COVID theater (bug spray edition)

One of the first hints that something was not quite right with China’s COVID narrative during the pathogen’s confusing debut in January and February was the strange photos and videos emerging from all over the country of workers, trucks and even drones grimly carpeting the urban landscape with a mysterious misty substance described as “disinfectant.”

What was it, exactly? Nobody seemed to know:

But what the heck? I am at a loss to say what this stuff might be. I asked the same question on Twitter, and the answers were mostly variants on my own thought, that it’s basically “safety theater”. The problem is, there are such things as aerosol spray insecticides. And there are aerosol spray general antimicrobials (although I have trouble believing that you could get much good out of them deployed in the fashion shown, on city streets). But there are, to my knowledge, no open-spray viricides. I mean, viruses aren’t alive, for one thing, and the sorts of things that are used for viral contamination depend on broad denaturing chemical activity (think bleach) or physical wiping/sequestration (cleaning surfaces off).

I’m not seeing anything like that here that makes any sense. Honestly, I have to wonder if I’m looking at nothing more than fog machine mixture (usually glycerine/water or something of the sort). Maybe there’s something in the mix that someone thinks will do some good against coronavirus particles – I doubt if they’re correct, if so – or maybe the whole thing is just meant to show that the Authorities Are Doing Something.

The value of the bogus bug spray obviously had nothing to do with its supposed ability to combat a respiratory virus, and everything to do with its propaganda value as a signal that the virus is Being Taken Seriously. And also, perhaps, to induce terror in China and worldwide over a virus that is essentially of no concern to people who are not very old or (already) very sick, thence to grab more power. By March, many other countries had adopted the medically futile but politically useful procedure.

My favorite comment on the psychotic squirting comes from no less an authority than Johan Giesecke, former state epidemiologist of Sweden, as quoted in the outstanding book Corona False Alarm?:

Politicians want to demonstrate their capacity to act, the capacity for decision making and most of all their strength. My best example for this is that in Asian countries the sidewalks are sprayed with chlorine. This is completely useless but it shows that the state and the authorities are doing something, and that is very important to politicians.

They did something, all right. Let it never be said that they didn’t.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *