On March 27, 2020 President Trump signed a $2 trillion stimulus package which, according to CNN, passed “as the American public and the US economy fight the devastating spread of Covid-19.”
So much propaganda and hogwash in such a seemingly simple announcement: the idea that the spread of Covid-19 was “devastating,” that the American public was a monolithic block “fighting” the disease, that the economy – rather than the people running it – could fight the spread of a disease. Not to mention what we could have done with a $2 trillion investment in anything other than the catastrophic shutdown of the entire economy!
At the time, I was convinced many other liberal, progressive people must share my distress and incredulity. Surely, I thought, my pre-pandemic favorite New York Times opinion writer, Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman, would have something to say about the insanity of it all.
On March 28, 2020 Krugman wrote:
Just before Trump made his terrifying call for reopening the nation by Easter, he had a conference call with a group of money managers, who may have told him that ending social distancing would be good for the market. That’s insane, but you should never underestimate the cupidity of these people.
Reading this rabid, economically idiotic, anti-Trump screed, I cried. Real tears. If one of the most visible and celebrated voices for supposedly progressive economic policy could not see through the panic, politics, and propaganda of the Covid catastrophe, we were doomed.
Now, three years later, I find Toby Green and Thomas Fazi’s The Covid Consensus (available on Amazon as of April 1, 2023) to be a balm to my battered liberal, progressive nerves. In this meticulously supported and cogently argued pandemic must-read, subtitled The Global Assault on Democracy and the Poor – a Critique from the Left, Green and Fazi clearly assert:
It’s our view that when this history is taken into account, alongside the devastating social, economic, and political effects… it’s impossible to consider any aspect of the pandemic response of lockdowns and vaccine mandates as progressive. (p. 210)
Green and Fazi’s book is essential reading for those who, like Mr. Krugman, were so blinded by Trump-cum-Covid derangement syndrome that they failed to notice how pandemic policies were destroying the vulnerable groups for whom they claimed to advocate.
If you have friends or relatives in Krugman’s cohort, I recommend sending them a copy.
I also highly recommend The Covid Consensus to anyone who wants to make sense of the crazy, destructive and completely unprecedented pandemic response, its global repercussions, and potential future impacts.
Among the hundreds of Covid-related books and articles I’ve read over the past few years, The Covid Consensus provides by far the most coherent and thoroughly supported account of what the global pandemic response was, in addition to an incisive analysis of its impacts on various populations.
This is an enormous accomplishment, and an astonishing feat of research and information synthesis. The 100 pages of endnotes, available free online, in themselves constitute a rich resource for researchers of virtually every aspect of the Covid era.
Green and Fazi’s project sounds simple: They set out to show how the world’s response to a virus, SARS-CoV-2, became a “single narrative” of lockdowns and vaccine mandates. Then they demonstrate how devastating these policies were to a majority of the world’s population.
It sounds straightforward, but the number of topics, facts and events the authors manage to corral to support their claims is mind-boggling. Not to mention their geographic scope, covering dozens of countries on nearly every continent.
If you’re already convinced and have ordered the book, no need to read this review further. The following are my personal reactions to Green and Fazi’s narrative.
Telling the Story
Before reading Part 1: “The Chronicle of the Political Management of the Pandemic,” I thought I had a pretty good archive of Covid material from my many months of research. Yet Green and Fazi manage to pack in reams of references I had not been aware of – providing leads on dozens of topics that I now want to investigate further.
For example: In a discussion of the fraudulent May 2020 Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine studies on hydroxychloroquine (Lancet) and cardiovascular drugs (NEJM), the authors provide this description of Surgisphere, the fake data company behind those studies:
An employee listed as a science editor appears to be a science fiction author and fantasy artist whose professional profile suggests writing is her fulltime job. Another employee listed as a marketing executive is an adult model and events hostess, who also acts in videos for organisations.
Fascinating! And all the more so since it went almost completely unnoticed in the mainstream media, despite being what Green and Fazi correctly describe as “one of the biggest scandals in the history of medical journalism.” (p. 146)
For another example: In discussing “the single scientific narrative” of how deadly SARS-CoV-2 and all its variants were, they recount:
In February 2021, the South African doctor who first reported the variant, Dr. Angelique Coetzee, protested that she had been ‘pressured’ by Western governments to describe the variant as more serious than it really was, and told not to call it ‘mild’. (p. 212)
Why in the world would governments want to describe a virus as more deadly than it was? In my search for the reasons behind the “single scientific narrative,” this type of information can help further uncover interesting answers.
And, for a final example, in discussing the biggest upward transfer of wealth in history, Green and Fazi write:
Meanwhile, in Rotterdam, in February 2022 Jeff Bezos made a request of the mayor. The American Amazon founder and richest person in the world asked him to dismantle the historic Koningshaven Bridge, so that a superyacht worth US$500 million which he had had built nearby could exit to the sea. The bridge had been rebuilt between 2014 and 2017, at which point the local authorities had promised that it would not be touched again. STill, the bridge was too tall for the yacht to pass through – and Bezos, whose wealth increased by $US37 billion between March 2020 and May 2022, was offering to pay for it. The mayor complied with Bezos’s request (or command). (p. 314)
Recording the Devastation
The Bezos anecdote is illustrative of the global impact of the pandemic response, as summarized by Green and Fazi:
…the world’s wealthiest people accumulated vast amounts of capital, while the poorest were flattened. Meanwhile, the social fabric was shredded. All over the world the anxiety and tensions of the lockdowns saw huge increase in domestic and sexual abuse, while victims were incarcerated with their abusers. The impacts set back progress towards gender equality by decades. (p. 286)
Lest we allow these devastating consequences to evaporate into the murk of willful forgetting that is already enveloping us, Green and Fazi devote Part II of their book to “The Social and Economic Effects of the Pandemic Management.”
To choose just one example is difficult, but here is what they report on the effects of the pandemic response on African countries:
African nations had already had a high foreign debt burden, but the combination of the collapse in demand for goods and services with that in remittances from the African diaspora in high-income countries had had a devastating impact on the continent’s debt burden. This had been recognised right from the outset, and yet the long march to lockdown had begun– and no one was allowed to question whether this had not been a catastrophic top-down policy mistake of ‘global governance’. (p. 332)
I found the discussion of how the Western-dominated pandemic response devastated Africa particularly poignant, recalling the protestations of US pandemic response queen Deborah Birx, who claimed to have only Africa’s best interests at heart:
…but even with the substantial support that many nations, including the United States, had put into bolstering its health care system, sub-Saharan Africa was one of the most vulnerable parts of the world. Throughout the region, we were still confronting HIV, TB, and malaria and any new threat to the region was a threat to the progress of our work and the very people we served. (Kindle, p. 26)
Yes, Dr. Birx, sub-Saharan Africa is extremely vulnerable. So how did your policies help the continent and the people you claim to love so much? Green and Fazi report:
Across Africa, the Covid restrictions, increases in indebtedness, and educational shutdowns reversed decades of progress in tackling gender inequalities – while current and future health was mortgaged to pay for a new virus which wasn’t even that serious on the continent. There weren’t just increases in child marriage, prostitution and school absenteeism, but also in access to basic healthcare. (p. 335)
They conclude: “It’s hard to make sense of so much destruction…All in the name of ‘global health’. (p. 336)
Social and Economic Analysis
Making sense of the destruction is where I found The Covid Consensus to be the most provocative, and I’m hoping Green and Fazi will write a follow-up book to delve further into it. The crux, as they discuss in the final chapter, “Ethics & Practice of Authoritarian Capitalism,” is that
Inequality, the power of computing, information wars, and the shift towards increasingly authoritarian forms of capitalism across the world had all been growing for many years, and the response to the Covid-19 pandemic saw a radical acceleration in each one of these processes.
Their analysis, which I find deeply true and profoundly troubling, is best summarized in this key passage (It’s long, but worth reading carefully):
Our view is that the deep-seated contradictions which were exposed in Western political ideologies in the era of SARS-CoV-2 emerged from a society which had come to hold fundamentally irreconcilable beliefs and values. One was the belief in the urgency of combatting ecological devastation, set against the reality of a society founded on mass consumption and the environmental degradation which went with it (which meant that usually the ‘solution’ to ecological pressures was marketed as a different form of consumption). Another was the ‘free-market’ structure which valued small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, set against the gathering power of a virtual world encouraging massive monopolies such as Amazon and Facebook. Then there was the growing influence of China’s authoritarian capitalist structure, which was incompatible with any truly deep-held belief in freedom—but which did not stop any liberal consumers from piling up the products produced in Chinese factories with appalling labour conditions. And finally there was perhaps the most deep-rooted contradiction of all, between the belief that democratic capitalism offered general prosperity and the reality of the preceding two decades which had seen an enormous erosion of the privileges of the Western middle class. (p. 376)
Not a Conspiracy Theory
In telling the story, reporting the consequences and analyzing the historical context of the global pandemic response, Green and Fazi repeatedly preempt the claim commonly used to discredit counter-narratives these days: It’s a conspiracy theory!
No, they persuasively explain, it’s not:
Some…see the coordination of global economic power as a conspiracy, but in our view that’s a mistake: this is simply how economic power works to maintain, concentrate, and grow itself, and always has. Indeed, it’s that tendency of capital to concentrate itself and produce growing inequalities that writers and activists from the left have historically sought to criticise. (p. 29)
More specifically, they describe the oversized role of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other “charitable foundations” in the global Covid response as “philanthrocapitalism:”
… a capitalist, market-based, for-profit approach to solving the world’s biggest and most pressing issues. This is an approach that many see as tailored to suit the needs and interests of the world’s ultra-wealthy and corporate elites, but again it’s no conspiracy to observe that the interests of capital organise themselves to embed its power – that’s a framework which has been in operation for very many centuries. (p. 158)
For all the Paul Krugmans out there, who believe lockdowns and vaccine mandates were not only necessary but also had more positive than negative consequences, The Covid Consensus provides a sobering wake-up call.
If we do not band together to dismantle and replace the structures of authoritarian capitalism that determined the pandemic response, we will face a dire future indeed.
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