21 August, 2020 — Dissident Voice
by John Steppling
…a permanent modern scenario: apocalypse looms . . . and it doesn’t occur.
— Susan Sontag, AIDs and its Metaphors, 1989
I should not misuse this opportunity to give you a lecture about, say, logic. I call this a misuse, for to explain a scientific matter to you it would need a course of lectures and not an hour’s paper. Another alternative would have been to give you what’s called a popular scientific lecture, that is a lecture intended to make you believe that you understand a thing which actually you don’t understand, and to gratify what I believe to be one of the lowest desires of modern people, namely the superficial curiosity about the latest discoveries of science. I rejected these alternatives.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein, A Lecture on Ethics, 1929
If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably been called a conspiracy theorist. Also you’ve been derided and shamed for questioning the “science” of the Covid debacle.
The idea of science is now a badly corrupted idea. In a nation, today, (the USA) which in educational terms ranks 25th globally in science skills and reading, and well below that in math, all one hears is a clarion call to science. In reading skills the U.S. placed below Malta, Portugal, and right about the same as Kazakhstan. But in a nation that no longer reads, and *can* no longer read, it is not surprising that knowledge is absorbed via the new hieroglyphics of gifs (interestingly the creator of gifs wanted it pronounced with a soft g the more to sound like a peanut butter brand) and memes. So called ‘response memes’ are the new version of conversation, and most register and communicate (sic) confusion. As beer ad marketers know, the state of your brain after consuming a six pack is pretty much the standard target ideal for advertising. And it relays a message that six pack confusion is actually a good and perhaps even sexy state in which to find oneself. Education is for those with money, those who can afford the proper foundational skills to get into Harvard, MIT, Cal Tech and the Stanford. For everyone else science is Star Trek.
But I digress. The point is that most Americans imagine that they revere science, and they ridicule anyone they think of as unscientific. But they think of it in cult terms, really. It’s a religion of sorts. The only people who don’t are those ‘real’ religious zealots, Dominionist and Charismatic christians (like Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, Rick Perry, Betsy DeVos et al) who hold positions of enormous power in the U.S. government under the least scientific president in history. The Christian right doesn’t like any science, ANY science. But for most of that target demographic (the educated mostly white 30%), the cry is to “trust the science”…even the great Greta says to “trust the science”. The problem is, science is not neutral. It’s as politicized as media and news and the pronouncements of celebrities.
In May 2020, The Lancet published an article revisiting the 1957 and 1968 Influenza pandemics.
The 1957 outbreak was not caused by a coronavirus—the first human coronavirus would not be discovered until 1965—but by an influenza virus. However, in 1957, no one could be sure that the virus that had been isolated in Hong Kong was a new pandemic strain or simply a descendant of the previous 1918–19 pandemic influenza virus.
The result was that as the UK’s weekly death count mounted, peaking at about 600 in the week ending Oct 17, 1957, there were few hysterical tabloid newspaper headlines and no calls for social distancing. Instead, the news cycle was dominated by the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik and the aftermath of the fire at the Windscale nuclear reactor in the UK. By the time this influenza pandemic—known colloquially at the time as “Asian flu”—had concluded the following April, an estimated 20 000 people in the UK and 80 000 citizens in the USA were dead. Worldwide, the pandemic, sparked by a new H2N2 influenza subtype, would result in more than 1 million deaths.
To date, Covid 19 has not reached the million death marker in the U.S. And yet we are seeing the most draconian lockdowns in modern history, the total suspension of democratic process and a level of hysteria (especially in the U.S. and UK) unprecedented. I wrote about some aspects of this on my blog here, mostly touching on the cultural effects.
Allow me to quote The Lancet again:
The subsequent 1968 influenza pandemic—or “Hong Kong flu” or “Mao flu” as some western tabloids dubbed it—would have an even more dramatic impact, killing more than 30 000 individuals in the UK and 100 000 people in the USA, with half the deaths among individuals younger than 65 years—the reverse of COVID-19 deaths in the current pandemic. Yet, while at the height of the outbreak in December, 1968, The New York Times described the pandemic as “one of the worst in the nation’s history”, there were few school closures and businesses, for the most, continued to operate as normal.
I remember the ’68 Hong Kong flu. I was in my last year of high school. The summer after was Woodstock, the ‘summer of love’. Not a lot of social distancing going on. But we are past numbers and statistics having any real meaning. The Covid narrative is now in the realm of allegory.
The media perspective is utterly predictable. Liberal outlets that have the inside track to government are seen to be reinforcing the mainstream story (VOX, Slate, Huff Post, The Guardian and Washington Post). In a recent VOX article the message was only a sociopath would NOT wear a mask and that the ‘science’ was unanimous. Of course, it’s no such thing. But the message of sites like VOX, or Daily Beast, or Wa Po or the truly reprehensible Guardian, are always going to hammer away ‘on message’. The same is true for what passes for moderate news organs like the NY Times, ABC News, The Hill, and BBC. There has been virtually no dissenting opinions expressed in these rags. All these news outlets are given clear messages by the spin doctors in government, by the White House, and by contacts within the State Department and Pentagon. And by the advertising firms employed by the state (such as Ruder Finn).
Ad agencies are not in the business of doing science.
— Dr. Arnold S. Relman, “Madison Ave. Has Growing Role In the Business of Drug Research“, New York Times, 2002
The WHO, the CDC, and most every other NGO or government agency of any size hires advertising firms. The WHO, which is tied to the United Nations, is a reasonably sinister organization, actually. Just picking up a random publication from the WHO, on what they call ‘the tobacco epidemic’ and you find on page 33 the following chapter heading “Objective: Effective surveillance, monitoring and evaluation systems in place to monitor tobacco use.” Reading further and all this is really saying is that the populace of any country is best put under surveillance. It’s for their own good, you see.
But back to the science. Here is a small trip down memory lane….
Institutions of medicine, global and national possess no more integrity than your average NGO (Amnesty International, Médecins Sans Frontières, Oxfam et al). And that means not very much.
To understand the nature of institutional corruption one must understand Imperialism. The institutions of Imperialist nations are going to further Imperialist ideology. (see Antonio Gramsci, ideological hegemony). The U.S. is not in the business of helping Americans.
Modern monopoly forms better reflect that scientific knowledge, and its advanced application to production, are concentrated, ultimately, not in physical objects but in human beings and human interaction with those objects. It is monopoly of the labour power of the most highly educated workers, by both imperialist states and Multi National Corporations, that forms the ultimate and most stable base of imperialist reproduction.
— Sam King (Lenin’s theory of imperialism: a defence of its relevance in the 21st century, MLR)
The idea of super-exploitation needs to be conceptually generalised at the necessary level of abstraction and incorporated in the theory of imperialism. Super-exploitation is a specific condition within the capitalist mode of production … the hidden common essence defining imperialism. The working class of the oppressed nations/Third World/Global South is systematically paid below the value of labour power of the working class of the oppressor nations/First World/Global North. This is not because the Southern working class produces less value, but because it is more oppressed and more exploited.
— Andy Higginbottom, Structure and Essence in Capital 1, quoted by John Smith Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century
The U.S. jobless rate just hit 2.1 million. Officially. Making the total something over forty million. It’s much higher in reality. Nobody has work. There is no work and we are at the start of a period of massive evictions, foreclosures, and delinquencies — and the homeless population will soon reach Biblical proportions (in some cities, such as Los Angeles, it’s already Biblical). Will be simply of a magnitude never before seen. Hence the authoritarian policing of lockdowns in, for example, New Zealand, suggests something like a practice run. The ruling class in western nations knows full well this is coming. And one wonders if it’s not, in fact, a part of the plan (oh here is where someone says conspiracy theory…probably Louis Proyect). Yes, it’s a fucking conspiracy theory. It is a theory based on evidence, however. Why is the U.S. and UK and a host of other countries deliberately insuring a massive depression? Because they care about your health? They are worried we all might catch the flu? Has the U.S. ever demonstrated a concern with your health and well being before? Remember how many discretionary tax dollars go to health care and how much to defense. Conspiracies do occur. The denial of that fact seems to be hallmark of the pseudo or false left. Does the suspension of democratic process not cause this soft left any problems at all? Look at Sweden, at Belarus…no lockdown and no problem.
It should be noted that there are a great many terrific doctors in the U.S. Dedicated and brilliant, often. But they are not the system. The system is run for profit.
With about three-fourths of Americans under lockdown, the unintended consequences will be vast. There has been a notable decrease in the number of heart attack and stroke patients arriving at hospitals, presumably because they are afraid of catching the coronavirus or of not finding a hospital bed. As the economy spirals downward, we can also expect an increase in mental health crises, domestic violence and suicides. While lockdown supporters say that to have a functioning economy, we must have good public health, the reverse is also true: To have good public health, we must have a functioning economy.
— Alex Berezow, PhD, Geopolitical Futures, 2020
Alfred Willener wrote an interesting book in 1970, analysing May 68 in France. He analyses the answers students gave to various questionnaires they responded to. The section regarding science is worth quoting.
The scandalous fact is that, for all the means that science has put at our disposal, most people live not much better than in the Middle Ages’ . The system benefits from science in the following way: through the atom bomb, through ‘the power of statistical research’ , through computers, through the chemical industry being ‘in the hands of the state’, through space research. ‘In the end, you realize’, concludes one reasonably logical reply, ‘that technological progress, which makes economic growth possible, does not satisfy the fundamental needs of man and is used above all to maintain and strengthen the system’. Lastly, I should like to quote one quite unexpected reply, which forms the extreme point of pessimism: ‘ Everyone is oppressed by science.’
— Alfred Willener, The Action-Image of Society on Cultural Politicization
I doubt seriously one would get such responses today in any European or North American country. The contemporary indoctrination regards science is acute. And the media abounds in junk science. Click bait science. And this is where most people have their opinions formed for them.
There is a paper put out by one of the founders of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, called The Great Reset. The conclusion of the book reads …
…at a global level, if viewed in terms of the global population affected, the corona crisis is (so far) one of the least deadly pandemics the world has experienced over the last 2000 years.
In other words, a mortality of .06% is simply not commensurate with the extreme measures the governments of the world (the West in particular) are taking. There is no question, none, that those measures, the lockdown, the masks, the distancing, and the attending *diseases of despair*, will kill more people by a factor of ten than the virus itself. This is not even to begin discussing the psychological harm done, in particular to children. And not just harm to children, but severe harm to the most vulnerable.
What is being internalized by children is three fold. One, there is something inherently sick and contagious about ME. Two, everyone MIGHT be a threat to my health. And three, obey authority, because you don’t want to end up like those smelly homeless people we are trying to hard to avoid. Children take things personally. They tend to blame themselves. Even in the comparative sanity of Norway, where I reside, children are increasingly anxious about the world. How could they not be? All this for a health risk of .06%.
But it is more than just the decimation of the economy in the U.S. and UK. It is a dismantling of the culture. One in three museums closed because of Covid will not re-open. Ever. Where does all that art go? Just a guess but probably very wealthy collectors will gobble it up at wholesale prices. The predictable outcome of these lockdowns, certainly in the U.S., is a guaranteed minimum income. Very minimum. Restrictions on travel, all freedom of movement, in fact, will not soon return to normal. Various forms of surveillance and tracking, as well as health certifications, are the goal of the state. Also, if this pandemic succeeded so well, with so little resistance, why not have another? And there is another aspect to the SWAT mask police, and that is that western society is becoming alarmingly hypochondriacal. Children are kept out of school for runny noses. If all kids with snotty noses were kept out of class, nobody would get an education. There is a dire future of two or three generations now developing and maturing with very weak immune systems. So that if a natural mutation takes place one day, from a Corona virus or any other, a genuinely serious pandemic could kill tens of millions.
It is not a speculation that there are people who prosper and even benefit during an economic crisis—as smaller business owners struggle, large corporations and banks benefit from huge government subsidies, giving them more power to buy failing small businesses, for example. And it is a fact that many of those people have enormous economic power to shape the policies that can benefit themselves. It is not a speculation that they would appreciate having strict measures of control against the people by limiting their freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom to travel, or by installing means of surveillance, check points and official certifications for activities that might give freedom to the people beyond the capitalist framework. It is not a speculation that they would benefit from moving our social interactions to the digital realm, which can commodify our activities as marketable data for the advertising industry, insurance industry and any other moneyed social institutions Including education, political institution, legal institution, and financial institution. Such matters should be seen within the context of the western history being shaped by unelected capitalists with their enormous networks of social institutions.
— Hiroyuki Hamada, Wrong Kind of Green, April 2020
The collapse of retail is accelerating. This is emerging as a monopolization of retail. Few shops will remain, in fact, except luxury stores in select gated areas. The rest will be online and probably rudimentary. The culture and the economy are being strip mined and recreated for a select clientele. The collapse of the economy means the collapse of the bottom 90% or so. The very richest men and corporations on the planet are making huge profits. And yet, there are precious few voices of dissent to the master narrative in the U.S.. In Norway, the lockdown was about five weeks. But it’s a sparsely populated country and one hardly noticed it save for the kids being home and not in school. But schools reopened and the Prime Minister actually made a speech apologizing, in effect, for an *unnecessary* lockdown. She had been frightened. But now, with a mild uptick in positive cases the country is considering stricter limitations on travel. Why? There is no uptick in deaths, only in positive test results. The fact remains the virus attacks the aged and the already sick. But this is very telling, I think. The Norwegian government doesn’t want to be seen as disobedient. They don’t want to not follow the grand plan provided by western agencies and experts. Even if they seemingly don’t really believe it. (The saddest aspect is the voice of Dr. Mads Gilbert, a known advocate for Palestinian rights, who has weighed in on the side of fear. Why? I have no idea. But it is worth noting his predictions from March 2020 were staggeringly wrong.) But clearly the group think pressure is powerful and small nations do not want to be singled out for bucking the *science*. There are economic coercion threatened, tacitly, as well. The pressure to conform is huge and it takes a Herculean effort — both individually and as a nation, to resist. And *experts* seem to have a hard time admitting they were wrong.
The science has been consistently wrong from day one.
As I say, this is now allegory. Or fable. There is nothing reasonable or rational in the lockdown measures of the U.S. and UK and NZ. Or anywhere. And this is not even to touch upon the criminality of the Gates Foundation and Bill Gates buying public influence and visibility. Not trained in any medical discipline, Gates has somehow made himself one of the faces of the pandemic. And to deconstruct Gates’ language is to find a disturbing quality of authoritarian hubris. Gates utters declarations as if he were God speaking to his flock. All from a man who has done little save steal from his partners and exploit the poor of India and Africa. One of the most striking aspects of this whole last few months has been the enormous and coordinated effort the Gates machine has put into rehabilitating his image. If you google “Crimes of the Gates Foundation”, for example, you will get ten different fact checkers officially denying any crimes and another half dozen articles ridiculing those who question Gates’ motives, his profit from vaccine, or even his alignment with eugenicists (de population adherents)– all are derided as, yes, conspiracy theorists. If you dare to question the rushing of an untested vaccine, you are called an anti vaxxer. My children are vaccinated. I just don’t like the idea of a hurried untested vaccine produced for a virus that needs no vaccine. And one promoted by a creepy jillionaire. But clearly the Gates charm offensive is in overdrive. The pastel cardigan is everywhere. And yet, his favorable rating in recent surveys is around 56%. That is actually not very high given the amount of self promotion involved. It’s better than Mark Zuckerberg and Joe Biden, though. Gates is not likeable. No amount of spin can change that.
The final factor to note is the Trump effect. Many liberals would literally rather see dead in the street if it meant discrediting Trump. It is no longer quite a zero sum game, though. But overall the hatred of Trump is now at a religious level, too. And behold, the opposition is Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. If you want a window in the black heart of Biden, watch and/or listen to his testimony around the Waco inferno. The inherent sadism and lack of humanity is glaringly apparent. As for Kamala Harris….
As a San Francisco social worker, I sat on the school district committee that met with families of chronically truant students. Once, when we asked a student why he didn’t go to school, he said there was too much police tape and shootings at his school bus stop. Harris, as CA Attorney General, was putting parents/caregivers in jail if their child was chronically truant. Also as Attorney General, she denied a DNA test to Kevin Cooper, a very likely innocent man who came within hours of execution in 2004.
— Riva Enteen (Counterpunch Aug. 2020)
These are the servants of capital.
The left should be emphasising the economic aspect of lockdown because it is the working class who are the principal victims of lockdown.
— Phil Shannon, Lockdown Skeptics, June 2020
A Downing street tweet today….We’re putting tougher measures in place to target serious breaches of coronavirus restrictions. Fines for not wearing a face covering will double for repeat offences, up to £3,200.
This is a class-based assault. The wealthy will not be fined for not wearing a face covering on their private beaches, or dinner parties at the yacht club.
John Steppling is an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theatre, and PEN-West winner for playwrighting. He’s had plays produced in LA, NYC, SF, Louisville, and at universities across the US, as well in Warsaw, Lodz, Paris, London and Krakow. He has taught screenwriting and curated the cinematheque for five years at the Polish National Film School in Lodz, Poland. Plays include The Shaper, Dream Coast, Standard of the Breed, The Thrill, Wheel of Fortune, Dogmouth, and Phantom Luck, which won the 2010 LA Award for best play. Film credits include 52 Pick-up (directed by John Frankenheimer, 1985) and Animal Factory (directed by Steve Buscemi, 1999). A collection of his plays was published in 1999 by Sun & Moon Press as Sea of Cortez and Other Plays. He lives with wife Gunnhild Skrodal Steppling; they divide their time between Norway and the high desert of southern California. He is artistic director of the theatre collective Gunfighter Nation. Read other articles by John, or visit John’s website.