For earlier entries “Against the Corona Panic,” see:
Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven,
Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen
‘Corona’ is a cult, and we can demonstrate it.
If you prefer a softer term than Corona Cult, go with Corona Religion.
It worked like this (quoting from below in this post):
The converts were reacting to news of the Apocalypse, as foretold by the Holy Media, and were seeing signs of the prophecies coming true before their eyes (actually, on their screens).
This is the most compelling explanation for why the Corona Crisis has gone on as long as it has.
Corona-as-religious-Cult is an important enough insight within Corona-Panic Studies that a detailed investigation is needed. I am not aware of any other full treatment of this subject of Corona as a cult, under an anthropological approach to the matter, and therefore I have written one myself (this post).
Corona-as-Religion is a simple but powerful observation:
Viewing it in these terms at once explains a lot of puzzling things.
- It explains why the Corona-Narrative seems so willing, and is so able, to ignore evidence or simply declare its own evidence;
- It explains how Corona has proved, even after the peak period, so resistant to rational inquiry, with the narrative “batting away” the science surprisingly easily;
- It explains why Corona suppresses anti-Panic figures: They are heretics (as in the deletion of the Knut Wittkowski interviews, among others from Youtube);
- It explains the extreme measures, the religious-like reverence, the religious-like practices — around a flu virus. Something not before seen in any peak-flu period;
- It explains people’s willingness to make extreme material sacrifices to the cause.
Only in religious terms are many of the individual aspects of Corona really understandable.
To drive the point home, here is the original subtitle for this essay: “…’Covid’ as virus-centered apocalypse cult, its ascent to state religion, mass-conversion event to the cult, and a study of the cult.”
A “cult” in the literal sense, in the anthropologist’s sense
When I say Corona is a “cult,” or an “apocalypse cult,” I do not do so flippantly, ironically, or metaphorically. You might still think I mean this metaphorically. I do not.
I started off thinking about this idea in metaphorical terms, but I soon came to take it seriously, which is to say literally. In the literal sense of the word literally.
I have seen a few write of Corona having “religious overtones.” My argument is the “overtones” part can, should, be dropped for best understanding.
Drawing on expertise in the fields of anthropology and archaeology, a close investigation shows that Corona bears all the important hallmarks of a cult in the true sense, and therefore qualifies as a cult in the anthropologist’s and archaeologist’s sense.
A “cult” need not be an entirely new “religion.” In the anthropologist’s sense, it is more like a “religious current.” In a polytheistic system, maybe a series of events leads to the cult of one particular god becoming much more prominent at a specific time; new practices are introduced, and a new priestly class to minister to the new cult may arise, even as the nominal “religion” may not change. No one comes along and says, “New cult now. Here’s how it is…” It happens organically, and people might not realize it.
It is hard to shift one’s paradigm when a new religion arises and takes a society by storm. For instance, one can find stories such as “Doomsday cults using coronavirus pandemic as recruiting tool” (March 25): Little did the writer of that article realize at time of writing that he was getting it backwards, that Corona itself was the doomsday cult!
As for individuals, they do not usually realize that a new cult has arisen, nor that they are in a cult (see below).
To borrow and modify a phrase, “you may not be interested in cults, but cults are interested in you.”
This post is organized as follows:
- Introduction, the Corona Cult concept;
- Corona as a cult in the literal sense;
- Lessons for all times and places, a step into the world of anthropology;
- Why study the Corona Cult?;
- Corona as state religion, what it means;
- What is a cult? A look to anthropology and archaeology;
- Four generalized indicators of a cult: Attention-focusing (or -seeking) devices; boundary zone between this world and the next; the presence of a deity; evidence of participation and offering. How many apply to Corona?
- Ritual locations in cults and in Corona;
- Attention-focusing devices and redundancy: Our digital devices, saturation media-coverage, and the case of masks as religious garb;
- Prayer and special gestures: A look at the curious case of Corona Clapping;
- The new cult’s attack on the established religion;
- Corona as a moral question;
- The sacrifice of humans to appease the corona god;
- Heresy/heretics in (outside of) the Corona Cult;
- Forbidden knowledge to all but the cult leaders;
- The cult as Safe Haven
- Indoctrination, strict obedience, stress, fatigue, humiliation, isolation, peer pressure, fear, paranoia;
- Cult-embracers as normal people, not mentally unstable or otherwise deficient;
- The Corona mass-conversion event;
- Conclusion; reflections on the historical significance of the Corona Cult’s victory;
- How do cults end? How will the Corona Cult end?
Lessons for all times and places
This post steps into the anthropologist’s world and also into the archaeologist’s world.
Archaeology is the study of vanished civilizations. The basic questions of archaeology might be said to be: “Why did this/these/any past civilization rise/peak/decline/vanish?”
The emergence and rapid international diffusion of the Corona Apocalypse Cult, between about mid-January and mid-late March 2020, might give us insights into the mechanisms by which societies of the distant past may have (sometimes) had sudden declines or collapse episodes.
I am not an anti-religionist. I am a Christian. This post makes no arguments one way or another on the merits of the afterlife or on any specific religious beliefs. The point is analytical: In what ways does Corona qualify as a cult in the anthropological sense? (It turns out that it does very well; see below).
As in any field of endeavor, there can be self-destructive tendencies in religion. The rise of destructive religious cults, especially those achieving remarkable success and gaining state power, is worth studying. People can then engage in chicken-and-egg games, of course, with any such cult rise associated with social or political decline. Corona is no different in that sense. Even so, it’s worth first establishing what we were dealing with.
I will return to this. If you are “in for the long haul” on this post and read it through, I invite you to keep this idea in mind as you go, the archaeologist-of-the-future’s perspective on what we have seen with Corona.
Why study the Corona Cult?
I think this is an important post to write and have wanted to do this since early April. Approaching it has been a big project, which is why I haven’t gotten it out until now.
I have seen the anti-Panic side, including many of commenters at the Unz Review, at anti-Panic strongholds online like Off-Guardian, and at smaller scale here at Hail To You, say that “Corona” has real, definite, and obvious religious overtones. (If you are in need of Corona-Detox, the comment sections in this series may be helpful. Many good ideas are generated, in the best sense of what comment sections ought to do.) The point of this post is to say that we can drop the talk of “overtones.”
In a bigger sense, reconstructing what happened and how it happened is a big task but worth the effort. The Panic may have won a victory over us, but we retain the ability to document the madness and reconstruct what happened. By ‘we’ I mean we of the “thinking, anti-Panic side” (who either never “fell for it” at all, or who liberated ourselves from it, at some point, through some method or other, and became actively against the Panic, in effect becoming heretics and enemies-of-the-faith in the new Corona-Cult order). In a word, Truth-telling. Documentation.
There is a lot at stake here. Let us approach this documentation of the unnecessary Corona-Crisis as a service to mankind.
It’s hard to guess what we write and say today will survive into the future, how long it will survive in any form, or how influential it will ever be. But the Truth deserves advocates, everywhere and always. This is my part. The many others of the anti-Panic side, doing the same on a much greater scale than I, are engaged in heroic work and I say hail to you, to all you of the anti-Panic side. We were right. Hope is not lost and need not be lost, and there is power in truth.
One regret in writing this post: To the extent the pro-Panic side will ever bother with the findings here at all, it will likely only antagonize them. Who wants to be “called a cult believer,” right? Obviously that phrasing is provocative (“In for a penny…”), but from an anthropological-study point of view, it is worth it.
Many are unreachable until the cult burns through itself and collapses of its own internal contradictions (which I will return to in the final section). We all know many people like this, both public and semi-public figures, and private figures in our own lives. Given that we live in a media-filtered reality and so on, few are unaffected. Good people are affected. As I have written elsewhere:
Many more people fell victim to the [Corona] hoax/delusion[/cult evangelism] than will be willing to admit it by summer or by next year. It’s not their fault as such. There are malicious guilty parties, but most just fell for the panic […]
“Summer” was optimistic.
Now on to the main sections, the thesis that Corona is a religion, or cult, an examination of what that means, how Corona measures up, and other related subjects.
Corona as State Religion: What it means
Many have casually noticed the similarities between the Corona “Narrative”/Response and a religious cult and have written to this effect but almost always in passing or with obvious metaphorical intent. I first saw something like the non-metaphorical argument of Corona having cult-like dynamics at work proposed in the great anti-Panic essay by Dr. Jeanmonod of Switzerland (April 7, OffGuardian; for the relevant section, search for the line: “a ritual performed by the kurdaitcha man, or shaman […],” which is an excellent discussion but too long to excerpt here).
Any religious tradition, regardless of how long it lasts, starts with a period of great excitement and ambiguous messaging. It has its prophets, its frenzied enthusiasts.
(The word “enthusiasm” itself has an interesting etymology connected with religious evangelism. It was often pejorative, used by those in established churches against dissidents/breakaways, with the meaning something more like our present-day understandings of the words “over-emotional” and “fanatical,” both in the religious context.)
No religion/cult starts with fully formed doctrines, and sometimes it is not possible to exactly “sort out” what a given cult’s doctrines fully are. In truth, it is probably not even necessary to either sort them out or for a “cult” to even have coherent doctrines. It certainly need not have a fully formed “cosmology.” It need only have one, powerful idea, or a small set of powerful ideas. Prophecy and apocalypse, for example.
The Corona Cult’s “doctrines” are various, but they can be said to basically center around a kind of perverse worship of a virus. The moral imperative of the religion is: Suppress the Virus; salvation comes to man, woman, and child from believing in the virus, believing the prophets of the virus, and performing deeds to suppress the virus. This is not fundamentally different from the moral imperatives of many religions or cults observed in pre-literate societies, that center around suppression of, or appeasement of, angry gods.
In Part IX, I wrote:
We are now approaching two months since the CoronaPanic succeeded in breaking through, assembling a coalition around itself, seizing the initiative and routing the anti-Panic forces (such as they were at the time), seizing control of the government, seizing control of the culture, and establishing a form of martial law and state religion around itself. Over a flu virus that may be slightly worse than 2017-18 flu strains.
Part IX, from that is drawn, was about a true-believer in the cult, the Panic-addled Congresswoman Haley Stevens, whose speech (as I wrote at the time) “took on apocalyptic, religious-cult-like overtones;” I return to her case in this post later.
In Part XI, I wrote this:
Not only did the pro-Panic side ignore the evidence and actively suppress the early evidence, they busily set up a religion around the Panic, entrenching it and giving it eternal privileges from criticism or skeptical inquiry, and immunity from logical consistency (flattening the curve turned into an extremist policy of total elimination of the virus, a fool’s errand). As core doctrines of the Corona religion were steadily refuted, they dug in. How this happened, reconstructing what went wrong with the Coronavirus Mass Delusion event of 2020, is the most interesting question of the hour.
This might all sound like a lot of assertion so far, but can we really call Corona a “cult”? For that we turn to the anthropologists.
What is a Cult?
Most reading this are no doubt aware of the distinction between the academic use (in archaeology, anthropology) of the term “cult” and the common way we use the same term in popular culture today (e.g., famously, that group “holed up” in the compound at Waco, Texas, in the 1990s who went down in a fiery end in their standoff with the FBI).
Archaeologists and others interested in the rise, peak, and decline processes of cultures of the past (“lost (or) vanished civilizations”) might be said to have the most expertise in this area, especially when teamed up with anthropology (a similar field, with the divide being the study of extinct vs. living cultures; in practice, there often tends to be overlap even if purists insist on a strict separation). These fields can help us understand the present crisis, both in the immediate term, the medium-term, and certainly in the long-term.
What is a “cult” in archaeology and anthropology?
The rest of this post will quote frequently from an entry called “Cults,” written by Isabelle Vella Gregory, appearing in the Encyclopedia of Anthropology (ed., H. James Birx), 2006. (p.623-24).
First, Gregory’s full entry. Reading through it first in full may be helpful. Much of the rest of the post will draw from it:
Gregory’s “cults” overview article starts with the following:
The term ‘cult’ stems from the Latin cultus, to worship. The term is difficult to define, as it is used to denote various actions and situations. […]
Colin Renfrew defines the archaeology of cult as the system of patterned actions in response to religious beliefs, noting that these actions are not always clearly separated from other actions of everyday life
Renfrew was a leading archaeologist in the late 20th century, with a hand in the Indo-European origins question. He is still active in our time, now in his eighties.
The quoted line above is enough to give you a reminder of the flavor of the difference, with the academic sense of “cult” meaning a “system of patterned actions in response to religious beliefs” not necessarily separated conceptually from “everyday life.”
This post will focus on the anthropological-academic sense of “cult,” in common terms a kind of religion (but really “religious current,” as I term it above), but will also return at the end to the popular sense at the end, as Gregory does as well.
Four generalized indicators of a cult: How many apply to Corona?
Isabelle Vella Gregory (henceforth here, Gregory) lists four general “indicators” of a cult in the study of past human societies:
Indicators that may point to cult and ritual archaeologically are attention-focusing devices, a boundary zone between this world and the next, the presence of a deity, and evidence of participation and offering.
(She uses the term “may point to” deliberately. Not all are needed in all cases, and cults could even have important drivers that fall outside this simple framework.)
Let’s take them one by one and see how Corona fits these four:
(1) Attention-focusing devices. Oh, my, how Corona has its “attention-focusing devices”! Gregory, writing in the mid-2000s, could not have guessed at how well this phrasing would fit. The smartphone and other “devices,” including but certainly now nowhere near limited to television, and the ubiquity of what the Internet has become in especially the past ten years, qualify here. In more general terms, what we call “the media” is behind these “attention-focusing devices.”
These “devices” soak up a majority of many people’s free time today. There are people who are almost never outside the influence-sphere of their always-connected devices during their waking hours.
Of course people don’t think they are engaged in religious activity when they are looking at their smartphones. When one is in a religious setting, one tends to either turn off, or otherwise not look at, one’s phone. People think religious activity is done in a place dedicated to the purpose, not something they can do anytime, in the palm of their hand. But people may sometimes be unaware they are engaged in a “religious activity” even as they are, which is how many cults recruit successfully.
(The irony is not lost that this post is being published on the Internet, and that you may be reading on some kind of device of the kind I mean. In fairness to me, this is long-form writing, long-enough-form that I know there will be many, many fewer eyeballs than a miniaturized version would get. It hearkens back to the days of pre-clickbait, pre-Twitterization of discourse. Sometimes complex points take time to make effectively. In this case, a one-hundred-word post saying “Corona-believers are a cult!” would just sound like weak ad-hominem, amounting to name-calling.)
Yes, this “attention-focusing devices” phrasing seems almost tailor-made for the smartphone era, given the partial re-purposing of the word “devices” in the 2010s to mean digital devices, mini-computers, things that hold screens that people spend much energy and time looking at and interacting with daily.
A lot has been and will be written within Corona commentary on the role of technology in the overreaction. I have elsewhere phrased this as “our technology being weaponized against us.”
Onto the second indicator of a cult:
(2) A boundary zone between this world and the next. It’s fair to say that Corona puts the concept of Death very much front and center, in a culture that otherwise does not talk much about death.
Corona bombards everyone with this, on all fronts, daily (except those who go to great lengths to avoid it). Daily discourse and daily life in Corona fade into this “boundary zone” between this life and death. The CoronaPanic-pushers have terrified millions of death. Even as it turned out to be a flu virus of the sort we have seen many in the past few decades, the truth didn’t matter: The boundary zone had been established, as a giant gash in our reality in which the worlds suddenly were brought close together.
More concretely, I would propose that in the religious imagery of Corona, it is hospitals — those foretold “swamped hospitals” that so many believed in (which never had the decency of exactly being real, but the belief persists) — that have served this role in Corona, in both profane and sacred terms. “Heroes Work Here” banners are put up with the kind of pride that pre-literate peoples might have had in their local shaman’s hut or temple. There are a few other such sacred sites worth mentioning. More on this shortly.
(3) The presence of a deity. This is the weakest of the four for Corona. No one talks of a literal, formalized Corona god (one might hear this from a sarcastic anti-Panic individual, but only meant metaphorically). Maybe that’s because the underlying culture shies away from talk of god(s). Cults will “play the hand they are dealt.”
I do think there is an implied deity here. I think the common understanding is of Corona as an evil spirit lurking around intending to harm people. This appears to be a Voodoo-like belief (as I have written elsewhere), even held by those who fully understand and accept the germ theory of disease.
This means the Wuhan Coronavirus, in the cult’s belief, is a supernatural, demonic entity not subject to the normal laws of our reality, such as the normal laws of flu viruses (recall the peak-Panic mantra, “This virus is something we’ve never seen before!”).
A god does not need to be good, after all, despite the similarity in spelling in English of the two words. This is all similar to how pre-literate peoples understood the influence of certain gods in their society. I think we see evidence in this in the propagation of the unscientific belief that people can be infected multiple times by the same virus.
While there is no fully formed cosmology or pantheon of gods within Corona, of course, cults need not have such things, and probably never do at first.
(4) Evidence of participation and offering. There are many signs of this cult indicator in Corona.
A recognizable feature of Corona is those ubiquitous banners declaring things like “We’re all in this together,” “Heroes work here,” and “Thank you to all essential personnel!” The messaging “we’re all in this together” is of course a very direct call to participation. A declaration of mass participation. “Heroes work here” is the imputation of sainthood to a select few. I will return to a major case of “mass Corona Cult participation” in another section shortly, on Corona Clapping.
“Offering” is seen in the form of willingness to disrupt one’s life and the lives of all one’s fellows. Some grumble, but many seem to be enthusiastic participants.
So much for the four broad indicators. I think all align with the cult concept, even if the average person will tend to dismiss the claim solely because Corona came at us without a named god (thought “it” does have a name, Coronavirus or COVID19), as if that is the only thing of relevance.
The next few sections I continue quoting from Gregory’s article on the general characteristics of cults, seeing how Corona fits the bill.
Back to Gregory’s article on “cults” in anthropology and archaeology:
Renfrew notes that ritual locations will be places with special and/or natural associations (for example, caves, groves, and mountaintops) or in special buildings set apart for sacred functions (temples).
As mentioned above, I see the ritual location of most relevance to Corona to be in digital space, the media (i.e., the messengers of the religion)’s channels of delivery of the cult’s directives.
By the media I do not mean the literal physical space of CNN (etc.) studios, but the digital space they occupy. I refer to the content they feed to our screens. Not the screens themselves, but the images projected onto them and the associated sounds.
Societies thousands of years ago needed a village temple for their sacred space or ritual location(s), and even our churches needed such facilities as recently as a few decades ago. By 2020, in the digital age, “sacred space” can plausibly be digital. Or, to use a now-largely-dated term, “over the airwaves” or “on the air.” I mean, technologically speaking it is possible. Many will find it unsatisfactory to hold church religious services online, as the Corona Cult has demanded competing religions do.
If concrete, physical ritual locations are demanded for the cult, hospitals are an obvious candidate. But there are others:
A subtler sacred space within Corona is anywhere “essential employees” work. As the cult made gains, visiting a store increasingly became a surreal experience akin to a religious ceremony with people wearing masks, with some avoiding eye contact and carrying on with a somber aura, and engaged in the ritual-esque hoarding of certain items.
Then there is the conceptual space of “home,” within the “Staying Home” Corona-mandate. Believers’ homes are therefore ritual locations within Corona, in a weak but important sense because home can be a participatory space within the cult (tuning into the media and connecting with other believers digitally), and is being emphasized as such. And in many religious traditions, home shrines have importance anyway.
These (digital space of the media, hospitals, stores, other places with so-called essential employees, and the homes of believers engaged in the monk-like practice of lockdown) are all candidates for these “special [places] set apart for sacred functions” in the anthropology of the cult.
This is all a way to say, in other words, that temples need not be called “temples” (or churches), by some formal authority, to serve the purpose.
Attention-focusing Devices and Redundancy: Our digital devices, saturation media-coverage, and masks
Back to Gregory, who continues on the subject of “cults” in anthropology as follows:
The structure and equipment used [in cults] will have attention-focusing devices (altars, special benches, hearths, lamps, gongs, vessels, and the like), and the sacred zone is likely to contain many repeated symbols (i.e., redundancy)
Attention-focusing devices I deal with above. What devices do people focus more attention on than ever as of 2020? Enough said.
Redundancy might be a way to express, in general terms, what I’ve called “saturation coverage.” It’s note, “one brief update, once a day.” It’s “All Corona, All the Time.” It needn’t have been this way. It wasn’t inevitable in the pre-cult-takeover period. But once the cult’s mass-conversion event took place, it was inevitable, absent some kind of counter-revolution.
By late March, I noticed friends and acquaintances who leaned anti-Panic complaining that there was “no (other) news at all,” only Corona. The person who wanted to gloss past Corona news to read (any) other news could no longer do so. They would go to their normal news sources, but the top ten, fifteen stories would all be Corona, and they’d give up. Week after week. It’s still like this now as of this writing (May 17). Indications are it will be for some time to come. And the long shadow of the disastrous shutdown decisions will be with us for years.
The media’s pro-Panic drumbeat therefore fits “the sacred zone…likely to contain many repeated symbols” description. Even when nothing much new happens, new “developments” were and are daily manufactured, or cherry-picked/inflated beyond proportion, to keep up the pressure and the inertia of Corona. Much of the coverage was of course less substantive than symbolic and characterized by a firm narrative, on which see again Gregory’s “many repeated symbols.”
A tangible form of the “attention-focusing device” is also the “Corona Mask,” either the unnecessary surgical masks of various makes and models, or the absurd makeshift masks people began wearing at various stages in April. Some began wearing the masks in March, but by April they were instructed to do so by the leaders of the pro-Panic juntas and cult-overseers.
I would propose the wearing of Corona Masks is understandable as religious ritual, as religious garb. Often these are handkerchiefs or scarves. By about mid-April, only Corona-Heretics were publicly daring to say (cite the research to the effect that) these kinds of masks are either generally useless or are possibly counter productive towards the stated aim for most people in most general situations, and the entire premise of the attempt to fully suppress a respiratory virus was absurd and pig-headed to begin with: Now that is Corona-Heresy.
Swiss Policy Research has held the rational, calm, anti-Panic flag all along, and includes this as one of its top points at its Swiss Doctor on COVID19 series:
There is also no scientific evidence for the effectiveness of face masks in healthy or asymptomatic individuals. On the contrary, experts warn that such masks interfere with normal breathing and may become “germ carriers”. Leading doctors called them a “media hype” and “ridiculous”.
One of the high-priestesses of the US branch of the Corona Cult, active and visible in the pro-Panic media as of the critical month of March, Dr. Deborah Birx, is for some reason always seen with a scarf. This long before the media began promoting the idea of a face covering, a little foreshadowing of the trend in the Corona Cult practices? (I assume no relation between the pro-Panic junta figure Dr. Birx [b.1956, Pennsylvania] and the editor of the Encyclopedia of Anthropology from which I am quoting, Dr. H. James Birx [b.1941, New York].)
On masks as symbolic, Swiss Policy Research also says:
Critics speak of [masks as] a symbol of “forced, publicly visible obedience”.
There are plenty of examples of religious garb(s) that serve roles broadly comparable to the likely role masks fill within Corona. Many would see the the hijab or especially the burka in Islam as serving a comparable role.
In any case, any cult would love to have a “publicly visible obedience”-enforcement mechanism. If the way is clear to impose conformity, the ascendant cult will tend to exploit that opportunity.
Prayer and special gestures: The curious case of Corona Clapping
Back to Gregory’s article on “cults” in anthropology:
Rituals generally involve prayer and special gestures
During the height of the Panic, there were people organizing and engaging in mass “coronavirus clapping” campaigns, with apparently some success in getting people to do this clapping, both at local, regional, national levels, and efforts at international coordination were also seen. The idea was people would clap for doctors, nurses, and “essential employees” at the same time, on the same day, synchronized by time zones across the world.
This is obviously a special gesture in the anthropology cult sense, and also obviously has distinct religious overtones. Though I am sure it was organized by secular people, even agnostics and atheists.
Here is a poster for one of the ongoing campaigns out of the UK:
Someone replied to one of these announcements with these words:
We are ready, and tower speaker at the ready, we go all the way #somewhereovertherainbow
Here is a typical one from the USA:
These clapping campaigns were endorsed, amplified, and pushed by the media, which led and largely organized the cult in the first place, of course, and therefore had the ability to influence the direction of the cult and its practices.
The practice of clapping was said to have begun in Italy (along with singing in praise of doctors, from people’s homes during their “lockdown”), spreading soon to Spain and France. The media immediately began praising the practice and it spread further.
I have witnessed several clapping episodes near hospitals. True-believers, intent on “honoring the heroes,” assemble ahead of the end of nurses’ and other staff’s shifts at a certain time of day. When the heroes begin exiting the building, the assembled true-believers (none too near each other, in line with cult doctrines) begin cheering/hooting/sloganeering and clapping (by standees), or honking (by those in cars), in unison. The medical staff exiting the building is able to hear them, as can people for some blocks around.
We have to assume these hospital clappers took their instructions, effectively, from the media on this, and did not spontaneously come up with it on their own, did not somehow get neighbors to go along with it without media encouragement.
If you’ve watched any television during the long Corona Crisis, you’ve also seen commercials promoting the same. Not just general Corona-propaganda, but also the clapping campaigns specifically, showing them in action. Maybe you have seen these but haven’t even noticed them. Cult rituals are often going to be missed and may blend in with the background activities of society. There are not going to be bright neon lights around something declaring “Attention! Religious ritual in progress!”
Listen. If a future archaeologist finds evidence of this sudden turn towards a hitherto-unseen ritual, as in this “synchronized clapping,” where such never existed before, that is a clear alarm-bell sign that something was “going on” in the culture, something of interest for the study of the culture/society/polity and its traejctory.
For the archaeologist, a sudden discontinuity in observed tradition is something to take seriously.
This kind of reaction (synchronized clapping) had never been seen in any flu season before, ever (as far as I know), even though it is demonstrable that many flu waves in the past x years were at least as bad as the Wuhan Coronavirus epidemic. This is therefore can be called an extreme discontinuity. Something happened, and it must be explained.
Archaeologists make ‘calls’ based on evidence of discontinuities like this all the time. Cults as evidence of a juncture within a culture, either associated with the rise, fall, or some other movement within a culture.
Take the perspective of archaeologist working (say) in 4000 or 5000 AD. Assume a much bigger civilizational discontinuity occurs between now and then, and that there are not many surviving records. The archaeologist of two or three thousand years in the future sets out to reconstruct what happened in our era. What kind of an archaeologist would he be if he found some form of surviving evidence of this practice of Corona Clapping suddenly appearing, but ignored it? Ignoring a major discontinuity of tradition like that, even if it doesn’t last, is just not a good idea.
Corona Clapping might easily go unnoticed or dismissed. I focus on it here because it is a “special gesture” that fits as one of these anthropological indicators of a cult.
The new cult’s attack on the established religion
“Corona Clapping” (see previous section) was not the only “special gesture” within the cult. There were also attempts by the “old” religions to also organize synchronized prayers, in our familiar Christian sense of prayer.
Given the artificial nature of the crisis and its negative effects on the churches at many levels (on which more momentarily), I would argue that getting churches to organize Corona prayers amounted to a form of a cuckoo’s egg laid in the nest of the established Christian churches, a kind of mega-scale cult infiltration of the churches.
There are definite signs of the Corona Cult making moves to attack the established religion. The pro-Panic side’s coup d’etat and the empowerment of the Corona Cult which demanded shutdowns disrupted the social life of Christian congregations, including banning them indefinitely from meeting, potentially causing many churches to fail just as small businesses will fail. The longer the lockdown/shutdowns and corona-prolefeed scare-stories dominate the media, the worse off many churches will be.
In the critical period of March 2020, the pro-Panic side and evangelists of the Corona Cult seemed especially interested in pushing the idea that churches were now dangerous places. They singled out churches, implying that Christian churches were uniquely targeted by the new apocalyptic god of destruction, the Wuhan Coronavirus. (I dealt a little with the topic of churches within Corona in a final section of Part VIII).
A characteristic story from near the peak period was: “Churches Could be the Deadliest Places in the COVID-19 Pandemic” (April 3).
Cherry-picked stories were pushed hard:
- Church choir members were being infected and dying, we were told, in shocking numbers. This was a story of choir members in Washington state who died; the same exact story was still circulating in mid-May, more than seven weeks after first appearing, in the national media of a country with 338 million residents;
- Corona-positive pastors were (potentially, and/or probably, and/or actually, we were confusingly assured) were spreading the apocalypse virus to congregants at an alarming rate;
- Much hay was made of a Christian pastor who had slammed the pro-Panic side as engaged in “mass hysteria,” as of mid-March, allegedly dying of COVID19 in late March. A heretic getting his just punishment! In this case, too, while the death occurred March 25 and was reported March 26, the story was actively making the rounds in the pro-Panic international media April 6 and 7 (e.g., BBC and NY Post), and as of May 15 is still circulating in national-level media coverage (NPR);
- A handful of other “pastors who got COVID19” stories got disproportionate coverage;
- A number of anti-Panic congregations deep in Middle America were refusing shutdown orders and were being monitored by police, who were taking photos of these small-time heretics’ license plates for potential future prosecution; when a state religion is in place, usually no violation of it is allowed, after all
Commenter JR Ewing recently wrote, quoting a common refrain from the pro-Panic side:
“Oh yeah? Have you heard the story about the guy who disagreed with the panic and then HE CAUGHT IT AND DIED!”
Like, they actually thought they were making a logical argument in favor of panicking
To which I replied:
If the argument is deconstructed, […] it’s actually a religious argument. He was a Corona-Heretic, and our new god smote him, smote him good. How dare you doubt!
The future archaeologist, if he found evidence of these things, would (not unfairly) interpret them as a suppression attempt by the ascendant cult/religion against the “old”/established religion, by using its energy to attack the old religion exactly where it is strongest, the esteemed position of its clergy and institutions.
“That old religion is actually very dangerous, you know. We have the evidence to prove it. Worship the new god!”
Corona as a Moral Question
Another indicator that one is dealing with a religious thinking, this one not mentioned explicitly by Gregory, is the suspension of cost-benefit thinking.
A new, ascendant religious cult will not look favorably upon dissent, either from the old religion or from anywhere else. The new religion does not want people to ask, “Is this new cult, and the embracing of it, good for our society on the whole?”
In the comment section in Part IX, Federalist wrote about this feature of the cult, worth quoting at length:
It seems that the lockdown/shutdown measures quickly accelerated in severity until basically every restriction that they could think of was put into place. Now that they’ve mostly run out of new ideas, it is all about extending the measures further and further into the future. But why? It’s not just that mistakes were made because the anti-corona measures did more harm than good. The strange thing is that there was very little effort to actually try to figure out what were the right measures to take. It’s sort of like prayer for a religious person. It’s a good thing to do in and of itself. There is no cost benefit analysis. One doesn’t try to determine how much prayer is beneficial and how much is a waste of resources. In this way, fighting coronavirus became a moral issue. I really don’t understand why this happened.
This is a great point. But there is a simple and graceful way to understand why it happened. What we saw was the birth of a new cult. Things happen this way with cults.
These things do tend to happen, occasionally, when circumstances align. Maybe we don’t have a good understanding of exactly how in all cases, but we know that they do happen. We know from archaeological evidence that sudden religious discontinuities do occur, and we can assume they occur with some regularity, and that they still occur in our time in forms large and small, ephemeral and lasting, conspicuous and subtle.
The Corona experience of 2020 may show one way cults can arise organically or quasi-organically in a society. So many of the pieces fit.
There are big pieces of the puzzle left to fill in, including the disturbing one of human sacrifice.
The sacrifice of humans to appease the evil corona god
Back to Gregory’s description of “cults” in anthropology:
Other [cult] rituals may involve the sacrifice of animals and humans, the consumption of food and drinks, and votive offerings. All of these have been attested to both archaeologically and anthropologically. The equipment and offerings may reflect a great investment of wealth and resources […]
The “sacrifice of…humans” applies to Corona.
The people being sacrificed are the young. They are being sacrificed towards unclear goals but which we are assured, with “religious overtones” is a holy mission, in a system which fits the major indicators of cults as understood in anthropology.
Anyone who is not well-established, who has not already “made his fortune” in life, is still in the process of either forming a life or is still in adolescence, was sacrificed to the Corona-Cult and its mandates of shutdowns and long periods of disruption(s). Even many of those who do have established lives are going to be hit hard due to job losses. Those who would otherwise have been forming relationships, marriages, or friendships, or professional partnerships, will probably not be now. Opportunities delayed at least, and in many cases lost never to return. None of this mattered to the Cult.
That “great investment of wealth and resources” offered for the cult’s rituals Gregory mentions. No need for elaboration. No cost is too high to appease the Corona god.
Archaeologists often find evidence of immense wealth being “wasted” by burying it with a high-prestige figure in some ancient burial or other, with the treasures surviving buried to the time of their discovery, centuries or millennia later.
Why would the ancients do this? It is really not understandable except in terms of religious belief. The enormous cost borne by the foolish Corona-Response can also not be understood except in those terms.
There is also potentially a darker element. As I wrote on April 11:
Governor Northam [of Virginia] has converted to the Corona-Religion; its angry god demands its sacrifices in blood. Easter, which is tomorrow, is our greatest religious holiday and is about life, resurrection; but Gov. Northam and the rest of the clown-car governors have reverted to a more-primitive, blood sacrifice religion to appease their new god.
The idea is that young people of the West are being sacrificed to appease the evil corona god, a god not much like our familiar Christian God. As I wrote April 13:
The[re has been an] unsung birth of a CoronaReligion, or the Corona Cult, an evil religion that demands the blood-sacrifice of the young, the ritual humiliation of the majority to appease its evil god. There are key telltale signs […] that a mass-conversion event occurred. Some will shy from the ‘religion’ label and will much prefer to call it a mass-delusion and mass-hysteria event promoted by a bloodthirsty media and the most poisonous sort of social media effect. […]
Another form of blood sacrifice is the sacrifice of infants by making sure they are never born, lowering of the fertility rate by a Panic crisis and major recession:
[The] long-term shutdown orders […] with their economic dislocation and ruination/disruption of many-a prime-age, young, working-age man and woman’s lives, will end up sapping the fertility rate […] Gov. Northam, the full-blown CoronaPanic-pusher, is the same governor who came out in favor of post-birth abortions.
Another commenter, LoutishAngloQuebecker, replied in part:
I actually think they are satanic or something […] that they actually want to make us suffer. […] I’m pro choice in the first trimester but post birth abortion is Satanic.
We modern and post-modern people are known to look down on human sacrifice of certain ancient societies. I have no dispute that human sacrifice is a bad thing. Certainly it is terrible, a savage practice. I only point out, with the anthropologist’s cap on, that sacrifice was not irrational within the religion of the time.
The religion of the time for human-sacrifice cultures demanded that a portion of one group had to be sacrificed for the sake of the whole, with authorities designating the group to be sacrificed and organizing an apparatus to do the deed. Now, I ask, how is this different from what the Corona-Response has done?
Heretics in (outside of) the Corona Cult
Those who are actively and vigorously anti-CoronaPanic became, unbeknownst to them, heretics in the new regime. Embarrassingly for those who have taken up the trendy mantra “Believe Science” in recent years and found themselves on the pro-Panic side, the Corona-Heretic ranks include top credentialed authorities, scientists, epidemiologists, and experts. To the extent those with top credentials are ever asked, which they seldom are, we find the heresy rate up there to the Corona Cult is very high.
Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg, Dr. John Ioannidis, Dr. Knut Wittkowski, and so many others are servants of the Devil in the world of the Corona Cult. (And, conversely, all people whom the Corona Cult deems ESSENTIAL, as well as assorted political opportunists, are Corona-Saints. All members of the Holy Media are the new religion’s chief evangelists and therefore also deserve a place of honor.)
You might wonder about cases of suppression against heretics. While I could point to individual suppression efforts (e.g., the lawsuit filed by Panic-pushers in the German media against Knut Wittkowski for spreading false information), there is a bigger case that ought to be remembered:
The hospitalization of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
I would suggest that the April 6 decision to hospitalize British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and put him in an intensive-care unit was a “political,” or in the terms of this post, a “religious” decision.
A hearty few were brave enough to call a typical-Boris publicity stunt even at the time.
The decision to hospitalize Boris Johnson may have been a calculated one to undermine Corona Skeptics and the deflate the energies of the anti-Panic side in the UK. A move to suppress Corona-Heretics.
As I wrote on April 9:
[Being “hospitalized for Covid-19!” is] Boris Johnson’s latest publicity stunt . […]
Although we are not necessarily going to ever know for sure, the strong possibility that Boris’ sudden “turn for the worse” (“Only to heroically pull through!” curtain; Act III) raises several possibilities. Whose choice was the hospitalization? His own, a classic Boris move to gain sympathy? Or was it other members of the “Corona Coup d’Etat” faction, who want UK’ers to show more damned respect for the Corona Panic, our substitute God now that Easter has been cancelled?
And what better example of a one-time heretic to the Holy CoronaReligion to make than Boris, who led a rearguard action until late in the game against the Corona Panic, resisting the mass shutdowns longer than many other cavers-in?
Boris’ “sudden turn for the worse, only to heroically pull through” was correct, of course; he was released from the hospital a few days after admission and remains fine.
Other of the heretics are really persuasive. I see the case of Sweden as particularly persuasive. Sweden is the standout case in the West (See, e.g., Part XI), a heretic regime at the heart of the West within the Corona Dispensation.
Here is Swedish commentator and author Johan Norberg (b.1973; a transatlantic figure often active in the US since 2007) speaking in early May on the “Swedish Experiment”:
“I get so many questions from people who say, ‘Sweden, you’re doing this crazy experiment!’ My response is, You’re doing a crazy experiment. The world has never shut down to this extent this rapidly before. Shutting down societies, workplaces, schools, and borders: That’s an experiment!”
He’s not wrong. He’s right. Objectively viewed, it is the Lockdown-pushers who were (are) doing something unprecedented, rolling the dice on extreme measures with an obviously destructive impact, not to mention engaged in constant goalpost-shifting and evidence-suppression and evidence-ignoring. Yet it is the common view is that the Swedish response is the extreme one. How does one reconcile this?
If the string is tugged at, religion is not far off:
“What do you mean the other village down the river is not sacrificing virgins to the jungle god after the new prophets foretold doom if we don’t? What a reckless experiment those guys down the river are doing! Can you imagine?”
Forbidden knowledge to all but the cult leaders
Back to Gregory on “cults” in anthropology:
The sacred is set apart from the normal world and may entail knowledge that is forbidden to everyone but the cult leaders.
I would place the Neil Ferguson and his hocus-pocus models, and a handful of others, in this category. The priestly class wing of those who seized power in March (the Corona Cult and Corona Coup d’Etat concepts are overlapping). Dr. Fauci, the same.
We all see the same data, but only they know the hidden truth, they have secret knowledge on why we need to embrace the Panic and hold fast to the cult’s teachings, or risk apocalyptic results. Trust them!
In the right conditions, this dynamic works smoothly. Accumulating evidence is just no match; it has no chance.
As I wrote elsewhere on Ferguson:
[T]he epidemic[‘s] clear decline in Stay-Open Sweden [leaves] only belief, only an ugly apocalypse cult under Saint Ferguson and pro-Panic juntas in governments near and far.
A commenter here similarly suggested that Fauci bears real similarities to Rasputin, the cult-leader-like figure out of early-20th-century Russia.
Gregory further writes:
One of the most debated topics in both archaeology and anthropology remains studies of shamanism. Briefly, a shaman is a type of religious expert who mediates between the human and spirit world.
Who fits the profile and role of the shaman role here?
On one hand I believe Ferguson does, but there may be others of note, including small-time, street-corner ranter types.
An isolated foreteller of doom (a “Doomer”) can be ignored, but when an entire religious apparatus and cultural norms are erected around him, he is suddenly powerful, no longer some nut but now a kind of shamanic figure:
“Remember when this guy sounded crazy?” That was before the cult’s take-over.
The Cult as Safe Haven
Which brings us to “cult” as used in common parlance, an often controversial term. By defining cults as unorthodox, they are immediately placed into the category of “the other.” To noncult members, cults are groups that generally practice mind control, demand total submission, and, most often, take a member’s money. To cult members, a particular cult is generally seen as either the “one true way” and/or a safe haven.
One of the key features of the Coronavirus Panic of 2020 was always how self-reinforcing it was, and self-reinforcing systems do carry with them a feeling of safety, I suppose.
The data being against the pro-Panic side’s case was waved away in the early weeks by saying, “We don’t know for sure; better to be safe.” Opportunists large and small rushed the breach, riding the coattails of the new religious dispensation. Those rallying ’round the anti-Panic flag were routed, scattered, and risked being deemed public enemies or heretics (see above). In Corona World, data is blasphemy. (As it no doubt says in the Corona-Bible, “Do not put Corona, the lord your god, to the test.”)
While “Better to be Safe” was never a good argument (we never deal with uncertainty by jumping to the ultra-worst-case-scenario and battening down the hatches; rational societies do not make public policy decisions like this), it is a convincing one to many kinds of personalities, especially if allowed free reign and given seeming endorsement by important people. Why so many places/leaders “caved in” this time, I have proposed will be studied for years, in all kinds of disciplines, and this effort ought is one of those. Commenter Marshall Lentini presents the case for why it won’t be studied. I am confident that it will in time, but I don’t know how long it will take.
The alarming beliefs about mass death lea people into the arms of the side preaching safety, which was the Cult. The cult as safe haven. The cult thus “set ’em up and knocked ’em down.”
Indoctrination, strict obedience, stress, fatigue, humiliation, isolation, peer pressure, fear, paranoia
Gregory gets into cults in the common understanding of the term, listing several “main features of any given cult,” including:
Cults generally demand that members alienate themselves from the outside world. Finally, cults are strictly hierarchical, and leaders employ varying degrees of indoctrination and demands of strict obedience.
Needless to say, almost every word there (“members must alienate/isolate themselves;” “leaders employ indoctrination;” “demands of strict obedience”) applies to the Corona-Response in “Lockdown” places. Only “hierarchical” arguably doesn’t apply.
Gregory then adds:
Many cults are known to be dangerous and subject members to stress, fatigue, and humiliation. Isolation, peer pressure, and the causing of fear and paranoia are used to control and manipulate subjects.
I can hardly imagine a better description of the mechanisms that were/are at work in Corona. Isolation, peer pressure (or “groupthink”), fear, paranoia, control. Every one of those fits Corona.
These things weren’t introduced all at once, but were part of a build-up. A classic apocalypse cult, such as the kind we know and readily associate with the term in popular usage, also doesn’t start its pitch demanding a person whom they are targeting for recruitment immediately move to their compound in the desert.
As for indoctrination, this can in many cases be a synonym or propaganda.
As Swiss Policy Research has written:
A lot of people are shocked by the dubious and often fear-mongering Covid19 reporting of many media outlets. Obviously, this is not “ordinary reporting”, but classical and massive propaganda, as it is typically employed in connection with wars of aggression or alleged terrorism.
In Corona, people are barraged with contextless numbers and scare-stories on a near-constant basis, unless they make efforts to avoid the media entirely. These numbers and stories seem convincing. And, for another thing, “everyone’s talking about it.” Fear reigns; many willingly go along with the isolation except committed anti-Panic (an ti-cult; heretic) individuals.
On those contextless numbers, briefly:
Given that there are several million natural deaths a year in the US, if a flu virus is passing through the population, and if the pro-Panic side is able, through its control of the media, to count all the bodies positive for the virus at death for its virus-worship-based religious rituals, needless to say that’s good fodder for the CoronaPanic-evangelists and indoctrinators.
This post is meant not to focus at all on the technical side of the Corona dispute, which other posts have done in depth. I believe Corona is now settled science; the virus is in the range of a moderate to severe influenza strain, of the sort seen fairly regularly. The point of this post is that to true-believers it does not matter.
Much good work could be done on the propaganda/indoctrination mechanisms at work in Corona, and probably will be in the coming years.
Cult-embracers as normal people, not mentally unstable or otherwise deficient
Back to Gregory’s article on “cults” for one final passage:
Common misconceptions on cults include that followers must be mentally instable and/or mad. However, while a leader may exhibit signs of mental instability, there is no prerequisite for followers to do likewise. Indeed, followers find a sense of belonging and protection in a particular cult. Very often, a member may feel this is the only way to salvation.
The case of US Congresswoman Haley Stevens is the best way to show what this means in practice. I believe Stevens is of fully sound mind. Even during her screaming, corona-paranoia, apocalypse rant at the US Capitol, she was never really going through a psychotic episode. (Despite appearances.)
I would interpret her display, rather than near-psychosis, as the sign of a true-believer in the emergent cult. Stevens was one of those who believed that a full embrace of the cult was the “only way to salvation,” to refer back to Gregory’s phrasing.
Stevens did not recognize that she had fallen into the clutches of a cult. Few cult recruits do realize as it is happening. If they did realize, it wouldn’t happen.
When someone joins an apocalypse cult, it turns his or her thinking to mush for a while (or sometimes for life; there are still a handful of David Koresh believers out there), which leads to a period of suspension of rational thinking and a groupthink-dynamic by which the concepts of Tradeoffs and Cost-Benefit are discarded or even angrily rejected.
The most serious cases are beyond being True Believers. The most serious cases are Corona Fanatics. This refers to that hardened, core element that actively does not want to “hear good news” (things that contradict the apocalypse message). Corona Fanatics seek out heresy to confront and destroy it.
How does one interpret the active and aggressive rejection, by some, of good news? I’ve written in the comments to an article by anti-CoronaPanic writer Mike Whitney on t this: It’s that “there are true-believers with any cult.”
The true believers, and even the cult’s fanatics, are not bad people, or at least no worse than the average cross-section of any population. The process can occur differently at different times and places and to different temperaments and is always worth more study. It certainly happened here.
Another case that might be helpful, a possible case of how an honest man can fall into a cult against his will:
I have now lost the link, but in April I remember reading someone report how, after having lost his job to the Corona-Panic, he was suffering from daily nervous attacks. Imminently facing the inability to make payments, the situation was bad by any objective standard.
My recollection is that he wrote of, one day, a light-switch going off in his mind, that he stopped caring. The panic attacks stopped. Realizing that millions of others were with him, it made it all alright. He was at peace. I am glad the individual no longer has panic attacks (if I am remembering his recounting of his story correctly), but this story could well be seen as a case of a man effectively being absorbed by the cult. The cult(‘s doctrine/policy of Shutdownism/Lockdownism) broke down his defenses, partially stripped him of his identity, then gave him meaning through the new religion which had been set up around him against his wishes.
As for a “mentally unstable” element in the earl pro-Panic coalition. They were never its leaders. They were never directing it. They were nothing like a majority of it. But they were around and they did have a role. Helping the breakthrough of the pro-Panic coalition was among the most significant political acts of our time ever achieved by this group (the mentally unstable, if one can call it a “group”).
I plan a future post on what elements formed the anti-Panic and pro-Panic coalitions as they emerged in March. I’ve been pointing to this novel split since late March. I think it has largely remained, though pre-Corona divisions are trying to reassert themselves (with limited success).
I believe a a key component of the pro-Panic coalition, from its earliest formative phase in January, was the “Doomers,” some of whom do show signs of mental instability, others of whom show some degree or another of frustrated-misanthropy, and still others show neither of the two but something else. That is a topic for another time.
When people like the above end up, suddenly, in the “political center,” it’s an event worth recording and commenting on. It’s bad news.
The Corona Mass Conversion Event
Winding this investigation down, I believe I have shown that “Corona” is a cult in the academic sense of the term, which is to say a religion or religious current, and that this is the key to its staying power.
How it broke through is the topic for another time, but needless to say in March (a series of) “super-spreading events” occurred for the cult itself. This is better stated as a mass-conversion event.
The damage could still have been limited. Unfortunately we also saw demagoguing by politicians and the swirl of certain other conditions that led to the radical empowerment of the the cult. It gave us disaster on the scale of the loss of a war. The demagoguing by politicians was being done often by cult converts in high places; the two processes fed off of each other. No Corona Coup d’Etat without the Corona Cult. If you want a chicken-and-egg game, I believe the Cult came first.
Here is what one conservative commentator says about the Corona Coup d’Etat:
The fact that “15 days to slow the spread” [in mid-March] actually meant “lockdown forever” should come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with how the government works. Nothing that gives power and money to the State is ever temporary.
The full story here cannot be fully told or appreciated without knowledge of pre-existing political and cultural trends in the preceding period of the last few years, and to some extent even last few decades. I hope to return to these other topics later, and others have done good work on this and will continue to do so.
As I have written elsewhere (April 11):
[Brás Cubas wrote:] “[H]ow can a Christian justify all this destructive fear of dying when one of the basic principles of that religion is the belief in a happy life after death for those who place Ethics before Survival?”
[I responded:] The answer is this: Many have abandoned Christianity and converted, en masse, to the CoronaReligion, an evil cult […]
This conceptualization of “abandonment of Christianity and embrace of the Corona Cult” raises the question of whether a key reason for the breakthrough might have been the decline of the churches in the recent era. Pick the start date you want, the point is churches have been in decline. The Corona Cult’s attack on the churches can be seen as going at a wounded animal. For those of us fond of the Christian church, this is unfortunate. Certainly many self-described Christians have also been enthusiastic Corona-pushers.
By mid-April, I became more and more convinced that a better descriptor than “the Mass-Hysteria Pandemic,” or something like that, is the Corona Cult (with such alternative alliterations as: CoronaCult; Coronavirus Cult; Cult of Corona; the Cult of Coronavirus; the COVID Cult, or the Cult of COVID).
I added this (April 17):
Shutdownism was embraced uncritically, a series of moves which I have described as a “mass conversion event.” The converts were, after all, reacting to news of the Apocalypse, as foretold by the Holy Media, and were seeing signs of the prophecies coming true before their eyes (actually, on their screens).
This need not be confined to metaphor. It really is a cult, by the commonly accepted definition, if examined closely.
Conclusion; reflections on the historical significance of the Corona Cult’s victory
How do you think religious movements, or “cults,” are born, anyway? Most probably have never much thought about it. Maybe it’s worth a thought here.
In archaeology, it’s never exactly clear what happened. When one cult rises to replace or augment the other(s) may be clear if dateable relics are available. Why is harder.
Maybe there is always a confluence of interests at play (being served) when a new cult emerges, as I imply in this summary of the effects of Corona (from Part XI):
the political Corona Coup d’Etat, the serious blows to personal liberty, the rapid advance of the surveillance state, the disarming of opposition of all kinds and the silencing of dissent, and the setting up of a bizarre state religion, the Corona-Cult […]
What are the lessons here?
A general lesson may be that People take religion seriously, even (especially) when not “marketed” as a religion. Say what you will about people being more secular in 2020 than ever before, but that “synchronized Corona Clapping,” and much else about Corona, are religious acts.
There are lessons here the role of religion in society, on how “cults” form, emerge, and rise. They are still relevant even to smug times approaching the second quarter of the 21st century.
How do cults end?
The kind of destructive cult that we can recognize in Corona will often tend to burn through itself rapidly. As I wrote April 11 elsewhere:
[L]ike all destructive religious cults, [Corona] will be its own undoing before long. How much damage this evil cult can do before slithering away and before its members “snap out of it” is still, sadly, an open question.
It is possible that substantially more damage will yet be done by the cult’s religious imperative to appease its god. Will the cult leaders, in collusion with beneficiaries of the political coup d’etat, pull the lockdown trigger again in the fall, if the virus begins circulating again?
Throughout April, I remained convinced that the solution to Corona was the finding of the facts and presenting them, that truth would prevail. As I wrote in the comments here to Part VIII (May 2):
[T]he Pro-Panic side staged a coup d’etat, dictated terms, set up a new religion and got most to buy into it. But on point after point, they are wrong. Others have described the Corona-Panic as a “mind virus.” The cure is the light of day. Open inquiry on neutral terrain causes the Corona mind-virus to wither and die.
Almost any angle of investigation reveals serious narrative weakenesses, even where it seems strongest, as I think applies to the case of Social Distancing and the main point(s) of this post.
While I would still like to think this is true — it is the world I’d like to inhabit — I have to admit it was wrong. A successful religion or cult breakthrough is not so easily “cured” as I suggested there. It’s not the way human psychology works. It’s not how religious breakthrough events work.
But there is an end in sight. To end on an optimistic note:
Prediction: The CoronaCult will soon begin to hollow out, going into the kind of decline such apocalypse cults always enter into. Everyone will claim that THEY knew there were no WMD all along, that THEY were always against the war, that their vote for the war was a clerical error, that the ballot was confusing…
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In my little corner of London, I’ve noted shuttered pubs and restaurants, displaying rainbow banners proclaiming “Save Our NHS”. These appear to be talismans to ward off intruders. If it used to be that even hardened criminals would help an old lady to cross the road, perhaps now adherents to the cult believe that no-one will dare to cross an NHS slogan.
I hope you’re right about the parallel with WMD. (That’s a pretty feeble hope though!) But I fear it’s going to be much more difficult this time. The effect on the church, already in weakened state, may be very great indeed. Presumably, if a church wishes to survive it will have to accommodate the cult.
Excellent comments, Misa.
Do the Save the NHS banners include any reference to Corona?
Here is one I find:
The ones I have in mind are more childish (or happy-clappy) efforts. Rainbows or hearts, made to look as though done by children. I don’t think they actually mention the ‘C’ word, but I’ll try to remember to check, next time I pass.
I have also seen many such signs obviously made by children, presumably instructed to do so by parents.
I hope someone is collecting images and other info on these, for future study. What images were used? What slogans? Where were they placed? When were they placed there?
This is a great observation.
I am reminded of the famous “Greengrocer” essay from that Czech dissident in the 1970s. The essayist observed a shop owner hanging a “Workers of the World Unite” sign in his shop window, even though the shop owner did not even believe in the message. Why did he hand up the sign?
The Greengrocer essay is long, written in 1978 with much of it time-specific (today only of historical interest towards 1970s-era Soviet-bloc dissident activities). But the opening sections on the Greengrocer are relevant to all times and places. It deals with the manner in which ideology and propaganda works. This would include more-overtly religious ideology, as we see with Corona.
There are ‘unbelievers’ or let’s say ‘agnostics’ in any system (or let’s say religion/”cult”). =The most successful cults will develop obedience-enforcement mechanisms. I touched on this at the end of Attention-focusing Devices and Redundancy section above but more could be written on it.
A Corona-Greengrocer essay ought to be written, maybe already has.
Thank you for introducing me to the Greengrocer essay!
I checked the signs, and the slogan was ‘Thank you NHS’, some with hearts, some with the rainbow.
The same day, I made a journey across the city and it was a sobering experience. Local traffic had led me to believe that many people must be heading out to work; the desolate city and public transport system said otherwise. One central London railway station was full of fresh-faced (temporary?) staff in high-visability jackets doing nothing; many of the regular (ticketing, etc) staff had brought office chairs out into the concourse to sit on whilst they nattered – keeping a safe distance from each other, of course. Public buildings with this sort of atmosphere are familiar from China, but I’ve never experienced it the UK. Over the entrance to the station hung a banner bearing the letters NHS, a couple of rainbows, and the message ‘Stay Safe’.
My visits to the local park tend to reassure me that there are plenty of people not taking things too seriously (on my last trip, a group of youths had broken through secutity fencing to swim and splash about in the lake), but seeing central London in its present state has spooked me.
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When you have a totalitarian system, it usually comes with a big propaganda effort, and the people who are most psychologically accepting of the propaganda will use it as a substitute for “normal” religious observances, especially if said religious observances are banned, as indeed has happened in this case.
Many of the Corona True believers also had no religion to start with. Or at least no formalized one.
Your comment makes me wonder again about to what extent Corona (or the Corona Cult specifically) was “top-down” and to what extent it was “bottom-up.” There were both elements. Which was first? Which was decisive? Does it matter?
How exactly did the two impulses (bottom-up and top-down by the pro-Panic side) interact with each other?
All of these questions are worth serious study. I don’t see any easy answers, because so many of the “top-down” figures themselves show signs of being “bottom-up”-type True Believers.
Previous comment sections have good material from people on this.
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Good comments on “Corona as Cult” in LockdownSceptics’ May 18 post. See section “Why Do Lockdown Zealots Behave Like Members of a Cult?” It points to and comments on a May 5 article by author and psychotherapist Dr. Hugh Willbourn (“CC2 Covid, Brexit and Flying Saucers…“).
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COVID’s “Attention-focusing devices”…..A boundary zone between this world and the next”…..”Evidence of participation and offering”……Definitely.
I see something to add: “Other [cult] rituals may involve the sacrifice of animals and humans, the consumption of food and drinks, and votive….” Food and drinks. Lots of changed “food and drink rituals.” Contactless Delivery. Masked Take-Out. Virtual Happy Hour? Could add more things like this.
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Haven’t had a chance to read the whole thing, so hope I’m not repeating something you already wrote. But the outdoor mask wearing — and I see a ton of it in NYC — reminds me of someone wearing a cross to fend off vampires. Corona is the vampire, and the purpose of the cross is so that the vampire, who will have his feed, goes and gets somebody else foolish enough not to wear a cross. It’s really a way of magically deflecting the disease onto somebody else. And the cross wearer scorns those without one, because by becoming victims (surely they will!) they help keep the vampire alive for another day. Ok, that’s enough mixing of metaphors!
Wear a mask, people! Starve the vampire!
Regarding mask wearing, I don’t disagree with Hail, but I see things a bit differently.
I think people are tired of arguing about it. You know, pick your battles. I think a lot of mask wearing is appeasing behavior, but not of the Corona god. More like, of the Corona Karens.
You can’t go into a store without one. But no one is checking on the effectiveness of your mask. As I wait in line get into the supermarket I have to have something over my face or I can’t buy food. I just pull up the edge of my scarf. I see people get out of their cars and pull up any old thing as they approach the line, like an old sander’s mask from the shop. It is as though everyone—or a lot of people— is in on the joke: We all know this is stupid but we need groceries. You can kind of tell by the quality of the mask how seriously the wearer takes it: Carefully home-made mask suggest serious commitment. In the early days I had to find something to put on my face so I stapled some ribbon loops to a shop wipe. Later I read that serious research had shown that the shop wipe is one of the best-filtering materiasl!!
People wearing a mask while driving alone or biking or jogging are either serious believers or they are virtue signaling and belong in the Karens group: People looking for opportunities to scold and enforce rules.The corona madness is a GREAT opportunity for these “have-to-be-righters.”
I also think the mask donning is to a great extent akin to when we say “Sorry!” for brushing against another on the sidewalk, only now the “Sorry!” disataces are greater. What I mean is: I take a walk to the river along a non-crowded, pleasant street. A few people walk or mostly jog the other way. The joggers with masks on are the believers. The people pushing a baby carriage who push a shmatte over their mouth as they walk by are doing a “Sorry!” maneuver, in case I would be upset.
But now for my main idea! Which is: Why now? Somehow I can’t help feeling that corono madness is related to TDS, Trump Derangement Syndrome. it is already there: derangement. Here the indispensable disclaimer: I am not a fan of Trump. But I am also do not suffer TDS. OK that is out of the way. This is totally speculative and I haven’t worked it out, but the readiness and willingness to join in the panic might be some kind of “gain of function” phenomenon where the initial derangement and refusal to **face **reality has been transferred to an object where dissenters can be more easily discredited, now that Trump has survived Russiagate, and evidence must be set aside in favor of the belief system. Like “Russiagate didn’t work, but we’ve got you now and you can’t get away this time and we’re doubling down.” I would bet that there is some congruence between Russiagate dissenters and corona dissenters. **Reality: I mean the reality that Trump actually won the election; that Hillary blew the election; that Mueller didn’t prove any collusion between Trump and Putin; that the whole #Resistance and impeachment efforts were a bust and a huge waste of the country’s time. The “hate Trump” meme has been somewhat transferred to the corona madness. Just the fact that Trump mentioned trying a Hydro-whatever cure I found very interesting. How did he even hear about that? But a Panicker friend joked “Maybe Trump will try some Kool Aid next” (I bet she heard t his joke from someone else.) I sent her some info on studies currently under way..
Well, those are my current ideas on the corona madness. I live by myself, do not have TV, but have been bemused by videos I have seen online of people clapping, even nurses doing line dancing . . . what’s that all about? Also have been startled by the way B and Moon of Alabama has fallen totally to the cult. I have been banned there! I guess I was too flippant for Bernhard.
PS. Hail is also ice falling from the sky.
The healthy kind of hail is actually hale. Web: free of disease, free of infirmity; healthy; whole
Alas, a lot of religion is like this.
Possible conceptual categories:
– Corona Priests/Shamans
– Corona Fanatics
– Corona True Believers
– Corona Passive Believers
– Corona Neutrals effectively pressured into conformity by the Fanatics and True Believers, and by the seeming consensus, and by constant appeals by authorities to Believe
– Corona Heretics (disbelievers, opponents of the religion)
What am I missing/overlooking?
I think the group you refer to as “Karens” probably overlaps a lot with my categories of Fanatics and True Believers. Or maybe this is the wrong way to see it and better to see “Karens” as a personality type.
Thinking abut it, can there be an “anti-Corona ‘Karen'”? Maybe the point is, once the cult breaks through and becomes hegemonic, as it has, there no longer can be an anti-Corona Karen. Or what?
Between corona neturals and corona heretics I might add “corona malingers.” Or “corona passive agressives.” Who do the least to comply, and
I certainly would like to be an anti-Corona Karen! But doing so is definitely tacking upwind. And, I am an advocate of the precautionary principle in other contexts, so I am not going to go out on a limb concerning wearing a mask *in enclosed spaces.* Cf. Erin Bromage,
I agree with someone (someone here?) who said that one-on-one is probably the best way to make inroads in the disinformation by countering with better information.
I send info to my email list. Generally I get no response at all, or I get “ad-hommed.” Today I sent the following video (link below) of an interview by Del Bigtree of Professor Dolores Cahill of U Dublin to my list and I think it is of critical importance. It was linked somewhere—perhaps here. I cannot recall. One person on my list proceeded to inform me that I shouldn’t credit any info that comes via Del Bigtree. I had never heard of Bigtree and I don’t care who he is and I told this person that. The information on the video is excellent.
Cahill is a fantastic advocate for sanity and I think she is serious about following through on the legal implications of putting populations at risk with these nutty, counterproductive policies.
Here is the link:
You may be referring to Helen Buyniski’s idea about how to defeat the Corona Cult (see section starting with “Deprogramming the world from the Cult of Corona cannot be done by force…”) (see also her full essay, link courtesy of Allen).
Continuing from the above:
As I see it, when a cult “breaks through” like this, there’s no easy way out. Even anti-cult oppositionists end up accommodating the new order.
The only way out:
Destructive cults all have inherent flaws. Internal contradictions. Individual believers may peel off, but the cult survives for a while. A cult of this kind does not break apart because individual believers get persuaded that its doctrines are wrong or harmful. It breaks apart once its own internal contradictions cause it problems.
This does not mean one should give up fighting against Corona-Craziness. I will not.
What of personal outreach? I’ve noticed a wide range of reactions. Some react well to being presented with the facts, but most do not. Many get angry and defensive. This reaction puzzled me for a long time, until I came to realize that a religious mechanism was indeed at work. You have offended a religious-like belief. The anti-blasphemy instinct is intact.
That realization led me to study the idea. Realizing how right it was, I’ve tried to lay it out as best I could in this post. I’m sure others will do more like this in coming weeks, months, years, even decades, and better than I have.
Certainly there are definite cult-like aspects to this whole thing. But I don’t think one needs the cult idea to explain either “go along to get along” behavior.
Regarding deprogramming the true converts,
no one likes to be proved wrong, and to come out looking like a fool. One of the Mark Twain quotes that is being cited often these days is “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” I think that explains a lot of poor climb-down rate.
Yesterday i sent the Dolores Cahill interview link to my (small) list. In addition to the ad-hom response I got this from another person (she is very argumentative and always has to make a gotcha type of come-back):
dolores cahill phd does not appear to have changed many minds???”
I responded: “What does that have to do with biology? Focus!” Actually, I doubt that this person actually watched the video. Just as with the ad-hom fellow above, first reaction is to check out the source of the info and then transfer that judgment to me: “See what a fool you are.” When I sent a link with the interview with Dr. Jensen regarding the changed rules for completion of the cause-of-death portion of the US Dept of HHS Blue Form to basically beef up covid19 deaths, a third person derided Jensen (and me): So you are getting your info from Fox News.” No comment on the info itself. I happened to know more than average about the Blue Form because it had been incorrectly completed in the cases of both my parent’s death. I added this info to contextualize. (I think a lot of people still do not get the significance of the directive from the CDC on the completion of the Blue Form.)
Actually, in fact, Cahill’s political commitments may well have quite a lot to do with her stated intention to challenge the Irish govt on its totalitarian plans to vaccinate everyone in Ireland. She may be one of the few dissenters who actually has some kind of political platform (not behind-the-scenes political string pulling a la Fauci, Gates, Soros, etc.). Of course centrist debunkers are ready to call out dissenters as either right-wing loonies or left-wing extremists—the implication being that they are driven more by their crazy political beliefs than by any understanding of the biology or the economics of the situation. IOW these centrists are ideologically motivated in their debunking of dissenters as being primarily politically motivated. Those who want to open the economy are sidelined as Trumpists. Again, TDS creep to the corona cult “logic”: Corona cult as heir to failed Russiagate/impeachment.
BTW I have noticed that the term “conspiracy theorist” is now being used in the German press (Der Spiegel) as “Verschwoerungstheoretiker.” So, CIA win.
PS. The small gray type used here is quite hard to read.
Just checking back on this thread from nine months ago to see what video links Youtube killed off:
I believe this is a re-hosted, surviving copy:
Dolores Cahill video here:
This seems about right.
There are a lot of religion metaphors possible for masks. The exact reasons a specific person at a specific time is wearing a mask will vary a lot, but they all fit if seeing them as religious-garb. Given a hegemonic religion, even those who don’t believe the religion will wear the garb it demands. And there is a core constituency that does see it in more-or-less those “vampire” terms.
Jane’s line (above) is also good:
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Forcibly and convincingly argued.
Speaking as a Christian, one of the most troubling aspects – perhaps the most troubling – has been the complete spinelessness of the churches ( particularly the Church of England), the abandonment of both congregations and the public, the unprotesting acceptance of the Covid mantra: active connivance, in fact, in their own destruction. The government didn’t require them to lock out even the clergy from their own churches: they did it to themselves.
God help us, because his ministers won’t.
“…the complete spinelessness of the churches…”
Think of all of the martyrs among the early Christians who died for their faith. Now, churches put up no opposition at all when told to cease all worship services.
Churches’ determination, over recent years, to offer up for sacrifice any priest accused of paedophilia, apparently without investigation, left them with little authority.
Reports on the early outbreak in Korea, though, featured a church service ‘super-spreader’ didn’t it? No reason to challenge that because ‘crazy-cultish Korean Christians’, right? But that probably sealed the deal on churches before the rest of the world even got into the swing.
Good point, Misa, on the Korean group and its early role in the Corona narrative (from late February).
I have a lot of familiarity with that group (Shinchonji) from experience. They are not classic Christians. They resemble what Americans (and others, I assume) a generation ago knew as the Moonies, in their tactics and doctrines. Tight control over members’ lives; unethical expansion tactics; wild, new revelations; their leader turns out to be a figure foretold in the Bible and a god-like figure; and so on.
Of course the Narrative doesn’t care one way or another about the specifics.
Your point is a good one. I thought to include something on the Korean cult here but did not fearing it a tangent (certainly the post does not lack for length).
I believe that during the peak period of the S.Korea outbreak, the news “played up” many more cases of pastors (of classic Christian churches) who were positive for corona, which fits the general pattern of Corona’s concerted attack on the churches.
The Corona Cult was international from the beginning.
Annue, Thank you for your comment.
My observation was that the two coalitions around Corona that formed in March, pro-Panic and anti-Panic, were seen in embryonic form in the churches. Churches were, if not an early indicator, at least a firm indicator. The churches are, in theory, an independent and prestige institution. People are in churches today because they want to be. There was no natural pro-Shutdown constituency here, as say there might be with office workers who wanted a few soft weeks semi-off.
This is how I recall it in the critical period in mid-March, from my part of the US: Some urged the most aged and infirm to stay home for a while, but stayed open as normal. Some church bodies suspended services for several weeks on their own. The Episcopal Church went furthest, and suspended all services at all their churches until mid-May (which is now; still shut down!), entirely on their own. This after one of their pastors tested positive. In light of all the studies since then, this was all hysterical of course. We now know for every positive test, fifty or a hundred people had (or had had) the virus, which meant “the spread” was more-or-less an artifact of testing itself, and that a single positive meant little.
The last regular service I was able to attend was March 15. Attendance was normal but people made a point to sit farther apart. Meanwhile, the Corona Cult was soaring in power. The mass-conversion event was underway. Soon pro-Panic coups d’etat began occurring, often led by converts to the cult in government. The governors of various US states began banning all public meetings, including churches. The new Corona religion’s attack on the churches was part of this process, and the attack expanded in late March.
I just checked my email to confirm the date on when the church body of which I am part first sent out Corona guidelines. It was evening March 11. These guidelines were just along the lines of “offer hand sanitizer.” There was no shutdown talk. The church body’s bylaws forbid a central authority from pulling a shutdown trigger like this (which the Episcopal Church did for the region); i.e., that it is up to the individual churches whether to stay open or not, as say with a bad snowstorm. The governor’s order superseded this.
This long reply is a way to reply to the idea that the churches were spineless. The way I experienced it, some were more spineless than others. All were caught up in a process bigger than themselves.
I am convinced Corona can only be understood as a religious-cult-emergence event. If an established religion sees such going on, increasingly in fait accompli terms, what are they to do? In other words, what might the churches have done better? I wonder.
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Can you please explain to me why you consider the coronavirus outbreak a hoax? The virus clearly exists, clearly infects people and has killed a inordinate number of people. What are you arguments?
I myself absolutely despise your derisive American attitude. You are hateful of any government intervention – even if said government is intervening to save the very rotten Christian/LGBT/capitalist system!
The DPR of Korea is leading the fight, whereas America is dying by its own hand. How predictable.
The hilarious thing is that I fully support the suicide of the American system. The course was obvious in 1776. It became clear in the 1950s when Americans helped to feed Africa and Latin America instead of laying waste to those continents with nuclear weapons. Christianity fosters irrationality, and it festers and it kills the host eventually.
Because it is nothing unusually alarming.
It is one of the usual peak-flu events seen several times a decade. Does not justify the shutdowns/lockdowns. Does not justify an elaborate religious cult set up around it enforced by the power of the state.
I invite you to look at Part III (“Just the Flu Vindicated by the Data”) on the technical details of Corona (some of the data there is now a month old, but all basically holds) and why the reaction has been hysterical. If the word “hoax” applies, it is to CoronaPanic-pushers who know these things, know it is in the flu range, but still push it for their own reasons, whatever they are.
The rest of your comment is a series of ad-hominems unworthy of response.
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In a similar vein:
Duck and Cover and Burn the Heretics: the Modern-Day Cult of Corona
Fear and uncertainty have dominated the media coverage of the Covid-19 epidemic. The novel coronavirus is depicted not as a pedestrian pathogen certain to be beaten into submission by the miracles of modern science any day now, but as an invisible evil lurking everywhere, formidable enough to inspire a respectful terror even in the leading lights of the medical establishment. And in case Americans had any doubt about how they were supposed to regard this new viral threat, the establishment talking heads many rely upon for the self-assured delivery of their news have swapped their usual swagger for apprehension. Amid this ‘confidence vacuum,’ the popular response to the pandemic has taken on a religious cast. Protective measures like masks have taken on a talismanic quality, hand-washing has been elevated to a ritual performance, and a cult built on naming and shaming ‘heretics’ has seized the minds of many – while their rights are quietly stripped away and a paternalistic police state substituted in their place.
Pseudoscience on a rampage
As social media censors tighten the screws on what information is permitted to enter the public sphere, it becomes increasingly difficult to pretend the Cult of Corona is based on science. Actual science relies upon constant inquiry, testing, and hypothesizing, and even those claims generally attested to by its practitioners are considered “theories” as opposed to unchangeable truths. Science-as-religion, on the other hand, denounces those who put forth dissenting theories as heretics, using slurs like “quack,” “charlatan,” and “anti-vaxxer” to marginalize, for example, medical practitioners who heal people without the use of pharmaceutical drugs. The social media platforms’ decision to unilaterally deplatform content that contradicts the WHO’s narrative is anti-scientific in the extreme, sacrificing the spirit of inquiry for the strictures of groupthink. It’s rendered even more Kafkaesque due to continuing shifts in the WHO’s own narrative, which has changed as more is learned about the virus (as scientific understanding tends to do).
Allen, Thanks. In a follow-up search for whether anyone had written a serious treatment of the topic “Corona Cult,” after this post was published, I saw that republished at Global Research (May 18 under the title “Fear and Uncertainty: The Modern-Day Cult of Corona. ‘Gotta to Have Faith’,” by Helen Buyniski). I wanted to add a link to it but hadn’t yet. Thank you for the original.
Helen Buyniski makes many of the same points I do, as here:
As for this:
I was hopeful throughout late March and April that “the facts would do it,” and much of the writing on this website and my writing elsewhere testifies to that. I concede that was wrong, and only in “religious cult seizing power as state religion” terms can we understand the dilemma.
I would take a different line on the Corona Cult than Helen Buyniski does on this “deprogramming,” though, as I wrote in the final section of this post (“How do Cults End?”):
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For the views of a Corona True Believer writing recently:
“If you think the coronavirus lockdown is worse than the disease, you don’t understand the disease” (by Stephen Gowans, May 16)
By his alarmist tone sounds it’s as if he’s writing March 16. But May it is.
He predicts 3 million direct virus deaths in the US and an economic catastrophe if a swift/full re-opening is allowed. Plus swamped-hospital deaths on top of that, making for a total body count of presumably, what, five million?
If you read through it, keep this post’s main argument (Corona as religion) in mind as you go through for best experience.
This kind of reinforces my take, that Trump Derangement Syndrome is related to or is some kind of precursor to the Corona derangement. Look also at how hydroxychloroquine treatments were derided as quackery as soon as Trump mentioned the word.
Anonymous is me, Jane.
I don’t have the hang of this comments setup.
I wonder, in terms of the anthropology of religious cults, what role hydroxychloroquine plays?
Maybe hydroxy is kind of like in The Wizard of Oz, where it turns out that a sprinkling of water can make the wicked witch of the west frizzle up and disappear.
So hydroxychloroquine must be removed entirely from the scene, and the conversation. Too innocently powerful.
“It’s no accident that one of the world’s great morons—he who thinks injecting disinfectants and shining bright lights into bodily cavities will save the world from COVID-19—should be cheering on one the world’s most moronic public health policy choices.”
“STEPHAN GOWANS. Author of Israel, A Beachhead in the Middle East: From European Colony to US Power Projection Platform (2019)”
What the heck..? Who is this guy
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I don’t know whether one could call the corona hysteria a bona-fide cult, but it certainly has that animal fervor that seems to accompany some spiritual movements. Not that fervor (sometimes a manifestation of the Holy Spirit) is always a bad thing.
It’s natural that our response to disease takes on religious overtones. Our fear of death and love of life are both attributes of faith with no rational basis behind them. A truly irreligious person would view all with detachment, because it has no plainly apparent meaning, so people are reacting to this virus from the deepest, most fundamentally religious part of their being.
The problem is that so few people have any theory to guide their religious instincts. As we’ve grown technologically more advanced, we’ve become a nation of philosophical infants. We put our faith in man-made systems that aren’t supposed to fail. Diseases are supposed to be manageable, because science (and data)! Of course science is a great thing, but people seem to have forgotten that there’s a great deal of faith behind science as well. Science is a culture of rules designed to produce a consensus that we can rely on, but it isn’t infallible — far from it. And that’s the point. If we can’t question findings, science ceases to be science and becomes dogma. So that’s where I think the corona panic starts to resemble religion, but what it resembles isn’t good religion, which should open one’s mind to new possibilities and knowledge. I suppose we could call the authoritarians here fundamentalists. Yes, they are fundamentalists who have fetishized science, and thereby ruined it.
It’s akin to an ignorant preacher ruining the concept of a higher power for a child by threatening him with hell until the kid realizes he’s a malicious fool who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Those kids often grow up to call themselves atheists. Similarly, a lot of people may no longer take “science” all that seriously when this is over, which would be a shame.
I’m all for seeking meaning and answers regarding this disease in religion. I’m a philosophical Christian and have great faith in God, and not being able to go to mass is one of the most frustrating things about this lockdown. However, I do understand the Sword of Damocles that hangs over priests’ and pastors’ heads. One old lady parishioner catches the virus and goes to the great beyond and there will instantly be calls for crucifixion belching forth from the fiery pit of the mass media.
Nevermind that the old lady may well be perfectly prepared to depart from this world and worried more about her relationship with God than pneumonia — it isn’t her choice to make anymore. We must have faith, comrades. Science will conquer death!
Bill, Thank you for this excellent comment and thoughts/insights.
“People are reacting to this virus from the deepest, most fundamentally religious part of their being. The problem is that so few people have any theory to guide their religious instincts.”
What frustrated and puzzled me for quite some time (especially after we crossed the point of rational response in mid-March) is why they were reacting this way. The escalation spiral got out of control. How could this have happened?
I can see why they would react in that (“deepest, most fundamentally religious”) way if we had a Black Plague scenario before us with piles of dead in every neighborhood, visible to the eye of everyone. They were not reacting to anything like that. They were reacting to somebody’s predictions. They were reacting to images/imagery, cherry-picked video footage, saturation-media-coverage, and to some extent to “I know a guy who knows a guy” stories circulating at the time. But mainly they were getting the info to which they were “reacting” from a defacto priestly class (the media).
In other words, it’s fair to say that people were not reacting to the virus. They were reacting to prophecies (about the virus). Stated even more directly, they were reacting to a religious vision, to a foretelling of the apocalypse.
This is all religious imagery, of course. Postmodern Western people don’t do religion, don’t do religious movements, so people haven’t realized this is what it is.
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On Corona as ‘Myth’ in the quasi-religious sense
In seeking answers to the puzzle of the Corona Panic and Corona-as-Religion, I recently turned to a DVD set I was given some time ago and had not otherwise seen yet. It was the Great Courses lecture series called “Myth in Human History,” by Professor Grant L. Voth (2010?).
I began watching hoping for insights. Voth, early on, says three things that struck me as so relevant to Corona that I transcribed them word for word.
My favorably cult-sensitive, cult-responsive family members jumped on the Corona bandwagon early on before the hysteria achieved crescendo.
Beyond the “cult” explanation for this phenomenon, I would add Berne’s Alcoholic Game Theory and the definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder belong in the explanatory mix.
In Alcoholic Game’s 5-handed version, it’s the Antithesis who is accorded the most horrific treatment and not the Persecutor, Supplier or enablers. For CoronaPanickers, the heretics to the cult serve as the Antithesis. What would Alcoholics Anonymous be without a constant supply of alcoholics or the pseudo-religion which as foundation?
At the pinnacle or center of any cult likely lies a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. These disordered individuals exhibit masterful skill at whipping “their followers” into emotional frenzies. They often target their perceived critics by organizing groups to demolish the lives and reputationa of anyone who threatens the Narcissist’s self-image. The narcissist directs their rage and the energy of their followers against the individual who provides the best counter-arguments, alternate explanations and vigorous debate. This group activity goes by several names but Gsslighting captures the spirit and intent. The driving psychological force behind this behavior is fear of abandonment. The world is certainly enjoying the resultant crazy-making on an industrialized scale.
Here is what I find for the roles involved in the social game “Alcoholic”:
– Victim (the addict),
– Persecutor (usually spouse),
– Rescuer (often family member of same sex),
– Patsy (enabler),
– Connection (supplier).
Described helpfully here under name “Stop me if you can”:
Primary: Escape, excuse
A has a problem, from alcoholism or other addiction to anti-social behavior.
B is persecutor who berates A, and also gives A an excuse to continue – e.g. as an escape or as reactive revenge. A’s habit may also give excuse for A’s bad behavior, such as beating up B (who can then play ‘Poor me’).
C is rescuer who tries to cure A (and can play ‘I’m only trying to help’). A goes along with C for a while, getting attention and sympathy, but is actually playing ‘See if you can stop me’. A can repeat the game by offering remorse and playing ‘This time it’s real’.
D is the bartender or drug pusher who actively helps A and profits from A’s behavior, and can play conspiratorial games such as ‘Go on, have another, nobody will know’.
You may also get E [patsy/enabler], a friendly figure, who reassures A and hence legitimizes the behavior.
Here is a description of the original game proposed by Berne:
You are comparing actively anti-Panic individuals (heretics within the Corona Cult) to Rescuers in the game. Corona is a mass-multiplayer game, of course, but individuals/families might be playing some version of it.
A big difference I see: Very few are filling the Persecutor role. What perpetuates the Corona-addicts’ role is something else.
Yes except for the Persecutor role. The spouse is ordinarily the Persecutor in Berne’s description.
Read on further about the Antithesis. The Antithesis refuses to play any role in The Game, a game tacitly endorsed by society writ large.
The Antithesis is equivalent to Anti-panickers in this COVID-19 game.
Society reserves the harshest rebukes, social shunning and most inhumane treatment for those who refuse to play the game, The Antithesis.
Anti-panickers are neither Rescuers nor Persecutors.
Anti-panickers refuse to play The Game.
Anti-panickers are The Antithesis.
Yes. However, the Antithesis rule is the most rigid and least interchangeable thus the worst treatment is afforded the antithesis by the rest of the role players sanctioned by society. For instance, the Persecutor is accepted for their impotence at bringing about change.
The Game as Berne describes played to the 3rd degree ends up in Court, the Emergency Room or Morgue.
We’re talking about serious business here.
Thanks for this explanation. It makes sense.
Some on the general anti-Panic side could, though, fall into the game and play one of those roles in certain situations. Am I right?
Here’s a follow-up of sorts to the report I did earlier on the disappearance of the flu from the CDC’s decades long emphasis on the flu.
If you simply enter “CDC Flu” and go their flu site here:
what you get is completely different than it was two months ago.
Now the first thing you see is: “Find information on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).” with an embedded link that takes you to the CDC’s Covid site.
On the right sidebar you get:
– Influenza Updates: Laboratory-confirmed flu activity is low at this time.
– Elevated influenza-like-illness is likely related to COVID-19.
– CDC Recommends: Stay home as much as possible and avoid close contact with others.
– Learn more about COVID-19.
with two more embedded links where they write “Covid-19” which will take you to the CDC’s Covid site.
And let’s keep in mind that the CDC warned of a bad flu season and had cataloged record numbers of the flu earlier in the season. I guess now the flu is just “so yesterday.”
This is the post Allen is referring to:
Part VI: Where has the regular flu gone? The CDC reports unprecedented crash in non-COVID flu-positives, raising questions (written in April).
Simplification: “If you have the flu, or something you think is the flu, you actually have this new mystery disease we have named COVID19. Trust us!”
It’s best not to jump the gun on these things and assume a “conspiracy,” but what does one make of a statement like this?
I was thinking, what would the world be like if there had been no organized panic media, but instead it was handled like every other flu year. We’d probably get a story here and there about “bad flu year expected to lead to xx deaths.” And then stories like “this year’s flu especially bad for the elderly” with info that children and young adults have little to fear. Then there would be some local shock stories like “80 seniors dead in Queens nursing home from flu!”
Anyone you knew that said “I had a fever for two weeks from Corona and I was scared that I would die!” would be saying “boy, I couldn’t shake the flu, took me two weeks to get over it,” and their stress levels would probably not have taken a few years off their lives. Many people wouldn’t know anybody that had anything at all. We would all have gone about our business, most of us knowing only vaguely that there was a bad flu going around. A few people would have died in surprising ways, but none of them would make the news other than the occasional “celebrity” or local official (“local Judge dies of flu”). John Glenn’s 100 year old widow would just have died instead of “dying from corona virus.”
Would there be some amount more sick and dead with no changes in behavior? Some, probably, but I doubt much more than what we’ve had. Would restaurants (my obsession) really have been a mass spreader? Well in NYC anyway, restaurant staff skews extremely young (under 35). How many would get infected? How many would be spreaders?
We’ll never know how it would have been, but simply change the press coverage on this thing and it’s just another flu year.
peterike, good comment.
I’ve long had the same thought: What would the same flu strain, emerging/circulating in 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, even 2010, “look like”?
The funny thing is, the more we’ve learned about the Wuhan Coronavirus, the more we see that the question is not even hypothetical. It has been looking more and more similar to flu strains active in/about many of those years. They passed virtually unnoticed.
Like the thought experiment of Wuhan Coronavirus in 2020 vs. 2000: The thing is, there was a bad flu year in 1999-2000 in many countries. Few knew it at the time; very few cared. The two appear to be similar.
A few more comments (following from above):
Some will say (I can hear them now), “But this was a pandemic.” Dr. Wodarg has pointed out that plenty of flu strains circulate internationally every year. Move from place to place. They have done so in the past few centuries, given sea travel and now air travel. So are all flu strains “pandemic”?
Wodarg says the term (“pandemic”) now has an unclear meaning may have been reduced to hype, a scare-word. Worse than useless in that it can incite panic. (Wodarg was a top public health authority in Germany, a member of the Bundestag, and even worked on public health for years in the EU’s Council of Europe.)
Question: Would it have been better or worse for the world if the WHO had not declared it a “pandemic” after weeks of media drumbeating? I’d say unambiguously 100% better, given the results.
Swine Flu in 2009 was also declared a pandemic. Dr. Wittkowski, who I presume oversaw a team following Swine Flu at the time for research purposes in his university capacity, says Wuhan Coronavirus resembles Swine Flu in key indicators.
But back on that thought experiment: The exact same virus circulating in 2000 instead of 2020. No panic in 2000. I agree.
This thought experiment is tempting, but I think it fails, and it fails in a way that took me some time to appreciate. Corona became much “greater than the sum of its parts.” Therefore it is no longer an equation whereby we can remove or adjust a variable or two or three, like “put ‘the media’ back to the Brokaw-Rather-Jennings-era” (much less Cronkite era), or “dial down the Internet/technology by x notches,” (like pre-social-media Swine Flu), or some other variety of things, and the problem vanishes.
I believe the best way to understand it is that a religious trigger event occurred. The media and technology had their roles, as did a lot of other political/social/cultural forces, but none of them really adequately “explain Corona,” explain the panic, explain the escalation spiral. As a religious movement, which takes on a logic of its own,
The difference between previous occurrences of bad flu years and this one is that the media is in a different mode now. Besides wanting to stump Trump, dang the consequences, which is a real part of this, they don’t want to just report normal stuff anymore. They want to be a part of something BIG. They want this to be a sci-fi movie like “The Andromeda Strain”.
This is why I call this an Infotainment Panic-Fest. Ratings are up, folks, all across the board!
What happened over the last few years to enable this? I think it’s the smart phones, which have made viewers and readers lots dumber and ready to fall for this s__t.
And “smartphone” is shorthand for what we now call our wifi-connected “devices” (I got a lot out of this when I saw that in the anthropology literature religious cult objects are called “attention-focusing devices”) which may or may not be, formally speaking, phones.
In other words, in the 1990s the Internet for practical purposes didn’t exist yet, and in the 2000s accessing the Internet required a small ordeal. By the late 2010s, people were always connected.
See also further comments below on the role of the smartphone in Corona.
Another point about smart phones is that for many people they are not only ubiquitous to the point of addiction (their owners are always checking them and gazing into them) but also for a large percentage of smartphoners (I think especially young and poorer) the device is the *only* form of internet access the person has. I.e., this portion of the smartphoners don’t have computers at home and barely know how to use a computer—say, at the library. So their online world is relatively limited (especially if they spend most of their time playing games and taking selfies . . .). This means that they are reading everything on a small screen, so they are likely to be getting smaller and maybe oversimplified texts, not longer texts. And also that any comments they write are probably done “by thumbing” i.e., these, too, will be oversimplified and brief and maybe even in “textlish,” not standard English. Moreover, if they are primarily plugged in to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media their view of “reality” has been put through the FB and social media mill. And a lot of the comments they will read and maybe respond to are similarly sketchy. You cannot explain or discuss a complex scientific and medical phenomenon such as the spread of a virus in 140 characters.
Speaking of games, are there any video game designers out there? How about a game called Herd Immunity? Or what about Contact Tracing, Spot the Virus, Hide the Virus . . or, simply, The Corona Game. These could be quite fun and educational in an subliminal way. I am think of the type of game designed for seniors to improve their mental functioning and response speed. Such as how many peas can you shoot down. But instead to score you would swivel your B-cell one-pounder to take out the coronas before they crack open one of your lung epithelial cells and insert their devilish RNA. Highest scores would be for number of antibodies actually created by attacking the corona with your T-cell howitzer.
Great points about those with smartphone-only-Internet-access.
I remember when a cousin told me she was abandoning her laptop entirely and switching to a smartphone-like device, early 2010s. I was surprised. Why would anyone do this? Then more and more people began doing it.
See Jane’s reply below.
Some familiarity with the field of anthropology here. In the section on attention-focusing devices in traditional cults, am skeptical that a phone screen qualifies. It would help to have examples from the literature to compare to. Wouldn’t it have to be an object NOT normally used in daily life?
Given that the narrative of COVID-19 is the devil “spontaneously” sprung wholly formed, as if from a virgin birth, globally, what can we assume? I would suggest that the narrative has been crafted to capture mans innate need to be guided by a higher power.
Churchill, Hitler, FDR, Mao, Pol Pot; would these merchants of death be in the history books without their true believers?
Where will we be when the smoke has settled from this Corona Apocalypse. Wherever it is, it will be self induced. But we will be blameless. ‘I didn’t realize’ ‘It’s not my fault’ ‘I was lied to’.
I do agree that this Corona thing is cult-like; also that it is well thought out. Perception management at its finest.
James Richard, thanks for the comment and thoughts.
This raises a good sub-topic. The word “crafted” (and to some extent also “guided,” and your later phrase “perception management”) suggests there were “crafters.”
Who were the crafters? Why did they do it? A lot people have argued some version of this (the crafters hypothesis), but a lot of them might be headed down dead-end alleys in that they are left committed to an implied position of saying one or another group are the masterminds. Not opportunists (those are thick on the ground), but master-narrative-controllers.
I am not against the idea that malicious actors lied along the way (there are several possibilities wrt China’s early role) (also the phenomenon of early-narrative lying is swamped by late-narrative lying, in which Corona Fanatics are denying science daily). The point I want to make is the phenomenon of the breakthrough of a new religious movement does not necessarily need crafters, does not need a core group pulling wool over people’s eyes. Leaders on the pro-Panic side might be those who run to the front of the pack rather than those controlling events from behind a curtain.
A cult breakthrough will take on its own logic and energy.
According to Ernst Wolff, the malicious actors or some of them (maybe simply opportunists) are hedge fund directors, who will make pots of money as economies collapse.
Have noticed that that the govt-mandated clapathons have become more raucous in the last week or two around here with drums and fireworks replacing a round of applause. The fervour of true belief in the face of mounting evidence against credentialism.
” mounting evidence against credentialism.”
Can you unpack this ? I don’t understand what you are referring to.
What is credentialism? What is the mounting evidence against it?
Sure. Sorry I wasn’t clear. By credentialism, I mean the supine acquiescence to the ‘trusted voices’ of govt/business-approved experts. The UK over the last couple of months has felt like some huge Milgram experiment. As for the mounting evidence against this expertise, the post below seems as good a place as any to start (mathematically-modelled predictions vs actual observed cases). Also, if you’re not already familiar with the site lockdownsceptics.org, I strongly recommend jumping on and having a look. Toby Young has done a great job of bringing together dissenting voices in many different fields.
Bringing it all back to the cult analogy in this blog post, it feels like the clappers are making more noise than ever to ward off the evil spirits of dissenting voices and inconvenient truths.
” has felt like some huge Milgram experiment.”
interesting that you mention Milgram. Some days ago as I was thinking about the current situation I remembered a little episode of my youth. This was in the late fifties, my family lived in a very rural, isolated area. We had some young, hip, just-married friends; he was an asst prof at a uni in Philadelphia and she was a dancer. They liked to hang out with us. I was maybe 11. So one day they started talking about something—I couldn’t make out what they were talking about. Every time I thought I understood the topic the next sentence didn’t make sense. This went on for a minute or two. Then one of them said, “What do you think?” or some such. I said, “I don’t understand what you are talking about.” Then they laughed and said, it was a test! They like to play this little game to see which people would pretend to understand nonsense.
We are being fed a lot of “sage” “be safe” nonsense and a lot of people are accepting it unreflectively and become hostile, insulting, and even abusive if one asks them to consider dissenting opinions or actuallly scientific information delivered by established scientists. They won’t even look at the info and instead insult one for sending it.
I have had a look at Lockdown Skeptics. Possibly linked here. Very useful.
I also saw on a thread at Off-Guardian an exchange about how to push back and defend oneself against the coming vaccination enforcement. One fellow was saying we must need an organized defense. Another was saying, Just keep your head down and don’t fly your colors. I agree with a poster here that the smartphone is central to this whole thinghow we have gotten here and where it goes from here. If everyone ditched their smartphones, the totes (totalitarians) would have to come up with another plan. I don’t have one, and I certainly do not plan to get one now!
I believe so.
I would be curious on the correlation between the year in which a person first got a smartphone and what category they fell into during Corona (pro-Panic, Neutral, anti-Panic). My hypothesis would be: The later a person first got a smartphone, the more likely he/she is to have emerged on the anti-Panic side. Especially controlled for age.
So there is a direct effect of the phone (serving the role of Orwell’s always-on television screens in 1984) but also something like a personality-based effect. In the early 2010s and into mid-2010s, smartphones were not yet ubiquitous; some had them, some didn’t. When Swine Flu news broke in I think April 2009, smartphones did not yet exist in the way we think of them now, even if predecessors kind of existed (“blackberries”). By the late 2010s, smartphones were effectively ubiquitous.
In the terms of this post/thesis on Corona as Cult: A successful cult breakthrough will (always) tap into the technology of the day.
There are other important roles to the smartphone here. The mass-tracking that the pro-Panic side loves so much and the Neutrals seem undisturbed by would have been the subject of a major, major scandal in the 2010s (as in the Snowden case).
Thanks for the comments. These comments are good food-for-thought and idea generation.
The great irony with phones is that they seem likely to be highly effective at delivering virus from hand to face.
RE: Andrew Avery,
On ritualization of clapping within the Corona Cult.
As I wrote in the main post, Corona Clapping might give us insight is into cults in human history and their rituals.
Nobody who heeded the call of Corona Clapping by wandering into it thinking, “Ah, yes, I’m going to join a new religion now.” The insight is that this probably NEVER happens. No one ever “signs up” to join a new religion. They react instead to circumstances and to perceived needs of the time, which seem obvious, and with communal cults especially also when a groupthink dynamic kicks in. People probably never think of something that starts up like this as a “ritual” at all.
I wonder if it is possible that Corona Clapping proves long-lasting? In the US in the 2000s and 2010s, it became PC to make public displays “for the troops.” I can imagine sports events in the coming time also having “rounds of applause for doctors, nurses, and Corona front-line workers,” in some form. A digging-in of the ritual and its top-down, formal endorsement by the regime. Maybe this won’t happen, maybe it will mutate into some other form. It’s hard to guess. In early March, I never would have guessed a cult would form and break through at all, but here we are.
“They react instead to circumstances and to perceived needs of the time, ”
Perhaps one can compare mask wearing the “Heil Hitler” greeting. Which was mandatory. And many people didn’t want to do it. but you could get into trouble if you didn’t do it. I notice, out on my bike today, that when i get off my bike to take photos of gardens (on a not very crowded city street), people who pass quickly put the mask in front of their face. I don’t have a mask, just a scarf. If I actually chat with someone I’ll halfheartedly put the mask on. But it is not clear to me how much people actually care about htis. In many cases it is a gesture. And that’s what made me think it might be somewhat comparable to the Hitler greeting. The mask as greeting, as you pass by . . .
At the same time it does seem as though more people are making a point of *smiling* in greeting as they pass with their masks on. Could this be an unconscious response to the awareness that since half of one’s face is masked, it is that much more important to indicate a friendly demeanor?
Lots to ponder concerning these odd new behaviors and their perception and reception by those obliged to one extent or another to observe them (in both senses of “observe”). .
New Sweden ICU-intake and Deaths graphs/table. Incorporating the Friday May 22 update, from the Swedish Health Ministry.
(Or, in the terms of this post: Blasphemy-Data Ahead.)
Both Deaths and ICU-intakes are now at, or in sight of, one-third their peak levels in April.
With the end in sight for Stay-Open Sweden, still no apocalypse in sight. Nor do they appear to have had any Panic-induced deaths like the UK and others. Nor the enormous self-inflicted political, social, and economic disruptions that will hurt people for years to come.
See here for further discussion of the newest Swedish data. The outlines of this were clear in observed data by mid-April and reached the level of “indisputable” by late April (when Part VII here was published). The mildness of the epidemic in Sweden probably surprises even many on the anti-Panic side.
Meanwhile, the disconnect between narrative and reality: On Twitter “#SwedenInDenial” is still a suggested hashtag…
I’ve been busy with other work for a couple of days, so I haven’t had time to comment here, Mr. Hail. I just have one big datapoint, my wife, and she is Christian. There is no church here for now, and I haven’t heard of when they will be meeting again Even so, she can find lots of youtube videos, that Saddleback guy, etc, and many of them have been and will use this Panic-Fest to show explain parts of the Bible. It helps them if this thing stays big, though I think some of them just want to calm down their on-line parishioners.
There is no calm explanation of mine that will help, but I don’t see her as being part of a cult. I see her as having a real lack of perspective, which I have.
Indeed, though, the cult terminology does match the actions of many of these pro-panickers, as you describe. It’s a shame they don’t make Kool-Aid in tank-car sized quantities. OK, OK, I should at least say a milder form of Kool-Aid than what was used down there in Guyana, perhaps something that puts you out for a few weeks, and you wake up refreshed and with your smart-crap out of power.
Because you are talking about cults, I ask you to forgive me for 4 links of Peak Stupidity posts in 40-year reminiscence of those crazy Kool-Aid drinking Commies of the Reverend Jim Jone’s People’s Temple down in the sweat and mosquitoes of South America – see “Drinking the Commie Kool-Aid 40 years back”: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
The People’s Temple has many of the elements you describe herein. Their religion, though, was Communism, which didn’t work in real life, hence the Kool-Aid* option.
* It was actually Flavor-Aid, not Kool-Aid, as you can’t always get the good stuff on a Communist budget. The meme has been set long ago though …
I think a possible insight here is that cults in the anthropological sense do not announce their name. (This refers to primarily to cults in Jonestown or Koresh/Waco sense. All religions are cults in the anthropological sense; a single ‘religion’ can have any number of subcurrents within it, which might be called cults. This is a neutral term in anthropology. Admittedly, this post did come back to cults in the David Koresh sense, but only because the source text I was using came back to it).
The question I ask is, and I don’t claim to have an exact answer: “How do any new cults ‘break through’?” Ever, anywhere? Including those cults we can only guess at with the thinnest of data or no data at all from distant pre-history. What mechanism was operating?
The hypothesis that began to form in my mind from Corona, and thinking about it as “religion,” is that new cults are born with a trigger event. The trigger event probably does not appear to be “religious.” No one seeks out a place that says “People looking to join a cult, form a line here.” They happen when people see some Truth before them.
Well, this (your cousin’s decision) seems odd because there is a lot that one cannot do with a smart phone that one can do with a computer. For instance, filling in many forms, making applications online, filing taxes, etc. AFAIK most smartphones do not have any word-processing function, so that also limits what one can do. I get this info about restricted activities from a recent book I on smartphones.
So it is hard for me to imagine someone ditching a laptop (who already was used to using a laptop) in favor of having just a smart phone. Keeping one’s laptop is not expensive. Except for the WiFi connection. I suppose most people who have smart phones use hot spots, etc,, not their own WiFi connection at home. In which case I would think that their info is not secure.
(Note: Jane’s comment is appears mainly to be a reply to another comment I made; the reply button somehow got jumbled up which sometimes happens.)
I remember the process in the 2010s when this began happening, seeing people switch from computer/laptop to primary-smartphone or in many cases smartphone-only. There were people who still had laptops/desktops but stopped using them.
The ironic thing about smartphones is that while they are handheld-use-anywhere, which on paper (so to speak!) looks more convenient, in practice the total user experience ends up being more limited (as you say), while at once sapping ever more time away.
This dual process magnified the emerging Big Tech monopolies who controlled entry-points; say, the Youtube app or the Twitter app are easy ways people get info fed to them, often by enthusiastic amateurs (“social media personalities”).
And then there are the “live, instant-updates” aspect. It’s really no wonder so many felt they were characters in a come-to-life disaster movie and were swept up in it.
If I were trying to do any of this by smartphone, I wouldn’t have written much of what I have against Corona nor any of these comments, because for technical reasons it would too hard or slow-going or impossible in some cases.
Does “all publicity is good publicity” apply in this case for Kool-Aid? I cannot imagine it does.
The phrase Drinking the Kool-Aid as I have seen it used has totally broken free from any religious-cult connotation. It just kind of means groupthink or blindly following a leader, generally seen in political usages. I bet a lot of people who casually use the word may not even be aware of its origin.
To test this little Kool Aid hypothesis, I google-news’ed the term and the top result was an op-ed: “Republicans didn’t drink the bleach, but they’re still drinking the kool aid.”
Yes, Mr. Hail, I imagine the expression has been good for that brand in keeping the name “Kool-Aid” in people’s minds at all. After all, if you want a drink with tons of sugar in it, you’ve got LOTS of choices these days.
As to the expression itself, seeing that the Jonestown Massacre (and it was a massacre just as much as a mass suicide) was 41 1/2 years back, I doubt anyone under 50 would even know about it, unless he is a student of American history or cults.
“Drink the bleach?” Well, that’s nice. That sentence doesn’t even make sense. The writer must think we are talking about plain old Kool-Aid (or Flavor-Aid) without the cyanide. Bleach or laced Flavor-Aid, you’re dead either way, but I guess you want the delicious cherry taste on your way out (my favorite, anyway). As long as it’s got none o’ that Corona, who cares, right?
Another thing about your essay, Mr. Hail. I would agree with you that David Koresh’s Branch Dravidians down in Waco, Texas in the early 1990s (till they were murdered by the US Government) were a cult. I know it’s not your point here, but I do want to add that their cult did not have to end that way.
David Koresh could have been arrested for whatever alleged crimes in downtown Waco anytime. There was no need for the murder of 70-odd men, women, and children via bullets, gas and tanks. One thing they did not do is try to coerce average Americans into their cause, as government officials (all levels of government) have been doing with their cult.
Could we reinstate Janet Reno to deal with Fauci and his CoronaCult?
One general lesson of Waco is probably that it pays to try to understand cults, to understand what one is dealing with.
I have read that during the siege, religious scholars reached out to the FBI to help them understand what Koresh and his cadre believed, but were ignored and it was treated as a typical hostage negotiation.
Thanks for this excellent article.
Yes, it often appears that the spell isn’t easily broken by any kind of presentation of facts and stats. But it is vital to do so. Corona-sceptic information works on different people differently. There are fanatics. And there are conformists…seekers of social acceptability first and foremost. If we sway the latter group of people away from fanaticism, then we can deter control freaks who seek power and seek exploit a climate of fear.
Curiously, I’ve had most success (it seems) by messaging my friends links to a Bill Maher video – New Rule: Immunity Booster. That one in particular seemed to work so well, I was a bit stunned by a noticeable change in attitude of some people. Maher usually inserts in an anti-Trump dig, which reassures people that he is sound. I don’t trust him.
If you mention the threat to the lives of children (purely as a consequence of the global lockdown trend) in less wealthy countries, this seems to do something (at least to put a dampener on covid euphoria/hysteria).… “COVID-19 could kill 6,000 children every day: UNICEF” while proceeding to contrast the suffering children with our western fat cat luxury lockdown conditions in which we live (NOT mentioning that regular or poor western people also suffer, or indicating that you are explicitly concerned about the global economy) is the kind of tactic that, may, help sway the ‘social acceptability concerned’ mindset away from fanaticism.
Something in people is enamored with panic and the prospect of change, perhaps wants vengeance and downfall. The theme of human sin and a kind of reckoning (the coming of covid) lurks. It smells of something potentially homicidal to me, but I might be going too far in the other direction.
My experience suggests the same. I still struggle to understand what mechanisms are at work pushing people in one direction or another.
Re: Bill Maher video, is this the one you mean?
The George Carlin anti-CoronaPanic monologue (made as much as fifteen years before Corona), may or may be good Panic antidote. It does, at least, deserve a place in the history of the Corona-Panic:
Yes, that’s the Mahar clip. And Carlin is great – great clip, thanks.
That might be the best way. Have the facts and be incredibly well informed – ready. But find a lightness of touch as well. Like, throw in the Feynman quote: “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.” Or something else…on our shared human foibles. Make it pop in order to reach people.
Or just be true to yourself, by setting about scything people and this whole covid hysteria to ribbons, while taking the heat that comes with it.
I have found this article linked under the recent Anatoly Karlin article at UR, and first of all a huge Thank you for the work you have put into this. I will have to go through the whole set of articles on the corona cult now, which will take time.
One point I would like to make and maybe suggest as an angle (possibly, you have mentioned it somewhere):
Corona has had some odd predecessors in the recent past and they are connected. There has been the Greta-cult, which admittedly gained a lot more traction in parts of Europe then in the US, and there has been the short lived extremist version of Extinction Rebellion. These were doomsday cults that already developped certain features that are now part of the corona cult, and these two cults (or rather it was one, that had an extremist off-shot, once it had run out of steam) obviously had been planted, as is corona.
To this I would like to add the very worrying recognition that these cults have features that point towards Satanism: Extinction Rebellion employed certain symbols that were satanic (like the X with a bull’s head on top that was used by a small subgroup called Vegan Rebellion that I remember, but you will find others).
The very choice of Greta – a mentally challenged child-woman – as a figure head to be worshipped by heads of governments was to any sane person just grotesque, but in an apocalyptic mindset makes sense.
My own knowledge of the scriptures is to poor to elaborate on these matters, but a huge factor in explaining the success of the corona cult certainly is the fact that the ground has been prepared and that the biblical revelations are beeing used as a framework.
In a comprehensive study, a full history of Corona, there ought to be a major section(s) on the social, cultural, and political factors that allowed for fertile soil for this Corona Cult breakthrough in the period late January to mid-March 2020. There should then be another section on attempts to identify actual predecessor cults which also meet the indicators of a cult in the academic sense.
I wouldn’t say that the coalition around Corona has any exact predecessor in a lineal sense (all those that propose lineal, ‘monocausal’ descent from some other political current, they all come up short to me), but of course it’s true that no cult really emerges “ex nihilo.”
The opposite, identifying “non-predecessors,” is easier to do. What I mean is, similar events of recent memory that totally failed to trigger a cult breakthrough event. Swine Flu 2009, declared a pandemic but quickly forgotten. I wrote a comment on this at the blog Peak Stupidity yesterday that may be of interest: Search there for text-string “The other thing that deserves a place in a history of the Corona Panic is the Swine Flu scare of 2009. […]”
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Your work is most appreciated. What seems to be missed here is that in order to join a cult what do you do, or what do they do to you?
An INITIATION RITUAL.
Quoting from this site https://prevos.net/humanities/sociology/ritual/
“A rite of passage is according to Moore and Habel a Ritual action through which the initiate is ‘separated ́ from one ‘world’ and taken into another.”
“Besides initiation rituals to demarcate stages of life, there are also initiation rituals for special occasions, such as a CORONA-TION (emphasis mine), etc”
“After the rite of separation, the initiate is in what van Gennep calls the liminal world, a social and religious nowhere land.” That’s where we are now.
Separation – Transition – Reincorporation are the 3 stages. I suggest you read the paper because the parallels are numerous. Also don’t forget to wash your hands! That is certainly part of a purifying ritual.
As to Boris Johnson getting sick and healed, that scenario played out at the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony. I cannot find the part with the huge Boris head at the moment, but here is a short clip of part of the cult ceremony.
Gifts are often given for a corona-tion. Remember those gov’t checks?
NotinKansas, Thanks for the idea/reference on rites of passage. I will read it.
This phrasing also reminds me of the “Axis Mundi” idea argued for by scholar of religion Mercea Eliade in the mid-20th century, points at which the sacred and the profane worlds meet. In terminology I have found useful in this post and elsewhere in the comments, I refer to something similar as a religious trigger event.
Another thing relevant here: ‘Cults’ can be individualistic, shamanic, communal, or ecclesiastical. (These are conceptual categories; in practice a given cult in the anthropological sense can draw to some degree from one, two, three, or all, with often one dominant.) Corona looks to me like a communal cult. All might have rites of passage to some degree. Probably individualistic cults might lean most heavily on rites of passage per se, but I’d have to read more on the subject.
Post updated with full entry (for reference) on “Cults” in the Encyclopedia of Anthropology (2006), referenced extensively in the post.
(See “What is a Cult” section.)
Mr. Hail, I do get slightly off topic sometimes, but this comment is just to show you something that just makes me feel totally justified in writing my rant yesterday about the waylaying of Steve Sailer.(Here.)
I have laid off reading Mr. Sailer just for a short while, partly just to stay off commenting for a bit and relax about it. However, I went to unz for a financial article and see that Mr. Sailer (who has been mostly coming around to his normal subject matter, thankfully) has this one — How Many Quality-Adjusted Life Years Is Coronavirus Costing Us? . I think that deserves from you, along with links to your months-ago calculations on this, if nothing else, a one 3-word comment – “No S__t, Sherlock!”.
I mean, does he just skim our comments like Ron Unz does? I thought Steve picked out things to reply to. Could he not have at least considered your, and other commenters’, words along these very same lines, or does it have to come from the government?
BTW, to set the record straight, and as commenter Jim wrote on my site, to me, liberties per the US Constitution outweigh ALL of these calculations. Were commandeered Fed-Ex vans stopping at every house in America daily, calling “Bring out yer dead!”, then maybe I’d consider dropping “muh Constitution. That’s it.
I left a few replies with reference to previous writing. The longest reply is here.
Another reply is to someone asking, Why did Trump ignore epidemiologist in March?.
These are all late-thread replies and unlikely to get read, but hopefully still worth it in some way.
Super-slim summary of my long comment there, in response to Steve’s writing, “In reality, we need more calculation, not less”:
Corona Flu costs such a tiny amount of society’s aggregate life years that it is equivalent, when applied the loss in an individual’s life, to as little as 1.5 days, 36 hours; if you’ve lost at least two days to ‘Corona,’ you’re a net loser of the Corona-Response. Of course, there are lots of people who are going to lose hundreds of days (I suspect the median is a loss in the hundreds of days’ life-progress equivalent); some will lose thousands; a few will lose even tens of thousands of life-days, and others will never be born at all, losing it all.
The effect of the latter, the CoronaResponse-induced losses, easily swamps Coronavirus-caused losses, and by a surprising degree, at least in the range of “hundreds thousands of times worse,” possibly even thousands when all is said and done amnd what parameters one uses.
I’ve been leaving occasional such replies there for almost two months to little effect. As have so many others.
Incidentally, I’ve seen you say, for at least the past month, “He is coming around.” I tended to see it as “one step forward, two steps backward” most of the time. I too have stopped visiting as much as before as a result.
I guess by coming around, Mr. Hail, I meant that he was backing off on all his dire predictions. However, he does not seem to be coming around on the whole “now this government official said this important thing” and “my analysis has come up with WE need to do more of this and less of this”, etc. I never said he wasn’t something of a Statist. He just didn’t ever fall hook, line, and sinker for the Lyin’ Press Infotainment before. Like I said, it’s his bread & butter NOT TO.
Could Clapping be more than just part of a cult ritual?
I believe there is more to the psychology of what the clapping means than just a ritual. If we take 9/11 as a hypothetical example and we assume there was some kind of conspiracy/coverup then the first responders as hero “meme” back then could have been weaponized against them. Note: I am not saying these people aren’t heroes at all, I’m sure many are and were. I’m thinking in broad terms on how to keep a secret. The first responders were on the scene and would have had first hand knowledge of anomalies and could have blown the whistle. But the public and media called them heroes. If you were one of these heroes and wanted to blow the whistle on something you saw, you would then be taking away your own hero status plus likely making it lowered to villain in many peoples eyes. As well you would be in danger of taking away all your comrades hero statuses as well if what you did upset the apple cart. Plus the pension they hang over all gov’t workers heads. So faced with that choice and that pressure I believe that most would do nothing and let the big lie continue…as we saw…. hypothetically speaking of course.
So if we apply that psychology to today’s ritual and worship of the covid clergy class, you can clearly see why not many doctors and nurses that know first hand that things aren’t as they appear would want to blow the whistle. Besides they already have a much stricter code of silence on medical issues due to malpractice. The media is showcasing all their silly dance videos. They are getting all this recognition as heroes. They are the special privileged knowledgeable ones who get to enter the secret church hospital. Churchpital? Hospurch? Who wouldn’t want that gravy train to keep going. The psychology of putting someone on a pedestal as a hero seems to be a two edged sword to me. The clapping is just a reinforcement in a ritual form of this psychological spell.
On Corona-as-Religion and Corona Rituals. Case studies and examples in the wild are all over.
Take a look at this from Starbucks I spotted:
Here is a text transcription:
Guides are provided to help our customers maintain at least 6 feet of social distance outside and inside our stores
Baristas are required to wear facial coverings during their shifts. We respectfully ask our customers to wear facial coverings inside our stores.
*Some jurisdictions may require the use of facial coverings in public areas.
At the start of each shift, baristas must complete a check-in process, which includes taking their temperature.
Baristas are required to frequently wash their hands during their shifts.
ENHANCED CLEANING MEASURES
Our stores are observing elevated cleaning and sanitizing protocols that meet or exceed public health guidelines.
Copyright STARBUCKS Corporation. Display starting 5/18/2020.
[End transcription of the image]
My comments: Some of these instructions resemble those given at the entrance to holy places. Exactly what instructions are given by holy places will differ by religion/culture/time, but you will generally see (especially at which one can expect large numbers of visitors) signs like this:
“No hats in the church.” “No shoes in the Buddhist temple.” “Women are required to cover their heads in the mosque.” “Baristas and customers are required to cover their faces in the coffeeshop.”
Other of these Starbucks commands resemble religious-like rituals of the kind I tried to touch on in the original post here, and/or “ritualization” of what one does anyway:
“Baristas are required to frequently wash their hands.” Okay (I hope they did anyway if preparing food), but making a point of it and adding “frequently” (really? How frequently?) seems like a ritualization. “Don’t just ‘pray,’ pray five times a day at these appointed times and bow towards such-and-such direction.”
I wrote you back on Peak Stupidity, Mr. Hail, just about my impressions from going there yesterday, coincidentally. The washing of hands thing was a real waste of lots of people’s time. Yes, that seems very much like a religious ritual. Good comment.
Note: This refers to a post at Peak Stupidity,”Working from
homeStarbucks – isn’t it ironic?”
It was that post that got me to pay attention to the role of Starbucks specifically within Corona, inspiring me to snap that picture as I passed by, with the intent of posting it.
(Coincidentally, that Starbucks Corona post bears the timestamp at Peak Stupidity of May 18, the same day Starbucks says it released its Corona Guidelines.) (This post, “Is Corona a Religious Cult? An Anthropological Study,” was mainly written May 17, the same day Helen Buinski also published an essay about the Corona Cult which I became aware of later.)
I wrote back in here to let you know I read your (only yours, Hypnotoad, and Jack D., since the other 2 wrote to you or vice versa) comments on that iSteve thread, in addition to a bunch more of yours going back a week or so. That was nice work trying to get through to these people.
At this point, other than on my site and yours to some degree, I’ve quit trying to convince anyone on-line, folded my arms, and am just waiting until fall to say “I told you (f__in morons) so!” Check out Dr. Ron Paul’s latest post on unz. He is truly a force for good in this world (it’s about homeschooling).
About Starbucks: I was too busy making sure I could pay cash and get extra whipped cream to actually look at the door. As I wrote on PS: Social distancing went out the window, as, since there was no seating outside, we sat on the window ledge, meaning we were 1 -2 ft, from the pathway defined by some stupid arrows. I guess we’re all doomed! Doomed, I tells ya’!!
Social Distancing circles, “Customers must stand here to practice safe social distancing,” are also often seen outside. In any weather, and especially higher humidity spring weather, viruses do not really transmit outside in open air like that:
The whole thing went far overboard, and is just head-against-wall-level frustrating — if not understood as religious ritual.
Yeah, we were outside, in the fresh air.
It’s too late now, Mr. Hail, but how bout a little Rush music to go with any further posts on Covid-19 as a religious cult. “We are the priests of the temple…”
There are plenty of Corona-relevant signs out there that would be of use here. From government, from businesses, from private people many of them arguably corroborative of the Corona Cult thesis. But even I was surprised at how well the Starbucks public guidelines align with the Corona Cult thesis.
See another case below, a food-ordering app with a too-good-to-be-true (in this context) name.
Further on Corona-as-Religion/Cult and “Corona Rituals” (following on from the Starbucks comment above):
Specifically, on the role of smartphones and of the Internet; of the role of apps within the cult, as related to the cult’s rituals: All the above were central points in the main post here, in which I proposed that smartphones are “attention-focusing devices” to akin to those used by cults in anthropological literature.
A lot of commenters here, as elsewhere, emphasize the role of smartphones/Internet. A commenter above suggests “contactless-ordering” as a food ritual.
Yesterday I saw a new food-ordering app being promoted, coincidentally enough named (believe it or not), RITUAL. It’s almost too good to be true.
I saw this poster for RITUAL in front (sidewalk/street-facing) windows of several eateries or maybe also coffee-shops. They were either visibly closed (as in, padlocked and out for the count for a while) or in semi-shutdown mode (which, to enter one, feels like a kid approaching a haunted house).
The poster simply says: “Finally, an app that pays you to eat.”
An app paying you to eat seems like magic. And, why not? It’s right there in the poster, endorsed by authority figures (being displayed prominently in store windows). It must be true even if it doesn’t make sense. Accept the mystery!
The poster has a woman looking at a phone in front of a counter, as at a cafe. It also says: “Point camera here.”
I wasn’t aware of it RITUAL before. If I had seen/heard of it, I took no note. This time, it got my attention.
It seems to have come onto the scene in the late 2010s. One appearance is is from Nov. 2018: “I tried Ritual, San Francisco’s new favorite app for skipping lines” (“I stopped making lunch for a week and switched to Ritual, the order-ahead app sweeping San Francisco that lets you skip the line. Here’s what I found.” Is this a paid article? I don’t know.) Another article has it entering the Seattle market in Feb. 2019.
But there it is, folks. RITUAL. A food app.
Well this is very interesting (in addition to being weird) because one of the most common words used in eulogizing about the joy of cooking—for friends, for family, for special occasions, to try out a new wine, all of the foodie excess and navel gazing—is that cooking is an important ritual. Preparing food is especially important in connection with holy-days. E.g,. making hamantaschen with Grandma for Purim (I think it is–celebrating the ritual killing of 70,000 Persians, I believe) from her recipe smuggled out from the shtetl), baking the Christmas stollen with the goyische grandma, mixing up the special barbecue sauce with Granddad before the Nascar party, or the ritual of preparing a special meal for discerning guests, a la Julia Child and her pals in the French countryside before Julie took America by storm. And ritualzed food preparation became a singifier of STATUS. All presented as meaningful rituals, without however (overt) religious sense. The metaphor extended way past religion. The prep has to be done a special way, at a special time, with special people, maybe even special utensils.
[[Digression: Cultural-materialist anthropologists such a Marvin Harris have pointed out that the adaptive evolutionary function of human culture and cultural activities and myths is often or always veiled to practitioners by a different complicated story that the members of the culture believe and accept. Could it be that the current hysteria is indeed a cover store “veiling” a need to “reset” the human species and stop procreation because we have reached the ecological limits of the planet? If so, it would be pretty weird that Bill Gates is the idiot savant who is undermining the cover story by actually stating the “hidden” message out loud.]]
The point I am getting at here is that it is a stroke of genius to use this new high-status foodie word as a proxy for any actual cooking. Subliminally I speculate the message is You are still doing the foodie ritual, still part of the high=status activity. So, no guilt at ordering out. It is still a food ritual.
Actually, “creating your own rituals” has long been a part of both pop psychology/self-help and family creation and domesticity. I think the responsibility of family ritual creation is mostly the mom’s, helped along by ideas in women’s and other magazine and of course adverts. Actually, it is easy to scoff at the ritiualization of the word “ritual,” but isn’t reading the bedtime story a time-honored ritual, one that means a lot the child. Ritual definitely has a calming function. Similar to *routine.*
Excellent comments/ideas, Jane, Thanks.
You’re right about food rituals. Your comments largely express what I was thinking. Digital replacement of analog conventions/traditions.
The larger point is of course that there is a digital sphere/reality and analog sphere/reality, and that Corona empowers the digital while attacking the analog (“in-person”) all up and down the line.
As to religion, I think it’s fair to say that believers have a strong need for a holy place, a gathering place in “analog” space. It is no coincidence that the word ‘sanctuary’ to describe the inner part of the church wherein services are held evolved into the now-dominant (?) sense of “safe place” applied in a variety of contexts. People want and need these places (churches or equivalents). Jesus may have said “Wherever two or more gather in my name, there is the church,” but in practice people need congregations.
Following the victory of the pro-Panic side in March, churches have shifted to online services, which is certainly a poor substitute (in the religious terms of this post, the digitized Corona Cult forced the analog Christian churches to operate on its terms).
What does this do? If streaming is the norm, it raises the question of why even have neighborhood churches (or live services! Just watch the upload any time on the run)? Why not save money/space/effort and have one streaming service for an entire city/region/state/country for each denomination, which people watch at home (after all, viruses are out there! Viruses!). The technology is there, and has been for some time, never more than it is now. But people don’t want it, or haven’t until now.
Corona-as-religion is therefore a breakthrough for the digital over the analog. Can humans adjust to a sacred space transmitted through a tiny screen in their hand (or slightly larger screen on a desktop/laptop?).
More and more people are making this point:
How COVID-19 Became Britain’s Newest Religion by Neil Clark, May 29, Sputnik News
Very interesting details in this post about the fraud practiced in several of the HCQ trials. In my mind, I’m 100% certain that tests were rigged and people even deliberately killed, just to cast shade on the Trump Cure.
Leaked German report agrees that Corona overblown.
And of course we all knew it by late March.
Why the iron commitment to the hoax, week after week? It even sucked in many otherwise intelligent people. I still cannot conclude but that it was a religious cult. A religious-revolution.
The pro-Panic coalition’s victory is our defeat. It also obviously caused the riots going on in late May to early June.
Everything the anti-Panic side asked about, then warned about, then proved with emerging evidence/data, is going to eventually be admitted was correct, as we see in that report. But those are just facts; narrative is more important if a religion is at stake.
Pingback: Against the Corona Panic, Part XIII: The “Corona-Riots.” The angry looting, rioting, arson, were caused by the Corona-Response and by the pro-Panic side’s complete victory and lack of serious/successful pushback by the anti-Panic side; i
Between about May 29 and the present, the Corona Cult was suddenly challenged by a rival cult. The second cult’s breakthrough, which draws on a longer tradition, could obviously not have broken through without Corona and its Lockdowns that disrupted life so terribly. The so-called protests began exactly when the lockdowns started to lift.
See: The “Corona-Riots.” The angry looting, rioting, arson, were caused by the Corona-Response and by the pro-Panic side’s complete victory and lack of serious/successful pushback by the anti-Panic side; is the US no longer a serious country? (June 2).
A neutral observer would have said these so-called protests, rioting, looting, arson, and lack of any serious reaction by authorities (except “taking a knee”) constitute a psychotic break with reality. Others have pointed out to the unmistakable religious characteristics of the protests. Corona was harder to see, but this one is obvious.
On June 10, a report came out in which forces of the Corona Cult said “dozens of coronavirus testing sites have been destroyed by rioters.” To which my reaction is: “One cult clashes with another.”
I’ve recently picked up a book, A History of Writing by Albertine Gaur (1984, rev. 1992). It’s an ambitious book that seeks to be a history of all forms of “writing.” By writing she really means information-storage; the book is by no means limited to alphabets on parchment/paper.
Its scope is earliest prehistory to present. Actually not to the present, but to the future, which is why I am writing this comment: A final section in the book talks about computers. This section amounts to a brief futurist aside, a look on the pending changes to “writing”/information-storage in the coming few decades. As we are now three decades out from the time of writing, we can evaluate her claims.
The sweep of the History of Writing book overlaps with some of the themes of this study, which is why I am making the effort to transcribe/post it here. A few saw the outlines of what was coming and she was one. (Writing also about the same time, the Unabomber Manifesto [sent to major newspapers in June 1995] also deserves a second look re: technology and social-political conditions. Much of what he said also identifies the outlines of the mechanism by which the Corona Cult broke through.)
Likely Dr. Gaur [b.1934; PhD, Univ. of Vienna, Ethnology an Philosophy] didn’t foresee, writing in the 1980s and early 1990s, what would become smartphones and the other always-on devices.
The term ‘Internet’ was also not yet current at time of writing. Al Gore’s “Information Superhighway” phrase/concept was popularized only in 1993. It’s probably fair to say that not many were seriously thinking about the coming changes to information/writing as of 1992.
The final chapter, presumably written in 1992 with the revision of the text, looks ahead to the dramatic changes coming to writing over the coming decades. The author uses religious symbolism of a kind which seems directly relevant to some of the central arguments of this post. I will quote it at length here, with the most relevant parts in bold.
This is too good to pass up on. Phrased in the terms of this post, this passage written thirty years ago (no later than 1992) constitutes a prophecy of the coming of the Corona Cult and associated, digital-age cults, if not specifically that at least the mechanism through which the Corona Cult broke through:
[The below is quoted from Albertine Gaur who was writing probably in 1992]
Whether we are aware of it or not, computers are already an integral part of our lives. In the so-called ‘developed’ countries there will be few homes which do not make use of electronic technology in one way or another — not just in the more obvious fields of television, video-recording or electronic games, but also in household appliances such as washing machines, cookers, watches, electric irons, calculators, sewing machines, central heating, and so forth. Micro-computers are used at work, for recreation and in schools: children are not only taught by computers, they have to learn how to be ‘computer-literate’ to function in today’s, and most certainly tomorrow’s, world. In the words of Murrary Laver, the three Rs are being replaces rapidly by the three Ps: push-button, picture and program.
Basically a computer translates written language into positive and negative electrical impulses and, on demand, retranslates those impulses stored in its data bank back into written language, which is then made visible on paper (but also, increasingly, on a video-screen, on microfilm or microfiche). But electronic information storage does not stop at this point; there are videodiscs which store and communicate sound and picture, and there are machines with the ability to recognize, visually, a whole page of text without the need of a human intermediary to feed this text letter by letter into the data bank. Some computers have the ability to recognize voice patterns and to reply in an artificially-constructed ‘human’ voice. This is an enormous departure, a step forward which in a curious way takes us back some 6,000 years. Information is again stored in memory (this time the electronic memory of a computer) as it was once stored, before the evolution of systematic writing, in the memory of a specially chosen person or priest. There are indeed strangely ritualistic elements in the logistics of computer usage: the need for a password to enter a particular system (which proves that one belongs to the circle of initiates), the formality of address and answer, the limitations of the subject that can be discussed. Any dialogue with a computer is a dialogue based on computer rules, or rather on the rules programmed into the computer by somebody else. The result is increased efficiency in a specific area accompanied by a loss of overall independence. The risk is that of a divided society, divided not only into the ‘information-poor’ and the ‘information-rich’ — with the latter mainly to be found among the technologically affluent nations — but also the creation of a new class system among the information-rich; those who know how to handle, manipulate, select and create information, and those who passively accept information.
In the ancient world the evolution of systematic writing had devalued, and eventually all but eliminated, oral tradition. At first writing had mainly been used for the storage of information related to commerce and administration, but slowly, sometimes reluctantly, it was deemed suitable also for the preservation of religious and secular literature. The parallels between those early days and our present situation seem uncomfortably close. There is the (perhaps still unconscious) decrease in the importance given to literacy and numeracy (an electronic calculator is so much more efficient than human memory) which we can observe all around us — except perhaps in ‘developing’ countries not yet blessed with a high level of new technology. There is the capacity, already used in certain areas, of electronic printing which commits information — literary information — directly into a machine-readable form without the help of scribes, publishes and booksellers, and makes this information directly available on demand, with an electronic memory. A recipe for doom? Something to be regretted and feared? Not necessarily. The ancient survived the transition to writing: even the Indian Brahmins did eventually commit their sacred tests to palm-leaf, and later onto paper, without the cataclysmic destruction of the universe they had been taught to expect and fear. There must have been stress, just as there is stress now — all periods of transition are stressful — yet without it the pictures on the walls of Altamira would never have been painted, and Plato, Maimonides, St. Augustine, Dante, Shakespeare and Kant would never have been a possibility. Just as thousands of years ago a point was reached when the sum total of available knowledge had become too large to be stored in human memory, so the sum total of information necessary to sustain contemporary society is becoming too vast and is growing too quickly to be stored efficiently in a traditional form of writing. All writing may be information storage, as we have said at the beginning of this study, but it has now become increasingly obvious that information can once again be stored, quite effectively, without writing.
These last lines end the book and so naturally she wanted to go out on an optimistic note. All the same, I’d say the kernel of technology’s role in what became the Corona-Panic/Cult are also visible in this overview of what the rise of computing/Internet looked like as of 1992.
Excellent info to consider here, dealing with loss of control of your own reality to a digital, pseudo-reality via social media.
“Over-socialization: Is Social Media Killing Your Individuality?” by Miftah Amir, May 2019.
In light of the Corona, and the proposed mechanisms by which the Panic-Pandemic/Cult spread, and all that has predictably followed and is yet to follow from the breakthrough of this apocalypse cult, it’s worth a close reading of this essay.
Pingback: Against the Corona Panic, Part XIV: Total Mortality data in Europe now confirms the Wuhan-Coronavirus was comparable in magnitude to flu waves of the 2010s; the Panic and lockdowns are fully discredited | Hail To You
Pingback: Against the Corona-Panic, Part XV: The coronavirus death curves in Stay-Open Sweden and the Stay-Locked-Down USA are remarkably similar over four months, discrediting lockdown-pushers | Hail To You
“The Covidian Cult,” by C.J. Hopkins [Oct. 13, 2020].
Pingback: Against the Corona-Panic, Part XVIII: Lessons from no-lockdown Belarus on the Wuhan-Corona Flu Wave; the total mortality impact is in line with previous peak flu waves and dwarfed by effects of Soviet breakup | Hail to You
Some thoughts six months after this “Corona as Religion” essay was published:
From the perspective of late-year 2020, it appears more and more like the “new virus!” of Wuhan-Corona was a catalyst — perhaps one could say a pretext — for a new religion which was “waiting to be born” anyway.
The outlines of any new religion or religious movement tend to be hazy at first. Important social, economic, political, cultural, demographic, and other forces are the clay. The polished, final-product religion complete with coherent belief-set and all the rest, is the pottery. No clay, no pottery.
So what was the “clay” for the Virus Cult of 2020 in the West and its semi-satellites?
Exactly what the sources were for the West’s Virus-Cult of 2020 remain to be identified. I have seen many good ideas. Not all deserve equal weight. Identifying underlying social-political-etc. causes, which are NOT virus-related, is a project well worth the effort.
The Corona-as-Cult topic came up in comment threads at the latest post; see that discussion here:
Pingback: Is Covid Cult A Virus Cult Or A Scamdemic? – Holy Crusade News
Pingback: Why the lack of high-profile ‘Cheerleaders’ for the Anti-Panic side? Corona-as-social-phenomenon Mystery | Hail to You
The excellent recent essay by Edward Hadas, which he titles “The War Against Covid-19” and subtitled “Why did lockdowns happen? I have six explanations for this pseudo-holy, power-hungry mess” is worth the time to read (3300 words) in full.
It reaches similar conclusions to those which were proposed in this post (“Is ‘Corona’ a Religious Cult? An Anthropological Study”), written in May 2020 and is a better long-view overview of the thesis than this essay, which gets into some specifics, some of which became dated (e.g., the now-long-past “Corona-Clapping” phenomenon.)
Pingback: “All Life-Years Matter” — On the Corona-Panic’s social and economic costs vs. Covid-deaths, in life-years-lost terms | Hail to You
“When COVID Became a Religion”
By John Hayward
Early March 2021
Every crisis becomes a religion if it lasts long enough.
One factor in that transformation is the Beautiful Theory phenomenon: the power elite insists its remedies are logical and politically correct so they MUST work, even if the actual evidence shows they obviously don’t.
When Beautiful Theories crash into hard, cold reality and shatter, faith is the glue used by the elites to put their precious ideas back together. They need MILITANT faith to get the job done: true believers eager to crush doubt and compel obedience by making war on the infidels.
Some are swept into the faith because they desperately crave a sense of control over the crisis. They need to believe Something Can Be Done, and they’d rather invest their faith in debunked Beautiful Theories than have no faith at all. Faith is a coin that demands to be spent.
Some crave social approval, and the purveyors of Beautiful Theories have immense political, economic, and cultural power to make their faith seem fashionable. Virtue signaling is such a plague in modern society because the signals are pre-packaged and made very easy to send.
Some aren’t even hoping they can assert control over a crisis by converting to its religion. They’ll settle for just having some MEANING, some simplicity, a sense that the righteous will fare better than the unbelievers, that virtue will be rewarded while sin is punished.
That’s a very common impulse with the Church of Covid, since the Beautiful Theories were so very obviously wrong. There isn’t much left of the faith except the visceral communal satisfaction of hoping unbelievers will be punished for their blasphemies with sickness and death.
That sort of thing happens with all of the crisis religions, although not usually as quickly and obviously as with the Church of Covid. Look at the endless stream of movies about how the world became an apocalyptic hellscape because people didn’t believe in global warming.
The last resort of every crisis religion, the last thing that puts asses in the pews, is that addiction to misery porn, the collective hope that unbelievers will suffer someday, and everyone will admit the True Faith was right all along as Judgment Day crashes down upon them.
The elite will never have the humility to admit they were wrong, and they’ll never give up on politically or financially profitable “solutions” even when they obviously don’t solve the problem. Founding a crisis religion means they never have to say they’re sorry.
That applies to some very longstanding crises, like the War on Poverty, whose nostrums long ago transformed into fantastically expensive articles of religious faith even as mountains of data accumulated that proved they were utter failures, and often made the problems WORSE.
You can look for some telltale signs of a crisis transforming into a religion. The most obvious one is when the high priests tell you the “war” you’ve been drafted into will never end. They become very angry when asked to define success or failure, or lay out exit strategies.
Watch for the moment when you’re told “science” means not asking questions, defying dogma, or challenging “consensus.” That is the literal definition of faith, not science.
Always keep an eye out for Moving Goalposts, which are the signature miracle of crisis religions, their version of parting the waters or loaves and fishes. Crisis religions work very hard to make their faith unfalsifiable by constantly changing the standards of evidence.
Check to see if certain people are accumulating huge amounts of money and power from a crisis. That’s a pretty good sign it’s turning into a religion. A crisis should be solved as quickly and efficiently as possible. Don’t let it fester long enough to become a special interest.
Above all, look for the whiff of ARROGANCE to develop around a crisis. Wise religions and effective crisis managers have something in common: a sense of humility. Crisis religions are militant faiths that quickly become arrogant, smug, and totalitarian.
Dedicated people who truly want to solve a problem will look for evidence their analysis is wrong, or their policies aren’t working, and make adjustments as quickly as possible, no matter the cost or embarrassment to themselves. This is humility.
Crisis religions are arrogant. They reject criticism, insist their Beautiful Theories MUST be right because they’re ideologically pure – they fit snugly into a worldview that must not be challenged. Their plans only fail because their commands were disobeyed or sabotaged.
The high priests of a crisis religion see devils everywhere, leering at them from the rubble of every failure. Only sin can explain why their Beautiful Theories are tarnished. Failure never THEIR fault, so it must be YOURS. They find your lack of faith disturbing.
And you know what? A LOT of people want to see the world that way, including a great many self-described atheists. They hunger for the comfort of faith and the vibrant energy of militancy. They want to be right, and they want the wrong to suffer for their folly.
Conservatives think religious faith in the State is terrifying and wonder why so many embrace it. It’s because uncertainty is much more frightening. A simple false story is better than a complex true one, and with enough faith, maybe we can force the simple story to be true.
“The CoronaCult will soon begin to hollow out, going into the kind of decline that such apocalypse cults always do.”
Welp, this comment didn’t age well. The corona cult is bigger and more fanatical than ever here in late 2021, and just within the last month or two, some friends/acquaintances I thought were relatively rational have stopped talking to me, or are now openly wishing for me to get sick and/or suffer and die from covid, or are calling me evil for being unvaxxed and potentially spreading it (I caught it in early August).
It’s extremely frustrating to see how manipulated, angry, and fearful they are. As Ben Shapiro observed, at this point the only people still terrified of covid are the vaccinated.
Good point, HockeyGuy.
It turned out there was no near-term exit from the Corona Cult, which is most likely because it ascended to “state cult.” A confluence of interests.
The “new religion” layer to it is still important, but this mid-May 2020 analysis must be interpreted also in light of all that’s happened since.
I still think in time it will become conventional wisdom that it was all a big overreaction (by Those Others People), but I can’t guess at the timeline. Or will history books written ca. 2050, 2075, even 2100 all have an unbending party line that we narrowly averted an apocalyptic virus disaster in 202-21 until saved by heroic Public Health Experts, masks, vaccines, etc.?
Anders Tegnell: Sweden Won The Argument On Covid – Unherd -Interview
The Swedish strategy as the best strategy was clear beyond reasonable doubt already by about the third week of Aril 2020. Or I should say clear to experts and close observers who had an eye towards the data.
The Swedish strategy was probably correct all along, but a good data-based analysis needed to wait to see where the Swedish epidemic-curve would top-off and therefore the outline of the magnitude of the flu wave. Enough data was in by mid-April 2020, and definitely by late-April 2020, to see the major slowdown in the rise of hospitalizations and then deaths that the data began suggesting where the peak of the curve would be and with that data we could know the approximate overall magnitude of the epidemic (or “flu wave”).
The data-based argument was basically over, heavily leaning on the Swedish natural experiment, before May 1, 2020, and the Anti-Panic side basically was shown to be correct. But in the meantime something else had happened: the Corona Cult had emerged and it cared little or nothing for the data. Exactly for this reason, I don’t expect any of the hardened Pro-Panic fanatics to be persuaded by Dr Tegnell.
TUCKER CARLSON ON THE “CORONA CULT” (new post, many references to this original May 2020 essay; consider it a partial follow-up).
Comment: The Flu-Virus Religion (or Covid Religion, or Corona Cult) has taken on some different imagery in 2021 than it had in 2020 but the core of the thesis — that the Pro-Panic side erected a giant literal religion that took over the entire West (and spilled over to much of the upwardly aspirant non-West) — remains strong.
Back during the weeks-long spring 2020 New Religion Breakthrough there was no vaccine (or no product being called a vaccine), and in 2021 “The Vaxx” (as Tucker puts it) emerged as a key to the whole thing.
I think this position is defensible, then and still now, in the literal and not the metaphorical.
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Covid-vaccine-opponent Dr Robert Malone’s recent promotion of “mass formation psychosis” theory to explain the Corona-Panic has led to renewed interest in the Corona-as-Religion Hypothesis. It seems “mass formation psychosis” is another way to say “religion,” “religious breakthrough,” or “religious-like phenomenon.”
(See the record-breaking, three-hour Rogan-Malone interview.) (Clip of one of the times he mentions “mass-formation psychosis”.)
Dr Malone says a psychologist-and-statistician in the Netherlands first proposed the idea. I presume that means a Dutch academic applied the academic-jargonese term “mass formation psychosis” to the Corona social-phenomenon, with the meat of the idea being indistinguishable from the Corona-as-Religion hypothesis.
Over the two years now of Corona-Panic, I’ve noticed how more and more people came to cautiously, then openly, embrace he Corona-Religion Hypothesis. I was among the very first to argue for it in a coherent way here.
“Dr Malone says a psychologist-and-statistician in the Netherlands first proposed the idea. I presume that means a Dutch academic applied the academic-jargonese term “mass formation psychosis” to the Corona social-phenomenon (…)”
Once again, Dr. Malone is not exactly right: Dr. Mattias Desmet, a psychologist from the Netherlands, refers to Gustave LeBon and his book about The Psychology of the Masses – a modern classic. Dr. Mattias Desmet explains that Gustave LeBon wrote about the psychological dynamics of “mass formation” via mass hypnosis.
This are the – correct! – terms Dr. Desmet uses, while explaining LeBon’s thoughts: 1) Mass formation and 2) hypnosis. Dr. Malone talks of mass .p.s.y.c.h.o.s.i.s.. what Dr. DEsmet neither said nor meant.
Joe Roagn is “nice and all” (Holden Caulfield), but he sure is not formally educated to understand these (long-established and undoubtedly useful) differentiations. – I don’t blame him. But anyhow: What Dr. Malone said makes not really sense and – is not right either. But it fulfills the purpose to make people wince in their chairs from fear. Seen from that angle, Dr.Malone is an anti-panicker who induces panic – once again (he has done so before – see the link below). Dr. Malone thus qualifies as a tragicomical hero. A white knight – like Don Quichotte was one.
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I posted these two links and some of the remarks below today in the Newslinks section at the Unz Review:
The Tablet-Mag article concentrates on school closures and masking – but nevertheless: The parallels to what is written here are stunning: COVID = A .T.r.i.b.a.l. Affiliation and: A .c.u.l.t.!
TABLET-Magazine: “Covid Became A Tribal Political Affiliation” in Short: “It Was A Cult” -Science Blogger Hailt-To-You Stated Exactly That Two Years Ago – https://tinyurl.com/mt94wv9r
Thank you, Herr Kief, for this link.
I note that the writer is Alex Gutentag, a woman, looks to be born-1980s, of US-Jewish origin. She has been on the ‘Anti-Panic’ side since at least late 2020.
She published this past month is Tablet magazine, which markets itself as a rightist Jewish publication. If we choose to analyze the Corona-Panic by ethno-political blocs, some clearly embraced the Corona-Cult more than others, but that is an area that deserves its own detailed study.
I have pointed out in comments at various blogs:
(1) I am a fan of Malone’s and am grateful for anyone who can carry water on the anti-panic side. But, IMO Malone was kind of muddying the waters when he went off the virology reservation and started channeling Mathias Desmet; also, I think Malone did this without crediting the Corona-Auschuss, which AFAIK was the venue that gave Desmet the opportunity to express his views on mass formation. People–basically quite ignorant people—seem to get a thrill out of bringing in the Third Reich whenever they can. Comparing our current cultic moment to psychic situation under the Third Reich. I do not think this is valid. I think there are some valid comparisons to be made (there was some “cultic ” stuff going on in the Third Reich), but not via this blunt approach. My own view is that one cannot begin to grasp what occurred under the Third Reich without thoroughly understanding the power and reach of Gleichschaltung. It is my view, written about early on (before C. J. Hopkins wrote about it), that the speed of the introduction of the various corona-related Massnahmen were akin to Gleichschaltung 2.0: Getting a whole society rationalisiert and on the same program quickly and quite completely, horizontally and vertically. Where the heck did all of those signs come from so suddenly?
(2) I pointed out when Desmet’s ideas were starting to circulate that Hail had already provided a thesis, or hypothesis, that accounted for much that we were seeing. A lot of people jumped on Desmet’s ideas but used them any way they wanted. I am not so sure about the idea of mass hypnosis or psychosis (these terms are familiar to many, so they are happy to sling them around—it makes them feel like the smart and sane set!). I see the situation more in terms of 24/7 propaganda (a word that most americans do not like to accept as part of the picture in the USA information—in their own!!—information space; they think is relevant only in Russia and China). Maybe the result of this 24/7 exposure to catchy phrases, confusing statistics, dodgy photos of piles of coffins, and fearful prognoses etc. is hypnosis? Or if one accepts these things as true, in the absence of other info, is this hypnosis? Somehow I don’t think so . . . But as I say, not sure about this.
Jane, it’s always good to hear from you. I do very much agree with what you say about the way people have interpreted or “channeled” Mattias Desmet’s hypothesis on what the whole ‘Corona’/Covid phenomenon was, what “mass formation psychosis” means and how we should understand it.
I see that Dr Desmset these days presents his own Mass Formation Psychosis idea in the way you suggest, at least he seemed to in a recent interview with James Howard Kunstler. That is, he makes the ‘Covid’ social phenomenon more a darkly ominous political one about people brainwashed into embracing “totalitarianism,” more than a darkly ominous religious “cult” phenomenon. There is a subtle difference but there may be more importance to it than we appreciate towards the goal of understanding the Great Corona-Panic.
I have a hard time if these are Desmet’s (and his backers’) real views, or if they are packaged that way for other reasons including social respectability, a way to fit a square peg into the round-hole of an accepted historical reference.
Right. I haven’t seen his original writings in which he outlined the Mass Formation Psychosis idea (maybe I ought to), but I do know this: to listen to him, Dr Desmet is not a ‘political’ person and is an academic. Such non-political people can be manipulated in one way or another by political frenzies that occur around them. This is exactly what happened with The Experts in 2020. Those not falling into the “Corona Cult” outright knew well that the whole Covid narrative was wrong but stayed quiet. They acquiesced to power and to a social frenzy, maybe without realizing it. Only a few came out with guns rhetorically blazing fighting the Covid-Panic-zealots, and they were easily dealt with (I like to point to Knut Wittkowski, who was crushed by Big Tech despite being one of the most qualified epidemiologists alive).
In late January 2022, I was one of around 100,000 at an Anti-Mandates rally in Washington DC (writeup here). The Corona-Panic was still basically going strong in January 2022, but not long thereafter retreated pretty rapidly especially once the Canadian “Freedom Convoy” movement began to bite and embarrass if not humiliate the hardline Pro-Panic regime in that country.
At the late January 2022 rally, I remember lots of telltale signs of this Mass Formation Psychosis theory’s influence in serious Anti-Panicker circles by that time. Still standing out in my memory were two East Asian males who held up a banner reading “Covid Cultists want to put you in concentration camps.” The WWII/Nazi allusion was clear. That does seem to be how people interpret Mass Formation Psychosis, which I agree is not the best way to understand the Panic.
This is a myopic whitewash of reality.
Human civilization is a cult, so “civilized” societies are all cults, and Corona is just a conspicuous manifestation of this global psychopathic cult, the “invisible” evidence in front of your nose is IRREFUTABLE — carefully study “The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room –The Holocaustal Covid-19 Coronavirus Madness: A Sociological Perspective & Historical Assessment Of The Covid “Phenomenon”” … https://www.rolf-hefti.com/covid-19-coronavirus.html
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