The global dominance of Virus over the last two years is telling us that capitalism is ready to do “whatever it takes” to postpone its [final reckoning]. It is therefore delusional to think governments, health authorities, and media act independently. Rather, what speaks through them is always economic-financial Power, the very Thing they want us to believe only exists for conspiracy theorists; as if it had suddenly died out like the dinosaurs, or mutated into philanthropy.
Fabio Vighi, Professor of Critical Theory and Italian at Cardiff, and author of the piece introduced here
Remember how fearful many of us were in early 2020, of a dreadful new coronavirus certain to see coffins laid out on the streets as the death count hit Ebola ratios? It didn’t happen and many who bought into that narrative, or like me remained unsure, are left scratching our heads as to what it was all about.
Not that I’m about to abseil bridges to spray ‘SCAMDEMIC!’ in metre high block caps, mind. I’ve lost two friends, seemingly to Covid, though it has to be said not only that both were in high risk groups but that from the outset there have been grounds for scepticism in the face of a relaxing in Britain and elsewhere of death certification rules, as an explicit response to the coronavirus.
There were also grounds, at a higher level of generality, for scepticism of the overall narrative – grounds expressed by senior clinicians and epidemiologists both. I refer to people of principle, some of them eminent in their fields, with nothing to gain and much to lose by speaking out. Of course, neither moral courage nor eminence confer infallibility. But these men and women had earned, over decades of dedicated and even ground breaking work, the right to be heard. More to the point, we had a right to hear them.
For all practical purposes their right, like ours, was denied. Why? And are the means (lockdown and slyly compulsory vaccination 1 ) justified by the cause of combating a disease arguably no worse than flu? 2
There are other hefty questions of course, pertaining to:
- whether a Covid pandemic really was a thing;
- if it was a thing, whether it was deliberately cultivated;
- if deliberately cultivated, whether it was deliberately released;
- whether or not deliberately cultivated and released, it is being exploited by an imperial hub near the end of its ability to create new value (a truth only partially obscured by its reckless creation of new money in a black hole of rentier-driven voodoo economics) and confronted by population levels surplus – because non value producing 3 – to the needs of a grotesquely distorted system for organising social relations for the task of producing and daily reproducing the material conditions of human existence.
With those ancillary questions sidestepped for now, my agnosticism vanishes. Emphatically, the ostensible end of combating a (not so) deadly disease never did justify the means. I refer on the one hand to the most abrupt and wholesale economic contraction in capitalism’s history; on the other to further inroads on civil liberties wholly of a piece with a 21st century pattern – other of whose low points include America’s Patriot Act (its Bill of Rights be damned passage from 9/11 to statute books taking just 45 days) and Britain’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act of three months ago.
(The moment we make room for the possibility of that economic shock, rights curtailment and – while we’re in the game of counting costs – tectonic shifts 4 in social behaviour as means to ends other than the ones advertised, the picture alters dramatically. But I’m ahead of myself.)
For a while I did post on these matters, promoting voices – like Germany’s Professor Bakhdi, America’s Professor Wittkowski and to lesser extent Britain’s Professor Gupta – well placed to critique the official narrative in respect of that primary question: were the means justified by the end? This irked a few hard-nosed mainstreamers, but went nowhere near far enough for those adamant that Covid is a scam. See in this respect my exchanges with Steve Jack in comments below my post, CV-19 and the Great Reset. I cite them because, while Steve is more courteous than others of his persuasion, those exchanges pretty much cover everything pertaining to my caution – or if you prefer, fence sitting – on this matter. Though sceptical of the Covid narrative (after initially taking it at face value) I took issue with many exemplars of what I’ll call, in a nod to 9/11, Covid’s heterogenous “Truther” movement. 5 Here’s what most bothered me:
- a messianic certainty, coupled with a debating style which spoke more to a desire to sift the Saved from the Damned than win over the unconvinced, far less engage in genuinely open dialogue;
- a reductivism, corollary to said messianic certainty, which held that failure to Get It Right on Covid rendered invalid one’s views on all other political questions;
- an absolutism, also a corollary, which claimed the inalienable right, regardless of context, for an individual to refuse vaccination; and left no room for the truth that, since homo sapiens sapiens is no Robinson Crusoe, in certain circumstances – not, I hasten to add, these – even this right might have to give way to the common good;
- double standards in debate which I was kind enough to read as indicative more of weak epistemology than bad faith;
- conspiracy theories – I use the term neutrally since these may be accurate, patently false, or come with varying degrees of likelihood – which fail basic tests of logic;
- strawman arguments (such as that I use ‘conspiracy theorist’ as a blanket put-down, even when I explicitly describe such usage as at best lazy and stupid, and at worst made in bad faith);
- ignorance of real world science, such as the glacial pace (among other defects) of peer review processes;
- a failure to walk the talk when most – not all – of those berating me for Not Doing More were themselves doing nothing. 6
Not every fault listed above was exhibited by every ‘Truther’ who engaged me. (Indeed, a few exhibited none of them and these were the voices I took most seriously.) Moreover, I do try on this and other matters of uncertainty not to lose sight of a wisdom neatly framed by another ‘Truther’. Below those exchanges with Steve Jack, George McI, another man I respect 7 (our ups and downs on this matter notwithstanding) makes the excellent if underappreciated point that:
… people can believe something for all the wrong reasons and still be right.
Agreed, though it takes humility – i.e. courage in the face of our raging egos – to keep sight of that truth when we come under fire.
One last remark before turning to the piece this post has all the while been leading up to. The most compelling reason of all for my not writing more about Covid has been that I chose, more and more forcefully in the past two to three years, to direct my drop-in-the-ocean energies at a subject I see as the most pressing issue of our time.
(Alongside that of capitalism’s constant war against nature, that is; about which I have also said little, and for the same reason: fear of spreading myself too thin.)
I refer of course to the most dangerous ruling class on earth seeking, in the face of the most powerful challenge in its 250 year history, to ‘contain’ Eurasia rising.
But what if the resurgent threat of an American elite preparing to risk Armageddon, and the issues raised here in respect of a pandemic real or otherwise, were part and parcel of the same crisis in a system whose demise is – as Slavoj Žižek observed – harder for us to imagine than that of the world itself?
My cue to hand over to Fabio Vighi, Professor of Critical Theory and Italian at Cardiff University. The piece below appeared on the Philosophical Salon website in early January, but only came to my attention a few days ago when, my friend Dave Hansell having alerted me to another of his writings, I was sufficiently impressed to want more.
RED PILL OR BLUE? VARIANTS, INFLATION, AND THE CONTROLLED DEMOLITION OF SOCIETY
Unsurprisingly, Santa brought us yet another Covid Christmas, replete with the usual set of presents: facemasks, quarantines, social distancing, coercive inoculations, vaccine passports, non-stop media fearmongering, and lockdowns. Two years down the line, after billions of injections with multiple and diversified experimental vaccines, the mighty pandemic is still with us. This time, however, it comes with the bonus of soaring inflation, which by devaluing money pushes more and more people into debt and poverty. And to add insult to injury, the ‘experts’ are now warning about “inflation inequality”. As my daughters would say (via Homer Simpson): duh!?
Perhaps, while we wait to hear what we must do to ‘save Easter,’ it is time to take the red pill and face reality: since the start of 2020, a macroeconomic virus disguised as a pandemic virus has taken possession of our lives, causing widespread depression and consigning entire populations to often extreme forms of legalized discrimination.
Nothing new so far. I’m familiar with such statements from a zillion engagements along lines touched on in my introduction. It’s what comes next that got my attention. It’s not that I hadn’t previously encountered anyone linking pandemic to a capitalism nearing, in the West at least, the end of its ability to create new value. But I hadn’t heard anyone do so in a manner not only grounded in the dialectically materialist approach I say is indispensable to any understanding of social phenomena, but synthesised with other currents, including a ‘postmodernism’ I had by the late eighties put behind me, and which I’m now minded to re-examine.
Whether and to what degree Fabio Vighi is correct is a call I’m not yet ready to make. What I am sure of, however, is that here is a man willing to think in new but empirically and theoretically grounded ways about the dire straits in which humanity – or that subset of it not fully asleep – now finds itself.
But back to what he has to say about Covid …
The deep function of a ‘health emergency’ legitimised by perpetual programs of mandatory vaccine inoculations can only be grasped if placed in the relevant macro context, namely the terminal crisis of our mode of production. The causal sequence to bear in mind is: economic implosion – pandemic simulation – authoritarian offensive. Should it come to fruition, this paradigm shift would culminate in a totalitarian model of implosive capitalism, perhaps still thinly disguised as democracy but legitimized by the despotic management of global emergencies that are grotesquely disproportionate to any actual threat. As shown by the ‘Covid vaccine’ indoctrination campaigns, with attendant ‘anti-vax’ scapegoating, the totalitarian potential of mass propaganda is virtually limitless. For the first time in history, the blame for a treatment that does not work (at least not in the way we were promised) has been placed on those who do not use it.
Yet we must be mindful that today’s ideological violence comes as a reaction to a looming socioeconomic collapse whose magnitude has never been experienced before. The first shock was the 2007 credit crunch and following global recession. At that time, the bailing out of the financial sector led to the European debt crisis (2010-11), which turned Quantitative Easing (central bank programs of financial asset purchase) into the mother of all monetary policies. Since 2008, regular central bank distortion through QE injections has spawned an ultra-financialised regime of capitalist accumulation contingent on the creation of asset bubbles whose volatility resurfaced in mid-September 2019, with the liquidity trap in the Wall Street repo (repurchase agreement) loan market. This, in turn, cleared the way for Virus and the perverse logic of ‘pandemic capitalism,’ which allowed the top 1% to increase their wealth at record speed, while the middle classes are going missing.
As recently detailed by Pam and Russ Martens, on September 17, 2019 the Federal Reserve started an extraordinary program of repo loans to its so-called ‘primary dealers’ on Wall Street (including JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Nomura, Deutsche Bank, Bank of America, Citibank, etc.) – these were overnight loans as well as 14-day and even longer term loans. On July 2, 2020 (the last date currently available from the Fed’s database) the cumulative value of these loans, whose collateral consisted mostly of US Treasuries and Mortgage-Backed Securities, totalled $11.23 trillion. Because of the fragmented way in which the Fed releases its data, it is impossible to establish exactly which loans are or were outstanding, and by how much. Nevertheless, what matters is their astonishing size, which confirms that Wall Street’s trading houses were on the verge a catastrophic meltdown before the arrival of Virus. Further evidence of the loan market’s persistent fragility came on July 28, 2021, when the Fed announced the creation of a ‘Standing Repo Facility’, consisting of $500 billion backstop credit each week for the Fed’s 24 primary dealers and additional counterparties.
As I argued in a recent piece, the countermoves to an impending meltdown were planned months in advance. Official documents indicate that our financial lords knew all too well that the post-2008 artificial expansion of the money supply was becoming unmanageable, not least because accompanied by a global economic contraction that, in 2019, had pushed Germany, Italy and Japan to the verge of recession, while Britain, China, and other economies were spluttering ominously. It is therefore reasonable to surmise that, rather than risk a sudden and catastrophic collapse, the elites opted to control the accident while, as it were, calling the ambulance in advance. As we have seen, when the Wall Street repo market froze up in mid-September 2019, the Fed swiftly prescribed a higher dose of the same medicine, that is to say an unprecedented expansion of monetary stimulus in repo loans. But this time, crucially, under protection of the pandemic shied. If we fast forward to January 2022, the same logic applies: the ‘Covid emergency’ continues to work like a huge Linus blanket for a global economy that is sinking under mountains of unsustainable deficits and unserviceable debts.
It is important to be clear about the magnitude of the monetary expansion under consideration. In August 2019, a white paper issued by BlackRock (the all-powerful investment fund already known as the “fourth branch of government”) had shown the Federal Reserve the way out of the coming “dramatic downturn,” urging the US Central Bank to implement an “unprecedented” monetary policy whereby large masses of money created out of thin air were to be delivered “directly into the hands of public and private spenders.” This “going direct” scheme, which according to BlackRock had to be made “permanent,” was promptly inaugurated a month later in response to the repo market crisis. Since then, and especially after the arrival of Virus, the Fed’s balance sheet has grown by nearly 5 trillion dollars, an absolutely extraordinary expansion even when compared with the QE bailouts started at the end of 2008. And to get an idea of the global dimension of this expansion, we need to add the trillions created by other central banks around the world, as well as programs of fiscal stimulus such as ‘helicopter money.’
* * *
- See My date with Sister Scope for a horror story which began four hours after my third Covid jab, though the waters are muddied by my having had, in the same session, the common flu jab too.
- This is not to downplay the severity of flu. It’s a global killer but no one in my lifetime has ever proposed countermeasures as invasive of socioeconomic norms as those we have so meekly accepted in the context of Covid.
- I use “non value producing” in a Marxist sense. Decades of exponential automation, and internationalising of capital-labour relations, have in the global north removed hundreds of millions from the value creation cycle: thin men of blank face and lifeless eye, nursing their pints in Wetherspoons at eight am, bereft of meaning and purpose; men for whom an either/or choice of cheap booze over a square meal is a no brainer. And in the global south? Peasants driven from smallholdings lost to desertification, rising seas, agri-capital buyout or landlord eviction pour into the teeming slums and fetid sweatshops of Dhaka and Mumbei in that race-to-the-bottom bidding war for wage labour through which our Primark and M & S purchases have for decades come dirt cheap. (To which I should add that, with wage settlements and benefits levels constrained by cost of living indices, the ultimate beneficiaries are not Primark/M & S customers but the same Western elites who outsourced manufacturing in the first place.)
- I wrote “tectonic shifts” because I’ve used up my yearly allowance for “seismic shifts”, and was too lazy to think up something fresher, but I chose better than I knew. This BMJ piece tells us that, “paradoxically, a tectonic shift occurs very slowly, but the subsequent events can be catastrophically sudden.” And what has the explosion in hitherto creeping trends like online shopping and home working for the middle classes been, if not – under this definition – a tectonic shift?
- The 9/11 parallel is apt here. Given that I was obliged to eat a Desperate Dan sized slice of humble pie on that issue, it serves to remind me of my own fallibility. So let me be clear that my use of “truther” is neutral and descriptive, not pejorative.
- Some of those who demanded that I do what they would not saw it as boorish of me to point this out. But mine was the more general point that it doesn’t matter a bean what I, they or anyone else thinks; only what we do. I was calling out worthless exchanges of hot air; not their own inactivity, which bothered me not at all.
- Alas, for reasons I do not wish to go into here my respect for this person is a thing of the past due to behaviour, not on this site but another, I deem unworthy.