Is it just me? Or should we all be wary when a forty-five word tweet houses three instances of science, one of non-scientists, one rational, a hysteria, a hysterical, a don’t-know-anything and, for good measure, one old fashioned scream?
Oh, and a ‘Left’ in inverted commas. Which I take as backhanded tribute to socialism, even if it does rather imply that most who describe themselves that way are imposters, outed as such by their failure to get with the science. You know, the kind that doesn’t support hysteria.
Am I off-target in sensing a tweetorial perspective falling a shade short of the dispassionately objective? I am? Oh well, we’ll say no more about it then …
Because I too am alarmed by the potential of Covid-19 to act as trojan horse for sinister inroads into hard won liberties. See this OffGuardian collation of headlines from around the world for a taste of what we’re looking at. The trouble is, I also sense that even those of my brothers and sisters in alarm who don’t take it as read that the whole thing is cooked up, precisely to achieve that end,1 are not always free of the following tendencies:
- A bias toward downplaying the severity of Covid-19, not only by cherry picking which experts to cite. Some also cherry-pick what even their chosen experts say. To this end some cite Professor Bhakdi’s open letter to Merkel (which raises valid questions) but omit that he expressly does not wish to “downplay the severity” of the virus. Similarly, Professor Wittkowski is quoted as though herd immunity and social distancing were not only mutually exclusive but articles of religious faith for folk who, two months ago, would have thought the terms referred to animal husbandry and the worldview of the pathologically introvert. (When I watch that interview I see a mildly eccentric but quite pragmatic man.) I’m not ruling out that the severity is indeed overstated, but I see the evidence as still too confusing to call – by the way, what are nurses, interns and other frontline health workers across the world saying? – and the jury still out.
- A tendency to hyperbole and vituperative abuse of a Left which, while fiercely and in my opinion rightly denouncing capital’s response, has in the main accepted the virus as a new and grave threat. In this it may be right or wrong. But I’ve seen ‘treason’ and ‘cowardice’ spat out in bizarre rants at commentators I hold in high esteem. Shit, I’ve even seen a ‘hysterical’ or three tossed across the ether in a manner that calls to mind those age-old words: pot, kettle and black.
Not that libertarians have a monopoly on these things. I’ve seen or heard those who rightly ask – it is always right to question where there is uncertainty on matters of importance – if the virus is as bad as is claimed, and whether lockdown is a proportionate or even an effective response, rudely dismissed as ‘idiots’.
Or worse. This, from the WSWS site on April 6, quoted in my post, More questions:
Under the slogan, “The cure should not be worse than the disease,” the capitalist media began arguing that the economic damage caused by the shutdown of businesses and factories would, in the long run, prove more harmful to society than the deaths that would result from a rapid return to work, even if the pandemic was not under control.
With consummate cynicism, the media presents itself as the champion of working people and the poor. For example, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, which has never complained when corporations slashed jobs and cut wages to boost corporate profits, now professes, in an editorial statement published Friday, to worry about the shutdown’s “psychological toll on Americans who can least afford it
Worthy stuff in my opinion. Except that, as I commented at the time, the hijacking of an idea for manifestly self-serving ends neither negates nor affirms its truth. For what it’s worth I suspect that lockdown will end soon because that combination of the hit to capital, and divisions within the scientific community,2 will make the case for ending it irresistable.
That would not, from a people’s safety perspective, make it right (or wrong) to end it. Still less would it mean automatic restoration of freedom lost.3 It would mean simply that, as always, the voice of profit carries the greatest weight.
Until the day comes when enough of us decide otherwise.
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- In a nutshell my reasons for rejecting conspiracist accounts, despite my belief that conspiracies are routinely perpetrated by our ruling classes, are: (a) the involvement of China, Cuba and Russia; (b) the hit to capital of lockdown; (c) the initial response by governments, UK and USA included, to downplay the threat.
- In his Spectator piece, cited in yesterday’s post, Dr John Lee flags up a truth none of the camps – lockdowners, herd immunitists, ‘no-worse-than-flu’ pundits – may claim as their property. “A theory from a group of scientists is just that: a theory. Believing the opinion of that group without critical verification is just that: belief.”
- History shows that inroads on our freedom, pushed through amid moral panic, are not easily reversed but are prone to being used in circumstances far removed from those they were ostensibly devised to address. On misuse of ’emergency’ powers, we need look no further than the Stanford 15, convicted under terror-related legislation after a peaceful protest to halt a deportation flight, or local councils using the same to police residents’ use of their dustbins. Not that these are isolated incidents.