The “Covid Passport” and the return of the “witches”

1 August, 2021

Demonstration yesterday in Paris against the Covid Passport
Demonstration yesterday in Paris against the Covid Passport

In France the demonstrations against the Covid Passport have consolidated an initially heterogeneous social base around a discourse that amalgamates, from the antivaxx, reactionary libertarianists, pseudoscience, feminism, conspiracy-mongering, nationalism and anti-Semitism. No neo-fascist aesthetics or Gaullist fogeys. Quite the opposite: lots of social workers, islands of yellow vests and anarchists and lots of “France Insoumise” followers. They are many, but they are still an eccentric minority, ideal as a cohesive enemy for Macronism, which can thus garb itself in rationalist garb. And yet it is a movement highly significant of the historical moment and the culture it exudes.

Table of Contents

Before the “Covid Passport”: resistance to lockdown

The aesthetics and human types of European negationism and the movement against the Covid Passport are far removed from that of neo-fascism and very close to that of the "new left" of the past decade: the early Syriza, France Insoumise or Podemos
The aesthetics and human types of European negationism and the movement against the Covid Passport are far removed from that of neo-fascism and very close to that of the “new left” of the past decade: the early Syriza, France Insoumise or Podemos

From March to May this year, long before the “Covid Passport” was an issue, when the right of assembly was restricted to cohabitants and small groups, a wave of flash mobs swept across France and was echoed in Belgium, the Netherlands and — loosely — Germany, Italy and Spain. A musical, artistic protest that took over public spaces for just a few minutes and seemed the opposite of the denialist terrorism that was baring its teeth in Holland at the time.

The echoes and comparisons with the 15M were irremediable and the aesthetic similarity of the demonstrators with those “indignados” of ten years ago and with the most visible social base of what followed: the “new left” of Syriza, Podemos or France Insoumise. It was no accident that the song that united these flashmobs was by “HK & Les Saltimbanks”. An earlier song by this group had been used by Mélenchon’s party in the 2012 campaign and by “En Comú Podem” in 2015.

This aesthetic evolution signaled a subterranean change of greater depth. After the Bannonite offensive of the previous summer, the European states had played their game to separate the RN, Vox, Lega, Fratelli d’Italia and so on from the more unhinged expressions of the angry petty bourgeoisie. The winks towards the anti-vaccine movement subtly disappeared from the parliamentary speeches and proclamations of Le Pen, Abascal, Meloni and so on.

The separation translated however into a form of legitimization and a driving force for the broadening of its social base. Antivaccinationists were no longer suspected of being mere pawns of the far right. German anarchists and “alternativen” joined the Querdenken (literally “Lateral Thinking”) movement. Meanwhile, all over Europe, feminist organizations wanted to celebrate 8M on the streets at all costs and in their one-off arguments came close to the denialism of those protesting against the lockdowns.

What had been a heterogeneous protest of different sectors of the petty bourgeoisie in denial was beginning to coalesce into something new and consolidate a niche of its own.

But no fusion is possible without prior overlaps and common ground. In a class with segments as differentiated from each other as the petty bourgeoisie, certain shared aspirations and anxieties are not enough to bring about a confusion of ideological perspectives of the breadth we are seeing in the front against the Covid Passport.

Historically the glue that united them in what later became fascism presented itself as a renewal and eruption of nationalist mystique. … prepared and preceded by a surge of “life-changing” movements aimed at redefining the boundaries between private life and the political space.

Feminism, pseudosciences and the return of the witches

"We are the granddaughters of the witches you could not burn". Feminism has made its own the myth that "witch-hunting" was the repression of an alleged "ancestral matriarchy" even in Catholic countries where the persecution of witches was anecdotal.
“We are the granddaughters of the witches you could not burn”. Feminism has made its own the myth that “witch-hunting” was the repression of an alleged “ancestral matriarchy” even in Catholic countries where the persecution of witches was anecdotal.

University feminism in the 1960s largely built its discourse on a certain historically untenable definition of “patriarchy”. In order to try to establish the idea that humanity had once lived under a generalized matriarchy and that this was swept away by a mythical male revolt that would have established patriarchy, they did not even shy away from blatant archeological forgeries.

But the feminism of the time, although fundamentally academic, was not strong in the departments of Archaeology but in those of Anthropology, from which until recently dangled the vast majority of university departments dedicated to generating feminist ideology. It knew well that what mattered was not so much the historical evidence as the establishment of a social myth.

Since the 1960s, feminism has distilled tons of pseudo-history and academic-mythological narratives to establish among its pupils and followers a foundational myth of a certain female resistance across classes stemming from historical witches. Witches would be the last matriarchal remnant and their persecution the birth certificate of today’s world.

This is obviously a tweaked version of the nineteenth-century bourgeois myth that sees in the Protestant Reformation the origin of the Industrial Revolution and the separation of powers. A myth which originally followed the effort to associate capitalism with virtue and divine will and which served to morally blame the Catholic countries of Europe and the colonies for their own attrition, condemning them to a subordinate place in the future of capitalism.

Instead of dismantling the underlying racism and sectarianism, instead of confronting it with the historical reality of the birth of capitalism, feminism made it its own by inflating a geographically, economically and historically marginal episode, in order to deny that capitalism was really something new and dissolve it into a non-existent patriarchal mode of production that would have existed continuously from the Neolithic to the present day.

The ingredients for a mythology were in place. And from mythology to the religious edifice there exists only half a step of mystical delusion. The so-called third wave, is not far off. In fact, in the last twenty years, the British and American press has peddled with increasing insistence current Wiccan practitioners and alleged witches as exponents of a matriarchal-feminist religion again on the rise.

And lest there be no shortage of “vocations,” the new generation of screenwriters arriving from the university to the audiovisual industry have applied themselves to creating different potions of militarism, nationalism and feminist identitarianism as role models for teenagers.

Witchcraft, anti-vaccine activism and Covid

Feminist protest renames Republic Square in Paris as "Witches' Square"
Feminist protest renames Republic Square in Paris as “Witches’ Square”

In continental Europe, North Africa and Ibero-America the witch myth does not have much wide acceptance. But delusion, when it responds to the internal logic of something that, in the end, is in the process of becoming state ideology, finds its own paths. Esotericism is one of them… and according to French studies, it is on the rise where feminism is strong: among young feminist women and full-time students of both sexes.

This resurgence of esotericism is in tune with the times, particularly marked by a spiritual need “that traditional religions can no longer satisfy,” explains Marianne Louise Jussian, who conducted the study for Ifop and Current Woman . “The great monotheistic religions no longer meet the expectations of young people, today inclusive, too “woke” for cults considered conservative, sexist or homophobic in particular”.

Therefore, these beliefs, among which astrology stands out, allow them to cultivate a spiritual dimension while keeping in line with the values they espouse. […] “When you are a student, it is very practical to create a bond, because most young people are in a situation of uncertainty and anxiety. So when someone presents a reassuring worldview, you’re really tempted to listen to them.”

Why astrology is gaining ground among young people and in the feminist field. Marianne Magazine.

In fact, the feminine essentialist discourse, legitimized if not encouraged by the bulk of the feminist movement and exacerbated by the practice of “safe spaces” (i.e., segregated by sex) opened the door to a whole industry of witches and gurus. As the same magazine tells us.

For Mathieu Repiquet [of the “Fake Med” collective, dedicated to denouncing pseudosciences], this “movement does not wish to establish equal rights but considers women as a totally different divine creation, which does not have at all the same essence as the human-male.” A human-male singled out as an oppressor of women but also as a destroyer of the environment and Mother Earth.

“These witches are very close to the pseudo-ecological movements, it is a grouping between natural and alternative medicine, animist or totemic movements on ecology,” continues Mathieu Repiquet. Some witches claim therefore “ecofeminism”: a current of thought according to which women and the environment are victims of the patriarchy, that is to say, of the desire of domination of men, misogynists and capitalists. […]

The syncretism of witches is also expressed in circles of female conversations, increasingly widespread, inspired by an American bestseller released in 1997 and which sold more than 3 million copies: “The Red Tent”, by Anita Diamant (Charleston editions, 2016). “We see a lot of women doing professional retraining right now and moving toward training in hypnosis, naturopathy…

They become healers, druids, naturopaths. They organize shamanic internships or spiritual retreats… Like all unconventional care practices, it is proliferating very much out of a sense of mistrust, even distrust, of modern medicine. From my observations, I think many of them sincerely believe in it,” explains Mathieu Repiquet.

And as proof, according to a survey by Ifop for Current Woman , “The French and para-sciences”, 28% of French people today believe in witchcraft or spells. An increase of 7 points since 2001. Contrary to the popular idea according to which belief is receding in the West, this opinion poll clearly shows that fringe spiritualities and para-sciences are benefiting from a real popular fashion.

From the “sacred feminine” to pseudo-medicines: how “witches” usurped feminism, Marianne Magazine

Add to this grassroots trend the increase in YouTube market share of cults, sects and gurus with the pandemic. An increase that has also been accompanied by an effort by these characters to share audiences and unite discourses.

While feminism itself is neither anti-medicine nor anti-vaccine, when mythology takes precedence over scientific knowledge it actually undermines the latter. And in this field, from the affirmation of women as a historical subject with a history of her own above class-which is the defining trait of all feminisms-to the engineered creation of tailor-made mythologies -from witches to “The Handmaid’s Tale”- the eroding role of feminism is brutal.

Their contribution to the convergence from which the movement against the Covid Passport is now emerging, and what it means historically, is readily apparent.