Disclaimer: there are so many unknowns in the history of Covid19, and so much that is thought to be known is actually of uncertain value, that this article is intended only as an imaginative alternative history.
(An aside: the title was inspired by someone else's debunking of a speculative paper on the grounds that it presented a theory without measurement, with the added LOL note that he intended no insult to string theory.)
On or about July 17th, 2019 (western) an incident at the Wahun Biolabs left all eight members of the cleaning crew assigned to that wing of the building dead the next day. Since these were nobodies, nobody noticed until a named researcher died at his desk in early August -and, because his death, along with those of several juniors, was reported up the chain of command, a significant sterilization effort was undertaken in September.
Secrecy within the lab meant, however, that some researchers did not take the threat from the virus as seriously as they took the threat from the outsiders, and so responded by hiding information, software, and materiel. Worse, several members of the squad charged with disposal of the bodies stole clothing and other personal effects - leading, by early October, to several new vacancies at the Shiyan barracks and a number of deaths originating at local hostels, bars, and markets.
Again, none of this would have been reported outside the chain of command except for two factors: first, some senior PLA officers in Beijing were scheduled to promote the lab's work to an Iranian delegation; and, second, one of the student aides who died at home was the flawless hope of a family with connections to a person of standing: a long time party servant working as a dentist. Unable to get through to anyone at the lab, he had a connection at Tongji hospital test the dead boy's blood and was soon shouting "wolf" loudly enough to be heard by the lab's own security people - who then tried to stop the information spread through interdiction.
Unfortunately, they could not stop the Iranian tour group without explaining what was happening to Beijing and so bringing back the half general whose summary approach to judgment they had survived six weeks earlier. As a result some lab animals died on schedule with about a third of the people involved both at the lab and among the returnees and vacationers in Beijing, Tehran, and Italy finally drawing senior PLA and party attention to both the lab and the virus by following suit over the next three weeks.
A note added Feb 28/23: there does not seem to be much evidence to support the notion that the CCP intentionally released the virus. What is supported by the available "evidence" (in quotes because all of it is questionable) is the idea that the local security people could not stop travel from Wahun without alerting senior players in Beijing - and those people, when the brown stuff finally hit their fans realized first that the virus was already in Europe and the United States; and, second, that not acting to stop the spread internationally might be a politically useful way of bringing American (and European) expertise and energy to bear on finding a cure and making a vaccine.
Thus by late December 2019 or early January 2020, senior players at the World Health Organization, the NIH, and many other public health agencies were reading "top secret" intelligence reports that talked about a 30% to 50% death rate among the affected and referred poignantly to people dying in the streets after being turned away at hospitals whose administrators did not want anything to do with this tar baby.
Unfortunately the narrow organizational pipelines created to accommodate the security and access rules for "Top Secret" reports restricted the information to quite senior bureaucrats and the reporters they leaked some of the more sensational claims to. Worse, these were generally people whose success in achieving and maintaining roles at the interface between science and politics had left them thirty or more years out of date on the science and whose complicity in the financial manipulations used to shield dangerous research from regulators by moving it to places like China and the Ukraine had left them pre-disposed to assume the worst.
As a result a form of hysteria developed among the blessed who then imposed decisions based on fear, politics, and Hollywood scripting instead of reason and data - in that process sweeping away long standing plans for dealing with a new pandemic while denigrating the people and science behind those plans. Worse, the ever escalating commitments they made during that process, including slapping down their juniors, leaking to the press, praising ludicrous forecasts, solemnly briefing politicians to expect 15% or higher death rates, and frequent appearances as talking heads, then led them to suppress new information and contradictory warnings from the more knowledgeable with ever more defensive contempt, the full power of their positions, and the major media's eagerness to serve its political masters in spreading fear while damning dissenters.
Thus by mid February of 2020 President Trump and his opposite numbers in the UK and across western Europe were being told about death rates in the tens of millions and media around the world were happily launching a narrative of unparalleled disaster while the largely unplatformed but knowledgeable in labs and hospitals were being shouted down. Notice, in this, that the suppression of dissent was just business as usual for most of those involved, but not for the bureaucrats at the top. For them, the matter almost instantly became a matter of life and worse-than-death because recognizing the obvious: that the thing's exponential decline in lethality with each new generation testified both to its artificial origin and to the counter-productive nature of the official over-reaction to it, opened the door to the role these same bureaucrats had played in shifting both European and American funding for gain of function research to Wahun.
By late March democrats in the United States and anti-brexitiers in the UK had seen political advantage in continuing the panic to destroy the Trump economy, force dissident scientists into line, and collapse plans for an Anglo-American common market that would have strengthened the entire western alliance against China and and the Soros led effort to spread eugenics and other progressive ideals across western Europe and the United States. In response personal attacks on both the British Prime Minister and the American President, already at an all time high, were stepped up both in the media and in political institutions on both sides of the Atlantic while progressives working in bureaucracies everywhere joined with the larger social media companies to put additional resources into the suppression of contrary voices.
By June of 2020 the American President at least was getting better advice and personally adopting a more reasoned view of what was happening, but public commitments made in April when he had insufficient reason to doubt teams of highly credentialed health experts predicting a potential sixty million dead Americans on his watch; the crescendo of media support for the harsh actions demanded by the doom sayers; and continued multi-pronged attacks on his own credibility and resources, all combined to silence him while people like Dr. Fauci misled the public in the service of both progressive politics and the avoidance of personal responsibility.
Some adaptation to reality did occur when the predicted death rate failed to materialize during the summer. In the United States, for example, an attempt by President Trump to explore the financial links between key players in Ukraine's national socialist movement and high level democrats including the Bidens generated a ferocious counter-attack that both prevented the president from declaring the emergency over and allowed the media to sweep its more obviously falsified predictions down the memory hole.
After that it took over two years for most of the forces these processes unleashed to mostly play themselves out - with three kinds of hangovers presently in evidence:
- as is normal with mass delusions, some of the more committed continue to believe. Thus some people still wear masks and demand lockdowns - and because some of those people hold power in school districts, municipalities, and local governments around the western world, there is significant residual pressure for the re-imposition of counter-productive programs like masking, lockdowns, and the maximal persecution of dissent.
- we are currently at the beginning of an exponential increase in leftist attacks on President Trump because he presided over the beginnings of the lockdowns and masking masquerades while expediting development and release of what he knew were experimental and possibly extremely dangerous vaccines.
This is, of course, grossly unfair and anachronistic because the only highly credentialed experts and widely supported information available to the president when he initiated the development program presented his choice as that between a disease that would kill or cripple around 5% of the population - including essentially everyone with, as the saying was "one foot on a banana peel"- and the high risk rushed development of an experimental vaccine series expected to reduce mortality to the 1% range while killing or crippling perhaps one person in a thousand.
It is also, of course, utterly hypocritical because the democrats first delayed vaccine release to hurt Trump prior to the 2020 elections, and then relentlessly persecuted both vaccine and lockdown/masking dissent while hiding information about the effects of their policies - all while also withholding evidence showing that the excess death rates for those without significant co-morbidities had fallen to well below 0.5% sometime before October of 2020.
- As demonstrated by Sweden and the total failure of the unvaccinated to die in disproportionate numbers, nearly all expert advice on covid19 has turned out to be wrong.
As a result there is currently an emerging three part consensus recognition that the much maligned and attacked covid19 sceptics, including the anti-vaxers, were right; that the lockdowns and maskings did long term damage to large swathes of the population including school kids whose education and social maturation processes were irretrievably harmed; and that some combination of the disease, the vaccines, and reductions in health care accessibility during the lockdowns has left a larger than expected sub-population of the apparently healthy liable to blood clots, heart disease, and sudden, unexpected, death. Because these problems will take years, if not decades, to fully materialize and work out there is little realistic possibility that either the wronged or the vindicated will simply put this behind them. What we can expect, instead, is many years of litigation and political finger pointing with both government agencies and individuals involved eventually being absolved on their initial reactions because those decisions, although wrong, were based on the information available at the time, but found liable for damages because their policies were continued well past the point at which the claimed factual basis for those policies had been clearly and widely falsified by events.
A further disclaimer: I hope not to write the next chapter in the Covid saga - tentatively titled: "The Third Wolf". Absent dramatic remedial action within the governing structures of England, the EU, and the United States, one can only hope, however, that there will be people left to write, and read, that essay.