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Don’t censor the lockdown sceptics Covid-era restrictions on what we can see and listen to are likely to outlast the disease

Tech companies have become latter-day Lord Chamberlains Credit: Dave Rushen/Getty Images

Tech companies have become latter-day Lord Chamberlains Credit: Dave Rushen/Getty Images


January 8, 2021   5 mins

Within living memory, for many people, you couldn’t watch a play at the theatre unless it had first been approved by someone called the Lord Chamberlain. Without this man’s permission, the great British public could not see anything which featured such shocking things as extra-marital or same-sex relations, lest they be corrupted. (Of course, right now the great theatre-watching public cannot see anything, but that is beside the point).

But that arrangement fell apart, and by the time it was abolished in 1968 it had become a joke; today we look at the very idea of a role like that of the Lord Chamberlain as anachronistic if not comic. Yet the ancient question of which it sought to answer — “Who has the right to decide what other people should know?” — has never gone away, and pertains to democracies as well as closed societies.

For the power that the Lord Chamberlain possessed was nothing compared to that of today’s censors, gigantic tech companies that can control not just what we see but our very reality. The decisions that the censors of our time can make are of infinitely more significance than whether the public might be shocked or not. They have to do with the extent to which they can be informed at all. And this, like many unresolved questions, has become far more acute and serious since the arrival of Covid-19.

In May last year I described how a group of self-professed experts in London were auditioning to police what the acceptable boundaries of discussion around the Covid-19 narrative actually were. Given that the current pandemic is seeing the largest, most significant and longest-lasting infringements on the civil liberties of the general public ever recorded in peacetime, you might expect that any debate on the virus, its mutability and lethality would be a subject for almost boundless discussion. And yet from the outset the reverse has been true.

Some of this is understandable. For example, early on in the pandemic there was the issue of David Icke spreading a conspiracy theory linking the virus with 5-G masts. Aside from the fact that members of the public on occasion took these matters into their own hands, there was also the question over whether he should be interviewed. The platform on which he appeared — a website called London Real — appeared mainstream, indeed centrist, and so gave Icke a patina of authority, especially to younger people who might not remember him sitting in a shell-suit on Wogan claiming to be the son of God. The fact that Icke ended up causing such a problem is in many ways not a story about Icke, but about the difficulty this age has in identifying what is and is not acceptable to say, hear and know. There are no Lord Chamberlains, but neither are there media gatekeepers who might signal who is worth listening to.

Of course, it does not help that the people so keen to answer this question of authority so often appear to get it wrong . Take the aforementioned researchers at the “Institute for Strategic Dialogue”, who, in seeking to delineate what were and were not coronavirus conspiracy theories, claimed as beyond the pale the idea that the virus “didn’t emerge from a food market in Wuhan but was rather engineered in a nearby laboratory and then released, either deliberately or accidentally”.

Since then, a number of senior intelligence sources from across the Five Eyes security network have indeed speculated that the laboratory, rather than the wet-market, remains a plausible origin of the virus. Unfortunately, China has disappeared scientists and other curious types who might have been able to assist in these inquiries, and only last week the Chinese government jailed a female journalist, Zhang Zhan, for researching the origins of the virus. All of which goes to show that it is unwise to attempt to rule things out, put them behind crime-scene tape and label them as “conspiracies” when they ought in fact to be looked into.

But as the virus — and the lockdowns — have continued, the question of what is and is not permissible has grown more urgent, with the tech companies taking it upon themselves to act as latter-day Lord Chamberlains, but with far more power.

The main tech platforms — YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Google — now have more control over information than any group of people in history, and by some distance. They are presiding over an information explosion that makes Gutenberg look like a mundanity. Perhaps nobody could be up to this job, but the tech platforms have consistently shown that they are woefully unequipped for it. Watching them attempting to juggle with the ethical question of what the public should or should not know is — to steal a phrase from Evelyn Waugh — like watching a Sùvres vase in the hands of a chimpanzee.

Of course tech companies, and the sort of people who work within them, have their biases, and can hardly be expected to escape these. YouTube regularly removes or de-monitises political content it finds distasteful, and it is hardly a secret that they tend to find some political views more offensive than others. Facebook and Twitter in particular chose before the last presidential election not just to censor a story from America’s oldest print newspaper but to silence the New York Post itself, a scandal for which the companies have still paid no meaningful financial or reputational price.

But the pandemic has given the subject added urgency, allowing these tech censors to claim the genuine concern of public safety which they have previously, and rather limply, applied to “dangerous” political views. Last week YouTube banned the UK’s TalkRadio from their platform, “terminating’ the channel’s ability to post because the broadcaster had “posted material that contradicted expert advice about the coronavirus pandemic”.

An array of commentators from the Left and Right of the political spectrum applauded this. And as the UK government instituted a third national lockdown these public figures called for increased censorship of anybody who went against the official, “approved” narratives on Covid. The former BBC journalist Paul Mason (no Conservative he) tweeted that Boris Johnson had not gone far enough in his lockdown pronouncements. “I want him to call out and ridicule the bullshit anti-maskers, lockdown skeptics and denialists in his own party,” railed Mason. “And order social media platforms to suppress / label Covid disinformation.”

As it happens, YouTube demonstrated the trouble with this only hours later, by reinstating TalkRadio’s YouTube account. The company explained: “We quickly remove flagged content that violate our community guidelines, including Covid-19 content that explicitly contradict expert consensus from local health authorities or the World Health Organization. We make exceptions for material posted with an educational, documentary, scientific or artistic purpose, as was deemed in this case.” Yet the problem is not only YouTube’s swift reversals of their own policies, but the fact that even their appeals to authority lack authority.

Throughout the Covid crisis the WHO has repeatedly been shown to be untrustworthy, under-informed and politicised to an extent which would shock anybody not previously aware of their existence. It was the WHO, for example, that said some while back that asymptomatic spread of the virus is very rare; other authorities, including the CDC and the UK government, have said that it is in fact responsible for a large number of infections. Back in the spring US health authorities stated that masks don’t reduce transmission and should not be worn, something that would get a content creator removed from YouTube only weeks later.

The only answer is that there should be as wide a debate as possible. This is not just a principle that has seen us through in the past, but one which has never been more urgent. We are in a dangerous situation at the moment, but what many people are arguing for amounts to wartime levels of censorship, controlled by private companies with almost no accountability. Yet wars at least have surrender papers to end them; any restrictions we allow to censor the lockdown sceptics will most likely remain in place after the vaccine has done its work. It would be ironic that a disease originating in China ended up putting us on the road to a similar system.


Douglas Murray is an author and journalist.

DouglasKMurray

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Harry Powell
Harry Powell
3 years ago

I’m sick of hearing “follow the science”. There is never uniformity of opinion amongst experts; what a perversion of the scientific process it would be if there was. It is a political decision, therefore, which expertise we listen to. We need to stop pretending otherwise.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Harry Powell

I stop listening/reading based on the phrase “scientific consensus” being used as a mechanism to stop debate, and I don’t care how many scientists agree that gravity makes things fall upwards!

Scott Powell
Scott Powell
3 years ago
Reply to  Harry Powell

It’s that singular form, ‘the science’, that gives them away. One science? One particular study? It’s a cherry-picking, and nothing else.

Charles Rense
Charles Rense
3 years ago
Reply to  Harry Powell

Galileo was placed under house arrest for not following the science.

To a society with no basic understanding of core scientific principles, “the science” becomes nothing so much as religion.

Glyn Reed
Glyn Reed
3 years ago
Reply to  Harry Powell

Quite. ‘The 19th-century biologist Thomas Henry Huxley once wrote that “scepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the unpardonable sin”. Now, more than ever, this is a statement worth heeding. Our future freedom may well depend on it.’

aelf
aelf
3 years ago
Reply to  Harry Powell

What I find interesting is how ‘the science’ seems to always favour further infringements of civil liberties.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  aelf

Well said. Media and education do that too.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  aelf

To argue about a theory like ‘civil liberties’ in the time of a pandemic shows that intellectuals are out of touch with life. Wait until somebody very close to a theorist dies and then will they say the same thing? No, they will take the easy way out and blame the government.

aelf
aelf
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

You think civil liberties are a theory?

Jim
Jim
3 years ago

I don’t think we ought to overlook the dangers posed by government in this. In agriculture in the UK we still labour under restrictions designed to cope with the FMD outbreak in 2001. These same restrictions were imposed in other parts of the EU but were lifted rapidly when the outbreak was over.
There are times you have to prise powers from the bureaucracy using tyre levers 🙁

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Jim

Yes indeed!

Millions of people each year every single year since since 2001 have had to take their shoes off and get them scanned going through airport security; all because one demented bloke’s cack-handed attempt at using his shoe as a bomb.

Same detail for us all carrying liquids in mini bottles – even though it’s been easily proven that a would-be assailant could just put all the ingredients in multiple separate 100ml containers.

Point being the authorities/large organisations get scared, must be “seen to be doing something” and so do the first thing they plan on to make sure they appear to be effectual.

However these measures don’t get rescinded because the reputational/political danger of removing these measures and something new happening are just not worth it. And we’ve now all grown accustomed to these measures now right? So might as well carry on.

And so it is death by a thousand (bureaucratic) cuts

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Your last paragraph…
is still better than being blown to pieces.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Dunn

It’s not a binary choice. Few things are

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

..

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

Shoebombs are fitted into shoes..
Shoes shouldnt be checked at airports?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Dunn

Wow, you seem to really believe that organisations or processes always effectively do what they are originally set up to do for decades afterwards. Even apart from that argument – there are real costs to taking the precautionary principle to extremes.

I have read that not a single terrorist attack has ever been prevented by airport security measures, thwarting them always involves focussed intelligence.

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

If you think this through, most sensible terrorists plan an attack which circumvents the existing security routines. Thus the purpose of such routines is not to thwart but to deter – to make the potential terrorist’s task much harder to achieve.

It is the same with any aspect of safety, security etc. Thus we now have air-bags – not because seat-belts don’t work, but because we are safer if we have both.

What you need to pinpoint is airport security measures which have been adopted in the past, but now for some reason are no longer necessary.

Lickya Lips
Lickya Lips
3 years ago
Reply to  Jim

Successive governments have been at war with their own people – this manifests itself with the spurious hate-crime laws.

Furthermore, they have made illegal any criticism of that which they have made legal. Criminalising any dissent. (see the police brutality targetting the peaceful lockdown protesters…. whilst taking the knee to government-approved protesters.)

The politicalised police (Common Purpose controlled) enforce the government’s agenda and are, thus, not fit for purpose.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Lickya Lips

Spin from BBC,ITV,ch4,ch5,Sky ,CNN etc has been to Ramp up ‘Fear’ Not logic or Reasoned Statements,Screwed ‘Data’; They conflate covid deniers with Lockdown Sceptics NoT the same! Rather similar to anyone who dares contradict Lies 2020 was 2nd warmest Year Ever,when it palpably Wasn’t..Met office records only go back to 1659…Spain incidently is currently having one of coldest Januarys Recorded!

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

I was surprised to see that headline about last year being the warmest ever. It certainly won’t stand out in my mind, unlike 1959 and 1976 .

steve sykes
steve sykes
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

I was only 6 in 1959 so don’t really remember that but I do remember 1976 and no way was last year anywhere near as hot as 1976, trying to sleep in 1976 was nigh on impossible because of the heat you didn’t need to move you just lay sweating night after night, that did not happen last year

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
3 years ago
Reply to  steve sykes

Hottest year wasn’t based only on the temperatures in the summer, but over the whole year.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
3 years ago

In the last few days the World Health Organization has said that China has blocked the arrival of a team investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. To make things even more confusing for Big Tech and their attempts at censorship, managing narratives, controlling political outcomes and throttling freedom of speech is the nuances and complexities behind the ‘truth’. In this case we have the WHO of Tedros and his lackeys and the other WHO of some very good scientists.

Stephen I’Anson
Stephen I’Anson
3 years ago

I believe the blocking by China was because of a ‘visa problem’ so hopefully a temporary matter (wishful thinking I know). And as Tedros is DG of the WHO that is the WHO. No doubt there are good scientists working there but the head of the organisation leads the way and drives the agenda. Why don’t we hear more from the ‘good scientists’ at the WHO? I am sure Unherd would be delighted to hear from them…(and the BBC and the rest of the MSM and Twitter et al)

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
3 years ago

Professor Johan Giesecke of Sweden is on the technical and strategic infectious diseases advisory group of WHO just for starters. Proof positive that there is not ‘one science’ at the WHO.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago

Yes good point!

It’s important to remember that these organisations are large with many different ‘tribes’ within. Many at the WHO will say one thing, many within may disagree.

It’s the same with the UN as a whole. It’s often reported that “UN says ‘X'” or “UN says ‘Y'” but this confuses the fact that there are multifarious factions within sponsored by many different players, states and actors.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

Sino delenda est!

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

We are living in Covid-1984, such are the lies and oppressions of the government and the health gestapo. Quite plainly, if you confine people to their homes, where the virus spreads more effectively than most places, you will create more Covid victims. It made sense to halt many mass participation events, particularly those indoors, and of course there should be appropriate distancing in restaurants and bars etc, but on the whole people should have been allowed to go on with their lives as normal. In Sweden, where this policy was pursued, all-cause deaths may well be lower in 2020 than in most years, and certainly no higher. Even in Ireland, where there have been a number of vicious lockdowns, Ivor Cummins has demonstrated that 2020 saw no more deaths than in a normal year. And I suspect we will see the same in the UK, notwithstanding the excess deaths of March/April.

Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The ‘confining people to their homes’ point really does not make sense. I live alone. If I stay at home and see nobody, what are the chances of my getting the virus? Virtually zero – maybe a tiny chance if shopping delivered to me carries the virus. If someone is in a household with other people and they all stay at home, they would also have virtually no chance of contracting it if none of them have it at the start. Yes, they are all likely to get the virus if one person already has it and is contagious. But if someone did have the virus at the start, it would very probably spread to the rest of the household, even if they were not in some lockdown and just acting normally. Of course, in the latter scenario, the infected person(s) would also risk giving the virus to everyone else they came into close contact with.

There are some arguments against the lockdown – mine would be on the detail and timing, not the basic principle – but the one about the virus spreading whilst people are locked up at home does not make much sense, unless I’m missing something.

pabischristian
pabischristian
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

Genuinely excuse me if I am mistaken but would the concern not be that people can’t build immunity (from anything) if they stay confined in their home, becoming more susceptible when not mingling with others.

As far as I am aware, that is how we strengthened the immune system all throughout history, barring that vaccines obviously helped further strengthen people.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  pabischristian

I agree. I’m also wary of constant use of hand sanitizer offered in shops. I ignore it because surely we need to meet a few germs every day .

John McCarthy
John McCarthy
3 years ago
Reply to  pabischristian

Excellent point made. We need to strengthen the immune system as much as possible. Improved diet, moderate and regular exercise, adequate sleep, vitamins D, C etc all will help. Staying at home may prevent a person from being infected but the virus will still be there when they eventually have to come out. Remember the currently available vaccines do not prevent a person from being infected nor do they prevent that person from passing on the infection.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  John McCarthy

Right, in which case I don’t know why we’re even calling them “vaccines”. “Herd immunity” seems to be considered something of a conspiracy in the MSM now, though. It’s already a term I’ve found I can’t use in certain circles. But everyone knows – or at least knew until last year – that getting sick, however unpleasant, is exactly how we build immunity. It’s the reason children get sick so often. They are SUPPOSED to get sick often, when they’re still young and resilient enough to bounce back quickly, and when they have people to look after them when they’re ill and don’t have to earn income to support the family. Everyone knows someone who somehow avoided getting chicken pox as a young child, then had the very bad fortune of getting it as an adult. An adult who gets chicken pox typically has to stay home from work for at least 3 weeks. They have far more risk of unpleasant complications requiring hospitalization, extreme discomfort, and even disfiguring scars. What is usually a mild illness in early childhood is usually hell on earth for an adult.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

The point is there is no evidence that lockdowns slow the spread of this or any other virus. And please don’t offer up the Melbourne or New Zealand examples; rates were very low there to begin with. No evidence the draconian lockdowns made any difference (correlation does not equal causation). As soon as any lockdowns end, there is naturally a sudden and dramatic increase in infection rates, panic ensures, then wham, another lockdown. When is it going to end? Isolating and separating healthy people has never in human history been used as a means of preventing disease outbreaks.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I would be a benign dictator/health Czar..As Some Many MPs are classics or Barrister trained,They ARE Hopeless at Logistics!..But only by Isolation hospitals ,Not vaccines,anti-biotics defeated ”Spanish Flu” 1918-20 .Mass herd immunity kicked in after 100 million died..Read; Lucy Arnold ‘Pandemic 1918(Michael O’Mara books 2018pbk or kindle)

bcqdwdrss8
bcqdwdrss8
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

People need to use imagination before selecting the “natural herd immunity” solution as it has the cost you have described.

Warren Alexander
Warren Alexander
3 years ago

The only people scared of full and open discussion are those who have a need to hide information from the public. I wonder who they might be?

Susan
Susan
3 years ago

Oh THANK YOU Douglas Murray for conveying this so succinctly and intelligently. I am going to have another attempt at encouraging friends and family to think for themselves about this. Wish me luck!

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

The era of censorship is here and it extends far beyond Covid. Big Tech is forging its own Ministry of Truth, the media either runs the DNC or is run by it, and there are hordes among the twitterati just waiting to gun for someone’s job and family if that person dares to cross leftist orthodoxy. The people who most loudly accuse others of fascism do so largely out of projection, though it’s clear they lack of the self-awareness to realize it. They justify using brown shirt tactics against people they don’t like because, well, they don’t like those people.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Dont sit on Park benches or (ugli)Priti Patel will fine you £200+….i can see explosion in cancer,Auto-immune deaths &mental health as can Most logical people later in 2021

D Ward
D Ward
3 years ago

Ahh, David Icke. I remember a joke from them days. “What’s the difference between Ayrton Senna and David Icke?” “David Icke went completely round the bend”.

Sits back and awaits the offence-takers to take offence.

Charles Rense
Charles Rense
3 years ago
Reply to  D Ward

As an American and not much of a sports fan I barely grasped Senna reference with my pinky finger, but that was enough to climb up to understanding the joke. I can’t laugh or be offended as I’m still catching my breath, and frankly I’m just glad to be alive.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago

there was the issue of David Icke spreading a conspiracy theory linking the virus with 5-G masts. Aside from the fact that members of the public on occasion took these matters into their own hands

In this particular case “took these matters into their own hands” means “burnt down phone masts in Aintree, Atherton, Belfast, Birmingham, Dagenham, and a dozen or so other cases of arson, attempted arson, or damage. We’re not talking about a community litter-pick at the local park here.

Carl Goulding
Carl Goulding
3 years ago

Agreed but my question is who should participate in the wider debate and how would it be concluded? The definition of a debate is ” a formal discussion on a particular matter in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward and which usually ends with a vote”. Imagine if a sensible, civilised, meaningful debate could be held and a vote carried out. In today’s western world the result of that vote would not be respected and accepted by those who don’t agree with it.

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
3 years ago

I personally don’t buy conspiracies because I don’t believe that secrets are easy to keep for any length of time however false narratives are ubiquitous. We are in a situation currently where anyone critical of government policy is regarded as unhinged or malicious. Western civilisation has progressed beyond its predecessors and competitors because of of free exchange of ideas. Conformity is death to any society.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  David Uzzaman

The flaw in your analysis is the assumption that the public were ‘freerer’ in the past. The fact is we have never been so free to criticise the government or orthodox narratives. There has never been so much information or data freely available to the general public.

We have a crisis in expectations, not a crisis per se (although the ultimate outcome is probably the same).

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

I agree with the crisis in expectations, especially expectations about getting old/becoming immortal.
By the way: I don’t see David Uzzaman referring to the past anywhere.. do I miss something? Where is he assuming we were more free in the past? As far as I understand it he is just saying we should cherish the freedom we have right now in europe. I am 46 now and before Covid-19 I have never encountered censorship before in my life (a life that was lived in western europe), let alone on this worldwide scale. But to be able to see the censorship of course depends on the opinions a person has. Anyway, lockdown-sceptics are being hunted down by algorithms all around the globe, that’s a fact.

J J
J J
3 years ago

I largely agree with what he said. However he implied we use to be free to criticise the government but are no longer. I do not accept that. I would argue there has never been such intense criticism of government policy. It’s actually quite destabilizing and in many ways destructive.

Can you imagine how Churchill would of functioned in today’s political and media climate? He would of had to resign in the first year. Churchill was a man with many flaws, both in his character and his policies. He would of been slaughtered by the media and opposition. But back then the media and opposition where on the government’s side during a national crisis. Today they would call that the ‘elite sticking together’ and ‘censorship of opposing views’.

I am not arguing we should go back to 1940, but we need to act more responsibly. Much of the electorate, media and opposition basically need to grow up. They are acting like entitled, spoilt little brats.

Tom Hollett
Tom Hollett
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

My understanding is that Churchill spent much of the 1930’s in the political wilderness and censored by the press (most notably The Times) for pushing a wild conspiracy theory about Germany prepping for war. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that his opinion was “slaughtered” by both the political and media establishment of the day.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Hollett

Indeed, a bit like Boris going on about this bloody virus thing we all know is a ‘casedemic’ hoax.

The press and establishment also considered Churchill lazy and incompetent. They considered his actions poorly thought out and reckless.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago

When ethics and money collide as they do with the tech platforms mentioned, money will almost always come out on top especially when power comes into the mix as well.

Charles Rense
Charles Rense
3 years ago

Censorship is the only answer these unimaginative people have. They can’t make their cases without strawmanning and insulting the opposition, and they don’t dare consider the possibility that that itself might indicate their facts aren’t as good as they think they are, so censorship is their only choice.

Scott Powell
Scott Powell
3 years ago

I honestly wonder how different the global response would have been if Covid came from, say, Afghanistan rather than China. What responses would have been heralded as ‘appropriate’?

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago

I would add Amazon to the 4 you mentioned, Twitter, Facebook, Google, and YouTube, and Microsoft too, and suspect all 6 guys had a Robert Johnson moment at some crossroads in their past. Liberals do not believe in the Devil, but maybe they should.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

As far as I can tell, liberals are the Devil.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The Whole Lib-lab-Cons-Greens-Plaid c-Snp are past their sellby date…I sympathise or empathise with Peter finch in Network 1976 speech,still chillingly relevant..”We’re as mad as hell,and can’t take it anymore”.

J J
J J
3 years ago

The problem with censoring information is that it backfires. The conspiracy theorists use the ‘censorship’ as evidence to support their conspiracies ‘they don’t want you to know the truth!’.

The solution is for the government to be more aggressive at responding to conspiracy theories, or even more general social media criticisms.

Prior to each conference, government researches should list all of the criticisms doing the rounds on social media (eg infection increases are due to false positives, hospitals are not full, fatality rates are less than 0.1%, economic contraction kills more people than COVID) and SAGE should provide detailed responses to each criticism with experts and evidence. They should also pre-empt the criticisms of their response (which is not difficult to do, as most of the online conspiracy theories are fairly formulistc)

Where the response is ambiguous, they should be honest and state there is a lack of clarity in the evidence but explain why they are taking one particular position as opposed to another.

The governments historical approach of refusing to give a platform to conspiracy theories by responding to them is completely wrong.

alancoles10
alancoles10
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Unless of course there is a conspiracy!

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  alancoles10

If you believe in conspiracies which you cannot prove, then there is little to debate.

Toby Aldrich
Toby Aldrich
3 years ago

Censoring, and cancel culture, is the first resort of those who are not able to accept that they cannot always win an argument. And we have to accept that in a liberal democracy, there will always be 20% of the population who see black as white and vice versa. Looking at the anti-vax opinions across Europe is fascinating. More than 50% in France! One person’s meat is another person’s murder.

Unless we consent to a Lord Chamberlain or an OFCOM, (that is to say, someone who at least has some authority and expertise to judge matters), then we are at the whim of the so-called progressives in Silicon Valley. I know which I would accept.

John Ottaway
John Ottaway
3 years ago

We now effectively live in a dictatorship. The media is controlled by a few very rich men and will not stray from its script. There is no debate today, just name calling. This is very dangerous, ne’er deadly for a supposed democratic society.
The virus almost certainly came from a lab. For what purpose. To aid China infiltrate America? Or as a precursor to the Great Reset, beloved of the Davos crowd.
The spike that binds Covid so easily to humans was inserted to a virus already held in the Wuhan lab. I can’t believe people can be so vulnerable to believe in such massive coincidences. Virus supposedly originated in Wuhan market. A stones throw away from the only level 4 Biosafety lab in China.
I wonder if some grown ups still believe in Santa.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  John Ottaway

As above, the flaw in your analysis is the assumption that the public were ‘freerer’ in the past. The fact is we have never been so free to criticise the government or orthodox narratives. There has never been so much information or data freely available to the general public.

To suggest the UK is a dictatorship is snowflakeeness in the extreme. Try posting what you just posted as a citizen of a non democratic country and see what happens.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  John Ottaway

Apart from Saying ”there is No santa Claus/e” I agree with you

Robert Montgomery
Robert Montgomery
3 years ago

The examples of information turning out to not be true I find puzzling. There is very little proof of asymptomatic transmission I’m not techy enough on my phone to put up an early study in China where ans asymptomatic person’s contacts, over a hundred of them were traced and tested, NOT ONE had the virus. The mask wearing?! really? Read the recent Danish study.

LJ Vefis
LJ Vefis
3 years ago

Back in March, I got called an idiot on an online forum for wondering aloud that it must be very hard to pass on a respiratory virus if one felt well and were not coughing or sneezing. I got called an idiot for wondering if the death toll might be bad in the UK because we have a lot of unhealthy people. People got called idiots for suggesting that maybe some people were already immune to the virus. One still gets called an idiot for suggesting general mask-wearing might do more harm than good.

Of course, I probably am an idiot, and I am glad that people feel free to call me one, but I find it weird that there was already such dogma in the social-media sphere so early in the pandemic. Where does everyone’s certainty come from? Is it merely erring on the side of caution?

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  LJ Vefis

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that those who advocate for social and economic lockdown, as well as the compulsory wearing of masks, are the ones calling others conspiracy theorists. We’re living in upside-down world.

Martin Ridley
Martin Ridley
3 years ago

I walked my dog today, empty streets, my friends in London say its mostly deserted streets they see, this raises the questions who is defying the ‘curfews’ the answer virtually no one. People out walking and exercising are sensible in the main, people don’t want to catch the virus. A further question emerges why the the hysteria and threats last night from Patel and her goons, it seemed to be directed against people I can’t imagine listened to her broadcast who were it seems organising thousands of Raves and having Picnics. So you guessed, simply propaganda deflecting any responsibility from a useless government and lacklustre PHE. In fact it was somewhat of a love in ‘our brilliant NHS and wonderful police’, do they think the public are idiots? People of course should not be censored, we already have Maoist style ‘clap the NHS’ and other forms of public indoctrination. We need rational challenge of the government and NHS England’s performance and policy, we won’t get that from Labour either.

bcqdwdrss8
bcqdwdrss8
3 years ago

Just read this paper and the 181 comments. Am I wrong that the basics of the censorship issue, as in “Don’t censor the lockdown sceptics” has been largely ignored here? To start with, anyone who is totally against censorship a/ leave your entry doors lock less and b/ read how social media makes children kill themselves. Secondly, isn’t the main issue is ” to censor what”? A/ (that’s an easy one) don’t let them call for physical violence ( as in a very interesting and smart dude Karl Marx’s manifesto), B/ don’t let them be emotionally violent. “Emotionally violent”?- a solicitor would ask, what’s that? R u old enough to recall a very effective effort of the post 1945 generation to stop any discussion in this democracy to come up with a definition of emotional violence accepted by an average justice system? Emotional violence is being used widely by elected by us politicians who would not know what to do without it. Doug is right, stop the censorship as it is a form of mind control ( aka torture) unless they call for physical violence and/ or present intention to violate emotionally, but focus on helping them to emotionally mature and tolerate “wrong views” which is a job at which all of them failed Biden, Trump, Obama,… censorship and democracy should not contradict each other.

Bill Brewer
Bill Brewer
3 years ago

I hear that Parler a US free speech platform is being shutdown by the big techs. Apple is sending out an update for their phones and Amazon is to stop hosting them. Their sin? They allowed posts by Trump.

It’s scary stuff. Whatever view we have of an individual it is outrageous to block legal opinion. I also hear that Facebook who banned Trump takes adverts from the Chinese Embassy bragging about their re-education of the Uighur people. Horrific! It really is beginning to look like the end of democracy and free speech. Anything for money and power.

Nick Wright
Nick Wright
3 years ago

To quote Alanis Morissette, “And isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?”

No, I don’t.

Mister Sparks
Mister Sparks
3 years ago

The virus is being opportunistically used to justify more quantitative easing in the US, more stimulus to keep the fed Ponzi scheme going. Expect more lockdowns and maybe war to justify more stimulus. The debt to GDP ratio can never be repaid. Fiat currency eventually returns to its intrinsic value of zero. Before that event, money printing will either hyper inflate away the debt or equally likely lead to a deflationary spiral. Central bank digital currencies announced by IMF, BIS, ECB as Breton woods 2.0 moment – understand the significance of this. The Great Reset is the ultimate agenda, C19 is merely a tool to accelerate the plan. Do your research and understand its true implications for you and your families. Good luck.

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago

I’ve followed the statistics on Worldometers since March 2020. Daily I can track what’s happening in covid world and it’s never looked as dire as painted. Do people with underlying conditions have to take extra care? Yes. But school kids? Healthy 30 year olds locked down for a year? Where’s the justification? That this full-scale war on reality is being promoted by the various governments is truly Orwellian. Though the historical figure who comes first to mind is Herr Josef Goebbels with his recipe for domination: First instill fear, then control the fearful. Not too difficult by the looks of the masked hoards. It’s easy to play on people when they are cowering under the weight of their masks. Oh, and what happened to that brilliant Great Barrington Resolution of Oct 2020? It hit the light of day for about 30 minutes before it was massively suppressed. Did that bother any journalists? Not that I noticed. It’s as though the fear gleaned from covid is too good to let go. https://gbdeclaration.org/ https://www.worldometers.in… oxox, from California where Mr. Slick reigns

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

Nihil facere! As the Ancients would say.
Do as Belarus has done, “let it rip”. The vast amount of the dead so far, were old and had already expended 90% of their life expectancy.
How much more do they want.? For myself, nothing.

The future of the young is surely more important than that of the old?

Nick Wright
Nick Wright
3 years ago

“the great British public could not see anything which featured such
shocking things as extra-marital or same-sex relations, lest they be
corrupted.”

In the Lord Chamberlain era, London’s West End theatre offerings consisted of little else.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

Perhaps we should identify and quarantine the infected/contagious.

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago

In the standard discussion on “fwee peach”, it is generally accepted that one should not be entitled to shout “Fire!” in a crowded room without censure or penalty. Much of the “lockdown scepticism” currently percolating through social media is actually covid denialism and anti-vaxx propaganda. It encourages people unwittingly to endanger themselves and others by misinforming them. It claims that things are impossible or proven without doubt whereas not only are those things untrue, but against the scientific concensus.

To give examples, PCRClaims celebrated on Twitter the refusal of a lady to undergo cancer treatment because it would involve her having a PCR test. People are encouraged to deliberately flout social distancing and hand-washing recommendations. Some will spread the virus. Additional deaths will almost certainly result, though it will be impossible to attribute an individual death to a specific instance of behaviour. The lady may well die sooner, from her untreated cancer.

Talk Radio has been amplifying some of this nonsense. It gives a platform to people like Michael Yeadon, now high priest of the UK “there is no pandemic” cult. It is difficult to know where to draw the line – definitely with Piers Corbyn on the other side of, probably with Talk Radio just on this side of it. However, it begs a massive question over the responsibility, indeed the morality of Talk Radio and its editorial policy. Their approach is really just one of click-bait – appealing to a disgruntled minority with deliberate contrarianism and disguising it as mere “examination of facts”. There has been no public interest served by their approach.

To go back to the Lord Chamberlain example, Lady Chatterley’s Lover may now be obtained from the local library. In addition, a wide range of hardcore pornography can be purchased in a local shop. I don’t say that the latter should be made illegal again. But the people who sell it are not enriching our society in any way. So it is with Talk Radio.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago

Look back in history further than the Lord Chamberlain and everything about humanity becomes comic and it is getting worse. It isn’t only about what we should know and see, the issue is about how we think and having the freedom to say what we think. Why shouldn’t David Icke claim to be the son of God. It worked for Jesus and there is not a shred of evidence to support the existence of God let alone his son. Many believe in the virgin birth and now we are expected to accept that men can give birth and women can have a p***s. Humanity does not get crazier than this.

Gad Saad has just published a book claiming that western minds have been taken over by an idea pathogen that started in universities and destroys people’s capacity to think rationally. This is not new; it has been the case for thousands of years. Look at the medieval belief in witchcraft when women were accused of weather cooking. They were burnt alive to prevent extreme weather events. It was sensible at the time but there was no evidence that they could control the weather or that it improved when they were killed. Unfortunately, the belief has never left us, and we are now all witches using CO2 to change the weather and even destroy the earth. Our medieval ancestors might be excused since we did not have the scientific knowledge that we have today. It is appropriate that Douglas coined the phrase “educated imbecility” because knowledge has been consigned to the bin

I have puzzled for years about why climate scientists are lying about physics, but the answer is that they are not. They genuinely believe that they have created an alternative version of physics but without a shred of empirical evidence to support it. They are in the same camp as David Icke but a majority take them seriously. Humanity did go mad in a herds thousands of years ago and since we have had he odd genius now and again bringing enlightenment but more than anything the herd wants to avoid uncertainty and believes that science has given us the ability to control everything.

The recent Royal Institution Christmas lecture demonstrated how the nonsense of fake science has taken hold but its website claims “Science lives here”. Not anymore. They performed an update of John Tyndall’s experiment with gases. It is worth finding. We were told that the temperature of a candle buring outside a glass tube varied depending on the gas in the tube. Further we were shown that when a greenhouse gas was in the tube the temperature of the flame went down, proof of the surface heating. In the experiment the candle was said the represent the surface of the earth, which is supposed to be warming. But the experiment showed the opposite and the presenters did not even see this, so taken are they with their new religion. They are the David Icke’s of science. This propaganda is to support zero-carbon policies and it is soaked up by children and adults alike. Not only is the the science wrong, the energy polices are wrong but these are also being embraced without any rational thinking about the consequences. Now we have covid nonsense shutting down the world economy.

David Shaw
David Shaw
3 years ago

Agreed Douglas. Why did the events in Washington happen yesterday?
The Liberal Media of course are blaming Trump and on the surface he is the easy and obvious target! However look a little deeper on why Trump has so many supporters and why was it they supported him in the first place. A huge mistrust of the other side-the Democrats/Liberals!
Why are the Democrats/Liberals both in the US and in the UK so astounded that the right wing should hit back? I suppose it is because not only do they believe that they are right but they also believe the other side should be ‘Shut-up’ ‘Cancelled’
They embraced the BLM protests, cowed to them, excused their extraordinary ‘Marxist’ demands and vandalism and expected everyone else to go along with their wet and feeble narrative.
Biden actually has the opportunity to be a really great Leader. He should sit down and try to understand why both sides the left and the right are so annoyed, broker a peace and allow everyone to speak and have their views heard permanently.
He’s got some form on going against the grain when persuading Clinton to give Jerry Adams a Visa to visit the US and Congress against the wishes of the British Government who saw him at that time as a terrorist! This was akin to the UK inviting Osama Bin Laden to London for a chat a few years after 9/11! Not that funny for the UK. If he wants to continue in this vain he will of course makes things worse and believe you me it can get a lot worse!
If he wants to be a peace maker I guess he should understand how much he and his side can annoy the other side and have that open and frank debate about freedom of speech!

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  David Shaw

“Biden actually has the opportunity to be a really great Leader”…maybe he would if he had enough of his brain cells left.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

The Institute of Virology in Wuhan is China’s Bacteriological Warfare Establishment.
The British equivalent is Porton Down, a few miles from Stonehenge.

C-19 is a Chinese Bio Weapon, that somehow suffered an “accidental/negligent discharge”. As all those responsible have been eliminated, so we will never know how.

To believe it has something to do with Wet Markets is both naive and dangerous.
In order to ‘appease’ China the West is mirroring the pathetic performance it exhibited during the rise of that “stinker Hitler”.

Well done!

Christina Dalcher
Christina Dalcher
3 years ago

As always, I agree with Murray here. The point of his that concerns me, however, is this:

…nothing compared to that of today’s censors, gigantic tech companies that can control not just what we see but our very reality.

I left Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram this past September for a number of reasons, one of which is my loathing (and somewhat rational fear) of the power they wield. But power is a thing that can be given as well as taken, and the control of what we see or our ‘very reality’ is, sadly, something that users of social media have given up. We allow them to do it, and it’s within our power to say no.

Christiane Dauphinais
Christiane Dauphinais
3 years ago

“It would be ironic that a disease originating in China ended up putting us on the road to a similar system.”

Not ironic, but intentional. Phase 1 of The Great Reset.

Paul Davies
Paul Davies
3 years ago

I would very much like to know how many nurses and doctors are sheltering and not working and for what reasons. Supermarket checkers are at work each day meeting the public and in contact. They dont seem to be self sheltering. I heard and dont know whether it is true, that a significant proportion of nurses are sheltering because they are obese and therefore in the danger category.

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago

N P
N P
3 years ago

Free speech must be limited by the ‘no-harm’ principle. And there is no doubt that Covid/lockdown/masks deniers who also tend to pepper their speeches with misinformation, have potential to do great harm.

LJ Vefis
LJ Vefis
3 years ago
Reply to  N P

But how would you define what counts as harmful speech? If a lockdown can be argued to be harmful, does supporting a lockdown then count as harmful speech? Then, in terms of covid, you end up in the same old argument of how do you prove that one way of dealing with the virus is more harmful than another. Anyway, if someone espouses foolish views (Nick Griffin springs to mind), better to give those views oxygen and let them burn out.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  N P

So, Fauci should have been cancelled back in March 2020 when he said mask wearing was not effective against COVID and there was absolutely no need for it outside medical facilities.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  N P

Who decides what speech causes harm? Based on what criteria?

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago

Disqus appears to have lost my comment, so I shall post it again a paragraph at a time. Apologies if it appears twice.

In the standard discussion on “fwee peach”, it is generally accepted that one should not be entitled to shout “Fire!” in a crowded room without censure or penalty. Much of the “lockdown scepticism” currently percolating through social media is actually covid denialism and anti-vaxx propaganda. It encourages people unwittingly to endanger themselves and others by misinforming them. It claims that things are impossible or proven without doubt whereas not only are those things untrue, but against the scientific consensus.

To give examples, PCRClaims celebrated on Twitter the refusal of a lady to undergo cancer treatment because it would involve her having a PCR test. People are encouraged to deliberately flout social distancing and hand-washing recommendations. Some will spread the virus. Additional deaths will almost certainly result, though it will be impossible to attribute an individual death to a specific instance of behaviour. The lady may well die sooner, from her untreated cancer.

Talk Radio has been amplifying some of this nonsense. It gives a platform to people like Michael Yeadon, now high priest of the UK “there is no pandemic” cult. It is difficult to know where to draw the line – definitely with Piers Corbyn on the other side of, probably with Talk Radio just on this side of it. However, it begs a massive question over the responsibility, indeed the morality of Talk Radio and its editorial policy. Their approach is really just one of click-bait – appealing to a disgruntled minority with deliberate contrarianism and disguising it as mere “examination of facts”. There has been no public interest served by their approach.

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago
Reply to  James Moss

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago
Reply to  James Moss

Almost forgot to add:
To go back to the Lord Chamberlain example, Lady Chatterley’s Lover may now be obtained from the local library. In addition, a wide range of [Unherd won’t let me use the words but it is a category of magazine and it is not soft-centred] can be purchased in a local shop. I don’t say that the latter should be made illegal again. But the people who sell it are not enriching our society in any way. So it is with Talk Radio

Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
3 years ago
Reply to  James Moss

I agree – anyone that you think is not enriching society should therefore be censored.

James Moss
James Moss
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Milburn

Actually that’s the opposite of what I said.

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
3 years ago

Im normally in agreement with just about 100% of what Douglas Murray says on other issues..
but the language of ‘enfringement of civil liberties’ regarding the efforts to tackle covid19 is just not helpful.
The curtailment of population movement is designed to avoid a pernicious and deadly virus from infecting 62million people,many who will die if infected..

Curtailment of movement is not the same as ‘infringement of civil liberties’…what kind of ‘liberties’ are that precious that innocents must die to retain them?
RIP they died free?

queensrycherule
queensrycherule
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Dunn

What evidence do you have that lockdown has saved a single life?

It has certainly cost them.

Fiona Cordy
Fiona Cordy
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Dunn

But the point he is making is about our basic freedom of speech. Whatever you think about the measures that have been taken, we should never, ever have our ability to disagree with them taken away and that is what in effect Youtube tried to do when they banned TalkRadio. And what Paul Mason wants Boris Johnson to do.

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
3 years ago
Reply to  Fiona Cordy

Well if you catch covid via a sceptical protester you can be proud that your last words are that you ‘never ever’denied their rights to free speech.
Id prefer they were all rounded up&interred for the duration of this pandemic…and when its over,then charged with endangering life with a hefty prison sentence to match the seriousness of the charge.

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
3 years ago
Reply to  Fiona Cordy

You may change your mind if you contract covid via one or more of the protesting sceptics…
“Never ever” wont sound nearly as high-minded coming through a ventilator..

Fiona Cordy
Fiona Cordy
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Dunn

Of course I don’t want to die. Most people don’t. I also don’t want to die in a unpleasant way. But the truth is, a lot of us don’t have an easy death with or without Covid. I’m prepared to take my chances because I want to live now.