Imagine you were the supreme leader of a dictatorial superpower country, currently engaged in a de facto but undeclared cold, sometimes warm, war with another superpower and its allies.
One day, a trusted deputy brings you a plan which would result in massive disruption to the society of your enemy, dividing its population, driving a wedge between friends and families, weakening societal trust and inducing huge levels of fear in day to day interactions.
An added bonus of this fiendish plan is it would utterly ruin their economy, sending them into a series of recessions and economic slowdowns.
One assumes, as it’s highly unlikely a moral actor would have ever made it to the top job in a dictatorship, you are a sociopath or at least have sociopathic tendencies. Therefore, this awful plan would be given some consideration, you’d want to hear more about it, you may be very tempted by it.
Completely unrelated to this hypothetical scenario:
Last year, in the early days of the pandemic, pictures and video footage were broadcast around the world, showing people dropping dead in the streets of Wuhan. This one for example:
New hospitals were built in days, to both the shock and awe of international observers.
Stories emerged of mass cremations, perhaps up to 50,000 dead within the first two months of the outbreak.
They were never needed. The UK’s “Nightingale” hospitals treated just 54 patients before being closed down and converted into vaccination hubs.
What if there was an element of deliberate misdirection and mendacity in the initial reports coming out of China in early 2020?
With the luxury of hindsight, many of those photos and videos seem a lot less believable than they did when we were all shitting our pants in fear in February last year. Several of those “man falls down dead in Wuhan” stories and footage look somewhat suspicious today. Do an internet search and have a look for yourself, ask yourself how credible they look now?
We have also since learned this was not a naturally-mutated virus, but likely to have had its evolution helped along in a laboratory in Wuhan.
So, what just happened?
What happened to us, what did we just put ourselves through to protect ourselves from a disease we now know has a infection fatality rate well below 1%, making it less deadly than several recent iterations of the seasonal influenza?
My nascent hypothesis is this; once the Chinese authorities realised they had a leak from the Wuhan laboratory, they made a decision to not let a good crisis go to waste.
It didn’t require the virus to be deliberately created or leaked but, once it was out there, a little elaborate kayfabe was all that was required to send their enemies into a hugely damaging state of national panic.
Of course, this is just another conspiracy theory written on a minuscule blog in a brackish internet backwater.
However, even if there’s not a shred of truth in this theory, everyone in the world, good faith actors and bad, have just learned it is possible in the future. A bad virus, correctly publicised, will result in most nations’ governments destroying economies and freedoms previously thought to be ancient and sacrosanct.
With that fact now known, what can we in what we still laughingly call the free world do to prevent this provoked self-harm happening again in the future?
Some possible solutions I can think of are listed below, perhaps you can think of others:
- When a new deadly virus emerges, call a referendum to put the solution to the populace, “do you want an enforced lockdown or would you prefer support to take your own personal risk mitigation?”
- Call a general election, assuming there’s a difference of policy between the major parties (sadly, generally there wasn’t; we have unaparties in most countries).
- In advance, publish a national policy based on differing infection fatality rates. For example, “we will never close our borders and prevent people going about their lives for a disease that kills no more than, say, 0.5% of those it infects and certainly not if the average age of fatality from the disease is greater than the average age of death in a normal year”.
- Stop electing career politicians with no courage, imagination or real world experience.
- Pass legislation requiring all journalists to have achieved a high school level of competency in mathematics and statistical analysis.
Regardless, well played President Xi. Well played sir.
(Hat tip, Ezra Levant’s recent podcast on “feelings”)