Theater of the Absurd

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In his article “Omicron and Governance Theater,” Curtis Yarvin, a well known intellectual agitator, asserts that the US response to the COVID-19 pandemic is designed merely to give the appearance of effective governance. That is, the Biden administration’s pandemic response is containment theater, not actual containment. Its capacity for governance, says Mr. Yarvin, “is seen by these strange, pointless half-measures: the leaky travel bans, the loose cloth masks, the restaurant face-covering sit-down waltz. This is not covid control. It is covid control theater. It is not coercion for a purpose; it is coercion for the purpose of coercion.” Hence, it is futile.

In contrast, China, and only China, has it right, says Yarvin. China is not only proof that SARS-COV-2 can be controlled, but the “subjects of China live today with far fewer covid restrictions than citizens of the reddest American red state.”

To achieve similar success, Yarvin argues that the US should discard its charade, treat COVID as an enemy, and impose wartime sacrifice on its citizens. After all, “in a war against a virus that threatens everyone, everyone is a soldier. To beat the virus, everyone must accept military discipline.” He proposes a military-style pandemic response — a regimen that can be invoked by public health authorities to defeat any contagious virus. Key elements of the plan include authoritarian border sealing, outbreak detection, and lockdowns.

Border sealing means the strict sealing of all international borders. “There is no reason that every country has to be sharing every other country’s viruses,” says Yarvin. He notes that 21st century trade only requires shipping (travel and tourism would not be allowed) and that “in real governance, it is easy to keep shipping routes (air and sea) flowing, without mammals sharing air.” Migration would be allowed, implemented apparently through quarantine facilities in which occupants are isolated in a manner that prevents them from sharing one another’s air.

Key elements of the plan include authoritarian border sealing, outbreak detection, and lockdowns.

 

It is critical that the government maintain “a precise, high-frequency idea of everyone’s location — since it needs to know who is infecting whom.” Of special concern is the urban underclass. “Any kind of lumpenproletariat is a natural disease reservoir resistant to public-health measures.” The large, vaccine-hesitant population of inner-city blacks and Hispanics is, one supposes, a “reservoir.” Criminal gangs, illegal immigrants, the homeless, drug addicts, and so forth within most large American cities are presumably “lumpenproletariat.”

The high-frequency picture would be obtained through cellphone and PCR technology. Additional texture would be provided, perhaps, through human intelligence (HUMINT): under-cover COVID police, paid informants, and volunteers (such as neighbors and fellow workers fraught with COVID hysteria). The COVID health status, location, contacts, etc. of individuals could be transmitted periodically to a pandemic command center by a mandatory COVID app installed on all phones. You should worry about civil liberty violations no more than you would worry about “your proctologist seeing your naked asshole. And maybe even probing it. And taking photos.”

Let’s follow the logic of these ideas a little further. For groups of people, COVID detection devices would be needed. Installed in stores, office buildings, classrooms, airplanes, etc., such devices would continually run PCR tests to determine the presence of airborne virus particles. Presumably, once the particle count exceeded some threatening level, an alarm would go off with an alert transmitted to a pandemic command center, which would then dispatch a squad of specially trained public health officials to the location issuing the alert. Upon arrival, all of the occupants in and around that location would be tested. Those who tested positive (and those who had any contact with those who tested positive) would be transported to a quarantine hotel. The unvaccinated would likely be transported to a quarantine jail, regardless of their test result. Everyone else would be allowed to reenter the location, once it had been sterilized and certified to be virus-free.

Suffice it to say that fastidiously authoritarian governance would be required for Yarvin’s plan to work.

 

Try to imagine the response that would follow a COVID alarm. Within minutes (much longer in lumpenproletariat sectors), COVID control vehicles screech to a halt in front of a business, say, a crowded bar. Their doors fly open. Health officials pour out like a SWAT team in HAZMAT suits with virus decontamination equipment, crowd separation barriers, and fistfuls of nasal swabs. Call them Special Hygiene, Isolation, and Testing [S.H.I.T.] teams. Team leaders bark crowd control orders, muffled by their N95 respirators, to inebriated patrons. The sturdiest team members escort the infected (who, by now, are also confused and angry) to the quarantine vans . . . Well, you get the picture.

With the above technology in place, true lockdowns could finally be achieved. They would be needed to defend against the occasional infection surge. They would be brief (two weeks), but several would be required during the winter months — every winter. And they would be hard lockdowns. Everyone must stay in their homes for the duration. Daily testing would be required. Your test result must be read into your cell phone. If it is positive, you would be “taken to a pandemic hotel, where you get antivirals, antibodies and chicken soup.” Fortunately, you wouldn’t have to worry about running out of food and other necessities. They would be delivered to you. “Since the government knows who you are and where you live, it knows what you need. If you have a car, you may even be drafted into doing deliveries.” Suffice it to say that fastidiously authoritarian governance would be required for Yarvin’s plan to work.

Of course, as a practical matter, it could not possibly work. A Yarvin-style plan would be doomed to failure by its border-sealing element alone. More than two million immigrants from more than 150 countries have streamed across our southern border this year. If there is a variant SARS-COV-2 strain lurking anywhere in the world, it will quickly find its way into the US. Yet all Democrat, and most Republican, politicians have no appetite for even slowing, let alone stopping, the influx.

Not only will a full measure response not end the pandemic, it will expand and intensify the surveillance state much more than the half measure approach.

 

Further, analysts such as the popular German writer who calls himself Eugyppius believe that the full measures will fail even more decisively than the half-measures currently being implemented by the US and European countries. In his article Against “Omicron and governance theater,” he points out a fundamental flaw in Yarvin’s reasoning: that because the SARS-COV-2 virus is in circulation globally, as soon as the borders are unsealed or the lockdowns are ended, it will creep back in. And the variants that keep popping up “always turn[ing] out to be widely seeded by the time they come to the notice of health authorities.” Besides, who believes that the government could orchestrate the real governance of shipping “without mammals sharing air” or delivering food and supplies or drafting and maintaining an army of drivers — to say nothing of the cellphone apps, COVID alarms, COVID command centers, and quarantine hotels? Not only will a full measure response not end the pandemic, it will expand and intensify the surveillance state much more than the half measure approach, which, Eugyppius laments, has already “brought about some of the widest-ranging, most destructive and pointless interferences in civilian life since World War II.”

A Yarvin plan would make all of America’s cities as authoritarian and dysfunctional as its large blue cities. In Germany, observes Eugyppius, “Corona hysteria has been a means of driving stodgy conservative boomers into the arms of lunatic socialist parties, of enforcing ever greater reliance on culturally destructive technology and making the smart phone a mandatory daily accessory, of pouring billions of Euros into the coffers of scamming manipulative pharmaceutical enterprises, of stifling not only political but cultural expression, and of turning our cities into drab humourless work camps.”

But not entirely humorless. The proctologist in your cellphone is bound to be a constant source of comic relief. Then there will be the ongoing episodes of clownish hysteria by the mayors of large Democrat-run cities. And let’s not forget the nightly news coverage of boisterous lumpenproletariat being hauled off to quarantine hotels in S.H.I.T. wagons.

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