When it comes to all things COVID, it seems as if the worm is turning.
The past few weeks have seen the release of a “gold standard” report essentially saying the mask mandates did nothing, a pair of government agencies now say the “lab leak” hypothesis is most likely the correct COVID origin story, the “Twitter Files” are forcing society to look at the reality of government-induced censorship, and the legacy media is actually starting to run stories that maybe – just maybe – the whole lockdown thing may have been a teensy bit misguided.
In other words, everything that got people banned from social media and polite society last year is no longer misdisconspirafomation but are reasonable arguments that should be discussed rationally.
And that is very good; at least it’s a start.
But the past three years have taught those paying attention to look beyond public pronouncements and to ask “why the change?” and “why now?”
Why the change is relatively simple and a bit heartening: lies cannot live forever, especially when those being lied to stop believing. Homer Simpson made an excellent point when he said “It takes two to lie – one to lie and one to listen.”
But the “why now?” is more complicated and, as everything else is today, politically motivated.
It is because we are right now in a political “dead zone.” Any action even vaguely controversial – or making a policy flip-flop of unimaginable proportions like the current COVID “softening” – is almost always dealt with earlier in an election year or, if possible, handled in a year without an election. This creates distance between when the publicly problematic decision and/or “change of heart” is made and when the public can vote people out of office.
In other words, if you think (or have been bribed to think) it’s a good idea to allow a slaughterhouse to be built next to a petting zoo you make sure that decision will be as far away from your next election day as possible for two reasons: first, people tend to forget and, second, you will have as much time as possible to do good and popular things and to massage and cajole the voting public about the bunny butchering business you supported.
Here is the timeline currently being taken advantage of – November 2022 until January 2024 (the first presidential primaries) is a span of 15 months. However, regular people will start paying closer attention some this fall as the various campaigns and such heat up.
So the heart of the “deadzone” – the macro-political equivalent of releasing bad information in a Friday night document dump – is only about eight months long. And we are now in month four , the heart of the heart, the eye of the hurricane, the smack-dabbiest in the middle.
Hence the Department of Energy leak(?) and the very recent pronouncement by the director of the FBI that COVID pretty much very probably came from the Wuhan laboratory and not, as Jon Stewart put it, a “pangolin kissing a turtle.” (This move by Christopher Wray was also a not-at-all obvious attempt to get on the new Congressional majority’s good side before his well-deserved public pillorying – in other words, he apparently thinks he can save his job and reputation.)
Hence the actually serious and sober media reaction to the release of the Cochrane Report on the ineffectiveness of masks (until the Luddite Twitter mob got a hold of it; p.s. even though the organization kinda apologized, the dozen authors have not and vociferously stand by their work.)
Hence the slow re-fenestration of scientists like Dr. Jay Bhattacharyaand others who stated early on that the pandemic response was wrong.
Hence the article co-authored by Dr. Anthony Fauci discussing the weakness of the mRNA vaccine premise (which of course was couched in a plea for more public money for pharmaceutical R&D.)
Hence what can only be called a mood shift in the country.
This change is not confined to the United States. In Australia – which ran one of the harshest pandemic regimens in the world – the government is changing its tune of vaccine risk assessment – https://rebekahbarnett.substack.com/p/high-risk-low-benefit-of-covid-boosters – and in Britain, some of the most fervent lockdown supporters are doing contortions to try to claim they were opposed to lockdowns when they were in fact some of their loudest and most strident supporters – https://maajidnawaz.substack.com/p/the-great-covid-back-pedal-is-here.
So if the recent changes would actually be well-received by the public, why not plug them into campaign season? Three reasons:
First, during political campaigns it is never wise to admit that you were involved in the complete “clustering” of the country. On the political scale, this time a “Well, at least he admitted it” popularity bump does NOT balance out the epic nature of the misdeed.
Second, from a media acceptance standpoint, now is a better time as well. Leftist subscriber-beholden organizations such as The New York Times can run items like this now because they may see only a slight dip in traffic/clicks and that’s not too big a deal. But election season is the hottest and busiest and clickiest news time there is and running anything that could offend their base could cost them real dollars in lost traffic and subscriptions.
Third, this “modified limited hangout” now will give the press and the Powers that Fee the illusion of absolution and, therefore, free rein to kneecap the Trump reelection campaign by shifting all of the blame to him. “Well, Trump started the lockdowns which we know now were bad … Well, Trump started the mask mandates which we now know were stupid … Well, Trump lost hundreds of billions to fraud … Well, Trump shut the country down which we now know – and just printed a story about – was bad … Well, Trump made the vaccines that didn’t really work … Well, Trump … etc.”
They would do this anyway – to any Republican – but it’s always nice for one’s conscious to have even the slimmest of psychological cover, whether it be a lie or not.
A crucial reason for this timing is not how the general public reacts, but how the True Believers will take the news.
President Joe Biden and the Democrats are seen as the party of the mask, the party of the vaccine, the party of the lockdown, the party of suppression, and the party of social and economic cancellation. This is not good in general but also presents a very specific necessity of keeping the dedicated True Believers on their side. Those who still distance, those who post apoplectic comments about seeing a 5-year-old in kindergarten without a mask, those who are personally invested in the old narrative no matter what, and those who are on their fourth booster will not be running off to vote for Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis.
But they may become so disillusioned and sad (they do tend toward the fragile side) that they simply stay home on election day and that is something the Democrats cannot allow to happen. They must be gently weaned from their beliefs.
In other words, what we are seeing playing out right now is an attempt to calmly and quietly “wind down” a cult that predicted the world was going to end and was wrong. If the cult leader says “oops, we were wrong about the whole world-ending thing, so were done here, no harm no foul, right?” he will be torn limb from limb by his flock.
But if the leader uses complicated graphs and symbols to prove that the world is going to end on a Thursday – just not this particular Thursday – he can buy enough confusion time to jump in his Rolls-Royce and get out of town.
Or get reelected president.
Thomas Buckley is the former mayor of Lake Elsinore, Cal. and a former newspaper reporter. He is currently the operator of a small communications and planning consultancy and can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can read more of his work at: https://thomas699.substack.com/