Some Early Lessons From The Pandemic

I’d like to begin by establishing that I am an example of something that there seems to be very few of at the moment: a COVID moderate.

•No, I don’t think it’s a hoax.
•No, I don’t think it’s a “plandemic”.
•No, I don’t think that Drs. Birx and Fauci are operatives of the NWO.
•No, I don’t think there’s any large-scale intentional faking of numbers (outside of China).
•Yes, I think that, in the face of a disease outbreak caused by a previously-unknown virus that threatened to kill millions, it was reasonable to shut down until we got a better handle on things.
•Yes, I think that we now do have a better handle on the crisis, in terms of our knowledge base about the virus, availability of the equipment we need to deal with it, and what the best policies to minimize it are.
•Yes, that means I think that May 1st was a good date to start cautiously lifting restrictions, starting in less-affected (primarily rural) areas.
•Yes, this probably sounds familiar to you. That’s because what I’m outlining is basically what the Trump approach to all of this has been.
•Yes, I think that Trump has done a good job with the crisis. Not perfect, but I don’t expect perfection. It’s easy for Monday morning quarterbacks to point out what he should have done differently weeks, months, or years later. Color me unimpressed. Every Monday morning quarterback equipped with 20/20 hindsight goggles is a genius, and is also completely useless.

So while much of the right seems determined to squander a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discredit globalism on weird conspiracy bullshit and whiny blackpilling, I prefer to try to stay level-headed about the present and rational when it comes to what current trends are indicating about the shape of future events. This last item is critical; it is often true that big and important events in history look in retrospect to have been presaged by smaller, earlier ones that few paid enough attention to or learned the right lessons from. For example, it seems clear in hindsight that the European uprisings of 1848 were precursors to the rise of communism, and that the “Bleeding Kansas” violence of the 1850s prefigured the American Civil War. I have the sense that we are seeing an event like this in the coronavirus pandemic; a sort of precursor or dry run for something else that is on the horizon in the coming years. Specifically, it seems increasingly unlikely that the vast political, cultural, religious, and demographic divides in our society will ever be solved through our current political system. All of those divides have been on very prominent display during the current crisis. Every fault line along which we have mostly-peaceably fractured during it will almost certainly also be among those that we will less-peaceably fracture along in the future. This makes the example of our current situation invaluable as an instructional tool. We should pay close attention to the lessons it teaches. It is likely that our ability to understand them will be tested under even more challenging conditions in the future.

If we start with the most “big picture” lesson*, it is this: Trouble will likely come unexpectedly, and will be distributed unevenly, in patterns that will be unpredictable at first. Even when some manner of trouble that you have been expecting shows up, the specifics of it are highly unlikely to go precisely the way you imagined them. There will be a lot of misinformation and rumors in circulation, especially early on in the course of it. Situations often change quickly. What was true a week ago may not be true now, and where trends pointed a week ago may not be where they point now. Make your best educated guesses based on trendlines, but be flexible in your thinking and as broadly prepared for a wide range of possibilities as you can be.

This unevenness of any potential happening is one point that must be emphasized. During the pandemic, there have been some places where the hospitals became hell on Earth, and where doctors and nurses were pushed to their limits in trying to deal with it all. And yet there have been many places where the hospitals stayed quiet and there was so little going on that doctors and nurses were temporarily furloughed. In the accompanying economic disruption, there have been some places where everyday life has essentially come to a standstill, and others where it remained almost completely normal. This is likely to be the pattern in case of large-scale civil conflict, as well – there will be many among the “IIIers” who end up sitting around and not ever firing a shot, because no significant amount of fighting will ever come anywhere near them. Some spotty supply disruptions aside, in many places, things will continue on more or less as ordinary, and the trouble will mostly seem very far away.

But again, that can change quickly. Early in the coronavirus crisis, it seemed like Seattle would be the epicenter of the event in the United States. But quite suddenly, New York City and its environs overtook, and then dwarfed it as the nexus of the disease. Perhaps in hindsight, all the signs of that occurring were there, but it was not predictable at the time, and it was indeed not predicted by much of anyone. In fact, the west coast, with its greater proximity, not to mention cultural and business ties, to East Asia, made it seem like a much more likely place for a truly awful outbreak of COVID-19. But it turned out that Los Angeles and San Francisco have not been too badly affected by the disease itself (as opposed to the economic damage caused by the response to it) at all, and that the Seattle flare-up abated just as New York’s case load exploded. The point is, again, that trouble will likely not show up where you expect it, when you expect it, and how you expect it.

Speaking of location, here is one important takeaway in this political season: the election for your local county sheriff may very well turn out to be the most important one affecting your everyday life. More important perhaps than even the one that determines who sits in the Oval Office. Yes, legislators, executives, and judges determine which laws are passed and remain in effect. But your sheriff decides which laws will be enforced, which gives him a de facto veto over all of them. This, by the way, is exactly what the founding fathers intended; it is the reason why the elected office of sheriff exists, and also why our elites have been pushing for a century now to have the authority once invested in elected sheriffs handed over to professionalized, unelected police departments that are effectively a part of the unaccountable permanent bureaucracy. The extra fail-safe that is represented by the elected local sheriff has been on display recently both when it comes to gun control and to unnecessarily-restrictive COVID lockdown measures, with the sheriffs taking the side of the people and stating outright that such laws will not be enforced under their watch. The lessons here are that you should live someplace where law enforcement falls under the authority of an elected sheriff instead of a bureaucratic police department, and you should take a very active interest in evaluating and campaigning for the right candidates.

A related point: from Texas comes a report of some armed III%ers who showed up with their Hawaiian shirts and AR-15s to protect a local bar that had decided to reopen in defiance of lockdown orders. When the law arrived, however, they promptly surrendered and allowed themselves to be arrested. This, of course, made both them personally and the entire III% movement look like impotent fools who talk tough but fold like a cheap camera when push comes to shove. This delivers a disastrous message for both sides: it demoralizes III%ers elsewhere, and it gives the law the impression that such surrender will always be the case, which may cause them to escalate into a confrontation that may not end the way they were expecting in the future, instead of de-escalating (as, to their credit, most police have done in these sorts of situations). I will leave the lessons that the police should take from this to them to determine, but as for other III%ers, I offer two lessons from this incident. The first is: pick your battles wisely. Showing up ready to fight for our constitutional rights (for example, the Second Amendment protests in Virginia or the First Amendment protests against COVID-related church closures in Michigan) is a worthy endeavor. Showing up ready to fight for some dive bar in West Texas isn’t, which the IIIers there figured out when it came down to time to fight or give up – but which they should have thought about before they left the house. As a corollary, if you are fighting for something worthy, never back down. Don’t bring guns to a fight unless you are ready to use them if you must. If you don’t have steel in your heart, then you shouldn’t have steel in your hands.

Keep your head about you. This will be much more difficult to do in any crisis than you may think. Opinion may not break along previously-set lines, so be careful in choosing whose judgments you listen to. It’s likely that some formerly-sensible people who you once trusted will not be able to rationally handle what is happening, and will sink into bizarre conspiracies, unwise bravado, or despair. Many will see patterns that they were pre-primed to see in unfolding events instead of what is really there, and many will see the villains that they were expecting to see behind them, whether those people are really at fault for anything or not. Speaking of conspiracy theories, there will be a lot of them in circulation – and while most of them will prove to be false, you should not discount the possibility that a few may be true. Certainly, some guilty parties will be eager to cover up their misdeeds, and there will be some genuine villains who will use any crisis as an opportunity to do unscrupulous things that they already wished to but couldn’t find a pretext for. Be slow to judgment, and keep your own counsel about what is true and who is to blame. Don’t act on anything before you know that it’s true; until then, follow the advice that my great-grandmother once gave me: “Keep your eyes and ears open, and your mouth shut”. With all that said, you will find that most common people will behave far more sensibly than you might expect. Don’t dismiss your neighbors out of hand; don’t assume them to be fools who are incapable of engaging with reality or doing what will need to be done. Be ready to work with them.

Remember that in any meeting any crisis, there always will be false starts, stumbles, setbacks, and outright failures along the way. Don’t ever allow yourself to panic or sink into hopelessness because of them; experience tells us that both the worst-case scenario and the best-case scenario are unlikely to be what actually happens. Don’t lose your senses, don’t lose heart, don’t lose hope, and never stop learning and adapting to the situation around you.

 

(*I’ve decided here that it’s best to confine myself to the big picture instead of delving into the nuts and bolts of the world of “prepping” – telling you which guns to buy for The Happening or what kind of emergency food to have stocked in your garage for when it does finally happen. That’s not to say that I will never touch on the subject at all, but there is no lack at all of wise and authoritative voices out there who have produced enormous amounts of content related to the subject, and I can’t see much point in simply repeating what they say.)

The Post-COVID Path

The great 20th century thinker Yogi Berra once noted that it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future. There’s no doubt that current events will prove him right again, as he has been about so many things through the years.

For one thing, logic doesn’t help as much as one might hope in situations like this. It would, if humans were rational creatures, but we aren’t, and believing that we can be made so, even in the face of both overwhelming evidence of the right answers and of terrible consequences if we fail to pursue them, is a path to madness. For all of the faults of his signature work, Stefan Molyneux is right to point out that preferable behavior is not at all the same thing as preferred behavior – what people should do and what they will do often bear little resemblance to each other. There are a lot of factors that play into that; normalcy bias, self-interest, panic, shortsightedness, and outright stupidity being prominent among them. People are most often slow to learn and quick to forget even the most painful of lessons. As Rudyard Kipling put it:

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire

It’s not easy for non-fools to predict the actions of fools, other than maintaining the general sureness that they will stick their fingers back into the fire, one way or another. But exactly how? Hard to say. They seem endlessly creative in finding new and inventive ways to do it. That’s one of the things that makes governance, even (maybe especially) by the smartest of people, so difficult.

So I’m afraid I won’t be as much help as you might like in predicting what fools will do in response to all of this, other than repeating what I said in my last piece about our political, social, and economic elites (the biggest fools of all!) chomping at the bit to wabble their fingers back into the fire at the earliest opportunity by returning to the status quo as soon as the immediate crisis has abated.

But, dear reader, you and I both know that this is neither possible nor desirable. We also know that, other than guarding against the damage that it may cause to us, non-fools must disregard the thoughts and actions of fools completely – they should have no bearing whatsoever on what we think and do.

So let me offer a few not-particularly-organized observations about the current crisis, along with some ideas about how non-fools should proceed in the wake of it.

My first thought is that the age of snarky, ironic, cynical, “2edgy4u” internet nihilism – on both the left and the right – is over. That was an indulgence of the fat, dumb, and happy pre-COVID age. It inspires nobody to useful action, and is thus useless in more difficult and challenging times. Beyond that, there is no humility to it, and if there is anything that the past few years should have taught us all, it’s that none of us know for sure where things are going or how we are all going to get there. We can, and should, take the steps that seem right based on broad strokes of historical knowledge and an understanding of trend lines. But over the course of my adult life, I’ve seen all corners of society, regardless of political outlook, caught blindsided by Black Swan events like the end of the Cold War, 9/11, the Trump presidency, and now the coronavirus pandemic. Humility allows us, when these things happen, to say that we were wrong, that events outpaced us, that disruption snuck up on us while we were looking the other way. This in turn allows us to be flexible, to be ready to fight on all fronts, and to take every opportunity that presents itself to us, foreseen or unforeseen. We cannot afford to eternally be stuck lagging behind paradigm shifts, holding onto outdated pet theories or comfortable old strategies out of pride, and “fighting the last war” as the saying among soldiers goes.

In fact, one casualty of this has been many people’s normalcy bias – the idea that there is an inevitability behind things staying the way they are forever. This is subtly but importantly different from the shattering of the “End of History” illusion that took place after 9/11. Yes, 9/11 showed us that the outside world was still a violent place, and that we were not immune to the effects of that. But at no point did it call the fundamental stability of our system and our way of life as a whole into question. There was a call to war, but nobody saw any need to re-evaluate any of the basic underlying arrangements on which our society operated. Of course, the elites who profit off of those arrangements in terms of money and power will not want any of them re-evaluated after this crisis, either. Yet it is now obvious that Modernity has failed to keep its side of the bargain in which we agreed to give up our traditions, our culture, and our faith in exchange for cold rationality and empiricism protecting us from demons like plague outbreaks that we thought we’d left in the distant past. To the great mass of common people, the shock of watching this sudden failure of its social and political arrangements has been catastrophically disillusioning. An unthinkable possibility has become reality, and this in turn makes all unthinkable possibilities seem far more thinkable. The ways in which this can benefit dissenters should be obvious.

Here I am not necessarily asking you to lead a revolution or come up with a plan to save the world. What I am saying is that it is time to start formulating and taking action on plans to detach yourselves and those around you as much as possible from a system that, in the pre-COVID world, we already knew was evil, but that post-COVID reality has shown us is far more fragile and unsustainable than most of us ever believed. And so, dear reader, I challenge you: It is time for you – for us all – to do something. Perhaps you can save the world. If so, I hope you do. But if you can just save the people around you by becoming a contributing member of a sane, stable, shock-resistant, and sustainable community, then you will have done a great service. Here is where I believe you should start.

The first thing you should do is to get out of the big cities, which history shows us are deathtraps in times of disruption. Here, a lot of ignoring of fools will be necessary on your part. First, you’ll have to ignore the leftist press and academia, which is already trying to gaslight the public into thinking that the coronavirus pandemic is a particular problem of the rural south instead of the big coastal cities like New York, a bit of ludicrous wishful thinking that a moment’s glance at actual data disproves. Second, you’ll have to ignore the fools who will try to convince you that big cities are the safest places to be in times of disruption, based largely on some 20th century examples of tyrannical regimes disarming the peasants and then taking the fruits of their labor by force in order to feed the cities. There are a few key fallacies involved in this thinking.

First and perhaps most obvious is the fact that in the United States (as opposed to Cold War-era communist states), the countryside is armed to the teeth and the cities are not. The late 20th and early 21st centuries provide no lack of examples of what happens when a traditional 2nd Generation army sets itself up in a nation’s big cities and tries to impose its rule on an armed and hostile countryside; as you are not fools, I need not tell you what the results of that have been. Second is the fact that the big cities are run by elites who hate you and want you dead, so turning to them for protection is plain suicide. Perhaps in a different era – say, in the East Germany of 1967 – you could have survived by keeping your head low and pretending to go along with the official ruling ideology. But we do not live in that age anymore – your skin is your uniform, and when trouble comes to the diverse big cities you will be targeted mercilessly for wearing it. Finally, and most subtly, there is the conflation of tyranny with disruption, or, put another way, of tyranny with chaos. These are very different phenomena*, and the realities of one will not be the realities of the other. This is important because at this juncture of history, we can observe that the Big Problem of the 20th century was tyranny, while the Big Problem of the 21st century is more likely to be chaos (with a lot of anarcho-tyranny to deal with along the way). Everything in the 21st century seems to be pointing in that direction. Its first decade began with a show of dysfunctionality on the part of the US government in its handling of the 2000 election, and then with 9/11, which, despite neoconservative seething about “Islamofascism”, was fundamentally an act of chaos and disruption. The wars that resulted from it in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria, far from ending up in the westernization of Islamic lands under benevolent American imperial rule that we were promised, merely sunk them all into chaos. Chaos and disruption are the forces that pull at us most now. And while these can work to our advantage if we’re smart, they’ll destroy us if we act like fools, which would include staying in the places where they cause the most destruction.

There’s a reason why smart elites in functional societies (as opposed to what we have now) have always kept country estates they could retreat to when chaos and disruption reared their heads. Heed their wisdom.

If any of you think I’m directing scorn at the mainstream media for their counterfactual attempts to convince people that the cities are safer than the countryside, I say: on the contrary, I welcome it. The more fools there are who stay in the cities believing that they’ll be protected from the effects of disruption, the better things will be for the non-fools who know better. When trouble comes, we’ll have enough of our own to care for without being saddled with saving big-city fools from the entirely predictable consequences of their own poor decisions. Let them stay where they are. And while I’m giving out counterintuitive thanks, I’d like to offer some to all of the Social Justice Warriors who have worked tirelessly to throw the Dissident Right off of social media, to get them fired from their urban cubicle jobs, and to render them unemployable anywhere except in the rural sections of deep red states. I know that for those who fear being “hurled into the void”, as the Zman puts it, this seems like the worst fate imaginable. But nothing could be further from the truth. What we on the Dissident Right need to do now more than anything else is to disconnect from the corporate and consumerist, to stop spending too much time on the internet, to get out of the diverse, polluted, crime-ridden, disease-prone, and degenerate big cities, and to start making things real in genuine communities full of people like us.

I moved out of the big cities a couple of years ago, and I can tell you from firsthand experience: It’s pretty comfy out here in the void. So come home, white man. Get out of the cities as soon as you can. Take a massive pay cut if you have to. Change careers if you have to. Stock shelves on the night shift at Walmart if you have to. But get yourselves and the people you love out of the cities before it’s too late – if it isn’t already.

(Yes, I understand the desire to stay in the cities. I lived in Silicon Valley for 25 years. I loved it dearly, and I desperately miss the old Valley of the 90s and 00s. But that world is gone, and it’s never coming back; we tread that path but once. And if nothing else, I can’t imagine trying to get through this crisis in my tiny old city apartment instead of my cottage with its yard out back and a hayfield out front.)

This ties in with another consequence of the pandemic that I’m already beginning to see. Of course, the effect it has had on the public perception of globalism goes without saying, but what I am also encountering is the first flowering of a new resurgence of regionalism. This is very different than what I saw after 9/11. In those days, the hearts of the entire nation poured out with love and sympathy for New York City and Washington, DC. Now, with New York City as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, the near-universal sentiment I hear is: “To hell with them. Nothing good comes from that place anyway”. This is a troubling portent for nationalists, because it may mean that it’s getting to be too late for nationalism, if you mean it in the “From Detroit down to Houston, and New York to LA” sense. Eventually, we may all have to choose something smaller-scale to transfer our primary loyalty to. It’s not too early for each of us to start thinking about what exactly that might be.

I’d suggest you begin with something very local. This weekend, I knocked on my neighbor’s door and asked whether everybody there was okay and if they needed anything. They were fine, I’m happy to say, but a bond of mutual care was established in that moment which may help me out very much someday. I urge you to consider doing something similar.

With that said, let me offer some observations on the larger situation, and the likely consequences of the pandemic.

Behaviors will begin to change at all levels, from the governmental and corporate to the individual (though whether they will change as much as they should is an open question). One of the biggest long-term effects of all of this is that the government will likely no longer be able to afford a lot of nice-but-unnecessary things that it previously could. A sensible elite class would, in this situation, drastically downsize the empire and the military-industrial complex, and strictly limit social services to the truly needy, and then only to citizens of the republic. No, I’m not counting on that being what our elites decide is “necessary”, either. But something is going to end up having to give, now sooner rather than later, and the day is no longer so very distant when they will be dragged kicking and screaming into reality. For example, the days of blowing half a trillion on a fighter jet that doesn’t work, and doesn’t have a realistic mission even if it did, are very quickly drawing to a close. Lots of other outdated or noncritical things will have to go, too. Our elites will fight tooth and nail to keep them, but our journey to the point where they just won’t be able to anymore has been drastically accelerated.

Some other behaviors that are going to have to change include the populace being in debt up to their eyeballs and businesses being leveraged to the hilt. The cheap credit carnival was always just a sideshow of Clown World, but now, fun as it was while it lasted, it must be closed – the Fire Marshals of the Copybook Headings, having discovered that the damn thing nearly burned down ten years ago and is now on the verge of doing so again, have condemned it, and only a fool would ignore their posted warnings. Post-COVID, having nothing in the kitty for a rainy day other than a maxed-out credit card just seems suicidal. For corporations, beyond the obvious madness of rendering their business model completely and utterly dependent on an incompetent, corrupt, dishonest, unaccountable foreign dictatorship in order to function**, another behavior that is overdue for change is supply chains running at “just in time” efficiency. While maximum efficiency is appealing to penny-shavers, it leaves no slack in the system to absorb shocks of the kind we thought we were invulnerable to back in pre-COVID December. The smart will see the need to get more local, more sensible, and more resilient.

On an individual level, we are bound to see the same normalization of prepper culture in the post-COVID world that we saw with civilian tactical culture in the post-9/11 world. The prepper stash will be the new AR-15; only “doomers and extremists” wanted one before the crisis, but everyone will want one after it. There’s a great business opportunity in that for people more adept at such things than I am.

I will restrain myself from giving you much advice with prepping here, as there is no lack at all of smart, qualified people ready to offer thoughtful suggestions for free over the internet or in books. Instead, I will limit myself to two suggestions. First, you need not go overboard with prepping – an “end of the world” stash that fills every spare inch of your house is probably unnecessary. But you’d be surprised how well a two to three month supply of essentials fits into a relatively compact space. That said, my second suggestion is that if your living arrangements are such that even this modest level of preparation is impossible, move.

This of course brings up the question of “The Happening”, and whether all of this makes such a thing more likely or less likely. This is a matter that I must admit remains unclear in these early days of the post-COVID world. It could be that people have had their fill of disruption and privation for a while, reducing the chances of it. Or the forces that tear us apart could be accelerated, increasing them. Either way, you should make yourself ready. As for the effects on the political spectrum, at the moment they are a Rorschach test in which virtually everyone is seeing what their preconceived biases have conditioned them to see. Trust none of that, even among your own perceptions. Even the effects on the great issue of our day, mass Third World immigration, are uncertain, though there is some reason to be hopeful – it is likely that a poorer West that is less able to spend lavishly on social programs for the diverse, combined with a much-reduced ability for anyone to travel internationally, could slow it down considerably. We’ll see.

It is always true that the only certain thing in life is change, and thus the only thing that I can definitely promise you is that the post-COVID world will be different from the pre-COVID one. I’ve kept my predictions modest for a reason (there’s that humility creeping in again), but even at that, they could all be completely wrong. Take them under advisement, but of course, keep your own counsel about how you will move forward.

Just make sure to stay off the path of fools. It will be crowded enough without you.

 

(*Though of course, tyranny and chaos are not necessarily mutually exclusive, as Sam Francis’s insight on the phenomenon of anarcho-tyranny shows. But again, anarcho-tyranny is functionally unenforceable on a heavily-armed countryside, even while it is remains near-infinitely enforceable in cities. And it should not be forgotten that both chaos and anarcho-tyranny present an enormous opportunity for those who are able to offer a better alternative.)

(**One other minor casualty of this will be the bizarre strain of [largely Boomer-driven] pro-China xenophilia that has been a thread within the Dissident Right since the early Moldbug era. With apologies to the likes of Spandrell, Nick Land, John Derbyshire, and Fred Reed, the bloom is off the China rose, forever. This should also [again, should, not necessarily will] sweep out the last vestiges of free-trade libertarianism, and indeed all of the “GDP uber alles”, homo economicus thinking that has dominated much of the mainstream right since the days of Gordon Gecko. Those sorts of pre-COVID thinking are now on the ash heap with the cremated remains of a few hundred thousand former residents of Wuhan. Of course, our elites from all factions will still do everything they can to convince you that your primary foreign enemy is Christian Russia instead of Communist China, but anyone still listening to our elites on matters like this after the hunt for Iraqi WMDs came up empty-handed needs their head examined.)

Post-COVID Thinking

Every Saturday evening out here in the mountains of southern Appalachia, the talk radio station that broadcasts from the nearest small city (it comes in pretty clear at night; not so much during the daytime) plays a rerun of an old Art Bell show from the 90s or early 00s. This past weekend, it was a replay of a broadcast from 1996, in which the topic was the Militia movement of the time. I was in my early 20s when it aired originally, so those times are hardly unexplored territory for me (though I will admit that my memories of 1996 are mostly a haze of Soundgarden, Animaniacs, Quake LAN parties, Sailor Moon, and not-very-successful attempts to woo the Japanese exchange students at my college). And yet, I found myself astounded at just how alien (no pun intended) the thinking expressed by both the host and the callers in those pre-9/11*, pre-alternative media days seemed. The difference in attitudes between then and now couldn’t possibly be more striking, especially in the degree to which people trusted the government, mainstream media, and civil institutions more than we do today. Yes, they insisted, the government may have been hiding a crashed UFO or two from us, but by God, we still had the Constitution! If the legislature passed an unjust law or the security services under the Executive branch became abusive, certainly the courts would sort it out justly and fairly, and if lower courts didn’t, there’s no doubt that the high-minded jurists of the Supreme Court would! And sure, the press (it was unnecessary to say “mainstream press”, because in 1996 there was essentially no other kind) might be a little left-leaning in their private thoughts, but they wouldn’t just outright lie to the public – if it was in the New York Times, or if Dan Rather said it on the CBS Evening News, then it had to be true! Thus, even on a program which based itself (by the standards of its time) on peering beyond the veil to find the hidden truths out there somewhere, the official government/media narrative of events like the atrocities at Waco and Ruby Ridge was simply assumed to be substantially true. And while they were, of course, imperfect and sometimes made mistakes in judgment, the basic goodness, competence, and honesty of all of the institutions were beyond question by serious people.

As I sat there incredulously listening to this piece of the not-too-distant past, I found myself coming to the understanding that what I was hearing was separated from modern thinking by not just one big paradigm shift, but by several of them**. It was from a time before the rise of the Ron Paul-style libertarianism which had its great moment during the Bush-era wars of the 00s, before the age of Neoreaction and the Alt-Right which followed in the ’10s, and before the era of MAGA and the Dissident Right (not to mention the Social Justice Warrior movement) that forms our modern sociopolitical landscape.

And of course, it is also from the era before the Great Pandemic of 2020. The fact that this will most certainly be another great a paradigm shift was driven home to me when I was watching a YouTube video by the author and Iraq/Afghanistan veteran Richard C. Meyer, in which he accused the publishing industry of being stuck in what he termed “pre-COVID thinking” – a coinage that may seem odd as we all quite suddenly try to adjust to this crisis, but that encapsulates a concept that is crucial at this historical moment. It is certainly one with particular relevance to us as dissidents. It is our responsibility to always be ahead of the curve, and as such, it is not too early for us to begin to think of what post-COVID thinking may entail. Doing so will provide us with a chance to ride the wave of disruption that has washed over us, instead of being swamped by it, as many have been and will be.

First, let us be clear on one thing: our society’s political, social, and economic elites want us to learn all the wrong lessons from this. Those who believe that this crisis will change elite behavior in any sane, positive way – that it will shock them out of their pattern of greedy, shortsighted, and ultimately self-destructive actions – are fooling themselves. Recall that ten years after 9/11, we had twice as many Muslim immigrants in this country as we had the day before it. Ten years from now, if our elites have anything to say about it, we’ll be doing twice as much manufacturing in China*** as we did before this pandemic hit. That’s just the way it goes in corrupt, declining civilizations which find themselves saddled with a self-absorbed, out-of-touch elite class running things.

No, what our elites want more than anything right now is for things to quickly get back to endless masses of urbanized cubicle drones working long hours (at least, until their H-1B replacements get approved) to pay off the mountains of cheap-credit debt they’ve piled up in order to pay for useless junk churned out of Chinese slave-labor factories. That was a model that our elites liked. A lot. But here in the modern era, in which we are (rightfully) far less trusting of our elites and the institutions they serve than we were back in 1996, we can say that just because they are unlikely to have any sense knocked into them by this disaster, that doesn’t mean that we can’t.

In the weeks and months immediately following the attacks, almost nobody was able to form a clear picture of what Post-9/11 Thinking would look like in the long term. We couldn’t see the chain of events that would follow in its wake, nor what the reactions of different parties would be to it. Some of what happened ended up being the exact opposite of what conventional wisdom predicted. It was thought that we would grow more cohesive and unified as a nation, but the political (and in many ways, regional) divide has, over the intervening twenty years, become deeper and wider than ever. It was thought that a “rally ’round the flag” effect would make the government more trusted, but (largely thanks to the rise of internet-based alternative media) people believe in it less than ever, with even the most flag-waving of conservatives decrying the “Deep State” (now there was a radical, out-of-the-mainstream term in 1996!) and demanding that a strong leader “drain the swamp”. It was thought that the aftermath of 9/11 would cement the economic and military supremacy of the Imperium Americanum, but even before the pandemic appeared, two lost Middle East wars and the economic crisis of 2008 had weakened it to the point of leaving many doubting its viability.

Among the many signs of post-9/11, post-alternative media change have been some of the very things that Art Bell and his callers spoke about on that radio show. A mistrust of the government and the institutions, and a desire to become less dependent on them, that seemed like fringe lunacy even to a program based on stories of Bigfoot, extraterrestrials, and secret projects at Area 51 no longer does; the unthinkably radical has become thinkably normal. In 1996, if the Attorney General and the New York Times said that the Militias were simply a bunch of criminals (and worse – racists!), and that “survivalists” were merely paranoid kooks, then that’s what they were. But things are very different now. The fringe of Militia members and survivalists has morphed into modern civilian tactical culture – which simply did not exist in those long-gone days. In 1994, a nationwide Assault Weapons Ban could be enacted because even among gun owners, few owned or wanted that class of firearm. But today the AR-15, which in those days was seen as the weapon of radical loons and was effectively banned by that now-expired law, is – by far – the best-selling rifle in America. The idea of normal people taking tactical shooting courses, now quite common, would then have been thought crazy. Even something as now-innocuous as a 5.11 store in the neighborhood strip mall would have been seen as puzzling in the 90s (“An upscale survivalist gear store? Why?”). Events have moved them far off the fringes that they used to occupy.

The bottom line is this: Big, paradigm-shifting events, of which the COVID pandemic is the latest, change the culture in ways that our elites increasingly cannot see, cannot understand, cannot dissuade us from, and cannot stop from happening. So all of us should cease caring what they think about it and how they will respond to it, and start formulating our own thoughts and responses. This will, of course, be a tentative, ongoing process, and may lead us down a few blind alleys along the way. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start along the path.

And so I say to all who may read this is that our most important task now is to consider one central question: What does post-COVID thinking look like? What lessons should we take from this, regardless of what the elites may think or do? How far will all of the pre-COVID paradigms shift, where will they shift, and how can we place ourselves ahead of that curve? Most importantly, what concrete actions should we take (as opposed to only talking and not also acting – which is perhaps the most expired of all pre-COVID plans) in order to place ourselves and those like us in a position to thrive in the post-COVID world?

In the coming days, I will offer my own thoughts on these issues, but for now I believe it is enough to urge everyone on the Dissident Right to start to engage them. This is the most important conversation we can be having right now. Any individual, any group, any philosophy, any political position, or any movement stuck in pre-COVID thinking is now irrelevant, because the post-COVID world, for better or worse, is what lies ahead.

 

(*It was even a few months before the Atlanta Olympic bombing/Richard Jewell debacle, which turned out to be quite a harbinger of things to come.)

(**Oswald Spengler noted that, as civilizations go into the final stages of disintegration, the pace of events seems to accelerate, meaning it can go through a number of paradigm shifts that one might have taken decades or centuries in only a relatively short period of years.)

(***At most, this may convince them to start moving their sweatshops out of China and across the border into Vietnam, or perhaps to another poverty-stricken Third World hellhole with a slightly less incompetent [but no less corrupt and oppressive] government. But as for impressing upon them the point that becoming economically dependent on faraway dictatorships in order to save a few pennies here and there is a bad idea, it won’t.)