Updated: Aug 29, 2022
The attack on individual liberty and autonomy; the fast widening gap between the rich and the poor; the increasing rate of crimes, famines, mental health problems, and religious fundamentalism; the reversal of gender equality as more women are pushed into extreme poverty; can all be traced to COVID 19's extreme lockdowns and related policies involving Big Pharma & Techno Giants.
In this excellent book review by future-conscious, multi-disciplinary academic, Tam Hunt, we delve into eye-opening facts and insights as to why the pandemic is considered 'the most important global event since World War II", and how, according to Mr. Hunt, its draconian policies are setting up the stage for global techno-dictatorships, "presenting the single biggest threat to our lives and the planet."
Mr. Hunt's assessment & foresight aims at bringing humanity a step closer to a base reality which is fundamental to establishing policies designed to protect human rights, wellbeing, dignity, and the future of our species as we become more interdependent with AI & Biometric Technologies.
Understanding the complexity and politics of the unprecedented pandemic's global lockdowns will be a challenge, but it is up to us to awaken and disrupt this dire evolution of events.
- Dinorah Delfin
IM Founder & Editor-in-Chief
“The judges deferred to the politicians [on the pandemic]. The politicians deferred to the health officials. The health officials deferred to the WHO. The WHO deferred to China. And China deferred to Xi." -- Snake Oil: How Xi Jinping Shut Down the World, p. 144
Michael P. Senger offers a powerful critique in his 2021 book, Snake Oil: How Xi Jinping Shut Down the World, of both domestic and global public health systems. The main focus of his ire is the “lockdown” policy that became the main tool of governments around the world for fighting the pandemic.
He argues that public health systems around the world have been commandeered by China’s Communist Party (CCP) through a type of economic and cultural warfare, and that Xi Jinping, China’s soon-to-be leader for life, executed a plan — “an unprecedented, international influence operation” — to intentionally shut down the world in response to the virus, as a way to gain economic and political advantages.
Let me outline his argument in more detail before I dive into my review:
1) the virus, which is not particularly novel, and not particularly deadly, was probably circulating widely in China, not just in Wuhan, long before November 2019, which is the official date of the first cases in Wuhan;
2) the identification of the virus and the swift lockdown of the large city of Wuhan was a choice by Xi and the CCP rather than the result of true discovery of a dangerous new virus and a subsequent response to the outbreak;
3) the presence of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the city that was chosen as the first to be locked down in China was not an accident; rather, it was intentional in order to create the red herring of a possible lab leak and a global controversy over a natural vs. a man-made origin to the virus in order to obscure the true story;
4) widely-circulated videos of people in Wuhan collapsing in the street from the new virus, as well as hospital chaos and even the story of the brave Chinese doctor who tried to alert the world to the new virus, and later died from the virus, were probably all aspects of a massive propaganda campaign by Xi and the CCP, just the latest in a century-long world-class history of propaganda campaigns that had brought the CCP to power in China and then maintained that power against all odds (“This campaign was organized, sophisticated, and used expert messaging sprinkled with clever psychological suggestions. The videos had been hand-picked, edited, and manipulated to tell the world a specific story”);
5) lockdowns of Wuhan and many other Chinese cities were primarily a tool for social control and to crush any possible dissent now and in the future, and only peripherally related or perhaps entirely unrelated to any genuine public health issues;
6) these policies were an extension of existing CCP fang kong practices, an unholy mix of “public health and security policy,” first enacted twenty years earlier in Tibet and Xinjiang and then more recently in Hong Kong as tools for control, brutally suppressing dissent in those regions, creating massive concentration camps, and indoctrinating residents into proper Chinese thought;
7) China worked with western nations, including providing massive amounts of funding to think tanks, public health agencies, and academic institutions, for many years before the pandemic in order to create financial ties and to influence public health policies in those nations — leading to the birth of a “western China class” that saw their bread buttered by being friendly and open to China and CCP ways of thinking, no matter how authoritarian they were; China also employed hundreds of thousands of people and created bots that posted countless comments on social media around the world in favor of lockdowns;
8) Italy had a particularly close relationship with China before the pandemic and it was this reason primarily that led to Italy being the first western nation to impose lockdowns in early 2020, on China’s recommendations (“Chinese experts arrived in Italy on March 12 and two days later advised stricter measures”), followed soon after by Germany, France, the US and most other nations in quick succession; it appears that Italy being the focus of lockdown policy was known ahead of time and telegraphed by anonymous insiders;
9) mandatory lockdowns had almost no precedent in the west and were not, contrary to widespread opinion, used in the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak or any subsequent outbreaks; in fact, most western nations’ pre-existing pandemic response plans made no mention of lockdowns even for the most severe outbreaks;
10 ) despite this lack of precedent and the relative severity of lockdowns (by definition these policies shut down most aspects of society) as a tool for public health, western political leaders and public health professions embraced lockdown policies in response to Covid-19, with enthusiasm and a degree of fervor that felt almost religious — despite almost no science at all to back up the efficacy of these policies.
I know this is a lot to chew on, but hopefully its clear enough in laying out Senger’s argument.
My lawyer mind often focuses on poking holes in arguments, so I want to be clear upfront that I think this is easily the best book on the pandemic that I’ve read yet (I’ve read half a dozen and there are many others now, Kennedy’s book The Real Anthony Fauci, is second on my list of best books). Senger’s book is well-cited, with footnotes for almost every assertion, and web links that you can verify yourself. And overall Senger’s understanding of the various aspects of the pandemic, from testing to virology to lockdowns and other public policies, is quite impressive — particularly for what appears to be a one-man show.
This book is a must-read and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants a better understanding of the pandemic, which is the most important global event since World War II. I hope also that this book spawns many spinoffs and follow-ups, particularly among academics. I am now convinced that techno-dictatorship is the single biggest threat to our lives and the planet.
China and Xi’s CCP are the clear and present leaders in this trend toward techno-dictatorship. The New York Times article just linked to details how China is literally seeking to preemptively stop people from committing crimes, in an eerie similarity to the sci-fi classic Minority Report, but using AI as the “oracle” rather than human precogs as in the movie. The article includes this spine-chilling quote: ‘Li Wei, a researcher at China’s national police university, said in a 2016 speech. “For those who receive one or more types of labels, we infer their identities and behavior, and then carry out targeted pre-emptive security measures.”’
And that quote was back in 2016 — before the pandemic and a vertiginous ramp-up in control systems and monitoring.
Not only is Xi instating hyper-authoritarian policies and tech systems in his own country, he is actively exporting these tools of control around the world as part of the new “China model” of national governance, using every tool at his disposal to achieve this goal.
Would-be dictators in every corner of the globe are licking their lips in anticipation of the control systems that China is pioneering and exporting. Over 80 countries had imported some kind of China’s surveillance tools already before the pandemic, according to a Brookings Institution report from early 2020. And, yes, those people salivating include a lot of people in public health who have revealed a deep disdain for public opinion and personal autonomy in the last two years.
I’ve recently completed a deep dive into the body of work by Charles Eisenstein, a contemporary philosopher and social thinker who focuses on the history and logic of control systems. His magnum opus is The Ascent of Humanity, in which he argues that the slow ten-thousand-year upward march of humanity from pre-agricultural civilization— “ascent” — is actually descent masquerading as ascent. In other words, what we think of as progress is often a downward movement in things that really matter such as quality of life, free time, human connection, and finding meaning in our lives. Eisenstein paints a history of modern civilization resulting primarily from a very long-term trend of humans exerting ever more control over their environment and other humans. This urge toward control takes on a life of its own and has become tremendously damaging to human as well as planetary welfare.
I’ve also been reading Kevin Kelly’s book, What Technology Wants, and, combined with Senger’s and Eisenstein’s work (as well as The Dawn of Everything, an amazing alternative history of humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow), it is hard not to see the connections between the dawn of the Technium (the 7th kingdom of life in Kelly’s framing, but one that has been created entirely by humans), the longstanding human will to ever-increasing power and control, and the pandemic and its various draconian policy responses. These dynamics are all part of a long upward trend toward technology becoming more and more prominent in our lives. We are on the cusp of a global shift toward techno-dictatorship, which may happen very rapidly if we’ve not vigilant.
These are high stakes indeed and this moment requires that all thinking and compassionate people do their best to not only understand what is going on but to also start delving deeply into how they can push back against this massive tsunami of illiberal anti-freedom. The tools of techno-dictatorship are big data, machine learning, the cashless economy (and programmable central bank digital currencies), and all the other tools made possible by advances in biometrics such as face recognition, and AI more generally. A July 2022 story describes how Chinese researchers are claiming that they have developed AI tools that can read minds and ensure strict adherence to party teachings and policy.
The unexpected irony is that it seems to be mostly the global Left that is the current vanguard of this trend toward anti-freedom. It’s ironic because as a lifelong liberal progressive (I describe myself as a “left libertarian” if I’m asked), I’ve previously seen the Left as the main protector of personal and societal freedoms. But something strange has happened in recent years, and Senger would point to the “leftism” of the CCP and communist authoritarianism (there really isn’t much communism in the CCP, however, as Senger points out) as the source of this strange trend in the global Left. With the money and power that the CCP has brought to bear globally, there is a new resurgence of authoritarian thinking on the Left.
The book also offers a short and pithy summary of the CCP in China, as well as Xi’s own rise to his current status as a leader, with only Mao as his equal. Xi is all but assured of winning a third five-year term this fall as supreme leader of China and the CCP, and will very likely continue to win more terms until his death. Understanding how China and Xi got to this point is also important.
The extreme efforts and vast resources brought to bear by China and their allies around the world go far in explaining the vastly strange spell that seemed to have been cast over the world in early 2020, and the rapidity with which normally sane people seemed to suddenly lose their good sense. Somehow, almost all “responsible” media and leaders were suddenly calling for shutting down society and confining people to their homes for extended periods of time. I’ve likened this feeling of a dark underlying malignancy as similar to what happened after 9/11 in the US, and how the pandemic was essentially the Left’s 9/11 — a set of policy choices that led to far greater harm than the original event.
So — read this book. It will provoke deep thinking about these issues.