A provocative thesis

For casual observers of China, such as myself, the CPC’s ham-fisted attempts at diplomacy have been a longtime source of hilarity. Here’s a post from May of last year expressing my amazement at a statement by the Chinese ambassador to Canada, in which he accused the country of being infested with “demons” because it shot down a Chinese M&A deal.

But since the onset of the global COVID fake emergency, China has embarked on a spree of egregious diplomatic self-destruction that makes its previous missteps look like minor faux pas. I admit I find this puzzling. Are Chinese leaders really that dumb, or are they doing this on purpose? Geopolitical thinker Peter Zeihan takes a stab at explaining China’s seemingly nonsensical behavior:

The propaganda out of China of late has been…notable. Beijing has accused the French of using their nursing homes as death camps, has blamed Italy for being the source of the coronavirus (at the very peak of Italian deaths), has charged the US Army with bringing the virus to China in the first place, has thrown a “fact sheet” of truly disbelievable disinformation at the fact-oriented Germans, and turned the country’s ambassadorial core into cut-rate tabloid distributors – all while leaning on anyone and everyone from the United Nations to the World Health Organization to the European Union to regional legislative bodies to alternatively suppress and delete any information or analysis that does anything but laud China, as well as push them to take public stances that slobberingly praise China.

In doing so the Chinese have seemingly deliberately wrecked their relations with the Americans, French, Italians, Germans, Czechs, South Africans, Kazakhs and Nigerians, just to name a few. (The Swedes had all but ended their diplomatic relationship with China – having come to the public conclusion that the Chinese government was a pack of genocidal, power-mad, information-suppressing, exploitive, ultranationalists – before COVID.) […]

The explanation is unfortunately very simple: the Chinese leadership is well aware that soft power isn’t what is going to solve the problem they see. There’s some guidance as to the CCP’s thinking in how the propaganda effort is being explained within China, and it doesn’t bode well for the future.

Semi-officially, the CCP called the April (official) effort Wolf Warrior diplomacy, in reference to a recent (and wildly popular) Chinese movie series about ethically pure Chinese soldiers who purge the world of evil American mercenaries. The closest equivalent I can think of would be like calling an American propaganda effort Starship Troopers diplomacy. (Yeah, it is as stupid as it sounds.)

The (more disperse) May effort, in contrast, is being referred to as a Yihetuan Movement mindset. It is a reference to a particularly chaotic period at the turn of the 19th to the 20th centuries when a particularly violent strain of ultranationalism erupted in response to foreign actions within China. Most non-Chinese readers probably don’t recognize the Yihetuan Movement reference, but they probably do recall how it was labelled in the West: the Boxer Rebellion. More on that in a minute.

This new propaganda program isn’t about Xi attempting to convince the wider world of China’s greatness or rightness. This isn’t about the United States or Europe or Africa, and certainly not about global domination. Instead it is about intentionally saying things so far beyond the pale that there’s a global anti-Chinese backlash. The backlash itself isn’t the goal, but instead a means to an end. Xi is attempting to use a global anti-Chinese backlash to enflame anti-foreigner nationalist activity within China. Put simply, Xi is trying to get the world pissed off at China so that China becomes pissed off at the world.

Xi feel he needs to hyperstimulate and mobilize a large enough proportion of the population so that they can assist the state security services in containing, demoralizing, cowing – and if necessary, beating, killing and disappearing – those who do not buy in.

And from the next installation in the series:

The short version is that China’s spasming belligerency is a sign not of confidence and strength, but instead insecurity and weakness. It is an exceedingly appropriate response to the pickle the Chinese find themselves in.

The COVID cult

Did I not warn you, nearly two years ago, that we were living in an age of cults? Here is what I said:

We certainly appear to be living through a time of mass hysteria and apocalyptic thinking, at least in the US, which may explain the plethora of cult-related headlines. As social mood continues to darken, the prevalence and popularity of cults may well increase.

Well, in the last few months a vast and sinister new cult has taken over the English-speaking world. It is the cult of COVID-19. At its core is not a charismatic leader, but a mysterious virus that must be appeased and propitiated through an array of bizarre rituals. These include “social distancing,” i.e. the avoidance of human contact, and the universal wearing of masks. It does not matter, of course, that these behaviors have no scientific basis, nor that the epidemic in the US is for all intents and purposes over:

From the CDC:

Based on death certificate data, the percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia, influenza or COVID-19 (PIC) decreased from 9.0% during week 25 to 5.9% during week 26, representing the tenth consecutive week during which a declining percentage of deaths due to PIC has been recorded. The percentage is currently at the epidemic threshold but will likely change as additional death certificates for deaths during recent weeks are processed.

I could be mistaken, but my sense is that the initial fear of the virus has worn off as the daily death numbers have dramatically declined. But this has not loosened the grip of the cult, as we see by the flurry of mask edicts that are being issued in places such as Pennsylvania, Kansas, Oregon and Texas, and the closure of beaches across Southern California for the Fourth of July weekend. What began as COVID panic or hysteria has hardened into a COVID religion, a kind of formalized belief system that one must simply obey.

Peter Hitchens considers the situation in his country of Britain:

When this madness began, I behaved as if a new and fanatical religion was spreading among us. Be polite and tolerant, I thought. It may be crazy and damaging but in time it will go away.

Now it is clear that a new faith, based on fear of the invisible and quite immune to reason, has all but taken over the country. And it turns out to be one of those faiths that doesn’t have much tolerance for those who don’t share it.

My guess is that about 85 per cent of the population now worship it and will continue to do so. The rest of us are, as each day goes by, a persecuted minority, forced to go along with beliefs we do not hold.

Its evangelists will not leave you and me alone, but constantly seek to force us to join. This is why I make such a fuss about the demand to make us all wear muzzles. This is not about health.

There is simply not enough evidence to compel us to do so. It is an attempt to force submission on Covid unbelievers.

That is why it spreads, despite the absence of any good case for it. […] In Texas, of all states, the governor seeks to make muzzles compulsory in all public places.

Did the lockdowns work?

This is a good debate involving Knut Wittkowski (who has been cited previously on this blog) about whether the lockdowns worked. Short answer: no, because the number of infections in the US peaked on March 8th, before the lockdowns began. You can’t “flatten the curve” if the curve has already peaked! Weird to think that all those stay-at-home orders, business closures and sweeping suspensions of civil liberties were completely pointless. Oh well.

Will the Three Gorges Dam collapse?

There’s been some chatter on Twitter and in overseas news outlets

After speaking with Feng Tian, a Chinese YouTuber, who is a critic of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and goes by the handle Li Yiping (李一平), on Tuesday (June 30) said that the floods this year are on pace to surpass those seen in 1998 and predicted that if an earthquake occurs at the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, it could cause one of the smaller dams to collapse.

He warned that if this were to occur, it could lead to a domino effect, with one dam failing after another until finally, the Three Gorges Dam itself would be under such a tremendous amount of strain from the resulting catastrophic floodwaters that it too would collapse. Li also pointed out that the Three Gorges Dam sits on two major fault lines, the Jiuwanxi and Zigui-Badong, and that massive changes in water pressure in the dam’s reservoir due to flooding could lead to earthquakes, a phenomenon known as reservoir-induced seismicity, which in turn would lead to landslides that would at the very least exacerbate the flooding in the area and potentially threaten the integrity of the main dam.

Never believe a rumor until it’s officially denied

You Are Now Leaving the USA

Things are getting strange in Seattle:

For the past week, Black Lives Matter and Antifa-affiliated activists have engaged in a pitched battle with Seattle police officers and National Guard soldiers in the neighborhood, with the heaviest conflict occurring at the intersection of 11th and Pike, where law enforcement had constructed a barricade to defend the Seattle Police East Precinct building. Hoping to break through the barricade, protesters attacked officers with bricks, bottles, rocks, and improvised explosive devices, sending some officers to the hospital. At the same time, activists circulated videos of the conflict and accused the police of brutality, demanding that the city cease using teargas and other anti-riot techniques.

Then, in a stunning turn of events, the City of Seattle made the decision to abandon the East Precinct and surrender the neighborhood to the protesters. “This is an exercise in trust and de-escalation,” explained Chief Carmen Best. Officers and National Guardsmen emptied out the facility, boarded it up, and retreated. Immediately afterward, Black Lives Matter protesters, Antifa black shirts, and armed members of the hard-Left John Brown Gun Club seized control of the neighborhood, moved the barricades into a defensive position, and declared it the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone—even putting up a cardboard sign at the barricades declaring “you are now leaving the USA.”

Excitingly, the CHAZ has been taken over by a warlord, SoundCloud rapper Raz Simone:

On the new rebel state’s first night, the atmosphere was festive and triumphant. Hooded men spray-painted the police station with slogans and anarchist symbols, renaming it the “Seattle People’s Department East Precinct.” Raz Simone, a local rapper with an AK-47 slung from his shoulder and a pistol attached to his hip, screamed, “This is war!” into a white-and-red megaphone and instructed armed paramilitaries to guard the barricades in shifts. Later in the night, Simone was filmed allegedly assaulting multiple protestors who disobeyed his orders, informing them that he was the “police” now, sparking fears that he was becoming the de facto warlord of the autonomous zone. A homeless man with a baseball bat wandered along the borderline and two unofficial medics in medieval-style chain mail stood ready for action.

This has given rise to some lively debate on the internet:

Color revolution in the works?

I’m getting that Euromaidan feeling from the current paroxysm on American’s streets. Aren’t you?

“The Trump Regime Is Beginning to Topple”

What the United States is witnessing is less like the chaos of 1968, which further divided a nation, and more like the nonviolent movements that earned broad societal support in places such as Serbia, Ukraine, and Tunisia, and swept away the dictatorial likes of Milošević, Yanukovych, and Ben Ali.

Keep an eye on this and note the historical parallels. I would not be surprised to see some fake/manufactured bloody event over the next few days, that will serve as a pretext for elements of the military to step in and “take appropriate action” to “defend the Constitution.”

Crushing online censorship

It’s absolutely unacceptable that social media monopolies are allowed to engage in politically motivated censorship and deplatforming of Americans. Finally, action is being taken to address that:

Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship

Issued on: May 28, 2020

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. Free speech is the bedrock of American democracy. Our Founding Fathers protected this sacred right with the First Amendment to the Constitution. The freedom to express and debate ideas is the foundation for all of our rights as a free people.

In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand pick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet. This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic. When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power. They cease functioning as passive bulletin boards, and ought to be viewed and treated as content creators.

The growth of online platforms in recent years raises important questions about applying the ideals of the First Amendment to modern communications technology. Today, many Americans follow the news, stay in touch with friends and family, and share their views on current events through social media and other online platforms. As a result, these platforms function in many ways as a 21st century equivalent of the public square.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube wield immense, if not unprecedented, power to shape the interpretation of public events; to censor, delete, or disappear information; and to control what people see or do not see.

As President, I have made clear my commitment to free and open debate on the internet. Such debate is just as important online as it is in our universities, our town halls, and our homes. It is essential to sustaining our democracy.

Online platforms are engaging in selective censorship that is harming our national discourse. Tens of thousands of Americans have reported, among other troubling behaviors, online platforms “flagging” content as inappropriate, even though it does not violate any stated terms of service; making unannounced and unexplained changes to company policies that have the effect of disfavoring certain viewpoints; and deleting content and entire accounts with no warning, no rationale, and no recourse.

Twitter now selectively decides to place a warning label on certain tweets in a manner that clearly reflects political bias. As has been reported, Twitter seems never to have placed such a label on another politician’s tweet. As recently as last week, Representative Adam Schiff was continuing to mislead his followers by peddling the long-disproved Russian Collusion Hoax, and Twitter did not flag those tweets. Unsurprisingly, its officer in charge of so-called ‘Site Integrity’ has flaunted his political bias in his own tweets.

At the same time online platforms are invoking inconsistent, irrational, and groundless justifications to censor or otherwise restrict Americans’ speech here at home, several online platforms are profiting from and promoting the aggression and disinformation spread by foreign governments like China. One United States company, for example, created a search engine for the Chinese Communist Party that would have blacklisted searches for “human rights,” hid data unfavorable to the Chinese Communist Party, and tracked users determined appropriate for surveillance. It also established research partnerships in China that provide direct benefits to the Chinese military. Other companies have accepted advertisements paid for by the Chinese government that spread false information about China’s mass imprisonment of religious minorities, thereby enabling these abuses of human rights. They have also amplified China’s propaganda abroad, including by allowing Chinese government officials to use their platforms to spread misinformation regarding the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to undermine pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

As a Nation, we must foster and protect diverse viewpoints in today’s digital communications environment where all Americans can and should have a voice. We must seek transparency and accountability from online platforms, and encourage standards and tools to protect and preserve the integrity and openness of American discourse and freedom of expression.

Revolt against the health dictatorship

Reuters has an amusing account of Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s war against the global public health dictatorship. The former Army captain rejected coronavirus hysteria and essentially staged a military takeover of his Brazil’s Health Ministry, thereby avoiding the weird fate of locked-down countries such as the US and Britain:

In mid-March, Brazil took what seemed to be a forceful early strike against the coronavirus pandemic.

The Health Ministry mandated that cruises be canceled. It advised local authorities to scrap large-scale events. And it urged travelers arriving from abroad to go into isolation for a week. Although Brazil had yet to report a single death from COVID-19, public health officials appeared to be getting out in front of the virus. They acted on March 13, just two days after the World Health Organization called the disease a pandemic.

Less than 24 hours later, the ministry watered down its own advice, citing “criticism and suggestions” it had received from local communities.

In fact, four people familiar with the incident told Reuters, the change came after intervention from the chief of staff’s office for Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. […]

The about-face, given scant attention at the time, marked a turning point in the federal government’s handling of the crisis, according to the four people. Behind the scenes, they said, power was shifting from the Health Ministry, the traditional leader on public health matters, to the office of the president’s chief of staff, known as Casa Civil, led by Walter Souza Braga Netto, an Army general. […]

Brazil now has the world’s second-worst outbreak behind the United States, with more than 374,000 confirmed cases. More than 23,000 Brazilians have died from COVID-19.

“So what?” Bolsonaro said recently when asked by reporters about Brazil’s mounting fatalities. “What do you want me to do?”

😂😂😂

Cabinet members tried numerous times to persuade Bolsonaro to endorse a nationwide lockdown, according to a person with direct knowledge of the discussions. Bolsonaro refused, the person said, believing the virus would soon pass and that health officials were exaggerating the need for physical distancing that had proved effective in other parts of the world.

Note: physical distancing has not “proven” effective in other parts of the world. There is no proof of this whatsoever.

“The masses aren’t able to stay at home because the fridge is empty,” Bolsonaro said to the media on April 20 outside his official residence in Brasília.

The Japanese model

One of the more unexpected revelations of the current madness is that Japan is now more free than the United States of Lockdown. Back on February 1, I pointed out the seemingly odd fact that the country’s government had no power to quarantine Japanese citizens it had evacuated from virus epicenter Wuhan, or even force them to undergo tests.

Now we learn that Japan, which seemed to have a blasé attitude about the virus and avoided “locking down” its population like prisoners after a riot, is lifting its state of emergency after suffering a mere 851 deaths due to WuFlu. From the increasingly indispensable Peter Hitchens:

The important news was that Japan, an advanced country with several megacities and a closely-packed population of 126.5 million persons, has abandoned its comparatively mild and largely voluntary restrictions on daily life. […]

These restrictions, more mouth than trousers, were introduced a few weeks ago after various politicians and media promoted a panic about the supposed danger of Coronavirus. As ‘The Guardian’ put it: ‘Japan did not impose the kind of lockdown seen in Britain and other parts of Europe, but encouraged firms to allow staff to work remotely, and bars, restaurants and other small businesses to close or restrict opening hours. People were asked to avoid unnecessary outings, but there were no penalties for non-compliance. Since February, 851 deaths in Japan have been attributed to Covid-19. This seems to me to be a rate per million of something around 7.2 . […]

‘Mask-wearing, home-working and social distancing were all advised, but Japan’s constitution prohibits a mandatory lockdown. Businesses, including restaurants, were allowed to choose whether they remained open, and only 0.2 per cent of the population were tested for the virus.

‘”It is a mystery to everybody,” said Tasuku Honjo, professor of immunology at Kyoto University and winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize for medicine. There were “several theories” as to the reason for Japan’s success. “One is that people in this country like to be clean. They wash their hands frequently and they do not kiss and hug”, he said.

‘Prof Honjo added that other suggestions were that the widespread BCG vaccination boosted Japanese people’s immunity, and it was also possible that the genes of Asian people were more resistant to the virus than Caucasians.

‘Another hypothesis was that Japan was hit by an early, weaker strain of the virus before it was able to mutate.’

Perhaps, as Hitchens suggests later in the post, the virus just behaves according to its own logic and is largely unaffected by government action. If true, this would imply that the costly lockdown policies imposed on billions of people around the world were completely pointless. I suspect that is the case and that attempting to control this respiratory virus by shutting down society and commerce will be remembered, like the totalitarian movements of the twentieth century, as a spasm of hubris and folly — very possibly the largest, most damaging mistake in human history.

I have to remind myself every day how crazy it is that businesses and places of worship are STILL closed or operating under severe restrictions in many states, despite the tapering off of the epidemic and the lack of scientific evidence that these policies serve any public health purpose whatsoever. There is a human tendency to rationalize whatever is happening as “normal,” no matter how bizarre and ridiculous it is, as long as it is endorsed by the right authority figures — a tendency strengthened in America, I believe, by the decline of intellectual standards, the atrophying of independent thought, and the “zombification” of the population through many years of exposure to mindless mass media degeneracy. One blogger has suggested that the purpose of disaster movies has been to condition the population to accept real-life horrors with glassy-eyed complacency. That seems plausible to me, and the events of the past couple of months really make me wonder what insane violations of human dignity the people of the West, specifically the US and England, will not accept if they are solemnly assured that they are necessary to protect public health. Perhaps we will see screaming people plucked off the street by men in hazmat suits and stuffed into metal cubes in the backs of pickup trucks. But the evils of the new age are likely to be more banal, less sensational and therefore invisible to the majority of the demoralized Western public.

In any case, Japan’s admirable refusal to buckle in the face of relentless panic-mongering stands as a powerful rebuke to manufactured corona hysteria and the novel, insidious form of despotism that has quite suddenly installed itself over much of the world.