As of this writing, there are some signs that the corner has been turned (really this time), that the Pro-Panic coalition of 2020-21 is softening and may soon break and not recover. That is the optimist’s reading of the situation. Even if that does happen, the Panic itself still demands answers. The corona-Panic demands study and reflection as a civilizational disaster.
Pandemia, published in late November 2021, is Alex Berenson‘s book. The full title title is Pandemia: How Coronavirus Hysteria Took Over Our Government, Rights, and Lives. Berenson’s name has long been associated with the Anti-Panic side.
This is a review of Pandemia, and it covers a lot of ground.
One might think or hope that Berenson’s book holds or proposes answers to the big question of why the Corona-Panic happened. The book’s subtitle basically boasts as much.
Certainly desire for a good, clean look at the big question was my motivation for reading the book and for writing this review. I was interested in hearing what Berenson proposes, where he goes with it.
The book was not quite what I expected. Berenson treats it in part as kind of a CoronaPanic-era memoir, which is a mixed-blessing. He goes in some other directions I think are unhelpful or counter-productive. As the memoir part, the book ends up becoming a primary source in its own right, to be used by future authors.
Berenson probably justified his turning the book into a memoir or open-journal in part by thinking that he had become something of an Anti-Panic celebrity by the time of writing in 2021. This is a double-edged sword because he also shows some clear signs of neutralizing his own message to perhaps extend a hand in friendship to his may former friends who came down on the Pro-Panic side of the divide. Anyway, all this is of some interest and was not what I or you might have expetced in a book like this, so read on for much more commentary.
The real goal, though, is and must remain, the big question: “Why did the Corona-Panic happen?” and the multiple sub-questions that flow from that big question.
This political cartoon (“America’s Ruling Class”) is in the best tradition of the genre. I think it is worth some consideration and so here goes. It can also be appreciated simply with a few seconds’ glance, a kind of thinking man’s version of the “meme” concept so influential in our era, but for me ideas only get firmly pinned down when they are put to the written word.
The artist: The cartoon is signed “BANFIELD,” for Elliot Banfield. I know nothing of Mr. Banfield except that his work is often published by the Claremont Review of Books accompanying essays or book reviews.
What follows here is commentary an analysis on what we see here, some interpretations of symbolism and more. There will be three sections: One on the hot-air balloon imagery, the people inside the balloon looked at individually, and a final “assessment” section.
The hot-air balloon
Our attention turns at once to the figures in the center, but with a moment we realize they are housed in a basket held aloft by a hot-air balloon. It floats high above the ground, disconnected and uprooted from the surface of the Earth. The people in the balloon (have to) literally look down on the mass of nobodies down below.
A song about events of one summer night in 2020. By their publicity, by the trial in 2021 which was filled with villains on one side, and by their symbolism, they qualify as well for folk-tale status as any of the classics.
Here is a re-upload to Bitchute, in case Youtube blocks the original (which is now nearing 100,000 views, after three days, and many more views in other formats):
Youtube commenter TurtleMarcus says:
“Fantastic! I study folklore and folk music at an academic level. This is literally a folk song in the making. This process of telling a contemporary story in the form of a song, is how we got many of the Medieval ballads from Europe.”
You’ll see him described as a Florida lawyer. Really he’s a central figure in the drama of our time, the Great Corona-Panic social phenomenon of the early 2020s.
As a major figure of the Pro-Panic side, it’s worth a look at who this man is, what might motivate him, and try to come up with reasons why he decided to so aggressively push the Panic. This is a bottom-up approach in our ongoing search for answers for why the Corona-Panic happened.
After Daniel Uhlfelder emerged as a major political figure, a Corona-Panic activist-agitator on the Pro-Panic side, he ended up with regional (Florida) influence, but soon national influence, and really even indirect global influence (even if few know his name), mostly because Florida was a key flashpoint throughout the Panic.
It all comes back to the Anti-Panic stand taken by the governor, Ron DeSantis, who some time in spring 2020 concluded that Sweden was right in refusing lockdowns, and sensing the Pro-Panic side had ridden into power on a kind of coup d’etat and would not let go of its power.
The two men — Uhlfelder and DeSantis — share certain biographical similarities, both being born in Florida in the 1970s, but everything changes when we dig beyond such superficialities and into their family-histories, and that will by my purpose here.
(Note: The following is therefore in part a follow-up to the major research piece “The ancestry of Ron DeSantis,” published here last week. DeSantis is a portrait of a leading Anti-Panic figure. The subject here, Daniel Uhlfelder, gets a similar treatment except that in Uhlfelder’s a leading Pro-Panic figure.)
It was a novel political split, the Pro-Panic side versus the Anti-Panic side over a flu virus. There were plenty of Neutrals in the middle but most of the time they were intimidated into silence or acquiescence by the strength of the Pro-Panic side.
But Daniel Uhlfelder was never a Corona Neutral. Nor was he even an ordinary Pro-Panicker. He was rather a highly successful core Pro-Panic activist, even a hardline and extremist Pro-Panic agitator, to use less delicate language. The role he played was as one to “Keep up the Panic; Don’t let the Science-Denier Covidiots win; contain the influence of the dangerous cattle-people who don’t know what’s good for them; ‘Lockdowns today, lockdowns tomorrow, lockdowns forever!!‘…”
What follows here is a long-form approach to Ron DeSantis, via a close look at his ancestry, family, and upbringing, and how those things (may have) shaped the political life, ideas, and attitudes.
The main thrust and purpose is to shine a light on, and get good insights into, the rising political star that is DeSantis, via a comprehensive, original-genealogy-research-based, all-branch review of Ron DeSantis’ ancestry back to 19th- and early-20th-century Italy, and then industrial Ohio.
The article has a sandwich-like format, with the meat in the middle. Recent happenings in DeSantis’ own life come first and last. (A final, conclusion section reflects on the meaning of some of the findings and considers what a President Ron DeSantis would mean.)
First, a snapshot of DeSantis arriving on the scene (2018) and recent years’ developments (2018-2021), including the high profile he attained during the Corona-Panic.
Then comes the original-research section on Ron DeSantis’ ancestry and family, mainly dealing with his immigrant ancestors arriving from Italy in the 1900s-1910s and what they did in America.
Last, a third part dealing with DeSantis’ own early-life developments before the decisive governor’s race (1980s-2017), all of which I believe offer valuable insights into the DeSantis phenomenon, who he is, how he got here (as it were).
I believe this effort is unique among the millions of words written on DeSantis up to now, in focusing on his ancestry and looking for stories of interest informative of who he is and how he thinks, in an in-depth way rather than dismissal with a word or two (“Italian”).
The purpose is to help us understand Ron DeSantis. One conclusion can be stated out front: the critical ‘moment’ of his life, and adult identity and politics, was his arrival at Yale in 1997 at age eighteen. Early in his time at Yale, he says, he came to see elite US culture as something foreign, something which had drifted into being alien and alienating. He had not been acculturated into that kind of thinking. If not, then what kind of culture and worldview did he arrive with? Where do any of our worldviews come from? A major source is one’s family, family tree, actual genetic inheritance and self-perceived ancestry. The ancestral portrait, with an eye on the current-day political, strikes the root and not the branches (to garble up the tree metaphor). And so here it is.
“The Cult of Coronavirus. Like all religions, it has its own sacraments, its own sacred texts…” These are some of the words influential US right-wing figure Tucker Carlson used in his opening segment of Sept. 27, 2021.
With these words he steps firmly into calling the Corona phenomenon a religion, or “cult,” in essentially literal terms.
Tucker is now catching up with this website (Hail to You)’s position of sixteen months ago. We argued, back then, that “Covid” was a literal religious cult (investigative-essay published May 18, 2020).
In my May 2020 essay, I approached the question — of whether “Corona” was classifiable as a religion — academically and not polemically. I found that the social-phenomenon that was “Corona,” involving fear of the flu-virus and the major disruptions to life associated with it and major social mobilization and intense emotions and more, it all qualified under anthropology as a religion.
Moral Premise: All human time (“life-years”) has value.
Background: To the extent the “Pro-Panic vs. Anti-Panic” debate on the 2020-21 Wuhan-Coronavirus consists of rational argument (a big qualification), the Pro-Panic side’s Achilles Heel is how easy it is to demonstrate the following Thesis: FAR more life-years are lost to the effects of the Panic and Response than to the Virus, and it’s not even close.
Problem: The concepts of “life-years” (against “lives”), and “lost life-years,” “life-years lost to the effects of the Corona-Panic and Lockdowns,” and “life-year-equivalents lost” to the same, are either not understood, or not believed, or not appreciated, by many on the Pro-Panic side. The argument, when made directly, is often less-than-compelling to Pro-Panic and Neutrals. Why?
Understanding the Pro-Panic Side: I propose two types of core member of the Pro-Panic side: The “ceteris paribus carefree Anti-Covid Crusader” and the “Terror-Virus Fanatic.” The two have different psychological approaches to the Corona Question and self-justifications for why they support the Panic. Understanding the different types of Pro-Panic partisan help us understand the difficulty in persuading people of the above (on lost-life-years). Some on the Pro-Panic side are theoretically persuadable if the idea that pursuing a Pro-Panic policy line can be “cost-free” were to be broken.
With the understanding that any argument at all is pearls-before-swine before many of the more extreme Pro-Panic partisans, but also understanding that some can be persuaded, the “lost life-years” concept could be demonstrated with data, quantified rather than relying too much on intangibles and abstractions. Doing so may help anchor the argument and allow moderates on the Pro-Panic side to think again before more damage is done.
Proposal: The dataset “Unemployment” can be used. How many jobs were lost due to the Panic, Shutdowns, Lockdowns, CoronaPanic-Recession? How many aggregate life-years does this represent? For work-life and income and social standing and social/career advancement terms, these are “lost” years. “Aggregate life-years lost to unemployment” is quantifiable and also comparable to the same calculation for “Covid” deaths. We can also roughly quantify Covid-deaths in life-years-lost terms in the same way, given that we know the age-condition profile for Corona-Deaths, to create and apples-to-apples comparison.
Discussion: The Wuhan-Corona “flu”-wave is surprisingly mild when measured in aggregate-lost-life-years, though this argument itself is often unpersuasive to emotionally committed Pro-Panickers.
On the other hand, life-years lost (and to-be-lost) to the Corona-Panic and Response often come in ways neither immediately intuitive nor ‘sexy.’ There are several categories of losses, including public health, economic, social, and fertility (the latter alone potentially swamping losses to Wuhan-Corona in lost-life-years terms and even in absolute terms).
Slightly or moderately worse health outcomes at population-scale over a period of years will, it looks certain, easily swamp ‘Covid.’ They will also be invisible. Other effects are real and important to social, political, and (dare we say) civilizational health, but can hard to calculate and so simply get dismissed. Things like frayed relationships, weakened broad social ties, delayed relationship-formation, loss of opportunities for normal life-enhancing experiences, disrupted or distorted socialization and education of children, proliferating psychological problems, worsened working-life experience for young adults, and much more.
There are some natural objections to using unemployment life-years to compare with Corona-Deaths’ social impact, we can firmly and uncontroversially calculate unemployment, which anchors the analysis and signposts the way towards some of the other losses.
Data:Employment ‘Hard’Losses: CoronaPanic-induced unemployment, which is ongoing at severe-recession levels, swamps the effects of the Virus in terms of aggregate lost-life-years. We now have one year of data, so a Lockdown-Recession and major unemployment is not prospective or hypothetical, as it was one year ago at the cusp of the Panic. It is now observed-data. We can also calculate the ongoing aggregate-lost-worklife-years and compare them to Covid-Deaths’ aggregate lost-life-years.
Data: Employment ‘Soft‘ Losses: The ‘hard’ number of jobs lost is, in some ways, of limited value. There are also work-life ‘soft’ losses relating to lowered quality of work, and what one is able to both give and get from it, due to the shutdowns, disruptions, work-from-home regime, and general Panic atmosphere. Lowered interaction with dedicated workspaces, (theoretically) lower productivity by many, much lower (and less meaningful) contact with colleagues and other potential contacts and new professional contacts, all are theoretically quantifiable in terms of “lost-life-year-equivalents.”
Results: On “hard losses”: At least 13 million life-years have been lost, as of this writing, to Corona-Unemployment, which is several times higher than the total number of life-years lost to the Virus (2.5 to 5 million). In the latter case many of the lost life-years are to those in seriously bad health condition, e.g. dementia or late-stage cancer, so a fairer comparison would require the calculated Virus Loss to take a deflating multiplier of some kind.
Results: On “soft losses”: Adding in the effects of worsened work experiences, etc. (as proposed above), Panic Losses probably double.
This puts direct Employment-related losses from the Corona-Panic, in life-years-lost terms, at around 10x the losses from the Virus, and that is (1) before any kind of quality-of-life multiplier is applied, and (2) before longer-term second-order effects of unemployment are considered. As the recession continues and unnecessary joblessness from the effects of the Corona-Panic continues, even as the virus fades away, the ratio will also continue to increase. When all is said and done, the ratio could be 50x more employment-related lost-life-years and lost-life-year-equivalents, again before second-order effects such as slightly worse health outcomes at population scale from income losses.
Implication: The employment “life-year losses” is real and important but also demonstrative of how the Panic affects everything. Lost life-years already logged and those impending. The ratio, once one starts making similar estimates for other losses, turns out to be so lopsided that the question is not which is worse, Virus or Response (“the disease or the medicine”), but rather how many orders-of-magnitude worse the Panic will end up being than the Virus. 100x? 1000x? More?
Prediction: The Corona-Religion which burst on the scene one year ago may roll on a while longer, but real damage has been caused, and by metaphor this fiasco is an undersea earthquake of great power, which causes a tidal wave to form beneath the surface, at first only observable as a minor ripple.
Follow-on effects of the Corona-Panic in coming years, unforeseen by the Pro-Panic side’s cheerleaders in their fervor, could be a big deal. Why would the millions of core-working-age people, the primary victims of the CoronaPanic, do nothing? (A future essay will be a continuation of this thought, on the subject of “Corona and Regime Stability”).
(TL;DR Summary, 125 words: Question: Why has Anti-Panic leadership during the ongoing Coronavirus Panic been so lacking, so apparently weak? Discussion: We can first ask, What is ‘Leadership’? There are Original-Ideas leaders and Cheerleader-leaders. Given the constant defeats-on-evidence for the Corona Pro-Panic side, why haven’t more thought-leaders of the influential ‘Cheerleader’ type spoken out, consistently and strongly, against the Corona-Panic? Answer. I don’t know, but there are several families of explanations related to social pressures. Importance of this Inquiry: I believe following this question where it leads allows us to peek into how “discourse control” works in our time, with implications beyond the “Corona-Crisis.” Hypothesis: The obvious answers to the weakness of Anti-Panic/Anti-Lockdown leadership come with censorship and social-opprobrium. I propose another, what I call herein The Cognitive Dissonance of the Corona-Cult-Defector, a condition I hypothesize is suffered from by those who “snap out of” any cult or discover deception related thereto; defectors become disoriented and ineffective.)
Much writing on these pages in 2020 was on the Corona Question. I came to see the Anti-Panic (Anti-Lockdown) side as correct on all the main points, correct on the data, yet even so treated like Flat-Earth-ism when dealt with at all. It was strangely hard to find basic Anti-Panic positions in the news and wider discourse, but eventually much of it seeped through (usually many months after the findings, months after the ideas began to be discussed on the Anti-Panic side). We can postulate some reasons why this may have been so in the initial Panic (I mean, it was a classic mass-hysteria period with all the telltale signs). That might cover Month 1. But I wonder to ask about Month 4, Month 8, and now even reaching Month 12. Where are the major promoters of Anti-Panic material?
The Anti-Panic general position was the better “bet” all along. Of course there was uncertainty. After more data came in, it became a surer bet, and eventually it became as sure as we know anything on questions like this (it was a flu wave at the upper-end of the normal historical range for flu waves, that’s all). In other words, the Anti-Panic side won on the data. I think it had won by May 1st. After May 1st, anyone still on the Pro-Panic side was either willfully ignoring the data, or ignorant of the data and/or what it meant (in fact many were something else, they were in an emotionalized, politicized, religious mega-scale Virus-Cult).
May 1st was something like two or three months into the Panic-cycle (depending on when you choose to start the Panic). Now we are at something like the One Year mark. It’s been a strange ride…
I stopped posting on the matter. I was convinced the argument was over, the Anti-Panic side was right both factually and morally. I am still sure that will be the judgement of history.
There is so much puzzling about the whole thing. How do we account for the comfortable victory of the Anti-Panic side on the facts/data but at the same time a disastrous defeat for the Anti-Panic side in public policy? To appearances, it would seem an at-first-somewhat-shabby coalition of often-shrill Pro-Panic forces, and second-rate demagogues, was able to seize control of an entire civilization and inflict enormous damage. And not just for a few weeks or months but now one year and counting, with many of the Pro-Panic regimes signaling they are going to stay loyal to the Virus-Cult for a long time to come, a Forever War against what is now a moderate flu virus (which is of course delusional). This global fiasco is sure to provoke commentary for years to come. (The best I’ve seen recently is Edward Hadas’ “The War Against Covid-19.“)
Yes, we need answers. The whole thing seems so bizarre, really, in big-picture terms that it is guaranteed to get a large portion of the Anti-Panic side to drift into thinking the entire thing was part of a deliberate coup d’etat, or series of coups d’etat. But we don’t necessarily need such explanations.
We should ask questions like this: Who were the leaders on the Pro-Panic side? Not specific individuals per se, but types of person. When and why did they attach themselves to the Pro-Panic side? Why are there so few major-platform leaders who speak n behalf of the Anti-Panic side?
Actually, I think it would help to back up and ask some really basic questions:
What is a leader?
Let’s say a leader is one who influences others or seeks to influence others (some would-be leaders have very limited success) with some kind of agenda or plan. When speaking at the full-society level of a complex society, these are necessarily thought-leaders. And they come in many forms. There are different varieties of people who come up with their own thoughts, or who boost somebody else’s thoughts, or both.
Someone once wisely said that a true leader is not one who observes where the pack is going and rushes to the front and declares himself the “leader.” The true leader is the one out in front, getting others to follow him.
In the comments section of the Peak Stupidity blog, recently, two categories of thought-leader were proposed: “Original Ideas” thought-leaders and “Cheerleaders.” (Both “Cheerleader Leaders” and “Original-Ideas Leaders” are important and can exist in symbiosis or in opposition. Some of us have clear biases towards one type over the other and would do well to recognize the importance of the other type.)
There are plenty of Original-Ideas Leaders who areAnti-Panic. But Commenter GAnderson asks, at Peak Stupidity, the question that inspires this post: Why do there seem to be so few Corona-Anti-Panic ‘Cheerleader’ thought-leaders?
Getting ideas out (cheerleading, if you will) is important.
Look at the current Corona-mess. If one reads Mr. Hail, Kevin Roche, Briggs (apologies to anyone I’ve left out) listen to the guy from Catholic U whose name escapes me right now, Howie Carr, etc., well, I think it’s obvious that the corona panic couldn’t be anything other than a scam- but who’s saying that nationally, with the kind of megaphone Rush had. […]
Is anyone? Carlson? To my observation none of our representatives in Congress are, yet after a year, and the evidence pointing directly to the notion that this panic is a scam, we are, at least where I live more committed to panicking than ever.
I present a Corona-Context graph. Plus corresponding data.
We see Wuhan-Corona (the right-most upswing) in the context of the past ninety years. We can now say on firm/near-final data for 2020 that there is really nothing to be particularly alarmed about — unless you are constantly alarmed.
There are a lot of lessons here, and they go some way towards giving fuel to the investigative fires of how the destructive Panic could have happened.
On the graph:
Expected: Deaths in 2020 in Sweden as a percentage of the population were expected to be 0.89% (the dotted orange line on graphs).
Actual: The year 2020, soon finishing, will end at either 0.92% or 0.93%, for an excess death range of +0.03% or +0.04% over the expected level (0.89%).
(This excess is entirely drawn from those above age 75. A calculation of the net-loss in “expected quality-life-years” associated with the Wuhan-Corona flu wave rounds to -0.00%, which means you’d have to go to the thousandths place to measure it at all — it looks likely to be as low as -0.001%; this post will leave aside this important point, but a deeper age- and condition-adjusted analysis might show Wuhan-Corona as among the milder of the distinct flu waves of our time.)
You see that 2020 shows a clear “spike.” Around half of the 2020 spike’s magnitude is itself an upward correction to the unusually mild 2019 (which was around -0.02% below the long-running baseline). (Note the worst flu year of the 2010s, 2012, was preceded by two modestly below-baseline years in 2010 and 2011.)
(Note also in the graph how the [quickly-forgotten] Swine Flu of 2009 does not show up at all in full-year mortality — the vaccination racket associated with it is another story. I doubt many gave much of any thought in the entirety of the 2010s to the 2009 Swine Flu Panic, but it was a clear harbinger of the madness of 2020. It’s funny what cycles complete themselves. Clearly there were deeper forces at work that allowed the Panic Pandemic.)
The most important finding, one which I first noticed and wrote about in April in May, is that we have firm evidence that Wuhan-Corona is an ordinary flu wave, of the kind all living adults have lived through and never noticed.
Here are all the severe flu years for 1930 to 2020. A ninety year old has lived through about twenty flu waves approximately equivalent to Wuhan-Corona. This is going to be the same in other countries.
What insights might Corona-Panic Studies get from Belarus?
Compared to Belarus, even Sweden looked like it might be overreacting.
Here is a graphical representation I’ve put together of total all-cause mortality in Belarus over the past forty years. I think the patterns speak for themselves but some commentary is included below anyway:
Belarus’ Anti-Lockdown Regime
At a time many were embracing delusion, panic, and group-think, at a time millions began indoctrinating themselves into the Virus Cult, Belarus stayed totally open. It kept its sports leagues open, playing without missing a match, spectators and all. Nothing was closed. No masks. Nothing. This is how a visitor described it in late May:
[S]chools remain open, as do cafés, restaurants, bars, shopping malls and most outdoor events. Indeed, many thousands of people lined the streets for the annual Victory Day parade on May 9th. Belarus has struck a refreshing balance: one which has not led to a population in fear of one another.
Just like a normal flu wave. People would have had little idea anything was “going on,” if they relied entirely on lived experience. Now that the flu wave is over, none outside certain specialized occupations would have ever noticed it had ever happened, exactly as it would have been in any of our countries if this the exact same flu wave had spread in 1990, 2000, or even 2010.
The president of Belarus was defiant and stood with both feet in the anti-Panic camp in a way that was much less possible in the West. (Belarus might have a state-run media, while we have a media-run state.)
As the LockdownSkeptics corrspondent wrote in late May:
The country often referred to as the last dictatorship in Europe suddenly has more individual freedoms than virtually anywhere