The gathering Covistance, its promise and its main enemies

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.

This entry was posted in Coronavirus crisis, Cultural Critique, Dance, Death and taxes, Democracy, Geeky Musings, Health, History, Humour, Politics - national, Science. Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to The gathering Covistance, its promise and its main enemies

  1. BD says:

    You make it seem like that all you have to do is remove all restrictions and all economic activity will magically reappear….I think you will find that in the absence of an unexpectedly effective vaccine, people’s behaviour has likely permanently changed. Older people in particular are not that keen believe it or not in getting the virus.

    I certainly think the lockdowns are overdone and hope they end soon, but they are not necessarily limiting economic activity and I don’t think the economic gains would be material in the absence of a vaccine.

    • the important thing to know about fear is that it ebbs away quite quickly if it stops being confirmed and egged on by authority. Weeks and months is all it takes for the majority to wonder why they were ever afraid. So as soon as the government starts to oppose the fear and actively pushes against it then I indeed do think you’ll see the restoring economic forces appear with a vengeance. Just look at the pictures and data coming from Stockholm or Rio.

      Success and fun also have a lure to them. Given the power on its side, the covid-maniacs can pretend for a long time that Armageddon is waiting for all those who stop being afraid and that the only point of life is to keep covid-infections low, but daily life in Stockholm and Rio looks really tempting when you’re stuck in your home for 3 months, deprived of hope and fun.

      So hell yes, there is real life without a vaccine. Thank god for that, or we wouldn’t have survived and successfully ignored all the other coronaviruses.

      • Michael Baker says:

        Paul, your assertion about ‘reverse conditioning’ will hopefully hold true. However, I’ve been following the economic story from the standpoint of retail property. In Australia, the pandemic has resulted in an acceleration of e-commerce penetration from about 9% of total retail sales to more than 13% in the space of 7 months. It’s now at the level it should have taken about three more years to achieve if prior trend had continued.

        During the pandemic, people who had previously shopped online did more of it, and people who hadn’t shopped online before got comfortable with it. In response, property owners and retailers both improved their e-commerce infrastructure e.g. many retailers closed stores en masse and invested more in e-commerce ops. The stores they still have are now partly used for e-commerce fulfillment. Shopping centre landlords have seen the writing on the wall. Between social distancing mandates, the collapse of tourism, and office workers not coming to the CBD offices anymore, footfall is way below pre-pandemic levels.

        My point is that in this particular industry ‘reverse conditioning’ of consumers may only be fractional because people have gotten so comfortable with e-commerce and the infrastructure on the supply side has now adapted. Retail property valuations have been hammered and companies owning a lot of shopping centres (Vicinity, Scentre, Stockland) have seen their stock prices sink to about 40%-50% below their 52-week highs because the market doesn’t believe much in reverse conditioning.

        I’m not saying that people cannot be reconditioned or that they will not be, but this is the view from one particular industry very dependent on consumer behavior.

        • Saupreiss says:

          Agree, we will settle somewhere between the old normal and the new normal for a somewhat more stable equilibrium. Many of the consequences of this disruption will stay with us. Another case in point: the education industry. We are being pushed to offer everything in dual mode. And that is certainly for many courses what will be the equilibrium. But I cannot imagine it being the only delivery mode – there will still be on-campus activities of different kinds.

  2. Dugald says:

    Stirring stuff Paul. Keep it coming !

    What do you think is behind WHO’s change of stance over the past week ?

    • To be honest, the WHO were never a really united front. Its scientists gave out conflicting messages for months. The significance of the statement is that it goes against previous advice that said one should only relax lockdowns under certain circumstances. What they seem to be doing now is getting out of the advice business and simply reverting to bland motherhood statements (“there is a major risk in whatever you might want to do”).
      Behind that is probably that they are increasingly getting heat from their own scientists and from many governments who are seeing their economies collapse. Plus there are now an increasing number of countries that have largely allowed the virus wave to happen, like Brazil. The WHO doesnt want to lose them.
      Finally, there is also the real possibility that they might lose in court. There are big court cases coming in many countries where billions are on the line. The WHO doesnt have billions. I thus also suspect the WHO leadership is starting to be afraid. They have every reason to be.

  3. Michael Baker says:

    Paul, you’ve summed it up nicely. I dissent in only three respects:
    1. I’ve made a lot of money in the market since March betting on mutual funds that invest primarily in tech and the ‘stay at home’ economy. I don’t want that to change, but occasionally optimism around a vaccine causes investor money to temporarily roll into sickened entities like airlines, cruise companies and hotel chains. This is your classic ‘sector rotation’ and I hate that. If Covid is a cottage industry, please let it flourish for my sake if nothing else.
    2. I think you are wrong about the media not “having a horse in the race”. Near the beginning of the coronasteria, I was in touch with a friend whose daughter works in the newsroom of a major newspaper in Florida. She said that they had never had it so good. (Her exact words.) Before Covid they were miserable. After Covid, they were ecstatic and they have ridden the wave ever since. And think of the media assassinations on platforms like Q&A in Australia, where bullies ganged up on Gigi Foster and tried to make it look like she was advocating genocide. Witch hunts are great for ratings. I think the media profited immensely from this.

    And the irony is that the media will now win on the swings as well as the roundabouts. That is, they are profiting right now by character-assassinating the very same political figures who implemented the lockdowns and who they previously supported. Andrews in Victoria is a good example but others are sure to follow, albeit with a lag.
    3. The public health advisors who have been running whole countries and destroying peoples’ lives for the past 7 months. Once you assume power you have to take responsibility for what you do. Should there be some kind of Nuremburg moment for them?

    • Hi Michael,

      fair points. Glad to hear you made the right bet in March. Wish I saw that coming! Do make sure you get out in time. Your point 1 is not really counter to the post.
      On point 2, sure the media got higher ratings and in some cases more sales riding the mania, but it can do so riding the revenge just as well. Hence it is not inherently sold on the continuation of the covid-mania. Nuremburg trials make for good tv as well. As you say, it will win on the swings.
      On point 3, I do agree that the public health advisors have a high degree of culpability. Its why they keep going. And yes, when the tide turns they will be blamed (which is now already happening somewhat in the UK). Yet, the buck stops with the governments who enabled them. So the culpability of governments is far higher. I would like to think they wont get away with their actions, but whether it will happen is not clear.

    • murph the surf says:

      5 comments and we have a Godwin.

      Does this still apply? Hummmm………….

  4. John in Warragul says:

    BD you are a frightful human being. Are you frightened or are you trying to frighten? Either way you are a coward or a bully and you make me sick. We need to single out you wowsers and ensure you are called out for what you are. The little man egging on the crowd, the little scrote lying about people behind their backs.
    Why don’t you self isolate for the rest of your life and give us all a holiday?

  5. I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

    They socially distance in Sweden and that aint normal.
    Herd immunity without a vaccine is an UNPROVEN theory.

    It would involve several hundred thousand people in Australia dying hey but thats okay it is all in the greater good

    • paul frijters says:

      I am going to Stockholm tomorrow for some much needed covid-sanity. Will let you know if they’re scared of their own shadows.

      The excess death graphs keep showing there is no noticeable second wave anywhere in Europe. https://www.euromomo.eu/graphs-and-maps

      Brazil is now showing signs of being close to herd immunity with their curve heading to around 0.08% mortality rates. 0.1% of fatalities, concentrated amongst the most vulnerable really seems to be the max rate we’re looking at for this virus. Pretty much the same as the flu wave of 17/18 in Europe.

  6. conrad says:

    You can get some estimates of when vaccines are going to arrive pretty easily, and it isn’t years upon years. See e.g., here . Presumably, as Astra Zeneca thinks, things are also going to be sped up to get around the normal massive amount of bureaucratic slowdowns, and to beat China and Russia to it for nationalistic reasons.

    Looking at the more recent data from Euroland where cases are going up more or less everywhere, I suspect it might not matter than much what people think in some places. That might be very exciting, because if we can catch multiple strains of it, which seems more likely now (I guess we’ll find out), you could potentially have multiple strains of Coronavirus all trying to make a home in you brain. I can think of nothing like it. Most other virus that make a permanent home in your brain like chicken pox or HSV only come in one variety.

    • yeah, I wouldnt count too much on that kind of announcement. On the US government website detailing the Astra Zeneca trial (https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04516746) you can read:

      Estimated Study Start Date : August 17, 2020
      Estimated Primary Completion Date : December 2, 2020
      Estimated Study Completion Date : October 5, 2022

      Primary Completion just means they would by then have recruited enough participants. And of course study completion doesnt yet mean its allowed onto the market. So in terms of the official trial register, Phase III trials are not completed till the end of 2022 after which hoops have to be jumped such that 2023 looks optimistic as a rollout date.
      I used to think it likely the authorities would want to hurry up a vaccine. They probably did at some point. Now I look at the powerful coalition of interests that has emerged and that benefits from continued covid-mania. I fear they will be in no hurry to have a mass vaccine coming out. They have every incentive to insist on jumping every hoop imaginable. For your “safety”, of course.

      • Conrad says:

        Could be, although I suspect nationalism will win out as that’s politically important. Imagine China or Russia having a vaccine and then giving it free to half the world as China at least have said they will. The only thing that will beat that is a better vaccine in terms of how well it works or convenience for administration in the third world (tablet, nasal spray).

        • I am not against a vaccine and would certainly take one without hesitation. Like yourself, one of my main hopes to get us out this saga is jealousy between nations. If that applies to vaccines and means countries will ignore their current rules on vaccines, great. But its not a small thing to waver with all the interests now aligned against normalisation.
          I am not too bothered about what the trials are supposed to measure because I presume they went for something relatively easy to show rather than whether they were saving anybody.
          I am not expecting them to help much medically though. I am not sure I now believe they will break the mania either, but we can hope.

    • paul frijters says:

      the approval processes for these things are tricky. It appears these Phase III trials are not vital for approval and use of these vaccines. If I understand the approval guidelines of the American authority that decides on this in the US, the FDA, then they can basically decide to approve these vaccines and have them used on the entire population based on an assessment of the risks and benefits of use using whatever evidence is available (https://www.fda.gov/media/142749/download).

      That document only mentions phase III trials as something they insist on seeing happen and ongoing. Yet, from the clinical trial website it seems they haven’t even started on the actual trials yet: they are not recruiting, presumably waiting for ethical clearances and such of the clinics in the trial sites. One suspects the companies involved will be in no hurry with these phase III trials if they think approval and use dont depend on those trials, because then they can only lose from finding something in these trials that delays registration. Indeed, if they think their phase ii trials will get them approval, they have an incentive not to have phase iii at all because given the whole population might be given them, any unexpected side-effect that showed up slightly in the trials but not told the FDA immediately will make them liable for huge sums. Jeez.

      So it does basically seem entirely political at this stage.

  7. Dugald says:

    Anyone hoping for a vaccine to save them from the scary virus should read this – the writer is a former professor at Harvard Medical School, so quite mainstream.

    In trials for all the leading candidates (Moderna, Astra Zen, Pfizer, J&J), prevention of infection is NOT a criteria for success, and reduction of mortality is NOT a criteria for success. Reduction of severity of symptoms is the primary endpoint. The bar is being set very low. And let’s remember there’s never been a vaccine for a corona virus
    despite the pharma companies trying to find one after SARS 1.

    Despite all this I do believe the covid vaccine will save the world. It will likely be close to useless medically but people won’t worry about that and getting the shot will give them the confidence they need to resume normal life. While all this is going on, the inexorable march to herd immunity will continue and the vaccine will be lauded for saving the world.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamhaseltine/2020/09/23/covid-19-vaccine-protocols-reveal-that-trials-are-designed-to-succeed/#739cdfed5247

    • Conrad says:

      Reduction in symptoms is fine. If you can reduce symptoms 50% then essentially no-one will die and you will just sick. So it is a very decent end point. If you can stop it crossing the blood-brain barrier most of the time, even better. After this happens there is far less reason to lock anything down because you turn something particularly nasty into something only annoying and if you don’t want to reduce your chances and symptoms by getting vaccinated, then its your own fault. I’m also under the impression the vaccines are stackable in some cases, so you will be able to put together and get better protection than having only a single one.

      Also, the obvious reason there has not been a successful coronavirus vaccine (or treatment) is because that’s not how FDA approval works. If something is deemed essentially harmless (like a common cold) there is no reason to have the drug, and thus they won’t approve it. So no-one invests in it.

      The other reason no vaccine was found for SARS-1 is because it was eliminated. You can thank me in part for that because I helped by being clean and supporting the fines on spitting when I lived in HK at the time :) even though there was no lock down (although people behaved sensibly, and there were more people than normal wandering around spraying disinfectant on anything and everything, which you don’t see in Australia). This means there was no money to be made to pay for massively expensive trials– although they had stuff that simply hadn’t been tested in phase III trials and that’s why there are Chinese companies that are in Phase III trials now.

  8. Saupreiss says:

    “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.”

    And pretend they do surely, from their tenured sinecures, gated communities, and country estates. No poverty for them (but for many others, those that get caught in the fallout of the insane attempts to eradicate the virus). And I doubt that Carnaval, busy pubs, and long nights were ever their thing.

  9. I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

    Brain Resnik shows up the inhumanity of the declaration.

    We can be thankful only the fringedwellers support this idiocy

    • Hmm
      fringedwellers – not an compelling argument .
      Our saviour was in the day also on the fringe ( and was hardly a reliable chap- did work on the sabbath etc).

      • I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

        He was about saving lives however although in a spiritual sense.

        however he was both god and man.

        Calling people fringedwellers was never an argument merely an observation

        • He cured the sick on the sabbath, shattered the veil between the sacred and the profane in the temple .

          Can you tell me how many will ,in the next few years ,die prematurely because their cancer , because of lockdowns, was not promptly treated?

          You are so sure of what you can see, yet so blind to what you cannot see.

          • I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

            John you must not have heard.
            We already have a person dead from the SECOND time they got the virus.

            your solution merely murders a lot of people both short and long term and for nought

  10. You hypocrite, you two faced snake ,you really disgust me .

  11. I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

    you have never liked most facts. This is evidence of this apart from your appalling repartee

  12. Dear pointless who gives a shit

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