Excerpt from Chapter 7, “The Democratic Politics of Fear,” in the newly expanded book: Canada’s COVID: The Story of a Pandemic Moral Panic (February 2023) by Barry Cooper and Marco Navarro-Génie. Published in The Epoch Times.
We consider the evidence for, and consequences of, government-induced fear leading to lack of trust. The outcome was not what the authorities intended. Their game plan was simplicity itself: induce fear first of all, then promise safety if the population obediently followed instructions.
The most obvious commonsensical conclusion is that governments, experts, and moral entrepreneurs were not themselves afraid so much as manipulative and filled with the expectation that they could bring about their own predictions, the very definition of living in the magic world of a second reality.
Such an interpretation seemed especially plausible towards the end of the COVID-19 event, as with the invoking of the Emergencies Act early in 2022 to deal with the truckers’ Freedom Convoy and other acts of civil disobedience at the US border. But other responses, or patterns of response, indicated that the government, including the experts, the bureaucrats, and the mainstream media, were all living in a second reality where normal emotions of fear, cowardice, bravery, and acts of obedience and defiance provided occasions for additional actions based on imaginary realities, not a return to commonsense.
Let us at least start with commonsense. Fear provided the political, social, even spiritual context within which the “new normal,” to use a familiar cliché, has created a regime of truth (and not just in Canada) where mathematical models of infection rates have been followed by state directives, action plans, emergency measures, government health communiqués, legal or constitutional modifications, rearrangements of powers for enforcers, speeches, and regular television appearances organized as briefings by politicians.
Most of this talk has introduced an abstract technical language into public discourse previously used only within the refined circles of experts. Prior to the pandemic, normal people did not discuss “comorbidities,” for example, or “asymptomatic transmission.” This new lingo has become a common currency, whether in public or in private interactions. Such language and expression, despite its remoteness from commonsense reality became quickly accepted as a form of knowledge that referred to an imaginary reality, which nevertheless was understood to be authoritative.
This is why these medical technicians presumed to advise the rest of us on the use of correct terminology, about personal hygiene, race relations, and diplomacy, about social interactions, sexual activities, nutritional choices, and our choice of wines, about physical distancing, avoidance of handshakes, social isolation, masking protocols, and curb-side pickups.
All these behavioural modifications, if the medical bureaucrats had their way, would be enforced not by the soft powers of exhortation and the persuasiveness of a panic but by the hard power of cops and other peace officers keen on deploying their power over their fellow citizens. We are here pressing upon the frontier of the biosecurity state. And we know from prior experience with tyranny, and especially with the totalitarian domination of twentieth-century regimes that necessarily they are based on imaginary second realities presented to the world as race and historical sciences. Nothing new there but a change of science to the medical variety.
The initial policies of the Trudeau government and of the governments of the Laurentian provinces enhanced the general anxiety. By the fall of 2020, it was clear that their policies were designed to increase Canadians’ fear by threatening to lock down the two largest provinces in the country. Inevitably, imposing a second lockdown would be accompanied by increased repressive measures against citizens who resisted.
In this context, the policy response to COVID-19 led to increased violations of civil rights as citizens were anticipated to object and dissent. The prelude came with the illegal border closures and the encouragement of snitch lines. As we saw, more repressive measures followed.
It is no accident that Alberta, as usual, was severely criticized by the Laurentian mainstream media for allegedly defying the regime of truth emanating from Ottawa. Nor was it simply a random act that Saskatchewan, not Alberta, initially moved to liberate its citizens from the medical tyranny of experts. Scott Moe, not Jason Kenney was the first to observe that lockdowns caused far more harm than good and that compulsory vaxxing “makes no sense.”
The September 2020 federal throne speech implied a future of unlimited spending and the growth of government control not only over the economy but also over what used to be considered citizens’ private affairs. For any government that really believed that “we’re all in this together,” such a collectivist outcome was also fully predictable. Moreover, even if the Trudeau Liberals didn’t believe their own words, they could still act on them.
The first step, as Terence Corcoran observed, was to flatten the economy. The astonishing level of social spending following the already weak performance of the Canadian economy unquestionably constituted a crisis. But what kind of crisis? What if Canadians saw the federal government’s policy as evidence of a strategic initiative rather than bumbling incompetence and stupidity? Of course, the marginalization of Parliament and the courting of the NDP have enabled the Trudeau Liberals to avoid any serious scrutiny of their corrupt practices.
The COVID-19 event provided a plausible excuse for a political cover-up. The effort to marginalize protesters as conspiratorial radicals, except when they were protesting the bad behaviour of American cops, and to ignore the real problems of elderly Canadians dying alone in LTC facilities has largely worked. That too can be seen as ordinary Liberal politics abetted by an equally corrupt legacy media, led by the lavishly taxpayer-funded CBC.
On October 3, 2020, Leslyn Lewis offered another commonsensical interpretation of how the Liberals have responded to the opportunities afforded by COVID-19. “What we have been witnessing in Canada is a socialist coup that we, the taxpayers, are funding.” Worst of all, Lewis interpreted government support for able-bodied individuals who were perfectly capable of holding down a job as a deliberate effort “to control our lives through economic dependency.”
All of this stealthy socialism, she said, was “insidious.” That is, she asked us to consider the possibility that it was not an error but deliberate. This is also a question to which we return elsewhere in the book. That is, the notion of bad-faith manipulation by cynical politicians of ignorant citizens was not entirely without evidence. No conspiracy is involved, just the expected degree of progressive cynicism.