Politics & Media
Jun 07, 2023, 05:57AM

Covid’s Metamorphoses

The past three years changed minds, culture, and economics.

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Maybe it’s pretentious of me to think the poet Ovid would be well-suited to describe the transformation of the culture over the past three plague-deformed years or so—but good pretentious, like Greta Gerwig and Zach Woods in Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress sounding like the right and left fighting over the problem of upstart populism when they discuss what to do with the noisy frats on campus.

Let us sing, then, of chaos and Jupiter!

Who in all of Rome, my fellow citizens, would’ve imagined that the censorship mania of the past three-plus years, fueled partly by panic over Covid, would, among other wonders, turn a member of the Kennedy clan, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., into a possible populist successor to Trump? Already, ABC News has made jarring edits to their “first sit-down interview” with RFK to avoid letting viewers hear the really controversial parts about vaccines, a clumsy move that only makes his supporters more eager to hear him. Ostensibly objective network news won’t even play full clips of people with whom they disagree now?

So it begins! If the establishment is to shift smoothly from corona to coronation of Biden, they can’t let anything too unexpected happen. For an establishment scion himself, RFK suddenly looks not only like a fly in the Democratic primary ointment—another Bernie who must be quietly suppressed—but oddly resembles a fulfillment of perhaps the craziest prophecy of the right-wing QAnon movement, namely that cousin JFK Jr. would be revealed to be secretly alive—and a Trump ally—and would return to restore our constitutional republic. In some versions of the prophecy, Trump has time travel powers, I kid you not. RFK will have to suffice.

YouTube has already removed an old cordial conversation between RFK and Mike Tyson, which was done for some technical reason or other but by an amazing coincidence may help the pro-Biden Democratic Party establishment stave off a defection by some black voters.

An increasingly censorious Canada, meanwhile, has for some time been quietly revising its Covid death tolls downward, part of the increasingly popular pretense that nothing too seismic happened over the past three years one way or the other. Panicked demands for change were useful a few years ago, merely trouble-making now that the left is in charge. Best if everyone just stays calm now, apparently.

Not that politicians will forget the terrible authoritarian lessons they learned over the past three years, even if the public manages to forget all the fear and economic losses. The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, for instance, wants a global anti-fentanyl regime modeled on the anti-Covid regime, evidence that every government program is treated as a precedent—and thus that no government program should ever be instituted in the first place. The government can metamorphose anything into an anti-drug crackdown if the mood strikes them.

As usual, I must clarify that I’m not saying Covid doesn’t exist, and even now, barely a week goes by without some news such as India being beset by the Arcturus variant (really) or some other new sci-fi-sounding, ever-mutating designation. It seems only yesterday that Gates, Fauci, and Republican lawmakers were united in pushing for $5 billion to spend on a Covid vaccine initiative, and the establishment isn’t about to just forget the power it briefly wielded, rightly or wrongly, to move heaven, earth, and mountains of cash.

As Bret Stephens admirably admitted in a New York Times piece, even if studies suggest mask mandates accomplished nothing, it doesn’t seem as though the establishment is in any mood to learn from that. Here in New York, though, the city government has suddenly, thanks to Covid, rediscovered the fact that mask-wearing facilitates burglaries, so there’s still some hope for pragmatism to override dogmatism once in a while.

Make no mistake, political calculations tend to come before cold scientific ones. The same establishment that tells you you’re scum for not listening to scientists will dismiss the scientists when they go off-message.

Recall the increasingly loathsome Stephen Colbert mocking the Department of Energy when it concluded a lab leak was the likely origin of Covid, urging his audience to laugh at the DOE—not Beijing!—directing lines like “Stay in your lane!” at the DOE experts for not being medical doctors, as if stand-up comedians are in their lane training the pliant, clapping public what to think about public health crises.

So head-spinning have the dogmatic pronouncements and subsequent reversals of the past few years been that it’s only natural for some people to metamorphose from being old-fashioned viewers who trust ABC’s edits or Colbert’s mockery into being fringe-friendly truth-seekers delighted, for example, to see Benny Johnson tweet, “Reporter who exposed Hunter Biden laptop drops BOMBSHELL trove of Fauci emails proving panicked lab leak cover-up.” Who by now expects the truth to get out any other way, really?

As I’ve warned before, the safe bet is usually that no matter which way the gods direct the winds of fact and circumstance, though, the end result will somehow always be recommendations for a tighter control grid. Whatever else was learned from the convolutions and changes of the past few years, the government’s Centers for Disease Control may well have learned your cellphone metadata. The CDC bought about 55 million Americans’ phone data records to track and sample compliance with lockdown rules.

You may say privacy violations are necessary when there’s a crisis to tame. I say happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind, and has given up worrying once and for all.

—Todd Seavey is the author of Libertarianism for Beginners and is on Twitter at @ToddSeavey


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