Divine Comedy, Purgatory, Canto I by Dante Alighieri
Hikikomori, a Japanese phenomenon that first gained attention during the 1990s, is a severe form of social withdrawal which involves a complete withdrawal from society for six months or more. It is currently viewed as a sociocultural mental health phenomenon, rather than a distinct mental illness. Although the phenomenon began in Japan it is rapidly being identified in other countries all around the world. The term Hikikomori (derived from the verb hiki “to withdraw” and komori “to be inside”) was coined by Japanese psychiatrist Tamaki Saito and is now used across the world to describe anyone who fits the criteria.
The phenomenon is most common in young people, especially young men, and research shows traumatic experiences of shame and defeat are commonly reported as triggers across cultures. These young adults are unable to work, go to school, or step outside the house for months or years. They also don’t make or maintain any personal relationships outside their families. Often, they have a sense of apathy that is believed to border on nihilism. They might be disillusioned by the society in general and have a lack of motivation to engage with anyone. They might also have difficulty expressing their emotions.
Hikikomori tend to use the internet profusely, they prefer communicating online, and they often spend much of their time in the online world. The emergence of smartphones, food delivery services, and all services that reduce social interaction has a compounding effect on the issue. Essentially, you can live your entire life from your bed and, guess what, this is exactly what many hikikomori are doing.
Now close your eyes for a minute and think back about the last twelve months of your life… does the above sociocultural phenomenon sounds familiar? It should: we have all become Hikikomori or on the dangerous road to do so! Mandatory and anti constitutional lockdowns have imposed such a lifestyle on us. We are isolating in our homes, retracting from social interactions, unable to work, go to school, gather, protest, party, travel, experience art, laugh together, cry together, hug each other, have sex, meet new people, share new ideas… in one word: live!
Plugged into a virtual reality dictated by technology, we have zoom “meetings”, shop online, visit virtual museums, share ideas on Facebook and release our sexual frustrations on Pornhub. Meanwhile society around us is crumbling into an economic catastrophe of biblical proportions (and that, in very practical terms, means extreme poverty and death) while a feudal resource grab by multinationals and financial interests is stealing our future. And all of this to “fight” a virus that, according to the WHO, has a fatality rate (the chance of dying if you catch the virus)under 1%. That is a 99% survival rate folks! We must be the most hysterical generation in human history.
ZÔÊ OR BIOS
The ancient Greeks, people much wiser than us, did not have a single term to express what we commonly refer to as life. They used two words: zôê, which expressed the simple fact of living, common to all living beings (animals, men or gods), and bios, which indicated the form or way of life specific to an individualor to a group. Such an elegant distinction should be a primordial source of conversation in a cultured society facing matters or life and death. Such distinction forces us to ask the oldest question in the world: what is life? Or more precisely what constitutes human life? Is human life nothing more than a beating heart and a breathing lung? Or is human life defined by the quality and the quantity of experiences it encounters?
Of course it goes without saying that there is no bios without zôê. Without a beating heart and a breathing lung no experience can be encountered within this earthly reality. But that’s a simple minded superficial fact. The real interesting question is: what is the purpose of a beating heart if such heart is deprived of emotions, memories and experiences that make it’s beating a worthwhile endeavour? Is the act of breathing enough to consider human existence an experience worth living?
One of the mantras of the daily political propaganda is that lockdowns, social distancing, masks and all of the other freedom murdering measures put in place by unelected “experts” are meant to save lives. In reality, if these systems have any usefulness at all (and it’s a big if) it is to save the zôê, the simple fact of living. But in doing so they kill the most important form of existence: the bios, the form of our lives. We therefore fall into a strange contradiction in which politicians and scientists are killing the meaningful and profound experience of being in order to save the bare life.
A practical, albeit extreme, example of the distinction between zôê and bios is the condition of irreversible coma. In such cases the bare life of a human being is kept alight by artificial means: his heart beats, his lungs breathe and from a medical stand point the patient is alive. But what of it’s human experience? Without entering into the intricate discussion of dreams and brain function within a comatose state we can clearly assess that human beings in such a state are unable to cultivate new experiences nor nurture emotions. Their bios is de facto inexistent. In science fiction literature such figure is best represented by the zombie, a creature that lives but yet is not fully human. In our attempts to combat the virus we are “zombifying” ourselves and living as if already dead.
Of course the most common rebuttal to such thinking will be: “but this is an emergency! These measures are provisional!”. Such a proposal is, in my opinion, flawed on many levels. First of all with a survival rate of 99% can we really claim this is an emergency? Secondly, if this is an emergency how long will it last? Many scientists seem to believe the virus is here to stay and the current crisis will continue for years to come. How long are we supposed to survive rather than live in the name of a 1% chance of dying? Thirdly, are we sure that these measures are provisional? Are we sure that what we are experiencing is not social distancing as a political model? A model run through a digital matrix that replaces human interaction, which, by definition, will henceforth be considered fundamentally suspect and politically “contagious”?
We’ve already experienced such a change in paradigm after 9/11. At the time the political propaganda had a very similar approach in convincing us that we were all in imminent danger and that in order to save our lives we had to sacrifice more and more of our freedoms. Such arguments were always underline by the assurance that such measures would be provisional. Of course twenty years after the facts the security measures put in place are still standing (think airport security, biometric passports, digital spying of citizens by the governments, data gathering… just to name a few obvious ones) The threat of terrorism made each of us into a potential terrorist and therefore a potential threat who needs to be surveilled. With the virus, an invisible terrorist that circulates in the air, we have all become potential carriers and spreaders. Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben hits the nail on the head when he states that “it is not that citizens of the whole West have the right to health security, they are now legally forced to be healthy. This, in a nutshell, is the essence of biosecurity.” It is intrinsically linked to the logic of this thinking that the pandemic will have consequences that will transform the whole of society into a monitored area, into a permanent quarantine, where everyone will be treated as a potential carrier of the virus.
The third article of the Italian Constitution (which inspired the United Nations’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights) states: “It is the duty of the Republic to remove those obstacles of an economic or social nature which constrain the freedom and equality of citizens, thereby impeding the full development of the human person and the effective participation of all workers in the political, economic and social organisation of the country.” The full development of the human person is precisely what’s at stake in our current situation. How can we aspire at the full expression of the “better angels of our nature” (to quote Abraham Lincoln) if stepping out of our own homes has become a crime? How can we exercise empathy and love and our moral sense and our reason? How can we quench our thirst for knowledge, emotional growth and human relations? How can we still call ourselves human beings if what makes us so (the being) is shackled to the chains of mere survival?
Echoing these principles, while sitting in a prison in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. eloquently described our predicament when he wrote: “A just law is a man-made code that coincides with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is not in harmony with the moral law. Any law that elevates the human personality is right. Any law that degrades the human personality is unjust… One has not only the legal but also the moral responsibility to obey the just laws. On the contrary, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws”.
We are living very dangerous times ladies and gentlemen and the real danger seems to me not the virus itself but our social, political and cultural response to it. We seem adamant to comply with the idea that our bare life, removed of it’s form, is the supreme good to which all other goods must bow. This is a very dangerous idea and the thinking of slaves.
Our grandparents, when death stared them in the eyes, had a different understanding. When the German war machine rolled over Europe destroying, killing and burning all that they held dear they took the brave choice of fighting back. Without much hesitation they decided that their freedom, the sacred fire that burns inside just human beings, was more important than everything else, including their lives. They understood that without freedom, total, non-negotiable, self determining freedom, all expressions of human existence are voided of any profound meaning. And so they fought and died in the millions to conquer that freedom we, today, are so casually compromising. Had they, like we are doing, put their bare life rather than freedom as the supreme good, today we would all speak German and Hitler’s vision of history would be a reality.
But us? What will we tell our grandchildren when they’ll ask us about these times? Will we tell them, with pride, that for fear of infecting ourselves with a virus with a lethality rate of under 1% we have sacrificed all other values? That we threw away all the freedoms and conquests for which our grandparents gave their lives? Will we swell with pride in telling them that, out of fear, we erased the pillars of our civilisation?
Understandable reasons of health safety are imposing on us the acceptance of an indeterminate limitation of personal freedoms, without debate and without this being questioned. In doing so we run a serious risk of addiction to slavery, with the combination of the almost totalitarian one-way information system. It is clear that in such a situation the peoples either adapt or go towards extremes (an expression of anger also due to the perception of suffered violence).
Such perception of injustice is exponentially growing because it is ever more clear that the virus is not fought by locking citizens up, but by strengthening public health (destroyed by the nefarious policies of liberalism). It is not fought by hiding in our homes but by protecting the 1% amongst us who is most fragile. It is not fought by creating millions of new poor but by enhancing timely medical care on the territory. It is not fought by putting in charge scientists and experts riddled by conflicts of interest but by implementing clear guide lines following the knowledge of the doctors who have successfully treated thousands of patients (and there are many such doctors). It is not fought by less democracy but by more democracy. It is not fought by censorship but more discussion. But above all it is not fought by renouncing to live in the name of survival but by unleashing the best part that resides in all of us… by giving wings to the better angels of our nature.
It is everyday clearer that we are at a crossroad and the only question everyone should ask is which side of history they want to be on! Those of you who are afraid of the virus you can shut yourself at home, lockdown, wear two masks and shower with disinfectant gel. We understand you and, if we can, we are here to help! But do not selfishly demandthe same for everyone. If spending years of your life on a couch watching silly TV shows on Netflix and having Deliveroo bring you semi fresh food at your door sounds like a life worth living to you, be our guest! But don’t arrogantly request for all to do the same. If you think that freedom is overrated and a well worth bargain chip in exchange for health safety, feel free to chain yourself to whatever master will have you! Just don’t hysterically urge for all to be enslaved. If you wish to live in a virtual world of digital realities, plug yourself in! Just don’t childishly expect we all stop walking through the mystical woods of our lives. Some of us don’t want to give up living for fear of dying.
Neoliberal globalist capitalism is animated by two tendencies, diametrically opposed in practice and yet absolutely converging in purpose. These propensities are both political and economic. The first is a separative trend while the second is a propensity for homologation. The separative tendency of neoliberal capitalism is a political manoeuvre whose purpose is the attempt to practice the famous Roman adage “divide et impera” while the propensity for cultural homologation of the masses is a condition sine qua non for the unification of the market, of consumers and of products. These two aspirations, despite their apparent divergence, are none other than the two primary methodologies aimed at maintaining, strengthening and developing the system.
The capitalist economic/political system, as Marx explained much better than me, is naturally, structurally, divisive. In fact, it tends to create, strengthen and favour the division of society into classes of “winners and losers”, exploited and exploiters. The globalist and neoliberal drift of capitalism today has not only highlighted this innate tendency of the system, but has accentuated it. Nowadays, the disproportionate difference between rich and poor has grown out of all proportion and tends to accelerate. As an example, I report the following data: during the year 2018 an average Amazon worker earned $ 30,000; roughly the same amount that Jeff Bezos, CEO of the company, earned every 10 seconds.
Although neoliberal globalist capitalism has as its sole purpose the greatest profit for the least number of people, this discrepancy between the economic power of the “masters of steam” and the vast majority of the people has become a serious problem. Obviously it is a problem for the working people, who see the fruit of their work transferred and concentrated in the hands of a transnational elite, but it has also become a problem for the elite themselves who, responsible for the social injustice (or legalised theft) in action, runs the risk of being overwhelmed by an ever more conceivable “awakening of consciences”.
One of the strategies adopted by the “masters of the world” to respond to this problem, and to subvert and channel the growing anger of the people, is that, as mentioned above, of the use of the old Roman stratagem of “divide and rule”. The greatest danger to the status quo, in fact, is a condensation along party lines of the people. A massive organisation of intentions and their political coordination would mark the end of the current system in a short time. It is therefore of paramount importance, from the point of view of the elites, to ensure that this does not happen. Any form of commonality of objectives, of community aggregation and legislative compactness must be (and in fact it is) blocked, ostracised and discouraged.
The capitalist system, in fact, has as its first enemy the social pact intended as a defense of the interests of the many and as a cohesive attempt of the human brotherhood. The dominant economic and political apparatus therefore desires individuals emptied of any collective belonging and therefore politically solitary individuals unable to refuse everything that capital will want to impose on them.
This politically separative tendency is evident in many aspects of today’s social and working life. From the systematic weakening of trade unions, to the impoverishment of community work in favour, for example, of teleworking or the gig economy, which exploits the worker in his condition as an atom separated from the working community (and moreover devoid of any form of right), there are many examples that could be made of this current. But no example is more evident and oppressive than the perpetual separative effort of identity (individual and individualist).
This effort – of culture, media and propaganda – aims to separate the mass, the people, which if united would represent a revolutionary potential, into small nuclei closed in on themselves, not communicating, antagonistic and therefore in constant struggle with each other. This is often rightly defined as a “struggle between the poor”.
The people are then incited by power, mainly through propaganda, to form factions at odds with each other. These factions, or non-dialoguing dichotomies, are continuously and alternately fomented by the ruling class through the lever of individual, particular and exclusive identity. So we see white versus blacks, natives versus migrants, men versus women, Christians versus Muslims, heterosexual versus homosexuals, yes-vax versus no-vax and so on step into the ring of social conflict. These conflicts, albeit spontaneously existing, are continuously amplified both by the media drums and by the system itself which, by producing masses of dispossessed forced to compete with each other, creates the conditions for conflict. The purpose of this operation is to push the divided people to fight against themselves horizontally and to distract them from the true source of their discontent (the elite capitalist system) which would instead require a vertical struggle against the guardians of the established social condition.
In other words, the separative attitude of the capitalist system is nothing more than a weapon of mass distraction unsheathed in defense of the uncritical and static conservation of the system itself. The citizen is led to believe that the fault of his condition is, for example, the migrant and that if he were to disappear this would change his social and economic situation. At the same time, the migrant is pushed to believe that he is not well liked by the native population because of the color of his skin and not because, probably without knowing it, he has arrived in a country whose social and economic fabric is at the end of it’s tether and his presence is therefore seen as one too many. These contrasting and specifically targeted narratives allow the system and its defenders to transform two potential allies into bitter enemies.
This is an old trick but it is very efficient. A bit like skilful pickpockets, the defenders of the established power distract the citizen by attracting his attention to the left hand while stealing his wallet with the right.
The second propensity of globalist capitalism is diametrically opposite to the one just described. The globalist economic system, in fact, is formed on what the philosopher Diego Fusaro calls “neutralising inclusion” and that is a necessary, from the point of view of the system, neutralisation of regional cultural specificities. This has a purely economic function.
The economic task of this trend is to standardise the production model and the way of consumption of goods. To summarise this task, we can cite the famous exclamation of Henry Ford who, speaking of the choice his customers had on the color of his cars, said: “They can choose the color they want. As long as it’s black! ”. Here, global capitalism similarly exclaims: “You can choose the product you prefer. As long as it’s ours! “
The aim of globalised capitalism is to sell as many products as possible to as many consumers as possible. To achieve its aim, the system needs neutral, indistinct, narcissistic and above all homologated consumers. This allows the merchant to exponentially expand the market and therefore the number of consumers that can be reached by the same product. In other words, to achieve the maximum possible profit, the globalised capitalist system wants everything to be selfsame. The product must be the same as must be the consumer.
The homologating trend of the market is particularly visible in the clothing sector. The new frontiers of fashion are pushing more and more towards a thinner proposal of differences. Just think of unisex garments or homogeneous prêt-à-porter whether it is sold in Italy or sold in China. Perhaps the most striking example of this homologation can be found in the famous “United Colors” advertising of the Benetton brand where children of all races, and therefore representatives of different cultures, all pose together dressed in the same way. In short, “United Colors” yes, but under the sign of dollar green.
The biggest obstacle to this consumerist relativism therefore remains the regional and cultural identity under the spur of the specific popular tradition. This tradition, deriving from the particular history of a given people, reflects its peculiarity and therefore, consequently, its identity. This regional typicality is what global capitalism refuses and tries to destroy and level by any means, be it propaganda, cultural, political or economic. It should therefore not be surprising that the two prevailing political visions fork between sovereignty and globalism and that the economic ones between globalised production and consumption and locally sourced one.
In short, the capitalist and globalist “open society” wants nothing more than a society emptied of its specific cultural values, a society which, therefore, devoid of tradition, can be moulded at will by the market and in which it is possible to insert products manufactured in mass and consumed by the multitude. This economic system yearns to neutralise any communal aspiration other than that of commercial exchange, that is, the market. The state, a fundamental organ for the democratic expression of the polis, is therefore extorted from its congenital function and forced to govern FOR the market instead of governing THE market.
It should be briefly remembered that all dictatorships tend towards standardisation because this destroys individuality and consequently weakens the attitude and habit of dissent. The concrete example is the uniform imposed by the dictator; which on the one hand unites the wearer and on the other kills all forms of originality. The peculiarity of today’s financial dictatorship is that it simultaneously promotes uniformity of tastes and encourages a false choice (the Fordian “As long as it is black!” Which updated becomes “As long as they are jeans!”). To summarise, it could be said that without cultural roots the citizen loses his specific regional identity, without identity he loses the sense of belonging to a community and without communal awareness he loses his ability to resist. Which is exactly what the system wants.
Following this thought, a question arises spontaneously: if the aim of the system is to homogenise the heterogeneous cultures, which dominant culture must they adapt to? What is the original archetype to clone? The answer is obvious and predictable. The cannibal and oppressive cultural model is that of the “American way of life”. A North American model based on unbridled and low-quality consumption, on extreme individualism, on wild competition and promoter of a childish and infantilising culture. In short, the “fast-food and quick money” model.
IDENTITY AND BORDERS
The greatest fallacy of modern thought consists in confusing the right and necessary yearning for equality with the erroneous and destructive claim of sameness. While equality is a sacrosanct political claim built on justice, both social and economic, sameness is an overbearing and tyrannical attempt to level the different. This levelling assumes, as we have seen previously, a collective approach to a basic model (in our case the North American one) from which to clone the multiple manifestations of being. Like a virus, sameness takes hold of the other to make it the same, thus destroying the individual and collective identity of peoples.
In fact, identity can only exist in difference. One is one because it is not the other. I am me because I am not you. It is precisely in the mediation of differences that the individual understands, nourishes and enriches his own specificity. Open and respectful dialogue, therefore, becomes a necessary means to ensure that two distinct realities can communicate. Without difference, the dialogue becomes a repetitive and demeaning monologue, a killer of fantasy, education and relationships. On the contrary, true dialogue forces the parties to try to understand each other without therefore abandoning their own perspective. In doing so, true dialogue enriches and embellishes one’s own identity, and that of the other, through comparison.
This peculiarity of the human experience is most noticeable in the act of traveling. During the trip, the citizen comes into contact with a social and cultural reality different from his own. From it, in the first place, he observes and learns different visions, rites and approaches to the human adventure and secondly he compares them with his own. The exploration of the different increases his wisdom and the comparison with it increases his awareness of identity. Anyone who travels, once back home, brings back not only new knowledge and the scent of distant worlds, but also a new sensitivity in observing his own gardens.
It is too often forgotten evidence that every culture, however different, is nothing more than a manifestation of the human race. Humanity, unitary in itself, stands out in its plurality, complexity and variety. In fact, regional cultural identity is nothing more than a narrative identity deriving from specific stories, traditions and memories.
Just as between two human beings, at the micro level, identity arises from the distinction from the other, at the macro level the national culture is geographically distinguished within the border. The national border, the frontier, is nothing more than the delineation of the limits of a reality beyond which the other exists. This limit defines the historical, cultural and traditional identity of a people but also, and perhaps above all, determines it’s sovereignty, that is, the possibility of governing it’s own destiny.
In ancient times of war the victorious aggressor, as a first move, demolished the walls of the conquered city. The demolition of the walls was a conquest for the aggressor but a loss for the attacked. During the Peloponnesian War, when Sparta conquers Athens on the battlefield, it orders, according to the surrender pacts stipulated, to tear down its walls. This is not done to unite Sparta and Athens in brotherhood but to leave Athens naked, so to speak, defenceless, vulnerable to the command of Sparta. It should therefore come as no surprise that Athens would never regain its former prosperity and that the collapse of its walls marks the end of the golden age of Hellenic civilisation. The demolition of the border is always an act of colonisation by the dominant army or thought or economic system which, as we have seen repeatedly, wishes to impose its own supervision and consequently dominate the other. It follows that the famous speech of Pericles to the Athenians “Here in Athens we do so”, in which the famous politician describes the characteristics of Athenian democracy, once the city walls have fallen, no longer subsists. Without the walls that delineate Athens, there is no longer a “here” or a “we”. And without them it is impossible to define the “we do so” as distinct from another doing.
To return to our times, it is clear that the principles of nation, sovereignty, tradition and cultural identity are under attack from an anthropophagous economic system that intends to destroy the different in order to impose its own. In this context it seems obvious that the current demonisation of national borders is nothing more than a trick of capitalism which wishes to colonise the minds and bodies of the world in the name of profit. The political and media campaigns conceived to execute the very principle of nation as an intrinsically racist, warmongering and isolationist principle serve transnational capital to destroy and abolish all the legal, political and economic defense systems available to the various peoples. The globalist and capitalist “no border” society wishes to see the same triumph on a global scale: one language, one thought, one law, one single way of producing and consuming… in short, a single way of life dictated and controlled by an always narrower elite.
We can therefore conclude that there are two types of universalism: the first perceives the levelling and in-distinction of the parts as the only way of union; the second, on the contrary, celebrates and defends differences as the only healthy and fraternal attitude of being in the world.
In an episode of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s masterpiece “The Brothers Karamazov” a noblewoman, as pious as she is rich, visits the starec (Christian mystic) Zosima in her monastery. Moved by a profound crisis of conscience, she confesses to him that: “I love humanity, but to my great surprise, the more I love humanity in general the less I love man in particular.” The episode described by the Russian master perfectly describes the dilemma in which today’s societies find themselves.
Driven by an honest desire for peaceful and fraternal coexistence, peoples, guided by globalist propaganda, believe that borders are the problem, forgetting that true equality and true brotherhood is not the elimination of differences but rather the development of them in respect of their specific identity and therefore of their otherness. In short, true equality is the antithesis of standardisation. Or as one of the characters of the Idiot, also by Dostoevsky, exclaims: “In abstract love for humanity, one almost always ends up loving only oneself.”
And it is for this strange game of the human soul that the “no border open society” is nothing but the most vulgar form of nationalism. True nationalism, in fact, is the reduction of cultural differences to one; the desire, in fact, to impose a vision (the “American way of life”) on all the others and to standardise all human expressions. This is called colonialism.
I leave you with extracts from Pericles’ “Speech to the Athenians”, which was pronounced over 2500 years ago.
Our form of government does not enter into rivalry with the institutions of others. Our government does not copy our neighbours’, but is an example to them. The administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few and for this we are called a democracy.
Here in Athens we do so.
There exists equal justice to all and alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence is also recognised; and when a citizen is in any way distinguished, he is preferred to the public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as the reward of merit and poverty is not an obstacle.
Here in Athens we do so.
There is no exclusiveness in our public life, and in our private business we are not suspicious of one another, nor angry with our neighbour if he does what he likes.We are free, free to live at ease, and yet are equally ready to face the perils which we face. While we are thus unconstrained in our private business, a spirit of reverence pervades our public acts; we are prevented from doing wrong by respect for the authorities and for the laws, having a particular regard to those which are ordained for the protection of the injured as well as those unwritten laws which bring upon the transgressor of them the reprobation of the general sentiment.
Here in Athens we do so.
We do not consider a man uninterested in the state harmless, but useless; and although few are able to give life to a policy, everyone here in Athens is able to judge it. We do not see discussion as an obstacle on the way to democracy. We believe that happiness is the fruit of freedom, but freedom is only the fruit of merit. In short, I proclaim that Athens is the school of Hellas and that every Athenian grows by developing in himself a happy versatility, self-confidence, readiness to face any situation and that is why our city is open to the world and we we never chase a foreigner.
Note to the reader: this article in no way wants to argue that Vladimir Putin is a patron saint of democracy, that there is no corruption within his government or that political murder (or attempt) is unconceivable (but whoever is without sin cast the first stone). The intent is simply to take a more careful look at Alexey Navalny’s character.
Who is Alexey Navalny? On his Wikipedia profile we learn that he was born in 1976 in Obninsk about 100 kilometers southwest of Moscow and is of Ukrainian descent. He is described, also by Wikipedia, as “a leader of the Russian opposition, politician, lawyer and anti-corruption activist.” Navalny came to international prominence by organising demonstrations against the corruption of President Vladimir Putin and his government.
As we can read on his official profile, he was trained at the American University of Yale as a member of the “Greenberg World Fellows Program”, a program created in 2002 for which, every year, only 16 people, with such characteristics as to make them “Global leaders”, are selected worldwide. They are part of a network of “leaders globally committed to making the world a better place”, currently made up of 291 members from 87 countries, each in contact with each other and all connected to the US center of Yale.
In 2000, Navalny joined the Russian Unified Democratic Party Yabloko, a small party within the Russian political landscape (In the last presidential elections, Yabloko won 1.05% of the vote). In April 2004, Navalny becomes chief of staff of the Moscow branch but in 2007 he is expelled for his nationalist views.
In 2005 he co-founded the “Democratic Alternative” movement, one of the beneficiaries of the National Endowment for Democracy (Ned), a powerful US “private non-profit foundation” which, with funds also provided by Congress, finances, openly or under the table, thousands of non-profit non-governmental organisations in over 90 countries to “advance democracy”. It is an open secret that Ned is one of the branches of the CIA for covert operations, which has been, and still is, particularly active in Ukraine. In the country of his ancestors, Navalny supported the Maidan Revolution which, according to him: “overthrew a corrupt government that prevented democracy”. It matters little that, with the Maidan Square’s putsch, an even more corrupt government was installed in Kiev, whose democratic character is represented by the neo-Nazis who occupy key positions (and this is not an euphemism, they are literally neo-Nazis who openly promote ideas such as “white supremacy” and “white power”).
Another interesting aspect, that I invite you to consider, is the fact that Navalny’s wife is the daughter of a powerful former KGB operator and banker responsible for Russian properties in London, Boris Abrosimov. Abrosimov is a colleague of the better known former KGB colonel and Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev, owner and editor of some British newspapers, whose son has recently become a Peer of England (a noble title). All of this would seem to indicate that Navalny is deeply connected to the dark places where Russian and Western intelligence services, and their bankers, forge confidential ties.
In any case, in 2007 Navalny created a second political movement called “The People” which presented a clearly xenophobic, nationalist, identity and anti-immigration program. At the same time he records video blogs in which he compares people from the South Caucasus to dental caries and migrants to cockroaches that should be crushed. In one of these videos, Navalny plays the part of a teleshopping host, explaining the various remedies available to ward off insects and cockroaches. At the end of the video, however, these animals suddenly turn into religious extremists of clear Islamic faith, whom Navalny recommends chasing away with the use of a gun.
Here is the video link: https://youtu.be/oVNJiO10SWw
In 2013 he ran for the mayor of Moscow, finishing second after the incumbent Sergey Sobyanin. He collects 21.9% of the votes against 60.1% of his opponent.
In 2018 he decides to enter the presidential race. However, he is not allowed to run due to two conditional convictions for fraud (although we must consider that he stood between 1% and 4% in opinion polls before he was declared ineligible for the election).
Navalny’s positions and political views, as we have seen, are far-right, anti-immigration and anti-homosexuals. His economic views, on the other hand, favour privatisation and the free market, and he is supported by many post-Soviet capitalists, from oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky to former head of the Russian central bank, Sergei Aleksashenko.
Importantly, his popularity is high only in large cities, and the situation in the regions is drastically different. While for some people he simply remains an unknown character, and many remain neutral, people in general are more wary of him than they are of the Russian government or of Putin personally. His popularity has grown somewhat in the wake of the alleged poisoning (which I will write about shortly) but he remains a figure of little political significance. In the latest survey on the number of people who trust significant political figures in the Russian political landscape, done in August 2020, Navalny came in third place with 2% (after 40% of Vladimir Putin and 4% of Vladimir Zhirinovsky). Indeed, taking a closer look at the election results and all the available polls it is clear that the most significant opposition to President Vladimir Putin is not Navalny. The real opposition party is the CPRF (The Communist Party of the Russian Federation) which holds a consistent presence in the Duma.
Yet the Wall Street Journal describes Navalny as “the man Vladimir Putin fears most”.
HEROIC ICON OF THE WEST
It is interesting to note that the newspaper “La Stampa” (one of the major newspapers in Italy), in 2012, spoke of Navalny as a “xenophobic blogger”, defining the political area within which he militated and still militates as “ultra-right galaxy” and “ultra-nationalist”. Yet eight years later the same newspaper describes Navalny as “the Russian Nelson Mandela” (no less!!). What has changed in these eight years? Well, Navalny was poisoned by Putin in an evil attempt to take out his “most dangerous rival”. At least that’s the official story as told by CNN, the BBC, and all those brave beacons of truth commonly known as mainstream media. Obviously the beacons of truth forget to specify that Putin’s “most dangerous rival” is a man who has never held any office, his political party does not have a single member of parliament in the Duma, and holds about 2% of support from the Russian people. But let’s forget these little details and get to the facts.
On August 20, 2020, Navalny falls seriously ill while mid-flight from Tomsk, Siberia, to Moscow. The plane is abruptly rerouted to make an emergency landing in the Siberian city of Omsk, where Navalny is immediately hospitalised for suspected poisoning and placed in a pharmacological coma.
Two days later, Navalny is flown to Germany in an evacuation organised by a human rights NGO based in Berlin. His transport, on an “ambulance/plane” with German specialists on board, is authorised by the Russian authorities.
While Russian doctors in Omsk (who probably saved Navalny’s life) claim they have found no evidence of chemical weapons in his system, the German government, after a quick review, announces that their military lab has found “unambiguous evidence” that Navalny was poisoned by a cold war-era nerve agent, Novichok. The German government seeks explanations from the Kremlin without providing any of this evidence either to Moscow or the public.
Despite being the alleged victim of an extremely lethal military nerve agent, considered worse than sarin or VX gas, three weeks later Navalny comes out of the coma defiantly vowing to return to Russia.
By pure coincidence, all of this happens just as Nord Stream 2, the second line of the huge gas pipeline under construction from Russia to Germany opposed by the United States and several NATO allies, is almost completed. Suddenly, the diplomatic confrontation between Germany and Russia stops the controversial project. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German government, under pressure from Washington, consider withdrawing from the project that would increase Russian influence on European energy infrastructure and compete with more expensive US exports. But don’t think about it too much, these are just conspiracy theories.
Be that as it may, three days before Joe Biden’s inauguration as the new American president (another coincidence?), Navalny returns to Russia where he is promptly arrested for violating the terms of his bail. He knew very well that this would happen and that it would unleash the hysteria of the Western media (which has promptly happened). Hysterics due to his 30-day prison sentence. Yes, you read that right: thirty DAYS, not years. He will be released before the spring and even if he is convicted with the numerous charges of embezzlement and fraud, he risks more or less three years in prison (just for comparison, Nelson Mandela, the real one, was imprisoned for 27 years).
Within Russia, reactions to the allegations against Navalny vary with the political views of commentators: those who support Navalny and his activities generally claim he is not guilty, while his political opponents generally claim otherwise. It is certainly not up to me to judge and I candidly admit my ignorance about it.
The doubt remains: is Alexey Navalny a heroic defender of the Russian people persecuted by Putin or a puppet in the hands of the anti-Russian Western propaganda? I will leave it to you, dear readers, to decide using your mind and your sensibility. Like always I invite you to do your own research and, if you’ll like, share with me your findings.
As for me, I have a series of questions that run through my head and to finish off I would like to share them with you:
How is it possible that the entire Western political and media apparatus, which thunders against Trump because he is a racist and a nationalist, gives complete and total support to a Russian racist and nationalist?
Who trulybenefits from this story?
Would Russian President Vladimir Putin really try to assassinate an opposition figure who holds a tiny 2% support among the population?
If so, why use Novichok, a nerve gas already widely and publicly associated with Russia? What’s wrong with the old bullet in the back of the head and consequential burial somewhere in the Siberian steppe?
How the hell it’s possible that Novichok, a deadly military poison, never kills anyone? Has the old KGB, now FSB, really become a den of amateurs unable to kill anyone?
If the Russian state, or Putin, poisoned Navalny, why did the plane on which he fell ill made an emergency landing and Navalny was taken directly to a hospital for medical treatment?
Why were no traces of unusual substances found by the two Russian laboratories that analysed Alexei Navalny’s blood when he was hospitalised in Omsk?
If Navalny was exposed to a highly infectious substance like Novichok, why has no one else around him suffered from it or showed any signs of poisoning?
If the Russian state, or Putin, has poisoned Navalny, why was he allowed to leave the country and receive treatment abroad? Especially knowing that sooner or later the Novichok inside his body would be detected.
Why has the German government never provided any evidence, either to Moscow or the public, of the poisoning?
But above all, and this is the most important question of all, has Navalny been tested for Covid-19?
A short time after publishing the article above an old friend of mine Oleg Konovalov, a Russian citizen who lives in Moscow, wrote to me to “point out a few things” as he says. Please note that I don’t necessarily agree with everything he writes but am extremely grateful to him for his wonderful insight and decided, with his permission, to add his message to the article. Here it is:
Hi Luca! How are things? I hope all is well! I’ve just read the article you posted on Alexey Navalny. I’d like to point out a few things. For anyone in Russia thinking that the communist party is a true opposition is just naive. There are 4 parties in the parliament with the communist party being one of them. And none of them are actually opposition parties. They are called “systemic opposition” and they are the same muppets of the kremlin as United Russia is. The Duma is not a proper parliament. It has become one of the tools of the kremlin and not an independent state institution. Another thing, you probably wrote the article before yesterday’s court hearings, as now Navalny got a real prison sentence for 2 years and 8 months. And now to the important questions – how is he making all of his investigations into the facts of corruption and how did he manage to not get a real prison sentence before? He is the only person in Russia to have received a conditional term on 2 criminal charges. A second criminal charge never gets a conditional term. I have my version of why this happened. There are several groups of interest in the top power in Russia. Even Putin and Medvedev are different groups and despite being a tandem, when Medvedev was president, at some point he was in a big conflict with Putin and wanted to go for the second term of presidency. These different groups have been using Navalny as a mechanism in their political struggle. They were leaking compromising materials to Navalny and helping him look in the right direction to find the details that he was disclosing in his investigations. They needed some sort of guarantees to keep him from being too active, so he was under the first conditional sentence. The second conditional sentence is on charges that might be real, but the whole process was organised improperly, without following the normal procedures, and there are big doubts about how real the whole situation is. But the guys in power were also scared of him because they don’t know exactly what information he has about them and what may leak into the media in case of his actual imprisonment. And that gave him some sort of comfort. I am actually expecting more revelations to come from his team now that he has been sentenced to a real term. And to answer the question that you put in your article – is he a hero or a puppet? I think the answer is that he is neither one. There are too many forces that thought that they can use him as a puppet, and he played along. He got the support that he needed from abroad. He has far more support in Russia than one may think. The official polls are very misleading. People are afraid of admitting that they support him. And there are many that don’t fully support him, but in the situation that we have with no other people in opposition, when given the choice between him and the current power he would be the lesser of two evils. So he has support both outside and inside the country. And everything that he has been doing, he was doing based on his own personal political and economic interests. He is a very selfish and egoistic character who is making use of the situation. Being a puppet is not something that he is happy with, and being a hero is not on his agenda. And one more thing – the link between him and Alexander Lebedev as a former KGB official doesn’t actually go to show anything. The former KGB officials have ended up in all spheres of life. Lebedev actually has political ambitions and he is in opposition to the current elite, but for him Navalny would be more of a competitor than an ally. And this is the problem of the opposition in Russia. They can’t unite. They all want to be the leaders. That’s what killed Yabloko as a political force, which is where Navalny started his political career. As for being a real political threat to Putin, Navalny is nowhere near that level, at least not yet. But he can be used as an instrument by Putin’s rivals, and that’s what the real threat is. Who exactly would use him – there can be different people. But if Navalny lets them use him, he will definitely try to get something substantial out of it for himself. I know I was a bit hectic and all over the place, but hopefully this will give you some insight from an unbiased source in Russia that will help you get a better understanding of the situation.
In 1976 Carlo Cipolla, an Italian economic historian, set out to find a sociological definition and theory of human stupidity. The essay, entitled “The basic laws of human stupidity”, was meant as a humorous pamphlet to be given out to family and friends as a Christmas present. I know Christmas is gone already but I thought I’d share with you beloved, albeit few, readers and friends a summary of his work. Let’s call it a late Christmas present!
Cipolla states in his introduction: “this essay is neither the fruit of cynicism nor an exercise in social defeatism – any more than a microbiology book is. The following pages are, in fact, the result of a constructive effort to investigate, know and therefore possibly neutralise one of the most powerful and dark forces that impede the growth of human well-being and happiness.” Despite it’s amusing tone (or rather because of it) I believe the essay explores some fascinating social dilemmas worth diving into.
On a personal note, and in an attempt to include our current climate of political correctness into the text, please note that the words stupid or stupidity are not meant as an insult or denigratory remark but rather a technical definition of a human reality.
First Law: Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
No matter if you are a cynic or an optimist, you certainly have been shocked many times over by the stupidity of fellow members of the human race (and I’m willing to bet it has happened at least once in the past ten days). Cipolla invites us to consider that:
“However high the quantitative estimate that one makes of human stupidity, one is repeatedly and recurrently amazed by the fact that:
a) people whom one has judged in the past to be rational and intelligent then suddenly turn out to be unequivocally and irremediably stupid;
b) day after day, with incessant monotony, one is hindered and hindered in one’s activity by stubbornly stupid individuals, who suddenly and unexpectedly appear in the least opportune places and moments.”
Second Law: The probability that a certain person (will) be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
For Cipolla stupidity is not determined by cultural factors but by biogenetic. Some people are born tall, some have red hair, some have green eyes and some are simply born stupid. In other words there are no class, race, gender or creed discriminations in stupidity. He adds: “I firmly believe that stupidity is an indiscriminate prerogative of any and every human group and that this prerogative is uniformly distributed according to a constant proportion.”
Furthermore: “In this regard, Nature truly seems to have surpassed itself. It is well known that Nature, quite mysteriously, manages to keep the relative frequency of certain natural phenomena constant. (…) We do not know how Nature achieves this extraordinary result (…) The extraordinary fact about the frequency of stupidity is that Nature manages to make sure that this frequency is always and everywhere equal to the probability regardless of the size of the group, so much so that one finds the same percentage of stupid people whether they take into account very large groups or very small groups. No other kind of phenomena under observation offers such a singular proof of the power of Nature.”
To prove the point a series of studies were conducted in various Universities around the world. They divided the populations of these university into four broad categories meant to express class and level of education: janitors, employees, students, faculty. The amazing result was that the percentage of stupid people remained the same in the four categories. They repeated the test with Nobel Prize winners, the elite, the “crème de la crème”, and the result was to discover that a comparable percentage of Nobel Prize winners are stupid (I don’t know about you but that doesn’t surprise me at all!).
“At this point it is necessary to clarify the concept of human stupidity”. Cipolla quotes the famous affirmation by Aristotles that “man is a social animal”. No matter if you live in a metropolis or in the woods, sooner or later you’ll have to deal with other human beings. And in doing so we are forced to carry out, or not, some specific action. He adds: “From any action, or non-action, each of us derives a gain or a loss, and at the same time determines a gain or a loss for someone else.”
He illustrates this in this graph:
From these two factors, one must consider to explore human behaviour, we obtain four groups of people (plus an additional one, ineffectual people, comprised by people who refuse all action). These four groups are: intelligent people, bandits, helpless people and stupid people. These groups are defined as follows:
Intelligent people: people who’s actions bring benefits to both themselves and others.
Bandits: people who’s actions bring benefits to themselves but losses to others.
Helpless people: people who’s actions bring benefits to others but losses to themselves.
Stupid people: people who’s actions bring losses to themselves and to others.
Third Law: A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
“Faced with the third basic law, rational people instinctively react with skepticism and disbelief. The fact is that reasonable people have difficulty conceiving and understanding unreasonable behaviour.”
We can all understand the actions of an intelligent person based on the effectiveness of the results. We can also understand the actions of a bandit, who despite a dubious moral ground, acts and behaves following a logical pattern. We can also understand the failures of a helpless person for his or hers failed attempt is still driven by a legitimate logic. But it is difficult for a rational person to come to terms with the illogical, unreasonable, absurd and incoherent actions of a stupid person. “Nobody knows, understands or can explain why that absurd creature does what it does. In fact there is no explanation – or rather – there is only one explanation: the person in question is stupid”.
Of course no human being behaves in a constant and coherent matter all of the time. We all have bad days, so to speak. An intelligent person might sometimes act in a matter that approaches banditry or helplessness. But because he’s fundamentally an intelligent person “most of his actions will have the characteristic of intelligence”. The same can be said of bandits and helpless people. The only category that breaks the pattern is, of course, that of stupid people. “The reason for this is that the vast majority of stupid people are fundamentally and steadfastly stupid — in other words, they persistently insist on causing harm or loss to other people without any gain for themselves”.
Stupidity and power
All humans, through their actions, have an effect on their community; the intensity of which is determined by the degree of strength, they genetically posses, of the traits inherent to their category. That is how intelligent, helpless, criminal or stupid one is. But also, and more dangerously, it derives from the position of power and authority they occupy in society. If, like discussed earlier, the same percentage of stupid people can be found in university janitors and Nobel prize winners, it is safe to assume that a relative percentage of stupidity will be present amongst heads of states, military leaders, economists, heads of industry and so on and so on. With the additional problematic that their “capacity to harm others is dangerously increased by the position of power they occupy”.
“The question that reasonable people often ask is how and why stupid people manage to reach positions of power and authority.” This is Cipolla’s answer: “Class and caste were the social institutions that allowed a steady stream of stupid people in positions of power in most pre-industrial societies. In the modern industrial world (…) instead of class and caste, there are political parties, bureaucracy and democracy. Within a democratic system, general elections are a highly effective instrument to ensure the stable maintenance of a percentage of stupid people among the powerful. It should be remembered that, under the Second Law, a percentage of people who vote are stupid and elections offer them a magnificent opportunity to harm everyone else, without any gain from their action. They accomplish this by helping to maintain a constant level of fools among the people in power.” Just take a look at most politicians around the world and you’ll notice this is true.
The power of stupidity
According to Cipolla the real power and danger of stupidity resides in it’s irrationality. An intelligent person can fight a bandit for they both fight with the same weapons: logic and rationality. A fight between an intelligent person and a bandit resembles a chess game where the best tactical moves will determine the winner. This is not the case with a stupid person for a stupid person will irremediably behave irrationally.
“Since the actions of a stupid person do not conform to the rules of rationality, it follows that:
generally one is taken by surprise by the attack;
even when awareness of the attack is acquired, it is not possible to organise a rational defense, because the attack, in itself, lacks any rational structure.”
Fourth Law: Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
It is no surprise that a helpless person would not recognise the danger of a stupid person. They are helpless after all. What is surprising is that an intelligent person or a bandit would make the same mistake. They should know better. The only hypothesis Cipolla can conceive are that, when faced with stupidity, intelligent people are overwhelmed by a sense of superiority or pity or contempt. Also, an intelligent person generally tends to believe that a stupid person can only hurt himself, but that means confusing stupidity with helplessness. Cipolla adds: “Sometimes it is even tempting to associate oneself with a stupid individual with the aim of using him for your own aims. This manoeuvre can only have disastrous effects because:
it is based on the complete incomprehension of the essential nature of stupidity
gives the stupid person extra room to exercise his talents. (…) Due to the erratic nature of stupidity, one cannot foresee all the actions and reactions of the same and in a short time one will be crushed and pulverised by his unpredictable actions.
Over the centuries, in public and private life, countless people have not taken into account the Fourth Basic Law and this has caused incalculable losses to humanity.”
Fifth Law: A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.
The fifth law has profound consequences for the social, political, cultural and economic well being of a community. When the stupid “go to work” they create nothing but losses, for themselves and others, and the whole society is impoverished.
When a society is healthy and growing the damage done by stupid people is kept in check by intelligent ones. But if a society is in decline stupidity becomes more active because intelligent people tend to disappear and bandits occupy more and more places of power. This inevitably strengthens the destructive power of the stupid and brings the country to ruin.
There is one aspect of Cipolla’s study that leaves me unsatisfied, and that is the consideration of truth. In order for stupidity to be analysed following his system we must first define the proper starting point of our analysis. If stupidity is to cause harm to others without any gain for oneself we must first define what constitutes harm. Of course in most cases this is self evident but in more subtle and complex situations this is not always the case. Let’s use a current example: Covid vaccines. If the vaccines are a good medical product those refusing to take it are, by Cipolla’s definition, stupid. But if the vaccines are a bad product then those refusing to take it are intelligent. So in order to define stupidity we need to have a clear definition of good and bad. And this is not always easy to do.
The second aspect that I’d like to point out is that being helpless, bring benefits to others but losses to oneself, could be considered both a weakness or an act of absolute ethical and moral integrity. Didn’t Jesus of Nazareth, after all, sacrifice himself for the good of humanity? Didn’t Gandhi? St Francis? Isn’t the sign of a materialistic mind to consider helplessness a weakness rather than a virtue?
This said, it seems to me, that the proliferation of stupidity in all fields of today’s social life is a clear sign of the decline of the capitalist era. A system that has put profit and material pleasure above everything else created a cultural vacuum of Biblical proportions. Within this empty space the virus of stupidity has reproduced itself to staggering amounts. Hedonistic capitalism, having eliminated the classical ideas of universal ethic, finds itself at it’s logical conclusion. We bartered virtue for pleasure, culture for entertainment, economic justice for social justice, philosophy for memes, the transcendent for the immanent, political ideals for blind ideology, Pink Floyd for Justin Bieber and the results are in folks! May all the number of the stars give light to your fair way!
In November 2011, following the publishing of the Afghan and Iraqi logs, the US government, under the banner of the Grand Jury in Alexandria, Virginia begin investigating Assange and Wikileaks. At the same time the FBI begins an independent investigation. The indictment (the criminal charges) remains secret and sealed for eight years although it takes a small leap of imagination to envisage what it could contain.
On the 11th of April 2019, the day of Assange’s arrest in London, the indictment against him is unsealed. One could wonder about such timing but the reason is pretty simple: in the eyes of the US government Assange is now in the hands of an allied country (one could say accomplice or vassal, depending on the point of view) that will facilitate Assange extradition. He is charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion (hacking into a government computer), a relatively minor crime that carries a maximum 5-year sentence, with a possibility of parole, if found guilty.
The indictment stems from an incident in 2010, when Assange allegedly told his source, then Army private Chelsea Manning, that he would help crack a password that would have given her deeper access to the military computers from which she was leaking classified material to WikiLeaks and allow her to use a different username to avoid detection. At this time it’s not clear if Assange ever successfully cracked the password.
In other words the US department of justice claims that Julian Assange didn’t just receive info from an informant and then published it (which is not a crime, rather it is good journalism) but that he conspired with his source (Manning) and aided her to obtain information (which is a crime as an act of espionage). The information was then used, the US department of justice claims, to injury the US for the advantage of a foreign nation (this begs the question which nation? And if Assange is a spy, he’s spying on whose account? The people’s?). In short the US government hopes to prove that Assange is a spy and not a journalist
On the 23rd of May 2019, Assange is indicted on 17 new charges relating to the Espionage Act of 1917 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. These are: conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information, conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, seven counts of obtaining national defense information, and nine counts of disclosure of national defense information. These charges carry a maximum sentence of 170 years in prison without the possibility of parole. Most cases brought under the Espionage Act have been against government employees who accessed sensitive information and leaked it to journalists and others. Prosecuting people for acts related to receiving and publishing information has not previously been tested in court.
When the full indictment against Assange becomes of public knowledge a worldwide debate about freedom of speech and freedom of press begins. The whole question revolves around this distinction: is Julian Assange a journalist or a spy?
Most representatives of the US government defend the view that Assange is a spy and not a journalist. The Vice-President of the United States, Joe Biden (the great shining knight of hope), goes as far as calling him a terrorist. Once they finally understand what Assange’s case could mean for journalistic practices, the mainstream media wakes up. The New York Times comments that it and other news organisations obtained the same documents as Wikileaks also without government authorisation. It also says it is not clear how Wikileaks’s publications are legally different from other publications of classified information. The US allegation that Assange’s publication of these secrets was illegal is deemed controversial by CNN, the Washington Post and other mainstream media.The Associated Press claims that Assange’s indictment presents media freedom issues, as Assange’s solicitation and publication of classified information is a routine job journalists perform.
Edward Snowden said it best: “The Department of Justice just declared war––not on Wikileaks, but on journalism itself. This is no longer about Julian Assange: this case will decide the future of media.” He was echoed by Ron Paul (a candidate in the Republican primaries of 2008 and 2012): “In a free society we’re supposed to know the truth… In a society where truth becomes treason, then we’re in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it.” He added “This is media, isn’t it? I mean, why don’t we prosecute The New York Times or anybody that releases this?”
This is the whole problem with the Assange’s case. The charges built against Assange could be applied to any other media and journalist. With Assange trial what is really at stake is not only the life of the most courageous journalist and publisher of our time but the freedom of the press itself. If Julian Assange is considered a publisher he is imprisoned as one. And it this message goes through, that publishing material that damages the reputation and activity of the Us government will put you in jail, every journalist in the world should be scared. And that’s exactly the point. Julian Assange is being used as an example to send a clear message to journalists around the world: your rights to freedom of press exist as long as we decide they do. If you ever dare publishing damaging material against the US government you will be put in prison.
The case against Julian Assange could be epitomised with the latin motto “Unum castigabis, centum emendabis” (strike one to educate a hundred), which, in modern times, was brought back into fashion by none other than Mao Tse-Tung.
The first hearing into the US request for Assange’s extradition is held in London on the 2nd of May 2019. The trial is presided by Judge Emma Arbuthnot. When asked whether he consented to extradition, Assange replies: “I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many, many awards and protected many people”. The judge then denies Assange’s lawyers any more time to prepare their case – even though their client is prevented in prison from receiving legal documents and other tools with which to defend himself.
Towards the end of 2019, Judge Arbuthnot, steps aside because of a “perception of bias”. It turns out that her husband, Lord James Arbuthnot, a former Conservative defence minister with links to the British military and intelligence establishment, was working closely with the neo-conservative Henry Jackson Society (HJS), a right wing lobby group with a strongly anti-Assange agenda.The HJS has called Assange “bonkers and paranoid” and described the asylum given to him by the government of Ecuador as “the last seedy bolthole to which Mr Assange thinks he can run”. Vanessa Baraitser is appointed as the presiding judge. As Chief Magistrate, Arbuthnot remains the supervising legal figure “responsible for… supporting and guiding” Baraitser. In other words she remains as the puppet master. Hardly an example of impartiality of the British justice system.
On the 21st of October 2019, Assange appears in court for a case management hearing. When Judge Baraitser asks about his understanding of the proceedings, Assange replies: “I don’t understand how this is equitable. This superpower (the US) had 10 years to prepare for this case and I can’t access my writings. It’s very difficult where I am to do anything but these people have unlimited resources. They are saying journalists and whistleblowers are enemies of the people. They have unfair advantages dealing with documents. This is not equitable what is happening here.”
Then the Covid crisis explodes around the world. This slows down proceedings considerably. In September some witnesses testify remotely via video link. Technical problems cause extensive delays. Amnesty International and eight Members of the European Parliament have their access to the livestream revoked. No real explanation is given for this. Other witnesses testify that the conditions of imprisonment, which would be likely to worsen upon extradition to the US, place Assange at a high risk of depression and suicide which is exacerbated by him being on the autism spectrum. Psychiatrist Michael Kopelman testifies that a hidden razor blade has been found in Assange’s prison cell.
Then comes the turning point of the trial. Patrick Eller, a former forensics examiner with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, testifies that Assange did not crack and could not have cracked the password mentioned in the US indictment, as Chelsea Manning had intentionally sent only a portion of the password’s hash. Moreover, Eller states that Manning’s message was unrelated to the classified documents which were already in her possession. In other words the ONLY charge that could have turned Assange’s position from that of a journalist to that of a spy is proven to be false.
In December 2020 Assange requests a pardon from president Trump and six Nobel Prize winners write a letter requesting a pardon for Assange as well.
On the 4th of January 2021, Judge Baraitser rules that Assange cannot be extradited to the United States, citing concerns about his mental health and the risk of suicide in a US prison. The US has 14 days to appeal the ruling, during which time Assange may remain in prison. Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador, during a press conference, says that Mexican diplomats would look for Assange’s liberation and offer political asylum. Assange’s attorneys ask that he be released on bail. On the 6th of January, Assange is denied bail.
A PYRRHIC VICTORY
The news that Julian Assange will not be extradited to the United States is a welcome legal victory, but one tainted by legal arguments that should deeply worry us. The denial of his extradition doesn’t come because of the numerous principled arguments against the US extradition case – all of which were rejected by the judge – but because Assange is considered a suicide risk. The US mass incarceration system is so obviously barbaric and depraved that Assange would be at grave risk of committing suicide should he become another victim of its super-max jails. In other words the US demand for extradition was rejected on what is effectively a technicality and not on the basis of principles.
Judge Baraitser has backed all the US government’s main legal arguments for extradition, even though they were comprehensively demolished by Assange’s lawyers. She accepted their dangerous new definition of investigative journalism as “espionage”, and implied that Assange had also broken Britain’s draconian Official Secrets Act in exposing government war crimes. Furthermore she agreed that the 2007 Extradition Treaty applies in Assange’s case, ignoring the treaty’s actual words that exempt political cases like his. With her judging she has opened the door for any journalist guilty of embarrassing Washington to be seized in their home countries and be sent to the US for trial. As if this was not enough Baraitser accepted that protecting sources in the digital age – as Assange did for whistleblower Chelsea Manning, an essential obligation on journalists in a free society – now amounts to criminal “hacking”. She trashed free speech and press freedom rights, saying they did not provide “unfettered discretion by Mr Assange to decide what he’s going to publish”. What’s more, she appeared to approve of the ample evidence showing that the US spied on Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy, both in violation of international law and his client-lawyer privilege – a breach of his most fundamental legal rights that alone should have halted proceedings.
So as we celebrate this ruling for Assange (although he is not out of the woods yet. The US has said it will appeal the decision) we must also loudly denounce it as an attack on press freedom, as an attack on our hard-won collective freedoms, and as an attack on our efforts to hold governments accountable for the crimes they commit in our name.
There is another worrying element in the ruling: after a decade spent discrediting, disgracing and demonising Assange, this ruling is nothing more than a continuation of that process. The extradition was denied ONLY on the grounds of Assange’s mental health and his autism, and the fact that he is a suicide risk. If he ever regains his freedom, it will be SOLELY because he has been characterised as mentally unsound. That will be used to discredit not just Assange, but the cause for which he fights, the Wikileaks organisation he helped to found, and all wider dissidence from establishment narratives.
The final problem with Judge Barrister’s ruling is, in practical terms, that her arguments become weak on appeal. The judge could have (inadvertently???) offered the US their ace in the hole. Because of the nature of the sentence all the US government would have to do is to give assurances to the judge on the treatment of Julian Assange. The strategy for the US appeal, essentially, will consist in proving their appalling gulag will not induce Julian to commit suicide (or suicide him, Epstein style… you know, when fate decides that guards fall asleep and cameras break down all at once).
Personally I fear (although I sincerely hope to be proven wrong) that this was an attempt of the UK government to pull a Pontius Pilate and wash their hands of the case in front of their country’s public opinion. All the appeal has to consider now is: is a UK jail safer than a US jail? Based on the suicide rate of prisoners in the UK it will be easy to prove that it’s not and Assange will lose the appeal. And so finally the US government will have their vengeance for Assange unleashing the truth about state murder of innocent people.
If this will be the case the Uk and the US governments will have de facto issued a death penalty for both Assange and the freedom of the press.
We like to believe, through the work of propaganda, that the West lives in a liberal free democracy that values individual freedom, freedom of speech and opinion and freedom of the press. But one of the many things that we have learned thanks to Julian Assange is that those are nothing more that beautiful bedtime stories. For the past 10 years Julian Assange has been persecuted by the system in an unprecedented attempt to silence a news publisher. His crime? To have brought to light US war crimes and the shady affairs of the Western elite that governs much of the world.
I invite you to reflect on this: what is journalism? What is it’s role and it’s duty in a free society? Should journalists report only what authorities allow them to or should it be their duty to report specifically and before all else what authorities don’t want them to? True journalism was the check of power. It was the critical voice in defense of the common good, of the constitution, of the ethical soul of the nation against those in power who would dare to overstep their duties. But in the past thirty years, through corruption and threats, these dissenting voices have slowly been silenced. Then, on the 4th of January 2021 the sentence given by Judge Vanessa Barrister (a name that will live in infamy) marked the ultimate death of journalism.
Assange’s sacrifice and his persecution show us that, beyond the proclamations on democracy and freedom of the press, the essence of freedom is not compatible with a system where a small oligarchy reigns, manipulates, governs and influences billions of people unaware of what surrounds them and of the truth before their eyes. This because, in the words of another true journalist Glenn Greenwald: “Those who do not seek to meaningfully dissent or subvert power will usually deny — because they do not perceive — that such dissent and subversion are, in fact, rigorously prohibited. They will continue to believe blissfully that the society in which they live guarantees core civic freedoms — of speech, of press, of assembly, of due process — because they have rendered their own speech and activism, if it exists at all, so innocuous that nobody with the capacity to do so would bother to try to curtail it.”
Julian Assange’s battle to defend our freedoms, to defend those in far-off lands whom we bomb at will in the promotion of the selfish interests of a western elite, his struggle to make our societies fairer, to hold the powerful to account for their actions, to make our politics less corrupt, our legal systems more transparent, our media less dishonest should be our battle also.For it is OUR DUTY as citizens. If we don’t fight for these values our societies are doomed and destined for tyranny.
Julian Assange, a hero of our times, showed us the way. It is up to us to carry the torch in the hope that he was yet again right when he claimed: “It is my strong belief that courage is contagious”.
The battle of and for Julian Assange will only end when he is freed.
If you’d like to help out here are some websites than host a variety of actions:
Following the events in Sweden only one word is on the mouth of the mainstream media: rape. It is printed and repeated over and over again by journalists, commentators and Tv anchors. This (as we’ve seen in the first part of this article) is simply not an accurate description of the events nor a fair assessment of the judicial accusations. But after all, the whole point is not to fairly report what happened but to have the connection “Assange equal rapist” sink into the public’s mind. He is betrayed by his peers.
The journalists that worked with him on the leaks of the Afghan and Iraqi logs turn their backs on him and a smearing campaign of unprecedented proportions begins. He is called a “rapist”, a “narcissistic individual”, described as “full of himself”, an “attention seeker”, a “tool of Russian intelligence”, a “useful idiot”, a “criminal”, a “spy”… He is accused of having “hygiene problems”, of not “washing his hair” and “smearing his own excrements all over the walls” (this last one is from The Guardian).
This marks the first time in history that an award winning journalist, who brought to the public attention war crimes, is vilified for not washing his hair. Needless to say this is one of the lowest points in journalism’s history. But after all the intention is clear and, so it seems, no low blow is low enough. The mainstream media wants to assassinate his character, to turn Assange, a very popular figure amongst the public, into a monster.
Why would they do that? I can only give you my personal opinion and the first thing that comes to mind is the famous quote by Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”. Furthermore I believe they hated him because his model of publishing was a threat to their existence.
Assange believes that: “Transparency and accountability are moral issues that must be the essence of public life and journalism.” Or, in the words of Australian journalist, and friend of Assange, John Pilger “He believes that journalists are the agents of people, not power: that we, the people, have a right to know about the darkest secrets of those who claim to act in our name”. In fact Assange forced these “journalists” to look at themselves in the mirror and what they saw was their continuous compromising with the integrity of their profession and their advocating on behalf of the powers-that-be, because this is the easy way to do journalism. In short Assange put them to shame and they hated him for it.
POLITICAL ASYLUM IN THE ECUADORIAN EMBASSY
On the 20th of November 2010, the Swedish police issues an international arrest warrant for Assange. On the 8th of December, he gives himself up to British police and attends his first extradition hearing. He remains in custody.
On the 16th of December, during the second hearing, he is granted bail by the High Court and released after his supporters pay £240,000 in cash. A further hearing on 24 February 2011 rules that Assange should be extradited to Sweden. This decision was upheld by the High Court on the 2nd of November and by the Supreme Court on the 30th of May the next year.
Assange continuously claims his innocence and that he is not concerned about the proceedings in Sweden as such. He believes that the Swedish allegations are designed to discredit him and are a pretext for his extradition from Sweden to the United States where, he fears, he would face an unfair and biased trial that would conclude with his reclusion in some far away American hellhole. A proof of this belief is that Assange’s lawyers made over 30 offers to arrange for Assange to visit Sweden in exchange for a guarantee that he would not be extradited to the US. Of course these offers were never accepted.
On the 19th of June 2012, Julian Assange steps into the Ecuadorian Embassy in London seeking political asylum. Two months later, on the 18th of August, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa confirms that Assange can stay at the embassy indefinitely. In its formal statement, Ecuador says that “as a consequence of Assange’s determined defense to freedom of expression and freedom of press… in any given moment, a situation may come where his life, safety or personal integrity will be in danger”.
The Ecuadorian embassy is small; a three bedrooms flat surrounded by tall buildings that block all sun light. Assange describes it as “living in a spaceship”. He has no proper medical care, little space and little privacy. Heavily armed officers of the Metropolitan Police Service surround the building 24/7 ready to arrest him if he steps out. Long range cameras are placed in the buildings surrounding the embassy enforcing a 24/7 surveillance (spying?) system. In fact this becomes one of the most surveilled places in the world. Please remember that at this point all that Assange is accused of by the British justice system is skipping bail.
The police surveillance is withdrawn on grounds of cost in October 2015 (3 years later), but the police says they would still deploy “several overt and covert tactics to arrest him”. The cost of the policing for the period was reported to have been something between £12.6 and 16 million of taxpayers money.
On 5 February 2016, the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention studies the case of Assange and concludes that he has been subject to arbitrary detention by the UK and Swedish Governments since the 7th of December 2010 (6 years), including his time in prison, on conditional bail and in the Ecuadorian embassy. The Working Group says Assange should be allowed to walk free and be given compensation. The UK and Swedish governments reject the claim.
Meanwhile Julian Assange continues to run WikiLeaks from inside the embassy.
EDWARD SNOWDEN AND GOOGLE
In 2013 Edward Snowden, a CIA employee and subcontractor, leaks highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA). His disclosures reveals numerous mass global surveillance programs run by the NSA with the cooperation of European governments. This initiates an international discussion about national security and individual privacy.
WikiLeaks has nothing to do with the leak nor it’s publishing other than, maybe, a spiritual affinity amongst whistleblowers. That is the most likely reason why, in June 2013, Assange and others in WikiLeaks help Snowden flee from US law enforcement and save his life. The details of the story are very interesting and entertaining but a bit long to tell in this article. I invite you to look for them on the internet.
In 2014 Assange publishes the book “When Google met WikiLeaks” which tells the story of Assange and Eric Schmidt’s (at the time the CEO of Google) encounter. In the book Assange reports the close intrinsic link between the various American espionage agencies that, through Google, monitor all the information that passes through the network. Furthermore, he warns us of the danger of the monopoly of Google’s services. He states “Over the last 15 years Google has grown within the internet like a parasite. Internet browsing, social networks, maps, satellites-drones, Google is inside our phone, on our desktop, it is invading every aspect of our lives: both personal and commercial. At this point, Google has a very real power over anyone who uses the internet; that is practically anyone in the contemporary world”. He also adds: “Google has become evil. It is now aligned with American foreign policy. This means for example that Google can intervene in the interest of the United States, it can end up compromising the privacy of billions of people, it can use the power of advertising for propaganda purposes.”
The two visions of the future of the internet that emerge from the book are the polar opposites: for Assange, “the liberating power of the network lies in its freedom and in its being a world without a state”. For Schmidt, however, “the emancipation of the internet coincides with the objectives of American foreign policy“.
“People like Schmidt”, Assange writes, “will tell you that open-mindedness is a virtue, but any point of view that challenges American exceptionalism, at the basis of US foreign policy, will remain invisible to them. They believe they are doing good. And this is the problem”.
2016 US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
During the 2016 US Democratic Party presidential primaries, WikiLeaks pulls one of their most daring leaks ever by publishing emails sent or received by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State. It’s a political earthquake of biblical proportions.
In short this is the story: Hillary Clinton sets up a private email server and network for herself, her family and her closest collaborators. This is forbidden by the law because doing so prevents her emails from being accessible to the federal government and the Congress. The server is stored at a Clinton-owned office in Midtown Manhattan, where it shares physical space with the Clinton Foundation’s server. Hillary Clinton has a lot of classified information on that server. Clinton team emails end up in the hands of Assange and he publishes them on WikiLeaks. The FBI begins an investigation on the premise that Hillary Clinton violated the Espionage Act of 1913 by allowing national defense information to be “lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed” through “gross negligence.”
When she finds out about the FBI investigation Hilary Clinton deletes thousands of emails with a software program called “BleachBit.” Clinton and her legal team use the software to destroy about 30,000 emails which she deems “personal.” But as Trey Gowdy, member of the House Oversight Committee, pointed out: “You don’t use BleachBit for yoga emails or bridesmaids emails. When you’re using BleachBit, it is something you really do not want the world to see,”
The FBI report says that Justin Cooper, an aide of the Clintons, destroyed two Clinton’s old mobile phones by “breaking them in half or hitting them with a hammer.” Nevertheless, following the investigation, FBI Director James Comey claims that Clinton was “extremely careless,” but there aren’t enough grounds to prosecute.
So what do these leaked email reveal? For the most part nothing new to those who had paid attention to Hillary Clinton’s political career. That is the questionable relationship between the Clinton Foundation and its donors, Clinton’s ease with powerful interests on Wall Street and her ties to wealthy campaign contributors (other than her secret recipe for the “perfect risotto” – I kid you not!).
But what else? Did the emails provide a smoking gun of some sort? No. But, in Assange’s words: “Clinton emails (…) create a rich picture of how Hillary Clinton performs in office, but, more broadly, how the US Department of State operates.”
One of these “rich pictures”, according to multiple observers, although this was never proven, portrayed the real reasons of the French/NATO invasion of Libya and the proactive involvement of Hillary Clinton in making the war happen. I must stress that this has not been officially proven by the emails (or any other source) but I report it because I personally find it both interesting and plausible.
So the story goes that Rais Muammar Gaddafi was trying, with the partnership of other African states, to free himself from the yoke of the IMF with the creation of a new pan-African currency. He wanted to stop selling Libyan oil in US dollars and begin demanding payment instead in gold-backed “dinars” (a planned single African currency made from gold-of which Libya had an estimated 150 tons of). This had the potential to bring down the dollar and the world monetary system by extension and is, allegedly, the reason for the invasion and the removal of Gaddafi.
Whatever happened in Libya, what’s certain is that on the 22nd of July 2016, WikiLeaks releases another batch of emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee seemingly presenting ways to undercut Clinton’s more popular competitor Bernie Sanders and showing apparent favouritism towards her. This leads to the resignation of party chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and raises some very serious questions about the legitimacy of Hillary Clinton’s election as the Democratic candidate. The revelations made by WikiLeaks most definitely play a big role in her defeat against Donald Trump.
As we all know (it’s been repeated endlessly over the past four years) after her loss Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party began accusing both Julian Assange and Donald Trump of being Russian (Putin’s) puppets. They accuse Assange of being a Russian spy and the Russian government of having provided Assange with the leaked emails. In other words for the past four years the Democratic party has being accusing Russia to have hacked (stolen) the 2016 elections (Which is in itself interesting considering that today the same people claim that it’s impossible to do so).
Julian Assange never said where the leaks came from. In a July 2016 interview, he implied that DNC staffer Seth Rich was the source of the leak and that Rich had been killed as a result. WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward for information about his murder. Special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who conducted the investigation on possible Russian interference in the 2016 elections, claimed that Assange “implied falsely” that Rich was the source to obscure the fact that Russia was the source.
It is impossible, for now, to tell what the truth is. But one thing is certain: Julian Assange, in the eyes of the US government, had crossed the line. He had to be stopped. No matter how.
ARREST IN THE ECUADORIAN EMBASSY
On the 2nd of April 2017 Lenín Moreno, the centre-left candidate in the 2017 Ecuadorian presidential election wins a narrow victory. Soon after his election Moreno drastically shifts his political stance to the right, distancing himself from Correa’s leftist legacy and making neoliberal changes to both domestic and foreign policy. He wants, first and foremost, to improve the country’s relations with the US.
Following a June 2018 visit by US Vice President Mike Pence, Moreno buys weapons, radar sets, six helicopters and other equipment from the US. He also begins a cooperation with the US government that would include training and intelligence sharing. During their meeting Pence and Moreno also talk about Julian Assange. It becomes obvious to most that Assange is an item on the agreement.
Moreno and his government impose new restrictions to Assange. They place cameras everywhere in the embassy, search every visitor, cut his internet connection, forget to supply Assange with food and toilet paper… in short they make his life impossible.
Furthermore they allow an extensive surveillance operation against Assange from within the embassy. Then they accuse him of being rude to the staff, of being unclean, of stinking, of leaving shit in the toilet, of smearing faeces on the embassy walls… It is worth noting that during the 6 years Assange stayed in the embassy not one negative comment was made about his behaviour. And yet, during the 18 months of Moreno’s presidency, if we are to believe the official narrative, Assange becomes a wild beast.
In any case on the 11th of April 2019, Ecuador revokes his asylum, with Moreno saying Ecuador has “reached its limit on the behaviour of Mr Assange”. Moreno refers to Assange as a “spoiled brat” and a “miserable hacker”. On the same day the Metropolitan Police is allowed entrance into the embassy and arrests Assange in connection with his failure to surrender to the court in June 2012 for extradition to Sweden.
It is interesting to note that at this time Lenín Moreno and the Ecuadorian government were awaiting an upcoming decision by the International Monetary Fund to grant Ecuador a $4.2 billion loan. I’m sure that had nothing to do with the decision of revoking Assange’s asylum.
Assange is taken to Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh, a Category-A (High security) men’s prison in Thamesmead, south-east London, known “amongst friends” as the UK’s Guantanamo. The prison is considered one of he toughest prisons in the world and is home to violent terrorists and murderers. The prison has been accused multiple times of mistreating it’s detainees.
The prison regime forces detainees to remain in small cells for 22 hours a day with precarious health and psychological assistance. Assange is denied the right to fraternise with other prisoners, he has no internet nor telephone access which considerably hinders his ability to prepare his defense.
At the cost of sounding repetitive I must remind you that at this time all that Assange is culpable of, in the eyes of the British law, is SKIPPING BAIL!!
On the 1st of May 2019 he is sentenced to 50 weeks imprisonment. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention says that the verdict contravenes “principles of necessity and proportionality” for what it considered a “minor violation”. Nils Mielzer, special rapporteur on torture at the UN, who visits Assange together with two doctors who are experts in torture, confirms that the activist will probably die in prison if he is detained for a long time.
It is surprising to note that organisations, such as Amnesty International, which formally denounce any violation of human rights in countries classified as non-liberal, have not said a word or organised awareness campaigns for Julian Assange. The deafening silence of all journalist associations is less surprising but just as shameful.
Who is Julian Assange? For the government of the United States he is a dangerous hacker, a spy and a terrorist who used his skills to steal sensitive information that harmed the US and it’s operatives. For his supporters he is a news publisher, a freedom of speech hero who was the victim of an unprecedented attempt by the system to silence a journalist. His only crime, they claim, is to have brought to light US war crimes and the shady affairs of the Western elite that governs much of the world.
But what’s the truth? I invite you all to follow me in a story of military secrets, computer hacking and political power that gives John le Carré a run for his money and coincidentally also happens to be one of the most important stories of our time.
Julian Paul Assange was born on the 3rd of July 1971 in Townsville, Queensland, Australia. His mother, Christine Ann Hawkins is a visual artist and is father, John Shipton, an anti-war activist and builder.
The family is financially poor but intellectually rich; art and politics are often the subject of conversation at the family’s table. Young Julian is a smart and witty young boy nicknamed “the wizard” by friends and family for his ability to find unexpected and left-field solutions to problems.
After his parents divorce Julian has a nomadic childhood, living in over 30 Australian towns and cities by the time he reaches his mid-teens,when he settles with his mother and half-brother in Melbourne.
Melbourne in the mid 80’s is home to underground communities of hackers and social revolutionaries; it is a place of ideas, political ideals and experimentation. There young Julian develops a passion for computers. He and his friends foresee the coming digital revolution, want to understand it and not only be part of it but be at it’s forefront. He’s a little nerd spending most of his days in front of a computer.
In 1987, aged 16, Assange begins hacking under the nickname Mendax. A security hacker is someone who explores methods for breaching defenses in a computer system or network. They may be motivated by a multitude of reasons, such as profit, political protest, information gathering… To young Julian Assange it is first and foremost an intellectual challenge.
Imagine being a teenager in front of a computer in your room in Melbourne and hacking into NASA computers. I mean these are the people who put a man on the moon… how smart would you feel? And how exciting!
Allegedly (this was never proven) Assange may have been involved in the WANK (Worms Against Nuclear Killers-but also slang for masturbation) hack at NASA in 1989. The worm (a computer malware capable of self-replicating) is believed to have been created by Melbourne-based hackers but no-one was ever charged. The WANK worm was one of the first worms ever and was of a playful and political nature. The worm was programmed to trick users into believing that files were being deleted, by displaying a file deletion dialogue that could not be aborted, though no files were actually erased. The worm contained over sixty randomised messages that would be displayed to users. These included “Vote anarchist” and “The FBI is watching YOU”. The slogan of the worm, “You talk of times of peace for all, and then prepare for war”, was drawn from the lyrics of the song “Blossom and Blood” from the Midnight Oil an Australian rock band known for their political activism.
In September 1991, Assange was discovered hacking into the Melbourne master terminal of Nortel, a Canadian multinational telecommunications corporation. He was arrested, pleaded guilty to 24 charges, was ordered to pay reparations of A$2,100 and released on a good behaviour bond.
In 1993, Assange provided expert technical advice and support to assist Victoria Police Child Exploitation Unit to prosecute people suspected of involvement in child pornography offences on the internet.
After that Assange studied programming, mathematics and physics at Central Queensland University and later at the University of Melbourne. He never finished his degree.
BIRTH OF WIKILEAKS
Now there’s a thing that’s common to most hackers: they see the world from a different perspective. Their ability to understand and enter the workings of complex informatics systems allows them to see the structure that hides behind the surface. Just like an architect understand the physical structure of the building hiding under a beautiful cathedral, a hacker understands the wiring of digital systems. This allows them to have access to the actual information that structures the reality of our digitalised world. They get to see what’s behind the curtain, they see the difference between the information that is presented to the public and what is really under the hood of the machine, so to speak. In other words they see the lies.
Many things can be said about Julian Assange but in 2006, when he co-founded WikiLeaks, no one can deny he was driven by a noble and just cause: that of exposing to the public the lies that governments and powerful figures around the world were trying to hide.
WikiLeaks was set up as an anti-secrecy group with the said intention of making a platform that would enable leaked paperwork to be revealed safely on-line. Technically WikiLeaks was nothing more than an anonymous digital dropbox that allowed whistle blowers to anonymously upload information. Spiritually it was a news organisation that would use this information to blow the whistle on the injustices of this world. This had never been done before and it’s fair to say that everything that happened next was an exploration, an experiment, on freedom of speech by a guerrilla organisation.
In the first years of it’s existence nobody paid much attention to WikiLeaks. After all they were only publishing informationfrom far away countries including revelations about drone strikes in Yemen, corruption across the Arab world, extrajudicial executions by Kenyan police, Tibetan unrest in China, and the “Petrogate” oil scandal in Peru.
But in 2007 they became of interest to the US authorities after they published the “Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures”, a military manual detailing the day-to-day operations of the U.S. military’s Guantánamo Bay detention facility. The manual showed continuous abuse and indicated that some prisoners were hidden from Red Cross representatives.
The material WikiLeaks published between 2006 and 2009 attracted various degrees of international attention, but it’s only after they began publishing documents supplied by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea (born Bradley) Manning, a young soldier shocked by what she saw happening around her, that WikiLeaks became a household name.
The first of the classified documents provided by Chelsea Manning that WikiLeaks released was the infamous Collateral Murder video,which showed United States soldiers killing 18 civilians from a helicopter in Iraq. Amongst these civilians were Reuters journalists Namir Noor-Eldeen and his assistant Saeed Chmagh.
Upon receiving the video Assange and others worked for a week to break the US military’s encryption of the video; and when they succeeded what they saw shocked the world.
The video, recorded on the 12th of July 2007, showed the crew of two US AH-64 Apache helicopters firing a 30 mm cannon on a group of civilians in Baghdad, Iraq.
On the video we can see a group of men walking down a street, this group is mistakenly considered, by the US soldiers, to be a group of rebels. Part of the mistake is due to the cameras the two Reuters journalists are holding which the soldiers believe to be guns.
In the tape’s audio we can hear the order to engage being given and the helicopter’s cannon firing. We can also hear the US soldiers cheering and laughing and making fun of the victims with tremendous viciousness and coldness of heart; as if playing a videogame.
When the massacre is finished and the shooting stops a civilian van, driven by Saleh Matasher Tomal, drives by. Mr. Tomal parks the van and exits to help and assist the wounded. It is at this point that the US helicopters begin to fire again, aiming at the van and killing Mr. Tomal.
When the aerial attack is finally over US ground troops arrive on the scene. They look into the van and find two wounded children, the son and the daughter of Mr. Tomal. The little girl couldn’t blink because her eyes were full of glass. One of the soldiers wants to take her to a hospital nearby but his superiors tell him to “stop being a pussy”.
When the news of the wounded children is relayed to the helicopter’s crew we can clearly hear the commander state: “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into battle”.
In the end the helicopter attack provoked 18 dead, 2 wounded children and no one from US military has ever been held accountable.
For Assange it was a moral and civil duty to publish the video. He needed to show the public the war crimes the US military was committing in Iraq. This is what WikiLeaks was created for in the first place: to expose the wrongdoings governments commit in our name. He was fearless and on April 5th 2010 he released the video.
This became front page news all over the world and helped considerably in changing the public perspective on the Iraqi war. Assange became a public figure, a rockstar a symbol for protesters all over the world. And the US government never forgave him.
Here is a link to the video. I can’t show it here but follow the “Watch on Youtube” link below. WARNING: it contains graphic images and will shock and sicken any soulful human being.
IRAQ AND AFGHAN WAR LOGS
Throughout the rest of the year Chelsea Manning continues her whistle blowing activity and provides WikiLeaks with huge amounts of information.
WikiLeaks proceeds with very difficult job of redacting and organising the information and in October 2010, they publish the Iraq War logs, a collection of 391,832 United States Army field classified reports from the Iraq War covering the period from 2004 to 2009.
This marks the first time Wikileaks works in collaboration with mainstream media. The logs were also published by newspapers such as the Guardian, the New York Times and Der Spiegel.
These logs were written by military men while in service in Iraq. They were reports of things they’ve seen or experienced during their military duties. They were a sort of very detailed war diary. In fact they were and still are the most accurate description of a war ever released to the public. And the story they told was a story of unspeakable horror.
First it became evident that the US and their allies were under reporting civilian casualties. The files recorded 66,081 civilian deaths out of 109,000 recorded deaths. This is 15,000 civilian deaths more than previously admitted by the US government.
Then it became clear that prisoners of war were subjected to violent torture.
Furthermore the logs confirmed previous allegations that the US military handed over many prisoners to the Iraqi Wolf Brigade (an Iraqi special commando police) which was accused of beating prisoners, torturing them with electric drills and executing suspects.
The Guardian stated that the logs show “US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers” for they had a formal policy of ignoring such allegations.
The logs also proved that the US military cleared an Apache helicopter gunship to open fire on Iraqi insurgents who were trying to surrender and that Us military personnel were reported to have been involved in child prostitution.
When you start publishing these kind of secrets governments start losing control of the narrative. Up to that point the US government had sold the US population the story of a just war fought to get rid of a brutal and inhumane dictator and that only few civilians were being killed. WikiLeaks exposed their lies and public opinion began to change. That is the power of WikiLeaks.
Of course such revelations are bound to enrage many people within the US military complex and they did. Julian Assange suddenly became enemy number one.
The US government accused WikiLeaks of putting lives at danger by providing sensitive information to the enemy. It is true that the documents could have been redacted better but it is worth noting that this was a first: never before in the history of humanity such a quantity of sensitive military material ended up on the desk of a news agency. It is also worth noting that WikiLeaks contacted the White House before publishing the papers and asked for their helped to redact the information. The White House refused.
Assange said that he hoped the publication would “correct some of the attack on the truth that occurred before the war, during the war, and which has continued after the war”.
This was the biggest leak ever and shed light on the long list of war crimes committed by US and their allies.
No one in the US military has ever been held accountable for any of it.
One month later, on the 28th of November 2010, Assange and his WikiLeaks team were at it again publishing a quarter of a million U.S. diplomatic cables from 1966 to 2010. This came to be known as the “Cablegate”.
These Cables were a set of documents consisting in reports and analysis written by US diplomats all over the world and delivered back to the State Department. 100.000 of these documents were marked as confidential and 15.000 as secret.
WikiLeaks initially worked with established Western media organisations while also publishing the cables upon which their reporting was based.
The files showed United States espionage against United Nations and other world leaders, revealed tensions between the U.S. and its allies, and exposed corruption in countries throughout the world as documented by US diplomats, helping to spark the Arab Spring.
From the revelations of these documents it came to light that all the Western chancelleries, the UN secretaries, the secretary general in the role of Ban Ki Moon were spied on by the United States government.
Furthermore the cables exposed the kind of political pressure US diplomats exercise on their international counterparts. Why? In the words of Julian Assange himself: “Nearly every war started in the past 50 years has been the result of media lies. Populations don’t like wars. They have to be fooled into wars.”
A typical tactic that the documents revealed worked something like this: a US diplomat would write to a local politician of any allied country. He would say something along the lines of: “We have a problem with your country’s public opinion: they don’t seem to support our wars in Afghanistan or Iraq. I need you to do something about it. I want you to organise for your main TV channel to interview, say, an Afghan woman during primetime. She will tell your audience a story of how helpful the US military intervention has been for the Afghan people. Don’t worry… we will provide the woman in question. If you don’t do this there will be consequences.”
In short the Cablegate showed the world the extent to which the US government was willing to go to maintain it’s hegemony on the world.
It is at this point that the US government launched an investigation into WikiLeaks and Julian Assange on charges of espionage.
After releasing the Collateral Murder video Julian Assange became a rockstar; he was at the height of his popularity and had become a cultural icon for many people around the world. He was young, good looking, on the front page of all international newspapers and considered a noble warrior ambitiously fighting against the system. He was admired and desired just as he was hated and despised.
In August 2010 he is invited to Stockholm, Sweden, to deliver a speech. The woman who organises the event offers him to stay in her one bedroom studio apartment. She tells him she will be away during his stay and he can have the flat for himself. Julian accepts.
But when he arrives in Sweden the woman, aged 31, changes her plans, tells Assange she won’t be leaving anymore and invites Assange to stay at her place anyway. Julian accepts the offer. One thing leads to another and they have a consensual sexual encounter.
Some days later Assange meets a second woman, aged 26. By all accounts she’s a fan of Assange. One thing leads to another and they have a consensual sexual encounter.
Now what Assange doesn’t know is that the two women know each other. When the two women discover that he slept with both of them they report him to the police on the 20th of August 2010. They report that Assange had engaged in unprotected sexual activity with them that allegedly violated the scope of their consent (they allegedly wanted him to use a condom and he didn’t). One of the women also accuses Assange of having unprotected sex with her (after their first sexual encounter) while she was asleep. It is important to understand that all they want is for the police to force Assange to take an STD/HIV test. The police tells them that they cannot simply tell Assange to take an STD test, but that their statements would be passed to a prosecutor. NO rape allegations were ever made. Julian is questioned, the case is closed, he is told he can leave the country and he does, returning to the UK.
In November 2010, however, the case is reopened by a special prosecutor who says that she wants to question Assangeover two counts of sexual molestation, one count of unlawful coercion and one count of “lesser-degree rape”. This is the beginning of the legal battle Assange has been fighting ever since.
In is interesting to point out that in 2019 UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer investigated the rape accusations against Assange and said he had not seen a comparable case where a person was subjected to nine years of a preliminary investigation for rape without charges being filed. He said Assange’s lawyers made over 30 offers to arrange for Assange to visit Sweden in exchange for a guarantee that he would not be extradited to the US and described such diplomatic assurances as routine international practice. Melzer criticised the Swedish prosecutors for, among other things, allegedly changing one of the women’s statements without her involvement in order to make it sound like a possible rape. Melzer describes the Swedish rape investigation as “abuse of judicial processes aimed at pushing a person into a position where he is unable to defend himself”.
On the 19th of November 2019 prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson closes the Swedish criminal case against Julian Assange without pressing formal charges. She announces that she had discontinued her investigation, saying that the evidence was not strong enough.
We are at war! Not with a virus but with a thought.
The two fighting sides are neoliberalism versus constitutionalism
After the Russian October Revolution of 1917 the economic system known as capitalism was kept in check by an alternative reality called communism.
This translated, in the West, into the fear, of political and industry leaders, that workers could “go red”. And that meant that workers had to be kept happy.
When the Berlin wall came down and once the Soviet Union collapsed there was no need for capitalism to be so generous no more.
In the 1990s market forces began to reign supreme.
Instead of the triumph of democracy, we witnessed the triumph of the elites.
One of the first things to be cut out of the welfare system was healthcare.
In the past ten years the Italian public healthcare was the victim of financial cuts worth 37 billion Euros.
There are only two possible explanations for the way governments have been dealing with the crisis: complete ineptitude and idiocy or connivance with a criminal intent.
The practice of locking down entire countries will have tremendous consequences in the short, medium and long term.
According to the UN, lockdowns may put the livelihood of 1.6 billion people at acute risk and may push an additional 150 million children into poverty.
According to the UN, because of ‘The Great Lockdown’, 207 million people could fall into extreme poverty.
2020 is “the worst year of humanitarian crisis since the beginning of the United Nations” 75 years ago.
Fear was spread by the so called mainstream media, the great source of terror.
Fear is the great obstacle that blocks all other feelings, namely the ability to reason.
THE RULES OF THE GAME
Any good detective will tell you that there are different forms of evidence. There is statistical evidence, anecdotal evidence, historical evidence, circumstantial evidence and definitive evidence (the so called “smoking gun”).
Each individual piece of evidence cannot be understood independently and must be contextualised within the paradigm created by the larger body of evidence. In other words: an information on it’s own might be insignificant; it is only by piling up, comparing and cross referencing the evidence that we might begin to see the bigger picture and therefore take small steps towards the truth.
This of course should be the job of any serious, curious and honest journalist. Just like a detective a journalist must search within the details in an attempt to put together the final picture of the puzzle.
Sadly today, most journalists demonise the curiosity of those with whom they disagree in order to avoid the difficult task of explaining how the accusations are “baseless” or “conspiratorial”.
In my opinion being conspiratorial is a quality of intelligence because it forces you, out of curiosity and as a moral and civic duty, to take a look behind the scenes, beyond the propaganda and the veil of appearances.
Finally we must keep in mind (I say this mostly to myself) that aggregate evidence does not necessarily constitute proof.
The following is therefore an attempt to take a further step into looking at the Coronavirus crisis from afar, trying to piece together the evidence at our disposal knowing all too well that his does not necessarily constitute a legal proof (yet).
In other words the following is a philosophical and political exercise of reasoning.
What do we know for certain so far? Let’s state the obvious: a new virus has made it’s appearance on our planet. About it’s origins only three options are on the table: a natural occurrence (the bat soup theory), a human error (the lab accident theory) and a deliberate release of the virus (the biological weapon theory). All three theories must be taken in consideration with almost equal levels of seriousness and possibility. It is worth noting that this discussion has been dropped pretty quickly and without definitive proof in the public conversation. This is very strange. It would be like a detective giving up on looking for the murderer and it’s motives while shrugging his shoulders and saying “oh well, the victim is dead anyway… who cares?!”.
It is worth noting that as of today we are in a situation of “he said, she said”. Most mainstream scientists defend the “bat soup” theory. Fadela Chaib a WHO spokeswoman claimed: “It is probable, likely, that the virus is of animal origin”. She was joined by Richard Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University: “Based on the virus genome and properties, there is no indication whatsoever that it was an engineered virus.”
Then there is, amongst others, Professor Luc Montagnier winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2008 for “discovering” HIV as the cause of the AIDS epidemic, claiming that SARS-CoV-2 is a manipulated (man-made) virus. He defends the “lab accident theory” accusing the Wuhan lab of accidentally releasing the virus. He claims that Chinese researchers have used coronaviruses in their work to develop an AIDS vaccine. He also claims that HIV RNA fragments have been found in the SARS-CoV-2 genome.
He said: “With my colleague, bio-mathematician Jean-Claude Perez, we carefully analysed the description of the genome of this RNA virus,” and he formulated his theory based on this study.
It is worth noting that others have already explored this avenue: Indian researchers have already tried to publish the results of the analyses that showed that this coronavirus genome contained sequences of the HIV virus (AIDS virus), but they were forced to withdraw their findings as the pressure from the mainstream was too great.
If this were true it’s worth considering that in order to insert an HIV sequence into a genome, molecular tools are needed, and that can only be done in a laboratory.
So far no serious claims can be found for the “biological weapon” theory (if you know something that I don’t please let me know). This does not mean that it is an impossibility, simply that, as of now, it’s the least likely option. I could try to defend this theory as a mental exercise but I feel that, for the moment, it would be a waste of our time.
But whether a natural occurrence, a human error or a deliberate biological attack (we simply don’t know for sure), it is undeniable that the virus was (is) used for a general reorganisation of society and government in an unprecedented authoritarian turn of capitalism.
THE GIANT WITH FEET OF CLAY
Let’s take a small step backwards to analyse the social/economical situation pre Covid19.
Much of the Western world was living in a deep crisis of neoliberal capitalism. The “free-market” economy (I use quotation marks because the “free-market” is a chimera, pure illusion, it never existed and never will) was on fragile footing prior to the virus. The virus was not the cause, but rather the pin that pricked the bubble.
Sure, the total global financial wealth went up almost 3 times since 1990 from $80 trillion to $225 trillion. But this massive wealth accumulation was resting on a very weak foundation of debt. The world hasn’t created any net wealth. Instead wealth has just been inflated artificially by credit creation and money printing of the same magnitude.
Since 2000, 200 trillion dollars of global debt have been created. 66% of which composed of low level and low quality debt (that is very risky, likely to never be paid back). It goes without saying that the risk of implosion was, and still is, massive.
A major part of the $150 trillion debt created since the Great Financial Crisis, started in 2006, has stayed with the banks and not gone to consumers or industry. This is what happens when governments and central banks primary economic strategy consists of creating money out of thin air and then these funds are used to support the stock market (the toy of the elites) rather than sustain the real economy and needs of the people.
In other words the over financialization (in the interests of the few) of our Western economies have made the system economically unsustainable and the whole castle of cards was about to collapse.
On top of this it had become clearer and clearer to most people that the winners of such system were fewer and fewer (the infamous 1%) to the detriment of the masses. The oligarchic bloc of international capitalism was losing support and a climate of dissatisfaction reigned everywhere. Protest movements (Occupy Wall Street in the US, the Gilets Jaunes in France…), the rise of so called “populism” all over Europe, the loud NO to changes to the constitution in Italy (changes explicitly wanted by the international financial power) the highly successful call for a more socialist society by Bernie Sanders, the victory of Trump over Clinton (perceived by lots of people, rightly or wrongly that’s not the point, as a vector of change in the status quo), Brexit and so on and so forth, were all clear signs of demands for a change in the paradigm. In other words people were beginning to realise that neoliberal capitalism was (is) the real pandemic and that change was (is) needed.
And then came Covid and with it the possibility of hiding all of this under the carpet. The imminent financial crisis could be blamed on the virus (and not on the greed of capitalists and the intrinsic unfairness of the system) and all of those annoying protestors roaming in the streets would soon be locked in their houses.
ONE OF THE GREATEST WEALTH TRANSFERS IN HISTORY
You know how one of the mantras during this crisis has been “We’re all in this together”? Well we ain’t! For instance the world’s billionaires did extremely well during the pandemic, growing their already-huge aggregate fortunes to a record high of $10.2 trillion.
A report by Swiss bank UBS found that billionaires increased their wealth by more than a quarter (27.5%) at the height of the crisis from April to July, just as millions of people around the world lost their jobs.
In the US alone over a roughly seven-month period starting in mid-March – a week after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency – America’s 614 billionaires grew their net worth by a collective $931 billion. At the same time four in ten Americans didn’t have enough cash in their bank accounts to cover a $400 unexpected expense (say medical?) and more than 40 million Americans filed for unemployment.
In the beautiful home of capitalism, the Small Business Administration (a US government agency that provides support to entrepreneurs and small businesses) made $349 billion available to small businesses with the Paycheck Protection Program. But, much like in 2008 and the whole too big to fail scam, $243 million of that was snapped up by large, publicly traded corporations, some of which were valued at over $100 million. Even hedge funds submitted claims to try to tap into what they saw as free money.
Of course it was of great further help to our billionaire friends that every substantial piece of Covid 19 legislation enacted worldwide has harmed small businesses while benefiting large corporations. This indicates, at the very least, a wilful indifference on the part of lawmakers to the plight of small businesses, but more likely, a conscious effort to disadvantage small businesses for the advantage of multinationals. As correctly pointed out by an American analyst: “Unless our policymakers are woefully incompetent, the intent of policy cannot be divorced from its effect. And the effect of Covid19 policy on small businesses has been devastating.”
In the US three people are the real winners of the greatest wealth transfer in history. And they are (rolling of drums)…
Third place: Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) with a pre-pandemic estimated net worth of $54.7 billion he saw his wealth grow by $46.5 billion (+85.1%) to $101.2 billion. Like nearly every other publicly traded company, Facebook’s stock price fell precipitously when Covid 19 hit – from over $220 per share in February to less than $150 per share in March. But by May, Facebook stock hit record highs and shares were worth over $276 per share in mid-October.
Second place: Elon Musk (Tesla) with a pre-pandemic estimated net worth of $24.6 billion he saw his wealth grow by $68.2 billion (+277.4%) to $92.8 billion. Just like Mr. Zuckerberg Mr. Musk made this money on the stock market. On March 18, Tesla stock was worth $72 per share. By October 13, it was worth over $440 per share and has continued to increase to over $500 since.
And the winner is: Jeff Bezos (Amazon) with a pre-pandemic estimated net worth of $113.0 billion he saw his wealth grow by $90.1 billion (+79.8%) to $203.1 billion. The reason is easy to imagine: with a whole economy shut down, small businesses forced to close and the prohibition to step outside people ended up shopping online. Of course the fact that he paid $0 in taxes two years in a row (2017/18) and that when its bill finally came in 2019, he paid just $162 million, a measly 1.2% of the company’s income that year, helped a bit in creating his fortune (but this is another story).
Part of what made this possible was the stock-market rebound. During the economy shut down the markets plunged but quickly climbed again. The journey from record high to a bear market to a new record took just 126 trading days, the fastest-ever climb. When the stock market bounced back, the unequal wealths meant that the rich and powerful still had money on hand to invest and thus profit, while the middle and lower classes did not. To quote Yanis Varoufakis: “One of the secrets that 2020 brought into the open was that the mountains of concentrated private wealth we observe have very little to do with entrepreneurship. I have no doubt that Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, or Warren Buffett have a knack for making money and cornering markets. But only a tiny percentage of their accumulated loot is the result of the creation of value.”
In other words the additional $931 billion billionaires amassed did not result from any innovation or ingenuity that generated additional profits. They got richer in their sleep, so to speak, as central banks flooded the financial system with manufactured money that caused asset prices, and thus billionaires’ wealth, to skyrocket. As one commentator pointed out: ““The bigger the business, the more it moves the major averages, and that matters because this is the first recession where big business is coming through virtually unscathed, if not going for the gold”. All of this while the real economy (small businesses) was being massacred.
It is worth considering that such wealths equates to a fortune almost impossible to spend over multiple lifetimes of absolute luxury. Anyone accumulating riches on this scale could easily afford to raise the pay of the employees who generate their wealth, or contribute a great deal more in taxes to support vital public services, while remaining very well rewarded for whatever successes they’ve achieved. But it’s clear to anyone that they don’t. They don’t want to and never will unless forced to do so.
The fact that billionaires’ wealth has increased so much at a time when hundreds of millions of people around the world are struggling could (MUST!) lead to public and political anger. For them there is a big risk of being singled out by society, that the plebes will go after them with pitch forks and torches, so to speak, and they are very aware (scared) of this.
TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN
As we’ve just seen the firsts to profit from the Coronavirus pandemic have been billionaires, but they are not the only ones.
The obvious second is the so called Big Pharma since, like usual, they decided to put profit before an effective medical response. The Coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented profiteering opportunity for them, because of the obvious reason that almost everyone on Earth is destined to become a customer of some kind. “The power of the industry combined with fear is driving extraordinary spending” says U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett.
The most telling story of Big Pharma scandalous response to the crisis is the story of Remdesivir.
In short: Gilead, a company with a market capitalisation of more than $90 billion (making it bigger than Goldman Sachs) develops an antiviral drug with the help of $99 million in American government grant money (Always remember than when we talk about Big Pharma the public pays for most research and manufacturing. Only the profits are privatised). Having failed to be approved as a treatment for hepatitis and Ebola, it was for about three months the most in-demand product in the world because it was sold as a cure for Covid (it is interesting to note that during these three months Gilead spent nearly $ 2.5 million in lobbying). The price for Remdesivir came in at a “measly” $3,120 per course of treatment (6 days) per patient. The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) reported it costs just $10 of raw materials to make each dose and is being produced generically in Bangladesh. Gilead ended up selling hundreds of thousands of doses. The American government bought more than 500,000 doses, which is all of Gilead’s production for July and 90% of August and September. Of course by October the WHO announced that Remdesivir had “little or no” effect in treating Covid-19.
I beg you! When you consider Big Pharma always keep in mind that you can put about as much faith in their promises as you can in the pitch of any salesperson (actually maybe less because your life might depend on it).
As for vaccines let’s just point out that their revenues and profits have skyrocketed to over 60 billion a year by 2020. Each new vaccine is worth about a billion dollars.
Finally I close this chapter with Dr. Kamran Abbasi, executive director of the British Medical Journal and editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (hardly a conspiracy theorist). He said: “Science is being suppressed for political and financial reasons. Covid-19 has caused large-scale state corruption that is detrimental to public health. Politicians and industry are responsible for this opportunistic embezzlement. As are scientists and health experts. The pandemic has revealed how it is possible to manipulate the medical-political complex at a time when it is very important to safeguard science.”
Talking about political corruption… on a side note I think it’s interesting to put on record (it could turn out to be useful information in the months to come) that Joe Biden has led the pack among recipients of contributions from the health care and pharmaceutical industries during his electoral campaign.
I realise that this information is enough to enrage those of us who still have a soul, yet, dear friends, we must continue down this rabbit hole of mud if we are to begin to put this ugly picture together. We must ask ourselves the most important question: cui prodest? Who’s to gain from all of this?
As we’ve just seen there are huge financial incentives behind this crisis but those could be classified as rotten human vultures (I apologise to the real vultures) using the capitalist system at a time of crisis to make some dough. The real question must be: who’s to gain in the long term?
If one looks at the lessons of history it is self evident that depriving the masses of self-determination has always been the wet dream of the elites. Whether against pharaohs, caesars, emperors or billionaire capitalists, the struggle of the masses has always been a struggle for freedom and the struggle of the elites has always been a struggle to impede it.
It is interesting to note (I’m sure this has at least crossed your mind) that all health measures are also unequivocally political in an authoritarian sense and all tend towards the realisation of the elites’ wishes. For instance social distancing (an old dream of capitalism), a ban on gathering (the last time it was implemented in Italy was during the “leggi fascistissime”- the so-called most fascist laws), and, in Italy, at least 9 articles of the Constitution suspended. Therefore, it is impossible to assemble, discuss, contest, organise riots, political movements… all that is allowed is compliance with power. All political activity outside of the official narrative has been de facto frozen. Stalin would be proud!
This is not only implemented at a political level but also at a social one. We must consider the profound and constant push towards a contactless society, a digitalised society without human interaction in this context. Online working, online banking, online teaching, online dating… it is worth noting that all of these activities lose all human meaning without physical interaction.
Online working, as an example, destroys the dividing line between the time of life and the time of work. Capitalism insinuates itself inside our homes, transforming them into a place of production. The ability of workers to gather and therefore the possibility of organising protests (those that led to the conquest of social and labor rights) disappears. Online working marks the end of the communal work experience (this is the oldest dream of capitalist elites).
Online teaching or rather teaching without human experience, is the death of education. A big part of what makes education so important is the meeting and mixing of individuals in a cultural context. At a school it is not only knowledge we look for but also the social interaction of different cultures and visions and ideas. In other words in school we learn how to become effective citizens. Online teaching offers knowledge but not culture. It can only create students who are highly efficient technically but completely ignorant in the ways of the world (another dream of capitalist elites: highly efficient, highly asocial workers).
Online dating and all other online social activities amount to little more than masturbation and serve the continuous push for materialism and nihilism in the West. A push that wants us to believe in nothing other than the matter and the body (no ideals, no transcendence, no hopes, no imagination) and asks us to return to an animal state. Thus creating a mass of amorphous atoms without connections with each other.
In short capitalist destruction has reached it’s final goal. We are ready and willing to renounce our dignity as men and become nothing more that income machines.
“But there’s a deadly virus!” I hear you say. Diego Fusaro, an Italian philosopher, notes: “This is precisely the strength of the new therapeutic paradigm: it hides its political nature behind the alleged objectivity of medical science (only, of course, while discrediting any scientist who differ from the official narrative – hardly a scientific method of debate)”.
It is also worth considering that everything that’s happening strangely resembles the most ancient of stratagems used by all dictators: declaring an emergency, suspending laws and rights and issuing arbitrary rules of conduct to justify the appropriation of absolute powers.
But I could be wrong and we still have no definitive proof so let’s keep digging by asking ourselves some questions. If all of the measures that have been taken exist only within the paradigm of the emergency, how long will the emergency last? And when the Covid threat will end (if ever), will the government’s absolute powers be automatically returned to the citizens? But above all, will the “emergency devices” foist themselves in our daily life long term?
A good indicator to answer these questions is the political response after 9/11. The emergency is ongoing 20 years later, the governmental powers put in place to respond to the terrorist emergency haven’t been returned to the people and the “emergency devices” that were supposed to be provisional have indeed made their way in our daily life (airport checks are just a silly example). 20 YEARS LATER!!!
In fact this is not the only parallel we can draw between 9/11 and the Covid-19. After 9/11 we were all to be considered potential terrorists. Today, after Covid-19, we are all potential spreaders. Both narratives help to imposes a disciplinary society of total control where everyone must be treated as a potential danger.
It seems to me imperative to ask ourselves this question: can we violate the constitution (and throw away the rights it took our ancestors centuries to conquer) in the name of fighting the virus?
According to some in a time of crisis it is necessary to put democracy aside. And this is not unconstitutional because these measures exist only in the time of the crisis. But what happens if the emergency does not end, if it continues indefinitely? Some virologists already openly stated that the virus will stay with us for many years, perhaps forever. In fact, the constitution is being circumvented.
As Diego Fusaro pointed out: “It is interesting how the ruling class has used the Covid-19 emergency to create a specific political rationality which, in the name of the ever-renewed emergency, renews and makes the emergency measures chronic. They ensured that the politically unacceptable in normality becomes politically inevitable with the emergency.”
THE GREAT MAKEOVER
To take a further step towards a clearer picture of the Covid crisis I invite you to follow a logical “cause and consequence” type of reasoning. It goes something like this:
A virus appears = governments decide to lockdown entire countries = small and medium commerces are closed but multinationals and financial institutions are not = destruction of the real economy, proliferation of the financial market and thriving of big companies = tremendous poverty on one side and further concentration of wealth on the other = governments intervene with financial help to the people = more government dependence of the people + more debt = more austerity to come = privatisation of the economy and infrastructure = more profits and power for multinationals and great wealths = greater government and private control over the population = strict compliance to whatever the government wants of the people in order to qualify for the financial aid.
And there you go ladies and gentlemen! A new dictatorship is born! The Covid crisis has allowed the ruling class (the infamous 1% – although in reality we should say the 0.001%) to proactively set in motion a controlled demolition of the global economy which stands to greatly enrich it’s members, whereas the inevitable spontaneous collapse would have wiped them out.
It is always necessary to destroy the old in order to introduce the new. A controlled demolition of the global economy paves the way for the “Great Reset” currently being promoted by the World Economic Forum, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Monetary Fund and other major global players.
You probably have heard of the term “great reset”, it is a political and economical proposal made, namely, by Klaus Schwab and his friends at the World Economic Forum (WEF) of Davos to count and then efficiently manage and control all resources, including people, on an unprecedented scale, with unprecedented digital precision. Of course the idea is being sold as a philanthropic enterprise (aren’t they always?) aimed at improving our social systems, reduce food scarcity, hunger and disease and combatting climate change (all things any normal human being desires). But in reality it is no great shift of paradigm but a desperate attempt at restructuring the capitalist system to last over time. An internal reorganisation of the means of production to accelerate and strengthen its processes.
Vandana Shiva, the great Indian environmental activist and anti-globalisation author said it best: “The Great Reset is about maintaining and empowering a corporate extraction machine and the private ownership of life.”
In other words the “great reset” is nothing more than a “great makeover” of neoliberal capitalism. Klaus Schwab, founder of the Forum, warned: “The world must act jointly and quickly to renew all aspects of our societies and economies, from education, to social contracts, to working conditions. Every country, from the United States to China, must participate and every sector, oil, gas, technology, must be transformed.”
This quote of Mr. Schwab reminds me of another quote from another fellow germanophone… Adolf Hitler, when he said: “I’m not interested in politics. I’m interested in changing people’s lifestyles”.
A video ad promoting the “Great reset” circulated for a while on the WEF’s website (it has since been removed). The logline of the proposal said: “By 2030 you’ll own nothing but you’ll be happy”. That’s lovely and I’m sure Mrs. Thunberg is very happy about that. Personally I have a simple question: if we’ll own nothing, who will own the means of production of whatever we will consume? I leave the answer to your imagination.
The Great Makeover (or Great Reset) is nothing more than the last desperate globalist effort to convince a skeptical world that those same people who created the post-1945 model of globalisation, hyper-financialization, neoliberal capitalism, led by the IMF and supranational mega-corporations, responsible for the destruction of the social welfare, the progressive lowering of the standard of living in industrialised countries, the relocation of work to countries with low-cost labor (read modern slaves), neo-colonialism, the destruction of the environment, the destruction of the traditional agriculture in favour of chemical agri-food, the over weaponisation of our planet, the constant military invasion of countries who dared to dream different dreams, the assassination of countless men, women and children all around the globe, will now be at the head of an humanitarian initiative that should correct their abuse and create a beautiful and fair world for all. It would be very naive, dangerous and stupid of us to believe that. And if we do, if we fall into their trap, everything that happens next will be of our own fault.
SOME FORM OF SOCIALISM OR NEO-FEUDALISM
In the richest country in the world, the United States, 45,000 people die every year simply from lack of health coverage. The leading causeof children’s death on the planet – despite all of our technological power – has remained hunger. This when current resources are sufficient, according to Unicef, to feed 10 billion people out of the 7.7 billion who inhabit the planet.
This is neoliberal capitalism baby and if you’re OK with that I’m surprised you kept reading this far. If you aren’t please keep in mind that the whole history of humanity is a succession of paradigms in which some men struggle to escape the prevarications of some others, in order to have a more just society on this Earth, and in which human beings are all protagonists within the limits of their possibilities.
To ask for more power and less freedom to ensure security is the oldest trick in the world. It is nothing less than blackmail and we MUST NOT comply.
None of these degenerated neoliberal capitalist souls speak of sacred love for the truth, of justice, of the struggle for freedom, much less of love for our neighbour and for the exercise of the principles of Democracy. Their only thought is vulgar personal gain and the acceptance of a world that is distorted and increasingly depleted of humanistic aspirations.
Every change also depends on all of us, on what we believe, on the knowledge we seek, on what we accept, on what we adhere to for a quiet life or for interest or out of fear.
Due to a human nature that is failing to acknowledge the warnings coming from all sides and has chosen the convenient option of indulging the epic lies of the government and the media, rather than the uncomfortable alternative of confronting those same epic lies, we have embarked on a path that might lead us to some very dark times. As Antonio Gramsci wrote: “the ruling class, if it loses consent, uses authoritarianism and violence.”
The choice that we will face in this 2021 will be decisive: either we accept to enter an era of techno-fascist neo-feudalism (out of fear, ignorance and/or stupidity) in which middle class will be abolished to make way for a two-speed society with the super rich on one side and the rest of us on the other, or we FIGHT BACK!
So I beg you: don’t make compromises with what is in front of you, cultivate those inner values which can change the world and resist to any diabolical project.
True denial is that attitude that refuses to ask questions about obvious things and denies a priori the exercise of critical reason.
Inform yourselves, study, base your opinions on facts not propaganda, stand up for what you believe in, do it with passion and above all don’t be afraid of being mocked or insulted. You are not alone! Other people have doubts too and more and more of the right kind of questions are being asked. The critical mass is growing and the propaganda is losing it’s power. This is already visible in all European and American cities, where tens of thousands take to the streets, in defense of their civil, human and constitutional rights.
Don’t allow power to walk all over you. We have the real power in our hands for we are many and they are few. Use your reason and fight with and for love, justice, truth and beauty.
And if you want to keep a mask over your mouth at least take off the one covering your eyes!
The world today needs rebels, spiritual rebels. So my friends, wishing you a revolutionary 2021, I leave you with one simple cry: LET’S REBEL!
The origin of the new corona virus remains unclear. One question hangs in the air: is this virus a natural occurrence or is it man made?
94% of the infected are asymptomatic (no symptoms) or paucisymptomatic (light symptoms). In most cases it is a mild disease which heals by in about ten days and without complications.
The fight against the Covid disease is a race against time, the medical intervention must be prompt.
As of today, no one has provided an official therapeutic plan.
Hydroxychloroquine has shown “on the field” to be a highly effective treatment for COVID-19.
1.24% of all Italians have tested positive to the PCR test.
PCR test is unable to measure viral load correctly. When the test is run at 35 cycles or higher it is useless and misleading. A PCR test that was run over 35 cycles of amplification will give anything between 50% and 91% of false positives. Italy uses anything between 35 and 45 cycles.
Patients hospitalised with symptoms in Italy are 31,200 that is 4.1% of those tested positive or 0.05% of all Italians.
The virus has a mortality rate (number of people who died due to the disease divided by the total population) of 0.09%. So its mortality rate is extremely low.
90% of the dead were over the age of eighty and/or had other preexisting diseases.
The latest survival rate estimates from the Center for Disease Control (CDC-National public health institute in the United States) are:
Age 0-19 … 99.997%
Age 20-49 … 99.98%
Age 50-69 … 99.5%
Age 70+ … 94.6%
DISCLAIMER: As for the first part of the article I will use Italy as a case study.
TWO VISIONS OF THE WORLD
We are at war! Not with a virus but with a thought. The two fighting sides are camped in two diametrically opposed visions of the world.
On the right corner we find the thinking currently known as neoliberalism. It’s vision of the world is rooted in extreme materialism, nihilism, competition, hedonism and the search of individual power at all cost. It is a profoundlyseparative thinking which promotes and creates conflict and injustice. It is a thinking that stops at the level of ordinary reason. Compared to the fundamental problems of life it is a dull and often criminal thinking which puts personal will against the will of the whole. It offers no possibility of orientation in the world other than violence and supremacy.
On the left corner we find the thinking currently known as constitutionalism. It is a spiritual thinking rooted in a universal ethical conscience based on the declaration of human rights. It promotes and creates connection, collaboration, peace and justice. It’s vision of the world is rooted in spiritual intelligence and aims to reach a level of consciousness where the heart and the intellect walk side by side. It offers many possibilities of orientation in the world all based on love and compassion. It is a thinking that puts personal will in harmony with the will of the whole.
The war between these two visions of the human experience has been raging since men have walked the earth. Of course the names and the weapons have changed over time but the fundamental dichotomy of vision has remained intact. It is the old and mythological war between good and evil and the Covid crisis is nothing more than it’s latest battle.
HOW WE GOT HERE
To understand our current situation, it seems to me, it’s imperative to give a bird-eye view to the historical trajectory that led us where we are.
After the Russian October Revolution of 1917 the economic system known as capitalism was kept in check by an alternative reality called communism. We will not enter the discussion about the pros and cons of each system but simply point out the fact that there was a duality in political ideology. Each system needed to prove to it’s people that it was the best.
This translated, in the West, into the fear, of political and industry leaders, that workers could “go red”. And that meant that workers had to be kept happy. The proceeds of growth were shared. Trade unions were strong. Welfare benefits were generous. Investment in public infrastructure was high. In short capitalist countries experienced an extraordinary period of decreasing inequality from around 1920s to 1980s mainly because they incorporated a touch of socialism within their system.
Then the Berlin wall came down and once the Soviet Union collapsed there was no need for capitalism to be so generous no more. The surprising fact of the end of the cold war is that both communism and capitalism, at least in it’s “kinder” version, were destroyed (I write surprising but it should not be surprising at all considering that both systems are nothing more than two sides of the same medal; both expressions of materialism and productivism). Communism became a relic of History and capitalism became a “let the bull loose” (Reagan dixit) neoliberal extravaganza. Or, as I like to call it, capitalism on steroids (and lots and lots of South American imported cocaine).
In the 1990s market forces began to reign supreme. They spread all over the world, namely in the poorest countries; that meant cheaper goods but it also put downward pressure on wages. What’s more there was no longer any political and/or economical need to be constrained by social fairness. Governments and companies could take much larger slices of the profit pie, reduce workers’ rights, remove benefits and begin to dismantle the welfare state because there was nowhere else for workers to go. If citizens did not like these “reforms” they could always hang themselves. Instead of the triumph of democracy, we witnessed the triumph of the elites.
Then came the financial crisis of 2008 which, to those who were even vaguely paying attention, revealed the dark side of the post-cold war model. The crisis cost 30 million jobs worldwide and yet, it was not used as an opportunity to set up a serious regulation of the financial market, nor a profound critical reflection on neoliberal practices and the consequences in terms of inequalities that derive from them. Instead, in the US, president Obama gave billions of dollars to these criminal systems (too big to fail, remember?) and in Europe one magic word was on everybody’s lips: austerity!
CUTS TO THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM
Shortly after the financial crisis, in 2011, following Silvio Berlusconi’s resignation (under blackmail from the European Central Bank and the financial markets), Italian president Giorgio Napolitano asked Mario Monti (an economist, advisor to Goldman Sachs, member of the trilateral commission and trustee of speculative markets and great no border capitals) to form a new government with a single purpose imposed by the European Central Bank: to apply austerity measures in Italy (a carnage for the working and middle classes). The purpose of the operation was to dismantle what remained of the welfare state and advance the privatisation agenda. The Monti government was the mask of the dictatorship of the markets against the interests of the people. It was the bearer of a vision of politics as a practice intended to guarantee the free play of the deregulated market, free from any kind of Keynesian interventionism without hindrance or slowdowns.
One of the first things to be cut out of the welfare system was healthcare. The reason why is simple to explain: healthcare is very expensive. Furthermore this allowed private healthcare to fill the void left by the public one. And it goes without saying that private healthcare is where speculators can make money.
The Monti government imposed a maximum standard of 3.7 beds available per thousand inhabitants, causing a decline of 26,708 units. His work was continued by the following governments (Letta, Renzi, Gentiloni and the current Conte).
In the past ten years the Italian public healthcare was the victim of financial cuts worth 37 billion Euros. According to the OMS during this period 70,000 hospital beds disappeared, and so did 51% of the beds for intensive care which went from 575 per 100 thousand inhabitants to the current 275. From 2007 to today 200 hospitals were shut down.
Staff cuts followed a similar trend: 46,000 employees (doctors, nurses, emergency medical service, family doctors) were lost in those years. Now, with the coronavirus emergency underway, the government was obliged to urgently hire 20,000 doctors and nurses whom, however, have not yet passed the state exam. Yes, you read that correctly, the current pandemic is being fought by an army of students.
The situation of the Italian health system is similar to that of the British health service, the famous NHS. According to research by a think tank close to the Labor Party, the “hollowing out” of funding to the NHS has caused about 130,000 avoidable deaths in the last 20 years.
As a final “fun fact” it is worth pointing out that a country should renew it’s pandemic plan every 3 years. Due to the cuts in healthcare, the Italian pandemic plan dates back to 2006.
I invite you to always remember these numbers when the political class proclaims its action in the interest of the health of the people.
One might be tempted to blame this on Italians and their passion for pizza, wine and “making-the-sex” but the reality is that the same principles (destruction of the welfare system) have been taking place all over Europe. And then came Covid.
In an attempt to come to the defense of governments and to mitigate my criticisms I don’t think we can point fingers on how the Covid crisis was handled at it’s dawn. One could make the point that we were hit by a new disease, mistakes were made but the situation was unusual and unexpected and governments were trying to do their best. But nine months have passed and what could have been magnanimously classified as “mismanagement under pressure” must now be considered highly suspicious.
With the data in our possession (as listed at the top of this article), and attempting to reason through a “risk and benefit” analysis, I feel there are only two possible explanations for the way governments have been dealing with the crisis: complete ineptitude and idiocy or connivance with a criminal intent.
There are multiple elements that make me think that governmental response to the crisis cannot simply be excused by ineptitude but must be looked for elsewhere.
The most serious one being the prohibition and obstruction of autopsies because considered dangerous. From a scientific point of view this is an absolute idiocy! The autopsy is the basis for knowing and studying a disease. It is a fundamental medical procedure and has been practiced at least since the time of ancient Egypt in 3000 BC, in an attempt to understand and prevent diseases. It is unbelievable and unacceptable that in 2020, with all the necessary technological precautions at our disposal, an autopsy would be deemed dangerous by our governments and forbidden on such grounds. We can only ask ourselves: why was this done?
The second element is the multiple attempts to prevent, in every way possible, trained and honest doctors, who demonstrated they had multiple solutions to treat the disease, from doing their job. In the first part of this article we talked about how hydroxychloroquine was banned even though it was used to cure thousands of patients. The suppression, obscuration, and systematic rejection of any possible low-cost treatment that emerged (see plasmapheresis, hydroxychloroquine, cortisone…) must, again, make us ask this simple question: why?
Third we must consider how since the beginning of the health crisis doctors have been begging governments to implement and strengthen care from home. As soon as they understood that time was a key factor in treating the disease (and this happened very early in the crisis), they set up protocols to treat patients from their home. The latest numbers demonstrate the effectiveness of such approach very clearly: of all patients (who were treated early and from home) only 5% were hospitalised and the lethality rate within these people is close to 0%. Yes, you read that correctly: in Italy almost no one died from Covid-19 if treated early and from home. Following these protocols would have saved thousands of lives. Why was this not done?
Fourth we must ask ourselves why every and any dissenting voice coming from the medical field, no matter their degree of talent and recognition, was immediately and violently shut down through threats and expulsions from the medical order (a tactic that reminds of the Spanish inquisition or the trials of Galileo)? Why only the unison voices of doctors singing the official version were listened to? It is worth remembering that medicine is not an exact science (it’s not a dogma), it proceeds by trial and error and by sharing information and points of view. Furthermore please keep in mind that there is no such thing as a Covid-19 expert, simply because the virus is too young. Discussion between experts is at the heart of scientific discovery (and coincidentally at the heart of democracy) but these discussions never took place. Why?
Finally we must consider the continuously contradictory and confusing governmental directives. A good example of this is the back and forth of opening, then closing, then opening with precautions, then closing again of bars, restaurants and shops. This is a form of persecution of the citizens who no longer know what to do nor how. Reason, it would seem, was abandoned. If this was excusable at the beginning of the crisis it no longer is today and must force us to ask, yet again: why? Why no plan has been put in place other that advising us to wash our hands and stay at home?
As I said I only see two possibilities: we are either ruled by incompetent people or by criminals. In the first case they must be democratically removed from their position, in the second they must be judged in a court of law.
I find it interesting that the expression used to describe the confinement imposed by governments is “lockdown”. They could have chosen ”stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place”, for instance, but they went with lockdown, a term that is most often used in penitentiaries all over the world to describe a prison protocol used to control the movement of inmates. A protocol used to confine all prisoners to their cells to prevent prison riots or unrest from spreading. I know this will be read as “conspiracy theory” by some but I suggest to never underestimate the importance of words. Humans are humans because of the logos (from the Greek: word, reason) after all.
But definitions and etymology aside it is undeniable that the practice of locking down entire countries will have tremendous consequences in the short, medium and long term. It is clear that lockdowns have led to a number of adverse consequences such as unprecedented economic retraction, psychological stress, suicides, and disruptions to all sorts of important social and democratic institutions. These factors alone, combined with the questionable efficacy of lockdown policies in preventing Covid-19 deaths, should encourage us to consider the true utility of these measures.
Although the idea of “Flatten the Curve” may have been a suitable strategy in the beginning, in order not to overload hospitals, there are significant unintended (maybe) consequences of lockdowns, especially in public health. Furthermore we must consider the fact that nine months of off and on lockdowns have had no significant effect on the spread of the virus. But what they did do is have an effect of the health of young healthy citizens. On this topic it is worth noting that a recent study showed that most deaths from Covid-19 occur in people close to life expectancy, while lockdown-induced deaths occur in young people far from life expectancy, resulting in a high number of total life years lost. So in a spirit of “costs and benefits” reasoning we must ask ourselves: was it worth it?
Dr. David Nabarro from the WHO doesn’t seem to think so, as he appealed to world leaders telling them to stop “using lockdowns as your primary control method” of the coronavirus.
He claimed that the only thing lockdowns achieved was poverty. “Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer,” he said. “We in the World Health Organisation do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” He continued, “The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganise, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.”
It is also worth remembering that a number of health experts from all over the world came together to write a petition, called the Great Barrington Declaration, calling for an end to coronavirus lockdowns because these were doing “irreparable damage.”
They wrote: “As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists, we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection” A strategy that can be resumed as follows: “Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19”. The petition was authored by Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University amongst others.
Now it’s not my place to judge the quality and effectiveness of their proposition, my ignorance on the subject is too great, but as a citizen I would like it to be openly discussed rather than silenced a priori.
What is certain is that, according to the UN, lockdowns may put the livelihood of 1.6 billion people at acute risk and may push an additional 150 million children into poverty. Unemployment, bankruptcies and psychological problems have reached record levels worldwide as we will see in the next chapter.
So it seems clear that although shutting down entire countries, as you would a prison, has not brought us clear benefits, it’s having some deep, deadly and long lasting costs. In other words there are more risks of dying from the consequences of lockdowns than from COVID.
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES
A spokesperson of the International Monetary fund (IMF) said it best: “It is very likely that this year the global economy will experience its worst recession since the Great Depression, surpassing that seen during the global financial crisis a decade ago. ‘The Great Lockdown’, as one might call it, is projected to shrink global growth dramatically.” The same institution calculated a global growth contraction of 3% for 2020 alone. To have a comparative idea of what that means let me point out that the near meltdown of the global financial system in late 2008 made global activity shrink by 0.1% in 2009.
The rich economies of the west are forecast to shrink by 6.1% on average. Italy and Spain, the two worst-affected European economies, will see GDP falls of 9.1% and 8%, respectively. Here’s a list of the rest:
The International Labour Organization has warned us that almost half the global workforce (1.6 billion people) are in “immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed” by the economic impact of Covid-19.
According to the UN:
another 207 million people could fall into extreme poverty from the severe long-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic (personally I claim from the political handling of the pandemic rather than the pandemic itself), bringing the total number to over one billion by 2030.
80% of the economic crisis will persist for over a decade.
Anyone bragging about a rebound in the next year is either delusional or a liar. The director of the United Nations World Food Program, David Beasley, warned that the year 2021 will be “catastrophic” and added that in a dozen countries famine “knocks on the door”. He addd that this is “the worst year of humanitarian crisis since the beginning of the United Nations” 75 years ago.
Furthermore, for the first time in its 70-year history, UNICEF has launched an emergency response to help feed children in the UK. According to UNICEF, 2.4 million British children already grow up in food-insecure households and over a fifth of these households with children have gone hungry during the lockdown due to financial difficulty.
In Rome food aid has increased by 600%.
In Italy more than half of the country’s companies (51.5%) say that liquidity may not be sufficient to meet expenses in the current year. The situation worsens as the company size decreases.
Unemployment, bankruptcies and psychological problems have reached record levels worldwide.
In Italy alone:
Suicides have increased by 15%
Suicide attempts have increased by 40%
Femicides have increased by 15%
Violence against children has increased by 20%
Consumption of anxiolytics has increased by 3 times.
Psychological trauma is counted in millions of new cases (a recent study has found that 3 out of 4 children have had some kind of psychological trauma during the crisis)
4 million medical consultations have been postponed (how many lives will be lost because of this?)
I will stop this list here because I feel like crying. I will simply conclude with a simple question that I think we should all ask ourselves (preferably in the middle of the night, when alone and watching ourselves in the mirror): was all of this worth it? To fight a disease that has a 0.09% mortality rate.
Or, to be even more provocative, we ask, is poverty the only way to fight a virus that in 99% of cases is non-fatal?
How was the majority of people convinced that we must cancel constitutional rights, let government officials govern by decree, devastate the economy (or at least small and medium businesses), make multinationals censor any dissent, force everyone to wear surgical masks, place in house arrest whole societies, psychologically terrify children and transform the planet into a paranoid and totalitarian society because of a virus that has a 0.09% mortality rate?
The short answer to that is fear! Fear, fear, fear! Fear is the great obstacle that blocks all other feelings. There is no love where there is fear, no reasoning, no mental clarity, no rationality, no bravery. Fear destroys people’s psyche and generates inability to reason. It is the most effective way to topple down the rights of a people because only fear provides masses who are not very lucid, confused, afraid and therefore willing to do anything, to accept anything. The greatest pandemic we’ve witnessed in the past nine months has been a pandemic of fear and panic. And it was spread by the so called mainstream media, the great source of terror.
The media tried to scare us in every possible way (and in most cases succeeded) using refined tactics and techniques to create anguish, terror, pessimism, discouragement, resignation and above all division among human beings isolated in their fear of the dark.
The fundamental idea of these techniques is to control the “perception” of the situation. In other words, how the real situation is “received” by the subjects. This “perception” is artfully manipulated through the use of these techniques.
These are well known by people who (like myself) have studied the field of communication, especially advertising, or the work of Edward Bernays (a nephew of Freud and father of modern mass propaganda). They should also be recognisable by any serious historian for countless times they have been used by totalitarian regimes’ propaganda machine throughout history. I will simply point out the most common ones:
Ad nauseam propaganda: this type of propaganda relies on the power of repetition. As Joseph Goebbels (Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany) famously said: “Repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” In the case of Covid we have a thumping information: at least two war bulletins a day.
Card stacking: to present selective information to paint an incomplete and incorrect narrative to influence people. A clear example of this is the whole discussion and purposefully created confusion on the difference between people who died “of Covid” and people who died “with Covid” (a huge difference from a medical and statistical standpoint). This not only allowed to hide the real numbers of the crisis but also created a perpetual state of confusion and fear. Another example of card stacking is the fact that every news would begin by stating the number of new “cases”, leaving out the fact that all that “new cases” means is people who tested positive to a PCR test (a highly inaccurate test as we’ve seen in the first part of this article). It does not mean that the person is sick or that they have symptoms. Another example is the fact that most of the time the numbers of new cases and deaths are announced, but only rarely (or as background news) are the numbers of asymptomatic and people healed from the disease reported.
Glittering generalities: it employs loaded words and strong slogans to leave an impact on the audience receiving the message. In Italy we had “All will be well”, in English speaking countries “we’re all in this together”, in China ““Mask or respirator, you have to ponder and choose one out of the two” just to give some examples (there were plenty more).
Testimonial: to use well-known or credible figures to influence the target audience. How many singers, Hollywood stars and sports personality have we seen parroting the official narratives over and over, calling for the population to “stay at home” (of course from the comfort of their villas equipped with swimming pools, large gardens and Swedish saunas).
Name-calling: name-calling propaganda is based on putting the other party down by all rhetorical means necessary. In the case of Covid anyone who dared ask questions or contradict the official narrative was immediately accused of being a “conspirationist”, a “fascist”, an “anti-vaxxer”, a “criminal”, a “subversive”, a “fool”, a “danger for himself and for others” and so on and so on. This helps cover up and marginalise any form of dissent.
In short the communication around the Covid situation is based on the “worst case scenario” approach, on confusion, exaggeration, frenzy and loss of reason that spreads the fear of contagion and death.
Fear has become virulent and contagious; common sense, reasonableness and critical ability to evaluate data for what it shows have been lost. Sadly reasoning and common sense are not contagious (being virtues of the few).
The conduct of most mainstream media, under the terms of the law, is called “Intentional alarm” and is punishable with imprisonment. I sincerely hope to see that day!
END OF PART TWO
In PART THREE, the final part of this article, we will discuss the most pressing question of them all: cui prodest? We will see who are the winners of this situation (because rest assured there are winners, there always are), how the political response to the pandemic has produced one of the greatest wealth transfers in history and the possible outcomes of this in the years to come (or what I call the new capitalist feudalism).
DISCLAIMER: The following article is the result of the work of Mauro Scardovelli (university rector of Unialeph, an Italian university founded with the goal of teaching and implement the values of the Italian Constitution) and his team. All the information you will find was presented by some of the best medical minds Italy has to offer, most of them have been on the frontline of the Covid crisis since it’s beginning. I stand on the shoulders of giants. All I’ve tried to do is to summarise, organise and simplify (wherever possible) the information they provided in an attempt to make it understandable to all. Most statistics are based on the situation in Italy (which is the worst in Europe and therefore a good case study). The following is an exercise in reasoning (from the latin rationem: to understand the causes). This article does NOT constitute an official medical protocol. If you have any symptoms you MUST contact your doctor. The article is divided in two parts. PART 1 is an overview of the medical aspects of the crisis. PART 2 covers the political, social and economic consequences.
Let’s begin with the basics: a new virus has made it’s way into nature; it’ called SARS-CoV-2 (Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), it belongs to the family of coronaviruses and causes the “Coronavirus disease 2019” (COVID-19). The first case was identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019 (although both the timing and the location are subject of debate). The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a pandemic on 11 March 2020.
The origins of this virus are as of today still unclear. It exist three main hypothesis. One: the virus is of animal origin (the famous wet market bat hypothesis) and then mutated to infect humans. Two: it is a man made virus (near Wuhan there is a laboratory that studies viruses, namely bat related viruses) that escaped from researcher’s control. Three: it is a biological weapon released on purpose on the population (we don’t know by whom or why). The three options are very much a possibility but, like I said, we don’t yet know for sure and any conclusion, as of now, would be purely speculative.
Whatever it’s origin the virus EXISTS and is moderately to highly contagious(depending on who you talk to).
In the overwhelmingly majority of cases the virus provokes no reactions (asymptomatic) or very light reactions (paucisymptomatic) in the infected person. BUT in some cases it provokes a very serious pulmonary hyper-inflammation that can lead to a so called “cytokine storm” (more about this later). In some cases this can lead to death.
PATHOGENESIS OF THE VIRUS
(Pathogenesis: the mode of production or development of a disease.)
The Covid disease has three development phases.
PHASE 1: Viral response phase
An initial phase, purely virological, in which viral replication prevails. It is usually a phase characterised by a clinical symptomatology that isn’t particularly serious such as fever, bone-aches, headaches, nausea, diarrhea… This viral phase tends to diminish because the host’s inflammatory response is triggered. (For most patients this is useful because it helps control the infection. That’s why fever exists in the first place: it is a natural defence mechanism. High temperatures, over 38 degrees celsius, kill viruses.)
PHASE 2: Pulmonary phase
As the inflammatory response takes hold, the virological response yields. This is what happens in all Infectious diseases. Up to this point (halfway into the second phase) the disease is no worse than the common flu. In most cases (between 80% and 90% of the infected symptomatic patients) it is a mild disease which heals by itself in about ten days and without complications. BUT in a number of patients (the remaining 10%-20%) a dysregulated inflammatory response (an excessive inflammatory response) is triggered, leading to the third phase of the disease.
PHASE 3: Hyper-inflammation phase
In some patients an excessive and dysregulated inflammatory response is triggered. A real “cytokine storm” (Disseminated intravascular coagulation), which leads the patients to a haemophagocytic syndrome (disorder of immunoregulatory abilities), to respiratory failure, to intensive care and in some cases to their death.
GOAL OF THE THERAPIES
If there is one thing all doctors seem to agree on this is the time factor.The fight against the Covid disease is a race against time, the medical intervention must be prompt. Medical intervention must be aimed at the first and second phase of the disease. When patients enter the hyper-inflammation phase it becomes much more difficult to help them.
So, basically, the antiviral therapy should be concentrated at the beginning of the disease. When we move into the hyper-inflammatory phase of the disease, antiviral drugs are no longer of any use. At that point all therapy is based on the modulation of the excessive inflammatory response, on turning off this “cytokine storm” that generated in the patient’s lungs.
In between these two extremes, of course, there is an intermediate zone which, in the opinion of many doctors, is the zone in which the maximum therapeutic effort should be concentrated.
The goal of the therapies should be to intercept patients in the initial phase of the disease and immediately treat them with antiviral therapy.
If the patient evolves towards the hyper-inflammatory phase, the other goal is to intercept the onset of this excessive inflammatory response early to avoid being faced with patients in whom the containment of the excessive inflammatory response is very difficult. At that point the whole game is played on their resistance to ventilatory therapy.
So being precocious with the therapy should ideally avoid the evolution towards the third phase of the disease, therefore save lives and reduce hospitals/intensive care admissions.
Most doctors are confused about treatment because, as of today, no one has provided an official therapeutic plan. The government and health institutions have been suggesting what treatments NOT to use but nobody took the responsibility to advise the use of a specific therapy.
So doctors on the frontline had to invent/create one using the fruits of the experience and observation they acquired by the bed of the patients; outside the laboratories, outside mental ruminations. And this is what they found:
Drugs play different roles at different times. Different drugs are needed during the three phases of the disease.
PHASE 1: Antiviral therapy should be concentrated at the beginning of the disease. Doctors cannot remain idle and allow people to stay in bed without having a proper therapy or, even worse, with a therapy, for instance Paracetamol, which can be harmful (Paracetamol is dangerous in Covid patients because it creates a depletion of glutathione reserves, which is essential as an antioxidant and is very useful in anti-inflammatory reactions. Removing glutathione means opening the doors to the advancement of the inflammation.) Phase 1 must be addressed with anti-viral and anti-inflammatory remedies that block or reduce the inflammatory state (for instance vitamin C and D). There is one specific drug that has been shown (on the field) to be the most effective at this stage. But we will cover this (extensively) in the next chapter.
PHASE 2: anti-viral remedies must be continued for a while but they begin to lose effectiveness. Low-molecular-weight-heparin (an anticoagulant with a strong immunomodulatory activity) must be started as soon as the first signs of hyper-inflammation appear, together with antibiotics. The use of antibiotics is needed because it has an action on possible bacterial super-infections. Why? because an inflamed lung is predisposed to the colonisation of pathogenic bacteria. An inflamed, mucus producing, lung is a fantastic breeding ground for pathogens. We cannot stress enough that timing is essential. The dead patients in March and April were, in most cases, patients on which no intervention was made. They were patients left home alone.
PHASE 3: As we’ve already mentioned patients that reach phase three of the disease are strongly compromised. The medical goal here is to “turn off” the hyper inflammation. This is done with anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant remedies. But these take time to have effect and many patients that reach phase 3 are unable to breath normally. Therefore they most be intubated. Oral-tracheal intubation is a medical practice that can only be done by an intensive care doctor. It is an invasive medical procedure, extremely delicate, that no doctor uses with a light heart; it is literally the last thing they want to (and can) do. It is worth noting that intensive care is seen by most doctors as the failure of the therapeutic strategy and NOT, like it is promoted by governments and in the media, an intelligent and structural answer to the disease. In light of that, having more intensive care as the main response of the system to a viral infection is profoundly worrying.
As I mentioned earlier there is one specific drug that has been shown (on the field) to be the most effective as an antiviral during the first phase and the first half of the second phase of the disease. This drug is called Hydroxychloroquine and it is one of the most controversial drugs in the Covid affair (some call it the smoking gun, the irrefutable proof of the mismanagement of the crisis).
Hydroxychloroquine is a derivate of Chloroquine. It is drug that has been in use for a long time, the American FPA approved it in 1955 and it is the 128th most prescribed drug in the United States. It is a particularly tested drug, has a very low cost (a few euros per box) and is easy to supply (it’s a common medicine). It is most commonly used to prevent Malaria and anyone who has travelled in malaria risk areas has taken it (I know for certain I have, multiple times in my life).
The drug can have adverse/side effects (of course it does, all drugs do, even aspirin) but these are negligible. The most common adverse effects are nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Other common adverse effects include itching and headache. The most serious possible side effects affect the eye, with dose-related retinopathy (damage to the retina).
Before prescribing the drug the doctor must always ask the patient a few questions (this is the case with ANY drug). The patient must not be affected, for example, by Long QT syndrome (a heart disease) or so-called Favism (an inborn error of metabolism that predisposes to red blood cell breakdown) or other conditions that interact with Hydroxychloroquine. But this it is the ABC of medicine.
The AIFA (the Italian Drug Association – a public authority) initially gave the green light to the use of Hydroxychloroquine but then withdrew it from the market. This was supported by a series of studies conducted in the USA claiming that it can lead to very harmful side effects. But these studies are highly problematic (so much so that The Lancet, the oldest scientific publication in the world, had to retract the one they recklessly and hastily published). Many doctors have no problems calling these studies bogus studies. This because these studies were made on hospitalised patients (patients that had reached the second half of phase two or even phase three of the disease) and with very very high dosages (overdose). In this case it is obvious patients will show harmful side effects. As we’ve seen earlier Hydroxychloroquine is most useful in the early stage of the disease and should be used with the correct dosage. It is worth pointing out the obvious: any drug, if used in very high dosage, can be harmful.
Worse yet (in the writer’s opinion) clinical evidence of thousands of people healed with Hydroxychloroquine has been ignored and/or obstructed by AIFA and the WHO.
Hydroxychloroquine has been used on thousands of patients in Italy at a reasonable dosage and for a reasonable period. The clinical observation of many, authoritative and above all experienced doctors, led to say that in their clinical experience Hydroxychloroquine has been able to positively change the progress of the disease in patients.
Honest doctors talk about the centrality of timing (we’ve covered this many times now). The drug is useful at the onset of the disease. And must not exceed the dosage of 800 mg per day for a maximum of 7 days.
Andrea Mangiagalli, just to give a practical example, one of the first family doctors to test “on the ground” the effectiveness of Hydroxychloroquine, treated 300 patients. He never saw any complications apart from a few patients who had a modest diarrhea (very modest grade 1 or 2). Out of these 300 patients 3 were hospitalised, 1 died and 297 were CURED (I don’t know about you but I’d take those odds any day of the week).
The evidence provided by doctors on the frontline of the crisis has not been small, it is strong positive evidence of the utility of Hydroxychloroquine in the fight against COVID. The kindest thing I can say about the failure to use Hydroxychloroquine is that it’s danger was overestimated by the authorities. Nevertheless it is the writer’s opinion that the failure (because of incompetence or connivance) to use a cure that could have potentially saved thousands and thousands of people is a crime against humanity and must be judged in a court of law.
(UPDATE: on December 11, 2020, after an arduous seven-month legal battle carried out by a group of general practitioners, the Italian Council of State approved the use of hydroxychloroquine as a therapy for Covid-19. The ordinance reads: “The continuing uncertainty about the therapeutic efficacy of hydroxychloroquine, admitted by the AIFA itself to justify the further evaluation in randomised clinical trials, is not sufficient legal reason to justify the unreasonable suspension of its use on the National territory”. Better late than never!)
LETHALITY, MORTALITY AND OTHER STATISTICS
The Italian population is approximately 60,360,000.
At the time of writing (December 5, 2020) according to the Ministry of Health, the total number of PCR tests carried out is equal to 22,767,130 that is 37.7% of the population.
The PCR test positives for Covid-19 are 754,169 or 1.24% of all Italians.
94% of the infected are asymptomatic (no symptoms) or paucisymptomatic (light symptoms).
Patients hospitalised with symptoms are 31,200 that is 4.1% of those tested positive or 0.05% of all Italians.
Of those hospitalised, 3,567 people are in intensive care, that is 11.4% of the hospitalised, or 0.47% of all positives, or 0.05% of all Italians.
The total deaths from/with (hard to say) Covid-19 are 60,078.
The virus therefore has a lethality rate (number of deaths divided by the total of positive PCR tests) of 7.9% and a mortality rate (number of people who died due to the disease divided by the total population) of 0.09% .
The lethality rate of the virus is difficult to interpret due to various problems with PCR testing (which we will cover in the next chapter).
But we can safely say that Covid-19 is a fatal disease but its mortality rate is, percentage-wise, very low.So it is a disease to be taken seriously but not to panic about.
Let’s be clear: Covid-19 is not the “Black death” nor the “Spanish flu” (that in 1918-20, in a time we had no penicillin, Hydroxychloroquine, heparin, antibiotics, cortisone or intensive care, killed between 50 and 100 million people in the space of two years). Covid’s lethality is also much much lower than two modern coronaviruses: Sars-Cov1 (10% lethality during the 2002-04 outbreak) or Mers (37% lethality during the 2002 outbreak). And is incomparable to the lethality of extremely dangerous viruses such as the Avian flu (60% lethality) or Ebola (65% lethality).
To put things further in perspective Covid has a lower annual lethality than road accidents, suicides and respiratory diseases (due to nano-dust/pollution).
It is also worth noting that today (fall 2020) only 0.5% of all positive cases end up in intensive care (this is 30 times less than in March).
The latest survival rate estimates from the Center for Disease Control (CDC-National public health institute in the United States) are:
Age 0-19 … 99.997%
Age 20-49 … 99.98%
Age 50-69 … 99.5%
Age 70+ … 94.6%
Finally please consider that 90% of the dead were over the age of eighty and/or had other preexisting diseases (respiratory, cardio vascular, metabolic diseases and/or obesity, diabetes… in short, everything that produces inflammation in our body). This is why healthy children and young people do not get sick or show very very mild symptoms: they have little to no preexisting inflammations in their bodies.
To conclude Covid is a serious disease but we will not all die from it (unlike most propaganda wants you to believe).With this in mind all further reasoning must impose a “risk and benefit” analysis.
The most common test (there are others) to test the positivity for Covid-19 is the Polymerase chain reaction test (PCR). It is a method used to rapidly make millions to billions of copies of a specific DNA sample, allowing scientists to take a very small sample of DNA and amplify it to a large enough amount to study in detail.
To begin I believe it is important to clarify what “being positive to PCR testing” means. Being positive means that the person has, in his body, some nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) of the virus.BUT a positive subject does not mean that the subject is sick. Nor does it necessarily mean that the subject is contagious.
This is because the nucleic acid found does not necessarily represent an infecting viral particle, it can be a residue, a dead virus. Furthermore the nucleic acid found does not necessarily represents a concentration of virus sufficient to infect (yourself and others).
In vitro studies have shown that for infection to occur there must be at least one million equivalent genomes in a clinical sample (the viral load). In other words it is the viral load (and not the presence of nucleic acid) that determines if you’re sick and how sick. BUT the PCR test is unable to measure viral load correctly. This is one of the core problems with PCR testing.
The second problem has to do with the cycles of amplification and it’s a problem of misusage. In PCR testing the DNA sequences taken from the subject being tested are exponentially amplified in a series of cycles. Imagine (to simplify) a zoom lens: the more you amplify the zoom the closer and more detailed you see. Still simplifying, each degree of zoom amplification is equivalent to one amplification cycle. Now the problem is that when the test is run at 35 cycles or higher it is useless and misleading. I quote Anthony Fauci: “If you get a cycle threshold of 35 or more…the chances of it being replication-competent are minuscule…you almost never can culture virus from a 37 threshold cycle…even 36…it’s just dead nucleoids, period.” This is a generous estimation by the way. The more conservative scientists suggest a maximum of 20 to 30 cycles.
In other words, too many cycles and the test will turn up all sorts of irrelevant material that will be wrongly interpreted as relevant.That’s called a false positive. A PCR test that was run over 35 cycles of amplification will give anything between 50% and 91% of false positives (from the most optimistic to the most pessimistic possibility).
On 11 November 2020, the Lisbon Court of Appeal in Portugal declared the quarantine of four Portuguese citizens illegal. They gave this reason: “Based on the scientific evidence currently available, this test [the RT-PCR test] is not in itself capable of establishing beyond doubt whether positivity is actually equivalent to infection with the SARS CoV-2 virus. And this for several reasons, two of which are of primary importance: the reliability of the test depends on the number of cycles used; the reliability of the test depends on the viral load present “
The problem of the cycles amplification also explains with we see disparate difference in numbers of contagions between different countries. Germany and Austria, for example, use 25 cycles of amplifications (and therefore have the lowest numbers of contagions in Europe) Italy and France use anything between 35 and 45 cycles (the exact number is difficult to say because the authorities are not clear on this).
I close this chapter leaving the floor to Kary Mullis, the inventor of the PCR test, for which he won the Nobel prize in 1993: “With PCR anyone can be tested positive for just about anything, if you do it long enough (enough cycles of amplification). For this reason, we must be very careful to use PCR as a diagnostic test”.
The topic of face masks is a minefield. This is because first, for many people, the masks have become a symbol, a totem of a semi-religious nature. Secondly, and this is more important, because the use of masks produces benefits in certain circumstances but serious damages in others.
The perception most people commonly have is that masks are something uncomfortable, a nuisance, but they must be worn because they are good for your health (since they protect from the virus). This is not correct: masks are a compromise. It is therefore a question of always calculating costs and benefits.
Prolonged use of the mask leads to a worsening of cardio-pulmonary performance and a reduction in respiratory function. This is harmless in healthy subjects who wear the mask for short periods but dangerous in subject with heart diseases. This is because the heart must make up for the fact that the lungs don’t work as well as they should. So the heart is under considerable stress while a subject wears a mask.
Also the few studies available have shown that wearing a mask for prolonged period of time leads to worsening in respiratory virosis (respiratory diseases caused by a virus), which is exactly what should be reduced or avoided. In other words subjects wearing masks show more symptoms of respiratory infections.
We must understand what happens in a person’s lungs when you wear the mask: the Italian Ministry of Health says that 95% of what a potentially infectious subject emits is shielded. So the crucial question is: where does that shielded 95% of emissions go? Well, it simply stays inside the mask, moistening it and creating a favourable environment for the development of germs, but above all it is partially re-inhaled. This creates the risk that a person wearing a mask for a long time, which screens and prevents a free exhalation, does amplification cycles of the virus all by himself. By continuing to re-inhale his own viruses, he can push them deep into the lungs and alveoli where viruses shouldn’t reach. In the upper respiratory tract there are the innate adaptive defences that “kill” most of the germs with which we enter into contact while breathing. But in the pulmonary alveoli, deep down in the lungs, these defences are lacking, precisely because the germs should not make their way there. If too many viruses arrive in the pulmonary alveoli and multiply without resistance, when the the antibodies finally arrive, after 10-14 days, instead of finding a little amount of virus, they find huge quantities. A formidable battle follows which creates a very high inflammation. This is exactly what is seen in many cases of subjects who, after a mild onset, after 10-14 days, have an inflammatory explosion and an aggravation.
We should therefore avoid worsening the situation of an asymptomatic by imposing a barrier to exhalation. Because the risk is to turn the subject into a symptomatic, or a paucisymptomatic, by continuing to breathe-in his viruses for a long time.
Wearing a mask is a compromise. Therefore, its use must be modulated and not imposed in circumstances in which it is more harmful than beneficial.
Of course in some cases wearing a mask is a very good idea (for as short a period of time as possible): inside hospitals, in environments with a high concentration of potentially infectious subjects, near COVID patients, in crowds, in public transport…
But outdoors, except in very special circumstances, wearing a mask is totally unreasonable. You cannot receive a sufficient viral load to get infected just walking by a person. The WHO says that you have to stay at close range of an infected person for at least 15 minutes (this even outdoors) to receive enough viral load to get infected. Occasional contact is of no particular importance, it constitutes a potential risk that is absolutely irrelevant compared to the risks of life. So outdoors, except in special circumstances (crowding etc.) masks are of no use at all. The only thing they can do is possibly harm people who have respiratory and heart problems and so on. The former Director of Microbiology in Bern said: “It would be wiser to wear a helmet because something is more likely to fall on your head than getting infected by walking around without a mask”.
Wearing a mask is a compromise and like all compromises, it is right to push to the point where the harms are outweighed by the benefits and stop when the risks overcome the benefits.
Almost no one talks about prevention and this is very dangerous because one of the absolutely incontrovertible facts of the COVID affair is that so-called “healthy” patients generally do not get sick and if they do they have no complications. Healthy patients fight COVID with their immune system without much need of therapy. And this is a huge difference. Therefore one of the main goals should be to promote healthy life styles that naturally reduce inflammation inside our bodies. These are basic things like eating healthy, not smoking, drink little to no alcohol, eat little red meat, loose weight if overweight, do regular physical activity and so on. Vitamin C, D and B12 have also shown to be very useful in preventing COVID. In short, anything that can be done to reduce inflammation in the body and increase the effectiveness of the immune system should be done!
Another fundamental aspect that is rarely touched upon is that this disease must be fought on the territory and not in the hospital. It must be fought with and by local family doctors who get to the patients early and begin to apply therapies early. Local medicine must be implemented.
Because very often patients who get to the hospital they do so after having wasted time and show up in complicated conditions. Furthermore the hospitals are places where the disease spreads even more, it becomes a nosocomial infection (an infection that is acquired in a hospital). This makes doctors and nurses sick, reduces their numbers and their work becomes unmanageable.
The sick must be treated early and at home, freeing hospital beds to patients with much more serious diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, tumors, etc.
MEDIUM/LONG MEDICAL CONSEQUENCES OF THE CRISIS
Hospitals today have stopped most activity that is not COVID related. Most screenings, check-ups, medical visits and so on have been reduced or postponed. This means thousands and thousands of people who didn’t have their heart checked, that didn’t screen for cancer and/or other pathologies. The prevention of highly lethal pathologies is in stand by and this is very very dangerous.
Furthermore sick people don’t go into surgery. This is obviously a huge problem. Imagine a patient with an operable cancer. If 15-20 days pass without surgery, nothing happens, but if 3-4 months pass, the problems are accentuated and this can lead to some very very serious problems down the line. Because the tumor will not stand still; it will progress (and likely become inoperable). The same can be said for patients with acute myocardial infarction, or cerebral stroke and so on and so on. All these other pathologies still exist and need to be treated. In the coming months thousands of people will die from lack of treatment
It is also worth considering that the Italian National Institute of Health (Istituto Superiore di Sanità) signed a report on motor activity in 2018 in Italy based on which during that year there were an estimate 88,200 deaths due to the fact that not enough physical activity was done in the average population. A little less than double the deaths that are today attributed to Covid19 (which are 36,000 and some). If we think about the limitation of motor activity that occurred with the lockdown, it is likely that the situation in 2020, in regard to deaths from insufficient physical activity, will increase.
Finally the consequences of the extreme measures taken by the authorities (lockdowns, freezing the economy…) will have profound consequences on the “social health” of the population. We’ve already seen spikes in the numbers of deaths by suicide, overdose and so on.
If the economic crisis continues we will see more and more of these problems and things like malnutrition and possibly starvation will become serious health risks.
END OF PART 1
In part 2 of this article we will cover the social, economical and political aspects of the COVID-19 crisis.