Authoritarianism and Censorship in the COVID Era, Part 1: Propaganda and Vaccine Patriotism

August 24, 2021 Updated: September 2, 2021

Commentary

This is Part 1 of a multi-part series examining Authoritarianism and Censorship in the COVID Era. Subsequent parts can be found in the following links: Part 2

“Today is the beginning of a form of discrimination that has never been witnessed in history, and this in ‘the land of liberty and human rights.’ I have not been able to enter a store for a long time now because it is out of the question that I put a sanitary napkin on my face. Since July 21st, I have not been allowed to go to the cinema, to the theater, to a concert. And from this day on, I am not allowed to go to a bar or a restaurant, nor to take a train or a plane. Some people have mentioned the yellow star, but the comparison is irrelevant: The yellow star did not prevent you from going to the restaurant or taking the train. Some have evoked apartheid, but the comparison is irrelevant: Apartheid did not prevent blacks from having their own restaurants or from traveling.”—Yves Daoudal, French journalist

We’ve now entered that perilous phase in the psychic pandemic that can only be called “Vaccine Pride.” Wherever two or three Covidians are gathered together, the first question between them is “Have you received your second dose?”—whereupon the twice-inoculated proclaim the fact with born-again triumphalism. “The jabs” (surely the most infelicitous metonymy in the history of the language) are now the stigmata of righteousness and yet another invitation to the postmodernist’s defining pose of moral superiority.

When universal forced vaccination becomes the law—depending on where you live, it’s either already here or imminent—and showing written proof of vaccination is obligatory for admission to stores, workplaces, government offices, airports, subways, and buses, or for keeping your job or merely leaving your home, don’t be surprised if those Untermenschen who demur are required to wear something equivalent to the yellow star of David to advertise their moral insalubriousness and physical danger to the general public.

That’s not my comparison, by the way, but that of Vera Sharav, a Holocaust survivor appalled to see an ugly historical atavism reasserting itself.

Governments around the world are already broadcasting their talking points into mainstream media megaphones: The unvaccinated are incubators of vestigial disease and seedbeds of the outbreaks of the “new variants.” President Joe Biden attributed 100 percent of current COVID-19 infections to the unvaccinated; Dr. Anthony Fauci’s made-up number was more conservative, at 95 percent. Right on cue, the social media mobs have picked up their torches and pitchforks, and the virtual witch hunt has begun.

That the unvaccinated are disproportionately represented in the new case count is a baseless lie, of course. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in April that it has stopped tracking COVID-19 cases among the vaccinated that don’t result in hospitalizations or deaths and is now assuming that all new cases are among the unvaccinated remnant. As Dr. Peter McCullough has observed, “This intentional misinformation and propaganda scheme has been used to drive an incredible fury of vaccine mandates” for schools and universities, government agencies, veterans’ administrations, and so on, notwithstanding that there have been no reported outbreaks in such locations.

But demagogues have always known that a population will eagerly cede its civil liberties to their maniacal ambitions if it has been sufficiently discomposed by panic, and once a scapegoat has been expediently identified upon which to project its anxieties and hatred. Disease has always been the objective correlative of moral evil in the propaganda of the almighty state. It’s instructive that a brilliant and civilized nation allowed itself to be persuaded by the Nazis that the Jews, as a race, were breeders of disease.

In times of hardship or famine, other civilized European peoples imagined that the toxic auras of witches or heretics in their midst had polluted their drinking water or blighted their crops. As Piers Robinson (an academic who has made the study of propaganda his lifelong specialty) has admonished, stigmatizing the unvaccinated minority in this way can only get ugly.

Government fear-mongering in the cause of “eradicating” COVID-19—impossible, and thus unprecedented in the history of public pandemic response—has certainly reached a new low. An old alumnus, otherwise of sound mind and body, recently declined to gather with fellow students on a pub’s outdoor patio because he didn’t know how many of the attendees had been double-vaccinated. Needless to say, he had been double-vaccinated, which meant that he was protected against serious illness even if he became “infected” with the Delta variant (highly transmissible, but much less pathogenic than the ur-form of the virus, as is always the case with inevitable mutations) from one of the unvaccinated Untermenschen.

In his decision to self-quarantine, the clincher was his desire to be able to visit his pre-teen grandchildren. Now, transmissibility to and from children is so minuscule as to be statistically insignificant, leading one to wonder: Has the media’s censorship of this non-sensationalist good news been so effective that he has never heard of it? Or has the government’s fear campaign been so effective that his brain has become addled to the point that he hasn’t been able to take it in? Did I mention that he was double-vaccinated?

As Jung observed in his magisterial monograph “The Undiscovered Self,” fear and loathing, when strategically inseminated by power-hungry rulers, can reduce a population to a state of collective psychosis:

“If the affective temperature rises above [a certain] level, the possibility of reason’s having any effect ceases and its place is taken by slogans and chimerical wish-fantasies. That is to say, a sort of collective possession results which rapidly develops into a psychic epidemic. … In a state of ‘collective possession,’ … chimerical ideas, upborne by fanatical resentment, appeal to the collective irrationality and find fruitful soil there, for they express all those motives and resentments which lurk in more normal people under the cloak of reason and insight.”

On such occasions, the most deranged and fanatical elements of the population are invested with authority and become “dangerous sources of infection.” As the viral infection deliquesces, we might wish to spare a thought for the epidemic of irrationality it has bred. Certainly, insisting that not only you, but everyone around you, must be double-vaccinated, wearing masks, social distancing, quarantining on return from travel, and (for the most part of the past 18 months) locked inside their dwellings—all at the same time—is either insanity or an example of the cautionary principle of redundancy run amok.

The general public’s only excuse is that, like socialism, egalitarianism, and most other bad ideas, the current covideological madness is a socially top-down phenomenon. There was never a seething grassroots movement for self-muzzling, universal house arrest, and economic suicide. Whether you believe that COVID-19 is tantamount to a serious seasonal influenza or a plague on the scale of the Black Death, there can be no doubt that the campaign mounted over the past 18 months by governments and medical bureaucrats to promote social distancing and lockdowns and persuade citizens to obey mask, and now vaccine, mandates, has been ubiquitous and relentless.

The treacly “Masks Keep You and Grandma Safe” slogans on the backs of buses, digital overhead highway signs, and TV and internet ads have now elided into “Vaccines Keep You and Grandma Safe,” with the economy of a few brushstrokes. The aforementioned Piers Robinson has described the incessant state sermonizing as the largest propaganda operation in human history. It’s soothing for some to know that it’s propaganda in our own interests, save that the same pleading was used by the communist totalitarian regimes of the 20th century to justify their Ministries of Truth (everyone’s favorite Orwellism).

That fact won’t convince progressives who believe that the nanny state is by nature beneficent. But then, as P.J. O’Rourke has remarked, such ideological credulity is merely the adult phase of the belief in Santa Claus. In any case, the general public’s unquestioning acceptance of what the medical “experts” have told them about COVID-19 will surely be remembered as one of the direst pandemics of religious fideism in history.

Whither departeth the skepticism that supposedly defines the secular and scientific temperament? Even when propaganda has been employed by democratic governments for arguably worthy ends—to maintain Allied morale during World War II, for example—no one doubts that it has trafficked in at least the occasional stretcher. During every war since, the left’s lie detectors have been calibrated to a more exquisite sensitivity than that of the PCR test. And remember, this is war (as officially declared in early 2020 by Uncle Tedros, Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, and practically every other world leader). But this time, progressives are all in, and as far as they’re concerned, those who refuse the vaccine are (literally) giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

On the left, Trump Derangement Syndrome has thus mutated into COVID Derangement Syndrome, and in such a way that the enemy conveniently remains the same. Even as Afghanistan is dissolving into another fundamentalist Islamic state, the Biden administration’s Department of Homeland Security has just enumerated the two greatest terrorist threats facing the United States today, extremists emerging from the cells of (in reverse order): (2) those who continue to question the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election and (1) those who have questioned the government’s COVID-19 measures. Got that? For questioning the Democrats’ electoral victory, you’re an insurrectionist; for questioning their COVID-19 measures, you’re a dangerous anti-science jihadist.

COVID-19 has thus addled the brains of the indoctrinators no less completely than the indoctrinated. State propaganda used to be better than this. The ghosts of Lenin and Mao must now be wondering what has happened to a once high art.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Harley Price
Harley Price
Harley Price has taught courses in religion, philosophy, literature, and history at the University of Toronto, U of T’s School of Continuing Studies, and Tyndale University College. He blogs at Priceton.org. His upcoming book, "Give Speech a Chance: Heretical Essays on What You Can't Say, or Even Think," will be available in September.