We now inhabit a strange world where politicians and health bureaucrats, working in tandem, run just about every element of our lives. This weird new system has replaced democracy as we once knew it, and it may not be over any time soon. We should all find this quite chilling. And sinister.
The politicians of the Anglosphere are on to a good lurk during these Covid times, as are the public health officials having their fifteen minutes or so in the sun.
Let us call these politicians “scotties”, after one of their foremost practitioners. He comes from a marketing background, so he of all people should know how to polish a turd. So to speak.
A “scotty” is a politician of limited ability, vision and backbone who is just glad to be in office, still not sure of how he got there, but who decidedly knows that a crisis, even if manufactured, is something to be exploited. To achieve longevity in office, the ultimate goal of the modern democratic politician.
We will call the public health officials “chotties”.
A “chotty” is an apparently attractive chief health officer, objectified in these crazy times of health- official-as-leader. And elevated to hero status. In at least one case (“sexy Sutton” of the great state of Victoria), to cult status.
I am not quite sure what we should make of a society that sexualises public servants, but that is a discussion for another day.
Boris Johnson has what a rogue journalist unkindly termed “the Two Ronnies of Doom”, Sir Patrick Vallance (ex Big Pharma) and Professor Chris Whitty, the latter equally unkindly described as an “over-promoted nobody” who got very lucky, career-wise. Boris also has the illustrious Professor Pantsdown himself, Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London, modeller and adulterer extraordinaire who was personally responsible for the slaughter of seven million healthy sheep and cattle during one of his previous attempts at pandemic modelling.
Daniel Andrews has Brett Sutton, the chotty’s chotty. Anna Stasi has Jeanette Young, an ageing chotty, certainly, but one with all the dictatorial inclinations of all the other chotties. The USA has the ubiquitous Dr Fauci, mercifully now very much more in the background than he was at the height of the Covid scare.
The western world is in the grip of rule-by-health-official. These unelected titans provide endless cover for politicians. They have made numerous life-affecting decisions of dubious scientific authority under various emergency powers that have included:
- The creation and extensions of states of emergency;
- Border closures;
- Movement and gatherings;
- Social distancing rules;
- Travel bans between countries (and in Australia’s case, the rest of the world);
- Mandating the wearing of masks;
- The virtual elimination of non-Covid hospital treatments in a bizarre attempt to “flatten the curve”;
Not to mention the ridiculous and chimeric overall strategy of “virus elimination”.
The politicians get to appear heroes to voting populations who are cowed by fear of a minor virus, appearing presidential in the face of a (largely) manufactured crisis. Even the bunglers and the dictators have maintained strong public support. The health dictators get to run the country for a time, while hiding under the cover of being public servants and so able to avoid the scrutiny voters can (in theory) apply to the elected.
The arrangement is a win-win for the scotties and for the chotties. A double loss for the rest of us.
Governments are not that good at very much. But they are good at lying to stay in office and at formulating strategies of self-protection. They have been able masterfully to deflect potential criticism by implementing eight strategies. Each of these deflections has the effect of “look over there” and when they are taken together, they form an almost watertight survival strategy for the incumbents.
- Always appeal to science, call it “the science”, and use it to scare people;
- Write endless cheques, and keep on announcing and re-announcing them;
- Put the media to work;
- Count on the public not to value freedom;
- Replace parliament with technocracy;
- Abuse opponents;
- Blame policy errors on the virus; and
- Turn managing the virus into fighting a war.
In every strategy, the scotties and the chotties each have their defined roles, and each one supplements the other.
The first strategy is to defer to “the science”, which everyone except a few cranks believe to be gospel, and passing the buck to unelected health officials.
When you invoke “science”, everyone simply believes you! It is like magic. It worked for climate alarmists, after all. Never mind the fact that, one, science is always contested, shifting, unstable, not prone to endorsing political fixes, and that, two, the science is actually often wrong. Professor John Ioannidis has estimated that science is wrong at least half the time. This never seems to matter to a public for which scientism is embedded belief, almost a religion. The politicians “pick and stick” with their preferred version of the science, and their preferred scientists. They also pick scientists who are true believers and who are good at scaring people. The chotties are critical to the first strategy, and to the overall lockdown mania.
The second strategy is to write endless cheques, thereby postponing the inevitable economic pain of lockdown.
Furlough, jobseeker, jobkeeper, and endless announcables. They are all merely fingers in the dyke, of course, but that doesn’t matter. They have the twin effects of allowing governments to appear to be doing something, and keeping a lid on what one might normally expect to be extreme community anger at the loss of freedom and, for many, the loss of one’s job and one’s future. Deferring the pain cannot last forever. There must come a day of economic reckoning. But it hasn’t arrived yet, and the politicians might even have come to believe that it won’t ever come. This is wishful thinking, but heck, these are extraordinary times so anything might work.
The third strategy is to put the useful idiots in the media to work for the greater glory of the state.
The politicians can, sadly, count on the fact that the fourth estate has, in effect, gone on strike. The media have given governments a free run. They even join in the infomercials, and merely parrot the government clichés, lies, calumnies and insults. Australian journalists, especially Victorian journalists who seem to have been totally seduced by the daily Andrews show and the occasional Luke “batshit” Cornelius performance, have been in equal parts woeful and shameful. Is it inherent laziness – just copy the press release into the paper – or are they ideologically wedded to safetyism and authoritarianism? It doesn’t really matter which.
They have failed the public dismally. Their greatest failing has been not even acknowledging that there are other views than those of our various governments on how to manage a virus without destroying an economy. The media have gulped down the kool-aid, without it having touched the sides.
The fourth strategy is counting on the fact that the punters either don’t much care much about freedoms foregone or simply haven’t noticed their loss.
Many lockdown sceptics simply cannot believe the extent to which the public has gone quietly, and few have come up with an adequate explanation for the submissiveness. The outstanding Henry Ergas, one of Australia’s true and few polymaths, has suggested a number of causes of our collective rollover, including psychological conditioning of a people consumed by catastrophism to hand over all thinking to the state.
Whatever the cause of our submissiveness, the effect of it has been to allow governments simply to get away with everything from needless curfews to police thuggery to border closures to travel bans. Rather than fomenting rebellion among the people, the ever more harmful and dictatorial measures visiting upon us merely provoke yawns.
The fifth strategy is to dispense with parliamentary democracy, or as much of it as they can get away with, and to replace it with technocracy.
Technocracy has been defined as:
… an ideological system of governance in which a decision-maker or makers are elected by the population or appointed on the basis of their expertise in a given area of responsibility, particularly with regard to scientific or technical knowledge.
Australia’s peculiar non-constitutional invention of national cabinet is one example of this. Another is parliaments not sitting at all, or sitting rarely. Yet another is ministerial rule without reference to the parliament, typically under emergency or public health acts. And the chotties are the exemplars of the new managerial class, of the now much lauded rule by experts. This is the antithesis of William F Buckley Jr’s old dictum that he would prefer to be ruled by the first two hundred names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard. Rule-by-chotty is surely the very apogee of James Burnham’s anticipated takeover of society by the meritocracy, the fulfilment of Pareto’s and Mosca’s prediction of democratic rule by elites.
The sixth strategy is to abuse sceptics and questioners yourself, or have your surrogates do it for you. A variation is to characterise your opponents, opponents of the lockdowns, as “selfish”, extremists, ill-informed, granny killers, Covid deniers and so on. Daniel Andrews and his VicPol sidekicks have been brazen about this, using the endless pressers with aplomb.
The abuse of scientists by other scientists and most recently by second rate politicians like the UK Health Minister Matt Hancock has been rife. British lockdown sceptic Professor Karol Sikora has had enough:
I’ve been surprised by many things over the last six months, but nothing has shocked me more than the conduct and language of the many different players in the Coronavirus debate.
Words have been twisted, personal abuse flung around, and motives questioned. I understand that there is always going to be an element of rough and tumble when discussing something that affects literally every person in the country, but far too many times the line has been crossed. Science and medicine are rife with low-level squabbling, but nothing like when interacting with politics.
… It was a couple of weeks ago when dozens of friends and colleagues sent the PM and his team an open letter calling for a strategy rethink. There has been no response on the substance of the letter, but the go-to line is now to accuse those questioning ludicrous Government policies of wanting to ‘let the virus rip’ and therefore signing the death warrant of thousands of people.
Quite frankly it’s a disgraceful smear and needs to stop now.
This is the climate wars all over again. Instead of Michael Mann, wheel in Neil Ferguson. It is precisely the same models that were used to scare the daylights out of people over the climate that are now used to scare people about pandemics. Imperial College London is ground zero for both. Part of the trick, related to the first strategy above, is to make out that there are no dissenting views, other than those held by fringe dwellers and loopies.
One of the great challenges for dissenting voices is to get into the conversation. Before even trying to influence its direction and outcome. And for scientists running the official line, the best form of defence is attack. Play the man, not the ball. Discredit your opponent. Being on the official side, even for a “scientist” as laughable as Ferguson – there I go, playing the man – is a massive advantage in prosecuting the battle. I mean leading the debate.
Covid has provided for some an opportunity for endless virtue signalling, too, especially when it comes to bagging tin foil hat wearing anti-vaxxers. The press has given everyone the impression that it is only kooks who oppose the lockdowns.
The seventh strategy is to blame everything, especially your own clueless inadequacies, on the virus itself. It is the virus what stuffed up the economy. Not our own policy responses.
Here the politicians and their media acolytes massage the message such that people come to believe that the economic crisis is the fault of the virus, not of the barmy political responses to it. This is a brilliant play, and it has worked. Subliminally, or perhaps consciously, the media have simply allowed the casual slipping of the word “virus” into reports as shorthand for “the response by governments to the virus”. So that now the virus is seen as the direct cause of all the hideous out-workings of government policy related to the virus.
The eighth strategy is to describe dealing with Covid 19 as “a war”.
If it is a war, it is a war like the war in Wag the Dog, the late 1990s film about a US president heading for electoral defeat who gets an old friend from Hollywood to film a pretend war and put it on the news every night leading up to the election, in order to unite the people behind the leader. People accused Margaret Thatcher of doing just this in the Falklands, and likewise Reagan in Grenada.
Covid death porn, aka daily case and death counts leading every news bulletin, is merely one of the weapons used in battle. They are like the old footage of Vietnam that led the news for years in the late 1960s. The masks are another war trick. As will be compulsory regular jabs when the promised vaccine arrives, if it does. At mass vaccination centres.
Endlessly reinforce the message and the narrative. Stand in needless queues. Impose rations. No more toilet paper. Empty supermarket shelves. Make people sit and stand metres apart. This is a war, you know!
To accuse those who question the response of governments to Covid as being out of all proportion to the threat as “deniers” who believe the virus is just a hoax is to miss the point, perhaps quite deliberately. Very few people, and none that I know, think the virus is a hoax. It is the response of governments that is the hoax. These are governments that have turned Covid into an enemy that has to be fought and crushed, in no less than a war. And we all know what to think of fifth columnists.
Creating a war has a dual payoff. It justifies war-time measures and makes ordinary politicians Churchillian war heroes. People like Boris, who thinks he IS Churchill – whereas Daniel Andrews thinks he is God – need wars and crises to allow themselves to be portrayed as their heroes – real war leaders – were. God alone knows with whom Daniel Andrews or ScoMo wish to be compared.
To date, the eight strategies I have outlined have worked a treat for the political class, the elites, in the West.
Politicians’ numbers mostly remain high, despite grave doubts about whether their policies were either moral or effective. Supine populations seem not to be aware that at least some politicians both here and overseas should be under investigation for industrial manslaughter or worse, such has been the sheer negligence relating to issues such as nursing homes and quarantine.
It must be remembered that the scotties have only been able to prevail with the help of the chotties, and vice versa. Each provides cover for the other. The politicians provide protection for the health officials, just as the public servants provide protection for the politicians. And each has an important role in many of the government strategies outlined above. It is a marriage of convenience, but a marriage made in pandemic heaven.
The partnership provides such a head buzz for the participants that they seem more than keen for it to last into the indefinite future. A brazen power grab that will be locked in. In perpetuity. As the Lancet has suggested in an opinion piece:
All the vaccine scenarios will require that the mitigation measures employed worldwide continue for a few years at least. … It is time to forcefully impress on people that basic measures to limit the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 are here to stay. This is the new normal.
This is simply chilling, miserable, dystopian and quite sinister. Like Orwell’s Oceania ruled by Big Brother, there is no escape. It just goes on like this forever. A Hotel California in which we all wear masks. And the politicians and the health tsars are cheering. This is not a war that either party wishes will end any time soon. It is too much fun. Just look at how rarely the politicians or the health bureaucrats talk about exist strategies, other than in the context of next-to-impossible hurdles to be overcome. Look at how often they get vague about timeframes for ending the dictatorship.
And look at how the timeframes keep slipping. No, this will not be over any time soon. For example, it has been reported that Australia’s borders might remain closed through 2021. Though nothing certain has been said. Nothing clear ever is said by either the scotties or the chotties. Keeping the punters in a state of perpetual uncertainty, and keeping them in the dark, are core parts of the strategy too.
And if and when it is over, life won’t be much fun. Only this week the British Minister for Housing suggested that making masks at work compulsory will be considered by the Government there.
Yes, the scotties and chotties at the lectern, looking all grim and censorious in their issuing-edict mode, remain very much in charge. And the ability of voters to change their minds, even to influence them, seems a world away.
But we should all remember … This ain’t how the Westminster system is meant to work. It ain’t how democracy is meant to work. It ain’t, indeed, how life is meant to work.