Capitalism as Patient Zero: COVID-19 was the Answer of the Real — Işık Barış Fidaner

Patient zero is a term that locates the cause of an epidemic at the first infected individual. It sounds like a scientific designation since the first instance is a structural necessity, but it also ambiguously insinuates that the patient zero can be held responsible for the whole epidemic as if it was his/her hidden agenda.

An epidemic obviously involves the objective contagion of a virus, but it also involves the subjective contagion of metonymic displacements. When the patient zero is located at the origin of the objective contagion, it also becomes the focus for the metaphoric condensation of the epidemic’s morbidity, thereby becoming the zero point that bridges the subjective to the objective.

According to Fabio Vighi, the patient zero of COVID-19 was capitalism [1]:
1) Financial capitalism experienced a critical downturn in September 2019.
2) Global capitalist economy obviously had a deadly sickness.
3) Fantasies about fictional epidemics were already circulating among the financial elite.
4) To absolve capitalism, its sickness was displaced onto the medical field in the form of COVID-19.
Vighi’s minimal hypothesis is that COVID-19 was a very lucky coincidence for the financial elite but he does not refrain from hinting that there might have been a causation behind this correlation. His suggestion is to have a reasonable paranoia regarding the conspiracy of those who might have been engineering our artificial paranoia. Recall the famous idiom:

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.
(Joseph Heller, Catch-22)

Vighi’s version complicates this picture by suggesting a reflexive paranoia about the quality of one’s paranoia:

The fact that you adopt this particular commonplace paranoia is precisely because they are after you.

The addition of reflexivity gives rise to a hierarchy of paranoias: As the paranoia becomes more and more common, it becomes less and less convincing for the reflexive paranoid, because it begins to resemble an artificial paranoia engineered by a deeper conspiracy that was previously overlooked. The reflexive paranoid thus builds tolerance against the more commonplace paranoia and branches into a new cooler variant of paranoia.

To avoid this infinite regress of cooler paranoias about deeper conspiracies, let’s change the terminology: COVID-19 was neither a lucky coincidence nor a malicious agenda; it was simply the answer of the real. It was both expected and unexpected, that’s why people both prepared for it and got caught unawares, and this psychic tension magnified their extreme medical response. There is no need to posit the existence of an elite conspiratorial group, what did exist was a global “conspiracy” in a different, unconscious sense.

Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


[1] See “A Self-fulfilling Prophecy: Systemic Collapse and Pandemic Simulation” Fabio Vighi, see also this video.


  1. Covid 19 was an answer of what I went through for more than two decades: social distancing, repeated washing of hands etc mimics how the “pandemic” spread and I still don’t know who the patient ZERO was. Thus I believe I am child of a lesser God. Though the death of UGLY “green” serpents (Nietzsche’s Zarathustra) sometimes lights up the dark back alley.

    Liked by 1 person

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