Those in positions of power have long recognized that conditions of fear and panic furnish exploitable opportunities to restructure society. COVID-19 is certainly a textbook example of this observation, illustrating that well-tuned fear campaigns can persuade many people to abandon essential medical and individual freedoms.
One of the key elements in the propagandist’s toolkit for perpetuating fear is repetition, particularly if the fear messages come from different directions and sources and are cloaked in a veneer of officialdom and respectability.
‘Existential threats’ — history repeats
In January, a bipartisan commission released a dramatic 44-page report calling for an “Apollo Program for Biodefense,” explicitly comparing the proposal to the efforts that first landed humans on the moon. The commission laid the groundwork for its report in 2015, when it published a National Blueprint for Biodefense.
Now, seizing the COVID-19 moment, the commission is making the case for a vastly expanded biodefense budget — amounting to billions of biodefense dollars annually — to implement its conveniently ready-to-go blueprint.
Key members of the Biodefense Commission used the “existential threat” language in the aftermath of 9/11 in reference to terrorism — the same language they are using now regarding pandemics. Commission Chair Joseph Lieberman championed the post-9/11 creation of the Department of Homeland Security; Co-chair Thomas Ridge served as the first Homeland Security director.
Around 2014, world leaders began signaling their intent to swap out the War on Terror for a new narrative. That fall, President Obama hosted the first major meeting of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) — which he later elevated to a national priority — and soon thereafter pronounced the terrorist threat “over-inflated.”
Observing the downplaying of terrorism by Obama and senior administration officials, including then-Vice President Biden, journalists at The Guardian chimed in, calling assertions of an “existential [terrorist] threat” hyperbolic,