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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.

Mothman

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.

On Covid, Sweden Is Not The Answer

More and more news outlets are looking admiringly upon the Swedish government’s “experiment” of refusing to instate any lockdowns or other restrictions to stem the spread of Covid. In recent days, various commentators have described it as “the right approach“, a bold “gamble“, a case of “listening to science not fear“, an approach that is already “paying off” while “keeping cases low“.

There is just one problem with all these celebratory accounts: curiously, not a single one of them mentions any actual numbers from Sweden.

Happily, all the most relevant numbers are easily found at Wikipedia—and so, assuming one is versed in the mysterious arts of division and multiplication, it is not too hard to get an idea for oneself just how “successful” the Swedish approach has been thus far.

The upshot from these numbers, as of this writing, is simple to state: Sweden has not only far more Covid cases and deaths in total, but also vastly more cases and deaths per capita, than any of its Scandinavian neighbors (Denmark, Norway, and Finland) which have done lockdowns.

More precisely, in terms of total deaths from Covid, Sweden has more than five times those of Denmark, nearly eleven times those of Norway, and over twelve times those of Finland. Per capita, this translates to a death rate 3 times higher than Denmark, 5.7 times higher than Norway, and 6.6 times higher than Finland.

It might be prudent, therefore, for certain pundits to hold their applause for the Swedish approach… that is, unless their goal is actually elimination of population.

In all fairness, one can perhaps see how many Swedes, having already become accustomed to a culture of pervasive Doublethink—and in particular, politically-correct censoring of official data—might have convinced themselves that a policy that results in a vastly higher death rate really is a “success”.

But how did they seemingly convince so many outside of Sweden as well? Indeed, these glowing counterfactual celebrations of the Swedish approach are coming mostly from what is generally called ‘the right’—that is, from conservative and business-friendly publications.

Alas, this is but another example of how, when the issue at hand involves keeping greed-as-usual running and currencies flowing no matter the cost, our ‘rightists’ prove no less eager to warp, censor and ignore fundamental realities than their leftist counterparts. “Political correctness” finds its partner-in-crime in what we might call “Economic correctness”.

(No wonder the economy on the eve of the pandemic was even more wildly fragile, hyper-leveraged, indebted, unprofitable, and in a word, illusory than it was in 2008: firstly, because during nearly all of those intervening twelve years, it was “economically incorrect” to say anything but “the economy is fundamentally strong“; secondly, because most ‘rightists’ apparently do not trouble themselves with basic division and multiplication any more.)

Another possible source of the strange admiration for Sweden’s mounting Covidian fiasco has to do with the same knee-jerk sense of ‘contrarianism’ as was evident in, for example, many experts’ recent insistence that face masks actually increase the risk of catching coronavirus. Now, instead of going mask-less, the contrarians propose “herd immunity”, Swedish-style, as an alternative to social distancing, business closures, or lockdowns.

On this view, we should not simply try to avoid catching Covid in the first place, for this is but lowly common sense and must, ipso facto, be misguided; instead, the truly daring, nay superior intellect must agree that we should not only catch the virus, but should try to have everybody catch it as soon as possible!

This is in fact the germ (so to speak) of the “herd immunity” proposal, which quite recklessly (desperately?) gambles entire national populations on two increasingly dubious assumptions: a) that persons who have had Covid have truly eliminated the virus, and b) that such persons will be lastingly immune.

Such willful sloppiness of thought has, under the name “contrarianism”, been strangely confused with “expertise”, and thereby also with superior status. (This last promise—status—is no doubt why such idio-contrarianism is profoundly attractive to many.)

Yet whether the Swedish Covid Experiment and the blind praises sung of it derive ultimately from Marxist zealotry, market fundamentalism, or mindless contrarianism, the historical parallel that jumps to mind more than all others is one from Stalinist times. For given the very special combination of soaring catastrophe and equally soaring triumphalism that we now see, who can doubt that Swedish epidemiologists and their various enablers have become quite… dizzy with success?

Voices From the Coronal Abyss

As the Covid disrupts the internationalist dream of a smoothly calibrated worldwide mechanism of personal, legal, and economic control, strange sepulchral voices can be heard issuing from the depths of the managerial and technocratic classes. For one example (from the Right), we may turn to today’s Spectator:

“The capacity for communication offered by 5G is stunning. It is much better to think of 5G as a network built for machines, since most of the network traffic will eventually be machine to machine. This will allow for massive data production, which will feed machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms, which in turn will continue improving the technology in a giant information feed-back loop.”

(He then goes on to imply that the 5G should not only be built, but it should be a state monopoly–one horror on top of another.)

What is most singular here is that this author thinks the above scenario is mostly wonderful and at any rate “inevitable” (and the pandemic, for him, makes it only more so, more perfectly logical and necessary). Though this writer clearly styles himself something of a maverick and visionary, he is for that a stunningly blind one, for the only actual problem he sees with such a Skynet-like system–in which millions of objects per square mile are minutely controlled and catalogued at all times by machines and their most privileged handlers & architects–is literally just that China might take over too much of it. That the amount of information involved will completely outstrip any conceivable direct human need does not even register to him. That the self-improving “feedback loop” he envisions will likely birth increasingly uncontrollable monstrosities does not matter to him.

It is very much as if such persons are driven–possessed, really–by an insane, completely unreflective urge to accelerate the world towards complete surveillance and AI takeover as rapidly as possible. And this urge, it bears mentioning, almost exactly parallels the urge that may have driven biological scientists, in the pursuit of no less “inevitable” gain-of-function and vaccine research, to create the Covid. They are, I daresay, the same urge. I therefore fear that the conjuring of a monster virus is but the first of many baleful Faustian conjurings to come: the conjuring of an AI totalitarianism, for example, is not all that far away, especially with such “visionaries” at the helm.

These monopolist-statist-corporatist voices, fascinatingly, span the political spectrum (such as it is). Here is another Voice from the Abyss–speaking, of all places, at the leftist, sometime-anticorporate opinion site Counterpunch–on the “need” for massive nationalized industries and surveillance:

“…scale of companies will not be regarded as a political problem if they can both deliver for consumers and show the capacity of following political direction for what the public’s needs are”

The title of this section is, astoundingly, “Big Business is Good Business”, a bald non-sequitur if ever there was one. In short, behemoth corporations are no problem as long as they obey the State’s direction and mollify “consumers”.

“…We still need a more robust form of regulation for these corporate behemoths, but via a system of regulation that is “function-centric,” rather than size-centric”

Again, massive corporate consolidation in itself is suddenly no longer a concern at all, as long as the corporation does what the State needs of it!

“…Privacy advocates are already expressing concerns about a growing and overweening medical surveillance state. These surveillance concerns lack historical context […] serious health problems were met by hardline government policies […] there was an understanding that personal concessions had to be made to manage a huge population and an advanced society; the Constitution was not a suicide pact. […] In light of coronavirus, cost savings of incorporating biodata into immigration and customs are a no-brainer for governments, and are certain to cause friction with individuals who may not want to give blood or saliva to get a visa or work permit […] But the scales have tipped in the other direction.”

So: of course we will have to be scanned and probed and invasively catalogued by the Government from now on! Both Left and Right now agree: it’s simply not realistic (and a little quaint) to expect anything other than a population of technologically-micromanaged pawns in the grip of massive nationalized industries going forward, because coronavirus. This is all simply the price of living in an “advanced” society (though with the disintegration of the idea of Progress, what “advanced” really means grows more and more confused with every day, as I have discussed elsewhere).

To sum up: Voltaire’s Bastards have already pivoted in response to the coronavirus. The Answers have already been decided upon, and they are remarkably similar to the old Answers. As we speak, the carcass of the old “globalized” world is being carved up, and different pieces promised, dedicated, traded, repackaged, to moderately differing formations that are composed, however, mostly of the same actors as before.

The gist of it is that we are simply to go from creepily centralized and invasive internationalist technocrat management, to creepily centralized and invasive nationalist technocrat management. In reality, not one shred of the Bastards’ thinking has actually changed, and (surprise) they have already nominated themselves to lead this exciting new project. Not one expert, no matter how formerly committed to the international project and no matter how egregiously in error while pursuing that project, need be replaced!

One can sum up these shifts with a paraphrase of Orwell: We are at war with Internationalism. We have always been at war with Internationalism.

This, of course, was to be expected. As energy descent and the collapse of civilizational structures proceeds–greatly catalyzed but not ultimately caused by the Covid–a retrenchment of mass control to smaller and smaller scales can be expected, along with an increasingly desperate tightening of such control. The international monster may be slain, but the statist monster still has mileage left. And so the Architects are instinctively trying to re-center the situation in terms of what they know by restarting mid-20th century national managerialism in a mid-21st century world. That this will be only a temporary, compensatory stage no doubt is lost entirely on them: they have already blinked away any other possibility.

The US has for a while been much closer to a Chinese-style corporatist surveillance state than most would like to admit. But if these kinds of techno-autocratic voices get their way, we will get there in a matter of months. My only lingering question is, how did it come about that an outlet like Counterpunch now serves as a platform to proposals that are essentially contiguous with fascism?

Absence of Competence: the Systemic Downplaying of Animal-to-Human Covid Transmission

It is safe to say that the deficiency of basic reasoning ability on full display in most of the world’s experts and media since the onset of the COVID19 pandemic now far surpasses what a mere few months ago would have seemed a ruthlessly cynical imagining. But it is interesting to note that much of this mental incapacity assumes a very consistent pattern.

Take the vital issue of animal transmission of COVID19. As of this writing, the CDC website reassuringly tells us:

“At this time there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can become sick with or spread COVID-19”.

The implication here seems to be that the assertion of “no evidence yet” singlehandedly disposes of the well-known principle that animals are often prime disease vectors. (Remember rodents and the Black Death, for just one example?)

In a similar vein, the UK Independent recently had this quasi-reassurance to offer:

“Several global health organisations have issued advisories saying there is no any [sic] evidence that pet animals can spread coronavirus or indeed be infected with it in the same way as humans. ‘Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare,” the World Organisation for Animal Health has said.’ “

Once again: “no evidence”, so no justification for even the least precaution.

Regarding Covid transmission by cats, in response to the discovery of a cat in Belgium that tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID19), had high viral levels in its vomit and feces and showed clear signs of respiratory illness, we see the same pattern:

“Should we now be concerned about the virus spreading to cats? To be succinct – not yet. Several key questions need to be answered before any conclusions can be drawn from this case.”

Here the implication seems to be almost laughable: the virus, despite being extremely contagious and having just been shown to be capable of infecting and sickening one of the most widespread domestic animals in the world, will just have to wait its turn for “key questions” to be answered, before it will be permitted to spread from Covid-infected cats to humans.

Another news article on COVID19 in cats, happy-go-luckily titled “Cats, dogs, ferrets and coronavirus: What’s to worry about?” purports to inform us about new research showing that cats in adjacent cages are “able to infect each other”, and that cats in general “can catch coronavirus and maybe carry it”.

But we are instructed not to worry, because apparently cats “…are dead ends when it comes to transmitting to people, experts say.”

Next we are treated to the now-boilerplate “no evidence” refrain (never mind that we are actually being confronted by a pile of evidence):

“…infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets spread COVID-19 to other animals, including people”.

To cap things off, the writers offer this bit of helpfully homicidal advice: “Yes, people should embrace their pets.”

So: we widely acknowledge that cats can contract the SARS-CoV-2 virus, get sick with it, pass it in their excretions and sneeze it out—but don’t worry folks, experts say there’s “no evidence” they can actually give it to you!

In the age of Covid, “evidence”, apparently, is not really evidence—until experts and the media tell you it is.

* * *

Such glib, misguided, and indeed intellectually insulting dismissals from expert bodies and media outlets on the question of SARS-CoV-2 animal transmission are disturbingly reminiscent of the recent debacle in which experts at CDC and elsewhere bizarrely maintained that N95 facemasks confer no protection against respiratory diseases, despite their obviously existing and being widely used by medical staff for that exact purpose. (A few experts—no doubt associating knee-jerk inversion of reason with a rugged “contrarian” image—even insisted that wearing such masks actually increases risk of infection.)

But even more, the dismissals of possible animal-to-human transmission of Covid closely resemble the WHO’s flatly disastrous and already-infamous January 19 assurance that

“Not enough is known to draw definitive conclusions about how [Covid] is transmitted, the clinical features of the disease, the extent to which it has spread, or its source, which remains unknown.”

In fact, by that time, Taiwan had already informed the WHO that this was false—that human-to-human transmission was almost certainly occurring. The WHO, likely captured by powerful Chinese backers who wished to downplay the threat, instead parroted the same “no evidence” line anyway.

The WHO’s decision to dismiss the possibility of human-to-human transmission, of course, proved utterly catastrophic. But the widespread expert failure to appreciate the potential of animal-to-human spread of SARS-CoV-2 until there is “definitive proof” seems to be closely mirroring the WHO’s failure on human-to-human spread, and it could prove nearly as calamitous.

* * *

Assuming there is not actual malice at play, we can only conclude that there is an astounding form of magical thinking in control behind all of these falsely-confident denials. For in all these cases we are, in effect, being told that the Covid could not possibly spread from a cat or other animal to a human (or, in the WHO case, from a human to a human) until our scientists establish definitively that it can.

In an oddly postmodern twist, the concept of “discovering” or “proving” a thing seems in this way to have subtly mutated into permission for that thing to exist or happen. We also see here exposed the modern belief in the occult potency of expert opinion; it is as if we have all along put aside scryers, priests and shamans merely in order to take up augury by “expert consensus”.

Notice also that in all the above statements downplaying the threat of SARS-CoV-2 animal transmission, a completely invalid form of inference is being deployed, and deployed blatantly: since we have “no evidence of spread” as yet, we therefore should act as though there can’t be any spread, and should take no precautions.

Our supposedly brilliant and erudite international disease experts are happily falling face-first into a basic logical error: to them, it now seems that absence of evidence really is evidence of absence. The burden of proof has thus been so wildly misplaced that even 95% conclusive evidence of a serious danger must be treated as if it were 0% conclusive; until it reaches 99.9% confidence, it should be ignored.

It is striking that the “precautionary principle”, so widely invoked on regulatory matters like saving the environment, suddenly goes out the window when the issue is instead the likelihood of people contracting a mass-murdering plague from their pets.

Perceptively, some have drawn a connection between this dysfunctional reticence and the essential character of “rule-by-experts”. Whereas crises such as pandemic or war demand rapid and intuitive decision-making where one must risk being wrong rather than do nothing and be routed, the modern academic is trained instead at all costs not to be wrong, leading him to delay and defer:

“That the sciences reject intuition minimizes their utility when the moment calls for haste (…) While the academic must cultivate doubt in order to test his theories, the wartime leader must dispel doubt.”

But even this interesting distinction cannot explain why, just as in the case of the WHO and human-to-human spread, so many of our experts are conspicuously misplacing the burden of evidence even when evidence is not absent by a long shot. A gift for “intuition” is hardly needed to see that a cat shedding large quantities of an exceptionally contagious virus very probably can transmit it to humans as well as cats.

It is instead as if our experts are either intellectually unable to infer simple consequences from the ample evidence they already have, or are so afraid to make such inferences that they simply refuse to try. (This may incidentally explain why, despite the extreme “carefulness” of academic culture, vast portions of scientific and notably biomedical literature have turned out to be false anyway.)

As John Ralston Saul once said: “not only do we not reward thought, we punish it as unprofessional”.

In this sense, the scientific embrace of skepticism and uncertainty, though seemingly a method of error-proofing, has increasingly come at the expense of reasoning ability and clarity of communication and thus become an epistemic blight in its own right. In order to eliminate all “false positives”, the expert refuses to draw even a tentative conclusion, even when such a conclusion is both obvious and urgently needed. She thus feels reassured that she has avoided any serious error. But the result of this unreasoning hyperconservatism is not a higher level of truth, but simply a higher rate of “false negatives”.

Yet the false negative, by implying normality where there is none, is typically far more dangerous than the false positive, which merely produces worry when there is no threat. Unfounded worry can be frustrating. Unfounded complacency can be deadly.

* * *

Evidence continues to come in: aside from the already-mentioned research on Covid spread between felines, and the case of the cat in Belgium, which contracted COVID19 and suffered similar symptoms to those of human patients, there have so far been a number of reports of dogs testing “weakly positive” for SARS-CoV-2, as well as another cat in Hong Kong which tested fully positive (though without symptoms so far). Even the tigers at the Bronx Zoo have contracted the coronavirus now, through contact with an asymptomatic Covid-positive human trainer.

It is worth noting that none of this was unexpected from a biochemical perspective, or at least not to those who maintained a sliver of an open mind to the possibility. In fact, there has been clear genetic evidence available for at least the past 3-4 weeks that human ACE2—the cellular receptor through which SARS-CoV-2 attaches itself and gains entry to cells—is highly similar to the ACE2 of a number of other species, and that therefore these other species are very likely also susceptible to infection. To quote one recent publication:

“On the basis of structural studies and biochemical experiments SARS-CoV-2 seems to have an RBD that binds with high affinity to ACE2 from humans, ferrets, cats and other species with high receptor homology”.

Fortunately, it appears that dog and rodent ACE2 binds SARS-CoV-2 only poorly if at all, reducing—though not eliminating—the risk that these animals will readily transmit the virus in Black Death style. But cats (and possibly pigs) are another story.

Not only do we now have ample evidence that felines can catch SARS-CoV-2 and get sick from it, we have also just learned that approximately 15% of all cats tested in the city of Wuhan carry antibodies to the virus—strong evidence that the virus will have already spread widely among domestic animals wherever many infected humans have been present.

And yet how do media outlets report this news? Can you guess? By telling readers that “pet lovers have ‘no cause for alarm’”, and reassuring them that there is “no evidence to suggest the coronavirus can pass from cats to humans”.

That’s right—the “no evidence” refrain, all over again. And as if to compound the absurdity, the main concern apparent in more and more reports of feline Covid actually seems to be about pets getting the virus from people, rather than people getting it from their pets!

So again we see the extraordinary transformation from “discovery of truth” to “permission to be true”. Your cat may be carrying the same exact virus as has killed tens of thousands of people, you see, and that virus is extremely transmissible, of course, even between cats—on all that we agree—but if the virus comes out of cat rather than a person, until a scientist proves otherwise, why, somehow it magically becomes non-transmissible to humans. After all—there is “no evidence” to the contrary!

Welcome to the crowning glory of decades of epistemological disintegration in the sciences, education, and society at large, peremptorily brought to its ultimate fruition by the gruesome arrival of the Covid. And so long may the triumphant, carefree motto of our new Covidian era ring brightly through the body-strewn streets:

“No evidence—no problem!”