Covid is a Social Construct

What follows is a long essay I wrote almost a year ago, in October 2020, on another platform. I had almost no audience at the time, but many people told me they enjoyed it, and I am happy to provide this edited, shortened and slightly updated version for many new readers.

In reading it now, I find that it is more heavily focused on lockdowns and mass containment than it would be if I wrote it today, but I think even these passages are still important. Lockdowns will be kept around, initially as selective “lock-outs” to repress and punish the unvaccinated; from there it will be trivial to impose closures on whole populations once again, as case statistics deteriorate in the winter.

Beyond all of the politics and hysteria and right-thinking, there is a real virus beneath it all. Its name is Sars-Cov-2. This virus is not to be confused with Covid-19, which is the illness that the virus causes. The distinction, like that between HIV and AIDS, is medically useful, and it invites us to make other, analogous distinctions, in service of cleaning up our thought.

Illness is as much a social matter as a biological one, and for most of us, the vastly more significant distinction is not that between virus and disease, but between the biological reality of the virus-disease, and the political and social perceptions of this virus-disease. Words help us think, and so here I propose to call the former biological virus-disease Sars2; and the latter, socio-political virus-disease, Covid.

Sars2 is only one of the players responsible for the social construction of Covid, and not even the most important one. It is best to think of Covid as a committee project, with a lot of creative talent. Politicians, epidemiologists, virologists, public health experts, computer models, public health institutes, journalists, Chinese bureaucrats, and yes, among them all, Sars2—they all get some say in constructing Covid. Sometimes Sars2 disagrees with their construct, and sometimes his fellow committee members listen to him. But sometimes he disagrees and gets overruled. He’s only one voice at the table, after all. When a Twitter blue-check or a scientist or your professor lectures you about the substance of scientific consensus, they are just delivering articles of faith about the social construct of Covid, as the committee has defined it.

When we say that something is a social construct, we don’t mean that it isn’t real. We just mean that it could be conceived of in a much different way; and that a big part of what we take for granted about the constructed thing is malleable. Clearly political and scientific authorities could have constructed a massively different version of Covid if they wanted to. If you doubt this, look at China. They have basically eradicated Covid by constructing it out of existence.

In the West, Covid has acquired a variety of features that demand constant and heavy-handed technocratic intervention. This is not the case everywhere, but in the West, where technocratic bureaucracies dominate, this is what Covid has become. The technocrats have had a huge hand in building Covid, and they have constructed the perfect nail for their hammer.

Above all, they have constructed Covid to be an intractable problem, because our bureaucracies derive much of their authority and legitimacy from permanent, intractable problems. This was not the only path. We very nearly embarked upon a quite different one. Before the permanent bureaucracy recognised that Sars2 provided fodder for another eternal project, they had taken substantial steps towards building a very different disease out of Sars2—a disease that nobody needed to worry about very much, that was not very different from other respiratory illnesses, and that would probably go away in the end, or that we could at least overlook if we didn’t think about it too carefully or test for it all that widely.

That changed very quickly. By March, western Covid committees had begun building a very different disease. One of its most important features, is its omnipresence and invisibility.

Covid Is A Hidden, Lurking Menace

Central to our image of Covid is its appearance out of nowhere. A wet market deep in China, or some bio-lab—official discourse is agnostic. The earliest images to reach the West depicted apparently healthy Chinese people suddenly collapsing in convulsions, as if struck by God. Efforts to quarantine the earliest Covid patients in Europe totally failed, as the disease turned out to be circulating broadly among the population first in Lombardy, then in northern Europe, and finally in the United States. This early impression of Covid as omnipresent and invisible remains with us to this day. It is not enough to stay home if you are sick. Healthy people, who never develop symptoms of Covid, nevertheless spread the disease. Aerosolised transmission is the subject of much discussion; Covid menaces through the air. Interestingly, the aerosol aspect only took off after establishment scientists decided that transmission via surfaces was at best infrequent. Yet the menace of contaminated surfaces has persisted in our consciousness, alongside the contaminated air, and the contaminated healthy people, and the visibly contaminated sick. 

In the ancient world, it was held that certain life-forms, such as fish, were generated spontaneously by the environment. If you kept a barrel of water around long enough, theory held you’d soon find little minnows swimming around in it. This is, functionally, how we behave with Covid. Two healthy people conversing in an unventilated room will probably yield Covid in one of them. In fact Covid can arise from any instance of social proximity. People fear objects that many others have touched. People fear friends or relatives who are perceived to socialise or travel too much. 

Now, Covid does not lurk absolutely everywhere. It favours above all those spaces subject to the direct control of government bureaucracies. Schools, therefore, are especially feared. Public transit is considered another terrifying locus of infection. Covid is especially pervasive in hospitals; a lot of people avoid them now at all costs. In the first wave, it was common to close parks and playgrounds, even though we know the risk of transmission outdoors is minimal. Bureaucrats control public parks.

As you move away from bureaucratic oversight, the threat of Covid recedes. Bars and clubs, in most countries subject to substantial regulation but essentially private enterprises, are a kind of middle ground: Dangerous certainly, and the subject of much moral expostulation, but not quite the unmitigated danger of schools. Things like restaurants and chamber music concerts at private venues take a further step away from bureaucratic oversight, and Covid recedes accordingly. Private offices are managed by bureaucrats hardly at all, so we don't read that much about infection at work. The exception is government bureaucrats themselves, who hear a lot about how dangerous it is for them to go to the office. That space furthest removed from bureaucratic supervision, the home, is a safe haven from Covid, although it is the one place you’re most likely to contract Sars2. 

The presence of Covid, which is invisible and potentially everywhere, can only be ascertained via special tests. While you can give yourself an antigen test at home, the results are far less authoritative than antigen tests administered by authorised agents of the bureaucracy, and these in turn are still less significant than PCR tests, administered by medical professions and processed in a lab.

Mere symptoms do not mean you are infected; you could have something else. On the other hand, perfect health does not mean you are Covid-free. I don’t think enough people have recognised how bizarre this situation is. Consider all those people these past months who have recovered from a respiratory illness, with fever and cough, without ever being tested. When they suggest that perhaps they had Covid, it is routine to doubt them. Certainly nobody would exempt them from vaccines on that basis. Compare them to all the people who have no symptoms at all, but test positive, and are widely considered to have a disease. The voluminous and eager literature on the asymptomatics is extremely telling. They are 20% of all cases, or 80%; they are responsible for 2% of infections, or 40%. They are tallied in the statistics, undifferentiated from the truly ill.

Central to the definition of Covid, is that mass testing programs be the only means of defining the extent of the disease, assessing the success of the technocratic response, and the virtue of the compliant population. Covid is not like other communicable diseases, which are diagnosed mostly in private, according to likely symptoms.

Covid as a hidden, lurking menace has had by far the worst consequences for children. Sars2, everybody knows, is not a danger to them. The virus himself has been very clear about this and it has not been possible for the disease bureaucrats to overrule him. It is easy to imagine a parallel universe, one where we are relieved at the near-total safety of our children in the face of this disease, one where we spare them the effects of public health interventions, because they are not at risk. 

That is not our world. Government bureaucracies are heavily involved in the lives of children, particularly through schools. Thus public health authorities and, most unnaturally, many women, have come to fear children as a vector of infection. Some people even believe children are the main drivers of the pandemic. Covid lurks, a deadly silent threat, inside them, wherever they gather to play, wherever they gather in school. Classrooms and childcare centres have become places of intense microbial hysteria, silly simulacra of hospitals, with odd Plexiglas barriers, hand sanitiser around every corner, and constant, constant testing. In this world Covid creates its own reality vortex. You find infections where you swab the most. Every time schools are opened, intense surveillance uncovers a new flood of cases, which cements the image of children as dangerous and contaminated, a mortal threat to their grandparents. 

If you say to a person of orthodox political alignments that this is a bizarre approach to any disease, to surround precisely those people at least risk with so many precautions, harmful in themselves; and at the same time to leave those most at-risk to their own devices with vague advice to self-isolate, they will say a great many things to you. One of the first things they say will be this: Covid is a totally new virus. It poses an unknown and wholly unprecedented threat to our society. There are no low-risk populations, and there is no way way to protect the vulnerable from this pervasive invisible pathogen. All we can do is disrupt hidden transmission among the invulnerable carriers.

Covid Is A Novel, Extra-Natural Disease

As with the hidden menace, the foundations for this aspect of Covid were laid early on. In the beginning Covid was held to be a zoonotic virus, brought upon humans by exotic Chinese dietary practices. Now many admit that it is likely a laboratory invention, unleashed with some sinister purpose or by accident. However that may be, Covid is totally new to humans; it is unlike any disease we have ever faced before. It is beyond nature and we have no natural defences against it. In the discourse surrounding Covid there has always been the tendency to push this extra-natural facet to the extremes, nearly to the supernatural. The early paranoia about surfaces comes to mind yet again, with those old stories of mail-room employees picking up Covid from packages sent from far-off, plague-ridden lands. Covid can perfuse the air for hours after a fateful cough. There is no general unified Covid with a limited set of properties. Attempts to fix its characteristics dissolve in a pool of contradictory evidence. Note the widely differing characteristics of Covid in neighbouring, broadly similar countries. The better part of this variation arises from different national medical bureaucracies, which have lent Covid different properties according to their capacities and proclivities. But of course the variation is not understood in that way; it is rather put down to some magical aspect of the virus itself. Extranatural virions do one thing in Sweden, and another thing in Germany, and another thing in Italy. 

Because Covid is an extra-natural disease, our natural immune systems are not up to fighting it. This is why the prospect of Covid reinfection has been a matter of obsession from the very beginning. The first rumours of reinfection arose in China, where reinfected were said to suffer devastating symptoms, such as heart attacks. Similar cases were never observed in the West and so everyone stopped talking about that. Later on, South Korean health officials began reporting various cases of reinfection, but then it emerged that this was an artefact of the manic Korean testing regime. Recovering Covid patients issued multiple tests may come up negative one day and positive the next, as their body sheds the virus. Though they had been proven wrong twice, reinfection theories persisted. Minor victory came when some serological studies failed to find antibodies in some confirmed Covid patients. Later they had the holy grail, namely several confirmed genuine reinfections. 

You could say, perhaps, that the reinfectionists on the Covid committee forced a compromise with Sars2 on this point. Reinfection aligns neatly with established doctrine about the inadequacy of our natural defences. Only broad-scale social and political countermeasures have any chance of success against Covid. Think of it as a substitute, artificial, social immune system: Lockdowns, curfews, quarantines, travel bans, mass testing, masks, school closures, personal distance, interior ventilation, hand sanitiser, contact tracing apps, home office, and more. This is what a society of immune-compromised people looks like. Just as our bodily immune response is responsible for many of the symptoms we associate with illness, so too is the social immune response responsible for the majority of negative effects from Covid. We have made our whole society sick, in a vain effort to keep some people healthy. 

The body’s immune system can overreact to the point that it poses a greater danger than the infection itself. In a related way, our social response to Sars2 has entered an inflammatory phase, a spiral of disease hysteria demanding mass testing and contact tracing leading to the discovery of more cases causing more stringent anti-Covid social measures that just make our nations and our societies vastly sicker and more dysfunctional than we were before. Remember that this all started with "two weeks to crush the curve," and consider how far we have come, and how far we might go still. It goes without saying that all these negative effects are taken as further proof of the unusual threat that Covid poses.

Beyond the extra-natural social defences, we have placed all of our hopes in an extra-natural vaccine. Here the discourse devolves into awkward contradiction. To begin with, vaccines, while indeed extra-natural, merely stimulate natural immunity. If we may hope for a vaccine, it is unclear why we cannot let some of our natural immune systems join the fight. What is more, despite unprecedented mass testing programs and enormous scientific interest and the bias of our perspective, Covid reinfection is not yet a pervasive phenomenon. Those with natural immunity are well protected indeed. From the very beginning, the developers of extra-natural vaccines have been warning for a long time that their products will provide only partial protection against Sars2. Yet their products were marketed, until recently, as more protective than infection, and to this moment, even as the vaccines fail, politicians everywhere insist that mass vaccination is the only answer.

Fundamental to this paradox, is the axiom that extra-natural Covid poses an unknowable yet grave risk to everyone. Reinfection is only the beginning of it. All those people who have recovered without lingering effects may well develop brain lesions next year. The health of their internal organs has yet to be confirmed and there are dark suppositions that no few harbour hidden heart or liver or kidney damage. A lot of people might never smell again. Many recover only to relapse several weeks later, and perhaps again several weeks after that. There is now an enormous body of literature about Long Covid, a chronic syndrome marked by every symptom you could imagine: Ongoing fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog, joint pain, cartilage degeneration, insomnia, depression—on and on.

Before you get into the weeds of the journal literature on Long Covid or permanent organ damage from Sars2, consider this: Officially, the virus has infected over 220 million people across the world. That is a great river, wide and deep, for our Covid committee to trawl for stories of unusual complications, debilitating symptoms and incomplete convalescences, from now until forever. The question is not, what odd horrible things lurk in that river; but how many of them there are, relative to the ordinary pedestrian things. What are you most likely to find? Long Covid and relapsed Covid and heart attack Covid? Or low-grade grade fever Covid, mild-cough Covid, over-in-five-days-without-a-second-thought Covid? I think we can all answer that question for ourselves. That we let the rare and the unusual dominate our construction of Covid, rather than the mild and the pedestrian, is partly down to publication bias. The banal almost never makes it into print; the strange and unusual invariably find an audience. 

But that is not the only reason we must constantly hear about the grave unknown risks of this extra-natural disease. There are others too, and the biggest is simply this: The bureaucracies responsible for constructing Covid have decided that infections must be minimised above all else. That is the Sisyphean task they have set themselves. As the costs of their containment measures increase and society gets sicker, they must tell ever grimmer stories about why it is unacceptable for anyone, ever, to contract Sars2. 

Covid Is Universal 

Covid is the great sin of globalism, and globalism has brought it everywhere. Not even Antarctica remains Covid-free. Covid can infect animals as well as humans, and the prospect of reinfection has been leveraged to dispel the idea that anyone might become immune from Covid. In this way, the disease applies always and everywhere to everyone. (The opposite and far better-documented phenomenon, that a lot of people who have never had Sars2 have some partial immunity—presumably from prior non-Sars2 coronavirus infections—is contrary to Universal Covid and so it is excluded from official Covid doctrine.) 

Because Covid is everywhere, and everybody is subject to it, containment policies must also be general, and vaccination policies must be too. For the disease bureaucrats, Universal Covid is a central doctrine, eagerly defended. The myth of Universal Covid is reinforced by the infection statistics we hear about every day. The only thing that ever makes headlines is how many positive tests there were today, as opposed to yesterday or last week; and which regions have the most infections right now. Since the Lombardy outbreak, everybody grasps that Sars2 infections have a regional particularism about them, but this is never presented as a challenge to Covid’s universality. Regional “hot-spots” are universally applicable examples of what will happen to your region, too, if Covid is not suppressed there and everywhere. Positive swabs might also be broken down into age cohorts, and these function much the same way. If your region has many new cases, but nobody really seems to be sick or dying, this is because the pandemic is currently concentrated among young people. Old people are next, if everybody does not comply with suppression measures. The effect is to make grim statistics a problem, even in the total absence of anybody actually suffering or dying.

Beyond these crude numbers, you don’t know anything about all those positive tests or the processes that generated them at all. It is very hard to figure out, for example, how many of them represent people who tested positive last week, and now have submitted a second test to see if they’ve cleared the virus and can leave their apartment again. Crucial for the interpretation of any such statistics, is to know how many of them emerge from contact-tracing operations, from the kinds of routine tests administered to people like doctors, teachers, and school children; and how many of them reflect actual patients seeking medical treatment. Equally central, if you want to make sense of these numbers, is how many of these people are actually sick, which is another question that many testing regimes leave wholly or mostly unanswered.

Western nations instituted mass testing programs, a universal solution to Universal Covid, after the example of South Korea. In the early days, it was thought that the Koreans had avoided a serious outbreak, without locking down, by testing and tracing everybody. So now we’re doing that too. The theory was that the technocrats would find the positives, shut them away, and allow the rest of us to go about our lives. In practice, it has been pretty much the opposite. Mass testing and tracing, far from replacing mass containment, merely provide the data to justify its enforcement. It is the same with vaccines, now that many regimes are struggling to vaccinate their way out of lockdowns. All that testing and tracing ought to make vaccines less important. Are they not identifying and quarantining the sick? Alas, you can never test and trace your way out of the Universal Covid we have constructed. That would only work for a Local Covid or an Endemic Covid, which we have not built—a Covid that afflicts certain people and not others. So the contact tracers do their thing, but the statistics that their activities generate are used to assess the state of the Covid outbreak for absolutely everybody and general, universal solutions are deployed in response to them. More lockdowns, more vaccines.

The German government is highly federalised, even more so than the United States. Much of the governing actually happens at the level of individual federal states, or Bundesländer. Each of the states could, in theory, manage its own response, according to local circumstances and sensibilities. You’d think this would be an advantage, because the instance of Sars2 infections varies vastly across Germany, and people in different states have different opinions about how to deal with it. If different states had gone their different ways, we would now have very direct insight into the effectiveness of competing containment policies. Of course, nobody in government sees it that way. Instead, Angela Merkel has spent every minute fighting against a federal approach and demanding a unified response. Newspapers have deplored our traditional federalism.

A final expression of Universal Covid lies in the universal mathematical formulae that were once widely held to predict its future progress. In March 2020, the population of the entire world received instruction in the basics of exponential functions. It was thought, as the first wave advanced, that Covid could be plotted on a graph, with time as the x axis and new cases as the y axis. Wherever Covid was spreading, this exercise yielded a curve sloping upwards to the right. Predicting the future course of Covid became a simple matter of plotting that same exponential function into future x-axis time. A lot of commentators, including many scientists, portrayed the resulting projections as mathematical certainties. This was important because raw infection numbers differed everywhere: Lombardy had the worst statistics, and so it was in the lead. Behind it were France and Spain, where Lombardy had been the previous week. Further back was Germany, which needed still three or four more weeks to reach a catastrophe of Lombardic scale. But the math assured all of us that the same thing would happen everywhere, eventually. I will confess that I found all of this powerfully convincing at the time. The flat edifice of Universal Covid seemed to brook no contradictions. But typing it all out now, it is easy to see how foolish it was. Covid did not work the same everywhere, and the curves themselves were never forever and always exponential. Germany never caught up to Lombardy. It never even came close. 

Those graphs have receded from our conceptions of Covid. That is not only because they were wrong, but because they ended up drawing attention to how much all of the national outbreaks differed from each other. They were a direct shot across the bow of Universal Covid, and in April and May you could read very long essays by deeply mystified people, pondering how this was possible and what was going on. Many of the authors behind these think pieces were presumably familiar with things like seasonal flu epidemics, which in Europe often differ drastically across regions, even though a similar mixture of flu viruses are typically implicated every season. Influenza, however, isn’t constructed to be a universal affliction, so its various impacts have never bothered anybody.

Covid is a Vice of the Young and the Healthy Against the Old and the Sick

We come to the fourth obtrusive feature of our socially-constructed Covid. By nautical miles, it is the most egregious and appalling one of all, and so I regret that I have the least to say about it. Stupid cruelty does not admit of much analysis.

Sars2 is no threat to the young, we said that already. What is more, disease bureaucracies have not been able to convince the young that they, personally, should worry about Sars2. The only way to enforce the one-size-fits-all measures that Universal Covid demands, is via an ugly moral blackmail.

What began as an appeal in early days to the conscience of the youth, to consider the health of their grandparents, has become an all-out war on everything that young, healthy and fit people do. Here is insight into the withered souls of many scientists and bureaucrats, who see in the casual joy, effortless strength and unthinking beauty of our youth a great indictment of themselves. Many of them have long disliked young people and what they get up to, and now they have been given the power to vent their spleens about it.

The social life of young people irks them most of all. Parties are scorned. Contact tracers routinely identify private celebrations as outbreak epicentres, and from the press reports, you’d think whole districts are rising up in rage against the kids who dared to gather in somebody’s friend’s garage. German police spent a lot of time the past few springs citing teenagers who, after weeks of isolation, dared to get a few beers with friends in the park. It was truly strange to behold: Patrol cars sporting loudspeakers driving slowly along footpaths, between the trees, past benches, reciting the corona distancing rules. 

It’s safe to complain about parties, because some people stupidly assume they aren’t essential, or that they’re irresponsible or excessive. But behind the scenes, these ageing meddlers were busy attacking everything else. They have closed gyms for months. When they allowed them to reopen, the conditions were so onerous and counterproductive that it was hard to doubt malicious intent. A whole cloud of official opprobrium descended upon every sort of recreational travel, and remains there. Early disease clusters were traced to skiers, and a batch of young people who’d had the misfortune to visit Ischgl at the wrong time were handed responsibility for several national outbreaks. (Chinese travellers, responsible for the entire European pandemic, remained beyond criticism, even as Italy and Germany had a brief spat over who introduced the virus to whom.) In Bavaria, open-air playgrounds were closed for weeks and weeks, longer than hair salons, in case you thought any of this was about the risk of infection. 

When anonymous bureaucrats of this sort are given their way, secure in the knowledge that nobody will hold them accountable for their egregious decisions, and that every mild critique of their policies will be suppressed, they spiral into extremism. In the midst of the lockdown, they began to complain that people were shopping for groceries too frequently and spending too much time in supermarkets. After mask requirements were issued for public transit and indoor spaces, newspapers ran very strange articles lecturing their readers about proper mask procedures. Readers were told never to put on a mask until they’d thoroughly washed and sanitised their hands. Then they were told never to touch the mask again at all. Should they touch it the mask would become hopelessly contaminated, and their hands too, so they'd need to sterilise them all over again and start over with a new mask. Runners and walkers were still allowed outside, for purposes of exercise, and this made the disease bureaucrats very nervous indeed. Pundits complained that parks were too full. Schoolmarms posing as experts began telling runners that their heavy breathing was a danger to everyone within three or four metres of them. 

Covid the socially constructed virus-disease exploits the health and beauty of youth to reach the old, but this is not how Sars2 actually works. Sars2 prefers to do most of its killing in institutional settings. It is at base a disease of healthcare institutions, like MERS and SARS; it thrives in nursing homes and in hospital wings. This in Spring 2020 it was ironically the most alarmist regions, those that had imposed the strictest lockdowns nominally for the safety of the elderly, which ended up killing more elderly than anybody else, due to over-hospitalisation, criminal mistreatment of many Sars2 patients and poor, paranoid management of elderly cases.  

Undeniably, Sars2—like many other viruses—exploits the social activity of humans. Until now, the Covid bureaucrats have responded with rolling seasonal embargoes on all human social activity that is not mediated by electronics. People who violate these restrictions are behaving irresponsibly and endangering all of society. Consider how much this stance differs from their approach to other viruses. Were gay men, at any point, ever exhorted to abstain from anal sex in the interests of defeating HIV? Was the gay community ever blamed for the AIDS epidemic and scolded by public health bureaucrats for worsening statistics? Were gay bars and bath houses ever targeted for closure or curfews or—imagine!—contact tracing, to flatten the curve? No, they weren’t; and if any of that had happened, we’d be reading to this day what a grave injustice all of it was. HIV is undeniably much harder on those it infects than Sars2, and I submit that, in the hierarchy of human needs, quotidian social interaction ranks well above anal sex. 

Some Deconstruction

The question of how we ended up with this miserable social construction of Covid, and not with some other more manageable social construction of Covid, is well worth pondering. The most obvious answer is simply this: Our disease bureaucrats, a bunch of socially promoted charlatans and degree connoisseurs who play scientists on television, got spooked by Sars2. They had a lot of credentials but no real ideas, and so they borrowed their public health response from China.

Before January 2020, lockdowns were totally foreign to the public health establishment. None of our governments or epidemiologists or disease-control agencies had ever before contemplated containing a pandemic by placing everybody under house arrest and freezing the better part of economic and social life. Lockdowns as a measure against Covid are, top to bottom, an invention not of a fabled “scientific consensus,” but of anonymous authoritarian Chinese bureaucrats whose motives and intent are largely opaque to us. Italian disease bureaucrats copied this measure from the Chinese bureaucrats, the rest of our disease bureaucrats copied from the Italians, and since then they have all continued the senseless copying of containment policies among themselves down to this very moment. If you are an incompetent pseudo-intellectual devoid of ideas, following others is your only option; and if you can get everyone else to follow in the same way, you might even escape blame.

Covid, the socially constructed virus-disease, was fashioned in the midst of the lockdowns, to justify them. This scary construct also works well as a justification for coercive, universal vaccination programs, and so it continues to be propagated. It is a monument to the cognitive dissonance of our intelligentsia, who lobbied hard for a catastrophic policy on the strength of dire predictions that, save in a few much publicised cases, were never realised. Almost everything that has become “scientific consensus” about Covid is a retroactive justification of our failed and plainly foolish containment measures: Covid lurks everywhere, and it is invisible, so we must hide from it in our homes. Covid is a totally novel disease, full of indeterminate properties and unknowable risks, so nobody can be exposed. Covid endangers everyone, and so everyone must stay inside. Even if young people are all but invulnerable to Covid, they too must lock down, to save the old. And of course, for all of these reasons, absolutely everyone must be vaccinated—however dangerous the vaccines, however low-risk the person.

That is the simplest, most straightforward answer to the question of how we got this Covid, and not some other Covid. It is equivalent to the wet-market theory of the origins of Sars2. We got Covid from the stupidity and incompetence of our elites, desperate to justify the economic destruction they wrought via their plagiarised containment measures. Relatedly, in the wet-market theory of Sars2, the virus found its way to humans via the unhygienic dietary practices of the Chinese, and was spread everywhere by the unrelenting globalism of our short-sighted elites.

But just as the vastly more plausible theory of Sars2 is that it represents the product of gain of function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, so too there is another, much more compelling way of thinking about the deepest origins of our Covid construct. Cast your mind back to January, as the Chinese implemented their own lockdown of Hubei. Consider those bizarre videos that appeared on social media, showing Covid patients convulsing in streets, collapsing on stairs—succumbing, or so it seemed, to instant viral death. Some of this footage recalled scenes from Hollywood films, particularly Contagion. At the time, the framing was this: The Chinese were keeping a tight lid on the Wuhan outbreak, but here and there the magic of social media could defeat the evil communist censors and provide some glimpse of what was really going on. Clips of Chinese news coverage circulated, where the screen briefly flashed mortality figures orders of magnitude higher than the official numbers. This was the journalists trying to alert the rest of the world, or it was grim reality crying out from the ground, or something. All kinds of strange news items, about mass mobile account cancellations in China and industrial-scale cremation in Wuhan, were put about to show that the Chinese were dying in the millions. Everyone in the world watched blurry video of some Chinese guys welding a door shut. Online news outfits declared that the Chinese were literally sealing people in their apartments. That’s how bad Covid was. In the weeks before conditions deteriorated in Lombardy, a whole host of social media accounts began advocating lockdowns as a western containment measure. It has now emerged that many of these were operated by people in China.

Sophisticated propaganda and disinformation campaigns involve more than Russians buying Facebook ads. One tactic, is to take the idea you want to plant, cut it up into a bunch of different pieces, and release these to the world via various proxies and intermediaries. These little bits and piece might take the form of accidental leaks or hacked data or surreptitious photos or whatever. People gather these pieces and put them together, find that they all contribute to the same, ominous picture, and believe that they have discovered a hidden truth. This gives the lie an organic, authentic feel. It becomes a personal thesis and nobody realises that they have been led down the garden path. All of that early nonsense from China has entirely this feel about it. None of it was true, nobody really knows where it came from, but it all supported the same false hysteria.

So a deeper, more conspiratorial but also more plausible answer to the origins of our socially constructed disease, might be this: Covid is the ideological construct our disease bureaucrats used to justify their failed lockdowns; but at root, this construct was probably not of their making. They merely recycled the selfsame propaganda by which shadowy actors had sold them on lockdowns in the first place. It looks like some people very much wanted western governments to implement lockdowns. This led to a remarkable realignment of opinion, whereby the elite leftist establishment, which had sought to minimise the virus as much as possible, totally reversed their position by early March 2020 and began advocating a maximal approach. The Covid that we have now is all downstream from that, and there is no changing it.

How things started, of course, is no indication of how they will end. The optimistic scenario was that the vaccine roll-out in Spring 2021 would defeat Sars2 and that all of this would go away. That was never very plausible, and as it now becomes clear to everyone that the vaccines do not work very well, optimism is no longer on the menu. Perhaps it never was. Covid has given a lot of terrible, petty, mediocre people a great deal of power, and they won’t be willing to give that up, ever, however often they fail.

The most likely scenario, the one which is already playing out, is that Covid devolves into an eternal nuisance after the pattern of climate change, but more intrusive. The vaccines have come, but mass testing and various containment policies remain in place. There will be some attempt to maintain regular boosters, first for the elderly, then for everyone. But this path is one of diminishing returns. Each new round of injections will inspire less compliance, and will also prove less effective.

Over the next several years, most countries will probably fight their disease bureaucrats towards some minimally acceptable long-term compromise. Home office will be normalised. The media hysteria will never totally fade. Full lockdowns, contrary to the interests of many industries, will probably be phased out in the coming years, but in the meantime we will see increasingly inhumane restrictions on the unvaccinated. Other obnoxious interventions will likely return every year in time for Christmas, a holiday that will be increasingly celebrated with a few close relatives, in private. The campaigns against shaking hands, standing too close, or having too many people over for dinner will probably not end for a long time. Contact tracers will come to be loathed as much as city parking enforcers. In the longer run, Covid policy will probably be redirected towards pharmaceutical boondoggles and hygiene legislation that creates markets for a new world of garbage consumer products. The vaccines are probably an early preview of all of the false hope, graft and absurdity the coming world of market solutions will bring. Should Sars2 become especially rare, then other seasonal respiratory illnesses, like the flu, will likely be pressed into service. In many countries, it is likely that a whole generation of kids will grow up wearing crayola-branded dinosaur masks in school.

Still more pessimistic scenarios are possible, but they would probably resolve themselves sooner or later. It is hard to see how any western democracy could endure the economic destruction of biannual lockdowns, or other similarly drastic interventions, for many more years, without destabilising itself politically.

Campaigns to impose regular boosters on entire populations will stir up more and more opposition to mandatory vaccination regimes and, if the gods are merciful, make repression of the unvaccinated increasingly unworkable. We must also remember that the disease bureaucrats are not omnipotent. They have seized power, at first on temporary terms, from other political players, who will sooner or later try to get it back. Intemperate Covid policies have also inspired a wide array of opposition throughout academia and government, even if you don’t always see it. Now that the vaccines have failed and there is no obvious end, it is likely these people will begin to form opposition movements from within bureaucratic ranks. In some countries they might even win, and in the breakdown of international consensus there will be some small hope.