“There is no conversation more boring than the one where everybody agrees”—Michel de Montaigne

“If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking”—Benjamin Franklin

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right”—Thomas Paine

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair”—C.S. Lewis

“I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned”—Richard Feynman

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts”—Richard Feynman

“Science is a way of skeptically interrogating the universe, with a fine understanding of human fallibility. If we are not available to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then we are up for grabs for the next charlatan…who comes along”—Carl Sagan

What Came Before This?

The Covid-19 “pandemic” was very much the “Disease X” that the WHO, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Western governments, establishment scientists, and pharmaceutical corporations were awaiting, expecting, and desiring. The problem with “Disease X” is that there is not just one. Will we be ready for the next “Disease X” if we do not learn from this one?

Why Disaster X?

Disaster X” is derived from the repeated mention of a hitherto unknown “Disease X” that is “completely novel,” as described by the UK Government. “Disease X” first featured in an alert by the World Health Organization (WHO): “Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown”. As The Telegraph summarized: “Disease X is not a newly identified pathogen but what military planners call a ‘known unknown’. It’s a disease sparked by a biological mutation, or perhaps an accident or terror attack, that catches the world by surprise and spreads fast”. (In June of 2018, the WHO thought it had already found its “Disease X” in the form of H7N9, a zoonotic flu virus in China; in 2024 the WHO again “warned” of a “Disease X” that could be “20 times” more dangerous than Covid-19. For the WHO, “Disease X” emphasized the need for “preparedness,” a term that is itself derived from strategic security plans and then imported into blueprints for “resilience”. Preparedness for “Disease X” is always framed as requiring a “global response”. “Disease X” was also the featured term in Bill Gates’ most dire predictions in 2018 of an upcoming global pandemic whose centerpiece was the perfect virus, one endowed with maximum transmissibility, and extreme lethality, that escaped control. Gates voiced his fear in these words: “The threat of the unknown pathogen – highly-contagious, lethal, fast-moving – is real. It could be a mutated flu strain or something else entirely”. Subsequently, a Disease X Working Group was set up by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “(with support from PricewaterhouseCoopers) [which] coordinated subject matter experts to create a preparedness plan for Disease X”. Disease X was also the term used by Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, in a New York Times article heralding the “Age of Pandemics” and the coming “Plague”. In 2023, Disease X was the title of a published book, promoted by the World Economic Forum as it planned to feature a coming Disease X in discussions at its 2024 meetings. (For more, see the UK Government’s “100 Days Mission to Respond to Future Pandemic Threats”; Alanna Shaikh and Paul Nuki, “Beware 'Disease X': the mystery killer keeping scientists awake at night,” The Telegraph, March 10, 2018; Anne Gulland, “Deadly Chinese poultry flu could be 'disease X' that sparks worldwide pandemic,” The Telegraph, June 15, 2018; Shmona Simpson, Michael C Kaufmann, Vitaly Glozman, Ajoy Chakrabarti, “Disease X: accelerating the development of medical countermeasures for the next pandemic,” The Lancet, 20(5), May 1, 2020, E108-E115; Joe Shute, “Bill Gates: ‘My biggest fears about what's coming next for this world’,The Telegraph, September 18, 2018.)

Disaster X is thus a general “preparedness” plan that awaits or facilitates the next exploitable disaster which can be leveraged by authoritarian states in partnership with large transnational corporate interests. Any human disaster represents a profitable opportunity, one that invites intervention. Disaster X can also be created in the form of “humanitarian crises” that have been engineered by states, and for which coercive “humanitarian intervention” is required. Invoking the security dogma of safetyism (“saving lives”), state bureaucracies have an opportunity to expand their size, their power, and their penetrative reach into daily lives. Nothing suits Disaster X better than a permanent state of emergency.

Disaster X is useful for referring to a two-fold phenomenon which, until recently, was studied by separate sets of specialists. Disaster X is governed by a regime, where the latter is best understood as a system of interlocked interests and partnerships. One side of the two-fold phenomenon is the famous Military-Industrial-Complex (MIC)—which has grown to include academia and regime media. The main players are governments and their security and intelligence agencies, and their partners, the weapons manufacturers and their lobbyists. Their most common tools of intervention are missiles/bombs and sanctions. The other side is the Health-Industrial-Complex (HIC)—which also includes academia and regime media. The main players are governments and their regulatory agencies, and their partners, pharmaceutical corporations and hospital chains. Their most common tools of intervention are pharmaceuticals and mandates. Sitting on top of both the MIC and HIC is a Security State at the service of the transnational capitalist class (as described by Leslie Sklair). The Security State is composed of both the National Security State and the Health Security State—and in both, concepts of “emergency,” “safety,” and “preparedness” are fundamental. Regimentation is the process and outcome of the operations of both the MIC and HIC. Where sanctions have been used as collective punishments against citizens of foreign nations, mandates and financial penalties have been used against citizens at home. Disaster X is any “useful” disaster that can be facilitated, manufactured, or exploited by the Security State and its private partners.

This publication features a combination of anthropological, historical and political economic analysis of the attempts of encrusted transnational elites to reduce humanity to a state of perpetual dependency, fear, and poverty. It is closely tied to two other online fora: the Zero Anthropology Magazine, and the Disaster X Telegram Channel which serves more as a traditional “blog” and actively posts between 10 and 25 items per day, every day. This substack was launched on June 24, 2022.

The author is Dr. Maximilian C. Forte, a Professor of Anthropology in Montreal, Canada. His primary areas of teaching include: Political Anthropology, The Caribbean (History and Political Economy), The New Imperialism, Cultural Imperialism, and Visual Anthropology. His current research focus is on Pandemicism (the fusion of catastrophism with authoritarianism), Humanitarian Abduction (the use of coercion, dispossession, and displacement in the name of "saving lives"), bioterror, and what Giorgio Agamben called the Health Security State. Past publications include several edited volumes on the New Imperialism, plus a range of single-authored and edited books on the Indigenous Peoples of the Caribbean. In the past he has also researched and written extensively on the recruitment of the social sciences (with a focus on anthropology) by military, intelligence, and foreign affairs apparati, engaged in counterinsurgency, espionage, and regime change.

The author may be contacted at maximilian.forte@openanthropology.org

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Dr. Maximilian Forte is a Professor of Anthropology in Montreal, Canada. His primary areas of teaching include: Political Anthropology, The Caribbean (History and Political Economy), The New Imperialism, Cultural Imperialism, and Visual Anthropology.