PANDA’s Response to Daily Maverick: Kung-Flu Panda: dodgy analytics or pandemic propaganda?

[PANDA have been denied the right to respond to a hatchet piece published by the Daily Maverick, as the recipients of similar treatment by our co-opted, press, we publish their response in full below. – Ed]

From: Nick Hudson
Date: Friday, 5 February 2021 at 08:24
To: Rebecca Davis
Subject: Re: Media inquiry: Daily Maverick ~ Panda

RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS FROM DAILY MAVERICK 4 February 2020

PANDA received these questions at 14h38 on 4 February and was required to respond by 9am on 5 February (4 business hours). Some of the questions posed of PANDA relate to the non-PANDA activities of individuals based in Canada, the United States and New Zealand. Given the timezones, it was not possible to get responses from the individuals in question and we have responded based on publicly available information.

The article that our response is requested to premises a conspiracy between various groups around the world, of which PANDA is, by implication, one. The article is such a tawdry concoction of nonsense that it hardly warrants a response. It is not clear what the purpose of the alleged conspiracy is, but the conspiracy is supposedly coordinated by the former lead psychologist at Cambridge Analytica, who apparently advises these “pandemic disinformation platforms”. The article is authored by a journalist once described by Vanity Fair as engaging in “conspiracy mongering” and is published on a controversial “platform for freelance reporters and writers to produce fearless journalism not found in the mainstream media.” It seems its primary purpose with this article is to attack “hard right politicians” in the UK’s Conservative Party. Daily Maverick would be the first mainstream media publication to publish the conspiracy theory about PANDA and thereby the first to lend credence to the fanciful and defamatory statements about PANDA and its members made therein.

Proposed SABC ‘Internet Tax’ is regressive, defeats purpose of content development

THE FIRST South Africa got wind of the draft license regulations mooted by the SABC was in the form of a broad content debate. One involving Netflix and to some degree Youtube. The country is no exception with Canada recently passing laws to compel streaming firms to pay for local content.

Then SABC Head of TV Licences Sylvia Tladi, stepped into the frey with a narrow call for stricter individual regulation to ‘improve compliance in terms of TV Licence fees” and apparently also plans to extend licensing to ‘include tablets and cellphones’. Effectively a plan to tax the Internet instead of asserting local content requirements for large Pay-per-View channels

The Kingdom of Lesotho proposed a similar scheme last month which could see individual users requiring licenses to use social media, at the same time that mobile operator Vodacom was being fingered over its own license conditions.

A similar scheme under the former Film & Publications Board would have resulted in a million censors tackling the proverbial ‘infinite supply’ of content ostensibly to earn billions of rubles in foreign exchange. A fools errand driving our Peso, sorry Rand economy, and one which would merely create a bureaucratic logjam –a national ‘PayWall’, aimed at the purse of anyone producing online content.

The problem with being seduced by this ‘Tax the Internet’, approach ( no millions of lives will not be saved during the Covid Crisis by rolling out new license schemes) aside from the fact it represents a blunt instrument –a regressive tax on a previously untaxed environment — is that it seeks to tax free content and paid content alike.

Free content provided for gratis, such as that available from the same publication you are reading right now, need I mention my Youtube Channel?

In effect, SABC would be charging its audience (read tablet and cellphone users) for access to Medialternatives copyrighted content, alongside the broader Internet, and without any forethought as to the legal consequences of such a scheme — little more than an unfair and irregular means to hijack free content and resell the result. The Mail & Guardian tried something similar back in 2007 before its news aggregation business was closed down.

Publishers such as Medialternatives and many other local and global free sites, (for example popular site MyBroadband), will not earn a cent or gain any revenue from the proposed SABC license scheme.

The old SABC TV license, like the previous Radio license, has traditionally been used to offset costs at the public broadcaster, but I fear, asking online providers of content to bail out the ageing broadcaster and erstwhile content provider, is taking things a step too far, especially when one considers the fruitless and wasteful expenditure under former head Hlaudi Motsoeneng

Robbing Peter to pay Paul , really calls into question the entire rationale behind the license amendment bill and its motivation, supposedly to rectify the adverse effect on local talent who often find themselves competing with foreign media houses. Spare a thought to those of us who find it extremely difficult to enforce copyright even at the SABC, and not least the terms of permissive licenses, within the current legal environment.

I therefore propose something similar to the highly successful Internet Black Out orchestrated by the late Aaron Schwartz, also known as the day the Internet Stood Still. In which online content providers blacked out their content to protest censorship. Until then, simply put up a banner alerting users to the proposed SABC Tax on Free Content.

UPDATE: A document entitled Suggested Approach to Drafting Digital Services Tax Legislation has emerged. Let’s hope we don’t end up with a ‘belt-and-braces’ approach to the issue.

Dropping the race fraud charges isn’t good enough

YESTERDAY South Africans awoke to discover the press were having a field day with Glen Snyman, a teacher at Grootkraal Primary School in the Karoo region. Snyman apparently was charged with fraud after he allegedly identified himself as “African” on his CV for a position at another school in 2017, but had indicated “coloured” on other documents.

If destroying the man’s career in order to promote a new form of petty apartheid in the form of the Employment Equity Act wasn’t enough, the insinuation that Snyman, the founder of People Against Race Classification (PARC), was not merely breaking the law, but was now passing himself off as someone else, in effect, pretending to be black, was truly galling.

In dropping the charges without issuing a retraction of its race-inquiry, the Education Dept, appear to be saying: ‘We’ll overlook what Snyman did, but don’t do it again”. Instead of introducing a points-based system in order to tackle the problem of historical disadvantage within a neutral and objective framework, the law has unfortunately, tended to encourage and even retrace failed policies related to pseudo-scientific racism.

In 2008 Kobus Faasen sued Media24’s Die Burger for collectively describing persons of colour as ‘Bushmen’, only to discover that the law also regarded him as a Bushman, and he had been passing himself off as a “Coloured” for years.

In 2010, my own identity became the subject of a racist religious inquisition at the behest of a corporation instrumental in the creation of the apartheid state, a corporation which thought nothing of deploying one of its own representatives, Halton Cheadle, to act on the bench.

In March this year, global media carried the story of one Jessica Krug a “white professor of African-American Studies, who in her medium confessional claimed: “To an escalating degree over my adult life, I have eschewed my lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City under various assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim …”

She appears to conclude “I have built my life on a violent anti-Black lie, and I have lied in every breath I have taken”.

Unfortunately the same may be said of any person who has ever been inspired by the works of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Steven Biko.

The two incidents, that of Snyman and Krug, are reminiscent of the 2015 Rachel Dolezol affair affecting the anachronistic National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) whose aims include ensuring ‘a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race”.

As Jelani Cobb put it, if Dolezol was lying, ‘she was lying about a lie, the lie of race’, or in words of author Ta-Nehisi Coates, ‘race is the child of racism, not the father’. Read: We are All Rachel Dolezol Now. And my unpublished letter: The context of race in today’s society is anything but normal.

Both Krug and the Dept of Education, erroneously assumes there to be distinct race categories separating black and white, and thus if one follows the resulting analysis, readers can be forgiven for assuming blackness to be the result of the ‘colour of ones skin’, or a ‘preponderance of African ancestry,’ both claims resoundingly disproven and shot down by science.

It was the late black consciousness leader Steve Biko who challenged the apartheid state by seeking to move blackness away from the realm of pseudo-scientific inquiry and into the realm of political and existential thought, in the process eschewing legalistic definitions deployed by the apartheid state, and related to ethnicity, hair and skin colour.

Recently Dr Lee Berger, well-known paleoanthropologist and discoverer of Homo Naledi, reiterated the evidence that there is ‘no separation between the species’, we are all one species, Homo Sapiens, with a common heritage in Africa.

That there is such a thing as a truly authentic identity, a coherent mental attitude constituting a standard of normality, is unbecoming of our Dept of Education, which should at least be familiar with the tragic attempt by the Nationalist government of South Africa to police race segregation.

In short, all human identity is fictional at best, since the moment one examines a human being in situ, the physical facts of our inter-relatedness emerge, as too our common African ancestry.

SEE: David Masondo’s Are Indian, coloured and white people really African in post-apartheid South Africa?

Andile Lungisa may have a point …

THIS past week saw some of South Africa’s top judges demanding a retraction of remarks made by former ANC youth league leader Andile Lungisa that ‘his case was unfairly decided because of political pressure and affiliation”.

If everything was hunky dory in our Republic, the erstwhile ANC deployee, would have zero basis for making such statements, and given the deteriorating circumstances, still serve his time, but I fear things have gone from bad to worse.

The deplorable situation in which certain members of the judiciary, (and I include acting judges such as Halton Cheadle) appear to be actively involved in petty party politics, (beneficiaries of party-political largesse, if not on the payroll), is only magnified by the recent statements of the Chief Justice and the various cases brought against the nation’s many juristocrats.

If the Judge Hlophe saga doesn’t raise ones ire about the status quo in which there is a visible lack of opprobrium and absence of a functioning civilian mechanism of discipline within the broader profession itself, then the public surely needs to be reminded that it was Judge Hlophe himself who called for a commission of inquiry into his own behaviour?

Certainly a case of deferral, deflection and proverbial passing-of-the-buck, to quasi-governmental commissions which have shown themselves unable and unwilling to deliver on decades of inquiry and complaint? What next, news that Hlophe has appointed his wife as the chairperson in charge?

Will Zondo spend the next decade taking testimony which would best be considered by a grand jury comprising the National Provincial of Councils, if not the entire legislature?

That there remain institutional problems inherited from the past which have not disappeared under the new dispensation is abundantly clear. The Western Cape division is a veritable Vorster bantustan, its chambers replete with photographs of apartheid-era judges going back to colonial times.

A division which persists in promoting an anti-Secular, anti-Enlightenment, multiracialist and multiregionalist ‘nouveu-apartheid’, can only be condemned.

The untenable situation in which legal professionals are elevated to the status of nobility within a juristocracy out-of-kilter with our non-racial democracy may be demonstrated by the abject failure of the Judicial Services Commission to do anything about several complaints before it, including my own.

But let’s not run away with the Lungisa debacle, and belittle the irony of the situation, forgetting the real predicament of those within the very self-same political formations responsible for bending the judiciary to their egregious aims.

At the end of the day it is the ruling party which is to blame.

The rise of the alcohol prohibition and temperance consortium

A CAMPAIGN to eliminate or reduce the availability of alcohol under the guise of recent public health policy interventions appears to be under way. Bolstered by the ban on alcohol sales in terms of the National Disaster Act, the group made an appearance on eNCA last night, apparently to ‘debate the ban’ and a series of regulations gazetted in terms of legislation which is currently under judicial scrutiny.

Although Leslie London, of Public Health Medicine at the University of Cape Town agrees with Maurice Smithers of the African Alcohol Policy Alliance that the ban is not sustainable in the long-term, he appeared to offer contradictory information. On the one hand the initial ban also affecting transport had ‘reduced trauma cases in hospital wards’, on the other, the later ban without the transport component, ‘had not shown significant reductions’.

Mary Makgaba from POWA asserts there is ‘a strong correlation between gender based violence and alcohol abuse’, but agreed with the economic arguments that people’s livelihoods also mattered. Yet as often noted, correlation does not imply causation — the presence of alcohol is not sufficient reason to infer gender bias, in the same way drinkers are not all necessarily men.

While Makgaba was in support of restrictions, Both London and Smithers claimed that ‘alcohol is a drug’ requiring stronger regulation by government. They argue that South Africa should adopt the WHO guidelines on ‘reducing availability, increasing price of alcohol and curtailing or banning alcohol advertising’.

Prohibitionists have historically used religious arguments to ban alcohol, but today’s members of the temperance union rely upon the fact that alcohol is classified as a ‘central nervous system depressant’. Instead of arguing for harm reduction, they wish to closet alcohol use behind a veil of bourgeois values and assertions — reducing the size of beer bottles, making alcohol less affordable or simply unaffordible to the working class and poor.

Some of the suggestions made by Smithers appear eminently reasonable at first glance, for example, reducing the number of outlets or restricting the amount of alcohol available to purchase, yet each carries a price, the problem of enforcement and consequent danger of the criminalisation of alcohol users who do not comply.

After decades of filling the nation’s jails with drug users, the motion to lock up alcoholics is the antithesis of harm reduction and drug liberalisation strategies. Broader societal harm caused by alcohol needs to be weighed against the long-term harm caused by a reduction in individual freedoms and the rise of a police state — the true cost of policing and enforcement of policy, not simply upon people’s lives but also livelihoods.

The science provided was also incredibly thin, mere references to materials handed out by the WHO — there is yet to be a national review of the medical literature with any input from the social sciences and humanities.

Banning private transportation for instance, as London appears to suggest, would offer an immediate benefit to hospital wards, but just about nobody and not even the Professor of Public Health, is standing up complaining that the cost of vehicle transport on people’s lives is way too high, nor are today’s temperance union members averring that drunk-driving offences receive longer sentences.

South Africa remains a democratic republic where public health policy is set in terms of a constitutional dispensation not medical fiat. A dispensation that enshrines individual freedoms over the body, and a political reality that is not the result of the diktat of bureaucrats in Geneva, but rather a democratic revolution.

Is anyone in Pretoria listening?

Modernise SA economy to eliminate white elephants and graft to protect retail & household income.

IF YOU happen to follow the tech sector on Wall Street, you may have noticed two prominent stock splits announced over the past two weeks. The first by Apple, a 4 -for-1 split, and the second by Tesla, a 5-for-1 split. A stock split ‘creates more shares of a company without changing the underlying value of any single investor’s holdings.”

Stock splits were once considered common when a company’s share topped $100, but fell out of favour during the dot.com boom, since then, they have been making a reappearance and driving retail investors on Wall St.

If our reserve bank can lower interest rates, once considered unthinkable, then surely it is time for entrenched capital markets on the JSE to consider doing things differently?

The country’s tech sector is dominated by Naspers (NPN) and Prosus (PRX), which together make up more than 20% of the benchmark index. Both are affected by the US-China trade war and sanctions announced by Trump against WeChat.

It is a disgrace that this has been allowed to happen, not the sanctions, which I believe are well-deserved given the clamp-down on press freedom in Hong Kong and the arrest of Jimmy Lai, and failure by Naspers to support the TRC process and truth about apartheid, but rather the situation where the fate of two interlocked stocks, (Naspers NPN currently trading at some R3113 and Prosus PRX R1,690) are able to bounce the local bourse by 5-10 percentage points.

Notwithstanding the debacle over NPN share structure. The concentration of capital suggests that far from being a rosy picture of competition the South African tech sector is held captive by one or two big players. Unless the country modernises, either by making share ownership more accessible to retail investors, or by doing more to including local tech companies and startups, the country will be stuck with a failing Post-Reset resource and industrial sector , that could turn out to be unprofitable at any price.

Where the nation’s households are dependent upon income from retail investment, the nation’s finances appear to be beholden to vested interests and boardroom intrigues driven by the Public Investment Corporation. Instead of postponing a Basic Income Grant (BIG), or repositioning the PIC to take a more active role in a sovereign investment strategy, (does anyone remember that fund proposal announced shortly before lockdown?) our government could be unleashing fiscal stimulus where it matters most — creating an SMME revolution that tackles climate change, renewable energy, micro-grids and emerging technologies.

Instead of building more roads and bridges, and revisiting the siege economics of the 1970s, we could be rolling out mass transit solutions, high speed trains and technology smart connected cities to rehouse low-to-medium income families. See one award winning proposal here.

If households were empowered to produce basic necessities via food garden allotments, and electricity via community micro-grids and an energy commons, we would be in a lot better shape moving forward.

Instead of spending tax rands on white elephants such as Medupi and Kusile, we could be driving energy efficiency and large scale battery energy storage alongside an EV support programme that gets minibus taxis off the fossil fuel habit.

Instead we have created a predatory PPE kleptocracy and Eskom energy ransom system that has nothing to do with equal opportunity and everything to do with the politics of servitude and feudalism which is at the heart of the ANC ideological discourse.

Time to give Pretoria/Tshwane bureaucrats their marching orders.

Janice Gassam’s ‘How Communities Of Color Perpetuate Anti-Blackness’

Dear Ed,

Janice Gassam’s ‘How Communities Of Color Perpetuate Anti-Blackness’ Jul 19, 2020, refers.

I live in a country that for many has come to symbolise both institutional racism, and a remarkable transformation from the segregation of apartheid to the non-racialism of our democratic constitution. With many of the Mandela-era promises remaining unfulfilled, and in the light of the recent controversial address on global inequality by UN secretary general Guterres , I wish to remind your readers that our nation’s project of reconciliation and non-racialism remains a current work-in-progress.

Your correspondent Janice Gassam valiantly attempts to ‘deconstruct and dismantle anti-Blackness’ by proposing ‘there must be a normalization of Blackness’. Unfortunately, the context of race in today’s society is anything but normal. Aiming to normalise distinctions made according to race, a tired fiction at best, merely rehashes the logic of the black consciousness movement of the seventies, whose chief proponent, the late Steven Biko, sought to address slogans such as ‘black is beautiful’ at the same time that he maintained “Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.”

Gassam says: “There is a commonly held belief that white people are the only perpetuators of racism and anti-Black bias and that as a person of color (POC), you do (sic) cannot hold racist views. Adopting this mindset will make deconstructing anti-Blackness much more challenging.”

She then asserts, “One phenomenon that is rarely discussed is the idea of white adjacency. While the term hasn’t been fully defined in a lot of detail, it can be thought of as the benefits received by a POC because of their proximity to whiteness.”

The link provided for the term ‘white adjacency’ is to a student news organisation, and the article is merely an opinion piece without any academic citations nor context. If context were provided, it would immediately become clear that this phrase is positioned within critical theory, and the field of subaltern studies, a field of research which examines colonialism, post-colonialism and the problem of elitism and elites.

Suggesting that all persons of colour who collaborate with their white colleagues, are simply compradors, or ‘agents of whiteness’ is a regressive political position that begs the question of who is white and who is black?

In this myopic worldview, a ‘white student’ standing in solidarity with ‘black students’ on an apartheid campus, cannot be hurt by gunfire. In the same way that it is claimed by some, that Neil Aggett was not tortured by the apartheid special branch, and Ahmed Timol, the subject of a recent inquest, wasn’t murdered.

Furthermore, identity politic of the type advocated by Gassam is bound up with a multiracial view of the world, one which instead of tackling elites by promoting equal opportunity and non-racialism, treats society rather as a binary battle between two competing groups, ‘the blacks’ and ‘the whites’. Both are racial terms which have been shot down by the broader scientific community and have absolutely no merit in academic discourse, save for reminding us that scientists once believed in distinct and separate race groups and thus a multiregionalist theory of evolution.

An identity war between the races may sound appealing, especially if it leads to more sales of Nike products, or a political counter to the Trump administration, I however fear that nothing good can come from such polarisation. Assuming that every act of collaboration with the other, is an act of assimilation, denies human rights and human agency. One may equally claim, that such acts are cultural appropriation and outright theft.

Even worse than denying universal and democratic values, positing blackness or whiteness as a new norm, risks removing any defense a person may have in law against racism. I have only to point out my own unhappy experience being classified by the apartheid state, to demonstrate why such categories are legally and philosophically problematic.


Sincerely yours,

David Robert Lewis

NOTE: Unpublished letter sent to Forbes

A vaccine is just the beginning of the fight against Covid-19 …

THIS PAST week saw British scientists lauded for a successful phase 1 vaccine trial. A working vaccine may be available by the end of 2020. Unfortunately deploying a global immunisation programme may prove to be harder than producing the vaccine.

Although the United Nations is pushing all countries to join ‘an effort to make vaccines and drugs to fight Covid-19 cheap enough that the poorest populations in the world can be treated’, the sheer scale of such an endeavour looks daunting.

South Africa with a population of 58.8 million would require production of at least 160 000 doses per day for over a year to cover the entire country. Dispensing the vaccine would require 6712 jabs per hour to complete in 12 months, a Promethean task, more likely to occur over 5 to 10 years.

In other words, while the good news is that the world has a working vaccine, one of several vaccines capable of producing the right antibodies and killer T cells required to defend against the virus, the logistical problems of immunisation, make the pandemic likely to stay with us for the foreseeable future.

Technological innovation such as robotic application and drone delivery, novel production techniques and other medical advances, could bring this horizon closer — the day when everyone has immunity and countermeasures such as masks, social distancing and other measures are no longer required.

Bare in mind that as more people recover and gain natural immunity, the target population for an immunisation programme is lowered, thereby reducing the immediate task at hand. Although there is some debate as to whether or not, such immunity is short term and may fall off over time.

By that stage, those who would have died from the virus, will in most likely be dead. The risks of cluster outbreaks and casualty ward spikes will have diminished, and the burden on our health system will normalise along with the impact on the economy.

In effect, the virus and its grip on society, will have weakened, at least for now, but the risk of future flare-ups and other coronovirus clades remain.

Targeted immunisation programmes focusing on vulnerable groups and maximising scarce resources could also assist us in meeting our goal. But for now, we stuck with the ‘no longer novel’ coronovirus of 2019, which looks set to become as prevalent as the common cold, and a seasonal disease just like the flu.

Brew some coffee: here are top 5 Alternative Covid-19 Conspiracy Theories

A NUMBER of alternative theories are circulating about the origin of Covid-19. Though none demonstrate conclusive proof beyond what is already known, ( the virus is the result of zoonotic transmission, in all likelihood arising from contamination at a wet market in Wuhan), the resulting conspiracy theories are alarming to say the least. By no means definitive – take with a pinch of salt and remember, the burden of evidence, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

1. Different Origin

“In all the discussions of the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic,” write independent researchers Jonathan Latham, PhD and Allison Wilson, PhD “enormous scientific attention has been paid to the molecular character of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including its novel genome sequence in comparison with its near relatives. In stark contrast, virtually no attention has been paid to the physical provenance of those nearest genetic relatives, its presumptive ancestors, which are two viral sequences named BtCoV/4991 and RaTG13.”

The pair have proposed a new origin, based upon evidence garnered from a Chinese Master’s Thesis and collected from a mineshaft in Yunnan province, China, in 2012/2013 by researchers from the lab of Zheng-li Shi at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

They also write the Case Is Building That COVID-19 Had a Lab Origin’. “most of these ancestor-like bat coronaviruses cannot infect humans . In consequence, from its beginning, a key question hanging over the pandemic has been: How did a bat RNA virus evolve into a human pathogen that is both virulent and deadly?”

Probability: High

2. Engineered Doomsday

Did this virus come from a lab? Maybe not — but it exposes the threat of a biowarfare arms race” writes Sam Husseini in Salon. “There has been no scientific finding that the novel coronavirus was bioengineered, but its origins are not entirely clear.”

“Deadly pathogens discovered in the wild are sometimes studied in labs — and sometimes made more dangerous. That possibility, and other plausible scenarios, have been incorrectly dismissed in remarks by some scientists and  government officials, and in the coverage of most major media outlets.”

“Regardless of the source of this pandemic, there is considerable documentation that a global biological arms race going on outside of public view could produce even more deadly pandemics in the future.”

An editorial published in the New York Times as early as 2012 warned “Scientists have long worried that an influenza virus that has ravaged poultry and wild birds in Asia might evolve to pose a threat to humans. Now scientists financed by the National Institutes of Health have shown in a laboratory how that could happen. In the process they created a virus that could kill tens or hundreds of millions of people if it escaped confinement or was stolen by terrorists.”

Probability: High

3. Mutually Assured Contagion

Did either the Trump administration or Xi Jinping’s party collaborate on, or release a virus as part of protracted trade war negotiations, a retaliatory tit-for-tat, resulting in a bizarre engineered covid trade round?

Although the evidence of both USA and China involvement in the Wuhan Institute of Virology is overwhelming, and has been exposed by Peter Breggin MD, there is no evidence of such a conspiracy, aside from Trumps own ravings on the matter in the days following the global lockdown. Proof would require a thorough examination of the motives and capacity for a release: Why would either party want to set loose a mild, but very infectious contagion, except to disrupt markets and make money? Look at the denial carried by the Wall St Journal.

Probability: Medium to High

4. Mutually Assured Covid-nomics

One subset theory of the above is based upon economic modelling conducted by the Whitehouse several months before the pandemic, that predict a sudden cessation of economic activity, necessitating intervention by you guessed it, the Federal Reserve .

In 2004 Jong-Wha Lee and Warwick J. McKibbin in ‘Estimating the Global Economic Costs of SARS’ published in ‘Learning from SARS: Preparing for the Next Disease Outbreak‘ produced a global model to simulate the economic impact of a long-term SARS epidemic using the period 2002–2081. The so-called ‘G-Cubed (Asia-Pacific) model’ is eerie and prescient in its description. I reproduce it here:

First, fear of SARS infection leads to a substantial decline in consumer demand, especially for travel and retail sales service. The fast speed of contagion makes people avoid social interactions in affected regions. The adverse demand shock becomes more substantial in regions that have much larger service-related activities and higher population densities, such as Hong Kong or Beijing, China. The psychological shock also ripples around the world, not just to the countries of local transmission of SARS, because the world is so closely linked by international travel. Second, the uncertain features of the disease reduce confidence in the future of the affected economies. This effect seems to be potentially very important, particularly as the shock reverberates through China, which has been a key center of foreign investment. The response by the Chinese government to the epidemic was fragmented and nontransparent. The greater exposure to an unknown disease and the less effective government responses to the disease outbreaks must have elevated concerns about China’s institutional quality and future growth potential. Although it is difficult to measure directly the effects of diseases on decision making by foreign investors, the loss of foreign investors’ confidence would have potentially tremendous impacts on foreign investment flows, which would in turn have significant impacts on China’s economic growth. This effect is also transmitted to other countries competing with China for foreign direct investment (FDI). Third, SARS undoubtedly increases the costs of disease prevention, especially in the most affected industries such as the travel and retail sales service industries. This cost may not be substantial, at least in global terms, as long as the disease is transmitted only by close human contact. However, the global cost could become enormous if the disease is found to be transmitted by other channels such as through international cargo.

Probability: Medium to High

5. Viral Population Control

Another variation of the Mutually Assured Contagion theory, is based upon events leading up to the assumption to power of Xi Jinping, and the relationship of Trump to the Jinping administration during the early days of the Trump presidency. It can also be summarised as Mutually Assured, Mad Dictator Syndrome. In order for either party to become President for Life, as Jinping became in March 2018, a way to cement power over the global population had to be found. With growing dissent in Hong Kong, the winning dictator released a contagion, that made command and control of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army a lot easier, and ditto US Army.

In this scenario, alluded to in 2007, epidemics are seen as opportunities for either party elite (read global elites) to seize power or cement control, with the added benefit that global spread of the contagion, empowers similar totalitarian initiatives around the globe. Did we forget to mention the World Health Organisation?

Probability: Low to Medium