CV-19 – an open letter to Off-Guardian

17 Apr

A version of this letter can be seen in Off-Guardian. Its thrust – that while I share the latter’s concerns over irreversible inroads on civil liberties, I also share Left outrage over capitalism’s exposed inadequacies – is common to both versions. Off-Guardian responded in open-hearted and comradely spirit to offer space on its site. Changes in that version are unprompted by any attempt to influence me. Mine alone, they have to do with removing allusions to personal matters I regard as settled, and in any case were always secondary.

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There’s just as much fear porn bandied about in regard to narratives pushing terms and concepts such as Police State, fascist takeover etc as there is about Covid-19. And it is just as legitimate to express scepticism towards those narratives as any others.

People abandoned the Guardian because of its in your face bias towards particular narratives to the exclusion of others … It remains rare, if ever, that the Guardian will publish anything which contradicts its favoured house narrative/company line.

An observation which is not, unfortunately, limited to the Guardian these days.

There was a time not so long ago when this blogsite was not the the only place where the writings of the site author could be read, perused and commented on in the context of a wider active readership. That is no longer the case …

In the spirit of scepticism it seems reasonable to claim this is because the writings of this blog’s author don’t fit a particular company line and narrative. Just like with the Guardian.

The more things “change” the more things stay the same.

BTL comment by Dave Hansell, an Off-Guardian and Steel City reader, on my recent post, Science for the righteous

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Dear Off-Guardian

I’m one of your many fans. I support you through recommendation to friends and readers, links to your articles and a monthly s/o. Granted, that last is for a piddling amount but I am an OAP, and like to think every little helps.

I have also written dozens of posts which gave you good quality content, me a wider audience. Naturally, this has necessitated correspondence with all three editors – Catte, Kit and Vaska – in the course of which I’ve come to regard you all, though we haven’t met, as friends. Unusually intelligent ones at that.

Then along came Covid-19. On which you’ve posted a lot of good stuff, referenced in my own posts on the subject. It has, however, focused exclusively on one aspect of the pandemic: the very real concern that our rulers are using it to remove hard won liberties. (One notable caveat here is that Vaska’s prodigious and always thought provoking output on Facebook suggests a dissenting take, a point I’ll return to.)

It’s an important aspect, and I’ve learned from the opinions of scientists like Bhakdi, Wittkowski and many other questioners of the mainstream narrative featured on Off-Guardian.

I have, however, given equal weight to a Left voice ignored or derided at Off-Guardian. Whether or not the pandemic is being overstated – and my view is that it’s too early to call either way – it shines a torch as never before in my lifetime on the rottenness of capitalism, with its systemic inability to put people before profits.

It’s true this same Left has done the mirror opposite. Its focus on capitalism’s failures does not in logic require that it play up the severity of Covid 19, just as your libertarian instincts do not in logic require you to play down the same. Yet in practice – for we are as much psychological as logical animals – things don’t work that way. We determine what’s important and what is True – in that order – then go hunting for evidence to prove We Are Right and They Are Wrong.

Screenshot from Off-Guardian taken on April 17

As Dr John Lee said in his recent Spectator piece:

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.

As it happens, the thrust of Dr Lee’s piece favours those who question social distancing and the science informing it. But as I said in Science for the Righteous:

Dr John Lee flags up a truth none of the camps – lockdowners, herd immunitists, ‘no-worse-than-flu’ pundits – may claim as their property.

These however are epistemological matters. Important ones, vital in fact, but though it pains me to say so, my concerns go beyond epistemology. History may show who is right and who wrong on the question of Covid-19’s severity. Ditto on whether measures taken in the name of seeing it off will outlive the pandemic to hammer further nails in the coffin of liberty.

On these matters we may indeed “pick the wrong side”. Which side that is, we can’t yet know. But to lose sight of the fact a debating opponent may be wrong, but wrong in all good faith, is to take a scary step toward the very totalitarianism Off-Guardian fears.

So let me finish with three questions. One, am I among those Catte advises to go to hell? Two, is Dave Hansell correct in surmising that “because [my] writings don’t fit a particular company line and narrative [Off-Guardian’s]” I am blacklisted? Three, is there an editorial rift between Catte and Kit on the one hand, Vaska on the other?

Yours etc

Philip Roddis

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51 Replies to “CV-19 – an open letter to Off-Guardian

  1. Interesting as always, Philip – thanks. So, as your comment about Dave Hansell’s comment implies, have you submitted more recent articles to OffG over the past few weeks (I think you were published on there not very long ago) and had them rejected… or at least not followed up?

    Interesting to see my sister-in-law’s (Nicola’s) comment featured above… I think her friend is a doctor in Tooting, London.

    I am generally supportive of OffGuardian’s line on this, but did find Catte’s FB post (the one you’ve screen-grabbed) surprisingly strong. I can also empathise with her frustration with the bulk of the ‘alt left’ media, though. Please do let me know if my arguments appear to veer into unreasonable or similarly antagonistic territory.

    • Hi Steve. Yes, of the two dozen or so posts I’ve written on this, all but one or two were submitted to Off-Guardian. I don’t always send e-alerts to posts but both you and O-G are on my list so any post you were alerted to, so were they.

      Should they run all my posts? Of course not! In fact some posts do little more than flag up, with an intro, an opinion expressed on their site. Well I’m biased of course, so why not run through my CV19 posts – which make up most of my output these last few weeks? Set aside your own views and simply ask, you being yourself an ATL writer, if every single one lacks substance and a valid and well argued viewpoint, or is in some other way sub-standard. Then put your answers alongside Dave Hansell’s observation on the one hand, Catte’s FB post on the other.

      Speaking of which, I too can empathise with frustration at alt media saying nothing on the threat to liberty. But Catte must hold herself, as must I, to higher standards than your common or garden post-before-you-think keyboard warrior. Furthermore, I also empathise with those on the Left who see Off-G’s output as equally and mystifyingly silent on how exposed capitalism is as a result of all this.

      I have never found you discourteous or otherwise unreasonable. You read me wrongly the other day, over Science for the Righteous, but honest misunderstanding is not what we’re speaking of here.

      • Thanks for clarifying. And now I understand that you don’t in fact ‘submit’ your posts to OffG for potential re-posting on their site… it’s more a case of whether they ‘pick them up’ from your e-alerts.

        I, too, am surprised that OffG haven’t talked much (if at all) about how exposed capitalism is by the current crisis (I’ve long understood them to be a generally anti-capitalist site).

        I’m not sure whether this is because it goes against their general narrative (I’m not sure it does, frankly; in some ways it could support it), or whether by accepting that capitalism is in melt-down, and yet it’s the global elites that are at least partly responsible for exaggerating the lethality of Covid-19, it might lead them (ie OffG) towards some conspiracy-theory-type areas (cf The Corbett Report’s recent output) that they are not entirely comfortable with. Do you have a theory on this, I wonder?

        Very interesting, in any case… Keep up the great work.

        • I too am surprised OffG haven’t talked much (if at all) about how exposed capitalism is by the current crisis (I’ve long understood them to be a generally anti-capitalist site).I’m not sure whether this is because it goes against their general narrative (I’m not sure it does, frankly; in some ways it could support it)

          Yes. This from my post of April 11, More questions:

          … those who say there are serious problems with the whole CV-19 narrative, and those who say this pandemic is showing how dire capitalism is, are in my opinion both right. But the two sides don’t seem to be hearing one another. That’s always unfortunate, and doubly so when there’s no inherent contradiction – this isn’t in principle a zero sum debate.

  2. Hi Phil, I appreciate you directly confronting the Off-G position here and I agree that the Catte entry you quoted is, to say the least, inflammatory. But there are a some points I’d like to make.

    First, it is certainly true that the talk of imposing a police state etc. can be another kind of fear porn. However that fear porn is secondary to, and dependant on, the initial fear mongering throughout the mainstream media. That was what disturbed me and continues to disturb me every day. Of course if you assume this virus is really as deadly as it is being made out to be, then you will see this as justified. But it looked to me and continues to look to me like that manoeuvre whereby maximum hysteria is deliberately being stoked to totally annihilate all rational thought. In this I was so grateful to see my worries echoed by Off-G:

    “With regards those on the ‘left’ who, willing or not, are helping to amplify the current hysteria, in Offg’s view it is impossible to be on-message with the sheer magnitude of fear porn being unleashed on us without contributing to shutting down rational conversation. They are effectively cheering on the rise of modern authoritarianism/totalitarianism.”

    Of course this is inflammatory too. But I feel that the depressing view of people screaming abuse at each other was an inevitable consequence of the original fear mongering.

    As for those offering contradictory views not being allowed on Off-G, I see you have a point if your own articles are being rejected – or quietly ignored. But the comment section below is open to all and there have been dissenting views by e.g. Dave Hansell – although he has stopped, no doubt because he no longer sees the point. Most of the ones who don’t agree with Off-G have stopped too. But there were many who were indulging in unspecific anecdotal evidence thereby following what seemed to me to be another device of propaganda of the type followed in wartime especially i.e. emotional manipulation through hearsay.

    Now I know, being a care worker myself, that staff are not permitted to divulge personal details. Which puts us in a tricky situation. Although I think that the (to use a non-inflammatory word) *unlikely* accounts can be easily seen. I would not put Nicola Houghton’s words in that category. Nevertheless I was wondering what your rationale for posting them twice is. Are they supposed to imply that the official account of COVID-19 must be correct? How much of what she is saying can instead be caused by the panic and the precautions? My son’s support team has been cut drastically by the precautions. My own working activities have been suspended resulting in an increasingly tense and potentially explosive situation in various households. Furthermore, we have to ask about problems caused by people in isolation who have no face-to-face contact and whose only company is a TV set that relays an endless horror story to them.

    Then again, I see that it was very decent of you to post articles contradicting your own view. That is certainly something that Off-G haven’t done. Would it be helpful for you to post a comment on Off-G simply linking to this open letter? Or do you feel that this would be simply to invite a torrent of abuse?

    • I would not put Nicola Houghton’s words in that category. Nevertheless I was wondering what your rationale for posting them twice is.

      No good reason. I’d already posted her words before deciding – after a fortnight of soul searching – to write this open letter. Once up, I don’t like to take a post down – it would feel like fiddling with the evidence.

      Are they supposed to imply that the official account of COVID-19 must be correct?

      No. Two reasons. One, as sample of the fact that, just as scientific opinion is divided, and global data offering a very mixed picture, so too (and rarer than either) is the voice of those at the sharp end of all this. Two, to put out a call for frontline health workers to write in (anonymously if need be) with their actual lived experience.

        • Assuredly. It feeds my sense of a mixed picture even within UK, though it gets more mixed when viewed internationally. The more data coming in the better, however confusing it is.

        • It certainly should count, though count as what may well be the subject of ongoing disputes as reports circulate of recently opened Nightingale hospitals with hardly any patients; stringent criteria which effectively prevent admissions, see here.

          and the officially presented charts by the UK Government at daily press conferences showing he UK as two separate countries to split the hospital and non hospital case and mortality rates to make everything look honky dory.

          Taken together with similar reports and the obvious suppression of data (the closed cases recovery figure has not been reported for at least 10 days* and the daily number of critical care cases static at 1559 for over three weeks is not credible) clearly indicate hospitals are being cleared of Covid-19 cases for people to die at nursing homes or at homes in a continuation of the culling the economically inactive herd policy of the eugenicists at the heart of Johnson’s Government.

          The obvious reason for this is lack of equipment such as PPE, ventilators etc to treat people – with the so called ‘lockdown’ acting as a smokescreen to make out the Government are actually doing something when nothing has actually changed in terms of culling policy.

          The point being that just because some hospital facilities are not being utilised does not mean there is no problem. The problem lies with a criminally incompetent Government/government which is fiddling the statistics to hide its own incompetence.

          The Scottish newspaper The National ran a piece by Phillip Pullman (His Dark Materials) earlier this week suggesting Westminster be charged with conspiracy to murder. To be frank it’s difficult not to concur given the available information.

          * From at least the 29 March this stood at 135 people recovered until Easter weekend, following Johnson’s miraculous exit from hospital after only five days, when for two days it went up to 334. After which it disappeared as a statistic to be replaced with N/A.

          Up until yesterday the UK was the only country in the world with N/A in this metric. Holland has now apparently come out in sympathy as their figure is even worse – though with a far lower official as well unofficial (deliberately hidden by the UK Government) mortality rate it’s survival rate remains higher than that of the UK.

          • Thanks Dave. Another timely intervention. What i see all around me are folk hunting down stats and experts to support a priori views on whether or not COVID-19 is as severe as is claimed.

            Cherry picking aside, I detect a widespread methodological (hence epistemological) naivety in the interpretation of data which is partial, flawed and conflictual. I don’t say Roger does this – don’t know him from Adam and on so short a comment wouldn’t like to guess where he’s coming from – but there’s plenty of it going on.

            A few days ago I was accused of being “non commital”. Why? I refuse to say, on the basis of conflicting experts and rubbish data, whether or not COVID-19 is overstated. The guy who came out with this was drunk and of the “it’s all hyped” school, so I excuse him, but a stance based on a modicum of sober and well founded caution is now, in the eyes of some, a sign of feeble minded pusillanimity!

            • Interestingly, the RoI which has been vying with the UK and Holland for bottom spot on his metric – stuck on 77 recovered cases for days and days with a 10%/90% recovered/dead ratio – suddenly shot up the leader board to 93%/7% with Iran yesterday after suddenly finding several thousand cases which have recovered.

  3. For Catte Black and off-Guardian, in their response to the coronavirus pandemic, not to place capitalism (or, replacing this generic term with something more specific, i.e. imperialism) in their cross-hairs is , in her intemperate words, “to pick the wrong side,” to become “a dupe or a fool or worse.” She’s not the first anarchist to find herself in bed with far-right libertarians!

    For an alternative approach, have a look at my post here.

      • Gosh, so you did, and many thanks for doing so… I missed that post – there’s such an inundation of essential reading, so much motion and commotion to keep track of! …
        for example, in connection with this thread, the far-right protests in the USA, egged on by Pres Trump, echoing Catte Black’s complaints against efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
        For sure, capitalists use their state power to cancel our hard-won rights and crush our resistance, which is why we need to take state power out of their hands. Cuba shows what is possible when we do this – 7.7 doctors per 1000 citizens, the highest in the world, and more doctors in poor countries than the G7 combined! Yes, we’re so, so far away doing here in the UK what they did in Cuba, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary!

  4. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even the likes of George Monbiot, but when it becomes tyrannical and petty disrespect it is no longer worthy of perusal by anyone with an open mind. Catte Black has demonstrated very ably with her vicious denunciation of all who do not agree with her, that she is no different than the Guardian writers (I won’t qualify them as journalists) whose partisan superior thinking has alienated so many of their readership.

    I still reserve judgement on whose scientific evidence – not proof – I adhere to because unlike Catte I am not an expert on epidemiology, nor am I a research fellow in virology and I do not have access to all the information proving the case for lockdown or herd immunity.

    Having read most of your articles over the past few years I have never known you to be sanctimonious or high minded and you have always conducted yourself, at least in your writings, in a dignified and fair manner. My hope is that you will never stoop to the level of a self righteous and imperious despot serving insulting and vindictive spite that Black has managed to sink to.

    Many carers and nurses have died from this Covid-19 and I doubt their grieving families would appreciate someone like Black belittling their their dead relatives sacrifice, which is in effect what she has done whether intended or not.

    Hope you remain well, Susan.

    • Thanks Susan. Re your final paragraph, I think it vital to get as rich a picture as is possible of the experiences, in the West and in the imperialised global south, of frontline workers.

      • In part, I was relying on the nurses themselves until a fuller account was made available by the WSWS, which reads:

        “….On Tuesday, the World Socialist Web Site published a letter from a nurse in the south-west of England, titled “A letter from a frontline nurse at the UK’s Royal Bournemouth Hospital.”

        The nurse describes the appalling conditions in the COVID-19 “Red Zone” ward and the anger—shared by many other health care workers—at management and the government’s failure to provide adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The nurse denounced Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hypocritical praise for National Health Service (NHS) workers, after decades of Conservative and Labour governments cutting the service to the bone.

        “I was gobsmacked listening to Prime Minister Boris Johnson after a challenging day at work,” the nurse writes. “He was discharged from St. Thomas’s Hospital on Sunday but at the same time we saw the deaths of nearly 11,000 people, including 40 NHS workers, because of his government’s criminal ‘herd immunity’ policy and lack of preparation to face the pandemic …

        National Health Service (Source: Wikipedia Commons)
        “Our lives are at risk because of wrong PPE policies of the government and our [NHS] Trust,” the nurse continues. “Regardless of the fact that we are dealing with a virulent and highly contagious virus, management is not allowing us to wear proper and safe PPEs.”

        The letter was the most read article on the WSWS over the past two days, viewed more than 80,000 times and has been shared widely across social media platforms.

        Health care workers are bearing the brunt of the Conservative government’s criminal indifference to the lives of working people. So far, 56 health workers have lost their lives to COVID-19 in the UK. The letter met with an outpouring of anger and indignation at government policy on social media and on the WSWS’s Disqus comment section. Many of those commenting were health care professionals.

        Dozens of Twitter and Facebook users posted the letter on their own social media accounts, with over 400 people sharing it from the NHS Fightback Facebook page—set up by the Socialist Equality Party to fight for the building of rank-and-file committees in defence of a free, comprehensive and universal health care service.

        • Thanks again, Susan. This is just what’s needed, but in greater quantity. My sense – at this stage partial and impressionistic – is that, as with scientific opinion and global stats, we have a mixed picture.

          Take the UK. Above and in the same thread as the Nicola Houghton FB comment in my post, one Paul Brook said this:

          At our local hospital the CV19 ward staff are bored because there just aren’t the number of cases that they planned for. Yet over the border in Derby they are rushed off their feet. This isn’t from official sources, it’s from knowing nurses on the front line.

          Meanwhile I get hair raising but well sourced and credible stories of Barcelona hospitals stretched to the limit. My friend who supplies them, his daughter a frontline health worker in the city’s biggest hospital, is more libertarian and less collectivist minded than I am. The lockdown there, far more drastic than in the UK, is sending him stir crazy yet he defends it. It’s true that ‘flattening the curve’ cannot but extend it, but in his view the overriding factor is that Catalunya’s health infrastructure could not withstand any further concentration of cases.

          (Two further points. One, as it has everywhere, neoliberal hollowing out and monetising of every aspect of “the commons” has left healthcare ill placed to cope with pandemic. Two, the problem is both exacerbated and incendiarised by the specific factor of Madrid’s high-handed and punitive diversion of resources away from Catalunya – famously paid homage to by a George Orwell to this day revered there – and above all its capital and principle city.)

  5. 1. The curious thing about the threats that Catte sees of the coming of a police state is that, the Police State has been with us since the 1790s. And, since the neo-liberal era began, the Miners Strike was crushed and the Trade Unions reduced to being little more-in many but not yet all, cases- than benefit societies for bureaucrats, the Police State has been acting just as it pleased without any discernible restraints.

    2. A glance at the career of Keir Starmer is a good confirmation of that: it was he who prevented the prosecution of the police who had shot the plumber de menzeres, it was he who ensured that the Police who beat Tomlinson, on the day that they were beating and kettling a peaceful students demonstration against tuition increases, was not hauled up into court to deal with the Coroner’s Jury’s finding of wilful killing. And it was he who encouraged the progress of the disgusting legal persecution of Julian Assange. And Starmer is the leader of the Opposition – I am tempted to digress here into the matter of the OffGuardian and Corbyn but I won’t.

    3. Instead I will add that I too was an early fan of OffGuardian which was among the first things I looked at when I fired up my computer. I had for years posted comments at CiF under the name of Ellis. At the time of Fukushima, in fact, I was asked by the Guardian if I would consider posting above the line. And though I declined the invitation I saw myself as part of a community there. And then, as must have occurred to many others the ‘moderation’ and the ‘pre-moderation’ began. And I , not being one to entertain illusions of an optimistic nature , stopped wasting my time and Ellis passed away.

    4. When OffGuardian started up I was delighted but from the first I was troubled by indications that the editors had reached the conclusion that, on certain matters, they knew the truth and that those differing with them were in the final analysis not worth listening to. The truth in question being related to the assassination of JFK and the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. I see the current Off Guardian nonsense regarding the virus as the product of that ‘truther’ mindset.

    5. As to the matter itself, you are, Philip, too generous towards your friends. The narrative that they are promoting is entirely consistent with that being pushed by the worst elements of the capitalist ruling class, the Johnson, Trump, Bolsonaro types who have fought tooth and nail to save their system from the unmistakeable demands of public opinion to treat the pandemic by seeking to discover who is carrying it, to isolate them and to treat their symptoms. These policies, involving the curtailment of all manner of activities, naturally bear a cost: the basic needs of the population affected have to be fulfilled, the community has to act in a vigorous and authoritative manner. The capitalists, eager to get back to their exploits and as indifferent as ever to the fate of the vulnerable, inclined to be excited by the sudden passing of a generation of ‘elders’ and their accumulated wisdom from the councils of the poor, are very happy- there is new footage from the Virginia and Michigan legislatures- to incite people to act against quarantines, to break them and restart the spreading of the disease. And in this the Libertarians, most of whom are of the school which regards capitalism and class society as ideal arrangements, though corrupted by socialist influences and public interference in the economy, are at best useful idiots, rallying dissidents to the support of the plutocracy and, at worst, heralds of fascism.

    • bevin I’ve taken the liberty of numbering your paragraphs for ease of reference. I want to keep this short and snappy.

      1 – is a point Dave Hansell also makes. See his comments under Science for the righteous.

      2 – not sure where you’re going with this, since you rightly decided not to digress, but Off-G has run several posts by me which support Corbyn, albeit some of them critically. (This is as good a place as any to stress a distinction between editorial policy and ATL comment on the one hand, the wackos who live BTL at O-G, Graun and many other organs on the other.)

      3 – ah. I more than once urged you, in BTL exchanges at Off-G, to write ATL. This sheds a little light, perhaps, on why you don’t share more widely your admirable lucidity.

      4 – I must defend Off-G, and Catte in particular, on this point. Not only did she run a post, on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, scathing of ‘truthers’. When I took masses of flak BTL for it (a lot of it deserved for reasons I won’t go into here) she was incredibly supportive. Last but not least, despite my views (which had in fact tilted toward agnosticism on the matter, though Catte didn’t know that) she asked me to review David Griffin and Elizabeth Woodworth’s ‘truther’ book, 9/11 Unmasked.

      5 – point taken. An excess of kindness is my only real flaw as a human being …

      • I was curious about your reference to “a post, on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, scathing of ‘truthers’”, since Off-G has been consistently scathing of the official account. I presume you are referring to this?:

        https://off-guardian.org/2016/09/11/why-were-covering-911-fifteen-years-on/

        The pejorative term “truther” appears once and makes the point:

        “…if even the “non-Truther” alt news community allow itself to be controlled and corralled by Orwellian language-manipulation, we have already conceded the ultimate power to those we are supposed to be challenging. The same social forces that invented the phrase “conspiracy theory” only need to invent other no-go labels in future to effectively force us into further self-censorship. Unless at some point we refuse to allow the voodoo word-magic to work on us.”

          • Interesting reviews there. I take it that the second one is where you modified your opinion on 9/11.

            I’m not sure if I agree that David Icke “writes with wit, intelligence and a disarming semblance of sanity”. There is humour there albeit of a broad slapstick sort. But his books have dense page long paragraphs that suggest he dictated the whole thing for some poor transcriber to type out. They also very quickly sink into saturation where anything that might have been remarkable is drowned in so much of the same that it all blurs into a monotony of hyperbole. Which might put Icke in the category you suggested for Dylan Avery i.e. “so bad that some truthers saw it as part of the cover up; a false flag in its own right to damn by its very shoddiness the case against the official narrative”. Icke can be used by any “non-conspiracist” as a prime opportunity for guilt-by-association.

    • I presume the radicals in the British Isles during the 1790’s who were active in supporting the French Revolutionaries and the writings of Thomas Paine in “The rights of Man” who were opposed by Loyalists/Royalists and landowners via organisations like the Bulls Head Association, supported by the State (in much the same same way as it has the Orange Order in Ireland and Scotland for well over a century):

      http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/citizenship/struggle_democracy/revolution.htm

      and faced actual suspension of Habeas corpus and laws banning “seditious meetings” in the 1790’s would disagree.

      As no doubt would the early trades unionists in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars (the last time wage rate level rises were so low as the past twelve years) some three decades later which included, but not exclusively, those from Tolpuddle.

      Ditto for those around during and between the Chartist Movement and the dead at Peterloo.

      And again following the Taft Vale ruling which set back trade unionism at the very beginning of the 20th Century.

      Then we have the suffragette movement subject to not just the same kind of brutal treatment of the miners in 1984, the steelworkers in 1981, the printworkers, and many other cases but also more covert measures by the police acting on behalf of the State representing the 1% minority with all the power and wealth.

      And of course the decades of blacklisting, with police involvement behind the scenes from the inception of the Economic League in 1919 right the way through to the present day.

      Of course, we can go further back to the aftermath of the Black Death (which presumably was a fake disease invented by the Corporate State of the time to keep people indoors and restrict civil liberties?) in the 1340’s which should have seen wage rates rise from a shortage of labour but which instead saw the double whammy of restrictions on wages through the 1349 Ordanance of Labourers and the 1351 Statute of Labourers and increased taxes to pay for the hundred years war with France.

      Resulting of course in the Peasants Revolt.

      It could of course be argued that the current restrictions represent an “anomaly”, a one off. Or we could actually consider the possibility that a long historical series of similar events and all the smaller related everyday events arising over not just decades but also centuries is sufficient to be classified as “normalcy”?

      Because search as I have over my time around I cannot find a single case in which the State in whatever form and its various security agencies at any time ever gave a concession without a long – sometimes decades or more – long fight from below. Which was often dirty and brutal involving both covert as well as overt methods; the misuse of the law to restrict and deny basic liberties – of which life has to be the primary; and raw power to set one group against another.

      • Because search as I have over my time around I cannot find a single case in which the State in whatever form and its various security agencies at any time ever gave a concession without a long – sometimes decades or more – long fight from below. Which was often dirty and brutal involving both covert as well as overt methods; the misuse of the law to restrict and deny basic liberties – of which life has to be the primary; and raw power to set one group against another.

        This comment, and your others on Science for the righteous, are timely reminders that “libertarianism versus collectivist anti-capitalism” is a false dichotomy. Thank you.

  6. Blimey! Where to start? – with Off-G I guess , the recipient of your open letter Phil.

    I have been enriched and informed by Off-G articles for a number of years (although have felt uncomfortable by the tone and content of many BTL comments). However, I have felt increasingly disappointed and downhearted by the editorial line taken on Covid-19. Not that the line is unimportant or not worth airing – it is clearly a concern that restrictions on freedoms in the imperialist world introduced as ‘a temporary measure’ may be very difficult to get revoked. Whether the crisis itself is real or manufactured is, for me, less of an issue (see below) , although the potential for absolving a rotten global economic system is plain to see.

    My disappointment is in Off-G not providing a platform for alternative narratives and scientific / medical opinion – and as such Phil, I support your letter. Maybe I am being unfair in this, perhaps it is not Off-G’s role to provide such ‘balance’ – but the truth is that I find myself skimming articles as I already know what they are going to say!

    As for Catte’s post – I think it extraordinary and wonder what on earth she is experiencing to feel the need to write something so aggressive and vituperative. I would normally dismiss such sentiments as a poor BTL comment – but this is ATL.

    The failure of the global system to prepare for Covid-19 and to provide anything approaching effective protection and support to people across the planet is a damming indictment of the current iteration of capitalism / imperialism – an iteration that had plenty of prior warning of such a contagion but did nothing, well less than nothing to meet it.

    In the UK the NHS has been outsourced and starved of resources over a long period time, resulting in no spare capacity of any kind – let alone any ability to cope with the pressure that Covid-19 brings. This is the real crisis – the paucity of public and medical health provision to deal effectively with a pandemic that was always going to happen at some point. The only option in much of the imperialist west has been to slow the contagion down through lock downs that tanks the economy and impoverishes many who were struggling already. As for those in imperialised countries …….

    I much appreciate your determination to keep an open mind on all matters Covid-19 Phil and, like you, am as (if not more) interested in the front and centre exposure this gives to the abject failure of global capitalism / imperialism to look after the welfare of the vast majority of people across the world. Many will comment ‘so what’s new?’ – but a crisis which engulfs both the imperialist and imperialised world is likely to be a powerful dislocater of the current ‘carry-on’ and will result in change. The key issue surely is what and how much? – for good or ill?

    • … a crisis which engulfs both the imperialist and imperialised world is likely to be a powerful dislocater of the current ‘carry-on’ and will result in change.

      Yes.

      The key issue surely is what and how much? – for good or ill?

      Foolish not to be pessimistic, of course. As with post Lehman Bros acceleration of ‘austerity’ we ‘ll find that “the public has a short memory”. Or to be more precise, the narrative management machine is firmly if subtly in the hands of the tiny few.

      But foolish too to give up hope and quit the fray. I don’t see that as a viable or honorable option.

  7. I think this article shows up the libertarian view with all its severe limitations:

    This is from one Paul Cudenec, an anarchist writer. He writes of various historical changes as “repressions” implying an initial state of “freedom” and unproblematically links pre-industrial peasants with ourselves in our industrialised (post-industrial?) & thoroughly urbanised 21st century world. Lingering in the background is an idealised vison of some rural paradise back in the past. Tolkien has a lot to answer for with his shire hobbit heaven.

    • I skim read the piece, and endorse your take on it. For me it gets filed under “stuff that’s funny if you’re in a good mood”.

      A near universal of progressive but idealist worldviews (idealist in the epistemological sense as opposite not of cycnicism but of materialism) is the notion of a halcyon past; an Eden before we were expelled or otherwise Lost Our Way.

      PS I really do need a shorter word than epistomological. Given how much I’m using it of late, I want a two syllable equivalent!

      • I’m not sure if visions of a halcyon past can ever be progressive since they automatically assume that the best was in the past and therefore the best we can do is to go back. Which reminds me of one of the most fascinating things I ever saw on TV: a 2 part documentary on Nazi art. (Unfortunately I can’t recall the name of the series but it must have been transmitted in the late 80s/early 90s.) This was fascinating because it presented a view of Nazi Germany from the inside.

        Our usual approach to this period and locale is to focus on the concentration camps. If urban civilian life is touched on, it is assumed that Hitler had some kind of inexplicable satanic spell over the masses. This programme revealed the true content of Nazi propaganda and it wasn’t alien at all. It was very familiar. It consisted precisely of projections of that idyllic past when the peasants were assume to have been all healthy, working off the soil and uncorrupted by those “diseased” intellectual urban notions which were, of course, projected onto the Jews.

        We may have removed the anti-Semitic aspect but we still have this idealisation of a supposedly Golden past where everyone knew their place and the male and female roles were “naturally” demarcated etc. This is a vision that veers on kitsch – and Walter Benjamin and Adorno often emphasised the link between fascism and kitsch.

  8. A fascinating thread, which has taken me off into 9/11 territory and more.

    I do hope you get a reply from OffG. As one of their valued stable of regular ATL contributors, you must be expecting one?

    • I did Steve. From Catte, and very fair minded and constructive it was too. Which by the way – see point 4 of my reply above to bevin – is far more representative of her calm and reasoned temperament than is that unfortunate FB post. She assured me I was not one of those she had in mind, but did allow that for a raft of factors, including some I won’t go into here, she could with hindsight see why I would triangulate the way I did.

      She also says Off-G will run my open letter, but asked if I objected to removal of refs to an editorial rift, on the ground it’s more complex and less acrimonious than those refs might suggest. Since it was always a side issue, I readily agreed. I’d take them down on this site too but don’t feel I can do that now, for the reason I gave George re another matter on this thread: it would feel like tampering with the evidence.

      • I appreciate your bravery. Is Catte going to also post her reply to you?

        I presume you will be watching the reactions, possibly bracing yourself?

        • You’re too kind George. I wouldn’t object but nor would I expect Catte to post her reply, since this was between the two of us.

          I doubt I will watch the reactions. Still less engage with them. I said my piece and that’s the long and short of it for me. But Catte did indicate that Off-G had already been considering a broadening out of their coverage on CV-19. That is of more interest to me.

      • Thanks, Phil. Sorry, I just thought I hadn’t heard anything from you for a few days (which seems a long time at the moment!), so came to check your site and it reminded me of my question. Sounds good they mean to publish your open letter, though; and I’m glad that Catte responded to you in a helpful way. Saw somewhere in this thread that you’d taken a few days off politics, which I’m sure is a good move.

        • … I hadn’t heard anything from you for a few days (which seems a long time at the moment) …

          You’re not wrong there, Steve. As I write I have the Lenin quote – which I got from your pal Anthony – up for the third time on my masthead. Since it will be replaced in due c, I’ll spell it out here for the record:

          there are decades when nothing happens – and weeks when decades happen.

  9. Trying to keep with the theme of questions it seems pertinent right now to ask how it is The Times suddenly became the Official Opposition?

    https://archive.is/20200418182037/https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/coronavirus-38-days-when-britain-sleepwalked-into-disaster-hq3b9tlgh#selection-2003.221-2003.326

    Of course, a large chunk of the left have been hammering away at the questions posed and issues laid out in this archived piece, as well as the links in it, for some time.

    Certainly, looking at the extra details adding meat to the bone of what has been obvious to a blind man on a galloping horse for some time the litany of arrogance, ignorance, hubris, deliberate failure, ineptness to Zen level, and criminal negligence highlighted in observations such as:

    “We could have been Germany but instead we were doomed by our incompetence, our hubris and our austerity.”

    “The interesting thing for me is, I’ve worked with Singapore in 2003 and 2009 and basically they copied the UK pandemic preparedness plan. But the difference is they actually implemented it.”

    “This was another nail in the coffin for the pandemic plan. “It was a massive spider’s web of failing, every domino has fallen,” said the source.”

    “All of our planning was for pandemic flu. There has basically been a divide between scientists in Asia who saw this as a horrible, deadly disease on the lines of Sars, which requires immediate lockdown, and those in the West, particularly in the US and UK, who saw this as flu.”

    “Almost every plan we had was not activated in February. Almost every government department has failed to properly implement their own pandemic plans,”

    “If you were with senior NHS managers at all during the last two years, you were aware that their biggest fear, their sweatiest nightmare, was a pandemic because they weren’t prepared for it.”

    “The last rehearsal for a pandemic was a 2016 exercise codenamed Cygnus which predicted the health service would collapse and highlighted a long list of shortcomings — including, presciently, a lack of PPE and intensive care ventilators.”

    raises the question as to what process does anyone go through to interpret this reality as definitive proof of Governments deliberately and enthusiastically doing the exact opposite of what they actually did in order to instigate a state of Marshall Law (or whatever term takes the fancy) by hyping up a pandemic.

    Because the facts and the record demonstrate, as previously observed, they had to be dragged kicking and screaming to actually get off their arse’s on this.

    Though I have encountered another theory for the apparent official change in tact which led to a week long laxidasical process of half hearted so called “lockdown.”

    This from a BTL poster called “Paul” on the latest Swkawkbox article:

    “Ferguson is often given the ‘credit’ for the U turn but at the time and for about 2 hours in the UK the media seemed to accept what the French media were saying which was that in a phone call to Piffle on the Friday morning he warned France would consider banning any contact with the UK if measures weren’t taken. Both the President’s office and Downing St agreed a call had been made, the French agreeing Macron spoke about measures to tackle the virus while Downing St agreed a call but coyly declined to say what it was about. If France had closed her borders with the UK the rest of the EU would have followed suit, especially the Netherlands meaning trade into and out of Dover would have stopped. There were reports the threat had indeed changed Johnson’s mind (Cummings) but the last thing they wanted was to accept that as the reason for the sudden policy change. It would have made nonsense of the ‘take back control’ bollocks. So Ferguson became the reason to save the Govt from acute embarrassment.”

    Which if any where near accurate explains a lot in terms of the actual practical policy implementation of lockdown compared to the official policy narrative in which it took them over two weeks (from 16/3/20-01/04/20) to activate specific parts of the official (failed) Pandemic Plan.

    So, yup! Lets see how long the bated breath has to be held for an answer to that specific question?

    Whilst on the subject of questions several thoughts occur:

    Is his de Piffleness actually being deliberately kept out of the way, at least in public?

    I only ask because it does seem odd that a virus in which the recorded statistics show the average hospital stay is 11 days BS Johnson made a remarkable recovery to warrant discharge after only five days?

    Which naturally lead (puts on skeptics head) to wondering why it is The Times is attacking the Government rather than burying this information?

    Which reminds me. I must contact an online bookmaker to place a bet on another General Election in the near future now that the Official Opposition has now been reinstated as the Official Loyal Opposition following the elevation of Sir Prancealot Starmer to Chief Executive.

    Cynical? Moi?

  10. I have been trying to weigh up both sides of the Off-G/Left divide and I think I am beginning to understand it.

    If you look at this:

    https://off-guardian.org/2020/04/20/coronavirus-lockdown-and-what-you-are-not-being-told-part-2/

    It looks like pretty damning stuff until they get to the presumed aim of the whole exercise – at which point they are complaining about liberties being stolen. As well as such odd declarations as: “Socialism only applies to those who can afford it.”

    As John Smith has noted, as well as Andre Vltchek who sometimes appears in Off-G, the long decades of western affluence that we have all grown up with, have created a false notion of how capitalism works. And have led (under the constantly reproduced propaganda) to this notion of the bourgeoise individual who can heroically maintain an isolated existence. But this was true (and even then only to a limited extent) only of the “developed” countries which were in the happy position of being able to enjoy this affluence, not realising that one enormous pillar of the luxury was provided by the exploitation of the “global south”.

    The Left have always known that we were perched on a “house of cards”. The Off-G contingent seem to assume that our “life of liberty” can somehow continue indefinitely. One commenter on Off-G – who predictably drew an irate response – is one Godfree Roberts who spoke about the Western response as being a reaction to that of the Chinese:

    “….China’s response forced their hand. By mounting the most spectacular, successful civil defense operation in peacetime history, it drove the national death rate to negligible levels and sent a powerful message to the world, “We care, even for vulnerable people. No-one will die before their time.””

    When this drew a furious answer from one who objects to having our “freedom” restricted, GF responded:

    “Your personal preference is for an extroverted, individualistic lifestyle but that’s just you. To me it sounds adolescent.”

    What is particularly interesting is that GF’s comments drew a curious mixed reception going by the up/down votes.

    All of which suggests that the lockdown is an indication that the ruling class is considering some severe modification of the system – no doubt to their own advantage. But it may not go that way. Interesting times.

    • It’s worse than I thought. That OG article has this on Universal Basic Income:

      “This will create mass dependency upon the State for huge swathes of the population. Affording the State immeasurable control over people’s lives. In a cashless society, people who don’t behave in accordance with State regulations, could be punished financially. Instant fines will be commonplace.”

      The words “create mass dependency” link to an article from …The Mises Institute! Which needless to say, gives us the old “free market” mantra.

      • George, sorry I took so long replying to this latest comment. I’ve needed a couple of days off politics, CV-19 absolutely included. Your sleuthing uncovers a truth John Smith also points to, that while the start point of anarchists generally is on the Left, we find them again and again “in bed with the far right”.

        Few check out such references, and one wonders whether the authors do either. The ever present tendency to cherry pick info that suits our confirmation bias has seldom been so glaring as in a quasi religious dispute over CV-19 severity, itself largely contingent (see my reply, also today, to Dave Hansell) on that same libertarian worldview. But it goes back further. I’ve had folk broadly on the Left send me links – one in respect of 9/11, on which I’ve since come to the view it may have been not planned but green-lighted – to far right libertarian sites.

        • What bothers me isn’t so much the material link to a dodgy site but when the logic of (some of) the Off-G sentiments reflect those right wing libertarian views. (It is after all possible for the most dubious sites to occasionally hit on a truth and I sometimes think there is a definite guilt-by-association strategy going on i.e. even by the dodgy sites themselves.)
          But what I am getting at is the lack of awareness of the global capitalist situation along with the corresponding decontextualization (de-historizing?) of “our inalienable rights”. Some Off-G commenters (actually most them) still seem to live in that world where, to put it bluntly, “we” can do anything we damn well like and expect the most glossy and glamorous trinkets of a consumer capitalist society to be supplied indefinitely. Godfree Roberts is at least open to the idea that the necessary transformation of society will involve deprivations – which are in fact not that severe since they relate to inessentials, although we have come to believe otherwise.

          • lack of awareness of the global capitalist situation [and] corresponding decontextualization (de-historizing?) of “our inalienable rights”.

            You refer to one current of (ahistoric and non dialectical) idealism.

            the necessary transformation … will involve deprivations – which are not that severe since they relate to inessentials, although we have come to believe otherwise.

            No, not severe. Unsustainable consumerism, which exploded in my lifetime, on which advanced capitalism depends was never our choice. Even in the West, would we really opt for products of lifespans so short (planned obsolescence/manufactured fashion) we must forever renew and update? Would we opt for such alienation from our own labour that we constantly seek to console ourselves – a new car, a home makeover, a more exotic vacation and bugger the air miles – with our five minutes of consumer bliss, for the emptiness and unarticulated yearning in our hollowed out souls?

            • I hear you Phil. You are a little older than me but I have lived long enough to see those consumer sequences of rise (the hysterical sell to convince you the latest is the ultimate satisfier of your – artificially – raised longing) and the fall (where this ultimate satisfier is quietly ignored for the next ultimate satisfier). The most obvious con in my lifetime must have been compact disc whereby the public are lured into buying what they have already bought in sound supposedly superior to vinyl which, after a couple of decades of remastering, is said to offer sound “almost as good as vinyl”!!

              But even these recordings “for private use” were an unnecessary luxury when you see charity shops with endless stacks of second hand CDs and DVDs – many of which, I daresay were only ever watched once. I remember the local library was of incalculable benefit to me in introducing books and music. Of course the libraries have been decimated since the idea of sharing is anathema to capitalism. But I shall stop the rant now.

    • Has anyone made the rather obvious point yet that life is the primary liberty and you cannot enjoy all the other liberties if you are dead?

      Exceptionalism seems to take many forms and is clearly not limited to the US MIC/DS nor British (English) Nationalism. Are there really people out there who think they are immune just because their subjective opinion tells them so (and we think Trump has an oversized ego!).

      Post modernism really is disappearing up its own back passage.

      • life is the primary liberty and you cannot enjoy all the other liberties if you are dead

        True. But that is precisely why, IMO, those justifiably wary of inroads on liberty find themselves more or less obliged to seek out all and any experts, and all and any data, supporting the view that CV-19 is not as severe as it’s cracked up to be. Maybe they’re right, maybe not – I still say the jury is out – but it’s the subjectively necessary pairing of objectively separable things that I notice.

        That and the ridiculous cherry picking on all sides.

  11. Greetings from Bulgaria, Philip:- I had written much more, (re. media censorship BTL & twitter spats & spitter twats & catty behaviours), but just deleted it all, because I figure right now, it’s best to keep matters really simple and address any issues, one by one. So, I hope you’ll respond, with ease to any questions, because, this may seem off-topic at first to you, but you mention the 11th September 2001 yourself above and there is no question, that the same people are behind this covid virus ‘thingy’: so, let us go for a written stroll in the park, together.

    Q: Why & How can you publicly take the position of being agnostic over the collapse of WTC7 ? When 81 steel columns failed in an immediate vertical descent, that included 2 full seconds of Free-Fall …

    Before you respond, I’d like you to watch & listen to Professor Daniele Ganser, because he and I are experts in our fields of knowledge and have done the legwork & body of research & analysis on the frontlines of a movement to promote peace, within … & within the confines of societal mind control, most dangerous ! Dan is getting much wiser, recently, in representative terms, terminology & psychology and like myself is multi-lingual. Your time will be well spent listening before you respond to my question, above, I promise.

    For starters, (Scream) NPH with me, Next Panic Horror, New Pearl Harbour, please and can we have everybody out giving a slow hand clap to a rising crescendo, on their balcony, punctually @20:00, because there is no football/olympics to watch, anyway, so no excuses 🙂
    Sincerely, kind regards,
    ‘The Joker’,
    Tim

    • Hi Tim. You can read and respond to my views via the links given above. I did not initiate the 9/11 references in this CV-19 thread.

      I’m pushed for time right now but, rather than read yet another link to a third party on 9/11, could you send me one or two of your own above the line pieces on the subject? Thanks.

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