Those who already in March foretold the folly of lockdowns and social distancing did not dream we’d still be in the same place after 7 months. Only slowly has it dawned that the panic would become an enduring business model. For a long time, we believed sanity would soon prevail and all we had to do was argue the case and let the prophesised damage speak for itself.
Yet there now is an emerging Covistance: a resistance to the covid-mania and its business model. It’s main message is that the vast majority of the population should immediately return to normal life and enjoy themselves. Throughout the world you see critical civic society groups emerging that share this message, involving medics, lawyers, economists, journalists, businesses, and the general public. In Australia, that Covistance is relatively high-profile with particular television networks, former PMs, and newspapers openly resisting the covid-mania. Brave insiders like Sanjeev Sabhlok have shown zivilcourage. The same is true in the UK, the US, Germany, France, Spain, and many other places. But not everywhere. In consensus countries like the Netherlands and New Zealand, for instance, the Covistance is low-profile with only a few doctors, lawyers, and the odd economist popping their heads above the parapet.
In an intellectual sense, forgive me for saying so, the Covistance won the argument a long time ago. I don’t say this because some 500,000 people and 20,000 scientists signed the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD), or because the experience of Sweden really does show that you dont get Armageddon if the population behaves normally. I also don’t say this because the WHO’s special envoy on Covid implicitly agreed lockdowns were a bad mistake and that the WHO’s own modellers think the virus is no more harmful than a nasty seasonal flu after all, which it admitted when it let slip it thought 10% of the world was infected already (implying an IFR of 0.13%). Nor do I say this because the covid-mania policy objectives keeps changing radically from “delay infections” to “eradicate the virus” to “the miracle vaccine is coming”. I don’t even say this because the Covistance is basically advocating a return to the scientific consensus of before the covid-mania of march 2020 and thus has scientific gravity on its side.
I say the intellectual fight is long-won by the Covistance because the actions of both governments and populations reveal them to secretly agree. Just look at how short-term all the economic measures were and still are: they have been designed to last months, hence predicated on the notion of a return to normality when the virus has run its course. Ask yourself how many governments are openly planning to live for years with lockdowns and hence really thinks their policies can continue for years, which is the timeline on the Phase III trials of the vaccines? Why do you think many governments still use and publicise exaggerated projections of deaths and cases instead of accurate numbers if realistic numbers were honestly deemed proof enough? Why the continued censorship and harassment of demonstrators by the authorities if they believed their case was strong enough to keep the population onside anyway? Many governments are simply going from one short-run plan to another, displaying a lack of any real belief in their actions.
You see the same revealing two-faced attitude now increasingly in the general population. Many still say they want harsh measures, but join raves in the woods, full beaches, secret parties in homes, and forget about their masks and social distancing as soon as they’ve had a few. The tv and films they watch are showing normal life. The education their kids are getting is oriented towards normal life. So their actions betray they don’t truly believe in a “new normal”. Covid-mania has for many become what listening to sermons in the church used to be: you really believed it Sunday mornings, but ignored it the rest of the week.
So who is the natural enemy of the Covistance? Who is committed to the fear-mongering such that they will give no quarter? As usual, the question an economist asks is ‘cui bono’: who is benefiting? Unfortunately, the answer is that the group of beneficiaries has grown over time and is very powerful.
A very important unexpected beneficiary is Big Tech. The Nasdaq, which is the share market for the Big Tech companies like Google and Facebook, shows you the story: in March, the Nasdaq plunged just as much as the Dow Jones and other industrial share markets. So Big Tech analysts did not expect it to win. Yet, by mid-April it became clear that while the industrialists were indeed losing business, Big Tech was actually making a killing from the lockdowns. People too frightened to go to stores or to the office worked from home and shopped online. Katching for Big Tech! The Nasdaq is hence now substantially higher than before the mania, whilst the other share markets are much lower.
Big Tech thus became a powerful ally in the censorship programs of governments. It already ‘followed the WHO guidance’ and brushed out conflicting advice, which was a tough job since the WHO kept changing its mind on things like face masks and lockdowns. The collaboration with covid-mania turned even more blatantly anti-scientific when scientific sanity returned in this debate in the form of the GBD. In most countries, but not the US (!), Google stopped allowing the website of the GBD to pop up in the first page when you googled “Great Barrington Declaration”. I saw that change for myself and you can check the screenshots of people in different countries. On Bing or Duckduckgo you do see the actual website of the GBD. Try it yourself to see if this censorship holds where you are. What I got this morning on the first page in London from Google were links to silly conspiracy stories surrounding the GBD. Reddit has also banned GBD in some of its forums.
Big Tech is powerful and not easily dismissed. Even most of the Covistance uses Facebook, twitter, Reddit, Google, and all the other mainstream communication platforms. If Big Tech makes life sufficiently difficult for the Covistance, then that Covistance would have to turn to other providers of technology, which is a big cost many wont easily make. It is not all bad though: Big Tech is revealing its hand and showing a group of privileged people who otherwise would not notice what these companies are prepared to do. We are learning the hard way that Julian Assange has been right about them all along.
Another group of beneficiaries is made up of the medical advisers around most governments. In their panic of march 2020 they ditched the contingency plans available and went with the totally unproven experiments of lockdowns and all the other things they advocated subsequently. They have been found out to be no more than copycat pretenders, for whom admitting their mistake would likely spell the end of their careers. The same is true for many economists who jumped on the initial bandwagon. They are now doubling down too. In for a penny, in for a pound.
An even more committed group are the businesses and bureaucrats employed by covid-mania. Think of the covid-marshalls in the UK who tell random people how to live. Think of the purveyors of masks and tests. Think of the companies that have sold billions of vaccines even before they are produced. Think of the hordes of regulators that dream up tiers, levels, flow-charts, and action-plans relating to covid. Think of the companies delivering home office supplies, home internet services, and sanitisers. Think of those who initially couldn’t have dreamed they would be in higher demand, like dog breeders and second-hand car salesmen.
The longer the covid-mania lasts, the longer the list of commercial entities predicated on its continuation grows. At a certain moment, the old economy is simply gone whilst a new one to replace it would still take years to fully absorb the workforce. Yet, that new economy is less productive and would of course collapse if the restrictions ceased because the old desires supporting the old economy (like entertainment and travel) would once again kick in. We could have a decade of recessions: from the old to the new and then another one when we go back again.
Last but not least, of course, the beneficiaries include many politicians. Their power and popularity has soared beyond previous levels, and whilst the popularity slips away the power is still in their hands. I know you might hate to hear this, but power is very, very addictive. Our literature, from Faust to Macbeth, tells us of its lure and what people are willing to do for it. Well, hordes of politicians have been handed power by covid-mania and have used it to expand that power. This makes them formidable enemies of the Covistance that wants them to let that power go.
So, these are then the enemies of the Covistance: many governments, an emerging industry of public-sector oriented profiteers, an emerging industry oriented towards the commercial new normal, Big Tech, and all those who staked their reputations and livelihoods on the covid-mania.
I deliberately did not put the media on this list, despite the fact that one can certainly say their have been culpable in the emergence of covid-mania and are a key tool of governments in maintaining it. That is because media has no real horse in the race: if it changes its mind and its tune because it sees the population change its mind, it will not matter much to their business. Many journalists have clearly enjoyed being fear-mongerers, but as an industry the media is not a big beneficiary and hence not really the natural enemy of the Covistance. They are potential allies, particularly if they see the tide changing.
I also did not put the general population or any segment of it on the list. That is because every segment is such a clear loser from covid-mania in the long-run. The economic and social collapse is not to the benefit of any large group in society. Even the elderly will not win from being starved of contact with their friends and family for years, with their health services and pensions diminished. Some groups have been convinced they benefit from the mania, but since they do not really benefit, I regard no major demographic as natural enemies of the Covistance. They are to be convinced.
Apart from the committed enemies, there are also roadblocks put up along the way. All the myths and superstitions surrounding covid are of that ilk. Examples are the myths that overflowing IC units spell Armageddon for the population, that children are as much at risk as the elderly, or that long-covid is just as important as risks of death. A new myth is the idea of a “circuit breaker” of 2-4 weeks, by which they mean a repeat of the failed European lockdowns lasting 2 months first time round. The constant stream of unopposed garbage coming from governments and hangers-on adds to the roadblocks facing the Covistance.
What are the chief weapons of the Covistance? Of course the Covistance has good arguments on its side, but we should realise that we have far more powerful weapons in our arsenal than science and reason.
The Covistance offers hope and fun. We dont fear the virus and hence laugh, sing, dance, share, and dream together. The covid-maniacs must at least pretend to be isolating and pessimistic. They have to advocate poverty and prudishness for all whilst the Covistance promises Christmas, Carnaval, busy pubs, and long nights.
So “bella ciao, bella ciao” my fellow Covistas. Not only do I believe we have truth on our side, but also fun and hope. Even Big Tech can’t win against that.