Trends, Narratives and Imagination

Conventional conspiracy theory – a term invented back in the 1960’s to discredit people who did not take the Warren Commission findings in the Kennedy assassination as gospel – usually posits a shadowy cabal of connected people driving towards a nefarious goal. The red yarn comes out and everything becomes connected. Implicit in any conspiracy theory worth its salt is a directing intelligence, either a mastermind or an occult group.

I’ve always been a conspiracy skeptic simply because I don’t believe that more than three or four people can keep a secret. Plus, there are usually non-conspiracy explanations for the phenomena a conspiracy theory seeks to explain.

People are more than happy to place the “Great Reset” as the pivot point around which everything from COVID-19 lockdowns, to the grand debasement of the West’s currency to the assorted questions surrounding election integrity. It is just vague enough to serve as the fulcrum for pretty much any occult explanation of daily events. And I think it is nonsense.

In place of a grand design, I see tens of thousands of minor decisions which all trend in the same direction without any need for central co-ordination. The central narrative of the COVID-19 phenomena, from the initial panic at the prospect of hospitals being overwhelmed, to the assorted public health measures – social distancing, masks, school closures, travel restrictions, general “stay at home orders”, lockdowns and curfews – to the drive towards universal vaccination, have all been largely good faith attempts to deal with a nasty virus. At each stage, all over the West, politicians deferred to public health officials who, in turn, looked to “science” for clues as to how to flatten the curve.

As we went along the public health narrative gradually became the only acceptable narrative. People who suggested that lockdowns might be doing more harm than good or that COVID was not spread from surfaces or that treatments should be looked at along with vaccines were marginalized. Now, no one person or entity was responsible for this; rather, a group consensus in favour of the public health narrative became overwhelmingly dominant.

Politicians and the media were heavily invested in this public health narrative. The narrative was enforced by everyone from Facebook and Twitter taking down messages suggesting alternatives, to Youtube flat out removing any content which suggested things like “treatment” with Vitamin D or ivermectin. The mechanism for narrative enforcement was very simple – if you said or wrote anything which was not in line with the CDC and or WHO you were promulgating “misinformation” and big tech had an obligation to avoid giving a platform for “misinformation”. (Never mind that the CDC and WHO have been wildly inconsistent in their recommendations.)

Once the “public health, no effective treatment, only vaccine will save us” narrative was in place there was a noble cause case for good information “hygiene”. People who raised questions could conveniently be dismissed as “anti-vaxers” or “covidiots” and their views and medical experience debunked by citing the lack of double blind, peer reviewed, studies. Again, no one had to direct the media or big tech or the political class to stick with the narrative. The arc of the COVID story was set as soon as the WHO declared COVID a pandemic which would only end when vaccination had created herd immunity.

The key piece to all of this is “science”. Assorted boffins modelling exponential growth (a bad thing) which could only be countered with a certain set of policy responses drove the conversation. If you think lockdowns are a bad idea or are unwilling to wear a mask outdoors or fail to use the hand sanitizer you are against “science” and thus indifferent to the horror of exponential growth.

The fact that the “science”, particularly the models, has been wrong as often as it has been right is relegated to the margins. The fact that there are scientists who dissent from “the science” is largely unreported. The fact that there are doctors who are having success with treatment regimes remains obscure.

The good thing about “science” is that it is never “settled”. Quite recently the CDC quietly admitted that it was extremely unlikely for COVID to be transmitted by surface contact. A small thing perhaps but the beginning of the end for the hygiene theatre we have been going through for a year. Other chinks in the “science” are emerging. It really does appear that COVID numbers follow the seasonal cycles other upper respiratory viruses do. The arrival of Spring along with increasingly widespread vaccination seems to be reducing cases and the severity of those cases.

Unfortunately, the public health narrative got in the way of a number of things which could have reduced mortality. The actual testing of ivermectin as a treatment and Vitamin D as a prophylactic have been, at best, haphazard. (Not to mention a suite of steroids and anti-biotics which have shown some promise.) Training staff to deal with ICU surges apparently was lost in the shuffle. Paying close attention, at a very granular level, to where and how infections occur may have happened but it has not been part of the public conversation.

As a matter of human nature, it is a lot easier to take on one, cohesive, narrative than it is to deal with two or even three concurrent stories. However, that is why we have political leaders. People who are supposed to look at the whole board rather than a small section of it. In the face of COVID, with few exceptions, our political leaders failed to look at anything other than implementing the public health/mask mandate/lockdown/vaccinate narrative. It was a costly failure of imagination.

One thought on “Trends, Narratives and Imagination

  1. John says:

    A conspiracy theory skeptic? Come on Jay! You have no problem believing that thousands of scientists are all working together to push global warming theory. Somewhat ironic, since I agree with you that 2 people can keep a secret when one is dead. I have spent time doing scientific research and in my experience, when it comes to research dollars people are willing to grab your research dollars if they can (believe me, if someone could actually develop a strong counter argument to global warming they would be given millions of dollars in research funding).

    But in regards to the pandemic, I can agree with some of what you wrote – if people are finding strong and innovative ways to treat then we should exploit them as best we can. Vitamin D couldn’t hurt (wont help in most cases either, but wouldn’t hurt).

    But the thing that has become apparent from the data we have is that masks are by far the best protection for a society. I don’t know why people were hesitant about pushing masks, but if we had a strong and consistent mask policy we wouldn’t have needed the severe lockdowns.

    Ironic that the same people shouting out against lockdowns are to a large part the same not wearing masks.

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