

A faction of once apparently rational minds now seem more obsessed with deflecting elite conduct over the pandemic than holding it to account, veering off, instead, on a diversionary trail of preposterous claims and suppositions.

In this freakish hall of mirrors, much 'left' Covid-19 denial looks little different to the unhinged nonsense peddled by the libertarian right, from Breitbert to David Icke. 

In 'defence of civil liberties', it has now joined a feverish 'to the barricades' call for 'individual freedoms', perversely negating the very ideals of collectivist leftism.

Depressingly, it not only rejects well-respected scientific and public health advice on Covid-19, but, like the libertarian right, sees it as part of a dastardly 'grand plan' to impose some New World Order.

Trying to mark out this confused confluence is to be led through a veritable fantasy land of disjointed claims and conjecture, with not the remotest connection to real issues of power or class.

I shall refrain from name-checking the main exponents. (Alas, many have shown no such reticence in castigating, trolling and abusing others on the left not taken with their delusional outpourings.) It's enough just to record some of their crass assertions:

There is no pandemic

Covid-19 is just flu/another flu/a bad flu

Covid-19 is a hoax/scam/fraud

It's a Plandemic

An international elite deliberately planned/engineered Covid-19 in order to impose sweeping authoritarian controls

Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings helped engineer lockdown and mask-wearing as part of this pre-planned operation 

Rather than containment, herd immunity was the correct policy

Covid-19 should have been allowed to run through the community

Lockdowns are unnecessary and a violation of our liberties, rights and freedoms

There is no scientific proof or public health evidence that lockdowns work

Those observing lockdown and advocating masks are puritanical killjoys

Social distancing is nonsense, a dark strategy to keep us all apart

The 'R' number is meaningless, part of the same pseudo science

Mask-wearing is tyranny, a fear porn fuelled by grim, fun-hating politicians and wicked puppet governments

Muzzles (masks) have been deliberately imposed on the population to humiliate us, part of the pre-ordained plan

The deliberate purpose of masks is to stifle humanity and enforce complete obedience

Masks are being imposed in order to undermine our immune system 

The wearing of face nappies (masks) is enslavement

Mask-wearing will be made permanent 

We must all resist masks. This is the new Battle of Britain

A Christmas lockdown is in the planning in order to finally break us mentally

Don't get tested for Covid-19 as this only increases positive numbers and keeps lockdown going 

Leftists have all been duped into believing what the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other major scientific/public health bodies are saying about Covid-19

Captured leftists endorsing this science are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome 

The UK excess death figures of over 65,000, published by the Office of National Statistics, are false and meaningless

Doctors have been deliberately doctoring death certificates by citing Covid-19 in order to inflate the mortality figures

A sinister Covid-19 vaccine poison project is being run by billionaire Bill Gates

Covid-19 is being orchestrated to make vaccines mandatory in order to secure profits for Big Pharma

Covid-19 is part of a Grand Plan to impose a New World Order

Covid-19 is a pretext for realising Global Domination 

The WHO are a key party to the Grand Plan

The Plan, seeking to inflict World Government, is hidden within the UN's proposed (climate change) Agenda 21

Climate change is also a hoax/con/scam, part of the same Plan to control us

The Great Reset will see the next major step in implementing The Plan for World Government and Global Domination 

There's more, much more, of this stuff floating around social media. But this pretty much encapsulates the broad range of Covid-19 denial.

If one were really conspiratorially-minded, it might be tempting to see all this as some malevolent right-wing plot and narrative to discredit the left. But that would be to wander back into the fantasy maze itself.

It's not just this faction's multiple machinations over masks, or distancing, or surveillance, or vaccines that's problematic here. It's the ways in which, without any coherent explanation, these questions are all flung together as 'grand proof' of some deep authoritarian agenda.

Vulture capitalism 

Of course, not all Covid-19 deniers embrace every such ludicrous extremity.

Some more coherent elements seek validity by pointing out that big capitalists are using the global dislocation of Covid-19 to maximise profits, asset strip companies and reap state resources. Major parts of capital, they announce, are benefiting hugely from the virus.

Yet what serious leftist, or any other rational observer, wouldn't acknowledge such practices or fallouts?

Vulture capitalism is part of any such crisis. Indeed, capitalism is vulture economics. Financial speculators, in particular, have a vested interest in feeding uncertainty and dislocation, profiting handsomely from such volatility, as we saw in the 2008 banking crisis and the gigantic state bailouts which accompanied it. 

Disaster capitalism isn't an 'event', it goes on continually, all dutifully managed by neoliberal-serving governments.

And at times like this, the managers reach for 'big fixes' like the Great Reset.

Introduced by Prince Charles at the World Economic Forum in June 2020, and due to commence in January 2021, this is the latest attempt by global political and financial elites to 'rescue' the collapsing capitalist 'order'. 

In 'facing up' to the Covid-19 and climate change emergencies, it 'promises' a New Green Deal, supposedly serving to regenerate capitalist fundamentals. 

Like many other Davos-styled projects, it seeks to incorporate a whole array of left/liberal forces. 

In essence, this is a major capitalist lifeboat, seeking hegemonic consent. 

It may, indeed, be serving to assert or 'reset' capitalist authority.

But there's nothing here to suggest any 'great' corporate scheme, or desire, for ultra-authoritarian controls which would imperil a return to 'normal' consumer-driven profit. 

There's no actual evidence that it involves any 'grand plan' for global domination.

There's nothing remotely credible in the idea that major corporate forces have actually used or engineered the virus situation to impose and maintain sweeping lockdowns. 

And there's certainly no evidence that political elites were, or are, 'in' on any such 'plan'.

Why would Trump, Johnson, and the capitalist class they represent wish, or 'conspire', to crash their own capitalist economy, all in some devious plot to realise a 'new authoritarianism'? 

And why 'new' authoritarian order, as if the mass of humanity isn't already subject to the brutal forces of neoliberal capitalism?

Tory (and Labour) policymakers have shown no shortage of wicked ingenuity in crafting instruments to humiliate the poor and control the workforce. 

But what serious political gains might even harsh neoliberal governments derive from locking down entire populations in perpetuity?

As should be blindingly obvious, Johnson, Trump et al have done everything in their power to avoid lockdowns, masks and all other such disruption to business. 

Indeed, they rushed out of lockdown and back to 'business-as-usual' as soon as indecently possible - which is, predictably, why we've seen so many alarming surges in US deaths and infection rates across large parts of England.

Precautionary principles and elimination 

Why, moreover, did countries like Cuba, Venezuela and others not aligned with the dominant US neoliberal consensus move independently at the outset to lockdown and other containment positions?

Across the globe, states like New Zealand, Vietnam and South Korea also saw the early benefits of a swift containment and elimination strategy. 

This was based on rational science, past virus-handling experience and proven public health understandings of what had to be done in order to preserve life and, indeed, allow economies to re-open earlier. 

Contrast that with the mass deaths, social dislocation and wider health crisis caused by not acting in such early and precautionary ways.

The UK's belated airport, border and quarantine orders are but the latest weak and bumbling efforts to 'catch up' on 'containment' as it struggles to end lockdown and fully open up for business.

In contrast to Johnson's disastrous public health failings, one can now see a more hopeful policy shift in Scotland. 

Whatever the early tragic mistakes of the Scottish Government in following Johnson's Westminster line, the subsequent redirection towards a specific elimination goal (influenced by public health/advisory figures and others around Independent Sage) has shown that it is possible to keep community transmission and deaths at a very low, almost zero, level.

One key feature here is the reinstatement of a localised test and trace system - based on NHS confidentiality rather than England's privatised and centralised holding of information - serving to identify cluster outbreaks and quickly break transmission chains.

While there's still considerable room for improvement, that's a proven, science-grounded model of public health protection we can at least have some faith in. 

Again, importantly, it rests not on blustering notions of 'private freedoms', but on an ethos of social collectivism.

Rational collectivism

Covid-19 deniers reject all such public health interventions and messaging - a 'logical' rejection, of course, for those who deny that there even is a pandemic.

It's truly bewildering to see the obsessive time some of this faction have devoted to their 'cause', to the exclusion of almost every other key issue. 

Their Churchillian 'never' bombast in refusing to 'conform' and in support of 'freedom gatherings' is truly excruciating.

'What did you do during the virus?'
'I faced down minimum-wage supermarket workers in refusing to wear a mask.'

How very radical.

To think how so many are suffering in war zones, the imprisoned souls of Gaza being relentlessly bombed, the lives and homes being washed away by climate calamitous floods. And here some people are mounting insurrections over being asked to keep a temporary safe distance.

There's an entire world of elite warmongering, authoritarian power grabs and Cold War imperialism going on, and this faction want us all to join with them in their 'great battle' over masks!

That's not to minimise the many difficulties of life under Covid, the physical impacts, the mental distress, the deep social and economic consequences. These are bleak and dispiriting times.

But the focus of blame for so much of that should be on the criminal political class and system which, in its political negligence and capitalist greed, allowed it to happen.

Yes, there are key questions to be asked about wider health fallouts, such as the halting of cancer and other vital treatments. 

And we shouldn't dismiss the more general distrust people feel towards governments and their consequent wariness of vaccination programmes.

Nor, of course, is all of the science completely uniform in its understanding of the virus. Just as science is a process of learning, so too can we be critically receptive to emerging studies.

Yet, none of this merits the kind of fanatical reactions of Covid-19 deniers, the blanket dismissal of WHO-accepted science, the value of proven epidemiological practices and public health programmes. 

If each person does their small bit within their home, family, workplace and locale to maintain a little space, place a small cover over their face while on a train, bus or in a shop, observing basic scientific advice on suppressing a highly-contagious and dangerous virus, that doesn't make them a 'prisoner', 'muzzled', a 'puritanical killjoy', or obediently subject to some grand authoritarian plan to 'humiliate' and control the population.

It shows that they are engaged in acts of common public concern, underpinned by scientific logic, and showing elementary consideration for others. 

That's the more prosaic and simple truth about public compliance in a time of pandemic. Anything else is spurious distraction, feeding greater irrationalism and allowing the truly culpable to evade scrutiny.


I have not included specific links and references here. Instead, may I highly commend 'Myths of the Pandemic Deniers', a voluminously-referenced study by leftist academic Tim Anderson, taking apart the whole field of Covid-19 denial, exposing the falsities, distortions and scientific vacuousness of denier groupings and the dangers they pose to rational public health agendas.

May I also commend 'On Covid-19 And Authoritarian Abuses', an excellent and humbly honest article from Caitlin Johnstone casting deep doubt on the mass of unsubstantiated Covid-denying claims being peddled by some indie media platforms, and, while correctly defending their right to do so, calling out their smearing of other indie left platforms for refusing to join them.

Further reading: