The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

Fear and loathing COVID-1984

The public is being bombarded with wall-to-wall coverage of the coronavirus crisis from most media outlets, and while the ubiquitous coverage is paralyzing critical thinking skills, major stories are being glossed over by the media or completely omitted altogether.

The intentional yo-yo style delivery of information and inconsistent messaging from government leaders and talking heads exacerbates the divisive political climate and serves to confuse the masses. The result of incomplete and contradictory reporting is chaos and civil unrest, and these are key elements that enable massive military spending and confiscation of civil liberties.

A running count of cases and deaths published daily stokes flames of fear, while irresponsible reporting fills pages of print with information that is obsolete before it is published, and irrelevant stories serve to block any meaningful exploration or discussion of topics that counter the official narrative. 

The journalism industry has been gutted in recent years by the consolidation and conglomeration of the field, and the economic shock from the coronavirus may be the final nail in the coffin for many organizations. It is now easier than ever to control narratives, as media organizations are swallowed up by huge conglomerates, and the key to narrative control is through the social media platforms.  

While the Constitution guarantees free speech, terms of service typically do not, and the use of corporate power to silence critics is the hallmark of a plutocracy.  

Billions around the globe are affected by shelter-in-place orders, and fear of coronavirus infection has led the majority of the population to willingly submit to governmental demands.  On the surface, people are acting in the interest of humanity by voluntarily complying, but a dangerous precedent is being set that jeopardizes democracy. 

Society has devolved from a time when Benjamin Franklin said, “Those willing to give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary security, deserve neither liberty nor security,” and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s proclamation that “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself” is curiously absent from the current lexicon.

Hunter S. Thompson’s prescient observation after 9/11 remains relevant today: “We are turning into a nation of whimpering slaves to Fear—fear of war, fear of poverty, fear of random terrorism, fear of getting downsized or fired because of the plunging economy, fear of getting evicted for bad debts or suddenly getting locked up in a military detention camp on vague charges of being a terrorist sympathizer.” The bogeyman has changed, but the tactics remain the same.

The comparisons of the COVID-19 pandemic and 9/11 are all over the news media now, headlines from thousands of articles seen in the likes of Business Insider, Fortune, Forbes, Vanity Fair, and others, in addition to a plethora of reports from the alphabet soup of news stations on radio and television, are all comparing the current crisis to 9/11.  

Other than the barrage of relentless propaganda, one of the few actual similarities between the two events appears to be the public’s willingness to trade a false sense of security in exchange for their civil liberties. The physical events of 9/11 were over in hours, but the rights that were taken away by the PATRIOT ACT have never been restored, with annual congressional renewals that receive minimal media attention.

With the current crisis, the First Amendment, specifically the “right to peaceably assemble,” is being circumvented by leaders declaring emergency powers, and even if a group was inclined to “petition the Government for redress of grievances,” shelter-in-place orders provide an official excuse to deny citizens their constitutional rights. 

The ability to protest and organize is a vital component of a functioning democracy, and these rights are critical in normal times, especially so given the current context, amidst an on-going emergency and in the middle of a highly contested election cycle.

The coronavirus is providing a perfect cover to pass legislation that has been long-desired by corporate elements and political leaders on both sides of the aisle. News that would be front-page headlines with in-depth journalistic investigations in a normal environment is being completely sidelined or buried in articles, and the lack of media coverage prevents the public from recognizing what is occurring while they are sheltered in their homes. 

The deregulation agenda is being implemented full-force during the crisis, and the banking industry managed to sneak language into the bail-out bill that the financial industry has long fought for.  Trump expanded Environmental Protection Act deregulation, is actively dismantling the Affordable Care Act, reducing funding for public health and infectious disease programs such as the Centers for Disease Control, and benefits provided to the neediest communities are being slashed.

The nationalization of private capital markets by the Federal Reserve can not be understated, profits have officially been privatized while all substantial losses are now subsidized and backed by taxpayer funds. If the average citizen understood exactly what is transpiring, a revolution would be well underway. 

Reducing reserve requirements to zero is an incredible shift in policy that received very little mention in the press, but this is a cataclysmic decision that can only result in a massive dollar bubble that leads to inflation at best and violent hyperinflation as a serious possibility, especially with the Fed cutting interest rates to zero and guaranteeing QE infinity to prop up the house of cards. 

The notion of a free financial market is a thing of the past, as rules designed to preserve the integrity of the markets are rewritten and seemingly long-forgotten. While the treasury is essentially being looted by financial masterminds that claim to be stabilizing the system, global equity markets are being reset by a self-induced shock and awe attack. 

Time will tell which fortunate individuals and organizations pick up the pieces after the controlled demolition of the global economic system is complete. Commercial properties and assets will be purchased at pennies on the dollar by well-capitalized firms backed by Treasury support, while small and medium businesses are likely to be wiped out in incredible numbers. The domino effects of the shutdown will trickle for years and the reverberations will be felt across industries.

Researchers will soon be left to follow the motive, and most importantly, the money, to determine who benefits from this unprecedented economic upheaval.

The efficacy of the social distancing guidelines and shelter-in-place orders, now in effect for approximately one month for most of the U.S., is an argument best left for those qualified to gather and interpret independent data, but the fact that the virus is being used by elected representatives to trample constitutionally protected rights and consolidate power is a threat to democracies around the globe.   

Power is being consolidated wholesale across the world, and governments are betting that humanity will bow down and relinquish digital and personal privacy to the state. The fact that every person that chooses to carry a smartphone is bugging themself with a tracking and listening device is an open secret, but recent announcements that Google, Facebook, and Apple are providing location data and contact tracing capabilities to government agencies is alarming.  GPS tracking combined with automatic license plate readers allows government agencies to document an individual’s whereabouts and compile information that can be used in a court of law to deny freedom and facilitate prosecutorial actions.

 Democratic Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said the state will record license plate information from vehicles in parking lots on Easter Sunday so that officials can follow up about ordered 14-day self-quarantines for all that attend public events. 

Federal U.S. District Judge Justin Walker overruled Kentucky’s attempt to ban Easter services, including drive-in ceremonies that were observing social distancing guidelines.  Judge Walker wrote a scathing 20-page opinion in which he lambasted the state’s attempt to “criminalize communal Easter celebrations” and said the case is one he “never expected to see outside of a dystopian novel.”

A nation physically, as well as politically, divided and practically immobilized by fear of what Trump calls an “invisible enemy,” is easily led down an authoritarian path with a highly centralized economic and social structure.

While some argue that nobody could have envisioned a scenario like we are currently facing, the evidence suggests that not only has the U.S. and a multitude of NGO’s planned for much worse, but a scenario was simulated just months ago that eerily parallels the current situation.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, in coordination with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Economic Forum, hosted Event 201 in October of 2019, a Global Pandemic Exercise in which a virus, coincidentally named CoV-19 in the exercise, kills 65 million people. The round table simulation featured organizations that are acting and responding today precisely as they did during the exercise

At some point, blowback is inevitable, as people begin to wake up to the authoritarian course of actions that are occurring. Hunger, lack of resources, and financial hardships are prime motivators, and they are known to cause people to act unpredictably. Society is facing unprecedented levels of all three across spectrums of the population that would have thought the ideas incomprehensible just months ago.

While it is still too early to tell what exactly is going on, and it is completely understandable that people are complying with orders out of an abundance of caution to protect humanity, Albert Camus’ observation that “The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants” should be kept in mind.

Most college students have never lived in times as strange as these, and while the future may look bleak for soon-to-be graduates that will be competing with the 40 million newly unemployed looking for work, it is important to stay focused and keep a positive mindset.  Humanity will be well-served if students recognize that this is a pivotal moment in which those with the courage to stand up and lead ethically and responsibly have the opportunity to reverse the current trajectory and make monumental changes to social structures and methods of governance.

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