The pandemic will be remembered as the time of the great discouragement, as the time when we were compelled to consider the overwhelming proof of how pitiably helpless all too many of our brothers and sisters really are. In previous so-called emergencies of so-called public health, it was our comfortable privilege to believe and to assume that the fearmongering and panicked reports of cable news resonated only with a minority of the most pathetic, and while that may have been true of the time, it is obvious that the frightened, the gullible, and the childish comprise a significant percentage of the adult population. This is not to say that all who have succumbed to the relentless propaganda of the coronavirus are monstrous, but it is to say that we are likely incapable of opening their eyes, of convincing them to take the red pill.
If you maintain a more optimistic view, then I reluctantly invite you to read an article published by NBC News on Sunday, the twenty-fifth of April: “Even After Being Fully Vaccinated, Many Still Wrestle with a Fear of Catching COVID”. The headline is a staggering display of paralytic superstition, and it reveals the inexhaustible nature of this manufactured terror: there is absolutely nothing, no medical resource or innovation, that can convince the propagandized to conquer their nosophobia and cyberchrondria. Clearly, they do not believe in the efficacy of the vaccines for which they have yearned for more than a year, and with which they demand everyone be injected posthaste. As an aside, it may be helpful if we begin to regard this widespread fear of COVID as a generalized obsession, and not as a directed fear of the coronavirus, per se.
Kit Breshears is one particularly unfortunate obsessive, and it is for this reason that he is the star of the aforementioned NBC News piece. He proudly proclaims the dumbfounding depths of his paranoia, declaring with a salient sense of accomplishment that he has not directly interacted with another human being in more than a year, for he could not accept so needless a risk to his quality of life. He is the model citizen in the authoritarian government’s program of unquestioning compliance and voluntary suffering, and although we might prefer to believe that Mr. Breshears is a fictional character created by the state to effectuate its totalitarian ends, or that he has enjoyed “working from home” (which is to say, not working at all) for the past year too heartily to surrender the privilege, we know that Branch Covidian fundamentalism and extremism are real; and so, there is only too much truth to this portrait.
As we can well imagine, Mr. Breshears became vaccinated at the earliest lawful opportunity, but, as the title of the article suggests, he continues to suffer from the agonizing worry that he will succumb to the dreaded virus. While we cannot say that his concerns are completely baseless—the author of the article reluctantly observes that a number of vaccinated subjects have gone on to become infected with COVID—his particular nightmare is only fantasy: “My fear,” he says, “is that enough people are not going to get vaccinated, or they’re not going to get vaccinated in a timely fashion, and we end up getting a horrible variant that puts us right back to where we are.” This is a pseudoscientific misrepresentation of the function of vaccination, but then again, medical misinformation is acceptable in the establishment press, as long as it encourages fear of infection.
Mr. Breshears derives his identity from his squeamish servility and pseudointellectual cowardice, both of which he presents as virtue. Gutless, pusillanimous, and incurably programmed, he seeks recognition—favorable recognition, no less—for the totality of his submission alone. Absent the brutality of his masochism, he would have no cause to command our attention, yet he asks us to find him significant because he has made himself completely insignificant in the real world. As the feeble byproduct of a scare campaign legitimized by the mass media, he is visible only in this digital space in which he is permitted to disdain strength as weakness and to uphold weakness as strength. In his perversion of values, he becomes Nietzsche’s last man, an unnatural being defined by vacuity and torpor. It follows that Mr. Breshears effectively exists only in the media, the unreal world that has been substituted for the real world in the time of the pandemic.