It’s common now to speak of the before times in contrast to the after times. The turning point was of course March 16, 2020, the day of 15 Days to Flatten the Curve, though authoritarian trends predate that. Rights were suddenly broadly throttled, even religious rights. We were told to conduct every aspect of our lives in accordance with the priorities of the bio-medical security state.
Very few people anticipated such a shocking development. It was the onset of a new state-conducted war and the enemy was something we could not see and hence could be anywhere. No one has ever doubted the omnipresence of potentially dangerous pathogens but now we were being told that life itself depended entirely on avoidance of them and the only guide going forward would be public-health authorities.
Everything changed. Nothing is the same. The trauma is real and lasting. The claim of “15 Days” was revealed to be a ruse. The emergency lasted three years and then some. The people and machinery that did this are still in power. The pick to head the CDC has a long track record of enabling and cheering the lockdowns and all that followed.
It’s a helpful exercise to summarize the new things we’ve all discovered in these years. Together they account for why the world seems different and why we all feel and think differently now than we did just a few years ago.
Twenty terrible realities unearthed by lockdowns
1. Surveillance and censorship by Big Tech. The resistance eventually found each other but it took months and years. A censorship regime descended on all major social platforms, technologies designed with the intention of keeping us more connected and expanding the range of opinion we could experience. We did not know it was happening, but we eventually learned of the crackdown, which is why so much of us felt so alone. Others could not hear us and we could not hear them. The regime faces a bold court challenge on many fronts but it still goes on today, with all but Twitter constantly policing their networks in ways that are unpredictably authoritarian. We have ironclad evidence now that they are all captured.
2. Power and influence of Big Pharma. It was April 2020 when someone asked me if the goal of the vaccine produced by the pharmaceutical cartel was really behind the lockdowns. The idea would be to terrify us and ruin our lives until we were begging for shots. I thought the whole idea was insane and that the corruption could not possibly reach this deep. I was wrong. Pharma had been at work on a vaccine since January of that year and called in every form of purchased influence to eventually make them mandatory. Now we know that the major regulators are wholly owned and controlled, to the point that necessity, safety, and efficacy don’t really matter.
3. Government propaganda by Big Media. It was relentless from day one: the major media proved hardcore partisans of Anthony Fauci. The powers that be could tap the New York Times, National Public Radio, Washington Post, and all the rest, whenever and however they wanted. Later the media was deployed to demonize those who violated lockdowns, refused masks, and resisted the shots. Gone was the idea that “democracy dies in darkness” and the “paper of record” replaced by darkness itself and constant propaganda. They showed no real curiosity of the other side. The Great Barrington Declaration itself began as an effort to educate journalists but only a few dared even show up. Now we get it: the mainstream media too is wholly owned and completely compromised. They already knew what to report and how to report it. Nothing else mattered.
4. Corruption of public health. Who in their right minds would have predicted that the CDC and NIH, not to mention the World Health Organization, would be deployed as frontline workers in the imposition of totalitarian control? Some observers perhaps predicted this but implausibly so. But in fact it was these agencies which were responsible for all the absurd protocols from closing hospitals to non-Covid cases, putting up Plexiglas everywhere, keeping schools closed, demonizing repurpose therapeutics, masking toddlers, and forcing shots. They knew no limits to their power. They revealed themselves to be faithful agents of the hegemon.
5. Consolidation of industry. Free enterprise is supposed to be free but when workers, industries, and brands were divided between essential and nonessential, where were the howls from Big Business? They weren’t there. They proved willing to put profit ahead of the system of competition. So long as they benefited from the system of consolidation, cartelization, and centralization, they were fine with it. The big-box stores got to wipe out the competition and gain a leg up in industrial standing. Same with remote learning platforms and digital technology. The biggest businesses proved to be the worst enemies of real capitalism and the biggest friends of corporatism. As for arts and music: we know now that the elites consider them dispensable.
6. Influence and power of administrative state. The Constitution established three branches of government but lockdowns were not managed by any of them. Instead it was a fourth branch that has grown up over the decades, the permanent class of bureaucrats that no one elected and no one from the public controls. These permanent “experts” were completely unleashed and unhinged with no check on their power, and they cranked out protocols by the hour and enforced them as legislatures, judges, and even presidents and governors stood by powerless and in awe. We know now that there was a coup d’etat on March 13, 2020 that transferred all power to the national security state but we certainly did not know it then. The edict was classified. The administrative state still rules the day.
7. Cowardice of intellectuals. The intellectuals are the most free to speak their minds of any group. Indeed that is their job. Instead, they stayed quiet for the most part. This was true of right and left. The pundits and scholars just went along with the most egregious attacks on human rights in this generation if not in all living memory. We employ these people to be independent but they proved themselves to be anything but that. We stood by in shock as even famed civil libertarians looked out at the suffering and said “This is fine.” A whole generation among them is today completely discredited. And by the way, the few who did stand up were called horrible names and often lost their jobs. Others took note of this reality and decided instead to behave by staying quiet or echoing the ruling-class line.
8. Pusillanimity of universities. The origin of modern academia is with the sanctuaries from war and pestilence so that great ideas could survive even the worst of times. Most universities – only a handful excepted – completely went along with the regime. They closed their doors. They locked students in their dormitories. They denied paying customers in-person education. Then came the shots. Millions were jabbed unnecessarily and could only refuse on pain of being kicked out of degree programs. They showed a complete lack of principle. Alumni should take note and so should parents who are considering where to send their high school seniors next year.
9. Spinelessness of think tanks. The job of these huge nonprofits is to test the boundaries of acceptable opinion and drive the policy and intellectual world in the direction of progress for everyone. They are also supposed to be independent. They don’t depend on tuition or political favor. They can be bold and principled. So where were they? Almost without exception they clammed up or became craven apologists for the lockdown regime. They waited and waited until the coast was clear and then eked out little opinions that had little impact. Were they just being shy? Not likely. The financials tell a different story. They are supported by the very industries that stood to benefit from the egregious policies. Donors who believe in freedom should take note!
10. Madness of crowds. We’ve all read the classic book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds but we thought it was a chronicle of the past and probably impossible now. But within an instant, mobs of people fell into medieval-style panics, hunting down non-compliers and hiding from the invisible miasma. They had a mission. They were ferreting out dissidents and ratting out the non-compliers. None of this would have happened otherwise. Just like in the Cultural Revolution of China, these would-be members of the Red Guard became foot soldiers for the state. Mathias Desmet’s book on Mass Formation now stands as a classic explanation of how a population devoid of meaningful lives can turn these sorts of political frenzies into deluded crusades. Most of our friends and neighbors went along.
11. Lack of ideological conviction of both right and left. Both right and left betrayed their ideals. The right abandoned its affections for limited government, free enterprise, and the rule of law. And the left turned against its traditional stand for civil liberties, equal freedoms, and free speech. They all became compromised, and they all made up fake rationales for this pathetic situation. Had this all began under a Democrat, the Republicans would have been screaming. Instead they went quiet. Then the Covid regime passed to a Democrat and so they stayed quiet while the Republicans, embarrassed at their previous silence, stayed silent for far too long. Both sides proved ineffective and toothless throughout.
12. Sadism of the ruling class. The kids were denied a year or two of school in some locations. People missed medical diagnostics. Weddings and funerals were on Zoom. The aged were forced into desperate loneliness. The poor suffered. People turned to substance abuse and put on added pounds. The working classes were exploited. Small businesses were wrecked. Millions were forced to move and millions more were displaced from their jobs. The ruling class that advertised its wonderful altruism and public spiritedness became callous and completely disregarded all this suffering. Even when the data poured in about suicide ideation and mental illness from loneliness, it made no difference. They could not muster any concern. They changed nothing. The schools stayed closed and the travel restrictions stayed in place. Those who pointed this out were called terrible names. It was a form of grotesque sadism of which we did not know they were capable.
13. The real-life problem of massive class inequality. Would any of this have happened 20 years ago when a third of the workforce was not privileged enough to take their work home and pretend to produce from laptops? Doubtful. But by 2020, there had developed an overclass that was completely disconnected from the lives of those who work with their hands for a living. But the overclass didn’t care that they had to face the virus bravely and first. These workers and peasants did not have privileges and apparently they didn’t matter much. When it came time for the shots, the overclass wanted their health care workers, pilots, and delivery people to get them too, all in the interest of purifying society of germs. Huge wealth inequalities turn out to make a big difference in political outcomes, especially when one class is forced to serve the other in lockdowns.
14. The cravenness and corruption of public education. A universal education was the proudest achievement of progressives one hundred years ago. We all assumed it was the one thing that would be protected above all else. The kids would never be sacrificed. But then for no good reason, the schools were all closed. The labor unions representing the teachers rather liked their extended paid holiday and tried to make it last as long as possible, as the students got ever further behind in their studies. These are schools for which people paid for with their taxes for many years but no one promised a rebate or any compensation. Homeschooling went from existing under a legal cloud to being suddenly mandatory. And when they opened back up, the kids faced mass silencing with masks.
15. Enabling power of central banking to fund it all. From March 12, 2020, and onward, the Federal Reserve deployed every power to serve as a Congressional printing press. It slammed rates back to zero. It eliminated (eliminated!) reserve requirements for banks. It flooded the economy with fresh money, eventually reaching a peak of 26 percent expansion or $6.2 trillion in total. This of course later translated into price inflation that quickly ate away the actual purchasing power of all that free stimulus dispensed by government, thus harming on net both producers and consumers. It was a great head fake, all made possible by the central bank and its powers. Further damage came to the structure of production by a prolongation of low interest rates.
16. The shallowness of the faith communities. Where were the churches and synagogues? They closed their doors and kept out the people they had sworn to defend. They canceled holy days and holiday celebrations. They utterly and completely failed to protest. And why? Because they went along with the propaganda that ceasing their ministries was consistent with public health priorities. They went along with the state and media claim that their religions were deeply dangerous to the public. What this means is that they don’t really believe in what they claim to believe. When the opening finally came, they discovered that their congregations had dramatically shrunk. It’s no wonder. And who among them did not go along? It was the supposed crazy and odd ones: the Amish, the estranged Mormons, and the Orthodox Jews. How non-mainstream they are. How marginal! But apparently they were among the only ones whose faith was strong enough to resist the demands of princes.
17. The limitations on travel. We didn’t know the government had the power to limit our travel but they did it anyway. First it was internationally. But then it became domestic. For a few months there, it was hard to cross state lines because of the demands that everyone who did so had to quarantine for a fortnight. It was strange because we didn’t know what was and what was not legal nor did we know the enforcement mechanism. It turned out to be a training exercise for what we know now they really want, which is 15-minute cities. Apparently a people on the move are harder to control and corral. We were being acculturated toward a more medieval and tribal existence, staying put so that our masters can keep tabs on us.
18. The tolerance for segregation. Vaccine uptake was certainly disproportionate by race and income. Richer and whiter populations went along but some 40 percent of the non-white and poorer communities didn’t trust the jab and refused. That did not stop 5 major cities from imposing vaccine segregation and enforcing it with police power. For a time, major cities were segregated with disparate impact by race. I don’t recall a single article in a major newspaper that pointed this out, much less decried it. So much for public accommodations and so much for enlightenment! Segregation turns out to be just fine so long as it fits with government priorities – same now as it was in the bad old days.
19. The goal of a social credit system. It is not paranoia to speculate that all this segregation was really about the creation of a vaccine passport system running off a national base, the one they want very much to implement. And part of this is the real and long-term goal of creating a China-style social credit system that would make your participation in economic and social life contingent on political compliance. The CCP has mastered the art and imposed totalitarian control. We know for sure now that major aspects of the pandemic response were scripted in Beijing and imposed through the influence of China’s ruling class. It is completely reasonable to assume that this is the real goal of vaccine passports and even Central Bank Digital Currency.
20. Corporatism as the system under which we live, giving lie to existing ideological systems. For many generations, the great debate has been between capitalism and socialism. All the while, the real goal has passed us by: the institutionalization of an interwar-style corporatist state. This is where property is nominally private and concentrated in only top industries in major sectors but publicly controlled with an eye to political priorities. This is not traditional socialism and it certainly isn’t competitive capitalism. It is a social, economic, and political system designed by the ruling class to serve its interests above all else. Here is the main threat and the existing reality but it is not well understood by either right or left. Not even libertarians seem to get this: they are so attached to the public/private binary that they have blinded themselves to the merger of the two and the ways in which major corporate players are actually driving the advance of statism in their own interests.
If you haven’t changed your thinking over the last three years, you are a prophet, indifferent, or asleep. Much has been revealed and much has changed. To meet these challenges, we must do so with our eyes wide open. The greatest threats to human liberty today are not the ones of the past and they elude easy ideological categorization. Further, we have to admit that in many ways the plain human desire to live a fulfilling life in freedom has been subverted. If we want our freedoms back, we need to have a full understanding of the frightening challenges before us.
Brownstone’s work and influence in this regard is far beyond any that we’ve told publicly. You would be astonished at the extent of it. The times demand circumspection in overt institutional aggrandizement.
We are grateful to our donors for having faith in the power of ideas. We are daily amazed at the ability of passionate and scrupulous writers and intellectuals to make a real difference for the cause of freedom. Please, if you can, join our donor community to keep the momentum going, for the hill is perhaps the steepest we’ve climbed in our lives. We have no “development department” and no corporate or government benefactors: you can make a difference.
Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
For reprints, please set the canonical link back to the original Brownstone Institute Article and Author.