Comparing the 9/11 Al-Qaeda attacks to the COVID-19 pandemic could be annoying or gimmicky, like Andrew Yang or fisting. But, to quote a quirky LGBTQIA+ poet, there might be “real toads'' in it.
I mean, there are similarities: Paul McCartney sang “Freedom” and celebrities crooned “Imagine”; Rudy Giuliani was America’s mayor and Andy Cuomo was America’s governor; people were afraid that any brown man was really a deadly suicide bomber and peeps were scared that any person of any color was actually an agent of a possibly lethal flu.
Of course, both crises provided content for pundits and scholars. After 9/11, Gnome Chomsky was all like, “Duh, dude.” And Tomcat Friedman, Prince Andrew Sullivan, et al., were all, “Yaaas, queen! Brainless, backwards Muslims in the Middle East, it’s time for your makeover!” After COVID-19, Giorgio Agamben was like, more or less, “Duh.” And Slavoj Žižek was all, “Watch out, capitalism—here comes the Third International!”
In a bit of plot twist, Agamben’s analysis was slammed not just by NYT types but by the Verso class as well. Žižek even basically said, “Sorry, bud, no dice.”
Alas, one year later, the “techno-medical despotism” that Agamben warned about doesn’t read so eccentricly. As with 9/11, COVID-19 has compelled increased surveillance—an iteration of “see something, say something”— with people squealing on people for not masking, for not socially distancing, for not hand sanitizing, for questioning “the curve,” for being unsure about vaccinations, and for… gulp… doubting Dr. Fauci.
In another peculiar plot twist, this time around, blame wasn’t dropped on the backwards, brainless Muslims in the Middle East but on the brainless, backwards people in “the other” parts of the United States. Yup, the reason why coronavirus was spreading like cream cheese was because those plebs in Michigan wouldn’t wear masks, wouldn’t social distance, and wouldn’t shelter in place. It was their fault.
It certainly wasn’t the fault of past American governments. After all, it’s not like politicians ever had the authority to create a healthcare system that could capably handle a pandemic. That’s babble. Politicians are just here to make Americans feel good. Like, Barack Obama makes people feel so good. The people in the Midwest and the South don’t.
These people weren’t under the influence of “religious totalitarianism” (h/t Friedman). They were intoxicated by the performances of Donald Trump. In a dizzying turn of events, the people linked to Islamophobia were portrayed as if they were Middle East Muslims. Meanwhile, people supposedly on the side of Muslims advanced their worldview by mixing tropes about Middle America and the South with stereotypes about Muslims and the Middle East. To quote a real doctor—Dr. Peter Venkamn—“Have we all gone mad?”
To make matters messier, one party didn’t act overly concerned about the crisis. That’s not what happened during 9/11. Once the airplanes tore those Twin Towers, both Republicans and Democrats were fussing, fretting, and fulminating. Trump had no bullhorn. He was like, “Bro, chillax.”
Imagine if Trump was president during 9/11 and he maintained such a flippant attitude? No way. People dying from respiratory droplets in hospitals (or… sorry, Cuomo… nursing homes) doesn’t pack the dramatic punch of people dying from hijacked airplanes. Unlike COVID-19, the theatrics of 9/11 would have found equity (winky face emoji) with Trump’s explicit sensibilities. Trump, as his time in office proved, would have played along and terrorized and tortured the butts of Muslims in the Middle East.
Speaking of butts, as with 9/11, COVID-19 gave America a chance to return to their queerness. For 9/11, Americans let their rainbow flag fly by writing “up your ass” on missiles and Dennis-Coopering Abu Ghraib prisoners. After eight years of safe-sex Obama, Trump, in tandem with COVID-19, showed America that rawdogging was great again.
Someone must have seen the perpetually maskless president and wondered, “Has that dude been reading Tim Dean’s Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking?” Trump’s jolly posture towards his coronavirus diagnosis might remind some of Scott O’Hara. This gleeful gay punk porn star wrote, “I’ve had many worse things happen to me than being infected with HIV.”
Unfortunately, just as George Bushy's bellicose showdown with 9/11 perpetrators (real or imagined) helped put his regime in retrograde, Trump’s bellicose dismissal of COVID-19 assisted his downfall.
Now... sigh... it’s the Democrats turn. The Dems don’t have a Karl, an Addington, or a Dick. Although, they’re not totally against manipulating a national crisis. Pelosi’s posse refused to negotiate a second stimulus bill until after the prez election. It was as if Democrats were saying, “If you want more money, vote blue.” Sort of like Republicans were once saying, “If you don’t want more 9/11’s, vote red.” Then there’s Joey B’s “dark winter” (cf. Georgie B’s “axis of evil”), Rochelle Walensky’s “impending doom” (cf. Condoleezza Rice’s “mushroom cloud”), and Joey’s gov. changing guidelines and messaging as if they were rebooting the color-coded terrorist threat ranking system from Georgie’s gov.
As with reboots, it doesn’t appear as if the coronavirus will be as vigorous as the terrorist “virus” (see Jean Baudrillard). Dems don’t look primed to use COVID as a path to expand their micro majority. They lack the killer touch and, in general, are crappy at politics.
To give Democrats credit, they engineered an impressive censorship campaign and won a presidential election by running a zombie man. Still, Dems don’t have the imposing visions of Bush and co. Listen to Joey B: D’s don’t want to “fundamentally change'' anything. They just want to go back to the way life was and, you know, pummel brown people in the Middle East.
In a certain light, America is just an interminable bukkake scene. Bukkakes aren’t amenable to harmony, restrictions, or social distancing. People need the freedom to get close and shake their goods, bodies, and drones all over the place.
So next time someone scolds you for not conforming to coronavirus protocols, it’s not because they’re good and you’re bad, it’s because they’re a self-righteous (and probably godless) dick. And remember, when it comes to bukkake content, it’s the dicks that are disposable and the selfless girl (or boy or nonbinary) at the bottom that there’s only one of.
In other words—or in the words of Matthew 5:5—“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” In the early aughts, the meek consisted of Al-Qaeda and their spinoffs. Currently, the meek is on the side of the coronavirus franchise.