How will our society emerge from the COVID-19 crisis? Does the pandemic show that we need more centralized state power, more surveillance and control? What are the threats ranged against us—and how can we prepare to confront them?
Several days ago, the number of coronavirus deaths in New York City surpassed the death toll of the attacks of September 11, 2001. Whenever pundits and politicians invoke 9/11, you know they’re trying to set the stage for some shock and awe.
The September 11 attacks served to justify the Patriot Act, extraordinary rendition and torture, the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq; these paved the way for a host of other catastrophes, including the rise of the Islamic State. While 2977 civilians were killed on September 11, the ensuing “War on Terror” killed at least one hundred times that many civilians.
If the September 11 comparison shows anything, it is that the state response to the pandemic will be far more destructive than the virus itself. Let’s review what the dangers are and the logic of those who aim to drive the state response in order to prepare for the next stage of the crisis before it hits. It is not inevitable that what comes out of this will be tyranny; on the contrary, it might be upheaval.