Conspiracy theorists are everywhere. Sometimes, though, they are called acute observers, social scientists, historians, critical thinkers. Governments and others may not have planned the Covid epidemic, but many with agendas are cashing in. Call them convergent opportunists.
According to Andy McLaverty-Robinson:
The storm has finally broken. The creeping police-state of the last two decades has been extended into an unprecedented system of social control. On the pretext of public health measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, a swathe of ordinary social activities are criminalised. Scenes which would not look out-of-place in dystopian fiction are unfolding daily: police harassing sunbathers and mountain-climbers, chasing away cricketers, bawling at people on beaches from naval ships. Horizontal social relationships, unmediated by technology or the state, are effectively banned. The ground is taken out from under social movements. This could be the beginning of a new order: the introduction of Chinese-style capitalism, in Britain and across the world.
How has all this happened?
A couple of years back I penned an article on climate alarmism. Borrowing from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, I referred to climate alarmists as an “archipelago” of disparate actors sharing a single enterprise – to scare the world with a huge lie and variously profit from it.
An archipelago is “an extensive group of islands”. But not just a group of any old islands. They are linked – not physically, of course, but nevertheless linked in some pattern. Hence the Indonesian Archipelago.
More recently, and in quite another context, I described the Pell haters of Victoria as a “network”. They didn’t – to my knowledge – meet in a coffee shop every Monday morning to discuss the week’s tactics in their ongoing campaign. Rather, like the islands of the climate archipelago, they were distinct actors with certain things in common and clearly shared objectives. We know that some were in contact with one another, and that they worked in cahoots (VicPol leakers and journalists, survivor groups and priest chasing lawyers). It is the same with the climate change activists. There are both shared beliefs and individuated perspectives, or angles, or interests.
“Archipelago” emphasises the separateness of the actors. “Network” emphasises the linkages. Network analysis is an accepted tool of social science. Also of business, for example in the study of innovation. Also of economic geography. And of history, as per Niall Ferguson, in his book The Square and the Tower. Analysing the private interests of public officials is equally a mainstream form of political economy analysis. It is called “public choice theory”. One of its progenitors won the Nobel Prize for Economics. Just as looking for causes, examining the hidden as well as the visible, and finding patterns, are legitimate, everyday tools of the historian. Or as undertaking “root cause analysis” is a core tool of modern management theory and practice.
Each descriptor and each of the various tools of the social scientist and the historian falls well short of accusations of a conspiracy. It merely recognises that disparate actors form coalitions of interests and attempt to move policy, attitudes, and, indeed, history. They do this routinely, deliberately, publicly and openly. They are purpose driven in their shared activities.
None of this is to suggest that secret societies, or at least very private ones, do not exist. Nor do I suggest that such groups do not sometimes have global ambitions. Hence the T shirt which says, “I am not a conspiracy theorist. I just do my research”.
There has been some very recent movement in relation to those critics of the governmental responses to Covid who are generally known as “lockdown sceptics”. A number of these sceptics who have traditionally eschewed conspiracy based explanations of the Covid madness and unscientific panic reactions of the state are now starting to ask questions about hidden causes and networks of activity. Until now, they have been firm believers on Hanlon’s Razor:
Hanlon's razor is a principle or rule of thumb that states, "never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity". Known in several other forms, it is a philosophical razor which suggests a way of eliminating unlikely explanations for human behavior.
One of these sceptics is James Delingpole. Recently he interviewed the British lockdown sceptic scientist Dr Mike Yeadon. Yeadon has a term for the way disparate groups and individuals have responded to the Covid epidemic in patterned ways. He calls it “convergent opportunism”, and is based on the belief that all sorts of people will see opportunities to advance their interests in the event of new circumstances. Delingpole has his own term, one that he applied in his own analyses of climate change alarmism. He calls it a “concatenation of interests”.
A series of interconnected things.
A series of interconnected things that add up to something else, one might say.
Delingpole goes further in relation to Covid, and he links the “opportunity” provided by Covid and its political responses to the global designs of the World Economic Forum and the so-called “great reset”, previously aired by both Maurice Newman and Cory Bernardi.
Here is Delingpole at Sky News:
Spectator Columnist James Delingpole says the World Economic Forum is seeking to use COVID-19 to reshape the world with its "Great Reset" in what globalists see as a chance to destroy capitalism and the "old world order". "I started off this pandemic thinking it was just people being a bit stupid and it would all pass, but now I realise this is organised," he said. "When you hear the phrase "Build Back Better"... this is the code phrase for the great reset of our lives. "They don't want us to own anything, it will be provided for us. Who does own the property? Who's renting it out to us? Some shadowy elite. This is a takeover by the technocrats." Mr Delingpole said the reset involved The World Economic Forum combined with UN Agenda 2030 - formerly Agenda 21 - is a complete transformation of the world's societies on Communist or Fascist lines.
This brings us neatly to the Saul Alinksy-Rahm Emanuel school of thought which says – never let a crisis go to waste. Saul Alinsky wrote Rules for Radicals. Rahm Emanuel was Mayor of Chicago and Barack Obama’s chief of staff. The WEF is simply doing what Alinsky recommended. This doesn’t mean Covid was a “plannedemic”, whatever the Chinese may have been up to, simply that early on a range of vested interests saw the potential of Covid to advance their own objectives. Interests converged. New opportunities arose. People acted on this. The great reset is coming to Davos in early 2021.
As someone said:
It’s not a conspiracy theory when they’re telling you what they’re doing.
Time magazine is in on the WEF act:
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a unique opportunity to think about the kind of future we want. TIME partnered with the World Economic Forum to ask leading thinkers to share ideas for how to transform the way we live and work.
Green new deals, re-imagined capitalism, black lives mattering more, climate masterplans. Re-invention of this, re-design of that. They are all in there somewhere. And influential people want to get this done.
Sinead Murphy, a philosopher from Newcastle (UK) University, has observed these events and has taken this a step further, and she introduces the French postmodernist Michel Foucault to the discussion.
I have no compunction now in expressing my total abhorrence at the near-orgasmic enthusiasm for authoritarian control that has come to dominate the Left, and my gratitude for the reason and humanity that have, by contrast, characterised many on the political Right.
But there is a blind spot on the Right, which threatens the reason if not the humanity of its analyses of the Covid-response. It is the insistence that there is no ‘conspiracy’ afoot and that this whole unfortunate affair is attributable to the blunders of those in power.
It seems to me that there is something in this repeated denial of ‘conspiracy theory’ that is akin to our Government’s repeated refusal to ‘let the virus rip.’ It mischaracterises as silly that which it rejects, and then rejects it because it is silly. Those who argue for the acknowledgement of herd immunity are not, for that reason, arguing for ‘letting the virus rip’ – they suggest many and nuanced possibilities for the management of the virus as it tracks through the population. Similarly, those who suggest that there is more to the Covid restrictions than mountains of blunders by politicians and their advisers are not, for that reason, ‘conspiracy theorists’ – they do not, if they are at all rational, imagine that some bunker somewhere is filled with evil geniuses conducting the whole sorry affair.
I am moved to write this now because I have been listening to the excellent podcast featuring James Delingpole and Mike Yeadon, who, in their discussion, actually admit and articulate well the very thing that almost all so-called ‘conspiracy theorists’ are trying to point out. Yeadon contributes the phrase ‘convergent opportunism,’ and argues that, while there are no bunkered geniuses inventing all of this, there are plenty who have availed themselves of the opportunities it has presented and whose doing so has contributed to the escalation and continuation of the mess. Delingpole responds by contributing his own phrase – ‘the concatenation of interests’ – to describe what he too sees as a contingent but coherent coming together of opportunities for interested parties, whose actions then, we presume, exacerbate and extend the conditions which have emerged as so beneficial to them.
‘Convergent opportunism’ and ‘the concatenation of interests’ are sufficiently abstract descriptors that I am emboldened to contribute another – it is not of my inventing, being one of the most important insights of a philosopher who seems unfortunately and erroneously to be regarded as entirely the property of the Left: Michel Foucault.
In the first volume of his The History of Sexuality, Foucault sets out the way in which events can, and mostly do, unfold as ‘intentional but not subjective.’ That is, we are able, if we look carefully, to discern a design or a pattern in events, even if, as is almost always the case, there is no one person or group at the helm. There is no ‘headquarters,’ as Foucault says – no bunker of geniuses. In fact, as with many of those who reject ‘conspiracy theories,’ Foucault is of the view that those who insist on finding the subject of intentional developments will inevitably misunderstand the meaning of events.
None of this implies that there are never any subjective intentions in play in the unfolding of events. For example, Mike Yeadon points out how intelligent and successful has been the career of Patrick Vallance, who, he says, cannot possibly be ignorant of the basic facts about respiratory viruses that belie many of Vallance’s pronouncements. Vallance, Yeadon says, is lying. So, here we have subjective (mal)intention that can be identified and analysed and punished. And, for all that there do seem to be some blunderers in Government and elsewhere at present, it cannot be that all others who are pushing the Covid restrictions are unwitting. There are plenty of liars and cheats and aggressors, and even murderers perhaps. Hopefully, they will be held to account.
Hence while events can simply “emerge”, the deliberate and motivated lying and cover-ups of the Covid officials – who know that what they are saying is not true – suggest at least the possibility of conspiracies behind these events.
Sinead Murphy also refers to the leftist Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben. He has been widely attacked by fellow leftists for opposing the lockdowns and not getting on board the authoritarian bandwagon with all its opportunities to advance various leftist causes.
… recently posted a reflection on the erosion of our critical faculties by the persistent rejection of ‘conspiracy theories,’ pointing out that if we pull back from looking for and articulating the larger stakes in the current attack on the life and liberties of populations across the globe, we might as well deny that there is anything to see here folks in respect of the whole of history itself; we might as well claim that history is just one big conspiracy theory.
Thus Agamben argues:
When speaking of invention in a political sphere, it should not be forgotten that it should not be understood in a purely subjective sense. Historians know that there are so to speak objective conspiracies, conspiracies that seem to function as such without being directed by an identifiable subject. As Michel Foucault showed before me, security governments do not necessarily work by producing the exceptional situation, but by exploiting and managing it when it occurs. I am certainly not the only one who thinks that for a totalitarian government like China, the epidemic was the ideal way to test the possibility of isolating and controlling an entire region. And the fact that in Europe we can refer to China as a role model shows the degree of political irresponsibility to which fear has brought us.
This is precisely the convergent opportunism of which Mike Yeadon speaks. Governing in the exception occurs without governments engineering the exception but capitalising upon it and facilitating the capacity of others with varying agendas also to capitalise upon it. Having supine citizens willing to accept abnormal authoritarianism is manna from heaven for the agenda’d classes.
Annabel Elliott of the London Telegraph, too, is onto something quite important:
Conspiracy or not, this Covid strategy is deeply sinister. We are still being discouraged from asking simple questions and engaging in honest debate…
But the overwhelming reader response makes one thing very clear: most of you are not keyboard warriors wearing tin hats, but a contingent of people who are understandably alarmed by our Government's ham-fisted response to this virus, and fed up with having their objections and questions squashed and ignored.
These are no small quibbles. Not in the history of modern democracy have we been ordered en masse to surrender such monumental freedoms, at such a high cost, for so long, with no end in sight.
No wonder members of the public are demanding a better explanation as to why we are still hiding, stagnating and going broke over a virus with a 99 per cent survival rate.
No wonder conspiracy theories are gathering steam all over the world – what do you expect when a situation makes so little sense? We are a species motivated to find answers; prone to getting creative when we lack them.
Indeed. The response of governments to Covid is just so dumb that questions are begged.
Annabel Elliott concludes that:
As to the conspiracies, there are of course some politicians who will seize this disaster as an opportunity to further their dubious goals, but I am certainly not of the opinion that nearly every leader in the world is embroiled in some Machiavellian plot to reshape our global society.
She misses something important here, though. Remembering the Andrew Breitbart dictum that culture is upstream from politics, it isn’t just governments to which we might look in seeking out evidence of global collusion in the age of reset. No, it is supranational entities with a baked in focus on global change, and their ideology-driven corporate allies where we should be doing some digging. The NGOs, the think tanks, the foundations, the activist nodes. Often out of the public eye. Beyond the reach of voters. I agree – you wouldn’t want to put the clueless, bungling, u-turning governments of the current world in charge of running a pub chook raffle. If there were a conspiracy, or even just a cluster of convergent opportunists riding the Covid wave to the beach, you wouldn’t want this lot of politicians to be driving it. As I have argued previously, you can have BOTH bungling governments AND hidden actors driving hidden agendas.
In any political movement – for example the proposed, and now executed, “long march” of cultural marxism through the institutions of the West – there are four categories of agent. These are masterminds, operatives on the ground, knowing fellow travellers and useful idiots.
Useful idiots are, by definition, not formally part of any conspiracy, but are nonetheless unknowingly critical to a movement’s success. According to the Wik:
In political jargon, a useful idiot is a derogatory term for a person perceived as propagandizing for a cause without fully comprehending the cause's goals, and who is cynically used by the cause's leaders.
Or as the Urban Dictionary has it:
If you have never heard the term “useful idiot” it was the attitude held by Vladimir Lenin towards communist sympathizers in the West (America). While Lenin and the Soviets held them in utter contempt they also viewed them as tools for dispensing communist propaganda to other countries, thus infecting foreign cultures with their totalitarian tripe. After their mission was complete, they were no longer “useful.”
The masterminds of the long march were Gramcsi and his Italian Communist Party friends, the Frankfurt School, the German Rudi Dutschke and Alinsky. It was to be a non-violent version of Mao’s 1930s long march through China. The operatives in critical institutions like universities were communist historians like Manning Clark in Australia and community activists like a young Barack Obama in the USA. Fellow travellers would include leftist postmodernist bureaucrats who tinker with school curricula in State Education departments. Or the ABC. Or the censoring tech giant platform businesses who use algorithms to manipulate events and shape minds. The useful idiots include the Education ministers who forever enable the expansion of the university sector, thinking they are furthering education, faculty administrators who impose quotas for hiring the right kind of staff, thinking they are advancing the interests of women or minorities, university marketing departments and parents and students who believe all the propaganda.
Other examples abound.
Blundering, probably well meaning, governments which reacted to Covid with panic, hypocrisy, inconsistency, disinformation, guesswork and run-of-the-mill coverups are the useful idiots of the piece in 2020. As are the breathless media and the social media branch covidians. Useful idiots like Luke Cornelius of VicPol firing off insults at innocent protesters from the safety of a press conference before a compliant media. Or The Australian’s Angela Shanahan, who should know better, cheering on the Victorian Premier and his legion of heroic Melburnians for “defeating” the virus. (No Angela, governments cannot “defeat” viruses. Cannot eliminate viruses. The virus has waned because it has run out of sick and/or elderly Victorians to kill. And winter is over, even, perhaps, in Melbourne). Just as the useful idiots of the Black Lives Matter movement are doing their bit for the revolution, thinking it is about racism or equal rights to justice. Or those of the marriage equality movement whose masterminds wished to destroy the family under the cuddly guise of “love is love”. Or those of the push towards widespread euthanasia under the misleading cover of “dying with dignity”. Or the kumbaya brigade who only ever see Islamophobia and for whom Islam is everywhere and always a religion of peace.
Useful idiots do the legwork of, and the heavy lifting for, the masterminds who steer the course strategically and the operatives who lead tactics on the ground. The useful idiots are often well meaning, of course. Office bearers of the Good Intentions Paving Company. Like the Roman soldiers on Calvary and the Jewish authorities, “they know not what they do”. (Mind you, a case can be made that not all bungling politicians are mere useful idiots. One can be bungling and evil simultaneously. Just look at Daniel Andrews. He knows exactly what he is doing).
So, yes, there are indeed masterminds in political movements. Yes, they are goal driven. Yes, they know what they are doing. Yes, they act with intent. And yes, they sometimes have large, even global objectives.
Whether WuFlu – in its origins and spread and in the steering of governments towards fascist overreach – is an example of goal driven, purposive , strategic behaviour or whether the Chinese Communist Party and the authoritarians of the West who embrace government-by-decree just got lucky is a valid question for historians of the future. Asking the question is entirely legitimate, and not remotely weird. Not all events are planned. Not all planning works out for the perpetrators. Complexly interacting variables govern all human interactions, making the task of the historian and social scientist difficult at best. Yet that work is worthwhile, and necessary. Good historians and social scientists seek out root causes and identify movers and shakers, those who create opportunities and move events along in ways that reach the ultimate goals.
One final point on the strategies used by agents to guide events. The masterminds and the operatives are often students of “nudge theory” as proposed and explained by the economist Richard Thaler. On one definition:
Nudge theory is a flexible and modern concept for: Understanding of how people think, make decisions, and behave, helping people improve their thinking and decisions, managing change of all sorts, and identifying and modifying existing unhelpful influences on people.
Nudge is a concept in behavioral economics, political theory, and behavioral sciences which proposes positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behavior and decision making of groups or individuals.
Opinion forming is now a career opportunity. You get to be called an “influencer”.
An influencer is someone in your niche or industry with sway over your target audience.
Influencers have specialized knowledge, authority or insight into a specific subject. Their pre-existing presence in a niche makes them a useful launching pad for brands in search of credibility.
While influencing began its career (so to speak) as a branch of product or service marketing, it can easily be adapted to any type of “brand”. In the age of social media driven opinion formation and de-platforming capacity, these third parties will have enormous potential in transforming ugly and totalitarian political products into saleable items that the young in particular will buy.
According to Ballotpedia:
In politics, these influencers are power players who advocate for candidates, put through policy proposals, cause ideological changes, and affect popular perceptions. They can take on many forms: politicians, lobbyists, advisors, donors, corporations, industry groups, labor unions, single-issue organizations, nonprofits, to name a few. The activity of influencers and their impact can be felt on the national, state or local level, and even in certain policy sectors.
Political influencers are not limited to the traditional political circle and can come from seemingly unrelated industries. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, is co-founded by Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, a well-known computer software company. This foundation, due to the influence of its founder and the organization itself, played a very large role getting Common Core Curriculum Standards adopted at the national, state and local level.
All these influencers are in the business of surreptitious nudging. And nudging is at its most effective when the population has been given the kool-aid.
Nudging could be seen as being quite sinister, in the sense that deliberate strategies can be used to manoeuvre unsuspecting people into situations to which they did not consent, nor fully comprehend. Even more sinister are the cases, noted by John O’Sullivan, where the nudging is assisted by the silencing of opponents of the direction of intended ideological travel. The de-platforming and abuse of sceptics, including eminently qualified immunologists and epidemiologists, has been a feature of the year of Covid. Often this is done by the useful idiots.
At the end of the day, with the help of the useful Covid idiots, the rest of us have been, in effect, “nudged” towards a fundamentally new world order, like the famous slowly boiling frog. And those of us who dare to question what is being done, who do our research and who ask “in whose name?” are called – conspiracy theorists!
Clever, aren’t they, these convergent opportunists?