Did Lockdowns Set a Global Revolt in Motion?

My first article on the coming backlash—admittedly wildly optimistic—went to print April 24, 2020. After 6 weeks of lockdown, I confidently predicted a political revolt, a movement against masks, a […]
Published on May 23, 2024

My first article on the coming backlash—admittedly wildly optimistic—went to print April 24, 2020. After 6 weeks of lockdown, I confidently predicted a political revolt, a movement against masks, a population-wide revulsion against the elites, a demand to reject “social distancing” and streaming-only life, plus widespread disgust at everything and everyone involved.

I was off by four years. I wrongly assumed back then that society was still functioning and that our elites would be responsive to the obvious flop of the whole lockdown scheme. I assumed that people were smarter than they proved to be. I also did not anticipate just how devastating the effects of lockdown would be: in terms of learning loss, economic chaos, cultural shock, and the population-wide demoralization and loss of trust.

The forces that set in motion those grim days were far more deep than I knew at the time. They involved a willing complicity from tech, media, pharma, and the administrative state at all levels of society.

There is every evidence that it was planned to be exactly what it became; not just a foolish deployment of public health powers but a “great reset” of our lives. The newfound powers of the ruling class were not given up so easily, and it took far longer for people to shake off the trauma than I had anticipated.

Is that backlash finally here? If so, it’s about time.

New literature is emerging to document it all.

The new book “White Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy” is a viciously partisan, histrionic, and gravely inaccurate account that gets nearly everything wrong but one: vast swaths of the public are fed up, not with democracy but its opposite of ruling class hegemony. The revolt is not racial and not geographically determined. It’s not even about left and right, categories that are mostly a distraction. it’s class-based in large part but more precisely about the rulers vs. the ruled.

With more precision, new voices are emerging among people who detect a “vibe change” in the population. One is Elizabeth Nickson’s article “Strongholds Falling; Populists Seize the Culture.” She argues, quoting Bret Weinstein, that “The lessons of [C]ovid are profound. The most important lesson of Covid is that without knowing the game, we outfoxed them and their narrative collapsed …. The revolution is happening all over the socials, especially in videos. And the disgust is palpable.”

A second article is “Vibe Shift” by Santiago Pliego:

“The Vibe Shift I’m talking about is the speaking of previously unspeakable truths, the noticing of previously suppressed facts. I’m talking about the give you feel when the walls of Propaganda and Bureaucracy start to move as you push; the very visible dust kicked up in the air as Experts and Fact Checkers scramble to hold on to decaying institutions; the cautious but electric rush of energy when dictatorial edifices designed to stifle innovation, enterprise, and thought are exposed or toppled. Fundamentally, the Vibe Shift is a return to—a championing of—Reality, a rejection of the bureaucratic, the cowardly, the guilt-driven; a return to greatness, courage, and joyous ambition.”

We truly want to believe this is true. And this much is certainly correct: the battle lines are incredibly clear these days. The media that uncritically echo the deep-state line are known: Slate, Wired, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, New Republic, New Yorker, and so on, to say nothing of the New York Times. What used to be politically partisan venues with certain predictable biases are now more readily described as ruling-class mouthpieces, forever instructing you precisely how to think while demonizing disagreement.

After all, all of these venues, in addition to the obvious case of the science journals, are still defending the lockdowns and everything that followed. Rather than express regret for their bad models and immoral means of control, they have continued to insist that they did the right thing, regardless of the civilization-wide carnage everywhere in evidence, while ignoring the relationship between the policies they championed and the terrible results.

Instead of allowing their mistakes to change their own outlook, they have adapted their own worldview to allow for snap lockdowns anytime they deem them necessary. In holding this view, they have forged a view of politics that it is embarrassingly acquiescent to the powerful.

The liberalism that once questioned authority and demanded free speech seems extinct. This transmogrified and captured liberalism now demands compliance with authority and calls for further restrictions on free speech. Now anyone who makes a basic demand for normal freedom—to speak or choose one’s own medical treatment or to decline to wear a mask—can reliably anticipate being denounced as “right-wing” even when it makes absolutely no sense.

The smears, cancellations, and denunciations are out of control, and so unbearably predictable.

It’s enough to make one’s head spin. As for the pandemic protocols themselves, there have been no apologies but only more insistence that they were imposed with the best of intentions and mostly correct. The World Health Organization wants more power, and so does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even though the evidence of the failure of pharma pours in daily, major media venues pretend that all is well, and thereby out themselves as mouthpieces for the ruling regime.

The issue is that major and unbearably obvious failures have never been admitted. Institutions and individuals who only double down on preposterous lies that everyone knows are lies only end up discrediting themselves.

That’s a pretty good summary of where we are today, with vast swaths of elite culture facing an unprecedented loss of trust. Elites have chosen the lie over truth and cover-up over transparency.

This is becoming operationalized in declining traffic for legacy media, which is shedding costly staff as fast as possible. The social media venues that cooperated closely with government during the lockdowns are losing cultural sway while uncensored ones like Elon Musk’s X are gaining attention. Disney is reeling from its partisanship, while states are passing new laws against WHO policies and interventions.

Sometimes this whole revolt can be quite entertaining. When the CDC or WHO posts an update on X, when they allow comments, it is followed by thousands of reader comments of denunciation and poking fun, with flurries of comments to the effect of “I will not comply.”

DEI is being systematically defunded by major corporations while financial institutions are turning on it. Indeed, the culture in general has come to regard DEI as a sure indication of incompetence. Meanwhile, the outer reaches of the “great reset” such as the hope that EVs would replace internal combustion have come to naught as the EV market has collapsed, along with consumer demand for fake meat to say nothing of bug eating.

As for politics, yes, it does seem like the backlash has empowered populist movements all over the world. We see them in the farmers’ revolt in Europe, the street protests in Brazil against a sketchy election, the widespread discontent in Canada over government policies, and even in migration trends out of US blue states toward red ones. Already, the administrative state in D.C. is working to secure itself against a possible unfriendly president in the form of Donald Trump or RFK, Jr.

So, yes, there are many signs of revolt. These are all very encouraging.

What does all this mean in practice? How does this end? How precisely does a revolt take shape in an industrialized democracy? What is the mostly likely pathway for long-term social change? These are legitimate questions.

For hundreds of years, our best political philosophers have opined that no system can function in a sustainable way in which a huge majority is coercively governed by a tiny elite with a class interest in serving themselves at public expense.

That seems correct. In the days of the Occupy Wall Street movement of 15 years ago, the street protesters spoke of the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent. They were speaking of those with the money inside the traders’ buildings as opposed to the people on the streets and everywhere else.Even if that movement misidentified the full nature of the problem, the intuition into which it tapped spoke to a truth. Such a disproportionate distribution of power and wealth is dangerously unsustainable. Revolution of some sort threatens. The mystery right now is what form this takes. It’s unknown because we’ve never been here before.

There is no real historical record of a highly developed society ostensibly living under a civilized code of law that experiences an upheaval of the type that would be required to unseat the rulers of all the commanding heights. We’ve seen political reform movements that take place from the top down but not really anything that approximates a genuine bottom-up revolution of the sort that is shaping up right now.

We know, or think we know, how it all transpires in a tinpot dictatorship or a socialist society of the old Soviet bloc. The government loses all legitimacy, the military flips loyalties, there is a popular revolt that boils over, and the leaders of the government flee. Or they simply lose their jobs and take up new positions in civilian life. These revolutions can be violent or peaceful but the end result is the same. One regime replaces another.

It’s hard to know how this translates to a society that is heavily modernized and seen as non-totalitarian and even existing under the rule of law, more or less. How does revolution occur in this case? How does the regime come around to adapting itself to a public revolt against governance as we know it in the US, UK, and Europe?

Yes, there is the vote, if we can trust that. But even here, there are the candidates, which are that for a reason. They specialize in politics, which does not necessarily mean doing the right thing or reflecting the aspirations of the voters behind them. They are responsive to their donors first, as we have long discovered. Public opinion can matter but there is no mechanism that guarantees a smoothly responsive pathway from popular attitudes to political outcomes.

There is also the pathway of industrial change, a migration of resources out of legacy venues to new ones. Indeed, in the marketplace of ideas, the amplifiers of regime propaganda are failing but we also observe the response: widened censorship. What’s happening in Brazil with the full criminalization of free speech can easily happen in the US.

In social media, were it not for Elon’s takeover of Twitter, it’s hard to know where we would be. We have no large platform in which to influence the culture more broadly. And yet the attacks on that platform and other enterprises owned by Musk are growing. This is emblematic of a much more robust upheaval taking place, one that suggests change is on the way.

But how long does such a paradigm shift take? Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” is a bracing account of how one orthodoxy migrates to another not by the ebb and flow of proof and evidence but through dramatic paradigm shifts. An abundance of anomalies can wholly discredit a current praxis but that doesn’t make it go away. Ego and institutional inertia perpetuate the problem until its most prominent exponents retire and die and a new elite replaces them with different ideas.

In this model, we can expect that a failed innovation in science, politics, or technology could last as long as 70 years before finally being displaced, which is roughly how long the Soviet experiment lasted. That’s a depressing thought. If this is true, we still have another 60 plus years of rule by the management professionals who enacted lockdowns, closures, shot mandates, population propaganda, and censorship.

And yet, people say that history is moving faster now than in the past. If a future of freedom is ours just lying in wait, we need that future here sooner rather than later, before it is too late to do anything about it.

The slogan became popular about ten years ago: the revolution will be decentralized with the creation of robust parallel institutions. There is no other path. The intellectual parlor game is over. This is a real-life struggle for freedom itself. It’s resist and rebuild or doom.


Jeffrey A. Tucker is Founder and President of the Brownstone Institute and the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and ten books in 5 languages, most recently Liberty or Lockdown


Related Items:

Jeffrey A.Tucker’s interview with David Leis on Leaders on the Frontier can be seen here.

His testimony at the National Citizens Inquiry (Winnipeg) may be viewed here

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