THERE’S a tendency within the softer strains of lockdown scepticism to attribute it all to nothing more than bad or misinterpreted data. Within this framework, the government becomes a relatively innocent, if incompetent, actor; merely misled by Neil Ferguson and his Imperial College cohorts with their fantastical, implausible and now roundly debunked projections. The doubling-down with the second lockdown is accordingly explained as the government refusing to admit to its mistake the first time round, and to face up to its disastrous consequences.
This soft scepticism, which denies any role to intent or design, is now looking increasingly inadequate. Johnson has ordered the Leavers to leave Downing Street and rolled out a radical manifesto for what he calls a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ embraced by a swathe of Western leaders under the shared mantra of ‘Build Back Better’. He has announced a new Social Housing Charter that marks a further creep towards the nationalisation of housing; meanwhile the quasi-nationalisation of the entire economy is evidently intended to continue until March following the extension of the furlough scheme. He has announced further radical liberalisation of immigration laws through his points-based system, which lowers the salary thresholds and qualification requirements for skilled workers and scraps the annual cap on numbers. Universal Credit, now depended upon by record numbers and without the pre-Covid job-searching element (which is of course entirely fair, given the government’s decision to crash the economy) is increasingly morphing into a de facto UBI (Universal Basic Income).
The above policies were heralded by Johnson on his Twitter account over a one-week period this November. Together, they embody all the elements evident in the social and commercial transition; the shift to a new digitised, propertyless, cashless, borderless, technocratic order that is being facilitated by ‘lockdown’ and the vast restructuring surrounding it. Johnson’s new Red and Green manifesto is not only totally unrecognisable from the one he was elected on last year; it goes vastly beyond anything that Corbyn ever put to the electorate.
While I am naturally sceptical of attributing grand design to complex events that are variously social, economic, governmental and inter-governmental in nature, the role of design becomes evident and indeed undeniable when the alternatives are ruled out.
Lockdown cannot be motivated by public health considerations, because everything we know about Covid tells us that it is a mild, generally non-dangerous virus for all but the most vulnerable; tame to the point of being totally asymptomatic for most people and with an average age of death of 82 years, higher than the average life expectancy.
Lockdown cannot be motivated by political expediency, because it is an unpopular thing for any government to have to do. Furlough at best mitigates immediate economic suffering. Johnson has had to alienate his natural voter base which is generally mistrustful of government intervention, never mind his programme for mass nationalisation, green revolution and a police state.
Lockdown also cannot be attributed to bad or misinterpreted data. The first lockdown could perhaps be put down to Neil Ferguson’s deranged, attention-seeking projections, but not so the second time round. By then, we had seen that nations which imposed the toughest lockdowns had some of the highest death rates; while in Sweden, where people packed trains and tubes maskless and met and mingled freely, Covid amounted to nothing more than a bad flu season. A host of leading lockdown-sceptic academics such as Professor Sunetra Gupta (a leading infectious disease epidemiologist at Oxford) and Professor Carl Heneghan (Director of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine) have been wilfully ignored by the government, which is consciously choosing to ignore viable and far less damaging alternatives to lockdown.
In hindsight, elements of conspiracy were evident from the beginning. When Britain first locked down, Johnson told us that it would just be a case of three weeks to ‘flatten the curve’ before a substantial return to normality (this was pushed back to November, then Christmas, then next October . . . and goodness knows when now). Yet this ostensibly nuanced concept of ‘flattening the curve’ is clearly something that the government and its scientific advisers never really believed. Having roped the British people in with this seeming reasonable strategy, ‘flattening the curve’ has now morphed into the ludicrous idea that ‘nobody may die of Covid, ever’; no matter how many tens of thousands die of undiagnosed cancer, untreated illnesses, missed A&E services and abandoned surgeries in the meantime.
At the same time they sold us the ‘flattening the curve’ lie, our state broadcaster rolled out adverts of masked, socially-distanced doctors and nurses assembled in a hospital lobby, warning us that our NHS was under enormous strain and on the verge of being overwhelmed. The image presented was one of almost wartime crisis; yet at the time this propaganda was aired, the UK had an average of one hospital for every 2.5 Covid patients (1,910 hospitals v 4,861 Covid patients). The five hastily constructed ‘Nightingale Hospitals’ proved entirely unnecessary and treated almost no patients. Sage has openly discussed the use of fear as a strategy in forcing compliance from a public that can otherwise intuit that Covid is not the great threat they are told that it is.
While there are these elements of conspiracy evident in the use of deliberate misinformation for public mood-shifting, the greater picture is one of design. The difference between conspiracy and design is worth distinguishing. Conspiracy involves secrecy and implies malign intentions whereas design, or planning, is open and can be either bad or good in its intentions. Of course, that has no bearing on the dystopian end result. Dystopian regimes can be warm and fuzzy (Brave New World), harsh and brutal (1984) or have a sort of cold, distant neutrality (Brazil – that is to say Terry Gilliam’s not Bolsonaro’s). They are all, nonetheless, dystopian.
Much of the social and commercial transition which is being facilitated by Covid is a case of open and stated design. People just don’t see it because it is not being stated chiefly by the government, but rather by more a more complex web of bodies and structures.
As a history and politics graduate, I am well aware of the managerial, technocratic nature of modern governance, and well-versed in its euphemistic language. Global governance; economic restructuring and the climate crisis; global resource allocation; supranational solutions for an inter-governmental future: these are not conspiracy theories, they are the titles of university courses and modules that the emergent technocratic class have been trained in openly for years now.
Neither is the emergence of this technocratic, managerial governing class a conspiracy; it has been an observable, explainable trend within Western democracies. Here in Britain, our parliamentary system was in the past based on the dual concepts of government and opposition; a fundamental divide within the political class was rooted in the competing interests of their supporting demographics. The erosion of traditional class and value divides amongst the electorate fostered the emergence of an undivided, homogeneous political class whose remit accordingly became more general and managerial in nature. No longer attached to the patriotic instincts of the public, this managerial class increasingly cooperated and blended across national and geographical boundaries, becoming thoroughly international in nature (look at the current Tory leadership: de Pfeffel Johnson, Sunak, Patel, Raab, etc).
That’s why supranational, technocratic bodies have subsumed the traditional roles of national governments, and not just obvious ones such as the EU. Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum (aka ‘Davos’) pronounced that ‘it’s time for the world’s first green industrial revolution’. Sure enough, Johnson has now launched Britain’s state-led ‘Green Industrial Revolution’ amidst a second national lockdown. It was the World Economic Forum, not David Icke or Alex Jones, that coined the term ‘The Great Reset’.
The nature of these top-down ‘revolutions’ and ‘resets’, based on hyper-globalisation, mass nationalisation and corporatism, requires the abolition of the forces that have traditionally and inherently limited the power of the state and of international corporations. Lockdown serves no demonstrable public health benefit; it demolishes Small-Medium Enterprises and traditional industries which, unlike the service and finance sectors, cannot easily be digitised. It atomises people by destroying all forms of organic social connection such as family, community and nation, and lays the individual bare before the state and corporate power. It devastates any sort of politically engaged civil society that could potentially hold the state to account, while reducing the middle-class – probably the greatest traditional barrier against the encroachment of state power – into a sort of lumpenproletariat, increasingly dependent on the new de facto Universal Basic Income that Universal Credit is morphing into. And that is how we will come to arrive at the New Economic Forum’s world of 2030, where we own nothing, have no privacy and (they tell us) we will never have been happier.
When I was a history student, professors liked every essay to fit a certain mould. Whatever the historical event – the October Revolution, the English Civil War, or the storming of the Bastille – it is generally best explained as being shaped by long-term, fundamental causes, and is then made manifest by a catalyst at a particular point in time, which is itself often forced by the emergent powers burgeoning to break free from their constraints. The digitised, propertyless, cashless, borderless, technocratic order is the long-term trend, and lockdown is the catalyst. I can guarantee that buried within the pandemic strategies of a host of NGOs and supranational bodies, there will be that same euphemistic language I encountered in the social sciences about the opportunities a pandemic affords for ‘economic restructuring’, ‘supranational governance’, ‘facilitating global solutions’ and so on.
Seizing the opportunity of a mild virus such as Covid doesn’t require a complex web of conspiracy: it is the natural outcome of a convergence of interests amongst governments, supranational organisations and major corporations for whom lockdown will consolidate power and control, and remove smaller competitors. It is simply a river following the path of least resistance; it would require a grand conspiracy or enormous effort of human will and design to prevent such natural co-operation and co-ordinated action over these shared interests.
Outwith this grand design, there are also more immediate economic and political beneficiaries of lockdown, whose vested interests represent a sort of emergent ‘lockdown industry’, and again indicate motivating factors for lockdown that go beyond merely bad or misinterpreted data. This lockdown industry includes enormously powerful tech, retail and social media giants such as Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Netflix whose profits have soared in recent months, as well as a host of government figures and scientific advisers set to obtain huge personal profit from a vaccine. They are deeply invested in keeping you cowering in your home, muzzled on the streets and begging for a vaccine to permit some semblance of normality.
Make no mistake, there is much more than ‘bad data’ behind the lockdown and the social and economic transformation that it is facilitating. The role of design is increasingly undeniable, and unavoidable if one is to gain any sort of near-adequate understanding of what is going on. Bear this in mind when Johnson blames his third lockdown on ‘bad science’.