breaking news from the world of ideas

by Freddie Sayers
Monday, 18
January 2021
Video
10:04

Adam Wagner: are lockdowns a threat to human rights?

Adam Wagner is one of the UK’s highest-profile legal experts on human rights, citing Shami Chakrabati as one of his main influences in the field. He strongly distances himself from “covid deniers” whose attempt to minimise the threat of the virus he describes as “dangerous nonsense”, and expressed dismay at Lord Sumption’s insensitive phrasing about the value of lives on television yesterday. In other words, he’s about as far from an ideological Right-winger as you’ll find in the British media.

So it was especially sobering to hear him set out some of the things he is worried about from a legal and human rights perspective since the pandemic started around 12 months ago. He wondered aloud on Twitter whether, had the virus not originated in China and had the response not been set by their invention of lockdowns, this approach would ever have become the accepted sensible response in liberal Western democracies? ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Monday, 11
January 2021
Video
18:16

Andrew Sullivan: I was right about Donald Trump


The images from the 6th January riots at the US Capitol will be with us for years — shocking, unnerving, and ultimately tragic for the five people who died. But was it “armed insurrection” or a failure of policing? How close did the President come to directly inciting violence? What is a wise way for Democrats to respond?

To help understand this significant moment, and what these final astonishing weeks of the Trump administration mean for the US and for the world, I spoke to writer and commentator Andrew Sullivan. He lives just a few blocks away from the Capitol and from the first moments of our interview you can see how traumatised he has been by the events of the past few years, culminating (so far) in the events of last week: ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Wednesday, 6
January 2021
Chart
10:31

Is our pace of vaccination slowing down?

The main source of data on how many vaccines have been administered are weekly summaries from NHS England and the devolved regions, which are somewhat patchy, and out of date by a number of days.

When the Prime Minister announces a total from the podium of Number 10 however, he has every incentive to make sure every last vaccine has been counted, and people feeding him the number have every incentive to get it right. So I’ve been plotting the numbers he has mentioned over time.

The first number was contained within his 19th December ‘cancelling Christmas’ speech, when he detailed the tightening of restrictions — that was 350,000. Given that the first vaccine was administered on 8th December, not a hugely impressive number for two weeks, but presumably they were ramping up during that same period. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Monday, 28
December 2020
Video
15:39

Tech censorship: how paranoid should we be?

Recently, in the comments underneath our LockdownTV YouTube videos, people have been saying that our videos are being ‘downrated’ on YouTube search. Type in Aella, or Michael Levitt, for example, and videos come above ours in the search results that are much older, viewed much fewer times, and come from channels that have much smaller followings. I hate the idea of being conspiracist, and feel it’s a bit rich to make accusations of censorship against a platform that has brought us so many views and followers, but could it be that heterodox channels like ours have found their way onto a blacklist of channels that should be ever so gently… suppressed? ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Saturday, 26
December 2020
Seen Elsewhere
07:00

Neil Ferguson interview: China changed what was possible

Professor Neil Ferguson has given an extraordinary interview to Tom Whipple at The Times, in which he confirms the degree to which he believes that imitating China’s lockdown policies at the start of 2020 changed the parameters of what Western societies consider acceptable.

“I think people’s sense of what is possible in terms of control changed quite dramatically between January and March,” Professor Ferguson says. When SAGE observed the “innovative intervention” out of China, of locking entire communities down and not permitting them to leave their homes, they initially presumed it would not be an available option in a liberal Western democracy: ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Wednesday, 23
December 2020
Video
15:00

Tom Holland: Is it Christian to cancel Christmas?

Anxiety about Christmas being “cancelled” has been a staple in tabloid newspapers for decades — but according to writer and historian Tom Holland, it’s been around a lot longer than that.

“Anxiety about that is in itself a very Christian tradition,” he told me in our LockdownTV Christmas Special (complete with crackling fire and stockings). “By the time you get to the Reformation in England, the Puritans in particular are very anxious about the way in which they see the Roman Church as having failed to root up the brambles and nettles of Paganism… The Puritans are the first people to draw up this thesis that Christmas celebrations derive from the pagan.” ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 18
December 2020
Video
11:26

Swedish Professor: we are headed for disaster


The world of Swedish epidemiology is small. Fredrik Elgh is a Professor of Virology at Umeå University in Northern Sweden and a clinical physician, but earlier in his career, heading up a department at the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control in Stockholm, a certain Anders Tegnell was in his staff, and Johan Giesecke was another department head. From our 45-minute conversation, I think we can surmise that they are no longer on speed dial.

Professor Elgh has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Swedish response to Covid-19, calling for more dramatic action as early as March 2nd in an op-ed in the main Swedish broadsheet. Since then, he has been shocked by what he sees as inaction by the Swedish government. “In the early days, the information was ‘this was nothing to worry about,’ week after week after week,” he says. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Sunday, 13
December 2020
Response
20:32

The truth about that No 10 Covid briefing

The Sunday Times “Insight” team’s latest long read contains an audacious attempt to resurrect the old favoured critique of Boris Johnson’s opponents: namely, that he and his Government have been insufficiently activist in response to Covid-19. The charge is so far off that it would almost be amusing were the times not so grave — has any nominally libertarian, Conservative leader in history presided over more all-encompassing interventions and restrictions to peoples’ liberty than Boris Johnson has this past year?

The framing for this attack requires some key ingredients to be considered a journalistic “win” against the Government. First, it must be shown that the Prime Minister received scientific advice which he ignored, with negative effects; second, it must be shown that concerns about the economy drove the decision to ignore it (because evil, greedy Tories); and ideally, just for added colour, some evidence that he and his circle are still secretly entertaining a “herd immunity strategy” — which must go down as one of the most misleading phrases of this year (and there have been a few). ...  Continue reading

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