The Great Reset‘ – It’s The End Of The World As We Know It.

Ask most teenagers or even older children what’s kept at Area 51, their answer will be shockingly uniform.

Photo by Albert Antony on Unsplash

This is no single conspiracy theory in the pantheon of the great conspiracy theories – the Grassy Knoll, the Moon Landing, Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams™ – that has captured the popular zeitgeist so thoroughly as to become part of our culture in the same way usually reserved for mass media pop fiction.

What drives the Area 51 narrative into the popular discourse – and the popular culture, where it shows up again and again and again in movies, videogames, music and books – is also what makes it so tantalising as a conspiracy theory. There’s just enough tangibility to hang the rest of the theory around, to make it feel if not real, then plausible. Area 51 really does exist in the Nevada desert, and it really is a highly classified United States Air Force test site strictly verboten to the civilian tourist. Something really did crash in Roswell, New Mexico in July of 1947 and whose provenance was hastily covered up by the military. Better still, the official narrative – that a weather balloon had gone down and been mistaken for a vessel from another world – is more than likely a fabrication, too, to cover up the truth; that an experimental US military plane had crashed and, against the gathering clouds of the Cold War, America could not risk its military secrets being leaked to the world.

The very real and growing angst felt by populations still in lockdown some 12 months since the general onset of the COVID-19 pandemic provides a similar tangibility. The fringe echelon of anti-lockdown conspiracy theorists might look to the rising antagonism in their peers against protracted house arrest and find rekindled faith in their beliefs, that lockdown and perhaps COVID-19 itself is a premeditated (or at best, opportunistically seized upon) epoch orchestrated by the shadowy elite to effect their will on the population with minimal resistance. This is, they say, the Great Reset, the dramatic upwards redistribution of power from democratic institutions into the hands of the world’s oligarchy, coordinated by the World Economic Forum. It is the harbinger of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, when the freedoms mankind has so come to enjoy in the post-war period will be rolled back and brutally curtailed in order to ensure a population of obedient worker drones.

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Like the broader anti-lockdown movement which blossomed almost as soon as the first restrictions were imposed in much of the world in March of last year, the belief in a “Great Reset” has a stubborn staying power in the highways and back alleys of social media comment sections and Twitter hashtags. It has won subscribers throughout the political spectrum, and not just the usual suspects here in Ireland for anti-establishment, anti-vax conspiracy theorising – Gemma O’Doherty and John Waters – but even some voices among the mainstream-adjacent, such as economist Eddie Hobbs, formerly of Renua Ireland.

Just like the alien spacecraft that resides secreted away in some heavily guarded hangar at Area 51, what gives the Great Reset its legs, what leads those who “do their own research” to come away even more convinced in the legitimacy of their convictions, is that tangibility. Its reasonable doubt. The Great Reset, just like Area 51 itself, exists. And just as something really did crash to Earth on that fateful New Mexican summer’s day in 1947, the Great Reset really is an initiative trumpeted by the global economy’s puppet masters at the World Economic Forum

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So why the Hell aren’t we all up in arms over this?

It seems enough for most social media lockdown warriors to point to the very existence of the Great Reset by the World Economic Forum as proof of the dastardly motivations that drive it. That same tangibility that lends credence to the Great Reset as a threat to all mankind and to the existence of a flying saucer in the Nevada desert bears similarities to the marketing ploy employed by low-substance, high-style political campaigns. Provide the customer with a blank slate onto which they can project all their hopes, dreams and fears, and it doesn’t matter what the mundane reality behind the product is.

And mundane, the product is.

It will come as little consolation to those who passionately believe in the conspiracy theory surrounding the Great Reset to hear that, on balance, there is probably nothing to get worked up about.

Photo by Matthew Ball on Unsplash

Though the psychology behind and cultural allure of conspiracy theories in general could be the subject of a whole other article, the believers in such a theory are drawn to it more often than not as it satisfies a pre-existing prejudice or belief about the world. It’s not hard to see the attraction to a unifying explanation for lockdown that puts the world back in order; lockdown has seen our lives upended, our jobs eviscerated and our life plans put on ice. It has devastated the mental health of the entire nation and, at least in the case of us here in Ireland, there exists as yet no coherent roadmap for how we get out of it.

Naturally, people will be drawn to an explanation of events that allows them to convert those same feelings of helplessness and despair felt by the rest of the population into righteous anger at a monolithic evil they can hold responsible. It’s also why it might be expected that the subscribers to the Great Reset theory would be loathe to admit that, in point of fact, the Great Reset isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it seems to have nothing to do with what they claim it does in the first place.

The fact that the Great Reset exists as an initiative propounded by the World Economic Forum lends the conspiracy theory surrounding it an air of credence and satisfies the criteria laid out by the “do your own research” crowd online. So, if it exists, what is it really all about? As the saying goes – we can do our own research.

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The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) website provides the smoking gun in the form of the outline for their Great Reset, the need for which they see as being foregrounded by how the COVID pandemic exposed fault lines in the existing economic and societal status quo. The language used in their own outline, however, departs wildly from the ashen-faced warnings of conspiracy theorists on YouTube and Facebook.

The WEF defines the Great Rest as having three key components. The first is a realignment of the markets towards fairer outcomes for all citizens, not just those at the top of society. Their prescription for how this is to be achieved does not read like the malevolent diktats of a Rothschild-fuelled global conspiracy. This is to be achieved, the WEF states, through “changes to wealth taxes, the withdrawal of fossil-fuel subsidies, and new rules governing intellectual property, trade and competition.” Divorced from its context on the website of the World Economic Forum, such language would not look out of place in the manifestos of most European social democratic parties.

The second component of the Great Reset involves harnessing the massive stimulus packages mobilised by the likes of the EU and US in response to the pandemic to reorder society into one that is more sustainable in the long term. As they put it, “Rather than using these funds, as well as investments from private entities and pension funds, to fill cracks in the old system, we should use them to create a new one that is more resilient, equitable, and sustainable in the long run. This means, for example, building “green” urban infrastructure and creating incentives for industries to improve their track record on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics.” Starting to feel disappointed? So far, it’s hardly the stuff of secret Illuminati black masses.

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Even when the long-dreaded Fourth Industrial Revolution gets name-dropped as the keystone of the third component to the Great Reset, it fails to live up to the hype. “The third and final priority of a Great Reset agenda is to harness the innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to support the public good, especially by addressing health and social challenges. During the COVID-19 crisis, companies, universities, and others have joined forces to develop diagnostics, therapeutics, and possible vaccines; establish testing centers [sic]; create mechanisms for tracing infections; and deliver telemedicine. Imagine what could be possible if similar concerted efforts were made in every sector.”

And, okay, sure – of course the language used on their own website is designed in such a way as to appear innocuous. They’re not going to give the game away at this late stage.

Photo by Carlos Esteves on Unsplash

But the thing is, this language isn’t new, nor is its particular delivery style of vaguely defined, broadly-appealing messaging with no concrete steps to ultimately realise its goals. We have seen this exact same rhetoric a lot over the past decade, as wealth inequality in the western world rises to eclipse that of France on the eve of the Revolution.

In 2019, the Business Roundtable, a corporate lobbying group comprised of American CEOs, put forwards the “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation”. The proposal was intended to redefine the raison d’etre of a corporation and make the shift from an all-encompassing focus on shareholder value towards that of a stakeholder economy. Exactly, in other words, what the WEF seeks to do with its vaunted Great Reset. 187 CEOs, representing a combined $13 trillion in market cap, signed the declaration. Fortune magazine declared that it left the old predatory style of corporate capitalism “in the dustbin”.

But, as the LA Times reported a year on from the signing of the declaration, in practise this amounted to very little. Since the signing, the Business Roundtable has continued to add its voice to lobbying efforts to roll back environmental legislation in the United States. Apple had continued to take advantage of tax loopholes – notably, in Ireland – to avoid paying what is owed to US authorities. Walmart and McDonald’s continue to mobilise efforts against minimum wage increases (the latest of which has currently been derailed by Democrats in the US Senate).

Photo by Vincent Guth on Unsplash

The Roundtable’s most famous figure, and at the time its richest, Jeff Bezos, saw his personal wealth increase by $90 billion since he signed his name to the declaration, largely due to the effects of the pandemic which began just months after its signing. On top of this, he is currently fighting to put paid to an attempt by Amazon workers in Alabama to form the company’s first union.

Just one year on from the Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation, the very initiative had been strangled in its cradle by its own midwives. It paints the declaration in retrospect in more cynical colours. With wealth inequality being what it is, with the fabric of society creaking under the weight of a historically unprecedented capitalist aristocracy (and later frayed to breaking point by the pandemic), the declaration reads as a PR effort by the very architects of the neoliberal economy to buy themselves time. They are now on record as saying they recognise the flaws in the economic model, they are even on record saying they want to do something about it. What more could we possibly ask of them?

And against this backdrop, we’re provided some context and precedent for the Great Reset. That not only is the language of the initiative a world removed from what we were promised to expect by the conspiracy theorists, but even the watered down, broadly social democratic ambition of the real Great Reset is likely to never see the light of day. It’s a PR line tucked away in the back end of the World Economic Forum’s website, something to point journalists in the direction of who may query what the Hell our benevolent oligarchs are doing to forestall climate and societal collapse..

But, much like Jeff Bezos’ sudden awakening to social responsibility, or, indeed, like the UFO being dissected by a shadowy conspiracy within the United States Air Force, we need not worry about it ever actually seeing the light of day.

Sorry to disappoint the true believers.

Written by Matt Ellison.

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