This is the point where the fateful Möbius twist begins. This is the point at which truth hurts. This is where we separate those who want to tell the whole truth, from those who only want another ideological cause célèbre to rally behind.
We must grow into the intellectual conscience and emotional maturity required to tolerate these two statements side by side, without allowing either to neutralize the force of the other:
SARS-CoV-2 is not at all deadly and therefore does not qualify as a pandemic. The COVID affair was a case of what I call mass aggressigenic hysteria.
SARS-CoV-2 was engineered in a laboratory and for that reason alone should be taken seriously. Long COVID is probably a consequence of this engineering.
Truth is n-dimensional, and takes no leave from our narrow expectations nor gives any quarter to our hopes.
Despite what we skeptics might wish, long COVID is all too real.
I have sought to be unyielding in my insistence that the COVID affair gained the traction and prominence it has, because it lit a match under the gunpowder of firstworld frustration: for at least 2 years, COVID was a case of mass hysteria on an unprecedented scale. But there is so much happening at once in all this, that the whole story could never possibly be simple, nor convenient, nor ideologically aligned. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is not a scam, nor was the entire panic somehow orchestrated by an unimaginable global conspiracy, and unfortunately, while not at all deadly by itself, the virus does have curious properties which should be taken seriously.
I'm proud of the fact that I never sought to hide this from myself, and wrote all this in my book as early as the spring of 2021. Since then, I've done more research concerning the mechanism of long COVID and most importantly, I have personal experience with it which has convinced me all the more of my initial intuition: the whole thing stinks. Everything about this is upside down:
We're told the virus is deadly: it's not remotely deadly, which only a glance at the "infection fatality rate" across ages tells you.
We're told the virus was not engineered and did not come from the Wuhan Institute of Virology: its fantastic ability to invade human epithelial tissue says otherwise, as does its origin in Wuhan 15 minutes from the most advanced virology laboratory in China where they had previously declared their success in developing precisely this kind of virus from the circulating bat virus known as "SHC014" - as does common sense, and the merest familiarity with human hubris. There's been more than one highly qualified, extremely fair investigation of this question: to my eye this all looks like elaborate avoidance of the obvious.
We're told endlessly about "new cases": yet the virus is known to be so extremely virulent and largely asymptomatic that in all likelihood, every human being on planet earth has had the disease at least once by now, and the majority of urban dwellers have probably never been rid of it since first exposure in early 2020.
All attention has been on the sick and dying: while comorbidity has been conflated with conspiracy theory, and almost no one has studied the effect on the young and healthy - yet in my opinion this is all that really matters and has ever mattered. The young and healthy are the future and keystone of the human race, not the moaning geriatric sea of avarice and waste.
Therefore only now, years later, is general attention finally turning to what I noticed the very first time I acquired this nasty little bug: an unsettling power of immunoevasion. Only now that the ceremony of histrionic and demonstrative fear has waned, only now that the gratifications gained from pretending the damn thing was killing healthy people, has the general populace begun to reluctantly admit what's seemed extremely obvious to me for years: it doesn't make you sick, it makes you unsick.
A word to those readers who refuse to believe anything "the Science" says anymore, and have learned to doubt not only the existence of "long COVID" but SARS-CoV-2 itself: how could someone like myself, who strives to be unyielding and more accurate than anyone else in diagnosing the COVID affair as mass hysteria, consider recent COVID research anything but collective lies and posturing? I say as much freely, when it comes to social psychology. I am only too glad to swaggeringly dismiss the reigning consensus of whole fields, such the history of morals, the definition of consciousness, and the methods of sociology.
The secret we must learn, is that the human creature tends to tell the truth in the minute details, while gladly telling monstrous lies as long as they span further than individual responsibility. We prefer the big lie to the petty lie. The modern human being will not cheat his taxes, will not cut in line, will fill out applications truthfully - but he will also gladly live a lie and participate in obscene falsehoods as long as they are socially advantageous. For example, the explicitly religious may profess absurd things which no one actually believes, but they drive their cars sensibly enough, they bake cakes and write books and ride bicycles without a trace of absurd belief; they make just as good chemists and mechanics and logicians and computer scientists - in some ways they are in fact more sane, because their anxieties and absurdities have a terminus and a harmless sphere of activity...
These biologists are therefore to be trusted when they proudly speak of the details of their science. When they talk about "ACE2 receptors", "Type I Interferons", and "STAT1 transcription factors", they are telling the truth. When they go along with the peasant-superstition of ignoring comorbidities in supposed infection fatality rates, they are telling lies. They are never to be believed as soon as they begin interpreting and advising. As soon as they speak of the "social good", as soon as they put on their moral costume, as soon as they appear "concerned" and correct - we have learned to laugh and move on.
Here's a finding worth internalizing: Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC), commonly referred to as "long COVID", are observed in 30–70% of individuals post SARS-CoV-2 infection. My guess is that this number is actually much closer to 100%, and that the symptoms are only masked by other chronic illnesses: it's already a very crowded and depressing elevator ride, here in the overburdened and underutilized modern body...
It's one thing to study infection fatality rates, age distribution charts, and comorbidity data: almost anyone can do that much and it required therefore only the merest intellectual conscience to realize how much everyone was lying to each other and themselves about the deadliness of COVID. But studying the possible mechanism and implications of long COVID is an entirely different matter requiring an education in immunology, genomics, transcription factors, and cell signaling: fields which are brimming with impressive findings and complicated nomenclature which add up to almost more ignorance than we started with, because this fundamental ignorance of the bewildering complexity of vertebrate life gets gussied up in arrogant but still shallow science which lacks respect and awe before biological reality... Probably a contributing factor in how and why we ended up in this mess, yes?
Therefore, I don't want to pretend that I'm fully qualified to interpret the mountain of research concerning COVID's effect on the immune system. However, due to the way COVID has polarized us, there is a serious dearth of sane interpretation and so I feel forced to research primary sources for myself - as is almost always the case with anything important. One finds generally only three approaches:
Opportunistic fearmongering: most talk about long COVID is so overdetermined by the manifold delights of hysterical displacement, that it amounts to intolerable nonsense.
Myopic tinkering and cowardice: the biologists qualified to summarize and interpret the data, are so absorbed by the minutiae of their findings and their own petty rivalries in the burgeoning fields of cell signaling and epigenetics, that they almost unfailingly cannot see nor speak articulately of the bigger picture. A certain professorial myopia is to be expected, but this factor combines with the atmosphere of political terror to produce scientists who hide behind the details - and anyone who steps out of line to say the obvious seems to be simply ignored and cannot get published.
Rabid cynicism of the bystander: there is a small but vocal minority of skeptics who have become so nauseated by the moral fraud and cognitive dissonance at work in the last few years, that they will tolerate absolutely no talk of any danger relative to COVID. Many of them believe long COVID is merely hypochondria - and no doubt much of it is.
Let's get something straight. "Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome" (SARS) is a syndrome; it is not a cause of disease. Both CoV-1 and CoV-2 cause SARS. Somehow in the midst of all this noise and nonsense, most of you seem to have forgotten or never fully understood, that what we're dealing with is a novel virus in a family of viruses which causes a well documented syndrome - namely both SARS and MERS.
The SARS coronaviruses use various mechanisms to hamper IFN production and response. Consequently, target cells proximal to the site of the initial infection fail to receive critical and protective IFN signals, allowing the virus to spread and replicate without hindrance. A hallmark of SARS-CoV-2 infection is impaired IFN-I and III production and responses, which masks the IFN-related fever symptoms and leads to naive spreading of the virus.
Quoted from "An aberrant STAT pathway is central to COVID-19".
Long COVID both is and is not a mystery.
It's been known for many years that SARS-CoV-1 suppresses interferon signaling (IFN) and demonstrates post-infection sequalae that may last 6 months. SARS-CoV-2 follows the same pattern: therefore long COVID is no mystery.
While the cluster of symptoms known as "Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome" is well documented, and many of the mechanisms which cause it are fairly well understood, the reasons behind the post-infection sequalae of the SARS coronaviruses are not fully known. In addition, SARS-CoV-2 shows key differences from its predecessor which may contribute to its longevity in the body.
Therefore long COVID is a minor mystery: although one which I believe is relatively unimportant to solve in theory - much more important is to solve it in your body, which most of you are already working on, whether you know it or not.
Even without any special intervention, I believe any healthy immune system can and will defeat long COVID. I am not in the business of handing out concrete medical advice, therefore I will remain silent about my own tactics: but finding this information is relatively easy, and requires careful personal experimentation in any case - anyway personal experimentation is always the healthy attitude towards health, not the one-size-fits-all barbaric reductionism of biomedical modernity, in which healthy bodies represent a threat to the thriving industry of shuffling doomed cases around an unthinkably expensive junk drawer of savage interventions... One day our age will be considered medieval and barbaric, because of the arrogant brutality of our attitude toward the human body.
What I can tell you, is that no one knows for sure what long COVID is. My best guess at the convergent mechanisms are:
Extremely effective mACE2 binding. SARS-CoV-2 is many times more virulent than CoV-1 and seems to invade various tissues of the body with a ferocity that's difficult to account for, other than the efficiency with which it binds to the cellular transmembrane protein site known as "(membrane) angiotensin-converting enzyme 2", or mACE2. Every virus has to sneak through the cell wall somehow, and this one does so by presenting a key for opening one of the trapdoors along that wall. This efficiency seems to be driven by the infamous "furin cleavage site": otherwise known as the virologist's smoking gun. It's known that CoV-2 binds as much as 20 times more effectively to target cells than CoV-1: this means it infects new hosts more readily, and invades tissues more fiercely.
Immunoevasion. SARS-CoV-2 suppresses interferon signaling in a way similar to CoV-1, but due either to the mACE2 binding efficiency which might create viral reservoirs deep in various tissues, or some other as yet unexplained immunoevasive pathway which CoV-1 did not have, CoV-2 seems to either match or exceed the ability of the first version to persist.
Reverse transcription. There are some highly qualified researchers who are convinced that CoV-2 has the ability to reverse transcribe itself into the human genome: so far they've discovered sufficient evidence to claim that CoV-2 chimera found long after viral clearance are likely due to partial reverse transcription. This does not mean CoV-2 qualifies as a "retrovirus" in the same sense that HIV does, because these fragments seem not to be viable. However, the theory does account for persistent positive PCR tests in patients who are clearly not ill. And most importantly, the theory could help account for long COVID: it's possible that the strange persistent mild symptoms in healthy individuals who otherwise never have a problem clearing diseases, are due to a kind of autoimmunity. Infected cells whose genetic material now contain fragments of the virus via "retrotransposon mediation", are theoretically expressing these viral chimera and thereby triggering sporadic immune response, although the virus is actually largely cleared.
In other words, it's very easy to catch, and very hard to eliminate. And even once technically dead, it may have coded itself into infected cells such that the immune system reacts as if it were still present.
All this accounts for my own personal experience with long COVID. I hesitate to resort to anecdote and reveal anything personal - but on the other hand, this entire affair is precisely defined by a profound invasion of the personal by very impersonal forces: what power do we have when some blithering virologist anywhere on the globe arrogates himself to endanger the collective health of the human race, but to take it personally?
What's funny about my case, is that despite my conviction that lockdowns were entirely ineffective and a function of some of the ugliest moral hypocrisy imaginable, I myself have been living in a self-imposed "lockdown" for years - for entirely different reasons. Therefore I represent in several ways an ideal case study:
- I live many miles from any outside human presence.
- During 2020-2021, the span between my visits to civilization ranged as high as 2 months.
- I am very healthy. I hike several miles through my desert backcountry, daily.
- I have an extremely reactive immune system: when I caught swine flu in 2010, I was briefly in mortal danger due to a raging neverending "cytokine storm" - if it had not been for the insight of a decent doctor and the miracle of acetaminophen.
- Because I have traveled and lived in the developing world, I'm familiar with a few serious diseases. For example, I've had dengue fever: the lingering symptoms of long COVID remind me of dengue, which required about 3 months to fully dissipate.
But even dengue and the resulting fatigue eventually cleared: I've never experienced anything like long COVID. What I believe has been happening is this:
- For most of 2020-2021, during every trip to the outside world, I was catching COVID again. This is due to its extreme virulence and the laughable ineffectiveness of lockdowns and the masking policy.
- During the weeks of isolation that followed each exposure, I was fighting off a new infection and possibly variant strains. This leads to a slowly accumulating overload of an immune system which is nonetheless being evaded, due to interferon suppression.
- Most of the infections were asymptomatic - at least they would be considered so in most modern human subjects of the firstworld. What my lifestyle helps reveal, is that this asymptomatic quality is actually an illusion: I could tell, because I exercise vigorously daily, because I expose myself to extremes of temperature, and because I am otherwise much healthier than is common in the firstworld. For more than 2 years now, there's been low-level chronic inflammation in my upper throat and nasal passages, which only becomes noticeable in a harsh cold wind. My supposition, is that nearly everyone has similar symptoms, but they are masked by other problems: lack of strenuous exercise, reliance on sugar and caffeine for energetic input, unfamiliarity with the subtle variances of microbiotic health, dependence on profoundly mood-altering pharmacological weaponry such as SSRIs, and so on.
In other words, most of the firstworld is already so mildly ill with a large variety of systemic problems, that they simply do not have the kind of health which would be discernibly impacted by the disease. Everyone has had it many times over, and likely almost every child on the planet has already developed sufficient natural immunity, despite all the perverse unconscious attempts to sabotage their future.
We're all going to be fighting SARS for the rest of our lives: true. But please remember, with all due sobriety, that we have all been fighting an enormous variety of endemic diseases up to now - including some coronaviruses which cause the syndrome we call the "common cold": the reason young children are sick so often is due to the accumulated backlog of endemic diseases which civilization has been collecting since roughly the agricultural revolution in 8000 BC.
- SARS-CoV-2 is extremely virulent, because it was engineered to adhere to mACE2 cellular receptors in human tissue. This accounts for both its virulence and probably contributes to long COVID.
- Infection is largely asymptomatic.
- It evades immune function, namely via suppression of interferon signaling. This is the same kind of interferon antagonism of CoV-1, which accounts for the asymptomatic presentation and contributes to long COVID.
- The moment it leaked, it was with us forever and all efforts to stop its spread have been futile and more motivated by the desire to oppress each other and express Foucaultian civilizational recursivities, than "save lives".
So what's "long COVID"? The consequences of engineering a virus which already possessed immunoevasive powers, with the perfect mechanism for binding to human lung tissue.
Fortunately, the vertebrate immune system is an awesome power, with multiple redundancies and backups. Defeating one of its primary mechanisms in a very targeted way, as these viruses do, may lead to viral longevity but ultimately a healthy immune system will win via alternate channels. It's a war of attrition: what the research seems to indicate, and what my own experience says, is that the immune system may only be operating at 5% capacity, and thus what could take a healthy system only a few days to overwhelm and destroy, requires months.
Hidden in the COVID research, are hints of a possible longterm autoimmune syndrome. This is the point at which the COVID affair becomes serious again.
Here we should exercise extreme caution in speculation. We should avoid the gratifications of hysteria: dreaming up worst-case scenarios affords a fleeting sense of importance; but more vitally it displaces anxieties into a visible target...
Nevertheless, it's crossed my mind often enough that I believe it's worth saying in a very quiet voice: it's possible that continued reinfection, the gradual establishment of viral reservoirs in the many tissues which express mACE2, and the hypothetical potential for reverse transcription in infected cells, will lead to an AIDS-like syndrome. It's known that a single HIV infection is generally not sufficient to induce AIDS: multiple infections with variant viruses are required to overwhelm the immune system sufficiently, such that AIDS sets in over many years.
But, perhaps this is only likely in the unhealthy: a beta-coronavirus is not HIV. What's most likely, is that SARS-CoV-2 will continue to circulate endemically like any other virus, becoming less virulent with increasing herd immunity, and despite all its special abilities only represent another single notch down in the collective human health. Civilized humanity has dealt with many diseases much more serious than this for the last 3000 years: smallpox, typhoid, cholera, tuberculosis, and so on. Only another small step down the ladder from Pleistocene health, only another dent in the door of this jalopy, only another bean to count.
Therefore, although COVID represents something extremely dangerous from at least two angles:
- Emotionally stunted virologists fucking around with biological timebombs without adult supervision.
- The potential for mass hysteria in a globally united humanity thirsty for anonymous mass violence.
My guess is that in the final analysis, the virus called SARS-CoV-2 is actually trivial next to several other factors impacting human health: for example, the sugar epidemic. An annihilated microbiome due to the uncontrolled consumption of sucrose next to the uncontrolled consumption of antibiotics is probably orders of magnitude more serious to the future of the human race than SARS ever could be. The obesity syndrome and its associated endocrine imbalance is probably many times more urgent to address... But those are real problems, and real problems require mature adults - and emotional maturity grows scarce in an atmosphere of pampered anxieties and emboldened hysterical displacement.