Paul Frijters, co-author of the book “The Great Covid Panic”, warns that the damage inflicted on countries by the measures taken in the face of the coronavirus was the product of mass stupidity. He speaks of governments captured by medical advisers and commercial opportunism. The drunkenness of power and societies that fell victim to terror.
The unusual measures imposed to deal with covid-19 caused societies more damage and death than the virus itself. The saddest thing is that all this could have been avoided because as early as March last year many leading academics began to sound the alarm. One of them was Professor Frijters, co-author of the book recently published by the Brownstone Institute.
“The confinements did a great deal of damage. Together with my friend Gigi Foster and her husband, Michael Baker, we warned very early on that this would be a disaster. If you confine people, you make them feel lonely, and if you take children out of schools, it completely destroys their lives. We knew that the disruption of the economy would ultimately mean worse healthcare, worse welfare and that somehow you were taking away people’s dignity and their freedoms, which would ultimately lead to many more deaths,” said Frijters, professor of welfare economics at the London School of Economics and a master of econometrics.
“We immediately knew from our background – having studied welfare, mental health and health for a long time – that this would be a disaster,” he added. When asked what motivated them to write the book, he said: “We wanted to explain what happened, why, and to tell the people who were harmed that this should not have happened and what the way forward is now.
- Are the panic and all the measures that keep being imposed on us to ‘control the virus’ justified, or is what we are experiencing ridiculous?
- It is ridiculous. And it was ridiculous from the beginning. Latin America has proven to be more susceptible to the virus than anywhere else, but even there the devastation of social life, of the social fabric, is of a magnitude worse than anything the virus has been able to do. In the context of disease, this virus is basically a little bit worse than most normal flus. It is much less bad than malaria or typhoid fever or many other diseases that have been very important. It is less important than cardiovascular disease or cancer. It is a minor disease in the history of mankind and even in the history of the last 20 years.
Much more important is that healthcare is well organised so that people don’t die of diabetes or heart failure. That will make much more of a difference. So it has been an overreaction, an act of mass sacrifice.
- At first the panic was understandable because it was a virus we didn’t know about, but now we have a lot of information about it that confirms what you are saying. So what is it that keeps the panic alive today?
- It was known from the beginning that panic would be an overreaction. But it came as an emotional wave through humanity. We don’t think anyone planned it. We think the Chinese didn’t want their overreaction to look like an overreaction, so they pushed on Twitter and in the media the idea that what they did was smart. Europe believed them and so it went the same way. The panic was like a big wave of human beings all afraid, because others around them were afraid. There was an emotional contagion, seeing the images of people dying in hospitals… all that made it look much worse than it really was. And there was also opportunism: people who saw this as a way to sell tests, to sell their models, to sell their magazines, to make themselves more important as medical advisors… A group of people who smell the power of money around this. The media selling papers by saying this would be terrible and then getting everyone else on board and their friends. This led to the confinements. We don’t think politicians initiated the confinements, certainly not in Europe. This is a way to seize power and they were dragged in and thought “This is the only way to keep power. Otherwise, the populations will hate us”. Then, gradually, they discovered that they could make money, that they could take away people’s freedom… they went mad with power. Almost as if they got drunk with power. So, in a way, the events just kind of unfolded and I don’t think anybody saw it coming. It’s been a tragedy.
- In other words, he is convinced that there was no ‘plan’ behind what we have been experiencing since March 2020.
- I find that extremely unlikely because many things have surprised us all. I was surprised by how long it has lasted. Also, if you look at the countries, there is so much damage inflicted! Think, for example, of China and the damage they have done to themselves: in the major cities the number of babies women had was about half as many. That means there is a huge reduction of the next population, they have destroyed a whole generation. Also the children who were taken out of school and their childhood has been ruined. Nobody who loves his country does this. You don’t do this just to harm other countries, because you are also harming your own country. It’s a huge stupidity. And the same is true for Italy: it suffered a tremendous reduction in its economy. You don’t love your country and do this. You do it because you are stupid.
- There are a number of theories that have been called ‘conspiracy theories’, which talk about Bill Gates, for example.
- Yes, it is important to talk about these things. Bill Gates clearly loves himself. He probably feels he is the saviour of humanity. But he is leading to tremendous damage everywhere and I don’t think this is good for him in the end. I don’t think the Americans will like him after this either. His name will be shit in ten years. I don’t think this is about super smart Bill Gates becoming the ruler of the world, this is him getting drunk on his own power.
- There’s a lot of information and misinformation circulating, so it’s important to be clear about what we’ve lost from January 2020 to date.
- That is a very important point. There has been so much propaganda, particularly from governments who wanted to look good and validate their policies, that it has become extremely difficult for people who want to have some idea of what has happened to know what to trust and where to look. The honest answer to that is that people have to think for themselves and look for a wide range of information and gradually find the information that they trust, but also the group that they continue to trust. Find people like them, who are trying to find out the truth and work it out also as communities: Do we believe this? Do we believe that? Where can we find information? Do we like this book or that book? That’s the only way, because I can’t say read my book and there you have the truth because while it’s my effort to do my best, people have to take ownership of the truth and try to work it out as a group. This is too much for individuals, they have to find people they trust and who agree that they are being lied to and want to try to investigate. If people do that, and realise that this is too much of a lie and try to investigate, I have great confidence that things can change. I think they will wake up and take ownership of their own lives and their own freedoms again. That’s one of my great hopes with this book: that there will be people who will realise how much lies are out there and investigate what probably happened and, more importantly, what we need to do now and how we take back control.
- What are the facts we need to know to see the deception behind this pandemic?
- The most important thing, which was what convinced me at the beginning that strange things were happening, and which is easy to recognise, is simply to look at the damage caused. Now there are a lot of lies from governments about the damage. They pretend to say that the damage to mental health and well-being is due to the virus. Really?! This virus only attacks very old people, it does not affect mental health. That is because of all the panic, it is because people are no longer socialising, they are told that everyone is their potential enemy. This is an easy thing to see. They can see up close what is causing the damage: is it the virus? or is it fear? is it the confinements? These are questions that people can take control of: What is causing this damage? How big is it? Are we seeing the collapse of our economy, our well-being, our friendships, our communities? That’s a pretty easy truth to see. And from there ask who is lying about it and identify who to trust. The second element towards the truth is to ask where we can get information about what is happening to our freedoms, what is reasonable, what has happened in other countries. Is the story true that these confinements have helped reduce mortality rates? If you look around, you will see that it is not true. You can look at Bolivia or Uruguay in Latin America. Fewer restrictions, fewer deaths. It is not true that these confinements have saved numerous lives.
Then you start working on that information: the medical issue is not true, the story about the harm is not true, what is really going on in that sense? Do we still have any power? Do we have normal debates? Can we talk about some drugs that could help and are not being authorised? I think that, just like oil spreads, if people realise what we can do, how we can organise ourselves, what we should reread together, what renunciations we should make, where we should send our children, what work we should do for each other, there can be a real awakening.
- Do you think that the governments that are making compulsory provisions are doing so out of ignorance?
- I think there is a lot going on. In many countries, and this also applies to European countries, governments have come to rely on medical advisors and the medical industry, which has grown enormously – with testing, chinstraps and so on – and they want this to continue. I think it’s partly because their advisors have captured them. But governments also like power and they like to boss people around. They have been seduced by power and they want to stay in power. Now this is also a coalition: a lot of money has been made and what some companies have discovered in the last 18 months, particularly the big internet companies and big companies in general, is that in this way they can grow, while small companies disappear. So this is good for them as a coalition, they want this to continue. In the meantime there is tremendous destruction.
- Is humanity mentally hijacked?
- There are a lot of people who don’t want to see this or who are somehow brainwashed. They go with the flow and they don’t want to believe that they have been duped. They don’t want to believe that they’ve overreacted, that their government has become worse and worse… It’s a terrible thing to want to see because then you’re responsible for having to put a lot of effort into finding out how things are. People are very reluctant to wake up. I think they wake up when a lot of things go wrong around them and other things they have neglected suddenly start to become important again. That’s when people slowly wake up. However, you see an awakening in many countries, slowly, but it is happening. More and more big demonstrations are happening around the world. At the same time I think there is hope because in every large region there are some countries that have not been so stupid and we can just look at them and say: some of us, who don’t want to live in a dictatorship can go there, we can choose freedom and choose to live there. We can point to our own governments and tell them all Scandinavia didn’t do this, why don’t we follow them? I believe that good examples in every region will outweigh bad examples. The stupid countries just got poorer, they have less freedom, and young people want to be like the freer countries, which are getting richer and nicer.
- What was the role of the media in what we are experiencing?
- It was horrible. There are several problems with the media. One is that emotions sell, while a truth doesn’t sell very much. Telling people that this is a risk but that life is full of risks and that they shouldn’t overreact doesn’t sell. This was also a way for journalists to feel important, thinking “I warn my fellow citizens”. They got carried away with all the drama, saying “we will have to stick together”….
Also, the big internet companies gained a lot, their share price almost doubled and they control a lot of media. They choose which stories to emphasise and which to censor. So there was a huge amount of censorship. We have a lot of stories against the current insanity, but part of the media is directly controlled and controlled by the problem factor. Also part of the media is state-owned and, of course, has become pure state propaganda. The government has bought time in the media. Now the part of the media that is responsible and wants to do the right thing is slowly changing its mind. It’s happening a lot in Europe and the United States. They are realising that they were super stupid to begin with and the problem they have been part of. I’m not sure that’s enough. To some extent the media was part of the problem. There are new platforms where citizens are creating media but you have to fight against relentless propaganda, against censorship, intimidation and, in some cases, violence.
- The population has also become divided. Can this be reversed?
- I think so. Because naturally the opposition of which you and I are a part, against this madness and with the intention of telling the population that they have been deceived, is in a sense a very nationalistic opposition. It is an opposition of people who love their country, who want their children to be in a nice place and to have a future. It’s a reality that the rest of the population doesn’t want to hear now because it says “look, you’ve been fooled”, “you’ve been stupid”, “you’ve sacrificed”, but at the same time it’s a positive narrative, that says we can do things differently. It is not a group of people who want to be divided from the rest of the population. It is a group of people who want to be one country but in a different direction from everyone else. I think a resurgence will be quite likely, but it depends on whether these opposition voices “win”, in some sense. It will also depend on whether we really are heading towards a fascist dystopia, in which case countries become even more radicalised and even more fearful and in control. But I find the latter unlikely in Europe. I don’t know the situation in Latin America, perhaps in some countries that is possible. I rather think that gradually the population will come to its senses and then there will be a resurgence.
- Do the protests against certain measures such as sanitary passports or confinement really have an effect?
- Yes, our movement makes it visible that there is opposition. At a certain point, what people who promote confinement are doing is trying to deny our humanity, they are trying to prevent people from relating to each other and to make everyone an enemy of everyone else, everyone a threat because of the virus. These demonstrations can be fun, they can bring people together, they create communities, so – even if they don’t have an effect on a political level in the short term, because they are still a minority – they give a kind of vibrancy back to civil society and make you meet people, engage for other things. One of the great things about our movements in that sense is that they demonstrate our desire to live. It’s the other side that wants to stay hidden until it dies. It is madness. Let them be miserable, I don’t want to be miserable. All the pleasures of life are on our side. Let’s use them. Let’s show it and let’s celebrate it. I think one of the things that will best break the confinements is lots of communities having fun, allowing them to party.
- Do you have any projections on how long it will take to repair the damage that all these measures have caused?
- I think it will take years rather than months for this to be fully completed. Historical examples of this kind of stupidity show that we humans don’t like to quickly admit what was a mistake. It takes a long time for the majority to change their minds. I would not be surprised if in some countries it takes 10 or 20 years before they actually admit that this was totally stupid.
Let us not forget that power is power. People, governments and the media can push for other things to become prominent and to distract us. That will happen. They don’t want to be blamed, so they will use the power they have now to make us worry about something else. I don’t know what it will be like in Argentina, but here in Britain we have to start worrying about climate change and extinction, plastics… it will be one thing after another, anything but “oh, we screwed up and we shouldn’t do this again” because that’s a real threat. So there are a lot of distractions coming.
- In your book you also describe how to avoid doing this stupid thing again.
- Definitely. We talk about how Sweden has organised its health care system and we explain that we can do it that way. When the health care system is an independent institution it can then choose how to do things. Because what our health care systems had planned on how to act in these pandemics was very reasonable. The science of 30 to 50 years indicated not to do confinement but to protect those you could, but you don’t disrupt society because that will cause much more harm. The science and health care systems knew we should not do this, but we did it because of panic. We can reform the science, the health care systems, the rules. We can also undo a lot of the media structures and political structures and I think we can learn as humanity to recognise panic earlier. This notion that government knows best, and will solve everything, has been terrible. We need to relearn not to be so gullible.