The initial, blaring, bright-red headlines over the outbreak of the novel coronavirus appear to be slowing down. Maybe it won’t be apocalyptic after all.
While the number of cases continues to rise, the mortality rate is dropping. Nearly 6000 reported patients have resulted, at the time of writing, in only 106 deaths. A mortality rate of 2.2%.
The Guardian, in a rare example of a sense of perspective, actually reported it could be much, much lower than that yesterday:
However, [the reported death rate] is likely to be an overestimate since there may be a far larger pool of people who have been infected by the virus but who have not suffered severe enough symptoms to attend hospital and so have not been counted in the data.
It is a good point. One to remember.
Elsewhere in the media though, the outbreak is already being transformed into fuel for the two biggest on-going agendas of the Western Deep State: Authoritarian social control, and a crackdown on free speech on the internet.
Arguments for social control
"In 20 years of working on epidemic preparedness, I can't say that I've been more concerned than I am about the current virus."
The CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations says "most global public health leaders are very concerned" about the coronavirus. pic.twitter.com/wxv28BKBVz
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) January 24, 2020
In a bizarre, hysterical, interview with Channel 4 News, Richard Hatchett – CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations – claimed that he was “very concerned” and the best way to combat the “epidemic” was what he calls “non-pharmaceutical interventions”.
By that he means “preventing mass gatherings, closing schools, and potentially travel bans”. He described the outbreak originating in China as a “silver lining” because of the “extraordinary things” the Chinese government can do.
As John Rappaport wrote on his blog:
You could almost hear him thinking, “I wish we could do that in America.”
America, UK, Canada, France, Germany, etc.
You can bet your bottom dollar public health officials all over the world are gathering data on how well “the Chinese experiment” is going. They want to learn lessons. They want to know more about containment, mass quarantines, and lockdowns.
Could, for instance, an American president suddenly declare an emergency in the US and issue orders for travel restrictions on a broad scale?
Could he confine citizens to their cities? Could he bring troops into a city and have them assemble in large public places and wave wands at people to look for body temperature elevation and cart them away to hospitals and other holding areas?
Could federal and state officials cancel sporting and concert events? Could crowds of any kind be forbidden? Could a national election be postponed?
John has done great work on this, and encourage you all to read his archive of articles on the subject.
Social media censorship
One aspect of this we haven’t yet discussed is the “misinformation” angle.
Last year, Google responded to calls to “combat disinformation” with a pledge to, essentially, real-time censor breaking news by altering their algorithm to “boost authority”.
It seems this viral outbreak has given them a chance to trial their censorship mechanism. Fox News reporting:
Silicon Valley scrambles to stop coronavirus misinformation
In this article, Fox tells us that Google has been boosting “authoritative” voices on this issue, that Twitter has been re-directing people posting about the coronavirus to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and that YouTube has been deleting videos promoting coronavirus “conspiracy theories”.
It doesn’t once reference even the concept of free speech. This is how far dialogue on this issue has fallen. Censorship is just an accepted fact of life now. And the media are happy about it.
However, Fox’s article is nothing but a boiled-down, click-bait summary of a much, much scarier article in the Washington Post.
The WaPo headlines:
Facebook, Google and Twitter scramble to stop misinformation about coronavirus
And then essentially makes a case for a total shutdown of any free speech on the internet, citing concern for public health as their cause:
“Some of the misinformation has circulated through private Facebook groups — channels that are hard for researchers to monitor in real-time”
“Twitter, meanwhile, on Monday started steering U.S. users searching for coronavirus-related hashtags to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
“Social-networking tools for organizing and creating communities quickly can become problematic echo chambers during health scares.”
“…they also recognize that totally unfettered speech carries immense risks, particularly in the fields of health and medicine.”
“Major disease outbreaks threaten to serve as breeding grounds for even more harmful disinformation, experts said.”
“Thousands of Facebook users also joined newly created communities specifically to swap insight around the coronavirus, a search of the social-networking site shows. That creates bubbles of potential misinformation that researchers say can be hard to penetrate.”
So we can boil it down to a handful of important bullet points:
- Free speech is “dangerous” to public health, especially during a “crisis”
- Social media companies boosting links to “authoritative” government sources is a good thing
- Private Facebook groups are breeding grounds for “misinformation” and “hard to penetrate”
It’s not hard to see where this is going, is it?
It seems that the problem of this new virus has generated the predictable hysterical reaction, and – what do you know – the media are all ready with a shiny, ready-to-use solution.
If you really want to depress yourself, check the comments under the WaPo article. Not a single person raises even a flicker of concern for the 1st Amendment of their constitution.
On the contrary, there are people happily calling for the government to essentially force its messages on people:
While others will smugly report the supposed limitations of free speech, as an arument in support of private censorship:
You have to think (hope?) that the moderators have been at work, and that the WaPo‘s comments are an even more contrived “consensus” than The Guardian‘s have become.