Both the 9/11 attacks and the Covid-19 pandemic have dramatically shaped Western society. But the changes they wrought were devastating and unnecessary, pushed through by control-hungry governments who saw opportunity in crisis.
While both the worst terror attack in US history and the deadliest pandemic in a generation were immediately hyped as the defining elements of the era, the uncomfortable reality is that neither terrorism nor the novel coronavirus pose any risk more severe than taking a bath.
However, the media hype – fueled by think tanks and governments drooling over the possibility of adopting controls that would normally spark popular revolt – has created the same climate of fear that allowed the imposition of the post-9/11 police state, paving the way for a post-Covid regime that will make the Patriot Act look cuddly.
The shocking changes to the American “way of life” that have followed both events were in no way required, or even logical, responses to the crises in question. It took an unlikely series of what the government described as “intelligence failures” for the events of 9/11 to fall into place, and the Trump administration scrapped completely adequate pandemic response plans to adopt a regime of lockdowns and economic shutdowns that will likely end up doing more harm than the virus itself. Had governments followed their own procedures, neither catastrophe likely would have happened.
But the ‘government incompetence’ narrative doesn’t sell the intrusive surveillance regulations that were yanked off the shelf in both cases to be railroaded through while any potential opposition was paralyzed with fear. Both the Patriot Act and the worst of the coronavirus control regulations in the US and elsewhere were written long before 9/11 and the pandemic, wheeled out at the appointed hour, and sometimes trialed in the private sector under the reasoning that one must not let a crisis go to waste. To further destabilize society, Americans were encouraged in both cases to rat out their fellow citizens to the authorities for perceived offenses as minor as checking the wrong books out from the library (2001) or failing to social-distance (2020).
Even the crises themselves have an awful lot in common. Osama bin Laden was fingered definitively as the culprit for 9/11 even as the towers were still smoldering – long before an investigation could have been conducted – echoing the immediately ubiquitous media declaration that an infected bat at a Wuhan wet market had spawned coronavirus. After it was found the market didn’t actually sell bats, establishment scientists had to scramble to pin the responsibility for human transmission on an intermediate species – even as studies revealed the earliest cases of Covid-19 had had no contact with the market at all. Yet just as bin Laden and 19 hijackers (some of whom were later found to be inconveniently alive) remain the only ‘official’ culprits for 9/11, China is still blamed for the pandemic.
For those Americans too dense or stubborn to ‘get’ the similarities between Covid-19 and 9/11, a flood of articles accompanied the arrival of the virus on US shores. From “Not even 9/11 could shut down AA meetings. Coronavirus is different” (as if there’d been no society-disrupting disasters in the intervening 18 years capable of disrupting a 12-step meeting!) to “Imagining a 9/11-like response to coronavirus”, the heavy-handed programming has hammered home the “New Normal” supposedly facing the world on the other side of the pandemic. Just as Americans were led to fear endless terror attacks if they did not give up their rights, the entire world is being told we face a pandemic-laden future if we don’t mask up, sit down, shut up, and roll up our sleeves for an experimental vaccine (or two or three…).
But there’s no objective reason life should not, in fact, go back to “normal.” Humanity has lived through much deadlier pandemics, especially as each new revelation reveals that the horrific US Covid-19 statistics have been hugely overinflated. Yet while Wuhan, the virus’s apparent origin point, has returned to holding summertime pool parties as its case count cratered, parallel declines in fatalities in the US and UK have actually resulted in increased controls.
How? Peer pressure – or rather, the illusion of it. Those who oppose even the slightest element of the New Normal are denounced “objectively pro-Covid”. Just as then-President George W. Bush warned Americans who opposed his draconian post-9/11 crackdown and war in the Middle East that “you’re with us, or you’re with the terrorists” and anti-war bands such as the Dixie Chicks got death threats, those who’ve embraced the Covid-19 regime are encouraged to wish sickness and death on their neighbors who won’t “mask up.”
Unfortunately, just as 9/11 was weaponized to launch wars against Afghanistan and Iraq (and, later, most of the Middle East), the Trump administration seems determined to wrangle a war with China out of Covid-19. Even if this doesn’t come to pass, the relationship between the two countries has deteriorated markedly, and a second Cold War seems inevitable. Meanwhile, the devastation wrought by the suicidal New Normal carries on at home, laying waste to what was left of Americans’ rights after the Patriot Act was through with them (and threatening to do the same . Can we stop repeating history for once?
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.