In the past week, stories in the media have been warning about the latest COVID-19 variant, the latest in a long list. It doesn’t seem like people are listening anymore.
In the minds of much of the public, the pandemic is long over and is firmly a thing of the past. The last thing most people want is another trip down the rabbit hole of restrictions, lockdowns, masks and vaccinations, with the past few years having seriously undermined the credibility of governments and public trust in them to do the right thing.
And Western governments no longer have the political will or interest to dare make unpopular decisions, even if some are sounding the alarm.
The pandemic in many respects was a turning point in government-public relations in Western countries, precisely because it was the first outbreak of such scale to occur in the age of mass social-media culture, where people, more connected than ever before, have the unrestricted capability to voice their own opinions, to hear the opinions of others, and with these to enact dissent against governments and their policies. The social-media era has already provided many significant challenges to state structures as it is, with Western governments scrambling to reassert a “narrative control” over their populations that they’ve since lost.
Social-media freedom has played a critical role in – if not outright caused – outcomes which have shocked elites, be it the election of Donald Trump in the US, or Brexit in Britain. Subsequently, Western ruling classes have increased censorship and narrative policing on social media platforms through denouncing viewpoints they don’t like as “misinformation” or even as malicious propaganda by foreign actors like China or Russia.
The COVID-19 pandemic thus saw one of the most comprehensive censorship campaigns Western governments had ever undertaken (at least before that of the Ukraine conflict), especially when it came to those who sought to question or challenge the need for vaccines.
Governments have tried to aggressively reassert narrative control, stomping out dissent against their views, broadcast by establishment media.
It would be foolish to deny that vaccines were important in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, even critical to saving lives, especially among the elderly and the vulnerable, but the manner in which this issue was conducted by governments has produced wholesale distrust in authority at large. That is not because vaccines are ‘bad’ but because people saw the profits being raked in by their Big Pharma producers, saw how aggressively governments were pushing for their implementation, and were skeptical as to whether the whole thing really served the “public interest.” In other words, the method (propaganda and censorship) defeated the objective (introducing vaccines to save lives).
Big Pharma, of course, refers to a group of multinational drug- and medicine-producing companies which wield enough political influence and connections to be able to steer the public narrative towards endorsing their own products and which therefore exerts a monopoly over the perceived solutions to a health crisis or problem.
- These companies profited wholesale over the pandemic and to some extent influenced government policies over the issue. But more specifically, the narrative was steered to argue that the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna were the only ones you should use, with Chinese and Russian competitors often receiving targeted negative coverage.
Therefore, as it goes, public criticism of pandemic-related policies has grown because it is now more widely believed that these companies, armed with the media, exert “scaremongering” to fulfil their commercial goals.
Combined with the influence of social media, this has created large-scale distrust, despite all evidence of how harmful and deadly the early forms of COVID were, especially for the sick and the elderly, and of the significant numbers of COVID-related deaths being reported to this day.
As a result, continuing to sound alarm bells about new variants and the spread of the disease does more harm than good, because it reinforces perceptions that the media are attempting to scare populations with something that is not a real threat.
The pandemic has had a politically exhausting effect that also came with a choppy transition back to ‘real’ life.
The public is not interested in making sacrifices again in the name of a disease that is already perceived to have ‘gone away,’ especially when it is believed there is an agenda behind doing so – not just Big Pharma’s but also one of power centralization, censorship and narrative-control by governments.
The pandemic and the Ukraine conflict together have marked part of a shift whereby Western states have sought to reassert power lost during the social-media era, but have only achieved the opposite effect.
- The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
Source: Timur Fomenko – RT