BEFORE reading it, please note that Britain is a class-riven society and it is not necessarily based on wealth like in the USA. Readers need to know how it works because there are a lot of references to ‘class’ in this article. Simply put; there are 3 main classes generally distinguished by occupation: The ‘upper’ ruling class – the professional middle class – and the working class.
The upper class (rentiers) own most of the assets and live by rents and investments (capital) and control most things. The middle class manage society, are lackeys to the upper class and implement their commands. The working class, (the 80%), do all the work (production) and live by earning a wage. I hope this clarifies the British strata in general terms.
I was born into a working class family (my father was a well-read cobbler) and graduated to the middle class when I initially qualified as a company secretary in the 1960s by virtue of a scholarship scheme that was prevalent in those days. The references to ‘working class’ are not intended to be demeaning; that’s how it is.
I wish I could say that I wrote the following because it says everything I would want to report about the direction in which the UK government is taking us. But there is hope, for many are discovering the lies and deceit which is endemic in the British ruling class otherwise known as the ‘Establishment’.
As the USA repeatedly demonstrates, an uneducated, gullible, paranoid, terrified and deeply religious population ignorant of the world outside their digital screens and indoctrinated with conspiracy theories is the most malleable and amenable to the exercise of US power over both itself and the rest of the world.
So what is the point of tearing off your mask if, like the hero and heroine of Spielberg’s film, [Close Encounters of the Third Kind], you’re then led up the mountain path to the spectacle of a conspiracy unmasked? Ten years before Spielberg’s film, in May 1968, the walls of Paris were painted with the motto: ‘Sous les pavés, la plage!’ (‘Beneath the pavement, the beach!’), encouraging the rebelling students and striking workers not only to use the paving stones of Paris as missiles against the police, but to find the reality that lay hidden beneath the veneer of urban life. But those were simpler times. Today, behind the mask, there is only the conspiracy, which does not conceal the truth but, rather, is the lie invented to dissemble the truth.
The last anti-lockdown protest in London, held on 24 April, was an immense, peaceful, joyous demonstration by up to half a million people from all over Britain, unbranded by parliamentary parties and identity politics, on which the masked death-cult of the COVID-faithful looked with horror. Half-way down Oxford Street, which was filled with demonstrators from one end to the other, I spoke to a retired military man who had come all the way from Dorset.
He was a nice bloke, spoke a lot about spiritual pathways, but the conspiracy theories of COVID had done their work on him. His firm conviction that the coronavirus crisis was a lie had come between him and his wife, he said, who thought he was mad and dangerous. Without me asking, he volunteered all sorts of theories about what is really happening. He identified a number of powerful individuals as the conspirators behind the lockdown, which ranged from the usual suspects (Bill Gates, Klaus Schwab, etc) to more unusual figures whose names I didn’t recognise, and also identified a number of people he said knew the truth, largely celebrities on social media.
He then started pointing out the recurrence of the numbers 666 in the advertising we passed. His argument here was a bit more subtle. He didn’t claim that this recurring motif, which I couldn’t see, was a sign of evil or Satanic organisations, but rather of the confidence of the conspirators, for whom, he said, this sign meant something, even if it didn’t to the rest of us, much like the secret handshakes of Freemasons.
In many ways, then, this man was an embodiment of the Richard Dreyfuss character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, who like my acquaintance had been abandoned by his wife because of his irrational beliefs. Like him, he saw the occult symbol of a concealed and deeper intention everywhere he looked. Like him, he saw his discovery of a hidden truth as a spiritual journey that had brought him, just as it did Spielberg’s hero, from his home town to the site of revelation. And like him, he saw this revelation as the truth of a conspiracy unmasked.
I recall this meeting here not to ridicule or dismiss this man, who is emblematic of the people who are ridiculed and dismissed in mainstream and social media as ‘covidiots’ (etc.), and with whom I was proud to march. I asked above what the point of tearing off your mask is if all it leads you to is a journey up a spiritual mountain to a meeting with little green men from outer space. It’s a genuine question, and the dismissive way in which I’ve framed it here is part of why it needs to be answered.
My answer is that, although I do not believe in the conspiracy theories of what is happening behind the mask of the coronavirus crisis, these marchers have seen through that mask far more clearly than the millions of educated, professional, largely middle-class people who continue to believe, with an equally irrational conviction, in the blatant lies we are being told by our Government and media.
If the working-class Britons who constituted the huge majority of the marchers on Oxford Street don’t yet have the knowledge with which to answer their own questions, it is the fault of a system of government, media and education that inundates them with conspiracy theories. If it’s on those theories that people fall back when trying to offer an alternative explanation of what they know to be a lie, it’s because that’s precisely what those theories have been created to do. That the middle-classes, who have been largely responsible for disseminating those theories in our media and entertainment industry, should now laugh at those explanations is another example of the contempt in which they hold the working class of Britain.
But their laughter is hollow, and growing more so, and has no place on the lips of those whose unshakeable belief in these lies would itself be worthy of laughter if its consequences for all of us hadn’t been so devastating. My answer to the question, then, is that the point of tearing off your mask is that it brings you here, among half a million people who at least recognise a lie if they don’t yet know the truth, to demonstrate our freedom from the biosecurity state being built on those lies.
Conspiracy theories are a product of our post-modernity. Where modernism understood the truth to be concealed beneath the surface reality of things (the beach beneath the pavement), postmodernism views reality itself as being constituted by those surfaces, beneath which there is only the abyss of competing opinions whose will to power produces the truth (the conspiracy behind the mask), which is therefore always contingent.
But conspiracy theories are not only a product but also a phenomenon. Among the plethora of information with which we are inundated in the postmodern world, in which any viewpoint can find expression and confirmation, truth is no longer subjected to discursive measures — for example, adherence to scientific procedure — but has been reduced almost entirely to a question of authority — the belief in something called ‘Science’.
Thus, rather than presenting the evidence, for example, of the efficacy of masks in stopping transmission of a virus, we are instead instructed to ‘follow the science’, and anyone following scientific procedure to show their lack of efficacy and even possible harm is accused of being ‘anti-science’. The discursive procedures of a discipline, whether scientific, historical or philosophical, are now apotheosised as Science, Fact, Truth.
In other words, the production of knowledge is reduced to faith in the authorities overseeing the application of these disciplines to political power: science to the pharmaceutical industry, fact to the media empires of billionaires, truth to the spectacle of politics. It is from this, I believe, that we are seeing the divide opened by the conspiracy theories produced in response to the coronavirus crisis gradually taking on a class dimension.
On the one hand — and more, even, than by Brexit — the implementation of the UK biosecurity state behind the mask of this crisis has rendered the old political divisions into Right and Left irrelevant. Under Keir Starmer, the British Labour Party is more right-wing than the Government of Margaret Thatcher; and, along with every other Parliamentary Party, it has collaborated with the Conservative Government of Boris Johnson in either not opposing, or actively voting for, coronavirus-justified regulations, and then enforcing, though its local and municipal authorities, the programmes and technologies of the biosecurity state that have erased our human rights and civil liberties.
When the entire political class of the UK is united, as never before, in dismantling the foundations of our democracy, it is not surprising that the new division in the UK is not between the various parties competing for power over the population, but between the political, civil, legal, medical, educational, media and other institutions implementing the UK biosecurity state and that section of the British people resisting the increase and reach of the state’s control over us.
But, on the other hand, as the march through Central London on 24 April showed to anyone who was present, those who, without necessarily understanding what is going on, know that what they are being told by these institutions is a lie, are overwhelmingly from the working class. By the same token, as shown by the parallel but far smaller demonstrations against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill organised by the Labour Party, those who, without being able to say why, believe the lies they are being told, are overwhelmingly from the middle classes.
This isn’t to say that, unfortunately, millions of working-class Britons don’t also believe these lies; or that a handful of middle-class Britons recognise them for what they are; but this class attitude to authority goes some way, I think, to explaining what I myself have found most inexplicable about the ease with which this revolution into a totalitarian society has been affected.
That is the obstinacy — I would even say the religious fervour — with which educated, intelligent, professional people, who are aware of the lies and media manipulation with which every recent travesty in British history has been justified, now believe, implacably and unquestioningly, the same authors and disseminators of those lies about the most far-reaching changes to our politics and society since at least the Second World War.
The working class, in the divided factions of its former unity, has one thing in common, and that is its experience of being lied to by figures in authority. Not instinctively but through experience, a working-class person does not trust what a person from the middle-classes does trust, whether that figure is a politician, a councillor, a policeman, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, an intellectual, a journalist, a banker, an architect, a property developer or a civil servant. There are very few members of the working class who have not been lied to, and know they have been lied to, by the members of at least several of these professions if not all of them.
For a middle-class person, in contrast, if they themselves do not belong to one of these professions, then their parents did. It’s by the authority these professions exert over the institutions that keep the ruling class in power that the middle classes depend for their own position in the social hierarchy of capitalism. It’s not only in their experience, therefore, but also in their class interest, to maintain trust in, and obedience to, the authority of those institutions.
But I’ll be honest. I’m still trying to understand how the albeit rigorously depoliticised and deeply anti-intellectual middle-classes of Britain could be so absolutely and willingly duped by the crooks and liars that rule over us; but this, I think, goes some way to explaining the almost total complicity of our professional classes in these lies, without which they could never have attained their current status as Science, Fact, Truth.
This, however, goes to the heart of what we’re seeing implemented behind the mask of this manufactured crisis. As I’ve argued in my article Cui Bono? The COVID-19 ‘Conspiracy’, far from being a health crisis, what has brought about this transformation of Western liberal democracies into totalitarian biosecurity states is a revolution in global capitalism and the new forms of politics, law and culture that accommodate and propagate the emerging character and monopoly of that capitalism.
To be surprised and horrified, as I admit I have been, by the willing complicity of the middle-classes with the unprecedented censorship and authoritarianism of the emergent UK biosecurity state is to accord, by implication, a level of resistance and opposition to the lies and injustices on which the past forty years of neoliberalism have been built.
Why shouldn’t those who believe that the sixth strongest economy in the world can’t afford to build council housing, or pay for the education of its children, or for the health-care of its population, or that the bailouts of banks responsible for the financial crisis should be recouped by cuts to public services for the working class, or that the increase in the wealth of 145 billionaires will increase the wealth of the 14.5 million Britons that were living in poverty even before the coronavirus crisis, have any hesitation in believing that a viral load too weak to produce symptoms in one person will transmit a sufficient load to kill another, or that surgical masks designed to stop saliva droplets will stop viral particles 0.1 microns in diameter, or that tests with a false positive rate higher than the percentage of the population testing positive is a scientific basis for removing our rights and freedoms, or that lockdown restrictions that have never been used before in the history of modern medicine are the best way to stop the spread of a respiratory disease, or that a virus with the fatality rate of seasonal influenza justifies imposing experimental vaccines on the population as a condition of our freedom, or all the other lies on which the UK biosecurity state is being been built?
We live in an age of lies, and if the middle classes have been content to stand by and watch the theft, war, poverty and inequality produced by the corporate monopoly of neoliberalism while comforting itself with the radical conservatism of identity politics, why should we expect anything different from them now? I don’t, but that doesn’t mean their responsibility for the ease and rapidity with which this lie has been made into a Truth that has already transformed our world irrevocably won’t lie at their door forever. Their betrayal is total, unforgivable and completely unsurprising.
Only the working class can oppose the totalitarian future being built for us by our rulers with the willing collusion of the middle classes. In this respect, it doesn’t matter whether the working-class opposed to the biosecurity state believes it is facing a secret cabal running a New World Order or the new forms of corporate government by unelected technocrats we’re seeing emerge from the manufactured chaos and immiseration of the global population.
This, if you like, is the real ‘conspiracy’, which is not a conspiracy but the function and purpose — long ago exposed but now repressed and forgotten — of ideology within capitalism: to maintain the power of the ruling class, to reward the middle-classes for their obedience, and to keep the working class deceived about the causes of its impoverishment and disempowerment, and therefore unable to organise its individual resistance into collective opposition.
The demonstrations and protests against coronavirus-justified restrictions on our human rights and civil liberties, the imposition of totalitarian programmes and technologies of surveillance, monitoring and control, and the construction of a biosecurity state founded on mandatory vaccines and digital health passports as a condition of our citizenship, offer hope that the mass deception of the working class by conspiracy theories can be overcome and replaced by a properly emancipatory, political and revolutionary project.
It is up to us to extract that project from the lies by which it continues to be dissembled. As we have seen over the past year of cowardice and complicity, a people can be deceived collectively, but they discover the truth one by one. But there has never been a better or more urgent time to undertake this task, which starts with one very simple but practical and symbolic gesture. Whether the conspiracy theory is of unidentified flying objects carrying alien life forms from outer space or a disease so deadly you need a test that amplifies viral DNA half a trillion times over in order to know whether you have it, the truth begins when you take off your mask.