Disconnection and Despair – The Mechanism of Control
The biggest economic, political and social event of 2020 was a health phenomenon: COVID-19. As the pandemic spread from the Far East to Italy, fear grew that we were facing something really serious. Media outlets across the world conveyed images of eerily empty streets and crowded hospitals in Italy, with the consistent theme of fear and uncertainty. The resulting (and on-going) series of lockdowns and the yo-yo of restrictions of varying severity have crushed economic activity worldwide, further exacerbating the income gap to unprecedented levels. Overnight, people lost access to their places of worship, community centers, health centers, social spots, and physical connection with friends and family.
Since the start of the pandemic, the extent to which journalists have trumpeted about the virus has become increasingly disturbing, creating what feels like an orchestra of corona panic. I have observed with great concern this excessive fear-mongering spearheaded by mainstream media – especially public television, alongside radio and quality newspapers. It may well be that the media’s grotesque overkill of corona reporting created a climate of worry which made lockdowns an inescapable inevitability for all democratic governments.
We have been living with intermittent lockdowns for 18 month. Trapped, inside and alone. In the rare moments we emerged from our caves of despair, we donned a piece of cloth that covered most of our face. Even in public, we were denied the enlivening surge of dopamine that swells when we experience deep human connection – a simple smile can do wonders for the regulation of our natural pharmacopeia. Disconnected and desperate has been the modus operandi since the beginning of the pandemic.
Those in despair are the most easily manipulated by demagogues, who promise a fantastic utopia, whether it is “back to normal”, a new and improved normal, or some socialist salvation. Those in despair search desperately for a solution, assurance that they are protected and cared for, the warm embrace of a community to replace the one they lost, a sense of purpose and meaning in life amidst a sea of hopelessness.
Manipulation is about trying to influence someone’s behavior or perceptions through indirect and perhaps deceptive tactics that advance the interest of the manipulator. For example, when the Almighty government and public health officials enforce a lockdown, the masses say, “Our saviours tell us we need to lockdown. We must comply. They know what’s in our best interest, after all.” The fact is, other people are invested in you doing what they want you to do.
The Collateral Damage of Lockdowns
Almost everyone, including the World Health Organization, is in agreement that lockdowns are destroying society while offering little, if any, real-world effectiveness. With so many COVID-19 deaths, it should now be obvious to everyone that lockdown strategies have failed to protect the elderly population. While anyone can get infected, there is more than a thousand-fold difference in the risk of death between the old and the young.
The failure to properly exploit this fact about the virus has led to many unnecessary deaths and the biggest public health fiasco in history. Lockdowns have generated enormous collateral damage across all ages. They harm more than they help (and so), at what cost are we going to continue going down this path?
**Note: The following subtitles are inspired by “Death by Lockdown”, an article featured in Druthers**
- Death of Hope: Emotional and psychological effects of the lockdowns and fear-based news media contribute to the development and exacerbation of mental illness.
- Death of Childhood: No more hugging friends or talking to them during lunch break in school. No more smiling, singing or dancing and certainly no more sports either. No more field trips or family vacations. No school at all, even for weeks on end and when you are in school, you must stay inside your specific, drawn-out circle. Kids are slowly being forced to not socialize and they are being programmed with fear.
- Death of Small Business: Costco and Walmart can let dozens of people in their stores at once (with massive lines of people crowding outside) yet other small businesses need to stay closed because they are deemed as “non-essential”? Numerous industries have been decimated from the restrictions including the events, entertainment, hospitality, and tourism industries to name a few.
- Death of Healthcare: In a world obsessed with Covid-19, all other health care considerations took a back seat. From the disastrous canceling of elective surgeries to, slowly but surely, losing most forms of private health care. We are destroying healthcare as we know it.
- Death of Rights and Freedoms: What makes Canada one of the greatest countries in the world? The simple answer is, freedom. Where that freedom stems from is a bit more controversial, but, The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, The Bill of Rights, The Constitution and Police Code of Conduct , among many other regulatory bodies in Canada, are what contribute to making this country amongst the freest of countries in the world.
- Death of Protest: For the first time in Canadian history, protesting was “deemed” illegal. On January 16th, 2021, two weeks after Ontario initiated a stay at-home order, Toronto Police took an aggressive stance on protesting. That day, hundreds of police officers lined Dundas Square and arrested and ticketed dozens of protesters seemingly at random, setting a trend for the next few weeks.
- Death of Informed Consent: COVID-19 vaccines were fast-tracked for FDA approval. Vaccine manufacturers are not liable for any injuries you may sustain, including death. Neither are insurance companies. Keep in mind, in 2009, Pfizer was fined $2.3 billion for the second largest health care fraud settlement in the history of the Department of Justice.
- Death of Scientific Inquiry. The pandemic response has had a haunting effect on the pursuit of truth. As a scientist myself, this has been particularly painful to observe.
Much of this damage will unfold over time, something we must live and die with for many years to come.
Scientific Inquiry vs. THE Science
The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns have not only been devastating for society, they have had a chilling effect on the scientific community. For science to thrive, opposing ideas must be openly and vigorously discussed, supported, or countered based on scientific merit.
Instead, some politicians, journalists, and (alas) scientists have engaged in vicious slander of dissident scientists, spreading damaging conspiracy theories, even with open calls for censorship in place of debate. In many cases, eminent scientific voices have been effectively silenced, often with gutter tactics. People who oppose lockdowns have been accused of having blood on their hands, their university positions threatened, with many medical professionals choosing to stay quiet rather than face the mob.
Any scientist active on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media must deal with some unpleasant anonymous trolls, but that goes with the territory and is not the issue. It is the attacks by politicians, journalists, and fellow scientists that send a chilling message to other scientists and journalists to watch their words and self-censor.
This, in turn, damages the public trust in science and public health. Instead, the field has been left to scientists who agree with the herd thinking generated by the media. Missing from the policy conversation is a broader set of scientists who understand there is more to public health than just infection control and that lockdowns can harm public health more than they help.
How do we climb back from this toxic and damaging scientific environment? How do we ensure that science moves forward through the open discussion of multiple ideas and perspectives? How can we return to an academic climate that encourages scientific discourse and academic freedom? Given the damage done by misguided pandemic policies, how can we restore the public’s trust in public health?
On the science, vigorous and hard scientific debate should be encouraged, but smearing, slander, politicization, and conspiracy theories that insinuate guilt by association must be combatted and never tolerated. The future of science and society depends on it. If we fail, the 300-year Age of Enlightenment will come to an end.