Let us accept it. COVOD19 and #Coronavirus is a crisis. A crisis that is unleased on humankind and in over 150 countries.
Is this virus, ‘Designed and Manufactured in China’ to take control of the world, or is the virus ‘Designed by the USA and Manufactured in China,’ planted by the US in China to bring down China is for conspiracy theorists to prove.
As of today, these are extraordinary times, and we know that the virus has affected 150 countries. It has brought many governments and their functioning to the brink. What makes COVID-19 unique is not because it is deadlier than the other viruses, but is more widespread than the rest -The fatality rates of Nipa (40-75%), or Ebola (25-90%), or MERS (34%), or SARS (10%), that were far more lethal in terms of fatality rates. But no other virus – many of them have a global spread like COVID-19 (9.6%, 150 countries).
There is a worldwide panic and fear. Some governments are acting calm, while others exhibit knee-jerk reactions. Some governments have prepared well over the last three months since the outbreak, while others were caught napping till recently, while others were calling this a big hoax. Some governments and their people are continuing to take precautions with as minimal impact to normal life, schools, and workforce while others are bringing a nation to grinding halt. The truth of the danger of the virus is somewhere in between.
A crisis is a crisis. And how different administrations – those that value liberties and freedoms vs. the authoritarian regimes – handle a crisis differ as widely as chalk and cheese. The intentions of the leaders of those governments matter more than the action. And this is where it all changes.
In all cases of crisis like in the case of the Coronavirus, survival is the core. The survival instinct is the strongest instinct for a human or, for that matter, any animal. This survival instinct determines everything about how we behave, accept, or fight back in a situation. And that exactly is the instinct that if taken advantage of, the authoritarian regimes can consolidate its power forever.
What would authoritarian regimes do in case of a crisis?
Logically the first step for an authoritarian regime is to magnify the crisis and use that fear to take higher control. The higher the odds they create to the odds of spread and survival create a sense of fear, the more authority its people collectively are willing to give the regime the control key to protect them. The uncertainty and an unseen enemy are a big bonus.
The administration then takes control of all dissemination of news and information is provided, closing any alternative validation mechanisms covertly and overtly.’ The guidance (curbs) to media starts and information is fed to you as bulletins. The mainstream media conducts ‘panel’ discussions where fright and panic are perpetuated morphed as readiness and preparedness.
With the constant onslaught of crisis led news 24×7, over talks on all channels, print, television, and social media, the citizen’s mind is controlled to think of crisis and only the crisis with a yearning for directions from the government at every step. Anyone not following the direction is dealt with firmly with an iron hand, and this imagery is again publicist through the complaint media. There may even be police atrocities and judicial overreach, but those are given a stamp of approval with silence.
These actions create more fear, and the government warns of harsher punishments. And the cycle repeats. The complete media control, magnification of the crime, and suppression of civil liberties make such ‘disciplinary actions’ seem necessary for ‘larger good.’ More people support harsher penalties and fear retribution when they oppose such punishments.
By controlling and manipulating the fear psychosis of its citizens while building a feeling of unitedness to a cause of survival, together, the concoction is lethal. Any harsher punishments get more support from a society, which has learned to be obedient. Lavish praise for the Big Brother and reticence to atrocities the new normal, lest they are retributed by the society ort be turned into ‘moral police, and informers to authorities. It may even include neighbors and Resident Welfare Associations.
The administration tests its control often, with small actions, restrictions and the like that are validated with ‘call to action’ inviting voluntary citizen participation. The ‘nationalistic press’ asks leading questions like “are you okay with increased sanctions and curtailing freedoms in times of crisis like this” for the greater good. With affirmative answers, the increase in the intensity and duration of such authoritarianism continues the cycle. No one person or group questions the extended restrictions anymore. They will continue with more restrictions on the internet, movements, and they know people will support all these wholeheartedly for the ‘greater’ good. The Big Brother becomes their God.
Over time, consistently and carefully, the authoritarian regime alters thoughts of its people with repeated fudging of numbers and information passed on to its citizens. And the indoctrination is complete. So much so the citizens do not even see that regime as authoritarians while the ones outside the society can see the obvious. Examples include North Korea, Iraq, under Saddam, or Libya.
All the authoritarian regimes use any crisis to amplify control. And they do it each time. Coronavirus is just another great opportunity not to let go.