This Novel Flu-nancial Crisis: COVID-1984?

 All this I was told, for while the operation was performing, I lay in a profound sleep, by the force of that soporiferous medicine infused into my liquor.

— Gulliver’s Travels, “A Voyage to Lilliput,” Jonathan Swift, 1726

Disclaimer:  Any criticisms of the pre-existing condition uncomfortably known as the United States government herein, are absolutely accidental, merely incidental, or entirely intentional.  Moresoever be it known that, as this author is aware of — not that I’m an “authority” technically speaking, but that’s another story, or the story of how I’m not an “authority,” technically speaking, and, in writing — it has come to my attention that the 1917 Sedition Act is still on the books.  So, there’s that.


Coronaviralism has swept the planet, which is very nearly on lockdown everywhere. “Lockdown” is a prison term.  The local newspaper is hoarse from shouting this news in big bold print on its front pages; so much so that I fear the paper is unnecessarily compromising its own immune system. Haven’t they heard that there’s a new flu going around?

Be that as it may, whether or not the local paper falls ill (is hysteria a symptom?), in America, the tale begins midstream when a “low-energy”-looking President declares the “Great!” United States to be in a sudden state of pandemic national emergency.  How can this be?  Beyond the crashing sounds of Big Money echoing all around the Oval Office as the President reads morosely off a teleprompter, this is a bit of a shock.  After all, this same President has been in the habit of flippantly belittling a new spreading virus that world health experts have been warning about for months.  Now it has landed, with a dull thud, inexorably, on our shores, and the President looks like a jackass (of course, there’s nothing very “novel” about that…).

That was on March 11, 2020, a Wednesday.  A few days before, the Federal Reserve had pulled $1.5 trillion out of its seemingly limitless vault to juice jittery financial markets, but this weighty paper stone thrown into the pond of Big Banks not only failed to make a splash:  it didn’t even cause a ripple.  Therefore, Panic!

Within a day of the President’s declaration, major professional and amateur sports leagues and events are postponed or cancelled until further notice. Within a week, all public gatherings are shrunk from 100, to 50, to 10, and then as close to Zero Mostel as possible, as bars and restaurants are shuttered across the land; “curbside” is the new mot du jour.  It’s like the corpse of Prohibition has been raised from the dead with steroids.

Individual state governments start mandating “shelter in place” orders for all citizens; soon, the entire country will be on lockdown, with most of its businesses either shutdown or idling, to ride the pandemic out… inside.

So the crowds have been disappeared, the Western publics, from the streets.  “No protests, folks!”  As of now, limited activity is being allowed to, from, and in stores considered by the “authorities” to be “essential.”  In other words, we have not yet been banned from COVID-19 incubators like grocery stores.  No more circuses for the foreseeable future, but people still need to eat.  If everyone starves to death, there’ll be no humans left for the virus to infect; besides, cannibalism is surely the most direct way to contract this “novel” virus, so the bread’s still available.

However, the extremity of this over-reaction to the initial under-reaction, at least in America, should also be seen in another context; after all, 2020 is still a quadrennial election year, and the scary shadow of a hoary hint of Socialism was wafting most dangerously in the undecided air, threatening to aerosolize into a sweeping, general, political infection…Thus, the sleepy People, the as-yet-undead but zombie-like consumer-citizenry, had to be swept off the Streets.  Who knew, but they might wake up?

There is, indeed, a profound political dimension to this crisis.  However, to shift gears a moment, I would like to note that the country where the COVID-19 was first reported on, China, has by all accounts contained the outbreak there.  If we believe the statistics coming from China, 81,000 cases were documented, with a little over 3,000 deaths, which is a 27 to 1 ratio.  Obviously, the reports from Iran, heavily sanctioned by the United States, and Italy, which has a massive debt problem (like the U.S.), are indicating higher rates of lethality.  In light of the Chinese experience, it seems like madness for America not to be soliciting immediate Chinese — or Cuban? — expertise in dealing with the virus, yet this does not appear to be happening.  In fact, I have found it difficult to find any real information on COVID-19 at all.  Maybe I’m a poor researcher, but Kim Petersen’s recent article in Dissident Voice was the first I’d heard that there is more than one variant of the virus; that there are, in fact, 5.  How this information is not public knowledge indicates that American officialdom is still not being honest with the American people concerning this new coronavirus.  What’s the hold up?

In a way, it feels like we’re all being “held up,” as in a robbery.  Not at gun point, yet, but that may be coming…

“Breaking news:  Today the Markets rallied, posting all time highs!”  True story, today (March 24).  The Yahoo! page was plastered with older white male Lilliputians erupting from their seats with tiny fists of defiance upraised, yelling, as if the Big Tent Elephant had just nailed a highly improbable somersault, and they were excited! — the tiny elephants.  What a weird, ejaculative moment for coronaviral stricken Markets!  Maybe this feverish delusion of austerity and scarcity is as suddenly over as it began, and all-in-one-day?  Pie-from-the-Fed with whipped cream on top, but it’s just like the Wizard of Oz all over again (or is that Zardoz?), except the cowardly lion tin man figure is Donald Trump:  gee-wizard, and what a Swindle!

Beyond the mind’s-Eye-boggling-optics of this global health crisis, it is also worth noting that this emergency feels like a psychological operation. This is not just an “experiment” on emergent marginal markets (the Ebola crisis of 2014, for example); no, this one’s hitting home, where the “home of the brave” is sung.  You can feel it in the air, and hear it on people’s faces:  Fear.  The overwhelming silence of this pestilence is deafening, it’s so loud!  Something’s going on here, and it’s genuinely weird.  So we’ve had our moment in the Sun, and the COVID-19’s a cloud? What’s next?

The psychosomatic effect of COVID-19 should not be underestimated.  Beyond the flood of information about it, which amounts to a real-time mass Media “blackout” about it, the effect of this blackout is more real than we can imagine.  It’s obviously a “thing,” and a thing to be dealt with, sooner rather than later.  Maybe Cuba can help?  What is equally obvious is that real power devolves to “Who Owns the Streets?”  Wall Street, Main Street, or any street: who owns the “street” is the question.  We, the Lilliputians, have a voice, in fact, have many more Voices.  We could all be just a little bit — louder!  Easier said than done, as they say, I know.  This fact is the ultimate referendum on what is now precisely happening.  If we don’t want a 1984-wellian scenario, and COVID-1984 is just the dress rehearsal for that, then we all need to find a way.  No doubt!  We’re all running on Leo Tolstoy novel time lately, and there was just another death, like so many others, another Ivan Ilyich for the cause, this novel coronavirus story…

“And now, back to that Crazy Virus we’ve all been hearing so much about!”

Todd Smith lives, writes, and observes the Brave New World Order in St. Louis. He can be reached at Read other articles by Todd.