As debate over ‘The Science’ has increased, people are questioning whether there was more to COVID-19 in terms of underlying agendas, in particular with respect to global-level actors. Was it incompetence or coordination?
It’s been two years since COVID-19 became a dominant and all-consuming issue. Now there are signs we are witnessing the unravelling of some of the key policy responses – blanket lockdowns and population-wide injections – that have been so aggressively promoted by many, although not all, governments around the world. Of course, the unravelling is patchy: many countries are maintaining high levels of restrictions and the infrastructure for reinstating measures persists. There is also reluctance by many to concede there have been problems with the COVID-19 responses to date. However, doubts about the efficacy of lockdowns are now widely aired whilst there is increasing awareness that the mRNA shot is not safe. And it is at least clear that very significant numbers of people, including scientists and academics, are expressing views that are at odds with authority or mainstream claims that lockdowns reduce mortality and that mass injections are a rational and efficacious solution.
As debate over ‘The Science’ has increased, more and more people have started to question whether or not there is more to COVID-19 in terms of underlying agendas, in particular with respect to global-level actors such as the World Economic Forum (WEF), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and so-called ‘Big Pharma’. In the early days of COVID-19 any such talk was immediately dismissed as ‘conspiratorial’ nonsense and, broadly speaking, people raising non-mainstream doubts about any aspect of the COVID-19 issue were subjected to vilification by ‘authoritative’ voices and corporate media. Such dynamics were very much in evidence with respect to speculation about the origins of COVID-19. And yet, today, the so-called ‘lab leak theory’ has moved from a ‘sphere of deviance’ to a ‘sphere of legitimate controversy’ with many people, from mainstream science and corporate media to popular podcasts, discussing it. At the same time, public awareness of the WEF and its political agendas, perhaps more accurately described as visions, is growing. Indeed, a constant refrain from some quarters is that what was yesterday’s conspiracy theory is today’s fact. So, if all this is not about a virus, what might actually be going on?
COVID-19 and the ‘Structural Deep Event’ concept
First and foremost, it is necessary to dispel the idea that any attempt to understand intersections between political-economic agendas and COVID-19 is necessarily absurd or smacks of batshit-crazy conspiracism. It is a fact that powerful political and economic actors do not blindly and irrationally stumble through history but rather strategise, plan and take actions that are expected to achieve results. They may make mistakes and plans are not always successful, but that does not mean they do not try and sometimes succeed in their aims and objectives. For example the tobacco industry worked long and hard, and with some success, to shape scientific and political discourse regarding their product and delay public awareness of its dangers.
Second, it is also true that powerful actors can have clear perceptions of their interests and are guided by the desire to realise, protect and further them. Where those interests come from might be reducible to any number of material or ideological influences. But origins do not matter, powerful actors still have conceptions of their interests and what they want to do.
Third, it is also true that powerful political and economic actors are, well, powerful. They have resources and skills at their disposal that other less powerful actors do not. One potent tool available is that of propaganda, which grants significant leverage and influence to those with the skills and resources to disseminate it. For those liberals who remain at peace with their world – believing that powerful actors simply relay their political, economic and social goals to knowledgeable publics who then consent, or refuse to consent, to those goals – the fact that propaganda is exercised extensively across liberal democratic states comes as a shock. Indeed, it is the experience of this author that many ‘liberal’ scholars struggle to recognise the role of propaganda even in well documented examples such as that of the tobacco industry shaping the science on the harms of smoking or the bogus claims regarding weapons of mass destruction (WMD) used to justify the invasion of Iraq. Recognising that propaganda is a major component of exercising power within so-called liberal democratic states logically removes any justification for the assumptions that a) powerful actors cannot or do not manipulate publics and b) citizenry are sufficiently autonomous and knowledgeable to be able to grant or withhold consent.
History is replete with examples of powerful actors successfully pursuing goals and manipulating populations in the process. In the days after 9/11, we now know that British and American officials were planning a wide-ranging series of actions – so called ‘regime-change’ wars – that went well outside the scope of the official narrative regarding combating alleged ‘Islamic fundamentalist terrorism’. One British embassy cable stated, four days after 9/11, that ‘[t]he “regime-change hawks” in Washington are arguing that a coalition put together for one purpose [against international terrorism] could be used to clear up other problems in the region’. Within weeks British Prime Minister Tony Blair communicated with US president George W. Bush saying, amongst many other things, ‘If toppling Saddam is a prime objective, it is far easier to do it with Syria and Iran in favour or acquiescing rather than hitting all three at once’. As these two western leaders conspired at the geo-strategic level, a low-level ‘spin doctor’, Jo Moore, commented on the utility of 9/11 in terms of day-to-day ‘media management’, noting that it was ‘a good day to bury bad news’. Jo Moore was forced to resign, Bush and Blair laid the tracks for 20-plus years of conflict in the international system, including the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the recently ended 20-year occupation of Afghanistan.
Professor Peter Dale Scott (University of California, Berkley) developed the idea of the ‘structural deep event’ and this is useful in capturing the idea that powerful actors frequently work to instigate, exploit or exacerbate events in ways that enable substantive and long-lasting societal transformations. These frequently involve, according to Scott, a combination of legal and illegal activity implicating both legitimate and public-facing political structures as well as covert or hidden parts of government – the so-called deep state which is understood as the interface ‘between the public, the constitutionally established state, and the deep forces behind it of wealth, power, and violence outside the government’. So, for example, Scott argues that the JFK assassination became an event that enabled the maintenance of the Cold War whilst 9/11 likewise enabled the global ‘war on terror’, and that both involved a variety of actors not usually recognized in mainstream or official accounts of these events. It is important to note that Scott claims his approach does not necessarily imply a simplistic grand conspiracy, but is rather based on the idea of opaque networks of powerful and influential groups whose interests converge, at points, and who use and exploit events to pursue their objectives.
Applied to COVID-19, a ‘structural deep event’ reading would point toward a constellation of actors, with overlapping interests, working to advance agendas, and being enabled to do so because of COVID-19. Such a reading does not necessarily include or exclude the possibility of COVID-19 being an instigated event. What are the grounds for seriously considering a ‘structural deep event’ reading?
The failed COVID-19 response, injection inefficacy and propaganda
There is a strong, perhaps overwhelming, case to be made that the key responses to COVID-19 – lockdowns, cloth masking and mass injection – were flawed. A large swathe of scientists and medical professionals are now clearly and repeatedly warning governments and populations that lockdowns are harmful and ineffective, whilst mass injection of populations may also be doing more harm than good. Put in lay terms, the idea of quarantining entire (healthy) populations for extended periods of time in response to a respiratory virus, and then attempting to submit entire populations to an experimental mRNA injection on a repeated basis, does not appear to be scientifically robust.
It has also become apparent that a remarkable and wide-ranging propaganda effort was used to mobilize support for lockdowns and, later on, injections. For example, it is understood that many Western governments have behavioural psychology units attached to the highest levels of government, designed to shape thoughts and behaviour. According to Iain Davis, in February 2020 the WHO had established the Technical Advisory Group on Behavioural Insights and Sciences for Health (TAG); ‘The group is chaired by Prof. Cass Sunstein and its members include behavioural change experts from the World Bank, the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Prof. Susan Michie, from the UK, is also a TAG participant’. In the UK, behavioural scientists from SPI-B (Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviour) reconvened on 13 February 2020 and subsequently advised the UK government on how to secure compliance with non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). Broadly, these propaganda techniques appear to have involved maximising perceived threat in order to coerce populations to comply with lockdown and, eventually, to accept a series of injections.
We also now know that propaganda activities have included smear campaigns against dissenting scientists and, in at least one major case, were initiated by high-level officials: in Autumn 2020, Anthony Fauci and National Institute of Health director Francis Collins discussed the need to swiftly shut down the Great Barrington Declaration, whose authors were advocating an alternative (and historically orthodox) COVID-19 response focused on protecting high-risk individuals and thus avoiding destructive lockdown measures. Collins wrote in an email that this ‘proposal from the three fringe epidemiologists … seems to be getting a lot of attention … There needs to be a quick and devastating published takedown of its premises’. Rather than a civilised and robust scientific debate, a smear campaign followed.
The legacy corporate media, social media platforms and large swathes of academia appear to have played an important role in disseminating this propaganda and promoting the official narrative on COVID-19. The proximity of legacy corporate media to political and economic power has been well understood for many decades: concentration of ownership, reliance upon advertising revenue, deference to elite sources, vulnerability to smear campaigns and ideological positioning are all understood to sharply limit the autonomy of legacy media (these factors also arguably shape academia). With COVID-19 these dynamics are exacerbated by, for example, direct regulatory influence, such as Ofcom direction to UK broadcasters, and censorship by ‘Big Tech’ of views deviating from those of the authorities and the WHO. The Trusted News Initiative (TNI) and Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (C2PA) have coordinated major legacy media in order to counter what they claim to be ‘misinformation’, and this appears to have played a role in suppressing legitimate scientific criticism whilst elevating ‘official’ narratives. Currently moves are afoot to further strengthen elite control over media discourse via legislation aimed at preventing so-called ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’.
Extreme and arguably flawed policy responses – societal lockdown and mandated mass injection – combined with widespread propaganda activities aimed at securing the compliance of the population might be explicable in a number of ways. For example:
- The cock-up thesis might be invoked to explain all of this as an irrational panic response by well-intentioned or ideologically driven actors who got things badly wrong and imitated each other while doing so;
- It might be that these policy responses are the result of narrow vested interests and corruption;
- Powerful actors might have sought to take advantage of COVID-19 to advance substantial political and economic agendas and, as part of this, helped to promote key aspects of the COVID-19 event.
Following two years of massive societal disruption aimed at containing a seasonal respiratory virus and the persistence of some aspects of the COVID-19 narrative despite substantive scientific challenges, it is tempting to speculate that there are corruption and concerted political and economic drivers behind policy, rather than blunders and incompetence. Moving beyond speculation, are there well-established grounds to take explanations 2 and 3 seriously?
Manipulation and exploitation of Health Agencies: Regulatory Capture at the NIH and CDC plus the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Pandemic Preparedness Agenda
Evidence for vested interests and corruption has come, in particular, from analyses of US regulatory bodies and the actions of the WHO. In particular, evidence has emerged showing that key authorities in the US – the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – under the influence of Fauci, the Chief Medical Officer to the US President, have suffered from severe conflicts of interest. The term ‘regulatory capture’ is frequently used to describe this situation.
For example, Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s detailed analysis of the US-led COVID-19 response in The Real Anthony Fauci, documents the corrupt relationship between so-called ‘Big Pharma’ and Anthony Fauci arguing that, to all intents and purposes, there has been ‘regulatory capture’ whereby pharmaceutical companies and public officials enjoy mutually beneficial arrangements. This mutual infiltration is understood by Kennedy to underpin the COVID-19 response, especially the commitment to a ‘vaccine-only’ solution and suppression of preventative treatments such as Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ). By way of example, Kennedy relays the case of Dr Tess Lawrie and WHO researcher Andrew Hill in which Hill appeared to confirm there was pressure to delay publication of results supporting the efficacy of Ivermectin. Regarding HCQ, Kennedy writes:
By 2020, we shall see, Bill Gates exercised firm control over WHO and deployed the agency in his effort to discredit HCQ’ …
On June 17, the WHO – for which Mr. Gates is the largest funder after the US, and over which Mr. Gates and Dr Fauci exercise tight control – called for the halt of HCQ trials in hundreds of hospitals across the world. WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus ordered nations to stop using HCQ and CQ. Portugal, France, Italy, and Belgium banned HCQ for COVID-19 treatment.
More broadly, the WHO has been important in terms of co-ordinating some COVID-19 policy responses. Although notionally an independent entity, the WHO has increasingly come under corporate influence via both the growth of corporate-influenced organisations such as Gavi (Global Vaccine Alliance), CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) and private financing via the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The WHO is also currently negotiating a treaty with the governments of member states to provide unprecedented powers to this organization to enable rapid responses, transcending national governments, when the WHO declares pandemics in the future, thus centralizing control and potentially overriding national sovereignty.
This line of analysis might lead to a conclusion that what we have experienced to date – harmful lockdowns and injection strategies underpinned by massive propaganda – is primarily the result of corruption, conflicts of interest and vested interests, rather than what could reasonably be described as good faith errors by politicians and bureaucrats.
The World Economic Forum and the ‘Great Reset’
The World Economic Forum (WEF) has been associated by some analysts with the COVID-19 event and in 2020 Klaus Schwab, its founder, published a co-authored book titled COVID-19: The Great Reset. Schwab declared: ‘The Pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and reset our world’. One key component of the political-economic vision promoted by the WEF is ‘stakeholder capitalism’ (Global Public-Private Partnerships, GPPP) involving the integration of government, business and civil society actors with respect to the provision of services. Another key component involves harnessing ‘the innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, especially the exploitation of developments in artificial intelligence, computing and robotics, in order to radically transform society toward a digitised model. Slogans now frequently associated with these visions include ‘you will own nothing and be happy’, ‘smart cities’ and ‘build back better’.
It is also apparent that the WEF, as an organising force, has considerable reach. It has been involved with training and educating individuals – through its Young Global Leaders Programme and its predecessor, Global Leaders for Tomorrow – who have subsequently moved into positions of considerable power. It has also been noted that many national leaders (e.g. Merkel, Macron, Trudeau, Ardern, Putin, and Kurz) are WEF Forum of Young Global Leaders graduates or members and have ‘played prominent roles, typically promoting zero-covid strategies, lockdowns, mask mandates, and ‘vaccine passports’. In 2017 Schwab boasted:
When I mention our names like Mrs Merkel, even Vladimir Putin and so on, they all have been Young Global Leaders of the World Economic forum. But what we are very proud of now is the young generation like prime minister Trudeau, president of Argentina and so on. So we penetrate the cabinets. So yesterday I was at a reception for prime minister Trudeau and I will know that half of this cabinet or even more half of this cabinet are actually young global leaders of the World Economic Forum …. that’s true in Argentina, and it’s true in France now with the president a Young Global Leader.
Financial Crisis, the Central Banks and Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)
It is now established that a major crisis in the repo markets during the Autumn of 2019 was followed by high-level planning aimed at resolving an impending financial crisis of greater proportions than the 2008 banking crisis. According to some analysts, one response appears to have been a strengthened drive to control currencies via the Central Banks: Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). The General Manager of the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), Agustin Carstens, stated in October 2020 that:
We intend to establish the equivalence with cash and there is a huge difference there. For example, in cash we don’t know who is using a $100 bill today … the key difference with the CBDC is that the central bank will have absolute control on the rules and regulations that will determine the use of that expression of central bank liability and also we will have the technology to enforce that.
A programmable CBDC potentially provides complete control over how and when an individual spends money, in addition to allowing authorities to automatically deduct taxes through a person’s ‘digital wallet’. According to some analysts, this development would also effectively remove any significant control over financial policy at the national level.
Technologies associated with programmable CBDCs overlap with those associated with 4IR and concepts regarding digitised society. Specifically, digital identity, a potential component of the intended CBDC, provides a basis for the creation of a digital grid upon which information relating to all aspects of an individual’s life will be available to governments, corporations and other powerful entities such as the security services. Also notable is the relationship between digital ID and the drive to create ‘vaccine passports’ as part of the COVID-19 response: Microsoft and the Rockefeller Foundation are central players in ID2020, alongside Gavi. The objective appears to be a global-level digital ID framework that integrates with health/vaccination status.
Both of these political-economic phenomena point toward a conclusion more closely aligned with the ‘structural deep event’ (Scott) thesis, in that they highlight the possibility that COVID-19 has been an event exploited to advance major political and economic agendas. This hypothesis is at least in part distinct from the idea that corruption and narrow vested interests explain most of what we have seen.
Threats to democracy and understanding what this all means
The political and economic processes identified regarding the WEF, digital ID and the central banks are not speculative or theoretical, they are directly observable and ongoing. It is also worth spelling out the potential interaction between these agendas and threats to democracy. It is now clear and empirically demonstrable that populations are being subjected to increasingly coercive and aggressive attempts to limit their autonomy, including restrictions on movement, the right to protest, freedom to work and freedom to participate in society. Most notably, significant numbers of people have been pushed, sometimes required, to take an injection at regular intervals in order to continue their participation in society. These developments have been accompanied by, at times, aggressive and discriminatory statements from major political leaders with respect to people resisting injection. The threat to civil liberties and ‘democracy as usual’ is, arguably, unprecedented. The economic impact has been dire and COVID-19 has seen a dramatic and continued transfer of wealth from the poorest to the very richest (e.g. Oxfam, 2021).
Furthermore, the combination of a programmable CBDC, a ‘vaccine passport’ that determines access to services and real-world spaces and the availability of all online behaviours to corporations and governments can enable a system of near total control over an individual’s life, activities and opportunities. This system of control can be seen in China with the social credit system currently being implemented in certain provinces. Integration of personal data and money though a digital ID would also allow individuals to be readily stripped of their assets.
Of course, it is still possible that the sustained adherence to lockdown and mass injection (in spite of growing evidence against their efficacy) are explicable through reference to government blunders, whilst the parallel political and economic projects and rapid reduction in civil liberties are coincidences.
However, it would be remiss to set aside the fact that organisations such as the WHO and the WEF exist within a wider network, or constellation, of extremely powerful, non-elected political and economic entities made up of major multinational corporations, intergovernmental organisations (IGOs), large private foundations and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs). These include, in no particular order, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and other central banks; asset managers Blackrock and Vanguard; global-level entities such as the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Club of Rome, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, Chatham House, the Trilateral Commission, the Atlantic Council, the Open Society Foundations and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and major corporations including so-called ‘Big Pharma’ and ‘Big Tech’ such as Apple, Google (part of Alphabet Inc), Amazon and Microsoft. And, of course, governments themselves are part of this constellation, with the most powerful – the US, China and India – having considerable influence. In addition, the European Union (EU) supranational body, via its President Ursula von der Leyen, has promoted the EU Digital COVID Certificate and demanded that all EU citizens be injected.
As such, it is entirely plausible that a convergence of interests, shared by multiple political and economic actors, has occurred, which has enabled the advancement of political and economic agendas. COVID-19, in this scenario, might well have been a mobilizing event instrumentalized by powerful players. It may also be the case that the current war in the Ukraine is an event that will be propagandized and used in a similar fashion.
Indeed, precisely this broad thesis is advanced in recent publications. In States of Emergency Kees van der Pijl argues there has been a ‘biopolitical seizure of power’ in which an intelligence-IT-media complex has crystallized as a new class block seeking to quell growing unrest and the strengthening of progressive social movements throughout the world. Under cover of Covid-19, and via ruthless exploitation of people’s fear of a virus, van der Pijl traces how this new class block is attempting to impose control via high-tech, digitised societies necessitating mandatory injections and digital ID, as well as censorship and manipulation of public spheres. In short, van der Pijl describes a total surveillance society involving massive concentration of power and the end of democracy. Iain Davis’ Pseudopandemic similarly presents the COVID-19 event as primarily a propagandized phenomena that has functioned to enable the continued emergence of a technocratic order built around the Global Public-Private Partnership (GPPP) and ‘stake-holder capitalism’ that has appeared primarily to serve the interests of what he describes as an elite ‘parasite class’. Robert F. Kennedy’s The Real Anthony Fauci, although focused on documenting the corruption with respect to public health institutions and ‘Big Pharma’, is clear about its consequences for our democracies. Early in the book he notes that Fauci ‘has played a central role in undermining public health and subverting democracy and constitutional governance around the globe and in transitioning our civil governance toward medical totalitarianism’. Later in the book, Kennedy discusses the interplay between military, medical and intelligence planners and raises questions about an ‘underlying agenda to coordinate dismantlement of democratic governance’:
After 9/11, the rising biosecurity cartel adopted simulations as signaling mechanisms for choreographing lockstep responses among corporate, political, and military technocrats charged with managing global exigencies. Scenario planning became an indispensable device for multiple power centers to coordinate complex strategies for simultaneously imposing coercive controls upon democratic societies across the globe.
Other important analyses, all of which run along similar lines, have been provided by Cory Morningstar, Paul Shreyer and Whitney Webb, amongst others. And, not to be forgotten, James Corbett was one of the first to warn of the impending dangers of a biosecurity state all the way back in March 2020. Others such as Patrick Wood alerted us to these developments long before the arrival of COVID-19. Along with all this, transhumanism, life extension or ‘enhancement’ through technology and digitalised society, observable in some of the output from the WEF and public musings of key individuals, appears to reflect a set of beliefs in technology and progress that can be traced back to Enlightenment thinking of the last 300 years. Philosophical debates over technology and what it means to be human have remained at the heart of the Enlightenment ‘project’, although perhaps deeply buried. Associated with this might be scientism as a religious cult of the West.
Attempts to attach a label to the complex political and economic processes we are witnessing include descriptors such as ‘global fascism,’ ‘global communism,’ ‘neo-feudalism,’ ‘neo-serfdom’, ‘totalitarianism,’ ‘technocracy,’ ‘centralization vs. subsidiarity,’ ‘stakeholder capitalism’, ‘global public-private partnerships,’ ‘corporate authoritarianism’, ‘authoritarianism,’ ‘tyranny’ and ‘global capitalism.’ Dr Robert Malone, inventor of part of the mRNA technology used in the COVID-19 injections, openly refers to the threat of global totalitarianism.
The task confronting humanity
For those occupying corporate or mainstream positions in politics, media or academia, the fear of being tarred with the ‘conspiracy theorist’ label is usually enough to dampen any enthusiasm for serious evaluation of the ways in which powerful and influential political and economic actors might be shaping responses to COVID-19 to further political and economic agendas. But the stakes are now simply too high for such shyness and, indeed cowardice, to be allowed to persist. There are strong and well-established grounds to take analyses along the lines of the ‘structural deep event’ thesis seriously, as set out in this article, and there are clear and present dangers to our civil liberties, freedom and democracy.
Building on the work already started, researchers must explore more fully the networks and power structures that have shaped the COVID-19 responses and which have sought to move forward various political and economic agendas. Analysing more fully the techniques used, including propaganda and exploitation of COVID-19 as an enabling event, is now an essential task for researchers to undertake. Equally important is for scholars of democracy and ethics to further unpack the implications of these developments with respect to liberty and civil rights. Such work, ultimately, can not only deepen our understanding of what is going on; it can also provide a guide for those who seek to oppose what is being described by some as ‘global totalitarianism’ or ‘fascism’.
It could of course be the case that such a research agenda ultimately leads to a refutation of the ‘structural deep event’ thesis and confirmation that everything witnessed over the last two years has been one almighty cock-up. But if that is not the case, and we have all buried our heads in the sand by assuming there is nothing deeper going on, we will have failed ourselves and future generations. The stakes could not be higher and it has never been more essential to seriously engage with uncomfortable possibilities – even if that means interrogating explanations that move beyond reducing what we are all experiencing to blunder and incompetence.
Dr Piers Robinson is a co-director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies and was Chair/Professor in Politics, Society and Political Journalism, University of Sheffield, 2016-2019, Senior Lecturer in International Politics (University of Manchester 2010-2016) and Lecturer in Political Communication (University of Liverpool, 1999-2005). He researches and writes on propaganda, media, international politics and conflict.