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How lockdown changed us Like prisoners, we're grateful for the slightest glimpse of freedom — but did it have to be like this?

Was there a more elegant alternative? We will never know

Was there a more elegant alternative? We will never know


February 24, 2021   4 mins

As every prisoner knows, once freedom has been taken away it doesn’t take long to become grateful for the tiniest details of life being restored. The thrill of outdoor tasks in the yard, say, which allow a few more precious minutes under “that little tent of blue which prisoners call the sky”.

I caught myself having similar flashes of gratitude as the Prime Minister set out his roadmap this week, towards liberating schools, restoring outdoor socialising and eventually — gasp — allowing people to see their loved ones when and where they like.

Our expectations have become so diminished that his granting of permission “to have coffee on a park bench” is taken not as an insult but a gift; and the restoration of permission to “hold hands on care visits” is accepted with joy, the cruelty of his withdrawing it in the first place long-forgotten. For parents across the country, the relief that schools will soon be opened will no doubt temper the anger at the damage it has wrought on the people they love the most. All the horror of livelihoods destroyed, funerals with no mourners, older people aged beyond recognition by a year of isolation — the instinct will be to forgive it all in exchange for getting our lives back.

This, for me, is the most frightening thing about the past year. More than the virus itself, more than the political divisions that have opened up — it’s that extraordinary ability of humankind to adapt their horizon of expectations. Twelve months ago it would have been unthinkable that we would so readily accept, apparently with an overwhelming majority, another four months of such drastically reduced existence.

How did we come to be here? The political argument against lockdowns was lost, comprehensively and globally. The awkward-squad journalists who styled themselves as “lockdown sceptics” were systematically pilloried; the scientists who thought there were better ways were shut down. The campaign was effective and only made easier by the careless statements of the “sceptics” themselves.

No one now wants to hear arguments about Sweden, which — still now — poses an awkward counter-factual to lockdown, with its strikingly similar (although less bad) epidemic trajectory to the UK, or India with its partial herd immunity and mysteriously small death rate in comparison to ours; no one wants to admit the stubborn absence of any clear dataset showing that countries with more stringent restrictions performed better than those that avoided them.

As long as we can agree that “there was no alternative”, then nothing has been wasted, nothing needlessly destroyed. This means that as we emerge, blinking, into the sunshine, we can once again make common cause with friends who felt differently, and put past disagreements down to the strangeness of a lost year.

I’ll go along with it. I don’t want to be fighting about lockdowns for a day longer. I’ll take my vaccine and sign my papers. I look at that 21 June date with as much exhilaration and trepidation as anyone.

But the suspicion will never leave me that a more elegant policy response could have been devised — something less cavalier about the precious achievement of our liberal way of life and less insistent on the fallacy that an entire population would behave identically (they never did, not even at the height of the lockdowns). That niggling thought that perhaps there was always a better, safer option than on-off national mandatory confinement.

What about that voluntary “traffic lane” system I suggested, which seemed a more positive metaphor for a functioning society than the “traffic lights” we endured, with their attendant frustration and crudeness? Or greenbandredband, a proposal that never got much attention, but which might, with more work, have been developed into something good. We’ll never know because no government tried them. Creative ideas were suppressed rather than developed. They were dismissed for being “too complicated” —which is rich when you consider the byzantine tiers, rules and regulations we’ve all had to navigate over the past 12 months.

With the UK timeline now set, I imagine most self-styled “sceptics” will pack up their placards, wind down their WhatsApp groups and start to look forward to Spring. But the Prime Minister should realise that if that timetable were to slip — if, for example, an increase in cases that is not pressurising the hospital system were to lead to a new campaign to delay; or if a domestic vaccination passport were to threaten to fundamentally alter the relationship of every citizen with the state; or if the close-the-borders activists were to try to use this crisis to drastically restrict international travel long-term; or if a new variant or virus identified in some faraway land threatens to start the whole process again — they would be reactivated fast. So far, public opinion has surprised everyone by being so much in favour of restrictions; next time it may surprise again, but in a different way.

Obviously, I hope we continue smoothly on the roadmap out of here, and that the summer and following winter opens up and plays out just as the Prime Minister has detailed.

But even if we do manage to return to the “old normal”, it will now have a different aspect. The past year has changed the way I see the world. Having grown up in the 1990s, at university in the 2000s, I’m a product of the “End of History” generation that never got awarded an initial. Too old for the full force of the new technology, too young to remember the Cold War, if anything my generation’s complaint was that the world was too safe, too mercenary, too boring.

Well, the past year has shown how precarious that settlement always was. After this taste of what it is like to have freedom withdrawn, I appreciate it fully for the first time. I have also seen up close how intellectual fashions can sweep through the governing class just as excitedly as they can among those disparaged as “populist voters”. I have seen those elites throw out many principles that they previously held dear in response to a new threat, and invoke the new religion of science and “data” to cast dissenters as heretics. I’ve seen this power wielded by my own friends, my own class — and how sinister it has the potential to be.

So, yes, let’s look forward to spring and promised liberation. Please, let’s move the conversation on. But as we move towards the exit of our long confinement, I don’t think it will feel the same as before. The structures and freedoms that once felt so unassailable have been exposed as fragile and contingent, their defenders weak; and the question of whether there was a better way lingers, taboo and unanswered.


Freddie Sayers is the Editor-in-Chief & CEO of UnHerd. He was previously Editor-in-Chief of YouGov, and founder of PoliticsHome.

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Katy Randle
Katy Randle
3 years ago

Forgive and forget, Freddie? Oh, I don’t think so. Those of us who came to see that lockdowns are a cruel and disproportionate reaction to the threat cannot help but remain angry at those who perpetuated them, and those who would have taken them further.
Videos of Sweden make me cry. Here is a world in which I might have been comforted by hugs from family, by meeting friends, during the year I have spent bereaved and alone. A world where I would not have been treated in public like a leper (and where I would not have been forced to reflect, rather bitterly, that lepers were at least allowed to live with each other).
And I hope to goodness that the freedoms that have been summarily taken from us return, but I am not as optimistic as you appear to be. A population that has acquiesced to such measures in the name of “safety first” has no argument against the state taking even more of our liberties away.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Randle

Yes, it is utterly inconceivable that any thinking person could vote for any of the main political parties ever again after their demonic and disastrous response to Covid. Fortunately, there are one or two credible alternatives emerging – Reform UK and Reclaim etc – and they need to make clear that they will favour freedom over tyranny.
The instruction in the photo accompanying the article says it all. When we needed to be out and about in the fresh air – where the virus doesn’t spread – getting exercise and vitamin D, they told us to stay indoors, where the virus does spread.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Indeed, don’t go for a remote walk with friends or family – the police will see you, stop you and fine you. Pop into their house for a cuppa or beer – well who’s going to know.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

From my post yesterday, I said that the politicians have almost no control over the country – we are being ruled by the Civil Service.
An ex-Civil Servant came back and agreed but then went on to say that there was no alternative. He explained that politicians could never understand the complex nature of what is happening in the country because they just never have the correct experience.
So, to me, whoever you vote for will be the same but with one caveat – they will have to pay back and support the people who are paying. If you vote for Reform UK and they win a majority, hundreds of politicians with zero experience will descend on London and immediately have to take Civil Service advice. They will have things to discuss, they will ask their Civil Servants for briefing documents and then they will continue as before.
The main reason why Conservative governments don’t behave in a conservative way, don’t change the curricula in schools, don’t take us back to free thinking and, in fact, behave in a Labour way, is that they don’t actually govern at all.

Last edited 3 years ago by Chris Wheatley
Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Think you’ve hit the nail on the head there… People vote by pouring their little cup of tea or coffee into the ocean, then whichever side wins (let’s say its the coffee drinkers) expect the ocean to taste of coffee… In fact, whichever side wins, the ocean always tastes of salt water, because that’s what an ocean is.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

That’s a nice metaphor and explains why we don’t really have democracy. Only regular referenda can really change things. But that requires the public to demand them.

Vern Hughes
Vern Hughes
3 years ago

Interesting metaphor, but is it really accurate? We don’t pour our tea or coffee into the ocean, we imbibe them, and we can taste the difference. We don’t do it as automatons, we exercise discretion – if I’m with a family of tea drinkers, I drink tea. If at a cafe with coffee drinkers, I join them. If I vote in a Labour constituency and want someone else to win, I vote strategically. I exercise discretion. It all matters – nothing is wasted. It’s intellectually lazy and politically cowardly to resort to “it makes no difference”.

Last edited 3 years ago by Vern Hughes
Mark Smith
Mark Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Indeed. It makes no difference who you vote for, the Government always gets in.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I’ve upvoted you, but I must say you seem to be channeling Yes, Minister.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

It is really the military-industrial complex which Eisenhower warned about that has effectively expanded to become the link between international companies, the elite Eton and Oxbridge mob and government bureaucrats. Democracy also fails to serve us, just as Plato also warned. We need to get rid of all political parties because they provide a power structure for politicians and our elected representatives serve them, not us. We need independent MP and a first past the post system which requires at least 50% of the registered electorate voting for them. They must convince us that they are the right person to represent us, not based on promises but based on their knowledge and the way the approach dealing with problems.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Excellent points. I’m not sure what the difference is between this, the deep state, Yes Minister and straight forward corruption.
I remember a story from David Blunkett, he had lots of plans as Home Secretary, he was told roughly (as basically was Patel) “That doesn’t align with Home Office plans” – in other words sit there, support us and let us continue running the country as we see fit.
It’s not just the Civil Service, a huge amount of institutions have been colonised by anti-democratic immoral authoritarians. Look at the police (snr), choosing what laws to enforce and when, promoting political agendas etc.

Joerg Beringer
Joerg Beringer
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

On the plus side, the civil service and all public sector employees will be decimated and in the poorhouse for a generation after the money has run out in earnest andvthe currency been reset.
A necessity for the rebuild after that.
See Germany and its civil servants from 1945-1975.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Joerg Beringer

The money will never run out for these people because money will always be printed for these people. Yes, it is disgusting.

David J
David J
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Less effect on rural dwellers like me, who have continued to go on our long, country walks, with or without massive amounts of winter gloop (aka mud) on our boots.

Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Randle

Were we not all given a very clear and erudite warning of the consequences of Lockdown hysteria etc by none other than Lord Jonathan Sumption, the former head of the Supreme Court at the very the start of this catastrophe?

All that he foretold and worse has come to pass, and now the only question is what form the retribution will take.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Audley

“Lessons will be learned” by the decision makers I’m sure. Retribution is only ever inflicted on the little people, so you might find a few care home workers get sacked

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Audley

there will be no retribution. Not in England. Not in the US. Not anywhere. There is never retribution for the elected class.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

There already has been plenty of retribution, against anyone who challenged them.

Eva Rostova
Eva Rostova
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Audley

Sumption was never head of the Supreme Court. During his time it was Neuberger and Hale. I’d recommend having a read of other judge’s views rather than cherry picking the noisiest judge.

Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago
Reply to  Eva Rostova

Sorry I seem to have over promoted him!
However Jonathan Sumption is one of the very few Establishment
figures (Eton & Magdalen) to speak out against this ‘madness’ from the start.

You may disparagingly describe him as “noisy”, but he seems to be the only voice of sanity left who is prepared to condemn this current lunacy. A truly dreadful state of affairs.

Incidentally at the start of this disaster my faith in British Justice was at a lifetime low after witnessing the antics of Leonard Hoffman and others. Now thanks to Jonathan Sumption it is restored.

Last edited 3 years ago by Richard Audley
Joerg Beringer
Joerg Beringer
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Audley

First, they’ll crack down ever harder on the remaining dissenters and experimental gene therapy refusers.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Randle

Thumbs way up.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Randle

The madness of the lockdown can squarely be blamed on the WHO and the meaningless-Covid-numbers broadcasting media. The politicians were just beaten into submission.

Joerg Beringer
Joerg Beringer
3 years ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

Cui bono?!
It always leads back to China.
We fell for their ruse.

Christiane Dauphinais
Christiane Dauphinais
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Randle

Like you, I will not forgive and forget. Not because I hold a grudge (although I do), but because the experiences of the past year have forever changed me and my sense of the world I live in. I’ve learned that:

  • everything I hold dear may be taken away from me at a moments notice, for any reason.
  • people, including government officials, have no interest in ‘thinking’ and in ‘seeking the truth’.
  • my point of view / my vote doesn’t count and makes no difference.
  • people I thought were my friends may suddenly turn on me, demonize me, and treat me like an enemy.
  • kindness and decency are out-of-date concepts.
sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago

Amen. In the US the Covid response has taken on a religious importance and hovers far above criticism. Not wear a mask on your solitary walk? Obviously you’re not obedient to the State and therefore a threat.

jessegalebaker
jessegalebaker
3 years ago
Reply to  sharon johnson

Um, public health responses and citizen attitudes in the US vary greatly by state. Some are like you say, but others have taken a laissez-faire approach. Although we have a mask mandate for indoor public locations along with seating capacity limits for restaurants in Utah, enforcement is up to the business owners, or peer pressure; police will not ticket you for noncompliance. Many Utah towns don’t take the virus seriously at all except the oldsters. New York and California are the states with the most intrusive Covid rules, and even there I suspect it’s a lot looser than in England.

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  jessegalebaker

I live in California where a notice posted on my building reminds me that going outside without a mask violates Covid rules! Governor Newsom loves Covid because it gives him carte blanche in rule making. Each of the state’s 58 counties has slightly different edicts. Schools are somewhat closed, depending on your address. Same with restaurants. One ruling required wearing a mask into a restaurant and while seated. When food is presented pull mask down, put food in mouth, replace mask. I can only think my state mates are masochists because they are certain to re-elect him.

Steve Kaczynski
Steve Kaczynski
3 years ago
Reply to  sharon johnson

Yet he was caught dining with a large number of friends.

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago

At the French Laundry – $400 per lunch – no less and with members of the CA Education Department. The sleaze in this state is drowning us!

Tricia Butler
Tricia Butler
3 years ago
Reply to  sharon johnson

I live in Cali too Sharon and Newsom is just horrible. I never wear a mask outside, no matter how many stink eyes I get. I say hi to everyone though. 🙂

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Tricia Butler

Ha! Good for you! I had an elderly checker at Safeway scream at me because I’d pulled my mask under my nose. Because of my asthma the state says I don’t have to wear a mask, but the screaming and swearing from my fellow humans is a bit much, so I wear it until I feel faint. The checker said I was ‘killing’ her husband by giving him Covid (he was not in the store) and she was behind a thick plastic wall. Lunacy amped up by the state!

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago

Hear hear.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Randle

Not just Sweden. Japan has been asking restaurants to close early and not serve booze after 8pm, but only when things have spiked. The schools have been open here since the middle of last year. There’s been no total lockdown. The sheer bumbling officiousness of the risible ‘rule of six’ and other rules was wholly unnecessary and as you say, cruel and disproportionate. The reason the PMs of Sweden and Japan didn’t just declare freedoms to be suspended? They couldn’t. So they had to reason with their people, persuade them to behave responsibly instead of treating them like morons who need ‘rules’, however arbitrary. And guess what. The COVID outcomes weren’t worse. Sure, I get that people didn’t know what to do, didn’t know what would work, what wouldn’t, at the beginning of the pandemic. But that’s what you have principles for. To guide you at least as to what not to do. Either the leaders (or should we just say rulers) of the UK didn’t care about individual freedom as a principle, or they abandoned it at the first scaremongering worst-case scenario they saw, then hid behind ‘the science’, despite the fact that other reputable scientists disagreed and no-one had enough proper data to really claim the science was decided.
I’m sorry for your loss.

Katy Randle
Katy Randle
3 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Thank you. A very interesting point about governments in Japan and Sweden having to treat their populations as adults with agency, and ending up with a far more humane response.

eloyacano
eloyacano
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Randle

Well said, sadly so.

Donn
Donn
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Randle

Of most importance to note is the two primary motivations for the Covid response: 1) Sell tens of billions of dollars of vaccines to the world, at great profit, paid for by the taxpayers of the countries of the lockdowns, the same taxpayers that funded the initial research and development of the vaccines. [The vaccines’ development was free to the Pharm corporations.] 2) The transfer of wealth to the upper reaches of the monied class, on an order of degree that has been described as “the greatest peace time transfer of wealth in human history.”

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything which so accurately reflects my own views. I’m now at the stage I’ll just take whatever I can get, and hope things get back to normal, but the illusion that we live in a free country is gone forever. I’m so angry at what has been done to us in the last year, and how readily it was accepted by us all. The general populace are Frightened sheep, but frankly those of us who have arguments with relatives over lock down, or write angry messages in places like this are little better. When they took our freedom, they did it without a fight, we all let them do it, and for most of us all we did was grumble. If you’re one of the few who protested, and got yourself arrested, hold your head high.

Last edited 3 years ago by Mike Boosh
stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Thumbs up.

Mark Smith
Mark Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Excellent analysis Mike. The overwhelming sense of shame that I personally feel for doing nothing more in the way of protest than to fire off an angry letter to my MP is palpable. I think the PM’s own experience last year swayed his judgement just as much as the advice being dished out by the nutters on SAGE. Over fifty thousand Medical and Health professionals (verified) signed the Great Barrington Declaration, which urged Governments to investigate the alternatives to their Draconian Lockdowns. Alas they found themselves pilloried, ridiculed and character assassinated by the MSM journalists who prior to February 2020 thought that a virus was something that afflicted their computer. I shall not forgive our legislators for this, nor will I forget. An X on a ballot paper is the only weapon I have and from now on only a name who makes a promise, never to steal our Liberty and Freedom again, will earn my X.

Last edited 3 years ago by Mark Smith
Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Smith

But how do you vote out scare mongering WHO and popular media personalities?

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

I’ve noticed that many of my fellow humans aren’t interested in thinking objectively or looking into statistics guiding government policies. Perhaps humans are overrated as a species. (California)

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  sharon johnson

Our brains are our only reason for our success as a species, but ironically, they are extremely underused in some ways. I’m not even sure if the human brain is particularly good at critical reasoning. We’re good at adapting, innovating, improvising, organizing, planning ahead, and dealing with crises. Sorting truth from lies, on the other hand, is something we seem to have lost along the way, if we ever had it. My sister’s dog seems to know when people are lying more adeptly than most humans can.

Sean Arthur Joyce
Sean Arthur Joyce
3 years ago

Nice to see someone whose brain does still work! Enjoy your comments.

William Murphy
William Murphy
3 years ago

Given the blizzard of statistics thrown at us every day, it is practically impossible for most people to thoroughly refute them. By the time future statistians and investigators sort the half truths and distortions from the facts, it will be irrelevant.

To name only one factoid: the BBC reported more than 1,800 COVID deaths on one day during this second wave. I smell utter bullshit, seeing that deaths from all causes in the UK average 1,600 per day. But how many of the deceased genuinely died primarily of COVID on that day may never be known.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
3 years ago

Humans are social species (more so than dogs). Our evolutionary success is mainly due to our capability to socialise and organise better than any other animal. We are thus programmed by default to follow social logic. The rational logic is something we have to learn! Critical reasoning thus not a natural human faculty.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

Turn off CNN and all those other garbage channels. But too many people can’t do that, it seems. Watching CNN for hours each night makes them think they’re intelligent and informed, rather than deceived and brainwashed.

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Smith

I too signed the Great Barrington Declaration and forwarded it to friends, many of whom said they saw it as ‘radical’ ‘subversive’. They revealed themselves to me in their responses and I realized who they are and how little we hold in common. (from California)

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

I have protested in my own way. I’ve traveled as much as I can without flying. From Washington State… been to and spent time in Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, and California. The only friends I haven’t socialized with are the ones who refused to see me. This is a small minority of liberal friends (I would call them used to be friends to be honest). My other liberal friends would see me. Have dinner, drinks, and no masks with no issues… but the majority of them still believe it!!! They seemed to think it is just ok to be a bit naughty but they know I pay no attention to it. So supposedly spending time with me would be a huge risk not a small one. I’ve made it bluntly clear I do not social distance. I shake hands. I hug. I’ve attended every large party I could. I even went into a little watering hole of mine that became a speakeasy during our only lockdown in Spring. I did not show up at Inslee’s Bainbridge Island house to protest although I was invited. I don’t think too much came of that. If there were arrests they were just let out as far as I can tell. I think that is a waste of time myself. I think it best to get out in the world and just ignore them. Live your life as big as possible. If you get arrested doing that we’ll just have to see how it plays out.

Tricia Butler
Tricia Butler
3 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Boylon

My husband and I behave very similarly to you Dennis. We just live our lives as close to normal as we can and hope others maybe get inspired. Although I’m sure we’ve been unknowingly shamed many times. I take that as a badge of honor!

William Murphy
William Murphy
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

I subscribed to Simon Dolan’s legal action, which objected to Boris’ abuse of the law, but it was denied permission to even be heard in the Supreme Court.

Tino Joseph
Tino Joseph
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Agree with this – I didn’t protest in public (my time taken up with little ones and work) but was surprised at how much support the government has for lockdowns. Fear is a powerful tool.
I won’t ever take my freedoms for granted again. I’m also going to stop worrying about where I’ll be 10 years down the line. Live for today, and travel as much as i can and at every opportunity. See my friends more.

Last edited 3 years ago by Tino Joseph
Al K
Al K
3 years ago

Thanks for this Freddie. You have been a ray of light in the darkness of these insane, disproportionate lockdowns.
How it is possible that a free nation such as the UK can be so supine when basic, individual freedoms are taken away is beyond me.
Actually, I think I have come to understand, but it has jolted me and my world view has also changed in this regard.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Al K

Thumbs up.

Eva Rostova
Eva Rostova
3 years ago
Reply to  Al K

I guess they thought they were protecting their parents and grandparents and other loved ones from a serious disease?

Mark Smith
Mark Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Eva Rostova

That’s probably true Eva, I think that’s how most of us felt in the beginning. But then the facts came out.

Al K
Al K
3 years ago
Reply to  Eva Rostova

I think that’s true. Maybe with some creativity and less of a sledgehammer approach, at-risk people could still have been protected without taking away civil liberties and freedoms to the extent done.
What is the level of seriousness of a disease that justifies a suspension of freedom?

Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago
Reply to  Eva Rostova

Yes, precisely, but sadly ‘they’ have made a terrible mistake.
A mistake from which it will prove impossible to recover.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
3 years ago
Reply to  Eva Rostova

Those with brains swiftly figured out that protecting the risk sector did not necessitate shutting down society and ruining livelihoods, futures, lives and infrastructure for decades to come.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  Eva Rostova

Then they were dupes, quite frankly. If they had paid any attention to the facts and statistics, it would have been clear that older people were NOT being sickened by contact with asymptomatic, younger people. The outbreaks were occurring in places like hospitals, retirement homes and long-term care facilities, places where there were many vulnerable people living close together, mostly indoors. IOW this virus was behaving exactly the same way as flu viruses do during outbreaks. Never once in any flu outbreak in the past have healthy people been even advised to stay away from elderly or otherwise vulnerable people, let alone forced to do so, or forced to stay home.

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago

At last I’ve found you! I always had hope that out of 7.8 billion people there had to be one other with the ability to think rationally! I tell people to read Worldometers . . . it compiles statistics from sources worldwide and compiles them in a daily totals. In the US of all those ill enough to be hospitalized, 3% died. And those either died WITH or FROM the virus. Hit by a truck? If you had Covid when you die you’ll go on the Covid list. It’s a fraud with tens of millions of dupes.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago

An excellent article and thank you.
It’s been the blanket approved narrative that has been hardest to for some of us to take. Huge numbers of important people and organisations are committed to lockdowns, so lockdowns must work. Normal people don’t want to believe that a lot of the suffering may have been for nothing or worse still counter productive.
Freddie Sayers point on ‘complicated’ solutions is excellent. It’s not unlike the “we can’t hard lockdown just the vulnerable, what about their rights”, but it’s ok to lockdown everyone?
I look forward to finding out who approved putting postive Covid patients into carehomes and killing 10,000s, and exluding them from hospital treatment – personally I’d hope some people face life sentences for these decisions. There remains zero reason for it except hysteria that everything would be overwhelmed and older people were expendable. I expect if there is ever a public inquiry that at best it’ll be ‘institutional failings’ and lessons to be learned – the odds of politicians or senior people ending up in the dock are very limited.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

And it isn’t just that. Particularly dementia patients have their care subsidized by their visiting family members. They have suffered some of the worst death rates. Also hospital patients tend to have their family members onsite so they can discuss treatment options and verify quality of care. All of that went away. Nobody has any idea what was going on in hospitals and care homes during this time. We heard a lot of noise about not having enough staff and employees calling off… the whole time no family member could go in and check. We also heard of nurses being the ones to hold the hands of the dying. Offering a final “zoom” meeting to say goodbye. Angry family members storming the hospital to see their loved ones with security holding them back. They were being told they weren’t allowed to let anybody in. When they were challenged with speaking to the administrators in charge they couldn’t get a hold of them. They were unreachable and hadn’t visited their hospitals in months! They were “remote” working during the pandemic. It is horrifying what they did. I don’t even know if the pandemic was real. Keep in mind the numbers from Wuhan were rather small and they opened up on April 8th 2021 and haven’t shutdown since. Did we make it worse than it had to be? It sure does seem that way.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Boylon

Back in July 2020, the Center for Disease Control in the US “accidentally” released a report indicating that only 6 percent of people who had been recorded as having died from COVID-19 had no other serious health conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, AIDS, morbid obesity, diabetes, etc. A large percentage of the remaining 94 percent actually had two or more co-morbidities. COVID is given as the official cause of death if the patient tested positive, regardless of the other conditions they had.

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago

I think it’s called Nurturing the Fear Factor.

Miranda Darling
Miranda Darling
3 years ago

I’m not sure how it is in the UK, but I know a critical care nurse in Marseilles who explained that nurses, doctors and the hospitals there received more money from the government if they attended a COVID death as opposed to one by other causes. It would seem there was an incentive then to register as many deaths as possible as COVID-related.

Cassian Young
Cassian Young
3 years ago

You are describing Groupthink.
Situations in which first countervailing views, then critique of any kind are seen as at best, letting the side down or at worst, dangerous heresy, are notorious for producing negative outcomes.
But this is exactly the situation our government and our elites have willingly created.
There are three reasons we have lost our way. First, the survival of a puritanical culture in the UK, that sees dissent as the primary barrier to the attainment of the promised land.
Second, our elites’ loss of faith in the rest of the population, partly the result of the Brexit vote. Contrast elite attitudes to the population during WW II. Pacifists like Britten, were allowed to organise and publish a newspaper throughout.
Third, the growth of Nudge thinking. Nudges were only meant to make small adjustments to isolated behaviours. We have unleashed this style of thinking on the most important questions in a form of PsyOps directed at our own population. Again, contrast WWII, the state chose to publish all the bad news at the beginning of the war without reference to the effect on morale.
Lesson: our society needs profound cultural and institutional reforms.

Last edited 3 years ago by Cassian Young
Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago
Reply to  Cassian Young

It is really because the schools are mainly childcare centres and the universities brainwashing centres that remove all ability to think rationally.

Joerg Beringer
Joerg Beringer
3 years ago
Reply to  Cassian Young

But not the one they are planning and we will likely be getting….
That’s been and us the whole point of that staged crisis.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Well said, Freddie, and thank you for your enormous efforts over the last year in terms of giving a voice to those who dissent from the mainstream government and media lies and narratives. However, you say this:
‘Twelve months ago it would have been unthinkable that we would so readily accept, apparently with an overwhelming majority, another four months of such drastically reduced existence.
I’m not so sure. The older one gets, the more one realises that most people are merely, to use a cliche, sheep. They watch TV and believe the BBC and the MSM. They have never read a serious book or seen a good film. People in their 50s, 60s and 70s know nothing about anything – discussions over Brexit, Trump and Covid have really revealed this to me. As such, they are very likely to do as they are told and crave (perceived) safety over personal responsibility. By the time most people wake up, they are dead.

Freddy North
Freddy North
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Wow Fraser how can such a superior being as yourself bear to live among us?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Freddy North

But it is a fact that even high profile people don’t know anything. For instance, the progressive Naomi Woolf is now regretting her vote for Biden, even though his policies were well known to anyone who was paying attention.
Similarly, union leaders in the US are regretting their support for Biden now that he’s shutting down that pipeline and destroying countless jobs. But anyone who was paying attention knew that he was going to shut down that pipeline.
I recently spoke to someone in his 70s who didn’t know what the Patriot Act is…it is endless.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Normal service has been resumed – expect more outsourcing of jobs, more immigration, less privacy and freedom, but lots of rainbow flags.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Indeed, Woolf’s act of surprise is staggering. But such is the power of TDS. Biden told people what he wanted to do, but all his supporters could see was “Orange McBadman bad,” and now we’re all stuck with the results.

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

So many found Trump repulsive but as I claimed before Biden entered power, he would create havoc too, just in different ways.

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

One of the great acts of heroism is to speak against Democrat policies whilst living in California. A neighbor who put a Trump sign on the front seat of his car had his car trashed. Speaking as a former lifelong Democrat I must say that the radical changes in the party since Obama – for whom I voted – have left many of us in the political wilderness. I find myself a Republican much to my surprise. As for Biden, he was a goof ball for 8 years with Obama. There was no reason to believe he’d gained wit or IQ in 2020. (California)

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
3 years ago
Reply to  Freddy North

My feelings exactly FN. Except of course it is ok when those same sheep do the right thing and vote for Brexit.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Depressing, but true. In an argument with my 70 year old father about it being an inherent right to weigh up the risks of your own behaviour and have the freedom to go outside whenever you damn well please, his response was “people shouldn’t have the right to kill themselves”. He’s a smoker by the way. Some people just believe anything they’re told, and age is no guarantee of wisdom

Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Presumably there must be quite a backlog of those wishing, unlike your father, to avail themselves of the services of Dignitas.

When flights resume (if ever) to Zurich I intend to be on the first one.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Audley

Or you could save the airfare and just sit on a park bench without a mask, apparently it’s deadly

Last edited 3 years ago by Mike Boosh
Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

I have trying that for months and only got good old fashioned Flu!

Lorna Belkin
Lorna Belkin
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Audley

Oh, so that was YOU!!! I was wondering who that poor lonely person was that got the flu this year.

Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago
Reply to  Lorna Belkin

I gather there were a couple of others in Scotland.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

However 9 on duty police officers sitting in a Cafe illegally during lockdown results in a stern telling off and £200 fines.
Ch Supt Rob Atkin, said: “It is right that they will pay a financial penalty and that they will be asked to reflect on their choices”
I still find this utterly unbeleivable. I presume once they’d finished in the cafe they went outside, put their masks on and resumed fining people for walking outside in the wrong place or protesting.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Didn’t the mass protests, marches, and riots over George Floyd last June happen when the country was still supposed to be on lockdown? Were any of those protesters arrested for just walking outside then?

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

A laughing thumbs up.

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

An acquaintance told me to avoid the vegetable section in markets because she heard the Covid virus has suction cups that stick to vegetable skin. (California)

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  sharon johnson

I think my daughter may have heard that rumour and follows the guidance religiously.

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Ice cream containers are immune! As are all bakery products. Such a relief.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

I had the same conversation with a 72 year-old heavy smoker and drinker who refuses to have the flu vaccination but has bought into the government propaganda over Covid. He thinks he could be killed by others or could kill other people if he and friends do not have the vaccine.

Fiona Cordy
Fiona Cordy
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

My heavy drinking / heavy sheltering friend‘s response is: But if I die from the consequences of drinking, at least I will have enjoyed it.

Joerg Beringer
Joerg Beringer
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Typical boomer (prophet).
And when boomers team up and are in charge with de-individualised, megalomaniac and self-righteous millennials (hetos), chaos and destruction ensue, see The 4th Turning.

Chris Jayne
Chris Jayne
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

See my post above (or below, depending how you order your comments!). If most people diverged substantially from our dominant societal norms then it would completely collapse. And I means that specifically as an adaptive mechanism throughout time rather than right here now. But even under the most oppressive regimes people allow things they can’t control to happen and buy into them superficially or at a vocalised level, but only do so as it allows them to continue their important life (friends, family, hobbies etc) at a successful level.

Being older is one variable that does give the freedom to step outside dominant norms, as you’re no longer really dependent on them for your continues success.

Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Or as Bertram Russell put it so succinctly “most people would rather die than think and most do”.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Audley

Thanks for that. Not heard it before.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I agree with your views here and below. Emotions seem to have taken over rational thinking and alarmingly this is driven by academics supported by the ever-growing mob (sorry actors and royals) of crazies in California. Gad Saad in his book “The Parasitic Mind” likens it to a brain parasite that prevents rational thinking. It was discussed recently on the YouTube Culture Form and is worth listening to. He describes humanity as descending into an abyss of insanity. I think, when you look at our behaviour through history, we have always been there, but now we are just digging a deeper hole.
I have some knowledge of physics and it only requires some basic understanding to see the nonsense of human caused climate change. Some people do not even want to think about it for reasons I cannot understand and others, who should know about the basic science, are stuck with ideas that heat can travel from cold to hot, or travels both ways. The new science of climate change has become like a religious faith that is unbreakable.
In recent days I have been concerned about the distortion of annual death figures. The USA has 500,000 death from Covid, claimed to be the highest in the world. The UK had more deaths in 2020 than in 1918/19. Both are true as total numbers but take no account of the population size. The USA is well down the list of deaths when the population is taken into account. In 2020 the UK mortality rate was 1016 per 100,000 but in 1918 it was 1798. (ONS data base). This is how the media distorts the truth. I have pointed this out to several people, and they are incapable of understanding such basic analysis.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

This uncritical thinking also explains the rise and rise of Crypto currencies. These speculators are basically betting against the system (monetary easing) that is trying hard to prevent a great recession and the subsequent economic depression that may follow. The fear of missing out on the madness of the crowd is compelling! We are after all social and emotional animals first and second, and then rational animals third!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

FOMO is the great new word, fear of missing out, a behavior which usually costs much more than just missing out

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

Rational animals third? Vijay, you are far too generous.
(California)

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

Not like a religious faith IT IS a religious
faith but (Shhhh) take heart there are a lot
of us who have tried pushing back but are
now just content to keep our powder dry
until it really matters.

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

I tell people that OF THOSE SICK ENOUGH TO BE HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID, ONLY 3# DIE. About half FROM Covid. And Half WITH Covid (those hit by trucks or bitten by rabid squirrels). These are statistics that no-one wants to know. Tell them them 100% of people home watching Netflix will die* and they are delighted. (California) *eventually

William Murphy
William Murphy
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

As I quoted before: the French author Jean Francois Revel declared that, if he had nothing with which to compare it, his electric kettle was the principle source of energy in the universe. Similarly with all these statistics quoted in isolation. They sound super scary until you do some number crunching and historical comparisons.

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Fraser, I also find a large sector of young people more than willing to give up their freedom. And I do see the ‘sheep’ mentality without doubt. I look in awe that people so willingly continue to follow the narrative. That is even more disturbing.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth W

I think their addiction to their screens explains their willingness to give up their physical freedom, at least in part. As long as they have access to all their social media, and all the diversions and entertainment their screens offer, many of them are strangely happy with being virtually imprisoned. I’ve likened this addiction to the recreational drug called “Soma” given to the populace in Huxley’s Brave New World. Everyone is addicted to it, so controlling their access to it ensures compliance. I would not be at all surprised if people’s access to social media is increasingly controlled by government, and removed as a form of punishment for subversion, i.e. challenging the official narratives,, because nothing will be more effective as a deterrent. It’s already happening; I’ve been permanently “suspended” from two major social media sites merely for questioning the official COVID narrative in the comments sections. Yes, these are private companies, but they are doing this at the behest of government. In my case, I don’t really care if I can’t comment on boobtube or twatter anymore, no big loss to me personally. But it still scares me to think about how far this could go, how easily things we take for granted could be taken from us because of our submission to technology. It’s one of the reasons I hate having to use my ATM card for small purchases, hate the whole idea of a “cashless society”. So far I generally boycott small businesses that don’t accept cash. But it may be a losing battle.

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago

And we in the US, California in particular, know what life is when controlled by Big Tech. Silicon Valley. Because they are privately held companies they don’t have to adhere to the Constitution and millions are happy to be lead by their noses. Our Governor Newsom is 100% guided by Big Tech and he rewards them in kind.

William Murphy
William Murphy
3 years ago

My favourite local cafe, which has stayed open nearly all through the lockdowns if at all possible, takes only cash. There may be some holdouts elsewhere. I agree, I hate having to use plastic or an app for a trivial purchase. But, from many businesses’ viewpoint, it reduces the costs and risks of cash handling and accounting.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Welcome to humanity.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

What an arrogant expression of ageism! A profound insult to millions of people. An unworthy comment.

Fiona Cordy
Fiona Cordy
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Yes, well said Freddie. Such a shame that Fraser Bailey had to then turn it into an opportunity to expound his ‚truths‘ about Brexit and Trump as well.

Steven Sieff
Steven Sieff
3 years ago

Bravo Freddie. As I have often found myself thinking/saying since discovering UnHerd, there is so much of this that I associate with in this piece. I am also worn down with fighting. By the time June comes around it will have been a year of constantly trying to explain that there are other ways we could be responding. I put forward one at https://greenbandredband.com, the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration another. Both were well intended in the sense that they sought to minimise harm and disruption. Both would have encouraged people to work together for the common good and to protect the vulnerable in society in a way that respected the rights of all. No doubt there were flaws to both proposals, and no doubt people would have produced useful refinements to make them work better. But people were never given the opportunity. What is sadder still is that the proponents of these strategies received vitriol for their efforts and have in some cases been subject to censorship rather than being invited to participate in discussion.
Looking forward I would like to be optimistic. The days are lighter, the kids are about to go back to school and plans for summer and beyond are beginning to feel worth making. The messaging that we cannot pursue ‘Zero Covid’ is most welcome and a great relief.
But the latest roadmap still concerns me. In the previous roadmap the Prime Minister hoped for an end to social distancing by November 2020. Now the magical date is June 2021. To me that feels too slow but I accept that after so many reverses, there is sense in caution. But where does the roadmap lead us? We are told in paragraph 64 of the roadmap that lack of take-up or inability to receive the vaccine or lack of vaccine efficacy ‘could mean that some measures to limit transmission are still needed after all adults have been offered a vaccine’. Also that vaccine passports for international travel are inevitable and that some form of certification for domestic access to venues is very much under consideration. Money continues to be pumped into test and trace with the aim of being able to react quickly and hard to any local outbreak. Perhaps these are proportional ways to react to an ongoing problem and sensible preparations to take. Others will judge. But we should all be clear that the destination of the latest roadmap is not a pre-Covid life. We are still heading for some form of ‘new normal’.
Finally I echo the sentiments of others who will find it hard to ‘forgive and forget’. I generally – perhaps naively – believe that the scientists and politicians who have led us down the path we have taken have done so because they felt it was the best route to avoid suffering. I firmly disagree with the approach taken. It has made me angry and sucked away a huge chunk of my time and energy. The resentment will take time to subside. But I accept that different people have different perspectives and their approach was probably well meaning in most cases. However, the coming months will be revealing. I look at the willingness of the current UK government over their short time in office to break the law, and their seeming desire to avoid scrutiny wherever possible, and I fear that there is something in the warnings of those who caution that emergency powers are rarely abandoned easily. If I see that our current leaders are keen to step away from the authoritarian approach and rhetoric that they have adopted, I will be more likely to forgive, even if I cannot forget.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago
Reply to  Steven Sieff

With reference to the people you talk about in the first paragraph, I have also noticed that people from the Oxford Centre for Evidence based medicine seem to have been silenced by the media.

Albert Gammon
Albert Gammon
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

But not by Talk Radio fortunately. Devi Sridhar is seldom absent for long on the MSM.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Steven Sieff

The problem with lockdown and the id cards etc is a bit like the old Yes Minister joke on EU Laws: “The Germans love them, the French ignore them – it’s only us that get upset about them”.
My experience with lockdown has been that some people are happy to lockdown, most people ‘support’ lockdown as the correct thing and then ignore large parts of it. It’s only us who get upset about it.
I suppose it’s our fault, I struggle with lying to myself, viture signalling etc. Lots of people seem really fine with it. Most of them don’t even do it cynically.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

Yes, agreed. I see every day a sort of sub-text around me. Nobody seems to understand why they are doing things but “They say it is for the best.” Many discussions involve ‘they say” and finish, “But what can you do?”
We have an election here in May for the Welsh Assembly (ok, I realise that everybody thinks it is trivial) and I am asking everybody I see about how they intend to vote. Mostly answers come back like, “What difference will it make?” or “My vote’s not going to make any difference is it?”
So, having fought to get universal suffrage about 100 years ago, the system has, apparently, let us down (or we have let it down) and we (and it) are no longer relevant. What is relevant?
Which brings me back to the Civil Service.

Ben Scott
Ben Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  LUKE LOZE

As my Mum always says: “Rules only apply to other people”. Or, as I noted when I used to work in the Police: Laws are only effective on law-abiding people.

Tim Gardener
Tim Gardener
3 years ago

Let’s move the conversation on indeed – there are (and always have been) much more important topics than covid. It has taken covid to expose fears and hopes, disturbing the illusion of freedom.

The government and public health technocrats have frightened the nation to the point of irrationality. It is now open season for authoritarians to implement controls which will be welcomed by frightened people. Criminalising families and friends for the simple contact which is essential for life? No objection. People have become fatigued, beaten into submission by the relentless propganda of “do least harm” and a precautionary principle that is myopic or even purblind to the full range of harms.

The conversation must move on. But let’s adopt Solzhenitsyn’s advice “Live not by Lies”

Last edited 3 years ago by Tim Gardener
Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Gardener

Excellent points. I agree,

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago

That’s the best article I’ve read for ages. Exactly what I’ve been thinking. Just as I was thinking up a response to one paragraph – Mr. Sayers writes my thoughts in the very next paragraph.
I come from that in-between-y generation too and I’ve also felt like the rug has been whipped out from under me in the last year. Everything which I felt had firmly underpinned the society I understood suddenly crumbled – welcomed and celebrated by friends who I thought shared the same values. It has been a profoundly moving, if not frightening experience, and one which has impressed upon me how crucial but how fragile our freedom really is.
Whether ongoing lockdowns were really the right approach is something we’ll only come to a conclusion about years after the fact. Once all the economic hardship has taken effect, once we’ve seen just how many lives have been ruined in order to save others. In the meantime, those of us who were skeptical but just got tired of the discussions and moral lecturing can only set our eyes forward to the day when society does start to open up again.
Once it’s possible, we must all go out and loudly and confidently reclaim the freedoms which have been suspended. Go to the pub as often as you can. Cross borders. Go to the swimming pool. I’m not a touchy-feely person at all but shall be more inclined to hug my friends and family, because – once it wasn’t possible anymore – I missed it incredibly.

Last edited 3 years ago by Katharine Eyre
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I think it was a rotten article, whiney and at the end conciliatory. In ‘Arrested Developement’ the motto of the rather bitter mother is ‘Forget, but Never Forgive!’

I stand by this for the covid response. I refused to mask, I admired Trump greatly for his non-masking wile the sniveling Biden hid in his bunker, I despised the craven Fauci, and I hope they are held in full if their self induced disaster leads to a financial disaster!

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I can’t believe anyone is still listening to FAUXci. . . what a fool. Last spring he was honking on about 200 million Americans dying from the Dread Covid. That’s 2/3’s of our population. As of today 2,506,000 have died WORLDWIDE. 517,220 died in the US. About half FROM Covid. Half WITH Covid. (get squished by a train and, if you are tested positive for Covid your death will be added to Covid Deaths.)
(From California)

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago

Freddie Sayers says: “I’ll go along with it. I don’t want to be fighting about lockdowns for a day longer. I’ll take my vaccine and sign my papers.”
Really? You should think about whether the vaccine is appropriate for you, you could be up for years of coronavirus vaccination, with who knows what consequences.
It’s wrong that they have pushed a mass vaccination response for this virus. Is this about protecting people from disease? Or is it really about developing a huge global vaccine market? And with this virus being used as a Trojan horse to implement all sorts of restrictions and controls…quarantining of healthy people, intrusive testing of people without symptoms, very questionable masking, surveillance via QR codes.
Are you really willing to accept this grim transformation of society on the back of this virus that isn’t a serious threat to most people?
How easily people give up their liberal democracies, it’s shocking. Have you no respect for your freedom?

Lorna Belkin
Lorna Belkin
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

Green Star, yellow star…couldn’t agree more. Terrifyingly sinister precedent, the unintended (?????) consequences of which will extend the road to hell.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

Well said. If we go along with all this BS unquestioningly, nothing will stop them from doing this to us all over again whenever the next novel virus comes along.

Hilary Wallace
Hilary Wallace
3 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Hart

I always enjoy your writing Freddie but was a little surprised that you have looked critically for the past year at many issues of this pandemic, especially lockdown, but in the end your conclusion is really one of passivity. You will just take the vaccine? I know nothing about you but you appear to be young and healthy. You no doubt understand your risk from this disease but you still accept that you should take a still experimental drug with no analysis at all. I find this sad and a little disturbing. At what point did we go from protecting the elderly and vulnerable to vaccinating the whole population – and there’s talk of babies. I must admit that I missed the scientific justification on that one. I find this uncritical acceptance of this policy worrying as it sets a precedent for every infectious disease we are exposed to in the future.

I realise that your article was primarily about lockdown but the issue of vaccination has become pivotal as I’m sure any non-compliance will be used as an excuse to delay unlocking.

David Utzschneider
David Utzschneider
3 years ago

Freddie, thanks so much for all your work the past year. As an American, in a federated government, I am so grateful that we have some states (florida) that have done better by minimizing lockdown. That record can never be erased.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

Thumbs up.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

Georgia approves this message.

Lorna Belkin
Lorna Belkin
3 years ago

Washington State agrees!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

Florida Man, the model for us all! Of all the States we knew Florida would give the finger to DC and its free the criminals, lock up the innocent, policy, and that Ca, Wa, and Or would be on the bandwagon to self destruction with full consent.

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

California is deeply into The Crazy. Meanwhile Governor Newsom signed a law giving $600 stimulus money to illegal aliens. San Francisco and Los Angeles are ridden with homelessness, drugs, and crime. And the Middle Class is fleeing the state.

  • from California
Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago

The structures and freedoms that once felt so unassailable have been exposed as fragile and contingent…”
That’s because your generation has been fortunate enough to grow up in an unusually beneficent world, Freddie. The period between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the financial crash of 2009 was, despite 9/11 and the Iraq War, an unusually quiet and seemingly peaceful one by historical standards. Prosperity grew, employment was high, three years dossing at uni was available to anyone who wanted it … golden years for the young.
Unfortunately, politicians, academics, the great and the good, forgot that the world is really a dangerous and unforgiving place. They thought this happy time was evidence that their lefty-liberal world view was fated to conquer all. They began to obsess about personal pronouns and chest-feeding, while ignoring the obvious signs that China, Russia, Iran, Turkey and just about any other non-Western country were busy actively promoting their national interests at our expense with no cares about their activities not being entirely aligned with Western ideas about human rights or “rules-based systems”. Turns out we were the only ones following the rules. More fool us.
These countries see that our decades of increasingly, seemingly pre-destined prosperity has turned us flabby in mind and resolve. They see us as decadent and weak and we are.
All this bleating about lockdown just demonstrates their strength and our weakness. It’s irrelevant whether lockdown turns out to have been a valid and necessary strategy against Covid or not. Unless we toughen up, and soon, our cosy, comfy way of life is doomed.

J Bryant
J Bryant
3 years ago

Well said. Couldn’t agree more.
Three decades of an economic philosophy that converted human beings to ‘consumers’ and that destroyed the concept of the nation state, and pride in your national identity, in favor of globalized free movement of capital has left us as fragmented communities lacking any sense of cohesion or greater purpose. We are now primed to be dominated by cultures with a stronger sense of self and of purpose. It may be this is the inevitable endpoint of the current western political and economic system. I hope we have what Maggie T called the ‘intestinal fortitude’ to reinvent or rediscover ourselves.

Carl Urmston
Carl Urmston
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Fully agree with your analysis, but surely she at least contributed to the philosophy you refer to?

J Bryant
J Bryant
3 years ago
Reply to  Carl Urmston

Fair point.

Jerry Smith
Jerry Smith
3 years ago

A handful of people have helped me get through lockdown. Freddie, you’re one of them.

David Owsley
David Owsley
3 years ago

“As long as we can agree that “there was no alternative””… 
We can’t: there was; there still is.
Also, things will NEVER return to the old normal

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

I agree as we basically handed the world to China by our Quisling response.

Chris Jayne
Chris Jayne
3 years ago

Freddie, I think I’m almost the same age as you. And I could have written this word for word. The sections on intellectual fashion in particular resonates as one of the key take aways.

Some of this must be adaptive. Humans quickly changing their parameters of what is normal and acceptable, be that on living with restrictions or changing dominant narratives, allows them to exist in society without going mad or being expelled from it.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Jayne

I am amazed at how Freddy caved on nor holding the authoritians to account. Do real studies on the costs, add the destroyed lives up, number them in years lost, then find the death BY rather than Death With and add those up, subtract, and then look at the future in economic harm, add that in, then go after the ones who did this to the West!

Jack Green
Jack Green
3 years ago

Sorry, this is just nonsense. All of us, young people especially should have been pushing back in late-spring last year. That they haven’t, and we haven’t as a society tells far more about British society – its weakness, selfishness and dependence on government
Everything tells us that the government has been and is being far, far too cautious…….in every legal and administrative sphere the government has been acting ultra vires.
To invoke the emergency powers they are so cheerfully using (and abusing), there had to be (government’s own criteria) a ‘catastrophic emergency’ facing the nation…….there was not, never has been. The plans they made estimated a loss of 2.5% of the population to a virus, but still did not believe that emergency powers were necessary. In 2020, we saw the loss of 0.165%……and the government is ruling like Chinese dictators.
Another thing about emergency powers, is that they can only be held temporarily. The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 was enacted specifically to prevent a government seizing power indefinitely but requiring emergency powers to be sanctioned by parliament every 30 days.
The government ignored this requirement.
Even the legislation that the government did utilise, the Public Health Act 1984, has been abused. It does NOT give a government the power to regulate healthy people……..only the ‘infectious’.
Thus, with a dishonest twisting of language, and the dishonest use of PCR-testing, Hancock manufactured legions of ‘infectious’ people, and assumed the authority to regulate every single one of us.
Of course, back in 1984, parliament legislated on the basis that ‘infectious’ people were those carrying smallpox, TB, plague or rabies – diseases with 80%+ mortality, which made quarantining the ‘infectious’ absolutely imperative.
Hancock twisted all this to mean people who were not even ill, but who might have been able to pass on a cold, that harmed a tiny percentage of the population.
If you have read this far, then you might understand how badly the government has behaved……..over-reliance on models; over-reliance on a man who has previous for producing deeply flawed models; over-reliance on scientists who want perfect results and/or have political motives; enjoyment of the power it has exercised; no serious idea of the carnage their policies were creating; no concept of the duty to balance the needs of society; the eagerness to be authoritarian; the willingness to terrify its people in order to usurp their freewill; the unwillingness to admit errors; the ability to only govern in relation to genuine or perceived, media headline; the desire to exploit the situation to make money…….
…….and lastly, the perpetuation of of a fundamentally dishonest strategy, but fundamentally dishonest tactics, that will necessitate the permanent distortion of our politics, society and perhaps even democracy.
Only the odd MP and journalist passed comment early on…….and since, there has been absolutely no determined effort to get to the bottom of things – whilst the government carried on driving the horse carriage to hell……..all Freddie Sayers can come up with is this airy fairy egotistical guff about his ’suggestion’ and ‘his generation’…….eff off Freddie, this situation calls for PROPER journalists.

Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago
Reply to  Jack Green

An interesting polemic, and I agree with every word, but what are ‘you’ going to do about it?

However perhaps a trifle harsh on Freddie, who, thanks to St Paul’s, is just a little too polite to really “put the boot in”.

Last edited 3 years ago by Richard Audley
Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

 the instinct will be to forgive it all in exchange for getting our lives back.
If so, then we will guarantee a repeat and then some the next time a virus winds its way around the world. With this, there have already been stories about the impact of lockdowns: the impact on mental health, the spike in suicides/abuse/overdoses, the likely consequences of the economic devastation.
This article, while questioning the impact of the lockdown, plays right along with it: I hope we continue smoothly on the roadmap out of here as if the people who make, and frequently change, the rules can be counted on to not do so again. We’re fast approaching the one-year anniversary of the two weeks needed to “flatten the curve” in the US, a microcosm of why the people who have political power should be the last to whom it is ever given.

Joerg Beringer
Joerg Beringer
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Agree, but he/we might not have a choice, neither personally in many cases, nor as societies, see The 4th Turning.
Anyway, this was not the climax, this was what Stalingrad was for the Germans, maybe.
The real collapse (hyperinflation, currency resets, depression) thanks solely to our disproportionate responses, is still to come, as is the purgatory phase thereafter.

Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson
3 years ago

There’s plenty I agree with in Freddie’s article, but the tenor of many of the comments below is far too self-congratulatory and complacent. I feel like Stanley Baldwin when he said that he’d never met a more unreasonable group of men than the miners’ leaders … until he met the mine-owners. It’s the same with the government and the ‘lockdown sceptics’. For instances:

  • the Great Barrington Street Declaration – was this really workable in practice?
  • Sweden – the Oxford review of lockdown intensity published the other day by the Spectator showed the UK at the top of the pile, but Sweden was certainly towards the top too. Its health outcomes compare badly with its two immediate neighbours and I don’t think it’s economy has done any better than them either.
  • ‘the survival rate means it’s just like a bad flu outbreak’ – only if there is a functioning health system to try to treat people – otherwise it would be a lot, lot worse.

For balance, I’ll mention some of the government’s general uselessness:

  • so many deaths have been from care home and hospital infections – OK, some are inevitable, but so many?
  • over-reliance on test and trace, which seems to have cost an amazing amount of money to perform very poorly
  • unwillingness to explore in detail how the virus spreads, leading to pointless restrictions (all small gatherings outside should have been allowed from very early on) and misleading public information (avoid crowds, confined spaces and close contact would make a lot more sense than repeating the mantra of last March about handwashing and 2metres apart outdoors).
Eva Rostova
Eva Rostova
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

Good points.
I defer to Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter of Cambridge and the Royal Statistical Society, who opines that Covid IFR in the UK overall is in the region of 10x worse than the seasonal flu.
Sensibly, Lord Sumption based his opposition to UK policy on philosophical/political arguments, not by denying Covid is a serious and highly contagious disease much worse than the flu. Meanwhile, Gupta, Giesecke and the Toby Young “lockdown sceptics” were preaching outlier epidemiological theories that were increasingly undermined by real world data.

Last edited 3 years ago by Eva Rostova
Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago
Reply to  Eva Rostova

Perhaps the reason “Covid IFR” is “10x worse” than seasonal Flu is because most us of have been vaccinated against the said Flu for eons?

What incidentally is the average of a Covid IFR death in the UK?

I gather it is somewhat north of 80. I am also told that if one makes it to 80 you may expect another 8 years or so. Or in other words you have already used up about 90% of your a available fuel.

So, if this is true, why is Western Civilisation, as we know it indulging itself in an orgy of self destruction?

Are we “dead men walking” really worth it? I suspect not, what do you think?

Last edited 3 years ago by Richard Audley
Fiona Cordy
Fiona Cordy
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

Great Barrington Declaration: was it workable? With some thought, it could have been made workable with maybe the same cost to the economy but a lot less stress for the rest of us. Sweden? They made the same mistake as the UK with care homes early on. Functioning health service, well you are right on that one as it has been under-invested for the last ten years.

Adam Lehto
Adam Lehto
3 years ago

To echo a number of other commenters here: this past year has been a real eye-opener. As someone who teaches in a university, I’m not sure if I’ll ever come to terms with what has amounted to a conspiracy of silence among academics. Of course, the institutions of ‘higher’ learning will carry on, as they have through and after countless earlier crises. But when people whose job it is to think critically completely drop the ball, what is to be done? Sadly, as with so many others who have supported the mandated responses, there will be powerful reasons for academics to want to keep justifying them, or to sweep everything under the carpet as fast as possible. Thanks, Freddie, for *not* dropping the ball!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Adam Lehto

The ‘Teaching Unbions’ in all the West bere basically 5th Column! They were out to harm the West using children and covid as the tool.

Dave Smith
Dave Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Adam Lehto

As most of them are now in hock to China I expect they will keep their mouths shut

Mike Spoors
Mike Spoors
3 years ago

I cannot rid myself of the suspicion that at the first opportunity Johnson will tear up his roadmap and use the ‘science’ to again extend the current restrictions. Odd though that the ‘science’ that guides him only points him in one direction and that is towards more rather than less constraint. I think that Johnson is massively conflicted by his and our predicament and he wants to ease the current restrictions but is too weak to exert his authority. With every sign that things are improving the siren call to carry on restrictions for longer get louder as the clamour for a zero Covid policy now attests. Lockdown was the solution, then Test, trace and isolate, then the Vaccine, currently Quarentine What next? Well take your pick as long as it prolongs the social control that is now as much a part of the strategy as controlling Covid in whatever form it takes. I doubt that June will see the end of Johnson’s road map to recovery and the sad thing is that there is no mainstream politician with sufficient profile to challenge not just the ‘science’ but the alchemists who are intent in turning any future we might have from gold to lead.

William Murphy
William Murphy
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Spoors

Was it one (appropriately) of Chairman Mao’s maxims: As the class enemy gets weaker, the class struggle gets stronger? Similarly here: as the virus fades away, the lockdown gets longer and the politicians’ rhetoric more deranged.

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
3 years ago

The first lockdown made some sort of sense and some may argue that this one does too, with a vaccine coming in. The problem was the second lockdown, along with its promises to “allow us Christmas”, if we behaved ourselves” .
When we acquiesced to that one, we collectively lifted a leg, pouted up at “Spaffer Johnson” and murmured “Go ahead, Big Boy – any way you want it…”
And he and Hancock have been doing just that, ever since.

Last edited 3 years ago by Albireo Double
Epicurus Araraxia
Epicurus Araraxia
3 years ago

The battle for true freedom in the UK will not end even with the complete lifting of all Coronavirus regulations.
The Tories and Labour have both shown their willingness to forgo all of the rights that the Barons fought for when they forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, and of course, the changes that flowed from that act.
Never again must such an act against the people be perpetrated.
Both the Tories AND the Labour party have to go. Relegated to a footnote in History. They are too deeply embedded in the Establishment to be reformed.

Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago

We have a much better example than Runnymede in the form of Oliver Cromwell. He and somewhat later Thomas Paine are the precedents we must look to, both here and in the US.

Dave Smith
Dave Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Audley

William Cobbett was a proper person. A victim of the Six Acts of Pitt which bear some resemblance to what we have today. Mind you he had to cope with seditious libel which is a something Johnson has not got around to yet,

Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave Smith

Agreed. I would have liked to continue this discuss but unfortunately that is not possible with the present ‘comments’ system.

Dave Smith
Dave Smith
3 years ago

I have hated every day of it.I am not going to be reconciled. I have loathed the way we have been manipulated and the propaganda that has been used to make us the sources of infection and to turn us against each other to save the NHS for which read this useless system I live under .
I have hated the phrases, Stay safe- build back better- the new normal. Trite and offensive to any real human being. I have loathed the MSM. In particular I have loathed the BBC . No understanding of what the word morale means. Night after night of misery . I cannot stand the sight of children in masks. It is offensive. I have grandchildren and their lives have been damaged.I no longer believe a word that Johnson says. He is as I expected from his life, A man of no virtue. What a man does and how he lives his life is what counts. Not the words that he utters.
We are being prepared for the new normal. That is a world where internal passports become accepted.if we are to have the freedom that we are born to enjoy as of right. That has never happened to anyone in my country. I have nothing against vaccines but compulsion is the first step on the way to a world where things best left untried lie., The progressives who have seemed in control over this place utility above all else., It is their guiding light. It is no way to live.,It has never been the basis of our civilisation.
I am not going to live like this. As long as I can breathe I will oppose them.

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave Smith

One of the most shocking things was to discover ‘our elected representatives’ had turned on us, were planning to oppress us under the guise of this virus. Remember the way many of them spouted the mantra about the ‘new normal’?
It was a bewildering situation in Australia, particularly viewing what was happening in Melbourne, with the prolonged lockdown. The way it was all planned, impeding people’s freedom of movement and association, massive fines for those who ventured out without permission, vision of the police assaulting people protesting for their freedom.
Absolutely shocking… Could not believe this was happening in a so-called ‘liberal democracy’, where the supposed servants of the people turned into dictators under the very questionable ’emergency laws’.
But so many people were so fearful, particularly older people had been terrified by the non-stop fear-mongering in the media at the start of this thing, with the description of the horrible deaths ‘like drowning’, and then it turned out people were being killed by being put on ventilators, or thrown back into ‘care homes’, apparently seeding the spread of the virus.
Not to mention the great reluctance to find effective treatments, or promote vitamin D, because this would prevent the real goal of getting the blessed vaccine products rushed out under emergency authorisations.
This has been a gross exploitation of the people by treacherous politicians and their handlers. There must be accountability…

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago

Thank you Mr. Sayers. This is the best essay that I have read on this whole, sorry matter. I think that if the government rule-mongers and their craven media enablers did not have safe positions and guaranteed incomes, we would have had different policies.

Adi Dule
Adi Dule
3 years ago

I guess we realised that only a small part of the society is actually willing to fight for its rights so even if there will be some normality back this summer, the west democracy is actually living at borrowed time especially in Western Europe. I have noticed that people in the US and Eastern Europe, for some recent historical reasons have been more sceptical in accepting the main stream media and government narrative, but I have been really demoralised to see the reaction of the majority of the British

Joerg Beringer
Joerg Beringer
3 years ago
Reply to  Adi Dule

Brits, Americans, French and Italians are the biggest disappointment here.
One expects the most zealous enforcement of the most draconian and senseless rules from German speaking countries and people.

Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago
Reply to  Joerg Beringer

Fortunately both Sweden and plucky little Switzerland have proved an inspiration for us all.

Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago
Reply to  Adi Dule

You are correct to be dismayed by the absolutely supine reaction of the once great British public.
The days of Churchill, Wellington, Pitt and Walpole are long gone, and all that remains is a self pitying husk of what was once a great nation.

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago

In the US this virus became The Cult of Covid immediately. One day there’s a virus. Yawn. Then it’s a Killer Virus. Oh, right. Then it’s LOCKDOWN. Whaaaat? Seriously? The affected groups were identified almost immediately: over 65 with underlying health conditions. So the schools were closed. Masks mandated. Eating spots shuttered. Offices shut and Zoom replacing human interaction. We took heart in the assurance that it was only for a couple weeks, maybe a month, to ‘flatten the curve’, ‘avoid hospital overload’.
Three weeks into this folly I was standing masked and in line on a ‘socially distanced’ chalked circle waiting to enter a grocery store. The woman behind me complained it was unnecessary. We chatted. She was a nurse in our town’s largest hospital and said The Covid Flood protocol was followed, but there was no flood. Nary a trickle. Empty rooms set aside remained empty. The newspapers headlined “SURGE”. There never was a surge. It was all a charade. For what?
As the LOCKDOWN reaches its First Anniversary in three weeks, I’m interested in observing the responses of my fellow humans. They not only wear masks for – spurious – virus protection, they wear masks for universal protection. Why else wear a mask bicycling alone on a country road? Alone in a car? Walking down an empty sidewalk? Masks have become TOTUMS carrying spiritual significance. Within my Mask I am Safe. I am Righteous. I pledge allegiance to the united states of Covid.

Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago
Reply to  sharon johnson

“God is great and Covid is his Prophet”.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
3 years ago
Reply to  sharon johnson

You might want to wear a mask (and goggles) if you
use the same inter-city cycle routes as I. It stops the involuntary feeding on raw insects various or being
blinded, sometimes with unfenced reens (land drains) on both sides. Many were doing it before anyone said Covid 19.

Lorraine Mooney
Lorraine Mooney
3 years ago

Thanks Freddie. I’ve always said lockdown was disproportionate and unjustified. I’m depressed that so many willingly accepted tyranny without question and vilified those who wanted some evidence.

Frances Mann
Frances Mann
3 years ago

Yes. Thank you Freddy.You have been a voice of sanity all these months.

Dr Stephen Nightingale
Dr Stephen Nightingale
3 years ago

I smile at the concept of “a more elegant policy response”: from a government that has strenuously avoided accountability, and covertly leaps into bed with their fellow-travelling corporate grifters any time some contract needs awarding?

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago

I have had two comments removed thus far today and think perhaps I don’t understand the philosophy behind Unherd. I found it thanks to Douglas Murray’s writing . . which I read with great joy. I thought Unherd celebrates those who are not part of The Herd and are, therefore, unheard. Did I misunderstand somewhere along the line?

J Bryant
J Bryant
3 years ago
Reply to  sharon johnson

Unherd recently changed their comments system and appear to be using algorithms to remove comments with certain ‘trigger’ words or phrases. The same kind of mindless moderation software you’ll find across the internet. As you say, though, it’s removing perfectly valid comments.
Perhaps Unherd is more a part of the herd than it likes to believe.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Yes, it’s disheartening, but I suppose they’re just trying to cover their ass, legally speaking, considering all the things it is actually now illegal to say in some countries. Many news sites, even non-mainstream ones, now have no comments sections at all. I used to comment a lot on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation site, back when it was still possible. I often got called a “troll” merely for disagreeing with people. I don’t know where or when people got his idea that it’s socially unacceptable to challenge another person’s argument. When I was young my friends and I would argue with each other constantly, often about very serious things, like abortion, capital punishment, religion, racism, sexism, homophobia, the prison system, policing, war, terrorism, etc. Never once did any of these arguments degenerate into a fistfight, let alone permanently destroy friendships. People were expected to have some spine and not be reduced to sniveling toddlers when someone tried to challenge their beliefs, or said something they considered offensive.

Todd Kreider
Todd Kreider
3 years ago

I noticed that people were being called trolls in 2005 when forums and comment sections were becoming widespread. It took a bit to figure out the ones calling people trolls were those who thought the blogger could say no wrong. I also underestimated the extent most who are currently under 40 will quickly bow to authority.

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago

Most horrifying is the stifling of opinion that is now the zeitgeist of my dear old US. Even President Trump was banned from social media because his opinions challenged Big Tech’s incessant leftist screed. It’s now against the law to voice an opinion that does not fall into lock step with the Left.

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Controlled opposition?

David Utzschneider
David Utzschneider
3 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

what are some of the most common trigger phrases that lead to removing posts?

Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago
Reply to  sharon johnson

Yes you did. There has been a ‘silent revolution’ recently. Censorship increased, whilst discourse alarmingly decreased. It’s called progress.

As C said “Cui Bono”?

Last edited 3 years ago by Richard Audley
Dave Smith
Dave Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  sharon johnson

Discus removes posts if a word is on the dodgy list. That means if you use English slang for instance. It is strictly algorithm nothing personal;

Elizabeth Hart
Elizabeth Hart
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave Smith

Or mention B i l l G a t e s without due reverence?

Last edited 3 years ago by Elizabeth Hart
Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

Sayers has provided sane criticism in a world that’s lost it.
For moving things on, we first have to accept that we have been defeated by C19. The vaccines may (or may not) save us but we have been beaten, well and truly.
To avoid making the same mistakes, we first have to admit them and it seems we are not even prepared to admit that we have lost this war as our pathetic, half-hearted vaccine roll out will be championed as a victory. It isn’t. It’s a mitigating strategy that appears successful in comparison to the EU’s. This tells us nothing but how disastrous the EU is. The questions now are the price of the indemnity and have we learned enough from our mistakes to be prepared next time?
This denial will see the West fall behind Asia in a decade and the rest of the developing world catch up. Maybe that’s not a bad thing any more considering how we’ve fallen.

Peter KE
Peter KE
3 years ago

The government, civil service, SAGE etc have committed hideous crimes against us and damaged our society, liberty, children’s education and our economy. They should all be condemned for these acts of disgusting harm.

Eva Rostova
Eva Rostova
3 years ago

“No one now wants to hear arguments about Sweden, which — still now — poses an awkward counter-factual to lockdown, with its strikingly similar (although less bad) epidemic trajectory to the UK“

Is that true? Infections are increasing in Sweden, whereas they are falling in the U.K.. Yesterday, Tegnell warned of a third wave in Sweden. Mask requirements indoors/on public transport have been extended, secondary schools closed, people told to avoid all travel. Today, new measures are being announced including early closing of restaurants.

Let’s have the full picture, Mr Sayers.

Joerg Beringer
Joerg Beringer
3 years ago
Reply to  Eva Rostova

Sweden tests far more than any other country, twice as much as Germany.
Cases/Infections are meaningless medically.
The death rate is not rising, far better than that of the UK, its 2nd wave deaths are equal to Germany’s.
Florida tells the same story.

Eva Rostova
Eva Rostova
3 years ago
Reply to  Joerg Beringer

That’s why they look at percentage of tests returning positive.
Tegnell’s point was that that rate is increasing quite rapidly, particularly in Stockholm.
As Sweden has only vaccinated a few per cent of its population, there isn’t anything to suggest a break in the link between infections and eventual hospitalisations/deaths.
But we’ll see.
I’m not trying to get into a comparison of heterogeneous populations in Sweden or Florida or wherever. I’m merely pointing out that Sweden does not appear to be in the same place, epidemiologically speaking, as the UK right now.

Eva Rostova
Eva Rostova
3 years ago

“But as we move towards the exit of our long confinement, I don’t think it will feel the same as before. The structures and freedoms that once felt so unassailable have been exposed as fragile and contingent, their defenders weak; and the question of whether there was a better way lingers, taboo and unanswered.“

Or, perhaps far more likely, life will quickly return to normal, and, given the track record, the U.K. won’t do proper pandemic preparation like Southeast Asian countries did, won’t spend more on healthcare/social care, and its population won’t stop being so fat and unhealthy?

Eran Bendavid
Eran Bendavid
3 years ago

As one of those self-styled folks, I would urge as many people as possible, including Freddie, to resist the taboo-zation of asking important and – yes, yet unanswered – questions. Careful, balanced, and thoughtful science is capable of holding a mirror to society that takes out the personal – politics, ego, fear. That mirror, in our day and age, unambiguously calls into question the undue certainty about the effectiveness of the measures we adopted in the past year. If we – and by that I mean my community of scientists – had more humility to look at our world with honesty and without ego, we would be baffled by the many patterns, small and large, that COVID has thrown our way. It takes courage to break the taboo, but it is also potentially so rewarding. I would welcome working with any Unherd-er on translating important observations into that scientific mirror.

jessegalebaker
jessegalebaker
3 years ago

As SARS CoV-2 was the first time a comprehensive global effort to interrupt population-wide viral spread through the respiratory route has been undertaken, I wouldn’t judge things too harshly. It’s now clear that lockdowns after the fact don’t work; you either stop the virus when it first enters your country, as New Zealand did, or endure uncontrolled infection. Despite its never imposing a total lockdown, the cumulative case rate in Utah (USA), over the long run, has turned out only marginally worse than England’s.
Still, this is a very contagious illness where the degree of avoiding unnecessary contact with people outside the home matters. Certain individual European countries and US states have maintained lower prevalence than others. I think this could reflect people being more likely to stay home of their own accord when not at work or school, smaller households or jobs that allow space around workers, small details such as the normal speaking distance in the culture, or some combination of these.
Hard to call the freedom versus safety question with Covid. The mortality ~1%, concentrated toward old age, plus nonlethal health damage, was borderline for justifying special restrictions. When I was young, the deaths would have been shrugged off, but not so much today since life expectancy has risen 13 years.

Last edited 3 years ago by jessegalebaker
Andrew Holland
Andrew Holland
3 years ago

Sorry, Freddy, but I think you’re adopting the wrong approach to this. The Covid lockdown debacle is far from over – even the lifting of the restrictions from the UK government is couched in equivocal language, so there’s not even the intent to go full bore back to normal on the part of the government even if that intent were to get derailed further on down the line. And we’ve not even begun to address the long-term implications of the Covid response.
I think it’s naive to withdraw from the fight. I can’t see that without public opposition, restrictions would be lifted much at all. This insane, OTT, unscientific, and to my knowledge unprecedented, approach to dealing with a virus should never be normalised. Continual, vigorous opposition to it is necessary to ensure that this NEVER happens again.

Last edited 3 years ago by Andrew Holland
Alan T
Alan T
3 years ago

Thanks Freddie, this very much reflects my thoughts and feelings. I do wonder about why this country has been one of the heaviest hit by covid, despite having harder and longer lockdowns than most. That restrictions (and, more recently, vaccines) may not be the only things that affect the spread and severity of the virus from place to place seems little explored or debated.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan T

My own gut feeling is that population density, obesity levels and international travel are the main factors, and lock down severity is pretty much irrelevant in the longer term. Lock down slows infections, but when it’s lifted they rise again, and over the long term the number of deaths stays the same. More of our population are dying than others because we’re older, fatter, and live on a small island with a high population and have lots of flight connections from all over the world

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Vitamin D may also be a factor – a vitamin where lots of Britons (due to the northern location and lazy indoor lifestyles) have a deficiency. In recent days I read that scientists in Austria have identified a gene that seems to be common among people who are more seriously affected by the disease. This kind of genetic factor has been observed before, among people who mysteriously haven’t contracted HIV despite being exposed and in historical cases where some people escaped the plague unscathed (Delta 32:https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050325234239.htm).

Last edited 3 years ago by Katharine Eyre
Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

For some reason, people are intent on missing your point about lockdowns – they may slow infection but they do not prevent it. It’s as if proponents cling to the fallacy that the latter is truly the goal, not the former.

Simon Forde
Simon Forde
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Plus the extreme deprivation in so many communities in the UK – you find that in the US but nowhere else in northern Europe.
I’d also love to know how widespread the virus was before it came to light in January. There are so many apocryphal stories of it circulating in November and December 2019. Is that true? Was it relatively widely embedded in the UK, and more so than our neighbours?

Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Forde

Do you seriously believe the UK and its national treasure the National Health Service would ever admit that?
(except under torture).

William Murphy
William Murphy
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Forde

There was a confirmed case in a Paris hospital on 27th Dec 2019. So he had been infected well before Christmas. With the multiple transport links to London, we almost certainly had cases in southern England around the same date, if not earlier.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan T

It is not true. The age-standardised mortality rate published by the ONS for 2020 is 1043 deaths per 100,000. This is being compared with the average rate for the previous 5 years which was very low. I do not know why. But the 2020 rate is just below the average for the past 20 years and well within one standard deviation, so there is nothing unusual about the total number of deaths in 2020. If it is decided that a very large number were due to Covid then I want to know why deaths from other causes has apparently gone down.

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

The simple answer is they haven’t; it’s just that the big bad c is given as cause of death if there was a positive test, no matter what other conditions the patient had. Flu deaths in particular seem to have miraculously vanished from the universe. The fact doesn’t seem to be considered that a sick person can be hosting multiple viruses at one time, but nobody’s thinking about influenza viruses anymore, even though current vaccines protect against only some of them.

Joerg Beringer
Joerg Beringer
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan T

The biggest (binge) drinkers, a packet if crisps for lunch, frying Mars bars- I never had a doubt that the UK would be hit hard.

Amy Hill
Amy Hill
3 years ago

Thank you Freddie; reading this I felt like I was reading my own mind (including being part of the “end of history” generation). It has been a great comfort through the past year to read Unherd and realize how many people were posing the same questions.

sharon johnson
sharon johnson
3 years ago

I just posted my Covid observations from the US. It was immediately marked ‘Awaiting Approval’. Then it was removed. Freedom of speech is always the first victim.

Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago
Reply to  sharon johnson

Please be very careful, a friend of mine who introduced me to UnHerd was recently summarily ‘cashiered’ for offences unknown, with no question of appeal.

It may not be the Gestapo yet, but it is trying hard.

Sean MacSweeney
Sean MacSweeney
3 years ago

Apart from artfully keeping a wide berth from the gestapo (police) I haven’t been much affected, I saw and spent time with family, frequented local shops (they didn’t care about the stupid mask mandate either (food shopping I always did online anyway) drove round (on nice small country roads) and I found the big Brexit areas didn’t give a stuff for government dictatorship as well and pretty much ignored most of it, the heavy remain areas were mostly keeping to it along with the curtain twitchers, of course the press vultures were salivating each day as they had things to fill their inane tabloids or their propaganda news programs (very rarely watched or read by anyone other than the so called elites cowering in their bunkers) I for one will continue to ignore their advice and they know where they can stick their vaccine as well, if vaccine company’s give up their legal immunity, might be a different story as I least I can then sue them if I get adverse reaction (BTW Japan’s government is giving over $400,000 if anyone suffers from a vaccine, let’s see how little UK government gives (my guess a big fat zero)

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
3 years ago

Freddie, I am not much older than you but spent the first 23 years of my life in Venezuela. It has been horrifying to see how “free and developed” countries have behaved in a way so similar to what Chavez and Maduro have been doing for a long time. It has been actually worse, as during this pandemic high tech and high resources have been used for brainwashing.
I would be really surprised if the people on top, once they have learned what they can get away with, let go of that power.
I hope the backlash comes one day, but will it really?

Matthew Bottomley
Matthew Bottomley
3 years ago

We should move forward, but not necessarily ‘on’.
We need to make sure that lessons are learnt and that we do more to protect the fundamental principles of a western democracy; systems that are supposed to work to make sure we take a balanced way forward that listens to and accounts for alternative points of view have been subverted. Arguments have been won not by the power of the argument and rational debate but often by what can critically be described as psychological warfare and the promotion of fear, this should not go unopposed and it should not be forgotten.

eloyacano
eloyacano
3 years ago

Our expectations have become so diminished that his granting of permission ‘to have coffee on a park bench’ is taken not as an insult but a gift.” Perhaps I am grouchier than most, but no, I would most certainly see that as an insult, not a gift. My instinct is not to forgive the government for all they have taken, especially since, where I am, the little dictator has already said things will never go back to normal. He flat out said muzzles are here to stay and keeps blathering on about a “new” normal. Only “new normal” is not normal. It’s authoritarianism. I took a peek at the greenbandredband website, and I have a simpler proposal. People are “green band” by default. We live our lives, no green band necessary around our arms. Red bands also won’t be necessary. If redbanders are scared, they can hide in their homes as much as they like and leave the rest of us alone.

Douglas McCallum
Douglas McCallum
3 years ago

A useful, moderate and well-reasoned article. It avoids the aggressive forms of anti-lockdown agitation (“it’s all a conspiracy” and similar Trumpist views); but it nonetheless makes clear that there must have been better ways to do it and that we must be extremely wary of such all-too-easy limitations on life and liberty. For myself, I would suggest a number of points to be drawn.
First, there was an utter failure to seriously consider alternative approaches and indeed, as Freddie notes, a woke-ish effort to “cancel” people or ideas that challenged the lockdown orthodoxy. Neither science nor public policy making can flourish in an environment which suppresses debate.
Second, there has been an appalling lack of effort to analyse the relative efficacy of different aspects of lockdown and social distancing. No one has presented evidence to quantify, for instance, the real-life risk of allowing indoor eating in restaurants in comparison to the risk of opening pubs or clubs. Lockdown measures are simply presented and their importance is asserted; no alternatives are considered, no evidence-based differentiation of risk factors was offered.
Third, far too much influence was wielded by medical and public health professionals, whose tunnel vision was not adequately moderated by voices which understand the economy, human social needs, schools and child development, etc. Unfortunately, these people carry much weight with the public in general so their pronouncements are all too often accepted without challenge.
Fourth, there has been no serious discussion of where the lockdown is expected to take us – how to set the parameters which will trigger a release from lockdown. There are still plenty of public health people who push for “elimination” of the virus as our goal, a patently unreal goal which would complete the destruction of life and we used to know it! Where is the discussion of what level of viral infection and illness (and death) should be accepted as part of the normal risk of living?
Finally, I am convinced that a key factor is that the medical and public health experts, the epidemiologists, the civil servants, and the politicians are all public sector employees. The economic costs of the lockdown have been borne almost exclusively by those in the private sector (the “real” economy); those in the public sector have mostly suffered no economic hardships.

Karen Jemmett
Karen Jemmett
3 years ago

I think we all know by now where a ‘better way’ lingers. All the key reference points (apart from a few) have been elaborately constructed for us all to grasp the progressive nettle by now. I take Chris’s point about how radical reformers invariably end up taking advice from civil servants, but that ignores the fact that new ideas and enlightened perspectives naturally evolve both inside and outside of the institutional framework at any given time in history. Look at Northern Ireland; even after the perceived failures of Stormont, is there anyone who doesn’t believe an important cultural shift in perspective has occurred on both sides of the water? In the same way mounting public frustration and vocal criticism of institutional failures is likely to make those bodies far more accountable and adaptive post-covid, it would be foolish to just throw the baby out with the bath water and sound the retreat now, surely? Let’s hope we’ve seen the last of ‘end of history’ rhetoric for a while, at least…

Joerg Beringer
Joerg Beringer
3 years ago

I still won’t accept being coerced and neither should you or any other sceptic with an ounce of liberalism still in them.
In the big scheme of things, this is an entirely fabricated and unnecessary crisis, or rather trigger for a crisis, as the real and big one will be either the bodies piling up due to the experimental gene therapies over time when ADE, FFWO, cancer&co might come about, or the depression after the hyperinflation induced currency
resets, or both.
In the very big scheme of things, the crisis, loss of liberty, intolerance towards dissent etc. were probably inevitable and our resistance therefore a lost cause from the beginning, see The4th Turning, but one must never forgive how unnecessary and out of proportion that crisis and our responses truly were.
Nor how willingly and cowardish the people of the world gave up their rights, for which hundreds of millions of their ancestors gave their lives, now in vain.
“Ich kann gar nicht soviel fressen wie ich kotzen muss.” Bertold Brecht

Last edited 3 years ago by Joerg Beringer
Rachel Chandler
Rachel Chandler
3 years ago
Reply to  Joerg Beringer

A lot of wishful thinking going on by people who ought to know better. The many political problems that took us into this mess are still there. The economic and social fallout has yet to materialise and won’t be nice. There is no “normal” to go back to.

ian k
ian k
3 years ago
Reply to  Joerg Beringer

Sayers mentions the careless statements of the “sceptics”
The hysterical drivel and doom mongering in this post has also made the standard response so acceptable to the public. The 4th Turning is little better than astrology.

Alan T
Alan T
3 years ago
Reply to  ian k

I presume he’s referring to predictions by people like Levitt and Gupta, who said on Unherd that the pandemic would be pretty much over by the end of the summer. They were proven wrong. Others like Carl Heneghan who cast doubt on the approach of a 2nd wave did their cause no good at all.

Eva Rostova
Eva Rostova
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan T

Precisely. Add in Giesecke and Tegnell (who said in the autumn Sweden would have no second wave, only yesterday to say he fears there will be a third wave).
Lord Sumption sensibly based his opposition purely on philosophical/political grounds, not epidemiological nonsense propagated by the Toby Young “lockdown sceptics” crowd.
It is a shame that Toby Young et al did not take Sumption’s approach, addressing the balances and trade offs that have to be struck in reality rather than denying the inevitable impacts of the pandemic.
It would have lead to a far more meaningful debate about what sacrifices the (relatively) young should make in order to reduce deaths in the elderly/vulnerable.

Last edited 3 years ago by Eva Rostova
Richard Audley
Richard Audley
3 years ago
Reply to  Joerg Beringer

Would you mind translating that old chap, my Germans a bit rusty?

CYRIL NAMMOCK
CYRIL NAMMOCK
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Audley

I can’t eat so much as I have to puke. Me neither.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago

I despise lockdowners. I hate big pharma and the healthcare industry is completely corrupt. I quit following their rules and recommendations in late Spring and encourage everybody I talk to that they do to the same. Fortunately it is a lot easier to do in the USA. I work in a city but live in a small city in a more rural area. All you have to do to ignore this garbage is get out of the city here. Stewart Howe moved to Idaho from Southern California and his podcasting has been quite amusing on this. He probably didn’t have to move that far though. I spent a week in Trinidad CA over Christmas and it was fine. There were a few masked hikers in the woods but most were not. I didn’t go out to restaurants so I can’t say what it was like. I did stop for food in Winston, Oregon and there wasn’t a mask in the house. LOL. Newsome, Brown, and Inslee are some of the worst human beings imaginable but they are easily ignored. Just get out of the city. This whole thing was a farce for the great reset. I know a lot of people don’t want to believe that but it is the truth. Deutsche Bank report on it makes it pretty clear. They aren’t hiding it.
https://www.dbresearch.com/servlet/reweb2.ReWEB?rwsite=RPS_EN-PROD&rwobj=ReDisplay.Start.class&document=PROD0000000000513730#

Last edited 3 years ago by Dennis Boylon
Lindsay Gatward
Lindsay Gatward
3 years ago

Our authoritarian authorities love the totalitarian regime they have so successfully foisted on us through fear with the eager assistance of the MSM and more recently the social media oligarchs – The pyramid of power occupied by those who never dreamed of such profile and ego do not want the fear that gives them this new profile to ever end and want to achieve the World Health Passports that will cement their new found importance – A new mutation that renews the process of Lockdowns and Curfews and particularly the Mask is on their Christmas list – The Mask so graphically shows their new authority and even gets public enforcement and shaming and is so delightfully graphic as an in your face command that they will never want to give up the Mask even though so many now realise it is a meaningless barrier against the miniscule size of any air bourn virus! – The main hope is that this virus continues to fizzle out, as they all do, over the next weeks and leaves the authoritarians with nothing to beat us with before they have establish the new ‘health’ regime of rigid controls and the Trilllion Dollar industry of Health Passports that the cabal of governments and big pharma and the likes of ‘Davos’ so want.

Mike Spoors
Mike Spoors
3 years ago

Well it seems Johnson has an open mind on Vaccine passports and has tasked Give with examining the issue. That means that we will all have to have one by the time the pubs and restaurants are open for suitably sanitised and arid indulgence. Not forgetting the journeys further afield suitably masked but not sufficiently so to avoid being banged up at some hotel at your own cost when you get back. So, it seems I have had my last restaurant meal or visit to the pub. My last holiday abroad, my last holiday anywhere as the the price of these freedoms is perpetual surveillance. Unheard of regulations courtesy of a multitude of Apps provided by chums of the Government and tech companies who expect very little in return other than a pragmatic position towards their tax arrangements..

Just posted elsewhere…..

“Greece is in “technical” talks with the UK over allowing Britons carrying a vaccine passport to travel to its tourist hotspots from May despite concerns in Brussels and other EU
capitals”

Last edited 3 years ago by Mike Spoors
eugene power
eugene power
3 years ago

Lets make it clear. If the vaxx program does not work all lockdowns will have been a total failure.. that why the mad profs want to keep moving goalposts to hide their lunacy