Saturday, March 21, 2020

Kremlin Not Alone in Using Coronavirus to Promote Obscurantism and Totalitarianism and that is a Big Problem for the Future, Berg Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 15 – Many Russians may think that only the Kremlin is exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to promote the revival of obscurantism and the restoration of totalitarian-style control, but that is not the case, US-based Russian commentator Mikhail Berg says. All too many countries led by people on the right are doing the same thing.

            And that means in turn that this pandemic will cast a long and dark shadow on the world long after the last person dies from it, blocking new efforts at cooperation and strengthening those who do not want to cooperate but rather to operate completely independently and not remain embedded in a network of international cooperation.

            Like Vladimir Putin, such leaders are delighted to be able to hide behind “anti-virus” methods to justify closing borders to “outsiders” and preventing people from demonstrating against them and to use this crisis to promote obscurantist notions about the nature of the nation, he says (

            Indeed, it seems to some that “in Europe there is taking place a unique repetition of preparation for a parade of totalitarianism,” something that right-of-center governments are promoting and that some of the people in their populations are supporting believing that that is the best or even only effective defense against the virus, despite China’s experience.

            At the same time, these regimes are promoting and populations are accepting increasingly xenophobic approaches, blaming the Chinese for the virus and even pushing the idea that the virus hits some ethnic groups harder than others or that it is destroying all who do not take up the most extreme arms against it.

            What is already clear in Russia and elsewhere, Berg says, is that “the coronavirus, like a world storm, above all has played into the hands of right conservative politicians and right obscurantism convictions” about the ideas they are fond of that society must be based on “blood and soil.”   

            “When Trump erects a wall against ‘aliens’ and migrants, he is attempting to erect a border between his race and the race of those arrivals, and this wall is in no way distinguished from the wall between his own (supposedly healthy) people and aliens who are viewed as potentially ill.”

            According to Berg, “blood and soil by their status in conservative ideology is that these are not simply our blood and soil but that these are healthy and can be protected from illness only by a quarantine.” But the coronavirus, like communism before it, is spreading across borders and becoming “a specter” and source of fear.

            Those who think they can escape the pandemic by isolating themselves both physically and in terms of cooperation with others to fight it will be shown to be wrong, Berg concludes; but the illusions that this is possible are going to remain – and those may prove to be some of the worst consequences of the coronavirus outbreak.

            That is because such illusions, now being cultivated in Russia and so many other places, will affect what people will do and won’t do long after this pandemic dies out.

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