The genesis and development of an oppositional outlook on ‘Covid’
In the first of a two part series by Phil Shannon, he presents the first two stages of the political formation of a left-wing Covid dissident: (1) not buying the fear, and (2) discovering a counter-narrative.
When the world went crazy in March 2020 with drastic, unheard-of lockdowns and equally nutty ‘social distancing’ stupidities, it was with stunned amazement that I watched the snowballing Covid hysteria and prairie-fire panic that gripped both elite and popular levels of society in a seeming instant. That ominous month was the start of a surreal nightmare, one that held the vast bulk of the population in its sway for over two years. As a decades-long member of the revolutionary Marxist Left, I was particularly surprised, and utterly dismayed, by the modern Left’s almost total capitulation to the emerging biomedical/Pharma state fascism.
So, why were there so few of us in the early stages of virus mania who could see the sheer absurdity of sidewalk swerving and the magic six feet of separation (“six feet safe; five feet danger!”), the ludicrous patrols of cafes by police with tape measure in hand, the ridiculous orders to only leave home once a day and then not to travel more than a specified distance from it, the outlawing of the handshake and its replacement with the asinine elbow-bump, the sanitiser craze? What was it about those few of us who could not, and would not, comply with any of this early nonsense, let alone the later horrors like forced medical experimentation and vaccine-segregation that were to come?
1. Not buying the fear
Behind all the wacky virus-avoidance behaviour and the policy stupidity, of course, was fear, the staggeringly omnipresent fear of a new Black Death that was the primer for the mass psychosis that manifested itself through well-known psychological mechanisms (obedience to authority, social conformity, etc.) that were no longer the subject of dispassionate academic pondering but were now operating, at scale, right in the daily lives of every citizen.
The onset of all-consuming fear was terribly sudden. Before Covid mania had fully set in, even the political and health authorities had been urging caution because most people who would ‘get Covid’ would either have zero or only mild symptoms. Then, however, the panicked authorities all took a synchronised dive off the deep end. Corporate and state media, conservative and ‘liberal’ politicians, medical bureaucrats, academic modelers, public health ‘experts’ and other fear-mongering virus seers stirred the pot of hysteria with exaggerated prophecies of viral devastation that could only allegedly be prevented through unprecedented, draconian restrictions on human activity.
Unlike the vast majority of people who immediately behaved as do children after having watched a scary movie and then cower in bed with the covers pulled up over their heads hoping the Boogey Man will not get them, I was never afraid of the virus. I never felt the concocted fear and never bought into the orchestrated panic because it was so over-the-top, so hysterical.
What we were being told to dread – a super-contagious virus that was felling its victims like nine-pins, sometimes literally as they were walking down a Chinese city street, healthy one instant and dead the next – didn’t match with personal experience. If this virus was so portentous, why wasn’t anyone I knew dying, or even ‘getting’ Covid, whatever ‘Covid’ really was (and it was never clear from the smorgasbord of symptoms how Covid was substantially any different from the common cold or the flu)?
Weren’t all the people said to be dying from this virus in Italy and Spain, the early European panic hubs, exclusively very old, carrying serious comorbidity baggage and often residents of nursing homes where something innocuous to healthy people could prove fatal to them? Isn’t that the profile of those who usually fare poorly, mortality-wise, from a virus? Don’t the rest of us have brilliant, highly sophisticated immune systems, honed by aeons of evolution, that can more than hold their own against those other marvels of evolution – viruses?
I remember the Diamond Princess, the cruise-ship of doom, a classic petri-dish for virus spread, as a crucial Covid myth-busting event. Impounded in late February/early March, 2020, to dramatic, round-the-clock, scare-headlines, of its 3,711 (mostly elderly) passengers, barely 18% (696 of them) got the ‘highly contagious’ virus (i.e. tested positive for Covid, whatever that dodgy PCR metric actually means) and only 40% of these actually had any symptoms at all. Most of those who were actually a bit crook (only 8% of all on board) were only mildly symptomatic. A grand total of only seven passengers (all over 70 years old) eventually died, not ‘from Covid’ but from ill-advised ventilator use in on-shore hospital ICUs.
For those who chose to look, Covid early on conformed to long-established folk-wisdom about viruses. For generations, seasonal, infectious, respiratory diseases had been handled calmly, if resignedly, by basically doing nothing i.e. by maintaining all social and economic functioning whilst the genuinely vulnerable, the immuno-compromised, were free to do, or not to do, what worked for them to minimise their exposure whilst awaiting the natural virus cycle endpoint of blessed summer and/or infection-acquired herd immunity courtesy of the healthy.
Prior to Covid, the regular winter advent of virus season was treated as a medical and not a political matter but what I saw with the early days of Covid, on the other hand, was the beginnings of the panicked opposite – a momentous political sickness arising from a totally futile plan to defeat a none-too-special virus by destroying liberty. As the wickedly witty Rudolph Rigger puts it in his Substack, with Covid we suddenly decided that “the absolute best response to a virus for which the median age of death was higher than median life expectancy was to shut down the entire planet. And to stop us from sitting on park benches”.
I simply wasn’t buying what the authorities and media were selling about the virus, including their dangerously dumb response to it. Their sales team (corporate and state media) did not get a foot in my door. I pulled the plug on the virus-obsessed state media (the ABC here in Australia, the BBC over there) which had rapidly became a tiresome Covid propaganda service with fear-mongering ‘news’ of ‘cases’ saturating the airwaves. This followed a period of my increasing disillusionment with the state media arm over a number of years for its fixation on whatever the woke cause de jour was and for its unhinged hatred of Brexit and Trump (or, more accurately, the working class who saw their interests embodied in these democratic electoral revolts).
This would prove to be my greatest defence against being sucked into the ‘Covid’ vortex. Not so, alas, for the 61% of Australian adults, for example, who get all their news, every skerrick of it, from the TV. The majority of TV-addicted Australians were thus the perfect propaganda-fodder for an emotionally-manipulative, image-driven, superficial sound-bite approach to the Covid ‘news’ (fear of a virus, love of the lockdown and joy over the jab). No wonder there were so many Covid Crazies about in Australia.
2. Discovering a counter-narrative
The official Covid campaign of fear and panic, and the willingness of nearly everyone to go along with it all, left me with a soup of negative emotions – bewilderment, shock, frustration, sadness, anger – but there was also a very early resolve that I would never test, never mask (except when absolutely necessary and then as incorrectly as possible), never QR-Code sign-in, never roll up my sleeve for a dangerous junk injectable (the latter decision, admittedly, made somewhat easier because I enjoyed the luxury of retirement and no longer had any job that could be threatened).
Was I, however, Robinson Crusoe on this? At the very early stages of the scamdemic, it was mainly long experience with viruses and socialist instinct that told me that the official line on the virus was just terribly wrong and idiotic but was there a coherent, objective counter-narrative that could validate my subjective position?
For those who chose to look, there were many early warnings about the looming policy catastrophe being mulled over in response to exaggerated fear of the virus. The Brownstone Institute, a free-market, conservative-leaning libertarian organisation with considerable intellectual heft and a cast of contributors from various political persuasions all united by a liking for Covid truth-telling, has compiled a few dozen of the more prominent of these warnings, including the WHO itself, so boringly orthodox was the pre-Covid consensus on viruses and their management which specifically recommended against economic lockdowns, school closures, border closures, mask mandates, etc. and which also dampened down expectations of a successful coronavirus vaccine (because coronaviruses, such as the common cold ones, simply mutate too fast).
Once the panic ramped up, however, such voices of reason and calm were silenced by the surround-sound hubbub of the pandemicists and Covid maniacs. It was only through my guilty pleasure (I was and remain of the Left) of reading certain conservative writers who had valuable things to say on the pathologies of Brexit, Trump and Woke Derangement Syndromes that I also found some truly informed and articulate voices against Covid Derangement Syndrome.
The British Tory, Toby Young, was the first of this stable of writers which soon grew to include many other professional scribblers and scientific/medical practitioners. It further expanded to include many ‘anti-vaxxers’ whom I gradually came to see in an increasingly positive light (ah, the dangers of keeping an open mind!). Thus has Covid overreach come back to bite the ‘public health’ orthodoxy on all vaccines squarely in the bum – the journal Pediatrics, for example, reports that the proportion of US parents who agree that [any] vaccines are “associated with illness or death” almost doubled from 18.3% to 31.5% during Covid. Sacred cows belong to religious thought-systems (as monetised by Big Pharma), not to the scientific outlook.
The newly-discovered pool of voices arguing against the Covid policy disaster was the ‘pull’ factor for me. This was complemented by the ‘push’ factor of every subsequent doolally development in the ‘social distancing’ charade, the masking and testing rigmarole, the fineable mandates and the vaxxing schemozzle. None of this Covid ‘mitigation’ farrago had anything to do with health or science (as those concepts used to be understood) and everything to do with enforcing a political narrative (deadly virus needs drastic response) through obedience to the state, demonising dissent, censoring alternative views and shrouding government decision-making in secrecy. What mattered throughout was the political imperative of the illusion of virus control.
As a study in psyops, Covid was a real corker. Everything, from the bogus and inflated Covid ‘case’ and Covid ‘death’ counts, the lockdown lies, the mask mania, the useless but deadly ‘vaccines’, the dalliance with quasi-martial law and undemocratic rule by technocrats, was, right from the start, part of a nefarious psychological warfare ploy to get public buy-in to a political strategy to show that our ‘caring’ governments were ‘doing something’ rather than just ‘letting it rip’.
The ‘doing something’ list grew at terrifying pace. The growing ‘what-fresh-hell-is-this’ list of political interventions and magical thinking including travel restrictions, business and school closings, legal segregation, employment purges based on vaccination status, restricting access to healthcare, the closing down of dentistry, QR sign-in for track-and-trace, the ritual humiliation and political persecution of the unvaxxed Novak Djokovic in 2022 by Australia’s ‘Liberal’ government, and ‘free money’ fantasies of state welfare funding of almost the entire economy with its resultant pump-priming of massive debt, stratospheric interest rates and vigorous inflation. Staggering stupidity upon staggering stupidity and all for nothing because the virus came and did its inevitable thing – ‘virus gonna virus’ – whilst every single policy intervention of the government added its own wilful brand of harm and suffering.
The emerging ‘public health’ tyranny also increasingly relied on the moral guilt-tripping of Covid rebels as selfish, anti-science deviants. The ugly desperation of the Covid policy architects and all those otherwise normal people caught up in the pandemic melodrama arose from the fact that they all had closed minds, were unwilling to admit to harmful error, or to being gulled, and were unwilling to engage in policy dialogue, scientific debate or anything resembling civil discourse.
Those still clinging, even now, to The Mask, or still longing for the latest booster and even pining after lockdown have truly had their minds broken – they will, perhaps, never see that their fear of the virus was utterly irrational and their faith in public health ‘experts’ and Big Pharma dangerously misplaced. There are, alas, a lot of these people about – late last year, Pew Research polled Americans on “what gives them meaning in life” and one in twenty people, at least one-fifth of the population, responded that Covid gave their life meaning. How demoralising and sad is that.
This was the dark underbelly of totalitarian excess that really shocked me – the frightening inability or unwillingness (I haven’t decided yet) of the large majority of the population to think for themselves, coupled with the delusion that governments and ‘Experts’ and ‘Science’ can keep us safe from every threat in life, big and little.
The government’s assurance that all the daft nonsense they were doing was in order to “keep everyone safe” was patently ludicrous because practically everyone was safe from a very average virus. It was, however, the implied rider – “Stay Safe – and that’s an order!” – which really got my goat. Personal risk assessment is my right, and my responsibility, and no government should be able to dictate personal behaviour for any claimed benefit of ‘public health’ safety, whether the actual viral threat is serious or a whole lot of nothingburger. The Covid madness was authoritarian political poison and, right from the start of the madness, I knew inside my old socialist head, and felt in my rebellious bones, that I was never going to have a bar of it.
Part II of this article will examine the demographic and political makeup of the Covid oppositionists and, in particular, why the modern ‘Covid Left’ did not provide the cadre of this new movement...