The Bodies of Others:The New Authoritarians, Covid-19 and the War Against the Human Source
A Review July 14, 2022
By James Kullander
Since the COVID-19 pandemic of feverish fearmongering and planned pandemonium began in earnest in March of 2020, Naomi Wolf’s subversive genius has been exposing the lies from on high and bent on destroying Western Civilization, particularly the United States of America. There’s simply no other way to spin this. The evidence is in and it’s as clear as a bell.
In her blogs, essays, videos, and interviews, Wolf has offered us invaluable insights, much of them based on her years of experience in the world of politics, technology, and the media. In her latest masterpiece, The Bodies of Others: The New Authoritarians, COVID-19 and the War Against the Human, Wolf not only exposes the myriad of ploys and levels of fiendish deceit operating in those highest levels of government, technology, the legacy media, and the pharmaceutical giants. She also lets us in on her own life so we can see how all of this has affected her, even her politics. Which, for her, is no small thing.
A renowned and devoted Democrat with liberal views on all matters having to do with the place of government in our lives—among her more noteworthy achievements is that she was a political advisor to the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton and Al Gore—she suddenly found herself in an awkward if not bewildering position when the left-leaning politicians, thinkers, media executives, and writers she’d aligned herself with for years suddenly did an about face and turned on her. They attacked her on social media, ignored her, and deplatformed her, all while ushering in a level of autocracy, despotism, and impunity not seen in the United States since the wayward reign of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. She wrote about this in her 2007 book, The End of America. In that book, she documented the despicable dismantling of the best and highest of American ideals in the post-September 11 years in 10 steps.
In The Bodies of Others,it almost seems as if she picks up where she left off with The End of America. She has recently said on various media outlets that the United States is at step 10, in which the government subverts the rule of law by presidential emergency decree, bypassing congress and opening the door to martial law. “At this stage,” Wolf writes in that book, “shock follows shock so quickly that the civil society institutions start to reel.”
Now, however, things have dramatically changed in terms of who has been implementing these 10 steps. Instead of the right dismantling of those cherish American ideals by Bush and Cheney and others of their ilk, as Wolf had outlined in The End of America, it was now, with rare exception, the left led by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and their minions, who beginning early in 2020 had suddenly swarmed down upon us like a cloud of locusts darkening the sky from coast to coast. National leaders around much of the world followed suit and unleashed similar swarms.
Indeed, from March 2020 to the present, life on Earth has continued to get more dire with the left’s deceptive rhetoric, with their censoring and silencing and ghosting of those trying to reveal critical truths about the COVID-19 narrative, and with their blatant lies being beaten into us day after day and causing physical and psychological trauma. And all of it in the name of protecting our health and well-being and keeping us safe. Nothing could be further from the truth.
From the first pages of The Bodies of Others, Wolf documents in chilling detail and eloquent language what she sees happening to her beloved America before her very own eyes, from the initial lockdown in March 2020, to the gradual collapse of our educational institutions and consequent intellectual and social impairment of millions of students of all ages, to the eventual closures of thousands upon thousands of small businesses—the sturdy, stalwart backbone of American life that financially supports millions of individuals and families—many of which never reopened because they’d gone bankrupt from having been forced to shutter themselves for too long. All the while, the Big Box stores (which were allowed to remain open throughout the lockdown as “essential services”), Amazon, and the pharmaceutical corporations, were raking it in as never before.
The same thing happened in other countries. And all of it engineered and intentional, Wolf writes, to position nations around the world for what’s being invoked by the World Economic Forum as the “Great Reset,” a one-world government ruled by an unelected, tyrannical, elite cabal that believes they know what’s best for each of us and for humanity at large.
“The real goal had nothing to do with public health,” she writes.
“The real goal is to dissolve and destroy Western and human culture, and to replace it with a techno-fascist culture—a culture in which we have forgotten what free human beings can do.”
About all of this, Wolf writes: “So in 2020-22 a blueprint was put into action to crush Western people, crush Western economies, and steal the assets of the working and middle classes. Added to this was the strategy of utilizing mass vaccination of an incompletely tested substance, as a pretext for imposing a digital identity system that could create a CCP-style surveillance society and generate untold riches in data harvesting for a very few.”
If this weren’t startling enough in its impact on American culture, what happened was personally shocking to her. Of her loss of friends and colleagues here in the United States and elsewhere, she writes: “This was my people, my tribe, my whole life, the progressive, right-on part of the ideological world—and it became more and more uncritical, less and less able to discuss or reason. … It was as if these communities were in the grip of a collective hallucination, like the witch crazes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Whole understandings and belief systems were abandoned overnight. Intelligent, informed people suddenly saw things that were not there and were unable to see things that were inconvertibly before their faces.”
How could this have happened? Wolf’s answer is as disturbing as the events that led her to this conclusion. And, in a way, it helps to make complete sense of a world in which few things now make any sense at all.
“I had come to believe there was more afoot here than just human vanity, or culpability, or even conventional evil,” she writes. “Here was an infection of the soul, endured by so many in 2020-22. There was the helter-skelter desertion of classical liberalism’s—modern civilization’s—most cherished post-war ideals; the sudden abandonment of post-Enlightenment norms of critical thinking; the dilution of parents’ sense of protectiveness of the bodies and futures of their minor children; the acceptance of a world in which people can’t gather to worship. We were faced with the suddenly manifested structures and their drivers, who erected this demonic world in less than two years and imposed it on everyone else; these heads of state and heads of medical boards and heads of school boards and these teachers; these heads of unions and these national leaders and the state-level leaders and the town hall-level functionaries; all the way down to the men or women who disinvite relatives from Thanksgiving due to social pressure, because of a medical status which is no one’s business and which affects no one. The massive edifice of evil, was too complex and really, too elegant, to assign to just human awfulness and human inventiveness. It suggested a spiritual dimension of evil.”
This startling admission comes after years in which Wolf thought that her “spiritual life” was not that important. “I started to pray again,” she writes. Why this? Why now? At a health-freedom gathering near her home upstate New York, she writes in her book: “Because I had looked at what had descended on us from every angle, using my normal critical training yet found that it was so elaborate in its construction and so cruel, with an almost superhuman, flamboyant, baroque imagination made from the essence of cruelty itself, that I could not conceive that it had been accomplished by mere humans working on the bumbling human level in the dumb political space.”
Much like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s 2021 book, The Real Anthony Fauci, Wolf’s The Bodies of Others is a detailed yet sweeping exposé as horrifying as it is necessary. Horrifying because we learn how brazenly our government, in cahoots with the pharmaceutical corporations and legacy media, have deceived us for decades. Necessary because what we learn here can save lives, first and foremost. And save what remains of our individual and national sovereignty.
Knowledge is power. In this battle—this mighty spiritual battle—we must arm ourselves with this critical knowledge, stand our ground, go on the offensive when opportunity strikes, and never surrender lest we pass on to those who will come after us a world of people who no longer recognize freedom because they will have never known that such a thing ever existed except in a bygone—long gone—era.
Wolf closes her book with the following lines:
Someday all our kids and grandkids will ask each of us directly: “Why did you stand by? Why did you not help me?” “I could not breathe.” Or, God forbid, “Now I have health problems.”
Or else they will say: “Thank you so much for speaking for me when I was too little to speak.”
“Dad, Mom, Grandma, Grandpa,” they will ask: “What did you do?”
So let me leave you with this question:
What did you do?
On February 14, 2022, as protesting Canadian truckers filled Parliament Square in Ottawa, giving joyous hope to all those worldwide who were done with pandemic totalitarianism, it was Chrystia Freeland, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Deputy Prime Minister, who gave chilling proof of how far the global elites would go to enforce absolute compliance to their diktats by the citizenry. “As of today, a bank or other financial service provider will be able to immediately freeze or suspend an account without a court order,” she announced. “In doing so, they will be protected against civil liability for actions taken in good faith … If your truck is being used in these illegal blockades, your corporate accounts will be frozen. The insurance on your vehicle will be suspended.”1 Police shattered truck windows, arrested a hundred protesters, including the demonstration’s leaders, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked an emergency order.2 For a time, representative government was suspended in the nation of Canada.
It would be an overstatement to say that Chrystia Freeland was ever a friend, but for a while we were in the same circle of hardworking, underpaid reporters and editors, all just trying to earn a living. I’d seen her around at social events in Manhattan, and one day when we were both adjusting our makeup — she after a television appearance, me in preparation for an interview — she mentioned, happily and with absolute confidence, that she was shortly to run for Parliament in Canada. At the time her humble title was as Reuters’ “Managing Director and Editor, Consumer News.” I remember looking at her with astonishment at this out-of-the-blue leapfrogging of many career levels. She must have powerful friends, I thought.
It turned out to be a good guess.
Ms. Freeland was part of a small cadre of “influentials” connected to the World Economic Forum; indeed, she is now on the WEF Board of Trustees.3 She and her peers, along with allied elites in other fields, eventually masterminded a crime against humanity unprecedented in our times — a crime that involves the theft of assets and the destruction of cultures, as well as untold deaths.
This book is about how we came to this harrowing civilizational crossroads — engaged in a war against vast impersonal forces with limitless power over our lives for the freedoms we have taken for granted; how those forces seized upon two years of COVID-19 panic in sinister new ways; and how, yet, against overwhelming odds, we still might win.
Others have looked at this war from a biomedical perspective, or from a strictly political one. My focus is on how this ongoing war against us is far more basic, aimed at nothing less than dissolving the meaning of humanity itself and undoing of the rich cultural legacy we in the West have long treasured and passed on to succeeding generations.
In those two years, the COVID-19 pandemic, which began unfolding with the unprecedented global “lockdown” in March 2020, has fundamentally remade human relations, capitalism, and culture in the West. No matter that in the past we had lived through far graver medical crises without even passing thought to stopping all congregation, suspending the production of all culture, or compelling all healthy people to cover their faces and close their businesses and keep apart — this time, our elites used the “crisis” to shut down Western norms of liberty, the human-centered world, and civilization itself.
But what is our culture, which we once thought durable, to be replaced by? A world managed by machines and mediated via digital interfaces; a world predicated on cruelty, without human empathy as an organizing principle; a world in which national boundaries, cultures, and languages are drained of meaning, in which institutions embody only the goals of distant meta-national oligarchs, a world organized for the benefit of massive pharmaceutical companies, a few global tech giants and technocrats, and a tyrannical superpower that is our deadly adversary. In short: a world redesigned to ensure the dominance forever of these distant elites, both geopolitically and via market share.
In 2020–22, we entered a time in which the post–World War II organizing principle of human affairs, the democratic nation-state, was being intentionally diluted in power and undermined in the interest of constructing a replacement meta-structure of unaccountable loosely aligned global nonprofits, Big Tech corporations, the WEF, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Their aim was to construct engines of history designed to dissolve human culture, closeness and community. United in an alliance of convenience, these forces see human beings and the troublesome individualistic West, with its stubborn insistence on human rights, on joy, on spontaneity, on quirkiness, acceptance, and tolerance, as obstacles to be managed, drained of power and resources, and sidelined. Their goal is to subvert Western cultural norms and ultimately to alienate Western children from their families’ influence and from Western history and freedoms generally. The war against “the virus” has really been a war waged via technologies and their masters to dissolve human culture and disempower human beings. It is a war on free thought and free speech — a war against our most fundamental beliefs.
These oligarchical elites are supported in this vast project to remake humanity by massive, opaque nonprofits through which pour billions of dollars aimed at transformational social change. Behind benign-sounding “pro-human” mottoes — such as “We are a nonprofit fighting poverty, disease and inequity around the world” (The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) or “Who Stands Between YOU and the Next Pandemic?” (EcoHealth Alliance) or “Using the Power of Epidemiology to Fight the Spread of COVID-19,” (Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists) — these groups have used their power to advance the most malign anti-human ends.4
The pandemic gave them pretext and opportunity on an unprecedented scale, and they have taken full advantage.
The faces of some of those who have visited this evil upon us are all-too-familiar — the power-besotted political figures, the domineering healthcare “experts,” the bought-off media talking heads, the titans of tech and social media, the unapologetically tyrannical leader of Communist-ruled China, Xi Jinping. We know others, such as the super-elites of the World Economic Forum mentioned above, by reputation, by their pronouncements from their gatherings in Davos, Switzerland, or via their books. But collectively, during the pandemic, they have come to wield power over even the smallest particulars of human existence. And that is because this is a war aimed at undoing humanity itself.
This claim is hard to process, but we need to do so.
Since the end of the Middle Ages, and into the Renaissance, and up until the near-present, we in the West have taken for granted that it is human perspectives that drive history.
No more. Machines have, in the past, served us, but we are at the point in history in which we are being reoriented to serve machines and their masters.
For all their public proclamations about building a “better world” some of the most powerful leaders arrayed against us do not even bother to obscure that this is their real goal. Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, could hardly have been more direct about his intent, invoking the need to provoke a worldwide “Great Reset” in the wake of the pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis has shown us, Schwab argued, that our old systems are not fit anymore for the twenty-first century. On June 3, 2020, when we still did not know if the pandemic would be perhaps in the rearview mirror a week hence, Schwab declared, “[T]he world must act jointly and swiftly to revamp all aspects of our societies and economies, from education to social contracts and working conditions. Every country, from the United States to China, must participate, and every industry, from oil and gas to tech, must be transformed. In short, we need a ‘Great Reset’ of capitalism.”5
I remember reading this and thinking, “What? Why?” and also noting the megalomaniacal, dictatorial tone: “We must … ”
“Our old systems” — privacy, paper and metal money, the ability to drive a car without being tracked, the nation-state, human expression, human touch, cultural activities, churches, mosques, and synagogues, town halls, theaters and concert halls, democratic governance, a free press, schools and universities, books and libraries, and the right to decide what happens to one’s own body, property and family — none of these suit the WEF leadership and their tech- and pharmaceutical-industry and CCP allies.
“Many of us are pondering when things will return to normal. The short response is: never. The world as we knew it in the early months of 2020 is no more,” declared Schwab in his eerily early book The Great Reset.6 As early as July 2020, Schwab expected that we would soon see “a lot of anger”: “we have to prepare for a more angry world … how to prepare? It means to take the necessary action.” Again, he called for “a Great Reset.”7 He asked for “full global citizenship.” He confidently predicted winners and losers economically: “We know that certainly the health industries, the digital industry, will go out of this crisis strengthened, but we know that many industries that rely on physical interaction will have difficulties to survive.”8 He did not say “physical labor,” he said “physical interaction.”
In 2022, as resistance to his plans was in full force worldwide, in remarks that are no longer easy to locate online, Schwab irritably reiterated that the “good old world” of pre-2020 was never to return and that believing that it could do so was a fiction.
Davos 2022 shows clearly the intentions for humanity still ahead from this group of elites: from planning for endless pandemics and “variants” in the future, leading to endless social control; to the digitization of identities and currency; to the intervention in free markets by a “stakeholder capitalism” that chooses winners and losers in the world of commerce via the fig leaf of ideology; to “global cooperation” that seeks to dissolve nation states and national boundaries, the Davos cadre, with a gathering headlined yet again by Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping, has plans for our subjugation that are being implemented, now into the third year of this pandemic, at full throttle.9
But the people of the world did not vote to abandon “our old systems” and destroy our old ways.
The attacks on organized religion have been particularly telling, as these attacks are characteristic of Communist policies, especially in China. From the Orthodox Jewish community in New York, to Christian churches in California, since 2020 the religious were often singled out for punishment for not following “official” COVID rules. One synagogue in Brooklyn was threatened with an investigation, and New York’s then-governor spoke out against it with hostile language when its community dared to hold a secret wedding celebration in November 2020.10 The Supreme Court had to make an affirmative ruling against the governor of California to allow people to worship at church in person.11 Churches and synagogues by the thousands were forcibly closed. The Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center in Massachusetts was still, as of the first week of March 2022, “Zoom only” two years after the start of the pandemic.12
Policies that weaken the bonds between human beings and weaken the family were similarly introduced and policed. Shaming and ostracism, “struggle sessions” characteristic of CCP-style communism, replaced American-style civil debate and tolerance for different points of view. Hyper-empowered boards of health harassed members of formerly free institutions. These unelected board-of-health functionaries hounded professors at universities and demanded that houses of worship, historic sites, and community gathering spaces remain closed, long after any epidemiological danger had passed.
School boards with broad new powers and heavy-handed, seemingly centralized scripts and policies have bullied parents and tormented children, turning formerly safe and supportive schools into terrifying and hostile authoritarian battlegrounds. Concerned parents were even tagged as “domestic terrorists” by the FBI — just as dissident parents are targeted in Communist China or were in the former Soviet Union.13
None of this is accidental. Nor does it have anything to do with “science.” The data were soon widely available, and even in 2020 studies showed the “lockdowns” and restrictions did not stop disease and often made health outcomes far worse.14
But the draconian measures did not stop.
The agents of destructive change also have psychological targets. Under the “fog of war” the pandemic was from the start terrifyingly narrated in the direst of terms, thereby enabling the systematized global attack against traditionally human physical spaces, traditionally human speech and communications, and other traditionally human norms of Western civilization.
Simultaneously there was a systematic attack on what might be called “humane spaces” and “analog products” — the spaces, activities, and objects that are especially supportive of human enlightenment, social cohesion, and cultural continuity and especially resistant to being surveilled and tracked digitally.
Indeed, one of the reasons our current crisis feels so strange and disorienting to us humans, especially to us Western humans, is that it was in some ways modeled by machines and by programmers and may well have been continually modified via machine learning. We are not living through organic human history as it has unfolded in the past. Since April 2020, computer “models,” whether their assumptions turned out to be right or wrong, have driven policy.15 The other reason for its bizarre, uncanny quality is that it is aimed at translating and transitioning Western cultures and instincts into the language and instincts of CCP-type civic subjugation.
If you asked a computer program to define a human being or what supports human culture, it would likely spit out a list of all the relationships, attributes, and spaces that were targeted by the policies of 2020–22. The machine program might respond: smiling, touching, hugging, praying, and speaking; the ability to read and to communicate via speech and facial expressions and touch; the ability to cooperate and to form bonds. If you asked a machine program, “What makes people free?” It might respond with: “Their ability to gather in spaces where they generate representative government.” If you asked a machine program, “What are the building blocks of human culture?” It might spit out: “Dancing, listening to music, watching concerts and theatrical productions, holy days and rituals, teaching children in a school, singing, and worship.”
So it is not for nothing that the bad actors have intentionally targeted the “analog/humane world” of: physical books; physical bookstores; human-populated lecture halls; physical libraries; physical currency; physical maps; paper and metal money; human employees and human workplaces; concert halls and theaters; pubs, bars, and restaurants; in-person classrooms; churches, synagogues, mosques; dinner parties; summer camp; recess; Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts; playgrounds; team sports; non-electric cars; holy days and rituals. They have taken aim at representative in-person democracy, at state capitals, in-person parliaments, and congressional assemblies, local town halls and in-person town hall meetings, and at the museums and statues and historical sites that give humans a sense of meaning and an origin story.
When two human beings are in contact with one another, they produce communication, culture and maybe plans. This is simply what humans do face-to-face. A facilitator of communication and alliance between humans is touch.
How do you dissolve human civilization? One way a machine program could target human beings is by attacking and undoing the magical power of touch. One of the strangest diktats from the start of the pandemic was the demand for “distancing,” that inorganic, awkward verb that was introduced in a new context, and redefined, early in the pandemic.
The implications of this war on touch, more than two years on, are beyond tragic. Physical closeness is not an “extra” for human beings. Without it, we suffer from mental illnesses ranging from depression to anxiety and are even vulnerable to hallucinations and other forms of psychosis, as many studies have demonstrated. As the Prison Policy Initiative warned, “The Research is Clear: Solitary Confinement Causes Long-lasting Harm.”16
Indeed, one reason that solitary confinement has been seen as torture by prison-policy networks is that isolation can cause permanent changes to the human brain that result in madness. First identified by psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Grassian, the ailment manifests along several lines, including “a progressive inability to tolerate ordinary things … hallucinations and illusions; severe panic attacks; difficulties with thinking, concentration, and memory; obsessive, sometimes harmful thoughts that won’t go away … and delirium.”17 Indeed, premature deaths — by suicide, homicide or opioid overdoses — are more likely for those who have been released from prison if they spent even a single day in solitary confinement. Loneliness, even a little loneliness, causes humans trauma.18
As those versed in addiction and mental-health issues well know, humans don’t simply want touch and close relationships; we need them. In the absence of positive human touch and social support, we can develop a condition called touch deprivation, leading to numerous additional negative psychological and even physiological effects. “Touch starvation” causes anxiety, depression and greater vulnerability to infection. Individuals who go without positive physical touch for a long period can even suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.19 From a hug to a high-five, positive moments of human touch can calm the nervous system, boost mood and release endorphins, strengthen the immune system, and improve healing.
Little wonder that the distancing requirements put in place allegedly to eliminate “the spread” of COVID-19 have led many people to experience profound sadness and an overwhelming sense of isolation. They could have also worsened illnesses. Love is indeed a drug — and a good one.
Unsurprisingly, group singing — from the start, weirdly singled out by pandemic policies — has likewise been shown to work magic on human beings in relieving pain and sustaining mental health.20
The same near-magical advantages are inherent in “analog/humane,” non-digital spaces and products that humans have long used. Though advertised (by digital companies) as being second-rate these days in comparison to digital alternatives, these “analog/humane” products and experiences retain advantages that digital competitors cannot begin to approach.
Humans in human space create sophisticated outcomes unmatchable in many ways by technology. A human being in a lecture hall, speaking directly to five hundred people, can reach all of them equally without an algorithm mediating or censoring him or her; a human being walking alongside a physical bookshelf or speaking to a human bookseller can find a little-known book, or one out of print, or a controversial book or pamphlet that an Amazon algorithm will bury. A human being reading in a library of physical books cannot be hacked or surveilled or tracked. Indeed a physical book itself, like the physical pamphlets that launched many revolutions, is a miracle of cyber-secure technology. When you carry a book in your pocket or shoulder bag, no one can track it; when you read print on paper, no one can put tracking cookies on what you are reading. Your human brain is still private.
As a political force, humans in “analog/humane” spaces have unmatchable superpowers. A group of humans in a local town hall, or a statehouse, or Congress, or Parliament have powers that they lose when driven to digital alternatives. In person, they can privately caucus and form alliances. They can lobby one another in confidence. They can review paper documents together. They can point things out to one another free from censorship and surveillance.
A speech is a radical technology. A smile is a radical technology. It boosts endorphins better than a hundred smiley emojis. A physical classroom is a radical technology. A community of human beings is a radical technology.
They are miraculously sophisticated technologies, the human body and mind, human touch and faces and verbal communication, especially within a group of fellow humans, in a classroom, a library, a statehouse, a church. Digital technology simply cannot touch these advantages. And Big Tech knows and hates that fact.
These human advantages over technology are precisely what the world of Big Tech, supported by powerful globalist allies, longs to annihilate. For these “analog/humane” spaces and analog products are far more empowering to human beings than is the digital alternative world.
Indeed, these enemies of the human advantage seek to erase it all — physical flirtation, physical play, physical expressions of love, physical worship, physical teamwork.
By isolating us for more than a year and a half, leaving us terrified in our homes, and bombarding our minds with messages that activate the amygdala, where fear is processed and reason cannot enter — and then re-allowing humans only to reconnect in restricted, muffled, silenced, and surveilled ways — our elites have stifled troublesome Western cultural norms and effectively made us far more manageable and more completely controlled within their own digital matrices.
Again it was left to the WEF’s shameless Klaus Schwab to openly envisage the future he sees via technology. Quoting Eric Schmidt, the then-executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, Schwab observed: “The coming decade would be a battle between robots and humans, and to win that battle we would have to know what makes us human.”21
What did not have to be said was that the WEF and its Big Tech allies have indeed examined the question of what makes us human, only to use that analysis in alliance with the machines against the humans.
And the obvious first step in that process is the obliteration of free assembly, of community.
As pandemic panic took hold, “restrictions” poured out in waves around the formerly free world, echoing one another, but continually shifting and changing their flavor, endlessly assaulting a disoriented, increasingly fragmented, and psychologically fragile set of formerly free nations. (Remember: AI models can tweak simultaneous soundbites and input global outcomes to alter them in real time, in a “cat’s cradle” type of dynamic.)
It is no exaggeration to say that these coordinated offenses, orchestrated by government in lockstep alliance with tech and pharmaceutical companies and the dominant media, represent an evil we had never seen before in human history.
Worldwide, as well as state by US state, we heard the same soundbites and the same charges aimed at those who dared speak up against these plans; we saw the same novel methods of bypassing legislatures and laws to empower boards of health to restrict rights and liberties. Later we saw the same vaccination goals in nation after nation, and the same abuse heaped upon the recalcitrant. Finally we observed the same punishments, from the denial of access to restaurants to the denial of the right to work — even the same lures of free donuts22 or McDonald’s coupons23 to cajole “the hesitant” to fall into line.
The end goal is something much darker than simply a dark-enough world in which everyone is coercively vaccinated, whether they are at risk or not, whether they have natural immunity or not, a world in which “boosters” for seven billion people annually are guaranteed forever.
The end goal, rather, is to ensure that our pre–March 2020 world disappears forever. Irretrievable. To be replaced with a world in which all human endeavor is behind a digital paywall, and a world in which all of us ask the permission of technology to gain access to the physical world, access to culture and access to other human beings.
The data presented in 2020 about the uselessness and harms of “lockdown” were reconfirmed again and again. The Great Barrington Declaration had warned, in October 2020, that this would be the case.24 In 2021, The Wall Street Journal reached that conclusion again, after tens of thousands of businesses had permanently closed.25 Eight months after that, a study in Johns Hopkins University’s Studies in Applied Economics series reached that conclusion yet again.26 But it was not until February 2022, that tanking poll numbers, an internal memo from a campaign advisor,27 and a court decision to lay bare 55,000 pages of Pfizer internal documents28 led US governors and the US presidential administration to pull back on “masking,” “mandates,” and “restrictions.”
The real goal had nothing to do with public health.
The real goal is to dissolve and destroy Western and human culture, and to replace it with a techno-fascistic culture — a culture in which we have forgotten what free human beings can do.
The crime that was perpetrated during the pandemic years of 2020–22 was perhaps the greatest ever committed against humanity. And it is being perpetrated still.
|Introduction ... 1
March 2020: “Lockdown” ... 7
“Uniform Safety for Everyone” ... 11
Understanding the Criminals ... 16
Standing Together by Staying Apart” ... 20
The “New Normal” ... 23
How Emergency Policy is Made ... 28
The Unverifiable Pandemic ... 32
“Lockdown” is not “Quarantine”: What “Restrictions” Really Achieve ... 42
Frozen with Fear: A Cult Takes Shape ... 49
“The Software of Life” ... 56
How Masks Suppress the Human Advantage ... 60
The Tech Bubble: Vast Wealth via Killing Human Competition ... 63
“Vaccine Passports” and the End of Human Liberty ... 67
Switching You Off ... 69
Theft ... 71
Heroes ... 77
Cruelty, Cults, Coercion ... 81
Pandemic Without End ... 88
Evil Beyond Human Imagination ... 90
The New Authoritarians vs. The Individual ... 92
Conclusion: Resistance ... 95
I owe great thanks to many remarkable mentors, friends, colleagues and subjects whose work, guidance and examples led me to write this book. Jeffrey A. Tucker supported my research by inviting me to be a Fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He, Dr. Edward Stringham, then-President of AIER, and my other colleagues at the Institute demonstrated daily commitment to the highest levels of intellectual achievement devoted to the service of liberty in a darkening time. Mr. Tucker is a beacon of leadership in the liberty movement in general and his example of adhering relentlessly to the defense of civilized norms was a source of inspiration. Phillip Magness shared insights about economics and liberty that helped me to evolve my own perspectives on these issues. Dr. Jay Bhattacharya and Dr. Martin Kulldorff gave me interviews with valuable public health information that changed my thinking, as did Dr. Paul Alexander, Dr. Harvey Risch, Dr. Howard Tenenbaum and Dr. Peter McCullough.
Steven K. Bannon exemplified what should be American ideals for civic life, for investigative reporting and for open debate, by regularly welcoming me to bring these arguments and findings to his podcast platform WarRoom. I am grateful too for the millions of patriotic listeners in “the WarRoom Posse” who supported and engaged with my updates about the current crisis. Other conservative or libertarian interlocutors, including my former Yale classmate Eric Metaxas, and Scott Morefield, gave amplification to my warnings about losses of rights. Dr. Drew Pinsky and Sharon Pinsky, Dinesh D’Souza, Jamie Glazov and the Independent Institute all hosted conversations that helped me to develop and communicate the themes in this book.
My colleagues at DailyClout.io, especially CSO Craig Klein, made our advocacy work protecting our rights possible, and lessons from this work also informed my analysis. Russ Stratton edited skillfully the video interviews I did with heroes of our era; he and Johanna Baldwin sustained me with friendship and sound advice.
I thank Jenin Younes for many important conversations at AIER as we both faced the painful fact that the contemporary Left had institutionally abandoned its historic role as defender of human rights and personal freedoms. She is a fierce advocate for liberty, and I learned a great deal about the legal aspects of “lockdown” harms and medical discrimination, from watching her work at NCRA. Lori Roman of ACRU tirelessly helped me field emails and contacts from people facing medical discrimination and modelled the way people should be able to form productive friendships and intellectual alliances across ideological divides.
Tucker Carlson invited me on his show to share information about harms to women’s health and harms to personal freedoms, when my usual media contacts and platforms were refusing to look at these issues. Leslie Manookian of HFDF kept me informed about her groundbreaking legal work, which helped me develop an intellectual framework the harms of “lockdowns” and mandates within the law. State Rep. Melissa Blasek (R-NH) educated me about emergency law, and State Rep. Heidi Sampson (R-ME) brought me to the Maine Capitol to address her fellow legislators, informed me about harms to small businesses from “lockdowns,” and broke a major news story about money flows to schools to enforce abusive policies.
Activist and producer Jennifer Sey, and Tiffany Justice of Moms 4 Liberty, both influenced my thinking about how children are harmed by the policy about which I write here. Wendy Ractliffe is a stellar activist for health freedom, whose work on pharmaceutical companies’ influence was vital to my understanding of the corporate forces in play. I could not have done without her friendship, strategic guidance, and encouragement. Steve Berger frequently helped me understand issues at hand via sending important research links, shared impactful analyses of his own, and read the manuscript. Charlotte Walker was also a valued expert reader. Stephanie Locricchio, Aimee Villella, Mary Holland and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., informed me continually in their roles as courageous advocates and commentators on the front lines of medical tyranny.
Jane Dystel, Miriam Goderich and the team at Dystel and Goderich are the kind of agents that a writer is fortunate to have. I appreciate their sterling support. Elaine Lafferty made thoughtful connections and shared with me responses that helped me bring the book to readers. I am very grateful for the energies, dedication and skills of the team at All Seasons Press, my publisher, who brought this work across the finish line.
My best reader and most reliable champion is, as always, my mother Dr. Deborah Wolf. I thank also my wonderful children Rosa and Joe Shipley, as well as my wonderful stepchildren Ayla O’Shea and Alex O’Shea, for their love, support, wit and patience. No writer/mom/stepmom could be more fortunate in being inspired by four extraordinary young people, whose generations’ future is the subject of this book.
Above all I thank my husband, Brian O’Shea. Daily he wrestled with these issues along with me; for two years he fought this battle practically, alongside me; and in the process he taught me a great deal about how to fight for freedom. I am grateful to him as an expert reader, as a rigorous interlocutor, as an ally, and as a partner in arms.
Naomi Rebekah Wolf (born November 12, 1962) is an American feminist author and journalist.
Following her first book The Beauty Myth (1991), she became a leading spokeswoman of what has been described as the third wave of the feminist movement. Feminists including Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan praised her work. Others, including Camille Paglia, criticized it. In the 1990s, she was a political advisor to the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
Wolf's later books include the bestseller The End of America in 2007 and Vagina: A New Biography. Critics have challenged the quality and accuracy of the scholarship in her books; her serious misreading of court records for Outrages (2019) led to its US publication being cancelled. Wolf's career in journalism has included topics such as abortion and the Occupy Wall Street movement in articles for media outlets such as The Nation, The New Republic, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post.
Since around 2014, Wolf has been described, by journalists and media outlets, as a conspiracy theorist.[a] She has received criticism for promoting misinformation on topics such as beheadings carried out by ISIS, the Western African Ebola virus epidemic and Edward Snowden.
She has objected to COVID-19 lockdowns and has criticized COVID-19 vaccines. In June 2021, her Twitter account was suspended for posting anti-vaccine misinformation.
The New Authoritarians, COVID-19 and The War Against the Human
Bestselling author of The End of America and Give Me Liberty
Copyright © 2022 by Dr. Naomi Wolf
Cover design by Timothy Shaner
Front Cover image: 1218154152/uchar/istock.com. Stock photo. Posed by model.
Cover copyright © 2022 by All Seasons Press
All Seasons Press
2881 E. Oakland Park Blvd. Suite 456
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33306
Interior design by Kim Hall
First Edition: May 2022
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data has been applied for.
ISBNs: 978-1-7374785-6-0 (hardcover), 978-1-7374785-7-7 (ebook)
Printed in Canada
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
On March 8, 2020, I was sitting backstage at the Southbank Centre in London. I’d been invited there as a speaker in connection with the celebration of International Women’s Day.29 I was excited to join many other female writers, speakers, and activists. I was seeing old friends, as I’d appeared there before, and I was enjoying the bustle and excitement of the typical festival crowds.
Parents and children, single people, babies in strollers, visitors from every background — wealthy and low-income and middle class; streams of retired folks: all this rich, peaceful array of humanity thronged the facility.
For decades, the Centre had been a dynamic, beloved destination on the banks of the Thames. It was a delectable smorgasbord, and a pride of London: with plays, lectures, films, dance troupes, comedians, debates, cafés, restaurants, a library, even an outdoor food court with food from all kinds of cuisines, the Southbank Centre represented the finest Western cultural and civic delights. It gathered people who wanted to learn and absorb culture at little or no cost to them. It supported people in the making of culture. It sustained a peaceful, complex, advanced community in which people from all different viewpoints and backgrounds moved freely, associated freely, and shared their thoughts and stories and ideas freely.
This jewel adorned what had been for over two thousand years a great city on a mighty river, where the crush of people who for centuries had been seeking — and at critical points attaining — always more inclusive and institutionalized levels of freedom of association and movement and expression. This civilization had brought about many of the glories of liberty, including Magna Carta;30 the principle of habeas corpus, which ensured that people could not be locked up in prison forever without trial; John Milton’s paean to free speech, the Aeropagitica; parliamentary processes and traditions that were admired and emulated worldwide; increasingly humane innovations in incarceration; free primary education for children of all backgrounds; the work of the Enlightenment-era advocate for women’s rights, Mary Wollstonecraft; the marches of the Suffragists and the securing of the vote for women; and the Human Rights Act of 1998.
Unsurprisingly, this tradition of ever-developing laws and institutions was centered on the Western ideals of liberty and democracy and led to cultural glories that were also admired worldwide, inspiring readers in less free nations with a vision of nearly complete liberty and, over the centuries, a movement toward a relatively robust democracy and an accountable rule of law. Britain gave us cultural glories from Shakespeare to Milton, Jane Austen to Blake to the Brontës, Dickens to Auden, Thomas Paine to John Stuart Mill, and riches in music, theater, fiction, and philosophy too extensive to name.
At the Southbank Centre I was seated on a low platform next to a young Italian intern. We were chatting as we waited for the post-lecture wine and snacks backstage.
She was preoccupied, though, and explained that she was worried because she could not reach her mother in Milan. She said the region had been “put under lockdown.”31
I remember the sense of vertigo I felt when she said that. What? That could not happen in Italy — in a free, modern nation. I understood that “lockdown,” the holding of citizens against their wishes in one area, the restrictions of their liberty to assemble freely — only happened under totalitarian systems. I remember a kind of shudder going through me as I tried not to let the young women see how concerned her words had made me feel.
I knew what it meant. The flower of Europe was being struck at the root.
All around us continued the bustle and conversations and laughter. The excited crowds were lining up for the next events and chatting about the themes of the evening; attendees were making new friends in line or adding dimension to their existing friendships.
Our own event began and ended. It was a success.
As the crowds streamed out, you could hear the buzz of human culture being generated: this was human politics organically evolving. You could feel the power and potential of the living crowd, the energetic froth of a new set of ideas rippling through the audiences, new conversations to be explored at scale. People were talking, talking, talking.
As a writer who had spoken to many audiences, I’d seen and felt time and again the hard-to-describe power of this creature — the wave of energy that is new, like a wave in an ocean that can encircle the world in a moment, when hundreds of people assemble in person to hear ideas as a community and to discuss them with one another freely. Crowds even walk differently after such events, as I’d seen before. Heads that had been bowed were held higher. People approach each other more confidently. Strangers, even shy strangers, could be beautiful warriors-in-arms once they had convened like this.
There must have been six hundred women in the crowd that night. They streamed out of the theater, seeming euphoric.
The sense of possibility and, yes — empowerment — among them, acted on their moods like champagne. A massive crowd had entered a vast shared space tentative and hopeful and left it more optimistic, with barriers ripped away in their minds.
The women streamed out of the auditorium with old or new friends, heading toward drinks or a nighttime walk, or to the Tube together, in the endlessly exciting, inviting city.
I still have a picture from that last day of the old world.
Eight or ten of us, the activists and writers who had just addressed this audience, grouped ourselves together for a photo in the comfortable greenroom backstage. We were together in a line, women of all ages and backgrounds facing the camera, arms around one another. You could sense the proud new friendships, sparked in our brief discussions before and after the event, and the new possibilities for alliance: the exciting new possibilities that human gathering always brings to free people.
That is, until that very moment.
I can’t forget that feeling of those women in that picture right before the world came crashing down.
Back at the hotel, I called my husband, Brian. I told him about Italy having closed down.
Other countries were also “closing down” or “locking down,” whatever that meant. I had planned to head north to visit a mentor at a university.
“Come home,” he said. “They are going to close down flights.”
I made it home to New York just before flights shut down from Europe.
The city I left behind was effectively destroyed in many ways. London has never been the same again.
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29. Heloise Wood, “Naomi Wolf and Sandi Toksvig to Headline Women of the World Festival,” The Bookseller, November 29, 2019,
30. “TO ALL FREE MEN OF OUR KINGDOM we have also granted, for us and our heirs for ever, all the liberties written out below, to have and to keep for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs:” “English Translation of Magna Carta”, British Library,
31. Lisa Schnirring, “Italy Expand COVID-19 Lockdown to Whole Country,” Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy, March 9, 2020.
On March 9, 2020, I was back home in the South Bronx, where we were living at that time. We had moved to the borough a few months previously.
Mott Haven, a neighborhood in the South Bronx, had been going through a period of renewal and efflorescence.
Though it is one of the poorest neighborhoods in greater New York City, and had long endured the serious problems that very low income areas often do, it also boasted tremendous cultural richness. It had strong communities and impressive human capital.
And lately opportunities had been everywhere. New projects and institutions were rapidly being imagined. Investment was secured for them, and they were being built.
A block away from our apartment, two entrepreneurs had started up a workspace for South Bronx–based creative artists and professionals and small business owners. The project had reclaimed what had been a rundown, disused red-brick industrial factory building. The Bronx is the birthplace of hip-hop music and culture; a gifted hip-hop artist had been commissioned to do a majestic mural on an exterior wall. A range of hip-hop visual artists also displayed their work to gallery owners on the walls of the facility. Entrepreneurs with just enough capital could rent out spaces affordably, or start an innovative T-shirt line, or hire a corner of a shared room in which to create an animated TV series. The proprietors of the neighborhood incubator were building out an elegant café.
Cultural offerings were everywhere. A Latino ballet company was housed a few blocks further north. The city had allocated funds to build what was sure to be a huge tourist draw — a museum of hip-hop.
The South Bronx was becoming more powerful politically, as well. A talented up and comer, Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr., had been securing millions for investment in the cultural institutions of the neighborhood. Affordable housing was being built, and local talented community advocates were being groomed to run for office.
Three blocks away from us, a young woman from the area had opened LitHub — thus establishing the only bookstore in the South Bronx. This had become a welcoming destination, offering a sweeping range of novels, histories, political-science volumes and biographies, most of them related to communities of color. A café drew in young people from all backgrounds, older people who had lived in the area for decades, and newcomers.
We’d only been living there for a few months, but we were making friends, putting down roots, happy to be part of a creative, diverse, innovative community.
Even before all the new investment and new institution-building poured in, the South Bronx had boasted massive entrepreneurial energy. Hundreds of small business owners were running their enterprises effectively, in the great tradition of American waves of immigrants.
Conditions in America, as usual, let hardworking small business owners and workers who were new arrivals to the nation thrive. Side streets and boulevards were dense with tiny cafés and restaurants that served Dominican, Nigerian, Mexican, Ethiopian, Cuban, and many other kinds of cuisine. Some were so small that they were only a few tables and a bar. Some had been started by talented home cooks and had developed a devoted following. Small business owners ran their shops without large inventories but with regular customers. Small florists, small bakeries, small clothing and handbag boutiques abounded. When I stood in line at the neighborhood bank, a significant number of customers waiting to make deposits were the local small businessowners.
Importantly, too, up to March 2020, the Bronx had many vibrant faith communities, whose centers were scattered throughout our neighborhood. This was a complex network of old nineteenth-century stone Catholic churches, convents, new storefront evangelical churches, Baptist churches, venerable synagogues, elegant mosques, mosques tucked into empty office spaces, mosques devoted to members of the Nation of Islam, mosques filled with families who had left Palestine two and three generations before, mosques that catered to Moroccan or Somali immigrants; yeshivas, a Chabad House and a Black Jewish congregation. Every Friday, Saturday, or Sunday people poured in and out of these houses of worship. Children in white dresses awaited First Communion as parents proudly took pictures. Families thronged newlyweds, and traffic stopped to admire bridesmaids and brides and flower girls. Men finished long shifts and came home and showered, then dressed again, but in elegant white shirts and black slacks to join their equally beautifully dressed families to pray in the mosques on Friday, to hear the Imam’s sermon, and to celebrate Ramadan or Eid or other festive times in the calendar. Black-clad Orthodox Jewish men shook hands on the sidewalk outside the synagogue after the ten o’clock Shabbat service, while their wives chatted in groups, keeping an eye on the girls in modest dresses and the boys in side-curls, as they scampered and played.
Everyone who wanted one could have a community or many communities, and have a rich culture, or be part of many rich cultures.
The South Bronx had areas of great beauty, too. From the front of our building, you could see across industrial warehouses to the Harlem River, its steel-gray depths glittering flatly in sunlight and its gray-white ripples flowing in moonlight. Great steel bridges spanned the river; trains hurtled across them, creating a fantastic industrial urban sculpture. You could see the spires of City College in Harlem, like a castle on a distant hill. You could see the vast towers of midtown faint and clustered like giants, like the towers of Oz from the perspective of faraway Dorothy. A waterpark was being constructed along the Harlem River, and though it was not yet complete, the people of the South Bronx walked down to the riverside on summer evenings to admire the sunset, the flowing river, and the astonishing view of the city that at times a trick of the light made seem close enough to touch. The sun was on their faces.
Everywhere there were crowds: buying and selling, or flirting, or scrambling to get to the next opportunity, or rushing to school or college.
Everywhere you looked, something was happening. Everywhere were the diverse, excited, energized, impatient crowds of greater New York — that is, of greater New York until March 2020.
Despite the serious problems so many faced, there was a sense of possibility in the neighborhood. No matter how hard times might be, people could act in regard to their own lives.
Because this was America.
Primary among The Bronx’s systemic problems was that people’s health suffered disproportionately here; the borough’s inhabitants dealt with the many illnesses of poverty, and the suffering from these illnesses and medical shortcomings was visible everywhere. The Bronx had the highest rate of childhood asthma in the city. Obesity and poor nutrition were chronic. We lived in a “food desert” and a physical-recreation desert; fresh, nutritious food was expensive and hard to get, and there were few green or open spaces for exercise.
Almost no one had good medical care. As the Institute for Family Health notes, “In the South Bronx, the poorest urban congressional district in the country, the population suffers high rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, asthma, HIV/AIDS, and infant mortality.”32 There was a black market for diabetes strips and insulin. Aspirin and antacids were sold in two-pill packets at the bodegas. In no other borough did I see so many underattended mobility issues such as people who needed wheelchairs leaning on ill-sized walkers and people who needed walkers struggling with old wooden crutches and people with neither, who were forced to lean for support on friends or relatives.
Once I had to go to the emergency room, and we all faced a five-hour wait. I saw a homeless man whose frostbitten foot was being tended to. In the depth of winter, he wore only socks; and complained that the nurses were cutting away his sock, because socks were expensive. People had terrible respiratory illnesses; antibiotics were expensive. People suffered from tuberculosis. There were gurneys with people lying on them in the ER hallways; the patients lay still for hours. When I went to the ER in 2019, there had been a body on a gurney in the ER hallway, its face covered.
This was the day-to-day reality. It had been so for years. The health of the poor was expendable.
Almost no one at the state, let alone the federal, level cared much, if at all, about the health of my neighbors, the poorest inhabitants of the five boroughs, or about the terrible deaths that they suffered.
32. “About Health Disparity,” The Institute for Family Health,
On March 11, 2020, as Brian and I were in his SUV running an errand, an announcement was broadcast on his car radio.
Because of this mysterious virus from China, Broadway was closing.33
All of Broadway. Not just one theater or ten theaters, as in a free society in which business owners make choices based on individual risk. All of Broadway, in one iconic, sweeping, Soviet-style, top-down gesture.
We had both been in conflict areas and we had both lived in closed societies — we recognized their movements. We both knew something very bad was on its way; whether natural or political, or both, we could not yet tell. But from our time in conflict areas we both knew what checkpoints and forced closures inevitably meant, so we both knew that whatever was coming, it would be very bad.
“We have to get out of here,” we agreed.
We barely packed and we drove north.
I’d bought a little cottage in the Hudson Valley many years ago, just before the crisis days of 9/11. I’d been haunted since that time by how easy it could be to target or control populations densely packed on an island with no way in or out but bridges and tunnels. I’d brought my small children to the cottage when the city was assailed with smoke and catastrophe, and I had been grateful for it then and as they were growing up, and now, too, though they had left home.
We moved to the Hudson Valley on March 12, 2020. At first it was just for a few days.
At that time, the United States was not yet discussing a Milan-type COVID “lockdown” in America — it was inconceivable! Nor was there much talk yet of the faraway infections that would ravage our own nation.
I’d been renting out the little cottage on Airbnb for income. On about March 13, we got a booking inquiry from an Apple executive. She wanted to move her entire family, including two small children, from their home in Brooklyn into our cottage in the woods, right away, “for a work project.”
“For how long would the booking be?” I asked her via message on the rental platform.
“For a few weeks to start out with,” she said. “But it could be for months.”
When something bad is on the way, a few elites tend to know it first. They know to flee it in advance.
I told her the house was unavailable, took the listing off the platform immediately, and called a moving van. We let go our rented home in the city, along with a security deposit, but there was no way around it.
We both recognized the straws in the wind: massive instability was on the way. Whatever the Apple executive may have been describing, Brian and I were both alarmed.
That very night, we moved to the little cottage in the woods full time. We moved to a tiny town that had a Methodist church and a Catholic church right in town and a synagogue a half hour away. It had a diner, a grocery store, a town hall, and a library. Most local people had enjoyed years or even decades of networks of neighborliness and professional relationships and friendships. Our tiny town was in an area dense with cultural and other kinds of history, and it was ringed by dozens of richly meaningful historical sites.
As of this writing, the close-knit and productive South Bronx community we left on March 11, 2020, was never to be the same.
As of this writing, the close-knit and productive small Hudson Valley towns among which we arrived on March 11, 2020, were never to recover either.
Both went from having been part of America to being coerced into another culture, having been forced over the next two years into another dimension of human experience, with another political system and a completely different, grotesquely lesser, set of options for human life and community.
In March 2020, human beings were still at the center of culture, and the culture was America. Two years later, machines and technology and “public health” were the centers of culture, and the culture was something altogether new in the West.
More like Cuba or Beijing than like Mott Haven, South Bronx, or Copake, New York. More like “Meta” or Google or Apple than like human community and contact.
More like the dicta and norms of the CCP than like the culture and beliefs of the United States of America.
33. Michael Paulson, “Broadway, Symbol of New York Resilience, Shuts Down Amid Virus Threat,” The New York Times, March 12, 2020,
In New York State, where we lived, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared emergency law on March 7, 2020 — before anyone really knew the extent of what would become the pandemic — and on June 23, 2021, he promised to end it by the next day.34
I knew about emergency laws from studying the decline of democracies, and I knew by the middle of March of 2020 that something catastrophic had happened.
Nearly two years later, we were still under emergency law in New York State.
By Governor Cuomo’s initial March 2020 regulation (A mandate? An edict? We didn’t even have legal language for declarations under emergency law, since the emergency-law declaration supersedes actual law) Main Street stores and restaurants would close, but “essential businesses” could stay open. This executive order was just that — an “order.” It did not go through the legislature. This would be among the first of many “edicts” and “mandates” and “orders,” acts whose very linguistic structure seemed designed to habituate citizens of a representative democracy to top-down, unquestioned “order-following.”
The “executive order” put everyone in the state “on pause,” for everyone’s “safety.”35
To many, this sounded like leadership for an emergency — like the “war footing” language with which George W. Bush launched the “Global War on Terror.” Many people in the safe, affluent nations of Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, who were not used to crises, were cowed by this language. Also, who could object to a “pause”?
But my husband and I were not reassured by the Nurse Ratched–type comforting language, and we were astonished at Governor Cuomo’s dicta. Since we had both lived in war zones and conflict areas, we knew that commerce was never closed, even in the worst crises. People needed to keep making their livings in order to survive the crisis, and the economy needed to be sustained in order for the community to survive the crisis. We both knew from the history of warfare that when populations are forbidden to buy and sell, they can’t fight back. It is the death of their economy that kills them off or leads to their eventual enslavement or occupation.
Even in 1997, when there were sequential terrorist attacks on Mahane Yehuda, the open-air market in Jerusalem, in which sixteen people were killed and 178 injured, a national point of pride was that the market stayed open.36 The same was the case in 2002, when six people were killed and eighty-four were injured.37 People who are huddled in refugee camps around the world still buy and sell, and even when there is a war or terrorist attacks, children still try to go to school.
But for us in America in 2020? With a serious respiratory illness underway? “100% Closure of Non-Essential Businesses Statewide, Effective 8pm Sunday — Exceptions Made for Essential Services Such as Groceries and Healthcare.”38
Governor Cuomo provided a series of directives that were bizarre and new at the time, phrased in CCP-style prose with a CCP-style concept: “Uniform Safety for Everyone.” This CCP-style language and concept took the place of what had been our American assumption that individuals are sovereign and cannot be “put on pause” by a ruler, and that it was citizens’ own responsibilities to deal with their own decisions about personal risk. But now:
- 10-Point Policy that Assures Uniform Safety for Everyone
- 100% Closure of Non-Essential Businesses Statewide, Effective 8pm Sunday — Exceptions Made for Essential Services Such as Groceries and Healthcare
- “Matilda’s Law” Will Provide New Protections for Most Vulnerable Populations — New Yorkers Age 70 and Older, People with Compromised Immune Systems and Those With Underlying Illnesses
- Directs 90-Day Moratorium on Any Residential or Commercial Evictions
- Asks PPE Product Providers to Sell Non-Essential Products to the State and Encourages Companies to Begin Manufacturing PPE Products
- Confirms 2,950 Additional Coronavirus Cases in New York State — Bringing Statewide Total to 7,102; New Cases in 23 Counties39
What were the essential businesses, according to Governor Cuomo? Who had to be “on pause”?
The Walmart in nearby Hudson was open. The McDonald’s was open. Target was open.
But the Millerton library — that haven for kids from abusive homes, or from homes with no books — was closed.40 The Roeliff Jansen Community Library up on Route 22 was also closed. Indeed, many of New York’s libraries were forced to close.41
But Amazon stayed open. Not only that, when its workers were getting sick from COVID-19, the behemoth told them, against California law, that they could not take paid sick leave to stay home. Workers said that this drove them to come to work while ill.42 Their illnesses were unsurprising: these were big box stores or factories with no windows, in which hundreds congregated at once, forced into even greater proximity by the closure of all smaller competition.
The beloved Hudson, New York, independent bookstore, The Spotted Dog, had to close when a worker tested positive for COVID-19.
(Indeed, New York State was not alone in this; independent bookstores across the country were forced to close.)43
Forced to close in New York State: Broadway plays, off-Broadway plays, local theaters; movie theaters; concert halls; houses of worship. Thus: no galas or symphonies, no concerts, no weddings or baptisms, bar mitzvahs or funerals.
Small restaurants were forced to close. Dad’s Copake Diner, not far from us up on Route 22, a beloved ’50s style diner that was built and run by a local family, was forced to close, and four waitresses lost their incomes, along with two cooks. All the small businesses that supplied the diner — their income dried up, too. One waitress, an upbeat, energetic single mother who had been working three or four jobs, had a son in college. Her income was suppressed too, through no actions of her own. Her son was compelled to come home for the duration.
Somehow corporate chain restaurants were “essential” and by logic germ-free, but owner-operated restaurants were cesspits of disease to be forcibly shuttered.
Open: tech companies. Open: telecoms. Open: chain drugstores such as CVS. Open: liquor stores.44
Pot stores stayed open in many states.45 These were deemed to be “essential” services.
In England the news was even stranger. At first, they had an “essential services” list similar to ours.46 But then there were ostentatious displays that just seemed cruel — in which shoppers could go to big box stores or stores on the “High Street” (main street) and buy food and alcohol, but could only gaze sadly at the retail products that they wanted to buy for their kids — retail products that could have kept small businesses alive. These would-be shoppers saw displays of model trains, dolls that could drink from bottles, Legos. These physical toys were all visible to the customers but roped off. The only items for sale were groceries and medicine.
In Britain you could see a product in the odd roped-off display then go home and order it from Amazon.
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34 “Governor Cuomo Announces New York Ending COVID-19 State Disaster Emergency on June 24,” June 23, 2021,
35 New York State, “Governor Cuomo Signs the New York State “On Pause” Executive Order,” March 20, 2020,
36 Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Victims of Mahane Yehuda Bombing,”
https://mfa.gov.il/mfa/mfa-archive/1998/pages/victims of mahane yehuda bombing.aspx.
37 Staff and Agencies, “Jerusalem Suicide Bomber Kills Six,” The Guardian, April 12, 2002,
38 New York State, “Governor Cuomo Announces New York Ending COVID-19 State Disaster Emergency on June 24”, June 23, 2021,
39 New York State, “Governor Cuomo Signs the New York State “On Pause” Executive Order,” March 20, 2020,
40 New York State Assembly, 11-16 PUBLIC HEARING ON ADAPTATION AND RECOVERY OF LIBRARIES THROUGHOUT THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, November 16, 2021,
41 Staff and Agencies, “New York Arts Institutions Closed Because of Coronavirus, The New York Times, March 12, 2020,
42 Sam Levin, “Revealed: Amazon Told Workers Paid Sick Leave Law Doesn’t Cover Warehouses,” The Guardian, May 7, 2020,
43 Luis de Leon, “How the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted bookstores,” KVUE ABC, December 3, 2020,
44 Kelly Tyko, “Are liquor stores open during coronavirus? New York says liquor stores are ‘essential,’ can stay open,” USA Today, March 20, 2020,
45 Dan Levin, “Is Marijuana an ‘Essential’ Like Milk or Bread? Some States Say Yes,” The New York Times, April 10, 2020,
46 Government of the United Kingdom, “Staying at home and away from others (social distancing),” Cabinet Office, March 23, 2020,
Schools in state after state were suddenly, systematically, forced to close. Overnight, to my astonishment, “distance-learning” platforms appeared in school districts and were launched into use. I knew that these products took months or years to develop and took a year in advance at least to contract to school districts. But quickly they were ubiquitous and all ready to go, at all levels, for all subjects: a monumental and actually chronologically hard-to-fathom feat of curriculum development, engineering, and contracting.
And suddenly no one but parents and kids were alarmed at the prospect of millions of children directed onto screens, alone, as a replacement for “school.” Teachers were not alarmed, or if they were, their voices went unheard. Unions and school districts were definitely not alarmed. Teachers’ spokespeople vocally spread the message, using canned talking points, that teachers were living in mortal fear of children and saw them as little death bombs, and that it was they who refused to come to school to teach.
This bizarre situation overall immediately became “the new normal” — that buzzy phrase popping up in news articles about our state of suspended animation — with nowhere to debate it. Of course you couldn’t debate it: you too were forcibly “on pause.” All of this was happening whether you liked it or not, and no matter how much your child suffered and fell behind.
College students were sent home. Colleges were shuttered.
Playgrounds were roped off with tape like the tape at a crime scene. In California, hiking trails, state parks, and beaches were closed off, with a “regional stay-at-home order” that would not lift until January 2021; for millions, the miles of open, windswept beaches were inaccessible.47
As in a communist regime, people were told what they could and could not buy, and where they could and could not go, and indeed how close they were permitted to be to one another. Scared and confused, they complied.
It was not as if we could easily escape all these bizarre “emergency measures.” In Massachusetts, right across the border from us upstate, on March 10, 2020, Governor Baker had also declared emergency law.48
In a sweep, Governor Cuomo replaced a vibrant, free, capitalist system with, in essence, an oligarchical economic system. By using the Stalinist taxonomy of “essential” and “non-essential,” he selected those businesses that would die and those businesses that would not only survive but thrive, eating up the market share that others less fortunate had been forced to abandon.
Advanced capitalism had taken five hundred years to develop in the West. Modern capitalism had built up delicate norms and regulations to allow reasonably fair competition. Banks had developed sensitive metrics to choose businesses likely to succeed over businesses with flaws. A relatively level playing field in North America and Western Europe, and easy access to capital, had led to a seventy-year stretch of innovation and growth and prosperity. With all its flaws, advanced Western capitalism was the fairest system, and the one most likely to support human development, that the world had yet seen.
Advanced Western capitalism shuddered, and came to an almost complete stop at the gesture of state governors wielding emergency powers, and, globally, at the pronouncements of prime ministers seizing emergency powers; in the blink of an eye, massive economies, businesses, and business owners were forced to freeze in time like the inhabitants of Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
47. California Department of Parks and Recreation, “State Parks COVID-19 Resource Center,”
48. “COVID-19 State of Emergency,”
What happened in New York State happened in similar language across the nation and throughout the formerly free nations of the world.
Legislation was passed federally in the United States “to address the crisis.” Emergency measures were passed in most states. A welter of regulations descended on schools, restaurants, shops, warehouses. Boards of health are not elected, so these were creating a situation that bypassed the will of the people. Millions of businesses were forcibly closed.
Massive bills were passed with little debate — everyone was at home, after all, including legislators. These bills carried names that suggested that they were about a medical crisis: in the United Kingdom it was “The Coronavirus Act.”49 I read that bill in April of 2020 and was astounded. I could not understand from where it had emerged or why it took the shape it did. At that point, we had no idea if this “pause” was for a week or two and when all would return to the way it had been. But the UK “Coronavirus Act” was dozens of pages long, and in the version I read it suspended elections until 2021 in the UK. Why? What did these people know that the rest of us did not yet know? Why could the people of the UK not vote in 2020?
In the United States it was “The CARES Act,”50 “The HEROES Act.”51 Later came “The American Rescue Plan,” doling out millions of dollars to states for individual schools.52 But there were strings attached — the Treasury threatened to claw back funds from Arizona, for instance, if it continued awarding grants to school districts that didn’t support the government line on masking, distancing and vaccines.53 In Canada, according to Jay Cameron of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, the health agencies were similarly empowered by emergency regulations to impose “edicts” and “mandates” on the population while bypassing and essentially emasculating the Canadian Parliament and its processes.54 In democracy after democracy, the COVID-19 “emergency” was used to create an emergency governance structure that hyper-empowered health ministers and agencies, simultaneously draining decision-making powers from congresses and parliaments. It was the softest, sneakiest coup in history.
As the CEO of a website devoted to legislation, I followed the laws closely. I had never before seen bills that were structured to facilitate the wholesale bribery and thus the corruption of so many individuals and civil institutions.
In just two years, five hundred years of ever-developing capitalism — which since the Glass-Steagall Act gave opportunity to millions of middle class and working class investors and entrepreneurs and landlords — was replaced with a bleak, coercive, Marxist-style crony oligarchy. And when the dust settled, billions of dollars in value were seen to have been essentially stolen from one group, the middle and working class people of the West, and handed to another, the globalist oligarchs.
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49. “Coronavirus Act 2020,” March 25, 2020,
50. “The CARES Act,” March 27, 2020,
51. “The HEROES Act,” May 15, 2020,
52. “The American Rescue Plan,” March 11, 2021,
53. Nathaniel Weixel, “Treasury threatens to claw back COVID-19 funds because of Arizona school anti-mask rules,” The Hill, January 14, 2022,
54. Jay Cameron, Interview by Dr. Naomi Wolf, DailyClout, March 8, 2022,
At the end of April 2020, I looked at the sky in the Hudson Valley. It was so cerulean, so trackless a blue.
By now we were fully “locked down,” and seemingly overnight “lockdown” had become part of the lexicon, along with the culturally alien notion of “social distancing.”
The first time I heard this phrase — one that, thanks to AI, was suddenly everywhere in both legacy and social media — I was alarmed by it. “Social distancing” sounded so … Chinese Communist. Obviously, from a Western point of view, if it is “distancing,” it is not at all “social.”
Embedded in the phrase was a Marxist assumption: that you serve the community by obeying, even to the level of how you moved your body in relation to the bodies of others, even against your own individual instincts or inclinations. Where you went, how you went there, how you assembled, how you congregated were, per this alien phrase, soon defined as being a “community” concern. Whereas previously, in actual America, per our very Constitution, where you went and how you assembled, had, up till now, been your choice.
One day I went shopping across the state border at a supermarket in Salem, Massachusetts, and was startled to see big, bright, stylized circles pasted onto the floor, indicating exactly where you were supposed to stand. Soon they too would be “normal,” but I remember my dismay. The circles were like the colored tags on your kindergarten cubby with your name written on them IN BIG LETTERS when you were five. Instead of the Western/American cultural approach, which would be to remind adults that a severe respiratory disease was around and it was recommended to try to keep our distance, someone had planned, designed, printed and installed these circles, then measured six feet from six feet from six feet throughout the whole big box store, then placed arrows pointing up one aisle and down another to propel people in only one direction. It made my heart sink. I understood what I was seeing. I was seeing the totalitarianizing, which has to be a word now if it is not yet, of Western habits of thought and Western patterns of movement.
The circles said to shoppers: You are children. We — the forces who impose and set the circles — are the adults. You are the powerless. We decide.
They said it in bright, cheery letters and colors: You can’t be trusted to behave sensibly and make your own decisions.
The arrows said: You can’t turn backward if you forgot a jar of strawberry jam or just want to wander back to the rice and grains sections to idly gaze at a package of arborio rice and think about whether you might try to make risotto for what might be a special meal.
These circles and arrows on the floor were not trivial. They symbolically slashed away your positioning in society as an adult who can be trusted to make choices — and at your dreaming: the dreaming that might lead you in another direction altogether than the ones indicated on the floor.
It wasn’t just about the distance.
It was about the infantilization.
So in 2020–22 a blueprint was put into action to crush Western people, crush Western economies, and steal the assets of the working and middle classes. Added to this was the strategy of utilizing mass vaccination of an incompletely tested substance, as a pretext for imposing a digital identity system that could create a CCP-style surveillance society and generate untold riches in data harvesting for a very few.
The minds of many will likely reel at such an assertion. A crime of this scale is too massive for most of us to grasp as fact or even to entertain as a hypothetical.
How can one imagine such criminals?
You probably would not commit any serious crime, let alone one of an immensity and scale of destruction that it would rightly be seen as an act of absolute evil. But that’s because you probably empathize with other people, believe in basic human rights, and believe that human society, for all its flaws and the shortcomings of this or that human leader, is essentially organized for the well-being of human beings. So you cannot conceive that a movement directed against humanity, a veritable “hack of humanity,” would be conceived or executed by others. Surely you would have to be a demon or a sociopath to execute such a monumental crime.
But to understand what has happened to us, I must ask you to suspend for a while a thought process that investigators call “mirror imaging.” This is when we assume others think as we do. Because most of us are decent people, and not sociopaths or psychopaths, we tend to assume that others are also driven by basic human motivations such as empathy, altruism, and kindness — or even just by the basic notion that other human beings are also deserving of life, self-determination, and dignity.
This “mirror imaging,” though, is more than simply a flaw in analysis — it is a fatal error that leads us to miss important conclusions. For others do not always think as we do.
To understand such an immense crime, it is essential to grasp the thought processes of many political elites, of financial oligarchs, and of tech elites.
This understanding is fundamental to how otherwise nice people — and indeed Western people who grew up with post-Enlightenment norms about human rights and the rule of law — can be committing evil now with whole hearts. There are lessons from history that we have to learn, or re-learn, quickly.
To understand this moment, in which a brutal tyranny is being enacted upon us in lockstep globally by many otherwise familiar and formerly benign-seeming Western leaders and philanthropists and investors, we have to begin to “think like a tyrant.”
I am not talking about anything arcane or occult. I am not talking about a QAnon fantasy of a few elites running the world.
I am talking here, rather, about the global elites whom I know and among whom I have lived for forty years.
I am describing what the German-Jewish philosopher of totalitarianism Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil.”
To understand what is happening in the current global lockstep of tyranny, we must understand that certain subcultures, certain leaders, and certain ideologies simply don’t have our core values at heart; and we must face the fact that these monsters are not just Nazis long dead or members of the CCP far away. Some monsters are very near to us. Some monsters wear lovely suits and chat away about their kids at dinner parties. And some kinds of monstrosity and sociopathy are actively cultivated by the norms and within networks that are all around us, albeit half-hidden at elite levels and systematized and accepted at very high levels.
One source of the kind of global cruelty we see in medical fascism today derives from a post-war stratum of power.
Paradoxically, meta-national organizations founded after the carnage of the Second World War, such as the World Trade Organization and the United Nations, agreements such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and global corporate and investment communities have served to create a global elite of policymakers, nonprofit leaders, and bureaucrats, who are able to engage in cruel and oppressive policymaking precisely because they are no longer part of the communities whose lives are affected by what they impose on others.
All these meta-national organizations purport to foster a more peaceful, cooperative world — one that would blunt enmity between historical adversaries (such as France and Germany). They make the case that this meta-national organizational structure will far more greatly benefit ordinary men and women in the street than did the poor, battered, dysfunctional nation-state, with its rotten history and its bloody impulses.
The first half of the twentieth century, with its two catastrophic world wars, seemed indeed to reveal conclusively to the world the dark side of nationalism and the tragic limits of the nation-state; the period seemed like a textbook lesson in how decision-making at the level of nation-states seemingly leads inexorably to bloodshed and to racist, cruel jingoism.
The problem, though, as it turned out, is that you can’t have accountability to citizens or a real democracy if you do not have a democratic nation-state. In fact, the alternative, a world of transnational entities, spawns a class of distant, unaccountable deciders.
As faulty and limited as the post-1848 secular, parliamentary nation-state doubtless is, it is the most perfect form of government yet created, owing to its accountability to a set group of people — that is, to the citizenry of a constitutional democracy bounded by clear national borders.
Meta-national organizations, by contrast, rapidly created superstructures that made decisions above the heads of citizens of nation-states. Quickly, the unelected decisionmakers of the EU became more important and powerful in many ways than were the parliamentary leaders at the national level in Greece or Portugal or Spain. Quickly, in turn, citizens of various European countries began losing the skills to understand how their local and national levers of power worked, as citizens were encouraged to leave it all to the bureaucrats at a level high above that of national parliaments.
But nationalism within a bounded nation-state, excessive or perverted to the dark side though it can surely be, also has constructive and protective aspects. Positive nationalism, within an accountable, constitutional nation-state, allows people to care about and act on their own futures. It allows them to be motivated by allegiance to their own families, their own communities, their own landscapes, their own histories, and their own cultures. And its leaders have to face their citizenry.
But a discourse was propagated — by global elites, who benefited from this discourse — that shamed well-intended people, especially in the West, for being in the least bit proud of or loyal to their own nation-state or national culture. It was a discourse that scolded and belittled any member of any nation-state in the West for worrying about what might happen if there were any limits at all on national borders.
Yet seeing the positive aspects of a nation-state is not by definition negative. If one is French, it is not by definition racist to celebrate what is brightest about French culture and history. If the terms “French” or “Dutch” or “Moroccan” or “American” are defined as by citizenship rather than by race, then cultures expand and welcome the new, and what is “French” or “Dutch” or “Moroccan” or “American” simply evolves.
But just as you cannot have a constitutional democracy unless you have a discrete citizenry, of whatever background, race or faith, consisting of people initiated into that nation’s culture, language, history, rights, and responsibilities, so you cannot have a functioning, accountable representative democracy if you have open borders and voting by non-citizens. You have something nebulous, but it is no longer a representative democracy within a nation-state, and it dissolves the ever-more-distant leaders’ accountability to the people.
The recent handing-over of voting rights to nearly a million non-citizens in New York City55 may sound to most readers of The New York Times like a right-on blow for “equity” and anti-racism, but it is actually a tyrant’s dream, as are the fully open borders presided over by President Biden in 2021–22.56 The effect, and the intention, is to dilute the power of citizens within the formerly discrete boundaries of a specific nation-state.
The democratic nation-state is by necessity accountable to its people in a way that meta-national organizations simply are not. The people in a nation-state can vote out corrupt leaders. They can change course when it comes to bad policies. Indeed, they can put corrupt leaders on trial and in prison, or in the case of the United States, can execute those who have been found guilty of espionage, or of having committed treason.
The leaders of such citizens must, whether they wish to or not, deal with their people and worry about their reactions. There are natural limits to the cruelty and oppression with which an elected leader in a constitutional nation-state can get away.
Not so with leaders in the post-war world of meta-national organizations, global nonprofits, and increasingly porous borders. Once these leaders go bad, nothing need constrain their cruelty. The same is true for economic global elites, once national allegiances and national accountability have been left behind.
What happened in the almost eighty years since the end of the Second World War is the development of an elite international class of technocrats, EU bureaucrats, global nonprofit leaders and international investors for whom the nation-state — even one’s own nation-state of origin — is an artifact, a secondary concern, a sentimental add-on. What really matters are other global elites in one’s social circle and business network and the valuable relationships one can create with them. One’s “ordinary” countrymen and women recede and become theoretical. And the constant message one receives from one’s peers and from the elite meta-national culture is that those “ordinary” men and women simply are not as smart or well-educated, and so it would be a disaster to let them make their own decisions. Indeed, deciding for them saves them from their own fecklessness, ignorance, and shortsightedness.
What does this have to do with the escalating global cruelty of 2020–22 and “The Great Reset”?
Experiments done by the social psychologist Stanley Milgram at Yale University not only affirmed the lamentable truth that ordinary humans are capable of great cruelty, but showed that the greater the remove from the victim — and the more authoritative the directive insisting on the harm — the more readily “normal” people become monsters and abusers.57
Dr. Milgram found that sixty-five percent of participants were willing to shock their purported subjects (“learners”) to the highest voltage level possible on the insistence of an authority figure. “Participants demonstrated a range of negative emotions about continuing,” he noted. “Some participants thought they had killed the learner. Nevertheless, participants continued to obey, discharging the full shock to learners. One man who wanted to abandon the experiment was told the experiment must continue. Instead of challenging the decision of the experimenter, he proceeded, repeating to himself, ‘It’s got to go on, it’s got to go on.’”58
In a sense, this experiment was replicated on a mass scale over the two years of the pandemic. A great many people instinctively felt something was terribly wrong; that what they were being told did not accord with their own experience. But at the same time, they were being subjected to a massive propaganda campaign invoking authority and superior understanding; a campaign, aligned with unthinkably lucrative direct incentives in some cases, led by a network of global elites, who, lovely as they might be one on one, and as nice as most doubtless were to their own kids, unhesitatingly executed vast cruelties and inflicted untold damage.
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55. Grace Ashford, “Noncitizens’ Right to Vote Becomes Law in New York City,” The New York Times, January 9, 2022,
56. Kight, Stef W., and Jonathan Swan, “Scoop: Biden officials fear ‘mass migration event’ if COVID policies end,” Axios, March 17, 2022,
57. Gregorio Billikopf Encina, “Milgram’s Experiment on Obedience to Authority,” University of California at Berkeley, November 15, 2004,
How do I know about the value assigned to the holy grail of gaming the system, and the potential for cruelty, shared by certain global elites? I have seen them up close.
I will never forget being in a company car in 2015, heading to the BBC’s flagship political show. It was driven by the BBC’s longtime driver. As a reporter, I always talk to drivers in these circumstances, because the elite men and women often do not “see” drivers, waitstaff, cleaners, and other mere mortals. So drivers and waitstaff and cleaners tend to hear everything and know everything.
It was an important week, in which the people of Greece, distraught at having had policies of “austerity” forced upon them by the European Union, were about to engage in a referendum. The papers were full of elderly Greek men and women weeping and in despair because the proposed policies would wipe away their retirement savings. As is common, the European newspapers were portraying the people of Greece, in opposing austerity, as spendthrifts, as ignorant, as having brought their economic disaster upon themselves, and as needing to be rescued by the policies of those wiser heads above the level of their national leaders’ decision-making.
I couldn’t help thinking that maybe it will be the case that rejecting “austerity” policies will turn out to be an economic mistake for the people of Greece. But I knew about referenda: and if there is a majority vote in a referendum, it is by law the will of the people. In a democracy, their decision must be enacted. So you can have your opinion about whether austerity would be smart or not in this context, but since the people have a real nation-state, their referendum would determine what happened in their country. And if the people’s decision turned out to be a mistake, well, it was their mistake to make, with their own country, in their own parliament.
“Oh no,” explained the driver. “EU officials were in this car before you. The referendum is purely cosmetic. It will be ignored. Whatever happens, they are going ahead with austerity.”
I was dumbfounded.
But as it turned out, the BBC driver was exactly right. The people of Greece voted against austerity. But they were not to get their chosen outcome.59
Later that week, back in New York City, I was at a dinner party. It was hosted by a major hedge fund manager. His clients were Chinese, Russian, Ukrainian, and other international investment funds. At the party were his colleagues: British, Swedish, Chinese, French, and Belgian hedge fund managers and investors.
My host, an otherwise lovely guy, trained of course in the Ivy League, was apoplectic — furious — at the rank-and-file men and women of Greece. He did not yet know what the EU officials knew. He knew that the people of Greece had rejected austerity in their referendum.60 But he had positioned in the opposite direction. Now he was enraged at those grandmas and grandpas, and at their resistant, stubborn sons and daughters, for having temporarily messed up his bet on austerity. He was literally pale with rage. His fists clenched as he spoke about the Greek referendum. How dare they, was his attitude. The fools.
The mansion where we were gathered that night had been built by a robber baron at the end of the nineteenth century. The dining room was staffed by beautiful actors/waiters and actresses/waitresses in black pants and spotless white shirts. They charmingly served us a gorgeous plaice velouté dinner, with sides of grilled asparagus and heirloom beets. The ceilings were twenty feet high and wreathed in shadows. The walls were adorned with a mélange of works of art: Italian Renaissance princelings, luscious still lifes from the sixteenth-century Netherlands, and portraits of late-nineteenth-century American society doyennes.
The conversation was sprightly. To my right, a Norwegian investor spoke about the latest avant-garde theatrical sensation on Broadway. To my left, an artist friend of the host and hostess described escalations in the New York City art market. Everyone was educated, pleasant, and cultured. The money guys were all agreeing with the host about the perfidy and “bad behavior” of the stubborn people of Greece. The wine flowed, red and white; it was beyond excellent. No one at that table was visibly evil. There were no secret signs or shadowy conversations. If this were a movie, you could not identify a villain. No one was part of a cabal.
But the point was that these people did not need to gather in the shadows or to be part of a cabal. Why would this group need a secret sign or a secret meeting? They simply owned the global stratum in which they operated, and they were accountable only to one another.
Neither did anyone there, expressing his or her views about the events of the weeks, think for an instant there was anything wrong with ignoring and overriding the democratically expressed will of an entire nation of citizens who had articulated their wishes lawfully. No one there had to say aloud to anyone else, “Let’s be sure to suppress the eruptions of popular sentiments in nation-states, going forward” to know what kind of unmanageable future events were bad for business.
Thus, the whole nation, all the people of Greece, were being treated with extraordinary cruelty and contempt by these distant non-Greek men and women. This cruelty was possible in part because these men and women would never see them or have to face them or ever answer to them.
At the end of the evening, I was introduced to a brilliant young woman, a protégée of my host’s. She was from a small, poor, fairly recent democracy in the global South, and educated as well in the Ivy League. My host showed off the young lady’s knowledge and acumen about financial markets in the context of a discussion about the “reckless” behavior of the Greeks, and their nonsensical referendum.
Did she think her own fellow countrymen and women should have a say in outcomes about their economic futures? I asked her gently. I truly wondered what her views would be.
“No; the ordinary people of any given country don’t have the skills to make the right economic decisions for themselves or their nations. We should be deciding for them,” she calmly explained, with all the confidence and certainty of a now-privileged twentysomething.
“That’s right,” my host confirmed proudly.
So the Greeks never got their referendum outcome. There was a famous U-turn, and austerity was imposed against their wishes.61 Many elderly Greek men and women were driven into abject poverty in their retirement. Many small and medium-sized businesses were lost.
Not much later, I was at another dinner hosted by the same man and mostly attended by the same group of people. But among the guests now was someone new: a former Greek politician who until very recently had been at the center, first, of the fight to reject austerity, and then of the abrupt U-turn.
He looked flushed, proud and ashamed at once, and he was being introduced around like a captured prize.
Who knows what promises had been made, what arrangements attended this outcome, this new alliance? But that former leader must have seen a level of influence and wealth far above what mere allegiance to his fellow citizens, mere decency, could have gotten him.
And my host, well, he and his colleagues got, in the end, the outcome on which they had placed such a big, big bet.
That night the wine continued to flow — and a new constellation was part of the social mix.
Too bad about the hundreds of thousands of “ordinary” Greeks, many of them elderly, now ruined for the rest of their lives. Too bad about the wreckage of the small businesses.
But of course this is just one example of how great evil — evil at a national level, and now evil at the coordinated global level of “The Great Reset” — is achieved: by distance and by condescension and by the creation of a meta-national community who see and hear and are answerable only to each other; but who do not see, or in any way respect, the rights of nations; or of self-determination of elders, of voters, of property; of you or of me.
To understand 2020–22, it is essential to grasp that great evil need not arrive in the guise of a goose-stepping soldier, or an official knocking at your door wearing jackboots. To understand how COVID-19 policy can be so coordinated and so cruel and so neo-fascistic, we need to understand that evil can come in the form of a well-dressed man or woman far removed from any traditional human or national loyalties or decencies but pleasantly passing the sherry.
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59. Mark Lowen, “Greek Debt Crisis: What Was the Point of the Referendum?,” BBC News, July 11, 2015,
60. Ian Johnston, Nathalie Savaricas, Leo Cendrowicz, “Greece referendum: Greeks say ‘No’ to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis,” The Independent, July 6, 2015,
61. Daniela Vincenti and Sarantis Michalopoulos, “Monti: Ignoring the Greek referendum was a violation of democracy,” October 23, 2015, Euractiv.com,
A final factor to understand when we look at who committed the great crimes of 2020–22, and how these crimes were executed, has to do with understanding the extent of Communist China’s infiltration of the institutions of the United States and Western Europe. Sinologists such as Michael P. Senger, Peter Schweizer, and the longtime presidential China advisor Michael Pillsbury understand that China does not use military might as the primary weapon in its fight against its targeted nations and especially against us, the other superpower. Rather, its strategy is to use “a set of asymmetric weapons that allow an inferior power to defeat a seemingly superior adversary by striking at an enemy’s weakest point.” Pillsbury, like other sinologists raising the alarm, sees “a 100-year-long effort to overtake the US as the world’s superpower” with deception as the essential tactic. By China’s encouraging the United States to view it as weak and in need of Western guidance, he writes: “For decades … the US government has freely handed over sensitive information, technology, military know-how, intelligence and expert advice to the Chinese … and what we haven’t given the Chinese, they’ve stolen.” He and other sinologists believe that the CCP is intent on a plan in place since the time of Mao Zedong to become the world’s hegemon by 2049, the Communist revolution’s hundredth anniversary. He and others warn that thousands of CCP-aligned academics, foreign students who are bound by CCP law to report intel back to the CCP, and businesspeople, are embedded in strategic institutions in US and Western culture, economics, and politics. And these sinologists warn, too, that while for years China’s scholars have denied the goal of “a Chinese-led world order,” the tone from the CCP has recently changed. Since 2020, CCP spokespeople have used insulting and confrontational language to their US counterparts, and the goal of being the world’s hegemon is now stated overtly by the CCP. “The hard truth,” warns Pillsbury, “is that China’s leaders see America as an enemy in the global struggle they plan on winning.”62
Among those tasked with our national security, these fears have long been prevalent. As far back as 2009, a US Senate hearing was titled: “China’s Propaganda and Influence Operations, Its Intelligence Activities that Target the United States, and the Resulting Impacts on US National Security.”63
Eight years later, in May 2017, Sarah Cook, a Senior Research Analyst for East Asia, Freedom House, gave testimony at the Senate’s “US-China Economic and Security Review Commission Hearing on China’s Information Controls, Global Media Influence, and Cyber Warfare Strategy.” Her report was titled “Chinese Government Influence on the US Media Landscape.”64 That report was updated in January 2020 under the title: “Chinese Communist Party’s Media Influence Expands Worldwide: Report Finds Global Rise in Propaganda, Censorship, and Control of Content-Delivery Systems.”65 These reports found widespread influence operations aimed by the CCP at affecting staff, content and messaging in Western media and social media.
Almost redundantly, a global influence campaign aimed at the world’s media was uncovered in 2020 by the International Federation of Journalists. They called their report “The China Story: Reshaping the World’s Media.”66
What does all the well-established CCP influence on Western media and social media — and Western academics and sports stars and influencers — have to do specifically with the great crime of 2020–22?
Most obviously, it long kept under wraps the fundamental fact of the pandemic’s origins, ensuring that the Wuhan lab-leak premise would be everywhere derided as “conspiracy theory.” In this regard the CCP even now continues to get away with murder.
More, Communist China’s vast influence over global media benefits it immeasurably in suppressing Western heroes, Western history, Western ideals such as freedoms of speech and assembly, and Western instincts of spontaneity and individualism. Indeed, even as China daily works to undermine Western values and fan discord among the warring elements of traditionally democratic societies, its interests (including in becoming the main global force in biotech and in DNA databases) align neatly with the goals of the WEF and the bottom-line drivers of Big Tech; they readily work toward allied goals, if not in coordination. All favor like policies, aiming to intimidate citizens and break communities and to surveil citizens in a lucrative and controlling digital grid. These policies especially target freedom of speech, and aim to cripple the mastery by Western children — whom we could call the 2049 generation — of free thought and expression.
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62. Larry Getlen, “China’s Secret Plan to Topple the US as the World’s Superpower,” The New York Post, February 8, 2015,
63. US-China Economic And Security Review Commission, “Hearing: China’s Propaganda and Influence Operations, Its Intelligence Activities that Target the United States, and the Resulting Impacts on US National Security,” April 30, 2009,
64. Sarah Cook, Senior Research Analyst for East Asia, Freedom House, testimony before the “US-China Economic and Security Review Commission Hearing on China’s Information Controls, Global Media Influence, and Cyber Warfare Strategy”: “Chinese Government Influence on the US Media Landscape,” May 4, 2017,
65. Freedom House, “Chinese Communist Party’s Media Influence Expands Worldwide,” January 14, 2020,
66. International Federation of Journalists, “The China Story: Reshaping the World’s Media,” June 2020,
April slid into May and June 2020:
Children were of course now indoors all day, staring at screens — with the media approvingly noting it was no longer safe for children to be sent to school.
Distance learning magically picked up there too, without missing a beat. Software to check attendance, software to give tests, software to grade tests.
Under ordinary circumstances, each school would have found its own solution to the pandemic as a matter of choice and circumstance — outdoor classes with heaters, open windows, etc. — or else they would simply have carried on as before. Or private schools would have made their own decisions while public schools perhaps made different ones. But no — everyone everywhere suddenly was to “distance learn,” that awkward, heartless neologism.
College students, who had worked hard their whole teenage years for the college experience at Princeton or Yale or the University of Texas, were instead back home, living with their parents again. This exodus from campus didn’t seem to make much sense, since as far as I knew there was not yet any clear data on how this illness affected healthy young adults.
SUNY and CUNY colleges closed; hardworking kids from all walks of life, who were working while studying, whose futures depended on these public universities, hastily packed up their dorm rooms and returned home. Foreign students were abruptly sent packing.
State colleges across the country closed. So did community colleges. The dreams of millions of young adults — and the skills acquisition during the precious early adult years when training takes place — were suddenly on hold, and for an indeterminate period of time. Millions of young adults who had looked forward to four years of college, to being young, to learning in classrooms, to forming friendships with their peers that might last for lifetimes, sat in their parents’ living rooms, sad, isolated, and stunned as the days passed.
Their passivity was not innate; it was enforced upon them by the “pandemic.” They were forced into a psychological state of “external locus,” that is, of being dependent for success on outside conditions, which is not a mind-state that successful people use. But there was nothing they could do to retake their lives and plans.
College students who needed labs for their science majors were shut out of labs. College students who needed theaters for their theater majors could not perform. Music students could not practice in a concert setting.
Instead, they could message each other on Microsoft Teams.67
67. Rick Hess, “Microsoft Education Exec. On Ed. Tech During Coronavirus,” EdWeek, April 30, 2020,
By June, a meme appeared on social media: “Humans are the virus.”
“Mask” very soon debuted as a positive verb. It had been, in English, until that very moment, a negative verb — facts were “masked,” true intentions were “masked.”
But now everywhere in media and social media were instructions to don masks. Any masks! “Mask up!” became a catch phrase, like “Wheels up!” or “Bottoms up!” The phrase seemed focus-grouped in the way that it was made to sound almost jolly; there was nothing in the language to indicate that “Mask up!” might connote “suffocate” or “inhibit speech and breathing.”
Newspapers showed you how to make masks out of any random fabric. They even offered patterns to cut out. I thought that sounded pretty old-school and unscientific.
But The New York Times showed dramatic schematics about why you must “mask up.”68 They penned front-page stories about aerosol-transmission studies that concluded that virtually no situation in which other humans were breathing, indoors or out, was not potentially fatal.69 They represented the “virus” embedded in human breath as a ghostly-white cloud of particulates in diagrams that showed the lurid clouds raining death and disease on a hapless recipient who thereby became a victim of that fatal viral stream.
I was puzzled by this emerging narrative about “masks” and “distancing,” about staying home indoors and not venturing outside.
Mostly I was puzzled because, even as a layperson, I was aware of long-held understandings regarding airborne respiratory pathogens. As a student of English literature and British history, I’d read the famous novels and knew of the great operas whose protagonists suffered from a dangerous, potentially fatal, airborne, respiratory disease, that, as yet, had no cure. The heroines Violetta in Giuseppe Verdi’s opera La Traviata, Antonia in Jacques Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, and Mimi in Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème all suffered from tuberculosis. Hans Castorp, in Thomas Mann’s novel The Magic Mountain, suffered from tuberculosis.
The New Zealand novelist and short-story writer Katherine Mansfield had herself suffered from tuberculosis. The British novelists D. H. Lawrence and George Orwell had suffered from tuberculosis.
So I knew that, though this predicament in which we found ourselves was being relentlessly messaged as “novel” and unprecedented, the conducting of human civilization while dealing with an untreatable serious, potentially fatal, respiratory illness was hardly novel for human beings.
“Masking” and “distancing” would be iconic human experiences. Victims of tuberculosis were of course isolated in ways when they were ill. Yet I could not recall in any of these writers’ memoirs, or in any of their biographies, or in any of these composers’ cultural productions even a passing mention of the general healthy public’s use of masking — let alone “health” directives that called for the “distancing” of healthy people and that compelled them to stay indoors for months at a time.
Indeed, The Magic Mountain is set in a tuberculosis sanatorium; there are many scenes of inhabitants taking strenuous outdoor hikes, devouring healthful meals, and being made to lie bundled up in fur sleeping bags on sleeping porches outdoors, to benefit from fresh air and sunshine. But “masks,” “distancing,” and being kept forcibly indoors together were not at all part of the regime.70
Tubercular people in the past were at times quarantined or sent to sanatoria, but never before in this history of dealing with serious airborne illness had the human race “distanced” the healthy from one another in order to deal with the risk of this kind of pathogen. If “distancing” and “masking” had “worked” with regard to serious airborne respiratory illnesses, why was this presumably tremendously important discovery now news only coincidentally with the onset of a brand-new illness in 2020?
The question naturally arises: how did we deal with similar medical crises in the past?
The answer: for all the devastation these crises wrought, civilization and commerce were not brought to a standstill.
In fact, America has lived through waves of infectious diseases ranging from yellow fever in Boston in 1693,71 to smallpox from 1775–82,72 to cholera outbreaks the mid-nineteenth century,73 to waves of tuberculosis from the late-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries.74 But we remained America — and free, after 1776, with a constitution and rule of law — in spite of these waves of disease and indeed in spite of two world wars.
Even in the worst instances of waves of serious or fatal diseases, schools sought to reopen as soon and as safely as possible. In Jane Eyre, the heroine’s boarding school Lowood is closed after an epidemic of typhus fever kills students. But after an investigation into the causes of the spread of the disease, wealthy benefactors improve the building and its location, the diet, clothing, housing conditions and treatment of the children, and “[t]he school, thus improved, became in time a truly useful and noble institution.”75
The terrible Spanish flu epidemic of 1918–19, with which COVID-19 has been so often compared — but which, in fact, cut a much more harrowing swath through society (not only taking many millions more worldwide, but particularly targeting young adults) — did not bring to a permanent stop commerce, arts, worship or assembly worldwide. Europe likewise had long sustained waves of infectious disease, including cholera and typhus in the nineteenth century that killed tens of thousands.
But none of it dissolved North American or European culture or community. Indeed, the periods of disease in North America and Europe coincided with periods of great human achievement. People suffered in medical terms, of course; people died and were mourned. The tragedies of infectious diseases unfolded on grand scales. But culture and history, innovation and capital markets did not stop.
Western children lived through such difficult times and survived, even thrived, because they had each other. They had parents. They could speak and hug and play. And they had around them the organic local culture. The American Psychological Association notes that kids can survive many crises, even wartime, with mental health intact if they have loving and expressive home situations.76
Indeed, people in the West sustained communal achievements during crises and bad times generation after generation. It was during the yellow fever epidemics of the 1790s77 that Philadelphia saw the creation of some of its most beautiful architectural structures.78
During the typhus and cholera epidemics in Britain in the 1830s and 1840s, Charles Dickens produced The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby, Robert Browning wrote Sordello, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning published her first book. Charlotte Brontë brought out Jane Eyre. The examples of productivity during hellish medical crises past are endless. In each case the writer was surrounded by, and reflected, the dynamism of life in the great capital and regional metropoles; he or she was absorbed by the social and economic life of the community and went freely to church, to baptisms, and to funerals and traveled to transact business and to meet friends.
It’s not as if people were indifferent, or that no precautions were taken. In the years before antibiotics and modern treatments, infectious diseases, including airborne respiratory illnesses, were of course greatly-feared and addressed, if imperfectly, by sunlight, nutrition, exercise, fresh air and better sanitation. Everyone who reads Western novels and knows Western history is well-aware of this.
In Crimea, in 1854–56, the British nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale famously lowered rates of airborne illness in wartime hospitals by insisting on bringing into dark, unventilated conditions sunlight, nutrition, and ventilation: “hygiene, sanitation, fresh air … a good diet.”79 Her results were measurable, and they changed public health practices. Building on this knowledge base, America’s settlement movement in the Progressive Era sought to ease crowded, stuffy, multifamily households, where infectious diseases flourished, by changing building codes so that airshafts and courtyards allowed for air circulation in the home. The Tenement House Law of 1901 ensured flush toilets and airshafts to limit disease and set minimum requirements in building codes for light and ventilation.80
This understanding of the health impacts of sunlight and ventilation even led to the building codes that required stepped-back skyscrapers in New York City, to allow sun and air circulation to reach crowded urban streets.81 Settlement reformers got cod liver oil, with its high levels of Vitamin D, to the children of the poor82 and lobbied successfully for public parks and playgrounds.83 The reason? They understood that sunlight, Vitamin D, nutrition, exercise, and fresh air were potent enemies of then-otherwise-untreatable airborne infectious diseases.
Everyone knew this.
Yet now, weirdly, in state after state, policies and media messages were promoting precisely the opposite. The message was not “Go to the park, go to the beach! Exercise! Open the windows! Get sun! Take Vitamin D!” but rather, “Stay Home! Bring the adult children home into crowded multigenerational households! Stay indoors, continually stressed with fear! Put a piece of fabric on your face!”
It was hard to fathom how we had so quickly lost our collective cultural memory.
The ready access of enclosed and depressed people to marijuana and alcohol under the directive not to leave home further degraded the likelihood of healthful outcomes.84
The masking, the enclosure, the isolation, the lack of community, fresh air and exercise, the fear, the cabin fever, the generations piled on top of one another, the alienation engendered by computer screens — they all took their toll. People grew pale, fearful, obsessive, phobic, and sad. And unsurprisingly, many got sick and many died.
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68. Felisher, Or, Gabriel Gianordoli, Yuliya Parshina-Kottas, Karthik Patanjali and Bedel Saget, “This 3-D Simulation Shows Why Social Distancing is So Important,” The New York Times, April 14, 2020,
69. Gorman, James, Michael Levenson and Tara Parker-Pope, “What We Know About Your Chances of Catching the Virus Outdoors,” The New York Times, May 15, 2020,
70. Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain, Vintage Books (New York, 1996): 222–23.
71. Staff and agencies, “Historical Guide to Yellow Fever,” PBS: American Experience,
72. Elizabeth Fenn, “The Great Smallpox Epidemic,” History Today, August 8, 2003,
73. Charles E. Rosenberg, The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987), 4.
74. NIH US National Library of Medicine, “Visual Culture and Public Health Posters: Tuberculosis,”
75. Marta K. D. Cobb, “Public Health In Jane Eyre and the Victorian Era,” The Victorian Web, May 1994,
76. American Psychological Association, “Resilience in a Time of War: Tips for Parents and Teachers of Elementary School Children,” 2011,
77. Benjamin Rush, Observations upon the Origin of the Malignant Bilious, or Yellow Fever in Philadelphia, and upon the Means of Preventing it: addressed to the Citizens of Philadelphia, (Philadelphia: Budd and Bartram, 1799), 12,
78. Library of Congress, “First Bank of the United States, 120 South Third Street, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA,”
79. Reynolds-Finley Historical Library, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, “The Life of Florence Nightingale,”
80. Felice Batlan, “Law and the Fabric of the Everyday: The Settlement Houses, Sociological Jurisprudence, And the Gendering of Urban Legal Culture,” Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal, Volume 15 (2006), 264,
81. Laura Bliss, “How the Battle for Sunlight Shaped New York City,” Bloomberg CityLab, December 18, 2016,
82. Janice M. Leone, “Bethlehem House, Nashville,” Tennessee Encyclopedia, October 8, 2017,
83. Wade, Louise C. “The Heritage from Chicago’s Early Settlement Houses.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984) 60, no. 4 (1967): 411–41.
84. Rony Caryn Rabin, “Alcohol-Related Deaths Spiked During the Pandemic, a Study Shows,” The New York Times, March 22, 2022,
The everywhere-promoted “masking” quickly became a fetish. In all cultures and at all times, masks have represented de-individuation and dehumanization. Thieves wear masks. Executioners wear black masks so their victims cannot see them. Torturers are masked. On Halloween, masked children assume the avatars of ghosts, monsters, and devils; at Carnival in New Orleans or Rio de Janeiro, masks endow their wearers with a scarier or more powerful persona.
On the other side of the equation, masks allow for people to be more easily punished and victimized. In Pentonville prison, where the poet and playwright Oscar Wilde was incarcerated for “gross indecency,” prisoners were masked as a way to reinforce their isolation:
[T]he guiding principle of this system was to keep prisoners completely apart, as a form of punishment … When prisoners left their cells, only for exercise and to attend chapel, they had to wear a “Scottish cap,” which was a type of baseball cap with a large peak forming a mask so that they could only see through narrow slits. Even in the chapel the prisoners had to sit in cubicles, rather than in open pews. Wilde would have already experienced this at Pentonville. There were 250 cells in Reading Prison, on three landings — all single occupancy.85
So isolation, masking, and “distancing” were part of the regime of punishment and psychological torture in a Victorian prison.
And yet in 2020–21 these were reintroduced to the West as an optimum lifestyle.
Culturally, masks are always what the Viennese founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud called the “unheimlich” — the uncanny, a symbol that triggers unconscious feelings of unease, of being “not at home,” which provides a sensation that is creepy or weird. How many characters in horror films, from Ghostface to Jason in Friday the 13th, are masked?
It is not surprising that masks are so destabilizing to see, so unnerving. We see from expressions if we are among friendly people or people who are dangerous to us. Human beings need to see faces in order to feel safe.
I recall around June of 2020 seeing an adult stranger, a woman, approach a five-year-old who was beside her mother. The older lady just wanted to say “Hi” and to chat, as she had with children for decades, as we all used to do before 2020. It was second nature to her, and of course such casual interactions are basic to children’s socialization. But this child, unable to tell if the masked stranger approaching her was smiling or not, began to cower in fear, and to cling desperately to his mother.
Early in the “masking” regime, there were victims of sexual assault describing online how triggering it was for them not to be able to see faces and assess expressions. “Everyone in a mask seems like a predator,” as one survivor put it.
“Social distancing” — “mask up” — “we stand together by staying apart”: these proto-Marxist idioms and Newspeak linguistic aberrations in the culture were like hideous toadstools in what had been a familiar, fresh, green forest of Western languages.
85. Angela Buckley, “Oscar Wilde Comes to Reading Gaol — 120 Years On,” BerkshireLive.com, November 22, 2017,
For the first time in human history, what was expected, and on a grand scale, was that kids would stay tethered to their screens for hours every day.
But what is school?
It’s not just learning facts from a curriculum or in a textbook. School is also a promise to teach children how to grow up to navigate the physical and human world.
School is how small human primates imitate the skills they need to become socialized, educated human adults.
School is not just a curriculum on a page or a screen. School means learning how to put your coat in a cubby; how to take turns on a slide; how to avoid the mean kids and identify kids who seem as if they might like you back. From a facial expression, from body language, by way of a shy smile across a lunchroom or a sneering glance across the homeroom, you figure out how to find friends and avoid enemies. School is field trips, being boisterous and noisy on the bus, or being shown arrowheads while sitting in a circle around a patient museum curator.
School presents to a human child the special role that humans have in engaging with the extraordinary physical world, and it promises to help the child unlock its secrets. School is the promise of the interpretation of what seem to children like miracles, whose interpretation is the human task.
Primates learn from imitation. That is why human beings huddle close together when they learn and why they stand side by side to engage in observation and commentary while learning.
As a child, you stood next to another little human when you first looked into a microscope or when you learned how to solder in shop class. You watched together. You discussed what you were seeing.
As a child, you sat in a circle around your teacher and looked at her face as she read a story, and you felt the magic of human narrative in a collective context. When you grew a bit older, you may have sat side by side with other children around a campfire at camp, listening to a story — that quintessential human initiation into the miracle of narrative unfolding in the context of community. It takes being close, within a couple of feet, to relate to other humans socially. It can’t be done otherwise. And it needs to be in person.
School is molding clay and watching the miracle of a little pot being created, to be taken home and displayed proudly; it is growing a bean seedling in an egg carton and watching the miracle of a plant unfold into the pale classroom-window light. It is looking into a microscope to see the miracle of tiny microorganisms in rainwater darting around on a slide. It is playing recorder in your music class and catching the miracle of that moment when thirty-two awkward, furiously focusing kids — kids from different backgrounds, with different interests and physiques, maybe speaking different languages at home — all get caught up as one in the harmony of “Für Elise.”
School is socialization: learning how to be human in a human community, learning how not to get beaten up, learning how to make allies in Red Rover or Kiss the Girls, and later learning how to have a girlfriend or boyfriend, learning how to flirt at a locker or over a pipette or while passing a team stretching on a playing field. The folklorists Iona and Peter Opie began to study the schoolyard culture of children in the 1950s and found that games and rhymes such as “Ring Around the Rosie” had been passed down via generations of children for centuries. No one had disrupted that transmission for centuries, in the West.86 Now the culture of childhood was disrupted, disconnected, like little circuits being detached from one another.
School is about how to be human in groups — learning how to lose at a game and keep going. Learning how to win graciously. Learning how to pass the ball. All of those are preparatory to any great endeavor involving “teamwork,” which is a trite word for the miracle of human beings engaged in coordination, collaboration, and competition from which our arts, our civilization, our commerce, and our defense all arise.
School teaches us how to please, care for, argue with, provoke, and conciliate people outside of our immediate families.
School is emotional learning, as recent educators have pointed out. Teachers don’t just teach. Fellow students don’t just sit next to scholars inertly. The community of school expands the emotional field of the students outside of the family, so they learn to have emotionally successful relationships with people outside their mother, father and siblings. A relationship with a teacher is the first relationship with an adult most modern Western children have outside of their families. The emotional life of school gives a child practice to learn what pleases and what displeases, what fosters connection and approval from others and what closes it down. With every successful emotional interaction, kids learn mastery and confidence; they acquire power.
Additionally, not every family is healthy. Kids with narcissistic parents who can’t see them often learn from a teacher or peer group what it means to be seen. Kids who are beaten at home learn what it means to be physically safe. Kids whose parents suffer with addiction learn what it means to engage with people who are able to respond.
The reason that people around the world have struggled, and still do, at great cost to themselves, to build schools, or to pass laws to get children into schools, or to go without so their kids can afford a school uniform and be educated, is not just so that a child can have facts in his or her head. If that were all that education was, then free libraries — or, yes, maybe even “distance learning” — would be enough.
The extra-“factual” nature of education, the social nature of education, is why parents and the progressive movement moved heaven and earth to put children in physical schools, with human teachers. Because school is a living daily promise that is kept to draw a child into a holistic community of enrichment, a thought-through institution based on rules and agreements about behavior and deliverables that extend past what is inside of textbooks, a proto-civilization of the educated that surrounds the child with a 360-degree experience of being with the educated and being expected to prioritize and value the tasks and goals that go along with being educated.
But suddenly, it was ok — indeed, it was “necessary” — to provide no school for the kids. To offer no community college or university for the young adults.
Because, because … COVID.
Parents all over were praying that kids could go back to school in the fall of 2020. They did not know that decisions were already being made, above their heads.
86. The Iona and Peter Opie Archive, British Academy Research Project, Digital Humanities Institute,
At the same time as the living classroom was killed off, so was the living office. “Remote working” or “working remotely” became terms in the new lexicon — as opposed to the more organic “not showing up for work” or “being absent from the office.” Suddenly, after two hundred and fifty years of an Industrial Revolution in which many Western people went to work, the importance of the office, that workplace outside of the home, simply vanished.
Abruptly, vast messaging surrounded almost every white-collar worker, communicating that one could stay home — stay home! And work “remotely,” on a platform such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Indeed Zoom — which was a platform that a tiny minority had navigated before April 2020 — was suddenly everywhere.
As with “remote learning,” Zoom rolled out everywhere as a cultural expectation without question or variation. It wasn’t as if some businesses met or polled their workers or created a hybrid model — no, the social norm was established almost overnight. Everyone suddenly knew how to navigate it, and a whole Zoom culture appeared at once.
At first it seemed impossible — this staying at home with working parents and kids tethered to screens could never be a widespread or enduring solution. Women have been asking to “work remotely” for decades, and business interests have always had reasons not to allow it.
But suddenly this massive shift in human activity every day, this shift of not going to work, was not just tolerated, it was promoted everywhere. In the blink of an eye it was “the new normal” — another phrase that appeared out of nowhere in the early spring of 2020. (Zoom’s stock, by the way, peaked in October 2020).87
Lifestyle articles talked about “Zoomers” (cute!). “Coronavirus and Zoom have marked a generation,” we read in 2020.88
Fashion pages discussed what it meant to wear sweatpants all day down below and a well-put-together look on top. Adorable, slightly sassy features tsk-tsked at how men working at home would hog the good surfaces and wives would have to find a corner in a bedroom. But few really seemed to question this massive shift in the expectation of how human beings should spend their days. And after “mandates” were passed to force us to stay home, resistance was futile anyway.
Still, it seemed extraordinary: kids were expected to be on a computer for multiple hours a day in one room, while a working mom, or a homemaking mom, was also nearby, and a dad might also be in the next room working on a computer. If there were siblings, they were expected to be on computers.
I knew from decades of being on panels about working mothers and “balance” — and also from having been a working mom with small children myself — that this expectation was impossible.
Whoever had issued this bizarre sudden edict seemed not to have dealt with something that had bedeviled feminism and employers for forty years: who would watch the children? No, that question was completely done away with and over the course of some weeks. A new expectation was now prevalent all over America, and indeed the West. Strange and head-spinning as it seemed at first: no one was watching the kids.
The time-honored American, Canadian, Australian, and European social outlet of physical shopping also had largely vanished overnight. News articles appeared stating that you could get sick from touching surfaces: “What’s the Risk of Catching Coronavirus from a Surface? Touching Contaminated Objects and then Infecting Ourselves with the Germs is Not Typically How the Virus Spreads. But it Can Happen.”89 UC Davis Health would later note that “[t]ests have found traces of COVID-19 on surfaces, but no research has established that the virus is viable in those places.”90 What a gift for e-commerce!
Menus vanished, as they presumably carried fatal diseases (except that they didn’t), to be replaced with QR codes that could geolocate you.91 “Contactless” offerings appeared everywhere: “Curbside Pickup,” Grubhub, Seamless.
Almost as suddenly, to solve the problem, at least for the affluent, of being discouraged from physically shopping for groceries whose surfaces could kill you (except that they couldn’t), meal kits appeared — they would be delivered to your doorstep! So many, many meal kits were suddenly advertised everywhere: Home Chef, Marley Spoon, Green Chef.
HelloFresh was one such meal kit company. It had not made money for years after its founding. It was supported by the startup studio Rocket Internet; Insight Venture Partners led a $50 million round in 2014.92 By 2017, HelloFresh was still unprofitable. But Rocket Internet’s stake in HelloFresh was worth almost $980 million.93
What a benefit, though, the “stay at home” orders were to this formerly money-losing meal-kit company and its internet-industry investors: HelloFresh’s revenue more than doubled from 2019 to 2020, then nearly doubled yet again in 2021 (Figure 1).94
The meal kits appeared, like magic, for every taste, at least for the upper-middle class, and pacified them. The working class people who could not afford them or who could not afford to get to Walmart or Costco, or who had no car, were suddenly trying to stay healthy in food deserts even more deserted than the food deserts that had bedeviled their lower-income neighborhoods before March 2020.
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87. Jordan Novet, “Zoom Provides Disappointing Revenue Forecast for First Quarter and Full Year,” CNBC.com, February 28, 2022,
88. Megan Gearhardt, “Coronavirus and Zoom Have Marked a Generation,” NBCnews.com, June 7, 2020,
89. Tara Parker-Pope, “What’s the Risk of Catching Coronavirus from a Surface? Touching Contaminated Objects and then Infecting Ourselves with the Germs is Not Typically How the Virus Spreads. But it Can Happen.” The New York Times, May 28, 2020,
90. “COVID-19 mistakes and myths,” UC Davis Health, August 5, 2021,
91. Ozer, Nicole and Jay Stanley, “Diners Beware: That Meal May Cost You Your Privacy and Security,” ACLU, July 27, 2021,
92. Jordan Crook. “HelloFresh Cooks Up $50 Million Series D From Insight Venture Partners,” TechCrunch, June 18, 2014,
93. Burt Helm. “The World’s Most Ruthless Food Startup: The Inside Story of How HelloFresh Clawed Its Way to the Top,” Inc., June 27, 2018,
94. “Annual Report 2018.” HelloFresh SE, 2019,
“Annual Report 2019.” HelloFresh SE, 2020,
“Annual Report 2020.” HelloFresh SE, 2021,
“Annual Report 2021.” HelloFresh SE, 2022,
In the digital world, almost every major website or platform suddenly had a “COVID-19” warning.
That has been the case now for two years. That is hard to accomplish. Google showed you where testing sites were, when you were just looking for directions to a nearby gas station. Our phones suddenly showed a scary, spiked, mucus-green “COVID virus” emoji when we typed the word “virus.”
Other tech moguls funded evidence for “lockdowns.” The Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford built a “COVID-19 Government Response Tracker,” which purported to show how school closures, “lockdown” policies and other restrictive measures affected health and economic outcomes in 180 countries.95 In the middle of the “lockdown,” the Blavatnik School’s “COVID-19 Stringency Index” was widely cited in the US news media alongside case counts to show that “locked-down” states purportedly did better than open states.96 Subsequent studies did not, however, confirm this claimed difference in outcomes.97
The Blavatnik School, which is a public policy institution and not a medical one, was funded by Len Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire with both US and UK citizenship. He is a major donor to both US political parties and has ties to Russian oligarchs. Blavatnik’s portfolio includes Access Technology Ventures, “a portfolio of foundational companies that touch millions of customers across the consumer and enterprise technology ecosystems.”98 This portfolio shows how mega-elites profit from both the CCP and the West, thus blurring the objectives of traditional nation-state adversaries and reveals how many have a vested interest in a “locked-down,” post-humane world.
The group invested more than $2 billion in tech and related companies worldwide.99 Its holdings? Companies boosted directly by “lockdowns” and a “contactless” world.
Blavatnik’s portfolio has included Alibaba Group (a major online retailer, similar to Amazon and one of its chief competitors), Tencent Music, and ANT Financial (all Chinese companies), Zhihu Inc, “an iconic online content community” and one of the top five online content communities in China,100 Facebook, Snapchat, Spotify, Square (the digital payment processor), Amazon, and Rocket Internet — the HelloFresh investor.101 All these platforms are boosted by a post-humane world, in which we do not meet, party, make music, or transact in person.
The Blavatnik School also offered the “Pathways for Prosperity Commission on Technology and Inclusive Development.” One of the program’s three co-chairs? Melinda Gates. The program was “founded and managed by the Blavatnik School of Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”102
Before anyone really processed what was happening, before we could catch our collective breath, this somber catastrophe, or what was alleged to be a somber catastrophe — one that in times past we might have dealt with in 330 million individual ways, as Americans had always dealt with catastrophe — morphed into a uniform, top-down, almost cozy “lifestyle” that was, as a form of house arrest, well, tolerable.
That is, if you were affluent.
What we did not know was that the “academic” studies, the media messaging, and the tools for the cozy lifestyle all derived from, and then benefited, the same small group.
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95. Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker,
96. Harris, Rich and Lauren Leatherby, “States That Imposed Few Restrictions Now Have the Worst Outbreaks,” The New York Times, November 18, 2020,
97. AIER Staff, “Lockdowns Do Not Control the Coronavirus: The Evidence,” December 19, 2020,
98. Len Blavatnik – “Industrialist,”
100. Zhihu Inc. – “Corporate Profile,”
101. Access Technology Ventures,
102. Blavatnik School of Government – Research – Research Programmes – “Pathways for Prosperity,”
People were still locked in their homes. People feared going outside, feared touching others. The terror-inducing articles were relentless.
In the spring of 2020, The New York Times memorably reported that the city had deployed a set of forty-five mobile morgues. The morgues were photographed lined up in a municipal parking lot, terrifyingly ready to absorb the purported excess number of bodies.
City functionaries now entirely altered the usual method of how bodies were disposed of in Manhattan. Previously, it was standard practice for funeral homes, which are not state or government entities, to retrieve bodies from hospitals to be processed for burial. But in this “emergency,” the city had replaced this system with its own, under the aegis of the office of the chief medical examiner.
A spokeswoman for the office told The New York Times that in addition to the forty-five mobile morgues, eighty-five additional units were due to be delivered by FEMA.103
Yet in fact, according to Mike Lanotte of the New York State Funeral Homes Directors Association, this “bottleneck” had been created because cemeteries had been forced to reduce their hours of operation, meaning that the number of bodies they could bury in a day had been restricted. In other words, the bodies were stacking up so graphically and alarmingly not solely because their overwhelming number meant there were too many to process, but also because the cemeteries had not been allowed to process them during normal working hours.
The medical examiner’s office further declared that “under the final phase of its plan, the medical examiner’s office would coordinate with all local cemeteries to bury the dead in the ‘temporary mass internment method.’” The horrifying article concluded that under this method, “Ten bodies in caskets are placed lengthwise in a long, narrow section in the ground … The foot end of one casket is placed in close proximity to the head end of the next.”104
It was, needless to say, traumatic reading. Who wanted such an end for a loved one?
But I was puzzled by the accompanying images of dead bodies on gurneys or under bright-vermilion plastic tarps being transported from hospitals to morgues; the bodies appeared to be tightly bound in medieval-looking winding sheets revealing their human shape. Even weirder, they were being rolled outside of the hospital loading docks, down ramps, and out onto the sidewalks on city streets, all but paraded in front of news cameras.
Under normal circumstances, when a funeral home retrieves a body from a hospital morgue, it is put on a gurney, fully covered, and immediately placed into a hearse or a minivan. The funeral director comes at any time of day or night to talk with the family of the deceased and to safely take custody of the deceased’s body. This is why you don’t typically see dead bodies being transported on the sidewalks of New York. The hearse or the funeral home minivan backs up to the loading dock of the hospital. The transfer, under the care of the funeral director, is typically discreet and private.
So I did not doubt the deaths. But I knew media messaging, and media availability, and I was struck that the discretion and privacy of death as handled by private funeral directors had been replaced by a graphic public display of dead bodies to the cameras from multiple angles, as well as by the fact the city’s emergency officials, having taken over the process of handling the bodies, had evidently leaked to the press not just documents sure to terrify readers, but had made the bodies available to the cameras.
Also notably, news stories, accompanied by vivid photos of multiple caskets awaiting burial, described how Hart Island, off the coast of the Bronx, would be the final resting place for the COVID victims whose remains exceeded cemetery capacities in New York City. News features showed aerial photographs of vast trenches being dug deep into the ground on Hart Island and uniformed workers stacking plain pine caskets one on top of the other within the trenches. The images were shot from above, by drones. They were entirely shocking to most people seeing them.
As it happened, though, I knew about Hart Island, as before the pandemic I had been researching it for a book. It is a “Potter’s Field,” a burial ground for all New York City’s five boroughs. I also knew that shocking as the images truly were in 2020 to those unfamiliar with Hart Island, they were in no way unusual for the uses to which Hart Island had been put over its long history. Indeed, for a hundred years the facility had been used to bury the unclaimed indigent in mass graves, the graves dug by prisoners. So, as gruesome as the scene in the photos seemed to those unfamiliar with how business was done on Hart Island, what they showed happening on Hart Island was in no way out of the ordinary. Indigent New Yorkers had been buried in deep trenches in plain pine caskets in mass graves on Hart Island for decades as a matter of course.
“Mass burials on Hart Island began in 1875,” explains the website of a volunteer group devoted to documenting its history.105 Over 70,000 people have been buried on Hart Island in mass graves since 1980.106
What I also knew was that no one was allowed onto Hart Island without government permission. It is a government facility. So I was especially struck by the aerial footage of caskets being buried in a mass grave, images reproduced and described in shocked tones by the BBC, The Washington Post, Sky News, and other outlets worldwide.107 I knew full well that drones cannot fly over Hart Island without official authorization. So unless someone was violating the law, government officials would either have had to provide the images or given permission for a news outlet to shoot them.
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103. Alan Feuer and Andrea Salcedo, “New York City Deploys 45 Mobile Morgues as Virus Strains Funeral Home,” The New York Times, April 2, 2020,
105. The Hart Island Project, “The History,”
106. The Hart Island Project,
107. “Coronavirus: New York ramps up mass burials amid outbreaks,” BBC, April 10, 2020,
Over the course of the spring and summer of 2020, Governor Cuomo had rolled out one spectacle of medical terror after another. On April 2, 2020, the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, a massive white hospital ship docked dramatically at Pier 90 and was secured to great fanfare by the governor. The visuals were stunning.
The ship was an instant iconic symbol of disaster. It had a thousand beds. Yet by April 30, it had quietly departed, having treated fewer than 200 patients, and at times as few as 20, though the hospitals were full. Confusing.108
The morgue vehicles ranged before the cameras on Thirtieth Street were succeeded by Governor Cuomo’s announcement that Central Park might be used for a field hospital. By April 17, 2020, Samaritan’s Purse, a private nonprofit organization aligned with Mt. Sinai hospital, had indeed set up a field hospital in East Meadow in Central Park, made up of fourteen massive white tents. The field hospital made for new highly disturbing images in the news. Samaritan’s Purse ran stories about the desperate surge in cases.
But by May 2, 2020 — “Field Hospital that Treated Coronavirus Patients in Central Park to Close,” announced CBSnews.com. It had been up for fifteen days and then disassembled.109 A similar indoor facility in Queens had cost $52 million dollars to assemble and treated a total of 79 people before closing after one month.110
Finally, Governor Cuomo also announced that he was moving COVID patients into nursing homes, which seemed bizarre to me.111 I had never heard of that happening before.
At the same time, I heard from a cousin that my elderly relative was in a nursing home, but, “because of COVID,” her family was not allowed to see her. Infected people were being moved in by the governor, but healthy family members were being kept out? I did not understand this. Why couldn’t she have visitors while seated safely outside? A sociable woman with many grandchildren who loved her, this isolation seemed like it would be a form of torture for her.
I was already noticing that the media was not citing primary sources for COVID “cases” and deaths. For instance, CBS often cited … CBS. On May 2 the network reported “There have been a total of 309,145 cases in New York State since the crisis began, and 18,909 deaths, according to CBS New York.”112 This self-citation was curious journalistically, to say the least. And if you clicked through to the source link, the data looked very different: “In the 24 hours leading into Saturday, the number of “confirmed” COVID-19 cases in New York State was 831, down slightly from the average of 900 a day the state was seeing recently, to a total of 309,145 cases.”113
So this fine print, which you only saw by clicking through to what presented itself as a “citation,” contradicted the scary news story; it explained that there were not in fact 309,145 cases of COVID-19 in New York State on May 2, 2020, even though CBS.com reported on the primary page that everyone read that there “have been” 309,145 cases in New York State “since the crisis began,” implying an ongoing emergency of that kind of scale.
That terrifying figure was completely misleading. As if things weren’t bad enough, this was needless scaremongering on an epic scale.
In fact, there were 831 “confirmed cases” of COVID-19 in New York State on May 2, 2020, out of roughly 20 million people, down from about 900 on average in the days before.114 The 300,000-plus figure was reporting totals of all time in New York State, and it was a figure that did not subtract from the total the people who had recovered.
On that typical day at the height of the pandemic in New York, May 2, 2020, 299 more New Yorkers were listed as having died of illnesses “related to” COVID-19, bringing the total to the 18,909. Again, terrifying sounding. Except there are roughly 20 million people in New York State, so what, in fact, that “deaths related to COVID-19” figure meant was that every New Yorker had a minuscule chance of dying in a death “related to” COVID. Indeed, all this time later, though New York throughout the pandemic had one of the highest mortality rates of any state (at 3,529 per million population)115 a New Yorker’s chances of dying in a death “related to” the virus was 0.3529%. 3,529 is 0.3529% of one million.
Not much of a scare headline in that.
It would not be possible to get millions of people to stay inside for two years to avoid this kind of risk.
But because we were being systematically lied to, and because CBS and other media were not doing their jobs, and were cynically misrepresenting the data, for far too long, like millions of others, I was terrified, and so were the people I loved.
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108. J. D. Simkins, “Hospital Ship Comfort Departs NYC, Having Treated Fewer than 200 Patients,” April 30, 2020,
109. Caroline Linton, “Field Hospital That Treated Coronavirus Patients in Central Park to Close,” CBSnews.com, May 2, 2020,
110. Brian M. Rosenthal, “This Hospital Cost $52 Million. It Treated 79 Virus Patients.,” The New York Times, July 21, 2020,
111. Michelle Andrews, “Is Cuomo Directive to Blame for Nursing Home Deaths, As US Official Claims?,” KHN.org News, August 24, 2020,
112. Caroline Linton, “Field Hospital That Treated Coronavirus Patients in Central Park to Close,” CBSnews.com, May 2, 2020,
113. “Coronavirus Field Hospital in Central Park Shutting Down On Monday,” newyork.cbslocal.com, May 2, 2020,
114. “Coronavirus Field Hospital in Central Park Shutting Down On Monday,” newyork.cbslocal.com, May 2, 2020,
115. “COVID-19 Deaths per 100K,” US News & World Report, March 20, 2022,
A commentator on social media posted: “The train today was stopped because someone phoned in a suicide threat and put his head on the tracks, and they were looking for the body while I was on the train.”
I stood at the Wassaic train station myself later that day, waiting for the train heading into Manhattan. An announcement came over the loudspeaker, stating that it was now national Amtrak policy that everyone had to wear a mask on the train.
The Amtrak website said: “Amtrak requires Facial Covering for Added Layer of Protection.” “Help Us and Others.”
A possibly attractive cartoon Amtrak passenger showed her green eyes above the “facial covering.”116
I understood that this seemed, medically, like a reasonable request given the exposure of staff to respiratory pathogens. But I trembled too, as I understood another boundary was now breached.
I did notice, when I boarded, that Amtrak and Metro-North trains windows had not been altered, and still could not be opened. All the air in the car was unhealthily recirculating.
I remember my heart sinking, as I sat down and positioned my mask on my face. I understood that this demand, this “order,” had crossed a line in a free society, and that the power to “mask” represented a new kind of power over citizens in America. It had not arisen via law, and not even via emergency measures that were under regular review and responsive to public pressure or changing conditions. So I understood that I now lived in a world in which citizens could be masked by force — and that they would soon be forced to do other things.
I had read history. I understood that now nothing would prevent new orders to mask all the community, in venue after venue, and that all measures limiting our physical bodies, and the bodies of others were now on the table.
116. “Amtrak Requires facial Coverings as Added Measure of Protection,” May 7, 2020.
So it took much longer than it should have for anyone but a handful to understand that the pandemic had created a pretext for 360-degree social control. This is because we’re a trusting and good-hearted people, and many citizens had little understanding of how policy is crafted in an emergency/opportunity context.
Most people naturally assume emergency-related policies are made as a direct response to the needs of citizens. But they could not be more mistaken.
Former President Clinton’s operative Rahm Emanuel famously told a Wall Street Journal forum how some political operatives actually regard horrific situations: “[Y]ou never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”117
Having been around global decision-makers in media, politics, and tech gives me insight into what can happen in the rooms where responses to crisis are crafted. While at a national or even a state level it is a given that the policy response to a crisis will always be presented to the citizenry as addressing their own needs, in actuality, no matter how awful the emergency may be, one of the first thing insiders need to know about an emergency is also whether it offers an opportunity to promote their interests.
This is why a lot of emergency policy can seem illogical to citizens on the receiving end.
Behind the scenes, in conversations that media do not cover, dozens of lobbyists and assorted billionaires oftentimes have a say in what that “emergency” legislation or health mandates look like.
The hidden special interests can range from Big Pharma executives to real estate investors, to telecom and tech companies to insurers. These days lobbyists can, and do, include foreign nations — even foreign nations that, far from being our immediate allies, are our sworn adversaries.
Of course, when the policy or the health-department directive is announced, those dozens of hands and scores of fingerprints belonging to the lobbyists for the mega-corporations and billionaires that shaped it are invisible. The policy is rolled out as being driven solely by medical necessity and peer-reviewed research.
This is often a lie.
Yet it is received as truth by citizens, and never more so than in the panic of the crisis, not only because they have no way to see “how the sausage is made,” but also because they are afraid.
Indeed, the outcomes sought by the elites can’t be accomplished nearly as readily in ordinary times, times where lobbyists certainly play a part, but find their roles constrained by the normal legislative process. But in a COVID-closed or COVID-managed society, there is none of the scrutiny that routinely accompanies the making of legislation; normal debate is suspended; reporters can’t — or, even more than ordinarily, won’t — ask hard questions. Policy to comprehensively control people’s behavior and movements at scale is crafted in darkness,
Emergencies create unbelievably lucrative opportunities for the ramping-up of corruption.
117. Jacqueline Maley, The political art of not wasting a crisis, or getting wasted by it,” Sydney Morning Herald, May 17, 2020,
I am often called a “conspiracy theorist.” The reason is simple. Unlike all but a very few other journalists or nonfiction writers, I’ve been a political consultant to a presidential campaign and advisor to a vice president. And as a result of those experiences, I know how the powerful react in a crisis — especially when their self-interest is involved.
A quick story. It is August 1998 and my then-husband was a White House speechwriter. We’d left Washington on vacation and were journeying through the Atlas Mountains of Morocco with our three-year-old toddler. Over crackling radios, we heard about a breaking scandal; we could barely make out disclosures coming closer and closer to an alleged sex act in the White House.
Our guide, who spoke little English, explained only: “Clinton. Dress. Scandal.” Monica Lewinsky was about to testify to a grand jury about her relationship to the President of the United States.
A few nights later, an emergency unfolded in the United States.118
“Changing the subject” during a scandal or a run of bad press is political-insider shorthand for “making people forget.” It is the goal of every political consultant or chief of staff under duress.
A factory in Sudan had been bombed “on the direct orders” of the president.119 The factory, alleged to have been involved in the making of threatening substances, was “pulverized,” reduced to “broken concrete and iron bars.”120 The “subject was changed.” Abruptly, in the news media, the focus turned to the great threat this factory had posed to our safety in the United States, and to our very way of life. The media showed images of the post-bombardment wreckage. Triumphalist coverage attended this show of our force.
Soon enough the dust settled. When it was reported that in actuality the target had been a medicine factory, White House spokespeople countered that it was in fact a “disguised chemical weapons factory” and that soil samples showed a substance connected to the manufacture of nerve gas.
By the time the news cycle had moved on, and Sudan was once again relegated to its usual status as a US foreign policy backwater, a few brief news stories conceded that in reality the bombed building had never been a chemical-weapons factory. It had been a pharmaceuticals factory. It was one of three factories in the Sudan that made medicines, including anti-TB and anti-malarial medications. Jonathan Belke, in The Boston Globe, pointed out that the loss of domestically produced medicines would lead to thousands of avoidable deaths in Sudan.121 It hadn’t worked out as President Clinton’s staff may have hoped — the press quickly returned to the salacious allegations of the president’s infidelity, with news outlets once again getting to say “oral sex” and “blue dress” and eventually even “cigar.” The scandal was simply too irresistible a gift to the media to ignore.
But I never forgot that an entirely innocent night watchman died in the attack.122
The truly powerful go to enormous lengths to control the narrative, and in general achieve great success.
What the most powerful people always want is certainty. Randomness and risk are their sworn enemies. What they never want is any possibility for chance to affect events and outcomes. Chance might allow the other side to win, and then all the billions will flow to the other side and their cronies. Chance allows that stock on which your friends have bet to tank. Chance allows populist movements to emerge that upend your best-laid plans.
When I am attacked as being a conspiracy theorist, it is when I make predictions based on having witnessed the behavior of those at the center of power and observing how it was directed 24/7 at getting rid of organic historical or market processes, and thus doing away with much-dreaded chance.
Why would powerful men and women not want to control all the outcomes in the world? In many cases, it is the fiduciary responsibilities of these men and women to control all possible risk in outcomes. “Conspiracy theorist” is a handy term of abuse, thrown around (and never more than in 2020–22) by bought media and bought social media influencers to deride those who know better how power really operates in private. The smear also serves to deter citizens from recognizing the fundamental but dispiriting truth that powerful people always seek to control history and markets and limit their risk in a systematic way — and the corollary that they themselves are often powerless.
Powerful people seek to bring about historical outcomes without leaving written evidence, using nonprofits, cutouts, relatives, lawyers, or friends of friends. They don’t issue press releases. Everyone who works at the highest levels of government understands the need for deniability; the job is to get the implied wishes of the principal accomplished, without direct instruction, let alone written memos.
This high-level aversion to risk and this aim at “no fingerprints” and no paper trail is not conspiracy theory, it is reality. It is simply the way that global elites operate, assisted by the highest-compensated lawyers and lobbyists in DC, paid for advancing world-historical outcomes without public disclosure, or a messy set of documents vulnerable to exposure in the event of a subpoena.
Indeed, though the bombing prompted perhaps by President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky redirected media attention briefly from a damaging topic, no fingerprints were left behind. Why? Because inside the White House, in 1998, it is close to certain the president never actually said, “We need to bomb an ambiguously-understood factory in Sudan to get the press focus off of me and my young former girlfriend.” It is very unlikely that any chief of staff or White House operative ever spoke any words connecting the pressure of the sex scandal to the appeal of making a dramatic strike.
But as I saw relationships unfold in the White House and in the Naval Observatory, everyone would have understood the unspoken need to simply change the subject: Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?
Was that a “conspiracy”? Maybe not technically. But did large impersonal forces chillingly align to bring about a world-historical outcome, with no fingerprints? We know the answer.
And so an innocent man died, and maybe ultimately thousands more, as collateral damage.
In the same way, but on a vastly larger scale, crimes were committed in 2020–22. They were committed against the entire human race, by small powerful groups of people to bring about outcomes which they saw as well worth of the sacrifice — that is to say, the sacrifice of us.
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118. Nathan J. Robinson, “Bill Clinton’s Act of Terrorism,” Jacobin, Oct 12, 2016,
122. Scott Peterson, “Sudanese factory destroyed by US now a shrine,” The Christian Science Monitor, August 7, 2012,
We stayed in the woods, inside. Our neighbors stayed inside.
We all heard about the fact that a field hospital was being set up in Central Park, and this news chilled us mightily. But we did not hear that it had been packed up a mere fifteen days later.
We also heard loud and clear that there were 309,145 “cases” in New York State. We did not hear that that figure was cumulative, and that on May 2, 2020, there were in fact fewer than 900 “cases” in the whole of our populous state.
My neighbor up the road was told his elderly father had COVID, and the neighbor was distraught at the prospect that his dad would be moved into a field hospital in Central Park — a certain death sentence, he reasonably feared. That must have been one of the worst times of his life.
But my neighbor was not informed that the field hospital had been expensively packed away. He was allowed to suffer with now-baseless dread.
Governor Cuomo’s nightly television briefings were both riveting and absolutely nightmare-inducing.
He named and named and named the deceased.
No one told us on the major news platforms that studies were showing that young adults were not at great risk from the virus, even then. No one explained that, even then, studies were showing that children were at almost no risk of being killed by the virus. (Though I religiously read the major news outlets, I did not learn these facts until I interviewed Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a signatory of the Great Barrington Declaration, months later.)
In August of 2020, I hugged a twentysomething who had visited us, and wept; I begged him not to go into the city. I wept and it upset him. I did this emotional damage — on a day that the young man had zero point zero plus chance of being seriously harmed if infected. If the news outlets I read had reported on how little risk there was to healthy young adults, I would not have caused, or myself suffered, this traumatizing distress.
Though it was now summer, playgrounds remained closed off. Children were restless and pale, hoping to go back to school in the fall. But no one was firm about whether they could resume in-person learning. This uncertainty rattled children, and it wore down parents.
A relative became very ill with COVID. He was given no therapeutics. His lungs were scarred.
A dear friend was very ill with COVID. She had to sleep sitting up. She was sick for months. Her doctors, the best that could be found, gave her no therapeutics — they said to go home to let the illness “play itself out.”
In general, there were no therapeutics given to people suffering.
Any discussion of possible therapeutics was attributed to the obtuseness of President Trump and his racist, science-hating supporters.
The medical regimes that did exist in our educated liberal circles, though, seemed pre-Victorian to me. These sufferers were told to come back to the ER if their oxygen levels dropped dangerously.
The New York Times ran story after story, in ghastly detail, on the grisly deaths suffered by COVID victims placed on ventilators.123
The New York Times discussed “white-glass lesions” on lungs as an aftereffect of COVID. Their reporting graphically depicted lung transplants and permanent lung damage.124
The press was full of appallingly intrusive images of dying people on ventilators.
I felt at times that there was an unusually theatrical, horror-show quality to the reporting, and even to the political drama produced by Governor Cuomo.
People were suffering, as they do in waves of illness.
But they had not yet collectively lost their minds.
123. Andrew Jacobs, “Now the US Has Lots of Ventilators, But Too Few Specialists to Operate Them,” The New York Times, November 22, 2020,
124. Lina Zeldovich, “Some Signs of Recovery from Severe COVID-19 Lung Damage,” The New York Times, October 18, 2020,
On news channels there were suddenly weird features about business moguls saying things such as “the handshake is dead forever” and showing how they were fist-bumping, or even more awkwardly, bumping elbows in greeting — an unnatural dance demonstrating how to avoid exchanging deadly viruses. When I first saw the “elbow-bump” promoted as a COVID trend, I thought: “no socially literate human being would have come up with that.” The cultural logic and imagery suddenly in play had a strange, Asperger’s-like quality.
In August 2020, The Guardian reported that the city of Preston, England “bans households from mixing as infection among under-30s rises at ‘an alarming rate.’”125
You could not have friends over, and children who lived in different homes could no longer play together. Many friendships were suspended nationwide in Britain.
In Britain, you were not allowed to gather with more than two people in your own garden. “Bubble” became a term in both the United States and Britain — in Britain you could not visit households outside “your bubble.” There was a ban on group meetings of more than six people. As if out of a CCP fairy tale, this was called “The Rule of Six.”126
Indeed, if anything, things in Britain were worse than at home. By the end of 2020, some colleagues in Britain had not seen anyone outside their household members for months. There were “rules” at times on how often one could go outside during the day. These became more and more narrow. Soon people were allowed a single walk a day “for exercise.” And then only with members “of their households.” You had grief-stricken mothers posting on social media about children gazing longingly at other children outside, with whom they were forbidden to play.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new “rules” in November 2020:
We are going to go back instead to a regional, tiered approach, applying the toughest measures where COVID is most prevalent. While the previous local tiers cut the R number, they were not quite enough to reduce it below 1, so the scientific advice, I am afraid, is that, as we come out, our tiers need to be made tougher.
In particular, in tier 1 people should work from home wherever possible. In tier 2, alcohol may only be served in hospitality settings as part of a substantial meal. In tier 3, indoor entertainment, hotels and other accommodation will have to close, along with all forms of hospitality, except for delivery and takeaways. I am very sorry, obviously, for the unavoidable hardship that this will cause for business owners who have already endured so much disruption this year.
Unlike the previous arrangements, tiers will now be a uniform set of rules.127
This dramatic declaration turned out to be based on utter falsehoods. “The scientific advice” that correlated COVID-19 spread with “our tiers need[ing] to be made tougher” turned out to be imaginary or plain wrong and came from conflicted scientists modeling baseless computer projections.
The citizens of the United Kingdom did not, however, know this, for the most part. And much moralizing went along with this edict: those who followed “the rules” were lauded in the press; those who asked questions were derided as “COVID deniers” who wanted to “kill Grandma.”
Our country was not much better or saner.
The “restrictions” were dizzyingly confusing and erratic.
I did not understand how any of this made any kind of sense, rational, epidemiological, or otherwise. But I saw the psychological damage, and how nations held hostage to relentless propaganda were losing all sense of any alternative and quietly, unprotestingly giving up long-cherished inalienable rights.
The media was full of images that I thought were unpleasantly insistent about how we must handle our predicament. I recognized influence campaigns from my own training as a PR person and as a campaign advisor.
There was a campaign to get people to accept that distance was good. Distance was how you showed love.
A commercial sentimentalized scenes of a little girl holding up her hand to the glass of a window, on the other side of which an elderly woman also held up her hand to the glass. The slogan was: “Apart together.” Or variations: “We Stand Together by Staying Apart.” Our pop culture, I thought, had always sentimentalized connection; why were so many corporates, indeed an obvious, expensive influence campaign, now sentimentalizing distance and isolation?128
I also knew how long influence campaigns took to plan out, shoot, edit, and distribute. Why such an investment of time and money in a health crisis that could subside next week?
Media and social media echoed the idea that if you really loved someone, you did not go near them. Media and social media were full of the discourse that you could “kill your grandmother” if you saw her by being an “asymptomatic carrier.” “‘Don’t Kill Granny with Coronavirus,’ Warns Matt Hancock” headlined London’s The Times. Matt Hancock, the UK Health Minister, used a soundbite that was repeated in hundreds of other countries and news stories.129 The soundbites were so global that eventually The Times of India would protest, ‘Who Killed Granny? Shameless Emotional Manipulation has Shaped too much of Global COVID Policy, Disastrously.”130
Young adults and children were told “Don’t Kill Granny” in a massive, highly funded UK government propaganda campaign documented in Laura Dodsworth’s A State of Fear: How the UK Government Weaponized Fear During the COVID-19 Pandemic.131
The discourse posited the notion that you love your elders best by not going to see them, by not touching them, by not visiting them — ever. Love was turned on its head.
We were bombarded by images of loving families connecting with their elders not by physical hugs and visits, but through the safe, sanitary digital screen. That was real love.
Children, especially, were traumatized by the message that a hug of theirs “could kill grandma.” I saw the emotional conflict that this message created in the minds of the very young. I met a little neighbor up the street, a very bright, talkative five-year-old, with her mother; and we chatted at a distance of twelve or so feet. After I had made conversation with the little one directly, about subjects that interested her, I saw her impulsively start to run toward me to be closer and to talk more; her mother drew her back. I saw the look of confusion, self-doubt, and fear that supplanted the child’s natural interest to move in the direction of curiosity — and toward warmth, conversation and connection.
The “Zoom class” was working online in this strange new way. We quickly got used to it. How not? It was strangely cozy, even as it slowly strangled your social capital, slowly cut you off from your colleagues, your larger acquaintanceship, and new ideas and alliances. You could hold a meeting while still wearing PJs and slippers below the desk level.
We were learning the culture of Zoom meetings.
We were learning the culture of “Quarantinis.”
We saw our friends on screens.
The “essential workers” — truck drivers, delivery people, nurses, laborers — were on the “front lines,” another new (or in this case, repurposed) phrase, and were all day, every day, exposed to the virus.
People in the South Bronx, my former neighborhood, along with Queens, had the highest death rates from COVID in the entire city. Most working people in Mott Haven were “front-line” workers, and did not have the luxury of staying home to “Zoom.”
Our superintendent’s mother had died from the virus. I remembered the devastatingly poorly supported South Bronx hospitals.
When I saw him briefly, to retrieve some items from our former apartment, he was stricken with grief, but had to work in spite of his mourning.
Manhattan, the wealthiest borough, in contrast to the Bronx, had the lowest rates of infection.132
No matter how “right on” the upper-middle class was, no matter the social-justice proclamations of my former liberal, affluent urban “tribe,” no one really expressed any objection to this unequal distribution of risk and harm.
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125. Pidd, Helen and Peter Walker, “’Don’t kill granny’ message for Preston youth aims to slow spread of Covid-19,” The Guardian, August 8, 2020,
126. The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP and Home Office, “Rule of six comes into effect to tackle coronavirus,” September 14, 2020,
127. Boris Johnson, UK Parliament, “Covid-19: Winter Plan,” November 23, 2020,
128. Anissa Gardizy, “Watch: COVID-19 commercials,” The Boston Globe, May 7, 2020,
129. Chris Smyth and Rosemary Bennett, “’Don’t Kill Granny with Coronavirus,’ Warns Matt Hancock,” September 8, 2020, The Times,
130. Ramesh Thakur, “Who Killed Granny? Shameless Emotional Manipulation has Shaped Too Much of Global COVID Policy, Disastrously,” The Times of India, February 12, 2021,
131. Laura Dodsworth, A State of Fear: How the UK Government Weaponized Fear During the COVID-19 Pandemic (London: Pinter & Martin), 2021.
132. Thompson CN, Baumgartner J, Pichardo C, et al. COVID-19 Outbreak — New York City, February 29–June 1, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1725–1729. DOI:
The global onslaught against human assembly, commerce, and community, managed and driven largely by tech companies, was undergirded by a new digital product: the suddenly-ubiquitous “COVID-19 maps,” also known as “COVID-19 dashboards.” X/Y axis graphs, they showed the incredibly alarming numbers of deaths and infections in sensationally-depicted detail.
The dashboards employed colors with particular creative flair. In The New York Times’s dashboard, the often nearly vertical right hand slope recording “Weekly Cases” was in lurid magenta-red — the vermilion color that seemed to be the “brand” color of the disease-related fear campaign; in contrast, the welcome rising vaccination rates would be tracked in a cool and soothing medicinal green.133
We quickly became familiar with the dashboards, believing as we did that the data they revealed was behind official statements, politics and policies. We watched the graph peaks and valleys with horror or (rare) relief, certain they represented “the science” and “the numbers” in purest form. When Dr. Anthony Fauci pronounced, in his trademark Brooklyn accent, his favorite phrase, “When you look at the data —” the media reacted by referencing these X/Y charts.134
But I began to notice that while Dr. Fauci of the NIAID and Dr. Rochelle Walensky of the CDC continually invoked the phrases “follow the data” or “follow the science,” they almost never provided the raw data or peer-reviewed publications. Instead we were left to rely on these ubiquitous non-government, third-party-produced COVID dashboards and on press release-type news stories describing studies exactly as officials had summarized the studies’ findings, but without actually linking to them.
Thus, the conclusions drawn by the media, citing these platforms especially, were impossible to confirm. Why? Because many of the most-referenced dashboards were based on flawed methodologies and unverifiable datasets. They were phantoms.
133. Staff and agencies, “Coronavirus in the US: Latest Map and Case Count,” The New York Times,
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/us/covid-cases.html, accessed March 22, 2022.
134. “Our World in Data,”
As it happens, I was familiar with dashboard technology because my tech company, DailyClout.io, builds dashboards based on exactly the same process and using exactly the same technology as do the COVID maps. We also, purportedly like the COVID maps, use government data. It is in some ways a simple and, in the world of digital data, fully understood process. In other words, there is no magic to the process of creating a dashboard out of government data. Building these kinds of maps and databases is a standard feat of coding.
So I knew that the third-party dashboards that were showing the world “COVID cases” or “COVID deaths” must be based on an API. In order to be real and verifiable, the dashboards there would have to be based upon state health department data derived from real death certificates and real, working clinical tests being fed continually into an API.
What is an API?
An API, or Application Programming Interface, is like a firehose of data. It allows one software application to talk to another to send or receive information. If the data retrieved through an API are messy (usually the case), programmers have to make sense of the data, and develop ways to deal with any unexpected results they could receive from an API “call.”
To make the data useful for a dashboard, programmers also have to clean, combine and format the data into workable datasets. These datasets can then be fed “into the backend” of the dashboard — that is, the part that developers and webmasters can see, but users themselves cannot.
Developers can then take the nicely formatted data and create ways to show that data visually to users, building code to turn the data into what users see “on the front end” or the “UX” (for user experience). The way readers navigate the website “on the front end” is called the “UI” or “user interface.”
This “front end” is what readers of the digital New York Times saw when they looked at the COVID map that was featured every single day on the paper’s digital front page, or what those who went to the Johns Hopkins University Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center site (a dashboard that has had various names throughout the pandemic) saw when they went there in search of updates on COVID cases and deaths.135
The story of “cases” and “deaths” was told by multiple media outlets using the various third-party dashboards as their terrifying illustration, their “proof.”
Yet few reporters clicked through to try to locate the raw datasets to verify for readers that what the dashboards showed them “on the front end” was really the full story. And few checked to see if there were really indeed verifiable state health department data being aggregated, or some other nonsense altogether.
For the first month, perhaps, this ignorance could be excused as part of a learning curve around digital data. But when a year passed and two years passed, and reporters were still citing digital dashboards uncritically, without understanding or, it seems, showing even any curiosity about what they were looking at, the excuse vanished. As noted, an API is a simple technology that can be explained in ten minutes to any lay person.
What reporters would not understand is: a digital dashboard is not in fact a medical product.
It is not a scientific product.
A digital dashboard is not necessarily even generated from anything at all that corresponds to physical or biological reality.
“Cases” tabulated on a digital dashboard are not necessarily generated from actual tests that are generated from real human biological samples. “Deaths” tabulated on a digital dashboard do not necessarily derive from any actual dead bodies recorded by real coroners in real hospital morgues or from funeral directors retrieving bodies from homes.
A digital dashboard is simply a product of code that counts data inputs in a certain way. It counts what the developer told it to count.
This data on a COVID dashboard that calls itself “cases” can be based on a real positive nasal swab, from a real human nose, translated into an accurate positive real test done at the correct cycle threshold, which result is then translated accurately into a snippet of code.
Or the data calling itself “cases” can be just — a snippet of code.
The data on a digital dashboard that calls itself “deaths,” implying deaths “from COVID,” are only as good as the forms filled out to claim a cause of death or the way the deaths are counted “as COVID.”
Anything at all can be counted as a “case.” And any death can be mis-identified as a “death.”
135. Johns Hopkins University and Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center,
If the reports of “cases” were from flawed tests, such as the now-infamous PCR tests that counted both real and not-real nasal swab material as “positive” depending on the PCR test cycle thresholds, then the dashboard would count all that data as “cases.”136 As data scientists like to say: “garbage in, garbage out”.
Whatever the backend was told by the developer to count as a “case” was counted by the dashboard as a “case”; the “front end” — the part that you saw as a reader, the part that was the graphic display reproduced in a million news outlets and newspaper front pages — represented this aggregation to readers in a jagged line on an X and Y axis. A jagged line that day after day, scared people to death.
When it came to COVID fatalities, the counting was likewise subjective and dependent on whatever the developer told the operative code to count. If “deaths” were defined as “PIC” deaths — “pneumonia, influenza and COVID-19,” a category that the CDC came up with months into the pandemic — then that was the number that the “front end” of the dashboard presented to the world as “COVID deaths.” The correct definition was lost somewhere in the fine print.
If “deaths” were counted by the developer as “deaths with COVID-19” — and if the data retrieved by the API included anyone who’d died 28 days after a positive PCR test, even if, as documented cases have shown, that person actually died of a car crash or cancer — then the code likewise counted those deaths as “COVID deaths,” and showed them on the front end as “deaths” in a graph that usually had a clever way of not saying directly “DEATHS FROM COVID-19.”
Often the graph would say “Total Deaths” under the headline “COVID-19 DEATHS” or “Deaths to Date,” but it would have a legalistic wording to not claim that all those deaths were “from COVID-19.”
So again: accessing the raw data is what all those supposedly most invested in the facts behind the most monumental story of the era should have done on a regular basis.
News reporters should have, and scientists should have, and epidemiologists should have, and politicians should have. And citizens who considered themselves informed should have done so as well.
By linking the raw datasets, any honest, conscientious reporter would have been able to see and verify real deaths, in real contexts, or else ask hard questions about datasets that were anomalously compiled, or about missing information. But there were no raw datasets linked.
Mainstream media reporting took the “conclusions” of the dashboards at face value. So credulous and ignorant was the reporting, so lacking in basic skepticism, that to so much as raise questions about their veracity was seen as attacking science itself. For reporters the dashboards’ mere existence represented irrefutable fact.
136. Apoorva Mandavilli, “Your Coronavirus Test Is Positive. Maybe It Shouldn’t Be.,” The New York Times, August 29, 2021,
There were other problems in addition to the absence of complete linked raw datasets.
A serious one involved methodology: how the data were counted and what was actually being counted. As noted, a COVID “death” might have been based on a real dead body; or the “deaths” data might have been amplified artificially by setting the API to count death certificates that had already been changed to heighten the likelihood that document would record a “COVID death.” This happened at scale, as Dr. Henry Ealy of Portland, Oregon and his team reported, when the CDC moved the reporting of “COVID” as a comorbidity to Part I of the death certificate. As Dr. Ealy explained, since this section was the one counted by the health departments, this meant that if someone with a positive COVID test died of cancer or suicide, the death would still be counted as a “COVID death.”137 Dr. Ealy, along with two Oregon state senators, Sen. Kim Thatcher and Sen. Dennis Linthicum, went so far as to call for a grand jury investigation charging the CDC with “willful misconduct” in this form and other forms of mishandling and misrepresenting COVID-19 data.138 (Their filing was docketed by a federal court on March 4, 2022.)139
A dashboard can thus count a “bad” category, such as deaths “with COVID.” If the dashboard reports “deaths,” as many do, but without adding the words “from COVID,” then the final tally displayed is not necessarily one of “deaths from COVID” at all.
Another problem had to do with chain of custody of the data, as Dr. Ealy’s research team points out.
A verifiable dashboard is one that does not have an intermediary handling the data after the time it leaves the state health departments or, in the UK, the NHS.
But there is growing evidence that third parties were invited into the handling of the data related to the pandemic, in ways that degraded its integrity and that, intentionally or not, inflated numbers in various ways.
Indeed, the basis for the grand jury investigation filing presented by Dr. Ealy and his colleagues was that government data must be handled according to certain regulations, and it is a violation of these regulations for data management and access to be outsourced to third parties.140
But according to a grand jury petition filing in which Dr. Rochelle Walensky is a defendant, that is exactly what the CDC did. Dr. Ealy and his colleagues detail these alleged violations of regulations in a paper titled “COVID-19 Data Collection, Comorbidity & Federal Law: A Historical Retrospective,” featured in Science, Public Health Policy and the Law.141 They argue:
On April 14th, the CDC adopted a position paper authored by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE), a 501c (6) non-profit organization, with the assistance of 4 CDC-employed subject matter experts (Dr. Susan Gerber, Dr. Aron J. Hall, Sandra Roush, & Dr. Tom Shimabukuro). This document was sanctioned by Dr. Robert R. Redfield, Director of the CDC.
Not only does this appear to be a potential conflict of interest, it also bypasses the OMB oversight for the IQA & PRA, as directed by Congress and is rife with communications. Ex parte communications in general violate ethical standards.
By employing a non-governmental organization (CSTE), free from the oversight of the OMB and the laws detailed by Congress via the IQA & PRA, the CDC bypassed the oversight of the OMB Director’s Information Resources Management policies, plans, rules, regulations, procedures, and guidelines for public comment. We allege this is a violation of 44 US Code 3517(a), which requires an agency to provide interested persons an “early and meaningful opportunity to comment.”
This violation has inevitably resulted in COVID-19 data for cases, hospitalizations, and fatalities being artificially elevated, and definitively compromises prudent decision making at federal and state executive levels. This includes policy enforcement for a public health crisis that may not have existed had the CDC abided by the laws that ensure the accuracy of data collection.
For example: The CSTE position paper in Section VII established rules for COVID-19 data classification and collection that allowed for probable diagnoses unconfirmed by lab testing, a test-based strategy for lab testing, and set the stage for people with no medical licensure to contact trace and illegally diagnose American citizens they have never seen.
In short, according to Dr. Ealy and his colleagues, the CDC partnered with a third-party nonprofit to allow “probable” cases to replace lab testing in terms of data collected.
It is interesting to note that shortly after the grand jury investigation petition was filed by Dr. Ealy, Oregon State Senator Dennis Linthicum and Oregon State Senator Kim Thatcher, the CDC made a statement to Reuters that its algorithm was “accidentally counting deaths that were not COVID-19-related.”142 72,277 COVID deaths were removed from its website. And The Guardian also reported that the CDC correction in children’s deaths came after that newspaper had reported on that issue: “The agency briefly noted the change in a footnote, although the note did not explain how the error occurred or how long it was in effect.”143 Dr. Ealy and his colleagues had raised concerns about overcounting a year and a half previously — the CDC now blamed it on a bug via the machines.
The CDC’s statement that the overcount resulted from a “coding logic error” seemed to be counting on ignorance from the American public about the fact that it is the job of the CDC leadership to tell the developers to design the code to count what should be counted, and that it is their responsibility to review the website for accuracy. The CDC’s claim that a coding bug had lasted for months seems to rely on the public not to realize that bugs are supposed to be worked out in “QA” in advance of a launch — if they aren’t, they are to be fixed within 24 hours.
But follow-up questions by the press about this major overstatement of both the general public’s, and of children’s, alleged COVID deaths went largely unasked.144
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137. Henry Ealy, Michael McEvoy, Daniel Chong, John Nowicki, Monica Sava, Sandeep Gupta, David White, James Jordan, Daniel Simon, Paul Anderson, “COVID-19 Data Collection, Comorbidity & Federal Law: A Historical Retrospective” Science, Public Health Policy, and The Law, Volume 2:4-22, October 12, 2020,
138. “Oregon Senators Kim Thatcher and Dennis Linthicum File Grand Jury Petition Alleging CDC, FDA Violated Federal Law by Inflating COVID Death Data,” September 19, 2021,
139. Ealy et al v. Redfield et al, JUSTIA Dockets Filings, March 4, 2022,
140. “Oregon Senators Kim Thatcher and Dennis Linthicum File Grand Jury Petition Alleging CDC, FDA Violated Federal Law by Inflating COVID Death Data,” September 19, 2021,
141. Henry Ealy, Michael McEvoy, Daniel Chong, John Nowicki, Monica Sava, Sandeep Gupta, David White, James Jordan, Daniel Simon, Paul Anderson, “COVID-19 Data Collection, Comorbidity & Federal Law: A Historical Retrospective” Science, Public Health Policy, and The Law, Volume 2:4-22, October 12, 2020,
142. Reuters, “CDC reports fewer COVID-19 pediatric deaths after data correction.” Reuters, March 18, 2022,
143. Melody Schreiber, “CDC coding error led to overcount of 72,000 Covid deaths,” The Guardian, March 24, 2022,
By the fall of 2020 and into 2021, my disappointment in my fellow journalists had become acute. To their shame, reporters had become naïve. Reporters continued to take it on faith that the dashboards were transparent mirrors of solid, verifiable government data, updated in real time by the magic of what they presumed to be accountable engineers.
In the United States, most of the news about COVID in 2020–21 was being drawn from two sources: Johns Hopkins University’s COVID chart and The New York Times’s COVID chart.
But when I checked on the datasets, what I found was head-splitting. The Johns Hopkins University COVID database, The COVID Tracking Project, Worldometers.info, The New York Times, and in Britain, the NHS and UK.gov and ONS dashboards — all seemed deeply flawed.145
A contractor who had been hired by Johns Hopkins to create visualizations sent me the actual datasets in a Github account. A Github account is where developers often keep raw datasets or computer codes.
I was surprised to receive these, but they were not sent to me off the record.
Looking at the Github of what were described as being leaked datasets, I saw at the time only six US states were reporting actual COVID cases and deaths to the Johns Hopkins database. If there were other datasets, they weren’t in that Github.
The COVID Tracking Project was another of the most frequently cited platforms for the first six months of the pandemic. It was identified as being “At The Atlantic,” whatever that meant. But, for 2020 and 2021, it was staffed by “volunteers.” Consequently, the data uploaded at that crucial period was presumably uploaded by these “volunteers.” Who could be anyone.146
When I looked on that platform at COVID data for the Bronx — where I had recently been living — the source data for The COVID Tracking Project showed five “cases” uploaded for the Bronx in one week. But by whom? No way to know. Were these duplicates? No way to know. How was a “case” defined? No way to know. Who was uploading the “cases”? Could be public health experts. But … it could equally well be political operatives. Or bored housewives. Or an unemployed video gamer in his mom’s basement. Or it could be The COVID Tracking Project’s staff themselves. No way to know. The data were thus meaningless because there was no verifiable methodology.
Had there been honest, independent journalists reporting on those five deaths, they would have made sure they had been uploaded to the platform in real contexts, with identifying codes (not names). Then they would have called the hospitals in the South Bronx and gotten confirmation that each was a real death. But no one anywhere was doing any such reporting.
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The New York Times, Track Coronavirus Cases in Places Important to You:
“COVID-19: Track Coronavirus Cases”:
Office for National Statistics: Coronavirus—COVID19 — Latest Statistics”:
146. The COVID Tracking Project,
An example of the human cost of this bad set of methodologies was dramatized in my visit to my mother in Corvallis, Oregon, in November of 2020.
New York, with all of its controlling policies, had been relaxed compared to Oregon. I arrived to a state in a condition of hysteria. Terror of a virus “surge” saturated the local press.
The Oregonian called November 2020 “Officially Oregon’s Deadliest Month.”147 Governor Kate Brown “ordered” a two week “freeze,” restricting businesses and worship, and limiting social get-togethers to no more than six people.
“In terms of individuals, I am not asking you” she declared. “I am ordering you.”
News reports warned that violating her “orders” was a Class C Misdemeanor.148
What was causing this statewide freak-out?
In November 2020, there had been 224 “fatalities” in Oregon.149 The press would shriek that “cases” or “deaths” were “up 30 percent,” but when you looked at the actual numbers, in both absolute terms and relative to the state’s population, they didn’t support the panic.
There were over 4.2 million people in Oregon in 2020.150 So my mom’s chance of being a “fatality” related to COVID in November 2020 was one in 18,916.151 For comparison, the average American has a 1 in 9,094 chance of dying in a car crash over the course of a year.
The Oregon press, as news outlets everywhere did, avoided stating “fatalities from COVID-19” but gave the impression that COVID-19 was the direct cause of these deaths.152
In my mother’s county, Benton County, heading into the third year after the start of the pandemic, there have now been sixty-four cumulative deaths since the start of the pandemic. So, thirty-two a year on average.153 In contrast there were 131 deaths from heart disease in 2020 alone — over double the two-year tally of Benton County’s COVID-related deaths.154
For over two horrible years, my mom was terrified every single day of something that was just one quarter as likely, in her county, to happen to her, as her dying from heart disease.
Due to the ceaseless fear drumbeat in the Oregon press, and from Governor Brown’s office, my mom could barely summon the courage to hug me even after I had stayed for five days in a hotel room for the germs from the plane ride to wear off, and after I had received the negative results of a PCR test.
She endured this terror in her daily life, and this breach in human contact and comfort, at a time when deaths from COVID-19 in Oregon came in at number seven on the cause of deaths scale, below the rates of deaths from strokes and Alzheimer’s disease, numbers four and five. Below cancer, heart disease and unintended injuries.155
A whole state’s worth of elderly people, instead of enjoying their mature years, socializing, and seeing family, were instructed by misreported numbers to cower indoors alone, and they did so.
The Atlantic, where The COVID Tracking Project was “at,” was a grantee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — receiving $500,222 in 2019 alone.156 For what? The unidentifiable topic, “Postsecondary Education, Public Awareness and Analysis.” Duration of the grant? 24 months. So: into 2020 and 2021.
Who owns a majority stake in The Atlantic? Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs.157 Her group “The Emerson Collective” is an activist investment entity that seeks social outcomes, including education reform.158 A scary, unverifiable pandemic chart leads, among other outcomes, to a rationale for school closures, which presents booming “EdTech” opportunities for the parent company’s owner and her investing friends.
Ms. Jobs was hardly alone. Before the pandemic, other tech heirs and heiresses and moguls were buying up other legacy media outlets that would play so key a role in “informing” the public. “Most auspiciously, in 2013 the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought the ailing Washington Post, quickly investing, with significant success, in its journalism and in its digital reach.”159
The Washington Post, too, would play a leading role in fanning COVID hysteria.
In short, those managing the dashboards’ data and promoting the results were often the very same tech companies that stood to most benefit from skewing the numbers upward. Microsoft co-founder Steve Ballmer founded USAFacts.org.160 Bloomberg Philanthropies funded the JHS dashboard.161
Johns Hopkins’s Center for Health Security “in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation” was also the site of “Event 201,” which I thought until I looked at it was surely apocryphal. It was a real “high-level” pandemic exercise simulation, held on October 18, 2019. Per the scenario description, “Event 201 simulates an outbreak of a novel zoonotic coronavirus transmitted from bats to pigs to people that eventually becomes efficiently transmissible from person to person leading to a severe pandemic.”162 This simulated outbreak would require “reliable cooperation among several industries, national governments, and key international institutions.”163
Other tech moguls created the COVID toolkit. Microsoft, along with Salesforce (whose co-founder Marc Benioff sits on the World Economic Forum’s Board of Trustees),164 built a digital vaccine passport prototype, anticipating that “governments, airlines and other firms will soon start asking people for proof that they have been inoculated.”165 Imagine the data these Big Tech giants could collect — and where it could end up.
Google, well-versed in the business of consumer data, was directly involved in COVID testing. Google owns Project Baseline166 (“Together, we can invent the future of data-powered healthcare”), a key partner of Rite Aid in their administration of COVID tests.167 As part of the pre-test authorizations individuals had to sign, Google and Project Baseline collected data from thousands of people who got tested for COVID at Rite Aid.168
Of course, “testing” now became compulsory in many contexts, as when you were forced to test just to work or fly or see family. In 2019, Google’s revenue was $160.40 billion.169 Two years later, with PCR testing everywhere compulsory, its revenue was $257.64 billion.170
The fact remains jaw-droppingly incredible, but it bears repeating over and over again: the same Big Tech companies profiting by the billions from the “lockdown” and oppressive pandemic policies were tasked with presenting the data that drove and justified and sustained the “lockdown” and oppressive pandemic policies in the first place!
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156. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – About – Committed grants – “The Atlantic,”
157. Sydney Ember, “Laurene Powell Jobs’s Organization to Take Major Stake in The Atlantic,” The New York Times, July 28, 2017,
158. Emerson Collective – “Priorities,”
159. Gillian B White, “Emerson Collective Acquires Majority Stake in The Atlantic,” July 28, 2017,
160. Joan Michelson, “Steve Ballmer Combats Government Misinformation with USA Facts – COVID-19, Race, Jobs, Environment,” Forbes, June 24, 2020,
161. “COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University,” Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center,
162. “The Event 201 scenario,”
163. “Event 201,”
164. World Economic Forum – About – “Leadership and Governance,”
165. Sam Shead, “Microsoft, Salesforce and Oracle Back Plan to Develop a Digital COVID Vaccination Passport,” CNBC.com, January 14, 2021,
166. Project Baseline – COVID-19 FAQs – “What is Verily?”
167. Project Baseline – COVID-19 Testing FAQs – “How is Rite Aid involved?”
168. Project Baseline – COVID-19 Testing FAQs – “Why am I being asked to sign an authorization form?”
169. “Alphabet, Inc. Form 10-K for Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2019.” EDGAR. Securities and Exchange Commission, 2020,
170. “Alphabet, Inc. Form 10-K for Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2021.” EDGAR. Securities and Exchange Commission, 2022,
By November of 2020, we’d been locked in with one another in the woods for five months. I love my husband and no doubt he loves me, but you must talk to more than one other live human; it was all starting to feel vertiginous. No worship, no dinners, no events. No other people except onscreen.
People were lonely.
My husband put trail cameras in the woods on our property. We got to know, by sight via the trail-camera footage, a mother bear and her two curious bear cubs. There was an arrogant badger that traversed our porch at night, that drove our elderly dog into a furor of outraged barking. Via the footage, we watched the deer languorously saunter down to the stream to drink.
We talked a lot about our dog, and about Twitter.
My habit of leaving the caps off toothpaste tubes started driving him crazy, and his habit of leaving socks on the floor started to make me irate. Like very elderly people, who live mostly indoors, our world was shrinking.
Before my other loved ones came to visit, I had to quarantine for ten days, as everyone at that time still believed you could infect everyone else “asymptomatically.”
I was on social media a lot. So was everyone. My attention was increasingly drawn to a few outspoken doctors. They were not on board with these “lockdown” policies. I had begun to think of these perfectly normal public health experts as “dissidents,” because it was clear that a consensus had formed and was being policed in a strangely un-American way, and they were contradicting some of the edicts I heard repeated endlessly on social media and on NPR and in The New York Times.
Dr. Peter McCullough. Dr. Robert Malone. Dr. Kulvinda Kaur. Dr. Patrick Phillips. Dr. Paul Alexander. Dr. Andrew Bostom. Dr. Howard Tenenbaum. Dr. Sunetra Gupta. Dr. Martin Kulldorff. Dr. Simon Goddek. Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, whom I’ve mentioned. Highly credentialled people. Harvard, Oxford, Stanford; experienced epidemiologists, public health experts and statisticians — they were raising alarms in various ways. The lockdowns were harmful; the data methodologies were wrong; the PCR tests were misleading. I watched them be attacked, smeared and censored.
The New York Times never engaged constructively, it seemed, with such critics.
But The Times’s COVID reporter, Apoorva Mandavilli, had started to refer to “variants” with the Bela Lugosi-type language of “mutants.”171 The BBC referred to “double mutants.”172
Dr. Paul Alexander explained, as did many of the “dissident doctors” and researchers, that every virus ordinarily creates multiple variants. This epidemiological fact was not reflected in legacy media reporting, which treated every “variant” with a hysterical unveiling of a brand-new name, like that final scene in “Fatal Attraction,” when the seemingly dead villainess astonishingly rises up again to murderous life.
I guess that “double mutants” had eventually been a bridge too far editorially. “Variants” were back in editorial fashion.
I noticed that Ms. Mandavilli, who replied to me on Twitter, did not tell me how the COVID dashboard on which she was basing her reporting had been created, nor did she refer me to the creators of the dashboards. She called the creators of the front-page dashboards, “the guys.”
I warned her on Twitter that the data on the other dashboards were incomplete. I asked her where The New York Times’s COVID data map — front of the front page every single day — got its data. Was it sent in on a unified form in all fifty states?
She almost always replied to me, but I could not get real answers. I asked her to let me interview the developers so I could check the raw datasets. She did not direct me to any sourcing for The New York Times datasets — datasets on which she was basing her reporting every day. This amazed me as a journalist. Wouldn’t you want to check if someone raises alarms about the integrity of the data on which you are basing your daily reporting?
Eventually she blocked me.
171. Apoorva Mandavilli, “The Coronavirus is Mutating. What Does That Mean for Us?,” The New York Times, December 20, 2020,
172. BBC News, “Coronavirus: “Double Mutant” COVID Variant Found in India,” March 5, 2021,
By late fall of 2020, the world was still “locked down.” Roads were still empty. Restaurants were shut. Day after day, my husband and I watched animals emerge from their hiding places, away from human noises and crowds — because there were almost no human noises, certainly no crowds. People posted on social media scenes of turkeys, foxes, and coyotes curiously and confidently exploring dead, ghostly suburban streets and abandoned downtowns.
The New York Times did not let up on its terrifying coverage.
The pandemic’s “restrictions” rolled out worldwide in lockstep. Businesses were still forcibly shut, as were schools. In California, playgrounds were still closed, hiking trails were closed, beaches were closed.
By now it was clear to me that we were not going to be “let out.” Videos were my only way of experiencing community, and on them I started saying that the pandemic would never be declared to be “over.”
They are never going to let us out, I started telling disbelieving friends and loved ones — and when we did emerge, I explained, we should not expect to have our rights back.
I went back to Manhattan, for a visit, in November of 2020.
The landscape was completely changed. It seemed as if at least half — maybe most — of what had been the quirky small businesses were gone. The hole-in-the-wall restaurants; the tiny cafés with eccentric themes; the small boutiques with niche clientele; the boutique for trans women looking for high heeled shoes; the boutique for leather fetishists; the boutique for expensive monogrammed sheets; the tattoo artists; the corner bodegas everywhere, with variations on the breakfast egg and bacon sandwich and coffee for working men and women; the tiny florist with room for one refrigerator and a six-foot-long counter on which to assemble four dozen roses a day; the shoemakers with a single last; the pet-care store with an orange cat skulking about — indeed, the endless texture, the dizzying human innovation that Jane Jacobs had described in looking at New York City streets in her classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities — most of those I recalled, it seemed, were dead: a graveyard of commerce; a junk heap of mom and pop dreams. All closed.
What was in that same real estate — literally in a matter of eight months?
A new Starbucks was where the Spanish tapas place had been. A TD Bank was in place of the Shanghai noodle shop with hand-pulled noodles, which had employed fifteen immigrants. A Chase Bank was where the low-cost boutique with good-looking fashion knockoffs for aspiring working women had been. The little café whose owner lovingly hand-selected the coffee beans from Brazilian importers, and who had placed graceful hanging plants in arcade containers at every corner, and where NYU students could afford to sit in the trendy warmth and do their homework when it was cold outside and the windows were steamy: gone, gone. In its place was a FedEx outlet, and a struggling young woman in a mask.
I looked across the river at my beloved South Bronx neighborhood. The once-lively streets were deserted. They were ghostly. The small-business collective that I had joined before March 2020 — with its snazzy hip-hop murals that paid tribute to the culture and history of the area, its chic white café-to-be with the green plants waiting in readiness and its vibrant multiracial community — had closed its doors. All the little businesses that were being incubated there were scattered.
The great residential buildings that were to be built along a newly developed waterfront park were incomplete. The construction had been forcibly stopped, “because of COVID.” Never mind that construction workers work out of doors.
So, after all, there was to be no riverside park any time soon for the children of the South Bronx — no fresh air walkway to help strengthen their lungs against the high risks of asthma. Children no longer thronged the streets, talking and laughing in groups as they flowed home from school or hung out in the local playground. They were locked indoors. On screens.
Bodegas were shuttered. The little West African restaurant on the corner where the cab drivers used to gather at all hours to watch Senegalese soap operas and news broadcasts had shuttered.
The juice bar had died.
The death rate from COVID-19 in the South Bronx had been atrocious, among the worst in the city. The governor’s psychotic “pause” policies meant that the elite class stayed in, maskless and on social media, relatively safe, ordering food and products that my former neighbors in the Bronx, on “the front lines,” delivered.
There had been people here from every part of the world; smiles and conversation could be had on every corner, with faces from everywhere telling stories from everywhere. Now you could not see people’s faces at all above their masks. Where were they from? What did they think? Differences weren’t “melted” into a rich melting pot, they were simply erased. The whole mass of humanity was anonymized.
It had been a neighborhood of a million languages. Now? No one was talking.
The invitation was to fear, and to fear endlessly. This fear was followed by escalating “restrictions.” Restrictions in movement, assembly, and commerce. That rollout in turn permitted the massive transfer of wealth from the many to the few — the brazen mass theft of 2020–22.
Nominally directed at public health, the behavioral checks on citizens of the formerly free West, its restrictions multiplying dizzyingly, left people flailing, tossed about by strange unknowable currents. Like the afflictions streaming from Pandora’s box, they bore great ill and endless new harms.
Each time there came a new “restriction,” we, the reasonable people of the West, engaged with it at face value, at least at first. Must I stand six feet away from others? OK. Must I leave my loved one alone in the hospital, in spite of decades of hospital policies allowing loved ones to be with one another? OK. Must I accept that my unvaccinated nine-year-old can’t enter a building in Manhattan? OK. Now must I accept that my unvaccinated five-year-old cannot enter a building in Manhattan? Well … I guess … OK …
So what were these “restrictions” really for? Why were they proliferating and shape shifting day by day and week by week?
Gradually, it became clear. The true reason had nothing to do with medicine.
The true reason is that, in the elites’ war against Western humanism, “restrictions” had become the weapon of choice. Why? Because historically “restrictions” disempower the restricted and leave them open to the theft of their lands and assets.
“Restrictions” endow the ruling class with unlimited power and reduce ordinary people’s power to that of medieval vassals.
Presented as “public health necessity,” the menu of “restrictions” was deployed largely without resistance, at least initially. But their imposition succeeded also because the peoples of hitherto free nations — in North America and Europe, Australia and New Zealand — for a long time did not recognize what they were losing, or why. Born and raised in free nations to presume the best of others, propagandized into panic and fear, they confronted a situation as unfamiliar as it was deeply disorienting.
We in the West grew up in a very unusual and blessed time. We came of age, as did our parents, in the sacred space and dimension of liberty. It is not a coincidence that such affluence and cultural growth accompanied this post-war period of liberty in the West. Material and cultural wealth are a constant byproduct of freedom.
In fact, 1945–2020 was a beautiful and aberrant pause in the often horrific timeline of human history. Yet those of us born in that period came to take it as much for granted as the air we breathe. In this time of seemingly endless promise, widespread prosperity, relative harmony, and the establishment and growth of equal rights for all, we became complacent. It became easy to forget that in the great timeline of human history, all of it had to have been won, and at great cost.
Easy, especially, for Americans. The peoples of Europe have a longer history, and more to forget.
In France, for instance, from the bloody Revolution of 1789, through Paris Commune of 1871, from the depth of bigotry exposed by the Dreyfus Affair through to the Vichy government’s unapologetic collaboration with Nazism fifty years later, it was codified in the national DNA, or it should have been, that rights were precious things, and always subject to loss.173
Indeed, in much of Europe the rule of law as a universal principle, and the modern Western liberal idea of universal human rights, blossomed only after the Second World War with the unprecedented expansion of civil society liberties — understandably, the world having just concluded a bloody war against a totalitarian regime of unprecedented evil.
The developing world, too, made historic advances during this period in seeking and often adopting human-rights-based law.
On December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, encapsulating the idealism in which, in that Cold War era, even totalitarian regimes had to profess to believe.
Translated into more than five hundred languages, the UDHR paved the way for the adoption of more than seventy human-rights treaties, affirming, among other things, the right of everyone everywhere to be free of discrimination; to be treated equally; to enjoy freedom of movement inside their own countries; to leave their countries; to not be arbitrarily deprived of their property; to be secure in their persons; to not endure “arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation.”174
From March 2020 to 2022 and even afterward, these rights, so laboriously won through so much blood and treasure — these rights that formed the matrix of what it meant to be Western — were suspended, dissolved, ignored, trampled.
And most people — including the French, who had staged a bloody revolution that terrified the crowned heads of Europe, and the British, who within living memory had shown the definition of courage under fascist bombardment during the Second World War — accepted, or rather meekly submitted.
In less than two years, the rights enumerated in the UN Declaration of Human Rights were suspended in the West, as the American Constitution was effectively suspended in many states. By February of 2021, I was astonished to hear State Rep. Melissa Blasek of New Hampshire tell me something that should have been one of the biggest news stories of the century: forty-seven states were under emergency law.
It happened without any conventional army rolling into any European or North American street, and without a shot being fired.
It was accomplished by stealth.
173. Christopher Hobson, The Rise of Democracy: Revolution, War and Transformations in International Politics Since 1776 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), 75.
174. United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, December 10, 1948,
I became more and more horrified that the global imprisonment in which we found ourselves was being mislabeled a “quarantine.”
In fact, the emergency orders imposed restricting assembly and commerce bore no relationship to quarantines in the past, which were limited geographically and in time, and separated only the sick or newly arrived travelers from the rest of society.
What was happening now was completely different.
Yes, of course, versions of this “lockdown” — mislabeled “quarantine” — had happened before on this planet. Totalitarian and fascist societies have long used mass restrictions of movement, curfews, and other ways of restricting free association and free movement to keep their citizens in check. North Korea and China have cordoned off entire regions and put them under no-movement rules. Long before the COVID pandemic, China under the CCP was among the few modern societies to restrict citizens’ physical movements nationally and regionally.175 As dissident escapees from North Korea report, North Korean nationals have also long been unable to move freely around the country without proper documentation, even for family visits176
Nor was Europe immune to “lockdowns” in the past — but that was in countries that suffered from fascist leadership. In 1935–36, the passports of Jews in Germany were restricted, and thereafter laws imposing increasingly severe restrictions on the movements of Jews put members of the Jewish community into effective “lockdown” as citizens within the larger German society.177 Tragically, restrictions on leaving the country would finally keep Jewish Germans from escaping altogether.178
But medical quarantine, as the term is properly understood, has a different history. Webster’s has defined “quarantine” as:
Specifically, the term, originally of forty days, during which a ship arriving in port, and suspected of being infected a malignant contagious disease, is obliged to forbear all intercourse with the shore; hence, such restraint or inhibition of intercourse; also, the place where infected or prohibited vessels are stationed. Quarantine is now applied also to any forced stoppage of travel or communication on account of malignant contagious disease, on land as well as by sea.179
This isolation of the infected members of a community is of ancient origin. Throughout the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, ill people are isolated. It was understood that within the camp of the Israelites, people infected with contagious diseases could “defile” the rest of the community. Leviticus prescribes how to handle the dreaded fear of contagion of leprosy from a member of the community: “His clothes shall be rent, his head shall be left bare, and he shall cover over his upper lip; and he shall call out, “Unclean, Unclean!”180 P. J. Grisar, writing in The Forward, adds the example of Moses telling the Israelites to place outside the camp, “anyone with an eruption or a discharge.”181 Some analysts of ancient Jewish practices such as these, with their emphases on cleanliness and strict attention to what is “fit” and “unfit” to touch or eat, argue that some rules may have had to do with upholding sanitary practices in a time when infections swept through communities with devastating impunity.
Some historians of science refer to quarantine as a primitive “technology”: A. A. Conti, in “Quarantine Through History,” notes that quarantine “is overall one of the oldest and most disseminated and, despite its limits, most effective health measures elaborated by mankind.”182 And in the centuries before germ theory was understood, and before vaccines, quarantine — physical isolation of the infected — was indeed among the few methodologies societies had to manage terrifying outbreaks of suffering and of death.
So, yes, in the absence of modern medical interventions, such measures were long used, and often proved at least somewhat effective.
But “quarantine” has virtually always meant the restriction of movement for those who are ill or possibly infected.
With COVID, and a society-wide shutdown, including the closing down of all economic activity, all that changed. Illness was messaged from the top down as a public health matter, with the state assuming a central role, and limitless authority, in managing our own bodies and the bodies of others. From our temperatures being taken in front of strangers, to announcements of the infections of public figures on social media, COVID’s lethality was used to explain away any expectation of individual privacy or autonomy.
With COVID, we in the modern West were all re-positioned as being hypothetically ill. As PPE specialist Megan Mansell would later explain, we were all re-identified as if we were all immunocompromised.
Political leaders rolled out messaging around restrictions of movement, as labeling this form of citizen immobilization a “quarantine” to lend it the legitimacy of precedent. In fact, for Western democracies it was a new social experiment on this scale.
What can “restrictions” of this kind ultimately do? They prepare the way for wholesale theft or transfer of assets.
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175. Andreas Fulda, “In China, there’s no freedom of movement, even between country and city,” City Monitor, January 10, 2017,
176. In-hua Kim, “Ask a North Korean: How restricted is movement in North Korea?,” NK News, July 24, 2020,
177. British Library, “Anti-Jewish decrees,”
178. Holocaust Encyclopedia, “German Jews During the Holocaust,”
179. Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language, 1913, s.v. “quarantine,” accessed March 27, 2022,
180. Leviticus 13:45.
181. “What Does the Bible Say About Quarantine?” P. J. Grisar, The Forward, March 9, 2020,
182. Conti, A.A, “Quarantine Through History,” International Encyclopedia of Public Health (2008): 454–462.
What prepared the groundwork for such an easy victory against Western liberties was the quiescence born of seductive comfort — that, and a growing ignorance on the part of the citizenry of the structures of democracy that were being systematically dismantled.
Westerners had come to believe things would always be as they were. They would always have access to museums and cultural events, lovely train trips that went seamlessly across borders like a knife’s edge drawn smoothly across the surface of a bowl of cream, lovely human-rights guarantees, lovely assembly, lovely property rights, lovely mobility.
For seventy-five years, Westerners had become accustomed to this unprecedented level of freedom and acceptance of human rights. They had become accustomed to protesting en masse when a policy upset them; indeed, for two generations, nothing less had been their readily exercised right. They gathered in public in great crowds — for festivals, for outdoor rock concerts, for religious processions. They traveled freely and joyfully throughout their own countries, exploring landscapes and heritages. The delights of free movement were very democratic; it did not cost much to explore one’s beautiful country. It was affordable, usually, to buy a bus pass, and it cost little to bike or hike.
Westerners went camping, they explored antique shows and motorcycle rallies, they went to tennis matches, they gathered for wine tours, they walked to Compostela on religious pilgrimages. Europeans of all backgrounds and economic levels took long-distance trains in August to the coasts in France or to little hostels in the Alps for fresh air and relaxation. They crossed borders to visit relatives and friends; they went to conferences. In cities, they wandered and drifted and assembled, freely as birds flying solo, or as flocks of birds. They convened in bars and cafés and at popups and film festivals, and in dance halls and bistros, and at dinner parties and pot lucks, at conventions and stamp-collector meetings, and on walkways by rivers where local politicians screened films on summer nights. They wandered past the booksellers on the Seine, at their own pace. They drifted into museums to see the latest Corot exhibition at the Louvre or to revisit their favorite stele in the Assyrian collection at the British Museum. They tried the latest restaurant tucked into little alleyways. They caught up with their friends with a café crème at the corner tabac in Paris, or started the day with an ouzo in the little local café in Mykonos or in Athens.
Certainly there were quarrels — about nationalism, or immigration, or environmentalism. But on the great scale of free versus unfree human conditions, these quarrels were at the margins.
Masses in open parks listened to music. Masses explored ancient cities in privacy. People enjoyed private consultations with physicians. Parents made private medical decisions about their children. No one demanded papers.
We thought this was it, and this would last forever.
When others clamored to immigrate into our countries it was understood that it was not just the economic opportunities that beckoned, but the freedom.
People basked in those freedoms and certainly appreciated them. But did we understand them? Did we grasp how easily the substructures of our rights could be dismantled, what a fragile edifice they were?
Not really, at least none but the most aware.
In Europe, especially, under the European Union, people seemed blissfully unaware of what was at risk. Because of the horrors they’d endured during the cataclysmic wars of the twentieth century, the European Union seemed a political Godsend; a modern idealistic invention to knit European countries so closely together there could never again be large-scale war on the Continent.
And at least on its public face, the European Union did deliver widely popular policies on matters ranging from workers’ and tenants’ laws to education and the environment. Barriers to travel were erased, a common currency established. The peoples of Europe, for so many centuries at daggers drawn, went happily into the new and now easily accessible sociopolitical landscape. Croatian businessmen had lunch meetings in Munich. Swedish arts festivals invited Spanish dance troupes to visit. Students amassed languages and friends and trips and documented it all on Instagram, ebulliently.
It was so humane, so civilized.
Yet it came at a huge cost: the surrender of individual nations’ sovereignty to Brussels.
Indeed, behind European Union’s public messaging, buried in legal briefs and incomprehensible documents not readily available to the public, the people’s hands were being removed quietly from the actual machinery of both national and EU-level governance. And governance itself receded from actual transparency.
This dismantling of access to the structures of national democracy in Europe was cloaked in jargon. When I started reporting on this issue in 2016–18, in the wake of Brexit, I was shocked to realize that very few continental Europeans, including journalists, actually understood how EU governance worked. Most Europeans believed that the European Union was like a federal system, similar to that in the United States, uniting disparate entities but leaving each with a significant degree of independence. Many educated, influential Europeans and Britons with whom I spoke believed, mistakenly, that even if they could not describe it in detail, the European Union was an accountable, if complex, meta-democracy.
This was not surprising, given the degree that the European Union’s true governance was cloaked in obfuscation. Its webpages provided only incomprehensible graphics with seating charts and arrows that contradicted each other and could not be followed. Even as someone who ran a website devoted to explaining the founding documents and democratic governance to American audiences, I was consistently baffled; I kept poking around on EU websites and tweeting, annoyingly no doubt, to the EU press office: Where are the EU’s complete set of founding documents? I asked. What laws undergirded the European Union’s powers of governance? How could citizens lobby? We could organize as citizens to change our Constitution. By what method could European citizens organize to change the existing EU foundational agreements?
Where was the upcoming proposed legislation?
I then had the unnerving experience of EU spokespeople pointing me in this or that direction, but never to the foundational laws demonstrating the governance of the European Union and showing how citizens could affect or alter it. They pointed me to a “legislative feed.” But that showed only bills after the European Parliament had voted them into law.
It was during this process of trying to find these answers that I was invited to Madeira, Portugal, to speak about my book The End of America. Madeira is a beautiful archipelago, an autonomous region of Portugal, in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Madeira is lush with small green forests, mists clinging to the sides of valleys, heaped with curvaceous little mountains covered with grass that slope down to the curling waves of the Atlantic, and with a rich history as a contact point between traders and sailors. It has winding main streets with nineteenth century cottages trimmed with carpenter’s gingerbread from its time as a destination for foreign invalids who sought out the gentle climate.183
I was on a panel with a Portuguese civil servant who spent much of his time dealing with the EU. Since I had been speaking about civic action, people were asking us about how to engage politically. One issue that came up repeatedly was that there was poor flight service to Europe from Madeira — generally you had to fly one and a half hours to Lisbon. Business owner after business owner made the case that the local economy could not grow without a decent airport able to handle more direct flights.
It seemed simple enough. “Can’t you lobby your elected officials?” I naively asked.
Impossible, explained the civil servant unhappily; aviation was managed from Brussels.
That astounded me. But surely they could lobby their own Portuguese representative in the EU?
No. It did not matter. If the European Union did not want a better airport in Madeira, the merchants of Madeira were powerless, he said. Portugal herself was powerless.
Later, we convened for a meal. The setting was a beautiful teahouse halfway up one of these dreamy green mountains.
The civil servant and my host explained the European Union to me in terms I could not mistake. Their tone was directive, as if they were handing me a task. They could not do anything about it. But they wanted people to know.
My host explained: the European Union is not a governance entity. It is an economic alliance, and Germany is by far the major influence.
The civil servant explained: “People don’t understand the structure of lawmaking in the EU. The unelected diplomats usually propose new laws. And,” he added, “Brussels has the second highest number of lobbyists after Washington, DC.”
I was astonished—this was legerdemain on a high scale. Western Europeans thought of the European Union as a state above states, a democracy above democracies. But it simply wasn’t. It was something else. It was not just “a bureaucracy” that was “complex” — too complex for ordinary citizens to understand, though this was the common messaging point in the news.
Rather, it was “too complex,” for a reason. It was democracy theater. The real power was in unaccountable hands.
Having read the history of totalitarianism, I knew what that meant. And that was why this Portuguese politician, who loved his country, took the time to disclose this insider view to me.
I knew that no matter how great things looked in Europe on the surface — the beautiful mobility, the thrilling cultural events, the busy commerce, the admirable language of human rights, and the semblance of freedoms — the powers of the European nation-state had been drained.
European nation-states had been made vulnerable, and people would be left unable to defend themselves in any real way if, heaven forbid, the now-benign, now-smiling, now-well-messaged European Union turned hostile or abusive or — tyrannical.
What I saw all around me that looked so lovely was no longer built on a structure belonging to or owned by the people.
As they would learn in 2020–22, the puppeteer’s hand could sweep the entire action away in a moment. The edifice of the beautiful drama of “European democracy” and human rights could come crashing down at any time.
In fact, having for so long lived under EU governance left continental Europeans especially easy prey for the COVID tyrants. Many of these formerly free peoples, most of whom had been born too late to experience totalitarianism firsthand, were quick to follow governmental directives, as in their lifetimes most governmental directives had been benign or at least not malevolent. And even when disoriented by these “restrictions,” most of these people failed to recognize them early for what they were, let alone mount effective resistance.
We were vulnerable, too, in the United States, and largely for the same reasons.
Our legacy of freedom was still more accessible to us than was that of continental Europeans. But day after day, “in the midst of the pandemic,” our grasp of democracy grew fainter.
We also had too readily forgotten our history, part of which, had we been paying attention, is understanding that restrictions drain human capital and blunt human civilization.
Indeed, we had seen that understanding play out in practice in our own past, for we have seen groups in America subjected to precisely such restrictions.