The Virus, The Lockdown and the Wingnut Eschatology

A post really wasn’t coming together on all this stuff on the anti-lockdown ‘movement’ among the US right. However, I wanted a bunch of links in one place to come back to later. The whys and the hows and whos and how it all connects to money, oil and denial is sort of there. I intended just a list of links but you get a rambling post instead. Somehow Jonestown and the Last Jedi get connected in here. More after the fold.

Sarah Hoyt’s latest imagines scenarios she sees as possible positive outcomes from the pandemic. One person’s utopia is another’s dystopia I guess. It starts with mass protests soon targetting governors (which have already occurred) and then Trump saves the day somehow and because she imagines most Americans think like her a grateful nation elects him again in a landslide.

“In ten years, from a happy, prosperous America starting to colonize space, we look back at this moment of utter insanity and say “yeah, but without it, the breakage of the old institutions would have been slower, more painful, and we’d have ended up in a more centralized and less free society.””

Revolution fantasies are a hell of a drug.

If Hoyt’s piece seem more than a tad panicky, remember that she absolutely convinced that the current measure in the US will lead to a famine. I didn’t link to this PJ Media piece earlier because it is behind the paywall and it largely says the same stuff as her other pieces but it has the clearest quote about this specific fear.

‘If the phony lockup but real destruction of the economy goes on for another month (And Colorado just extended ours to the 26th of April) there will be if not outright famine – and I’d bet on outright famine, given that, among other things, we’re losing all imported food and already crops are being plowed under – a severe food shortage with rationing. The number of businesses destroyed, lives blighted, and industries that will never come back will be too numerous to count. Our unemployment rate is going to give us real homeless, i.e. those who can’t afford homes, not those who choose to live outside society, which is mostly the homeless we’ve had. ‘

What is fascinating there is the essay is mainly a criticism of everybody else having a panicked fear of death (that is literally in the title) but her overwhelming tone is a panicked fear of death but from an imagined famine.

The key thing to remember is that this dual fear and expectation of both disaster and revolution was already there prior to the pandemic. Sections of the US right from the pseudo-libertarians to the more overt far right, have been talking about civil war, civil unrest and quasi-revolutions for a long time. The idea took stronger hold during the Obama administration and has only increased during the Trump years. It is a free-floating anxiety, if Trump had lost in 2016 it would have mutated into a state-rights version with threats of secession.

One manifestation of that toxic fear-anticipation on the right is the prepper subculture [eta this podcast has an interesting analysis of preppers in these times ] . Preparing from civil-war, natural disaster, totalitarian dystopia, zombie-apocalypse scenarios is born both out of fear but also, having invested time, attention, money and effort into preparing, it encourages an anticipation of disaster. Lo and behold, here is a worldwide pandemic and…it’s not following the movie script. A key premise of the mentality is that disaster=social-collapse=dog-eat-dog world. The notion of individuals essentially in conflict with each other is one of those ideas that acts as a kind of ideological conduit between different right-wing movements in the US.

  • Prepper outlook: if society collapses then, regretably, it will be every man for themselves.
  • Libertarian outlook: human nature is every man for themselves and free market capitalism is rational way to harness that into a civilisation.
  • Fascist outlook: the strongest and most ruthless should rule and that is what will happen when it is every man for themselves.

The hope-fear of social collapse runs through not just specifically right wing politics but also within less ideologically moored groups. Charles Manson’s murderous micro-cult Family killed motivated by the borrowed ‘Helter Skelter’ theory of a coming race war. Jim Jones’s People’s Temple spiralled into a murder-suicide ideation fuelled by Jones’s quasi-communistic ideals fuelled by certainty of a coming nuclear war. The sense that things can’t last and that change can only mean destruction is a recurring thread within American fringe beliefs. That 2020 has brought an apocalypse that has a slow, laid-back script where people stay at home and watch Netflix is almost seen as an offence to the classics in the way that Rian Johnson’s Last Jedi offended* much the same people.

No, I’m not saying that if you dislike the Last Jedi then you are Charles Manson. I’m saying that there is a undercurrent of belief on the right especially that demands adherence to narrative forms that they apply not just to Gen-X film directors or She-Ra reboots but to REALITY itself.

Speaking of which, here is a link to a heady mix of prepper and gun-rights mentality in light of the covid-19 pandemic.

And that’s the last element we need to start shooting each other.
Although I’m a prepper, and I’ve got plenty of food in my garage, you may not be. And if I was you, and my children were starving, I might try to shoot someone and take their food. And if you are you, and you try to do that to me, you might get shot. Expand to the national case.
If that happens, we will have the Tools for the Boogaloo, which are guns. We will have the Dehumanization for the Boogaloo, which is our political and cultural tribalism. And we will finally have the Motivation for the Boogaloo, which is our kids need to eat.’

‘Boogaloo’ is a kind of great-grandchild to ‘Helter-Skelter’: a seemingly innocuous term lifted from popular culture, that seems almost ironic but which refers to an imagined (perhaps anticipated) violent conflict in the USA. See here

‘Boogaloo, boogalo, boog, and big igloo are code words for race war and the second American Civil War. The term boogaloo is derived from the 1984 movie Breakin ‘2: Electric Boogaloo and is commonly used phrase online to indicate any sort of sequel.’

This nexus between political anticipation, far-right politics and speculative fiction is a thread that weaves many of the topics and characters we’ve met before on this blog. Vox Day’s Castalia House has repeatedly spuriked fiction and non-fiction around the concept of “4th Generation Warfare”. Described in this Salon piece as:

“Fourth Generation Warfare is a conflict between a state actor and a non-state 4GW actor.  The 4GW actor can be driven by ideas, religion, or the defense of the “purity of its race.”  The central objective is to undermine and destroy the legitimacy of the state actor, to deny the state actor a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, and to use manipulations of moving images and other psychological warfare techniques to remove affective support from the state actor.  Psychological warfare would be more important than military operations.”

Conceived by paleo-conservative William S Lind (see ) the concept is often presented on the right as a kind of analysis of warfare rather than as an aspirational goal. Lind himself pushed the concept via the medium of speculative fiction in the novel “Victoria: A Novel of 4th generation warfare” (currently published as an ebook by…you guessed it…Castalia House aka Vox Day). The novel is part of what is the most horrific sub-genre of speculative fiction: far-right civil warfare fantasies. Less overtly neo-fascist than the infamous ‘Turner Diaries’ ( ) the underlying idea is the same. It is fiction as dress rehearsal for violent extremism. In the run up to the 2016 Presidential Election, Baen made Tom Kratman’s Texan secession/civil-war fantasy “A State of Disobedience” available for free. Pitched ideologically further away from Paleo-conservatism and more to constitutional-pseudo-libertarianism, it shares the common idea that the only way the perceived cultural conflict in America will be resolved will be via a war. Kratman himself (in a comment at Vox Day’s blog) overtly connected the move to the election.

“Talked to Toni, just today. Though it is not, IMNSHO, a great book, A State of Disobedience is a prescient one, and great, if nothing else, for sending the left apoplectic. So we’re just going to give it away, for free, to screw that rancid twat Hillary while the screwing is good.”

Of course, we don’t need an extended theory about the chain of socio-political narrative eschatology running through American culture (right and left but always with a gravitational pull rightwards) to explain why individuals might find lockdowns and social-distancing measures upsetting or threatening. They are a significant exercise by governments to restrict what ordinary people can do and the various rules do create opportunities for those who like to abuse power to abuse power. Of course, where nations have stronger democracies and stronger systems of accountability for those in power (e.g. holding police to account for abuses), the less problematic lockdown measures are. In the USA, however, the same right-wing that is chafing under the reduced freedom of movement is exactly the same right-wing that has sharply eroded both democracy and accountability as well as faith and trust in institutions.

Protests like this one are therefore both instigated by the right and a side-effect of the right’s past actions. The economic impact of Covid-19 is exacerbated by the lack of a social safety net and by decades of villification of the idea of government spending.

Similar side-effects can be seen in the UK, which lacks the degree of influence of some of the cultural narratives above but which has had a sharply eroded social-safety net due to Conservative Party austerity measures over the past decade and a similarly weakened health system. These factors combine to make lockdown measures both more necessary (because health systems have less capacity to cope) and more painful both to individuals and the economy. Where centre-right governments have NOT ideologically rejected the need for social-democratic policies as a kind of insurance policy against the worst aspects of capitalism, their nations have fared much better in all three dimensions of economic impact, social cooperation with social distancing (not that everybody is happy with it obviously) and actual health outcomes.

Which takes me to the third pillar of right-wing ideology that is working for the virus: the war on expertise. I’ve written far too much (also not enough) on global warming denial here. It’s a signature aspect of the cognitive decline of 21st century conservatism but it has twin roots in the 20th century. Corporate propaganda by multiple industries against legislation on pollution, pesticides, smoking, car-safety built its own network of lobby groups and astro-turf campaigns designed to spread doubt about scientific evidence. Symbiotically, this assault on reason from corporate conservatism was a twin to the resurgent fundamentalist Christian wing of American conservatism. Those parallel skills where further employed in the ongoing hotspots of political debate in the US of guns and abortion. The net impact was a section of the US population who had been repeatedly propagandised into a deep distrust of expertise.

That is obviously a bad situation to be in during a pandemic.

This article at Science looks at the issues as it is playing out among Republican lawmakers:

“A vocal set of conservative critics in the United States have upped their attacks recently on the data modeling behind the novel coronavirus response, and they claim—despite scientific evidence to the contrary—that the flaws also prove the limits of climate change forecasts.”

There is not a way to disentangle what is honest belief and what is bad faith here. Somehow, the modern Republican party is in a double-think status of both things simultaneously. Bad-faith self-deception is perhaps the best description. After decades of anti-expertise propaganda, yes, they probably do believe the nonsense they come out with but also, yes, the denial about covid-19 is motivated by a need to discredit scientific experts and models to protect fossil fuel business owners from anti-global warming legislation. Trading off people’s natural confusion when confronted with models (model’s themselves, as I’ve discussed before, being a kind of honest fiction ) to generate distrust and stoke fear.

I’ve discussed before that when it comes to motives, Ockham’s razor doesn’t really apply. A person having MORE (and more complex) motives for a given action makes them more likely to act, so the most parsimonious explanation (i.e. focusing on a single motive as predominant) is not always the best explanation. With the covid-19 pandemic we have a veritable car-crash of 21st century US conservatism.

So there should be no surprise in what we find when the current spat of protests in the US against governors is examined more closely. The framing is in terms of constitutional rights and liberty but underneath the cyrpto-fascist alt-right groups are involved also.

“While protesters in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and other states claim to speak for ordinary citizens, many are also supported by street-fighting rightwing groups like the Proud Boys, conservative armed militia groups, religious fundamentalists, anti-vaccination groups and other elements of the radical right.”

I don’t doubt for a second that there really are some ‘ordinary citizens’ involved in those protests as well. Spend decades building mistrust in government by propaganda, enforced incompetence through spending cuts to vital services and active misuse of power and people will have cause to believe Ronald Reagan’s toxic epigram:

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help. “

It’s a clever sound bite and let’s be frank, people all over the world have just cause to fear the government of the United States of America. However, in exactly the kind of crisis where you really need the government to actually help, it is a mindset that could be fatal.

The more disturbing corollary is the attitude among the right that takes a step from “the government can only cause harm” to “the government should cause harm”. The idea of a punitive government, Orwell’s vision of the future as a “boot stamping on a human faceforever” is why I refer to ‘pseudo-libertarians’ because when the notion of what minimal functions they believe the government should have they are almost always the punitive functions. This is yet another reason why the step from internet-libertarian to internet-fascist has never be difficult or inexpiicable or requiring complex re-writings of political spectrums. Slipping from the proposition that government is bad to government should be bad is like rolling down hill.

For the federal government the phenomenon of broad-spectrum bad government is on full display. Not unlike motives, it is another space where Ockham’s Razor is no longer in force. It is not an open question as to what is malice, what is ignorance and what is incompetence, it is all of those things. To risk cliche and quote Orwell again, Trump’s presidency epitomises the IngSoc slogan “Ignorance is Strength”. Undermine the quality of data ( ) build distrust and attack those who are acting in good faith.

So there should be no surprise that Trump is backing protestors attacking governors who are enacting policies that Trump’s government officially endorses.

President Donald Trump has appeared to endorse protests against stringent lockdown measures in several states.

‘In a series of tweets, he said: “LIBERATE MINNESOTA”, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” and then “LIBERATE VIRGINIA”.’

Of course, the target states have governors from the opposition party. However, even people within Trump’s administration are targetted by his supporters. Returning to Sarah Hoyt:

‘Speaking of feeding on itself: we’re not only suffering rule by experts, but we’re suffering rule by geeks with no perspective of anything else. I DO yield to just about anyone in my admiration for Dr. Fauci. He is a “political expert.” I.e. a scientific expert with a talent for politics. I’m always wary of those. His history is patchy. But dear lord, he has the limelight and he loves it, and he’ll NEVER relinquish it willingly. So never expect him to give the all-clear. He’s now saying that “hey, we will let you out when there are no more cases.” and asking us to bear the “inconvenience” which tells you he has no clue what the shutdown is doing to the economy and people’s lives.’

Or as she calls him in a PJ Media essay discussed earlier “the totalitarian doctor Fauci”.

Fiction is powerful. It has the power to self-referentially reshape our own minds. It is true that science fiction can help us imagine crisis scenarios but it has no innate positive power. It can help us think but like anything with genuine power it can be used to systemically confuse ourselves and others. Perhaps we should be surprised that people who picture themselves as the tough rugged colonial frontier spirit who could go without luxuries and live cooped up in the silver-age rockets are freaking out about a journey of a few months (with some genuine hardship – I don’t want to minimise that this year WILL be hard and possibly deadly for many). However, they are at a nexus of both hope and fear and I don’t know how that will resolve itself.


68 responses to “The Virus, The Lockdown and the Wingnut Eschatology”

  1. The whole discussion is so weird to me, because in Sweden, it is the rightwing nuts that wants to have a total lockdown and sees the apocalypse coming while everyone else – from the left to the moderate right – are more relaxed with a wait-and-see-approach, mostly worried about the elderly.

    The most fun are those who wants to have a lockdown in Sweden because of apocalypse, but defends Trump opening up US, because Democrats are alarmists.

    Liked by 5 people

    • It’s not really a thing here either. One of the nastier people in the current government, Peter Dutton has a serious bout of the virus early on and that seems to have helped nip some of the nonsense in the bud.
      The other bonus is the disparity between the headlines from overseas and the reality here. Things look contained. The government is willing to spend money. The restriction are significant but less than what nations with worse rates are facing (or better rates in the case of NZ, where they still might get to elimination as a strategy).
      Many Australians have relatives in Europe (especially the UK but also Italy, China etc) and really, really want to avoid what they are hearing about directly from family overseas.
      National unity is a big bonus whatever the strategy is.

      Liked by 4 people

    • In Germany, the far right is convinced that refugees brought the virus to Germany despite every evidence towards the contrary and that it’s the Muslims’ fault that churches remain closed (no, I don’t get it either), but otherwise they’re conspicuously silent.

      The politicians who want (and implement, if they can) ever stricter measures are the strong men types on the right edge of the respectable political spectrum (i.e. the right wing of the conservative party). So you get the ironic spectacle of politicians who normally insist that handshakes are part of German culture and that burqas and niqabs must be banned, because in Germany we show our face, are suddenly in favour of making face masks mandatory and don’t even seem to see the contradiction in that.

      The most disturbing thing are the many people who cheer those politicians on, snitch on their neighbours for supposedly breaking the rules and pile on everybody who dares to even mildly disagree. You can also find the distrust of experts in those folks. Because of course the experts don’t always agree with each other. And whenever a virologist or an council of experts says something they don’t like to hear (usually along the lines of “We should reopen the schools and shops, putting the measures X,Y, and Z in place” or “A total lockdown is not helpful”), these folks promptly pile on those experts, quite often calling them ignorant or accusing them of being in the pocket of “the economy” or complaining that they have never heard of the expert in question (because so many virologists or epidemiologists were widely known before the current crisis), so they can’t possibly be any good.

      And a lot of those people are people on the left, people who vote for the Green or Left Party. Usually middle class and middle aged, usually comfortably well off. In fact, the authoritarian strain among some on the Left is the most disturbing thing about all this.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I haven’t followed German news, but in the Netherlands the Muslims got a lot of blame because the government has been quick to ask churches to close, but kept mum about mosques. So the alt-right thinks that Muslims still congregate and spread the virus.

        Of course, even before the government started calling for voluntary suspension of Christian services, the association of Dutch mosques had already called for their members to close.

        In fact, I’m seeing a lot of muslims realise that the crisis is ideal to discharge their duty to charity (the Zakat); lots of local muslim-owned supermarkets and groceries are running free delivery businesses for people self-isolating (as in, no-cost on delivery, normal prices on goods, so they’re eating the delivery costs themselves) and other local initiatives to help out.

        Liked by 4 people

  2. Here in Arkansas, we still have people denying that there even *is* a pandemic. All those deaths? Why, they’re just cancer deaths and heart attacks. All over the country, doctors are lying about what people are dying for, apparently because they “get more funding” when people die of Covid-19.

    Though I have to admit, as bizarre as some of the takes I’ve seen have been, none of been quite as bizarre as Hoyt’s. She’s really special.

    Liked by 8 people

  3. November in the US is gonna be GREAT. Can’t wait for the 3%s and their ilk such as the states controlled by Republicans like Georgia getting up to their shenanigans right before and after the election.

    Liked by 3 people

      • Oh yes. Voter suppression in Georgia is going to be even worse than previously. But at least for the primary more Republicans than Democrats have requested absentee ballots. The state supposedly sent all registered voters a form to request one. So given that the Republican base skews older, will they allow anyone ask for an absentee ballot or not for the November election. I already voted early and I’ll do so in the fall if I can’t get an absentee ballot. Even as early as I voted they were wiping down the machines etc. at that time.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Right now absentee mail-in ballots does favor Republicans because elder people do more of them. It’s also really easy to do voter suppression on them, by throwing them out on one pretext or another as uncounted. But that’s because they make it hard to be able to qualify for doing mail-in ballot and they make it hard to be able to do them. if they make absentee mail-in ballots easier and if it becomes the safest way and a lot of people do them — then more people will vote and more of them will vote Democratic. Voter suppression will be harder and they’ll lose elections. The Republicans are the minority party. Most of the country wants liberal policies and government aid, especially now. They’ve only kept it going this long thanks to voter suppression strategies when they did gain control.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Hoyt: we’re not only suffering rule by experts, but we’re suffering rule by geeks with no perspective of anything else

    This is mind-boggling, coming from someone who has contempt for experts, but insists that her opinions on various scientific subjects are totally legitimate because she shares genes or marriage certificates with people who have education in subjects which are merely tangential to those on which she is opining.

    That’s a special kind of stupid with no perspective of anything else, right there. 🙄

    Liked by 5 people

  5. Oh dear deity, that PJ Media article. (By the way, if you install a Save to Pocket app on your browser, you can get around most blocks and paywalls.) This sentence alone–

    Our unemployment rate is going to give us real homeless, i.e. those who can’t afford homes, not those who choose to live outside society, which is mostly the homeless we’ve had.

    –tells me she’s full of shit.


    I mean, it makes me wonder if they secretly, or maybe not so secretly, want this to happen.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Oh, many of them totally long for it to happen – because they’re as delusional about their ability to survive in such a scenario as they are about everything else.

      Liked by 6 people

    • Oh, they definitely want it to happen. After all, they’ve been waiting for the apocalypse/the breakdown of society, which only the chosen few will survive because they have more guns and more canned beans than everybody else, for ages.

      The equivalent on the left are the ones who hope that this crisis will end capitalism, consumerism, globalisation, etc… and usher in an age where we will alll live in the woods and consume only organic vegetables (don’t ask where those are supposed to come from) and live a simple life close to nature. At least, the apocalypse prophets on the left are satisfied with writing long thinkpieces about the “better world” after the crisis, while those on the right might well get violent or do idiotic things like those protests.

      Liked by 3 people

      • One of the things I find most fascinating about these right-wing delusionals is their intense desire to see society crashing down around them, and to make it happen if at all possible. Remember that one thing both Timothy McVeigh and Dylan Roof had in common, aside from their right-wing fantasy lives, was that when they acted, they did so with the explicit desire to bring about a ‘race war’.

        Really? What kind of fucked-up person wants to cause the deaths of millions (I’m using their own calculations here, not actually my own thoughts)? And as pointed out, this wasn’t limited to the right, since the left (looking at you SDS), or the psychopathic wings (Manson, were kind of hoping for the same thing. It boggles the imagination.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s part of that confusion of fiction and reality. I linked to a short podcast about preppers and one of the arguments made in it is that they are typically prepping for a personal fantasy: the example was a chemical engineer who was prepping for terrorists contanimating the cities water supply and when they did *he* would be ready. Not all scenarios are that specific but if your hobby is getting ready for a thing that is tailored around your identity then there’s a tension around the thing happening/not-happening. It’s the XKCD velociraptor cartoon take to the level of a pathology <- Imagine if you became so obsessed with being besieged by velociraptors that eventually you'd be eager to get the Jurrasic Park velociraptor break-out started just to make their obsession real.

          Liked by 3 people

  6. The Right Wingnuts’ fantasies go: …And if I was you, and my children were starving, I might try to shoot someone and take their food. And if you are you, and you try to do that to me, you might get shot. Expand to the national case.
    Instead out in the Real World, this is happening:

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yes, in the real world, people in a crisis are far more likely to band together and support each other than kill their neighbours and steal their food. For some reasons, post-apocalyptic fiction rarely depicts this.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I tell this story a lot, so please excuse it if it’s a repeat here. We lived in Houston, home of snarling, feral drivers who use the fait accompli method: “I’m already getting in front of you. Now you can kill us both, or let me get away with it!”

        And yet, whenever a traffic light went out of order, everyone immediately started behaving rather politely, quietly taking turns at the nonworking light, like a four-way stop, right out of a Driver’s Ed film. It was as if the veneer of brutality had been lifted, revealing decency underneath.

        (The scariest traffic I was ever in was in Beijing, where the roads are like an ocean of cars, and you can’t even tell where the lanes are. Drivers there seem remarkably patient and tolerant, and somehow everybody gets where they’re going. In our time in China, we never saw an accident, a fender bender, or a near miss, and I don’t remember hearing anyone blow their horn.)

        Liked by 2 people

        • The traffic in Bangkok was similar: lanes, lights, signs were taken more as helpful advice than rules. Never saw anybody lose their cool. Had quite a few taxi drivers say “sanuk sanuk” (i.e. ha, ha, this is good fun) to more outrageous behaviour from other cars.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Lockdown is a difficult one, I definitely think in this current crisis that it’s necessary but I also am wary of governments in future using lockdowns to oppressed minorities and generally control citizens after this crisis is over, take India for example they only had a handful of deaths and yet they’ve locked down the whole country.
    In Russia, there is now a pass system so people can only visit places if approved by the government, I can’t imagine how that won’t be abused in the future, and talk about immunity papers in the UK makes me go cold because I just know that it will mostly be the rich and famous who receive them, regardless of their immunity status.
    I imagine governments across the world will be following the Chinese example in setting up some form of social credit system in order to further monitor and surveilled citizens, because despite my personal dislike of the Chinese government, I have to admit that the way they handled the coronavirus in their country after their first cases was brutally effective.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Your post may seem rambling, but I think it’s well written and accurate to what I’m seeing from inside the US (even though I’ve spent most of the last 30 years on the coasts, so most of what I know about what’s going on in Michigan or Arkansas is from the same media that you’re looking at). It’s an extraordinarily depressing subject and I appreciate you taking the time to pick it apart.

    I can only add one minor personal note in the context of SF. I’m pretty sure that my first exposure to a fictional portrayal of the collapse of society as a rapidly-in-progress event, rather than something that happened 30 or 300 or 3000 years before the story, was Gregory Benford’s Timescape. Given the current embrace of Benford by the right-wing SF world and vice versa, I think it’s interesting how that novel both does and doesn’t conform to the kind of prepper tropes you’re talking about.

    I haven’t read Timescape in a while so I don’t know how well it would hold up for me overall, but I remember it as an intense and very moving experience in several ways. There’s the main time-travel plot and what it means for the main characters. There’s a personal subplot in which one of the protagonists watches his partner get further and further into Barry Goldwater’s nascent right-wing movement, which makes no sense to him at all. And eventually when the worst-case scenario of the bad timeline is in full flower, most of the characters are separated from each other and experiencing different terrible aspects of the collapse— one of which is an increasing fear of your suburban neighbors if you have more canned food than they do.

    When I got to that part, I found it deeply terrifying, and not in a way that made me want to stock up on cans. As a young person, despite being highly aware of the possibility of nuclear war, I hadn’t ever really given any thought to what it would be like to be in a situation where your neighborhood hasn’t been destroyed and you don’t get a rapid dramatic death, but things are just working less and less well and social cooperation is breaking down. This is where I think Benford’s approach there— possibly even more so than something like Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up, which shows an equally depressing scenario from a broader and less personal angle— works against the kind of dog-eat-dog nihilism that you’re discussing. He’s not presenting this as an exciting ordeal through which our heroes, or at least some of their descendants, will emerge into a new and more manly world. It’s a horrible tragedy; if we’ve gotten to that point at all, then we have lost. Benford makes getting ready to shoot your neighbors feel almost equivalent to getting ready to eat a baby. At least, that’s how it came across to me.

    As you say, it’s important to keep in mind that frightening large-scale problems are not necessarily the kind of apocalypses people imagine. But there’s no guarantee that we’ll never have to face something even worse, and it’s legitimate to imagine that experience in fiction, and writers’ choices in that regard do say something about their moral imagination.

    Liked by 4 people

    • May I interject on your Brunner mention? The Sheep Look Up is written from the point of view of a catastrophe being generated from above. It’s the media elite and the government who keep people from banding together and fighting the crisis.

      There is (self-)organisation of people in the face of crisis aplenty in that book, not surprising given Brunner’s fairly libertarian Socialist leanings, but it is consistently being sabotaged, and it’s the sabotage, both active and passive (cultivation of ignorance) that makes matters worse.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. On any given night, there are a bit more than half a million homeless people in the U.S. (Colorado is one of the ten states with the most homeless.) That’s not counting all the people who couch surf with friends because they have no permanent shelter. (They are harder to count.) Nearly 40% have no shelter; the other 60% manage temporary shelters or transitional housing part of the time, but there’s not enough of either, even though it saves taxpayers money, because the Republicans don’t want government housing for the poor — it’s not a money making operation for them, though they do try to privatize some of those operations and gouge the government in scams.

    A third of these homeless people are families with children. 25% are mentally ill and have been bounced from psychiatric hospitals with no or little resources for healthcare treatment, a process started infamously by Reagan in the 1980’s and which has continued for 35 years. The government run hospitals were largely privatized and their number of beds/facilities shrunk. The private hospitals kicked the poorer mentally ill out, which saved them money but which costs taxpayers twice as much to deal with mentally ill homeless as it would to have them in government hospitals getting proper shelter and treatment. A lot of them do use drugs and drink when they can get them, because they don’t have proper medication to regulate their mental illness. Seven percent of the homeless are veterans, many with physical disabilities and/or mental trauma illness, which again, despite veterans supposed to get access to government healthcare, they often are blocked from those resources. 7% are teens without families, who often have to turn to sex work or are struggling to get through school without an address. The facilities to provide them with halfway houses have also of course been shrunk and are too few. 18% of the homeless are people with physical disabilities who also can’t get access to shelter, resources, medical treatment because of the privatized, for-profit healthcare system.

    Sixty percent of the homeless have jobs or part-time work. The largest growing group of homeless at the moment are workers who have jobs — white collar ones — but can’t make rent in inflated areas and so live out of their cars, couch surf, use homeless shelters and/or are out on the street/tent cities. A lot of homeless people fell into homelessness due to medical debt, due to our privatized, gouging healthcare system, including people who had insurance that wouldn’t pay their claims. None of these people are social rebels living on the fringe for the joy and drugs of it who caused their own homelessness.

    But saying that they are justifies myths that block solving the problem, and lets grifters make money off the problem, and keeps the government from being a democracy that helps people — which supports the myth that only the righteous few help each other and the rest of us are inferior and violent threats. Which means they might get to shoot their neighbors — much more exciting than, you know, saving people through mass testing for the disease and antibodies to it. Science strategies aren’t as much fun as shooting people, apparently, and blocking access to hospitals.

    Liked by 7 people

    • 25% are mentally ill and have been bounced from psychiatric hospitals with no or little resources for healthcare treatment, a process started infamously by Reagan in the 1980’s and which has continued for 35 years.

      Longer, even. He did it here in California when he was governor of the state. It’s one of three reasons I truly despise him. (The other two are the gassing of Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley in 1970 — from what I understand, riot cops were letting people onto but not off the plaza in the moments before the helicopter showed up — and his absolute indifference to AIDS when it was simply the ‘gay plague’. Okay, and there’s a fourth, slightly more personal reason. He cut back benefits, leaving my family, which always seemed to dance right around the poverty line, in some pretty desperate straits. Ah, America.)


      Liked by 5 people

      • katster: [Reagan’s] absolute indifference to AIDS when it was simply the ‘gay plague’

        It was a lot worse than just indifference; because of his homophobia, he deliberately blocked funding and research on the disease, which essentially put a stop to all efforts in the U.S. to find treatments or cures for more than 10 years.

        675,000 people in the U.S. and 31 million worldwide, many of them dying unnecessarily — because he thought gay men were “icky”. I will never, ever forgive him for that, and anytime anyone sings his praises about something, they get that lecture from me. 😦

        Liked by 3 people

      • Oh that’s just a tiny part of what Reagan and his admins and Repub buddies did (while having up until Trump the most corrupt and arrested administration.) Eighty percent of the problems we’re facing today come from what Reagan did as president — including what his aides did after he had Alzheimers in office. Trickle down supply side economics — which didn’t work and exploded the debt, forcing Reagan to eventually raise taxes — deregulation leading to offshoring of jobs, the collapse of the manufacturing sector, and banks turning into traders that caused regular recessions, etc. A violent campaign of mass incarceration to turn black people into convict labor that couldn’t vote under the guise of drug gangs (which Trump carried on with Latinos to get in office.) And of course, selling the Republican party to the Christian Nationalist and Dominionist movements for political support, which have spent the last four decades consolidating political power and attempting to control the courts, leading to Trump getting elected.

        Look at any problem we’ve got, any destructive policy conservatives push, any right wing organization that’s demanding authoritarianism and/or violence in the supposed name of their — not yours — pretend liberty, any systematic decay and obstruction, and it either started from the Reagan administration or got a boost from it. The Reagan years were a big old bigoted backlash to the civil rights and labor efforts of the post-WWII to seventies era, just as Trump was to our having a black Democratic president, and civil rights and labor efforts. The targets do shift around a little, to whatever seems useful, but the rhetoric stays the same. Hoyt’s quotes are the same sort of stuff they spouted — including about the homeless — in the 1980’s. Reagan exploded the homeless population and food banks also expanded then because they stagnated the economy with the first wave of massive inequality, runaway trading, government aid cuts, and hacking at workers’ rights and pay, leading to more and more people having to work multiple jobs. And overpopulation and famines were very popular topics in 1980’s science fiction. As was of course Red Dawn scenarios based on old westerns with non-white evil foreigners replacing the indigenous and the Mexicans as invaders against the righteous.

        We have wing nuts everywhere, but if you want to understand the American right-wing with its contradictions and roaring paranoia, you basically go to the Hollywood version of the American Old West. That’s what they want to go back to with a collapsed, frontier society, that’s what they base their identity on and that’s why they always think people will shoot each other more than help each other, but that they will righteously prevail as God’s chosen settlers. Even the alt right atheists see themselves as noble cowboys riding out against the eastern hordes. The entire incel philosophy is based on a frontier notion of the scarcity of women as weak, hoarded prizes being pulled away from them.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Kat G:

        The key word in your analogy is “Hollywood”.

        It’s not based on the actual Wild West, which was mostly settlers who were farming and ranching. Many towns required you to lock up your guns at the sheriff’s office once you hit the city limits. Plenty of small businesses that weren’t saloons, often run by women who weren’t hookers. And the women did their share of farming and ranching work.

        And of course, most of the cowboys were either Mexican, Black, or Native American. A lot of ex-slaves headed west for a fresh start, away from the white male power structure. And it wasn’t WASPs who called the cowboy’s equipment “lariat”, “lasso”, “corral”, “bronco” or terms like “rodeo”, “buckaroo” and “hoosegow”. They just spelled many of them wrong.

        Wiki sez: “Some estimates suggest that in the late 19th century, one out of every three cowboys was a Mexican vaquero, and 20% may have been African-American. Other estimates place the number of African-American cowboys as high as 25 percent.” That’s the period in which the Western movies are set, and I’m making it 53 to 58% non-white cowboys. And of course most of the Mexicans weren’t pure Spanish — they were probably of majority Native ancestry.

        (Sources: growing up with ranch families, knowing actual rodeo cowboys and cowgirls, knowing Native Americans of various tribes, attending stock shows and rodeos.)

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Y’know, we might be in the slowpocalypse, but that doesn’t stop you from checking on your neighbors. If you ring the doorbell and step back, you can keep your social distance AND have a conversation! (We did that the other day with a boy that’s basically grown up with my sis as his second mom. It was nice to have a convo and exchange air hugs.) Also, I know that in a bad situation, our neighborhood, for the most part, would come together.

    The way the right wing seems to live is almost in a perpetual episode of The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street. That is, they’re not the monster, but one of their neighbors must be…

    Liked by 3 people

    • I had my first AFK conversation in five weeks today. That was nice. I have on purpose not opened the door when people have rung on it before and have had food delivered outside the door. One neighbour had put up a sign that she would help if anyone needed shopping, which was very nice of her, even if I never needed it.

      There’s been so many heartwarming stories coming out about people and companies working together. Students and teachers making visors or hand sanitizer together. Companies lending their personnel to other companies with a temporary need, to make sure no one needs to be fired. Restaurants delivering food to healthcare workers.

      Our rightwingers in parliament are mostly quiet, they are reading the mood and have seen that there is an immediate backlash if they aren’t seen to be cooperating and putting politics aside.

      Right now there is an enormous amount of unity in Sweden and a pride for daring to walk our own way. Risky, because if we fail too much, the backlash will be enormous.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Our neighborhood mostly keeps to themselves, but I had a nice convo last week over the fence with next door. Longest talk we’ve ever had.


  11. has already had to pull one coronavirus conspiracy theory article (IIRC, it was blaming COVID-19 on 5G.) I notice the one cited above 1) ignores the nuances on what people say about COVID-19 to make everything seem more contradictory that it is, and 2) tries to put the blame on the CDC/FDA while glossing over Trump’s role in breaking the CDC/FDA.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Being optimistic, I can’t see the sort of systemic collapse predicted by the wingnuts happening, even if our food chains struggle to cope. But being a cynic, I think the tests are different, and I think the US has already failed, in the sense that the tension between the federal government and the local states has now been exposed to a huge extent meaning that the next few months will consist wholly of each side blaming the other (or taking the credit, depending upon what is happening.) And that’s not going to lead to any sort of cohesive resolution.
    The UK is in a similarly dangerous position, because we have built a national myth around our health service but the reason we are enduring insane lockdown strictness is precisely because that health service had been hollowed out to a point where the advisors knew that it could not cope. We failed to accept the ‘loss’ of Empire after WWII (cf. Brexit and everything related), and this crisis may turn out to be more than just an economic one.

    Meanwhile… consider the comments of French President Macron in an interview the other day:

    There is a realisation, Mr Macron says, that if people could do the unthinkable to their economies to slow a pandemic, they could do the same to arrest catastrophic climate change. People have come to understand “that no one hesitates to make very profound, brutal choices when it’s a matter of saving lives. It’s the same for climate risk,” he says. “Great pandemics of respiratory distress syndromes like those we are living through now used to seem very far away, because they always stopped in Asia. Well, climate risk seems very far away because it affects Africa and the Pacific. But when it reaches you, it’s wake-up time.”

    “Mr Macron likened the fear of suffocating that comes with Covid-19 to the effects of air pollution. “When we get out of this crisis people will no longer accept breathing dirty air,” he says. “People will say . . . ‘I do not agree with the choices of societies where I’ll breathe such air, where my baby will have bronchitis because of it. And remember you stopped everything for this Covid thing but now you want to make me breathe bad air!’”

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Hoa, just got new estimates on how many infected we have in Stockholm. Current estimate is of one third of the population, i.e 700 000 people, with possible start of herd immunity some time in May. This sounds very positive as we already have a decline in mortality. Of course, we do not yet know for how long immunity/resistance will last so everything is speculation.

    But for me, the glass is almost always half full.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Around four weeks ago, they took tests for a representative part of the population of Stockholm. At the time of testing, 2.5% of the population was infected. According to our experts, those tests would only show positive for on average five days of the lifecycle of an infected.

        From that, they did calculations based on new testing performed every week and reached the number I gave.

        There is information about the study that found 2.5% to be infected in this report. Sorry to say in Swedish.

        Click to access covid-19-veckorapport-vecka-14-2020-v2.pdf

        The estimate of one third of the population was from a Facebook post from one of our experts, Tom Britton.


      • I thought it came from that 2.5% figure. (2.5% of Stockholmers tested around the turn of the month were seropositive.) As far as I can see – the paper you mention isn’t showing – exponential growth is then assumed with a doubling period of around 5 days.(Which to me looks like assuming that all the social distancing and related measures are pretty much ineffective.) But if the number of infections is growing exponentially (but unobserved due to lack of testing) the number of ICU admissions and deaths should also be growing exponentially. The latter should be visible in the public statistics and isn’t.


      • Not really. Even if we have reached a plateau, which all our statistics seem to show, it would still mean that as many people get infected as those that get well. I.e another 2.5% of the population of Stockholm would get infected every five days. And if we during the time since the samples were taken have had at least one doubling, it would mean 5% more of the population of Stockholm being infected every five days, even if we have the same mortality rate.


      • Stockholm has reached a plateau and maybe even a decline. The rest of Sweden has been on a plateau for longer time, mostly because our restrictions came into force before they had a larger spread. Some parts of Sweden, like Gothenburg, has shown signs of an increase in spread.

        Most of the infection came to Sweden during the “sports vacation” and that one is during different weeks for different parts of Sweden. So spread has been different depending on where you live.


      • Update: We have a new test for antibodies in Sweden that was tested out on bloodgivers in Stockholm. Explanation of implications in several steps:

        1. The test has 100% certainity of giving no false positives.
        2. The test will give 20-30% false negatives, i.e some people may have had corona, but will not show up.
        3. The test will only show people who have had corona at least 2-3 weeks.
        4. Bloodgivers must have been healthy for at least two weeks before donating blood and are generally more healthy than the rest of the population.

        Samples were taken last week. When analysing them, they showed that 11% of the blood givers had had corona. As some people who had been infected would not have been caught by the tests, that showed that maybe 15% were infected 2-3 weeks ago.

        So the estimate of one third of the population of Stockholm being infected now seems quite propable.


      • Those Santa Clara figures may be good news. I calculate that as a 280 cases per 10,000, compared to a confirmed figure of 8.6 per 10,000 according to Wikipedia, giving a 30+ fold undercount. Apply that correction figure to the 4% mortality rate brings it down to well under 0.2%, which applying a fudge factor for death lag may better Stockholm’s 816 deaths on a putative 700,000 cases

        The preprint for the Santa Clara study is at

        The question that arises in my mind whether volunteering for this study was independent of the likelihood of having been infected. I can imagine that if you suspected that you had had COVID-19 you would be more likely to volunteer. Also, a false positive rate of only 1% would reduce the seropositivity prevalence 3-fold.

        The money quote is “A hundred deaths out of 48,000-81,000 infections corresponds to an infection fatality rate of 0.12-0.2%. If antibodies take longer than 3 days to appear, if the average duration from case identification to death is less than 3 weeks, or if the epidemic wave has peaked and growth in deaths is less than 6% daily, then the infection fatality rate would be lower.” But we’re already seeing communities where the death toll as a percentage of the population (not cases) is in that range – if I’m not confused Bergamo lost 0.4% of its population – does Italy’s population skew that much older.

        Liked by 1 person

      • So many people have had it and didn’t know. They tested everyone in a Boston homeless shelter and well over 100 people tested positive with no symptoms.

        The lopsided expression of symptoms is making it tough. You can have it and not notice, or get it and die. You might be a little cough-y and tired, or flat-out exhausted like Hampus’ brother.

        We just don’t know without enough tests. Which we don’t have.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. A lot of social distancing protests aren’t from the grassroots but have far-right-wing organizations and money behind them. I know this sounds like the wildest conspiracy theory, so here’s an article showing how the Michigan Conservative Coalition has links to Betsy DeVos, who’s a billionaire and the Secretary of Education in trump’s cabinet:

    The question is why DeVos and others from the 1% are so anxious to get the 99% back to work. Yes, they will make more money, right up until people start dying — and, as others have pointed out, dead people don’t buy anything. It’s hard to believe they’re so short-sighted, but here we are…

    Liked by 3 people

    • The minions aren’t people. They’re interchangeable parts, so when one part fails, you just replace it with another part. And I think they’re starting to see that a lot of people are seeing this coronavirus thing as a sign we might survive treating people like people, not as interchangeable parts, and that’s dangerous to the 1% way of life. I mean, they might have to start paying taxes! So get some dupes *cough*Hoyt*cough* that like to think they’re so FREEEEEEEEEEEE and get them to start protesting. Hell, you may not even need to pay them anything, just tell them their God Emperor is at risk…

      Liked by 3 people

    • It’s not a wild theory or hidden — they’ve been fully open that they are doing it and lots of media are reporting it. It’s the same thing and largely the same people who did the astroturf of the “tea party” movement. That one was to get a Republican majority in Congress in the wake of us having elected the first black president.

      This one has the added involvement of the right wing white supremacist militia movements that took up the dregs of the tea party movement in the Obama years and then ramped up when Trump was elected. Their goal is to shore up Trump and other Republicans in office and attack Democrat and uncooperative Republican governors and key state legislators by blaming the whole coronavirus mess on them instead of Trump’s corrupt and inept administration and McConnell and co. They’ve been trying out different targets to blame — China, Obama, scientists, the CDC, the WHO, the Democratic Senators and now Democratic governors and legislatures and those Republicans who have aligned with Democrats, done shutdowns and complained about the federal response screwing their states over. The formation of three different regional pacts by states in order to get supplies and tests, coordinate restrictions and easings and gather information, etc. scares the crap out of Republicans.

      Remember, the states keep trying to buy equipment and then have their shipments confiscated by the federal government that refused to give them any equipment. The feds then give the seized equipment and any they’ve imported over to corporations who make the states bid on it for huge markups. The administration has openly agreed that they are doing this. Trump has denounced his official responsibilities, saying states are on their own — then blocks them from being able to do things on their own as well. The state governments that have been dealing with hot spots are fed up. They can’t get ventilators, PPE and tests. They have drug shortages. Trump and his cronies lie at his briefings and says that isn’t going on. Parts of the federal government are actively fighting them from trying to keep their healthcare systems going. And it’s all so Trump can dump responsibility on the states for what is a federal disaster as a campaign strategy.

      And it doesn’t hurt to have a display of white people armed with guns, freely blocking a hospital while the cops don’t dare do anything. The more they do it, even in a pandemic, the more people get used to it and stop objecting to it. And with the pandemic, they don’t have to worry about counter-protesters showing up in greater numbers than them. Because they are a minority group. Over 70% of Americans want the shutdown orders in place, want to try to flatten the curve of the spread of the disease. People mostly want to help each other.

      The key thing came from one protester interviewed. He complained that he had a small business, he had to shut down, he hadn’t gotten the relief money — which comes from the federal government which is giving it to large chain businesses and telling the small businesses to get lost — and he was falling into a financial hole. For which he blamed the Democratic governor who issued the shutdown to try to keep the state’s healthcare system from collapsing and slow the rate of infection while the state desperately tries to get the supplies they need. Trump is in the clan, the Democratic governor is outside the clan, so they aim this guy and others at the Outsider. And surely the Outsider is lying to them, etc.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. I think it’s noted above by some of you but I think it’s such a central point here: the American Right Wing – and surely other political wings in other parts of the world – have basically had it ingrained in them that “everyone sees reality the way we do, and those who argue against as a result must do so in bad faith”. This is sort of the idea behind their idea that an apocalypse must result in a dog eat dog world – “Well if my first reaction is to distrust and attack any outsiders, it must be the same for everyone else” – but also every other part of their reaction to political, economic, scientific, and other real world developments.

    So: Fauci is on TV talking about how we must remain locked down – because I would love to be in a position of power through my expertise, it must be because of a love of power and not due to actual expertise. When Donald Trump is openly admitting that he’s funneling supplies to governors who kiss his ass or occasional swing state senators and Dems complain about corruption, it’s because they’d ‘do the same thing in his position and they’re jealous. If they’re the governors locking states down, it’s a power grab because if my party was in charge, we would be making power grabs.

    By contrast, the Democratic Party in the United States and the non-right wing Media have often bent over backwards to assume that disagreements are due not due to bad faith, but due to a difference in worldviews that needs to be negotiated around. The supporters of our enemies are also “Real Americans”, and taking acts that could be conceived of too easily as politically motivated or not in good faith – such as say Impeachment once Dems took the house – must not be done.

    The result is a few wingnuts in the US, being propped up really by huge rich right wing power brokers getting far more attention than they deserve – the #s in these protests are very small and popular support is still very much in favor of lockdowns – because one side sort of treats them as acting in good faith and the other side assumes that the governors are automatically the ones in bad faith….

    So yeah, we saw this with the puppies and with Hoyt, and I have no idea how anything could get through to these people, because any change in reality that we point to that disproves their arguments is immediately assumed to be in bad faith, because well that’s what they do.

    Liked by 5 people

    • garik16: This is sort of the idea behind their idea that an apocalypse must result in a dog eat dog world – “Well if my first reaction is to distrust and attack any outsiders, it must be the same for everyone else”

      Exactly. Thieves think that everyone steals. Liars are convinced that everyone lies. Rapists think that everyone is a rapist (or would be, if they thought they could get away with it). Puppies were at heart cheaters, and so were convinced that everyone else must also be cheating already, even if there was no evidence of it.

      And conversely, people who are kind and generous tend to believe that everyone else feels the same impulses — even though the evidence shows otherwise. But yes, that’s the inherent weakness in people who are kind and generous and willing to give to others and to give the benefit of the doubt to others — which is the opposite of the “I’ve got mine, if you don’t have yours, it’s because you weren’t willing to work for it, so screw you” philosophy of many conservatives, so those people tend to be predominantly liberal or progressive, and it leaves them open to being ruthlessly manipulated and taken advantage of by selfish people with no conscience.

      I don’t know how you solve that. I wouldn’t want to be a part of any movement or philosophy that thought it was okay for the people who think differently from me to have to die. I want health care and education and decent living conditions for everyone, even for selfish people with no conscience (and for their kids, who didn’t ask to be born to them). 😐

      Liked by 3 people

      • This is why the American right has never gotten over the impeachment and resignation of Nixon (and never will): they believe that every President has been as crooked and corrupt, and think it’s the height of unfairness that Nixon was forced from office just because he was caught.

        Of course, they’re also completely oblivious to the fact that, appalling as he was, on many issues Nixon was a raving leftist compared to today’s Republican Party.

        Liked by 3 people

      • @PhilRM:
        Reagan was a raving leftist compared to today’s Republican Party; he conceded that you at least had to appear to accept reality while attempting to undermine it.

        I’ve noted before that I think at least part of the problem is that there’s a generational issue here; Nixon’s work to get the racists on board and Reagan’s work to get the evangelicals on board both involved dog whistles and lying to people about what the end plans actually were in order to get them to vote for them, and when they didn’t get what they said wanted (such as overturning Roe v Wade, when what the people in charge really wanted to overturn Brown v Board of Education) it was because ‘the system’ stopped them.

        Then you got the Tea Party and all the people who had grown up under the lies not realizing that it was all a scam to get them to vote the right way decided to get into power themselves so they could do it ‘right’ and break the system that they felt had been holding them back. You got an influx of people who had been fed a steady drip of ‘the government is the problem’ and who really believed it, now in the government and doing everything they could to wreck it. The ‘Freedom Caucus’ and its like aren’t trying to pretend; they’re just flat out fascists who don’t like the constitution because it tries to stop them from doing what the mythical laws in their head say, and they’re still useful idiots to the folks like McConnell.

        Liked by 1 person

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