pirate wires #58 // recalling UFOs, the invisible virus, war on nuclear meets the war on space, and america’s vanishing act
Bear with me for a minute, this one’s kind of weird.
Four years ago this Thursday, the New York Times broke one of the most incredible stories in modern history: UFOs are real, our government has secretly studied them for decades, and we have absolutely no idea what they are. The news exploded, as any child of the “truth is out there” 90s would expect, and then in less than a week the story vanished from public consciousness. At first, I found this confusing. But then, as the trend continued with each subsequent breaking UFO story, I began to find it disturbing. Here was a potentially existential threat that somehow evaded prolonged, serious focus. Why?
The global UFO discourse was and remains a kind of amnestic social phenomena, which I wrote about, along with the entire class of “damned data” we have repeatedly, for centuries, forgotten we know, in a piece called Fire in the Sky. Central to the conversation is something called an antimeme, as defined by the author Qntm in his fantastic story There is No Antimemetics Division. Imagine — if you can — “an idea with self-censoring properties.” If a thought or fact, no matter how incredible, by its nature faded from memory faster than it spread, it would effectively be invisible. I’ve been thinking a lot about invisible ideas these last few weeks, and the obvious question: how do you fight what you can’t see? How do you save what you can’t remember?
High-level, from our heroic history to our boundless future, I’m a little bit concerned America is disappearing. Nuclear power, and our journey through space, devoured by an antimeme? Meanwhile, even the details of our most known present danger seem to evade us.
Let’s talk about Variant Xi.
Nothing Nu to see here, folks. A few weeks back, Abbie Richards, a comedian, left-wing activist, and TikTok celebrity who now incredibly self-identifies as a “disinformation researcher,” updated a viral chart of “conspiracies” she previously released in 2020, just after our first, “mostly peaceful” summer of Covid.
With help from social media influencers tempted by the TikTok talking head’s obvious partisan politics — predictably including the New York Times’ Kara Swisher — the new chart went viral, reinforcing a kind of ‘trust the experts’ meme popular among the bluechecks in our press and government. But more notable than the clownish thrust of the ‘trust me’ meme was the new chart’s omission of the phrase "covid-19 made in a lab," a hypothesis previously categorized by Abbie as "a danger to yourself and others." Not "we have questions." Not even "false." This idea could literally hurt you.
A year ago, discussion of any possible lab leak at the Wuhan coronavirus factory was considered harmful. Remember — if you can — claims concerning the lab leak were censored across Facebook up until May. If clearly capable of recollecting Abbie’s previous analysis, one would naturally call into question the validity of her current opinion on dangerous ideas. Maybe some follow-up questions: where is this person getting her news, is that source of news chronically wrong, if so why? Ignorance? Malice? At the very least, we should certainly stop listening to this person. New York Times columnists should certainly stop sharing this person’s content. But beating the dead media horse is not why I’m here.
This particular piece of lab leak wrongness did, inadvertently, get me wondering — with the hypothesis reclassified by our truth arbiters as a newly-permitted subject of thought, why aren’t we thinking about it?
Why haven’t I been thinking about this?
The day after Thanksgiving, word of a new Covid-19 variant rapidly coursed social media. What we were calling “Nu” when I woke up became, by that afternoon, “Omicron.” From the top of the pandemic, the World Health Organization has named Covid variants after letters in the Greek alphabet:
“Nu,” the WHO said, was confusing. But why skip “Xi”? The problem here, we were told, was associating the virus with a popular name, which just happens to be shared by the current Chinese dictator. This is all of course a lie. “Nu” wasn’t skipped because it was confusing. The name was already in use when the confoundedly-influential WHO redacted it, which is something most people — that day — promptly forgot. The redaction of “Nu” was only initiated to soften the overtly political omission of “Xi,” on behalf of the genocidal dictator responsible, regardless of intent, for the worst pandemic in a century. Do we remember this?
Are we recollecting these facts?