By Dominic Sandbrook
The Daily Mail
February 29, 2020
Abridged by Lasha Darkmoon,
with an extended endnote entitled:
“On Fear Porn and Conspiracy Theories”.
This article can also be read on TRUTHSEEKER
A leading historian warns against complacency. The coronavirus pandemic, if it escalates any further, could have apocalyptic consequences.
One day, long after the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is behind us, historians may see the last few days as the moment when the world tumbled into the abyss.
On Thursday, the head of the World Health Organisation declared that mankind stood at a ‘decisive point’.
The world faced ‘a crisis, an epidemic that is coming,’ agreed France’s President Emmanuel Macron. ‘We know that we’re only at the beginning.’
He was right. Only a few hours after those words flashed around the world, stock markets began to crumble.
By the end of play on Thursday, Wall Street’s Dow Jones index had suffered its greatest losses in history.
And when Asian and European markets opened yesterday morning, share prices immediately began to plunge. Not since the financial crisis of 2008 has the outlook been bleaker.
But this, I fear, is in a different league altogether. As President Macron said, we are only at the beginning. And when you read about contingency plans for mass burials here in Britain — or about a potential nationwide death toll of at least 400,000 — it is hard not to feel a chill of foreboding.
Free trade, cheaper flights, globalisation and digital technology have brought us closer together than ever.
We live in an age of unparalleled sophistication, freedom and comfort. We pride ourselves on our supremacy over the natural world and our mastery of science.
But as the last week has shown, our very modernity has made us weaker than ever.
Only a few weeks after the first cases were reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the coronavirus has become a genuinely global scourge. Every day has brought a chilling new development, with more than 84,000 people infected across the planet by last night.
One moment you are reading about towns shut down in Northern Italy, or foreign pilgrims being turned away from Saudi Arabia.
The next, you hear that a primary school in Buxton has closed its doors, and that the Cabinet Office has contacted local authorities about ‘Excess Death Contingency Planning’, including possible sites for mass burials.
It feels like the stuff of some terrifying apocalyptic blockbuster. Yet in some corners of the world, such stories are nothing new.
The Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus outbreak killed 774 people in China in 2002 and 2003.
Mers (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) killed 525 people between 2012 and 2015, most of them in Saudi Arabia.
And Ebola killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa between 2013 and 2016.
It was easy for us to ignore these stories. After all, they seemed so far away, so remote from our everyday lives. Yet as anyone familiar with history will know, our sense of security was always an illusion.
You can easily tell the story of the past two thousand years, not as a saga of kings and battles, but as a succession of devastating pandemics.
By far the most infamous is the Black Death. Just like the coronavirus, it spread along global trade routes, the contagion seeping unstoppably across the map.
Although historians still argue about the details, it probably reached our shores in June 1348, when a merchant ship docked in Melcombe Regis, Dorset. Among its crew were a group of Gascon sailors who had fallen ill and had to be carried ashore.
On inspection, their bodies were found to be covered with black blotches, boils and ulcers under the arms and in the groin.
Within a few days the Gascons were dead. They had only just been buried when other sailors began to cough up blood.
And when they began dying, too, Melcombe folk began to worry. But it was too late. On Midsummer Eve, the first Melcombe patients died. The Black Death had claimed its first English victims. Even now, centuries later, it is a genuinely terrifying story. Like the coronavirus, the plague almost certainly originated in the world’s most populous country, China, and travelled across the world’s trading networks into Europe.
There was no cure. In Italy, recorded the poet Boccaccio, people ‘dropped dead in the open streets, both by day and by night’. As the graveyards filled up, the survivors dug deep trenches, in which corpses were piled ‘tier upon tier like ships’ cargo’. Today, when the Black Death has become the stuff of textbooks and exam papers, we have lost sight of what this actually meant.
In Europe as a whole, about a third of the population died. In London, roughly every second person died. In places such as Italy and the south of France, the death rate may have been as high as 80 per cent.
It is tempting, of course, to dismiss this as the kind of thing that happened during the dim and distant Middle Ages.
But we are deluding ourselves if we think modern medicine is an inviolable safeguard against the ravages of nature.
Modern medicine, after all, did nothing to protect our more recent forebears from the horrors of the ‘Spanish flu’ after World War I. (Incidentally, historians now think it began in Kansas, but because some of the first reports came from Spain, the Hispanic label has stuck.)
Again, the figures defy imagination. One in three people worldwide was infected, and the death toll came to somewhere between 50 million and 100 million, more than both world wars combined.
On current figures, the coronavirus is nowhere near as lethal — as long as it does not mutate, that is. Experts believe the mortality rate is between one and two per cent, although the WHO cautions that it is not known yet.
Even so, its repercussions could well be devastating, not merely for affected families, but for our economy, our politics and our entire way of life.
Just consider, for example, the economic impact so far, only a few weeks into what may prove a very long and deadly crisis.
Stock markets have just had their worst week for more than a decade. Oil prices have plunged by more than 10 per cent.
The epidemic in Lombardy seems almost certain to tip Italy’s economy into recession. Above all, China’s growth seems likely to fall by as much as half this year.
According to some experts, this would make life impossible for some of its major banks, which have taken on massive debts in the last few years. Even apparently trivial details tell the story. Coca-Cola has warned that stocks of Diet Coke may run dry, because the virus has disrupted supplies of its raw sweeteners.
And as the Mail reported, not only are dentists running out of surgical masks, but there is a shortage of wedding dresses in the UK and clothes manufacturers are running short of zips, which are largely produced in China.
Some of these may seem like little things. But little things add up; and in any case, some consequences may not be so little.
Even sober economists are now talking of a shock greater than the financial crisis of 2008. That could well send the entire world economy into recession, with unfathomable political repercussions.
The last downturn, after all, gave us austerity, Brexit and Donald Trump.
Throw millions of deaths into the mix — as well as massive social dislocation and authoritarian restrictions — and the consequences could be toxic indeed.
Contrary to what is often thought, pandemics do not bring people together. Human nature being as it is, people tend to lash out. They look for somebody to blame, from the political elite to vulnerable minorities.
During the Black Death, for example, there was a marked spike in attacks on beggars, pilgrims and gypsies.
Jews, in particular, were suspected of causing the plague by poisoning wells — precisely the kind of vicious conspiracy theory that you can imagine spreading on Twitter and Facebook today. From Toulon and Barcelona to Basel and Cologne, Jewish families were attacked and murdered.
In Strasbourg, some 2,000 Jews were burned alive in one of medieval Europe’s first major pogroms.
All this, I know, hardly makes for cheerful weekend reading. So it is worth repeating that, so far, the coronavirus seems to be less deadly than the Spanish flu, and certainly much less deadly than the aptly-named Black Death.
Perhaps, then, the worst will not happen, and society will escape largely unscathed.
Even so, the coronavirus could hardly be a more frightening warning. And the more sophisticated our society becomes, the more we weave our webs of connections, the more we depend on machines and computers, the more vulnerable we become.
All it takes is one infinitesimal virus to tug on a thread, and the whole tapestry could unravel in an instant.
ON FEAR PORN AND CONSPIRACY THEORIES
Many of our readers will be inclined to dismiss all the above as “fear porn”. There are apparently as many theories about the coronavirus disease as there are people talking about it. The reality is that we don’t know the truth about what this virus really is or where it came from. We learn:
It’s spreading. It’s mutating. It’s going viral. Am I talking about coronavirus? No! I’m talking about theories about coronavirus.
It’s a natural virus. No, it’s a man made bioweapon!
It’s less deadly than the regular flu. No, it’s worse than the Spanish Flu! It’s flying bat AIDS!!
The numbers are being underreported. No, the numbers are being inflated!
It was patented in 2015! No, it really wasn’t!
It was unleashed by accident. No, it was unleashed on purpose! It doesn’t even exist!
So what are we to believe? Any pet theories of your own? As usual, you, the omniscient reader, knows best! The trouble is: no two readers agree. There are as many opinions as there are opinion makers.
So what exactly are the facts?
James Corbett, in his Report yesterday (February 29, 2020), has this to say:
There’s something that we do know for sure regardless of where this virus came from or whether it even really exists. The hype and fear and panic and pandemonium surrounding this (supposed) outbreak is going to be far worse than the disease could ever be. It is the perfect cover for a slew of agenda items on the globalist checklist. And the more the population panics, the more they play into the globalists’ hands.
According to Corbett, there are five things we need to worry about:
(1) Unprecedented surveillance and control of the population.
Meaning? You won’t be able to do a darn thing in future without someone spying on you, bugging your conversations, checking your emails, eavesdropping on your phone calls. Expect a flying drone to be hovering outside your house and taking photos of your wife sunbathing nude in the garden.
(2) A blank check for Big Pharma and the WHO.
Meaning? Evil Big Pharma creates the virus in its labs, then gets rich medicating the population and forcing everyone to take its deadly vaccines. All vaccines, by definition, are gonna make you sick. Fact or fiction? Well, as usual, our readers must decide for themselves whether vaccines are safe or not. (Personally, I opt for medication only as a last resort, having been damaged by unnecessary prescription drugs in the past).
(3) An excuse to implement medical martial law.
Meaning? You no longer have a choice about vaccines. The government, invoking emergency laws, can quarantine and incarcerate you and your family and inject you forcibly with chemical substances against your will. The man in the white coat and surgical mask, with the hypodermic syringe in his hand, will become your best friend as he pumps you full of toxins from hell, driving you nuts. You are now in a Hollywood horror movie.
(4) An excuse to crack down on the internet.
Meaning? Death of free speech. Everyone now a zombie parroting the same opinions and singing hymns to Big Brother. Dissidents in Fema Camps. Or shot on sight. Meanwhile, population of proles kept on a diet of designer drugs, pornography, and round-the-clock state TV — with cameras and microphones spying on them as they watch the TV screen in a hypnotic trance.
(5) Precipitating economic crisis.
Meaning? The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Nothing new here. Even in cave men times, the rich got the biggest bones! All this in aid of predatory capitalism … which is really, er, communism in disguise … the evil agenda all being pushed forward and promoted—yes, you guessed it!—by a cabal of lizards or neanderthals with big hooked noses.
“Assuming that the virus does go pandemic,” Corbett concludes magisterially, “it is quite likely that this will be the largest economic disruption of our lifetime.”
Corbett’s grim conclusion?
[The] Coronavirus panic is a giant boost for the globalist agenda…. Don’t believe me? Just read the press release that Johns Hopkins and the Event 201 participants put out last month just before “Wuhan” and “coronavirus” became topics of daily conversation: “The next severe pandemic will not only cause great illness and loss of life but could also trigger major cascading economic and societal consequences that could contribute greatly to global impact and suffering. Efforts to prevent such consequences or respond to them as they unfold will require unprecedented levels of collaboration between governments, international organizations, and the private sector.”
My own views? I have none. I merely report what I read, as objectively and fairly as I can, acutely conscious that I am now living in a world that increasingly resembles a lunatic asylum.