Winter Oak

Winter Oak
4 Dec 2023 | 10:00 am

1. A poet against “this foul industrial epoch”

by Paul Cudenec

Today marks the 130th anniversary of the birth of Herbert Read, one of the thinkers who has most shaped my own political philosophy. This seems like an appropriate occasion on which to share the profile of him that I wrote for the organic radicals website. The film linked at the end is also well worth watching.

herbert read2

Herbert Read (1893-1968) was a prominent intellectual, poet and anarchist who, while championing modern British art, was strongly critical of modernity as a whole.

He was a strong supporter of the anarchist struggle in Spain, co-founded the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London and was a friend both of George Orwell and of Carl Jung, whose works he published and whose philosophy deeply influenced his mature thought.

Like Orwell, Read refused to let his work and activities be restricted by any external political line, insisting instead that "it is perfectly possible, even normal, to live a life of contradictions". (1)

Read's roots in rural Yorkshire meant he always had an affinity for nature and the countryside and a equal dislike for industry.

He despaired of living in what he termed "this foul industrial epoch", (2) which, as he understood even then, was "a disaster that is likely to end in the extermination of humanity". (3)

To find oneself living in such a nightmarish world obviously had a deep effect on one's own state of mind and relationship to society. Declared Read: "Deep down my attitude is a protest against the fate that has made me a poet in an industrial age". (4)

He said the modern poet did not write for fame nor for money, but to express his own bitterness at the disparity between "the ugliness of the world that is and the beauty of the world that might be". (5)

yorkshire industry

He was trapped in a mechanical civilization, surrounded by steel cages and the futile voices of slaves, wrote Read. "To be part of civilization is to be part of its ugliness and haste and economic barbarism. It is to be a butterfly on the wheel. But a poet is born. He is born in spite of the civilization.

"When, therefore, he is born into this apathetic and hostile civilization, he will react in the only possible way, he will become the poet of his own spleen, the victim of his own frustrated sense of beauty, the prophet of despair". (6)

Read saw clearly that industrialism was not just damaging to the natural environment and our physical health, but also to our ways of thinking and being, separating us from the very basis of our existence.

He wrote: "It is as simple as that: we have lost touch with things, lost the physical experience that comes from a direct contact with the organic processes of nature… We know it – instinctively we know it and walk like blind animals into a darker age than history has ever known". (7)

Totes Meer (Dead Sea) 1940-1 by Paul Nash 1889-1946
Totes Meer (Dead Sea) by Paul Nash

As an art critic, Read had long been an enthusiast for modern art as an expression of the contemporary human spirit in all its disconnected and industrialised agony.

George Woodcock explains that he had hoped it would awake humanity to "growing threats to the quality and even the existence of human life, posed by unrestrained technological development", but that Read had plunged into pessimism and "the emergence during the 1960's of something approaching despair as he realizes that the new movements in painting, and particularly Pop Art, are themselves infected by the disintegration from which society as a whole is suffering". (8)

In the face of this modern disintegration, Read developed an anarchist philosophy based on the idea of an alternative "organic society" (9). As he explained in The Philosophy of Anarchism: "There is an order in Nature, and the order of Society should be a reflection of it". (10)

This natural organic order did not just exist in the physical structure of our world, Read realised, but also extended into our own minds – which were, after all, part of the selfsame physical natural reality.


Woodcock tells how Read had "an apocalyptic experience" of personally seeing the form of the ancient mandala, the symbol of the self as a psychic unity, appear spontaneously in modern children's artwork.

At that point it struck him that there existed "a collective unconscious which is in harmony with nature but out of harmony with the world created by abstract systems and conceptual thought". (11)

This collective entity, a living being on another level to that of the individual, obviously had to have some way of "thinking", which was where poets, artists and the rest of human culture came in.

Read wrote about this process, and the way it fitted in perfectly with anarchist thinking, in his 1960 book The Forms of Things Unknown.

He explained: "We are to be kept alive in more than one sense: first as individuals, then as communities, and finally as a species. To keep ourselves alive as individuals we must practise mutual aid – that is to say, we must form communities.

"It now begins to look as though, in order to keep alive as communities, we must practise mutual aid at the community level, and eventually as a species. In order to practise mutual aid, we must communicate with one another…

"The idea that words and symbols could be used positively, as synthetic structures that constitute effective modes of communication, does not seem to have occurred to our leading psychologists.

"Myth and ritual, poetry and drama, painting and sculpture – they have treated these creative achievements of mankind as so much grist for the analytical mill, but never as conceivably the disciplines by means of which mankind has kept itself mentally alert and therefore biologically vital". (12)

For this communicative mutual aid to work, a society needed a living culture and "there is no culture unless an intimate relationship, on the level of instinct, exists between a people and its poets". (13)

Henry Moore at work
Henry Moore at work

Read came to see the role of the individual artist within the context of the wider living cosmos of which she or he was part. "The artist is merely a medium, a channel, for forces that are impersonal", (14) he wrote.

He depicted the spontaneous emergence of a psychic energy which, passing through the brain, expressed a variety of forms, "the typal forms of reality" (15) by which the universe existed. By giving them a shape and presence on the worldly plane, the artist therefore made these principles comprehensible to other human beings.

This organic functioning of human culture could never be possible under capitalism, where everything was reduced to the desire for money. But neither, saw Read, could it be possible under statist Marxism, which rejected any "mystical" anarchic ideas of organic collective entities.

He wrote: "It will be said that I am appealing to mystical entities, to idealistic notions which all good materialists reject. I do not deny it. What I do deny is that you can build any enduring society without some such mystical ethos.

"Such a statement will shock the Marxian socialist who, in spite of Marx's warnings, is usually a naïve materialist. Marx's theory – as I think he himself would have been the first to admit – was not a universal theory. It did not deal with all the facts of life – or dealt with some of them only in a very superficial way". (16)

tree and roots2

Read's organic vision of life was relevant not just for society as a whole, but also for his own personal understanding of what it meant to be an individual human being, doomed to a mortality which some can only see as absurd.

He saw himself as a metaphorical leaf on a collective tree: "Deep down in my consciousness is the consciousness of a collective life, a life of which I am part and to which I contribute a minute but unique extension.

"When I die and fall, the tree remains, nourished to some small degree by my brief manifestations of life. Millions of leaves have preceded me and millions will follow me; the tree itself grows and endures". (17)

As an anarchist, Read's spirituality was not of the passive, quietist variety too commonplace today, as he was keen to stress.

He wrote: "Faith in the fundamental goodness of man; humility in the presence of natural laws; reason and mutual aid – these are the qualities that can save us.

"But they must be unified and vitalized by an insurrectionary passion, a flame in which all virtues are tempered and clarified, and brought to their most effective strength". (18)

Video link: To Hell With Culture – a film about Herbert Read, art and anarchism (55 mins)

NPG P1681; Herbert Read by Rollie McKenna

1. Herbert Read, cit. George Woodcock, Herbert Read: The Stream and the Source (Montreal/New York/London: Black Rose Books, 2008) p. 4.
2. Herbert Read, Poetry and Anarchism, cit. Woodcock, p. 214.
3. Read, cit. Woodcock, p. 232.
4. Read, cit. Woodcock, p. 206.
5. Herbert Read, Phases of English Poetry, cit. Woodcock, p. 70.
6. Ibid.
7. Herbert Read, The Contrary Experience, cit. Woodcock, p. 53.
8. Woodcock, p. 202.
9. Herbert Read, The Philosophy of Anarchism, cit. Woodcock, p. 197.
10. Read, The Philosophy of Anarchism, cit. Woodcock, p. 192.
11. Woodcock, p. 246.
12. Herbert Read, The Forms of Things Unknown: Essays Towards An Aesthetic Philosophy (New York: Horizon Press, 1960) pp. 95-96.
13. Read, The Forms of Things Unknown, p. 198.
14. Read, The Forms of Things Unknown, p. 61.
15. Read, The Forms of Things Unknown, p. 63.
16. Read, The Philosophy of AnarchismThe Anarchist Reader, ed. by George Woodcock, (Glasgow: Fontana, 1986) p. 74.
17. Read, The Contrary Experience, cit. Woodcock, pp. 50-51.
18. Read, The Philosophy of Anarchism, cit. Woodcock, p. 235.

Winter Oak
2 Dec 2023 | 7:55 am

2. Targeted and smeared by the fake-left thought police

by Paul Cudenec

A new broadside of deceitful smears has been unleashed by the system against those of us who challenge its techno-totalitarian Great Reset agenda.

Once again, this has been carried out by means of a fake-left proxy, in this instance the Marseille Infos Autonomes (Mars-Info) site in France, which claims to be a "free, anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian and revolutionary" media source.

And, with utter, laughable, predictability, the propaganda line it takes is that being a freedom-loving anti-industrialist makes you a far-right "reactionary"!

I come under particular attack in this article, published on November 29, 2023, and entitled 'Le naufrage réactionnaire du mouvement anti-industriel' ('the reactionary shipwreck of the anti-industrial movement').

It is evidently considered so important by Mars-Info that it has also been produced in two different pdf formats.

The piece describes me as an "anarchist" merely in inverted commas and calls me "transphobic, antisemitic et antifeminist". All three of these labels are lies, with the first two being cynical distortions of my opposition to the transgender/transhumanist industry and of my work in exposing the malevolent power of the (Jewish) Rothschilds, while the third accusation is never explained even in terms of the authors' own twisted doublethink and seems to be merely a gratuitous insult aimed at further demonising me among their target readership.

I suppose this is happening partly because my work has begun to be known in France, thanks to an article in the anarchist Brasero magazine and an interview in the real-green newspaper La Décroissance.

But I think it also relates to my attendance, nearly a year ago now, at the launch event for an especially radical issue of the environmentalist journal Écologie & Politique and, in particular, to an article I wrote dissecting the language and origins of a smear attack that had just been levelled at those involved.

You can read the whole thing here, if you want, but the key finding from my research was that the four pseudo-environmentalists behind that verbal assault all turned out to work for the French state and/or European foundations promoting vaccines and smart cities!

The authors of the new smear attack were taking no chances of a repeat performance and this lengthy inquisitorial denunciation of contemporary anti-system heretics remains firmly anonymous.

Their shyness about their own identity does not, however, prevent these shady characters from dropping a staggering number of other people's names into their potpourri of disingenuous insinuation.

In fact it reads like a who's who of people voicing common sense and decency in the face of the global cancellation of truth!

Here are some of those attacked:

Cédric Biagini is part of the anarchist publishing house L'Échappée, which produces the excellent Brasero magazine. Author of books about Luddite anti-industrial resistance in France and volontary simple living, he has gone on record to call for vigilance with regards to actual far-right infiltration of the anarchist scene.

The authors of the article concede this – but this still doesn't stop them from condemning Biagini to their dungeon of political incorrectness for having the effrontery to publish articles by unpersons such as myself.

The Grenoble-based anti-industrial group Pièces et Main d'Oeuvre (PMO) are widely admired in France for their opposition to nanotechnology and the transhumanist agenda.

Their scathing report of the take-over of an international anarchist conference by queer-woke thought police featured in our Acorn bulletin in October this year. All this, of course, makes them "transphobic".

Julien Coupat of the famous Invisible Committee was once condemned by the French establishment as "ultra-left", but is now tarred in this article as the darling of "international neonazi networks". Writing enthusiastically about the superb 2022 Manifeste conspirationniste, which Coupat is said to have penned, apparently makes me a very bad person indeed.

English environmentalist writer Paul Kingsnorth is found guilty of the horrific offences of being in favour of Brexit, writing about vaccine apartheid and pointing out that the Covid "pandemic" scenario was rehearsed in advance. He is also accused, without any supporting evidence, of adopting "openly antifeminist" positions and "collaborating regularly with far-right media".

Also targeted is Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben – "who after denouncing 'the invention of an epidemic' compared the unvaccinated to the 'Jews under fascism'" . Take him to the stake and burn him!

Author Bertrand Louart of La Lenteur publishers and the well-known radical Radio Zinzine is another name on the Thinkpol blacklist. His book Réappropriation: Jalons pour sortir de l'impasse industrielle ('Reappropriation: Steps towards a way out from the industrial dead-end') was reviewed in The Acorn last year.

We wrote there that his perspective is very close to our own: "In fact, in the course of 170 pages he invokes no fewer than 14 organic radical thinkers (Miguel AmorósMikhael BakuninWalter BenjaminGuy DebordSilvia FedericiRenaud GarciaFriedrich HölderlinPeter KropotkinGustav LandauerCarolyn MerchantWilliam MorrisGeorge OrwellJaime Semprun and Henry David Thoreau)!"

Using an age-old inquisitioners' technique, the authors attempt to smear Louart by pointing out that he has published articles by someone they have already smeared in the same article, namely Kingsnorth!

One of these they describe as being "violently transphobic" in that it says the concept of "trans children" is "a strategy aiming at the reprogramming of society".

I quite agree with Kingsnorth there, but then I have also been labelled "transphobic", so what could my opinion possibly be worth?

The eco-feminist Jennifer Bilek is a key contemporary voice in exposing the big money behind the transgender industry and its very close links to the transhumanist project. Her 11th Hour blog is highly recommended.

Noting that Jennifer was once part of Deep Green Resistance in the USA, the Mars-Info hatchet piece declares that she has now joined the "extreme right", which will surely come as news to her and to all those who follow her superb work!

Jacques Luzi, editor of the aforementioned Écologie et Politique, is taken to task for publishing the work of the doubly-aforementioned Kingsnorth.

See how easy this smearing thing is?

Terrible man that he plainly is, Luzi has stated his opposition to a totalitarian industrialist future in which genetically-modified babies are created in artificial wombs.

And to think that I got on well with this reactionary monster when we met up in Italy earlier this year!

Feminist Silvia Guerini of the Italian group Resistenze al Nanomondo is at the forefront of the resistance to biotech and transhumanism in Europe. She wrote the article warning of a "world without mothers" featured in The Acorn earlier this year and also conducted the fascinating interview with a previous wave of feminists that we shared on Winter Oak in November.

Needless to say, the smear authors don't mention that she is a very well-connected and active feminist. They can hardly go so far as to call her "anti-feminist", though, so is this why they instead level the insult at her male fellow-campaigners?

Silvia has, it seems, committed the unpardonable sin of mentioning George Soros' funding of the trans cult as well as the complicity of the rainbow-cyborg left in imposing the technocrats' Covid-related tyranny.

How dare she?

Vincent Cheynet is editor of the monthly newpaper La Décroissance ('Degrowth'), which is available in newsagents and kiosks across France. We recently translated part of a remarkable interview the paper carried out with Romain Couillet, a leading French mathematics professor who has called for all research on AI to be halted and for the digital world to be dismantled.

But wait. Cheynet is a "Catholic" – no, say it's not so! – and thus can safely be said to hold "profoundly reactionary positions".

Renaud Garcia is an important contemporary political philosopher who first came to my attention in 2015 when I read accounts of his critique of the postmodernist sabotage of left-wing and anarchist thought.

This stance quickly made him a target of the pro-system left, some of whose representatives turned up en masse when we invited him to speak at our local anarchist library, condemning him in terms very similar to those deployed by the 2023 smearmongers.

Garcia is of course "tainted" by his inevitable multiple connections with people sharing his views, whose reputations have already been besmirched in the same piece.

But it seems that this heretic has also criticised the very type of people writing about him, regarding them – for some strange reason! – as "new inquisitors" reminiscent of Stalinist communists or George Orwell's fictional Ingsoc tyrants.

I noticed from their assaults on me and my writing that the smearing approach adopted by the Mars-Info authors is marked by deep dishonesty.

This even extends to pretending they don't know how the internet works. Sharing and reposting is all part of the game, with reports and articles published on Winter Oak often also featuring on other sites who apparently like the content.

I consider this to be a good thing: the more people that read our articles, the better.

But the inquisitors, apparently desperate for "damning" material, found a stick with which to beat me when they discovered that a piece I published in The Acorn had later been shared by the TruthTalk website.

Choosing to pretend that I was somehow responsible for all the rest of its content, they contrived to triumphantly link it – and thus me! – to Steve Bannon and Donald Trump.

Take also, the attack on Matthieu Amiech, a founder of the anti-industrial publishers La Lenteur and a member of a group warning against the dangers of digitisation. He published a book on the way that the notion of "conspiracy theory" has been instrumentalised by the state and – shock horror! – has dared to question the use of "vaccines" against the moderately-dangerous Covid.

The smearmongers write that at the time he was saying this "there had, for more than five months, been an average of 300 people a day dying from Covid-19 in France. Deaths whose proportion has always been more significant among the working class and ethnic minorities".

In other words, in their totalitarian show-trial world, questioning Big Pharma's jabs is necessarily both anti-working class and racist!

They take a similar line when discussing a piece by Pierre Bourlier, which warned of the tyranny being unleashed under the excuse of Covid.

Apparently horrified by his use of the terms "global oligarchy" and "totalitarian offensive", which they highlight in scare quotes, they go on to complain: "Not a word is consecrated to the deep inequality in national and international access to a preventative medicine which drastically reduces severe forms of the illness and diminishes the risk of sequels".

So, from the authors' narrow dogmatic perspective, any analysis that does not parrot the official fact-checking narratives of the Pfizer Left is to be summarily condemned, with no further thought or discussion?

We certainly saw this to be the case during the Covid years, as well as with each detail of the UNSDG/Great Reset slavery agenda which the fake-left is being used to market and morally enforce.

And much of the modus operandi in this latest dissent-dissing exercise amounts merely to relating opinions or activities which are evidently assumed to be shocking by the brainwashed woke zombies who fall for this kind of propaganda.

No comment is generally provided on why such-and-such statement is considered unacceptable – it seems the groupthink consensus is sufficiently tight to make this self-evident to every member of the flock.

Here are some examples of the dreadful thoughtcrimes apparently committed by me and others, as presented in the article:

  • Mentioning George Soros, in any context
  • Using the term "vitaphobic"
  • Talking about transhumanism
  • Opposing lockdown and masks during Covid
  • Questioning the gravity of the "pandemic"
  • Suggesting there is anything fascistic about Klaus Schwab
  • Using the term 'Great Reset' (unless, presumably, you are Klaus Schwab or Charles Windsor)
  • Applauding the truckers' freedom convoy in Canada
  • Reporting on protests against the vaccine pass in France
  • Referring approvingly to any organisation that the thought police have previously deemed to be "antisemitic"
  • Being in contact with other people who share your opinions
  • Writing about spirituality or a sense of the sacred
  • Admiring René Guénon
  • Referring to "technocracy"
  • Being concerned about 5G
  • Opposing artificial wombs
  • Suggesting that woke dogma is totalitarian
  • Mentioning someone else's opinion that man-made climate change doesn't exist
  • Deploying the terms "globalist elite" or "global oligarchy"
  • Expressing an 'essentialising' love of Nature and the Living

All the authors are really proving with all this is that their opinions on pretty much everything are the complete opposite of those held by me and the others targeted.

We also disagree fundamentally as to what that difference reveals about our respective positions in relation to the status quo.

The authors claim that the anti-industrialist and anti-transhumanist movement is a "front" for right-wing interests that want to "reinforce the dominant order".

I, on the other hand, believe that these authors are themselves working for the dominant order and are trying to stifle fundamentally dissenting voices using the dishonest device of claiming to represent the "left" and thus branding their opponents as being part of the "right".

Once again in this article we hear the familiar voice of the system – the ugly, sneering, sound of professional smearmongers, spooks and hacks spewing out the same old insinuations and guilt-by-associations.

I think that, even on its own, the headline which frames this article as a specific attack on the anti-industrialist movement, aimed at putting off radicals who might be attracted to it, entirely gives away what is going on here.

When you add in the fact that they seek to stigmatise, as reactionary or right-wing, all opposition to specific industrial sectors – Big Pharma, biotech, eugenics – it is only too plain that the anonymous authors are operating on behalf of the global industrial entity and the venal financial interests behind it.

It is worth noting that the anti-industrial movement in France has been identified as a primary enemy by the regime fronted by former Rothschild banker Emmanuel Macron, which has been ramping up both the rhetoric and the repression in the last year or two.

But while the corporate media smears aimed at the general public depict the movement as being an "ultra-left", "eco-terrorist" or "Black Bloc" entity, a different approach is obviously needed when addressing a niche libertarian-left readership.

This is presumably why "antifeminist" had to be added to the list of insults, with no evidence, and also why the article describes the objects of its venom as "authoritarian", again with nothing at all to back this up and despite the glaring fact that most of us are anarchists!

Is it "authoritarian" to condemn the new global fascism and the techno-totalitarian future of slavery it has lined up for us? To oppose lockdowns, obligatory masks and vaccine passports? To stand up for freedom of expression in the face of the truth-cancelling dogma of the transhumanist woke cult?

In conclusion, the attempted use of this "extreme right" smear against freedom-loving anti-industrialists merely reinforces what so many of us have been saying for a long time now, namely that the labels of "left" and "right" have become meaningless.

The real divide is between those who support the technocratic, life-hating, globalist system – such as the authors of the Mars-Info hit piece – and those of us committed to resisting it and bringing it down.

I would like to thank my accusers for making that reality even more obvious.

[Audio version]

Winter Oak
1 Dec 2023 | 10:48 am

3. Catastrophe (Egalitarian Anti-Modernism Part 9)

Outright opposition to modernity is often dismissed as backward-looking or "reactionary" and associated with a rigidly hierarchical or aristocratic outlook. But there is another tradition of resistance to the modern world that has very different ideals and can serve as the basis of an old-new radical philosophy of natural and cosmic belonging, inspiring humanity to step away from the nightmare transhumanist slave-world into which we are today being herded. In this important series of ten essays, our contributor W.D. James, who teaches philosophy in Kentucky, USA, explores the roots and thinking of what he terms "egalitarian anti-modernism".

Year of nineteen hundred and twelve
April the fourteenth day
Great Titanic struck an iceberg
People had to run and pray

– Blind Willie Johnson, God Moves on the Water

How do we get to the genuinely other side of modernity, and hopefully to some good version of that? Thus far we have looked at what we might term 'constructive' approaches. A radical critique of modernity coupled with a vision of a better alternative to work toward. Blind Willie Johnson's song points to another possible path. To many at the time, the sinking of the Titanic was a warning against the human hubris embodied in the industrial age. She was to be one of the greatest accomplishments of that age, was named after Greek divinities, and was vaunted to be 'unsinkable'. She was a symbol of humanity pushing too far. She was also an indication that, despite its great power and confidence, perhaps the modern world was more fragile than it looked. Perhaps modernity is strong enough to close off constructive efforts to transcend it, but perhaps not strong enough to preserve itself indefinitely. It is possessed of an incurable inner dynamic to transcend all limits and to always produce and consume more. Neither limited and fallible human beings nor a finite planet can sustain that forever (could not 'transhumanism' be seen as the attempt to transcend the limits of the human in fulfillment of the modern idol?). There is the sense that it must collapse under its own weight.

That may be the other way we end up getting to the other side. We could call this the 'catastrophic' approach. Modernity, industrialism, capitalism, globalism, the whole shebang collapses before it can be constructively transformed. That would not be a fun time. It could be a time of opportunities for humanity though. We might be like addicts who can't quit their habit till they have some sort of breakdown. Though that is hard, and might kill them, they then get a chance to build a better life on the other side (assuming they survive the catastrophe).

"The Long Emergency"

One author I would place in the egalitarian anti-modernist camp who takes an approach something like this is James Howard Kunstler. I first came across his ideas back in the 1990's via his critique of American urban planning, Home From Nowhere: Remaking Our Everyday World in the Twenty-First Century (1998). He critiqued the development of the American 'suburb' and the urban sprawl it creates. He is a 'new urbanist' and would much prefer livable urban neighborhoods, or small towns, to that which is not neighborhood, not town, and nothing, really.

More to the current point would be his 2005 book The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century. It looks like there are plans to turn this into an updated feature length documentary film as well. His basic thesis is that the modern world cannot sustain itself. He takes seriously the threat of climate catastrophe manifesting itself first in crises of food production and distribution (though in later works he sees food crises more likely to arise from other causes). There are also various societal dynamics that threaten, from global financial Ponzi schemes to cultural exhaustion. Probably most famously is his idea of 'peak oil'. The idea here is that given that oil (and other fossil fuels) are finite, and that the more of them you consume, the costlier it becomes to access the remaining reserves, there will be a tipping point where there is not sufficient cheap energy to keep our world running as it currently does. Further, cheap energy is the foundation on which the modern world is built and it was a bad wager from the beginning given that it becomes ever more reliant on a finite resource.

Kunstler recognizes that modernity is creative in many ways, hence, the long aspect of our current and ongoing emergency. But the catastrophic scenarios mount and the modern world can't get itself out of the issues it creates without ceasing to be modern. Kunstler assumes that somewhere in the convergence of these scenarios, the ship will go down.

"World Made By Hand"

To supplement the more analytic approach he takes in The Long Emergency, Kunstler provides a dramatic portrayal of what a post-catastrophe world might look like in the form of a four novel series. Both the first novel and the series as a whole are called World Made By Hand (the first novel appeared in 2008 and the fourth came out in 2016).

The novels are set, mostly, in and around the town of Union Grove, Washington County, in New York's Hudson valley. The time is "sometime in the not-distant future…".i However, between now and then, much has transpired. There has been a prolonged war in "The Holy Land," possibly over diminishing oil reserves, but that is not explicitly stated. The war had taken a huge toll in lives amongst the contending powers and had nearly exhausted their industrial capacities. Then terrorists ignited 'dirty' nuclear bombs in L.A. and Washington, D.C. This precipitates the rapid collapse of American society with a military coup headed by a rogue general who is then overthrown by "more constitutionally minded" generals, but all that is anticlimactic as society ceases to function along modern lines. In the wake of all of that, the "Mexican Flu" and other maladies drastically diminish the population (by about 75%).

We hear rumors about how other parts of the planet are faring. In later novels we learn that there is an attempt to reconstitute something of a national government in the Great Lakes region and that the American south has been ravaged by racial conflict. A fascist regime headed by a female ex-television evangelist is centered in Tennessee and an African-American republic centered in the deep south, lead by Milton Steptoe, who had run a check-cashing empire, is proving more than a match for them. We'll focus our attention on the central happenings around Union Grove, which serves as a sort of lab for social experimentation in the new world.

On the first page, Kunstler signals that there is a natural basis for human society, which is reemerging in the post-apocalyptic setting when he has a character observe: "Now and then, the fireflies pulsed in unison, mysteriously, as if they all agreed on something we humans didn't know about."ii A general characteristic of the new world is the reappearance of much that is mysterious, along with a bounce back by nature (the streams are clean again and fish populations are rising; trees and other growth are reclaiming the vast pads of concrete). We are eventually introduced to a (good) witch who seems to practice effective earth and sexual magic. We have a mysterious cult leader with supernatural powers. Kunstler often uses female characters to illustrate this reemergence. The above mentioned fascist tele-evangelist may represent the dark aspect of this.

In my reading, the story centers around a handful of micro-societies, each attended by their key and representative characters, which spring up in the wake of the collapse.

Civic Community

This is represented by the town proper of Union Grove. The main characters here are Robert Earle, a carpenter and eventual mayor of the town, Loren Holder, the First Congregationalist Pastor (who is eventually 'healed' by the above mentioned witch), and Ben Deaver, a relatively wealthy farmer on the outskirts of town who utilizes hired labor to work his farm.

Characteristics of life in the civic community include doing things through discussion and mutual consent. Also, civic community is 'impersonal' enough to allow people who might be outsiders in other forms of society to find their niche, represented by a homosexual librarian and portrait painter and a store clerk who has Down's Syndrome. The civic community lacks decisive leadership (something all the other models possess), but seems best at reaching overall decisions.

Feudal Community

This possibility is represented by Stephen Bullock, formerly a Duke educated attorney "with the look of Roman authority."iii Bullock is an authoritarian (somewhat harsh, but ultimately benevolent) leader of something like a feudal fiefdom. He already possessed a large estate when the world went wrong, and in the lead up was wise enough to acquire the sorts of items that would be essential in the new world. His estate still has limited electricity, which has all but disappeared from the rest of the world.

His "servants" are there voluntarily. His version of society provides the most material goods and greatest security, though the least freedom. Like a feudal Lord, Bullock provides safety and succor, demanding obedience and service in return. It is definitely one-man rule. As the novels progress, we get the sense that this form of society is relatively stable, as long as its charismatic leader remains, but suffers certain inherent limitations that mean it will not work as a generalizable model.

Religious Community

This possibility is represented by Brother Jobe who is presented as something of a red-neck huckster, but who is eventually revealed to have also been a Duke educated attorney and is a genuine spiritual leader. However, the real leader the "Church of the New Faith" community is, arguably, a shadowy female character who can see the future and somehow seems to birth new "New Faithers" in litters, an essential function given that the males are largely sterile due to having been located near Washington, D.C. when that nuclear bomb went off.

Life in this community is centered on unity and intensity of faith, along with charismatic leadership. Though there is conformity in faith, Kunstler presents this community as one that is creative (though the New Faith brethren and sisters have sexual relations, they are sterile; Kunstler may be playing off traditional monasticism with its combination of sexual chastity and outward creativity). Brother Jobe is overseeing the breeding of various useful animals, especially Mules. The "New Faithers" form a symbiotic relationship with Union Grove and often possess the skills the town needs and, with the establishment of a bar, sparks a renewal of the town.

Marginal Community

This group is represented by Wayne Karp and his "general supply". Karp's followers are former "motorheads;" even in the "old-timey, old times," as Brother Jobe calls them, they were people on the margins of society. In the new world they run a semi-criminal, though ultimately needed, operation of scavenging the rest of the world for needed items that can no longer be manufactured.

Life in this group is volatile and often violent. Yet, it 'fits' for many who do not find they can accept any of the other models on offer. 'The general supply' is outside the 'law' of the other communities. It is organized more on the lines of a gang.

Social ecology

Kunstler centers the civic option, both in terms of focusing the story on it and in the sense that he seems to think that it is the option that most 'has a future.' However, all the options are presented as having strengths and weaknesses. All represent modes of sociality that have proven durable at various points in history (more durable than our own highly industrialized society) and Kunstler presents them all as possible options in a no longer modern world. Further, they are all shown to be able to cooperate productively with one another. There is a diverse social ecology operating here. That is probably a healthy vision to have of a non-modern world; no 'one size fits all' solutions.

A character observes "everything is local now."iv It could also be said that everything is human scaled. The potential big problems lurking are associated more with the attempts to recreate larger societies like the fascists in Tennessee. Kunstler likes to imagine a variety of genuinely human options for his world and all might feel more authentic than our current situation. The characters have to come to grips with continuing to live in a world that is diminished in many ways from their pervious experience. They seem to have a consensus though that the new times are actually better times in many ways. The basis for this is summed up in a conversation between Robert Earle and his girlfriend (both of whom have been widowed by the harsh new realities):

(Robert) There's goodness here too.

(Britney) Where is it?

(Robert) In all the abiding virtues. Love, bravery, patience, honesty, justice, generosity, kindness. Beauty too. Mostly love.v

Perhaps that is the power that manifests itself in human relationships that is akin to whatever it is that empowers the fireflies to operate in harmony. To the extent that Kunstler might seem to long for a post-catastrophic world, it is probably because so much that is not real and enduring gets stripped away so that the light shines more clearly on what is of genuine value.

Catastrophe and the imagination

Kunstler's World Made By Hand quartet would fit in the 'post-apocalyptic' genre. As that appellation suggests, there is a reflection here of the apocalyptic literature of many ancient religious traditions that assumes that that which had a beginning will have an end. However, the idea of humanity continuing to live in a time after the catastrophe seems to be roughly coterminous with modernity itself, with the first examples of this genre appearing the 1810s and 1820s. Byron and Mary Shelley both wrote works that could fit in this genre.

Certainly, the pace of the production of post-apocalyptic fiction (in literature and film) has picked up in recent decades. The 1970s had all those natural disaster movies (and they haven't stopped coming). The 1980s had aliens and technological tyranny. From the 2000s forward it seems the genre focuses more on human caused catastrophes and human-against-human post-apocalypse scenarios. This is especially true in the world of 'young adult fiction': The Hunger Games series and The Purge series stick out. Of course, our whole fixation on zombies fits here as well. It is as if the culture was, mostly subconsciously, registering our predicament (and fate?).

What's more, one can sense, at least in some cases, the 'end' is not looked toward with unmitigated dread, but with something of a longing. This, I think, is the case with Kunstler. In his occasional writing he constantly sees a new crisis looming which surely must bring consequences which we will not be able to ignore, but the 'long emergency' is awfully long.

However, as a literary genre, it is also one means by which we can project our vision of the good society. Kunstler also does this. It can provide a mental fresh-start situation within which to dream. As a possible reality, it is more sobering, but perhaps no less filled with hope.

i James Howard Kunstler, World Made By Hand, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2008, title page.

ii Ibid, p. 1.

iii Ibid, p. 77.

iv Ibid, p. 15.

v Ibid, p. 226

Winter Oak
29 Nov 2023 | 9:53 am

4. Seizing a free future!

by Paul Cudenec

A lot of interesting comment and debate has been sparked by my recent essay 'When will the real opposition emerge?', both here and on over on Substack.

So, before going any further, I would like to clarify one particular issue concerning cause and effect.

Yes, of course I am well aware that behind industrialism lies the corrupt and usurious financial mafia operating the global Great Racket.

But although we can certainly identify this criminocracy as the culprit, it is industrial development which is the actual physical act of violence with which it is carrying out the murder of our natural world and of human freedom and well-being.

And if you see a murder taking place, it's generally a good idea to try to stop it!

Here, I would like to look at two questions which have been raised concerning the post-industrial future I am suggesting.

i. What would this future look like?
ii. How could we get there?

At the risk of disappointing, my answer to the first question is that it is impossible to tie down exactly what it would look like.

This is because it would necessarily vary enormously from place to place, with differences in environment, climate, culture and individual desires naturally resulting in diverse forms of post-industrial living.

There would no doubt be farms, hamlets, villages and, probably, small towns existing in symbiotic harmony with the surrounding hinterland.

In some places people might live in separate family groupings, coming together only to barter and exchange their surplus produce and to celebrate local festivals.

In others they might prefer communities where children are raised not just by their parents, but by a plethora of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

Some post-industrial humans would want to farm, others to gather, hunt and fish. Some would stay close to their crops and others would embark on seasonal wanderings, finely attuned to the cycles of nature and weather.

Some groups would be inward-looking and somewhat closed to outsiders, except perhaps for the purposes of marriage, while others would welcome travellers with open arms and benefit from the regular infusion of new blood.

Some might recycle and renovate certain fragments of the industrial age – pedal-powered electric guitars or biofuel motorbikes – some would use tools such as watermills, windmills and pumps, while others would seek out even simpler ways of living.

I would add that this new-old way of living, although inevitably more stable that the ever-accelerating downward spiral of toxic industrialism in which we are currently trapped, would not be static.

Life is not like that. Things tend to change over time. People can adapt to new circumstances, learn from experience or from their neighbours.

They may one day decide – at their local "moot" or gathering – that communal cultivation of the land isn't working for them and that it would be better if each family looked after their own patch… or the reverse.

They may decide that they no longer need the products they were getting in trade with the folk from the next valley and decide to forge closer links with communities down on the plain.

Although people would be deeply, even spiritually, aware that the disastrous road to industrialism must never be taken again, they might sometimes introduce some new innovation, having carefully considered the implications for the natural world and the seven generations to come.

On the other hand, they might come to see their agricultural lives as being unnecessarily over-complicated and artificial and thus set off to embrace the wild.

The freedom to do what we wish, without centralised control, is essential to the future many of us yearn for.

Democracy is a corrupted word, like so much of the political language with which we try to formulate our ideas, but in its real sense it has to be the foundation of a healthy organic society.

When individuals and communities – which, after all, consist entirely of individuals! – can decide among themselves how they would like to live, this is a democracy worth having.

As those preferences and values became more deeply embedded in the collective consciousness of the community, over several generations, we would see the re-emergence of the rich tapestry of distinct rooted cultures that covered the world until the globalist bulldozers rolled in.

There would not be, and could not be, any standardised religious dogma or infrastructure, but because all humans source their wisdom and values from the same collective soul, and the same essential truth, there would be a universal metaphysical foundation underlying the multiple beliefs and customs of differing peoples, affinities, histories and geographies.

This real democracy, this self-determination, is also the key to the second question as to how we might get from where we are now (gulp!) to where we would like to be.

The initial move would be to collectively decide that we have had enough of this relentless train ride into the depths of hell and to pull the metaphorical communication cord to bring the "progress" of the machine to a halt.

The next phase would be to agree that we need to pull back from our current levels of industrial destruction and to shift the locomotive into reverse.

When we finally concluded together that we had now pulled safely away from disaster, we would get out of the train and wander off into the countryside, in various directions, to build new lives.

This would ideally be a gradual process, carried out over many decades rather than in a catastrophic collapse, thus allowing us to gently adapt to life outside of the high-tech prison. Part of this adaptation would be a natural, instinctive, adjustment of population levels to match the feeding capacity of the territory in question – most species have this ability.

There's a major obstacle in the way of all this, though – authority.

For as long as we are trapped inside the authority of the system, we will never be allowed to determine how we live. Bear in mind that they don't even want us to have the right to decide what to do with our own bodies, let alone with our world!

So the first thing we need to do is to break free from the grip of that authority, actively wriggle and refuse our collective way out of its control.

As part of that process and in order to encourage others to do so as well, creating a critical mass, it is important to expose the corruption behind the facade of legitimacy with which the system tricks people into going along with its domination.

We should also make it clear that we are not resisting authority just for the sake of it, but because we understand that it is blocking our right to live as we want to, in the embrace of natural order.

For this point to be reached, we – sufficient numbers of us, anyway – will need to have thought about all this and seen through the official narrative of industrialism as real progress and of "development" as both desirable and necessary.

We will have to be motivated, urged on in our resistance, by a profound and resolute desire for this post-industrial world.

The first step of the long journey towards a free future is to start saying – loudly and numerously – that it is out there waiting for us if we have the courage to go and seize it!

[Audio version]

Winter Oak
27 Nov 2023 | 8:01 am

5. When will the real opposition emerge?

by Paul Cudenec

It doesn't surprise me in the least that Jordan Peterson and his ARC organisation are nothing more than controlled opposition, as has now been decisively demonstrated by two articles by Michael Ginsberg and Ursula Edgington and a video from Sonia Poulton.

These fake rebels have not even separated themselves from the politicians and institutions behind the Great Reset, let alone from the underlying financial-industrial complex that is at the root of the problem.

As Michael and Ursula write, the ARC Advisory Board members' "close associations with the WEF, WHO, Gates and Big Pharma, as well as corrupt overseas regimes are all hidden in plain sight".

This has been, as Sonia remarks, a "really interesting period", because "there's been so many people who've come through that gap of the culture wars and, bit by bit, we're discovering that they are not who they claim to be".

I saw the same, a few months back, with Robert Malone, who is advancing the same industrial-imperialist agenda as the World Bank!

Fellow Nevermore contributor Margaret Anna Alice has also now seen through this high-profile "freedom fighter", whom she had previously gone out of her way to defend.

Alexandr Dugin, the Russian thinker marketed to a certain niche milieu as offering a deeply radical alternative to Western ideology, also turned out to be a fraud.

The same is true of the BRICS phenomenon that Dugin promotes, designed to appeal to people who are aware of the corruption of "the West" but who are being conned into cheerleading for the same global mafia masquerading as a "multipolar" alternative.

Remember that the official 2023 BRICS declaration uses the term "sustainable development" 21 times and states: "We reiterate our commitment to enhancing and improving global governance".

This general phenomenon is something that was concerning me at the start of 2022, when I warned that the awakening rebel energy of the Covid-sparked truth and freedom movement had to be rooted in a real understanding of the long-term issues at stake.

In my book The Withway I wrote that a political space had opened up since March
2020 in which it was possible to voice and share the kind of fundamental critique of the global system which was previously considered extremely marginal.

I tried to show that the nightmare imposed upon us under the Covid "emergency" was merely the logical conclusion of our departure from the natural order and the associated domination of power, greed, money and industry.

And I warned of the danger of leaving intact all the infrastructures of oppression, all the weapons of control, which had brought us to this sorry point.

I asked: "Do we want them to be taken up and used against us again by a slightly different gang of rulers, or by the same old gang in one of their regular new disguises?"

We haven't even got as far as getting rid of the old rulers, but it seems likely that anyone stepping forward as the "new broom" sweeping the world clean will, indeed, be disguised representatives of that same old gang.

We live in a maze of political lies, as I wrote in 2021, where any surge of real opposition to the system is always captured by those who have all the power that money can buy and all the money that power can provide.

It seems to me that this hijacking of political movements, so easy when you have unlimited finance and the machineries of the state at your disposal, serves three distinct purposes:

  • It stops them from challenging the system's domination, either by undermining them from within or by diverting them from an approach considered dangerous by those with power.
  • It turns an opposition movement into a weapon of the very forces it initially set out to oppose, while it still gathers support from people rallying to the now-false flag of its original message.
  • The anti-social activities of that corrupted movement can eventually be used to contaminate the reputation and appeal of genuine groups and initiatives who are still true to the original aims of the now-captured movement but, by appearing to be associated with it by labelling or language, are dismissed by other genuine opponents of the system as also being controlled.

We've seen this happen again and again throughout modern history. Look at the way that grassroots popular opposition to repression and the rule of wealth was turned, by Karl Marx and his comrades, into a cult worshipping the state and industrialism, which regarded human beings as mere "workers", units of potential productivity.

When this cult eventually seized power in Russia, it destroyed the beginnings of grassroots popular control that had emerged in the revolutionary period and then set out to crush the peasantry, "modernise" the country and reorganise people's lives to suit the needs of "socialist" industrialism.

I've already written about the way in which the anti-industrial volkisch movement in German-speaking Europe, spurned by the industrialist left, ended up being partly co-opted by the Nazis.

Although the Nazi project was unmistakably ultra-industrialist, the fact that they tricked some anti-industrialists into supporting their rise to power has subsequently been used as a stick with which to beat contemporary anti-industrialists!

A similar thing has happened in recent years with the environmentalist movement. This has been systematically taken over by system-funded NGOs, diverted away from any talk of defending nature from industrialism, made to focus entirely on the "climate" agenda and thus transformed into an astroturf marketing agency for the system's Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The corrupted "environmentalism" promoted by the WEF et al is trying to use the excuse of "saving the planet" in order to impose a totalitarian hi-tech (and thus very ungreen!) global data-slave economy.

As a result, some opponents of that slave system react angrily to those of us who genuinely want to save nature from the destruction carried out by the same forces claiming to be providing "solutions", and accuse us of being on the "side" of the WEF… Once again, we see phase 3 of the manipulation.

How anyone, from any perspective, can swallow the lie that the criminocratic global entity is really "environmentalist" – or wants to de-industrialise the world, rather than just shift the geographical core of that industry – is beyond me.

Everything that it says and does, everything that it is, revolves around industry.

If the very name of its Fourth Industrial Revolution is not enough of a clue for you, maybe ask yourself what is the key word in the term "United Nations Sustainable Development Goals"?

It's not "sustainable", as they would like us to assume, because that's just an adjective to describe the hoped-for durability of so-called "development" – aka industrial destruction.

If you imagine that this financial growth is going to be somehow "dematerialised" by the digital matrix being deployed for the commodification of both nature and humanity, then please remind yourself that there is nothing "green" about the infrastructure needed to build their "inclusive" and "innovative" planet-sized prison and neither is there anything "clean" about the electricity that would be needed to keep it humming and watching and tracing and policing.

Industrialism – the turning of living tissue into dead matter in the interests of profit and control – is the physical reality of the system.

All the time that this physical reality endures – and also expands, for it cannot survive without that "growth" momentum – the system will also endure.

We might have a shiny new management team parachuted in, talking about sustainability and multipolarity and equity and diversity, but they will still be employees of the same old global owners.

It is no coincidence that all the captured "opposition" movements I have mentioned have been pointed in the direction of accelerating industrialism.

Although they are different in some aspects of their ideology, they all really amount to different roads with which to reach the same destination.

Industrialism is everything that is bad about this world: it is the degradation, it is the enslavement, it is the racket.

The system is inherently industrialist and so if we want to be rid of the system we have to be rid of industrialism.

This is not currently a popular stance to take! I wouldn't win any election, anywhere, standing on an anti-industrial ticket.

Because industrialism is the means by which the system exists, our rulers have gone out of their way to ensure that most people never question its domination.

A world without industrialism is dismissed as impossible ("you can't turn the clock back!"), undesirable ("they want to drag us back to the stone age!") and dangerous ("think of all the lives saved by modern technology and medicine!"), with its proponents depicted as insane, naive, reactionary and/or hypocritical – just for finding ourselves living in a modern world that we don't like!

Even if we understand that a non-industrial future is our only hope, it can still remain a little frightening – most of us are descended from several industrially-conditioned generations who have gradually forgotten what it means to live outside the cogs of the masters' machine.

But at the same time it is also, if you think about it, a deeply appealing prospect. A post-industrial world (because yes, we would still be going forward in time, not back!) would have no smart cities or arms industries or power stations or shopping malls or airports or corporate media or chemical factories or WEF or WHO or IMF or UN or World Bank.

It would, however, have fresh air, clean water, healthy soil, trees, plants, animals, birds, insects, sunshine, rain, rivers, mountains, meadows, beaches – and, amidst all of that heaven-sent beauty, men, women and children living with quiet dignity, simple joy and a natural love of freedom.

When an opposition movement finally emerges with that vision in its heart, we'll know that it's for real.

[Audio version]

PS. The other day I discussed some of the issues mentioned above in a wide-ranging 70-minute podcast conversation with Parallel Mike, which you can listen to here.

Winter Oak
24 Nov 2023 | 8:43 am

6. Chesterton Against Servility (Egalitarian Anti-Modernism Part 8)

Outright opposition to modernity is often dismissed as backward-looking or "reactionary" and associated with a rigidly hierarchical or aristocratic outlook. But there is another tradition of resistance to the modern world that has very different ideals and can serve as the basis of an old-new radical philosophy of natural and cosmic belonging, inspiring humanity to step away from the nightmare transhumanist slave-world into which we are today being herded. In this important series of ten essays, our contributor W.D. James, who teaches philosophy in Kentucky, USA, explores the roots and thinking of what he terms "egalitarian anti-modernism".

And Daddy, won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County?

Down by the Green River where Paradise lay

Well, I'm sorry, my son, but you're too late in asking

Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away

– John Prine, Paradise

In this essay we'll take up G.K. Chesterton's writing on 'distributism.' Distributism is an economic theory that has enjoyed minimal real-world application, but is quite interesting. By way of background, we need to keep in mind Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum ('The New Things'; 1891). Leo was the Pope who first named 'Modernism' as a heresy and an evil. In Rerum he declared war on socialism and capitalism. On his view, neither sought the 'common good' and both were dehumanizing. He defends private property along the lines of a natural right to enjoy the fruits of one's labor. However, private property should be used to promote the common good and state regulation is expressly sanctioned. He also promotes the formation of labor unions and the right to a living wage. Further, it also contains the seeds of the ethical idea of the 'preferential option for the poor.'

While he pointed to what some concrete measures might be to mitigate contemporary social evils, he is frustratingly vague on outlining an overall vision of a just society (of providing an 'ism' to contrast to socialism and capitalism). Distributism is way of fleshing out what a humane contemporary economic theory might look like once we reject the modern alternatives.i

Property, for me and for you

In The Outline of Sanity (1926), Chesterton sketches his mature economic theory. His intention is to discern what economics is compatible with genuine human freedom. In a short prefatory poem, the directors of the publisher set up this intriguing contrast:

"The Servile State in Culture means imposed artificiality, transient fashions, Hollywood and pop icons.

The Distributist State in Culture means meritocracy, real art, folk music, serious literature and good beer".ii

Can I have an 'Amen' for folk music and good beer? The modern project, whether in traditional 'right' or 'left' modes, culminates in servility on his view. Both are characterized by the same modern evils of bigness, complexity, lack of respect for the individual person, and disenfranchise the vast majority of the population.

Chesterton opens this work with an attack on capitalism. He observes, "Capitalism is a very unpleasant word. It is also a very unpleasant thing."iii The problem with capitalism is that "The practical tendency of all trade and business today is towards big commercial combinations, often more imperial, more impersonal, more international than many a communist commonwealth…."iv He goes on to define 'capitalism' thus:

That economic condition in which there is a class of capitalists, roughly recognizable and relatively small, in whose possession so much of the capital is concentrated as to necessitate a very large majority of the citizens serving those capitalists for a wage.v

The irony of capitalism is that while it is built on respect for private property, its own mechanisms end up reducing the majority of people to proletarians—those without private property.

He next sets about attacking socialism. Socialism, on Chesterton's understanding, is "a system which makes the corporate unity of society responsible for all its economic processes…."vi Since it combines both economic and political power in the hands of the same people (the state), it does not tolerate any opposition to its dictates. This mean, in terms of justice, "putting all ones eggs in the same basket." Chesterton wants to see lots of competing organizations in society, not centralization. And, he wants to see them being built from the bottom up as much as possible, not imposed top down.

The problem with both capitalism and socialism is the same problem: both abolish small private property. For Chesterton, ever the proponent of liberty for the little guy, "Opposition and rebellion depend on property and liberty."vii In the modern world anyway, "The critic of the State can only exist where a religious sense of right protects his claims to his own bow and spear; or at least, to his own pen and printing press."viii He holds that the true contrary to "property" is "prostitution"; either one has property and a large degree of self-sufficiency or else one must sell oneself.

Chesterton goes on to defend the radically egalitarian distribution of private property. This is the essence of distributism. Human beings, to be human, to be 'sane', must be able to determine their own fate. This can only, realistically, be accomplished if they possess the economic means of remaining independent. That means private property (contra socialism) widely distributed (contra capitalism). How might we achieve this?

We can summarize some of the basic tenants of distributist economics along these lines:

  • Property: Breaking up of large corporations and cartels. Encouragement of the development of small holdings (small scale agriculture; cottage industries). Both in the name of removing on the one hand, and supporting on the other, the material basis of freedom. To the extent that larger scale organizations are necessary, organizing them along cooperative lines.ix
  • Industrialization: Drastically limiting the use of industrial technologies because they inevitably lead to large-scale manufacture.
  • Finance: Advocacy of moral restraints on the market. Just wages, just prices, rent controls; things along those lines.
  • Guilds: Reinstituting guilds to self-regulate the various industries and crafts. Labor unions where there are still elements of capitalist production.
  • The State: Acceptance that the state will have certain necessary functions to perform for the foreseeable future. However, following the principle of 'subsidiarity,'x the state should govern much less in a top-down fashion and much more in a bottom-up fashion by encouraging voluntary associations to carry out community tasks as much as possible.

We get a vision of a society of largely self-sufficient producers in a highly regulated economy (just wages, just prices). Chesterton had rightly deduced that the average person only felt free while at home. Where can the average working person exercise any creativity and freedom? Not in their rented flat. Not in the public housing project. Certainly not on the job. Only in a house they can call their own, paint pink if they wish and on whose little plot of land they can grow some flowers and vegetables, to suit their taste and proclivity. The distributists sought to provide a material basis for maximizing the realm of liberty. This manifested itself in George W. Bush's idea of the 'ownership society', though, sadly, not so much in his policies.

The worst of all possible worlds

Our current overlords propose that 'you will own nothing and you will be happy.' When they say 'you will own nothing,' they mean neither privately nor publicly. The proposal is that the global oligarchs will own everything and they will just 'take care of us'. This might be via automated deliveries in their 'smart cities' or via a 'guaranteed basic income.' I used to be interested in this latter idea. However, it is becoming clear that this is meant as a means of merely sustaining the lot of us once we are rendered useless by the full implementation of artificial intelligence and automation. Lab grown meat, Hollywood, video games, pornography, and sexbots for everyone!

I might be interested in owning some of my own property. I might even be interested in having proportionate ownership in some collective property, democratically managed. What about all ownership in a very few hands? How long do we suppose the 'useful' will provide, gratis, our sexbots, not to mention food and shelter, for those rendered useless? I wouldn't bet on it being for long. The useless, are, unfortunately, useless. But what to do about that? It seems like we have three basic options before us: (1) let the technological capital remain privately held in a few hands and pray for the largess and charity of that class (the direction we are currently heading in); (2) expropriate the technological capital from private hands and administer it publicly (the promise of endless leisure while all the technology does the work; the threat of an ever more effective Leviathan); or, (3) very intentionally place limits on the displacement of humans by technology (but that will still require some overarching authority to impose that scheme). Not a lot of good options. Distributism is a theory of how you might choose option 3.

Home ownership is decreasing throughout the Western world. There are outright housing crises in many countries. Who could claim to be economically self-sufficient on their own means? Participation in some collective ownership of the means of production is off the table. Even contemporary 'socialists' don't venture such a bold proposal as seizing the means of production. No more 'expropriating the expropriators.' Socialism is apparently reduced to virtue signaling, bogus 'green' proposals to enlarge governmental bureaucracies, and making Starbucks baristas feel included and valued (not valued in the sense of paying them a decent wage, just 'affirmed').

Some sort of collective decision making seems essential. 'Let alone' governance means, as Chesterton and others deduced, monopoly and oligarchy and increasingly extensive automation. Complete collectivization means totalitarian communism. There must be some middle ground of public decision making and private enjoyment. Distributism provides one way of thinking about this. Give me liberty or give me sexbots!

You can't get there from here

My dad, long before the time of Google Maps, used to like telling a humorous tale of a stranger who stopped by asking 'how do you get to such and such a place,' and the wizened local responding, 'you can't get there from here.'

Unfortunately, we have come to a place civilizationally where of none the places it is easy to get to are very appealing. And maybe you really can't get to a good place from here. Chesterton wants to insist that no matter how hard or unlikely it might be for us to reestablish a decent human society, it is possible, if very difficult, to get there from here. That hope might be the hope we most need to cultivate. Thinking about politics has gotten interesting again and the consequences seem momentous. The times are calling again, as they did in Chesterton's day, for "impractical" thinkers.

i 'Corporatism' would be the main other concrete theory developed out of this strand of thought. This formed the basis of the various Christian Democratic parties in Europe in the mid-twentieth century. 'Liberation theology' might be a third, but was criticized by Popes John Paul II and Bendict XVI.

ii G.K. Chesterton, The Outline of Sanity, IHS Press, 2001, p. 21.

iii Ibid, p. 26.

iv ibid, p. 26.

v Ibid, p. 27.

vi Ibid, p. 28.

vii Ibid, p. 29.

viii Ibid, p. 29.

ix An example of a business organized along distributist lines is the Mondragon Corporation in Spain (it is in the top ten Spanish corporations): Introduction, MONDRAGON Corporation | MONDRAGON Corporation (

x The idea that human societies naturally have a variety of levels of association, from the family up through community and neighborhood associations to the state. Further, the idea that the social institutions further up that scale will tend to try to replace or usurp the function of the associations below them and that this is illegitimate.

Winter Oak
22 Nov 2023 | 10:14 am

7. Authenticity is the antidote to anti-culture

by Paul Cudenec

Such is the wit and insight of fellow anarchist author Darren Allen that I can imagine a parallel universe in which he is a household name in our native UK, a national treasure of the "love-him-or-loathe-him" variety.

His latest works would be seen in the window displays of big bookshops from Falmouth to Fort William, he would have a column in one of the heavier Sunday newspapers, a weekly slot of whimsy on BBC Radio 4 and be a regular guest on Have I Got News For You.

But this scenario is impossible because Darren's deep critique of the modern world makes his views entirely unacceptable to those who own and run all the big bookshops, newpapers, radio stations and TV channels.

Furthermore, Darren would not be expressing what he expresses – would not be able to do so – if his talent had been recognised and rewarded by the society in which he lives.

He knows as much, too, defining the word "famous" as indicating somebody "isolated from genius" and "doomed, therefore, to lose whatever creativity or intelligence made him or her famous in the first place". [1]

Such is the shallowness, duplicity and utter absurdity of the narrowed-down non-thinking required by the system, that men and women of true conscience, authentic sensibility and intellectual integrity are inevitably forced outside of its thought-policed limits.

This explusion from "acceptable" culture is itself a cleansing, clarifying and hardening ordeal, which allows them to see and communicate truths of which they would not otherwise have been aware.

Because their thinking is not secondhand and derived from compliance to today's norms, but sourced straight from within their individual minds, hearts and souls – and therefore from essential truth – it is unmuddied by the lies of the system and as clear as spring water.

All this pure and truthful thought, cast out beyond the pale of systematic consensus, comes together through a sort of centrifugal force to form a bright and shimmering liquid circular wall of thinking around the central "mainstream" core.

When the system collapses under the weight of its sheer unchecked corruption and its complete lack of essential quality, that thinking – regardless of whether the individuals who channelled it have survived the apocalypse – will form the guiding basis around which a new and uncorrupted society will rise up from the ruins.

The second edition, revised and expanded, of The Apocalypedia: A Primal Dictionary, is officially launched by Expressive Egg Books on December 1, 2023, although I gather copies can already be purchased. [2]

It is presented, as the title suggests, in the form of a pseudo-dictionary, in which Darren's definitions of words both real and invented are interspersed with slightly longer articles.

He describes its primary source as being, "in a sense", [3] his other books, such as Self and Unself: The Meaning of Everything, which I reviewed a couple of years ago. [4]

Like that other work, The Apocalypedia is a glorious mixture of humour, astute observation of the human condition, political commentary and solid wisdom.

Among the gems that I found particularly funny are Darren's introduction of "appean", meaning "to agree with everything someone says in order to get them to shut up", [5] and to "brangle", meaning "to agitate someone who is calm by telling them to calm down, to make someone break something by fearing for their clumsiness, to annoy someone by asking if you are annoying them". [6]

Often, of course, the humour is rooted in social critique, such as the explanation that to advertise is to "spray shit with glitter", [7] that an apartment/flat is "a garage for the overnight storage of wage slaves", [8] or that postmodernism involves "using 'ah, but it's not supposed to be taken seriously' as the justification for smearing one's excrement over a potato". [9]

I like the notion of "wotnog", which is "not quite understanding what someone is saying, but smiling, nodding and 'yeahing' your way through, in the hope that you'll get the point in the end, which turns out to be mistaken as you find you don't understand, but you can't now say you don't understand because that would mean confessing that all your understanding sounds were tiny little lies". [10]

And I am sure many could relate to the following Apocalypedia definition: [11]

provulsion n 1 [job-advertisement generated sensation of] trying to get a job while, at the same time, being appalled at the prospect of being employed 2 fear of losing a job while, at the same time, desperately hoping that one's factory or office will be swept away in a tornado or hammered into OBLIVION by an enormous fist

There is also some shrewd analysis of personal relationships in the comedy, as with the presentation of the word "onsoculpa", meaning the error of "confusing persistent guilt caused by contempt for one's lover with persistent anger at their tiny mishaps". [12]

Darren has very sound political views, by which I naturally mean that they are pretty much identical to my own, apart from the occasional difference in emphasis, perhaps.

He thus describes democracy as being "euphemistic shorthand for state-sponsored totalitarian mercantilism", [13] capitalism as a synonym of socialism, both being "technophilic, statist, workist, domesticating" [14] – with Karl Marx just another "technocrat" [15] – and civilisation as something "which civilians are completely helpless without, and so terrified of losing, but which demands mass-murder, mass-slavery, mass-destruction of nature and mass-insanity, which, as with all addiction, civilians cannot bear to be reminded of". [16]

I found this definition, inspired by Glenn Albrecht, particularly poignant: [17]

solastalgia n 1 heartbreaking disorientation caused by homelands altered by ENCLOSURE, monocultural agriculture and 'development', rendering them alienating and unfamiliar 2 homesickness felt by people who are still at home 3 SOLASTALGIC adj to be in exile everywhere

We are, Darren explains, dispossessed by the system, a "technocratic, institutionalised and domesticating world-parasite" [18] and "the system can no more allow people to be free than a prison can". [19]

He recommends that we focus on "freedoming", which is "the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free… doing whatever you have to do – as far as your situation will possibly allow – to live with independent dignity". [20]

He says we need to "radically simplify society" [21] and insists: "Make no demands… We can educate and coordinate ourselves, we can refuse the system ourselves. What's more, demands, like leaders, can be managed. The greatest threat to the system is un-needy silent action." [22]

An all-round holistic wisdom pervades The Apocalypedia, such as in the definition of "uxorate" as "to recognise, in art or literature, a truth that you already knew, but had not realised" [23] or in the observation that "to find faults in great minds, the hobby of small minds, usually amounts to complaining that a painting of an ocean is not a painting of a mountain". [24]

Writing of the world today, Darren remarks: "The schizoid nature of this anti-culture precludes a need to take in a whole, to see the totality of the situation, to connect it all up or see through it, into a fateful continuity; for every moment, every thing, in our postmodern state, stands only for itself". [25]

And in stark contrast to the postmodern/woke cult of artifice and lost meaning, he correctly defines reality as "that which, after you subtract what you think and feel about it, is still here". [26]

To conclude, I would like to offer my own contribution to The Apocalypedia, which maybe could find its way into an obscure footnote of an eventual third edition…

bookfluster n reviewer's sense of self-satisfaction at having concluded a 399-page book, momentarily punctured by a swiftly-dismissed tinge of regret that he had not read it in a fractionally more leisurely fashion

[Audio version]

[1] Darren Allen, The Apocalypedia: A Primal Dictionary, Second edition, revised and expanded (Expressive Egg Books, 2023), p. 66. All subsequent page references are to this work.
[3] p. 358.
[5] p. 14.
[6] p. 27.
[7] p. 13.
[8] p. 13.
[9] p. 150.
[10] p. 285.
[11] p. 159.
[12] p. 40.
[13] p. 48.
[14] p. 32.
[15] p. 300.
[16] pp. 34-35.
[17] p. 218.
[18] p. 234.
[19] p. 240.
[20] p. 232.
[21] p. 298.
[22] p. 233.
[23] p. 14.
[24] p. 64.
[25] pp. 46-47.
[26] p. 165.

Winter Oak
20 Nov 2023 | 5:19 pm

8. Against biotech, eugenics and transhumanism

We are delighted to present this dialogue between our friends at Resistenze al nanomondo in Italy and Renate Klein and Gena Corea of FINRRAGE (Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive and Genetic Engineering) 

Resistenze al nanomondo: In times of memory loss, where movements and contexts seem to be born out of nothing – sometimes precisely in order to re-signify and destroy deep struggles and meanings – it is crucial to reconnect the meaning of today's paths with those from which they derive, with those developed in the past whose critical analyses, such as yours, have their strongest confirmation today. Can you tell us how FINRRAGE was born and its path? What was your political and cultural context of reference and is it still the same today?

Renate Klein: FINRRAGE was born in 1985 at the 'Emergency Conference' in Vällinge, Sweden, that members of the newly formed network FINNRET organised. It followed from a panel at the 2nd Interdisciplinary Congress on Women in Groningen, Holland in 1984 which we called 'The Death of the Female'? (published as Man-Made Women in 1985). The title referred to the rapidly developing reproductive technologies such as IVF (in vitro fertilisation) that had produced the first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, in 1978. Having just finished editing the first international feminist anthology on this topic Test-Tube Women: What Future for Motherhood (1984, with Rita Arditti and Shelley Minden, in which Gena Corea also had a chapter to be followed in 1985 by her own brilliant book The Mother Machine: Reproductive Technologies from Artificial Insemination to Artificial Wombs), I was increasingly convinced that these patriarchal technological interferences with women's power to create new human beings posed a massive threat to female existence, rather than 'liberation' for women as some supporters claimed.

The 500+ audience members in Groningen appeared similarly alarmed about the menacing technical take-over of women's lives. They urged us to create an international feminist network. Hence FINNRET was born (Feminist International Network on the New Reproductive Technologies). It was clear to us that this network had to include women from the Global South as well as from the Global North and encompass 'old' as well as 'new' reproductive technologies. Not foiled by the promises of the 'Technodocs' – as we began calling them – to bring happiness to infertile women who desired their own child, we pointed out the reality: these technologies were aggressively pushed onto white well-to-do western women, whereas poor brown and black women were subjected to female foeticide (especially in India which led to a huge imbalance in male vs female babies born). No test-tube babies for them: instead, they were subjected to forced abortions and harmful new long-acting contraceptives (such as Norplant exposed by Farida Akhter from Bangladesh whose ground-breaking book Resisting Norplant would be published in 1995).

No doubt the resistance to these technologies was especially strong in Germany as it was obvious that they embodied eugenics and would be used accordingly.

In April 1985, German autonomous feminists together with the Green Party organised a Congress: 'Women against Gene and Reproductive Technologies' in Bonn. Similar to Groningen, the audience, consisting of 2000 feminists, church women, trade unionists, students and ordinary public citizens, issued a strong 'NO' to the technological takeover of women's reproduction and lives. It was exhilarating to see the broad-based support for this position which included mainstream media outlets. Unthinkable today! No doubt the resistance to these technologies was especially strong in Germany as it was obvious that they embodied eugenics and would be used accordingly. Indeed, Robert Edwards, who called himself the 'Father' of Louise Brown (and received the Nobel Prize in 2011 for his IVF feats), was a long-time member of the British Eugenics Society and a supporter of the idea that reproductive technologies could produce 'superior' children when supposedly 'bad' genes were detected in embryos which were then not implanted but discarded. To us it was clear that these technologies in men's hands might be used to decide which women in which countries would be 'allowed' to have children – and which other women would be stopped from 'breeding' inferior children (see an article in the Scientific American on Edwards).

After the German Congress, well known feminist sociologist Maria Mies and other German women joined the FINNRET women at the Emergency Conference in Sweden. Maria was particularly insistent – and rightly so – that our global Network also include genetic engineering of other animals and plants. This led to the name change to FINRRAGE: Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive Technologies and Genetic Engineering.

FINRRAGE was hugely successful. We had thousands of members in close to 50 countries. Every country had its own chapter but there was a central office that was the connection point and moved every 2-3 years to a new country. I was the first FINRRAGE Coordinator based in Britain 1985 – 1987. We organised many conferences in Germany, Spain, Austria, Australia, Brazil and, most memorably, two meetings in Bangladesh in 1989 and 1993 with Farida Akhter as organiser who was both the Bangladeshi FINRRAGE contact and Director of her own Research Network UBINIG (including the publishing company Narigrantha Prabartana).

The FINRRAGE philosophy was always clear: we saw the totality of reprotechs and genetic engineering as a patriarchal attempt by white men (there were very few women involved at the beginning) to usurp women's reproductive powers and dictate which 'healthy' children were allowed to be born by which women. Similarly, we considered genetic engineering of plants an assault on small farmers being able to provide nutritious food for the poor. We already knew that genetic modification of plants produced inferior plants but huge financial gains for multinationals like Monsanto (now merged with Bayer). We always wanted abolition – to stop these technologies – which put us at odds with liberals including liberal feminists who wanted regulation. These political and social frameworks are the same today.

Gena Corea: A few women from different countries and backgrounds, and then many more, recognized the threat the new reproductive technologies (NRTs) posed to women, and wrote out, spoke out, agitated and organized. That's what I see now, awed by how we all came together. But it's not what I was able to recognize as it was happening.

So I'll tell you how it emerged from my perspective at the time. And Renate Klein, who was a whirlwind of an activist, a mover and a shaker, everywhere, all the time, for decades and decades, will relate much more.

As a journalist and feminist, I had written a book entitled The Hidden Malpractice: How American Medicine Mistreats Women as Patients and Professionals. To research it, I regularly read medical journals like the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and interviewed physicians who wrote articles in the journals. Besides reporting on unnecessary surgery on women's reproductive organs, on abortion, on horrifying obstetrical practices male physicians instituted after pushing midwives out of practice, the book covered experimentation on women in the development of contraceptives. It detailed the particularly horrendous contraceptives that targeted women of color, disabled and low-income women and what were then called "third world women." These contraceptives gave women from the Global South limited ability to get the drugs or devices out of their bodies. (That is, rather than a diaphragm a woman could insert or not each time at will, technodocs and population control advocates pushed injectable or implantable long-acting contraceptives.) The book also reported on the forced sterilization of Black and indigenous women.

The Hidden Malpractice came out in 1977 and then, the next year, the first test-tube baby, IVF baby, was born in England. The Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. planned a light-hearted Valentine's Day symposium on test tube babies and invited the feminist Gloria Steinem as one of the speakers. She had founded the feminist magazine Ms. One of the editors at Ms was poet Robin Morgan, the editor of Sisterhood Is Powerful, and writer of many passionate feminist works. Robin told Gloria that instead of accepting the invitation, she should get the Woodrow Wilson Center to invite me in her place because I had the background to understand the technology and the women's health care politics involved. Gloria did so.

Robin then invited me to lunch and at that lunch, not only told me about the Woodrow Wilson invitation that would be coming, but urged me to write a book on the new reproductive technologies. I had the background to do it, she told me as she had told Gloria, since I'd spent years doing the research for The Hidden Malpractice.

Robin saw a need for such a book and made it happen. Looking back, I'm wonder-struck as the shining women who emerged in this struggle.

Knowing nothing about the NRTs, I agreed to write the book. The technodocs were announcing to the public that they were developing the invitro fertilization technology out of their compassion for the suffering of infertile women. The one thing I did know right away was that that was not true. I had been reading their journals for years. I had never found a trace of such compassion. Sometimes the male physicians would attribute a woman's infertility to her resistance to accepting her natural woman's role as mother. I saw blaming, not compassion.

So I gave the Wilson talk and then began five years of researching and writing what became The Mother Machine. It was like entering a long, terrifying nightmare. These were pre-personal computer days so I would type out notes on journal articles, books, etc, photocopy them, and then sit on the floor of my office cutting up one copy and placing the cut-up pieces into the pile for whichever chapter it belonged. I describe this because it was often while on the floor, scissors in hand, reading and cutting up the notes that I would be filled with the horror of what was unfolding for women. I felt quite alone.

They were two sides to the same coin: control over who is allowed to be born into the world. By dominating and controlling women's bodies. A eugenic agenda.

But maybe a year into my research, in 1979, I was invited to participate in a conference on reproductive technologies in Amherst, Massachusetts, USA. Entitled "Ethical Issues in Human Reproduction Technology: Analysis by Women," (EIRTAW). It was there that I met Janice Raymond who became another of the instigators of FINRRAGE. A professor of women's studies and of medical ethics at the University of Massachusetts, Jan co-organized the conference. I always remember her speaking at EIRTAW because it was the first time I experienced this: That when someone speaks the truth powerfully, the air in the room changes. Oh, how the air changed when Jan spoke!

My talk was not on a "new" reproductive technology but on an old one, a contraceptive. I entitled the talk "The Depo-Provera Weapon" because its proponents used a language of weaponry. They spoke of "target populations," which were women of color, "third world" women, disabled women.

I think FINRRAGE always saw, from the first moment, the connection between fertility technology for "first world" women and anti-fertility technology for "third world" women. They were two sides to the same coin: control over who is allowed to be born into the world. By dominating and controlling women's bodies. A eugenic agenda.

In the development of both types of technology, technodocs showed little regard for, even thoughts about, the harm done to women in their experiments. In the case of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), women were not only experimented upon but were required to pay for this experimentation on their bodies. That is, though they were experimental subjects, they were called "patients" receiving "treatments" and they had to pay for it.

Now in England, Jalna Hanmer—maybe she was at Bradford University at that time—was looking at the NRTs critically. Though Shulamith Firestone, in her 1979 book The Dialectics of Sex, argued that the NRTs, including the artificial womb, would free women from the burden of pregnancy and childbearing, Jalna and her colleague Hilary Rose did not believe that for a minute. The technology would not free women, they saw. Science, allied with capitalism, would put control of women's reproduction into the hands of men, benefitting men and threatening women. Jalna would become another of the founders/inciters of FINRRAGE.

I have no idea how Jalna knew what I was up to (maybe word got out at EIRTAW?), but she did. She contacted me. She had some research to do in Manhattan. I lived just outside Manhattan in New Jersey. I invited her to come stay with me as she did her research.

Jalna died a bit more than a month ago. What a brave and brilliant woman! I think, not only of her sharp mind, her commitment to women's full dignity and freedom, but her determination. I see her setting off from my house early in the morning, briskly walking to the train station for her day's research in the city.

Renate Klein also somehow knew what I up to, though The Mother Machine had not yet been published. She telephoned me. She was editing an anthology on the NRTs, she told me, inviting me to write a chapter in it. I believe it was in the process of editing that anthology, which became Test-Tube Women: What Future for Motherhood?, that she became radicalized on the NRTs. Renate, a powerhouse who has never let up on fighting against these technologies so women might survive, was another of the instigators of FINRRAGE. She works so hard and long and cheerfully and fiercely. Without Renate, I can't imagine where we would be now.

Another of the founding instigators was Robyn Rowland who I met at the Second Interdisciplinary Congress on Women in Groningen, Holland in 1984 where we all five gave speeches on a panel entitled "Death of the Female." Robyn had worked on a committee with some of the prominent IVF experimenters in Australia and challenged what they were doing to women. She was a powerful thinker, feeler, writer, speaker. And a stunning poet.

Our panel really alarmed and galvanized the women at the Congress. Until this point, I felt we were working in isolation in resisting the NRTs. Especially in the U.S., I hadn't feel much resonance to these issues among feminists. But now here were hundreds of women recognizing the existential dangers of these technologies to women and wanting to organize. So together, in Groningen, we formed the Feminist International Network on the New Reproductive Technologies (FINNRET).

I may be skipping some events here because I am getting tired but the five of us (Renate, Jan, Jalna, Robyn and I) subsequently organized the International Women's Emergency Conference on the New Reproductive Technologies in Sweden in Vallinge, Sweden, outside Lund, in July 1985.

Laughing, dancing, recognizing each other's worth and the deep worth of all women, together we were resisting "the death of the female".

About 100 women came from many countries, including Bangladesh, Japan, Israel, Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Australia, the U.S. and all over Europe. Amazing, powerful, brilliant, committed women. They became so crucial to leading FINNRAGE. Especially Farida Akhter, co-founder if the activist UBINIG organization in Bangladesh, whose work then and in subsequent years can not be over-estimated. And Maria Mies of Germany, who argued we must include resistance to genetic engineering in our work. So it was that at that emergency conference (oh, it was an emergency!), we changed our name from FINNRET to FINNRAGE: Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive and Genetic Engineering.

So much more to say but my body is demanding rest. At least this covers much of how FINRRAGE began, if not how it continued. I'll close with an image that stays with me from the emergency conference.

On one of the five nights in Vallinge, we had a party. The Brazilian Ana Regina Gomes dos Reis and I were sitting cross-legged under a table for some unremembered reason. Ana was very witty and she came out with comment after comment that made me explode in laughter. We two sat together under the table, laughing and laughing, listening to the music and watching the lower legs of the dancing women gamboling past us. So full of life. Laughing, dancing, recognizing each other's worth and the deep worth of all women, together we were resisting "the death of the female."

Resistenze al nanomondo: You were one of the few radical feminist experiences that from the very beginning of its journey had initiated a broader critical discussion of genetic engineering by understanding not only the close link between it, eugenics and reproductive technologies, but by realising that they were part of the same horizon. Just as at the beginning of the development of artificial reproductive technologies you already understood where they were going. How do you explain this? And how is it that today, where everything is even more evident and the whole thing is well described by the researchers themselves, the criticism and opposition – with a few exceptions – is limited to and dwells only on certain plans such as the commodification of the living without understanding that we are already well beyond this and that we have arrived at its eugenic selection, technical reproducibility and engineering?

Renate Klein: From the very beginning women with lots of theoretical and practical experiences became FINRRAGE members. We were sociologists, lawyers, university professors, journalists, health activists, disability workers, environmentalists, students etc and many of us were also involved in networks to stop prostitution and trafficking in women and to support women with disabilities. Many of us were lesbians with a strong women-centred analysis. Also, the majority of FINRRAGE members were radical feminists but some marxist feminists joined and many had lived through the Women's Liberation Movement of the 1970s. The central coordinator assembled academic papers and newspaper clippings about new developments in reprotechs and GE (genetic engineering) sent to her by the country contacts. Every three months a packet of information materials was then sent out to every country contact who in turn shared it with their groups. (Remember this was before the Internet and email!) in this way, our growing knowledge did not remain in an ivory tower but contributed to more women knowing about reprotechs and GE. And we also published a lots of books, for example Made to Order: The Myth of Reproductive and Genetic Progress (1987, edited by Pat Spallone and Debbie Steinberg); The Exploitation of a Desire: Women's Experiences with IVF (1989 by Renate Klein); Infertility: Women Speak Out about Their Experiences of Reproductive Medicine (1989, edited by Renate Klein); Depopulating Bangladesh: Essays on the Politics of Fertility (1992 by Farida Akhter); Living Laboratories: Women in Reproductive Technologies (1992 by Robyn Rowland) and Women as Wombs: Reproductive Technologies and the Battle over Women's Freedom (1994 by Janice G. Raymond), etc. We also published the Proceedings of the 1989 conference in Comilla, Bangladesh: The Comilla Declaration (archived here).

The Comilla Declaration is a fantastically comprehensive 103-page document that serves as a blueprint for resistance to repro techs and GE. It is as important today as it was in 1989.

The core group of FINRRAGE members, Farida Akhter, Gena Corea, Janice Raymond, Jalna Hanmer, Maria Mies, Robyn Rowland and me also published an academic journal from 1989 to 1992 called Issues in Reproductive and Genetic Engineering. Most importantly: FINRRAGE members liked each other and many of us became close friends. I think this mattered greatly, we knew we were united in a really important struggle. We were the David against the Goliath but we had endless energy and we also had great fun.

Resistenze al nanomondo: Artificial reproduction technologies were not developed to deal with infertility, but to select and produce human beings with certain characteristics. In our opinion, from the first step of intrauterine insemination, the inevitable point of arrival is the total artificialization of the whole process. From pre-implantation diagnosis to embryonic selection, the inevitable point of arrival is continuous optimization and implementation. These were the goals from the very beginning of eugenic and transhumanist thought and from the very origin of the development of artificial reproduction techniques.

Although we did not use the word 'transhumanist' in the 1980s/90s, it was clear to us that these technologies and their makers wanted nothing less than the restructuring of the Economic World Order.

Renate Klein: You are absolutely correct and I am proud to say that from its beginnings FINNRAGE understood these connections. It was – and continues to be – the dismemberment of women into fragments: egg cells from one woman, a uterus from another – manipulated by experimenting 'Technodocs' who want to see how far they can go in their attempts to control reproduction. After IVF success stalled, the new attempts with cloning around the turn of the century ended in disappointment rather than triumph: remember Dolly the sheep died prematurely and was riddled with arthritis! However, it is ongoing attempts to create egg cells and sperm from ordinary skin cells which, if successful and applied to human beings, has the potential to be the final straw for women's procreation together with the artificial womb (ectogenesis), the successful completion of which so far has also remained elusive. Although we did not use the word 'transhumanist' in the 1980s/90s, it was clear to us that these technologies and their makers wanted nothing less than the restructuring of the Economic World Order (something even more openly desired today by the likes of Bill Gates, Klaus Schwab and the World Economic Forum). Of course, postmodernism – and later Queer Studies – pushed along the idea that truth did not exist and that there were no human boundaries to be respected. And of course, that biological sex was no longer important and a multitude of gender 'identities' would constitute our exhilarating non-binary future (as started by Gender Guru Judith Butler in Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, 1990).

Resistenze al nanomondo: Today, the radical feminist front against surrogacy is strong, but it struggles to broaden its critique to every artificial reproduction of the human without exception. It has reached the paradox of opposing surrogacy now and ectogenesis in the near future, without ever having spoken out against medically assisted procreation techniques. These represent a knot that sooner or later, in our opinion, radical feminism cannot fail to address.What do you think?

Renate Klein: I am pretty sure that if you read through Towards the Abolition of Surrogate Motherhood many authors do mention IVF, the technology that is used in all 'gestational' surrogacies today. We know that IVF is very dangerous for women because of the drugs involved, also because of the egg retrieval process that can lead to damage to the ovaries and the urethra and bladder. IVF pregnancies have a much higher incidence of gestational diabetes, placenta praevia, pre-eclampsia and premature births. In whatever I write about reproductive technologies, I try to emphasise these dangers (e.g. Chapter 2 of Surrogacy. A Human Rights Violation, 2017).

Occasionally, even a mainstream article talks about the difficulties of IVF as in this 2022 Washington Post article, although the 'success rates' they mention are far too high. In 2018, in an interview with Lord Robert Winston – the inventor of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis in the 1990s (a eugenic tool) – he says that success rates for a 'live baby' for a woman who is under 35 is a mere 21%. FINRRAGE had been saying this for years!!

We are told that until now about 8 million babies have been born from IVF. If the success rate is only 21%, this means that roughly 40 million women have gone through (multiple attempts of) IVF, and about 32 Mio of them never had a child. I think it is an absolute scandal that there are NO long-term research studies to find out the current health status of these millions of women who went through IVF since the 1980s! The drugs they need to take – first to stop any ovarian action, e.g. to be put in chemical menopause, then to start the egg ripening process with fertility drugs – are very very dangerous. We have reports of higher rates of breast and ovarian cancer in women, but because the studies are not longitudinal and global, many IVF specialists believe they don't have to mention them to women!! Interestingly, the drug used to put women into chemical menopause is frequently Lupron: the same drug that is used as a puberty blocker for children. The use is off-label in both instances. It is a big medical scandal that will be written about in future!! How could it happen?

I agree with you that we absolutely must mention IVF which really is a failed technology. But because of pro-natalism in the west and the mostly socially engineered belief ingrained in women – even still today! – that they must have a child to be a 'proper' woman – IVF clinics attract plenty of clients who put themselves in great debt through repeated IVF attempts with all sorts of unproven expensive 'add ons' – during which their health suffers and often also their relationship with their partner – with mostly no baby at the end. As children born from IVF are now reaching their 40s, many experience quite serious heart problems, see Laura Corradi, 'Assisted Reproductive Technologies and Health-Related Issues in Women and Children', 2021. Corradi's article also discusses serious adverse effects from IVF for women.

In June 2023 Kallie Fell from Jennifer Lahl's Center for Biology and Culture published A Comprehensive Report on ART which mentions all the health risk for women from IVF as well as the new big trend for young women to freeze their eggs which will be mostly useless as few frozen eggs ever lead to pregnancies, but is hugely expensive.

The technodocs think that people are too stupid to not realise what they pursue in the 'background': world domination for the rich and powerful through synthetic biology and transhumanism.

Resistenze al nanomondo: It seems that history has taught us nothing. In 1975 a group of scientists meeting in Asilomar highlighted the serious dangers of recombinant DNA genetic engineering technology. An awareness as short-lived as all the moratoria put in place by the scientists themselves. In fact, nothing has changed and the research has continued unchallenged to the present day. Now at the international level, the research world, including some old promoters of the Asilomar conference, is pressing for a CRISP/Cas 9 regulation for germline genetic modification. We already know the reasons: to prevent the occurrence of serious genetic diseases. Exactly the same motivations for supporting the pre-implantation diagnosis necessary for in vitro fertilisation, being a technique that in itself can produce abnormalities in the embryo. Just as we already know the outcome of this process: from the exception for very serious cases, to those considered probable, to claiming this possibility as a new norm to best 'optimise' the procreation process. From the right to have a child, to the right to have a 'healthy child', to the right to have a child with 'genetic enhancement'. What do you think?

Renate Klein: We learnt nothing from past dangers because it is not in the interest of capitalist patriarchs in charge of the medical industrial complex (Jennifer Bilek's term) who want to push their research further and further to see how far they can go. When it was revealed in 2018 that Chinese researcher He Jiankui had used CRISPR/Cas 9 to produce two children with changed germlines, the scientific world reacted with 'shock and horror' at this apparent ethical breach. In reality, no doubt they were jealous that Jiankui had dared to be the first and that they are now limping behind. And yes, we are always told that all of this research happens so that some terrible diseases can be eliminated. But as women and (radical) feminists we know that this is the 'foreground' attempt to make us complicit with this wondrous work to allegedly reduce human suffering. The technodocs think that people are too stupid to not realise what they pursue in the 'background': world domination for the rich and powerful through synthetic biology and transhumanism. (Mary Daly and Janice Raymond both use the concept of foreground and background thinking.)

In terms of currently 'optimising' procreation, the openly expressed eugenic ideas of the Australian Oxford Professor of Ethics Julian Savulescu (I call him Professor of Unethics) to use genetic 'enhancements' to produce 'the best children' are hard to beat. He is open about his ideas that it is our 'moral obligation' to create children with the best chance of life. In his own words from 2016 in Gazeta de Antropología:

"A number of prominent authors have been concerned about or critical of the use of technology to alter or enhance human beings. I want to argue that far from being merely permissible, we have a moral obligation or moral reason to enhance ourselves and our children. Indeed, we have the same kind of obligation as we have to treat and prevent disease. Not only can we enhance, we should enhance".

With people like Savulescu occupying ethics professorships in revered universities such as Oxford, it is a frightening prospect what likeminded colleagues in science and medicine will engage in once the full gamut of CRISPR/Cas 9 and further genetic modification techniques will be available to them. Already today, if a child is born with Down Syndrome, in many countries it is increasingly difficult to get good support services. And the mother will be told that this child would not have been born, if only she had undergone screening …

For Renate Klein
In an article of yours from 2008, From test-tube women to bodies without women, which we have taken up in the book Meccanici i miei occhi, you wrote "The ultimate goal of the genetic and reproductive industry is the creation of the immortal man capable of reproducing himself without women". Today, this statement in the light of research developments for artificial wombs or for uterus transplantation pregnancies to enable 'male pregnancy' takes on its most ominous consistency. What new elements need to be taken into account today?

Renate Klein: Thank you for republishing my article 'From Test-Tube Women to Women without Bodies' (2008, Women's Studies International Forum 31(3), pp. 157-175). I believe it is a good summary of my ongoing fears of what will happen to the sex class women in the age of postmodernism, cyborg culture and accelerating developments in technoscience such as artificial wombs and, in the last few years, the transplantation of wombs into heterosexual women as well as men aka 'Transwomen' who remain biological males.

I have been concerned about the assault on women's bodies since the early 1980s. In 1996, I wrote a chapter in Radically Speaking: Feminism Reclaimed (1996, Diane Bell and Renate Klein, eds.) called '(Dead) Bodies Floating in Cyberspace: Postmodernism and the Dismemberment of Women' (pp. 346-3358). I focused on the postmodernist celebration of fragmented bodies and recalled the important Women's Liberation Movement's slogan 'Our Bodies – Ourselves'. It is crucial for women to remember that we are our bodies – with all our imperfections – and not let Technodocs dismember and fragment us. We are women with bodies: not objects and texts as postmodernist writers celebrate. I also refuted Donna Haraway's beloved Cyborg that is part machine/part human – a cut-and-paste body! Cyborgs do not bleed – and women in the Global South who suffer from harmful contraceptives that disrupt their menstrual cycles might have great trouble glorifying such fractured and disassembled pseudo-women – 'texts and surfaces' – which Haraway nevertheless lauds as, "This is the self feminists must code" (1991, p. 161 in The Cyborg Manifesto).

I expanded this critique in 1999 with my chapter 'The Politics of Cyberfeminism: If I am Cyborg rather than a Goddess will Patriarchy go away'? in Cyberfeminism: Connectivity, Critique and Creativity (1999, edited by Susan Hawthorne and Renate Klein.

The central delusion that humans are able to change sex, which has been taken up by governments and big corporations alike.

In addition to my critique of Haraway's concept of Cyborgs that are superior to humans, I also criticised robotics specialists Hans Moravec and Ray Kurzweil who want to digitise our flesh into cyberspace – they still work on this today – so that our mind and consciousness can be downloaded onto a computer interface. It is the male dream of living forever – no matter in what form. Indeed, 'matter' and 'mater' matter less and less! Such thinking coupled with enormous amounts of money from US billionaires (as Jennifer Bilek has found out) has led to the Transcraze of the 21st century with the central delusion that humans are able to change sex, which has been taken up by governments and big corporations alike. Trans influencers on TikTok and Instagram tell teenage girls that it is easy to escape the puberty blues (that almost all girls have) by becoming a boy so they don't have to cope with dangerous sex acts boys want them to engage in such as choking and anal sex, learnt from daily consumption of pornography. As the frontal cortex of their brains has not yet developed, they cannot comprehend the devastating consequences of puberty blockers followed by cross-sex hormones which will leave them infertile, unable to experience orgasms and with diminishing bone density and, possibly, brain damage. And they will be patients for life and depend on drugs. It is a medical crime against children, which, hopefully will be exposed and stopped soon.

So, my statement from 2008 still holds except to say that in the last 15 years, the trend to erase women has grown exponentially. We have to pass on to young women that we are our bodies and that our Leibsinn – German philosopher Annegret Stopcyk's term to express the intrinsic living connections between all parts of our body/mind/soul – has to be paramount to refute the lure of Reprotechs and Transmedicine. IVF clinics already organise the extraction of egg cells and sperm from so-called transitioning children, so that later in life they can produce their own offspring. But these children do not yet have egg cells and sperm that are large enough to be extracted. So, they are told to temporally stop puberty blockers, in order for these gametes to grow. This is further medical abuse, as the girls then have to go through egg retrieval with all its dangers only to have substandard egg cells 'harvested' that will never be able to be fertilised. It is grubby medical capitalism to gain money now, and customers later for IVF. We need to tell children and their parents to resist it at all cost.

For Gena Corea
In your text 'The Manhattan Project of Reproduction' you described the development of artificial reproduction technologies and their prospects as the equivalent in biology of the Manhattan Project for nuclear physics. Today, reality has surpassed predictions: the New Mexico desert and the technolaboratories are among us, what other thresholds have been reached and will be crossed?

It had seemed so obvious to me that if men were dissatisfied with the masculine stereotype, if it caused them pain, if they could not live authentically as themselves from within crippling sex stereotypes, that they could challenge the deforming nature of the stereotypes. That would have been a life-forwarding movement.

Gena Corea: A threshold that has been reached and crossed is the existence of woman as a recognized being. I had never imagined that our very existence would be challenged. I should have. Certainly I had foreseen the horror of reproductive brothels. But that men would claim to be women, that I had not imagined. That men would try to bully us into calling ourselves, not women, but cis-women; that they would scornfully refer to women as front-holes, chest-feeders, uterus-owners, egg producers, menstruators— that I had not foreseen. 

It had seemed so obvious to me that if men were dissatisfied with the masculine stereotype, if it caused them pain, if they could not live authentically as themselves from within crippling sex stereotypes, that they could challenge the deforming nature of the stereotypes. That would have been a life-forwarding movement. That did not happen. Instead, many identifying themselves as transgender mutilated and drugged their bodies to conform to the reality-defying stereotypes.

I don't want to render invisible here the transsexual empire—the medical, scientific and psychological institutions that funneled the human pain of conforming to sexual stereotypes into surgical solutions. This left patriarchal power structures unquestioned and untouched.

Janice Raymond began to lay out the dangers of transsexualism in The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male published in 1979. I had somehow assumed that those identifying themselves as transgender and actually undergoing chemical and surgical mutilations to declare themselves women would be a very small group. It was small at that time.

But some 40 years later, the number is not small. And the virulence of the campaign to silence women who question men's right to claim to be women is breath-taking.

Janice lays out all the further developments in her stunning book DoubleThink: A Feminist Challenge to Transgenderism, published by Spinifex Press in 2021.

Resistenze al nanomondo: The hCG vaccine, a 'birth control vaccine', was administered disguised as a massive vaccination campaign promoted in 2014 by WHO and UNICEF against maternal and neonatal tetanus that led to the chemical sterilisation of millions of Kenyan women. Similar episodes in Tanzania, Mexico, Nicaragua, the Philippines. A sterilisation project that in Kenya is still going on today. Today this 'contraceptive vaccine', impregnated with biological colonialism, from the Global South is ready to re-enter for the use of Western women. From manipulation to manipulation they have arrived at a vaccine designed to produce an immune response against a bodily process such as pregnancy. And the consequence of widespread infertility will open even more doors to artificial reproduction clinics. In 1994, you organised an international day of action against the pregnancy vaccine, making clear the importance you attached even then to this population control passing over women's bodies. Where do we stand now?

Renate Klein: Feminist resistance against new immunological hCG contraceptives, also called anti-fertility 'vaccines', developed by Indian researcher G.P. Talwar in the 1970s to 90s and supported by the Population Council, culminated in 1994 with a powerful street theatre performance by Swiss feminist groups on the grounds of the WHO in Geneva. The World Health Organisation (WHO) supported this 'vaccine' through their HRP (Human Reproduction Programme). Armed with giant syringes, more than 50 women clad in white and wearing white facemasks peered through gigantic microscopes and pretended to perform vaccinations.

This event, which received global attention, was organised by the 'Call for a Stop of Research on Antifertility Vaccines', signed by more than 500 women from 39 countries and 430 women's group to stop funding of this research (all details can be found in Judith Richter's 1996 book Vaccination against Pregnancy: Miracle or Menace? After the event in Geneva, the WHO cancelled trials in Sweden.

The anti-'vaccine' and anti-population control policies' campaign took many years but eventually was successful when major funders ceased paying for Talwar's and HRPs work and trials in progress. The immunological contraceptive's potential for eugenic sterilisation of poor women in the global South was enormous and, if allowed to be fully developed and implemented, would have caused untold misery (also because of serious adverse effects such as rheumatoid arthritis). The idea that a woman is 'vaccinated' with human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) antigens against her developing embryo when her immune system develops antibodies against her own hCG (secreted by the early embryo), which supports the placenta during a pregnancy, exposed the woman-hating nature of these male scientists' thinking who had lauded this development as a miraculous medical break-through. The hCG 'vaccine' prevents the embryo from implanting, and therefore the pregnancy cannot continue.

I was part of the FINRRAGE delegation to the International Development Research Council (IDRC) in Ottawa in Canada in 1995. The IDRC had been a major funder of Talwar's research since the 1970s and initially tried to convince us that we were wrong in rejecting this major initiative against the threat of 'untrammeled' population growth. They also claimed that the Indian trials were ethically conducted. But after viewing German FINRRAGE Ulrike Schaz' film Antibodies against Pregnancy, which showed how Indian women in the trials were lied to about the nature and adverse effects of this 'vaccine' so that their given 'consent' was meaningless, IDRC representatives were clearly disturbed. In due course they removed funds and eventually Talwar's research and trials ground to a halt.

Unfortunately, more than 10 years later in 2007, the retired Talwar resurfaced with a now genetically engineering version of the same immunological contraceptive. However, due to the reluctance of the Indian Medical Council to provide a permit for this new proposal, it has not advanced. But G.P. Talwar, now 97 years old, has not given up hope that his fertility 'vaccine' will see the light of day as reported in The Atlantic.

Women cannot afford to take our eyes off any new vaccine developments that can be used against women's bodies in one form or another. Some mRNA vaccines like Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine have been associated with menstrual disturbances (disrupted or longer cycles, more pain etc). It remains to be seen if groups like the Population Council join with biotech companies to develop some new mRNA fertility vaccine. After all, in their worldview, while Asian women have been contracepted almost to non-replacement numbers (like western women), women in sub-Sahara Africa are still 'breeding' far too much.

Resistenze al nanomondo: Today the concept and meaning of freedom is abused. When you get to bodies and within bodies everything changes and 'being able to choose' becomes more efficient than constraint. But in our opinion, for certain issues the field of discussion cannot be freedom of choice. First of all, this is always within the possibilities and conditions that this system dictates, and it is a freedom imprisoned within the only horizon of sense and meaning that the system itself produces. What is portrayed as the apotheosis of free choice is in reality its most disastrous denial, since the individual is subject to a choice that is externally imposed or induced or made to be desired. But even assuming that a choice is made freely and consciously, one must not ignore the consequences that go beyond the strictly personal level, extending to all bodies and society as a whole. The very existence of certain techno-scientific practices and developments admits the possibility of access to bodies, opens up the idea that this is ethically acceptable. What do you think?

It is only liberals – and in particular liberal feminists – who use the concept of 'choice' to justify deeply women-hating practices such as prostitution, pornography and surrogacy and, more recently, 'changing sex' (which of course is impossible).

Renate Klein: Freedom of 'choice' is an illusion. It does not exist. Whenever we make decisions, they are constrained by our sex, our geography and class, our age, race and genes, etc. as well as the ideology of those (governments, corporations, technodocs, etc.) who tell us that it is our 'choice' if we engage in certain practices. Within reproductive technologies and genetic engineering we cannot freely decide for or against a certain procedure or product (e.g. IVF or genetically engineered seeds) as we are not fully informed about potential adverse effects. Often, we are lied to, but even more frequently, the researchers themselves have no idea what can (and will happen) after they apply their research ideas to our bodies or to the farmers' fields. The world is littered with disastrous examples from Thalidomide to DES and the Dalkon Shield IUD for women, and the breakdown of plants and hence failing crops which lead to big losses for farmers and increases suicides (e.g. Bt cotton, Bt potatoes, canola and corn and Bt brinjal (aubergines) in India) (see Hawthorne, 2002/2022, Wild Politics: Feminism, Globalisation and Biodiversity, pp. 241-247).

I only use 'choice' when it can be applied to two equally good options. For instance: "Would you like a piece of chocolate cake or a slice of lemon tart?" I never use the term "pro-choice" in relation to abortion. Many women would like to have a(nother) child, but cannot do so for economic, health or relationship reasons. To call this 'choice' adds insult to injury when they have to decide on a deeply painful (and sometimes dangerous) termination of their pregnancy.

It is only liberals – and in particular liberal feminists – who use the concept of 'choice' to justify deeply women-hating practices such as prostitution, pornography and surrogacy and, more recently, 'changing sex' (which of course is impossible) and having a 'gender identity' (a feeling in the head that cannot be proven). No doubt they will also say that it is our 'choice' if we want to download our brains into our computers and become Cyborgs! We absolutely must avoid using the word 'choice, in particular in relation to our bodies.

Resistenze al nanomondo: Some practices represent a crossing of an ethical boundary. The uterus for rent opens up the possibility of buying and selling of a child, that the human being can be the object of a contractual negotiation, medically assisted procreation opens up the possibility of selecting and programming a child, the mitochondrial substitution technique that will be followed by a child with the DNA of 'three parents' opens up the possibility that the human being can be a genetic bricolage. Today we have an 'intended mother', a 'commissioning mother', a 'surrogate mother', a 'gestating mother', a 'genetic mother' or a more neutral 'parent 1 and parent 2'. Continuous re-significations that erase the mother, the one from whom we come into the world. The deconstruction of the dimension of procreation and, in parallel, the deconstruction of our sexed roots are the final frontier of transhumanism. Birth and our sexed bodies become the stakes for a profound ontological and anthropological transformation of the human being. At stake today is the very existence of reality under siege by artificial and synthetic dismantling and reconstruction. What do you think?

Renate Klein: We live in a deeply unsettling age in which destabilisation, fragmentation and dissociation rule. Plus, delusions and lies. And reversals. Truth does not exist anymore. Big pharma (and big banks and corporations) will try and justify anything they want to do by saying that it is 'for our own good'. 'Old fashioned' legal documents such as the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which prohibits the sale and trafficking of children are no longer adhered to.

Proponents of the uterus for rent (GPA, surrogacy) glorify some (poor) women risking their health – and indeed lives – as 'breeders' to produce a child for a (well to do) infertile couple, including now also those who are deemed to be 'socially infertile' such as gay or single men (see a June 2023 Senate bill in California that, if passed, would force insurers to pay for surrogacy and IVF expenses for gay men). The child is treated as a 'Take-away baby': it has not agreed to be removed from his mother right after the birth. Whether it is for love or money, such transactions amount to trafficking and baby selling.

We are living in the heyday of techno capitalism where everything can be bought or sold. And because everyone is told that it is all about 'choice', proponents of this ideology are telling people, especially young children, that they have the 'right' (another influential word) to do whatever they want. If they want to enter the life-long medical pathway to supposedly transcend their natal sex (which is impossible) that is their right and 'choice'. Those who oppose this ideology are labelled hateful transphobes, bigots and TERFS and told that our 'unkind' statements are responsible for so-called trans-teenagers attempting to kill themselves.

We have to stand firm against such delusionary statements and actions as many radical feminists have already done. In Doublethink: A Feminist Challenge to Transgenderism (2021) Janice Raymond lists a group of women who were cancelled and/or lost their jobs due to pressure from the Transcult. Amongst them are Germaine Greer, Donna Hughes, Raquel Rosario Sanchez, Julie Bindel, Maya Forstater, Heather Brunskell-Evans and Janice Raymond herself.

At stake today is the reality of being human beings with blood, flesh and bones and a beating heart. We live in Orwellian times in which reversals rule the day.

As transhumanists advance their goals of exchanging unwanted or deficient 'disabled' human beings with synthetic and externally controllable body parts achieved through drugs, and/or operations as well as scientific manipulation of DNA and other cells (e.g. mitochondria), human beings, especially children, are already being prepared in school that there is no truth and that if they want to identify as a cat, their teachers have to accept this and address them with cat-identified pronouns. Although this story from the UK later turned out to be not true, it reflects on the growing demand that if a child decides to be 'trans' (an impossibility) teachers and parents have to identify 'them' with their new chosen pronouns.

You are absolutely correct: at stake today is the reality of being human beings with blood, flesh and bones and a beating heart. We live in Orwellian times in which reversals rule the day.

Resistenze al nanomondo: Like an oil stain, transfeminism is spreading with its deconstructions and specific political demands. The absence of limits, the fascination with techno-sciences, the aversion to nature and birth are in our opinion some of the points of encounter with transhumanism. And it is no coincidence that LGBTQ+ demands are financed and promoted by the entire biotechnology-pharmaceutical industry, the world of finance and the transhumanist world, and are lifeblood for the policies of progressive states. Where to trace the origins of transfeminism, of queer, of this progressive cyborg left that misrepresents the struggle for freedom and self-determination with the apologia of techno-scientific and transhumanist development under the guise of transgression and rebellion? Are we facing a change in thinking and vision or has there always been a direction never understood in certain ideologies and contexts?

Renate Klein: The current Transcult that now puts out its roots and tendrils towards Transhumanism, has its origins in post-modernism which began to rule universities in the 1980s. By the 1990s it had morphed into Queer ideology according to which anything goes, nothing is fixed and nothing matters (see Somer Brodribb's early 1992 book Nothing Mat(t)ers: A Feminist Critique of Postmodernism).

In this ideology, nature itself can be queered and all boundaries including species boundaries are deemed old-fashioned. Xenotransplantations (e.g. pig organs into human) are permitted. And life is just a performance (too bad if you are stuck in a low paying exploitative job).

Through a cleverly organised global web of US Transbillionaires from the medico-industrial complex who are funding law firms, NGOs and other civil society institutions, the Transcult infiltrated governments and big corporations until they became beholden to their demands for 'diversity and inclusion'. For this they were – and are – richly rewarded with 'brownie points'. Almost like a Frequent flyer system! Government departments and big corporations can receive gold status once they show that their institution has implemented the LGBTQ+ demands. In turn, they are infiltrated by pro-trans/pro-Queer people who make sure that no critiques can be made of the Transcult. In Australia, the organisation that does this is called ACON and its subsidiary AWEI (Australian Workplace Equality Index).

In the UK it is Stonewall. The UK has begun severing these ties but if the Labour Party wins office in 2024, they will be back even stronger as Labour is beholden to Transideology. The UK for the moment has also backed away from self-ID laws whereas in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Australia they are spreading from state to state: Queensland Parliament voted for them in May 2023, New South Wales is discussing self-ID. Victoria and Tasmania had these laws for years.

But I don't use the word 'transfeminism'. As far as I am concerned it does not exist. The word is a contradiction: Feminism's goal is the liberation of all women wherever we live. 'Trans'feminism would render that goal meaningless; turn it into another Orwellian reversal.

None of us should use this word!

Resistenze al nanomondo: What could be today for us women the skills, the knowledge, the visions that we can no longer do without in order to resist a deadly and necrophilic system that would like us more and more in a tragic and perverse way to be 'grateful corpses', to borrow Mary Daly's words? We live in a scenario where everything seems upside down, where meanings when they are not suppressed are re-signified. Those who were against genetic vaccines wanted people to die, those who do not believe the official narrative on climate change are enemies of the planet, those who do not want war are enemies of peace, those who oppose Biolabs reject 'health security' and those who are against the transhuman gender package deny new 'rights'. In all of this there is no criticism and the rhetoric of health, infertility, environment, peace, rights is used: a health that will be traversed by new mRNA technologies, gene therapies and nanomedicine, eugenic procreation that will become the new normal, an environment that will be even more destroyed and manipulated by geoengineering techniques, new GMOs and synthetic meat, a peace that will mean not only atomic weapons, but also biological ones. In the light of all this, how is it possible to build a network of opposition, including international opposition, that is able to meet today's challenges? And what is the legacy of FINRRAGE today?

We need to lean into life, into the life of our human bodies, in resisting the global drag into necrophilia.

Gena Corea

A word on transhumanism. The transhumanists believe that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, by means of science and technology, into something much better. These arrogant men can do it better. They don't even understand what a human body is and yet they assume they are capable of making it better. They have not themselves experienced the full capabilities of a human body but they think they can improve on…on what?!!! They don't comprehend the nature of the organism they are going to make "better." 

Certainly they don't even begin to comprehend what the female body is. They speak of it as a thing, an object, a receptacle, a vehicle for reproduction, a rented womb—they have no idea at all what we are, who we are.

When I write "the body," I am not meaning skin, bones and a collection of organs. Not at all. I mean an ancient organism that is capable of connecting with all-that-is. I mean an organism living in what I call Caravan Time: Future, present and past all traveling on the same caravan, all held in a moment, all capable of passing information to each other. By "human body," I mean a wondrous being that inter-is with the earth and more.

We are of the earth. We can not develop the muscles of ours legs and we can not walk unless the earth pushes back on our legs. We need the earth to become what we are capable of becoming. We inter-are with the earth. We are not separate. 

Our lungs could not develop, could not breathe, if we were not inter-being with the air. (Thich Nhat Hanh introduced the verb I am using here: "inter-are.")

Our connective tissue has a crystalline structure that enables us to communicate with other beings on this earth and beyond. We have an ability to gain knowledge from beings and structures far distant from us. (The visionary Emilie Conrad, with whom I was privileged to study, explored this in the practice she developed, Continuum.)

There are ways to access vast knowledge through our bodies. You ask: "What could be today for us women the skills, the knowledge, the visions that we can no longer do without in order to resist a deadly and necrophilic system that would like us more and more in a tragic and perverse way to be 'grateful corpses', to borrow Mary Daly's words? "

We need to lean into life, into the life of our human bodies, in resisting the global drag into necrophilia. In a biophilic practice, we can develop our skills in accessing the knowledge and visions to which our human bodies are the gateway.

There are ways to access our body's knowledge. Teachable ways. Various people happen upon these ways through different routes. I came upon them through a practice called Focusing. As they create, artists sometimes discover these ways. 

I wish I could write in more detail about these ways. But because I am in the midst of moving out of my house—I will be out of here in days!—and searching for a new home, I can not do so at this time. I can only say that a vision we need is of a vast field of life of which we are a part and from which we can learn.

Our human life-filled bodies can bring us the knowledge we need to resist the necrophiliac system deadening the earth and us with it. There will be many surprises along the way as our bodies bring us what we did not know we did not know. Life-giving surprises. Accessing knowledge through our bodies is something grateful corpses can not do.

I think of a kaleidoscope. Right now, its picture is set on the necrophilic world the technodocs, the transhumanists, the transfeminists are constructing. A slight turn of the kaleidoscope and the whole picture changes utterly. With our human bodies, once we appreciate who we in truth are, we can turn the kaleidoscope. 

Renate Klein: We must not stop resisting these women-, nature- and life-hating technologies. In order to prevent becoming 'Living Corpses' we should gain strength from re-reading Mary Daly's books, especially Gyn/Ecology (1979), and fully recognise the many reversals that today's version of Queer- and Trans-Technopatriarchy wants us to believe. We need to constantly make sure to remove the wool that is being pulled over our eyes and remain vigilant and connected to earth.

This starts with the education of young children who have become indoctrinated by the delusional Transcult. If children don't learn what is right and wrong and that Truth exists – for instance that you are born as either the male or female sex (and very few intersex people which is not a third sex, but physiological/anatomic differences from either female or male bodies) – we have lost our (feminist) future.

FINRRAGE has a good legacy (and we are not dead yet, some FINRRAGE groups continue in Australia and Bangladesh). We have shown that when some dedicated women from the Global South and the Global North come together and work hard to organise conferences, publish books and engage in street activism and continuing education, we can become powerful and join with lots of diverse people to at least slow down some of the death-bringing necrophilic repro- and genetic technologies.

FINRRAGE did that successfully from the mid-80s to the mid-90s and we had the great advantage that many of our members were engaged in (higher) education. In Australia, Robyn Rowland and I taught Women's Studies at Deakin University in Melbourne and reached thousands of students through our undergraduate, MA and Graduate Diploma courses on Reprotechs and GE. These students passed this knowledge on to their peers and civil society at large.

We valiantly fought the Technodocs in many countries by, for instance, debating them, as Gena Corea did on many occasions. We often held feminist demonstrations around an 'official' reprotech conference. I vividly remember a conference in Mallorca in 1986 where women with signs saying 'hands off our ovaries', 'our bodies – our selves', 'we are not breeders' etc. emerged during Gena's talk on a panel with Technodocs (who became furious about this feminist disturbance)! Later that hot summer night we had a party which for me was the closest I have ever come to participating in a witches' coven. Our sweating bodies gyrated against each other and we sang so loudly that neighbours complained. We felt women's power flowing through our veins and we felt, that at least at that moment, we were invincible.

FINRRAGE groups continued well with our important work until 1994. In preparation for the International Conference on Population and the Environment in Cairo, the New York based pro-population control group International Women's Health Coalition (IWHC) reached out to FINRRAGE delegates and bribed them, particularly poor women from the Global South, with air fares, accommodation in Cairo and ongoing money to cover their office expenses.

FINRRAGE had no money to hand out and at the conference in Cairo, together with Farida Akhter and other FINRRAGE women we had to travel two hours every day from our cheap accommodation in the suburbs to the city. We could not begrudge these delegates for taking the money, but it was a low point in my life to gate-crash the sumptuous cocktail party at one of the top hotels in town that the IWHC had organised for 'our' women. During the conference we also experienced the full onslaught of an orchestrated campaign against FINRRAGE and our workshops by programming their own sessions with high-powered speakers such as Vandana Shiva (a FINRRAGE affiliate who was kept in the dark) to collide with our Tribunal of Medical Crimes against Women so we had fewer women attending. It was a well co-ordinated attack on radical feminism and unfortunately it worked. I write about it in 'Reflections on Cairo: Empowerment rhetoric – but who will pay the price?'

FINRRAGE never fully recovered from this event. An internal dispute in the Co-ordinating Group which was at that time in Germany resulted in this group stopping to co-ordinate FINRRAGE activities. Of course, many of us continued our work and engaged in the Campaign against Anti-fertility 'Vaccines' as described earlier. But the collectivist FINRRAGE radical spirit had been broken. Reactionary libertarian pro-population groups with big money had won. It was a sad time that I still remember with great anger. All of this is documented in Stevienna de Saille's 2017 book on FINRRAGE Knowledge as Resistance: The Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive and Genetic Engineering. And we keep a FINRRAGE archive.

FINAARGIT is well placed to become the 21st century's movement of resistance to reproductive and genetic technologies including surrogacy. Add to these big topics to resist the ideology of transhumanism and the Transcult with its seemingly endless monetary support from the US Transbillionnaires and their clones. You will need every bit of gritty determination, hard work and belief in the importance of standing up to these dehumanising and women-hating developments which aim at nothing less than erasing real live human beings with hearts, souls, minds and bonds – especially women and lesbians – with nature and other animals. You need to connect with young people who lack an education on these life-and-death issues. Let these dehumanising forces not succeed in compartmentalising us to cut-and-paste bodies and sever our umbilical cord with Mother Earth and with our real mothers.

Dr Renate Klein, Mission Beach, June 2023

Translated into Italian – Traduzione in italiano di Elisa Boscarol:

Published in L'Urlo della Terra, number 11, July 2023
Pubblicato su L'Urlo della Terra, numero 11, Luglio 2023

PDF version here.

See also: A World Without Mothers?

Resistenze al nanomondo are organising a conference against eugenics, biotech and artificial reproduction in Milan, Italy, on Sunday November 26, 2023.

Winter Oak
17 Nov 2023 | 9:58 am

9. What is Wrong With the World? (Egalitarian Anti-Modernism Part 7)

Outright opposition to modernity is often dismissed as backward-looking or "reactionary" and associated with a rigidly hierarchical or aristocratic outlook. But there is another tradition of resistance to the modern world that has very different ideals and can serve as the basis of an old-new radical philosophy of natural and cosmic belonging, inspiring humanity to step away from the nightmare transhumanist slave-world into which we are today being herded. In this important series of ten essays, our contributor W.D. James, who teaches philosophy in Kentucky, USA, explores the roots and thinking of what he terms "egalitarian anti-modernism".

Strange things have happened, like never before
My baby told me I would have to go
I can't be good no more, once like I did before
I can't be good, baby
Honey, because the world's gone wrong

– Bob Dylan, World Gone Wrong

Gilbert Keith (G.K.) Chesterton (1874-1936) fortunately failed out of the Slade art school. I say 'fortunately' because he gave no indication of becoming a great artists but he became a hugely entertaining and provocative journalist as a fallback choice. In his day, Chesterton was a staple of the famed Fleet Street where many of the London daily and weekly papers were housed, not mention of several of the neighborhood pubs. Chesterton developed a very unique style by focusing his writings on paradoxes and was known as quite a character about town. At well over 300 pounds, he struck a dramatic appearance in the antiquated cape he habitually wore. It is said that his walking stick contained a hidden sword and that he traveled with a loaded pistol. I don't know of any reports of him ever using either weapon, but he was ready. Ready for what? For whatever a modern-day knight along the lines of Don Quixote might be called upon to do (he wasn't actually knighted until near the end of his life, by the Pope).

He wrote hundreds of pages per week for most of his long life, leaving a body of work that includes, in addition to journalism, numerous fabulist novels, epic poems, short verse, the hugely popular Father Brown classic detective stories, biographies of literary and religious figures, philosophy, apologetics, and probably several other genres I'm not thinking of right now. He publicly sparred with the likes of George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells, both whom he apparently liked quite a bit while disagreeing with their 'progressive' and 'modern' views, and the affection was returned. His most famous intellectual ally was the writer and parliamentarian Hilaire Belloc. They worked so closely in tandem developing their criticisms of both capitalism and socialism that Shaw referred to them in the singular as The Chesterbelloc. Whatever he was writing and whomever he was sparring with, Chesterton always presented himself as the champion of the 'common man' and on the side of 'common sense.' In this essay we'll look at his criticism of 'the experts' and their new-fangled ideas in his 1910 book, What's Wrong With The World.

Long Hair

At the conclusion of this work, an all-out assault on the modern world, Chesterton brings the whole thing very down to earth. He writes:

I begin with a little girl's hair. That I know is a good thing at any rate…. If other things are against it, other things must go down. If landlords and laws and sciences are against it, landlords and laws and sciences must go down. With the red hair of one she-urchin in the gutter I will set fire to all modern civilization. Because a girl should have long hair [vs hygienically clipping it short because in her poverty she is susceptible to lice] she should have clean hair; because she should have clean hair, she should not have an unclean home; because she should not have an unclean home, she should have a free and leisured mother; because she should have a free mother, she should not have a usurious landlord; because there should not be an usurious landlord, there should be a redistribution of property; because there should be a redistribution of property, there shall be a revolution. That little urchin with the gold-red hair (whom I have just watched toddling past my house), she shall not be lopped and lamed and altered; her hair shall not be cut short like a convict's. No, all the kingdoms of the earth shall be hacked about and mutilated to suit her.i


The argument, such as it is, of the book centers around a family, whom Chesterton calls the Joneses, who just want a decent life in a decent home, only to find the forces of the modern world are arrayed against them. Those forces are many, but G.K. introduces fictional characters to personify some of them, with names representing a homage to Charles Dickens, whom he loved. Chesterton imagines a scene of modern urban poverty. Then "there are, let us say, two noble and courageous young men, of pure intentions and (if you prefer) of noble birth; let us call them Hudge and Gudge."ii Hudge is a wealthy Tory and Gudge an idealistic socialist, but both are believers in modern technocratic governance.

Grudge set about creating a housing project for the impoverished denizens. Hudge donates generously, but the funds are still short, so the project has to be done "on the cheap". Soon all the poor are bustled into their "Brick cells". Both make reports to the government, Gudge reporting that the people are much better off now and Hudge arguing that they were happier where they were before. As the differently motivated technocrats argue it out, Grudge comes to believe "slums and stinks are really very nice things."iii As if to say, look at the very nice programs our humanitarian government provides. Hudge, having footed the bill, likewise comes to think of what was originally meant to provide the most basic shelter is in fact more and more lovely and palatial. What was originally a good faith attempt to meet a real need under the demands of constraints, becomes in the eyes of those overseeing the project (all the powerful of the world), the epitome of what should be aspired to.

But Chesterton asserts that both have made a fundamental mistake: "neither Hudge nor Gudge had ever thought for an instance what sort of house a man might probably like for himself. In short, they did not begin with the ideal; and, therefore, were not practical politicians".iv What Chesterton is getting at here is that if you approach things like a modern technocrat, whether 'conservative' or 'socialist', and not from the perspective of ordinary people and families, you'll build a hell and be absolutely convinced it is heaven; for other people.

The Jacobin Reactionary

So, why do we need more idealists, and fewer technocrats, if we want to achieve practical improvement? G.K. asserts that social ideals have been replaced with a cult of "efficiency". He holds that as a result of this:

There has arisen in our time a most singular fancy—the fancy that when things go very wrong we need a practical man. It would be far truer to say, that when things go very wrong we need an impractical man. Certainly, at least, we need a theorist. A practical man means a man accustomed to mere daily practice, to the way things commonly work. When things will not work, you must have the thinker, the man who has some doctrine about why they work at all.v

In our modern world, no one bothers to think about what they really want but only about what they think they can get. Hence, nothing fundamentally changes or really gets done.

If we want to really get something done, we can look mainly to the past or mainly to the future. The future is a blank slate on which we write ourselves large. Chesterton argues that our vision for the future, if divorced from the past, is actually very narrow. If I have to reject everything that is past because it is past, what is really left for me to affirm in the future? Chesterton demands "complete freedom for restoration as well as revolution."vi He will not abide "the unnatural sense of obeying cold and harsh strangers, mere bureaucrats and policemen."vii Besides, past ideals have a certain epistemological advantage. If I want to reach some purely future ideal of X, not having experience X, how do I really know if I'm moving toward it or away from it? If I adopt a previous ideal, one attempted, I and the rest of my neighbors have some good sense of what it was, where we approached it and where we failed, and hence might make some reasonable attempts to get closer to it yet. Chesterton does not hesitate to affirm his being a reactionary, in that he affirms the mad faith that what we have once done, we might choose to do again.

What might these past ideals be that we should consider picking up again and continue to work on? Chestrton calls them "The Unfinished Temple." They are Christendom and the French Revolution!! Or, we might say, 'holiness' and 'democracy'. Of course, every other modern 'reactionary', from Joseph De Maistre (1753-1821) forward, would hold these are utterly incompatible: it was the latter which was the enemy of the former. Not so for Chesterton, ever the aspirant Christian knight and ever the radical democrat (perhaps he understood more than most the core of the ideal of chivalry, that the powerful should serve God by using their power to shield the weak). He observes that we really haven't 'outlived' these old ideas, as the inveterate progressive would hold:

Of course I mean that Catholicism [Chesterton was currently an Anglican; his conversion to Catholicism would come a decade and a half later] was not tried; plenty of Catholics were tried, and found guilty. My point is that the world did not tire of the church's ideal, but of its reality. Monasteries were impugned not for the chastity of monks, but for the unchastity of monks. Christianity was unpopular not because of the humility, but of the arrogance of Christians. Certainly, if the church failed it was largely through churchmen…the great ideals of the past failed not by being outlived (which must mean over-lived) but by not being lived enough… the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.viii

As regards the other ideal, he observes that representative government is only a shadow of the "full republican ideal."ix For Chesterton:

The theory of the French Revolution presupposed two things in government, things which it achieved at the time…. The first of these was the idea of honourable poverty: that a stateman must be something of a stoic; the second was the idea of extreme publicity….The old democratic doctrine was that the more light that was let in to all departments of State, the easier it was for a righteous indignation to move promptly against wrong. In other words, monarchs were to live in glass houses, that mobs might throw stones.x

Chesterton demands the right to be old fashioned. To be anti-modern. So as to realize worthy human ideals.

Let's Just Undo it!

Sixty years later, Ivan Illich (1926-2002), in his seminal work Deschooling Society (1970), made many of the same criticisms of technocracy as his predecessor. Illich was a priest, often associated with 'liberation theology', who traveled through much of North and South America, gravitating toward the poor and their communities.

He understood that, in the modern state, the 'poor' exist as a group to be 'administered' by technocrats. On his view, the 'institutionalization' of values always leads to their betrayal. Regarding institutionalized education, he observes:

They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the ore treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby 'schooled' to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is 'schooled' to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence and creative endeavor are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends…xi

He called for a "deinstitutionalization of values" in response. Technique operates in the mode of "expectation" (one can expect, predict, the outcome of a process) while the alternative operates in a mode of "hope". Illich clarifies: "Hope, in its strong sense, means trusting faith in the goodness of nature, while expectation, as I will use it here, means reliance on results which are planned and controlled by man."xii We need to move from treating people like "products" to treating them like humans. Expanding the spheres in which we operate on human, versus bureaucratic or institutional, bases should be a fundamental egalitarian anti-modernist tactical objective.

'The Science'

Originally, the technocrats actually had to prove themselves. Frederick Winslow Taylor could actually increase efficiency in production. A relatively small cadre of bureaucrats actually could administer a large multi-ethnic state. Over time, the technocracy became institutionalized and proven competence was replaced with credentialling. One gained their spot in the technocracy not by actually proving competence but by obtaining a credential of competence. However, people still expected that the technocracy would work technocratically: that it would operate according to data and results. At least there was some sort of tradeoff you got.

We've now moved to a new stage. Technocracy has become separable from the actual results it produces. We are to accept the assertion 'technocracy is good and technocrats are legitimate' without any evidence. Technocracy has become fetishized. Technocracy is holy and the technocrats are its high priests; neither must be questioned. The technocracy completed this development during the COVID pandemic. Whereas before, we would have said 'science says' and then would be able to point to empirical scientific research to support that assertion, now it was 'the science says' and that meant the issue was beyond the need to provide actual evidence or test actual hypotheses. The priesthood, the WHO, the NHS, the various national health agencies, were simply to be believed. Any scientist who wanted to operate according to actual scientific methodologies and maintain a scientific skepticism was immediately declared a heretic, a class traitor.

While Chesterton could grant that the budding technocrats were at least well intentioned, I'm not sure we can maintain that level of credulity any longer. All ruling classes seek to evade transparency and accountability. Makes it hard for the mob to become righteously indignant. Yet, a class that can no longer give reasons for its predominance is nearing the end of its tenure.

i G.K. Chesterton, What's Wrong With The World, Sherwood Sugdon, 1910 (originally), pp. 215-216.

ii Ibid, p. 47.

iii Ibid, p. 48.

iv Ibid, p. 49.

v Ibid, p. 9.

vi Ibid, p. 25.

vii Ibid, p. 26.

viii Ibid, p. 29.

ix Ibid, p. 29.

x Ibid, pp. 30-31.

xi Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society, Marion Boyers, 1970, p. 1.

xii Ibid, p. 104.

Winter Oak
16 Nov 2023 | 2:00 pm

10. Vaccine Evangelists, Apostates and Apologists: Part 5 – The Apologists

by Jordan Henderson

This is the fifth installment of the essay series, Vaccine Evangelists, Apostates and Apologists. Here are the links to the earlier installments:

Part 1 – The Evangelists

Part 2 – Apostasy

Part 3 – The Red Herring: A Tour of the Motte

Part 4 – Spanish Death Data

This essay installment is centered around the deconstruction of Dr. David Gorski's vaccine apologetics. Gorski is a prolific writer and polemicist who has devoted a considerable number of his articles to defending the reputation of vaccines. The deconstruction of Gorski's arguments will provide a springboard for hitting a couple especially interesting related topics. In particular we will in this essay installment:

  • Explore a selection of deceptive pro-vaccine graphs from various institutional and independent authors.
  • See what really happened in Sweden when they stopped vaccinating against pertussis.

Note to readers: there's been a change in the planned order of these essays. I wrote in the overview that Part 5 of this essay series was going to be Tall Tales: The Platitude of Vaccines and Water, and Other Global Claims. I wrote that essay out but I ultimately concluded that the essay was simply not essential and threatened to bog down this series, as well as eat up my time refining it, so I axed that essay and I'm cutting straight to the deconstruction of the Vaccine Apologists here for Part 5.

~ Recap of a couple points especially salient to this essay installment ~

In Part 1 of this series I introduced the reader to the principal misconception of the Doctrine of Salvation Through Vaccination. This is the belief promoted by vaccine evangelists that:

Vaccines played a primary role in causing the drastic decline in deaths attributed to infectious disease in general, and many major diseases in particular, that occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially as this relates to the plummet in infant and child mortality rates. And they (vaccine evangelists) also imply and sometimes directly preach the corollary belief that these diseases would return with comparable devastation if we stopped vaccination against them.

In Part 1. and Part 4. of this series I provided extensive documentation of doctors, pediatricians, scientists, journalists and public health organizations making claims such as the graveyard gambits, lifespan lectures, and so forth, that directly promote the misconception laid out above. They make claims of lives saved, deaths averted, mortality reduced. Claims that give undue credit to vaccines.

I provided the reader various analogies by which to understand the dynamic by which the Vaccine Apologists indirectly defend the Evangelists from the criticism of the Apostates.

The analogies were: Bait and Switch Confidence Games, Motte and Bailey Doctrines, Gaslighting, and Red Herrings.

These are all means by which the following dynamic takes place:

Vaccine Evangelists make claims that are directly contradicted by the historical mortality data.

Vaccine Apostates show that that the evangelists' claims are directly contradicted by the historical mortality data.

Vaccine Apologists cannot directly defend the claims of the vaccine evangelists because the evangelists are indeed wrong, and their claims and implications are directly contradicted by the mortality data, so the apologists find all sorts of ways to confuse, misdirect, and get the conversation away from the matter of historical mortality declines altogether. In short, they deflect people's attention off the main point.

All this is important to keep in mind as we focus our attention on the Apologists.

~End of Recap~

Table of Contents for Part 5

Section 1. Case Example #2 of Vaccine Apologetics: Dr. David Gorski's articles:

  • Leads with misdirection and conflation
  • Illustrative Fable: The Vax Fire Crew and The Great Fire
  • Capitalizing on Conflation
  • Likely that Gorski is arguing in bad faith
  • But don't anti-vaccinationists argue that vaccines don't work?

2. Pot Calling the Kettle black

  • Gorski deconstructs a deceptive anti-vaccine graph
  • Gorski uses a deceptive pro-vaccine graph from the CDC

3. Setting the Record Straight: Deceptive Pro-Vaccine Graphs Galore

  • French deceptive pro-vaccine graph
  • Spanish deceptive pro-vaccine graph
  • Australian deceptive pro-vaccine graph
  • American (using English data) deceptive pro-vaccine graph
  • Who then is really creating all the deceptive graphs?
  • This is just the tip of the iceberg

4. Unsubstantiated claims about modern medicine

  • A close look at Gorski's iron lung example
  • What then did cause the infectious disease mortality decline?
  • What you would logically need to do to substantiate Gorski's medical care claim

5. The Swedish vaccine warning story is an own goal* for the vaccinationists

  • Whooping cough death in Sweden
  • Whooping cough cases in Sweden
  • Coup de grâce: cases divided by deaths equals . . .

(* "Own goal" is to inadvertently inflict a defeat on one's own side: The Swedish example is put forward by the vaccinationists to demonstrate how bad it would be if we stopped vaccinating, but closer inspection of the Swedish example reveals the opposite.)

6. Summary of my critique of Gorski's arguments

  • Principal Criticism
Section 1. Case Example #2 of Vaccine Apologetics: Dr. David Gorski's articles:

"Vaccines didn't save us" (a.k.a. "vaccines don't work"): Intellectual dishonesty at its most naked"


J.B. Handley versus vaccine science. Again. Not surprisingly, J.B. loses.

We began the deconstruction of vaccine apologetics in Part 3 with:

Case Example #1 of Vaccine Apologetics Isabella B's article Graphical Proof that Vaccines Work.

Now we will deconstruct our second case example; comprised of articles by the vaccine apologist Dr. David Gorski. Especially the articles "Vaccines didn't save us" (a.k.a. "vaccines don't work"): Intellectual dishonesty at its most naked (Archived Version Here) and J.B. Handley versus vaccine science. Again. Not surprisingly, J.B. loses (Archived Version Here)

The first article Vaccines didn't save us" (a.k.a. "vaccines don't work"): Intellectual dishonesty at its most naked was published on Science Based Medicine back in 2010 and it is a Vaccine Apologist classic. That article is widely referenced by other Vaccine Apologists and continues to be the article that Gorski himself refers back to whenever the matter of undue credit given to vaccines comes up.

(Here Gorski is writing in 2023 referring back to his 2010 article.

Here Gorski is writing in 2021 again referring back to his 2010 article. He also refers back to this 2012 article of his, but his 2012 article only deals with the matter of undue credit given vaccines by referring back to Gorski's 2010 article!)

So, Gorski's article "Vaccines didn't save us" (a.k.a. "vaccines don't work"): Intellectual dishonesty at its most naked" isn't just a popular classic with other Vaccine Apologists, it's Gorski's own go to article to reference whenever dealing with apostates who are removing undue credit from vaccines.

The other article I know of in which Gorski deals with apostates removing undue credit from vaccines in which he doesn't just refer back to his 2010 article is Gorski's 2018 article J.B. Handley versus vaccine science. Again. Not surprisingly, J.B. loses.

I've taken trouble to document how Gorski continues to reference his 2010 article for the purpose of demonstrating that Gorski evidently still stands behind that work and believes that this article of his has stood the test of time.

So I will deconstruct the classic 2010 article of Gorski's, and also the 2018 article. These two comprise all of Gorski's work focused on the debate surrounding the matter of undue credit given to vaccines, that I am aware of, with any of his other work that appears to deal with this matter merely referring back to one of these two articles.

Please consider taking the time to read Gorski's Vaccine Apologist classic "Vaccines didn't save us" (a.k.a. "vaccines don't work"): Intellectual dishonesty at its most naked and/or the other Gorski article that we are here placing in the hot seat (J.B. Handley versus vaccine science. Again. Not surprisingly, J.B. loses).

Let's begin the deconstruction!

Gorski Leads with Misdirection & Conflation

Gorski wastes no time in conflating two distinct ideas: The question of what vaccines have or have not done, with the question of whether or not vaccines work. Where does Gorski do this? Everywhere, but he starts right in the headline;

"Vaccines didn't save us" (a.k.a. "vaccines don't work")

That's as heavy handed of a conflation of two ideas as you can get; "vaccines didn't save us" is a negation of claims about what vaccines have allegedly done. "vaccines don't work" is an assertion that vaccines are inefficacious.

These are not the same claim.

Let me show you what Gorski is doing and why. First with a visual (Figure 43) and then with an illustrative fable:

Figure 43

Illustrative Fable: The Vax Fire crew and the Great Fire

Once upon a time The Great Fire raged across vast swaths of some region, burning homes and woodlands.

A small crew of firefighters showed up known as The Vax Fire Crew.

After The Vax Fire Crew showed up the fire was put out.

The Vax Fire Crew were celebrated for their heroic deeds – for they put out the fire. How do we know that they put out the fire? Simple;

There was a great fire.

Then The Vax Fire Crew arrived.

After The Vax Fire Crew arrived the fire was put out.

What more do you possibly need to know? The Vax Fire Crew saved us, they put out the fire.

Lots of expert-written informational material celebrating The Vax Fire Crew's deeds was provided to the public stating things like,"Before The Vax Fire Crew arrived The Great Fire burned X number of acres per day, after they arrived the fire was put out."

Now some naysayers and doubting Thomases insisted that The Vax Fire Crew didn't save us: They pointed to publicly available time stamped series of regularly taken aerial photographs of The Great Fire from fire reconnaissance planes. These photos clearly showed that almost all of the fire had been put out before The Vax Fire Crew had even arrived on scene.

A combination of other factors such as rainstorms, cooler weather, farmers with plows, and other fire crews such as the Nutrition Fire Crew, had done almost all of the work and put out almost all of the fire before the The Vax Fire Crew even showed up.

Well this was awkward; the most glorious deed that The Vax Fire Crew had done, was being exposed as a sham. So much of their reputation rested on this, what were they to do?

The Apologists for The Vax Fire Crew sprang into action. They could not deny that yes indeed almost all the fire was put out before The Vax Fire Crew had even arrived, but they also couldn't let it get out that The Vax Fire Crew's most glorious deed was a sham, so they had no choice but to misdirect the conversation away from the matter entirely.

Their strategy was brilliantly simple; they conflated the question of whether or not The Vax Fire Crew had put out The Great Fire with the question of whether or not The Vax Fire Crew was proficient at their job.

They conflated these two distinct concepts with headlines like this:

" The Vax Fire Crew didn't save us" (a.k.a. " The Vax Fire Crew don't work/aren't proficient at their job"): Intellectual dishonesty at its most naked

Then any time someone brought up the time stamped aerial photographs showing that almost all The Great Fire had been put out before The Vax Fire Crew even arrived, the apologists for The Vax Fire Crew would retort;

"So you're saying that The Vax Fire Crew isn't proficient at their job? You realize that these time stamped photos tell us nothing about whether or not The Vax Fire Crew is proficient? They are irrelevant to the conversation, the time stamped photos are a non sequitur. To judge the proficiency of The Vax Fire Crew we need to look at these test results of how they did with fire line digging exercises, water pump operations, and hose lays."

And so the promoters of The Vax Fire Crew continued to preach the misconception that The Vax Fire Crew had put out The Great Fire. And the apologists defended the reputation of The Vax Fire Crew by misdirecting the conversation through the conflation of the two distinct questions of whether or not The Vax Fire Crew had put out The Great Fire and whether or not they were proficient at their job.

They conflated the matter of what the Vax Fire Crew did or didn't do with the matter of what they could or couldn't do.

The End (of the illustrative fable)

Capitalizing on Conflation

What I just described in the illustrative fable is precisely what Gorski is doing. Gorski knows better than to deny that almost all the infectious disease mortality from most the major infectious diseases declined before the respective vaccines for those diseases were introduced or became widespread.

In order to avoid conceding that the reputation of vaccines is resting on a mountain of undue credit, Gorski has no choice but to misdirect the conversation away from the question of what vaccines did or did not do, by conflating that question with the question of whether or not vaccines work.

Let's observe how Gorski can use this conflation of ideas to skip right past the main point of those he is criticizing.

In his 2010 classic"Vaccines didn't save us" (a.k.a. "vaccines don't work"): Intellectual dishonesty at its most naked Gorski takes issue with these graphs of Australian mortality profiles by Greg Beattie.

Figure 44

Here is what Gorski has to say:

"In fact, let's look at the Vaccination Library claims first. Notice that there are six graphs, four of which are for vaccine-preventable diseases for which widespread vaccination was undertaken, two for which it was not. All of them show decreasing death rates from various diseases. Wow! It seems like slam dunk evidence, doesn't it? Vaccines didn't save us! After all, death rates were declining years before the vaccine, and they were declining for the diseases that didn't even need a vaccine!

Death rates.

Here's the problem. It's not surprising that death rates were declining before introduction of the vaccines. Medicine was improving. More importantly, supportive care was improving. For example, take the case of polio. Before the introduction of the iron lung and its widespread use, for example, if a polio patient developed paralysis of the respiratory muscles, he would almost certainly die. The iron lung allowed such patients to live. Some even survived in an iron lung for decades. No doubt improved nutrition also played a role as well. However, if you want to get an idea of the impact of vaccines on infectious disease, take a look at this graph from the CDC of measles incidence, not death rates:"

While Gorski insists that this is not surprising, it most certainly would come as a shock to many people that between most of the mortality decline up to almost all of the mortality decline for these diseases occurred in the absence of vaccination against them and before their respective vaccination programs.

The reason this would come as a shock to many is because, as I demonstrated in Parts 1 and 4 of this essay series, doctors, pediatricians, scientists, journalists, and public health institutions preach messages which convey the idea that vaccines are principally responsible for the drastic reduction in infectious disease mortality.

Furthermore this actually is slam dunk evidence against the claims about lives saved, deaths averted, mortality reduced that vaccine evangelists preach, but Gorski does not acknowledge that his fellow vaccinationists have preached any such messages.

Gorski calls the Vaccination Library post with the graphs disingenuous, but how? They provide death rate graphs, which are clearly labeled death rate and then underneath those graphs they talk about them being exactly what they; are death rates. Where is the disingenuity? How is providing accurate information that is clearly labeled as exactly what it is disingenuous?

The answer is that Gorski is judging the graphs based on what they tell us about vaccine efficacy which of course is not the point of those graphs; those graphs were meant to give historical perspective.

The graphs Gorski is criticizing were created by Greg Beattie. Having encountered the strategy that Gorski is using, Beattie wrote in 2011:

"these people tend to argue one thing—that this data cannot be used to assess vaccine performance. And they are correct. These graphs do not make any attempt whatsoever to measure the performance of a vaccine. They simply put things into historical perspective for us. This perspective illustrates that vaccines were unimportant influences in the bigger picture; that they arrived too late to be considered potential contributors of any significance. In Chapter Three we will examine (under a microscope) the contribution that vaccines made to the tail end of the declines. For now, let us simply acknowledge that, in historical perspective, vaccination made little if any contribution to the decline in deaths from each illness".

-From Beattie's book Fooling Ourselves on the fundamental value of vaccines

Let's zoom ahead to Gorski's 2018 article and see how he continued to evade his opponent's principal point by capitalizing on the conflation of two separate questions – Have vaccines done what they are claimed to have done? And – Are vaccines efficacious/do they work?

In Gorski's 2018 article J.B. Handley versus vaccine science. Again. Not surprisingly, J.B. loses He is criticising this article by J.B Handley (Archived Version).

Now it is perfectly clear in Handley's article (which Gorski is criticizing) that Handley's article is not about whether or not vaccines work, it is about whether or not vaccines have done what they are claimed to have done. Here is how Handley opened his article:

"Since 1900, there's been a massive decline in mortality rates in developed countries, largely due to a marked decrease in deaths from infectious diseases. Did vaccines play a major role in this decline? The history and data provide clear answers that matter greatly in today's vitriolic debate about vaccines"

Handley does not do a surprise pivot in his article to the separate question of whether or not vaccines work. Handley's article sticks to the topic of whether or not vaccines played a major role in the mortality decline he is talking about. Handley provides a quote from someone arguing that vaccines do more harm then good, but that is not an argument against vaccine efficacy.

Gorski on the other hand, predictably conflates these two separate questions thereby allowing him to repeatedly misdirect and pivot away from the question at hand to the separate question of whether or not vaccines work. Gorski sets the stage by yet again directly conflating these two concepts before getting to his main points (emphasis mine);

"This time around, he reminded me of one of the two main tactics of antivaxers, a tactic that isn't covered enough. Basically, there are two central tenets of antivaccine pseudoscience. The first, of course, is that vaccines are harmful because they're chock full of toxins and cause all sorts of horrific health problems. Skeptics refute this type of misinformation quite well. However, the second tenet of antivaccine pseudoscience is that vaccines don't work (or don't work very well) and as a result are not nearly as beneficial as vaccine advocates claim. One variety of this "vaccines don't work" trope is what I like to refer to as the "vaccines didn't save us" gambit, which is essentially the claim that vaccines had little to do with the decline in infectious disease over the last century. You can tell that's the trope by the title of Handley's blog post, "Did vaccines save humanity?" I will give Handley credit for one thing. This is a wrinkle on this hoary old bit of antivaccine intellectual dishonesty that I haven't seen before."

After having set the stage with the direct conflation of distinct ideas (as you can see in the excerpt above), Gorski was free to repeatedly misdirect, and that is what he did again and again. Throughout his article Gorski misdirected the conversation away from the question of whether or not vaccines have saved the lives, averted the deaths, and reduced the mortality as the evangelists claim that they have to the separate question of whether or not vaccines work. The following are examples of Gorski doing this in his article (emphasis in the following excerpts from Gorski's article is mine):

"Of course, what Kass was really showing was that there are more ways to prevent disease than just vaccines, and this is hardly a message that anyone in public health would dispute. Nor is it a message that shows that vaccines don't work. I'll elaborate more as I discuss the next reference cherry picked by Mr. Handley."


"Consideration of mortality alone as the be-all and end-all of whether a vaccine works completely ignores all the morbidity, all the suffering caused by infectious disease.


"The use of mortality as the be-all and end-all of vaccine efficacy is an intentional strategy of the antivaccine movement. This strategy completely ignores the morbidity and suffering due to vaccine-preventable diseases."


"No, the only one spreading lies here is Mr. Handley, who is also attacking an obvious straw man. Vaccines work.

The bottom line is that vaccines are safe, effective, and prevent disease. Yes, sanitation and public health measures decreased mortality from infectious diseases before vaccines for them were developed, but that doesn't mean that they don't work or aren't important. The "vaccines didn't save us" gambit, as demonstrated by J.B. Handley, remains intellectually dishonest."

Those are all from Gorski's 2018 article. As you can see, he repeatedly misdirects the conversation to the separate question of whether or not vaccines work. Gorski keeps asserting that "Vaccines work" as if he is correcting Handley. Yet in the article that Gorski is criticizing Handley does not once say "Vaccines don't work" because again that is clearly not the argument Handley is making in that article; Handley's article is about what vaccines didn't do not what they can or could do.

I'll take a second to point out also that in the second and third excerpts where Gorski states: This strategy completely ignores the morbidity and suffering due to vaccine-preventable diseases, he is arguing from the data we don't have. Gorski provides no historical data sets of disease suffering sorted by cause. He uses a show of concern for serious disease complications only to downplay the serious disease complication sorted by cause data that we actually do have – which is death.

Interestingly though Gorski does exhibit a hint of understanding that the question at hand is the question of whether or not vaccines have done what they are claimed to have done. Gorski attempts to head off that question by asserting that his fellow vaccinationists have not been making the claims that they have in fact been making:

"No one ever said that vaccination did account for the impressive declines in mortality seen in the first half of the 20th century. Antivaxers like Handley like to make that claim, either explicitly or implicitly, but that doesn't make it so."

It is an easily demonstrable fact that vaccinationists did and do say what Gorski is claiming that they are not saying. I demonstrated this at the very beginning of this essay series; here I will simply point you to where I did that. The Lifespan Lectures directly falsify Gorski's assertion that no one is saying this (Exhibits I through L in Part 1 of this essay series, and Exhibit T. in Part 4).

For example, in Exhibit I I documented four different instances of Paul Offit claiming that vaccines have added 30 years to our lifespan. In Exhibit T I shared an interview with Rino Rappuoli in which he reminds the audience that Before vaccines we lived 47 years and that if we stop vaccinating we will return to living 47 years rather than the 85 current average at the time of the interview.

These are cut and dry examples of vaccinationists saying exactly what Gorski is asserting that no one is saying. And Paul Offit and Rino Rappuoli aren't just any vaccinationists; they are some of the most prominent vaccine developers, and evangelists in the world.

Likely that Gorski is Arguing in Bad Faith

A potential excuse for Gorski could be that he had no idea that his fellow vaccinationists are heaping undue credit on vaccines for impressive historical mortality declines, which could be why Gorski claimed that no one is saying the things that they are demonstrably saying.

Firstly this is implausible: if you are alive today you have almost certainly been exposed to these kind of claims. If you are deeply involved in the Vaccine Wars there is simply no way that you wouldn't be paying attention to these kind of claims when you hear them; these claims wouldn't slip past your notice.

But I can go beyond pointing to the implausibility that Gorski is unaware of the undue credit that Vax-Evangelists are heaping on vaccines; I can go a step further and definitively demonstrate that Gorski knows that these kind of claims are being made.

Gorski watched The Vaccine War by PBS. We know this because he wrote a positive review of it as an article back in 2010.

The Vaccine War by PBS begins with Paul Offit claiming that vaccines have added 30 years to our lifespan. PBS appears to have polished up and edited the episode at some point, but you can go all the way back to the transcript that PBS posted in 2010 and see that the episode begins with Paul Offit claiming that vaccines have increased our lifespans by 30 years.

Later transcripts have some changes but still have Paul Offit proclaiming that vaccines have increased our lifespans by 30 years.

Gorski reviewed this episode; unless he skipped the introduction, which would be odd for someone writing a fairly in depth review of it, then Gorski knows perfectly well that prominent vaccinationists are making these kind of claims and that their claims are portrayed favorably as factual claims and amplified on national television.

But it gets worse. Gorski is arguably one of the people giving undue credit to vaccines for impressive mortality declines. From his 2012 article The problem of waning pertussis immunity I provide the following excerpts (emphasis mine):

"First, Cherry notes that the purpose of vaccination against B. pertussis is not to eliminate all disease. It's to prevent serious disease (whooping cough) with its potentially horrific complications, up to and including death, particularly among young infants."


"In any case, this graph illustrates quite clearly that the pertussis epidemics over the last few years are mere blips on the curve compared to what was observed in the past, before there was a vaccine available to combat pertussis. In other words, even with the recent epidemics in the US, this is not the bad old days, when up to 270,000 cases of pertussis could be diagnosed in a year, with as many as 10,000 deaths, mostly among infants."

Gorski also quotes the CDC:

"Nevertheless, vaccination continues to be the single most effective strategy to reduce morbidity and mortality caused by pertussis."

Gorski tells us about the US before vaccines with as many as 10,000 deaths. He also approvingly quotes someone who notes that the principal purpose of whooping cough vaccines is to prevent serious disease up to and including death, and Gorski quotes the CDC corroborating this. Gorski credits the improved situation to vaccines and makes no mention of other factors. This would no doubt give the reader the impression that vaccines are the reason or at least one of the principal reasons for the drastic reduction in whooping cough deaths. There can be little doubt either that it was Gorski's intent to give the reader the impression that the vaccine was responsible for the impressive pertussis mortality decline.

What's the graph he is talking about? I will show you in just a moment under the subheading – Gorski uses a deceptive pro-vaccine graph.

For now let us just note that we know, and have documented, that Gorski knows that vaccinationists try to attribute impressive mortality reductions to vaccines, and that therefore mortality data is the appropriate data source for evaluating such claims.

Gorski's efforts to sideline historical mortality data through denying that vaccinationists are making claims to which mortality data directly relates are rhetorical maneuvers that Gorski is likely doing in bad faith since we can demonstrate from his own writing that he knows that prominent vaccinationists are making the kind of claims that he insists no one is making, and he himself makes misleading statements that give readers the impression that vaccines are the reason for the USA no longer having 10,000 pertussis deaths per year.

But don't anti-vaccinationists argue that vaccines don't work?

Yes, they do. Many anti-vaccinationists most certainly argue against the efficacy of vaccines; many anti-vaccinationists do argue that vaccines don't work. And some of the mortality data such as that showing the major smallpox epidemics that swept through heavily vaccinated regions in the 1870s does count as evidence against the efficacy of a vaccine (see the smallpox graphs at Dissolving Illusions).

What must be understood though is the simple concept that the same person can make different arguments on different topics and their arguments should be evaluated based on what they are arguing. The same person can make arguments both about whether or not vaccines work (a vaccine efficacy argument), and they can make an argument that vaccines did not do what they are said to have done (a historical argument).

The evidence that they present in their argument about whether or not vaccines work should be judged for its value in evaluating vaccine effectiveness.

The evidence that this same person presents in their argument that vaccines did not do what they are claimed to have done (a historical argument) should be judged in light of that question; whether or not vaccines did what they are claimed to have done.

For example: whether or not Greg Beattie or J. B. Handley make arguments that vaccines don't work, does not change the logic that their arguments that vaccines did not do what they are claimed to have done, are arguments which should be evaluated as the historical arguments that they are.

What vaccines can or could do are vaccine efficacy questions.

What vaccines did or didn't do are historical questions about what actually happened.

Greg Beattie is meticulous about noting that his graphs provide historical perspective and are not intended to answer vaccine effectiveness questions.

And J. B. Handley's article that Gorski was criticizing was clearly about what vaccines didn't do, not what they can or could do.

2. Pot Calling the Kettle black

Gorski deconstructs a deceptive anti-vaccine graph

In his 2010 vaccine apologetics classic "Vaccines didn't save us" (a.k.a. "vaccines don't work"): Intellectual dishonesty at its most naked Gorski deconstructs a measles notifications of incidence graph for Canada created by Dr. Raymond Obomsawin. The Obomsawin Canadian measles cases graph is a deceptive graph which amounts to a lie by omission.

I'm not going to rehash how and why the Obomsawin Canadian measles notifications graph is deceptive here; Gorski already did an excellent job of deconstructing it which you can read in his article.

What work I have seen of Dr. Raymond Obomsawin I have appreciated (excepting this graph of his) and I believe his writings are well worth reading, some of which you can read over here on this website that vaccinationists positively love to hate.

Appreciation for Obomsawin's work notwithstanding, I'm going to call it as I see it; Obomsawin's Canadian measles notifications graph was deceptive and Gorski was right to deconstruct it.

Gorski uses a deceptive pro-vaccine graph

In Gorski's 2012 article The problem of waning pertussis immunity he shares the following graph to prove a point that he is making:

Figure 45

What's the problem with this graph? I deconstructed two similar pertussis cases graphs in Part 3 of this essay series (another one very similar to this also by the CDC and one by Isabella B) I'll briefly recap:

DTP was licensed and/or introduced in 1948 or 1949 depending on which source you go by. Even Gorski's fellow Science Based Medicine contributor Steven Novella, in an article on Science Based Medicine states

"In 1948 the whole cell pertussis vaccine was combined with vaccines for diphtheria and tetanus to make the DTP vaccine."

From – Whooping Cough Epidemic Steven Novella – April 4, 2012 (Gorski linked to Novella's article in Gorski's same article where he shared this graph).

Where is that arrow pointed on the CDC's graph that Gorski shared? It should be pointed at 1948 or 1949, but they pointed the arrow at 1943 or 1944. You can tell by consulting the data source, and see that that little "shelf" in the data to the left of their arrow, right before the major drop, represents the two years 1942 and 1943 each of which had right around 190,000 reported cases.

Remember what happened when I corrected the arrow placement on the similarly deceptive graph by Isabella B (Figure 24 from Part 3)? It changed the picture considerably.

Figure 24 from Part 3 Revisited

The USA whooping cough notifications data set with the arrow placement for DTP corrected, far from corroborating the point that Gorski is trying to make, actually contradicts his point and shows the steep decline in whooping cough notifications beginning well before the introduction of DTP.

To be clear, even with the arrow placement corrected, I do not think that the USA whooping cough incident notification data proves much of anything at all, and I would not trust it as a gauge of actual incidence because it is a weak incomplete data source for the reasons I laid out in Part 3.

However, these graphs by the CDC and Isabella B are unmistakably deceptive once deconstructed, for they have "misplaced" the arrow for DTP to the very area on the graph that would make the vaccine look as good as possible.

I am going to give Gorski the full benefit of the doubt here: I won't accuse him of being intentionally deceptive on this, I will instead charitably assume that he made no attempt to double check the CDC's work, and that he was sufficiently unfamiliar with his subject matter that he did not notice something amiss in the graph, and that therefore he did not know that the CDC graph he shared was deceptive and that once corrected it actually contradicts the point he was trying to make.

3. Setting the Record Straight: Deceptive Pro-Vaccine Graphs Galore

It is of course quite common for vaccinationists to charge that anti-vaccinationists are dishonest, misleading, lying by omission and so forth, with the unstated implication being that vaccinationists are forthright, or at least more forthright than the anti-vaccinationists.

Gorski has been claiming that anti-vaccinationist graphs and "vaccines didn't save us" arguments are "intellectually dishonest" for at least 13 years now. His basis for this claim is his own conflation and subsequent equivocation of two distinct concepts as we just now reviewed, and also that one deceptive 2009 graph that uses Canadian measles notifications of incidence data that Gorski points to. One graph from one author, that's it. To date that's all Gorski's got on the opposition's graphical presentations.

Now, what have we got on the vaccinationists' graphical presentations? Already we've reviewed four deceptive pro-vaccine graphs: The deceptive pertussis graph, and the deceptive diphtheria graph by Isabella B, that we reviewed in Part 3 of this essay series, and two different instances of the CDC creating deceptive pertussis notifications graphs, one of which which we reviewed in Part 3 and one of which we just now looked at (Figure 45, this essay).

So already the score is 4 to 1. I'm going to go ahead and double that with a review of four more deceptive pro-vaccine graphs. Gleefully pointing to deceptive pro-vaccine graphs is good fun of course but it is also educational, and helps us catch future pro-vaccine deception by understanding past deception, so let's set the record straight.

French deceptive pro-vaccine graph

France is ground zero for the diphtheria toxoid vaccine. According to the paper Childhood Vaccine Development: An Overview. Baker, J., Katz, S.:

"The key figure in developing the first efficacious and well-tolerated toxoid vaccines was the French investigator Léon Ramon of the Pasteur Institute. Ramon used both heat and formalin to generate a chemically modified toxin (which he termed anatoxin) with better properties than those of Glenny's toxoid in 1923. The French Academy of Medicine approved this vaccine for children in 1927. Ramon, it should be noted, also played a central role in developing tetanus toxoid between 1923 and 1926. In no small thanks to Ramon's advocacy efforts, France used diphtheria toxoid widely among children and tetanus toxoid among the military during the 1930s."

And according to the diphtheria page on the website of the Montpellier University Hospital Center.

"Vaccination was made compulsory for military service in 1931 then compulsory for all in 1938. Massive campaigns were organized in 1942 and applied mainly in occupied zones; diphtheria vaccination was compulsory in Germany in 1941."

Let's take these dates for diphtheria vaccination in France and juxtapose them with the French diphtheria death and notifications of incidence data.

Figure 46

There are gaps in the diphtheria mortality data available for France, hence the gaps in the red line for mortality. (Here is a link to the 1966 Statistical Yearbook of France from which I pulled the data for this graph).

We can see that this French data could present a rather awkward situation for our vaccinationist friends.

A major spike in diphtheria deaths, accompanied by the years with the greatest recorded number of diphtheria cases for France, occurs well after diphtheria vaccination has been developed, approved, used and made compulsory in France.

If they tried crediting the vaccine for the decline after the diphtheria toxoid vaccine had merely been developed in 1923, as Isabella B did on her USA diphtheria graph (Part 3 of this essay series Figure 21), it would look bad for the vaccine as here in France the rates go up after 1923.

The year of vaccine approval, 1927, won't help them either as the rates go up after that year too.

Nor will it help their case to point to the year the French government made diphtheria vaccination compulsory (1938) nor can they make this data look good for them by pointing to the mass vaccination campaigns carried out in German occupied France (1942).

Here it does not matter if they pivot to the notifications data alone, it still doesn't support their narrative. Whatever are the vaccinationists to do with this awkward French data right from the pioneers of diphtheria vaccination?

Easy, they just chop off the portion of the graph that looks bad for the vaccine, and they start at a point that looks good for the vaccine. That is exactly what they do.

Figure 47

The graph above is a large graph of diphtheria cases and deaths from 1945 to 1975 with a smaller inset graph that is a detail from 1975 on. This graph is from page 51 of Guide to Vaccination by the French General Directorate of Health Technical Committee on Vaccinations.

In the diphtheria section of that guide they make no mention of the diphtheria vaccine having been made compulsory in France in 1938 and having been in use for many years before that. They shamelessly only mention vaccination efforts from 1945 onward and start their graph at that date.

Spanish deceptive pro-vaccine graph

In Part 4 of this essay series I shared multiple examples of Spanish Vax-Evangelist preachings which would give you the idea that the introduction of the pertussis vaccine to the immunization schedule in 1965 was the principal reason for the reduction in whooping cough mortality (Exhibits M through P). And I provided a graph of the Spanish mortality data (Figure 41) showing that over 98% of the 20th century whooping cough mortality decline in Spain occurred before 1965.

How then would Spanish vaccinationists share a graph of whooping cough mortality in Spain without tipping off their audience that almost all the decline occurred before the introduction of the vaccine to the schedule in 1965?

Same simple strategy that the French use with diphtheria; chop off the portion that you don't like and start the graph at whatever point looks best for the vaccine. For the data from Spain this means chopping off the first 65 years of the whooping cough mortality data set, and beginning it in 1965, which is in fact what they have done.

Figure 48

Figure 48 is a screenshot of figure 9 from page 11 of the document Situation of whooping cough in Spain 1998-2016 by the National Epidemiology Center; to the right is simply a detail of the latter portion of the same graph. They make no mention in that document that most of the whooping cough mortality decline occurred before the vaccine was added to the schedule in 1965, and they give no explanation for why they started their graph in 1965.

To avoid acknowledging the incredible decline in the pre-vaccine era, they state, also on page 11.

"In the pre-vaccine era whooping cough deaths exceeded 30 per year."

In the pre-vaccine era in Spain whooping cough deaths exceeded 4,000 per year in Spain in the early 20th century, and were still exceeding a 1,000 a year in the 1930s, and were still up in the multiple hundreds even into the early 1950s.

Why would they describe thousands as exceeded 30? Yes, they are technically right, thousands certainly do exceed 30, but that's like saying:

"Commercial jets fly at over ten miles an hour."

"The world's tallest mountains reach heights of more than 500 feet above sea level."

"Bull elephants weigh upwards of 73 pounds."

This is particularly odd as usually the Vax-Evangelists do not downplay pre-vaccine deaths; they just unjustifiably credit vaccines for the reduction from 19th and early 20th century highs.

There are only three logical reasons that I can see for why they would describe Spanish pre-vaccine era whooping cough mortality with the extreme-to-the-point-of-absurdity understatement of exceeded 30 per year:

1. To avoid acknowledging that whooping cough mortality plummeted from quadruple digits to double digits all during the Spanish pre-vaccine era.

2. To leave the reader with the impression that vaccines are the principal reason for whooping cough mortality decline in Spain.

3. To give the impression that there was no significant change in whooping cough mortality before the vaccine, which would suggest that there is nothing of great import to see in the earlier mortality data.

To put the deceptive Spanish graph into perspective here is Figure 41 again from the last essay installment.

Figure 41 from Part 4 of this series revisited

The portion to the right of that red line is all that the deceptive Spanish whooping cough mortality graph showed (Figure 48). The portion to the left of that red arrow is the pre-vaccine era in Spain where the majority of years whooping cough deaths are in the thousands. This they described as, "In the pre-vaccine era whooping cough deaths exceeded 30 per year."

Australian deceptive pro-vaccine graph

We are now going to look at an especially interesting graph from the Graphs and Data page of the website VaccinateYourChildren. This page on VaccinateYourChildren was created sometime after Gorski's 2010 classic "Vaccines didn't save us" (a.k.a. "vaccines don't work"): Intellectual dishonesty at its most naked because they cite Gorski's article.

This is a polio graph. I have not discussed polio in this essay series and I refer the reader to the recommended reading that I provided at the end of Part 2 if you would like to get the views of vaccine apostates regarding polio. For polio in Australia I specifically recommend Chapter 7 of Greg Beattie's book Fooling Ourselves on the fundamental value of vaccines.

Below is how vaccinationists created a deceptive graph with Australian polio data.

Figure 49

Looks fantastic for the vaccine doesn't it? You couldn't ask for a more favorable graph. Of course the reason it looks so good for the vaccine is because they fudged it.

They employed two types of deception to get this result: they used concealment, and of course they "misplaced" the arrow.

To obscure all the detail they used ten year averages rather than just showing us the yearly data: this simplified their graph to the point that they have just 8 data points on it.

Here is what the yearly data for polio mortality in Australia looks like:

Figure 50

Figure 50 is a screenshot from Polio in Australia, a PDF document by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. So you can see that there is some important detail that the graph from VaccinateYourChildren obscured. But obscuring the data alone was not enough to make their graph show what they wanted it to show, they also had to "misplace" the arrow pointing to the vaccine's introduction. As you can see in the graph in figure 50 from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare the polio vaccine was introduced in 1956 in Australia not 55. Now scroll back up to figure 49 and visually move that arrow over one data point to the right where they should have placed it on the 1956-65 data point and see how that alters the picture.

Now it is true that:

"The trivalent inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), which includes all three poliovirus serotypes, was first registered in Australia in 1955, with routine vaccination on the National Immunisation Program (NIP) starting in 1956."

– NCIRS Polio Fact sheet

But I think we can all agree that the year in which routine vaccination began is the relevant point to note on a graph, not the mere year of registration – even the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare knows this as they marked 1956 as the year of introduction on their own graphs. Either way though, the vaccine's Australian introduction was well after the peak not at the peak as shown in the VaccinateYourChildren graph.

American deceptive pro-vaccine graph (that uses English Data)

This is a graph created by Ian A. York, PhD. York created this deceptive pro-vaccine graph in 2009 which is the very same year that Obomsawin created his deceptive anti-vaccine graph that Gorski is still pointing to. I thought it appropriate that we end our tour of deceptive pro-vaccine graphs here with York's graph, because York and Obomsawin, who both have Phds, created their respective deceptive graphs that same year.

York created this graph shortly before he went on to work for the CDC and became the team lead of their Molecular Virology and Vaccines Team, though at the time he created this graph he was still working as an assistant professor of immunology and virology at Michigan State University.

Just last year in 2022 York deleted almost all of his old posts. That was smart of him; I would delete those posts too if I were he. The only reason I found out that York had created something so outrageous and tried to pass it off as real is because so many other vaccinationists cited York's article where he posted this graph, that I ended up searching for and found it in the internet archives, as I was wondering who this York was that these vaccinationists were citing.

Pulling this skeleton out of York's closet is worth the trouble as it is simply too interesting not to share; York created this before Gorski's classic article, and it may have been Gorski's article which popularized the strategy of conflating two distinct concepts so that the apologists can get the attention away from the question of what vaccines have or have not done and misdirect to efficacy questions. Almost all the apologists since then have used that strategy.

But again, York's piece predates Gorski's classic, and York doesn't use the conflation and misdirection strategy; York tries the near impossible task of directly denying the apostates' claims which leaves him little option other than bald-faced lies to do it, and bald-faced lies he does use!

This is from York's post Measles deaths, pre-vaccine which is only available as an archive these days. Here it is:

Figure 51

York created this graph as an attempt to refute the anti-vaccinationists who point out that almost all the measles mortality decline occurred before the introduction of the measles vaccine. Right underneath this graph York wrote:

"Obviously, there's no 95% drop. Measles deaths were pretty much constant for over 100 years, until the vaccine was introduced."

What's wrong with York's graph?

York's graph has a series of data points that are ten year averages for measles mortality rates in England from 1840 to 1920. But then, right before the mortality begins to really plummet in England is when York ceases to provide the ten year averages and instead he skips ahead 17 years and provides one single data point for just the one year of 1937 and then ends his graph right there. Exceedingly suspicious, not to mention that even if York hadn't faked this graph it still couldn't prove his point as he ends it 30 years before the vaccine was introduced in England.

The only thing in support of York's assertion is the strange 1937 data point. That 1937 data point in York's graph shows roughly 450 measles deaths per million which is wildly off. We can go straight to the English and Welsh death data as provided by the UK National Archives, add up the measles deaths for 1937, and calculate the death rate based on England and Wales population at the time and see that the measles death rate per million in 1937 was 25.6 not 450. York's 1937 data point is over 17 times too high.

What's York's excuse for the 1937 data point? York claims that:

"the 1937 data are from a text entitled "Anomalies and curiosities of medicine" By George Milbry Gould."

I think not: George Milbry Gould died in 1922, and the co-author of Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine Walter L. Pyle died in 1921.

So that's that for York's outrageous graph from his post Measles deaths, pre-vaccine. It is both a lie by omission as he ended all his valid data at 1920, thereby omitting nearly a half century of the data before the vaccine, and it is a lie by outright fabrication due to his seventeen fold too high 1937 data point that he tried to pass off as something he found in a book whose author and co-author died in the 1920s.

York evidently doesn't know about the conflation then equivocation strategy that Gorski later uses. York understood perfectly well that the question is about undue credit given vaccines for reducing mortality. York initially made no attempt to conflate and misdirect, as is clear in the title of his article Measles deaths, pre-vaccine. Without a clever means of deception through misdirection occurring to him, York resorted to the desperate measure of plain old lies.

For an accurate presentation of the English and Welsh data see the graphs at DissolvingIllusions.

York is exonerated: Shortly after publishing this graph York began to backtrack as can be seen in the archives of subsequent updates that he made to the post where he presented this graph. York did continue to lie, and did continue to try to pass off this graph as real with his statement "Nevertheless the death rate drop was nowhere near the 95% claimed by antivaccine loons, as the charts here show."

York did do something that was commendable though: he conceded in the comments:

"By far the most important reason was nutrition. Childhood nutrition (and childhood quality of life) really started to improve around the turn of the century, and nutrition is an enormous factor determining measles survival. This is still hugely relevant today; measles case-mortality rates in Africa are much higher than in the US or UK, for example, and nutrition status is the major predictor. American children in general had better nutrition than British, and that helps account for the earlier drop in measles mortality in the US."

York then did something even more commendable and began a series investigating what really did cause the measles mortality decline, which looks like he was really investigating the matter in that series in good faith.

I consider York to have made up for this graph, and moved on. I pulled this skeleton out of his closet not to malign York but to demonstrate:

  • Just how far vaccinationists will go to defend the narrative.
  • That they understand perfectly well that the "Vaccines didn't save us" argument is about what vaccines didn't do.
  • And to demonstrate why they are all now using Gorski's tactic of conflation and misdirection.

Directly defending the misconceptions about "Vaccines saved us" was an untenable position even for a bright, well-educated-in-relevant-fields, mind like York's.

Who is really creating all the deceptive graphs?

As there is to my knowledge no comprehensive review of all vaccine related graphs, I instead offer this quick and dirty method for gauging the prevalence of deceptive graphs coming from each side:

Gorski, after all these years is still pointing to that same Canadian measles cases graph from 2009. That's the only one shown or mentioned in his article that is genuinely deceptive. Of all the many other vaccine apologists I have read, none of them have done any better. They claim that anti-vaccinationist graphs are deceptive but if they actually offer a concrete example that really is deceptive they cite Gorki's article where he deconstructs the Canadian measles cases graph.

This indicates that deceptive graphs are rather rare from the anti-vaccinationists, considering how very few examples that the vaccinationists can point to (as in they can point to that one Canadian measles cases graph. Surely they have another example somewhere?).

Whereas the prevalence of deception in vaccinationist graphs is so great that I (with far fewer years as an observer and participant in the vaccine discussion than Gorski) can easily point to many deceptive vaccinationist graphs, spanning from 2009 all the way up to the CDC's ongoing shenanigans of "misplacing" arrows marking the introduction of DTP on their graphs. Each of these pro-vaccine graphs that I have pointed to is as deceptive or more so than Gorski's one example of a deceptive anti-vaccine graph from 2009.

This is just the tip of the iceberg

There are of course many other deceptive vaccinationist graphs; we could go on pointing them out. Such as more examples of French institutions that also chop off the unfavorable portion of the diphtheria data and start at the point that looks best for the vaccine, or we could look at a Smallpox graph for England that brazenly excludes the 1870s to keep the major epidemic years of the 1870s in a nation with high vaccination rates from messing up their narrative. We could look at Spanish measles incidence graphs that start in 1981 thereby avoiding giving the viewer historical perspective that would alert them to the awkward fact that the two highest ever years for reported measles cases came after measles vaccination, and after Spain had reached over 40% and greater than 70% vaccination rates respectively.

We could review collections of American data based graphs which contain no pre-vaccine data for historical perspective, yet claim to show the impact of vaccines on death and cases. We could review an Australian pertussis graph that impresses the viewer with the total absence of cases after widespread vaccination, but fails to inform the viewer that the absence of cases is simply because Australia stopped collecting the data in 1949. But none of that is what I mean about these deceptive pro-vaccine graphs just being the tip of the iceberg.

All these deceptive pro-vaccine graphs, numerous as they are, represent only a tiny portion of the vaccinationist deception. Vaccinationist deception is most often verbal, not visual:

The Graveyard Gambits and Lifespan Lectures. The CDC and Dr. David Gorski giving readers the impression that vaccines are to thank for the USA no longer having 9,000 or 10,000 whooping cough deaths each year. Paul Offit and Rino Rappuoli claiming that vaccines have added 30 and 40 years to our lifespan, Dr Ari Brown pointing to children's graves in old cemeteries to remind parents of the world before vaccines. All of that is how the vaccinationists give undue credit to vaccines most often.

4. Unsubstantiated claims about modern medicine

As noted earlier in this series, when apologists are forced to concede the existence of major pre-vaccine infectious disease mortality declines, they salvage what glory they can for modern medicine by crediting modern medicine in general for whatever decline that they can't credit to vaccines specifically.

Gorski repeatedly asserts that the pre-vaccine mortality declines are due to modern medicine; rarely does he make any effort to back up this assertion:

Here Gorski is in 2023 mentioning medical care only, as though it were the primary reason for the pre-vaccine infectious disease mortality decline (emphasis mine):

"This is commonly known as the "vaccines didn't save us" gambit, in which antivaxxers point to the declines in mortality from vaccine-preventable diseases that had occurred, due to better medical care, before the introduction of vaccines in order to claim that vaccines really didn't do us much good."

Here is Gorski over a decade earlier (2012) stating the same:

"The reason mortality was falling before the vaccine was for other reasons. Medical care was getting better, and a smaller percentage of people who got the disease died from it."

Gorski doesn't mention anything other than medical care in either of these cases, and he provided no reasoning, nor citations to back up these assertions.

On rare occasions Gorski will at least mention some other factor (such as nutrition), and on only one occasion that I know of did Gorski actually try to provide a reason for his assertion that the declining pre-vaccine mortality rates were due to medical care. Let's look at this rare instance of Gorski backing up (or at least trying to) his assertion crediting the decline to medical care.

A close look at Gorski's iron lung example

Gorski's classic 2010 article "Vaccines didn't save us" (a.k.a. "vaccines don't work"): Intellectual dishonesty at its most naked is the one instance that I know of where he attempts to provide a reason for his assertion that the declining infectious disease mortality was due to medical care. This is also one of the rare instances in which he lets nutrition share in some of the glory too. Here it is:

"Here's the problem. It's not surprising that death rates were declining before introduction of the vaccines. Medicine was improving. More importantly, supportive care was improving. For example, take the case of polio. Before the introduction of the iron lung and its widespread use, for example, if a polio patient developed paralysis of the respiratory muscles, he would almost certainly die. The iron lung allowed such patients to live. Some even survived in an iron lung for decades. No doubt improved nutrition also played a role as well."

Gorski wrote that in response to the six Australian death rate graphs by Beattie that we looked at in Figure 44 of this essay. Gorski then in the article of course pivoted to efficacy and case notifications and pointed to a single USA measles case rate graph as a rebuttal to the six Australian death rate graphs because I guess that was supposed to be a logical response.

So Gorski attempts to credit the pre-vaccine mortality plummets to modern medicine. Now firstly that is a non sequitur on Gorski's part. The point of those graphs that Gorski is criticizing was to demonstrate what was not responsible for the mortality decline – what vaccines didn't do; it was a refutation of vaccinationist messages that give people the impression that vaccines played the primary role in infectious disease mortality declines.

And so, even if Gorski could have explained what actually did cause the mortality declines, that would neither change nor refute the point being made — the point being that it wasn't the vaccines that caused the decline as the Vaccine Evangelists would have us believe.

Secondly, Gorski offered an explanation for one of six diseases (polio); if you are going to attempt to explain the infectious disease mortality decline in general with just one example then at least choose a representative example. Historical polio mortality trends are not representative of historical infectious disease mortality trends. When the other diseases were at their worst in the 19th century, polio was still relatively unknown in many areas. As the mortality for the other diseases plummeted in the first half of the 20th century, polio mortality climbed. Polio mortality had the opposite trend of most the other diseases and the opposite trend of infectious disease mortality in general.

Thirdly, in the big picture polio accounts for a smaller portion of the infectious disease mortality decline than any of the other six diseases shown for Australia in the graphs Gorski is addressing, making polio even less relevant for an explanation of the infectious disease mortality decline in general.

Fourthly, the explanation Gorski provides for the pre-vaccine polio mortality decline doesn't hold up: Gorski points to the introduction and widespread use of the iron lung to explain the decline. In Australia polio deaths peaked in 1951. Is that when the iron lung was introduced or came into widespread use in Australia? No, by the late 1930s the Australians were already not just using iron lungs, they were developing new designs that were cheaper and easier to manufacture, and producing these iron lungs (technically plywood lungs, but that doesn't have the same ring to it) in Australia (see Here and Here).

The worst polio mortality years came after the introduction, development, production, and widespread use of iron lungs in Australia. This isn't of course to say that the iron lungs caused the spike in polio deaths; I'm not suggesting that; I'm simply pointing out the inadequacy of Gorski's explanation for the pre-vaccine mortality decline.

If he was going to use only one example to back up his assertion about medical care, which is the case, then polio was in every which way the least relevant example Gorski could have used to illustrate his point, and his claim about pre-vaccine polio mortality declines doesn't hold water anyway.

What then did cause the infectious disease mortality decline?

Frequently I have found that vaccinationists bizarrely act as though they have defeated an argument about what didn't cause the mortality decline by pointing to something that could have caused the decline. We can see that Gorski does this, and I have personally experienced this multiple times. I'll, for example, share in a social media group, a graph which demonstrates that a vaccine could not have had anything to do with the majority of a decline in a certain infectious disease. I will make no other claims. Defensive vaccinationists will start with calling the data fake until they take the time to actually check it out and realize it's real, and then they retort along the lines of:

"Well then it was nutrition that caused that decline. So there! Take that you dumb anti-vaxxer!"

By pointing out what may very well have caused the decline they are merely corroborating my point about what didn't cause the decline, but somehow they see this as a refutation of the point being made. This comes up so often I thought it worth addressing.

What then was driving the differences in infectious disease mortality rates? Well actually I'm not going to answer that question. I don't need to. My point here is to remove undue credit from vaccines. I do not need to identify what did cause the decline in order to rule out what didn't. It's like a murder suspect: if it can be demonstrated that Mrs. Peacock wasn't even at the party the evening of the murder, you can then conclude that Mrs. Peacock didn't kill Miss Scarlet in the billiard room with the pipe wrench. Even if you don't know who did, you know who didn't; Mrs Peacock didn't because she wasn't there that evening.

That is the beauty of the notorious anti-vaccinationist death rate graph: We can use such graphical presentations to debunk various Vaccine Evangelist messages by demonstrating that vaccines did not cause these major mortality declines because for most the infectious diseases they arrived too late to have done so. We do not need to positively identify what did cause major infectious disease mortality declines in order to begin the process of elimination and rule out things that couldn't have.

Clearly something, likely many things, changed, and these changes drove the decline in infectious disease mortality. Changes in food quality and quantity, drinking water quality, air quality, substance abuse, medical practices, child rearing, breastfeeding or not, living environments, working environments, emotional states which affect physical states, and so on and so forth, could have all exerted in their own way, positive and negative influences on infectious disease mortality rates. And those are just known possible factors; who knows how many other relevant factors we are overlooking?

It would be very difficult to know with any certainty how much influence each known factor exerted on infectious disease mortality rates, how much influence unknown factors exerted, and how various factors in combination affected infectious disease mortality rates.

Therefore, skepticism is warranted when dealing with the claims of vaccine apologists who confidently assert that pre-vaccine infectious disease mortality declines are due to medical care.

What you would logically need to do to substantiate Gorski's medical care claim

If Gorski and other vaccine apologists wish to go about confidently asserting that pre-vaccine mortality declines are due to medical care, it should be noted that A – even if true that would not change the fact that vaccines are being given undue credit for those declines, and B – the burden of proof rests squarely on the vaccine apologists' shoulders to demonstrate their bold claims about modern medicine.

At minimum they would need to demonstrate that changes in the quality and availability of medical care accounts for a greater portion of the infectious disease mortality decline than all the other factors. They would need to demonstrate that medical care accounts for more of this decline than changes in the quality and availability of food, and drinking water. They would also need to take into account changes in air quality, living and working conditions, and so forth.

When it comes to attempting to identify what caused the majority of the major historical infectious disease mortality declines, it is delightfully ironic that in many cases, vaccines are one of the few factors that can be ruled out. Most of the other factors were at play throughout the time periods in question and cannot be easily ruled out.

The vaccine apologists' sweeping assertions that medical care played the primary role in pre-vaccine infectious disease mortality declines are unsubstantiated. To substantiate these claims they need to provide compelling and sufficient evidence.

5. The Swedish vaccine warning story is an own goal for the vaccinationists

To illustrate the grave results of not vaccinating, vaccinationists will often point to the horror that unfolded when pertussis vaccination rates fell in the 1970s in various countries. In Gorski's article "Vaccines didn't save us" (a.k.a. "vaccines don't work"): Intellectual dishonesty at its most naked he shares the following excerpt from the CDC:

"Finally, we can look at the experiences of several developed countries after they let their immunization levels drop. Three countries – Great Britain, Sweden, and Japan – cut back the use of pertussis vaccine because of fear about the vaccine. The effect was dramatic and immediate. In Great Britain, a drop in pertussis vaccination in 1974 was followed by an epidemic of more than 100,000 cases of pertussis and 36 deaths by 1978. In Japan, around the same time, a drop in vaccination rates from 70% to 20%-40% led to a jump in pertussis from 393 cases and no deaths in 1974 to 13,000 cases and 41 deaths in 1979. In Sweden, the annual incidence rate of pertussis per 100,000 children 0-6 years of age increased from 700 cases in 1981 to 3,200 in 1985. It seems clear from these experiences that not only would diseases not be disappearing without vaccines, but if we were to stop vaccinating, they would come back."

That is from an article where the CDC does its own version of misdirection from the mortality argument by studiously ignoring the matter of vaccines being given undue credit for mortality reductions and focusing exclusively on morbidity. The CDC does, though, in that same article invoke deaths when they want to illustrate the seriousness of not vaccinating as seen in the above paragraph, even though they will not so much as acknowledge the matter of undue credit given to vaccines for mortality reductions in their supposed rebuttal of anti-vaccinationist talking points.

Another article on Science Based Medicine published a year before Gorski's article also invoked the Swedish example.

Here, below, we see a commentator bluntly invoking the Swedish example in the comments to an article on the Boston University School of Public health website:

"The 'no pertussis vaccine' experiment has been done repeatedly and results in dead children. This is exactly what happened in Sweden and Japan. About whether these vaccines save lives, there is no reasonable debate whatsoever."

In the article Vaccines are Necessary by Vincent Iannelli, MD, we are reminded of the grave consequences of not vaccinating:

"pertussis – yes, some of our pertussis outbreaks are because of waning immunity and occur in fully vaccinated children, but there were even larger outbreaks in Japan, Sweden, Italy, Ireland, Australia, and other countries in the 1970s and 1980s when immunization rates dropped, cases soared, and children died."

There are many nations where pertussis vaccination rates fell in the 1970s.

In many of those nations pertussis vaccination rates started to pick back up shortly after dipping low in the 70s.

Here is where Sweden was very different: Swedish vaccination rates did not head back up throughout the 80s as they did in Britain. Sweden did not introduce a new pertussis vaccine in 1981 as they did in Japan. Sweden instead abandoned their pertussis vaccination program altogether in 1979, had no pertussis vaccination program at all in the 1980s, and did not resume their pertussis vaccination program again until 1996.

In terms of a natural experiment showing what would happen if we stopped vaccinating against pertussis, also known as whooping cough, the Swedish example is as good as it gets.

Whooping cough mortality in Sweden

We'll start our examination of what happened in Sweden by looking at the mortality data.

Presented below are two graphs of whooping cough mortality in Sweden with nearly 160 years of data shown – all the way back to 1861. Progressively closer views are provided in the next graph with just one century worth of Swedish whooping cough mortality data in Figure 53 and also an inset which is an even closer detail starting right at 1953, the year Sweden introduced the whooping cough vaccine.

These graphs progressing from the big picture all the way to close detail will allow the reader to take it all in while maintaining historical perspective.

The data sources are the historical series of the Official Statistics of Sweden, and the WHO's mortality database.

Figure 52

Figure 53

As you can see in the graphical presentations of the data above: almost all the whooping cough mortality decline occurred before the introduction of pertussis vaccination in Sweden in 1953.

Since whooping cough mortality had been declining for at least ninety years, with almost all the whooping cough mortality decline having occurred before the introduction of pertussis vaccination in Sweden in 1953, we can reasonably infer that the last bit of mortality decline would have happened regardless of whether or not Sweden had introduced whooping cough vaccines and that therefore pertussis vaccination contributed little or nothing to the whooping cough mortality decline in Sweden.

But in the case of Sweden we are not left with just a reasonable inference, we have additional confirmation: when Sweden suspended pertussis vaccination, the mortality rate did not climb back up to the already relatively low pre-vaccine 1950s level. Whooping cough mortality stayed low, averaging less than one death every other year. When vaccines were reintroduced and very high vaccination coverage reached in a very short time, whooping cough deaths didn't go lower still but actually increased ever so slightly.

Now let's look at cases.

Pertussis cases in Sweden

Presented below are the number of reported pertussis cases in Sweden from 1980 through the present. (The WHO data portal only goes back to 1980 for cases).

Figure 54

There it is; the substantial drop in reported cases after the reintroduction of the pertussis vaccination program in Sweden.

In the 16 years of 1980 through 1995, without a pertussis vaccination program, Sweden had 141,158 reported pertussis cases.

In the next 16 years beginning in 1996 and continuing through 2011, throughout which time pertussis vaccination rates were very high, Sweden had 22,059 reported pertussis cases.

In other words Sweden had 6.4 times fewer reported cases with high pertussis vaccination rates.

If we stopped our analysis here it would appear to be a draw, with one data set supporting the anti-vaccinationist contention that pertussis vaccination had little or no positive effect on pertussis mortality, while still allowing the vaccinationists to wax eloquent about fewer reported cases.

So, something for everyone! – If that is, we were to stop our analysis here. But we have no reason to stop now: we can use the mortality data and the reported cases to calculate the case fatality rate. And the case fatality rate is the fatal blow to the Swedish whooping cough warning story.

Coup de grâce: cases divided by deaths equals . . . the case fatality rate

For the 16 years of 1980 through 1995, without a pertussis vaccination program in Sweden the case fatality rate works out to 1 death per 20,165 cases. We could also express the case fatality rate as about five deaths per 100,000 cases.

For the next 16 years beginning in 1996 and continuing through 2011, throughout which time pertussis vaccination rates were very high in Sweden, the case fatality rate works out to 1 death per 2,451 cases. We could also express that as a rate of nearly 41 deaths (40.8) per 100,000 cases.

So the case fatality rate went up 8 fold with the reintroduction of pertussis vaccination.

Figure 55

The reintroduction of the pertussis vaccination program brought a 6-fold reduction in cases and an 8-fold increase in the case fatality rate — plummeting cases and skyrocketing case fatality rates.

That is to say, six times fewer patients were recorded as having pertussis in Sweden but each of those patients was eight times more likely to have a fatal outcome after the reintroduction of the vaccine.

That's no victory at all:

If you had a fishing boat fleet that implemented a new set of safety procedures which over the years resulted in 6 times fewer man overboard incidences, but when a man did go over board they were 8 times less likely to be successfully rescued and instead they drown – that would not be a net success.

From end to end then the Swedish whooping cough warning story is an own goal for the vaccinationists. It is a demonstration of net nothing lost by ending vaccination, net nothing gained by resuming it.

But that still leaves us with the mystery of why did the cases plummet and the case fatality rate skyrocket?

I will offer my speculation on what happened and I invite readers and critics to provide evidence that supports or contradicts this speculation if they have any on hand.

I propose that the drop in cases coinciding with a jump in case fatality rates was most likely a statistical artifact caused by confirmation bias. What I propose is that health care professionals would be confident that the vaccines work. They would not be as worried about patients with a cough, and less likely to diagnose patients with pertussis. What before were mild cases of pertussis became just plain old coughs and colds.

Parents who believed in vaccines enough to have their child vaccinated (almost all the Swedes) also would not be as worried about bringing their child to a doctor for a cough as they would figure that their child had a high degree of protection, and so between these factors the case rate falls. But severe whooping cough – severe enough to be fatal – still catches the attention of both parents and health care professionals and so is less likely to be brushed to the side, hence the mortality rate doesn't fall.

This would explain why the case rate plummeted and the case fatality rate skyrocketed. This scenario would involve no change in prevalence of actual sickness, only a change in the attitude of parents and health care providers towards kids with a cough.

6. Summary of my critique of Gorski's arguments.

I mentioned that I would use this deconstruction of Gorski's arguments as a point of departure for hitting subjects of particular interest such as pertussis in Sweden. So much so have I done this that perhaps the critique of Gorski's arguments has almost gotten lost amongst all the excitement of reviewing deceptive pro-vaccine graphs, and examining what really happened in Sweden. So here I will summarize my critique of Gorski's arguments in his two articles that directly deal with (or I should say appear to deal with, but studiously avoid) the matter of undue credit given vaccines.

Principal criticism

My first and foremost criticism of Gorski's arguments presented in the articles

"Vaccines didn't save us" (a.k.a. "vaccines don't work"): Intellectual dishonesty at its most naked and J.B. Handley versus vaccine science. Again. Not surprisingly, J.B. loses

is that Gorski avoids acknowledging that vaccine evangelists are regularly making claims that give undue credit to vaccines for lives saved, deaths averted, and mortality reduced (as I have extensively documented in Part 1 and 4 of this essays series).

As I demonstrated Gorski does this by explicitly conflating the question of

Have vaccines saved the lives, averted the deaths, and reduced the mortality that the vaccine evangelists claim them to have done?

with the question of whether or not vaccines work.

Gorski did this right at the very beginning of his writing on these matters with the title itself "Vaccines didn't save us" (a.k.a. "vaccines don't work").

Gorski consistently misdirects from what is a fundamentally historical question to a question of vaccine efficacy.

This, my first and foremost criticism of Gorski's arguments, is the only one I'm going to note in this summary.

The review of all the deceptive graphs, and the examination of what really happened in Sweden, is subject matter I wanted to cover anyway, and deconstructing Gorski's arguments was simply a nice opportunity to do it.

But for Gorski's writing specifically, my principal criticism is that he uses conflation and misdirection to altogether avoid acknowledging the undue credit given vaccines, and gaslight his audience into thinking that:

"No one ever said that vaccination did account for the impressive declines in mortality seen in the first half of the 20th century. Antivaxers like Handley like to make that claim, either explicitly or implicitly, but that doesn't make it so."

I will close this essay installment with a meme that I welcome you to share if you see fit to do so. When sharing this meme it would pair well with any of the death rate graphs we've been reviewing in this series or with the cover drawing, with which it is already paired at the beginning of this essay installment. (you're welcome to share any of the graphics that I have created for this series. Bystrianyk and Humphries, and Greg Beattie each also give permission on their respective websites to share their graphical presentations).

Up next: Part 6: The Apologists Continued

This essay series is on track to wrap up in 7 installments as originally planned, and we are fully in the deconstruction of the apologists phase now. In the next installment, the penultimate installment, I will continue the deconstruction of vaccine apologetics with our third case example of vaccine apologetics. Which vaccine apologist's work will end up under review next shall remain a suspenseful secret for the time being. But I will offer below a glimpse of what is to come:

In the next installment as part of the deconstruction of vaccine apologetics we will return to Scandinavia. The Swedish whooping cough natural experiment that we just reviewed is not the only such natural experiment that happened in Scandinavia in the 1970s and 80s. Another natural experiment also occurred in Scandinavia, but involving measles instead of pertussis. This other natural experiment is less well known, because the vaccinationists don't try to use it as a scare story (most of them probably aren't even aware of it), but it is equally interesting and instructive; stay tuned.

Jordan Henderson lives in Washington State in the Northwest of the United States. He works in oil paints, and charcoals. A portfolio of his works can be viewed at either of his websites: Original PaintingsFine Art Prints.

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