When the Next Season of Squid Game Comes Out
a review of the missing obvious, by Turaj Zaim
Squid Game is the South Korean television series named after a game from director Hwang Dong-hyuk’s childhood. Like all the games the characters of Dong-hyuk’s story end up playing in a terrible contest they enter as adults, “the squid game” has confusing rules, changing goals, and makes no sense, and that’s the point. Months after content providers filled the internet with commentary on Squid Game’s first season, there still hasn’t been any mention of the show’s screaming political message. I’ll discuss what every review missed: the monster of the story.
Seong Gi-hun, a gambler and lifelong brokester, submits to the humiliation of being slapped by a stranger who gives him money for each slap (or for accepting the humiliation). The stranger then hands Gi-hun a cryptic business card with a circle, a triangle, and a square where a business name or service would normally be printed. He finds out it’s an invitation to a secret contest for cash, when he joins hundreds of other financially desperate contestants as they all enter a giant hidden facility.
The contestants’ journey begins with a walk, in single file, through an M.C. Escher-esque room filled with narrow, childishly colored staircases going in every direction. It’s an extremely inefficient route and an obviously silly way to get anywhere, symbolizing their entrance into an unreasonable system that operates by absurd logic they must accept without question.
Then they learn they’re there to play much more dehumanizing games than being slapped for cash. Contestants die and disappear regularly, and those remaining get the impression they’re surviving by little more than chance. The cruelty of the games begins to make the players cruel, and the unfair, changing rules make even the toughest of them feel vulnerable.
In one of Gretchen Smail’s four pieces on Squid Game, the Bustle reviewer offers “The Psychological Reason You’re Obsessed with Squid Game.” She quotes Dr. Eric Bender’s psychiatric view that the fact the contest’s games are children’s games adds to “the sense of powerlessness” that the audience knows the characters must feel, because we all know children are “‘not in control of their lives’,” and because “‘children’s games are kind of cruel’.” (Consider Tag and Musical Chairs.)
Smail then summarizes Dr. Bender’s insights with her own rhetorical question, using the show as a straw subject, in place of herself:
“What is the playground, the show asks, if not a microcosm of the cutthroat business world under capitalism?”
What a strange way to conclude three paragraphs of a psychiatrist’s insights. Smail probably knows that her Western readers associate cutthroat competition with capitalism, but such competition exists nearly everywhere and is actually more prevalent in systems that do not have clear, consistent rules. There are several forms of “cutthroat” behavior common in countries where haggling, false advertizing, or bribery are widely practiced, business factors Westerners find difficult to consider.
Regarding economic desperation, a main theme in the show, the past century has seen capitalism bring most people living in extreme poverty out of it, a fact that no one—of any ideology—even tries to deny.
But enough of us mentally associate cutthroat business with capitalism, and also half-consciously believe that competition for resources must somehow not exist in other systems, so the clever misdirection lies, and is layered by another: Smail paraphrases Media & Cinema Studies scholar Grace Jung’s view of the show’s worldwide resonance with audiences, writing that the “promised payoff” for school tuitions and unpaid internships and mortgages never comes for low-income people “in a capitalist system.” These are not only inaccurate generalizations, but also aren’t Jung’s words. Here are Jung’s words, which Smail provides after that paraphrasing:
“‘Debt makes everyone feel vulnerable and anxious and desperate’.”
A critical reader may wonder why Smail represented Jung’s view of Squid Game’s resonance as being that tuition, mortgages, and internships never pay off, and why her review attributed so many tangential negatives to capitalism, in her own words, twice.
Most of our media’s groupthink on the show’s message isn’t so suspicious. WaPo’s Max Boot says the show is a “brutal satire of the wealth inequality produced by unbridled capitalism,” which describes the beginning, when some characters are pressured by debts they’ve racked up in a capitalist economy that could be better checked and limited (as Adam Smith, who wrote the book on capitalism, warned us a free market system should be). But if Squid Game is a “satire,” Boot somehow misses what every episode after the first one satirizes. It isn’t capitalism.
BuzzFeed News, which owns the openly ethno-communist The Root, published a review by Elamin Abdelmahmoud that shows how a reporter can project his ideology onto a topic without any self-awareness. Abdelmahmoud can “see all the big and small humiliations of capitalism: the feeling of your worth being tethered to your productivity; the magical thinking that once you’re rich, you’ll be a different person; the embarrassments we are willing to endure to afford what we think we deserve.”
Exactly none of that is in the story. The main character is humiliated once he submits to the new system he is offered. That’s the gateway into hell for both Gi-hun and the others: accepting the invitation into the game world.
Gi-hun doesn’t ever think he’ll “be a different person” if he gets rich, but Abdelmahmoud thinks that because Gi-hun still acts like himself after he gets a bunch of money some point has been proven against capitalism, because I guess… capitalism promises people that money will change who they are? I don’t know, but I do know Gi-hun is portrayed as feeling guilty about the money. I’m pretty sure that’s why he doesn’t spend it on himself, or on what “we think we deserve.”
And which character worries about their self-worth being tied to their productivity? Where does Abdelmahmoud see any hint of that? I can’t even guess. He concludes that the show is so popular because its villain is capitalism, and then continues to talk about himself: “It’s a villain viewers everywhere can identify.” Indeed, some people really do see the evil of capitalism everywhere.
The contestants who enter the dungeon of deadly games are all suffering financially, a trait they seem to have been screened for before being invited. Most are already demoralized, and become more demoralized by the games. Gi-hun and the people he must make alliances with—and also possibly kill—see no remedy for their situations back home, in the real world. They are allowed to rejoin that real world at any time, if they just vote to end the dehumanizing games. But the longer they stay in, the more the prize money grows (per each contestant’s death) and the more personal values they’ve surrendered.
So they vote to stay in the infantilizing, maddening new reality, struggling to understand a system that seems designed to drive them to distrust and insanity, and trying to predict the mysterious goals that change from game to game, sometimes mid-game. They eat, sleep, and compete every day in a chamber of horrors, always monitored by camera and never informed of what is really going on.
The totalitarian environment is enforced by masked, lethally armed employees who aren’t allowed to speak, unless another masked employee of higher status requires them to. But the masks barely make a difference. The contestants eventually figure out that the faceless, voiceless employees authorized to kill them are just as bound by the system’s crazy rules as they are, if not more.
A later episode introduces us to the investors in Squid Game’s cruel world, when a bunch of middle-aged and older white males of exorbitant wealth come to watch the games from behind one-way glass, expressing their sadistic elitism and perverse vicariousness in corny jokes and trite American idioms (giving audiences the impression that these Western elites are uncreative people and insensitive to the common person’s suffering.)
But references to another invisible villain pervade. A tangent in the show is the pillaging of organs from dead contestants’ bodies, for the Chinese, or rather for the Chinese government. The rushing of fresh kills into hidden surgery rooms to cut out their organs is depicted in two separate scenes that are never developed—as tho the scenes are only included to make it clear that China buys murdered people’s organs.
These standalone scenes are striking in their inclusion, and clearly meant to be. More aware than we are of the expansionist power Communist China has become, and as worried about the CCP’s influence as the Japanese, Australians, and Indians are, South Koreans regularly make political statements about China in their art. It is either gross or willful ignorance by Squid Game’s reviewers not to consider South Korea’s concerns about its regional neighbor. The show’s naming of China specifically as the profiteer behind the games’ most materialist use of human beings is too blatant not to have been mentioned.
And so is the political nature of the system the characters have to survive in, but you won’t find the Squid Game’s overt references to communism mentioned either. Consider Bence Nanay, PhD’s review. Psychology Today’s explanation piece, “Why Squid Game is So Popular” tells us the premise of the show appeals to audiences’ frustration with the growing divide between rich and poor. That is also what Dong-hyuk said he was worried about, he said especially now because the divide got worse during the covid measures.
Nanay starts well, recognizing the show’s fundamental strengths—its stunning visual style, its exquisite cast, who bring depth to characters there isn’t much time for, and the stylish production—but then falls off the same cliff so many commentators from the professional class do when commenting on this or any other art with themes of financial struggle: a fixation on recognition of those struggling in our society.
Nanay even knows it’s a typical insight, calling Squid Game “a pretty obvious critique of our competition-obsessed capitalist society,” which is why I would call this review an example of gross ignorance, one that can be excused in the sloshing sea. Nanay suggests the show’s setting taps into Korea-mania and exotification. He theorizes that by watching financial struggle in another place and language, we are psychologically distanced enough from it to escape into a separate reality. But he meanders back to hypercompetitive capitalism, as tho he never watched the episodes exposing the black market of the game world or the philosophy behind its structure.
“… as social criticism, the show’s premise is a bit too obvious and maybe even heavy-handed.”
That’s because you missed the point, professor.
In CNN’s opinion piece, “Why Americans are So Obsessed with ‘Squid Game’,” Airielle Lowe explains the love for Netflix’s most watched show (ever, with just one season) by claiming we play our own version of the show’s competition for survival here in America, except, she says, that “the rules for success are much clearer” for the characters in the show.
That is the opposite of the case. Game by game, the characters are not even told the rules to what they are about to play, usually thrown into a deadly new arena with no idea what to expect—except for when they have been given the wrong idea.
The U.S. has explicit rules for success, which correspond intuitively with the very straightforward values of our society. That doesn’t mean those rules are always followed. Nor does it mean the richest in our game aren’t making up new rules behind our backs (like special rules for Chinese securities). But it does mean Lowe leaned on this typical line of commentary instead of proving she watched the whole season.
Lowe draws a parallel between the medical debt the hero’s mother can’t pay and the $140 billion in medical debt that we Americans owe, a parallel I suspect director Dong-hyuk was aware of. Her point is simply that Americans struggle to afford healthcare, while the director’s was that such debt pushed a good person to consider a terrible option.
Lowe’s focus on America’s problems does not end there. She notes that the poorer classes in the U.S. are disproportionately burdened by medical debt, which is true, but her review offers no comparison to other nations’ debt (as there is in the last episode of the show), nor to other nations’ challenges providing medical care for their citizens. And there isn’t any context. (Like, for example, that the U.S. innovates in medicine more than every other country, and does more pharmaceutical research than any other, providing the world with advancements that other nations then do not have to innovate for themselves.)
When Lowe mentions the “discrimination and disadvantages migrants face in South Korea,” it’s to note undocumented workers’ disadvantages in America. She equates legal migrant labor in South Korea with illegal immigration here, and doesn’t mention discrimination or disadvantages migrants suffer anywhere else. Then she concludes with a limited interpretation of America’s promise to us who come from other countries, “to be one of the wealthy,” as tho that is the sole offering of this system or even most immigrants’ goal.
Typical of CNN’s tireless slant but also of so much commentary today, Lowe’s piece spends extra time making sure her readers are aware that financial struggle exists here. Right here, in the United States. She writes that if you watch Squid Game without noticing why the characters enter the contest in the first place, “you’re not watching it closely enough.” (And I must mention the next line:) “Or, perhaps, you're immune to the similar struggles so many Americans face today.”
I agree with the reviews above: it is mostly because of frustrations with the unaffordable cost of healthcare and our still widening wealth gap that some people are willing to consider an alternate system with nonsensical rules. But analyses of Squid Game have focused on why the characters leave their lives to enter a horrifying new system, and missed the nature of the system itself, the threat this warning from South Korea is trying to educate us about.
While Parade, who interviewed Dong-hyuk, also mentioned capitalism and not communism, what Dong-hyuk said is that he was worried about the wealth gap, and how it widened during the pandemic. Oxfam found that after the lockdowns and other government measures, 573 people became new billionaires, while 263 million people fell into extreme poverty. Would that be because of overbearing state restrictions, or from free markets?
Here comes Smail with another piece dated October 16th, improbably published the same night as the airing of the Saturday Night Live skit it comments on. In “SNL Spoofed Squid Game [w]ith a Catchy Country Song,” Smail has changed her approach, from meandering between excerpts of misrepresented psychological explanations, to mockery. In a brief rundown of the SNL skit’s parody of both the show and some common audience reactions (“I’m confused by the currency,” sings Mr. Robot star Rami Malek), Smail lingers on anything that could make Squid Game seem foolish, and then ends by diminishing her favorite subject:
“It was a short musical skit, and yet it managed to capture the series pretty perfectly.”
It’s like she isn’t familiar with the point of parody, which is to poke fun at its subject. (You know that. You live in a country that values satire.) Smail presents SNL's parody as a review, ridiculing for her that silly squid game thing we shouldn’t waste our time with. So many pieces about a show she fails to appreciate the appeal of.
The CCP knows what Squid Game is about. After Chloe Zhao became the first woman of color to win the Oscar for Best Director, Zhao’s description of China as “a place where lies are everywhere” changed her status in Chinese media from artistic genius to pariah, a woman scorned for her betrayal. Of her country? Nay. She was ostracized for criticizing the system that suffocates her country, the one that just shared its suffocation with the world.
Shen Yun has recently—and according to this human rights activist, by what must have been a unanimous decision among the cast—decided to promote their show as being about “China before communism.” Ads for Shen Yun now very openly accuse the Chinese Communist Party of repressing freedoms and culture, and their performances depict the CCP’s human rights abuses, such as executing dissidents and then stealing their organs. The Communist Party’s response to such criticism is predictable: rejection, denial, coordinated suppression.
(It’s even unstrategic in how consistent it is, because such regular denial of reality looks so bad to most people that we interpret it as either ideological derangement or the corruption of absolute power, which is just bad PR.)
The UN says China’s Uyghurs have suffered from serious state crimes.The Associated Press has documented forced labor, and forced birth control to decrease Uyghur births. At this year’s Winter Olympics it was the International Olympic Committee’s policy not to mention the Uyghurs’ oppression. Olympic athletes were told not to mention the word “genocide.”
Non-Chinese athletes competing for China this year were given strict prohibitions of speech, including not speaking publicly in their native tongues, even to the international press. Even the half dozen who do not speak Chinese at all weren’t allowed to speak in another language, and especially not in English—including at press events where normally English would be spoken. The ridiculous rules were compounded by the presence of Chinese speakers who spoke for those athletes. To reiterate, state-appointed speakers made statements on behalf of athletes who neither wrote nor understood those statements.
Do these seem like the unintentionally goofy side effects of rules made by a totalitarian regime? Or, did the Chinese Communist Party know that noticeable contradictions would inevitably result from their policies, and desire one of their effects: the appearance of being in control no matter what, like a parent is: able to make people do things even when those things don’t make sense to the people doing them, because they said so.
“It is incomprehensible that Beijing qualified to hold the Winter Olympics.”
—Professor Wendy Rogers
In a totalitarian system’s propaganda, holding the 2022 Games in snowless Beijing, which expert sports analysts and former IOC officials said was ridiculous even to consider, has a psychological effect that serves the CCP’s most common PR tactic: contrived impressions of dominance. Notice how much effort they spend making those impressions, and how much distracting the world from their system’s actual effect on human beings.
As South Koreans watch the CCP transform Hong Kong by perverting their education and their press with the National Security Act; overfish in other nations’ waters; shadow other nations’ ships while declaring a new rule—the right to fire on ships if they claim that they sense they’re being targeted (sound familiar?); attempt to purchase a large number of Australian businesses covertly; and fly warplanes into Taiwan’s airspace while threatening that democratic country with annexation by force, Squid Game erupts as a cry from Seoul’s heart, a warning to the West that an inhumane system seeks to expand its influence into other societies to weaken them from within, to control markets it won’t fairly compete in, and to monopolize resources to sustain its culture-crushing, slavery-employing, intellectual property theft-reliant, pyramidal power structure.
Gretchen Smail’s first analysis of Squid Game, “What to Know…” isn’t as effective as her other three pieces about the show, but it merits reading for yourself for a sense of what certain writers are now providing for Western readers. You might notice her clumsy collection of commonly criticized elements of American society. Watch her jam a reference to our “prison-industrial complex” (instead of, say, to forced-labor and re-education camps) into a review of a show that no American sees as a commentary on prison. We are to provide the missing dressing on this word salad:
“The game show format speaks to the inhumane realities and crushing individualism of capitalism, while the holding area riots and the impersonal nature of how the players are treated speaks to the cruelties of the prison-industrial complex.”
You can almost feel the late-night hurry to check off a list of things to attribute to capitalism, and certainly any “inhumane” or “impersonal” realities need to be pinned on the West as well, before anyone gets the wrong idea. Let us all pause to consider the inhumane realities that Squid Game is totally showing us about our system, like our “crushing individualism.”
For the highbrow, there’s “Haven’t Watched Squid Game? Here’s What You’re Not Missing” by NYT’s Mike Hale. Hale delivers on his review’s title by more than just revealing the show’s surprises. He calls the costumes “eye-catching—though not especially interesting,” poorly estimating the popularity of those costumes in memes still spreading on the internet, in cosplay, and during last Halloween.
He says the gameplay in the show appeals to teenagers who play video games (not worth your time, fellow adults) and suggests it has the appeal of reality show competitions, a genre of entertainment he has to know his literati audience tend to be allergic to. He calls the identity of the Front Man obvious, deftly exposing that that identity is revealed in the first season while simultaneously impressing upon the reader how predictable all the plot points he’s exposing are.
He claims that part of the marble game scene is “shamefully manipulative,” saying the show uses cheap techniques of emotional manipulation and that one of its most moving scenes is guilty of them. Then he says it’s that manipulation that made the show an audience favorite (suckers) as well as a critics’ favorite (seals). In other words, it’s insultingly stupid. Don’t watch it. You’ll see the twists coming “from a kilometer away.”
(A kilometer, Mike? Like Zorro’s Z?)
Hale also details the surprise ending—what game is played, the characters involved, and exactly where the knife goes. You’ll never read a more spoiling review. After his accidental destruction of Squid Game’s most dramatic scenes, Hale ascribes this great work’s popularity to the “reassuring familiarity of the hoary storytelling formulas,” because that’s what thrills disparate international audiences: reassuring familiarity and formulaic storytelling.
He even throws in some doubt about that popularity, implying Netflix hid the real viewership numbers:
“its actual viewership is a bigger mystery than anything in the show.”
Zing. But most telling is Hale’s treatment of Squid Game’s political message. He dismisses it as a “pretense of contemporary social relevance.” (I feel smart just reading that.) He also misdescribes the hell-world the contestants compete in as “egalitarian” and “merit-based” without any irony, when just two episodes would convince the average viewer that that world’s approach to offering people fair and equal treatment, or to letting them succeed by anything that could be called merit, is tragically unsuccessful.
Finally, Hale’s bio claims he’s from South Korea, yet he never mentions anything about South Korea in the review; nor how Squid Game reflects South Korean concerns or views, about anything; nor how South Korean artists now include anti-CCP messages in their art; nor how South Koreans see Squid Game’s political message as obvious, maybe because their interpretation of it is in such conflict with his own.
Twice in Squid Game, in another outstanding repetition of a political point, the masked Front Man explains to the contestants how he’s created the “perfect” world. In the Front Man’s perfect system, everyone receives the exact same amount of knowldege and resources, and therefore the exact same chance of success.
There is no system that can give everyone the exact same chance of success, at anything, but I’ll stop there because I don’t want to spoil these moments in the show, which explicitly describe communist values. Okay, I’ll tell you about one of them: the Front Man breaks the employees’ silence to share his definition of equality. It’s forced material equity, represented as a single egg each contestant is supposed to get for a dinner meal. So they are served a meal of one egg, and of course things don’t stay equal.
I can’t imagine the political stance of the show being made more clear: A system that reduces human beings to numbers that require material resources is cruel and dysfunctional, and maybe even will end up starving its participants. And the rules in such a system are unreasonable, but they are strict and enforcement brutal because brutal enforcement is necessary to maintain unreasonable rules.
After a nonviolent, public demonstration of Falun Gong’s breathing exercises, many members of that spiritual group were imprisoned by Chinese authorities without having committed any crime. Falun Gong practitioners (the people the CCP started oppressing after Tibetans and Southern Mongolians, but before Hong Kongers and Uyghurs) are
the last people to attempt public protest in China.
CORRECTION: There is a new population of protesters in China. Dissidents against the Communist Party express their dissidence by “lying flat.” Lying flat is rebellion by lifestyle: doing only the bare minimum citizens are required to do in all areas of activity where the state sets goals and quotas—or rewards via China's social credit rating. Communist societies are extremely low-trust societies. Everyone knows that everyone is being dishonest, because of the stories they have to maintain and beliefs they have to pretend they have in order not to get in trouble. This awareness of the constant dishonesty and deception that exists even in the most common social interactions, in commerce, in the media, and in school, decreases people's trust, especially in their country's institutions. To counter the many bad effects of their lack of social trust, the CCP has game-ified good social behavior with an official social credit system. They add social credit points to your personal social credit rating for all kinds of behaviors, from visiting your own parents to praising government projects on your social media. Yes. Lying flat is a way citizens tell the Chinese government that they do not want to participate in its game in any way that could make them more successful or elevate their status. Don’t let anyone tell you communism has crushed all the creativity out of the Chinese.
In March of 2020, the London-based China Tribunal announced it had found overwhelming evidence of organ-pillaging in China. Especially targeted were Falun Gong practitioners. Undercover reporters have successfully ordered such organs from Chinese hospitals. Only by a materialist ideology could the commodification of human organs stolen from innocent people be justified.
According to Xi Jinping, now leader-for-life of the CCP, “the best human rights” are “sustenance” and “economic development.” So an egg for everyone, and material development in the direction deemed best by the few in command—of how human labor can be optimized; of what people’s minds need to be re-educated to believe; of which people’s organs are a material resource; of who needs to breed and how much.
As American workers use their open markets and their rights of free movement and free contract to demand better wages and greater work autonomy, and 25 million people in Shanghai are deprived of all that—howling like primates while being detained in isolation, or yelling from their windows while imprisoned in their homes—maybe we should pay attention to what systems don’t allow power to flow upward from the bottom, systems that can’t tolerate multiple sources of power in a society, and can’t bear critical speech.
And maybe as Xi Jinping repeats his desire for “mutual respect” among nations, we should review his own record (setting aside pegging the yuan to the dollar, and ignoring Western property rights, and hacking our officials’ personal information, and stealing extremely valuable intellectual property). In March, the Wall Street Journal reported five “Chinese Agents in U.S. Charged Over Threats.” [Or just search “chinese agents,” wherever you are, for news of the squid’s tentacles.]
“A Chinese spy hired a private investigator to use violence if necessary to end a candidate’s run for Congress, instructing [the private investigator] to ‘beat him until he cannot run for election,’ prosecutors alleged as they unsealed a series of complaints accusing Chinese agents of harassing dissidents living in the U.S.
“Agents also plotted to appear at another dissident’s house pretending to come from an international sports committee [I wonder which one!] in a bid to get his passport and that of a family member…
“While U.S. authorities have long accused the Chinese government of using illegal tactics to threaten political rivals and dissidents world-wide, law-enforcement officials [hyphens theirs] said Wednesday the efforts have grown more brazen in recent years, reaching even into the U.S. political process.” So harassment of our residents on our soil, direct political interference, and violence. [And mutual respect.]
Speaking at a World Economic Forum meeting early this year, Klaus Schwab (author of The Great Reset and The Great Narrative) promoted his global vision: for increased governmental powers and increased corporate involvement in governance. Shortly afterward at the World Government Summit, he asked in a video aired there how “we” can “empower governments toward” a better system, because that’s how empowerment works: you empower people toward something.
Schwab praised new government “tools” like 2020’s lockdowns, which he stated were necessary to prevent economic catastrophe, basing that awfully aging assertion on another one: that shutting down business and other activity saved economies by preventing “mass death” and therefore “economic collapse.” (See the recent Johns Hopkins findings on just how much that didn't happen.)
Xi Jinping modeled those lockdowns, restricting his citizens’ mobility and ability to work while displaying communism’s sole strength: slightly faster implementation of state restrictions.
Then the World Health Organization called Xi’s lockdown a good example of state response (to a pandemic the CCP allowed to spread via international air travel from China’s Wuhan Province for two weeks after blocking travel to and from Wuhan domestically). This was a reversal of the WHO’s previous stance on lockdowns.
Then the Imperial College of London developed a method of modeling projections that predicted lockdowns would be helpful, and went on to be dramatically wrong also in its projections of the spread of each new covid wave. Those projections were led by a physicist named Neil Ferguson, who has no background in medicine, nor in epidemiology, nor in computer modeling, but was trusted to continue projecting the effects of covid despite being consistently, epicly wrong in every projection he’s ever made. He is now busy projecting “scientific ignorance” onto his many critics.
Here in the U.S. the increased suicide rate and missed cancer screenings resulting from the lockdown probably cost more lives than the lockdown saved.
(Johns Hopkins reported the number of American lives saved by the 2020 lockdown did reach even two thousand.)
UPDATE: The UK’s National Health Service recently published a major study in The Lancet that estimated the number of deaths directly caused by the lockdowns in that little nation, just from missed screenings for diabetics, was 3,000.
And still our new health authorities behave as tho they should be trusted further with their grip on things. Our surgeon general recently asked social media companies to provide data on “covid misinformation” by May 2nd, tho it is our government that has been the biggest source of inaccuracies, falsehoods, and misinformation on covid, and altho most of what was once officially called misinformation—for which people got demonetized, suspended, fired, or banned for sharing—is now officially no longer misinformation.
Consider the changing of one new health official’s opinion that masking would be an unhelpful and unnecessary response to the coming pandemic: Our first new-official recommendation was to forget about wearing a mask, go out and take a walk, get some sun. That suddenly changed to coerced widespread masking, even of our now socially and emotionally stunted four-to-seven-year-olds.
Meanwhile, the Center for Disease Control’s website reported their meta-analysis of mask use as showing inconclusive results—by their own words having a reduction not more than 22%, which they stated on their site was indistinguishable from the proven effects of proper ventilation and social distancing; their own conclusion on the effects of our government-recommended protective measures on the spread of influenza showed “no evidence” we should be taking such measures for covid; and their own mask study of 90,000 people in Georgia found that masks did nothing to contain the spread of covid.
Florida schools that chose to mask students showed no fewer outbreaks nor any less spread of the virus than those that chose to stop masking students.
The latest study from Denmark shows that masking, if it has any effect, slightly worsens both infection and spread.
And yet this year, the (new) director of the CDC found a mask study no one else is allowed to see the data from, purportedly of Arizona schools, that she has claimed many times publicly shows school outbreaks are three and a half times more likely in schools that do not mask students, a statistic so extreme it should be examined by all American media, and so far has only been investigated by The Atlantic, which found it to be based on undisclosed and incongruous data.
We’ve been told that flight attendants were once mostly in favor of masking their passengers, tho they know that airplane air is now cleaner than a surgery room’s. Now we are told that their opinion on masking is mixed, again with zero data or a single poll.
Yet soon after the recent ruling allowing airlines to stop masking, which they did immediately, Leanna Wen said that “just because this ruling was made by a judge, doesn’t mean that suddenly the science has changed. We know that masks remain very protective.”
Wen is CNN’s expert on pandemic measures. She once stated publicly that she knew of no right Californians had to travel around their state, and she is now telling us that “we know” masks are “very protective.” She is correct that the science on masks has not changed.
[UPDATE: Wen has recently acknowledged stunting her own young children’s development with masking, but remains too blindly authoritarian, cowardly, or mendacious to speak clearly about her new beliefs regarding masking and covid-vaccinating children, and she probably won’t as long as she has her current job.]
Colleen Huber has discussed mask studies like the one at Duke University, which found masks may in fact increase the spread of covid. The Duke study happened in 2020, and her peer review was published in PDMJ at the beginning of last year.
Last summer, two doctors at USC’s Center for Health Policy & Economics wrote for the Orange County Register that “Mandatory Masking of School Children is a Bad Idea,” I guess because they were amazed the policy was still in effect and wanted to be clear. They attack the justification made by California’s health officials, that “treating all kids the same will support a calm and supportive school environment.”
(We’ve heard similar statements made in Portland, New York, and Seattle. It is not explained whom the masked environment is “supportive” of, nor how masking children makes the environment “calm,” tho one can imagine how.)
The two doctors wrote that much better preventive measures are available and, as a bonus, effective. They argued that masking the students was putting a burden on children to benefit adults, and that the better option was to unmask every child, vaccinated or not. They also reminded the “adults” in this case that their rule might save one child’s life, statistically.
(Studies show healthy children have about a 99.99% survival rate. In March, the CDC admitted that they overcounted covid deaths, due to a “coding logic error.” Their new count suggests the child death rate is about one quarter of one percent. I believe this is because they are not accounting for comorbidities and immunodeficiencies.)
It is as tho we did not want to reach herd immunity quickly—letting the disease spread through healthy children to increase our number of naturally immune—but instead normalize ineffective measures and maintain the social, psychological, and economic harms of those measures as long as possible. And more harms will be revealed.
[UPDATES: Chinese researchers found that there has been much more development of myopia in children since they were stuck at home spending hours a day staring at screens.
Immunologists in the West have noticed a widespread drop in people’s resistance to infections.]
In the real world, we would demand our new CDC Director Rochelle Wolensky make the data from her Arizona mask study public. In the scientific world, scientists would have access to that study’s data, as they always do, to every public study’s data. In the Squid Game world, no one challenges the contradictions.
So when Surgeon General Vivek Murthy requests data on “sources of covid misinformation” from our social media companies to be turned over to him, what data does he mean?
Are the heads of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tik Tok supposed to embrace that new kind of rule and supply data on people who posted numbers that showed healthy children are so invulnerable to covid that it’s only the very few children with immunological problems we should worry about?
Or does Murthy want to know which mRNA researchers and epidemiologists warned us mass vaccination was not a good idea for this kind of pandemic—while our new health authorities claimed these vaccines would prevent both infection and spread?
Does “misinformation” include Tweets that the mRNA treatments’ side effects are underreported, as the CDC admits they are? Pfizer, which made billions in net profit from just last quarter, must be very guilty of misinformation by neglecting to report their own conclusion that natural immunity is at least as effective as their mRNA shots, a finding only made public by a court order to release their research, which they wanted to take most the rest of this century to release.
Do such glaring, policy-guiding omissions count as misinformation?
Will the (new) officials at the FDA be considered a source of misinformation then, for the bizarre assertion they made to that court that there is no pressing public need for Pfizer to release those documents before 2077?
Does it matter that nurses and doctors were getting fired, during hospital understaffing, during a pandemic, for demanding that their natural immunity be respected? Or are their stories just fuel for dangerous voices who suggested the natural immunity that humans earn from getting sick didn’t suddenly disappear from our species for this and only this disease?
Is the World Health Organization guilty of misinformation for telling us on March 31st, 2020, that there is “no specific evidence to suggest wearing of masks… has any potential benefit,” or is the CDC guilty for telling us three days later to wear them?
How about all the media experts telling us it is “fact” those mRNA products do not endanger fertility when the just released fact is, and has been, that we do not know? [UPDATE, August 2022: The drug companies now admit that they don’t know how their shots affect fertility. The redefining of covid misinformation continues.]
The many doctors who risked their careers to speak out against unprecedented restrictions on prescribing drugs, when prescribing drugs is their domain of authority?
Or the doctors who criticized our new public health masters for failing to provide a treatment protocol for covid, forcing people to get sicker at home till they were sick enough to be allowed into a hospital for treatment? When has that ever happened, that the rule is not to treat until it’s severe? I guess when we’re following other crazy rules about not letting doctors presribe drugs.
Are advocates for Covaxin and Novavax sources of misinformation, for stating these alternate products should be available in the U.S.? Or is Anthony Fauci for stating that we “don’t need another vaccine”? Or for misinforming the public about his knowledge of the NIH’s funding of research that Obama outlawed? The type of gain-of-function research funded under Fauci is called “gain-of-threat,” which itself is a euphemism for weaponization, which would mean Fauci hid his knowledge of illegal bioweapon research done in collaboration with a rival state, one that considers us an enemy state and openly discusses intentions to dominate us.
What about the State of California, for proposing bills to discipline doctors who voice their own medical opinion rather than the state’s, to ban any entity from voicing any truth not approved by the state, and to defund California law enforcement agencies that do not enforce such mandates (as tho they predict even law enforcement authorities will eventually rebel against crazy rules)? Aren’t they trying to implement structural immunity for misinformation, with punishments for anyone who challenges or contradicts it or has a different view?
Will the The New York Times be held responsible for misinforming us, both during the pandemic about China, and very recently with its long article on “The Anti-Vaccine Movement…” about vaccine hesitancy? The Grey Lady (NYT) uses Roman and Chinese characters to blame the recent growth of the anti-vaccine movement on everything except the primary cause of that distrust—the many errors and irrational new policies on the covid immunotherapy products we are now calling vaccines.
Acknowledging parents’ reasons for hesitancy was beyond the purview of the Times. What other countries are pushing the vaccination of children again? I can’t name one.
What about Anthony Fauci’s admission that he had misled the public about the rate of vaccination he thought was necessary to get the U.S. to herd immunity, as a reason for public distrust? Could the New York Times be guilty of misinformation by omission for forgetting to mention our new health czar’s outright and admitted dishonesty regarding herd immunity?
Or maybe for failing to report that even a 100% vaccination rate with these vaccines would not have got us to herd immunity, because they are a brand new kind: “non-sterilizing” vaccines?
Or for labeling [Dr.] Robert Malone [the Times forgot the “Dr.” part of his name] a "vaccine skeptic" because he criticized the science behind the covid shots and vaccination of our youth.
No, it’ll probably be the chief of infectious pediatric diseases at Tufts Children’s Hospital, and the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, and the two (more) FDA officials and three (more) CDC officials who just quit from political pressure, all disagreeing with the recent FDA approval of a fourth (4th) shot for anyone other than those with badly compromised immune systems, who will be reported as sources of misinformation.
How about Bill Gates, for saying that intellectual property—meaning private ownership of the patents for covid vaccines—is not an access barrier?
That proved untrue, and vaccine production facilities from Canada to Bangladesh sat unused. They lacked the recipes to produce shots that vulnerable people around the world waited much too long for. They would have been producing the open-source Oxford vaccine the whole time.
So are we going to be warned of misinformation from the Gates Foundation and told a tale of caution about how such institutional influence can block the availability of a vaccine option for the whole world to manufacture? (Because it’s kinda suss that Gates stepped in and made sure that public vaccine project was privatized… Sussybacca.)
What about those racists who said the pandemic came from China, or who banned flights from China, or who call covid “the Wuhan virus” as the Chinese do?
Is our new misinforming definition of the word “vaccine” the fault of our new “science communicators”? Or is it the CDC’s fault for accepting the new definition? Or is it Merriam-Webster’s for adding a second and diluted definition of the word?
World-renowned epidemiologists and virologists kept trying to warn us of dangers like immune escape, and other reasons mass vaccination was a very stupid strategy. Is the immune escape that a non-sterilizating vaccine allows why The Science said people could spread covid without showing symptoms? Because we never got any explanation of how covid could be contagious without showing symptoms. Is that because the data showed that it is vaccinated people who will spread covid without showing symptoms of it?
Is that why we were never explained how people could spread this disease without (“before”) expressing any symptoms?
Still waiting on that explanation, aren’t we?
Well, I’m glad those actual health and public health experts were vilified, canceled, threatened with revocation of their licenses and jobs, de-platformed, and silenced.
Does our surgeon general need personal data on all the public health experts and economists and doctors who stated that locking down businesses would hurt more than it would help, or is that no longer misinformation?
It’s anyone’s guess who Vivek Murthy wants data on, and guess we’ll have to, just like the characters in Squid Game who have to guess how to survive under cruel rules that keep changing.
It is not appropriate for adults, especially adults in a free society, to submit to authority that would compel them—instead of regulate them with clear policies and reasonable explanations. “Because I said so,” is barely an acceptable explanation when it comes from a parent to a questioning child, but in that dynamic parents could have good reason to keep children from knowing certain things or from trying to understand things they can’t yet. And even then, some explanation would be better.
Only an adult stripped of her dignity, her sense-making ideologies, her faith in what once worked and in herself, would ever submit to such authority, like an amnesiac grasping for any story offered. In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Wolf presents war tactics like removing cultural artifacts and destroying museums as ways of erasing a people’s shared story.
The psychological effect (or purpose, Wolf implies) is to prepare people to accept a new system they would otherwise naturally rebel against too much ever to accept. Squid Game depicts characters who lose contact with the world they knew, its norms and standards, and then slowly accept a world that punishes them for being natural.
And still the characters try to adapt, contorting themselves as much as inhumanly possible to follow the changing and irrational rules, as they are revealed by secretive authorities.
Squid Game also warns us of what some historians and scholars who have studied totalitarian societies have noticed: that the worst personalities are empowered in such systems. Bullies, pathological liars, psycho-and-sociopaths, control freaks, sellouts, and manipulable idiots are much more often given positions of authority in systems that operate on nonsense, because those systems require morally flexible agents who will enforce shifting and contradicting rules, because rules keep changing in systems that operate on lies, because lies have to keep changing.
As the games continue, a violent gangster figures out how to use the rules against other contestants. Passive-aggressive contestants let others fall for personal advantage, self-protection, or just spite. Liars thrive at cost to the rest.
The Department of Homeland Security announced a new board set up to govern disinformation. DHS Secretary Mayorkas appointed Nina Jankowicz to head the new board. Jankowicz had publicly implied that the incriminating contents of Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptops were fabricated by the Trump re-election campaign, and called the laptop news story a “Russian influence op” and “a fairly [fairy] tale about a laptop repair shop.” That’s who was nominated to decide for us what disinformation is, a job no public servant in a democracy should have anyway.
Hypocritical pro-masking politicians have been recorded in fundraising events, inside salons, on planes, and at parties, without masks, having forgotten—along with all the other squares around them—the science and the rules they stood for.
The child-masking law New York Mayor Eric Adams recently represented as a way to “protect our babies” was instead called by a judge “arbitrary” and “capricious.”
Certain personality types thrive more than others in the crazy hell world. Bullies band and cheat while empathic types fall into despair. The forced distrust in others demoralizes everyone. Some begin tricking fellow contestants, hoping it will increase their own chances. Once deep in the games, characters become psychologically isolated, even from the other people in the same situation. Survival and new social pressures combine to drive them into more deceptive and paranoid behavior, and those who choose to follow their old moral codes do so at risk of being killed.
“Taking a man’s livelihood away from him is akin to killing him.”
Gi-hun rises from the underground nightmare, shaken awake on the street of his city by a friendly man holding a big Christian cross. Squid Game is not a Christian story, nor does it advocate for any other religion.
So why the cross? Because Dong Hyuk’s defiant, dystopian, don’t-look-up story is a warning not to be pressured or confused out of our own stories. The scene is more evidence that his warning was written with the West in mind, where Christianity is the most common religion.
Communism is an ideology known to despise, distrust, denigrate, and eventually erase all religions that come under its influence, because communism itself requires a tremendous amounts of faith and suspension of disbelief, so it demands to be the people’s only religion, and for citizens to have no higher truth than the state’s. It demands that people follow rules that reduce their sovereignty. If it governs until it has say in every part of its citizens’ lives, it is also totalitarianism.
You’ll have to fight to keep your mind from being affected by this advanced form of colonization, Dong-hyuk is saying throughout the first season (he claims never to have expected to make a second). Existing ideologies—like religions, Taoism, Falun Gong practice, liberalism, feminism, a culture’s traditional ethical code, or a free nation’s founding principles—can serve as hedges against the destruction of common sense and human dignity totalitarians would cause to bring you under their influence. The stranger with the cross is a signal to Western audiences, a reminder that we have our own stories and ideologies, and that they could help us awaken from the games.
Dong-hyuk might also be telling us to take care of our desperate. Bo ‘Nick’ Zhao, the Chinese-Australian gambler and businessman who claimed to have been approached by CCP agents to run for Australian office, to be an agent of infiltration, before he was found dead in a hotel room. He was almost surely targeted by the CCP for recruitment because of his financial troubles, which CCP agents comb through stolen personal records looking for.
The great doctor Gabor Maté says the triggers of stress are “uncertainty, lack of information, and loss of control.” Pretending to be unaware of the wide-ranging negative effects of our leaders’ decisions, on our personal psyches and on the psyche of our society, compounds the stress of disconnection from others. It also decreases the sense of community already lacking in America. Submitting to these pressures, trying to adapt instead, to disunity and division, will make us mentally ill forever.
Gi-hun stops another man being degraded by the nameless, faceless system. He confiscates the business card given to the man, which is identical to the one he received in the first episode, with its kindergarten shapes in place of where the name of a clearly defined entity would be. A phone conversation reveals to him that there are people in his world colluding with the hidden game world. He chooses to defy their direction, ignores his phone, and turns away.
I cannot wait for the next season to come out.
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