Coronavirus and conspiracy theories. A vademecum and a lesson on #QAnon

Wu Ming 1

56 comments – 9 branches

by Wu Ming

Since the coronavirus emergency began in February 2020 in Italy and then in the rest of Europe and the West, more and more people, subjected to a real media bombing, have concluded that the mainstream media were unreliable. The predominant narrative of what was happening was deemed incongruous, instrumental, specious, organic to established powers and economic elites not only reticent but responsible for the state in which the pandemic had found our socio-economic systems.

For anti-capitalist movements, this widespread – and founded – dissatisfaction with the political-media establishment was largely a missed opportunity. For various reasons which are not the subject of this article, it was not they, we did not intercept it.

More often than not, conspiracy has intercepted it: the virus was produced in the laboratory and intentionally spread by China, or Russia, or by Soros, or by Bill Gates. The latter maneuvers the WHO at will to «control the world with vaccines». Indeed, no, the virus has spread because of 5G. Indeed, no, the pandemic is a creation of a Satanist lobby that controls the “deep state” in America. Etc. etc.

Conspiracies exist, but capitalism is not a conspiracy

We have written it many times: conspiracy or conspiracy is a big problem for those who want to criticize capitalism with good reason and effectively. The “paranoid style” of conspiracy is a powerful rhetorical device that channels social anger and energies for a potential change towards diversely and intrinsically reactionary narratives , centered on scapegoats.

It is one thing to say that the coronavirus emergency was managed with the tools that capitalism had perfected in the meantime: the emergency comes after forty years of neoliberal policy and governance , prolongs many threads, exacerbates the consequences, makes everything pay to those who already paid, and the media – for how they work, for the interests they represent, for the ownership structures that shape their orientation – impose narratives that make everything seem “natural”. “Dominant ideas are nothing but the ideal expression of dominant material relationships, they are dominant material relationships taken as ideas” (Marx and Engels, German ideology ).

It is quite another matter to imagine that this emergency has been planned in advance, that it is the implementation of a Plan. Some powerful people would have gathered around a table well in advance and would have said: “Let’s invent a pandemic” or at least “here’s how to use this pandemic: let’s do X, Y and Z”. A very coherent Plan would come from here, which has foreseen everything, inexorable and perfectly put into practice by the established powers.

In support of this vision, it is said that “this pandemic had already been foreseen”. It is the ploy n.1 listed by Arthur Schopenhauer in his The art of obtaining reason : «to bring an affirmation […] out of its natural limits, to interpret it in the most general way possible, to take it in the widest possible sense and to exaggerate it ».

True, insiders knew that sooner or later there would be a new pandemic, ” Animal Infections and The Next Human Pandemic ” is even the original subtitle of David Quammen’s Spillover book , released in 2012. However, nobody could know in I anticipate the morphology of the virus, the etiology of Covid-19, the exact routes of the infection and the timetable for its spread.

Narratives like this describe capitalism in a caricatural way, as a system that depends largely on the will of the members of a caste, but capitalism is not this, it is a mode of production that has its basic logics, its automatisms and objective mechanisms. It did not stand out for a conspiracy of anyone, but after a centuries-old historical evolution, and it works without the ruling class having to or can foresee and orchestrate everything .

It is obvious that capitalist strategies exist , and that some large plots have existed and exist is well established. The examples that come to mind are the strategy of tension, the Nixon plot that led to Watergate, the plots of P2, and even – twist that Umberto Eco and Carlo Ginzburg dealt with in different ways – a plot to make believe that there was a Great Conspiracy: the fabrication of the Protocols of the Wise Elders of Zion by the Okhrana, the Tsarist secret police.
After all, the existence of these intelligence services is nothing more than an institutionalization of the plot.

In hindsight, a plot is something very simple: one has it every time more people agree to pursue their interest at the expense of others, unbeknownst to the latter.

Therefore, it is not a question of denying the existence of conspiracies tout court, it would be absurd. It is a question of understanding how to defuse conspiracy, a forma mentis that not only sees the logic of the conspiracy at work in every area, but puts a Great Conspiracy at the center of the functioning of the system, exaggerating the role of the will in history – moreover, a Will that foresees everything and obtains everything – and imagining almost almighty cabal or supercaste.

Sulla distinzione tra i complotti reali – localizzati, imperfetti, contraddittori, “a scadenza” – e il Complotto immaginato dal complottismo – perfetto, coerentissimo, profetico, tentacolarissimo, illimitato, eterno – rimandiamo a quanto scritto da Wu Ming 1 nell’inchiesta in due puntate apparsa su Internazionale nell’autunno 2018. Nella seconda parte di quello scritto, si riflette anche su come contrastare il complottismo in un modo che non si riduca al debunking.

Due fallacie logiche a cui ricorre il complottista

L’abate Augustin Barruel (1741-1820). Le sue teorie sulla Rivoluzione Francese come complotto giudaico-massonico ebbero grande diffusione e fortuna, e influenzarono tutto il pensiero reazionario a seguire.

Il più delle volte, chi critica l’approccio cospirazionista si sente rispondere in due modi.

Il primo è: «Stai col potere, che si è inventato l’accusa di “complottismo” e la usa contro chiunque lo critichi!»

A corollario di quest’affermazione, spesso si sente dire che l’espressione «conspiracy theory» l’avrebbe inventata la CIA negli anni Sessanta. Si tratta di una leggenda urbana. In  quest’articolo si dimostra che il primo utilizzo riscontrato – e già inteso con accezione negativa – dell’espressione «conspiracy theory» risale addirittura al 1870.

Il cospirazionismo non è un’invenzione dei suoi presunti avversari, ma una mentalità e un insieme di retoriche e fallacie che esiste da secoli, da ben prima che esistesse la CIA. Per fare un solo esempio, nel 1569 i servizi segreti della Serenissima – e prima ancora l’opinione popolare – attribuirono a un complotto dell’ebreo Giuseppe Nasi l’incendio dell’Arsenale di Venezia, storia che raccontiamo nel nostro Altai.

Quasi tutte le teorie del complotto moderne risalgono a un periodo che va da fine XVIII a inizio XIX. Il complotto degli Illuminati di Baviera, della massoneria, degli ebrei… Sono tutte teorie nate per reazione all’Illuminismo e, soprattutto, alla Rivoluzione francese, per descrivere quest’ultima come una mera congiura. I tòpoi del complottismo risalgono a quella fase storica, da allora abbiamo avuto quasi solo ricombinazioni.

Il fatto che qualcuno definisca «cospirazionismo», «complottismo» o «teoria del complotto» qualunque analisi scomoda o anche solo sgradita non dimostra in alcun modo che l’accusa sia sempre falsa, né che non esistano la realtà e mentalità che quei termini indicano. Dimostra solo che che di quei termini si tende ad abusare, e semmai conferma che il complottismo fornisce facili appigli a chi voglia sminuire o denigrare il pensiero critico.

In particolare, il complottismo intorbidisce le acque per chiunque voglia denunciare complotti reali. Come scrive Enrico Voccia su Umanità Nova:

«Denouncing conspiracies at every push leads to the opposite effect […] discredited – in the eyes of the majority – the attempt to defend oneself from real conspiracies. Imagine how seriously the counter-information campaign [on the massacre in Piazza Fontana] would have been taken if it had been drowned in the noise of those who claimed that the nascent BR were formed by extraterrestrials in league with the Mossad, others who claimed that Zapata had survived the murder attempt and that he had become a CIA agent and so on. “

The other typical answer is: “You cannot prove that there is no Plan!”

In any discursive context where the logical argument applies – law, historiography, social sciences, “hard” sciences – the burden of proof lies with those who make an assertion. The fact that the conspiracy theorist challenges you to show that there is no plan – Argumentum ad ignorantiam – shows that conspiracy does not fit into those areas. It is those who think there is a Plan that should prove it by bringing evidence. And by “evidence” we don’t mean mere suspicions, risky connections, etc. They are not enough.

For us, until proven otherwise, the basic logic of the capitalist system, whose devastating functioning is under the eyes of anyone who does not refuse to see it, is enough.

Capitalism and pandemic

Chuǎng. The character is the stylization of a steed that forcefully crosses a gate. It has various meanings: “to free oneself”, “to break through”, “to attack”, “to take charge”, but also “to harden” (going through hard experiences).

There are dynamics of the capitalist economy whose responsibilities have long been attested with regard to the great epidemics of recent decades. Already in February, in the viral diary , we wrote:

«The avian, the Sars, the swine and before that the BSE had come out of the infernal circles of the planetary zootechnical industry . Put simply: from intensive farming, because of how the animals were treated and, above all, fed. Ebola, Zika and West Nile had come into contact with humans because of massive deforestation and destruction of ecosystems. “

Deforestation follows land grabbing and precedes further extensions of agribusiness which serve to support the world livestock industry . A third of world cereal production is used for cattle feeding. This process created the conditions for all the latest spillovers, or “species jumps”. An important reference is the book by biologist Rob Wallace Big Farms Make Big Flu . That it is no coincidence that it is also mentioned by the Chinese collective Chuang in its very dense essay-investigation Social Contagion: microbiological class struggle in China .

After the “jump of species”, other dynamics of the capitalist economy, related to globalization and the extension of metropolises and megacities, create the conditions for the rapid spread of the contagion.

Coronavirus and QAnon

At a time when there is real pressure on scientists and scientific research is more conditioned than usual – by urgency, by media pressure, by consortium struggles – it is easy for the conspiracy theorist to appeal to the freedom of science and act as a champion of this ‘last. When this happens, we must be able to understand it. And if we cannot always do it thanks to scientific truth, whose verification is still in progress, we can do it thanks to the narrative form of what it says.

Faced with a speech on the virus created in a laboratory and spread artfully, rather than the use of a scientific authority capable of excluding the hypothesis based on the morphology of Sars-Cov-2 itself, it is the way of telling that history to make us recognize conspiracy and its logical fallacies. Even in the face of more “nuanced” speeches, it is the narratological framework that puts us on the person who lives.

The entire course – nominally of cultural journalism – held by Wu Ming 1 at the University of Rome 2 (Tor Vergata) in the academic year 2018-2019 was dedicated to narratology and rhetoric of conspiracy.

In particular, WM1 devoted a two-hour lesson to the conspiracy mega-theory known as “QAnon”. In the last year and a half we have dealt with it several times: here on Giap , on Internazionale and in various conferences in Italy and abroad . We did it also because in a certain sense we are involved , this story involves us directly.

Among the undesirable effects of the pandemic and the related emergency there has been an increase – also in Italy – in the number of people who believe in the QAnon buffaloes and spread them. According to QAnon’s followers, the spread of Sars-Cov-2 would be a plot by China and Democrats to destroy the American economy and prevent Donald Trump’s re-election. Said this is simple, but from there innumerable branches and sub-theories begin. A usual mechanism, but one that can daze those who do not know QAnon.

We therefore find it useful to make that lesson available a year ago. Where there is also a lot of literature, suffice it to say that two novels have a place of honor. One is Foucault’s pendulum .

At the time, the lesson had been uploaded in two parts on the Wu Ming Foundation’s YouTube channel, now abandoned after we did degoogling. They were private videos, visible only by students and students of the course. We unlocked them and we propose them again.

Of course, as is the practice on Giap , we do this by going through, an interface that allows you to view YouTube videos without advertising, without tracking or data mining , without automatic reproductions, heterodirect playlists, toxic algorithm recommendations, restrictions for country and so on.

Good vision.

The QAnon case – first part (4 April 2019)

The QAnon case – second part  (4 April 2019)

Download this article in ebook format (ePub or Kindle)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Other texts that may interest you:

Max Headroom-19. The dream of permanent “social distancing” in post-coronavirus propagandaHow a conspiracy theory was born and how to deal with it – by Wu Ming 1, on Internazionale, 1st episodeSatanists kill on Saturday – by Selene Pascarella, 2nd episode (of 3)“Superstition brings bad luck.” Thirty years after Foucault’s pendulumTagged with  

conspiracy coronavirus coronavirus Covid 19 QAnon conspiracy theories

← Previous

56 comments on “ Coronavirus and conspiracy theories. A vademecum and a lesson on #QAnon “

  1. Juvenal5/21/2020 at 3:04 pmInteresting choice to publish a handbook on conspiracy after having recently fallen into the trap of a conspiracy theorist like MMC. Would you ask yourself what pulpit the sermon comes from ?! You say you are able to read in the narratives of conspiracy theorists, to understand the tactics they use to settle within the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 25/21/2020 at 3:10 pmYou miss the meaning of the post. This is a handbook for recognizing conspiracy narratives, their form, the way they tell. In the article we published, there was no such narrative. What was wrong we repeated and summarized it several times. We should have checked the identity of … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 45/21/2020 at 3:10 pmWell, you just summarized what we wrote in the apology post. Nobody is infallible, least of all us. This is why it is important to reiterate some things. The intent of the current post is precisely this.Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 15/21/2020 at 3:18 pmThe article above contains an exhortation to everyone, including us, to keep our guard high. All the more so because a Trojan horse had been brought into Giap. Fortunately, when the Achaeans came out, they found the Vietcong. It looks like a novel by Philip J. Farmer. From your … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Anarcobiotici5/21/2020 at 4:56 pmI would like to add some considerations and complications. Capitalism and its outcomes are the fruit of the will of its members as it has historically accumulated. The point is that they are often opposing or irrational wills or the result of incorrect or imaginative representations which is often capitalism itself … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Kola5/21/2020 at 6:55 pmIn my opinion you are confusing narration and analysis and you are giving too much importance to the first. Perhaps this tendency is typical of the times in which we live, as you also say, but I think that the difference between a harmful narrative and a useful one lies above all in the analytical bases on which it rests. Obviously a narration … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • Anarcobiotici5/22/2020 at 6:27 pmI often get confused between narrative and theory. And what I said is that it is not so easy to distinguish them and that their separation is not so clear. In the end everything is a representation after it surpasses a certain level of distance from reality. So if what characterizes this company … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  2. NonSoCheNickUsare5/21/2020 at 5:21 pmVery interesting discussion. I have my say on a couple of points. – * conspiracy theorists * are those who react first and best to any emergency / news / event. Well there must be, or rather there is certainly a power plant. Places not so dissimilar from communication agencies, with many little men sitting in front of … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  3. swann skein5/21/2020 at 6:14 pmNo real conspiracy, only conspiracy theories that many adepts make, in these times of pandemic. But, equally disturbing, a dominant narrative torrent that tries to write history downstream of events. Waiting to know why and for how, Youtube has removed three videos from the Perspective on the channel … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  4. tenib5/21/2020 at 6:41 pm“The other typical answer is:” You can’t prove that there isn’t a Plan! ” In that framework, I don’t completely agree with you when you write “It’s someone who thinks there is a Plan that … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  5. paoz5/22/2020 at 2:56 am“The predominant narrative of what was happening was judged incongruous” and this caused you “dissatisfaction” that you were unable to rationalize. This is why you have tried to demonstrate, article after article, what in this historical moment is not demonstrable – that is, all the measures promoted by that … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • pm20015/22/2020 at 7:54 am“The columns of military-funeral cars, the criminalization of runners, the silence on the workers forced to go to the factory and a general media terrorism were sad and irritating gimmicks, but we cannot exclude that they still contributed to saving lives.” If I interpret well, you attribute an action to the “general media terrorism” … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 25/22/2020 at 8:13 amIt does not seem to me that an attempt has been made here to demonstrate that “all (!) The measures promoted by that narrative were ipso facto (!) Incongruous”. It seems to me that we have tried to demonstrate that some measures taken by the Italian government have been inconsistent for reasons x, y and z … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • paoz5/22/2020 at 6:45 pmThen I rephrase, also responding to pm2001. Let’s leave aside the structural response of the Ministry and Regions (in my opinion it is another topic) and focus on the emergency measures, which are the most questionable: which factories / shops / schools / theaters to leave open and which not, how much freedom of movement to allow adults / children / old people / runners / dogs, the choices on … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • Wu Ming 15/22/2020 at 7:34 pmIn short, the lies told to the people for their good. Because the people are stupid, one cannot speak to them as if they were intelligent. Italians don’t understand shit and it takes propaganda appropriate to their condition. Reactionary thinking, as we wrote in paragraph 5 of this … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 15/22/2020 at 9:52 amI merely point out that forcing us for the one thousand five hundred and eighteenth time to summarize point by point what we have written “article after article” in these three months – which, sorry, is not what you say – is not a great contribution to the advancement of the discussion. It is simply untrue that … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Wu Ming 15/22/2020 at 10:22 amI would add that thanks to external contributions we have highlighted particularly incongruous aspects of emergency management, and moments of the impact of the emergency on society (on its weaker segments). We hosted contributions on the suffering of children, on how we experienced the emergency in the school reduced to DAD (one of the situations we are following with … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • claudiog5/23/2020 at 12:22 amI would say that Giap, in these times, has helped me in a very concrete way to keep the bar to starboard. It is very demonstrable that, bombarded with alarmism, I had been ready to betray principles so many times heralded. Much have been worth especially the words of you Wu Ming, but I understand … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
          • Wu Ming 15/23/2020 at 12:29 amI had marked many too. McCoy Tyner I’m not even going to say how much I admired him, ça va sans dire. Henry Grimes saw him play live a few years ago, it was the return tour (of the reappearance, let’s say). Giuseppi Logan was in the ESP anthology that I edited for Goodfellas … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
            • claudiog5/23/2020 at 6:28 amYou should discuss it with my fraternal friend P., about jazz music. I quarreled there, a month ago, after I sent him one of your posts about ‘terror in the press “:” show him the trucks loaded with coffins, to those big cocks, “he replied. The next day we talked. I understand … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  6. petrus5/22/2020 at 3:00 amThere are many points that I do not agree with in this analysis of conspiracy theories. I am not convinced by this way of generalizing. Just to understand: Naomi Klein is conspiracy theorist? Yet he has always said that natural or political disasters have been seized as great profit opportunities. If in the face of yet another disaster one … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 25/22/2020 at 8:01 amThe point that escapes you is not the generalization that is made, but the dynamic that is described, You use the metaphor of jackals pouncing on a carcass. No one here is saying that jackals don’t exist. Rather. But we are just saying that jackal-capitalism takes the opportunity, exploits a … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Wu Ming 25/22/2020 at 9:49 amTo understand each other better, I propose a mental experiment, outside the metaphors of the savannah. Let’s consider the hypothesis that the Sars-Cov2 virus is a laboratory product. Today we have evidence that I believe is not so stringent, but let’s take that hypothesis anyway. The conspiracy theorist’s first move is to transform the hypothesis (“The virus could be a … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 15/22/2020 at 10:04 am“I hope I understood well in sharing the need to find the truths where they are, to subtract them from the conspiracy narratives to prevent their understanding of reality from being compromised.” Yes, Petrus, you understood correctly, it is the point of all our reflections on conspiracy theories and … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • petrus5/22/2020 at 11:16 amI apologize for reporting back to the exhausting ABC. Then I point out differently. I am not convinced by the narrative that analyzes the narrative of the conspiracy as a stereotype and I do not find fitting gazelle-lion-herd-jackal, at least in the concrete cases that really interest me. I don’t like abstract labels and categories, which then often, even in the healthiest environments, … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • Wu Ming 15/22/2020 at 11:34 amPetrus, I admit to finding your speech abstract – in the very general and vague sense. Are you saying, if I understand correctly, that there is a general theme that interests you (I guess they are vaccines), that you don’t want those who talk about it in a certain way to be called a conspiracy theorist, … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
          • caloges5/22/2020 at 12:19 pmYet Wu Ming I, just in one of your comments (pity … I don’t have time to reread over 500 to find “which”) you mentioned the vaccine theme as a theme that is immediately bounced off this blog. I would like to point out that “clearing the field of idiocy” for those who are against the obligation … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
            • Wu Ming 15/22/2020 at 12:34 pmOf course, I wrote it and I repeat it. Because it is one thing to say that conspiracy is not previously defined by a given theme, another is the policy of this specific blog. Given the intrinsic toxicity of the frame in which the discussion on vaccines has long since entered, a consequence of the failure … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
              • caloges5/22/2020 at 1:03 pmWhat you say is very important. In fact, you say that you need to have a “superior” technical skill to deal with a practice that affects the real life of millions of people (children who already do not have access to kindergarten “like the others”, to say one). Have you … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
                • Wu Ming 15/22/2020 at 1:17 pm1) The competence superior to ours is not needed to get a general idea about vaccines (whoever has made it) but to manage a discussion that very predictably would have thousands of comments, therefore it would bombard us with thousands of notifications, and we should read everything and have every point raised, this in going crazy … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
                  • caloges5/22/2020 at 1:55 pmI understand the “overdose of comments” issue. I don’t want to “nail” you on vaccines, my personal feeling about it was at most by surprise. Because “in the end” we arrive at a “we don’t want to talk about it” (be careful though: it’s one thing to “make a post” that nobody or not me at least, will … [Continue reading]
                  • Wu Ming 15/23/2020 at 9:04 am“We don’t want to talk about it” because, because of our subjective limits and objective conditions, it goes beyond our ability to talk about it and allow us to talk about it sensibly. As we have said before, we were already walking on a rope balancing with a pole. In recent days the rope has become … [Continue reading]
          • petrus5/22/2020 at 1:34 pmVaccini, of course, the theme of the themes, but not only and not first, and not even in particular. Treatment as a cure for the flock in general does not only apply to vaccines. Peter Gøtzsche, for example, criticized mass screening twenty years ago; on this no theories of … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
            • caloges5/22/2020 at 4:54 pmPetrus you said something so important (for everyone’s life and bodies, I use your words) that I feel the urge to translate it into a more everyday language, in case someone had escaped. “CONFUSING MASS SCREENING WITH PRIMARY PREVENTION” can also be translated as follows: if there … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
              • petrus5/22/2020 at 5:39 pmI want to specify that I did not intend to provoke reactions who knows what, let alone on vaccines. But in the medical field we all undergo some narrative, especially when they offer us treatments, whose responsibility is all ours (and thank goodness). The narratives are the result of decades of research and research orientation on … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  7. NonSoCheNickUsare5/22/2020 at 9:43 amI state that in my answer I will return to my workhorse, or * the stupidity of the rulers *. Let’s reconstruct the story, as far as possible, and with all the limits of the necessary synthesis in a comment: a virus spreads which involves – in some cases – the need to be hospitalized in the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • NonSoCheNickUsare5/22/2020 at 9:44 am[second part] Here the donkey falls and you can see how all the management of the “crisis” was in the hands of the wrong people, everything seems to be dictated by chance: the bars are left open, the bars are closed, the bakeries remain open but they cannot sell pastries, otherwise the patisseries will … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  8. Wu Ming 15/22/2020 at 11:12 amWe recommend:Pandemic and plots. The mystifying role of conspiracyby Maria Matteo, on Umanità Nova .Log in to reply
    • petrus5/22/2020 at 12:15 pmI find the article reported beautiful and also appropriate in the discussion, especially in the end, where you can open a deeper analysis than what I wrote above. Everything is shareable; in addition I would open two windows in the speech. Matteo writes “The” alternative “expert, the seller of neglected knowledge, does not demolish the pedestal on which they are … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  9. TommasoS5/22/2020 at 11:19 amThanks for this article, very interesting. I also listened / saw the two hours of lessons of WM1, and some of the considerations that I will make are related to its contents, so I apologize if the references cannot be found in the text of the article and to deepen the issues you will have to watch the videos . Una … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • TommasoS5/22/2020 at 11:20 amThat is precisely because of the discursive modalities (I know that used in relation to Trump this adjective sounds strange …) that Trump uses, which are absolutely similar to those of the conspiracy speech, with sibylline indications, logical connections often lacking, non sequitur, disclosure of hidden truths , attribution of responsibility to “others” not always … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Wu Ming 15/22/2020 at 11:58 amThank you, Thomas, I find this reading on “idiotic power”, on the distinction between “power” and “Power” which would be the basis of the conspiracy mentality very apt. In several conspiracy narratives there is a “double power”. There is an occult power (in the case of QAnon it would be the satanist and pedophile mega-lobby that controls the “deep state”, … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • TommasoS5/22/2020 at 1:21 pmIt would also be interesting to analyze how Power (the institutionalized one) uses conspiracy theories to read popular opposition or insurrection (a structure that from what you say seems to be the basis of modern conspiracy, which would arise from conspiracy readings of the French Revolution). In a beautiful book, “Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
          • Wu Ming 15/22/2020 at 11:47 pmThis point is very important, “the inability to attribute any political capacity for action to the masses, the will to deny the very existence of a political consciousness of subordinates” can be recognized in many contemporary conspiracy theories, markedly in those on ‘immigration. The “Great Substitution” conspiracy theory sees in … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • herato5/23/2020 at 7:51 amIn fact, I intervene in (partial) off-topic to say that I listened to the videos and that I appreciated them very much. If the whole course were available online, I would be happy (as long as this is possible, feasible, etc etc) .. Since there is the limit of the jokes (sorry), I add an observation perhaps unimportant in the context, but … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
          • Wu Ming 15/23/2020 at 8:56 amOf a couple of lessons there is only the visual presentation, others were a “cineforum” model and would be “bad” without the film shown immediately before. Even the one on “Paul Is Dead” was like that, before I showed a 2016 Mitch Fillion documentary, Who Is This Now? (A Paul Is Dead Film), … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  10. talpa605/22/2020 at 12:18 pmI think that conspiracy has many personal roots. The conspiracy theorists who are in the circle of my knowledge are often angry people against the world, not just against their political opponents. This mental attitude starts from private and sometimes personal reasons (such as job loss, … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • alessio5/22/2020 at 1:40 pmI’m not sure if conspiracy helps the ruling class so much. In the sense that I imagine conspiracy in the same way as disastrous climatic events: tornadoes, cyclones, tsunamis. In themselves they are misfortunes for everyone (in the medium sense). And I think everyone would do without it. What I imagine is that then … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • notchosen5/22/2020 at 11:46 pmI find this is only partially true. We can consider that it is true that conspiracy is not directly beneficial to the ruling class, but is indirectly beneficial. As mentioned also in the post, the presence of conspiracy theories allows in some cases to weaken even the criticisms … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • Wu Ming 105/23/2020 at 12:00 amI will give a practical example of how conspiracy can sabotage real critical and investigative work. In the survey on Internazionale that we link in the article above, we talked about Pablo Trincia’s Poison investigation. I’m not going to summarize it here, I refer to the linked text. Here, I am convinced that today is more difficult … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  11. StefanoR5/22/2020 at 1:32 pmIn my opinion, one thing that helps understand the virulence of conspiracy in the past 10 years is the power management technique that some call hypernormalization. It is a concept born in the 80s to describe a psycho-social condition widespread in the countries of the Soviet bloc: it was known that the system … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  12. moujik5/22/2020 at 6:24 pmI consider this article very useful because I firmly believe that the change must start from ourselves and I don’t feel free, at least, not always, from the temptation to give in to drift of conspiracy thought. To think that there was a plan and to forget, as you rightly pointed out, at least I interpret it, that … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  13. toto5/22/2020 at 8:26 pmOne question: Could the name QAnot refer to the Q Sources? I had happened to talk about the Sources of Q with WM2, but not about QAnon. Q parts are called those parts of the gospels common to Matthew and Luke, considered to date from a common source that does not … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 15/22/2020 at 11:25 pmHi Totò, no, I have to say it doesn’t say anything to me. I have never found references to the sources of Q in speculations as to why QA’s “Q” is not called that.Log in to reply
  14. SilvanoSilva5/22/2020 at 11:05 pmGuys, have mercy. You are reselling past interventions by linking them, through a short ad post, to a trend-topic that you have recently dealt with superficially. On the marketing scale, it is not the marathon runner’s strategy. I’m sorry for the paternalistic tone with which I write to you, but seeing you like this is a … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 15/22/2020 at 11:18 pmOkay, let’s analyze it a little, this “pret-à-porter” you’re talking about. We have been actively dealing with conspiracy theories since the mid-nineties, since we came across a case of alleged SRA that hit and disturbed our city, Bologna. More or less from the same period we deal with emergencies such as … [Continue reading]

矛盾 (máo dùn). In what traps we fall into discussing «coronavirus emergency»

Wu Ming

by Wu Ming

By now more than two months ago, in the third episode of our viral Diary , we tried to clarify what we meant by “emergency”. We spoke of “a basic misunderstanding, a conceptual misunderstanding that saw us mutually lost in translation “, and explained:

“There were those who, by” emergency “, meant the danger from which the emergency started, that is, the epidemic.

Instead, we and a few others – in a very clear minority but in continuity with a debate of at least forty years – called “emergency” what was built on the danger : the climate that was established, the special legislation, the derogations from rights otherwise considered untouchable, the reconfiguration of powers …

Who, whenever we talked about all this, immediately wanted to go back to talking always and only about the virus itself, its etiology, its lethality, its differences with the flu, etc., in our opinion underestimated the situation . “

Every emergency is here to stay

That of the “emergency” – time after time the emergency-terrorism, the emergency-public finances and all the emergency frames that we have known – is never an ordinary narrative. It is a long-range Great Storytelling, which once imposed in the imagination has a very strong inertial thrust, and cannot be stopped at will.

When the “emergency” begins to have dysfunctional effects, we work to mitigate its grip, smoothing the edges, slowing down and letting itself settle, but it takes time. And in any case the effects will be permanent: all the emergencies we have known have accumulated, we could almost make it a “stratigraphy”.

Almost twenty years later, we are still living – albeit no longer in an acute phase – in the post-9/11 emergency. We notice it, for example, every time we check baggage at the airport. The current procedures, whose logic is not very clear and seem more “theatrical” than anything else, were introduced then.

We are still experiencing the emergencies-public accounts of the early 90s and 2011, because the cuts, the counter-reforms and the austerity that thanks to those emergencies have led us up to now, to the current situation.

Much of the special anti-terrorism legislation of the late 70s – early 80s is still with us.

Wolf Bukowski wrote for us on the rhetorical and “proxemic” continuities between the widespread “degradation emergency” of the Ten years and the coronavirus emergency of spring 2020 .

No emergency is behind us, all of them are on our shoulders.

Capitalism has taken the leap

Imagine, therefore, if you can easily get out of the emergency narrative imposed to face this pandemic. We are talking about the most impactful and pervasive emergency in our memory, and on a planetary level. Much of what has been experienced in these three months – we think only of DAD – is here to stay, albeit in less conspicuous forms (but precisely for this reason more pervasive). We also think of the derogations on labor law, or the environmental derogations, which will be requested and obtained thanks to the emergency, in the name of the “recovery”.

All this in the difficulty of putting into practice a concrete opposition, because for a long time conditions of “social distancing” will persist which, if they do not make struggles impossible, still give even more pretexts and tools than there were before to repress them. Wolf Bukowski has also written a fundamental article on how the idea of ​​”social distancing” could become encrusted in our daily lives.

Being able to blame the pandemic for a crisis and recession that was still coming is very convenient for capital: for its sectors that are drawing or trying to take advantage of this phase, and for those who want to recover lost ground.

Thanks to the Sars-Cov-2 virus, capital has had the opportunity to accelerate certain dynamics in order to manage them better. Given the inevitability of a recession, it is far better to manage it by being able to unload the blame on an event presented as “natural”, on bad luck, on a disaster, on conditions “external” to the system (we know that this is not the case, that the the fault of the pandemic is the system, but every time we have to explain it).

All this, we always reiterate, is not the result of a Plan, of a conspiracy of capital. Capital responds to what happens, of course, in a capitalist way. Political power manages what happens within the framework of capitalist compatibilities . A single emergency is never planned well in advance: it consists of taking the ball.

We cannot speak of “phase 2”, “phase 3” and anything else only by looking at danger in the strict sense, that is, only in virological and epidemiological terms. We need to talk about what this emergency will leave us, and how to act, how to regain spaces of dissent and conflict in that multi-layered reality .

Intermezzo: «Lance / shield»

This whole story started in China, right?

In Chinese, the term “contradiction” is rendered with the two ideograms 矛盾 , respectively “spear” and “shield”. If you look closely at the two characters, you will recognize the stylization of the two objects.

It is said that the combination, and the related concept, derive from a history dating back to the third century AD (Jìn dynasty).

An histrionic merchant roamed villages in the state of Chu and, among other items, also sold spears and shields. In a square, a guy asked him what his spears were like, and he, mocking, said they were the best in the world and that they could pierce any shield.
Shortly thereafter, another guy asked him what his shields were like, and he, always over the top, said they were the best in the world, and that no spear could pierce them.
At which a third bystander, who had heard both the réclames, asked him: “So what would happen on one of your spears striking one of your shields?”
Unable to respond, the merchant left the village.

«Either underestimate the virus or underestimate the emergency»

There is a fundamental contradiction in all the discussions on the coronavirus emergency, a contradiction that presents itself in the form of a false dilemma and is a consequence of having incurred – all and all of us, some more or less – in fallacious dichotomies, of the to have fallen into rhetorical traps like the one in which the ancient Chinese merchant stuck. This contradiction must be thematized and overcome, in order to adopt what in another post we have called “holistic approach” – or synthetic , if you prefer a more dialectical terminology, in the sense of finding a synthesis that surpasses opposites forward.

Negante has found a beautiful and effective way of representing this contradiction. He did it in a comment on the previous post , of which we report an extract:

“At first I expressed it almost like a joke, but then it seemed serious to me: it is a sort of uncertainty principle in the Heisenbergian sense, between the virus and the emergency. You cannot look and keep your gaze fixed on both, but you underestimate one or the other. You underestimate the other’s eyes. That is: for those who see the virus well (or believe they see it well) the emergency is only a contingency that will pass if the virus passes; for those who see the emergency well (or believe they see it well), the virus, however serious and dangerous, will be less and less lethal than the consequences that emergency policies are causing. Every discussion has this instability within it and it can only be good to bring it up. “

This is also an excellent caveat with which to screen one’s reactions in the face of any statement about the virus and / or the emergency. How many tags on the danger of the virus do we expect to stamp who wants to talk about the dangers of the emergency? And how many badges on the senselessness of the emergency do we want those who want to discuss the sensibility of the virus to stamp?

And it goes for more specific examples: if I think they have to reopen the bookstores, how many times do I have to specify that I was to close the factories ? And if I was about to close the factories, how many times do I have to explain that this didn’t involve closing everyone in the house?

There is too much binary thinking, too much Manichaeism, too easy and shearing tertium non datur . Instead, not only does tertia exist : the multiple exists, with its complexity. Denying it takes us straight into the arms of the “double bond”, the one on which most of the management of the emergency hinged and whose logic was taken for granted by those who concentrated only on the virus.

Double bond: «What would you like to do? Do you want to leave the house? ” If you answer yes, then it means that it is ok for you to reopen the factories too (and I make you sick at work). If you answer no, then I take away your freedom of movement (and make you sick with depression and various pathologies). How do you do it, you are wrong.

From here on out

We will not get rid of pandemics or emergencies, both will continue to hit us. Only by reasoning in these terms will the misunderstandings and problems of recent months be overcome. At least, those carried on in good faith. For others, there is little to do.

The emergency also leaves us the rubble of personal and political relationships. After all, it happened during and after all the previous emergencies. Emergencies, by imposing new dichotomies, mess up sides, alliances, friendships. This she did it with an immense firepower and with almost irresistible impetus. Unfortunately, we will not find all the collaborations nor all the affections of before.

We will have to make up for it.

Download this article in ebook format (ePub or Kindle)

What left Covid-19 in the shade. Epidemiology and nonsense of the coronavirus emergency

Posted on Wu Ming

82 comments – 14 branches

[Science and epistemology are certainly not the first topics that come to mind when talking about our novels and our work. Yet there is a very evident red thread that runs through our narrative works and that concerns precisely those themes. From the mesmerism of the Sleepwalker Army , to the theoretical physics of The Wind Machine, passing through the scientist Aleksandr Bogdanov, protagonist of Proletkult .
Here on Giap an article from five years ago,written by Mariano Tomatis, with the subtitle “Science, fetishism of the facts and removal of the conflict”, he collected in a short time more than three hundred comments, triggering chain reactions and long discussions also in other places on the Net. Tomatis himself, together with the mathematician Martino Prizzi, was the co-author of an article in which a certain use of mathematics and statistics was dismantled to deny femicide.
All this to say that we are very happy to publish the following article, written by an epidemiologist and a mathematician, a few days after that of Roberto Salernoon the communication failure of scientists and experts in the days of Covid-19. To reiterate that our criticisms are not addressed to “Science” as such, but to certain of its premises considered indispensable, to a very precise “scientific discourse”, and above all to the idea that scientists are somehow extraneous to battles and to the interests that shape human society. WM ]

by Sara Gandini * and Marco Mamone Capria **

There are many absurd episodes, bordering on the surreal, that occurred during this lockdown period, episodes in which all the limits of reasoning that contrast the right to health with the right to work, as if the two could be separated.
If you don’t have a job, if you don’t have what to buy, how can you stay healthy?
If you don’t have a home, or rather a decent home, where and how can you quarantine?
The economic crisis that awaits us will be very heavy: how will we pay for public health?
And above all, how will those who will be most weakened by this crisis pay their own healthcare costs, when it is well known that millions of Italians already renounced treatments that they could not afford before?

The media bombardment has not only anguished the population, but intimidated the national scientific community, discouraging them to question the rational basis of the lockdown , and making them feel as dangerous even the need to study the characteristics of the disease, to make comparisons with other countries and with other diseases, to understand its nature and how to deal with it.

A useful comparison is for example that between the mortality of these months and that of 2015. In Italy in the first eight months of 2015 there were 45,000 more deaths than the previous year (Istat data). The increase in deaths could be due in large part to flu-like syndromes (ILI, Influenza Like Ilnesses ), of which Covid-19 is only the most recent example. In that year, in many Italian municipalities there were more deaths than there were this year, and in a large part of Lombardy there was a similar number , except for the areas of Brescia, Bergamo and Lodi, where instead the 2020 line stands out, due to serious errors in managing the first outbreaks.All comparative graphs can be generated and downloaded from the Istat website .

Comparison between the deaths of the period January-April 2015 and those of January-April 2020 in the municipalities of Milan, Varese, Pavia and Bergamo. Click to enlarge.

Even then and then in the following years , several articles denounced that intensive care in Lombardy was collapsing due to the flu.

“Milan, collapsing intensive care for flu.” Corriere della Sera, 10 January 2018.

It should also be noted that air pollution , especially in the geographical area most affected by Covid-19, represents a cause and cause of death that is difficult to overestimate, considering that in 2016 there were 14,600 deaths from nitrogen dioxide in Italy (NO2), 3000 for ozone (O3) and 58.600 for fine particulate matter PM2.5.

Even on these figures – which certainly do not represent a health emergency lower than Covid-19 and which brought our country before the European Court of Justice – the media have generally kept silent, and there has not been any broad political debate around them .

Precisely thanks to these comparisons, it is clear that the reason for the current crisis is to be found not so much in the unpredictability of the virus, as in irresponsible choices of those who governed us and deemed it appropriate – in accordance with budgetary constraints that were instead to be reprocessed in the headquarters. European without waiting for Covid-19 – divesting in public health, despite complaints from doctors and epidemiologists.

It is appropriate to underline another fact, ignored by the main media: in 2016 there were 49,301 deaths from hospital infections in Italy , and in our country 30% of sepsis deaths occur in the 28 EU countries. It is clear that the contamination of hospital wards has contributed to the crisis of health facilities that too many would like to attribute exclusively to Covid-19.

Explicit this allows to understand which are the right strategies to implement. For example, it allows us to study alternatives such as Germany and Sweden, which have not had to close everything. The comparison with Germany teaches us the importance of investing in general practitioners, in territorial medical assistance and in general in healthcare, which has undergone very heavy cuts for us.

In 2019, the GIMBE observatory reported that in the last 10 years there have been cuts and financings of the National Health Service equal to 37 billion. Already in 2014 several complaints showed that the constitutional right to health of Italian citizens was subordinated to the needs of public finance, which through cuts of tens of billions of euros put the National Health System in serious crisis. Istat has also recalled in these days the cuts to health care, underlining that since 2009 in this sector there has been a progressive reduction of permanent workers, in parallel with the aging of staff and the increase in the use of flexible work.

Unfortunately, in times when the population is terrified, certainties are needed, and critical reasoning frightens. A surprise, however, is the willingness of scientists to inspire dramatic choices of government on the basis of arguments and mathematical models are not subject to the scrutiny of the scientific community .

The authority of science only works if the conclusions obtained from a study can be freely questioned. The scientific method is based on the formulation of hypotheses that must be able to be confirmed or refuted by data analysis. All researchers should make their theses explicit from the outset and show whether the data support or deny them, clarifying the methods and sources used to analyze them.

The thesis supported by the majority is that the problem has been underestimated, that the cause of the increase in deaths in some municipalities in Lombardy is due to this underestimation of the problem and that if we had made a complete lockdown, with draconian measures immediately, this would not have happened. But this should be demonstrated, and the task will not be easy.

It is undeniable that tragedies have occurred in some municipalities in Lombardy and in some RSA. But one of the main reasons for these tragedies was to have concentrated the whole emergency in hospitals and RSA, also favoring a parallel epidemic of diagnostic errors , instead of focusing on territorial health for early treatment. Having dealt with a public health problem with a language and a war mentality, and with a “civil protection” management, did the rest.

Some of the measures taken by the government and the calls for precaution – such as the recommendation to all elderly people or people with one or more chronic conditions to avoid leaving their homes unless in case of strict necessity – were reasonable. The same WHO guidelines suggest isolating as many people as possible who have come into contact with the virus and quarantining their closest contacts. But nothing else. The scientific evidence on the effectiveness of further measures to control the spread of the virus, starting with the prescription of masks for the whole population, is in fact very weak .

Mike Ryan

WHO Emergency Program Head Mike Ryan recently said that in their view, “Sweden has put in place very strong public health measures. What they have done differently is that they have based themselves on a relationship of trust with citizenship ». In Italy, however, it was thought that there was a need for authoritarian measures to make citizens safe, generally viewed as irresponsible, and concealing the fact that in reality the tragedies that occurred are all borne by those who administer health.

It should be borne in mind that the predictions about the health catastrophe that the late closure of the North would have caused to the South have not come true, and this fact would deserve careful reflection. Some epidemiologists who study the seasonal influences and coronaviruses of the past claim that when we “reopen” the virus will return, and in a year’s time the differences between countries that have applied a more or less rigid lockdown will be due more to the demographic and social structure of the population than to the measures taken. Even John Ioannidis , professor of epidemiology at the University of Stanford, said for some time that mortality Covid-19 seems to be very overrated . A study estimated between 25 and 43 thousand deaths attributable to similar influences in each flu season between 2013 and 2017, numbers not so dissimilar from those of Covid-19.

Incidence of flu-like syndromes (ILI) from 2004-2005 to 2016-2017. The graph shows the typical seasonal appearance.

In 2017, between March 1 and April 30, there were 27,083 deaths with at least one respiratory disease in Italy. In the same period, in 2020, deaths with Covid-19 detected by the surveillance system amounted to 27,938. It is also interesting to note that in the UK the death rates of the four non-Covid-19 cases in March are all below the average of the previous five years, and similar complaints have also been made in Italy . The hypothesis is that even deaths that would have occurred in any case, for other predominant causes, are labeled as deaths by Covid-19.

This is also serious because the fear of Covid-19 has meant that the number of emergency room accesses for ischemias and heart attacks has dropped significantly, with an increase in deaths from cardiac arrest not only in Italy but also abroad . During the lockdown to cope with the emergency, several treatments for other pathologies were postponed, even when it came to pathologies with a very high mortality , such as oncological ones. Also in the future, the diagnostic and treatment activity, which already involves long waiting lists, will have delays in the treatment of pathologies which, dealt with promptly, could be better treated.

The predictive models that try to demonstrate the effectiveness of the complete lockdown are necessarily contradictory , having to simplify and model extremely complex realities.

Neither Covid-19 nor restrictive measures on people-to-person contacts have altered the frequency of flu-like cases. With the only exception of a postponement of the “peak”, the 2020 curve is similar to that of previous years. Graph taken from the article «Coronavirus, disinformation and democracy» by Marco Mamone Capria.

At least the sources of variability and the hypotheses from which we should start should be clarified, but the same models of Imperial College , which greatly influenced the choices of many countries and were then widely reviewed by the authors themselves , had not been examined by the review independent of any scientific journal. Ditto for the reports of the Conte government’s technical-scientific committee. This is serious, because all analyzes have limits and interpretations are never univocal. The data are always discussed by the individual researcher starting from their own skills, and each analysis depends on the urgencies of the author of the research: what he decides to put at the center, what he wants to demonstrate.

The scientific community has a proper duty to help understand if the analyzes have been conducted correctly, if the data have been interpreted consistently, if the limits have been highlighted, and if more can be added. In the scientific field, the opinion of the individual expert counts for very little. What matters is the work of the scientific community as a whole, which however must be left free to confront without censorship and self-censorship.

The thesis of the report of the Technical-scientific Committee on which the Dpcm of April 26 is based is that it is necessary to slow down the reopening because otherwise the consequences on the health system would be terrible. In addition to calculations of doubtful value, as evidenced by unrealistic forecasts , and the failure to consider the geographical and ecological profile of the epidemic – which in itself diminishes the value of recommendations based only on the mathematical model used – it should be noted that it was not held account of the well-being of the community as a whole, the all-round effects of the lockdown were not includedon the present and the future. Because if the country enters a recession we will not have the resources to pay the national health system and make the necessary investments for scientific research not governed by private interests, which we have a great need for a wide range of health problems, which certainly do not reduce to contagious diseases.

Lockdown companions without if and without but

Some leftist intellectuals write that it was not out of passive obedience to an imposed order that the Italians accepted the lockdown without problems , and that the only way in which we could take care of the other at this time was precisely the ‘isolation. It would seem a sensible reasoning, if it were not that a large part of the population is outside the narrative framework.

To allow us to stay at home, someone must provide us with all the objects and services that make us feel comfortable, from masks, to tests, to health care…. to the food brought by the riders. To allow us wealthy people not to take risks, we condemn a large part of the population to unemployment and poverty. A nation is precipitated into an economic crisis comparable to that of 1929, and one dares to call all this “solidarity”. It is the intellectual short circuit of a self-styled left who in effect adopts an individualistic posture disguised as a concern for public health and forgets all those who have not lost or lost a job and a home.

Naomi Klein

Already in 2007, in its Shock economy. The rise of disaster capitalism , Naomi Klein warned that emergencies such as those of pandemics create the ideal conditions for carrying out political programs which in different circumstances would face stiff opposition. The so-called “capitalism of disasters” was born thanks to speculations about catastrophes and wars both economically and politically. As Klein reiterated recently :

“In times of crisis, people tend to focus on the daily emergency of surviving the crisis, whatever that may be, and tend to place excessive trust in the group in power.”

The message that passes is that for the good of all it is necessary to reduce freedoms, including that of opposing government choices, in the name of a mythical national unity, just when the emergency deepens the inequalities. By giving up the space to practice the conflict, in a few days we could all find ourselves working from Monday to Sunday, from 7 in the morning to one in the morning … of course only so that the state can defend our health.

The goal of the lockdown had to be to take time to make the virus spread slowly, to strengthen the intensive care units and at the same time make them less necessary also thanks to personalized diagnoses, to provide a number of personal protective equipment ( dpi) to all those who needed it, give doctors time to experiment with therapies and understand how to improve the prognosis, as well as educate society to new more responsible behaviors. The objective was not and could not have been to reach “0 infections”. We do not live on a remote island, the borders of nations are porous, we live in a globalized world … But with the media terrorism staged it is not easy to put order in fears.

In the starting phase it is necessary to learn to live with the virus, or rather with the flu-like viruses as a whole, and to think about protecting people at risk also because before a year, at least, there will not be a vaccine to be proposed – with all the appropriate caution and respect for individual choices – to those most at risk. As it is also noted in the document published on Jacobin Italy entitled Primum vivere, non survive , we know who are the people who have the greatest chance of developing serious forms of disease:

“All people at risk (first of all men aged 65 and over and under 65 but with concomitant pathologies) must receive explanations and indications, mainly from their general practitioners, on the risks they run but it must be clear that protecting it means locking up, staying at home is a possibility that – if chosen freely – must be supported with home services. »

In the meantime – and it can be a much longer period than some media suggest – it is clear that, always maintaining protection for the most fragile subjects, we must make sure that as many people as possible acquire the antibodies. The virus must spread in order for more people to develop immunity, and it is possible to cure the infection even with the plasma of healed patients  (obviously maintaining the necessary precautions and protecting people at risk).

SARS Coronavirus, Luke Jerram’s blown glass work from the «Glass Microbiology» series.

The more it spreads, the less we will be afraid, but what has been done to deal with the next spread of the virus or the next pandemics? What measures have been put in place to give citizens the confidence to face the future with confidence? Instead of creating ghost hospitals that have never been used, wouldn’t it be better to increase the permanent hiring of doctors, nurses and health personnel so that you can have that capillary prevention and assistance on the territory you have been talking about for some time? Ambiguity on how to manage health plans between the state and regions should also be resolved. But at the moment the measures are only in an emergency rather than long-term perspective.

For schools, too, one cannot think, for example, that the solution is to leave the children at home in turns to take lessons from home. Firstly because not everyone has the space at home or the necessary technological tools, secondly because someone must be at home to assist children and not everyone can afford babysitting , finally because those who do telework – today they call it smart working – should be able to work and not having to follow children … and of course those who, as usual, most of all would pay for these choices are women.

However, decisions should be made by looking at scientific evidence, and a systematic review of the literature published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health shows that the scientific evidence supporting the total closure of schools to combat Covid-19 is very weak and the data influenza outbreaks suggest that school closings could have relatively small effects on a virus with the high transmissibility attributed to Cov-2.

It is therefore time for those who govern us to take responsibility for this emergency and not to let the responsibilities and consequences of the errors made fall again on the citizens. Treatment shouldn’t be worse than harm. In order not to find ourselves unprepared for the next inevitable epidemic diseases, and at the same time to take into account all pathologies, even those that are not communicable but linked to lifestyles and pollution, it is necessary to invest in scientific research, prevention and balanced health and medical information that does not cultivate false certainties.

Sara Gandini , epidemiologist / biostatistician at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan. contract professor of medical statistics at the State University of Milan.

** Marco Mamone Capria , mathematician and epistemologist at the University of Perugia, coordinates the Science and Democracy project and collaborates with Il Giornale dei Biologi , the official organ of the National Order of Biologists.

Download this article in ebook format (ePub or Kindle)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Other texts that may interest you:

But is it true that everyone in the world “does like Italy”? Is there a “ban on jogging or walking” elsewhere? And the autoce …Around April 25th. Urgent reflections on the need to break the glass and return to the streetSisyphus. The devastating impact of the coronavirus emergency on bookstores and publishing housesViral diary / 2. Bulåggna gropes in the dark of ordinances (26-28 February 2020)Tagged with  

coronavirus Covid 19 epidemiology epistemology Marco Mamone Capria Sara Gandini

← Previous

82 comments on “ What left Covid-19 in the shadows. Epidemiology and senselessness of the coronavirus emergency “

  1. girolamo05/13/2020 at 12:47 pmJust one note on the final part about schools. Given that I fully agree that distance learning is not teaching, least of all its partial use (some in class, others at home); school is an integrated system, in which there are not only students … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  2. Mars 900005/13/2020 at 1:49 pmI really hope that the weather will be gentlemanly and that the obvious criminal responsibilities (not just political ones) will come to light. And, in my own small way (but I also think of many readers of this blog) I hope I will never have to relive an experience of such intellectual solitude as in March and April, … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  3. freeJA05/13/2020 at 2:35 pmThanks for the detailed work. Marco Mamone Capria’s attachment, in the form of FAQ, is truly remarkable. Without adding trite and withdrawn considerations, it makes me feel cynical, thinking that yes, we deserve the politicians we elect, but that the choice, which has fallen into the current political system, is very poor. I remain, at the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • plumb05/13/2020 at 4:53 pmIn addition to thanking you for this article and the previous one by Robydoc, which I liked a lot (hitting the target of communication) I wanted to briefly congratulate freeJA: if there is nothing more to lose, it is always worth getting all the satisfaction that you can get away with. Having said that, I just wanted to highlight … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  4. Marcello0705/13/2020 at 2:47 pmAn article that provides many ideas of extreme interest. One concerns the data on deaths from hospital infections; I ask myself: is it possible that the high turnout in hospitals has indirectly increased this figure which is already high in itself? This question drags another, as far as I am concerned: who has been hospitalized … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Marco Mamone Capria05/13/2020 at 6:19 pmAbout the ILI chart: anyone who observes it without parties taken in understands that the effect of the lockdown (I mean the national one, not the containment of verified outbreaks, much less the special protection of people in critical structures such as RSA, which instead has been adequate) has been at most … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • frapavia05/13/2020 at 10:08 pmI have a question that I would like to submit to the entire blog, which I consider one of the few places where thought can express itself without limitations whatsoever: Cui Prodest? the lockdown for whom? I would have nothing more to add, if not in front of the graphics of the post, the senselessness of the procedures and regulations of the phase … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  5. ErricoMalatesta05/13/2020 at 3:43 pm“An individualistic posture disguised as a concern for public health.” I underline this sentence. It is the most ignoble thing of all this for me. This short circuit for which those who do not agree to be uncritically closed in homes are irresponsible, insolidarious, individualistic … in spite of everything. Being apostrophe by … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  6. masaccio05/13/2020 at 4:17 pmSorry, comrades, I have read everything you have published on the subject, sometimes sharing, sometimes not, but in any case always considering yours a useful contribution to the debate. But this piece, among the many right things he says, in particular on health, makes openings that in my opinion are really dangerous to the narration … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming05/13/2020 at 4:58 pmOne of the things we have most insisted on in these two and a half months, practically writing ad nauseam, is that the need to “stay at home” – read: at home from work, that is to close places where people were not working safely -, a collective need that was being expressed … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • masaccio05/13/2020 at 5:21 pmI know that in the contributions of these months you have certainly not crushed Confindustria, which is why I pointed out the inconsistency between this piece and your positions. It does not seem to me that that paragraph can be interpreted in other ways, sincerely, and precisely because it is different from what … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • Wu Ming05/13/2020 at 5:24 pmIn the piece we find no “ideological link between individual and economic freedom”. Indeed there is a clear condemnation of neoliberal policies, the privatization of health, the social inequalities that the management of this emergency is exacerbating.Log in to reply
          • Wu Ming05/13/2020 at 5:28 pmPS This controversy, in turn, risks diverting attention from the very important findings that the piece contains, on the data that it comments, on the demystifications that it operates towards as Covid-19 has been told to us.Log in to reply
            • masaccio05/13/2020 at 5:53 pmBut yes, in fact I have already commented too much, I’ll stop, it doesn’t make sense to monopolize the discussion on this. But the fact that the freedom to go out and that to produce are not the same freedom and that there is no “economy of the nation” measured by the GDP which is directly reflected in work … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
            • frapavia05/13/2020 at 10:27 pmexactly! the topic is the data in this case. For this reason, a little further on (and a little while ago) I asked: who benefits from the lockdown (taking into account that, in various measures, it is taking place globally)? If the evidence of the data denies its usefulness, what is the reason for keeping it? They don’t want to lose … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Cugino_di_Alf05/13/2020 at 5:15 pmHi, I don’t agree very much with your interpretation. From my point of view, there is no need to be part of the “GDP party” to see that unemployment and poverty will affect not so much or not only the workers of the big factories, as the seasonal workers, on fixed-term or in … [ Keep reading]Log in to reply
      • masaccio05/13/2020 at 5:43 pmFor me the point is to understand where the responsibilities are. It seems to me that it is said that the responsibilities are in the choice to stop some (not all, as another comment has well pointed out) productive activities. For me, however, the responsibilities lie in not offering these workers the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • Wu Ming 105/13/2020 at 5:55 pmOne thing we have said many times is that speaking of lockdown generically, without specification, necessarily brings together very different measures, adopted in different areas, at different times and places, with different characteristics and impacts. To say that the lockdown itself does not harm workers and … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
          • Cugino_di_Alf05/13/2020 at 6:21 pmExactly. And your clarification on the lockdown of the schools (which has a very heavy impact on my family, as on many others) makes me want to ask a question (I realize provocative) to the masaccio that I had previously avoided: Who is it that can be defined as a worker? An artisan, who lays tiles in … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  7. Marcello0705/13/2020 at 5:24 pmMasaccio, in my opinion you have misunderstood the meaning. When the authors write “we condemn a large part of the population to unemployment and poverty” they do not mean that to avoid this one must go to work always and in any case, in any condition, in order to gain weight. They mean, I believe, that the containment measures have been so … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  8. AlexJC05/13/2020 at 5:41 pmI agree with the analysis even if the paper that opens by prof. I believe that Mamone Capria (dated 30 March) reports some data and affirmations subsequently refuted, in particular on the trend of mortality over the years and on the fact that the sars-cov-2 is no longer questioned by anyone (if not by . .. [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming05/13/2020 at 7:26 pmPlease, next time try to find a source other than the one you have proposed, and in any case we try to sift through more and more sources the news coming out on that site.Log in to reply
      • AlexJC05/13/2020 at 9:42 pmsorry, you’re absolutely right. In reality I did not know what sputnik was (mea culpa … but I can’t do it all) the news, however, I had verified it was on the courier of the evening but I had not put that link because the corsera by now problems: if you do not remove all … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  9. Gil-galad05/13/2020 at 6:28 pmAllow me a sloppy and purely anecdotal comment: but if the number of deaths in excess of COVID are difficult to distinguish from those due to pollution or those of seasonal flu, because all my friends nurses and doctors, in Italy and in England , they say they have never seen anything of the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • plumb05/13/2020 at 6:59 pmHealthcare professionals have made an impression strongly conditioned by the planning of new “sudden” health protocols and a temporary “restructuring” of the wards, which have been transformed into semi-intensive intensive care. The contagiousness of the virus (since the outbreaks were not contained) has simultaneously led many infected to … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 105/13/2020 at 6:59 pmListening to the testimonies of those who face the epidemic in the front line (I use a war metaphor but not in a warlike sense), in dramatic conditions and seeing people die in front, is right and necessary. But I ask a question: what is necessary for what purpose? Before answering, I warn of a risk: pivot … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Gil-galad05/13/2020 at 7:46 pmAgree more. All the more reason to rise from the here and now of the Italian debate and try to put what is happening with us in a global perspective. Of course the struggles are always located struggles, and it is very important to understand which is the weak link of the Italian biosecuritarian apparatus to break the etorodirect narrative all to the advantage … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • sgandini05/13/2020 at 7:05 pmComparing deaths between different countries can be misleading, in part because the way in which COVID-19 deaths are recorded varies from country to country. Excess deaths are a better measure than COVID-19 deaths. These are the additional deaths in a certain period of time compared … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  10. Gil-galad05/13/2020 at 6:28 pmI think that a critical approach to the “staying at home” policy should not necessarily leverage arguments, even convincing ones, but that by philosophizing on the reduction of risk, they accept to incorporate easily refutable judgments in their analyzes. Is COVID mortality overestimated? Just today Peter Piot, the scientist who discovered … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • robydoc05/13/2020 at 7:05 pmAnd many greetings to my article 😦 I can repeat that it is completely meaningless to make reasonings of this type on Sweden (which NO ONE incenses) or on anyone else but it is also necessary not to panic. Only in this light is it legible your concern (and your misunderstanding) about … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Gil-galad05/13/2020 at 7:26 pmHi Robydoc, I really appreciated your article to tell the truth, and I was referring implicitly to things read in English from other parts (many have written hastily about Sweden these days, and your text was not rushed). What I was trying to point out is that the way … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • Wu Ming 105/13/2020 at 7:34 pmBoh, the most learned companions we know are almost all childless, unlike the rest of us, and when we wrote about the suffering of children and adolescents during the lockdown, or about problems related to school and DAD, they regularly didn’t understand us and they attacked us with strawmen … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
          • Lizaveta Nikolaevna05/13/2020 at 7:55 pmBah. I have no children but the suffering of children and adolescents I find it very understandable. But I teach, maybe that’s it. Not only. I was banned because I defended the provision with which the mayor of Livorno made it clear that it was possible to accompany non-self-sufficient disabled cohabitants or family members on an outing. … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
            • Wu Ming 105/13/2020 at 7:58 pmWe specify: I have not written that all the childless are self-centered and learned, it would be a sesquipedal crap :-))) I found that «almost all the most learned companions we know» (therefore a well-limited sample) are childless (and to think about it) well they have nothing to do with children even for … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
          • Gil-galad05/13/2020 at 7:57 pmI state that I am a privileged, I live in London with my son in a “soft” lockdown (which is not the reason why England is having the parable he is having, but the three weeks of cancellation before the lockdwon, and Brexit celebration in Parliament square full of BNP … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
            • Lizaveta Nikolaevna05/13/2020 at 8:03 pmOf course not all childless people don’t understand. I just noticed some positions too. What I mean is that there are many issues to consider. You can have grandparents and be afraid of contagion, but you can also be afraid of depression, of the consequences of the absence of motion, of … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • swann skein05/13/2020 at 10:26 pmBeware though that Piot did not say that COVID lethality is 30%, he said that the percentage of hospitalized patients who die in England is 30%, just as 50% of those intubated die (approximately). It means a very different thing: that if you get worse enough to ask for the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  11. karlse05/13/2020 at 6:51 pmThere has never been a “Confindustria party”. No one in their right mind could seriously think about doing a prolonged lockdown. The real game was played (and lost) on the CONDITIONS in which to resume, which are vexatious towards those who work, remaining in a state of emergency. It is no coincidence that the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  12. pm200105/13/2020 at 7:11 pmThis article offers several interesting insights, but on some occasions I did not appreciate the somewhat casual use of the sources. The journalistic ones, which generally respond to a need for spectacularization, in my opinion should not be used as demonstrations in a debate if they report the opinions of a scientist. A quote … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  13. Tina05/13/2020 at 11:41 pmI would be more cautious in comparison with Germany, cited here together with Sweden as a positive example, without the German situation being really analyzed. The comparison is entrusted by link to an article from “Linkiesta” signed by Emanuele Gatti, president of the Italian chamber of commerce for Germany: an expert … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Giulia Q05/14/2020 at 12:51 amBy the way: articles examining the countries that have had a real success and not a manageable defeat, are there any? I speak of India, New Zealand, South Korea, Vietnam, and perhaps others, but these are the first that come to my mind to have obtained a … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • sgandini05/14/2020 at 9:36 amWe agree on the criticism of Schroeder’s reform. We would miss it. We did not want to propose to take the German model in its entirety, of course, but only to say that if we focused on territorial medicine there was no need to close the whole country. We also named Germany because the parliamentarians approved substantial subsidies … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  14. maurovanetti5/14/2020 at 2:05 amI’ll be frank: I don’t like this article. It is superficial, inattentive to political consequences. “Does the virus have to spread”? But is it really written? It seems to me a macroscopic mistake to release an article that says such a thing in such an easy way. And why should we all get sick to gain herd immunity? Maybe the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 405/14/2020 at 8:19 amMauro, sorry, but your comment is based on a string of non sequitur. 1) Saying that “the virus must spread” is not the same as saying that “we should all get sick”. Fortunately, the percentage of those who fall ill remains minimal compared to those infected and even lower is the percentage of those who fall ill … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Wu Ming 15/14/2020 at 8:37 amI integrate point 4 by saying, even more explicitly, that being able to blame the pandemic for a crisis that was still coming is convenient for capital in all its sectors that are taking advantage of or trying to take advantage of this phase, and also in those who … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • Wu Ming 105/14/2020 at 9:20 amRegarding Mauro’s premise, where the decision to publish the article is criticized, a general remark. We do not choose to host this or that external contribution based on their being 100% “in line with Wu Ming”. We take responsibility for the decision to host them, that is to find them qualitatively good … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
          • Wu Ming 105/14/2020 at 9:47 amRereading the passage on external links, and also in light of the answer that Sara has given in the meantime on Germany, I realize that I have forgotten a notation: when you quote a source to confirm your own assertion and to allow verification, you are not also adhering to all … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
          • maurovanetti05/14/2020 at 4:47 pmIt seems to me that you want to read better positions in the article than those that are expressed. The care with which the authors avoid speaking with this type of criticism reinforces my belief that hide and seek is being played. Anyway … 1) «The virus must spread» says something that doesn’t … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
            • maurovanetti05/14/2020 at 4:57 pm4) That they will try to make us pay the economic costs of the pandemic I do not doubt it. That this will be easy is all to see, right now I would say that if anything a period of intense class struggle awaits us. In no way, neither the recession nor its aggravation is … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
            • Wu Ming05/14/2020 at 4:59 pmTo me, honestly, it doesn’t seem that in this article, in that particular passage, you put it in a different way from how Burgio puts it in the quote that I have taken. Having said that, sorry, Mauro, but you cannot read that, since the two authors have not yet answered you, then it means … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 205/14/2020 at 10:02 amAny interpretation of the words of others is based on the principle of charity. If someone tells you that “he has to fly home”, you do not answer “Since when do you have wings?”, But assuming that he is not out of his mind, imagine that he has used words metaphorically. At the same … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  15. Wu Ming 205/14/2020 at 9:34 amThe page of the Istat website dedicated to statistics on deaths, mentioned in the article, reserves several surprises for the layman. Generating the graphs on the number of deaths, between January and April, in the Italian municipalities, for two years chosen from 2015 to 2020, one would expect to see two things: 1) The lockdown. That is: the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Ozimandias05/14/2020 at 11:17 amThis is a gross methodological error. While sharing many doubts about the effectiveness of a generalized lockdown policy, in comparing the deaths of two different years, the lockdown can NOT be ignored as a historical event. If the curves of 2020 and 2015 are similar, it does not mean that the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Wu Ming 205/14/2020 at 11:28 amReaffirming that I am a layman of statistical analysis, and that we certainly need more data, I believe that the effects of the lockdown should not be seen so much from the comparison between the curves of 2020 and a previous year, as in the same curve of 2020. And while there are … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Wu Ming 205/14/2020 at 11:34 amAs for the fact that lockdown cannot be ignored as a historical event, I agree. But “historical event occurred” does not mean “cause”. “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” is a well-known sophism. Otherwise, also the fact that a guy made a superstitious gesture before the game of his … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • Ozimandias05/14/2020 at 11:49 amAbsolutely. It is an influencing factor (no pun intended), never a cause. Considering the fundamental variable of randomness due to epidemiological and non-epidemiological reasons, among other things, it will be very difficult to evaluate its real incidence, even after years. Taken from the political point of view, however, the lockdown is much more eloquent … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
          • AlexJC05/14/2020 at 3:14 pmSorry Ozimandias, it being understood that the lockdown is a fact and that is, it cannot be ignored, it does not seem to me that we cannot discuss the trend of the graphs. The graphs say that around March 5, there was an anomalous increase in some areas of Italy, precisely the eight municipalities that … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  16. opellulo05/14/2020 at 12:08 pmWell, I don’t really understand the meaning of this article: it gives the shoulder to the worst right-wingers “has the same mortality as the flu”, “herd immunity” when in reality there is still no credible data on either statement and then mix the waters pulling in Germany, Sweden (on which you … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 205/14/2020 at 12:38 pmSorry Opellulo, but why quotes in expressions that are not contained in the article you criticize? (“Has the same mortality as influenza”, “flock immunity”). The technique of attributing to the interlocutor a caricature of what he said and then criticizing the caricature and not the real content of the statements is such a rhetorical stratagem … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 105/14/2020 at 12:51 pmHonestly, it seems to me a caricatural and very “social” way of summarizing this article. And also insulting to us who take care of the blog. Everyone must calm down and read the article and discussion without haste and without putting on certain glasses immediately. The article does not have a focus on community immunity, however I point out … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • opellulo05/14/2020 at 1:21 pmWith all due consideration, however, write: “A useful comparison is for example that between the mortality of these months and that of 2015. In Italy in the first eight months of 2015 there were 45,000 more deaths than the previous year (Istat data). The increase in deaths could be due in large part … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • Wu Ming 105/14/2020 at 1:48 pmYour reading of the part on the deaths of 2015 seems to me completely wrong, or rather, upside down. In the meantime, it does not simply speak of flu but of flu-like syndromes, which is how MERS, SARS, all VOCs also occur, there is nothing diminishing in the expression. After that, don’t … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • Wu Ming 405/14/2020 at 2:11 pmWell, I see rather an exemplary case of misunderstanding of the text. The article does not say that the flu causes the same deaths as Covid, not at all: «In Italy in the first eight months of 2015 there were 45,000 more deaths than the previous year (Istat data). The increase in deaths could be due to … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  17. Pao05/14/2020 at 1:43 pmhonestly personally the writing seemed important and realistic to me. I admit that I am completely extraneous to the issues we say more about the sphere of political discussion since I have not followed such contexts for a very long time. and therefore I don’t know the dynamics. not for superficiality but for self-preservation. I’m not in perfect shape and … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  18. robydoc05/14/2020 at 3:24 pmAfter the first reading of the article I must say that I was a bit surprised, probably because I was still immersed in my considerations. The “feeling” was not too dissimilar from those of Masaccio, Mauro, pm2001, opellule and others who stiffened, so to speak. I remembered where I was and the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Pao05/14/2020 at 3:46 pmThanks so much. In the meantime I have informed myself better. Yes indeed we are all very tried and everyone has their reactions. Not that before the pandemic it was an idyllic period eh. Above all I am happy to have found you. Then there is always way and way to say the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 105/14/2020 at 3:54 pmI find it clear how Robydoc reasoned about his initial “stiffening” and how he told it in his comment. Remembering “where you are”, that is, on Giap, really means trusting not so much in “yours truly”, in us WM, but in the community that debates, verifies, straightens, does every … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  19. talpa6005/14/2020 at 3:25 pmI find the article excellent, especially because it clearly says some inconvenient truths. The generalized and extended lockdown throughout Italy did not defend the weakest, but destroyed them. I have a good job, well paid, and my wife too, in fields without consequences due to the quarantine. A beautiful house … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  20. Tabris05/14/2020 at 4:31 pm“WHO Emergency Program Head Mike Ryan recently said that in their view,” Sweden has put in place very strong public health measures. ” He said it by making the common and sensational mistake of speaking when a country has an epidemic at a different stage than the countries in … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Tabris05/14/2020 at 4:32 pm”It should be noted that the well-being of the community as a whole was not taken into account, the all-round effects of the lockdown on the present and future were not included. Because if the country enters a recession we will not have the resources to pay the national health system “Here … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Wu Ming 105/14/2020 at 4:38 pmBut still?! Renzi, herd immunity … We must continue to point out to those who do not follow or do not want to follow the discussion that these are two conditioned reflexes, that here we are on Giap, that if one thinks that Renzian stuff can be published here ( !!!) must, very simply … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • Tabris05/14/2020 at 4:54 pmYou have to because the surprise was really big and to point out that the reasoning follows the same tracks should induce at least a minute of reflection. Immunization understood in this way is not feasible: we do not have the healing skills, we do not have the necessary testing skills. No country in the world, ideal … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • plumb05/14/2020 at 5:01 pmTabris … you haven’t read any of the previous comments. Do you know why you didn’t do it? Because you have not understood that the comments are an integral, fundamental, deepening part of all the food for thought proposed here. You didn’t understand how important the comparison is. Don’t … [Continue reading]

On terror in the press, 2 | Photos of the streets full of greasers

Posted on  Wu Ming

Genoa, Sestri Ponente, 2 April 2020, via Sestri. Click to read the analysis of the photographer Andrea Facco . *

The new passion of Italian newspapers with unified networks and of sheriff governors are the photographs of “gatherings”. It works like this: take a six hundred meters long street, with some fruit and vegetable stalls, a pharmacy and a small supermarket. Saturday morning, possibly. You place yourself at one extreme and shoot with the telephoto lens at 200 or 300 mm, or with the digital zoom, so that the perspective is crushed: the building at the bottom is as if you have it in front of your face, and the thirty people who there are – and in six hundred meters they are at the right distance – you crush and compress them in a box of anchovies, with an optical effect that makes them look like a crowd.

If they used the same technique in a supermarket aisle, they too would find a gathering of fear, and moreover indoors. But they do not, because they cannot start to work on the supermarkets, where people queue out and know what the situation is, while maybe the alley only knows who lives there, who attends it, and you can create it a small case on the crowds in via Sestri in Genoa, the unruly Spaccanapoli, the irresponsible of the Bulåggna Quadrilateral …

Bologna, 2 April 2020. The «Quadrilatero», the central district of the city historically dedicated to markets and stalls.

It does not matter if in the photos or in the telephoto shots we also see a car of the police, or two policemen who walk – to testify that that scene, live, is not the hellish pit that they are reporting.

It does not matter that, for example, the photos of the Quadrilatero of Bologna show people with masks (all) and gloves (almost all), and that in the open air, with gloves and mask and standing one meter away from each other , getting infected is practically impossible .

It matters little, especially if you are a newspaper that has decided on the line to keep, whatever the cost. Or, as in the case of Genoa , you are a governor of coalition X who wants to argue with the district president of coalition Y.

Aside from photographic techniques, no one wonders why certain roads are more popular than others. The famous shopping streets, the flagships of our tourist cities. Nobody says: oi, maybe if we allowed people to take a quiet walk, there would be no need to go to the pharmacy every day, to earn a walk pass. No: you point the finger at the monstrous consumerism of people, people who cannot stay one day without buying something, when the only activity allowed outside the home is to work and buy.

Furthermore, as the user JoJo wrote in a comment on the previous post , they are significant

«The characteristics of the places chosen to operate this mystification of reality and downward responsabolisation of contagions. If we examine a video shot in Naples I would like to point out that on one of the streets (I mean your street / street as well as the neighborhood) converge: one of the most crowded hospitals in the city, a dense succession of grocery stores, fishmongers and fruit and vegetables, not far from the stations of the two metropolitan lines, the station of the Cumana railway that connects the area of ​​the Phlegraean fields to the city center, the terminus of one of the hilly funiculars, the area has one of the highest population densities in the city.

Those who like me know that reality well and know very well how crowded and chaotic it is in normal times, has realized on the contrary how much the inhabitants of that place have observed the various ordinances as much as possible. Almost all, although it is not mandatory, wear masks and move, no gatherings are seen but people who walk or stand in line observing the safety distances, even the two municipal police officers walk without big bangs. In short, a quiet postcard of daily life in times of coronavirus.

This was enough to relaunch the video on social media and flag it by journalists as an act of insubordination dangerous for public health. What is all this good for except to feed social hatred and direct anger towards a scapegoat? “

From the Corriere del Mezzogiorno website (Corriere della Sera), April 3, 2020.

The strong impression is, to put it with Tuco in another comment, that of

«A party game coordinated between newspapers and executive power. On Friday, with simultaneous cold snap, national and local newspapers filled their first pages with fake photos of gatherings, taken with 800mm telephoto lenses, from Genoa to Trieste, from Naples to Milan via Bologna. The orders of Fedriga and Fontana arrived tightly [new restrictions on freedom of movement were launched (for those who still had it), the indefinite postponement of the reopening of the cities to life, but on the other hand today Repubblica is headline on the formation of a “war cabinet” to reopen the factories on April 13. “

Whether the game is coordinated or not, the outcome is to divert the responsibility for disasters caused by the ruling class to the individual “unruly” citizen.

The ruling class that first organized and cut public health, then ignored the epidemic for two months, finally reacted sprawling to the discovery of the first outbreaks, imposing inconsistent and “fits and starts” measures, gradually implementing them with prohibitions – de iure and de facto – freedom of movement, some of which have almost no counterpart in the rest of Europe . Prohibitions on the function spectacular , constantly useful to point out scapegoats: the runners , walkers, Elder goes too many times at the supermarket, at least those who ask for some fresh air for girls and boys … And go with complaints and fines, however, the doubtful constitutionality .

Meanwhile, while nothing was done to prevent RSA and nursing homes from becoming viral bombs, some sectors of the economy were closed with double delivery while others, not necessarily “essential”, were granted every favor, causing millions of Italians and Italians continued to work in highly risky environments.

Yes, because “cunning” and “irresponsibility” are brought out only in an instrumental way. Rather, why don’t we make a list of the 12 thousand Lombard companies that in 24 hours, after the closure of non-essential production, rushed to ask for a derogation from the prefects, in order to remain open? Not generic subjects: not “the smart ones”, not “the people”, not “the Italians” … No, a list of names, company by company, type of production by type of production, just to get an idea. Twelve thousand also in Veneto. Not to mention those who undercounter have changed their Ateco code in order to fall into the category of essentials.

After the revision of the list of indispensable activities, workers potentially active in Lombardy fell from 1.61 million to 1.58 million. In practice, the Dpcm of 22 March only put home thirty thousand people , all the others continued to work, and in many cases to get infected.

These would be significant numbers, and revealing. Instead, every day they shoot off swings and with doubtful reliability, delusion on the curve, on the “peak”, but nobody sees a perspective and continues to postpone the start of a new phase. It is to divert attention from this that people are blamed.

For the avoidance of misunderstanding: there has been no Plan devised in advance by powerful men as wicked as they are brilliant and capable of foreseeing everything. The current strategy focused on the lockdown has groped and not without conflicts: just remember how the ruling classes reacted in the first weeks of the epidemic, with very strong tensions between central government and regions, between segments of the political class, in turn representatives of different interests, segments of capitalism that played the game between #chiuderetutto and # Italianonsiferma. Several narratives have clashed, with a swing between terror and reassurance, and even now there are tensions between those who would like to tighten further and those who would rather loosen. The measures, then, were taken inconsistently, with continuous patches on the holes made previously.

It is clear that now the proponents of the ban on leaving the house must “keep up with the blow”, keep the part that they found themselves playing in the general drama. And it is clear that while they play the part they experiment, we had already written about it in Viral Diary 3 : this emergency “comes in handy” to many, both globally and in Italy.

Here, to give just a few examples, there is Fedriga who asks for “zero taxes for businesses” (this would further weaken the welfare state, including the national health system), there is Salvini who asks to transform Milan into an “area special economic “ with facilities for employers and trade union rights restrictions, there is private health which (only apparently paradoxically) takes further advantage of the situation , there are requests for derogations from important environmental protections, there are sectors of order and armed forces that are mouth watering for the centrality they will have in any new scenario ( whether it is a pandemic pax or a social revolt), etc.

For over a month, to justify this state of affairs, the Italian media (especially the government ones), unique in the world, speak of a “model Italy”, they say that in the world everyone imitates us, while under the health aspect we are those to whom the situation got more out of hand, in the foreign media Italy is taken as the top of the negative example – what not to do – and investigations on the “mainly police” response that Italy has given to pandemic.

Police management that also feeds on photos like the ones we have considered. The unreliability of the “ox people” has always been the forerunner of any authoritarian tightening. People are irresponsible, so you need a strong man, inflexible rules, the army on the street … And the government of the nation presents itself and represents itself as an authoritarian parent of children and immature teenagers.

End of the summary of the previous episodes.

Other recommended readings

Reacting to the panic caused by an outbreak, intermediate considerations on the media and Covid-19
An important text by Osservamedia Sardegna on the media narrative of the Covid-19 emergency.

* On Giap we have the policy not to link Facebook, it is therefore an archived copy.

Download this article in ebook format (ePub or Kindle)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Other texts that may interest you:

Grüne Linie. A photonarrative project by Giancarlo Barzagli and Wu Ming 2.Viral diary / 2. Bulåggna gropes in the dark of ordinances (26-28 February 2020)But is it true that everyone in the world “does like Italy”? Is there a “ban on jogging or walking” elsewhere? And the autoce …The virality of the decoration. Social control and self-control at the time of Covid-19. First episode (of 2)Tagged with  

coronavirus Covid 19 misinformation Emergency photography infodemia infodemia coronavirus suspected gatherings psychosis crafty terror in the press spreaders

← PreviousNext →

82 comments on “ On terror in the press, 2 | Photos of the streets full of greasers “

  1. EekTor05/04/2020 at 12:08 pmThe case of Sestri Ponente is emblematic. A tiny town hall where almost 45,000 people live and where everything is concentrated in Via Sestri: 41 shops open without counting medical offices. It is no coincidence that the presence of a police force has been ordered since the beginning of the emergency … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming05/04/2020 at 1:11 pmWe remind everyone who is the owner of the Corriere della Sera and what has distinguished himself in recent days. «I am phoning an incredible number of customers and almost everyone says yes to the proposals we make. […] All companies that have products for sale in the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  2. plumb04/05/2020 at 2:04 pmThis type of information, with the intention of blaming and inducing delusion, produces concrete effects: today the pharmacist told me that people do not respect the prohibitions and that “not all of us are responsible” … and that the photos of shopping in the Quadrilatero prove it . And then, yesterday, … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming05/04/2020 at 2:10 pmYou do what you can. We will never have a cent of the firepower of these sowers of hatred and terror. They shoot with a thousand cannons, we have just a few slings. Try it anyway. Guerrilla warfare. Something will remain.Log in to reply
      • pm200104/05/2020 at 5:42 pmAnyway thanks. Since I follow you regularly I have come out of the overwhelming current of the emergency narrative and I can read again behind the headlines. Then I collected a library of useful arguments to give strength to family and friends who were paralyzed in front of the column of coffins. The analysis of the current situation is fundamental … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  3. jazzcommons04/05/2020 at 2:31 pmThe mask as defense from the pillory. We are rightly discussing the usefulness or otherwise of the mask in terms of protection from infection, when walking alone in the street, queuing outdoors to enter shops, that is, when you are in a car, etc. The mask, however, can be a useful defense … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 104/05/2020 at 2:38 pm«The people who wear the mask, immortalized in these photos, I don’t think can be identified by professional haters and pointed out» They have just been pointed out, collectively. This is why we made the post. If we think that it is enough to adapt to carry the mask anywhere to block the hose reel along the surface … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • FrancescaB.07/04/2020 at 7:13 pmAbout masks, communication strategies and downloadable. The main newspaper in my province – where it is now mandatory to enter the shops with a mask or, in the absence of it, at least with a “neck warmer” (sic) -, which for weeks has been publishing outraged articles against the … [Keep reading]Log in to reply
    • giz-boh04/05/2020 at 2:47 pmImagining that sooner or later the mask requirement also arrives here, I went ahead: on my way back from shopping I noticed a pharmacy with a sign “surgical masks available again” and zero queue, I went in and bought a couple. The pharmacist himself, who was chatting with a nurse who … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • musikarol04/05/2020 at 3:57 pmIf I’m not mistaken, you live in Turin. Well, here today too, like last Sunday, there is a desert around, at least around my house, which is located in a neighborhood, as they say, semi-central. I have just returned from my hour of air around the river, seen maybe 7, 8 people in a … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  4. Wu Ming 105/04/2020 at 2:52 pmHowever, it is good that the photos we are talking about have pissed off towns and citizens – and even some administrators, from Bianchi to De Magistris – of urban centers and neighborhoods put to the pillory. There have been debunking from below, the social pages of newspapers and sheriffs … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  5. plumb04/05/2020 at 3:02 pmToday a listener on radio three said that it would be more correct to speak of “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing” and an old Venetian gentleman asked why, in his region, the healthy habit of going to one’s own is also prohibited vegetable garden, alone. Adapting passively … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Mandragola0104/05/2020 at 3:20 pmIt is a relief to read these considerations, it is the only foothold at a time when it seems that the mass has completely lost its senses, flattened and uniformed on positions based on “have you seen the streets as they are full of people? There are photos in the newspapers, we are not responsible, so … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • plumb04/05/2020 at 3:35 pmIf the virus were in the air, we would all be dead already! It’s such a rash! Elderly people would be found in every corner of the street and in what are now our catacombs. And instead, coincidentally, the greatest number of infected and dead remains high in those areas in … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Bettino04/05/2020 at 5:35 pmThanks to plumb line for introducing the “linguistic” theme related to the narrative in progress; a few days ago, together with a friend of mine, I was reflecting on the inadequacy of the terminology embodied in the expression “social distancing” and on its reception and understanding by people. We concluded that it would be more appropriate … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • cincat04/05/2020 at 7:58 pmA reflection on the language used by newspapers, but also and above all by politicians when it comes to ‘war’, has been discussed elsewhere in this blog. I quote an expert on this ‘war’ language, Victor Klemperer, who collected and studied Nazi language. Klemperer says’ The words … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • gubac05/04/2020 at 11:30 pmHaving hijacked us on the expression social distancing instead of physical distancing is one of the failures that vandana shiva pointed out yesterday in his speech to take it with philosophy. while there are councils the vision of the interventions of benasayag, harari and arminio, always in the same meeting, in my opinion the most interesting (at least between … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  6. andyroid04/05/2020 at 3:25 pmAnd in the end even here in Tuscany it seems that the obligation of the mask is about to arrive: Enrico Rossi among other things it is difficult to say that his intentions are based on what he reads in newspapers. I verbally quote his place on facebook: “I read in the newspapers that too many wrong behaviors have resumed … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming04/05/2020 at 3:35 pmConfirming what we have been saying since the beginning of this emergency: it is the media that push politicians and administrators towards more irrational decisions.Log in to reply
  7. musikarol05/04/2020 at 4:05 pmI meant to say: wake up one morning … I apologize for the misprint. however there is the obligation of 550 bars, damn; so what more can we say? I also saw two or three police or police cars, proceeding at low speed, I had no problems; I think if you avoid the notorious ‘gatherings’ the same … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  8. Wu Ming04/05/2020 at 4:33 pmAbout knowing how to say only “Stay home!” , without a real strategy, without a method.
    A testimony of Elisa, taken from the birdsite, collected and published by Civati.Log in to reply
    • Giulia Q04/06/2020 at 3:54 am“Flattening the curve” is just a very kind / sneaky way to say “let’s all get infected.” The only difference between “flattening the curve” and “flock immunity” strategies is that the latter has a much higher number of collateral victims (people who are refused medical treatment for system failure … [more] to read]Log in to reply
      • Wu Ming04/06/2020 at 9:03 amHi Giulia, just a small note: we always try, for the benefit of the reader and for anyone to make feedback of our statements, to link sources whenever possible.Log in to reply
        • Giulia Q06/04/2020 at 11:47 pm(A little difficult to do this while staying within the 2300 characters limit …) “Flattening the curve” as a way to (not) say “infect everyone” is my inference: no one says it openly, but it is implied in every explanation of that strategy. For example, this article by Vox, which incorporates the famous graph of the flattened curve … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
          • pm200104/07/2020 at 9:22 amThe strategy of “flattening the curve” starts from the assumption that it is not we who decide to infect everyone. This is the natural condition. The best option would be to never get infected, secondly to have a medicine that can cure us. So sentences like “slow the spread of the disease” should … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
            • Giulia Q07/04/2020 at 5:49 pmI understand that I used hyperbolas a little too hyperbolic. I speak of “infecting ourselves as much as possible” but I exaggerate: it is rather a question of infecting us “the right”, that is, as we did before (not that it changes much: the metrics for entering and exiting the lockdown – the number of patients in therapy … [ Keep reading]Log in to reply
              • Giulia Q07/04/2020 at 6:01 pmAs I said in another comment, it’s terribly counter-intuitive, and many of the most used narrations so far (war, sacrifice, the same “stay at home”) are counterproductive to explain how an epidemic really works. We think of the mocking irony of reasoning on the line of “we stay as much as possible at home to get out of it … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Giulia Q04/07/2020 at 12:47 amThe MIT Technology Review article that takes up, misrepresenting, the Imperial College report is famous now, but I report it the same: We’re not going back to normal. I say “misrepresenting” because the author of the article imagines, between a lockdown and the other, a “soft isolation”: “In the near term, we’ll probably find awkward compromises that allow … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  9. Vicky Vale05/04/2020 at 5:00 pmSpeaking of terror in the press, but we want to talk about this title in the Huffington Post ( ) copied for another once again by the Mephistophelic Corriere ( -b9c4-182209d6cca4_preview.shtml? reason = unauthenticated & cat = 1 & cid = vaP9Ofik & pids = FR & credits = 1 & origin = https% 3A% 2F% 2Feconomia% 2F20_aprile_03% 2Fscordiamoci travel-all-foreign-sara-as-the-Italy -anni-50-bcbc6afe-7520-11ea-b9c4-182209d6cca4.shtml )? When I read it I got a regurgitation of bile.Log in to reply
  10. Kola04/05/2020 at 5:05 pmBeing an architect and dealing with urban planning for work, a spontaneous reflection comes after this new wave of media and political blame. In fact, it is evident that the areas where there is high housing deniability, tendentially small housing, many commercial activities of … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming05/04/2020 at 5:20 pmEh, I think Wolf would have a lot to say on this, we report your comment.Log in to reply
    • wolfbukowski07/04/2020 at 7:02 pmAs I see it there is a big “though”. The guilty wave feeds on itself, does not have a coherent guide and is instead made up of continuous “upward raises”. I imagine the unspoken in the editors of the newspapers: -no one runs in the street anymore, what negative exemplum do we find to draw a moral boundary? [Don’t … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • wolfbukowski07/04/2020 at 7:03 pmThe especially southern and island countries where those who work a little land (often informally) have the small field outside the country are subjected to unnecessary torture, since a person alone who goes to the garden runs a risk for himself and others inferiorly inferior to shopping … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Pao04/07/2020 at 8:05 pmI had written a comment on the garden issue but I passed 2300 (who would have thought it) and canceled it. I am playing many jokes with this premise but I will reinstate better: here it is Valtellina. not properly southern Italy. we have an office that could remain accessible to the public according to the “law”. lo … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Kola04/07/2020 at 8:51 pmI did not mean that in Brianza or similar areas there are no inconveniences in this situation, but perhaps it is not even correct to say that these measures are calibrated generically on the big centers, also because the big cities are very different from each other, and rest of the idea that these are rules calibrated … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • Pao07/04/2020 at 9:13 pmbut indeed. these measures are not calibrated on anything. the realities are different everywhere (let me call reality something so structured as to be far from reality but it must be understood in some way) and I think that only a single consciousness in having peaceful attitudes, whether for themselves first and .. . [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • wolfbukowski07/04/2020 at 10:47 pmWe say that, as already widely analyzed, measures that should have a health ratio actually follow that of “decorum”. On the historical center of Naples, for example, an attempt has been made to impose the “decorum” since the time of the 1980 Irpinia earthquake (and the left has largely done so, as … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
          • Pao07/04/2020 at 11:15 pmeh with this stuff of the “anti-billing law” that tries to re-propose a form of Nazi-fascist “decorum” I met years ago. I am provincial in DNA. indeed superprovincial. Valtellina is a kind of hermitage where, however, in these times we are better off than elsewhere. I have to admit it. we are in lombardy but … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • wolfbukowski07/04/2020 at 7:26 pm[Third part of the comment, almost OT, preceded by the premise that the above on the “limitations clearly calibrated on Milan and the major centers” does not imply the fact that all those limitations are right, but only that they have been thought of in those realities and for those realities ] For the future it will be the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  11. Mandragola0105/04/2020 at 5:08 pmI found this while I was wandering around trying to catch “the air that pulls” peeking at the comments of the various users of the online newspapers “:” I’m old … and this morning I brought home a 20 kg bag of food so as not to be accused to buy little and be smart … risking a collapse … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  12. zampot04/05/2020 at 5:17 pmThis morning there were three people in the bakery before me waiting to enter: I discovered that the first was a girl who was 10 m away. from the entrance between the cars parked in the square. With all the necessary caution, this seems to me a form of full-blown psychosis: don’t … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  13. musikarol04/05/2020 at 5:24 pmI would like to propose (I don’t think it’s OT) a link to an excellent, albeit short, article from The Guardian, on why in Germany it seems they are managing the situation better than elsewhere: / 05 / germanys-devolved-logic-is-helping-it-win-the-coronavirus-race In practice, it is deduced that this happens thanks to federalism, just what apparently produces the greatest problems here, with the .. . [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  14. robydoc04/05/2020 at 5:56 pmIn Malta this morning the prime minister urged people to go out and go for a walk, alone or in pairs. Although not all agree the idea of ​​being able to force people to stay at home seems very far away. If things ever get worse – there haven’t been … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  15. musikarol05/04/2020 at 6:03 pmHere, I was expecting a reprimand for the OT, it is not the first time … I do not know, the blog you manage it, those who comment obviously must adapt, it is right. But don’t you think it’s a bit of an exaggeration, sometimes, for example in this case? Besides, I am not even so convinced that I am … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 105/04/2020 at 6:14 pmSorry, but since it is not the first time you say “do a little bit yourself” but in fact you protest about how we manage the discussion, I would like to point out that if it were as you say, there would be no need to continue publishing several articles on different aspects and moments of the emergency. … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  16. Ca Gi05/04/2020 at 6:33 pmNot even to do it on purpose since yesterday evening I started to collect several articles with pseudo-assemblies photos obtained through the use of telephoto lenses and zooms and comment online the artificiality of these “teleassemblies”, noting that even those who are not very familiar with the photographic technique soon realizes that newspapers and … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  17. robydoc04/05/2020 at 7:14 pmI apologize in advance because maybe I am OT but since it seems relevant to me and I am not sure where to insert this observation I leave it here. (In case you maybe delete it and tell me where I can insert it). This article vaguely has to do with it because in short we are discussing the criminalization of behaviors that have nothing to do … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  18. Pao05/04/2020 at 8:00 pmI wanted to say that you are unique because instead of opting for a limit of writing too many words you have opted for people to write. it’s rare. also because let’s face it: these days there are sometimes too many words (it depends on the words. always and in any case). but you don’t. you try to encourage … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming04/05/2020 at 8:24 pmThanks! To be honest, we also have a maximum comment limit, but it’s quite high: 2300.Log in to reply
      • Pao05/04/2020 at 8:43 pmThanks to you. With 2300 on the net you can tell a world. So I wouldn’t call it a limit. For the rest there are the appropriate books and times. In any case, I think communication is important. Despite having an individualistic nature. Regarding a speech more relevant to the topic … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  19. mikoi04/05/2020 at 8:27 pmWhile sharing most of the ideas and conclusions of your analyzes, I would like to point out that the photos are far from crushed and do not seem to be taken with a telephoto lens at all. The people in the background are blurred, those in the foreground are quite sharp. Rather, the image appears to have been cropped / cropped. … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 104/05/2020 at 8:35 pmThanks. According to Facco, whose analysis we linked above, the Genoese photo was taken with a telephoto lens, but we ask for other opinions on this technical aspect. As for the photographers, in one case, the Bolognese one, the photographer is even a friend of ours, Gianluca Perticoni. We certainly don’t blame him. The … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • khansen05/04/2020 at 9:02 pmHello, I intervene as a photographer and videomaker to say (with humility) my In the case of the Bolognese photo the plans and the blur make you think of a telephoto lens. It is not strange that it is used in the news as sometimes it allows you to better isolate the subjects without “polluting” the scene with … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • Pao05/04/2020 at 9:17 pmThen maybe a photographers rebellion might work. Or at least be a start. Photography meant seriously I think it is a science. Also quite difficult. So I don’t know, I say it like this to say: if professional photographers began to photograph reality independently and publish through non-politicized spaces, then maybe … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • adf04/06/2020 at 11:16 amHi, as a camera operator and director of photography, I can confirm the use of the telephoto lens in the photos that have been mentioned. I have analyzed more the photo taken in Darsena in Milan; for those who know the area, it is clear that the shot was taken from the new bridge in … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  20. Frank Sullivan05/04/2020 at 11:54 pmTonight on RaiNews24 a journalist was going around with the microphone in Naples to contest who, according to him, did not respect the distance of a meter. Curiosity: as to how the service was assembled, you did not see the “before”, that is the “social distance” contested, but only the “after” the intervention of the intrepid reporter, with the alleged … [Continue reading ]Log in to reply
  21. bacchanal04/06/2020 at 12:13 amYesterday I wrote this. *** How false news becomes political alibis. Yesterday public Bologna Republic a photo via fishmongers old, taken with a telephoto lens and a particular angle, so as to create a perspective distortion that makes be the busy street of people – when in fact other photos of the same street, taken from above .. . [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  22. Pao04/06/2020 at 10:06 amThis is an interesting but decidedly out of place discussion. I mean whether photography is a science or not. Let’s say a form of science. It depends on what is meant by science first. And I specified if I meant seriously for this very reason. Then if you talk about this with me I have to tell you that … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • glo06/04/2020 at 1:01 pmForget the science / non-science discourse that is actually out of place. Photography can be used in a scientific, poetic, journalistic way… the point is that the relationship between photography and reality is not a foregone conclusion. Giving photographers the responsibility (and the power) to represent an incontrovertible reality creates misunderstandings … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Pao06/04/2020 at 1:51 pmIn fact, I recognize that I have rather philosophical concepts of science, reality and imagination. On the other hand, I agree very much that it is a perception problem. There are different levels of reality and the concept of reality itself probably does not exist or if it exists it is changeable. So yes the important … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  23. Bettino06/04/2020 at 6:02 pm Today, closing of the “Quadrilatero” with barriers guarded by Carabinieri and Municipal Police, following the delation – widely dismantled in substance- of Republic. The need to read this experience of separation as the core of the social question in progress is becoming increasingly clear -if there was still a need for it; information … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • plumb06/04/2020 at 6:50 pmI am quite disconcerted, because in my continuous “job” to keep in touch with the surrounding reality I stop to talk to the people I meet. And in the vain attempt to bring them back to the “facts” I always stress that there is no gathering around or near us. Yet today … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 206/04/2020 at 6:59 pmThose hurdles definitively sanction an urbicide that was already underway for some time. It is the much coveted transformation of a piece of town into an open-air shopping center, with apples at four euros a kilo, tortellini prepared in a showcase and the most precious PDO mortadella of cocaine. … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  24. Piero Purich06/04/2020 at 11:23 pmMaybe I intervene a little late and at this point a little OT, but it seems to me that this image can give an idea of ​​how the telephoto lens crushes the images showing crowded streets that where citizens are actually absolutely at a safe distance. Unfortunately we are all imprisoned and therefore not … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  25. Mandragola0104/07/2020 at 9:04 amToday the “terror in the press” is enriched by the contribution of a funny title of Il Corriere: “attention also to the toilet flush …”. I can’t paste the link or read the article but I guess what is meant. It amazes me that a newspaper can create sensationalism around a news … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  26. Elwinga04/07/2020 at 9:38 amLeaving aside the issues raised by the article, however, let me point out that an 800mm is not a widespread lens, nor used. In addition to costing around € 10,000, it weighs about 6 kg, making it somewhat difficult to use. It is in fact mainly used for nature or astronomical photography. The much more common objectives of … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 104/07/2020 at 9:42 amIt was hyperbole. A common rhetorical figure, like when you say “this backpack weighs a ton”. But if you do not understand, there is no problem with putting «200 mm» (however, in the discussion reference has always been made to the latter).Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 204/07/2020 at 9:45 amThanks for the report, I am a photo amateur too, if I can define myself like this, and not loving birdwatching, I always shot at maximum with a 75-200mm, in addition to a 50mm and a 28mm. “800mm” was a hyperbole, ironic – taken from a comment by Tuco to another post: how … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Elwinga07/04/2020 at 9:10 pmThe doubt had obviously come to me; the fact is that the first has been repeated twice, alas these days the rhetorical figures are women unknown and abandoned by the majority, therefore there is always the risk of passing anything as true, even a hyperbole. Mine was however … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • tuco07/04/2020 at 9:30 pmI took out the 800mm for the first time on twitter, exasperated by the False Photos of Assembramenti, comparing the latter to certain photos of Trieste taken precisely with the 800mm, in which you can see the Dolomites (100 km away and passes km ) stuck to the Miramare castle. From there the 800mm is … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  27. Uan07/04/2020 at 2:36 pmA narrative that circulates virally in the south tells how the few infections were all caused by people returning from the north. Now I have no elements to say otherwise, but it sounds very strange to hear it repeat everywhere, from Sicily to Campania, from Calabria to Puglia, always the same … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • mikoi08/04/2020 at 4:01 pmI agree with your opinion. I am originally from the South and in my country there have been very few confirmed infections. Some in hospital, others in an outpatient clinic, another is an auto transporter who had returned from the north after a transport. That is not a resident but one of the many who work … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  28. aschscha07/04/2020 at 3:38 pmthe thing that leaves me amazed, or at least that forces me to ask myself questions about people’s perception is that, despite the official figures regarding checks and sanctions ( italy-decree-self-certification-fines /? fbclid = IwAR32L0rbU98o890yzqAKyBER5ux1HRRaCYK2nRli6Yl6P8aziJaHpd8Lvk0) ridiculous, I still read comments from friends or followers with the drool at their mouth convinced that they are not reading … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  29. Caterina M.04/08/2020 at 9:33 amThe manipulation is really strong and thanks to this article it proves obvious. I would like to focus on an internet site, where the information of the situation for example in Germany and Switzerland is different from what is communicated by the news in Italy. There people leave the house, … [Continue reading]Log in to reply

On terror in the press: “The virus is in the air”, a title that will do a lot of damage

On today’s online Republic there is an article entitled “The virus also circulates in the air / WHO is preparing to revise the guidelines” illustrated with a photo of a mask. It is also in the paper edition, on p. 5, with an even more tranchant title: “The virus is in the air / The USA: use them all / And the WHO is preparing to review the rules.”

Since the article is paid for on the web, the title is the only thing that most visitors will read. And he will think that to get infected, just leave the house without a mask.

We, on the other hand, are used to reading the articles in full, and if it serves to verify their sources.

We point out that similar titles have also appeared on other newspapers. We chose Repubblica because it is the most mainstream, the most visited online, has a patina of “respectability” and since the beginning of the emergency coronavirus has zealously spread certain narratives – the ones that we try to dismantle on Giap – in certain sectors of the ‘public opinion.

The articles cited as “supporting patches” say more

From the rather tangled article, not much is understood, but two scientific articles are cited vaguely, one that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 17 that we had already dealt with in a discussion here on Giap , and the other appeared on Jama on March 26 .

Let’s start from the latter: it is not a study done directly on the Sars-Cov2 virus, but a recapitulation of discoveries on the transmission of pathogens by droplets and by aerosol. Explain that a sneeze does not only consist of droplets but also – we translate from the uninitiated – of “a turbulent and multiphase gas cloud”. Thanks to the coexistence of droplets and aerosols, a pathogen transmitted by a sneeze can even reach 7-8 meters away. The cloud then loses its thrust and disperses but leaves “residues or nuclei of droplets that can remain in the air for hours, following the patterns of currents imposed by ventilation or air systems. conditioning “.

We are therefore mainly talking about closed environments.

Where the text reaches the point, in the paragraph entitled “Implications for Prevention and Precaution”, it does not speak of walking in the open air as the title of Republic would induce anyone to think, but of the greater safety distance to be kept and the precautions that should be observed healthcare workers in contact with Covid-19 patients, and it is all proposed with caution and hypothetical formulations (our bold):

“Although no studies have directly evaluated the biophysics of droplets and gas cloud formation for patients infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus , several properties of the exhaled gas cloud and respiratory transmission may apply to this pathogen. If so, this possibility may influencecurrent recommendations intended to minimize the risk for disease transmission. In the latest World Health Organization recommendations for COVID-19, health care personnel and other staff are advised to maintain a 3-foot (1-m) distance away from a person showing symptoms of disease, such as coughing and sneezing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a 6-foot (2-m) separation. However, these distances are based on estimates of range that have not considered the possible presence of a high-momentum cloud carrying the droplets long distances. Given the turbulent puff cloud dynamic model, recommendations for separations of 3 to 6 feet (1-2 m) may underestimatethe distance, timescale, and persistence over which the cloud and its pathogenic payload travel, thus generating an underappreciated potential exposure range for a health care worker. For these and other reasons, wearing of appropriate personal protection equipment is vitally important for health care workers caring for patients who may be infected , even if they are farther than 6 feet away from a patient. “

Put simply: doctors and nurses who treat Covid-19 patients would be better off wearing a mask even when they are more than two meters away. We are talking about particular situations – and professions – of closed environments where people are infected.

And, let’s repeat, they are not studies conducted directly on the coronavirus.

Let’s get to the older article. We had already criticized harshly those who tried to use it as a support for the “ban on walking”.

Here too we talk about the plausibility of transmission via aerosol, but also in this case the implications – and implicit recommendations – concern closed environments and large concentrations of people. The focus of the study is the permanence of the virus on surfaces of different materials, with explicit reference to hospital contagion and mass gatherings: “nosocomial spread and super-spreading events” .

Starting from these two articles per holder anxiously “The virus is in the air” is a nice leap of a tiger, no doubt about it.

Furthermore, while the title says “WHO is preparing to revise the rules”, the text only mentions David Heymann, head of the WHO SARS-Cov2 panel who says: “We are studying the new scientific lines and we are ready to change the guidelines if necessary ».

The real world is not a laboratory

As the user pm2001 reported in a comment on this blog, the position of the WHO updated to March 29 is here :

“Basically, the assessment is: the latest experiments that revealed possible transmission in the air have used high-power nebulizers, which do not reflect normal human cough conditions. Measurements performed on covid patients showed no transmission. Furthermore ” in an analysis of 75,465 COVID-19 cases in China, airborne transmission was not reported “. So masks are only recommended for healthcare professionals. “

Bisogna sempre ricordare, infatti, come ha ribadito il Robert Koch Institut in Germania, che un conto sono le evidenze ottenute in laboratorio sulla permanenza del virus, e un altro sono le condizioni reali. In laboratorio difficilmente puoi riprodurre uno starnuto. E la sopravvivenza del virus dipende da fattori molteplici, come la temperatura, l’umidità dell’aria, il tipo di superficie, la sua struttura, perfino il design.

Virologist Hendrik Streeck is studying the spread of Sars-Cov2 in the Heinsberg district , one of the German outbreaks of the virus, on a case by case basis . He went to the homes of infected people, tracked their movements, and what is proving to be in contrast with several laboratory experiments. On the surfaces of a real house, the virus seems to survive for a much shorter time and the real probability of being infected by touching an “infected” handle is close to zero. None of the cases studied became infected or infected other people in a supermarket, although everyone attended it. The study is ongoing, but it already promises rather unpublished results on how it really gets infected.

The babau that is (nourishes) “out there”

The consequences of a junk title like the one under consideration can be serious, in a context of fear, of media bombardment against improbable scapegoats (complete with probably unconstitutional supermults ), while people are barred in the house and there is talk of « hour of air »for children.

From the outset, irrational bans and criminalizations were based on an absurd idea, completely unfounded from a virological and epidemiological point of view but constantly fueled by media and politicians-sheriffs, planted in millions of brains and not denied with sufficient clarity or visibility by doctors and scientists (indeed, encouraged by some doctors and scientists who have become media widows): the idea that the virus is “out there”, omnipresent and persistent, able to reach you anywhere and at any distance. And now that the weekend is approaching, it is better to spread some terror, to prevent someone from going for a walk. Not even in the woods you can go: there are those who ask to patrol them to track down the greasers, those who send drones …

The climate of terror for the “babau out there” does not arise from scientific evidence, albeit misrepresented. That is sought after, as a support piece. It is not the headlines – wrong – on the spread of the virus in the open air that have triggered the criminalization of those who walk one kilometer from home. On the contrary: those titles are made – to the detriment of even the content of the articles themselves – to justify the hard line against those who would like to walk in a wood.

In the same way, reasoning without any logic is made – “if everyone walked, the gatherings could not be avoided” – and characters like “the one who sneezes in your face” are born, in some ways similar to the “prostitute [not by chance” the HIV-positive stroller »] who pierces condoms to infect customers and writes” Welcome to AIDS “on the mirror».

Has anyone ever really gone for a walk and sneezed in the face of others? Or vice versa: did he really walk in the middle of a meadow and meet another hiker who coughs on him? Starnman – the bad guy who sneezes in your face – has the same substance as urban legends, with nightmares with your eyes open.

The narrative framework of the “babau out there” precedes the spread of the coronavirus and, as we have pointed out several times, had already manifested itself in the ideology of decorum . It was already in widespread agoraphobia, the hatred for public spaces that are really used by people. It was already in the slogans “masters in our house”. And today it is strengthened with the discovery – incredible! – that sociality is contagion, that being together we can pass on viruses, bacteria, germs, crap. That it is not enough to dislodge the guy who sleeps on a bench, to have a finally clean and aseptic square.

An awareness that from now on will torment us forever.

Download this article in ebook format (ePub or Kindle)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Other texts that may interest you:

Monte Manfrei. A “partisan crime” invented from a healthy point of view. Second and final episodeResisting the emergency: advice for those who work in the factory or have an independent libraryHow history is manipulated through images: the #GiornodelRicordo and the fake photographs on the #foibeThe “neutrality” that defends Goliath. Science, “facts” fetishism and conflict removalTagged with  

babau buffalo coronavirus coronavirus in the air debunking WHO Republic Robert Koch Institute psychological terrorism

← Previous

115 comments on ” On terror in the press:” The virus is in the air “, a title that will do a lot of damage “

  1. mojo04/03/2020 at 11:16 amYes I could add that the Guardian in the UK operates exactly like the Republic here although not so brazenly. There is no mainstream newspaper now that has not been co-opted to disseminate propaganda. Although right-wing but libertarian only Peter Hitchens in the Daily Mail dares to put in … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Frank Sullivan04/03/2020 at 2:35 pmHitchens writes: “I suspect that this dark season could get even worse before seeing the clear and calm light of reason again. The greater the mistake we have made, the less willing we are to admit or correct it. This is why I fear very much worse developments in the coming days. “Maybe we will emulate France … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • RoccoSan04/04/2020 at 7:04 amI don’t think I saw this Guardian article reading the comments on the post. It is by David Heymann, epidemiologist and professor of “Epidemiology of infectious diseases” at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He was head of the WHO during SARS in 2003. I saw his … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  2. Mandragola0104/03/2020 at 11:17 amThanks. I’m afraid that here in Italy only you from Giap and very few others are lucid and intellectually honest. All the rest is madness. At best.Log in to reply
  3. Michela04/03/2020 at 11:33 amCome to think of it, the title itself negates the message they would like to get across. If the virus is in the air, then there is no need for forced quarantine of the whole country, sooner or later we have to breathe, open the windows, unless the gills grow and we all move to the sea. … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • tuco04/03/2020 at 11:42 amThe factories will reopen after Easter, everything else will be extended until May 16. RHPPTP-BH-I0-C12-P4-S1.8-T1However, if the virus is everywhere and there is no salvation, the executive power should distribute cyanide pills to everyone.Log in to reply
      • Mandragola0104/03/2020 at 11:50 amWell no. If you can work you can also go out, 2000000 penalties can also be imposed on me. Enough, there is a limit and it has been greatly exceeded.Log in to reply
        • tuco04/03/2020 at 12:01 pmLook, the police stopped me yesterday on my way home from work. I teach at university. The lessons are suspended, and the policemen did not believe that I had gone to my office because I have my books there and from the university terminals I can access the magazines in electronic format (from home I do not … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
          • Entomowoman04/03/2020 at 5:07 pmPoint 85 of the list of essential activities attached to the latest dpcm: “Education”. Schools and universities are not closed, face-to-face teaching is only suspended, but teachers can go to the office for other forms of teaching. Perhaps it should be clarified to the controllers.Log in to reply
      • camilla04/03/2020 at 3:31 pmWill all the shops, bars / restaurants etc, the artisan shops and, in short, all the activities normally open to the public (I am not talking about cinema, discotheques, etc.) closed until May 16? I don’t know, it seems to me (and I hope) that it is not very sustainable as a plan.Log in to reply
        • tuco04/03/2020 at 3:41 pmno no, they will keep people at home until 16 May.Log in to reply
        • musikarol04/03/2020 at 3:59 pmBe careful because the rope is already close to breaking. Another month and a half like this? Unimaginable. But perhaps you really want to provoke a series of extraordinary reactions (in a literal sense) from those who can no longer, so even more dictatorial measures would be taken by those who can not wait … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
          • Wu Ming 104/03/2020 at 4:10 pmThere is no Plan: there are varied powers that, sometimes even in latent or explicit conflict between them, have jumped at the ball of this emergency to try to take advantage of it: from the governor or mayor who thinks he will take advantage of it image and then electoral to the next administrative to … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
            • tuco04/03/2020 at 4:18 pmThe key point in my opinion is that lockdown is the optimal type of social organization for surveillance and platform capitalism. It allows highly efficient governance of work, public order and consumption. What MIT psychotics don’t deal with, however, is that very trivially … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
              • camilla04/03/2020 at 4:47 pmI do not expect them to say “take a nice walk where you want”, but I believe that the opening of some commercial activities will necessarily go hand in hand with a greater ability to move (or I will have to self-certify that I need a couple new underwear?). And I think … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
            • Kola04/03/2020 at 6:18 pmI am not sure that it is a big problem for our political class to change the narrative, given that we are constantly witnessing changes in direction dictated by the “air that pulls” and the obsession with popularity and polls, but this situation may be different . As for the perception of the authoritarian tendency … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
              • Wu Ming 104/03/2020 at 6:40 pmIt is that that of the “emergency” – from time to time the emergency-terrorism, the emergency-public finances and all the emergency frames that we have known – is never just any narrative. It is a long-range Great Storytelling, which once imposed in the imagination has a very strong inertial thrust, and cannot be stopped at will. … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
                • tienesqueesperar04/03/2020 at 7:24 pmThe theme of perception and then – to put it with Foucault – of the subjectivation of reality by the community – in this rotten rattatuia which is mainstream information in our country – seems central to me. How to get out of the dominant narrative, how to emerge from the broth and start again … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
                  • Kola04/03/2020 at 8:40 pmIn fact, it is very difficult to predict if and when the situation will become explosive. It is likely that at least in the short term the only detonator is the lack of income for a substantial portion of the population. But I seem to have noticed, and I’m not the only one, that at least in my area in the last few days are seen … [Continue reading]
                  • Wu Ming 104/04/2020 at 12:15 amAlso in my neighborhood in Bologna I see more and more people around every day, and in certain alleys also very vintage small groups in front of grocery stores. Ward dwellers of different ages, men and women. It means that there are no informers. It must be said that it is a peculiar neighborhood: … [Continue reading]
            • mojo04/04/2020 at 12:41 amIs your certainty that there is no Plan based on ..?The capitalism that now makes the deadly convulsions also orchestrates twists in order to postpone the inevitable end.In jargon it is called “kicking the can down the road”.Log in to reply
      • lourcoa04/03/2020 at 8:33 pmThe factories are already open …. not only those necessary (with Ateco code contained in Annex 1) but also those that with a simple self-certification to the prefect have declared to enter the production chains by right. Thanks to a government in the hands of Confindustria.Log in to reply
    • ryb_d04/03/2020 at 6:51 pmI think they confused the covid with John Carpenter’s The FogLog in to reply
  4. Marella04/03/2020 at 11:57 amThanks so much for your articles. In this situation of collective madness I am like a light in pitch darkness.Log in to reply
  5. alessandro costetti04/03/2020 at 12:04 pmI wrote an email to the editorial staff of Repubblica. I checked now and they moved it from the header. Hopefully it will be eliminated.Log in to reply
    • Mandragola0104/03/2020 at 12:10 pmMy sister, who subscribed to it because of her profession, also wrote to the newspaper to express disdain for the misleading and mystifying title. And I guess you won’t be the only one to have expressed dissent.Log in to reply
    • musikarol04/03/2020 at 4:05 pmEven if they did, it’s late now. On the other hand, it would not be the first time that they make an uncomfortable news disappear, or at least modify a too unbalanced and ambiguous title. Two days ago they had dedicated a lot of space to a ridiculous and grotesque initiative of the old photographer / communicator, evidently to try to do it again … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • diorama04/03/2020 at 6:06 pmI also made the letter to the assistance. The “twelve years” of prison that risked walking were a hoax but they appeared, just like this time, in the title of an article by Rep without making it clear which article of the penal code they referred to. It would take something stronger than … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  6. frapede04/03/2020 at 12:04 pmIt was March 3, before all the decrees, but already after a week of closings in different regions. This article: The title speaks of mortality at 3.4%, when inside the piece the words of the general manager of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, are: “Globally, about the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  7. alessandro costetti04/03/2020 at 12:06 pmHowever, it was enough to read the Nature article. “The World Health Organization says the evidence is not compelling” in to reply
    • phil04/03/2020 at 5:43 pm“But scientists warn that gathering sufficient data could take years and cost lives.” Let’s quote them in full the titles! Even admitting that the virus is “airborne”, and since there is still no consensus on the matter, the most prudent thing would be to admit it, the problem is not in the open air, but in closed environments, little … [Continue to read]Log in to reply
  8. Nexus04/03/2020 at 12:14 pm«Give us the poison and blackmail us with the antidote» (Kaos One) The mandatory mask is a frame that goes hand in hand with the terror of the “extension of measures until May 16”, both on the homepage. After surfing on the wave of the peak (“for the third day the growth of the infections slows down”, he headlined (falsely) … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • gubac04/03/2020 at 2:02 pmI was also thinking about that Kaos song these days, which by the way is called a pandemic (even if it talks about another virus). As @Michela pointed out above, if the virus were in the air and everywhere then so much would be worth going out; it is obvious that the logical passage they will make will be the opposite: it is everywhere so let us lock ourselves in … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Iteration04/04/2020 at 3:57 amJust today Enrico Letta at Propaganda Live said that “social life will change”, and he began to unravel activities in bars, restaurants, cinemas, concerts: no mention of activities without trade in the background, and none of the intelligentsia present (if so we want to call the paucity of mainstream centrists taken as a reference by … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  9. Elettrap04/03/2020 at 12:29 pmI wanted to say two things: 1. That republic and similar newspapers continue to leave covid-related articles for a fee when not even scientific papers known to be related to cash do say much about the interest they have in making information. Besides that, do not check what is published in a moment … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  10. paoz04/03/2020 at 12:32 pmI have been running (almost) regularly for at least thirty years, I often use the bicycle to go to work and occasionally also to “climb” a few hills, and often practice trekking on the Apennine trails of WuMing2. In addition, the terrorist, spectacular and approximate approach of many media (and even some institutional subjects) with respect to … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 204/03/2020 at 12:45 pmSorry Paoz, you yourself say that “the terrorist, spectacular and approximate approach of many media (and even some institutional subjects) compared to COVID19 is under the eyes of anyone who wants to keep them open.”, But then you conclude that it would be more fair and constructive to speak of a general fight against the virus … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Mandragola0104/03/2020 at 1:02 pmBut it is the logic that is reversed! Controlling the movements is useless to stem the infection (if not intended in the sense that those who are ill should obviously not go to a dinner with friends). This craving for control that ranges from counting how many meters you have … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • musikarol04/03/2020 at 4:11 pmTerm very popular at the time of the twenty years, now cleared through customs, with the joy of the many nostalgics that proliferate in this country. Where, let’s never forget, fascism was invented, just under a hundred years ago. Something will mean, right?Log in to reply
        • Kola04/03/2020 at 6:53 pmSuper OT, however, that fascism was “invented” in Italy is questionable.Log in to reply
          • musikarol04/03/2020 at 8:56 pmI do not think so. 1922, who and where before that date?Log in to reply
            • Wu Ming 104/03/2020 at 9:10 pmIn 1922 fascism had already existed officially for three years. Some historians have backdated the origins of fascism by finding prodromes in different countries already at the beginning of the twentieth century, however, sorry, we are OT. Let’s talk about it another time.Log in to reply
              • musikarol04/03/2020 at 9:27 pmAnd give it with this OT, it reminds me of the old “motions of order”. However (and here for me it’s really closed, I promise) the first time a party that called itself ‘fascist’ was formed was in Italy, in the early 1920s, and that party took power with a coup … [Keep reading]Log in to reply
                • mojo04/03/2020 at 9:55 pmGood night. Even if it’s OT.Log in to reply
                • Wu Ming 104/03/2020 at 11:46 pmThey remind you of motions of order because they are motions of order, we have always called them here. We have a long experience of dense and kilometric discussions, it is difficult to follow them and we must help the reader. Just a trifle is enough to start long sub-threads that move away from the focus, and also divert attention visually, … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  11. mojo04/03/2020 at 12:38 pmThere is something that escapes me. When I go out I see that almost everyone has a mask but there is no obligation and WHO says that they are NOT needed if you are not infected. Could someone please clarify for me the official vis a vis in line this country that is always for me … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Entomowoman04/03/2020 at 2:25 pmAs for the masks, I think it is advisable to use surgical ones (which protect others, not the wearer) in the presence of other people in closed environments. It is true that they are of no use if you are healthy, but almost nobody can be certain that you are not a patient … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Ilina04/03/2020 at 3:18 pmI think the ministry of health is an official source (and among other things reports the indications of the WHO) Then I too would agree to use it all in closed and crowded places to protect each other. That said, there are mayors who have issued ordinances forcing the population to wear a mask (or failing that, … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Wu Ming 204/03/2020 at 3:21 pmIt is also called “theater”. That is: see citizen of my municipality, I mayor do even more than the national government and the Region to save your life. My precautionary principle goes further. So I too go further. I’m better. I am active. Luckily you elected me.Log in to reply
      • taxusbaccata04/03/2020 at 8:26 pmYou are definitely right. Just type in any search engine ‘union union orders’ and they are found galore. I quote from the first (and do not take much more than the mayor of Capoterra which is abundant and bad company): “… compulsory wearing, inside shops, by all … [Read more]Log in to reply
    • lourcoa04/03/2020 at 8:44 pmThey are not needed if you are not infected as you rightly indicated. I am 5km from Codogno and I do not wear a mask. I regularly work in a foundry where I have to wear it for business procedures … and instead I do not wear it and I will explain why … I want to wear the same mask for 3 days (from company procedure) and I … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  12. a random name04/03/2020 at 1:13 pmI just want to add that the article deliberately makes the fact, obviously known and strange, that the various respirators used in intensive and subintensive therapies create a dangerous aerosol, as a very recent discovery, and in fact in these departments it has always been necessary to harness with masks, glasses protective etc. Ever since this started … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • plumb04/03/2020 at 1:33 pmDo you think that in some intensive care units they have “finished” the full suits. Here. In Bologna. And then they talk about containing the spread of the infection …Log in to reply
  13. K04/03/2020 at 1:35 pmI fully agree. Operation Fear acts on many fronts. The day before yesterday at 8 & 1/2 Gualtiero Ricciardi, former president of the National Institute of Health, actor of cinema and TV (stage name Walter Ricciardi) and Commendatore della Repubblica, pressed by journalists, said, after the initial confused statements , which in phase 2 (which will … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  14. Nite Owl04/03/2020 at 1:57 pmThis title was my morning good morning. The first thought was not unlike the cyanide pill mentioned by Tuco. The morning continues with Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk who, in a piece reported by Corriere, says “For a long time now the world was too much. Too much, too fast, … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Mandragola0104/03/2020 at 2:23 pmDo you know what the curious thing is? For twenty years I have lived with a pathophobia that limits and conditions me and yet, paradoxically, in this situation I am more lucid than my “normal” friends and acquaintances who are duped by the titles of these lousy journalists. On what these gentlemen say, to … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • musikarol04/03/2020 at 4:18 pmI’d leave the statements of Tokarczuk, a writer, alone: ​​she can say whatever she wants, it’s an opinion, even a questionable one, but not entirely. Otherwise it ends up. emulate the director of micromega, with his sprawling and violent attack on Agamben, which in turn had expressed an opinion. It is true that … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • glo04/03/2020 at 4:22 pmThose sentences taken by the courier (I can’t read the article because the courier for non-subscribers is practically armored) makes me think of this beautiful article on donkeys quarantine-notes / (I can’t remember if the article was already filmed on the blog!) “the depressing impression is that the vast majority did not ask for anything else: an excellent reason, … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • glo04/03/2020 at 4:36 pmAs said, I managed to read the courier’s article, in reality it is a more interesting opinion than it seemed. I paste the conclusion. “We stay at home, read books and watch series on television, but in reality we are preparing for the great battle for a new reality that we are not … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • musikarol04/03/2020 at 4:54 pmI am not at all surprised: Mrs. Tokarczuk, as far as I know (I have never read anything of her but they told me about it) is anything but a mainstream or regime writer. But here are examples of the breakdowns of this infodemy that is poisoning our lives, just a title … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • Nite Owl04/03/2020 at 6:53 pmDear Glo, I expressed myself in a perhaps superficial way, because I wrote totally from my stomach. The piece is more composite than the piece I mentioned (which then disagrees with some conclusions, perhaps because of the paternalistic tone that I have seen, is another matter), but that single song makes me … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  15. Anna Luisa S.04/03/2020 at 2:11 pm“Starnman – the bad guy who sneezes in your face -“This step made me laugh a lot 😉
    And anyway thanks for this anti-panic post.Log in to reply
  16. Entomowoman04/03/2020 at 2:59 pmObviously I agree with the content of the article; I obviously say why anyone with a modicum of scientific culture and / or reasoning ability cannot come to different conclusions. I am really tired and irritated to find that the national strategy is still limited to the obsessive “stay at home” and the demonization of outdoor activities, without … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  17. Sanba04/03/2020 at 3:10 pmI’m amazed (but maybe I’m just a naive) by how Leonardo (scientific?) Treated the “news” reporting it as a republic, the grotesque is that they concluded today’s edition by talking about the hoaxes that run on the network and how defend yourself … you should report them otherwise!Log in to reply
  18. Mandragola0104/03/2020 at 3:23 pm Another deceptive title. Then reading the content (at least accessible) it is realized that things are not exactly as announced. But how many will read it? And in any case, without checking the sources by an attentive reader, what message will remain impressed? As I have already written, for … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  19. Wu Ming 204/03/2020 at 3:33 pmWhile this post circulates in a rather swirling way, and infects several brains, the Repubblica site integrates the offending article with a video declaration by Brusaferro, president of the ISS, where it is said that there is no evidence that the virus is transmitted in any other way that through the droplets of saliva and the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 204/03/2020 at 3:48 pmOn the Corriere’s website, however, the title of Repubblica takes the form of a question: “Does the coronavirus travel in the air?”. But the bolt is already more misleading: «A MIT research claims that the lightest droplets can spread up to 8 meters away. WHO is preparing to review the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • tuco04/03/2020 at 4:02 pmThe fact is that the virus must * ontologically * be in the air, everywhere and always. Indeed, ALWAYS AND OVVNQVE. Otherwise skip the stage.Log in to reply
      • Mandragola0104/03/2020 at 4:05 pmI heard my mother this morning, a person of good culture and very pragmatic. To say, one who, even though I had a fever at 39, made me move to another room to air the rooms. I noticed his tone of voice, generally very lively, rather flat. You and my father … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  20. Shabine04/03/2020 at 3:38 pmThe narration of these days varies from the dystopian to the Bradbury, perhaps with a local aftertaste of Benni or Avoledo, to the moralistic rhymes of Hoffmann. Generally we tend to sympathize with the mainstream messages by emphasizing the well-known Italic indiscipline and playing on bipolar pathophobia that leads us to wash our … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  21. Cor du Roy04/03/2020 at 4:38 pmAll right, the level of our media is pitiful. For decades and perhaps even before they have not given any news, they have bloody offal and winking portraits, in general attacking the donkey where the owner wants. There is no reason to expect anything better. I found interesting articles on magazines from other countries and probably … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  22. taxusbaccata04/03/2020 at 4:44 pmHello, speaking of mask yes / mask no outdoors yesterday Vittorio Agnoletto, who is a doctor, during the evening radio newspaper of Popular Radio recommended its use.
    From minute 3.10 (the masks, specifically, from minute 4.30).Log in to reply
  23. tienesqueesperar04/03/2020 at 5:45 pmIn the meantime – ignored by practically all the media (at least to my knowledge) – the ISS publishes, twice a week on its website, study and in-depth data on the evolution of the epidemic to which it has obviously dedicated entire section ( These data are divided into two areas: from one … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  24. Monsieur en rouge04/03/2020 at 5:58 pmSpeaking of alarming and misleading titles, or which even declare false, I would like to point out that a few days ago the Manifesto published an interesting interview with David Quammen, the author of Spillover, on the ecological origin of zoonoses in general and on the management aware of the emergency in the event of an epidemic. The title chosen is a … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  25. Gabriele04/03/2020 at 6:30 pmI report this article that I read just yesterday. Now, I don’t know Pregliasco or its positions. But reading the article I nailed my eye on a revealing quote. In my opinion, a real slip from an ideologue of the viral decoration: “The masks give a sense of security, if we all wear the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  26. denying04/03/2020 at 7:12 pmToday I was worried about this: two people, of different and distant age and socio-cultural level, told me the same thing: on my solicitations to make explicit the annoyance of staying at home, they told me: “I can’t take it anymore, but I feel guilty saying it out of respect for … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  27. unlogged04/03/2020 at 7:33 pmI am really embarrassed today, after what has happened so far, in asking these simple questions that could reveal my cognitive deficit (in case you have patience and explain to me). But isn’t “the virus in the air” good news? To my knowledge, I rely on the interview given by … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 104/03/2020 at 8:03 pmI would start from an assumption: false news cannot be good, even if read “against the hair”. You can read “bad news” bad news – bad but factually true – showing that its negativity can have positive implications etc. But with factually false news it doesn’t work. You can’t brush in the way … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • tuco04/03/2020 at 8:13 pmThe large church that goes from Repubblica to Fedriga is held together on the dogma that the air is infected, there in the great outside, even on top of the Gennargentu. There are people who keep their shutters down, people who let themselves die of starvation so as not to leave the house, people who are literally losing … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • mojo04/03/2020 at 9:30 pmVis a vis shutters down I wonder why you never hear MUSIC coming out of the windows in this lockdown period? I’m cheerfully locked up tonight listening to Kim Gordon who replaces Iggy Pop for his BBC 6 broadcast and his musical choices with the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  28. Monsieur en rouge04/03/2020 at 9:28 pmI would like to add another reflection, starting from the last paragraph in which it is written – incredible! – sociality is contagion. A few days ago a friend of mine was traveling and updating me on the situation she jokingly said: “there is nobody next to me: more or less the safety distance”. Here, according to … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • plumb04/03/2020 at 9:49 pmI, however, in the center I noticed the opposite and in fact I started making a series of videos that testify to the existence of life through music from the windows. Like cries of prisoners who want to escape. Loud music, to make itself heard or to break the embarrassing noise of this silence. … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  29. Yagharek04/04/2020 at 1:14 amCarl Sagan, an American astronomer, already said in the 1980s that “… we live in a society deeply dependent on science and technology in which nobody knows anything about these issues. It is a safe formula for disaster. ” If in this delicate historical moment journalists do not … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • Nite Owl04/04/2020 at 7:36 amAlso this morning Repubblica got up well. First two articles on the home (obviously paid):1 “Virus in the air and mask: the contagion rebus divides the experts” (with Fauci hypothesizing that the virus is transmitted by speaking)
      2 The government brakes on the restart in MayAnother good day, go.Log in to reply
      • tuco04/04/2020 at 8:04 amIt seems increasingly clear to me that there will be no phase 2. Little by little, all the factories will reopen, and to “compensate” for this “concession”, the executive power will further exacerbate the indefinite quarantine and repression. The most suitable human type will be selected a little at a time … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Wu Ming 104/04/2020 at 8:34 amThey must necessarily present it as a “puzzle” that “divides the experts”. They can not titular: sorry, yesterday we wrote a shit, taking for granted something for which there is no evidence and sowing terror. After all, climate change also “divides the experts”, given that there is a small group of denier scientists. Also … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • Mandragola0104/04/2020 at 8:41 amGiven that the weather includes high pressure and a typically spring climate … could Repubblica not be exempt from spreading a little bit of sadness on our easy enthusiasms? I do not know what the Government is holding back on the restart in May. Obviously the subliminal message is: “forget to see the sea”. … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • tuco04/04/2020 at 8:48 amThis means: yesterday there was dismay because Borelli had said probably before 16 May he could not leave the house. People were desperate, they thought that on April 13 at least a breath of air could have caught her. Then Repubblica intervened to admonish us that even on May 16 … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
          • Wu Ming 104/04/2020 at 9:04 amAll this, let us remember, to divert the responsibility for disasters caused by the ruling class on the individual “unruly” citizen, who first “organized” and cut health, then ignored the epidemic for two months, finally reacting sprawled to the discovery of the first outbreaks, imposing inconsistent and “fits and starts” measures, gradually implementing them … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
            • Mandragola0104/04/2020 at 9:12 amBut now the strategy is of blinding evidence! Only a fool can still believe the fairy tale brought up by Repubblica & co. The prohibitions to which we are subjected are a colossal nonsense, regardless of how the virus spreads, the mask / mask no dilemma, the capacity of the hospitals, the … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  30. Giacomazzo198404/04/2020 at 3:34 am“The stability of Sars-CoV-2 in different environmental conditions”. The other day The Lancet published an interesting study that shows the persistence of the virus over time on different surfaces (banknotes, plastic, wood, fabrics, paper etc.) and assesses the effect of temperature and the various disinfectants. They conclude by stating that “In general, SARS-CoV-2 can be highly stable in a … [Continue reading]

Sisyphus. The devastating impact of the coronavirus emergency on bookstores and publishing houses

Posted on Wu Ming

[For once, we too “start with us”. We are writers. For about twenty years we have been “salaried” by you readers and readers. Every time you buy a copy of one of our books, we receive a percentage of the cover price, which varies according to the titles and contracts. Percentage that we divide among the members of the collective, “cue for all”. That’s our main source of income.
For a deep-rooted ethical and political conviction that has always accompanied us, our books are also downloadable for free from this same blog , perhaps in exchange for a donation, small change with which we pay the server costs and other technical expenses; but we have always made it clear that without book sales – paper books– we wouldn’t live. And there is no mention of “broadening”, but of making ends meet. In Italy, where very little is read, those who write books turn to a small minority of potential buyers.
This is actually a snapshot of the situation before the coronavirus emergency.
About a month ago, the whole world of cultural work was turned upside down. No worker or worker in the cultural supply chains knows if and how he will manage to overcome this phase. Especially those who were already in precarious conditions, today live in anguish, in limbo within limbo. Before long, a large part of the working class of those sectors – publishing, music, cinema, theater: all declared “non-essential” – will literally go hungry.
As for our sector, the bookstores are closed and it is not known how many will be able to raise the damper “after”; inside the publishing houses it is not yet known which projects will go ahead, which titles will come out and in what form, which contracts will be renewed, if and when the payments will arrive.
And we need to broaden the frame, because much more has always moved around writing and publishing books. In our experience, meeting with readers and readers has always been central, an indispensable moment of promotion of our titles but also of comparison, verification of the work done and inspiration for the future. In twenty years we used to grind kilometers in thousands of public meetings: presentations, conferences, workshops, courses, themed excursions … And also readings and shows, which in some cases helped us to round up the proceeds of the novels. Now even this aspect is frozen. Will musicians, actors and circus performers with whom we have collaborated in these years recover? And when and how will it still be possible to find yourself in a room full of people talking about books?
It is a world that has been pushed into a cone of shadow, and then we tell it, from the point of view of independent publishers and booksellers, with this article by Pietro De Vivo of the Alegre editions.
Recommended soundtrack: Pink Floyd , Sisyphus , from the Ummagumma album , 1969.
Happy reading. WM ]

by Pietro De Vivo *

1. A fatigue of Sisyphus

The feeling is that of going round and round, always following the same path without getting anywhere yet making an enormous effort. This is what it feels like to work with books during the Covid-19 crisis.

If the other sectors of culture – to which all our solidarity goes – are completely still, we live a paradox that makes our work similar to a Sisyphus effort: the whole chain of the book is theoretically functional except for the last link, the libraries. Many will have felt the feeling of being Sisyphus, while they chased decrees that within a few days completely changed the picture, tried to understand within what margins to act to survive, reorganized each time the laboriously restructured work after the previous decree. A frustrating schizophrenia indicates the totally improvised approach of this government.

Publishing was the last sector of culture affected by the decrees. Before there had been the closings of theaters and cinemas, the cancellation of concerts, the lockouts of museums, exhibitions and archaeological sites.

In fact, for some weeks, presentations, festivals and fairs had been canceled due to the invitation to avoid gatherings, then formalized in the decree of 9 March 2020 which contributed to postpone or cancel even distant events. But the paradox materialized when the decree of 11 March sanctioned the closure of retail businesses that do not sell “essential” goods, including bookstores.

Trame bookshop, via Goito 3 / c, Bologna. Photo of March 30, 2020.

The short circuits are intertwined and arise from the spontaneous question immediately: what was the criterion adopted in the choice of the goods considered essential? Many have wondered why computer and telecommunications stores and perfumeries had been included and bookstores not. There is no need to throw the cross on perfumeries: body care and hygiene are sacrosanct, even in times of social distancing, as much as care and hygiene of the mind. The production and circulation of culture and critical knowledge are fundamental above all in times like this, moments of crisis in which there are no ready recipes and emergency measures are taken that can change our lives forever .

The rigor with which the libraries were closed clashes with the way in which Confindustria was allowed to keep open truly useless compartments such as the production of weapons – harmful productions in normal times, let alone in times of epidemic. It also clashes with the appeal on the importance of staying at home reading a book. How will it be possible to read this book if it is not found anywhere? Of course, online sales with home delivery are still allowed. And here a parenthesis is necessary.

2. Books like pizzas

We must give credit to the titanic efforts of the independent booksellers who are organizing for home delivery. Right from the start, some took steps to find resistance strategies without giving up precautions to avoid contagion: send the books, personally deliver them to the letterbox, exchange them by leaving them on benches or in shops still open such as tobacconists, putting their catalogs in available online or by phone so that readers can choose, making themselves paid virtually by wire transfers or credits in order to avoid contacts and respect distances. Now we are organizing real networks of libraries that perform the service throughout Italy .

It is no coincidence that these ideas are born from the independent ones: when the bookstores reopen the big chains will have much more commercial power to try to revive sales than the small ones, which were already in difficulty and have undergone the Amazon monopoly for weeks and of online stores.

3. Virtual sales, real exploitation

Aside from these home deliveries, the closure of the bookstores has given Amazon and a few other stores practically absolute control over the books. For more than ten days the Bezos company has done good and bad weather: unlike the government, it initially considered the books as basic necessities, certainly not for the sake of culture but for profit, and continued to sell them almost in monopoly, at most by lowering the shipping priority. Until March 22, the date on which he spontaneously decided to ship only a narrower range of goods, with an operation that behind the veil of responsibility probably has a much more material reason: selling practically anything and with the logistics clogged by the bulk of purchases, not being able to process every order, he simply optimized the activities,not to know where to put the money anymore .

Even without Amazon, online stores remain the main source of purchase for books, a nice gift for the usual few who dominate the supply chain. The main platforms in fact belong to the major publishing groups: Ibs, Libraccio and La Feltrinelli are controlled by the Feltrinelli group and by Messaggerie Italiane; Mondadori Store and Libreria Rizzoli belong to the colossus Mondazzoli; At the point he leans on Amazon. Out of these, very few remain.

Duepunti bookshop, via S. Martino 78, Trento. Photo of March 30, 2020.

Even with regards to ebooks, the discussion is similar: Amazon controls the vast majority of sales, and – apart from those of Kobo and Apple, however international giants – the rest are divided mainly among the stores already mentioned.

Another sales channel is organized large-scale distribution (supermarkets): supermarkets and hypermarkets that have departments dedicated to books. It is not clear whether the lanes not reserved for basic necessities should be closed always or only on weekends, but the contradiction remains of the privilege granted to large-scale distribution, an already predatory sector of the economy. In addition, not all publishers can use this channel, because it provides specific distributors, other than those of bookstores, for which not all are equipped and which in any case favor large publishers and best sellers.

One could object: at least so I can buy a book even in times of social distancing. It is that it is difficult to understand how, for the prevention of contagion, the closing of the bookstores is a more effective measure than leaving free space to Amazon and a few others, with their huge crowded warehouses and couriers launched at full speed around Italy by the logic of profit made on their skin.

It will be said that even to get the books to the library you need logistics, but – to give an example in scale – between a single van per city that carries a thousand books destined for ten bookstores, and fifty vans per city that carry twenty books each intended for as many homes, there is a big difference in terms of mobility and the number of close contacts. In addition, bookstore deliveries would allow the pace of distribution to be slowed down, to ensure courier safety measures, compared to the Amazon model that makes delivery within 24 hours a cornerstone.

Bookish bookshop, Via Valle Corteno 50/52, Rome. Photo of March 30, 2020.

Above all, we must not forget that the bookshelves are already full of precious titles that have been out for some time and often obscured by the dizzying fury of the new releases, and the need to supply them while slowing down the pace could be a good excuse to rediscover published books but soon. forgotten.

4. Few large or many small?

Certainly the logistics sector should be completely rethought, not only in the current emergency, to lighten work rates and respect the health of workers. This could be conceivable in a commercial network based on small retail outlets spread throughout the territory, but the Amazon and large-scale distribution models exclude it a priori.

They are really less risky models, for the spread of the infection, than allowing to do a few tens of meters on foot, respecting every health precaution and at the same time taking a breath of air, stretching the legs, to go to the neighborhood library and , one by one, buy a book and then go home, how do you go shopping? Why not, for example, close only the large chain bookstores, which like the large-scale retail trade are an easier source of gatherings (and also owned by the usual large groups), and let the small independent ones scattered throughout the territory sell the books? Instead, it was decided to close all the bookstores, while allowing industries, call centers and practically all the great Italian entrepreneurship, even the non-essential one,

The online monopoly of the few giants is still guaranteeing some sales to publishers, but it will further contribute to the death of bookstores. This, in addition to being serious in itself, in the long term will also damage the small and independent publishing houses that in those booksellers often have among their best and most enthusiastic supporters, compared to the chain bookstores reduced now almost only to supermarkets.

Obviously one should not blame those who, taken by the need to read, are buying online. First of all it is a form of support; secondly, for sure the management of this emergency is not the fault of readers and readers, but of those who, decree after decree, have applied contradictory and inconsistent criteria, putting in serious difficulties the weaker actors and benefiting the older ones.

5. Travel into the future, dematerialization of bodies

We are in a time travel paradox: we remain motionless but we run very fast, like the DeLorean, launched at full speed towards the future. Because, as in other areas , the short circuit in which we find ourselves is accelerating processes already underway.

For some time, increasingly large shares of sales have been taking place online to the detriment of bookstores, with progressively lower percentages of earnings for publishers due to the disproportionate contractual power of the stores, and the weight of labor exploitation downloaded to logistics. The fear is that this consumer paradigm, after weeks and weeks in which it was practically the only way to get a book, will be further internalized and remain in the habits even once the shops are reopened.

Not only would this result in economic damage for publishers and bookstores, but it would also contribute to breaking up a social and cultural fabric made up of live relationships, meetings between readers and booksellers, participation in events organized by publishers, direct exchanges of views with the authors during the meetings . In short, the loss of the human and physical relationship at the base of the editorial profession.

Modo Infoshop bookshop, via Mascarella 24 / b, Bologna. Photo of March 30, 2020.

Hundreds of book presentations, debates and readings have already been canceled throughout Italy, as well as festivals and fairs of all sizes and orders. Outside the mainstream kermesses, often and willingly managed with the logic of big events and in which, willingly or unwillingly, we are forced to participate for survival reasons, small and independent publishers – and even more militant ones – organize their own initiatives from below, with alternative models of sociability, diffusion of culture and sustainability. It is a way to spread critical knowledge and, above all, take to the streets, animate the territories, bring together readers, authors and publishers, horizontally, open to confrontation. At this moment it is right to avoid gatherings, but the indefinite continuation of this phase risks getting used to a solitary use of culture, individualizing, indoors of one’s home and mediated by social interfaces and technological filters, as in the case of videos and presentations online.

It is also a serious damage for those who write books and try to make them a means of sustenance. Many organize real tour of presentations, a very widespread approach among those who want not only to live their job as a writer but also to circulate ideas by getting involved, meeting people, beating the country palm by palm – with dozens of even microscopic events – without forgetting the most remote and neglected corners of the mainstream circuits.

Libreria Alegre, Circonvallazione Casilina 72/74, Rome. Photo of March 30, 2020.

Commercial reasoning would push us to limit ourselves to two or three large event presentations located in large cities, in formal contexts and therefore less predisposed to a real dialogue, and for the rest try to chase the aseptic TV lounges and the pages of newspapers. We prefer a more widespread, though more tiring, spread of culture. A militant approach, both by small and independent publishers and by non-mainstream authors and authors, often built together with bookstores, cultural circles, reading groups, social centers.

After months of standstill, it will be very difficult to put all this back on its feet, and in the long run, if the model of the virtuality of the exchange compared to the meeting were to assert itself, it would be even more serious damage than the economic one.

6. VIP rhetoric

That in the management – both media and factual – of the danger of contagion class discrimination has materialized is evident not only from the material advantages enjoyed by some subjects. It is also noted in some narrative frames circulated since the early days, such as the calls to stay at home focused not on health needs but on how nice it is to stay in your home, touted by television stars directly from their villas with gardens or swimming pools, denoting a total detachment from reality made of people who live in small houses or single rooms, without open spaces, in condominiums without panoramic views, and ignoring that for many women the house is not a safe place at all, not to mention those who do not own a home Has he got it.

A similar detachment from reality was also perceived in the paradoxical media rhetoric of “staying at home, yes, but reading a book”, just as the bookshops were closing.

One could argue that it is enough to read the books already present in the house. It should therefore be remembered that in Italy more than half of the population does not read even one book per year. It should be emphasized not for snobbery, but to specify that in the vast majority of Italian houses there are no books, and therefore if even someone who usually does not read had wanted to take advantage of the social distancing to do so, he would not have had the opportunity to buy a book if not on the web. But in the search engines of online stores, you usually search for what you already know you want. Probably those who are unfamiliar with reading but would like to take advantage of this period would find it difficult to find their way in the endless catalog of Amazon without a bookseller to give advice. As an extra potential readerhe could become an even more convinced non-reader .

What idea of ​​the country does a person who does such a service have? Do you imagine it as an extended version of your living room?

On the other hand, for strong readers capable of devouring more books a week – especially having to spend most of the day at home – having the bookcases closed is almost like having bread rationed. It may seem “color”, but it is to underline the nonsense with which during this matter the world of books has been managed, even in the tones used by the media. By now inviting those at home to read is almost like telling them to have a good swim. If books are not considered basic necessities, appeals to reading cannot be made, it is a cultural contradiction in terms, a mockery that adds up to the damage.

Other VIP appeals have come for publishers – as well as other cultural operators, actually – to provide some of their products (ebooks, audiobooks) for free in order to give people something to do. It is sacrosanct to want to help those who are forced into four walls to pass the time, the problem remains of which subjects the cost of this help should be passed on to. Publishers are in serious difficulty: even if they want to, they can hardly afford gifts lightly, and those who make these appeals show that they do not know the world of printed paper. It’s okay to be in solidarity with those at home by giving them a book, but why not ask those who have enriched themselves for weeks enjoying a de facto monopoly? What if Amazon did it by delivering it for free at home, but paying it regularly to publishers?

7. Workers in the supply chain

The damage caused by this situation is affecting the entire book chain, not just publishers, printers, booksellers and authors. The figures at risk are many: translators, editors (often outsourced), freelance editors, editorial graphic designers, press officers, without forgetting the employees in general of large and medium-sized publishers, distributors, wholesalers and chain bookstores . Small publishers and independent booksellers are often the owners and employees of their own business, but those who work for larger companies suffer all the distortions of the labor market that has been precarious by years of counter-reforms: outsourcing of editorial and graphic work, use of serviceand agencies, downward competition between external workers such as translators, use of free internships and internships to make up for editorial work for free, etc. There is a risk that large publishing groups will pass on the cost of the crisis to these figures. The same can be said of male and female workers in distribution and promotion.

Tamu bookshop, Via Santa Chiara 10 / h, Naples. Photo of March 30, 2020.

These repercussions will be common to the world of work in different sectors, but it is important to remember it also with regard to publishing because it is one of the sectors in which the most recourse is made – especially large companies – to outsourcing, fake VAT numbers, free lance, and with wages among the lowest. If I dedicate only a few lines to this aspect, it is because I would like these professionals to take the word in person to open a debate on how the current situation is leading to the extreme criticalities that have been rooted for some time, and on how, once again, to try to overcome them together rather than sink more and more.

8. And in all this the new releases?

We are currently in limbo. The outputs are stopped because the launches in the library are skipped. Distributors do not accept supplies – neither of novelties nor of catalog titles – because the books in their warehouses are almost immobile. The only supplies are for the online stores and bookstores that with heroic efforts get by in the few deliveries.

It is not known when the shops will be accessible to the public again, so you may find yourself forced to release the books anyway, even if only in ebooks. It is a choice that would penalize some titles, which perhaps had been focusing on for some time, and also the relative authors, who counted on that issue.

Meanwhile, the editing and editorial work on the new features must go on, to avoid the risk of “bottlenecks” as soon as the bookstores reopen. Perhaps the small publishing houses that publish a limited number of titles per year will be able, with great effort, to avoid cutting production and sacrificing some of the planned books, each precious and carefully chosen. Also because reducing the number of issues, for those who publish little, would mean giving up a substantial percentage of their turnover.

Some large publishers, waiting to be able to print them, are already launching some news in the ebook, but given the amount of their publications they will be forced to cut many (probably following commercial and non-qualitative criteria), with damage to the bibliodiversity, in addition to that which follows for authors, translators and external collaborators who were working on the cassated books.

Despite these cuts, the risk that the market is clogged after the reopening of the bookstores is real. Already under normal conditions in Italy a huge amount of books are published: in 2018 there were 75,758 (more than two hundred a day), a completely disproportionate number that leaves serious doubts about how many they really deserved. This invasion is determined by the big publishers, which are less (about a seventh of the total) but publish four out of five titles. The Istat report on the books released in 2018states that among publishers “51.1% published a maximum number of 10 titles per year (” small publishers “), 33.8% between 11 and 50 works (” medium publishers “) and only the 15.2% have published more than 50 annual works (“large publishers”). The big publishers cover almost 80% of the production in terms of titles (79.4%) and 90% of the circulation “.

Tempo Ritrovato bookshop, Corso Garibaldi 17, Milan. Photo of March 30, 2020.

Such overproduction, combined with the difference in weight in terms of commercial power, visibility in the media, bargaining power with distributors and bookstore chains, regularly leads to a darkening of the books of children, literally submerged by those of adults.

When the bookstores reopen, the big publishers will publish numerous titles all together in a few weeks, accentuating this phenomenon and causing a further acceleration of one of the perverse mechanisms of the supply chain: the frenetic rotation of the titles on the shelves. In chain bookstores, if a novelty does not sell enough in the first three weeks, it is immediately returned and replaced by another. All for the benefit of the names of the scream, of the media authors and of the commercial best sellers, and to the detriment of research and quality production, with further damage to the already mortified bibliodiversity.

Not only that: the distributors, clogged, could unload an unsustainable amount of returns on us (blowing up the financial bubble between supplied and returned), including perhaps books that never really arrived at the bookstore because they were published close to the closure of March 12th.

The book market needs to decrease, but it should be a choice, with a higher qualitative selection upstream, a change of production paradigm for those who have always flooded it, and not the consequence of a mix between missed purchases, closed bookstores , and the senseless management of these weeks. An interweaving that on the contrary will only accelerate the already existing distortions.

Trastevere bookshop, Via della Lungaretta 90 / e, Rome. Photo of March 30, 2020.

9. How to get out of it

After this crisis, strong support will be needed for all sectors of culture, which, however, should not be limited to appeals to go to the cinema, a museum, a theater, a concert, or to buy a book, downloading everything onto the users (too often identified as consumers). Both those who make culture and those who – seriously affected in their own way of life – will benefit from it, and the community should take charge of it with mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth, the fight against oligopoly situations, support mechanisms. income, both in general and specifically to workers and cultural workers, especially those who would not benefit from it as self-employed, occasional collaborators, VAT numbers, seasonal workers, or because they live on copyright, cachet or forms of income not from employees (actresses, musicians, writers), but also technicians, workers, graphic designers, set designers, shift workers, promoters, and in general all operators in the various supply chains.

Workers from cultural institutions – both public and private – such as museums and archaeological sites (but also from libraries), often outsourced or contracted to third parties, should be internalized. The circulation of culture should be encouraged with public spaces granted free of charge to publishers, musicians, actors, to organize presentations, events, performances, projections, concerts, and more. And the smaller and more troubled realities – theaters, cinemas, small publishers – deserve support without a grant. Everything should be financed by hitting taxation and wealth withdrawals who, in the various sectors, benefited from the situation (Amazon or Netflix, to give two examples), but also large non-cultural enterprises that have continued to make profits,

More generally, we should start a process of claims from below animated by the protagonists of cultural work, each with their own reflections, which begins to develop proposals to dismantle the distortions that, in one way or another, affect every sector benefiting a few large and crushing many little ones. The management of the coronavirus emergency has only accelerated the drift in place for some time and it is therefore the time to rethink the way in which culture is made and spread in Italy.

In our specific, the more general reflection on the publishing market will necessarily have to be approached with a comprehensive look on the supply chain, bringing together publishers and independent bookstores, authors and workers, especially without forgetting that notwe are all in this together. The large publishing groups, distribution and chain bookstores will suffer less of the backlash (and the online stores for nothing, on the contrary) and despite this, to guarantee their profits, they will try to take advantage of the situation by intensifying the mechanisms advantageous for them. On the labor front, large publishers are likely to make layoffs, cuts to collaborators, and outsourcing. On the market front, bookstores will flood even more with outlets of dubious quality, trying to nibble as little as possible on the smallest market share. And it is not excluded that there will be new business concentrations that will give birth to even more mammoth giants.

As for distribution, it will try to make up for itself by imposing even more last- minute contracts , asking for ever higher percentages on the cover prices. The chain bookstores will focus further only on the few highly successful media and commercial titles, risking less and less exposure to the quality but less easily sold ones.

Independent publishers and bookstores, authors and authors, workers and publishing workers, must try to imagine collective, horizontal and bottom-up mechanisms of resistance, forms of collaboration that already begin to prefigure new ways of making and spreading culture, and claim structural corrections to the supply chain. To free Sisyphus from the chains of his effort and transform publishing in a place of emancipation and conflict.

Pietro De Vivo is a fiction and non-fiction editor for the Alegre editions , administrator of the Telegram channel of the publishing house and deputy director of the Quinto Tipo series directed by Wu Ming 1. When he finds the time, he writes books on Il lavoro Culturale . He is the author of one of Giap’s most visited and commented posts since this blog exists: “It is the fault of those like you if there is contagion!”. Abuse in uniform and strategy of the scapegoat in the days of the coronavirus .

The Covid-19 emergency seen from Palermo, between social work with children and riots destined to widen

Wu Ming

by Totò Cavaleri *

1. “Home”, or whatever takes its place

Scrolling through the list of activities that the Dpcm of last March 22 defines as “essential”, arriving at the code Ateco 87 we find “residential social assistance services”. There were not many doubts, moreover, that the community in which I work would not have closed, also because for the five Italian boys and the five foreign boys who live there, that’s the only thing that comes close to the concept of « home”.

Indeed, for all of them #RestoaCasa means to stay in the community all day. For heaven’s sake, in some ways, it’s even better. At least you are in the company of other boys and a few adults, and certainly you are less bored.

But as if the #RestoaCasa decree was not explicit enough regarding the individual limitations for all citizens, the various institutions we are dealing with took care to write to us what was necessary to specifically suspend for the children of the community.■ The Public Prosecutor’s Office invited us to “prevent arbitrary removals in any way, even by locking the structures”, inviting us to report any abuse to the police.
■ The Juvenile Court suspended the entry of external people into the structure and denied any weekend return to the family.
■ The Police Headquarters has postponed the delivery of the residence permits until a later date.
■ The hospital has postponed the MRI booked three months earlier to better times.
■ Social Services canceled the appointment to meet a possible new foster family. The meetings with psychotherapists, guardians and social workers, goes without saying, all suspended.

In a nutshell, everyone communicated perfectly what these guys should n’t do, but nobody bothered to say how they can spend the days.

Obviously their schools are also closed. The older ones, included in job placement projects, saw the internship suspended the week before the possible hiring.

Even the football matches on the La Favorita lawn are skipped, as well as the basketball training of a boy playing in Serie B or the swimming course attended by the little ones.

Who has a girlfriend meets her only in kilometers video calls, made with very little privacy.

Thus, between the online teaching to be followed in the two computers available to everyone, long playstation tournaments, TV series, home gym and ball music sent simultaneously by three different bluetooth speakers, every day something new is invented to pass the day. At the bottom of the barrel they also found enthusiasm for hanging the rainbow banner with the words «We will all win together» on the balcony. The alternative, “We all cultivate dreams, but nobody is willing to hoe,” he lost on the ballot.

The days for the rest are marked by the update of 12.00 in the Sicilian Region and by 18.00 of the Civil Protection, to which is added the search for news on the evolution of the contagions in Gambia, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Guinea and Guinea Bissau.

As with any teenager used to having a busy life, this new dimension also has something unreal for them. They have gone from living the days in constantly accelerated mode to an almost absolute slowdown.

Do we continue to ask ourselves what sense has it had to also prohibit the jog, or a solo walk, for children accustomed in some cases to doing competitive training or physical activity of various types every day?

To date they have responded well to the curfew, with a good spirit of adaptation. There was a great level of understanding of the situation and sharing of responsibilities. Previous conflicts have been pushed aside and personal dramas are also kept at bay.

But how long can this situation last?

The general suspension dimension has a strong alienating component for everyone, but when a residence permit has been awaited for months or, even more, when a judge is constantly summoned to present a new possible family, this sudden dimension out of time becomes unbearable.

2. I leave the house to go to another house

Once the entry into the community of friends, volunteers and trainees was suspended, only the group of operators who work in the structure remained to share the days with the boys, alternating, as always, in shifts that guarantee a 24-hour presence 24.

Yes, because while doing terrorism with #IoNonEsco, there are those who have to leave home every day.

And not only must he do it, but he must also pass three checkpoints of carabinieri, police and army, produce a different self-certification every week and undergo the inquisitive looks of those who, seeing him on the street, consider him as a greaser.

The reactions of colleagues to the coronavirus and its provisions have been varied: from those who were panicked to those who apparently kept their nerves. In one case or another, after all, at the end of the shift everyone must return regularly to their home, with legitimate concerns for their family members.

But none of the colleagues made mutual solidarity and attention to the boys fail. That is, no one has tried to find individual solutions to take time off work. Even for those who have been wrapped in fear at the idea of ​​leaving the house, it was clear that going on vacation or on parental leave, at this moment, would have put colleagues in difficulty and would have left the boys more alone.

Already in the first days all the operations necessary to sanitize the structure were carried out, and the procedures for possible future scenarios were prepared.

Everything that has been done, however, has been achieved thanks to the attention and goodwill of the entity we work for. Not all communities followed the same protocols. Many colleagues from other services have not received our same protections. By all the above institutions – Police Headquarters, Prosecutor, Court, Municipality, etc. – a thousand brochures arrived explaining what to do and what not to do. But no other support has arrived to help us stick to the protocols.

It must be said that virtue is also made of necessity. By now the shift has become the only opportunity to leave the house, a real dive into worldliness. Who happens to go out and meet ten other people these days? Honestly, a breath of fresh air. Also because, in the last few weeks, I have got into the habit of going to work on foot and giving myself those three kilometers of walking, thus avoiding taking the wasp. Until Musumeci decrees also on the means by which to go to work, I plan to continue doing so.

In any case, inevitably, the physicality inside the structure has substantially changed. We try to conform everyone’s behavior to the warnings that come. But, with all the attention that is possible, there are still a dozen people who share the same apartment and we are still talking about care work, also made of relational intimacy and human contact.

3. The “Heroes”

Comparing myself with colleagues and colleagues who work in other types of services, I realize that I am not so bad after all. Most of the other projects were blocked until new provisions: social counters, after-school activities, neighborhood workshops, oratories, campers who deal with addictions, centers stopped overnight anti-violence, street education projects …

Indeed, the streets have been closed. Everyone returned to their homes, closing the drama of the individual conditions within four walls.

Those who work in these services, to the concern for the fate of the people they followed, today must add that for their situation.

Many have realized that the “Cura Italia” decree does not care for those who care in Italy. Especially those who work for small associations, linked to project financing, often for clients of private foundations, find themselves today without any type of protection.

Far from being the realm of “the good”, the world of associations has been, over the years, a field of experimentation with precarious work techniques. For a painful heterogenesis of the ends, the push for equality instead of expanding the share of rights of the recipients, ended up stripping the operators themselves of their rights.

Social intervention has often been covered by presumptuous salvific assumptions. The epic of the “front line” and the rhetoric of the “trench” have produced sequels of experts on every aspect of marginality. Able only to feed a pulp gaze, poised between paternalistic paternalism and fascination with degradation.

The more you became Heroes of the condition of others, the more you became Martyrs of your own condition.

So-called “social work” (as if non-social work existed), even and especially at a time like this, tells us how the growth of inequality is not a side effect of decades of liberal policies, a sort of system dysfunction , but the direct consequence of a society organized starting from individual competition.

The condition of those who work in the world of associations remains stuck between an omnipotent salvific drive and a discouraged resignation to powerlessness, between the duty to offer solutions to all the evils of the world and finding oneself suddenly immersed up to the neck in those evils. .

The ambiguous formula of the “social enterprise” has ended up, once again, by lending its support to the mantra “less state plus market”.

Yet, with all limitations, social work in some contexts represents the only presence left to counter the spread of inequality. In many suburban neighborhoods the presence of associations represents the only possibility to access social spaces. Without the widespread and plural commitment of the third sector, entire social categories would be deeply denied their rights.

In these days of forced imprisonment, many are discussing which areas of intervention are still possible.

One wonders: what happens to social work when sociality is suspended?

But also: what happens to society, when social work also fails?

You surf on sight and try to invent impromptu answers. In these weeks in Palermo three community radios were suddenly born, you read fairy tales on the phone and you browse books by recording videos, organize animation at a distance and continue the video call talks.

4. If we don’t express criticism and conflict today, how can we do it tomorrow?

But above all, we begin to ask ourselves what it will be like next.

How will it be possible to recover the physicality on which our lives were based?
How are we going to rebuild social spaces and reclaim public spaces?
How are we going to put a dam on the growing inequality that will result from this period?
And how will it be possible to organize social networks to collectively protect us from unhappiness and loneliness?

Finally, how will it be possible to ask ourselves these questions tomorrow , if today we suspend any possibility of criticism and conflict?

As the psychotherapist Calogero Lo Piccolo writes in a recent article entitled “The management of the current and the ambassadors” , in which he talks about the costs, at the same time psychopathological and socio-political, of the current suspension of the social sphere:

“It is not only a problem of saving one’s life, it is not only a problem of safeguarding one’s mental health, it is also a problem, above all in some ways, of safeguarding the social space of politics, and of our being critically living subjects polis space as a basic need. “

5. Between despair and self-organization

In recent days, news from Palermo has aroused a lot of attention: in a hard discount store halfway between Cep and Cruillas, about fifteen people filled the shopping carts trying to leave without going through the checkouts, motivating, very clearly: “We have no money and we don’t want to pay . “

While the reactions of appreciation and promises of emulation multiplied on the various social networks, the clear condemnation of Mayor Leoluca Orlando arrived , who immediately defined the protagonists of the story as well as their fans as “jackals of the mafia undergrowth”.

It should be underlined how the mafia matrix was decreed on the basis of the semantic analysis of the imaginary characterizing the Facebook pages of the supporters. In any case, the Mayor’s invitation was to make a widespread denunciation: “I ask all citizens to report them to the police authorities, to report their accounts as promoters of violence to the administrators of social networks so that they are immediately blocked.”

In the meantime , garrisons of carabinieri, financiers and policemen have been organized in front of the big hypermarkets of the city.

Click to enlarge.

Whether it was “proletarian expropriations” or “looting”, this event testifies in any case the drama of the consequences of this period in contexts already very poor as Palermo. We can bet that such events will be more frequent in the times to come. And criminalizing them won’t help improve the situation.

In the first three days, 1800 families registered on the Municipality portal to request food aid. On the local pages of Repubblica today, in an article on Coronavirus poverty , the figure of 50 thousand Palestinians left without income is indicated. But it seems a downward estimate, considering that even before the coronavirus the unemployment rate in the city was at 17.7% and the inactive citizens were 49.6% .

The Albergheria second-hand market before the emergency (2019).

Finally, I would like to point out an initiative born from below in Ballarò on the initiative of the Sbaratto association, made up of street vendors in the illegal second-hand market, for years the protagonists of a dispute to see their business recognized and often stigmatized as the main threat to decorum urban. In the last few days, once the market was closed and the stalls were put aside, they have mobilized themselves to distribute food and basic necessities in a widespread way throughout the Albergheria district.

Totò Cavaleri lives in Palermo, where he alternates with the role of activist of the movements those of the social worker. In both roles he dealt with teenagers, refugees and interventions in the suburbs. He currently works in a housing community for minors. On some of the topics covered in the article he edited the volumes uoghi d’Artificio. Narratives of the metropolis at the time of the crisis (Navarra, 2011) and The useless effort. Subjectivity and mental distress in the contemporary capitalist ethos (Mimesis, 2016).

Download this article in ebook format (ePub or Kindle)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Other texts that may interest you:

The war continues from Bologna to Sicily. Three nocturnal actions, an article by WM1 on Linus and Resistenze returns in C …Viral diary. Coronavirus days in Bulåggna (22-25 February 2020)The ghosts of colonialism haunt our cities. A mass exorcism in #Palermo, long live Menilicchi!Resisting the emergency: advice for those who work in the factory or have an independent libraryTagged with  

coronavirus Covid 19 social work Palermo revolt Totò Cavaleri

← Previous

11 comments on “ The Covid-19 emergency seen from Palermo, between social work with children and riots destined to widen ”

  1. Marco Gentili03/28/2020 at 4:06 pmYesterday on the national site they wonder about inexplicable eugenic issues, with an ethnic-racial background and about the lack of data to support or not the hypothesis that African migrants (60 countries) are hardly affected by Covid-19 … to say the least.Log in to reply
  2. Kola03/28/2020 at 5:25 pmThank you for your precious testimony!
    Unfortunately you can imagine how the news of the assato was received on average at the supermarket in Palermo here in the north …
    The usual stereotypes and invocations of intervention of the exec, even by people who are showing intolerance for the restrictive measures imposed.Log in to reply
    • Wu Ming 103/28/2020 at 5:44 pmIn fact, a Nordic friend of mine yesterday said to me: “Maybe the riots in the South will make us breathe too”.Log in to reply
      • Kola03/28/2020 at 6:01 pmMaybe I exaggerated in generalizing, but I assure you that in my part the empathy towards the southerners is quite low in general, and this situation is no exception, on the contrary, my impression is that in the last few weeks all the hyper-localist tendencies and regional selfishness … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
        • Wu Ming 103/28/2020 at 10:09 pmThe «episode of Palermo», «looting» or «expropriation of the proletariat», together with other manifestations of strong tension and a change of general mood (from the balconies no one sings anymore, the tricolors have melted, the flash-mobs at the window are already forgotten), has put a huge squeeze on the government. The expression «turned … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
          • toto03/28/2020 at 10:57 pmUntil yesterday there was no talk of anything but the Korean model, and total profiling of travel, then 15 people try not to pay the groceries at the supermarket, and suddenly the agenda changes completely. If nothing else, the Palermo episode has the merit of having brought out the explosiveness of the situation. Da … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  3. plumb03/28/2020 at 6:29 pmIn these days, “because of the decrees” and the constraints imposed in the form of martyrdom, I reacted to the curfew by continuing to go out and intensifying the urban monitoring activities of some pre-existing situations which are at a higher risk of total removal / cancellation . Among these, normally, … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
    • toto03/28/2020 at 7:00 pmTotally agree with what you write. In fact, I tried to avoid the romantic tones of the “intervention towards the least”. Indeed, I have tried to give an account of a complex reality, which over the years has increasingly divested social intervention from its political assumptions. The social enterprise has become more and more business and always … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
      • plumb03/28/2020 at 9:21 pmYes. But it is obviously clear that the perspective from which you look at this temporal suspension, in the cosmic void of the “quarantine, is that of those who are concerned with essential needs in terms of mental survival. When you say: they told us what we shouldn’t do but they didn’t tell us what we can … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  4. AlexJC03/28/2020 at 7:07 pmEven in the “quiet” cities of the center such as my Terni one begins to feel that the #statetuttiacasa works less. Perhaps it is because the 5,000 Ast + workers induced if it had not been for mass disobedience between strikes and disease certificates (until an agreement was reached on the cig … [Continue reading]Log in to reply
  5. plumb03/29/2020 at 9:47 am400,000 million vouchers allocated. The mathematical equation is: let’s see if, with a full stomach, you still break my balls or if you think of breaking them. This is a state that if we wanted to use the hateful metaphor of the parent with all his paternalism, he has always thought … [Continue reading]

But is it true that everyone in the world “does like Italy”? Is there a “ban on jogging or walking” elsewhere? What about self-certification? We took a look.

Wu Ming

Infographic released in the United States by the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA), March 2020.

In these days of coronavirus emergency, many Italian media, politicians and “experts” repeat to us that “all over the world Italy is an example”, that all governments – who first and who after – are following us on the road to lockdown with the closure of schools, factories, offices, public places and strict rules of social distancing.

Every time a country enters the large family of “closed for Covid-19”, a kind of ola , of media applause, starts to welcome him on the right side of the front. «Russia also closes bars and restaurants!», «Curfew in Hungary», cheers !.

On the contrary, non-all (in) eati countries are held up as insane, indifferent to the health of citizens, and preparations are made to recite a “we told you so”, for when they finally realize that they have done everything wrong.

It seems to us that this thirst for international confirmation actually shows a certain insecurity, or at least the need for half a joy in the common evil.

In reality, the situations of the various countries are not really comparable, because health systems, resources, demographics, legal sources, territories and numbers of contagion are different.

However, we believe it is interesting to check more closely whether the “Italy model” has really been “imitated all over the world” and what the main differences are, especially with respect to outdoor activities, going out with children and using of public spaces.

This is because certain rules do not depend so much – or not only – on the levels of contagion or the habits of a country, but rather on a different interpretation of what is healthy and what is not in the presence of the Sars-Cov2 virus.

Here is a roundup, without pretensions of scientificity but useful to get an idea.

■ Let’s start from Germany , where containment measures started on March 16th.

In presenting them, Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that :

«Attending public spaces is allowed alone, or in the company of only one other person, or together with one’s own cohabitants. Going to work, shopping for basic necessities, taking care of yourself, taking part in exams and essential meetings, assisting others and doing sports or individual outdoor activities is obviously [ selbstverständlich ] always possible »as long as you keep one meter away. half away.

Weekly markets remain open.

There are no self-certifications or documents to present when leaving.

■ In France , contagion containment measures came into force on March 17 and for at least 15 days.

Of all the countries we have examined, France is the only one where we have come across a document similar to the Italian self-certification . However, the form has never changed, it is the same since the beginning of the emergency. [Correction: changed once on March 25th, as explained in the comments below.]

Leaving home is allowed for the usual needs, for work, as well as for walks and physical activity, provided alone or in the company of your family , for an hour a day, within a radius of one kilometer, i.e. a area of ​​3.14 square km and a perimeter of 6.28 km.

If you break the rules, you risk a 135 euro fine. In case of recidivism (2 violations in 15 days), they become 1500. 3 times in a month it becomes a criminal offense, with 6 months in prison and a 3750 euro fine.

■ The Coronavirus Act has been a UK law since 23 March and will remain in effect for at least three weeks.

It is forbidden to meet in public places in more than two people, unless you are living together. The closest relatives can attend the funeral.

You have to stay at home, if not for: necessary purchases; reasons of care or work; one form of physical exercise per day – running, cycling, walking – alone or with your partner ;

You must always keep two meters away from non-cohabitants and limit the time spent outside as much as possible.

If you don’t respect these rules, the police can get you back home; disperse a gathering; stop if you don’t follow the directions and resist. He can fine you for 60 pounds, reduced to 30 if you pay within 14 days. Every time you are a repeat offender, the fine doubles.

There are no forms to fill out and take with you.

■ In Sweden, the government is taking measures related to economics and health management. The Prime Minister spoke to the nation on March 22nd. However, there are no laws or decrees that regulate social distancing.

Anyone who is not feeling well or has symptoms is invited to stay at home and not go to school or the workplace.

Specific advice is given to over 70s, such as staying at home, avoiding public transportation, etc.

High schools and universities are invited to implement online teaching.

As for physical activities, here’s what the Swedish Public Health Agency ( Folkhälsomyndigheten ) says in its FAQ page on Covid-19 :

« Exercise and sports are benefits for public health, these activities must continue. There is no need to cancel training sessions, local games and tournaments, gyms and sports centers can remain open. However, these activities must be regulated to minimize the risk of contagion, following the indications for events with less than 500 people [text in Swedish]. »

 Since 17 March , containment measures have been reinforced in Belgium , with the recommendation not to go out except to go to work, to the bank, to the post office, to the grocery stores, to the doctor, from the gas station and to help people in need.

Exercising outdoors is permitted and recommended, together with one’s own cohabitants or at most with another person . Family outings are allowed.

 In the Netherlands restrictive measures have come into force from March 23 .

Funerals, weddings, religious or political meetings are allowed, with a maximum of 30 people and provided that the participants maintain a distance of 1.5 meters. Meetings in public places with more than three non-cohabiting people are prohibited.

Walking and outdoor activities are allowed. Parks, gardens and beaches remain open as long as they can guarantee the expected hygiene standards and people can keep a meter and a half away from each other.

Children under the age of 12 can play together , provided they are supervised by adults who are at least one and a half meters away from each other.

NB This is not the flag of the Spanish post-Franco monarchist state but that of the Spanish Republic defeated in the civil war.

■ In the Spanish state from March 14 there is the “state of alarm, exception or siege” on the whole territory .

There are different measures for each autonomous community.

The Royal Decree 463/2020 of March 14 declares that you can go out to buy food and drugs, for reasons of care, work, assistance to the elderly, minors, disabled and vulnerable, for reasons of force majeure, situations of need and any other activity. of a similar nature.
All these activities must be carried out individually, unless accompanied by minors, the elderly, or for other well-motivated causes.

Transgressions are punished in accordance with Organic Law 4/1981 on the «state of alarm, exception or siege». For less serious cases, fines from 100 to 600 euros.

The national government specified that outdoor and children’s activities at the park are prohibited. You can take the dog to piss.

As for the prohibitions, therefore, the Spanish situation is the closest to the Italian one. With the difference that there are no documents or self-certifications to take with you.

■ In Malta , restrictions for people over 60, pregnant women and people with special conditions, such as diabetes, were announced today, March 27 . Assemblies of more than 5 people are not allowed. People with Covid-19 symptoms must quit their jobs and stay in paid quarantine.

Nowhere have we found references to bans on walking or physical activity, nor to a self-certification.

■ In the United States of America, each member state has taken different regulatory measures .

The order of the governor of California is to stay home, with the exception of workers from 16 key sectors of the economy.

However, on the state government website it is clearly explained that you can do outdoor activities , as long as you remain two meters away from those who are not your own partner.

Always keeping the distance of two meters you can take the dog out, walk, run, ride a bicycle and attend the national parks .

In Illinois the playgrounds for children are closed , but you can still do outdoor activities of any kind , provided at a distance of two meters from non-cohabitants.

In Louisiana, exercise is allowed and you can go out to visit a relative or attend a place of worship. Meetings and meetings with less than ten people are allowed.

The state of New York has limited external activities to those that allow to maintain the distance of two meters and to avoid gatherings. There are specific rules for the elderly and at-risk individuals, who however can go out to do outdoor activities , provided they are solitary.

The website of the Department for Environmental Conservation explicitly invites you to visit national parks to maintain your mental and physical well-being . The paid entrances have been suspended, to avoid entry queues.

There are no forms to fill out and take with you.

 In Canada nationwide, there are only a series of tips and tricks for local communities, and only related to gatherings. No restrictions on the movement of individuals.

For example, in Alberta , isolation at home is provided only for those arriving from abroad (14 days) and for those with symptoms (10 days).

Social distancing is required, but not mandatory.

Meetings of up to 50 people can be held, provided that they take place in suitable places in terms of hygiene and there are no participants from abroad, doctors or strategic healthcare personnel, people over 60 or at risk.

The rule does not apply to supermarkets and the like. Many public places are closed. Restaurants and cafes must reduce their capacity by 50% and not exceed 50 people in the restaurant.

 Even in India , a country for which there is talk of the “greatest lockdown in the world” and of which we have only seen beatings inflicted by policemen and unfortunate passers-by, the federal state refers to the decisions of the various members of the Union . For example, in Maharashtra , the Mumbai region:

Public transportation is suspended;
public meetings are allowed only if they do not exceed 5 people;
only shops offering essential services are open;
The places of worship are closed; construction sites also;
You must stay at home, except to go out for permitted activities and keeping your distance.
No one will be legally prosecuted “for breaking these restrictions in good faith.”

In general, in the various states, there is no elaborate case study to define when it is possible to go out and when not. It is allowed for essential activities, provided that the distance of one meter is maintained, without creating gatherings of more than 5 people.

No self-certifications or specific documents are required.

At the end of this quick overview, some impressions:

At the moment it does not seem that the “Italy model” is depopulating in the world, as it would seem reading our newspapers and watching our TV. Broadly speaking, only Spain is following him, where, however, no specific documents have been introduced to be presented to the authority. No self-certification.

The latter, among the countries examined, has only France, where, however, there is much more space for walks and outdoor activities, also together with the family.

The ban on walking and jogging as it was imposed in Italy is not found almost anywhere. After all, let’s remember: WHO itself says that walking and moving outdoors helps fight the epidemic. Least of all, the state stigma seems to be widespread for anyone who takes a breath of fresh air .

Obviously, the situation is fluid, and those countries over time may decide to move in the same direction as Italy.

The fact remains that, although for weeks our reporters and commentators have said that “everyone imitates us”, at present it is not so at all.

And we, we repeat, have focused only on some aspects: outdoor activities, going out with the children ( not foreseen by us in any way ), use of public spaces. It is plausible that the same can be said for the other aspects of the alleged “Italy Model”, such as the types of closed factories or the supports for those who do not work.

In short, other tracking shots will be needed.

The children disappeared by decree. The suffering of the little ones in the days of the coronavirus

 Wu Ming 4

[We publish the testimony and reflections of Rosa S. , an anthropologist, documentary maker, mother of a son who attends primary schools, or rather, attended them before closing. Rosa invites to pay attention to the children imprisoned at home, to listen to them and not to underestimate the trauma they are undergoing. Its text is accompanied by a Wu Ming 4 note on the same theme. It is the first of a series of posts, with which we intend to give testimony of the consequences of the emergency on the daily life of weak subjects and not only. Enjoy the reading. WM .]

by Rosa S.

As long as it was possible, I went for a walk with my son in the park near home, usually around lunchtime. We didn’t see anyone for hundreds of meters. It seemed important to me that the child could have at least an hour of air per day, to get some sun and kick two balls, or to see the grass again. Going to the park, even if only with me and not with his friends – so not the best of fun, I understand it – seemed to me to be the only time for him to get back to his “old” normalcy and better endure the quarantine. For children, let’s remember, life was already upset over a month ago, when schools, gyms, swimming pools were closed, in short, all the activities of their daily lives.

On March 21, a new decree sanctioned other extraordinary measures. Dogs are mentioned (as in the other decrees): they are allowed to be accompanied by their owners to take a walk. And children, by chance is allowed to them too? It is not known. Children have not been mentioned for some time, in any decree. It is as if they have disappeared, closed in their homes. By ensuring that only those who have to go to work or shop (one at a time) to go out were denied to them. Children are segregated 24 hours a day.

With the passing of the days and the approach of April 3, they await more and more anxious the return to “normal”, even if it were Christmas. But now it is also clear to the stones that the schools will not reopen on April 3 or probably May 3. They are the ones with the real reputation of “greasers”: they do not get sick, they have no symptoms, but they are vectors of the virus, so you must avoid meeting them and spreading it.

So what should we parents do? Do we begin to prepare them, without having any indication from the schools or the government, or do we leave them in their illusion and naivety?

For a month they have not seen their classmates and their teachers, who previously frequented more than the family, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

In many schools the teachers organized themselves as well as they could. In my son’s class (4th grade) the teachers try to do everything possible, but unfortunately they are not equipped to make video conferences and no one from the Ministry of Education has taken care to teach them, even during this entire closing month. They only have an institutional website that they do not understand immediately, to be honest. A menu indicates the possibility of participating in virtual classrooms: a pity that you cannot see yourself with the video camera or hear with the audio. In the virtual classrooms there is a live forum , where you can only chat.

Now, it is already difficult to communicate in a chat with adults, let alone with 25 children, simultaneously. Yet interesting thoughts come up: those who are surprised to beg the teachers to go back to lessons when they never wanted to go to school before; who expresses a deep nostalgia; those who say they cannot sleep at night because too many ambulances pass; who says that the days are now made up of nothing. Some show a cynicism that makes your skin crawl: the less it is useless, the more we will all die. They hear the news on the news and break down the numbers of the daily death toll in detail and argue over the accuracy of their sources: “today there were 753 dead”. “No, on TG5 they said it was 723,” replies the other. And then a question: “But if our parents get sick, who are we with?”

No one answers this question, as one does not answer other children who ask: “but what are we talking about?”. Everyone proceeds on his own writing on his computer, nobody can tune in to anyone else, and frustration rises. Common chat problems, maybe you could think of a little more efficient communication tools.

Who deals with the fears of these children? Who is responsible for answering their questions? Their lives proceed suspended, hanging on a balcony, waiting for a future “return” that appears further and further away. My son does their homework listlessly, he lacks feedback. The only job he did willingly is an Italian text in which he had to describe a friend. He wrote these lines that I decided to publish in order to understand how important it is to hear their voice, because they are living an unheard of experience that must – necessarily – be elaborated.

A friend tells me that she is making a visual diary with her children using the collage technique. The first job done is so expressive that it needs no comment ( see below ). But it is running out of sheets and glue, and in supermarkets they do not sell them because they are not essential goods. But aren’t they essential for whom? For adults maybe. But no one thought that they are fundamental objects for children?

What they are experiencing now, at the beginning of their life, will accompany them for years to come. They look at us and observe us, they depend on us and on our choices.
We perhaps, still so displaced – that we have difficulty accepting what is happening, that everything always seems so surreal, the most used word on the web, “surreal” – here we, perhaps, today, can learn something from them. What is happening to us is more than real and concrete and we must find solutions. As soon as possible, and with them. Let’s ask him to write and tell us. To help us understand, maybe they are the most lucid ones, now.

Staying at home to avoid the Coronavirus, without seeing anyone, is really boring.
Luckily my neighbor is there: Ale. He is one year younger than me, and lives exactly in the apartment under mine.
He is shorter than me, he is very thin and strong, he does not eat much because he fills up with water, that is, he drinks many glasses of water before eating.
Its main feature is that it loves football. Before Coronavirus he trained three times a week and they called him on Saturdays or Sundays to play tournaments, so I didn’t see him much. Now he, like me, has to stay at home, but I’ll see you from the balcony.
To exchange books and games we have this method: we leave them in front of the front door and knock and we go running to talk on the balcony. On the balcony we play this game, otherwise we get bored to death: one of us takes pencil, eraser and sheet, the other says what he has to draw, we take turns. We have a lot of fun seeing the other’s drawings.
Ale is very nice and from the balcony he tells me many, perhaps too many, news heard or invented. Sometimes he goes to play football in the courtyard with his dad and I watch from above. I asked my mother if I could be an observer from down, that I was a meter away, but she said that you can’t, otherwise they will give us a fine.
But at least we can talk to each other from the balcony, until everything returns as before.


by Wu Ming 4

Since the forced enclosure began, my youngest son, 7 years old, a kind of person who is normally serene and positive for his luck, occasionally comes to me, asks to be picked up, and cries for a few minutes. No need to say much. Let’s stay there for a while. Then, after a few words of comfort (maybe he has to put up with the usual quote from the Lord of the Rings ), he quietly returns to do his homework or to play with the toys that now invade every corner of the house, or to watch videos and cartoons on the tablet. Sometimes he draws. The subject is always the same: siege scenes.

To the umpteenth photograph arrived on the parent chat, with the classmate posing with an ironed smile and a rainbow sign «It will be all right», he proposed to make one while pointing a toy gun at the temple, with the sign “What two balls.” Obviously a proposal that has been quashed for a quiet life, even if it made my heart cry repress such a spontaneous reaction, which would have said the obvious, therefore – in times of patriotic militarization of the imaginary – the unspeakable. Is my son a defeatist? Perhaps he is only one who does not understand how he could infect anyone if he were given an hour of air like prisoners, at a safe distance from everyone. Even dogs are better than he is.

The World Health Organization in times of Coronavirus recommends precisely this : half an hour of physical activity per day for adults and an hour for children (not talking about dogs), walks and bike rides at a safe distance. The same is said by pharmacological scientists such as Silvio Garattini , and medical biologists such as the president of the scientific committee of the Italian Society of Environmental Medicine Ernesto Burgio . Even the governor of New York state, one of the hardest hit in the United States, did not prohibit outdoor activities, it only limited them, placing the condition of avoiding contacts and strictly maintaining distances. Also in New York State, the Department of Environmental Conservation has made free entry to all natural parks , because being outdoors during the pandemic is healthy.

In front of the “STAY HOME” diktat, when you are forbidden, put your nose out except to go to the factory or the supermarket , the children disappear. We segregated them as maximum potential greasers – but only after we put them home from school, then entrusted to our grandparents for two weeks – and we forgot them. Indeed, we forced them to shoot domestic videos to incite everyone to lockdown, effectively recruiting them in a do-it-yourself propaganda campaign that contradicts the recommendations of the WHO itself.

The consequences of all this on their psyche we will discuss in the years to come. But we will be too busy facing the most severe recession in history and dealing with the new totalitarianism brought about by the emergency to worry about them again. And maybe in the meantime they will have grown big and it’s up to a psychologist to dig into the trauma.

In the meantime, from China they let people know that closing in at home has the result of certainly making all the families of the positives infected, so in reality it extends the infection. They say that, contrary to the stereotype, the point is not to “block everything”, but to put in place “active” measures, to create “health corridors” for the screening of positives, to hospitalize the infected in special places. To do this you need swabs, medical personnel and adequate spaces. Spaces that we should make as comfortable and worthy as possible, and that could be created by reopening the hospitals closed in recent years, or by requisitioning the private health facilities, or temporarily requisitioning the hotels, since they are all empty, as it is starting to do … now .

One thing the Chinese certainly did not do is put the population of the whole country under house arrest.

In Italy we continue to repeat the mantra that we have the best health system in the world, but – thanks to the worst ruling class in the world – it seems clear that something has not worked. Yet we continue to find scapegoats in the runners, in the lonely old men and in the dads or mothers who dribble in the courtyard with their son.

All in order not to admit that the responsibility for this tragic inadequacy lies with those who are above, not those who are below. Of those who have not acted in time. Of those who over the years have cut public health, put the closed number in medical schools, reduced medical personnel, blocked hiring (and now doctors come to help us from Cuba and we must call back those already retired, aged at risk). And also of those who have not been able to counter all this.

As Rosa says, the children look at us, and perhaps even manage to be more lucid than us, if only in expressing their frustration. But if there is any justice in history, one day they will make us pay dearly.

In the appendix, we point out this text by Andrea «Andy» Perego , first aid rescuer, because it is not the usual testimony of «my little puppy», it is very beautiful and ends precisely with an invitation, at this stage, to learn from children.

Chronicles from the emergency room (or blindness)

“Anyone who has tried to give a solid frame to all this elusive psychodrama – see the social networks that are the manger where he has nourished so far of alarms, protagonists, testimonies and weird misinformation – anyone who has tried to remain calm by focusing on a deeper level of analysis was accused of irresponsibility, poor civic sense, but what is more scandalous even of poor solidarity . We rediscover ourselves in solidarity even the country where 50% of pedestrian investment results in a relief omission, where the dead neighbor is discovered only when the stench spreads over the ladder, in solidarity just enough to tell others what to do and what should not be done, but not enough to try to do something other than singing on the balcony.

And here I come to the last point: last night at the fourth time I put on a white suit with a hood three pairs of gloves, mask and glasses to understand if the 40-year-old who had called 118 had a clinical picture compatible with Covid19, I reflected on the need to break the mechanism … “

It continues here.

"It is the fault of those like you if there is contagion!" Abuse in uniform and strategy of the scapegoat in the days of the coronavirus


by Pietro De Vivo *

(with a note by Luca Casarotti **)

Until Friday 20 March, before the announcement of the closure of all production activities, I continued to go to work, obviously respecting all precautions: I live on the same street as the office – a few street numbers away -, in the few meters that I do on foot I don’t meet anyone, and in those days there were only two of us and we kept at a distance. The others were already working remotely, only one of my partners came, who like me lives very close and saw practically no one else besides myself.

It was still allowed by the decrees (teleworking was only recommended, not mandatory), and in addition to having to use office machines and software, I found that going to the office was also a good practice: to separate the work time from that of the I don’t work, to get some air, to see some light, and to have a chat with my colleague. Living alone with my roommate, in a very small house even for two people, I risk going crazy.

But what is usually a huge fortune in Rome – living close to where you work – in quarantine times and with minimal walking opportunities had become a prison. I had then taken the habit, after taking off, to take a wide turn to go home. None of that, not even five hundred meters, practically the circumnavigation of the block.

For us in these days paradoxically the work is more than usual, because we are going out of our way to try in every way to avoid heavy economic damage to the publishing house due to the closure of the bookstores. So I often went off late, between 18 and 20. At that time there was hardly anyone on the street and it was very easy to respect the safety distances.

On Friday, I had left particularly late, after 8 pm, and had started my ride home. Halfway, less than two hundred meters from home, I was stopped by one of the soldiers who have been patrolling the district’s nightlife area for years. He asked me where I was going and obviously I replied that I was going home. A series of questions followed, including where I came from, what job I did, where I lived, if I had self-certification (which I did not have, knowing that the form can also be filled in while stopped), documents, etc.

When I told him where I lived he asked me why I was going in the opposite direction (I would have turned at the next intersection to go around the block and go back) and when I replied that I took the opportunity to take a walk while I was going home, he immediately said that walking is forbidden. Note: I replied that I was taking two steps to get home from work, instead he immediately pulled out the inauspicious word on which the worst criminalizations are encrusting : “walk”.

Obviously I have not been there, I told him that it is not forbidden to walk, but that in any case I was returning home, I was in the vicinity of my home, and therefore everything was allowed. He began to insist with unpleasant tones and to get angry, until the other five arrived who presided over the area with him. I found myself literally surrounded, among other things, in a crowd of people who did not respect the safety distance between me and them.

They first took turns insisting on the story of the absolute ban on leaving the house, then when I showed them the text of the decree of March 9 from their mobile phone, denying them, they changed their strategy, starting to make me moral and blame me by listing all the frames Toxic of these days: “If everyone took a walk the streets would be crowded”, “It is the fault of those like you if there is contagion and health is at the limit”, “You are an irresponsible”. Then to insult me: “We would like to stay at home and instead we have to stay behind morons like you who are not at home and spread the infection”, “We risk our lives for you assholes”, and more than I repeat.

Needless to explain to him that I, at home, was just going there, coming from work, and that I was near my home. They did not want to hear reasons, they did not let me go, also drawing out a bizarre theory that the measures mandatorily provide that in the event of a displacement, even if necessary, the shortest journey from point A to point B must be made and that also extend only fifty meters is prohibited.

But obviously the thing that bothered them the most, besides taking a walk, was the timetable. It was vain to explain to him that if I had disconnected after 20, and my legitimate ten minutes of oxygen I was taking them at that hour, I risked even less to infect someone because the road was deserted. They reasoned as if there was a curfew and I was breaking it.

Since I insisted that I was not doing anything wrong, they called the carabinieri to report me. I stress: they did not say that they would call the police to check and, if necessary, report; they explicitly said they would call them to report me. I don’t know why the carabinieri and not the police called, and obviously I don’t know what they said but I have little doubt that the version was biased to indispose them in advance.

More than three quarters of an hour passed between the discussion with them and the waiting of the carabinieri. In the meantime, the military have, in order:
■ stopped a homeless man who was staggering;
■ stopped a type of color taking it for granted that he passed off, and then said to me: “See, if you leave the house it’s dangerous, you can find him”, and when I replied: “What’s that got to do with it?” they said to me: “It is not racism, it is that you can get infected” with an excusatio non petita, accusatio manifest which reveals a very long straw tail;
■ looked at all those who passed with the dog: “These dogs have become very thin by going out so often”;
■ obliged one of two South American ladies who had gone out with the dog to go home because they can only be taken for a walk alone, even if the ladies lived clearly together, having left the same door, therefore still in contact all day;
■ finally, badly spoken of those who go for a run: «All athletes now!».

These last things confirm that for them it was not a question of respecting or not the measures, what is allowed and what is not, but of obliging people to stay barricaded in the house in defiance of all rights.

Then came the wheel with the two carabinieri who got out, immediately turning to the military, ignoring my words, to turn to me only afterwards, and immediately with threatening tones, insulting and screaming. The discussion with them was of the same tenor as that already had with the military, only that they were even more threatening, shouting, and placing themselves at an even closer distance, the attitude of those who literally yell at you, and thank goodness that contagion must be avoided. In addition to blaming me for the deaths of these days, they concluded by shouting: «You don’t have to go out and that’s all. You must stay in the house forty days! ». And they started filing the complaint.

While the carabinieri were writing one of the soldiers said to me: “Did you see? If you were silent and apologized, everything was fine, did you want to answer and make stories? So you learn ». Confessing that I called the carabinieri to report me not because I was breaking something, but because I dared to fight back. I replied that therefore I was not in the wrong, they did not report me for an offense, they were simply making fun of me. He obviously reacted badly.

Meanwhile, the carabinieri had finished filling in the report, and also a self-certification in which it is written that at 20:15 I left work in via xxx to go to my home in via yyy and that I was walking to go home. By the way, they prevented me from filling it out on my own, they did it and forced me to sign it. At the time and place of the check it says “21:15”, which is actually the time when they finished drafting the report, while the military had stopped me at least an hour before. So written on purpose that way to make it look like I’ve been walking for an hour. They also obviously specified the address where I was stopped, which should prove that I was going too long to go home. After making me sign the complaint,

I am not worried about the complaint, I am quite convinced that it will be archived. And in any case, there are all the details to contest it, since I was returning home (which is allowed) after being at work (which is still permitted at the time) and I found myself near my home.

I am not worried, but I am angry, nervous and distressed. It is not the first time that I happen to argue with the police, but being surrounded by six soldiers with machine guns, and then receiving screams in the face from two carabinieri, was a bad scene. I have never feared for my physical safety, but I am seriously afraid for the safety of my freedom. It seemed to me a scene from a military dictatorship or from a fascist regime, it was not pleasant at all and I don’t hide it.

Not to mention the total uselessness of all this for the prevention of infection. Still until that day – Friday 20 March – if I had been one of the workers forced to work in the factory I would have had to cross half the city to go home, at any time of the day, in time slots where I would have probably met many more people, after to have been in contact with dozens or hundreds of people at work, but that would have been fine.

This episode – in addition to enclosing incredibly in one fell swoop all the absurdities of these weeks – has some Kafkaesque: from how I was stopped to how the story unfolded, from the fallacious motivations given by the military to ignoring what I said decree in hand , from the toxic frames with which they threw insults at me on their violence – fortunately for now only – verbal. Until, above all, the absurdity of being reported because I was taking a walk around the block to go home from work – but in reality, as they declared themselves, because I hadn’t been able to bear in silence that they arbitrarily abused their power.

Pietro De Vivo is editor of fiction and non-fiction for the Alegre editions , based in Rome, and deputy director of the Quinto Tipo series directed by Wu Ming 1. When he finds the time he writes books on Il lavoro Culturale .


by Luca Casarotti

As far as I have read and listed so far, there is no jurist who does not criticize the emergency decree of the last month . Strong doubts have been raised about its constitutionality; which means, in our euphemistic and brachylogic language: the recent decrees of the presidency of the council of ministers (dpcm) are unconstitutional, and only political opportunity can save them from being declared such. As is the unanimous opinion that an extremely fragile sanctioning system has been built, which will crumble after the emergency is over. Complaints will be filed in bulk. Perhaps some symbolic condemnation will arrive, so that the whole operation has not been resolved into nothing.

La Repubblica – Turin, 22 March 2020. “Sheriff” citizens titillated by the authorities, “but from the periphery the first signs of impatience”. In fact, there is a dizzying increase in TSOs .

Given this unanimous criticism, the consequences that are drawn are not unanimous, especially with respect to the role assigned in the emergency to criminal law. There are those who believe that the prohibitions introduced by the dpcm should be transferred to a law or an act with the force of the law – legislative decree or law decree – and then by law to penalize penalties. This would at least respect the principle of legality, that according to which no one can be punished except by virtue of a law which entered into force before the act committed (art.25, paragraph II, of the constitution).

Be careful, though. Even if there is the political will to do it, to solve the problem it would not be enough to take the bans as they are now and copy them as they are in a law or equivalent act. In addition to that of legality , there are other constitutional principles that an incriminating rule must respect. I am thinking above all of the principle of offensiveness , according to which a crime can punish only behaviors that offend a juridical good (i.e. an aspect of material life that the law considers worthy of being protected), and that of subsidiarity, for which criminal law must intervene only in cases where no other form of sanction for illegal behavior is possible. Principles that the prohibitions established in the ministerial ordinances and in the dpcm issued since 23 February last would not respect even if they were provided for by law.

In short, to be at least compliant with the constitution, those prohibitions should be deeply rethought. What the government, at this point, cannot afford to do: it cannot afford to rethink anything, but it cannot even afford to transfer the existing into a law. It would be like admitting that it was completely wrong to manage the epidemic, more than a month after it began. It would be like saying that you have chosen unsuitable instruments.

Then there is another position, which I would call “utilitarian” or “lesser evil”. That of those who believe that in the end it is preferable to tolerate these badly formulated prohibitions, instead of running the risk of finding oneself with incriminating rules written with all the trappings. It is known that these bans will not really lead to large-scale convictions. Better then unfounded complaints today, than convictions founded tomorrow. In the meantime, however, it is necessary to represent the threat of a penal sanction, which is the most effective way to obtain obedience to prohibitions.

But to be consistent, those who support this position must also be available to affirm that what Peter has told is nothing outrageous. And that would bear similar treatment even in the first person, not only when it is up to others: it is a perspective that should be terrifying.

The threat of a penal sanction, however symbolic it may be, implies as a necessary and very concrete outcome the mobilization of the repressive apparatus of the state , which that threat has the task of translating into practice.
The wider the spectrum of behaviors threatened with sanctions, the wider the intervention space of the repressive apparatus.
And the wider the intervention space of the repressive apparatus, the more those who belong to it feel invested with authority and freedom of action.
The longer the time during which this occurs, the more this intervention is normalized.
And the more this intervention is normalized, the more the borders of the emergency expand until they cannot distinguish themselves from what the emergency is not.

If all these logical implications of the starting premise are accepted, the “utilitarian” or “lesser evil” argument becomes “the inclined plane’s argument”: inclined towards what, Peter says at the end of his testimony.

If the logical implications are not accepted, then the premise should also be rejected for consistency.

** Luca Casarotti is a jurist. He is part of the Nicoletta Bourbaki working group and provides legal advice to the Wu Ming Foundation. He writes about political use of criminal law and anti-fascism, mainly on Giap and Jacobin Italia . He has a second identity as a pianist and music critic.

Finally, a video: the last of the “Mesmer Pills” of Mariano Tomatis , “wonder injector”, magician and illusionist historical, as well as a member of Mountaineering Molotov. This is called “Postcards from the columns of Hercules” and tells of the restrictions of these days, of the new borders within our cities. Mariano also gives some reading and sharing advice and urges: “This is not the time to collapse now.”