The Man in the High Study, Part One (of two)

The governor of Illinois like many governors has reimposed masks and social distancing.  People ask me where I think this will all end.  What a question!  They might with greater propriety ask:  Where and how did it all begin?

This morning, recovered at last from the post-COVID fatigue that has paralyzed my will to work and reduced me to rereading mystery novels, I had a kind of revelation.  Going up to my study high up on the third floor and looking out at the blue jays importunately jeering their demands for the peanuts I feed them, I had a flash of realization: None of this is real, none of this has actually happened.  COVID lockdowns, Antifa and BLM riots, the Kardashians and the Met Gala, “woke’ academics and cities on fire, the Biden presidency are all part of a poorly written script for a cheap dystopian TV series, a knock-off of Philip K. Dick.

When I revealed to my wife that I was the Man in the High Study with a message for suffering Americans, she asked me: “Then what really happened when the flow of time got disturbed?  When did it start?”

I explained that I am not sure where it started, perhaps with the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  My best guess is that the assassins missed their target and Kennedy got trounced in 1964, probably by George Wallace, who campaigned against the two-party state and the war, which was already becoming obvious, to annihilate the West.  Or perhaps it was later, when Nixon got the goods on Larry O'Brien and the Democratic Party and convicted them of treason.  At the latest, it would have been Ronald Reagan’s selection (albeit under pressure) of the the Bush clan capo as his vice presidential candidate).  In fact, I don’t really know.

“What has your alternate history got to do with COVID?”

“Directly, very little.  The Chinese could still have created the virus, deliberately or inadvertently, but the response of the real America would have been different.”

For the sake of argument, I continued, we would assume roughly the same situation, but in the real America that some of us dimly remember, the administration would tell the truth to the American people:  The rate of infection and death was in no way comparable to any of the serious plagues that had threatened human populations.  Some elderly people in nursing homes would die, but they did not have long to live under any circumstances, and they were spending vast amounts of money—theirs, their children’s, and the taxpayers’ to postpone the inevitable.  

No Christian would wish—much take any steps—to hurry their departure, but in the real America—as in all civilized countries of the past—there was more attention to excellence than quantity.  Ancient Athenians lived in simple houses, and they spent their surplus wealth on building temples to their gods.  The denizens of this Anti-America, who are content with shoddy churches and courthouses, spend their wealth on flashy houses and cars and an infinite variety of junk foods.  We approve no aesthetic, intellectual, or religious pursuits that cannot be enjoyed at the mass level, and wasting most of our lives from the of ten to the age of eighty, we still cling feverishly to the last morsels of existence—salt-free cereal and an IV drip.   

Most of the other fatalities will be attributed to health problems, most of which are of their own creation.  To be perfectly cold-blooded about it, the death of so many obese men and women, alcoholics, drug addicts, and transgenders who had willfully destroyed their immune system was no great loss, and as the years went by, and mutations from Delta to Omega rose and fell, Americans would become healthier and more resistant to the entire class of viruses.  Again, no Christian or humane pagan would wish any ill to people who choose to eat themselves or drug themselves into morbidity and death, but neither would they waste the time and resources of productive people on keeping these slow-moving suicides alive.

The problem, even in the real America, would come from the press that makes its money by conjuring imaginary demons to increase circulation and audience. Every weather system is a tropical storm and every storm a hurricane.  When Muslims and African-Americans insult a Jew on the streets of New York, Christian Americans are condemned for anti-semitism.  And, whenever a 350 pound s schoolmarm dies of a heart attack while being treated for COVID, it is one more proof  that we are threatened by the most deadly plague in human history.

  The great press lords and their scribbling lackeys have played this game from the beginning—Daniel Defoe was an early master.  Hearst’s famous instructions to the photographer who found no real war in Cuba—“You give me the pictures, and I’ll give you the war”— has been faithfully carried out during the COVID panic in Anti-America, and the press would act no different anywhere.  In the real America, however, the networks and the newspapers, if they persisted in their usual game of treating isolated examples as normative, would be fined if they did not include real facts about the percentage of healthy American children who actually died of the disease.  

Modern electronic media have been given free rein to invent their own reality—they are, after all, the allies and stooges of the scriptwriters who created this lousy world we inhabit, but in the real America they would be held criminally accountable for their lies, distortions, and ignorance.  If the press repeated the defamatory lies told by the CIA against critics and opponents of the regime, they would be prosecuted, when those “enemies of the state” were gunned down or firebombed by government assassins. Of course, in the real America, a responsible republican government would only employ assassins against foreign terrorists.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

3 Responses

  1. James D. says:

    Thank you for this, Dr. Fleming. Could you explain the following line: “Or perhaps it was later, when Nixon got the goods on Larry Macdonald and the Democratic Party and convicted them of treason.”


  2. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    James D., you must have entered a parallel universe. It is Larry O’Brien. McDonald was a very conservative congressman, but O’Brien was DNC chairman. Kidding aside, thank’s for catching the glitch. As for the point of what I intended to write, one nagging question about Watergate was why did Nixon want O’Brien’s offices bugged? I have believed, over the years, that he sincerely believed that the Democrats were up to their old tricks of collaborating with the communists or at least of some sort of subversion. Of course I have here assumed my speculation is true, but, If I may quote Yip Harburg, “It wouldn’t be make-believe, if you believed in me.”

  3. James D. says:

    Thank you, Dr. Fleming. I initially thought you might have been referring to Russian and European reports in the aftermath of McDonald’s death on Korean Air Lines Flight 007, that prior to the flight, the CIA warned Nixon not to get on the plane. He was supposed to be sitting next to McDonald.