Covid-19(84) or The (political) truth of the health lie

 » The world is a masquerade: face, costume and voice, everything is false.All want to appear what they are not, all deceive and no one knows himself. »

Goya, Los Caprichos, sixth etching « Nadie se conoce », 1799.

The Covid-19 event has already generated a lot of buzz. Everything and its opposite has been asserted, sometimes by the same people, and at the same time. Untangling the skein therefore requires simplifying the story. There is of course a price to pay for this; it is twofold. On the one hand, one must ignore what seems to be incidental; on the other hand, it is important to put the event in its historical context, both in the perspectival sense (the cultural crisis that goes back to 1968) and projective (the immediate political consequences).

Essentially, the thesis here is that the Covid-19 crisis is not a health crisis, but a political one, and that none of the liberticidal measures are scientifically based:

1. Covid-19 makes evident the complete corruption of the political body and its media and scientific appendages. They have definitely lost all legitimacy and authority.

2. This corruption reflects the crisis of financial capitalism, and the will of the oligarchs to destroy representative democracy.

3. The political system that is being put in place is totalitarian, that is to say that all facets of citizens’ lives will be controlled by a deadly ideological structure that no longer differentiates between the private and public spheres. This totalitarianism will be fascist and digital.

The grand narrative officially offered to us is well summarized by Wikipedia: coronavirus disease 2019, or Covid-19, is a pandemic of an emerging infectious disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV‑2. It appears on November 17, 2019 in the city of Wuhan, then spreads around the world. To explain it, we incriminate the pangolin and the local dietary barbarity. The World Health Organization (WHO) declares an international public health emergency on January 30, 2020. It declares the Covid-19 epidemic « pandemic » on March 11, 2020, and calls for exceptional measures (the state of health emergency) to prevent saturation of intensive care services and to reinforce preventive hygiene (suppression of physical contact, gatherings and demonstrations, as well as non-essential travel, promotion of hand washing, implementation of quarantine, etc.).

We should take the time to (re)define what an epidemic, a pandemic, an emerging virus, the conditions of a zoonosis (transmission of a pathogen between species), an augmented virus (or « Frankenvirus »), the « gains in function », the presuppositions of risk analysis models (starting with the rectangular and stationary age distribution, and the homogeneous mixing of the population), etc. And to remind that a virus can never be both very dangerous and very contagious. The discussion is complicated by the fact that experts have difficulty arguing with each other and with the general public. On the other hand, one can easily see the complete failure of the political management of the crisis. There are variations by country, but — apart from China — it is the similarities that are striking. It may suffice to explore here the three facets announced: the corruption of the political, media and scientific bodies; the crisis of biocidal capitalism; and digital fascist totalitarianism.

1. The corruption of the political, media and scientific bodies

 » Facts do not penetrate the world where our beliefs live, they did not give birth to them, they do not destroy them; they can inflict the most constant denials on them without weakening them, and an avalanche of misfortunes or illnesses following one another without interruption in a family will not make it doubt the goodness of its God or the talent of its doctor.  »

Proust, 1913

The Ubuesque political management of the epidemic can be defined by five features.

1.1. Unpreparedness: the government was completely unprepared, whereas China’s reaction, known to all as early as January, had been prompt and radical. In short: the Chinese authorities reacted as if it were a bacteriological attack, not a seasonal epidemic (and nobody has yet appreciated the full implications of this reaction). Moreover, pandemic scenarios have been widespread for the past dozen years, especially after the 2009 (H1N1) crisis, especially among the military and private foundations, thanks to the zeal of B. Gates, who has made it his sole philanthropic focus since 2007. This unpreparedness is undoubtedly the result of fifty years of neo-liberalism. But not only.

1.2. The incompetence of some and the expertise of others: while politics is left to the academics, they are very rarely up to the task, and they are content to work to extend their mandate. Moreover, in a technocracy that does not say its name, we understand the need to rely on experts, whose objectivity is proverbial. In fact, incompetence, i.e., lack of adequate expertise, should not be a problem at all in politics: only common sense should matter. If you have to be an expert to govern, we are no longer in a (representative) democracy, or even a (non-representative) particracy, but in a technocracy. The use of experts is therefore inherently problematic. It is all the more so since it is sufficient to know the expert’s employer, or his financial backer, to deduce in advance the nature of his conclusions.

1.3. Corruption: the level of corruption of political actors is an open secret. We even allow ourselves, in our banana monarchy, to laugh under our breath at the malpractices that end up being publicized in other countries, preferably in the South. (And this applies of course to the way Flanders looks at Wallonia). It is known since Plato (it was the Greeks who created participatory democracy) and, more particularly, since Machiavelli (1532), power is sought by the potentially corrupt, and exercised by the de facto corrupt. Moreover, let us repeat, the conclusions of the expert are found in the source of funding for his studies.

1.4. Coercion in all illegality. The Belgian governmental and institutional imbroglio has given rise to a curious proto-totalitarianism: a government in power has granted itself special powers to euthanize the legislature, instrumentalize the judiciary, and establish a state of (health) emergency that does not speak its name. The liberticidal measures and regulations are countless — starting with the confinement in nursing homes, the generalization of home confinement, the « social » distancing, the wearing of masks, etc.

With this procession of liberticidal, illegitimate, ineffective and illegal measures, we obtain, in fact, the end of the rule of law. The public good has become private, i.e. a source of profit. And the intimacy of the private sphere is exposed to the gaze (sometimes to the vindictiveness) of all.

1.5. Communication, and particularly its absurd component, is the real signature of this crisis, during which politicians have exhausted all the pathological forms of language. Let’s pin the following:

- Avoidance: ignoring objections, refusing to engage in any form of dialogue;

- indignation: play the innocent, plead good faith, dedication to the common good;

- the pure and simple lie: the mask protects against viruses and not only against bacterial infections; the vaccine is effective against a disease which is not immunizing;

- Censorship: denying access to information or to a press conference;

- propaganda: inflating real information;

- misinformation: spreading false information;

- information overload: flooding with information (true, false, really false, falsely true, etc.);

- the use of contradiction: supporting two contradictory propositions (the mask is useless; you must wear a mask);

- the use of paradox: use undecidable statements such as: the epidemic is progressing without getting worse; the next world will be, and will not be, different; alone, together; be in solidarity (in solitude); trust those responsible (!); inform yourself (in the media); vaccinate everyone to control demographics; impose digital money to allow the poor to save; establish a democratic world government; what I am telling you is wrong… All of this is an effort to make the other crazy (Searles, 1959).

In short, government communication, slavishly relayed by the media and guided (and endorsed) by medical experts, has maintained fear and, above all, anguish. Fear is a natural positive feeling, because it mobilizes: faced with a palpable threat, the individual reacts by fleeing or fighting. On the contrary, anxiety is paralyzing: one senses an invisible threat, without knowing how to react… Absurd communication aims to stupefy through anxiety, not to lose through fear. The device is much more effective: fear needs to be directed so that it does not harm the social status quo; anxiety paralyzes citizens who passively accept whatever is imposed on them.

The political bankruptcy also signals two additional bankruptcies: that of the media and that of scientific experts, especially doctors. The media has given an unprecedented scope to the absurd communication of politicians and scientists. There has been co-option of some by others. It is difficult to find a dissident in the political class; there are few in the scientific world and, if they express themselves in the media, it is generally in a very balanced way; few journalists have done their job, Alexandre Penasse being a notable exception. All of them have covered themselves with ignominy by participating, actively or passively, in this masquerade; all of them should be severely sanctioned.

2. The crisis of biocidal capitalism

 » It is the beginning that is the worst, then the middle, then the end; in the end, it is the end that is the worst.  » (Thomas Beckett, 1953)

Upstream of this political, media and scientific sclerosis, we find the influence of the banking and pharmaceutical worlds, which are driven by two perspectives: on the one hand, the maximization of their hold on society (and thus of their turnover); on the other hand, the management of the global systemic crisis clearly announced as early as 1968, and whose chronology was outlined in 1972 by Meadows and Kukla (the depletion of resources, climate disruption, and the progression of pollution will eventually get the better of the consumer society and representative democracy)

2.1. From this point of view, the use of the shock strategy, identified by Klein in 2007 — instrumentalizing a real or perceived crisis, natural or cultural, in order to profoundly modify the social space, while it is paralyzed — is obvious if we want to anticipate chaos. Whether the crisis is real, or simply staged, whether its origin is natural, or the product of a machination, does not change much in the end to the trauma and to the possibility of its use.

2.2. On the other hand, it must be understood, once and for all, that the elected representatives do not represent the people, but the oligarchs and their multinationals. The neoliberal program is indeed very simple: dissolve the states in order to privatize all their functions. As long as a (privatized) world government is not implementable, one can be satisfied with turning states into empty shells. This program is merely a reappropriation of fascism as defined by Mussolini, and put into practice, as early as 1922–1925, with the help of Vilfredo Pareto’s economic vision: private enterprise is, by definition, much more efficient than the state. Then came the similar policies of the Nazis in 1934–1937, which underwent a slight obsolescence from 1944 to 1972 (the « glorious thirty »). In fact, Hayek, the preacher of neoliberalism, stipulated very clearly, as early as 1944, the strategy to be adopted: only a gradual infiltration of civil and political institutions would allow the destruction of the communist threat and its fifth column. Twenty years later, on September 30, 1965, he achieved his goal with Suharto’s coup d’état, which cost the lives of more than a million communists (some say 3 million were arbitrarily executed), and allowed the first neoliberal system to be put in place. It was in a way a repetition of the overthrow of Allende by Pinochet, perpetrated on September 11, 1973. The replacement of governments by multinationals was quantified early on, e.g. by Stephen Hymer (1960) and David C. Korten (1995). It has become evident with the policy of European integration and, above all, the multiplication of treaties and other transatlantic trade and investment partnerships (such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP). This is the common thread of « cyberpunk » literature, the most famous representative of which is undoubtedly Phillip K. Dick (1955), who offered the scenarios of Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), Minority Report (2002), etc.

2.3. Everything was at stake in 1968–1973: the unveiling of civilizational issues as well as their erasure, i.e., on the one hand, the awareness of the global crisis that could only be averted by renouncing industrial and financial capitalism; and, on the other hand, the takeover of the political agenda by the latter with figures such as Suharto and Pinochet, then Margaret Thatcher (1979), Ronald Reagan (1981) and Helmut Kohl (1982). (One should also mention the undermining work of Pompidou, elected to the French presidency in 1969, and the brief hope instilled by Sicco Mansholt at the European Commission in 1972–73).

3. Digital fascist totalitarianism

 » If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stomping on a human face…forever.  » (George Orwell, 1949)

Upstream of the complete corruption of the political body and its media and scientific appendages, we found the crisis of financial capitalism and the will of the oligarchs to remodel in depth the (representative) market democracy. Downstream, we discover, without surprise, a new fascist totalitarianism, much more pernicious than its ancestors of the twentieth century, because it is digital.

3.1. « Totalitarianism » refers to the political system that claims to manage all dimensions of citizen life, both public and private. Nothing must escape him, in law or in fact. Fascism » is a right-wing totalitarianism, i.e. conceived by and for the oligarchs.

3.2. The history of fascist totalitarianism is supposedly well known; it boils down to the seizure of power by industrial and financial oligarchs through a more or less enlightened lampoonist (which allows the sponsors to get away with it if the affair goes wrong). From 1921 onwards, the extreme right progressed everywhere in Europe: in Italy (Mussolini came to power in 1922), in France (with the creation in 1922 of the Synarchie, followed later by the Cagoule), in Germany (the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, which had been in gestation since 1918, organized itself in 1920; Hitler wrote Mein Kampf in 1924, published in 1925), Salazar established his dictatorship in 1932–1933, and Franco led the civil war already in 1934. From 1967 to 1974, there will also be the dictatorship of the colonels in Greece. (See, for example, Lacroix-Riz, 2006).

3.3. We have been in a totalitarian configuration for many years now, that is to say that a system, an ideology, claims to manage all aspects of life: techno-science is such a system; capitalism, renamed neo-liberalism, is such a system; globalization is such a system; the permanent State of Emergency, rooted in the War on Terror of 2001, is the latest episode. The real-fake health crisis of 2020 is the pretext (in the sense of Naomi Klein) used to definitively strip the peoples of the social and political gains conceded after 1945. It therefore affects countries differently depending on whether they are developed or not. In the rich countries, it is a matter of destroying social achievements and bringing the population into line; in the poor countries, it is a neo-colonial logic that is at work. Thus, while the seasonal epidemic is over, (more and more) absurd regulations prolong the security terror.

3.4. Among the tools for understanding the challenges of digital totalitarianism, we find the concepts of conformism and atomism, which were imposed at the beginning of the industrial revolution and of representative democracy, and are outlined by Saint-Simon (1803) and Tocqueville (1835). The thermo-industrial era is that of machinismo, that is to say, of the standardization of products and the scientific organization of work. While the tool depends on human morphology, the machine requires the worker to adapt to its mechanism. The power of the machine is thus the power of conformity: upstream, the worker must be calibrated, tamed, managed as a resource; and downstream, the consumer must accept the standardization of his lifestyle, his tastes in food, his clothes, his ideas, his desires, etc. The returns to scale are commensurate with the hopes of a few, and the despair of all the others. Conformism thus manifests itself in the infantilization and indifferentiation of people, the depoliticization of citizens, and the standardization of consumers, all of which constitute precious muzzles to paralyze bodies and amnesiac minds.

On the other hand, atomism is the foundation of liberalism (Mandeville, 1714, before Smith, 1776); it is equivalent to breaking all solidarities, and to maintaining the war of all against all, sometimes called competitiveness. By sealing the alliance between capitalism and technoscience, the industrial revolution establishes the two fundamental principles of globalized capitalism, the atomization of individuals under the pretext of liberating them, and their conformation in order to machine the best of all possible worlds. In other words, the conditions of possibility of culture, which are those of authentic life, are twice denied. On the one hand, conformism replaces individuation (not to be confused with individualism); on the other hand, atomism replaces solidarity. Now, without solidarity, it is impossible to individuate oneself, to take on one’s destiny, to go beyond the contingencies of one’s birth; and, without individuation, solidarity remains a dead letter. This double negation is however made acceptable by a spectacular inversion (also in the sense of Guy Debord) of the private and public poles: one takes atomism (i.e. the absence of solidarity) for freedom, and conformism (i.e. the absence of a personal project) for solidarity (everyone wants the same thing). In short, we get the war of the clones, of those who show their (calibrated) backsides in public, and talk about (neoliberal) politics in private. The consequences are radical: infantilization, deculturation, depoliticization, dissociation, the Terror (1792, precisely at the time of Sade’s writing), that is to say, paralysis by anguish.

3.5. The transition to digital totalitarianism can be understood as the transformation of disciplinary societies (Foucault, 1976) into societies of control (Deleuze, 1990). The thermo-industrial era is that of machinismo and the disciplinary institutions that are specific to it: family, school, church, barracks, factory, hospital, insane asylum, prison, rest home. All (or most) of these places of physical (but also mental) confinement can be advantageously replaced by a more flexible device of mental (but also physical) control: the digital. Technology — and especially the devices associated with 5G — now allow for total panoptic surveillance: tracking of all internet traffic (« big data ») and physical movements (geolocation), disappearance of cash transactions, house arrest (teleworking, cyber-education, online shopping, teleconsultations) etc. Digital totalitarianism pushes even further the synergy between conformism and atomism by replacing all that was left of the human — and thus of the corporeal, the immediate, the qualitative and the random — in machinism by the virtual, the mediate, the quantitative and the algorithmically necessary. There is no one more compliant than the one who depends entirely on digital technology to live; there is no one more atomized either. Moreover, the hygienist psychosis institutes a new puritanism that demands a life without contact. After having disposed of the flesh of the world, technocapitalism intends to exploit human flesh without complexes (Weber, 2017 & 2018).

4. In conclusion, it is important to understand that the Covid-19 crisis is not sanitary, but political, and that none of the liberticidal measures are scientifically based. On the other hand, it highlights the complete corruption of the political body and its media and scientific factotums, and, more particularly, their allegiance to the powers of money and their totalitarian project. The crisis is both a symptom of the bankruptcy of representative democracy, and the prodrome of the return of a governance that only respects the rights of capital. Even more than Orwell (1949), it is Terry Gilliam (1985) who comes to mind for those who seek to contrast political nightmare with fictional absurdity. These evidences are very precisely found in the intervention of A. Penasse (who has, after all, shown great restraint), he who asked, April 15, 2020,  » what democratic legitimacy there is to make certain decisions when most of the members who decide and think are part of the multinationals and the world of finance?  »

Capitalism is kleptocratic and totalitarian in essence. The evolution that is taking place in the management of the Covid-19 crisis reveals the corruption of all the media actors and gives a glimpse of those who, until now, have remained in the shadows. If the population remains confined in terror, nothing will stand in the way of the most barbaric regime of all time. If it awakens, not only will the reign of anguish be revoked, but it will no longer be possible to act by force either (the « guardians of order » are always drawn from the people, and their servility is never acquired once and for all). The last option of the oligarchs will then be, as usual, genocide. All the wars of the twentieth century were primarily wars waged by the aristocracy and the upper bourgeoisie against the lower classes. But the outbreak of a real pandemic would of course not be excluded…

The question remains as to why citizens accept to be mistreated by « politicians ». Why do they accept to be subjected to a perverse power? The answer lies in the analysis of the relationship that the predator imposes on its prey. Let us specify in two words the modalities which were identified within the framework of incest, of the concentration logic, or of what was called late (1973) the Stockholm syndrome. There is a vital link between the predator and its prey: it is the predator that feeds the prey, it is the predator that offers it a story to frame its misfortune, and it is the predator that sometimes makes a gesture that seems benevolent. The prey therefore instinctively refuses to open its eyes to the predatory mechanism. Ferenczi (1932) understood this well: the traumatized child, physically and psychologically weaker, finding himself defenseless, has no other recourse than to identify with the aggressor, to submit to his expectations or his whims, or even to prevent them, and finally to find a certain satisfaction in them. Loving one’s tormentor, on whom one depends physically, symbolically, and emotionally, becomes a condition of survival, but also a psychotic trap. In this case: as this voluntary servitude offers the advantages that one can afford, and the hopes that one wants to keep, most citizens believe that they can continue, after the « confinement », to confuse dream and reality. Instead, they will have to choose between dream and nightmare.

To each his own conclusion, mine is borrowed from Gramsci: I am pessimistic with intelligence, but optimistic with will. Pessimistic, because in this case we are simply witnessing an acceleration of the totalitarian tendency of a technocratic society within the framework of a global systemic crisis identified since 1968. If one wonders in which direction this movement is going to take place, it is enough to question the pilot: apart from the brief Soviet interlude, technology has always been piloted by the capitalists (the « big bourgeoisie »). Historically, a capitalist totalitarianism is called fascist or, better, Nazi. (Hitler was not Mussolini.) Optimistic, because, as Victor Hugo wrote before Che Guevara:  » Nothing is more imminent than the impossible  » (1862).

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