COVID-19, and the Intelligentsia’s Love of Power

From Those Who Fear Disease Most Are Most Likely to Prefer Authoritarian Regimes by Lipton Matthews

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Unfortunately, as covid-19 has demonstrated, people are willing to subject themselves to rituals even if they have no discernible impact on deterring transmissions. One must appear to be complying with the crowd or face expulsion. Humans are emotional creatures, and hence they give primacy to symbolic gestures. For example, recently researchers noted that “no direct evidence indicates that public mask wearing protects either the wearer or others.” Yet despite the dearth of evidence in favor of wearing masks, the researchers nevertheless advocated their use in the name of group solidarity: “Given the severity of this pandemic and the difficulty of control…we suggest appealing to altruism and the need to protect others.”

Blind conformity to public opinion is also evident when analysts recommend mask mandates after admitting that they “may be far from enough to prevent an increase in new infections.” Although the evidence does not support containment measures such as mask mandates and lockdowns, they remain quite popular among the intelligentsia. However, this pattern is consistent with the parasitic stress theory. To some, the costs of tolerating dissent in an environment compatible with diseases are too onerous, so contrarians are usually viewed as a threat to society. Therefore, in the era of covid-19 ideas in opposition to the prevailing orthodoxy will be neutered.

For instance, writing in The Spectator, Fraser Myers exposes Google for censoring the Great Barrington Declaration:

The Great Barrington Declaration was spearheaded by Martin Kulldorff from Harvard Medical School, Sunetra Gupta from Oxford University and Jay Bhattacharya from Stanford University Medical School. The declaration was bound to cause controversy for going against the global political consensus, which holds that lockdowns are key to minimising mortality from Covid-19. Instead, the signatories argue that younger people, who face minimal risk from the virus, should be able to go about their lives unimpeded, while resources are devoted to protecting the most vulnerable. But for making this argument, the declaration has been censored. Tech giant Google has decided that the view of these scientists should be covered up. Most users in English-speaking countries, when they google ‘Great Barrington Declaration’, will not be directed to the declaration itself but to articles that are critical of the declaration—and some that amount to little more than smears of the signatories.

Moreover, numerous examples suggest that covid-19 is being leveraged as a justification for authoritarianism. Consider the insightful observation of Steven Simon in an article for the journal Survival:

In illuminating COVID-19’s utility for power-grabbers, observers have tended to point to three cases: Israel, Hungary and the Philippines. In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been accused of manipulating pandemic fears to delay his prosecution on corruption charges by shuttering the courts, hamstringing his centrist opponent, Benjamin Gantz, and intensifying electronic surveillance of Israeli society. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has cited the crisis to extract from a right-leaning legislature remarkably broad powers to suppress dissent. And in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte, after mishandling the response to the pandemic, has moved to quash criticism and harshly imposed quarantine and curfew rules, ordering that violators be shot dead.

Similarly, as Zmigrod et al. (2020) remind us, the changes wrought by pandemics are often long term: “Historical pathogen prevalence still predicts contemporary ideological attitudes, and so if Covid-19 elevates the allure of authoritarian ideologies, the effects could be long-lasting.” Covid-19 has nurtured authoritarian sentiments, and the residues will remain long after we have discovered a vaccine. Based on the present environment, measures may become more stringent. Therefore, the only option available to proponents of liberty is to be a bulwark against tyranny by strongly opposing the violations of human rights in the name of preventing covid-19.

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Or, put another way:

Our Discovery Institute colleague Wesley Smith has written trenchantly about the Great Reset (see here and here), observing, “When I was young, the watchword of the left was ‘question authority.’ Today, it is “‘obey authority.’”

From Thanksgiving in the Light of Darwin’s Vision by David Klinghoffer

Only when the welfare state is well and truly busted… only when the supply of treats for the Pavlovian Dogs have ended… only then will the chains be broken.

There ain’t nothing wrong with forcing a few cracks in the chains now, or in putting acid on the more important joints.

On Lockdowns, Treats, and Muzzles

A Nation of Dogs (who found their muzzles)

NOT A NATION OF SHEEP

It is easy to call Americans a nation of sheep. We are not a nation of sheep. We are a nation of Pavlovian dogs.

Large, dangerous dogs can be trained if the trainer starts early enough. There has to be a system of training. There has to be a system of sanctions. There are rewards. There are punishments. Over time, an efficient trainer can get dogs to do his bidding.

The smarter trainers are called dog whisperers. There are plenty of these people. The public schools are run by them. They ring bells. From the day that students begin to specialize in their educations, and potentially are smarter than the classroom teachers in at least one field, the schools impose a system of bells. The students move from class to class according to the bells. They are trained to get up from their desks, grab their books, and move to another classroom. This is conveyor-belt education. It works. It breaks down resistance. Students learn to move rapidly between classes. The bells command them.

This is Pavlovian education. Why would anyone imagine that it isn’t? I’ll tell you why: because they consent to it. They pay the taxes to fund it. They send their children into it. They do not complain because they have been trained by the system not to complain. They cannot imagine education apart from this system of bell-ringing.

Gatto’s book describes the system. It was designed to train low-productivity workers for big business. It created in them an inherent obedience to a system of bells and whistles.

[…]

Forget about the lockdowns. Forget about the closed businesses. The lockdowns will be partially lifted. Some small businesses will recover. But the welfare checks will go out, and I estimate that half the population receiving the checks will not go back to work until the checks stop coming.

That’s the key to understanding American politics. The state can buy compliance for as long as it can afford to send out the checks. That is the lesson of lockdowns.

The state doesn’t use the bells. It uses monthly checks. The dogs will respond as trained until the checks stop coming. No more treats => no more rolling over.

The Conspiracy Behind the Lockdowns by Gary North

One day, we will discover what happens when there are no more treats for large, dangerous dogs.

That will be an interesting day.

(Tidbit: Don’t put your trust in muzzles made of flimsy paper and foam.)

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