Fear and uncertainty have dominated the media coverage of the Covid-19 epidemic.
The novel coronavirus is depicted not as a pedestrian pathogen certain to be beaten into submission by the miracles of modern science any day now, but as an invisible evil lurking everywhere, formidable enough to inspire a respectful terror even in the leading lights of the medical establishment.
And in case Americans had any doubt about how they were supposed to regard this new viral threat, the establishment talking heads many rely upon for the self-assured delivery of their news have swapped their usual swagger for apprehension. Amid this ‘confidence vacuum,’ the popular response to the pandemic has taken on a religious cast. Protective measures like masks have taken on a talismanic quality, hand-washing has been elevated to a ritual performance, and a cult built on naming and shaming ‘heretics’ has seized the minds of many – while their rights are quietly stripped away and a paternalistic police state substituted in their place.
Unable to see the microscopic “enemy” they are told threatens the lives of them and their family and deprived of a scientifically proven cure, individuals seeking deliverance from Covid-19 are left with only their faith that the protective measures prescribed by health experts –our scientific priest class– can keep it at bay. If it ended there, the Corona Cult would merely be a curiosity – humans have turned to religion in troubled times since before written history began. But its dark side has already reared its ugly head – those who buck the new orthodoxy are already being blamed for the plague.
We’ve been here before. In the Middle Ages, pious peasants were kept in line by priests who told them God was watching their every move. When a plague appeared, it was interpreted as divine punishment, the wrath of God visited upon a sinful population. Those who wished to stand out as especially devout whipped themselves in public, or wore painful garments called “hair shirts” – in both cases with the aim of ‘mortifying the flesh,’ literally ‘putting to death’ their sinful natures.
It’s no coincidence that self-flagellation reached its height of popularity during the Black Plague. It was assumed by its practitioners that if they underwent penance by inflicting pain on themselves, they would be spared the God-given pain of the plague. Those who publicly refused to participate in the religious rituals of the day were called out as infidels, heretics, witches or other servants of the devil. They might be chased out of town; many were tortured and even killed, often in shockingly gruesome ways, as the centuries progressed and the Inquisition rose to power. The pious were regularly told their misfortunes were due to the presence of a satanic influence among them, with complex problems declared to be solved by simply casting out the offending presence.
While western society may tell itself it has left those Dark Ages far behind, the lure of simplistic explanations is as potent as ever.
Mask of the red death
Face masks have become both the visual symbol of the Covid-19 epidemic and the dominant religious fetish for the Cult of Corona. While cities from New York to Laredo, Texas have adopted regulations mandating them in public places and chain stores like Costco have barred unmasked customers from their premises, it’s hard not to notice those individuals so devoted to the mask-wearing ritual that they sport the face-coverings in their own cars (with the windows rolled up) and when running down epidemic-emptied streets. Poor messaging is partly to blame – the Centers for Disease Control has repeatedly changed its narrative on who should wear masks, from “sick people” to “only healthcare workers” to “everyone.” However, the Cult of Corona’s devotion to the mask extends far beyond following the recommendations of a mere public health agency.
The mask has taken on a supernatural significance that far outweighs its utility in disease protection. Even the N-95 masks health authorities have recommended to protect society from virus-positive individuals have been found largely ineffective in protecting the uninfected from carriers in their surroundings, and the flimsy surgical masks that have become ubiquitous for sale on American street corners are next to worthless in stopping virus transmission. Indeed, some doctors have even warned that wearing a mask is counterproductive due to the false sense of security it creates. Yet it’s impossible to walk into a supermarket in many cities without something covering the mouth – even as one’s eyes remain unprotected and ready to receive whatever viral particles are lingering in the air. Mask requirements thus have nothing to do with health and everything to do with religious faith. They provide a way for the faithful to telegraph their virtue at a distance and recognize one another instantly, while flagging the non-compliant as infidels to be avoided.
In the same way that garlic and a cross were supposed to ward off vampires in times past, the face mask is supposed to fend off the “invisible enemy” lurking everywhere at once. One might feel a little silly driving around with a mask on (or stringing a clove of garlic above one’s window), but better safe than sorry – and if you haven’t been infected, or had any vampires show up at your bedside, who’s to say it isn’t working?
A bevy of rituals has sprung up among Corona Cultists, from the benign if eccentric (swabbing all exposed surfaces with Lysol wipes) to the sinister (reporting neighbors for perceived violations). Even the simplest, most scientifically-sound measures like hand-washing have taken on a ritualistic cast, as the virus-fearing infuse them with a terrified zeal. How else to explain the popularity of the dozens of “hand-washing apps” available for smartphones but that the shock of the epidemic has caused us to question that which we once took for granted? Just as peasants of a previous era might have been spooked into regular church attendance by the specter of the Black Death, their descendants pore over videos of hand-washing on YouTube, determined to live a “cleaner” life.
But another holdover from the Dark Ages has risen its ugly head. While our ancestors might have turned in their oddball neighbor as a “witch,” claiming to have seen the merry old spinster cavorting with Satan under the full moon, modern-day snitches are picking up their smartphones and dialing specially-designated lines to report violations of social distancing orders. These services are disturbingly popular – New Zealand’s snitch site crashed repeatedly within its first week in late March as over 4,000 people scrambled to turn in their neighbors for violating that nation’s harsh lockdown regulations, which separated people into “bubbles” based on their living arrangements and forbid them from interacting with those outside their “bubble.”
Snitches come in several stripes.
There have always been busybodies who call the police when their neighbor’s music is too loud rather than knocking on their door and politely asking to turn it down. But in the Cult of Corona, these miscreants are joined by those driven half-crazy with fear, convinced that the act of turning in rule breakers will somehow protect them from contracting the virus. They’d never say such a preposterous thing out loud, of course – if asked, they merely claim to be concerned for the community, or worried their victim’s irresponsible behavior is spreading Covid-19 willy-nilly, perhaps even stating that their decision to turn their neighbor in was “for their own good.” Just as the Inquisitor’s concern for those they tortured on the rack was supposedly for their victim’s “immortal soul,” so does the modern snitch rationalize their betrayal of their neighbors by reasoning that the virus police are concerned only for the health of the heretics they rat out – while secretly breathing a sigh of relief that they aren’t the ones being tortured (or placed on a ventilator), this time. Following orders becomes a source of comfort for the snitch deprived of life’s normal pleasures by the lockdown – providing an avenue for transformation from victim to hero.
Fueling this schadenfreudisch frenzy are media headlines celebrating the karmic punishment of lockdown violators. Whether it’s spring-breakers testing positive for Covid-19 after throwing caution to the wind and partying down on the beach or social-media showoffs boasting about refusing to social-distance, the public smiting of heretics has been a popular topic among Corona Cultists isolated in their homes. John McDaniel, an Ohio man who criticized his governor for shutting down the state, reportedly died in April of coronavirus only for social media mobs to dance on his grave and use his death to attack other “doubters” (including Donald Trump, whose insufficient reverence at the altar of the virus continues to set zealots frothing with rage). CNN’s Jake Tapper claimed that “practically every day” he read about a corona doubter succumbing to the virus, blaming conservative media and politicians for their deaths – heresy, apparently, is as contagious as the virus. The New York Post, which ran a moralizing story free of any identifying details about a nameless Kingston, New York barber who’d caught the virus after supposedly flouting lockdown for several weeks to cut hair, also rushed to connect a spike in coronavirus cases in Kentucky with an anti-lockdown protest a few days earlier – even though the virus’ lengthy latency period (and the fact that a significant chunk of the new cases were in nursing homes) made it next to impossible the two events were linked. And Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, one of the most fanatical government figures in the US’ corona cult, implied in a press conference that protests were more likely to contribute to the spread of the virus than other forms of “congregating.”
UK PM Boris Johnson was perhaps the most public example of the “divine punishment” phenomenon – his conversion to the Corona Cult (after a few days of timidly suggesting herd immunity might be a better path to public health) came too late to keep him out of intensive care at the hands of the NHS his party has so ruthlessly sought to privatize. When actress Miriam Margolyes declared following his recovery that she had wanted to see BoJo dead, some in the media appeared to agree with her – while making a point of casting such agreement as gleefully subversive. Not only do Corona Cultists find a commonality in rooting for the virus against the dissidents who challenge their worldview, but their own adherence to an exhaustingly cognitively-dissonant dogma is affirmed as the correct path by the heretics’ misfortune. Enforced austerity tends to be unpopular with its victims, but when that privation is reframed as a noble sacrifice made by all [except the wealthy] for the common good, it becomes easier to bear the suffering – and much more difficult to tolerate those who refuse to go along.
The real danger comes when zealots feel compelled to “help” the virus smite the heretics (sure, I could wait for God to punish this evildoer in the afterlife, but why not take some of that work off His hands?). The Daily Mail cheered on an elderly woman who threatened to “kick the ass” of a stranger for merely calling the pandemic a “hoax.” A Brooklyn couple attempted to discipline a trio of Hasidic Jewish men for failure to maintain social distancing, supposedly blaming them for the spread of the virus – but instead of moving further apart, the men and their neighbors beat the couple up, sending them to the hospital (and slapping them with a hate-crime charge as insult added to injury). The violence need not be physical – a British woman told SkyNews she was “named and shamed” by neighbors on Facebook when she accidentally slept through her town’s weekly “clap for the NHS” ritual, in which participants lean out their windows and applaud at a fixed time every week in a choreographed celebration of the healthcare workers they believe protect them from the virus. Even viral videos of police abuses, which have been a dime a dozen during lockdowns that embolden the worst elements on the force, have been deluged with comments in support of the cops, charging the unarmed man/woman/child being arrested or brutalized “deserved it” because they were out without a mask/protesting/not standing 6 feet away from the nearest human. Never mind that the cops in the videos are almost never masked themselves, or that it’s impossible to maintain six feet of distance while making an arrest – certainly never mind the Kafkaesque paradox of arresting someone for not social-distancing, only to throw them in a jail cell with several other humans per square foot – these poor souls have sinned, and they must be punished. Don’t agree? You might end up in there with them.
Gotta have faith
For those whose faith is flagging after two months of lockdowns sapping both their bank accounts and health, polls are being churned out confirming upwards of 80% of Americans and nearly 9 out of 10 Britons support continuing the lockdowns, which combined with social media’s growing censorship of anti-lockdown speech gives the false impression of a universal public consensus that government policies are both popular and lifesaving. Fanatical religious adherence is required to enforce belief in such absurdity, given the appalling track records of the High Priests of Lockdown. Imperial College corona czar Neil Ferguson was caught gallivanting with his mistress in defiance of his own policies after two months lecturing Brits about the importance of staying home, but his wildly irresponsible disease model – produced using a defective computer program that was more glitch than code – lives on, haunting the minds of lockdown-lovers who screech BoJo is letting Brits leave home too soon. Indeed, based on his resumé, Ferguson never should have been allowed near public policy. His terrible miscalculations regarding foot-and-mouth disease in 2001 led to the unnecessary destruction of over 6.5 million livestock, decimating the nation’s farming industry, while a similar but fortunately unheeded prediction in 2002 that mad cow disease would kill as many as 150,000 Britons was shown up by the reality of 178 killed. As the years went on, his apocalyptic visions only intensified – in 2005, he declared bird flu would kill some 200 million people worldwide – when reality saw some 455 people, total, killed over the past 15 years according to the WHO. His hysterical 2009 prediction that 65,000 Brits would die of swine flu encouraged the government to embrace GlaxoSmithKline’s unsafe Pandemrix vaccine, which caused permanent brain damage in thousands of people (mostly children, plus a good deal of NHS workers conned into taking the jab with false claims of its safety and effectiveness) – quite a bit more than the 283 killed by the actual swine flu.
Not that the UK is alone in embracing faith-based “science” as health policy. Trump even appointed the man who led GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine division during the Pandemrix debacle to lead “Operation Warp Speed,” his unhinged program to develop a vaccine by the end of 2020 (a process that normally takes five years being crammed into eight months). Like Ferguson, Anthony Fauci – the face of the US’ pandemic response – has decades of epidemic failures under his belt at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Starting with the thousands of otherwise-healthy HIV positive people who died in the 1980s thanks to Fauci’s shameless advocacy for AZT, which refashioned the toxic drug (too poisonous for terminal cancer patients) into a miracle pill for AIDS, and passing through at least one episode of perjury that saw him deny the existence of encephalitis as a possible side effect of the MMR vaccine (before remembering he was under oath and acknowledging it was “rare”), Fauci has displayed such breathtaking avarice and incompetence at the helm of the NIAID that the US life expectancy has actually declined noticeably under his watch for the first time in history. Yet like the followers of an end-times cult leader who remain loyal even as the appointed date for the end of the world comes and goes, devotees of these public health priests have not dared to learn their lesson. Instead, they ramp up their predictions of doom for heretical countries like Sweden and Belarus that have refused to fall in line with the universal lockdown doctrine.
One level above the public health priesthood is Microsoft billionaire and Pandemic Pope Bill Gates, whose lack of medical credentials or even a college diploma have not stopped the world from hailing him as a prophet based on his “prediction” of a pandemic in 2015 – and his claim to have both the answers and the ability to pay for them. Gates’ deep pockets – he’s the number-one funder of the WHO, ever since Trump pulled US support – have given him the power to almost singlehandedly direct global health policy, steering it into a pharmaceutical iceberg even as real doctors protest his many conflicts of interest. Since diving into the money-pit of “philanthropy,” Gates has more than doubled his fortune; his foundation is heavily invested in the drug companies that make the vaccines that other groups he funds purchase for poor countries. He’s also very, very generous with the media, buying the silence of establishment outlets around the world – big names like the Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, Financial Times, and National Public Radio – so their journalists don’t recoil when he can barely keep from gibbering and squealing while discussing the economic hurt his lockdown policies are inflicting on hapless populations – or research the trail of suffering his foundation has left through the Global South.
Yet even the most enthusiastic cheerleaders of the pharmaceutical-industrial complex – vaccine advocates like Peter Hotez, the bowtie-sporting tropical disease specialist who was ubiquitous on TV during the 2018 “measles epidemic” attacking so-called “anti-vaxxers” – have expressed alarm at the decision to scrap the animal-testing phase for the Covid-19 vaccine that is supposed to save the world, noting that “there is a risk of immune enhancement” with vaccines for any coronavirus. During animal trials for an aborted SARS vaccine, mice who got the shot developed a severe version of the virus when exposed to it after they were inoculated, while ferrets similarly challenged post-vaccination with the virus suffered “enhanced liver damage.” Perhaps trying to get around these roadblocks, Moderna, the drugmaker currently leading the vaccine pack, is banking on a totally new kind of vaccine, one which, rather than lob a softball at the immune system in the form of a dead or weakened form of the virus, will attempt to reprogram our genetic material to create the pieces of the virus, so that the immune system can learn to fight them off. That’s how Gates himself describes this “promising” method, at least. Did we mention Moderna has never brought a vaccine to market before? What’s the matter – where’s your faith?
We may not be turning our eyes heavenward and praying for deliverance, but the leaders of the western world have declared society cannot fully return to normal until a magical perfect vaccine arrives from on high, an absurd one-stop solution that carries echoes of the “duck and cover”-type prescriptions for surviving a nuclear blast, drilled into people’s heads during the Cold War. The effect of instilling a powerful capacity for cognitive dissonance – teaching children to hide under their desks even as they were taught the laws of physics, i.e. an understanding that their desks couldn’t protect them – turned Americans into gold medalists in cognitive dissonance. Were it an Olympic sport, no one would even come close.
To be continued…
Note to readers: please click the share buttons above or below. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.
Helen Buyniski is a journalist and photographer based in New York City. Her work has appeared on RT, Global Research, Activist Post, Ghion Journal, and Progressive Radio Network. Helen has a BA in Journalism from New School University and also studied at Columbia University and New York University. Find more of her work at http://helenofdestroy.com or follow her on Twitter at @velocirapture23. She is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
All images in this article are from the author unless otherwise stated
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article.