What do zombies have to do with the U.S. government's plans for dealing with a coronavirus outbreak?
Read on, and I'll tell you.
The zombie narrative was popularized by the hit television series The Walking Dead, in which a small group of Americans attempt to survive in a zombie-ridden, post-apocalyptic world where they're not only fighting off flesh-eating ghouls but cannibalistic humans.
Understandably, zombie fiction plays to our fears and paranoia, while allowing us to "envision how we and our own would thrive if everything went to hell and we lost all our societal supports." Yet as journalist Syreeta McFadden points out, while dystopian stories used to reflect our anxieties, now they reflect our reality, mirroring how we as a nation view the world around us, how we as citizens view each other, and most of all how our government views us.
Indeed, the U.S. government has spent a lot of time and energy in recent years using zombies as the models for a variety of crisis scenarios not too dissimilar from what we are currently experiencing.
For years now, the government has been carrying out military-training drills with zombies as the enemy. In 2011, the DOD created a 31-page instruction manual for how to protect America from a terrorist attack carried out by zombie forces. In 2012, the CDC released a guide for surviving a zombie plague. That was followed by training drills for members of the military, police officers and first responders.
The zombie exercises appeared to be kitschy and fun--government agents running around trying to put down a zombie rebellion--but what if the zombies in the exercises were us, the citizenry, viewed by those in power as mindless, voracious, zombie hordes?
Take a look at the Defense Department's battle plan for defeating an army of the walking dead.
You might find yourself tempted to giggle over the fact that a taxpayer-funded government bureaucrat actually took the time to research and write about vegetarian zombies, evil magic zombies, chicken zombies, space zombies, bio-engineered weaponized zombies, radiation zombies, symbiant-induced zombies, and pathogenic zombies.
However, in an age of extreme government paranoia, this is no laughing matter.
The DOD's strategy for dealing with a zombie uprising, outlined in "CONOP 8888," is for all intents and purposes a training manual for the government in how to put down a citizen uprising or at least an uprising of individuals "infected" with a dangerous disease or dangerous ideas about freedom.
Rest assured that the tactics and difficulties outlined in the "fictional training scenario" are all too real, beginning with martial law.
As the DOD training manual states: "zombies [stand-ins for "we the people"] are horribly dangerous to all human life and zombie infections have the potential to seriously undermine national security and economic activities that sustain our way of life. Therefore having a population that is not composed of zombies or at risk from their malign influence is vital to U.S. and Allied national interests."
So how does the military plan to put down a zombie (a.k.a. citizen) uprising?
The strategy manual outlines five phases necessary for a counter-offensive: shape, deter, seize initiative, dominate, stabilize and restore civil authority. Here are a few details:
Phase 0 (Shape): Conduct general zombie-awareness training. Monitor increased threats (i.e., surveillance). Carry out military drills. Synchronize contingency plans between federal and state agencies. Anticipate and prepare for a breakdown in law and order.