Dark Winter

Tedious bioterror fanfiction written to inspire public fear of the smallpox virus and plead for the continued relevancy of its eradicators

“Eugyppius,” said critics of the plague chronicle, “everybody knows the SPARS pandemic is a dumb exercise in public health communication. Of course there are no lockdowns in there, even though many have claimed otherwise for a very long time now, in bestselling books and all over the internet.”

“Eugyppius,” said critics of the plague chronicle, “‘Operation Lockstep’ is obviously a foolish globalist fantasy of the Rockefeller Foundation, not even related to pandemic planning, even though many have spent years saying the opposite to massive audiences and occasionally also in your comments.”

“Eugyppius,” critics of the plague chronicle said finally, “why are you not looking at the real evidence for a plandemic? Are you trying to fool us? Everyone knows that Dark Winter is where the bodies are buried. If only you would read Dark Winter, then you would finally see that lockdowns have been planned by the defence sector since 2001. It is all an elaborate operation, naive Eugyppius. Why are you hiding this truth from your readers?”

“Critics of the plague chronicle,” answers a sniffling, hayfever-stricken Eugyppius from his small octagonal writing tower above the Elbe, where a light breeze wafts through the open windows, and a neighbour will not stop trimming his hedges with some odious buzzing device, “I have read all pandemic tabletop exercises and wargames of any note, two years ago, on the side of a Swiss mountain. There are no lockdowns in any of them. You may retreat to other documents for a time, but know that my series is coming for them too. One by one your castles will fall.”

It is fun to laugh about the stupidity of SPARS and “Lock Step,” but Dark Winter – and in fact everything coming out of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security – gives me the creeps. This is not because this stuff is especially prescient or intelligent, and it is not because it contains any long-standing plan for lockdowns that defence planners implemented with the outbreak of SARS-2 either. There are grave intellectual defects here as elsewhere, and the importance of these documents is wildly overemphasised. But with Dark Winter, we leave the nerfworld of communications majors and consultants and enter the rather higher realm of government policy and defence strategy – where we find nothing but the same self-promotional tactics and manipulative virus mythology that prevails everywhere else. These people have been lying about viruses and overselling outbreak threats for over twenty years now, and especially after 2020 that’s not very funny.

This will be a serious post.

To understand Dark Winter, you need to know that the pandemicist establishment has gone through two major eras in the twenty-first century:

1) In the beginning was the Era of Biodefence, dominated by unusual fantasies of biological warfare and the artificially promulgated fear that villainous antiliberal dictators like Saddam Hussein were secretly developing weapons of mass destruction because they hate democracy. In this era, grant funding flowed primarily from the defence sector, forcing opportunists like the arch-pandemicist smallpox eradicator Donald Henderson to align their programme with defence interests. This era came to an end after the Iraq War.

2) Afterwards came the Era of Big Philanthropy, in which tech magnates and their organisations refocused pandemicist attention on the civilian world. In this new era, emerging pandemic pathogens replaced biowarfare as the threat to be countered. Henderson’s pandemic think-tank, founded as the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies (CCBS), managed the transition by changing its name to the Center for Health Security and accepting millions in grants from the Open Philanthropy Project in 2017. With these new funds came a mandate to focus on “global catastrophic risks.” Just like that, the third-worlders eclipsed the bioterrorists. This transition is especially important for us, because it was primarily in the Era of Big Philanthropy that the pandemicists began fantasising about elaborate mitigationist responses to novel virus outbreaks. In the older Era of Biodefence, the emphasis lies rather on strategic implications, and the public health aspect is a secondary concern.

Dark Winter was a “tabletop exercise” from the Era of Biodefence, organised by the CCBS in partnership with the freshly minted ANSER Institute for Homeland Security. It was held at Andrews Airforce Base in Washington, D.C. on 22–23 June 2001. Impetus came from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a leading defence-sector think-tank, which asked ANSER and the CCBS to throw together “an exercise in which senior former officials would respond to a national security crisis caused by use of a biological weapon.” A great part of the funding came from the Oklahoma National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, a non-profit founded to commemorate the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building.

The Dark Winter scenario is plainly not a future prophecy, nor is it even remotely plausible. It’s rather a tiresome pretzel concocted to distribute limelight among the core concerns of each of the participating organisations. It features a smallpox outbreak, the obsession of the Henderson-founded CCBS. This outbreak is brought about by a bioterror attack on Oklahoma and two other states, so as to satisfy the Oklahoma terror-preventers. It is strongly suggested that this attack was carried out by Iraqi proxies to encourage the withdrawal of American forces from the Middle East, so the defence strategists who commissioned this cut-rate theatrical piece got what they wanted too.

Dark Winter also had a deeper purpose. In 1986, a WHO panel recommended that the last remaining, officially declared smallpox virus samples in the United States and Russia be destroyed. The deadline for this destruction was set first for 1993, and then for 1999. The Clinton administration moved to enact this recommendation, but at the last minute, forces in the American defence and intelligence sectors fought to save the last remaining viable smallpox virus. Months before the scheduled 1999 destruction, there emerged a federal intelligence assessment claiming, on the strength of fairly flimsy evidence, that Iraq, North Korea and Russia were likely hiding smallpox samples for the purposes of clandestine biowarfare programmes. Clinton relented and agreed to let the CDC keep their smallpox. Two years later, the Center for Strategic and International Studies commissioned Dark Winter to dramatise, for the benefit of the media, what an Iraqi smallpox attack on the United States might look like. This was a publicity operation, one

intended to increase awareness of the scope and character of the threat posed by biological weapons among senior national security experts and to catalyze actions that would improve prevention and response strategies.

In other words, Dark Winter was the final act in a small drama staged by the intelligence community for the purposes of convincing the president to keep smallpox around, presumably for purposes of bioweapons research. Henderson and his CCBS, desperate to remain relevant twenty years after the WHO had declared his career-making virus eradicated, were happy to help out.

The best source for Dark Winter is a paper published in Clinical Infectious Diseases in 2002 by Tara O’Toole, Mair Michael and Thomas V. Ingelsby, under the title “Shining Light on ‘Dark Winter’.” The paper is useful especially for reporting the decisions of the exercise participants and the rationale behind various features of the exercise, and it’s what I have been, and will be, quoting from here. Before a recent Center for Health Security website redesign, readers could also download a 44-page Dark Winter script with all of the fake memos and talking points provided to the event participants, and watch an eight-minute video containing various slides and the boundlessly ridiculous “news reports” screened to event participants. These can still be found on the Wayback Machine. I’ve studied them all, but find they don’t add much to the O’Toole/Michael/Ingelsby paper.

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