Leaving Idealia: A Fable

In the land of Idealia, everone got to be and do exactly what they felt was truest to themselves. There was no stigma, no stuffy customs, no backward-looking religion or suffocating morals. There was no longer any need to hold back one’s deepest desires; food and shelter were now plentiful, and technology could deliver all sorts of fabulous things, so everyone was free to experiment. One had only to state what one felt was the goal of one’s Truest Self, and the government made sure that it could be accommodated, posthaste.

A Traveler, making his way through the region, having heard such magnificent things about Idealia (and being of stout-hearted liberal sensibility himself), decided to make a short detour on his route so that he could see this very special place with his own eyes. After arriving late at night and staying at a small inn near the capital city, he stepped out into the bright blue morning and, choosing a nearby street at random, began to walk from house to house. It was already a clear, bustling day, with many people out to enjoy the sunshine or stretch their legs. Many could be found on their porches, or sitting in lawn-chairs out in the front-yard, or stretched out on the grass, enviably carefree. Birds tweeted, dogs barked in the distance, bright clouds swirled between rainbows of unearthly vividness, and children bounced balls in the street. It was idyllic, thought the Traveler, like all the classic neighborhoods he’d ever wanted to live in somehow rolled into one.


The first person the Traveler came upon had on a lab coat and his front porch and the inside of his house was visibly filled with tools and technical equipment, strange crystals and flasks of chemicals. 

“Why hello, there,” said the Traveler, waving. “What interesting equipment you have there! You seem like a man devoted to inquiry and progress.”

“Yes,” said the other, “I am fascinated by the study of nature, by the superb order and law hidden within natural phenomena, and by the potential of new technologies that draw on these phenomena. As you can see, I have many different tools and instruments that I use to probe and analyze the truths of the physical world. I seek only to discover and investigate these truths, so as to allow mankind to understand the world without fear and use this knowledge to create useful new tools that can ease man’s estate. I ask only that I be allowed to pursue my investigations without prejudice or interference, and without having to worry about my results being censored or being attacked by angry superstitious people. Here, I can do just that.”

The scientist then displayed some remarkable ultra-efficient engines that he had built, and then demonstrated the spectrum of a new chemical element he had found—a color like none the Traveler had ever seen. The Traveler clapped his hands at this tour de force. “How wonderful!” he said. “Thanks to your work, the world really is getting better and better.”


Continuing on, the Traveler spied a silver-haired woman, with a deeply lined, timeless-looking face and a straw hat, painting at an easel on the front lawn. On the canvas was a remarkable  phantasmagoria of color. You could tell it was meant to depict this very street, but somehow, incredible new life had been added: the colors danced and danced, and you could see that all sorts of patterns and details that were barely noticeable in the scene itself had been brought out with great intensity, and combined with new impressions and views. As he looked, the Traveler felt gripped by emotion, as it seemed that some great beauty of the world, hidden in plain sight up till now, had been raised up before his very eyes, clear and new.

“This is extraordinary work!” the Traveler exclaimed. “Is this what brought you here to Idealia?”

“Yes. I started out with sculpture, but then the painterly bug came up and bit me”, said the woman with a chuckle. “I dedicate myself to seeing what others cannot or dare not see, and then shaping that vision into a form that others can then draw strength and inspiration from. I ask only that I be free to pursue my vision of the world as it inspires and speaks to me, and to be allowed to present that vision to the world, take it or leave it, without having to explain myself or apologize to peoples’ sensibilities. If they can’t handle it, they don’t have to look, I always say.”

“How wonderful!” said the Traveler, taking the artist’s card before continuing on.


Soon the Traveler found himself approaching a small park near the center of the neighborhood. There he found a family at a picnic table, cheerfully enjoying a great feast: a father, a mother, and three children. Their skin was dark as midnight, their manner filled with good humor. As they looked over to the Traveler passing by, he waved and asked what they thought about life in Idealia. The father, a powerfully built man with an equally powerful gaze, looked up, put down a huge buttery piece of corn on the cob, and touched his chin thoughtfully.

“It is so cruel how people can judge a book by its cover, and black people have constantly had to deal with being judged by the color of our skin”, said the father. “We have had a terrible time of it, facing oppression after oppression, often given no voice, no freedom, struggling to be accepted by those around us. We ask only that we be treated fairly and decently, and be allowed to live our lives and pursue our dreams with dignity, and that those who entertain hatred be kept out of sight and out of our way. And also that we should receive some accommodations so we can be sure to catch up to the rest of the world, given all we’ve been through. Here, we receive all that and more. Freedom is a sweet thing.”

“How wonderful!” said the Traveler, and his heart swelled to see historic wrongs and hates being put right and consigned to the past.


Next the Traveler saw two women lying on a big black-and-white blanket spread out near the edge of the park. The first, a skinny brunette, wore sunglasses and a gray camisole that was knotted in the front to show her midriff. She glanced over at the Traveler, turned over to lay belly-down on the blanket, gazing implacably into her smartphone from beneath a large straw hat. The other girl, also staring at a smartphone, did not move or look up at all. As the Traveler headed in their direction, they looked on through their sunglasses, expressionless, neither smiling nor sneering. It was impossible to tell whether he was being watched or ignored.

When he reached what he hoped was still a discreet distance, the Traveler waved. “Ahoy there—I am new around here, maybe thinking of moving—how do you like life in Idealia?” 

For a minute, the Traveler was still not sure they had noticed him. But then the brunette spoke up. At first she seemed to yawn as she spoke, but soon the words came with rapid-fire, almost typewriter-like rhythm.

“Idealia’s the best. Here girls can be proud, independent, self-assured, and gorgeous in every way. Don’t think ’cause it’s Idealia that we haven’t worked hard to get where we are. We’ve been through the man’s world, and we’ve come back with heads held high. Here, we owe dudes nothing. Elsewhere, history is ‘His Story’—a sexist farce. But we break the mold. You see how self-assured we are? That’s because we’re comfortable in our own skins. We dream and achieve big. Bet you didn’t know about my organic cosmetics line. All from locally sourced beeswax. Gina here has her own hemp-fabric fashion catalogue—plans for it, I mean, they’re almost done. We do photo shoots together on Insta to help raise funds for it. Sure we got brains, but also our bikini bods are to die for.” 

“Like, that’s the kind of innovation you don’t see with patriarchy”, added the other girl. The first girl nodded deeply.

“We ask only that we be treated equally to any man, meaning that whatever we say or do be automatically accepted, and that you always affirm the deep wisdom in it.” 

Totally“, said the second girl. “Oh—and since motherhood is basically oppressive and guys don’t have to deal with it, we ask that we be free to kill our babies, right up to the moment after birth if we want, if we decide having them would be too much of a threat to our freedom.”

“How wonderful!” said the Traveler, heartened to see such pluck, personality and enterprising spirit in these women. So unlike the demure, dutiful girls back home, who were often tediously fixated on marriage, family, and children.


As he was passing out of the park, the Traveler saw what looked like a huge, muscular man laid out on the grass. On a second look, though, he realized the shape was not one man, but two. One, much the smaller, was lying directly on top of the other, running his hands over the chest of the other man, who was spread-eagled on the grass. They were kissing deeply, gazing at each other. As the Traveler walked by, the smaller man, startled, rolled over onto the grass and struck an inquisitive pose, eyeing the newcomer with a hint of irritation. The larger man, smiling dreamily, just gave a little wave with his fingertips.

“Well hello!” said the Traveler, embarrassed to have interrupted. “But who might you be?”

“We are messengers of the victory of love,” said the smaller man, whose features were almost bird-like in their fineness. “Many have said great things about love in the past. But we understand that it’s not the form that love takes that matters, or even how you express it, but just that you feel it strongly enough and aren’t afraid to demand society’s acceptance for it. We seek only to express our natural love by having intercourse with other men as often as the mood strikes, with total freedom to experiment—like using drugs to enhance the amount of love we feel, or getting lots of us together at once. We ask only that you keep your judgments to yourself, and of course redefine the concept of marriage so that it sanctifies our love as much as anyone else’s.”

“That, and when it comes to education, of course,” added the other man, “children should clearly be taught as early as possible all about the rightness of our ways of loving and experimenting, so that they don’t grow up to be homophobic. Otherwise, we just want to be left alone, so that we can promote love at will.”

“How wonderful!” said the Traveler, for although he admitted his own romantic maturation had worked out well enough, it did now strike him as a bit stodgy and un-experimental.


The park came to an end there, and the Traveler soon rejoined the houses and sidewalks of the main street. Shortly after, he came upon a tall figure in a dress, busily pruning an enormous rose-bush in front of a large old Tudor house. It was difficult to tell whether it was “he” or “she”, since the physique and height were rather masculine—there was a bit of a pot-belly, and traces of an Adam’s-apple. Yet the person also had heavy makeup, fine, soft skin, long albeit somewhat greasy hair, and breasts that, although strangely shaped, were quite substantial.

“Hello there”, said the Traveler, waving. “I hope you don’t mind, but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone quite like you before. What brought you to Idealia?”

The person turned and posed with fists on hips, the very picture of determination, then said, with an exaggeratedly lisping, unmistakably masculine voice: “Some people have the luxury of living in the right body. But I am convinced that I was born into the wrong body, and that my real spirit is that of a female. I therefore have had surgical interventions and hormones to bring my outer body into harmony with my real nature. I ask only to be treated with dignity, to be allowed to enter all activities and spaces available to any other woman, and to have all persons acknowledge my female identity and use the particular language about me that I want used—including affirming that my penis is female. Also, any child who wants to transition to be like me, should be strongly encouraged to get chemical alterations and undergo surgery to remove their sex organs, so they don’t have to go through the stigma that I did. Here in Idealia, we do just that.” And then the person turned, as if somehow irked by even having to explain this much, and said no more. 

This time the Traveler paused and thought for a moment, since the last part about the surgeries and female penises didn’t quite seem to make sense to him. But a moment later he still said, “How wonderful!” and was on his way again.


Now the Traveler spotted a small, maroon-colored house with a bright red clay roof, with a tall turret on the left side. In the shadow of the porch a resplendent, olive-skinned man with a pointed dark beard could be seen, surrounded by shiny metal blades. There were blades of all sorts, in fact—some shiny, some aged, some long, some squat, some serrated, some arranged on the walls and others hanging from the ceiling. The Traveler could also see that there were framed pieces of elaborate writing on the walls, like illuminated manuscripts. Though he could not make heads or tails of the language, even the writing seemed reminiscent of daggers and knives. The man, it turned out, was currently sharpening a dazzlingly shiny scimitar that he had clamped on a work-bench in front of him. The Traveler waved, and approached with his usual inquiry. The man met him with a penetrating stare from beneath a profound and serious brow and said:

“I? I pursue the greatest of destinies—for I am a warrior for my Prophet, the only Prophet. I have always known that He admires most the powerful warrior, the one who is willing to fight and die for Him at the slightest provocation, or even for no reason at all. I have also always known that He is especially fond of knives, and of all things glistening and sharp. So I love nothing more than going and finding out people who might insult my Prophet, and then making very sure that they never do it again. I ask only that I be allowed to worship my Prophet in peace, and to follow His laws exclusively, and to be able to occasionally behead, flay, or fillet anyone who says any ill of any of these. Here, in Idealia, I am free to do exactly that.”

The Traveler seemed nervous, and went a little pale, and searched his mind to see if he had said anything bad about the warrior’s Prophet. But he couldn’t remember doing so, and the warrior kept at a polite distance, so that at last the Traveler smiled and said, a little hurriedly, “How wonderful!” before continuing on his way.


Next the Traveler came upon a strange-looking woman on the sidewalk, who was taping posters to a lamp-post. Half her hair was dyed violet and arranged in what looked like an attempt at cornrows, while the other side of her hair had been shaved almost flat, with four mysterious capital letters carved almost down to the scalp: “ACAB”. She was pierced through the nose, lip and eyebrows, and her pallid skin was practically wriggling with tattoos of serpents and astrological signs.

“So many of us are still victims of the system,” she told the Traveler, even before he introduced himself, “but I have broken free into a new world of unbiased thought. I do this, naturally, by realizing that everything is hopelessly, systematically biased and oppressive, and needs to be completely reconstructed—according to my specifications, of course, since my approach alone is truly unbiased. I love nothing more than redefining words, reducing all thought to essential identity-categories that describe people’s true selves and true intentions, and also leading healthy, healing actions where individuals are forced to admit to their limitless guilt and bias. I ask only that I be allowed to collect an immense salary for policing and redefining ordinary words and making even the simplest thoughts unthinkable or terrifying, and also that I be free to denounce as ‘racist’ any one who stands between me and what I want, and if need be, lead a mob against them. Here, I am free to do exactly that.”

“How wonderful!” said the Traveler, although he suddenly worried that he may have agreed only because he was afraid of being called “racist”, and might therefore be quite systemically biased after all.


It did not take long to notice the next house, for it was badly run-down, and the front yard featured big drums with pools of flaming liquid. In the center of the drums sat a small man with deeply recessed, bead-like eyes.

“Hello, there”, said the Traveler, looking a little concerned. “Say, are you all right there? I’ve never seen quite so much fire in someone’s yard, even for barbecuing!”

The man looked up and made a tense, haunted attempt at a smile. “I guess you could say I have had my share of frustrations in my life. You see, many people have ended up with more things or nicer things than me. My family life was rough, if you’d call it ‘family’ at all. Well, before I came here, I had all that frustration balled up inside, like poison. Didn’t know what to do with it all. But then I remembered that I have always loved fire—ever since I was a child. Its bright orange plumes amaze me every time I see them. And I feel so grateful for fire and its beauty that I feel it is only right to feed it, so that it will stay beautiful and so that there will be even more fire in the world. But maybe what is most beautiful about fire is that when I feed it, I can make sure that what I could never have, no one else will have, either. So when I see something that reminds me of the old frustration, I feed it to fire, and then I feel like I’m really my true best self again. I ask only that I be allowed to pursue my chief love, by setting fire to buildings, cars, trees, neighborhoods, and sometimes people, so that I can watch fire always getting bigger, brighter, and happier, and bringing justice to the downtrodden. Here in Idealia, I get to do exactly that.”

The man quickly pulled out a lighter, struck it, and touched it to a ball of oily rags held in his asbestos-gloved other hand. The hand was instantly surrounded in a globe of orange flame. He turned his gaze to his hand, studying it intently, as if the Traveler was not even there. 

The Traveler sweated a little, and took a step back towards the fire hydrant by the curb, almost tripping on his own feet. 

“…wonderful–” he said, in a shaky voice. 


Reflexively the Traveler turned back to the street, but immediately he bumped into a man headed the other way in a gray turtleneck, with hefty biceps and a sallow face. He seemed to have come from nowhere. The man spoke at once, as if delivering a well-practiced pitch. 

“When I’m on the block,” this man said, “you know you’re going to get only the best. I love finding the purest bespoke opioids, both natural and synthetic, and then blending them with my secret combination of drain cleaner, cough syrup, and methylamine. I wish only to be able to conduct honest business, regulated just like any other, and to bring joy to my customers, ensuring their satisfaction so that they will always and forever come back to me. Here in Idealia, my dreams, and my spirit of service, are allowed to flower.” 

“Excuse me”, said the Traveler, “I’m so clumsy. And how wonderful!” The Traveler tried hard remembering all his college classes about libertarianism, the wisdom of market equilibria and the rules of arbitrage. He even wondered for a moment, before hurrying past, if widespread heroin use might actually be an unfairly-maligned, community-building experience.


Next the Traveler spotted a man lying in a hammock on one of the porches, with a pudgy, somehow infantile face and a receding hairline. He had a small girl with him, who looked to be about eight years old, wearing a two-piece swimsuit covered in bright, happy cartoon figures. The girl was running her hands slowly and somewhat clumsily around his upper thighs as he lay back, looking into space. He paused once to caress the girl’s head, and held a glass of lemonade to her lips. As she drank, he looked up at the Traveler. The girl looked, too: her gaze had a strange, piercing worldliness about it, unnerving in someone so young.

“Well hello,” said the Traveler, “I’m more tired now than I realized. And this is your daughter, I take it?”

“Ah—no, not my daughter,” said the man. “This is—ah—Allie, my little spirit-friend, who comes to help me every week or two. A common mistake, don’t worry about it. As for me, I am a beautiful soul, a connoisseur of young love—the tenderest, most beautiful, and purest sort of love. That is why I have always been tremendously excited by small children. Especially when I touch them or—ah—they touch me. I feel like I truly get to understand children this way, and that I can then be part of their wonderfully innocent world. I have always had such feelings, and I know that a feeling so wonderful can’t possibly be wrong. I used to live in a neighboring country, where I was shamed and even—ah—imprisoned. But here at last I can be satisfied and whole. I ask only that I (and all minor-attracted persons) be allowed to express the rich love in my heart by touching and undressing young children, and that they in turn be freed to discover their sexuality by performing pleasurable acts on me from time to time, without the rest of the world involving itself and getting all judgmental.”

“How wonderful?” said the Traveler, though his heart wasn’t really in it, and he found himself already turning away and heading back to the street, with a pang in his chest that felt strangely like guilt.


It was not long before the Traveler noticed a balcony where there stood a serious and thoughtful man, approaching middle-age, with somewhat wild-looking hair. He wore sandals and Bermuda shorts, and a t-shirt that had odd-colored stains on it. With his strongly protruding brow and wild hair, he vaguely resembled a caveman.

“Well, hello there—you look like you have had an adventure or two—what’s your line?”

“My line?! Well, I used to be a vegetarian—”, laughed the man, “—until I found out what real meat tastes like. I speak of course of the human body. Its combination of delicate texture and slightly piquant flavor is unrivaled among the victuals of the world. But it is also an extraordinary versatile resource in general. Excellent for soup, jerky, even chew-toys for dogs made from the bones and hide! Admittedly there is a bad reputation concerning the use of the hide—yes, the lampshades—that story is apocryphal, by the way, although the hide does have excellent physical properties. We therefore only make gloves and purses from it, to allay any concerns. We are highly ethical, we ethically requisition all our stock. And we know better than not to use every possible part of the animal. Nothing goes to waste, I assure you, so that the ecological footprint is, if anything, negative! Of course there is a more intimate aspect to the eating of others, almost like devouring not just their bodies, but their souls as well, and that too is precious to me. I ask only that I be allowed to slaughter and prepare people, in a fully consensual and well-regulated manner, so that I may enjoy this most exquisite of pleasures and run my very ethical business in peace. Here in Idealia, I am free to do just that.”

The man smiled, revealing a row of curled, strangely discolored, and unusually long front teeth. As he exhaled, an aroma like rotting pork and burnt hair swelled up everywhere. The Traveler, who had been listening very calmly, suddenly felt vomit surging at the back of his throat. He turned away from the man and ran towards the street, landing on all fours above the rain-grate just in the nick of time, as he puked out half his breakfast.

“How wonderful,” he coughed.


Once he had recovered himself, the Traveler, walking more slowly, more haggardly than before, noticed a man just stepping out onto the front door of an exceedingly tidy, modern-looking house. The house was so spotless, in fact, that it looked almost like it constantly cleaned itself. With his jaunty steps, his gleaming, freshly pressed designer shirt and slacks, elegantly coiffed black hair, his flawlessly moisturized skin, and his clear, pale gray-blue eyes, the man practically radiated well-being, affluence. His face seemed as if somehow moulded from a single piece of living plastic, with a prominent, horseshoe-shaped brow that seemed to flow around his face in a single uninterrupted sheet, as if the power of his mind was pouring directly into his face. In fact, everything about him gave an effect of sleek, completely unified intelligence: the Traveler was not sure he had ever seen a person who looked so intelligent. Attracted (despite himself) to the promise of a dose of normalcy after all he had seen, the Traveler waved to the man and asked about his role in Idealian society. With perfect politesse, the man sauntered over and shook his hand, smiling impishly.

“Well,I guess you could say my interests lie on the crossroads between Transhumanist and Technocrat—and we are all at a crossroads, aren’t we? So many things need done, and quickly, if humanity is to move to the next level. That is where I come in. I love nothing more than manipulating the very building-blocks of life and thought—and in fact, manipulating everything that I possibly can. Everything I touch, I always make better and better, healthier and safer. Of course I am all about the Knowledge Economy, Equity, Social Infrastructure, and Added Value. But more than anything, I would say, I am a student of unification—of using my skills and knowledge to bring people together and right the wrongs of past ages of darkness. Enlightenment is my oxygen, pretty much, and of course I offer it freely. Through the miracles of networking and distributed information, I am totally committed to offering people choices so they can be more free—and also making sure they are always the right choices, of course. Proper shaping and nudging of behavior is so critical, after all, if we are not to fall behind.” 

“Of course,” stammered the Traveler.

“So, how do you like Idealia so far?” the man continued, with a playful little gesture of his hand, as if it was a soufflé he’d just whipped up. “You know, you could even say that I built this whole place. You’re welcome. You’re free to explore all you like, even move here! I ask in return only that I be allowed to endlessly record, control, manipulate, and of course monetize every aspect of every event and every thought and attitude you have, everywhere, ever, and to arbitrarily substitute it with my own experiments and visions—and also that I be free to treat you, like all humanity, as raw feedstock to be endlessly modified, played with, perhaps discarded, in service to the species’ future perfection and to my inspirations of the moment. Anyway, I have a very important appointment that’s about to take place, so I must be on my way. Thanks so much for stopping by; stay as long as you like. Oh and—would you please do me one little favor from now on and call me… ‘God‘…?”

At this moment the Traveler noticed a weird, penetrating coldness spreading over his body, as if he had been laid out naked on an iced metal table and then given an electric shock. Shivering, he edged back from the Technocrat, who continued smiling, with only the slightest glimmer of mockery in his eyes. As the Traveler withdrew, he noticed that the strange, bone-piercing chill he had just felt abated proportionately with distance. 


The Traveler did not say that it was wonderful this time. Instead he turned and ran back to the sidewalk and then a ways further still, feeling the mild summery warmth of the day return to his skin. Then, after huddling himself for warmth for a minute—for traces of the cold lingered, as if they had been implanted deep in his bones—he said, to the whole neighborhood as it were:

“I must say, you Idealians truly have a unique society here—but I’m afraid this has gotten a bit much for me! I mean, hell, a lot of this “self-expression” is really nothing but slaughter, depravity, stupidity, power-madness and destruction! At least some of you, actually, are kind of screwed up! Maybe you should get some help! And I have to say, I’m not really sure I can get on board with some of the things that seem to be happening here with children—”

At this moment, a large man appeared by the Traveler’s shoulder. He had braids in his hair, metal spikes in his ears, arms like cannon-barrels, a leather jacket, and a huge black beard. He grasped the Traveller by the shoulders, holding him fast. The Traveler soon realized it was useless to struggle.

“Hello, who are you?” the Traveler asked.

I am a Minder,” said the man. “My greatest joy is to find and collect skeptics, doubters, and especially haters“, said the man. “And you sound just like a hater. I ask only that you come with me, and that you not struggle or otherwise make this more difficult than it has to be.”

Then he clapped the Traveler in twenty-pound irons and a big steel collar, and began leading him away towards the gray concrete complex that crouched on the eastern horizon, like a huge gray eagle with its wings held low to the ground. For the first time the Traveler noticed this complex had long, thin lines leading from it, like threads. He gradually perceived that these lines were made of people. 

At this moment, a group of noisy, smiling passersby were going the opposite direction down the street. They spotted the Traveler—now a wretched sight, struggling in the heavy irons, with the huge bearded man just behind, ushering him onward to an unsettling fate.

The Traveler glanced towards the passersby in some forlorn hope of succor or sympathy, but he was almost immediately distracted by a surreal sight directly behind him. A stupendous transformation had occurred. Half of the block had rapidly been engulfed in fire, while two severed heads now rested in the middle of the street, beneath the gleam of one of the Warrior’s blades. Crouched on one of the lawns beside a bush, the little girl was cutting her wrists alongside the man-who-was-really-a-woman, who seemed to be muttering instructions while inserting a needle into his/her/hir/its own arm. The “former vegetarian” was sauntering nearby with a hungry little smile, a paring-knife ready on his belt. All at the same time, an extremely strange sort of grayish-metallic goo seemed to be advancing over the trees, turning them into electronics and weird, mutated forms. One of these trees was not actually a tree, the Traveler realized, but had moments before been the proudly standing form of the Technocrat, arms spread wide, as if ready to receive the world’s prayers and plaudits at the moment of his supreme victory. Now he was frozen solid, covered in little metallic crystals that looked like a cross between hoarfrost and computer-chips.

Straining his neck against the big iron garrote, the Traveler waved frantically at his captor, gesticulating towards the horrid scene. 

“Hey, hey, you might want to have a look over there—there’s a p-problem—”

But the black-bearded man did not look. He only shook his head slowly without changing his pace, as if he had heard one too many lame tricks like that before to be fooled. At the same moment, some of the passersby began pointing at the Traveler, chattering loudly again.

“How wonderful!”, he heard them exclaim, smiles all around, even as the fire advanced on them and began to swallow house after house. No one ran, no sirens could be heard. No one, it seemed, had ever thought such a mess could even happen in Idealia.

Now the Traveler kept up his pace even under the weight of his restraints, and even sped up. The disaster that was unfolding no doubt gave the possibility of escape—a possibility that minutes before had seemed remote. But any hope of escape was countered by a sinking, more philosophical despair that weighted him even more than the big iron bonds. Idealia had once been one of the most beautiful of thoughts, of worlds—maybe the most beautiful world ever, in fact. Who could have denied as much, in its earlier days? Perhaps even the chilling, manipulative Technocrat, in his time, had been truly kind, humble and well-meaning, a mere student just learning with delight how his own brilliance could bring relief to a miserable world. It had not always been lies; even now, as it burned and descended into chaos, it was not entirely lies. Some part of the Traveler, incredibly, actually yearned to apologize for his “hating”: to make amends to Idealia for his sin, to throw himself on its legendary acceptance, and then gratefully accept whatever verdict might come down on him.

But it was too late for any of this. The madness, the conflagration of acceptances, was now spreading behind him, completely unchecked—the whole country being nothing but a tinder of acceptances, and with all refusals banned, the flame could spread, indeed it must spread, till nothing but the mountains were left standing. He could feel the heat on his shoulders now, and the Minder, walking behind, could only be even more aware of its oppressive intensity. No doubt in a few minutes more it would overtake them, and his captor would be forced finally to turn, and see the truth of what was happening, and release these heavy bonds which cumbered them both in order to save himself. The time for joyful rubbernecking, or judgments, or for rueful reminiscing on lost dreams, was over: in the next few minutes, every thought, every ounce of will and persuasion he still possessed would have to turn upon the task of surviving Idealia, resisting Idealia—and if he could be so lucky, leaving Idealia.

The End of Science and the Rise of the Irrealist Priesthood

It’s hard to think of a more cut-and-dried example of the ongoing inversion of science, that erstwhile workhorse of humble inquiry and devotion to truth, into a fractal-like maze of delusions and power-drunk fantasy than this recent perspective from physicist Robbert Dijkgraaf:

“I begin to imagine an upside-down view of physics. Instead of studying a natural phenomenon, and subsequently discovering a law of nature, one could first design a new law and then reverse engineer a system that actually displays the phenomena described by the law. […] All of this is part of a much larger shift in the very scope of science, from studying what is to what could be. […] Such work might feel, at first, like “artificial” science. But a genetically designed bacterium is in no way less real, or less worthy of study, than one found in the wild.

…that’s right! Why have science be about discovering things that are out there, or that actually happen outside your own head, when you can instead start contriving “laws of nature” at whim, on the basis that some contrivance, somewhere, could appear to obey them? Why bother checking that your theories agree with experiment, when you can just design the experiments to agree with your theories?

In other words, why search for laws, when you can just simulate them, and presumably get a nice twinge of power while doing so? (Not to mention funding…)

And while we’re at it, why not arbitrarily start engineering new life forms? (Creating “novel coronaviruses” went so well, after all!) Why not shut yourself off from the world and just play God, and simply disregard any unpleasant consequences? Such consequences cannot be “real”, after all. 

In the same exact vein, we have this little marvel from MIT tech review: an article titled “A Quantum Experiment Suggests There’s No Such Thing as Objective Reality” concludes, predictably, that there is “no such thing as reality”, and that therefore,

“The next step is to go further: to construct experiments creating increasingly bizarre alternate realities that cannot be reconciled. Where this will take us is anybody’s guess.”

This invasion of scientific fields by trendy constructivism—which entails an absolute revolt against reality, and an embrace of ever more brazen absurdities and fantasies of omnipotence as somehow profound and highbrow—is itself becoming boring, predictable. 

The “progression” in this direction has been accelerating breathtakingly in the last few years. First we had how statistical significance should be retired in the sciences (since it keeps exciting “new ideas” from being widely accepted), then how of course biological differences between males and females are a matter of cultural conditioning and besides do not have anything to do with “gender”. Then critical theory came into science education demanding “other ways of knowing”, while Hossenfelder began prescribing “sociology of science” as the cure for physics’ long drought of new fundamental discoveries. Then a few months ago we had the first out-and-out avowals of “2+2=5” as a perfectly valid way of teaching math. 

Now we have, right on cue, physicists—the anointed high priests of the scientific enterprise—opining how there is “no such thing as objective reality”. 

Like, it’s all about your perspective, man!

* * *

Given that such ideologies are now being shouted from the rooftops of academia and in the sanctums of the “hardest” of the hard sciences, we are quite close to the point where anything that comes out of any formal “scientific” institution today should be assumed to have little or no validity whatsoever, except if viewed as a manipulative ploy to bring power to increasingly unhinged “expert” or “knowledge” classes. 

After all, we cannot help but wonder: why should we listen to, let alone obey a “knowledge” class that denies that knowledge exists or matters at all? If scientists no longer claim to discover anything definitive about the world, and if knowing is to be reduced entirely to sheer will, or commitment, in what does their authority consist? Why should we believe anything they tell us? Why not just make up our own ideas that feel good, and insist on those?

I say this quite seriously, just because exactly this is happening, and it is a natural effect of the philosophy that has now seized science: a philosophy that denies truth altogether. If you are convinced there is no difference between a fake and a real thing, if there is “no reality”, why would you not fake everything, lie about everything, if this can give you power and pleasure and also advance “correct” opinions and attitudes through society? Why would you not make up results and “laws”, if you’re convinced that all of these can be perfectly “true” if you just contrive the right context (or simulation) for them?

Finding truth is an arduous task, with no guarantee of success. But constructing truth is just as easy as lying.

This transvaluation of science’s original outgoing realism—which helped build modern civilization—into a sort of slurry of solipsistic virtualism/vitalism, augurs nothing less than the undoing of science and society. It is of a piece with the latter’s infiltration by postmodern antithought, and this infiltration will gather steam, because the whole psychology of scientists still depends on a feeling of “progress” and increasing control and knowledge; yet basic discoveries—you know, of reality—have stagnated, and so no longer provide that feeling. 

John Horgan, who seems more and more like a modern prophet, foresaw this development back in the ’90s. Scientists, he observed, were lapsing more and more into a strange, unfalsifiable netherworld of grandiose, pseudo-mystical speculation; moreover, this new mode might well eventually consume the whole the scientific enterprise.

Horgan, quite pithily, denoted this mode as “ironic science”. The phrase is apt, given the postmodern fondness for viewing the world “ironically” rather than in terms of truth (Richard Rorty may be the best-known representative of this stance). Ironic science, in turn, is very closely connected with a particular sentiment, now pervasive in science writing and the wider culture, that I have called “nihilistic awe“–literally amazement based on nothing.

This feeling, this amazement, this grandiosity, seems indeed to have consumed much of what once was “science”. Increasingly, there seems to be no ability, or at least no will, to tell apart the fluent thrills of nihilistic awe from the hard roads of truth. Therefore, we expect that going forward the feeling will rule, at the expense of logic, observation or principle, driving the acceptance of crazier and falser things, accompanied probably by increasingly aggressive demands that they be accepted, until something very hard and very powerful stops the whole process. This stopping, as it always does, will also probably involve much pain and, as the word itself suggests, disillusionment

* * *

In the end, we are indeed seeing a new faith arising. But this faith is far more expansive than the “wokeness” which, over the summer of 2020, burst free from the antiseptic laboratories of critical theory, where it had incubated for decades, and into the wider society–and which so many commentators have since compared to a new religious sect. This new faith is also far stranger than the traditional belief in a creator-god(s) ever was. 

This is the faith of irrealism—the belief that there is no such thing as reality, that everything we perceive and know is (and must, and should be) wholly constructed by some unstable combination of cultural conditioning and the demands of our own “innermost nature”—though this nature itself must be viewed simultaneously as completely mutable, completely free of preconditions and at the same time completely without free will. 

This faith, irrealism, is a beehive of opposites, as it posits all existence as inexistent, all stability as flux, all realism as virtuality, all morality as demanding ceaseless and ruthless overturning. We see its first adumbrations in the works of Nietzsche, the first Western intellectual who wrestled directly with the problems of a complete collapse of morality and faith—in short, with nihilism.

Yet it would be a mistake to equate Irrealism with nihilism, for in its own strange way it demands much faith indeed. Indeed, irrealism, with its claims that “there is no reality” or that “we should just invent laws of the universe”, demands a “leap of faith” far greater than possibly any prior religion, for the initiate must completely reject any notion of a fixed, reliable external world in favor of this strange condition of helplessly non-negotiable yet omnipotent self-interestedness

This leap consists of the simultaneous deification and total enfeeblement of the self, so that it becomes both the only thing that matters and also completely at the mercy of random changes.

This is all to say: we are witnessing the most immense, complex, thoroughgoing crack-up and collapse of a civilization in all of human history—and it’s still early innings.

Achieving the Impossible: How the Postmodern New Democrats Made Trump Look Sort of Okay

I suppose I might as well try to put down where I stand on the imminent US presidential election, as this event ties together in a single hideous package the whole fascinating wormy mess of present-day American politics.

The simple way of summing it up is that the Democrats, in part through their own internal dynamics and prior commitments and in part through their anaphylactic overreaction to Trump’s constant needling, have managed for now the second time in a row to do the near-impossible: to nominate, in Joe Biden, someone arguably more dishonest, unfit and fundamentally compromised than Trump himself. The resulting election just might be, as Matt Taibbi just described it, the “worst choice ever“.

I remember very well the days when the GOP was obviously and unquestionably the chief party of dreadful corporate shills, of unmitigated greed, and—particularly thanks to Bush II’s Iraq War—of the warmongering “military-industrial complex”. I remember the days when everything about the GOP suggested eerie lockstep discipline and ideological conformity. I remember the way that campaign donations seemed to sluice their way in endless abundance from corporate coffers into GOP candidates, while the Democrats, like a ragtag army living off the countryside, seemingly had to make do with the support of grassroots, nonprofits, and organized labor. I remember the policies of environmental devastation that were synonymous with Republicans. I remember the idea that the GOP was filled with intolerant if not barbaric “authoritarian personalities” who would shut down any speech they didn’t agree with and notably had no sense of humor. I remember the GOP as a party of religious fundamentalism, and the Democrats as the party of free thinkers and skeptics.

As of today, much of this has come almost full-circle: all that I once thought about the GOP is now at least as true of the Dems, and often with a quite warped extra twist.

Anyone who looks closely at American history will realize that, even granting that the US has a true two-party system (instead of, say, a “uniparty” with two painted faces), the issues and positions of those two parties have a remarkable way of periodically shifting to almost totally different ideological ground, to the point that something very close to “memory-holing” seems to be necessary in order for the parties to keep their own inner sense of continuity. The Democratic Party’s transformation from guardian of Jim Crow into the semi-obligatory home for minorities and aggrieved identity-groups that it is today is probably the most dramatic of these, followed closely by the 20th-century transformation of Progressives from moralizing Christian prohibitionists to Crowleyite, “do what thou wilt” advocates for every imaginable form of personal and social license. 

Now, with the woke revolution and the rise of Big Tech, such a reversal and memory-holing is happening again in an exponentiating way. Now increasingly the Democratic Party has become the party of prating, pseudoreligious certitude—but it manages to juxtapose this certitude with a remarkably unprincipled willingness to exploit racial division, rampant censorship, mob rule, shady unelected government authorities, abject veneration of monopolist corporations, and increasingly, outright thought-control. Though this moral hypocrisy resembles the old GOP’s juxtaposition of Religious Righteousness and corporate greed and the inevitable evangelical sex scandals, there are many new, scarier elements in the new Democratic Party that were mostly lacking from the old GOP—technological, economic, and ideological superpowers that the latter party never enjoyed. 

This new Democratic Party seems eager to validate every libertarian fear of a wild overreach of government-administrative power, seeking increasingly severe forms of expert domination in day-to-day life while fusing itself with the most depraved and invasive new aspects of AI and information technology, from panopticon-level surveillance to Chinese-style social-credit scores to pseudoscientific implicit-bias theories and trainings. 

Meanwhile, the idea of pacifism, of “stopping the war machine”, of wariness of the “military-industrial complex”—the grist for many an antiwar protest not so long ago—has become simply yet another something to memory-hole. Apparently it was all for votes, this idea of peace! 

It is one thing to notice, as Chomsky did decades ago, that if anything Democratic administrations were historically somewhat more hawkish than Republican; what really stuns about the current situation is the way that, in the dash to discredit and unseat Donald Trump by any means, the antiwar left has largely dissolved itself, or allied itself with agents of very “war machine” that it supposedly was sworn to fight, or even in some cases switched effortlessly into ideation of limitless violence and murder.

The moment it appeared that Trump might largely avoid starting or inflaming new wars (or might even broker new diplomatic relations), huge swathes of the “anti war” leftist establishment suddenly and softly vanished from sight, only to reappear on the side of the national intelligence bureaucrats and military planners. Scores of former hippie peaceniks on the “left” now readily rage at our nation’s failure to saber-rattle with Russia and North Korea and Iran, or to continue on with the pointless Afghanistan adventure.

Of course the capture of government by big business is pursued on both sides of the aisle and has been for as long as there’s been a “two-party system”. But one must still appreciate Bernie Sanders’ daring back in 2016 in using the word “oligarchy” to describe the present US system, for this word perfectly names our new national reality. (For this unfortunate tendency of occasionally calling things by their right names, Bernie was twice thrown under the bus by the New Democratic Party; the second time, after Sanders’ obliteration, all the other candidates as if on cue dropped out of the race to support the insider favorite Biden. More eerie lockstep, more bad faith.)

But the Democrats are now ahead of the GOP in this game of wooing (and submitting to) Oligarchic Capital too: they have lined up with the largest and most prestigious concentrations of capital and the most life controlling industries in the country if not the world. In a further surprise twist, Corporate America, with its eager kowtowing to the “woke” creed of terror and racial determinism, has shown itself to have been quite happily compatible with the Left (or what passes for it now). 

This new affinity between corporatist and activist, between establishment and (self-claimed) rebel, has resulted in a terrifying concentration of power, in editorial groupthink and vertically and horizontally integrated power at multiple levels of society. “Tech” workers now routinely tip the scales in favor of Democratic initiatives and underwrite “woke” mandates with lockstep precision that would have been the envy of the GOP of 30 years ago. Workers in the big tech companies give to the Democrats by something like 10 to 1. In the academy it’s probably similarly skewed. The supposedly objective, professional journalistic class, tasked with maintaining the “free press” and the “informing of the public”, has now been almost fully subsumed into what Glenn Greenwald has characterized as “the media’s rank-closing attempt, in a deeply unholy union with Silicon Valley and the ‘intelligence community’ “. We need not waste time even wondering about Hollywood or the creators of popular culture. 

As long as we are talking about shameless aggregations of corporate and cultural power, let’s not forget big finance, since this shows even more clearly the New Democratic Party’s total abandonment of the supposed basic principles of the supposed-left. Trump offers depressingly little better in this regard, in the sense that he is himself an oligarch and, predictably, hired more “vampire-squid” from Wall Street (though Obama did no different, and Clinton surely would have done the same). Wilbur Ross, Trump’s Commerce Secretary, is another billionaire-oligarch. Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s Treasury pick, is a man who made millions forcing people out of their houses (with Kamala Harris’ help, interestingly) during the Financial Crisis and his face is the special kind that makes you want to punch it on sight.

And yet, for all this, it is still the New Democrats who are outraising Trump on Wall Street. The vampire-squid school must smell even more billions to be had on the “left” than on the “right”.

Given all the above, it is not completely out of order to even wonder whether the fulminant ball of high-minded, high-handed activism that now surrounds the New Democratic party should even properly be called “leftist”. More doctrinaire Marxists, such as the writers at World Socialist Website, consider the new Democratic Party’s obsessive focus on identity-politics as well as “its complete subordination to corporate America and to the demands of the military-intelligence apparatus” to be fundamentally reactionary rather than revolutionary in nature—more “reactivism” than activism. WSWS has even gone so far as to characterize the Biden-Harris ticket as essentially no less far-right than Trump:

“The Democratic Party is a party of Wall Street and the military-intelligence apparatus. The politics of race and gender identity, which it relentlessly promotes, gives expression to the interests of layers of the upper-middle class, which employ this right-wing ideology in their fight for positions of power and privilege in the state, academia and corporate boardrooms.”


Others on the left even have suggested, on the basis of the enormous formations of elite power and capital supporting the New Democratic Party, that the Party and its paramilitary satellites (Antifa and BLM) are fundamentally fascist, not socialist or Marxist:

“It will be difficult for those remaining on the left to understand that the Antifa foot soldiers are agents of capital, and not of labor. This is largely because of the gradual takeover of the left by new-left identity politics which crept slowly, and then rapidly, with May of 1968 and the Situationist moment being a key signifier.”


Another leftist writer, on Counterpunch, while berating Trump, has no illusions about the leftist bona-fides of a hypothetical Biden Administration:

“…it is an absolute guarantee that Joe Biden as President is going to suck ten times worse than the outer bounds of current imagination. The #Resistance heroes of late will return to being the lying, murdering, war mongers and domestic spies they are”


* * *

Trump, for all his tendency to put his foot in it or make enemies perhaps unnecessarily, has turned out to have uncanny instincts when dealing with this venomous new pseudo-left. His claim that Obama officials had been “tapping his wires”, for example, was mocked at the time but turned out to be essentially true: an extension of the massive system of warrantless spying that had already taken root throughout the most powerful institutions of the USA, since the passage PATRIOT Act—a measure both parties supported and had been putting together for some time prior to 9/11. Trump’s claims that the Russiagate scandal was a “hoax” also turned out to be mostly correct; it is now known that the original idea of tarring Trump with Russian collusion accusations was probably engineered by Hillary Clinton’s campaign—yet another instance of the staggering bad faith of the New Democratic Party.

Trump speaks continually of “draining the swamp”—meaning paring back or bringing to heel the vast body of unelected, un-fireable, and hence unaccountable government administrators throughout the myriad federal agencies. Looking back over the past four years, it is possible to see some basis for Trump’s preoccupation. We have watched as entire government agencies vested with enormous powers and little or no accountability—too much job security—continue to expand their powers, at some times pursuing overwhelmingly ill-predicated investigations (including Russiagate), while at other times suppressing or minimizing evidence that threatens key Democratic figures (such as Hunter Biden’s now-infamous laptop, quietly kept in FBI custody as the “Ukrainegate” accusations raged).

We also increasingly see that the oligarchic-administrative pseudo-left, having captured and apparently transformed the Democratic Party, has moved on to canceling and straight-up censorship reminiscent of totalitarian societies (and likely in some ways modeled on or even employing them). Witness the string of old liberals or even leftists who thought they were “with the program”, but turned out not to be extreme enough in their denunciations, or who dared voice an unorthodox thought: Taibbi, Bari Weiss, Andrew Sullivan, and now Glenn Greenwald.

The truth is, totalitarianism is fast coming to be seen as inevitable, if not cool. There is a tremendous hunger among most dominant power-structures to make it seem normal and legitimate, even progressive—up to and including the calibrated devaluation of basic freedoms like speech, association, and assembly. Whether intentionally or not, the advance of Covid lockdown and other “distancing” measures seems to have blended seamlessly with this general drive. At the same time, striking numbers among the younger generation now place values of woke coercion, such as “inclusiveness“, above values of intellectual freedom and free speech. Self-censorship, even over what a decade ago would be considered straightforward fact, is skyrocketing.

It is not clear how to reverse these trends. But for the time being, Trump is a wrench in these works, rather than an enabler. Despite the shrillest denunciations from various acolytes of the New Democratic Party, Trump has generally opposed attempts to shut down speech, to impose arbitrary restrictions on individual choice and behavior. I was for example pleasantly surprised, with the arrival of Covid, by Trump’s refusal to assume massive emergency powers, which might have allowed to rule as a tyrant. Instead, he mostly eschewed such power-grabbing, insisting that the states should develop their own local plans for dealing with the virus, for which the Federal Government would assume a supportive, not dominating role. 

The result has been the kind of patchwork, sometimes improvisational approach which gives conniptions to those who dream of massive, unitary power-structures that sacrifice freedom and local diversity on the altar of a dubious efficiency. But per-capita Covid deaths in the US have remained quite similar to European nations that have endorsed far more draconian approaches.

Further evidence of Trump’s surprising aversion to totalitarian measures could be seen in his response to the nationwide riots triggered by the death of George Floyd. While many on the left have tried to paint Trump’s response as downright Hitlerian, in fact it was anything but, with only a handful of federal troops deployed to prevent rioters from destroying such areas as federal courts, critical monuments (all too few, alas) and the national capital itself. 

Trump’s straightforward rejection of the poisonous sophistry and groupthink of “critical race theory”, particularly in federal employment training, is frankly a ray of hope against a backdrop of increasingly abject intellectual conformity and error throughout the nation’s academic and professional classes. Drawing its justification from utterly fraudulent interpretations of inter-racial crime rates and their trends over time, critical race theory has become a blank-check for limitless resentment, mental submission, censorship, brutality and hatred of both self and other. Carving all society into designated masses of “victims” and “oppressors”, this pseudo-intellectual virus certainly could be called “reactionary” in that has has summoned forces almost exactly opposite to those it claims to support: “victims” become a new privileged class, capable of no wrong, while those accused by mere geneaology of belonging to the “oppressor” group are subjected to mass psychological hazing and forced to submit to the new dispensation.

The end goal of this “theory” seems to be the creation and perpetuation of a massive new administrative class of completely mendacious and parasitical thought-censors, as seen in the countless “offices of equity” and “diversity” coordinator positions that have sprung up like mushrooms throughout the universities, corporations, and government. Whereas Biden (and his likely unelected master/successor, Sen. Harris) would reinstate these “trainings” and then some, Trump’s position against this, alone, probably makes his reelection preferable.

More recently, consider the censoring and resignation of Glenn Greenwald—the left-leaning journalist who was crucial in breaking the Snowden revelations of NSA warrantless spying in our midst—from the very news agency he founded, for daring to write anything critical about Joe Biden in the lead-up to the election. 

There seems to be a kind of omerta now at work in the legacy media, and on social media, which declares: you shall not report bad things about Biden, or about the New Democrats. This is the very definition of a partisan media; the situation is by now every bit as bad as Fox News, the favorite bugbear of progressives, and it possibly much worse at this point.

Finally, as if to put an exclamation point over the miasma of corruption, collusion and censorship that surrounds the New Democratic Party, we have just had a front-row seat to twin horrors: first, the New York Post’s release of damning information about Hunter Biden’s often-sordid overseas exploits while selling the influence of his father while the latter was Vice-President—very probably with the latter’s knowledge and involvement—and second, possibly even more disturbing, the remarkably unified media suppression of the story, which ranged from Twitter and Facebook inexplicably locking the Post’s accounts to mainstream outlets largely refusing to mention the story or falsely claiming it was—wait for it—Russian disinformation. (The Biden campaign, incredibly, still has yet to formally repudiate any of the information reported by the Post, as if it were somehow beneath them to do so.)

This scandal—both geopolitical and journalistic—has not only revealed the transformation of the vast majority of American mainstream journalists into de facto operatives of the New Democratic Party, but has revealed the Bidens as potentially seriously compromised to a hostile totalitarian power, China. Once again, the same pattern shows itself: the New Democrats end up guilty of the very things they most angrily accuse Trump and the GOP of—but more so. 

* * *

Putting it all together, and one sees that a monster is being summoned into being—apparently from many corners of society, both elite and workaday, at once. Whether one calls it “reactionary” or “leftist” or “rightist” or “antifascist” is strangely beside the point, as many of these old categories are blurring into irrelevance. 

And most surprisingly of anything that has happened in the past four years, it now appears likely that Trump is not identical with this Monster, but in fact the single greatest impediment to its summoning.

Whether or not the New Democratic Party is truly “leftist” or not is in some sense moot, for there is no mistaking that it is in some sense progressive. But the deepest nature of progressivism, we are unfortunately seeing, is that it cannot stop: if it even slows down, it soon ceases to exist. Its whole essence and identity is bound up with continual, indeed compulsive change, which moreover must be praised as the highest good. Trump himself is “old-guard progressive” in many ways, with his embrace of technology and economic expansion; but it is a slower-moving progressivism, one that may still be reasoned with or paused.

We are seeing now what happens when Progress itself, in the sense of the steady and palpable improvement of life, becomes uncoupled from progressivism as an attitude: the need for progress, finding itself frustrated in the material realm, turns more and more fanatically into the ideological. The result is speech control, microaggressions, the management of all parts of life, the “deplatforming” of any ideas or people deemed “offensive”, the “canceling” of people whose work leads to conclusions even the slightest bit at variance with those of the advocates of Progress. Eventually, if unchecked, the Monster will demand complete control over speech and even thought itself. 

There is no apparent limit to the extent of this censorious power, this progressive-Socratic need to, as Nietzsche once put it, “correct existence”. This fundamentally revengeful and increasingly demented urge now extends not just to the domination of culture, nor to the management of what stories of potentially vital importance actually get aired, nor even to the criminalization of words. The Monster must grow and control more and more, or it dies. And so it presses its control out to the absolute extremes of both corporeal and intellectual reality: to our own bodies and to the very conception of truth.

Under the recent woke-New Democratic iteration of progressivism, we now see ideas that were described by Orwell as ways of destroying peoples’ minds and thus securing their total and hapless loyalty to the political machine, recast as symbols of virtue: simple statements of mathematical truth like “2+2=4” are now beginning to face critique from woke educators for being confining and (surprise) “racist”, while falsehoods like “2+2=5” are increasingly proposed as equally valid, daring and challenging opportunities to fight oppression and widen one’s cultural horizons. Physical and chemical mutilation of children under the name “transgenderism”, or insistence that male-bodied individuals are “actually” female in every sense that a born genetic female is, are other examples, and likely only the spearhead for a massive expansion of wholesale modification and manipulation of humanity and nature. Even the already-unquestionable concept of “gay marriage” in some sense represents an Orwellian assault on common sense and reason, in that “marriage” owes its whole existence to the societal need to raise and provide stable environments for children, to clarify paternity, and to cement cooperation between the opposite sexes, whereas “gay marriage” essentially serves none of these functions, and may undermine them.

We therefore have a choice: keep Trump in, and the Monster will continue to struggle and perhaps dissipate; or, replace him with Joe Biden, an enfeebled puppet of the pseudo-left progressive impulse, who will undoubtedly fill the Monster with new energy and assurance.

* * *

On the environment, we can be blunt: Trump is not very good. He loves fracking for example, which is as dirty, noisy, disgusting and land-destroying a process as you could hope to imagine. One cannot hold out much hope for a people whose idea of “brilliant innovation” is to turn huge tracts of their landscape into chemically tainted heavy-industrial sites for the sake of a temporary boom in an already rather dirty and decidedly finite energy source. Yet when one looks at the alternatives to fracking, they appear to be mostly illusory, and hardly less destructive of nature. Wind and solar are propped up by huge amounts of subsidies and—as Michael Moore was censored for observing in his recent work “Planet of the Humans”—they are quite horrid for the environment as well, requiring huge inputs of energy, rare metals, and chemicals while disrupting and uglifying equally huge stretches of nature for what is essentially another form of rapacious energy-extractive industry. 

Massive, imperiously centralized enterprises like the Democrats’ Green New Deal are in practice likely to have little to do with saving the environment or wilderness—for which the best expedient is simply to leave them alone, a very low-tech anti-managerial strategy—and everything to do with expanding human meddling and control not only of the natural world, but of other humans. In a time of diminishing physical resources such enterprises, much like efforts to achieve “green growth”, will be at best quixotic and at worst disastrous.

Trump’s pooh-poohing of man-made global warming as a major issue is concerning, but understandable given the fundamental weakness of the alternatives in sustaining a society of today’s size and complexity. Global warming, although likely overstated for the sake of accruing power to elite “experts”, is probably happening, and is likely to continue ratcheting up the general stress-level of a world that, as of 2020, is already OD’ing on stress. But this is actually an argument against massive build-out projects like the Green New Deal, and an argument for increased localism in decision-making with simpler, lower-tech solutions. Paradoxically, with his (relative) aversion to centralized administrative power-structures, Trump is likely to place the country in a more robust position for the Long Emergency that faces us than the New Democrats, with their baroque technocratic designs.

The environmental problems of industrial humanity, one must conclude, will not be solved by more human activity, whether capitalist or statist, fossil-fetishistic or faux-green.

* * *

At the end of the day, for all Trump’s unpleasantness and hyperbole, and for all the terrifying things said about him, after years of the most arduous hunt for damning criminal evidence against him, he appears not to have substantively broken any laws or to have sold out his country (in the manner of, say, the Biden family international influence-peddling schemes). 

But there is something more about this: in an age where more and more of life is being controlled by completely impersonal corporate forces; where (especially with Covid) the most basic of interactions is becoming fair game to be catalogued, monitored, “distanced”, and ultimately quashed by automated replacements; where more and more of humanity seems enslaved to a “social network” in which one may live entire days face to face with nothing but a computer screen—despite all this, Trump remains unmistakably human. A disagreeable human, sure. But there is still a character, an individuality there, a quite distinctive even eccentric one in fact—something that cares about actual things and people and responds in a more or less human (if sometimes childish) way to the limitless absurdities our era constantly throws at us. 

Here Nietzsche may have something to say as well, because he reminds us that the most pleasant and soothing characters are not always the best for life or health: they can just as well be deadly narcotics, indulgences which destroy our willingness to strive and to learn and to face the world. With the help of “social distancing”, the anathemization of all disagreement, and the sacralization of offense, we are undoubtedly already headed in this direction as a civilization. Biden, with his faltering speech, his soporific manner, and platitudes about “coming together” disguising massive administrative power-grabs, clearly fixes to press further in this direction.

Trump stands in the way of all this anonymizing, atomizing, narcotic tendency in some curious, hard-to-define way. He is a jolt of rude realities that demands, at least, attention and a lucid response. Yet for all his admiration of technology and modernity (in the older sense), he is uninterested in declaring war on the past or on history itself: he rejects the pseudo-left’s program of systemic forgetting, embodied in statue destruction all over the country. This together is enough to make him an obstacle to an idea of Progress that has long since become False Progress. Trump repels it, and all its absurd impersonal complexity, and that is why it finds him repulsive: so repulsive, indeed, that it now happily throws away whatever “liberal” or “progressive” or “pacifist” or even truly “leftist” pretenses it once espoused in order to destroy him by any means. 

Meanwhile, if Trump stands defiantly in the way of some technocratic impersonal monstrosity, the Biden campaign has been run like a mummy exhibit at the Smithsonian. The candidate is wheeled out at strategic times, like when the season is right or the sun is the right angle. “Lids” are called—no questions or campaigning, not even for the tiny number of tame journalists who travel with the candidate—as often as one-third of the days. Leaving aside his refusal to seriously address the Post’s revelations, never have I witnessed a candidate who during the campaign has done so incredibly little to merit the victory, let alone to show himself equal to the office, as Joe Biden. It is like Hillary Clinton’s run from 2016 only worse—even less charisma, even less dynamism, even less honesty, and above all even more of the attitude that “it’s my turn”. 

So to repeat, the impossible has been achieved, the miracle has happened: the Democrats and the liberals and the progressives have managed to make themselves look even more repulsive and more monstrous than Donald Trump—by a comfortable margin. It took years of careful planning and ideological self-purification (or putrefaction?), but the thing has happened, and it means anything is possible now. Perhaps next we will see lead bullets turning to gold in mid-flight and butterscotch ice-cream raining from the sky?

I therefore encourage any who read this to avoid supporting the Democratic Party in tomorrow’s election in any way, shape or form. If the Republicans and Trump still turn your stomach too much, consider choosing a third-party candidate, remembering that anything is possible.

Call me “deplorable” if you like. Given that we live in an era when all sorts of basic words and phrases have already become wildly dissociated from their literal meanings (for example, “all lives matter”), I will all the more easily bear that title with calm and dignity. 

Paradise Journal: A Man’s Life

“At this point, I have basically no chance of living a man’s life.”

“Leave out my cereal and newspaper; I’ll get to them after finishing in the garden.”

“The garden is my space. I feel like it loves me as I love it. In lots of little ways.”

“There is always a possibility one might reemerge from the folds of what one has become. That is rebirth. We should always hope for it, but I don’t know if I can say that I have ever seen it.”

“I am an emigre of sorts–life’s emigre–an emigre from life.”

“There nothing other than this. Nothing but to keep your mind busy. Fourteen. Doubles.”

“Keep your mind upon this space. Never give in to wish-I-would or what-elseness.”

“The day is a beauty. Night is beauty in relapse.”

“I wish I had gotten more doses. There won’t be enough for the weekend.”

“Never forget that God made you, loves you and wants for you to be happy.”

“It works for me. It has always worked for me. Really, I have nothing for cause to complain.”

“4 a.m., and still the cat–the cat. I put him out but he finds his way back in somehow. Or wails outside.”

“From here, these sands seem to go on forever—but really it is less than half a mile to the sea.”

“Romas, heirlooms, cherry, glorys, kumato. Plus some other kinds I found and put in. It’ll be a surprise.”

“There really are some chances here of stepping this coding up to another level. Making it adaptive. Real learning. Then you wouldn’t need human tweaking, human involvement at all.”

“Whenever I try to get closer, you withdraw.”

“I want to know who you are, for who you really are. Why is that such a crime?”

“Let’s begin with the lighter one. This is older. It will fetch a better price, I think.”

“I have always had the greatest respect for experts on tapestries. So much to learn.”

“I keep trying to become visible, but it seems like they won’t let me. I have to wonder if it’s a sign of an internal flaw–or a subtle oppression.”

“I suppose it’s fine if we all become the same. At least, I see no harm on it.”

“I keep getting lots of responses, but it’s usually only when I post about food.”

“Artisanal chocolates, Moroccan raisins, kefir-infused tapenade.”


“I suppose I sought my revenge on you by trying to have you near me. By being so exclusionary.”

“Endive, parsnip, kale–you’d be surprised how much they bring up the flavor in soup, but also as a smoothie!”

“Everything is words, words, words. I wish they could just make everything simpler. So you couldn’t mess up even if you tried.”

“It’s a libertarian suggestion–so I think that means it comes from England.”

“Knit one, perl two—isn’t that how it goes? Oh, look, now it’s tangled. I’ll never get this down.”


“It felt like evil. But of course I don’t believe in evil. Unless you mean, like, exclusion.”


“I love all our brothers and sisters in the Rainbow as much as the next person.”

“In this place they make your sushi from behind a huge slab of glass, which is bulletproof. You can watch the robot arms working on your order. It’s all the rage. They say it’s better by taste test than any human chef.”

“I’d love to see robots make French cuisine next. Of course, they sterilize everything constantly. It’s very, very hygienic.”


“The Jews, the Jews! Always it’s the Jews! Who are they? What do they want? Where are they going?–And, if they are going somewhere–should we go with them?”

“Do we really have a choice in the matter?”

“Third? No, this is the fourth injection, I think. It’s gone well for me, almost no complications.”

“In a time of contagion, we no longer have the luxury of assuming the health of the individual is his own business. The health of one is the health of the whole.”

“Your son is responding beautifully. Soon he’ll make a magnificent coelacanth, or even a megalodon, if he puts in the effort. And if he wants, he someday even might become pregnant with more.”

“It’s literally racist to give birth only to the same species as you.”

“Birth should be for everyone–at least until we can replace it with something better, which we will.”


“Soon they say everyone will begin to transform, and then it will be clearer what we were aiming at all along.”

“Yes, I remember about love sometimes. But then I blink, blink. Then my eyes separate, contract into slits, nictate–and presto, I am back in the beautiful present moment.”


“Oh, I don’t use the word ‘daughter’. That implies possession, you know. We both know it’s best to avoid attachments anyway. We respect each other more for that. And in a spiritual way, I suppose I’m as much her daughter as she is mine.”

“I like to think my love for you is matched by my love for every human being on the planet. And I happen to have room in my heart for both of those. Don’t make me choose.”

“To be honest, I try to avoid any kind of attention to so-called outcomes. What matters is how much you’re discovering about yourself.”


“I always liked the idea that because there’s really nothing when you die, it’s all the more reason not to worry about death. Even, in a way, to embrace it.”


“The body is just a flowerpot–a cavity for sprouting important new forms and entities. And the mind is the same way. That is why we have to have full access to them both.”

“No, no, I never said I wasn’t a carrier of injustice. Because I know we have to atone. I am completely on board with that.”

“I know that struggle is necessary, and healthy. I know it’s a part of growth. I just wish sometimes that it wasn’t always so personal.”

“You can order all the ingredients online. You prepare it in a single, specially designed pot. There’s really no reason to even leave your home.”

“Please remain in your homes and await further instructions. There is no reason for concern.”

“I guess I admit that even I have had my doubts. That’s why it’s so good to report these things. It really takes a load off. You’ll see.”


“Now and then I keep falling into the old ways. Like yesterday I said ‘him’.”

“We are Angel. We name is Angel. We come [garbled] you to punish, punish, punish.” 

“Punish the past, right a wrong. That’s the rhythm we want—the justice-rhythm. Our war is just begun.”

“These parts used to be part of me. They were ‘mine’. Now they aren’t mine–they just float around until they become part of the sky, part of the air, part of the Everyone.” 

“I tell you, I never felt so liberated.”


“I used to have a name–I think. But what a good thing I can’t remember it! It’s really a load off my mind, and it keeps me from thinking I’m too special.”

“I’m tired all the time now. There’s nothing happier than sitting. That’s my profession, now: I sit.”


“They say it’s like an apartment complex where we’ll bond and create additional community resources. So I wouldn’t worry about going.”


“He comes around every few days. Like a big shadow that comes and bangs on the doors to our rooms. Sometimes he stops at one, as if he’s smelling it out, savoring. Then he moves on.”

“After the sessions, it always smells like sulfur, ozone and dead cats.”

“Remember that other one who came in a while ago, the nymphomaniac with the green skin, azure hair, enlarged anime eyes, gills on the wrists? Well, they say she was vacated last week.”

“I wonder who they’ll take next? As long as they let me keep my implants, honey, I’m game for anything.”


“There is a little corner of my room that, in the mornings, gets a small shaft of sunlight for a few minutes. I like to put my hand in it, feel the warmth. That light is so strange. I decided not to tell anyone about it, since it makes me feel guilty and I don’t want it to seem like I’m hoarding or get in trouble.”


“I saw back behind the wall for a few seconds before they wheeled me to the other session. I saw that they were eating people. Still alive. Some still moving as they were eaten. You’ve never seen such smiling in all your life.”

“It was like those contests where they used to eat watermelon. Everything about it was so—joyous. Such belonging. Real communion.”

“Body parts are a necessary ingredient for the New Man. You can’t seriously expect to create the New Man if he doesn’t have a body, can you?”

“I sometimes get the weird feeling I should pray—but what for? And what to? I have no idea—maybe once I knew.”

“Maybe I’ll just pray to the lunch-cart, since it brings good things. Don’t tell anyone.”

“They have me lined up for another session this Tuesday.”

“I can’t remember ever being happier.”

Paradise Journal: Gums, Germs, Guns

First dental visit since January. On arriving I learn M., my usual hygenist, left for a different dentist’s office. Fed up with the endless sprawling nowhere of Denver, like me. Still I feel an unexpected stab of sadness. Like I had for my old bartender, another semi-acquaintance I seemed to at least superficially click with, instead vanished never to be seen again.

Nothing connects, nothing stays: the first rule of progressive paradises. Unless you’re a billionaire.

M. was a pistol, brilliant blonde petite and half-crazy, executing funny accents, puns and absorbing anecdotes all as she lasered your gums with deadly precision. The two girls who replace her are like a 30-minute refresher on why so many males today simply avoid women altogether. Nonstop robot chatter about their favorite types of snack chips. There is a silvery, metallic cheer in their voices, as of something synthesized, something over-saturated, a transistor cranked to its upper range. It’s almost hard to tell where the voices end and the sound of the dental instruments begin. That same high-frequency chattering of metal on bone, on flesh, on saliva. On nerve.

But who cares. M had already got a boyfriend last I talked to her. In truth I couldn’t even remember her name until they told me she was no longer there. Was preparing for an awkward moment seeing her. Hey hey, if it isn’t… you, yourself, that person that you alone undoubtedly are.

Dropped by Mesquite’s the following evening. Good to get clear of the city. Lively in a way i haven’t seen in a town for months if not years. Lots of folks, well-behaved, good feelings. Too many tattoos but the signs of opioid addiction are mostly well-hid if not rare. Ah yes, rural whites, a despised and perhaps endangered species. Fascinating to observe. Why it is almost as if some of them recognize one another and have formed–what would you call it–a sense of place. Many seem worse for wear, but robotic at least would not be the word for them. 

I sit, sip and watch the pool games. Find myself thinking of the game as not really a game but a mystical tool, an exploration of the universe of all possible configurations of colored balls. Each configuration represents galaxies, trajectories, alternative universes. Cosmic augury, awesome technology, seeing, scrying. Like up in the mothership 10,000 year old aliens on the bridge compute their course by playing this exact game. Imagine that.

Keep trying to remember the name of that movie: 1960, Paul Newman, pretentious bebop score. They break his thumbs at one point. Nothing whatsoever to do with aliens or divination. Jackie Gleason as the master shark he finally defeats. The Hustler, maybe.

Take a wrong turn on the way back and end up 7 miles away from home. Circlejerk drive. Absolutely no routes west. How can even a city this size still be so easy to get lost in. (Later I realize I was within four blocks of home when I turned around.)

At the shooting range the next day some guys are talking about the ammo deficit. Prices are up, many types clean out of stock. Many are shifting to .22LR since it is more compact and cheaper. one says it is all about lack of raw materials. The factories are all ready to go but the metal isn’t there. Says the metal is being held back on purpose. It will be all over in a few months, once the election is decided, he thinks: like magic all the covid shortages will go away. I say maybe for a while but if the current crop of progressives win within a year you’ll see ammo get hard to find again–for good. I say something about how the fundamental trend is to deprive people of all serious adult responsibility (such as firearm ownership) and hand all control to tiny groups of experts. He nods gravely.

On the way home I head to Walmart to pick up more ammo before it’s all gone. Walmart has become the all-seeing eye. The form of future dystopia, today. A Terminator-style futuristic refugee camp and supply depot disguised as carefree consumerism and happy motoring. Of course there are cameras all over the parking lot. Of course the shopping carts are digitally tagged so that the wheels lock up if you move them too far into the parking lot. All that’s still missing is a nice drone to follow you down the aisles and video your every movement. But the signs everywhere and speakers monotonically bleating about new measures to “keep you SAFE” are something new. 

They make you feel less safe, not more. All this for a virus that seems when all is said and done to be maybe 50% more lethal than common flu. 

The complete uselessness and disingenuousness of scientific alarm. Of expert warnings. We thought it was 3% lethal; it turned out to be more like 0.3%. We thought it might come back and reinfect, or never go away. Last I saw two confirmed reinfections so far in the entire world (Nevada and Hong Kong), out of tens of millions of cases. The prospect of death by Covid has largely evaporated. But the social control it enabled might never go away, even years after the last case of Covid is catalogued on earth.

Outside the walmart masses of people line up and mill, sway, go in little circles, unknowing refugees, awaiting permission from the security forces to enter the supply depot–excuse me, roll-back bargain heaven. Their eyes are completely without familiarity or life of their own. Half are staring into screens. We did not have to be paid to digitally tag ourselves, which at least would have had a certain dignity: no, they made us pay them. But they will eventually make us all do it anyway, pay or not. More tattoos everywhere. Seriously—when did this country become the below-decks of a fucking pirate ship. 

Sure enough once in the walmart I see the 6.5 Creedmoor is starting to run low too. The clerk asks as if on the sly how I like that round. I say it’s great, has a serious but manageable kick. You feel like something has decisively happened. Very accurate, easy to get groups an inch or two across at 100 yards with a half-decent scope. He nods, says he’s thinking of buying one; that or 270. both good choices, i say.

I mention what the other guy at the range said–shortages of metals. strange times, i say. He makes a tiny nod. Can’t say much of course: the all seeing eye sees all.

The guy’s tall, blond, bearded, serious in expression, with a very slight wide-eyed look, as if he’s hunted or senses on some level that he’s going to be soon. I realize i like him. Feel like we are part of some general understanding together–both seeing the writing on the wall, both sensing something coming beyond our control, something running out of control, something that hates both of us. So come and get your guns, guns, guns, boys—come and get your guns.

Then I am outside again. All wear the mask, at all times, even outdoors, as they wait. Faceless, face in screens, face in colored face-underwear, docile, quiet, expressionless, or else making those same shiny, giggly metal sounds as i heard from the dentist ladies. Marked for demolition. No two people from the same place, no two people truly at home together, in a place designed to be as un-homelike as physically imaginable. Undifferentiated human matter: the the trick-prize goal (or gaol) at the end of “diversity”.

I think again: this is a monstrosity. Something is badly wrong, everywhere at once. It has only a limited amount to do with Trump, despite how fashionable it has become to put it all on him. Really, it has been building for over a century. Taylorism, bureaucracy. Voltaire’s bastards. Communism, financialization, fractional reserve, wokeness, antisocial media, postmodernism—all seemingly different yet all together, all part of some great witches’ brew, a Thing from the Void. A centralized, faceless, gutless, mindless modern nightmare. A golem conjured out of lies, silicon, plastic, data, heavy crude. Enlightenment unmasking as Endarkenment. 

“The Great Enframing”, I want to call it–the Empire of Gestell. Many names, one Void. Heidegger was a Nazi and I am convinced wrote gibberish more than half the time while laughing into his sleeve but he also somehow knew deep things about where all this was going. Savor this disturbing paradox but don’t linger on it too long. The world today is full of thoughts that might wreck your brain or wreck your chances at living in “society”. And the two—brain and society—are increasingly one. Just ask Neuralink.

Those who even have a clue as to the nature of this monstrosity are few and far between. Surely this is part of the entire design. You have conservatives who are really liberals who are really leftists, all the way down to the darkest mirrored funhouse pit of cosmic misunderstanding. 

Perfection for the rulers. Hell for the rest. 

All around the nation is readying to tear itself to shreds. Election, they murmur, election. The need for a “divorce”, the need for a coup—shadowy forces gathering, pre-gaming it out. It’s “transition integrity“, they proclaim—snake-tongued Voltairean Bastards who-doth-protest-too-much.

But this mayhem’s ultimate name is neither Trump, nor Biden. Not even Left or Right. And here’s the thing: for all the time it took putting together the Great Enframing, we are just seeing it warming up. I think it was in Star Trek that they had advanced aliens that created artificial black holes as a super-dense power source (or maybe that was Interstellar—). Well here we are on the event-horizon of the farcical triumph of the modern West: generating a black hole that swallows its own creator. To paraphrase Marx, history always repeats itself: first as sci-fi, then as farce.


Headed to Audreys, the bistro down the street. Pretentious, but still the closest bar. First time out in 3 months since the lockdowns.

On the way I stop in my tracks. A rustling above, a wisp of a tail disappearing behind some leaves. I stare up, light up the keychain flashlight and see two cyan eyes in a mask-like pool of black, staring down at me. Raccoon. Curious, otherworldly, frozen amid the dark of the branches. We stand there, each wondering what the other means. Then I reach for my phone. Must get photos.

This is what you’re always supposed to do when you see anything even slightly unusual: reach for the smartphone. Catalogue all non-habitual reality. Be ready to document all anomalies. Help us help you to be safe. Locus of control, locus of absolution. Reach. For. The. Smartphone.

I get two decent shots, then stare at the phone in disgust and think: all moderns should be rotisseried. Served with au jus, hollandaise. Watch and see if it doesn’t start happening soon, with everything else going on. The new progressive cause: some will eat, and others beg to be eaten. Sadomasochism seemed edgy once but really it was just a warm-up run.

Why not? It already happened in Germany. Such an advanced country–

I pocket the phone again, leave the raccoon to his darkness high in the air, envying it, and go on. At the patio of Audreys I pass a small, skinny, debauched looking girl (but they all look that way now). I overhear her, perched over the table, hands flying, telling someone in a breathless, childlike voice:

“—see, I’m really having so many of these adult things going on in my life now that I’m twenty-two, I’m really such a different person now, I have all of these really big decisions ahead that could affect my entire life and…” It sounds like ticker-tape, a script mindlessly recited, or a Cranberries song sped up and recited as epic poetry.

One does not attain adulthood any more. One simply talks about attaining it for the entire age of the universe.

Youth smothers maturity in its crib [note to self: another inversion]. Stars form without light. The Beast draws near.

Once inside, I find my old bartender, L., does not work there anymore. Instead, a snarky woke-looking Asian girl tasks me for not putting on a mask even though I keep six feet away. No bar service anymore, I am informed. Fifteen minutes to sit down although the place is two-thirds empty.

This all should have been obvious to me. The only remaining sin: forgetting about Covid.

I realize without L. around—no familiar face, no one who knows what I like—the place devolves into what it always was: a tedious haven for degeneracy and narcissism. I say never mind and walk back home.

Later, showering, I startle at something on the top of the bathroom door frame. Another creature. A moth this time—a big one with a stout body and sharp triangles of umber and sienna all over its wings. As I watch it it slowly turns to face me, antennae waving deliberatively above the big prismatic eyes. Attuning itself.

I attune back. Mothman, I think. Harbinger of psychic disruptions. Manifestor of the unseen.

I come with a warning–there lies grave danger ahead.

Well what have you come to warn me about. America has cancer and my whole generation consists of a demented clone army. How much more can I have missed.

Moths have been everywhere this season, almost biblical. You come home each day to find a dozen new ones in every window, every lampshade. But this one is the largest and most ornate one I’ve seen.

There is a hint of metallic shine in the wings too, like old brass and bronze. Flecks of it worked into a darker gray, like ironwork. Still it looks just plain enough and just small enough that you wouldn’t necessarily ascribe it any significance. The perfect disguise.

I stand patient under the lukewarm, shimmering stream, gazing over the shower-curtain at the creature. Something in me inclines to think it is peering back, like some kind of ethereal communion with nature-spirits is underway. I think of Gandalf in The Two Towers: stranded by Sarumann he whispers to a passing moth. Aid me, O dusky one: make haste, summon the king of all eagles to my rescue.

But mostly there is just the sound of water and a sense of being in the presence of an entity so infinitely different I could never even begin to guess at what its mind is like. An alien. And I imagine with the world we have now, even if the moth did carry away some message for me it would just make a quick involuntary snack for the eagle. Lord of the Rings comic outtakes, volume five: Now tell me what the old wizard sent you for, the huge eagle jokes to his buddies, wiping a stray bit of antenna off his beak. Oops, so sorry, I hate when I do that.

The Image that Ate America

For the past two and a half months, the United States (and large portions of Europe as well) has been helplessly gripped by the specter of George Floyd and his singularly dismal end.

Corporations have fallen over themselves to hand immense sums to BLM, the race-baiting revolutionary Marxist group most closely identified with the protests. Sporting events now begin with an almost mandatory display of “kneeling”, and the NFL has declared that a new “black national anthem” will be played in parallel with the actual, official anthem of the country at the beginning of games. Postmodern “wokesters”, advocating a strange combination of brittle, hyper-individualist narcissism and quasi-Hitlerian racial identitarianism, have seized the chance to demand radical alterations to such fundamentals of the education system as entrance exams, standardized tests, and even the most basic forms of mathematical objectivity. Police and government officials have stood wanly by as mobs have looted and laid waste to entire downtowns, or cheered them on. And last but not least, there has been an immediate push in cities all across the country to dismantle essentially all institutions of law enforcement as “irredeemably racist”.

The instant deification of the home-invading multiple felon George Floyd (complete with murals of him as angel or saint—usually haloed—and a mass-televised memorial service complete with golden casket), combined with an absolute refusal to ask any probing questions about the exact events leading to his frankly peculiar death, were puzzling from the get-go. It was just as if all the answers had been prepared in advance before the question had even been asked, long before practically anyone even knew the name “George Floyd”.

As it happened, the answers had been prepared in advance. For anyone who had been paying a little attention, the entire intelligentsia of the Western world had for years been steadily sinking into a sort of totalitarian-tinged cargo-cult of collective irrealism, characterized by a pervasive and limitless fixation on grievance and victimhood, a rejection of all objective truth-claims as “oppressive”, “colonial” or “white supremacist”, and an outright sanctification of all identity categories and claims of injustice (provided, of course, that the claimants were not white). All problems in this connection were to be addressed by applying massive coercive power throughout society: a “repressive tolerance” or “cancel culture” that would ruthlessly police (ironically enough) any and all signs of divergent, hence unacceptable thought.

Long before the events of late May 2020, many writers and thinkers had catalogued these increasingly irrational and illiberal developments—particularly in the youth—with much foreboding. For example, writing less than a year before Floyd’s death, Douglas Murray observed that even as the most egregious forms of racism and sexism had greatly declined in most modern societies, the cries denouncing racial and sexual injustice of every conceivable sort had paradoxically only grown louder and shriller: “just as the train appeared to be reaching its desired destination,” said Murray, “it filled with steam again and went roaring off into the distance.”

More darkly, Murray observed that this trend of ever-accelerating grievance was far from random or adventitious, but followed a cohesive purpose if not program:

“today’s wars of ideas are not random – they are consistently being fought in a new and particular direction. And that direction has a purpose that is vast. The purpose – unwitting in some people, deliberate in others – is nothing less than to embed a new religion into our societies“.

All that was needed was an incident that would perfectly, viscerally demonstrate to the world that this “new religion” of social justice—which up till then, despite steady gains in influence, had proved frustratingly hard to corroborate with real events—was either irrefutable, or at least so powerful and so aggressive that it would be unwise to refute it. George Floyd’s death beneath the knee of Officer Derek Chauvin appeared to provide exactly that catalyst: a perfect demonstration, frozen for all to see, of pure woke victimhood confronted with blatant racist devilry.


But again, for anyone who looked into the matter, there were prima facie reasons to be skeptical about the entire story—both that Floyd was a pure victim of an equally pure murderous racism, and most importantly, that Floyd’s death had really been murder at all.

For example: how could Chauvin or anyone have been frankly stupid enough to keep his position on top of Floyd for several minutes, knowing the whole thing was being filmed, if he in fact knew this was killing Floyd and moreover intended to kill him? In short, who commits a completely gratuitous, self-destructive murder, with full knowledge they are being caught on multiple police cameras?

There was also the question of the knee-hold which Chauvin used. To a non-expert, such a hold seems at first glance absolutely unconscionable and surely deadly. Yet it soon was revealed that this technique, shocking as it appears, was actually legal in Minneapolis at the time of Floyd’s arrest, only being banned in response to the Floyd backlash. It was actually considered non-lethal if employed properly, and officers were trained in its use.

Much of the mass outrage surrounding the death also came to focus on Floyd’s pleas of being unable to breathe: “I Can’t Breathe” even became a rallying-cry of subsequent riots and marches. But a fair number of people—mostly in far corners of the Internet light-years away from officialdom or legacy media—quickly made the blunt observation that the very fact of being able to loudly say “I can’t breathe”, means that technically you can breathe, even though you may be in some sort of respiratory distress that makes breathing difficult.

Some commentators, rather than reap the whirlwind by directly questioning the narrative of Floyd’s death itself, simply sidestepped these matters and quite reasonably focused instead on parrying the much wider allegations of “systemic racism” and expansive political demands for which the death was immediately used as a spearhead. These commentators focused, therefore, on the vast amounts of public data indicating that, for instance, adjusted for rate of crimes committed, police in the USA were not measurably racist and actually seemed slightly more likely to shoot unarmed whites than blacks; that the number of unarmed blacks killed by police in the country was very low and had been declining; that black-on-black and even black-on-white crimes far outnumbered white-on-black crimes relative to the population; that huge majorities of blacks themselves wanted the same or increased policing in their neighborhoods: and so on.

Leaving this aside, the results of the official autopsy and toxicology of Floyd soon proved even more inconsistent with the mainstream narrative of a wholly gratuitous, racially-driven murder by Chauvin. These revealed several bruises—understandable given that Floyd resisted arrest and struggled with police for several minutes—but identified “no life-threatening injuries”, particularly not suffocation or even any significant damage to the airway. (A separate inquiry, commissioned by Floyd’s family, nonetheless insists suffocation was the cause of death.) The autopsy also found that Floyd also had a persistent Covid infection (he was still positive for the virus upon his death) and a severe heart condition, with “90% proximal narrowing of the right coronary artery” and 75% narrowing of the left coronary artery.

Finally, and maybe most importantly of all, the toxicology report showed that at the time of his arrest Floyd had no less than four different psychotropic drugs in his system, including morphine, methamphetamine, THC, and most notably, fentanyl—at nearly four times the level that can cause fatal cardiac arrest. Fentanyl, of course, has killed tens of thousands of Americans during the ongoing opioid crisis, but in combination with a stimulant such as methamphetamine or cocaine it seems to become particularly deadly—for example, according to CDC “57% of people who died from an overdose tested positive for fentanyl and fentanyl analogs also tested positive for cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin”.

Floyd was therefore a solid example of an “eggshell victim“—a person who appears normal and robust but actually is extremely fragile due to severe medical conditions that are not apparent. Combined with the very high level of drugs in his system, this meant that at the moment of his apprehension Floyd was already at an extremely high risk of death from conditions that, quite likely, would never have killed a remotely healthy suspect. Moreover, the police had no way of knowing most of these things in the time that they needed to act.

Another aspect that mostly escaped any serious media scrutiny was Floyd’s behavior between his arrest and his death. This was, in fairness, made harder to ascertain by Minnesota officials’ curious refusal to make the bodycam footage of the whole arrest (or even transcripts thereof) available to the public. However, bodycam footage of nearly the entire incident, finally leaked to the Daily Mail just last Monday, sheds much additional light on what took place.

From these videos, we can see for the first time that long before ending up on the ground beneath Chauvin’s knee, Floyd was acting very erratically, falling down, ignoring even the simplest instructions by the officers. He was generally incoherent and showed increasing signs of physical and psychological distress, even as officers were only lightly restraining him. He was foaming at the mouth, a fairly common symptom of fentanyl overdose, and he complained of difficulty breathing even while standing up, long before Chauvin’s knee-hold. He also powerfully resisted getting in the police car: even handcuffed, three men struggle to get him in, only for him to come back out a moment later. Far from desiring Floyd’s death, the officers called an ambulance and voiced concerns about overdose symptoms (“excited delirium”).

In light of this, Floyd’s complaints about breathing take on a very different meaning. The most common signs of deadly fentanyl overdose are a difficulty breathing or respiratory arrest, not due to physical suffocation but to suppression of the respiratory centers of the brain. Cardiac arrest is also a typical cause of death. All of these are perfectly consistent with Floyd’s complaints during the arrest, with his pre-existing heart and respiratory conditions, and with the autopsy’s stated cause of death: “cardiopulmonary arrest”.

So George Floyd died, all evidence now suggests, not of insane racist hatred by police, but of a heart attack and respiratory shutdown set off by a massive fentanyl overdose that was already in progress when the cops found him.

And so we are forced to consider, as commentator Jason Whitlock put it shortly after the leak of the bodycam footage, that before most of the facts were in Floyd’s death was rapidly seized upon and converted into a “race hoax“—possibly the largest and most destructive in American history. Assisted by BLM, Antifa, enormous sections of the elite intelligentsia and media, and justified under the auspices of woke dogmatism, the footage of Floyd’s death was selectively reported and weaponized into a national shakedown. Demands for official power and large-scale corporate fealty were accompanied by widespread efforts to destabilize, if not overthrow, the entire United States.

In fact, officer Chauvin’s knee-hold, which was the central pretext for it all, was deployed only as a last resort against a large, powerful man who had already resisted arrest, demonstrated extremely unpredictable behavior (consistent with an overdose) and who had proved extremely hard even for three grown men to restrain or subdue. As unsettling as it looks, the hold was both allowed, and almost certainly well-indicated for the circumstances. While it is possible that the knee-hold may have exacerbated Floyd’s situation, it may equally well have stabilized it by keeping him subdued. It’s highly plausible it had nothing whatsoever to do with Floyd’s death: by the time the police encountered him, he was already rapidly dying from fentanyl.

If there is still a fair jury to be had in this benighted country, Chauvin might get convicted, at most, for manslaughter, in the unlikely event it can be proven that he misapplied the knee-hold or used it for too long. But to declare it murder is now almost completely at variance with the available facts. Those who have continued speaking of the “killing” of George Floyd as a foregone conclusion should stop it right now, before they embarrass themselves right into the unemployment-lines where they probably belong.


So, to put it mildly, actual events seem not to comply with the mass-propagated narrative of Floyd’s death, and may even directly refute that narrative. None of what actually happened reveals Mr. Floyd as anything like a pure blameless victim, nor shows Mr. Chauvin as necessarily guilty of any crime, let alone as evil incarnate.

Nevertheless, there is no point in denying that the video of Floyd’s last moments, although curiously incomplete up till now, presents us with an image of simply overwhelming emotional power. The image of Floyd beneath Chauvin’s knee seems to scream of deeply-ingrained and inexhaustible oppression, injustice, cruelty, evil—so much so that nearly all who see it instantly go somewhat insane: they declare it a racially motivated murder without a second thought, immediately begin clamoring for blood atonement (typically in the form of summary execution of Chauvin), and react with spluttering indignation at any suggestion that any of this might not be quite what it seems.

It might not be going too far to describe this image as possessing actual magic. More than any clear facts about what was happening, the pitch-perfect, almost numinous resonance of this image and others like it from the Floyd arrest—like a modern-day Via Crucis—has powered an outpouring of world outrage and mass guilt so immense as to instantly propel the priests of wokeness into something close to direct political control over the entire USA.

So the country and even world is being plunged into chaos and held hostage not over the facts of the case, but over an image—an image that, though almost certainly profoundly misleading, we must grant is still preternaturally powerful. The image of Floyd and Chauvin has the unique ability to summon and capture almost every idea of oppression and unfairness embedded in the subconscious mind of any Westerners who view it, and to focus these ideas instantly into a frothing outrage so strong that it will gladly trample the very idea of rule of law or impartial justice. Quite simply, it became the image that ate America.

More specifically, it was not the image itself that did all this, but by an archetype intimately bound up with it. In this case, the archetype certainly has connections with subterranean Christian imagery of martyrdom—including, as noted, Christ’s miserable journey to the Cross—and such imagery is still active in shaping the emotional world of many Westerners often despite their professed abandonment of formal religion. But the more proximate home of this archetype is not Christianity but the civil religion of liberalism, the dominant creed of the USA and of the “modern” world in general.

This civil religion is most strongly distinguished by its insatiable fascination with, and ardent quest for, stories of oppression and missions of liberation—indeed, without either it would find itself immediately lacking any reason to exist.

Commentators have now remarked, ad nauseam but still quite credibly, that in addition to the virtual sanctification of Floyd in murals and other art, the protests occasioned by Floyd’s death and the ideology behind them revealed a profoundly, often eerily religious character—just as Murray had warned about, a “new religion” was being set in motion.

These very religious feelings and archetypes are also partly responsible for the exponential swelling of “social justice” rhetoric and the explosion of self-righteously destructive demonstrations since Floyd’s death, for “social justice” really represents little more than an intensified, factionalized continuation of the liberal quest for oppressions to fight and liberations to win.

That the alleged oppressions so often turn out to be specious, or that the “liberations” turn out to demand increasingly totalitarian measures, fails to affect the underlying script. For much as with the Faustian ethic  (a related impulse of “modern” society that demands unlimited expansion and the “romance of space” despite the increasingly obvious limitations of the Earth), we simply have nothing else to turn to–no other ideas. There being no other dream available to follow, we simply double down on the old dream, no matter what errors or disasters it leads us unto.

Just as Nietzsche said that “man will desire oblivion rather than stop desiring at all”, so it seems that man would rather follow a disastrous creed to its bitter end, than to try living with no creed at all.

By the time all this is realized, however (if it ever is), it may be too late to do anything to save the situation, since decisions will have been made and, most likely, immense amounts of power transferred precisely to those who have sown the most violence, destruction, and deception, and who have the most to gain from sowing even more—namely, the woke-priests who have learned to wield the oppression-archetype.

That George Floyd might have essentially caused his own demise by badly overdosing on a combination of highly dangerous drugs, and that the police did everything reasonably possible to ascertain the situation and even to save him without undue risk to themselves or others—this has already been made unsayable in most circles. But soon it will also become unthinkable. We will have done exactly what the all-powerful image and its hidden master, the oppresion-archetype, bid us do—to discard justice in the name of justice. The command for blind vengeance will then rule over us.

Who knows what archetypes or “Old Gods” will hold the fast-disintegrating United States of America in their thrall after that, now that so many of us have at once lapsed into the dream-state, where raw archetypes, unmitigated by reason or coherent tradition, have their way with us?

This much is clear though: Mr. Chauvin, murderer or not, will have to be offered up to these gods. Already they and the mobs that serve them sense the aroma of flesh; they draw ever closer, expectant for the burnt offering. Nothing less than this officer’s very blood and body can be accepted; even that may not be enough.

And if he were exonerated instead? To those who have already tasted the Dionysian elixir of archetypally-fueled mass-certitude, this would be the worst of all sacrileges. Chauvin’s very innocence (or inconclusive guilt), if demonstrated, will paradoxically only make him guiltier in the eyes of the believers.

We may not know these Gods and archetypes very well any more, for modernity has forsaken them and relentlessly asserted their nonexistence. But they are coming back with a vengeance, and going forward, it seems likely they will have human sacrifice on the menu. The recent incident in Beverly Hills where BLM protesters called to “Eat The Rich“, for instance, fits right in with this—though really the approach towards human sacrifice (or perhaps even cannibalism) was already in the cards once our society began steadily legitimating infanticide and euthanasia.

There is every reason to suspect the sacrifices will increase in frequency, too; for the Old Gods have long lain in slumber, banished beneath the earth lo these 75 years since the last great blood-sacrifice of WWII. One can only suppose that their hunger now must be unfathomable.


“America”, the Empty Signifier?

What do we even mean when we say the word “America” or “USA” now? What is left?

A center of “innovation”? An engine for “growth”? A leader in “productivity”? A hub for financial transactions? A land of “liberty”, which in practice means a mixture of licentiousness, profiteering and stifling statist control?

Even if the USA is still any or all of these things, none of them, alas, amount to a country. They are instead merely dry, narrow minded technocratic constructions; and today, as the Floyd riots spread in a chain reaction of blind nihilism and inchoate resentment, they seem drier and emptier than ever.

For all the privations now sweeping the land, the problem is really this: the entity today called “America” (as well as most of the West) has “woke” up to find it has no shared wisdom; no spiritual convictions; no unifying ethnic identity; no idea of shared spaces; no serious relationship to the land and nature it occupies; no obligations to truthfulness or realism; no grasp of neighborliness, relationship or community; no operative idea of real heroism or tragedy; no aesthetic sensibility; and certainly no grounding for personal sacrifice. It cringes, lividly, at the very words “history”, “virtue”, and “God”.

Without any of these things, there is no basis for holding people together in any sort of large undertaking, except through bare-knuckled tyranny. There is instead only res idiotica as far as the eye can see. (Read Deneen if you need to be filled in on this terminology.)

This is what Donald Trump surely intuited when in one of his more lucid moments on the campaign trail, he lamented that “we don’t have a country anymore”.

Unfortunately Trump, as a man who ultimately sees only “economy”, big business, quantitative world trade and of course his own constantly-sore ego, was himself practically an avatar of the res idiotica, and so he could not quite penetrate to the deep implications of his very own words—just as he could not see the implications of nursing “a big, fat, ugly bubble” in the economy (also his own words).

The U.S. Constitution, in some ways a wise and thoughtfully constructed document, has little to say on any of this. And if it did, who actually bothers to remember what it means or says anymore, other than a small and mostly hated clerisy of jurists?

For some, the Constitution is a cherished rhetorical football, effectively the center of a mini-cult of its own. Most of the activists in the country, on the other hand, have stopped bothering with it altogether, except as something to be manipulated at will, in postmodern fashion.

The truth is large portions of the US Constitution are no longer operative, and even if they were, they would have little to say on the problems the USA now faces, since the Constitution was designed for a polity that had not yet destroyed its economic, natural, spiritual and cultural inheritance for the sake of imaginary money, hedonic jolts, narcotics both chemical and digital, and the narcissistic joys of endless grievance.

So three main options present themselves. One, chaos and dissolution. Two, tyrannical takeover. Or three, the rediscovery (through some miracle) of the vital patterns and knowledge that have been exhausted or thrown away.

Options One and Two may oscillate back and forth, feeding on each other, for some time yet. As for option Three, we must admit it seems unlikely in the extreme. Much about the current circumstances of the world, both material and mental, militates against it. But then again: cometh the hour…

None Dare Call It Relapse: Is Covid-19 a Chronic Infection in Acute Disguise?

For all the hopeful talk about “herd immunity”, and the increasingly confident consensus that the Covid has been overestimated and is only really a threat to the elderly and infirm (that is, those with one foot in the grave anyway), there has been a conspicuous lack of discussion of what may well be the most fundamental and momentous question about this illness. That is the question of what proportion of the infected fully recover—and for that matter, how many infected people truly get rid of the virus.

There has been a modest crop of news reports, particularly from the earlier stages of the pandemic, about the problem of relapses and reactivations. All show a worrying pattern of viral persistence, throwing into serious question the official statistics that ostensibly show mass “recovery” from the virus.

Many of these early reports of relapse came from China, the earliest battleground of the pandemic. One report from Guangdong Province, for example, revealed that 14% of those discharged as cured subsequently tested positive again for Covid, though whether this was reactivation of the virus or reinfection with the virus was not clear. Another report warned that in Wuhan, 10% of discharged, “recovered” patients subsequently tested positive again. The most shocking news report of all from Wuhan, in early April, indicated that 26 out of 44 Covid patients—an incredible 59 percent—had tested positive all over again after being released from the hospital.

More recently, some media attention has focused on ongoing problems aboard the Covid-stricken US aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which until recently was forced to remain stranded in Guam as a handful of sailors, most of them young and fit and having passed highly stringent military criteria for recovery from the virus, nonetheless reported a return of “influenza-like illness” and again tested positive. (Incidentally, it seems likely that any such problem in a military setting will be subject to much more intensive control over information, and therefore is likely be many times more severe than is reported.)

Multiple peer-reviewed scientific studies now reinforce these news reports, giving clinical confirmation that some measure of viral reactivation after apparent recovery is a commonplace with Covid. 

Even controlling for differing test brands, one group continued to find reactivation at the same rate, helping to rule out instrumental error. Another reported that about 9% of discharged Covid patients subsequently tested positive again for the virus, and specifically termed these cases “reactivations”. In particular, the authors of this study wrote,

“SARS-CoV-2 reactivation will be a vexing and persistent problem. Considering numerous patients infected or previously exposed to the virus, such a problem poses a major public health burden in terms of global morbidity and possibly mortality.”

A third study reported on a patient who, while still in convalescence, re-tested positive for Covid despite testing negative repeatedly.

It is worth noting that in most of these relapsing cases, these patients also showed symptoms, though as with the first-round Covid infection, these were for the most part relatively mild. It is also worth noting that the percentages for reactivation prevalence offered by these reports and studies are very possibly underestimates, since these studies were published in March and more reactivations may have occurred in the time since then.

In short, it appears more and more plausible that in at least a large portion of cases, Covid is not really an acute infection like influenza, as we have ceaselessly been told. It is instead something far trickier: a chronic infection that pretends to be an acute infection. It knows very well how and where to hide—and perhaps also, how to bide its time.

Yet so far, just as news coverage has been relatively scant, curiously few papers appear to have been published on this seemingly paramount subject. The silence, one might say, is deafening—both from media and academe.

* * *

For the past month and a half, one of the clearest windows into the Covid reactivation phenomenon, and one of the most helpful quantitative clues for how it might unfold, has been the South Korean Centers for Disease Control (KCDC) “reactivation” or “re-positive” numbers, included at the end of their daily press releases on the outbreak .

KCDC has almost daily posted these numbers, beginning in early April. They are simply a running count, broken down by age group, of Covid patients in Korea who repeatedly tested negative for the virus and seemed to be “recovered”—only to test positive again.

These numbers were of special significance for a number of reasons:

First, they are the only official published information known to this author that systematically documents reactivations in a nation-wide Covid outbreak.

Second, since South Korea was second only after China in developing a large-scale Covid outbreak, it could be expected to begin developing reactivation cases somewhat ahead of the rest of the world—reactivations being spotted only once substantial numbers of patients have made it through the acute phase of the illness and been declared “recovered”. The KCDC’s numbers therefore give a kind of “preview” of how reactivation might evolve in other nations.

Third, unlike China, South Korea is a technically advanced, democratic “open society” (more or less), and so its numbers seem more likely to be produced at a high technical standard and less likely to be at least blatantly politically manipulated (China, we’re looking at you).

Fourth, since South Korea has been almost uniquely successful in halting the spread of Covid—owing to a combination of contact tracing, strong social distancing measures, and high-volume mandatory testing of the population—the KCDC numbers present a sort of “best-case scenario” for the overall trajectory of reactivation.

Fifth, the KCDC did not just provide the total numbers of “recovered” cases that tested positive again for the virus; as mentioned, it also broke these numbers down by age group.

Here are some major takeaways from the daily KCDC reactivation numbers thus far released:

1. The number of reactivating Covid cases in South Korea has shown a remarkably consistent and disquieting upward march, which, up to the most recent data available, showed no signs of deceleration. This is true both of the total number of cases reactivating, as well as of the proportion of patients discharged as “recovered” who subsequently were found to reactivate—which has so far reached about 5%. (This is considerably lower than the other studies and reports already mentioned, which suggest a final percentage of at least 9-14% reactivation—meaning, in turn, that the South Korean reactivation situation probably still has a long way to play out.)

2. This rise in the quantity and proportion of “reactivating” cases has continued even as the rate of new infections has ground to a halt. This strongly argues against most of the reactivations being due to “reinfections”—patients being infected all over again—as overall transmission of the virus in the country had been nearly stopped during this timeframe.

3. Recovered patients ages 20-29 made up the largest single age-group of relapses, at 21.5% of all reactivations (they were also the largest group of infected). Furthermore, a substantial number of even younger patients also showed reactivations; patients under age 30 made up an astonishing 36.7% of all reactivations, and patients under 50 comprised 61.6%. This is in total contrast to the ubiquitous “only the old and infirm need worry” narrative about Covid (and more in line with the story about the US sailors who relapsed).

These ever-increasing quantities of reactivated cases in South Korea grabbed a few headlines, at least at first. After all, few things would seem more relevant than growing evidence that a virus currently ravaging the world might not be nearly so easy to recover from as we’d been told—or that those being sent home with a sense of relief might actually be in for long travails and a cruel disappointment.

But then a funny thing happened. In almost every quarter, media all but stopped mentioning anything about the reactivations. KCDC, too, began to distance itself from its earlier pronouncements. And then, just a few days ago, the KCDC decided that there was really “nothing to see here” and that, as a matter of fact, it would simply stop testing discharged patients for Covid reactivation altogether.

* * * 

The KCDC first began its strange 180-degree turn in its public statements on the significance of Covid patients re-testing positive in early May. It had started out in April by quite confidently calling these cases “reactivations” and frankly doubting that they were false positives due to test error. Then suddenly, in early May, KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong announced that the cases that retest positive for Covid were actually just “dead” virus and thus indeed “false positives“—and therefore, in fact, no problem at all.

Media reports immediately—and uncritically—lapped up this new interpretation, and from then on what little public attention had been given to the reactivations all but vanished. “Conservative” publications with a particular interest in “reopening” were often the most eager going so far as to assert that reinfection or relapse was quite simply “unfounded“.

So, about a week after dire warnings from KCDC and WHO about Covid reinfection, relapse, and doubtful immunity, the story had very suddenly become that reactivation cases were really no issue at all. The disease went away, the virus became undetectable—and then, for no reason anyone need to worry about, “dead virus” spontaneously was reappearing in many patents’ bodies. Who cares? Oh, and you’re probably immune happily ever after, maybe, even if it takes you several weeks to get there.

At exactly this same time, some inconsistencies appeared in the KCDC’s posted reactivation data. On May 4, no reactivation data was posted at all. Instead, KCDC substituted something quite different, though no less concerning—a count of “cases under long-term (43 days or more) isolation”.

This “long-term cases” count showed that as of May 1 about a tenth of S. Korea’s cases, or 1,035 Covid patients had taken extremely long to “recover” (or at least extremely long to test negative for Covid, which as we have seen, is not the same thing as true recovery). In effect, about a tenth of patients struggled to kick the virus and had to remain isolated for at least a month and a half. This picture was hardly consistent with Eun-kyeong’s and the media’s claims of “false positives” and “dead virus cells [sic]”.

There were other anomalies, too. On two days, April 22 and 24, KCDC reported exactly the same reactivation numbers, right down to the age breakdown—a total of 10 numbers exactly the same. This is statistically nigh-impossible, and also meant that the count of reactivations, between April 23 and 24, would have to have gone down instead of up, which in a cumulative count of cases is literally impossible. Obviously for some reason the reactivation numbers for April 22 had been exactly copied and substituted for the numbers from April 24. This may have been a mere clerical error, and did not appear to affect the overall trend; inquiries about this discrepancy, however, received no reply.

Possibly even more puzzling than these hiccups in the data were the shifts in terminology within the KCDC reports concerning patients who re-tested positive for Covid. At the outset, the reactivation numbers had rather straightforwardly been listed as “cases that retested positive”. But then, on May 6—the same day as Eun-keyong’s downplaying of the relapses—this title shifted to “cases tested positive after discharge”.

This appears to be a very minor change, but notice that the second description is actually much narrower: “tested positive after discharge” excludes any patients who may have retested positive before being discharged. Indeed, relapses before discharge are a very significant proportion of the total relapses, assuming we take seriously what we know from the case reports from China—not to mention KCDC’s own “long-term cases” count from a couple of days before.

Disconcertingly, it appeared that the KCDC had begun playing word-games to disguise or downplay the true number of Covid cases re-testing positive. An even bigger shift came on May 18, however, when KCDC announced that “based on experts’ recommendations” it would again change the name of these cases, this time to the “PCR re-detected after discharge from isolation”—a meaningless mouthful that manages to leave completely dangling the crucial question of what is being detected.

And so, all mention of South Korean Covid patients re-testing positive for Covid after supposed recovery was to be expunged from future accounts. Perhaps not since the WHO director’s declaration that “stigma” was a bigger danger than the Covid itself had Orwellian control of language seemed to take such precedence over reporting on a health issue of vital importance.

But this was not all. In addition to completely nullifying itself on the nature and seriousness of the reactivation cases, in this same May 18 posting KCDC announced that it even saw no point in testing for reactivations at all any longer: “Under the new protocols, no additional tests are required for cases that have been discharged from isolation”.

Nothing to see here, folks, KCDC seemed to be saying. Move right along now.

In fact, KCDC so urgently believed the Covid reactivations were now obviously, totally not a problem that it deemed it imperative, effective immediately, to stop even reporting on them any more—even as the number of such cases continued to increase unabated. As such, the count of reactivations for May 17—466 in total—stands as of this writing as the last reported figure for the number of Covid relapses in South Korea. Based on all prior evidence, though, one can only assume that the true number has continued to increase—out of sight, out of mind, the relapses that dare not speak the name.

* * *

In the same May 18 report in which future reporting of Covid reactivations was summarily ended, the KCDC also announced that findings from its ongoing “investigation and analysis” into the re-positive cases would be released shortly as a special appendix.

Given the massive downplaying of the reactivations thus far, these promised findings seemed to be teed up as a final reassurance—a way to put nagging concerns about reactivation and long-term Covid infection to rest once and for all. Instead, they ended up revealing that the reactivation situation in South Korea is in many ways far worse than even the previously posted reinfection numbers had implied, while doing nothing to dispel the fundamental concern that Covid might in fact be a chronic illness in acute clothes.

First things first: according to the report, how many of these reactivations are there likely to be? How prevalent is Covid relapse overall?

On this question, the KCDC’s report dropped an absolute bombshell: during the (unspecified) duration of the study, out of a cohort of 269 “recovered” patients monitored after release, 83 subsequently tested positive again for Covid.

That is an average rate of Covid reactivation of over 30 percent—more than six times the 5% rate that had been implied by the KCDC’s previously posted reactivation numbers.

This tells us KCDC must have been re-testing only a small fraction of the discharged patients when they were posting their earlier numbers, thus vastly under-reporting the number of relapses—while giving the impression that the posted numbers represented the relapses for the entire country. If the new figure is right, South Korea can be expected to have not 466, but over 3,000 reactivated Covid infections already: people walking around seeming normal, or with mild symptoms, but harboring the virus nonetheless.

This is momentous news even if the virus behaves itself happily ever after—but that is not the end of it. Given the unflinching increase in known reactivation cases at the time the reporting was stopped, it stands to reason that this 30+% figure is itself an underestimate of the ultimate number of reactivations; the latter could very well end up close to the nightmarish 59% observed in parts of Wuhan, if not higher.

The report also finds, as other studies did, that a great many reactivations include symptoms. Nearly half (44.7%) of those examined by KCDC were symptomatic—”coughs, sore throat, etc.” The presence of significant symptoms in so many patients who have re-tested positive bodes poorly for the argument that reactivation is just due to a testing error, or that the virus in these patients is really “dead”.

In fact, the virus seems to be surviving quite comfortably in these “recovered” patients. According to KCDC’s findings, of 76 re-positive patients tested for the specific quantity of virus, almost 90% had a Ct “above 30”, while the rest had a Ct between 25 and 30.

Ct is a measure of the number of amplification steps needed to get a signal from a viral RNA sample. It is a logarithmic measure, and lower Ct values indicate higher viral concentrations. A Ct of 25, for instance, indicates a viral concentration about 42 times higher than a Ct of 30.

A Ct value of 30, in particular, corresponds to about 26,000 viral copies per milliliter of sample. This is consistent with moderate Covid infection, and is higher than that found in many patients still in the acute phase of the disease. It is therefore not exactly a low value; saying someone tested positive for Covid with a Ct value of “above 30” is sort of like saying someone has a fever “below 102”.

Again something seems out of place. Why is KCDC is trying to reassure the world there is nothing to worry about when it has apparently found that a great many of these reactivated patients have viral copy numbers comparable to hospitalized patients?

In a myriad of ways, KCDC’s own report shows the Covid is also already proving to be far more of a chronic, intractable illness than is widely acknowledged. The median time from “recovery” just to retesting positive was over two weeks, with a sizable number taking far longer. Median time from first diagnosis to retesting positive was a month and a half—similar to the 43+ days in isolation mentioned in its update earlier in May.

Most pointedly, there is no mention in the report of resolution in any of these re-positive cases—we do not know how many of these re-positives have since turned negative again, or how many will stay that way, or what the prospects of a true cure might be. But this much is clear: where Covid is concerned, “cure” and “recovery” look more and more like quite disparate things. For many Covid patients, discharge from the hospital may only be “the end of the beginning”.

* * *

So there are likely a lot more reactivations than we’ve been led to believe. But could it be that KCDC, and for that matter most news outlets, still got it right about the actual danger of these reactivated cases? Could it be that there is simply no point in paying any close attention to this phenomenon?

To be blunt: almost certainly no. Indeed, as we have already seen, the reassurances given so far conspicuously sidestep many of the most concerning issues about reactivation.

The KCDC’s grounds for essentially abandoning the testing and reporting of Covid relapses rests mainly on two major claims in their report and other statements on the Covid relapses (oh, beg pardon—I mean the “PCR re-detecteds after discharge”): first, that contact tracing showed relapsing patients did not appear to be particularly contagious; and second, that culturable virus was not found in the relapse cases’ upper respiratory systems.

Both of these claims, however, are misleading.

On the matter of contagiousness of the reactivated cases, we have already seen that a very large proportion of these reported coughing and sore throat as symptoms. This is anything but reassuring, given that both of these are respiratory/airway symptoms and given the high airborne infectiousness of Covid.

In hopes of putting any worries to rest, KCDC assessed the infectiousness of the Covid re-positives by doing contact tracing on 285 of them. They found 790 contacts in total, 27 of whom turned out positive for Covid.

On its face, this seems like a fairly significant level of transmission. However, the report continues, 24 of these had come down Covid previously, so that only 3 were truly “new” cases.

Here it becomes frankly unclear just what KCDC actually did. According to the report, the 24 positive cases turned out to have been “previously confirmed” positives. Does this mean they were now positive again, so that eight out of nine of these cases were also reactivations? Or could they have even been reinfected by the reactivated cases they encountered? Either would be the very opposite of reassuring.

Questions keep coming to mind. How long were the 285 discharged patients actually monitored—a week, a month? The longer the study went on, the more transmissions one would expect to detect; if the tracing continued back only a few days, on the other hand, we could see an artificially low number of transmissions. Were the released patients diligently self-isolating, so that the chances of their passing the virus were minimized? Or did they interact normally?

The report provides maddeningly little information on any of these questions; it simply elides them. Nothing to see hereget back to work

Anyway, for the 3 “new” positive cases, all of them already had a confirmed case in the family, or contact with a religious group that had suffered many cases. The report’s authors use this to argue that these new cases could not be due to contagion from the re-positives, since “epidemiological studies cannot exclude the possibility of exposure to other infection sources”.

But really this point cuts both ways: if epidemiology cannot rule out infection by “other sources” for the new cases, it also cannot rule it in. Therefore the possibility that even the 3 new cases were in fact due to contact with the re-positive cases is not refuted by KCDC’s investigation, but remains a question-mark. From the unclear information KCDC has given us, the most we can say is that reactivated patients do not seem to be terribly contagious.

KCDC also claims, in line with earlier remarks that the virus in relapsing patients was “dead”, to have been unable to successfully isolate live virus—that is, virus that grow in cell culture—from any of 108 reactivation patients.

This seems, again, to provide reassurance. Unfortunately for the new “nothing to see here” storyline, logic continues to dictate that the only plausible source for persistent symptoms and sustained quantities of “dead virus” long after the initial infection is still… a living virus. For the Covid to reappear (dead or alive) in patients who had remained isolated, then, it must have been still present at undetectable but viable levels for a while, and then resumed replicating somewhere in the body.

KCDC itself seems to concede this indirectly in the same report, when it mentions two newly-confirmed Covid cases for which “Virus isolation cell culture result was negative”. Ergo: a negative cell culture does not preclude confirmed case or active virus.

In fact this has been well understood for some time. What the KCDC is failing to mention is that many Covid-positive patients do not show culturable virus, especially at later stages in their infection, and especially if the virus is looked for only in the upper respiratory system.

A lack of active virus in a throat or nasal swab, for example, is no sign that the virus is truly gone, as a German group reported in Nature over a month ago. These authors state: “Whereas virus was readily isolated during the first week of symptoms from a considerable fraction of samples (16.66% in swabs, 83.33% in sputum samples), no isolates were obtained from samples taken after day 8 in spite of ongoing high viral loads”.

Again there is a lack of details about what KCDC actually did. In particular, we do not know what methods were used to gather the virus. But assuming that the KCDC used one of the two standard methods, nasal or throat swabbing—both of which assess virus in the upper respiratory system—then the absence of “culturable” virus from these tests, which is the basis of many reports of “good news” about reactivations from KCDC and others, is mostly a red herring. While it may indicate that reactivations are less likely to be highly infectious, it in no way establishes the absence of even quite large amounts of live virus in these patients.

Once the red herring of “no culturable virus found” is properly put aside, the real question becomes: where and how is the live virus holding out in these patients? Most likely, the answer lies with the lower respiratory system. One particularly striking study found intact SARS-CoV-2 virus in a “recovered” or asymptomatic patient, hiding deep in the lungs—a place that normal diagnostic swabbing could not access. (The patient in question, unsettlingly, appeared to be fully recovered from Covid and was ready for discharge from the hospital, when she died suddenly of heart failure. Cardiovascular complications have been widely reported in Covid cases, so this may not have been a coincidence.)

If anything, the finding that Covid is capable of hiding in the lower respiratory tract is more concerning for the reactivation cases, since the most harmful effects of acute Covid infection typically only begin once it has reached the lower respiratory system. It also means that the number of “recovered” patients who actually still have active virus in their bodies is probably higher than the number who re-test positive, or test positive on discharge, since many who still harbor small deep-lung reservoirs of live Covid will test negative and be assumed recovered, merely because the standard swab fails to reach these reservoirs.

Some of the “good news” about reactivations has also mentioned “testing error”, as in tests falsely reporting re-positives where there is no virus. But all the foregoing suggests that if there is a problem with the testing, it is one of false negatives far more than of false positives.

* * *

Meanwhile, in the media, the mentions of the Covid’s persistence and recurrence (such few as can be found, that is) have grown eerier, subtler, but more disconcerting. The very understatement of some of these accounts seems to telegraph a growing unease, a dreadful realization not yet fully crystallized. This may just be the sensationalism of journalism at work, but the weight of the evidence increasingly suggests it is not. In light of the strange attempts to paper over or ignore the problem, as we see in the KCDC’s “what me worry” pronouncements that belie their own data, the sense instead is that something major is being hidden.

One report in Bloomberg at the beginning of May briefly mentioned so-called “false-dawn recoveries”, essentially relapses. These come complete with symptoms of Covid and positive tests for viral RNA. The author of the article was careful to hew to the “dead virus” narrative, however, barely mentioning the possibility that these could be bona fide chronic Covid infections.

More recent mentions of the phenomenon have been stranger and darker. A May 10 piece appearing in the New York Times announces that “Surviving Covid-19 May Not Feel Like Recovery for Some”, and details the growing number of survivors of the Covid onslaught in Italy who report ongoing symptoms long after the acute infection ended, delaying full recovery—”if it ever arrives”. “It leaves something inside you,” one of these chronic patients ominously explains, “and you never go back the way you were before.”

Another piece in the Guardian alludes to a vast registry (over 200,000) of largely ignored persistent or “long tail” infections in the UK and USA, which feature “symptoms for months”. These symptoms are described as “weird as hell”, and include neurological problems. Rupert Jones, a professor from King’s College declares, “I’ve studied 100 diseases. Covid is the strangest one I have seen in my medical career”.

Perhaps most revealingly of all, the Guardian piece hints that “long-tail” Covid infections are causing “lots of immunological changes in the body”, and may call for patient support strategies similar to those used in the HIV/AIDS epidemic—hardly an association that instills confidence about the virus’s long-term harmlessness.

Finally, not to be outdone, the UK Telegraph ran its own article on long-term effects of Covid, which include fatigue and mental/memory issues, even in the young. One physician admits there is “emerging evidence that people are shedding the virus for months afterwards, so the virus isn’t going away”—another score against the “dead virus” narrative.

The same Professor Jones from the Guardian piece here mentions his concern that we are currently “underestimating” the virus: “The Government is telling people that this is just like the flu and only checking on a few symptoms, but it’s not at all like the flu […] For many people it can linger on; many people are saying they’ve had it for over three months now.”

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Telegraph piece, though, is its description of the way that persistent and/or reactivated cases seem to be getting systematically ignored. “There are people emailing me every day saying that no one is interested,” says Jones. Much of this correspondence seems to include patients fearing for their sanity: “they are going through hell in their heads. They think they’re crazy”. The haunting question of whether this sense of madness comes from simply feeling ignored, or from actual neurological issues caused by the Covid, is left unaddressed.

So this is the difficult, nasty pill that we are now slowly, slowly being fed: many of you may never really get better. It is a hard pill to swallow; even so, it is still quite possibly a sugar-coated version.

It might be the apparent blindness to the existence and enormous possible repercussions of Covid persistence and reactivation has something to do with the preconceptions of the medical and epidemiological community, which is trained on the idea that once a viral infection is cleared and a good antibody to it is produced, it stays cleared. As the Bloomberg article notes, “Such incidents [reactivations] don’t align with the generally accepted understanding of how virus infections work and spread.”

Or perhaps, we are seeing something of what control of information in modern liberal-democracies really looks like when truly hard, no-win choices rear up. The case of the Covid relapses seems a prime test case of this. If it is true that “recovered” are failing to eliminate the virus and are coming down with symptoms again in huge and increasing numbers, and if young adults, far from being impervious are actually the most common age group in which this happens, widespread knowledge of such facts could inspire some, shall we say, unwieldy responses from the general public.

The possibility of relapse is, frankly, a nightmare that the world cannot deal with right now—not while so many hands are full dealing with the acute form of Covid. And so the strategy may well be to suppress the information and suppress the concern.

But the hints are still getting out.

It may yet turn out that the reactivations are mostly harmless, non-contagious, and even eventually do resolve once and for all. But the way that reliable information about this one way or the other has become so scarce (if not suppressed) does not inspire confidence; the fact that governments have every incentive in downplaying the risk does not help matters either. Very likely, we will not learn the truth about the mysterious Covid reactivations until long after the pandemic has resolved—and at a time when most peoples’ attentions have long since shifted to other matters.

Elite Motives in Covid: is Endless Lockdown the Real Goal?

More and more voices are being heard declaring confidently that the Covid was greatly overestimated, almost a nothingburger, and that the whole business of lockdowns and other measures surely had nothing to do with the virus’s actual danger, but only with the incompetence of experts. The fact that increasing numbers of nations have begun loosening restrictions with no sign so far of a dramatic spike in cases seems, certainly, to bolster this case—and if expert incompetence or inconsistency is one’s favorite quarry, there is no denying these past few months of pandemic have presented rich and thrilling chances for Bastard-hunting.

In particular, though, one hears much of the claim that the virus has been deliberately “overhyped” by elites as a way of sowing fear, instituting draconian measures, and thereby increasing their control over the population.

As far as that last sort of claim goes, there remains much that is doubtful. For one thing, if the experts are really as incompetent and contradictory as they lately have seemed to be, how could they be expected to systematically and synchronistically create and carry off a deception of such a massive kind?

This is not to suggest that elites and experts never conspire—indeed, expertise itself may be viewed in some cases as a kind of stabilized, instituted conspiracy—but only to suggest that if the experts are as incompetent as they have seemed to be, it is remarkable indeed if they have nonetheless conspired so competently to fill us with wholly fatuous fears.

All in all, when I pause to reflect, I find it just as plausible (if not more so) that the danger of Covid is currently being systematically underplayed, and that disturbing aspects of the disease are being systematically soft-pedaled or suppressed.

Consider the stakes in either case: what do elites have to gain by keeping their populations in indefinite lockdown? Far-reaching police powers, yes. Demolition of civil liberties, perhaps. But what will these elites have left to rule over, in that case, except an impoverished, unproductive economic wasteland, slumping towards medieval stasis? Moreover, what country could expect long to hold its own in the estimation of other nations, if all its productive industries and daily affairs remain shut down (or nearly so) indefinitely?

Maybe even more urgently, an elite that locks down for too long risks internal threats to its own power. As the population grows increasingly restless and begins to search for scapegoats for its misery, revolution is sure to enter the minds of many—and no revolution is really a revolution without some elites to blame, if not behead.

A nation-state that remains shut down for too long, therefore, risks becoming globally irrelevant—a backwater, inactive, left behind, internally unstable, easy prey for rival nations, and last but not least, singularly unprofitable.

Many are saying that the lockdowns were not really carried out to stop the virus, but as an opportunity to instate spying and police powers that came with lockdowns. The virus, on this view, was mainly a pretext, if it was really any danger at all.

Yet I find this reasoning too makes little sense. Though such powers as conferred by lockdown are no doubt a heady draught to some elites, they are likely not worth the trouble for most of them, for the simple reason that great headway was already being made in obtaining vast Chinese-style surveillance/police powers and demolition of civil liberties, even without the virus or the lockdowns.

The compensation of making such headway at a bit faster clip, at the expense of then ruling more totally over a ruined nation, is likely to seem an unconvincing exchange for the average rapacious, Machiavellian elite. The spying and repressive powers were coming along nicely enough as it was, thank you very much. In short, locking down for very long periods ends up costing the elite far more in national power, private treasure, and safety from mobbing than it gains them in civic power.

In contrast, by reopening their nation-states as soon as it is the least bit safe—or even quite a bit sooner—elites enjoy the prospect not only of moving national businesses back towards something resembling profitability, but also of cementing a new international preeminence on many fronts at once—by beating their geopolitical rivals to the prestige punchbowl, so to speak. They also, by beginning to reactivate the economic systems on which many of their constituents depend, have some chance of heading off a revolution by furious millions of unemployed.

It is not even a matter of either-or: an elite can very well decide to reopen a country prematurely, while still continuing and expanding its surveillance and policing techniques. This seems, in fact, to be what almost every “advanced” nation is now doing.

We see this for instance with China, which is endeavoring to present itself to the world as having skillfully and decisively squelched its outbreak, restored business-as-usual, and quickly weathered the ensuing economic shocks, all while maintaining social stability. China thus would appear not only as a model of successful pandemic-management but, as the only fully reopened industrial economy in the world, arguably the only game in town for the world’s buyers and businesses.

True, last we heard 108 million of China’s citizens are currently locked down again, while in Wuhan, 11 million are being subjected to mandatory re-testing, all because of Covid. Being first is not without its drawbacks. Yet China still can claim to be “back on its feet”, while now also routinely exercising police powers at a scale that even its previous, thoroughly totalitarian framework could not have considered “normal”. And that is worth more than anything to rulers, for that is power. We should not assume our own “enlightened” or “democratic” rulers think any differently.

Therefore it is very probably a naïve misconception to believe that the contest, in the mentality of the grubby, sociopathic ruling elites, is to be the last nation to lift Covid-related restrictions. Surely the race is instead to be the first—and to deal with whatever setbacks that perhaps-premature reopening produces as just another pretext for further expanding control. The cost of doing business, it turns out, is not costly at all.

In order to achieve such a first-out-of-the-gate reopening as fast as possible however, in the interests of national prestige and security (not to mention profit), there will surely be a need of convincing the population that all of this is perfectly safe and well-advised, and that consequences will be minimal—that only a hypochondriac kook, a lover of the Deep State with a Fauci shrine in his bedroom, could be seriously worried. If there are such consequences anyway, they will have to be suppressed, or at the very least, de-emphasized.

A few extra deaths can be suppressed, misreported, relabeled. It is striking how many people fully recognize this somewhat cynical fact now, but no less striking is how many of them only recognize it one way. Many are the voices now declaring that influenza and other deaths are being mislabeled as Covid deaths, perhaps deliberately. Quite a few are even willing to aver that doctors are being bribed to report Covid deaths (though alas, this seems not to be true).

But curiously few are the voices considering the opposite possibility: that many Covid deaths could be getting mislabeled, perhaps deliberately, as other causes. Yet there is already at least as much substantive evidence for this Covid-death “undercount” scenario as there is for an overcount.

My point is not to argue that the risk from the Covid is fading, or growing, or that it never existed, or anything else; the point is that, given the incentives at play, we should expect similar policies of reassurance and re-normalization whether it is really fading or not. Whether there is true recovery from the virus, or not, whether it is really spreading, or not, it becomes a matter of supreme national interest not that everyone be healthy, but that we appear healthy.

And so that interest will generally carry the day. As long as the advantages—in terms of restored profits, reduced social disorder, and increased national standing or “face”—are thought likely to outweigh the deaths and other damage from a premature re-opening, re-opening will likely go ahead relentlessly. Indeed, it will be praised as the daring, smart, and righteous thing to do. We will be encouraged, in ways big and small, to think the same way.

To summarize, there is a risk that nations will end up deluding ourselves and their populations about the virus in ways increasingly similar to what the CCP is thought to have done—not by overplaying it, but by downplaying it.