A Country Destroying Itself

As America officially passes half a million dead in the Coronavirus pandemic, the consequences of the planned demolition of American society are coming fully into focus

The numbers are staggering.

500,000+ Americans dead by even the most conservative of accounts.

A plague that has swept across the country and back again, affecting our people unequally, taking the largest toll on people of color and people with limited means.

A completely preventable tragedy that stands as an indictment of not just our political system, but the very structure of our society. That America is exceptional in terms of its suffering is no accident. To have reached this level of cataclysm was only possible because of a planned destruction of our politics, our economy, and the very notion of a shared reality. This occurred over the past few decades and has wrought unbelievable damage and suffering.

And, what’s more, it’s not even over.

To support Jared Yates Sexton’s work and to unlock exclusive content, including subscriber-only Q&A sessions and additional articles, please consider subscribing to Dispatches From A Collapsing State.

On February 15th, 2021, as the state of Texas was largely blacked out, its residents burning their possessions and attempting not to freeze to death, a man named Scott L. Biddle posted on Facebook and set off a viral storm. Biddle is an active conspiracy theorist who has published books like Coronavirus Covid-19 LOCKDOWN and trafficks in hysterical flat-earth narratives. The post on the 15th concerned the rare winter storm that had hit Texas, Biddle writing:

Joe Biden's "Dark Winter" statement was not a random thought, it was a foreshadow of what was to come. Texas is the only state to have its own, entirely independent electric grid separate from the rest of the United States. This is warfare, an attack on Texas by altering the Jetstream, seeding the clouds, and ultimately causing the storm that blacked out over 4 million people. Sound crazy? Too hard to believe? Believe it.

Sadly I watched versions of this post and ludicrous accusation slither through the feeds of people I know and my family, the alternative reality taking shape right alongside the other memes and nonsense they traffic in. It made sense, after all, to a group of people who have been convinced their political opponents steal babies for the purposes of abusing them and harvesting magical elixirs from their broken bodies. It makes as much sense as anything else they’re marinating in.

The underlying cause for this nonsense to even find a home is that global climate change and the building climate catastrophe have been effectively undermined as scientific and objective fact by energy corporations who have paid billions of dollars to do just that. It is an especially awful and tragic thing considering those same companies knew climate change to be a fact as early as 1980’s, their scientists informing them, in some cases, before even the public knew. They made a decision, a fateful one, to invest in “alternative science,” to pay experts in the field to skew the data, inject doubt into the public, and threw unbelievable amounts of money into the Republican Party and the Right Wing media ecosystem to protect their investments.

As the deception grew, so did the narrative. Right Wing media not only doubted climate change, it sneeringly derided anyone who worried over it, turned it into a culture war, and claimed that scientists, those greedy, greedy, aristocratic scientists, were intentionally deceiving and frightening the public all in the pursuit of choice grants and investments. It became a matter of class and, over time, a matter of race and privilege as to whether groups believed the planet was facing the imminent threat of massive, society-altering climate change.

All while the wealthy and powerful knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was fact.

William E. Simon was Richard Nixon’s Treasury Secretary for three years, but perhaps his most lasting and consequential contribution to American history was the publishing of his book A Time For Truth in 1978. After watching the Watergate controversy that would lead to Nixon’s resignation, the peoples’ uprisings of the 1960’s and 1970’s, and taking note that universities and scientists around the country were churning out studies, facts, and figures that not only hurt Republican causes but threatened the cultural dominance of free-market capitalism, Simon decided it was time to strike back.

“What we desperately need in America today,” he wrote, “is a powerful counterintelligentsia.”

Simon’s call was heard by a beleagured Republican Party watching the narrative and thrust of power slip away. If prevailing reality was leaning leftward, if facts and science were threatening the pursuit of profit and hindering the GOP’s continued chances, then reality and facts and science were enemies needing dealt with.

In the wake of this, the Right created a veritable constellation of conservative and pro-capitalism think-tanks that would pump out one biased study and book after another, effectively creating for Republicans an anti-academy that catered to their own beliefs and economic interests. The implication was clear: reality was anything but fixed, and trust in experts or science or even empirical evidence was to be distrusted.

This counterintelligentsia, which would eventually lead to Fox News, the Right Wing online ecosystem, and contribute to this infuriating disaster, was sponsored, funded, and controlled by wealthy individuals like the Koch Brothers, who contributed mountains of cash in the pursuit of undermining faith in government and deregulating their personal spheres of influence. In some cases, as colleges were turned more and more into businesses and attacked by Republican politicians, they were even able buy influence within the academy itself and launder their political views.

Coupled with the counterintelligentsia Simon prescribed, billionaires like the Kochs coopted outrage against the Housing Collapse in 2008 to manufacture the so-called “Tea Party Movement” that harnessed populist anger with white supremacist paranoia of Barack Obama, the first African American president, to manipulate white, working-class, middle-American voters to advocate for a progressively radicalized Right Wing movement that lowered taxes on the wealthy, disempowered the federal government, and promoted the libertarian pursuits of the billionaires behind the scenes.

The counterintelligentsia was strong, everpresent, and dissolving shared reality.

Though the Coronavirus Pandemic has often been described as “unpredictable” and “unprecedented,” the truth is that this storm has been brewing for a long, long time. It is the result of these efforts, by the wealthy and powerful, the Republican Party, and the government they have all but dismantled as a source of public good. In the face of mounting tragedy, unbelievable human suffering, and a demoralizing inability to even get Americans on the same page enough to wear mask or practice social distancing, it must be said that these are the consequences of an intentional plan and controlled demolition.

Without these movements, there is no Donald Trump as President of the United States, no hawking of hydroxychloroquine and bleach and “light” as miracle cures, no descriptions of a generational disaster as “a hoax,” no late-night Fox News segments about how it’s only as bad as a regular flu and all trumped-up, hysterical worrying. You don’t get “Re-Open Movements” funded by a new generation of wealthy actors like Betsy DeVos that ape the Tea Party’s structure while pumping doubt into the populace. You don’t have viral threads about Bill Gates creating the virus and its vaccine to implant “the Mark of the Beast.”

And, what’s more, you don’t have this awful, inhuman system that failed us consistently and contributed to the rising numbers. You don’t have a healthcare system that lags behind every other industrial nation because the Right continues to attack any call for reform as “radical,” “socialist,” or a “tyrannical takeover.” You don’t get the hollowing out of Middle America via globalism without the drumbeat of free-market capitalism at all and any costs.

This is a uniquely American tragedy, a shame that will be viewed by history as an embarrassing, disgusting, preventable moment that represented a festering illness at the heart of the culture. And, sadly, if we are not able to fight back and escape this cycle, as the efforts continue and as the Right recognizes the scheme will only lead to more profits, more power, and more control, history will more than likely note that this was just one in a long and continuing line of unthinkable tragedies that only got worse as the con rolled on.