by UnHerd Staff
Tuesday, 30
November 2021
Video
16:14

Paul Kingsnorth: why I changed sides in the vaccine wars

Freddie Sayers spoke to the writer and philosopher about the widening divide
by UnHerd Staff


Paul Kingsnorth sees the vaccine wars as symptomatic of a bigger division between two fundamentally different world views: he calls them “thesis” and “antithesis.” When it comes to Covid, “thesis” is the establishment viewpoint: that lockdowns are needed to contain the virus, masks work, vaccines are safe, and people who question them are wrongheaded or worse. When Covid-19 first struck, Kingsnorth took the “thesis” viewpoint.

But over the last few months, his perspective changed. As he writes in today’s UnHerd, the crystallising moment arrived when he woke up to the news that the Austrian government had ‘interned an entire third of the population’. This move, he writes, sent a ‘chill down my spine’.

The “antithesis” view can be summed up as: lockdowns are not needed, masks do not work, the safety and efficacy of the vaccines are being oversold, vaccine passports will not only fail but further segregate society, and in the near future we can expect Giradian scapegoating of the unvaccinated. In other words, we are positioned on the precipice of a slippery slope that leads towards increasingly draconian biopolitical control measures, the grip of which is unlikely to release even once the pandemic is over.

In a conversation with Freddie Sayers on this week’s UnHerdTV, he explains this division and the bigger epistemological divides it reveals. “People are arguing about vaccines,” he says, “but they’re really under the surface arguing about what kind of person you are if you have taken these things, whether you’re a good or a bad person, or clean or unclean one”.

In Kingsnorth’s view, each of us has a line that cannot be crossed. And his has now been reached:

Conversations about creating a society in which you can only access many of its services with a digital passport that explains that you had a particular medication — that’s a Rubicon. We’ve never had anything like this before, we’ve never had the technology to do it….I’ve been watching this for a long time, as we all have. And I think my personal Rubicon was watching what happened in Austria.
- Paul Kingsnorth, UnHerdTV

On his fears:

It’s the fear of galloping authoritarian control. And the fear more broadly… is that a pre-existing trend, which we could all see, towards technological control, monitoring and compliance in society. The use of everything from social media, to smartphone apps, to algorithms, to artificial intelligence, to push us towards a ‘machine society’, which is controlled, monitored, everybody is compliant. And we have to effectively create a smart world where everything’s online, including our bodies and including our homes. This stuff’s all been on the agenda for a very long time, there’s no secret about it. That was happening anyway, that’s the direction we’ve been moving in.
- Paul Kingsnorth, UnHerdTV

On the Chinafication of the west:

There’s no conspiracy needed to see that the way that this is being managed, through technology, through the vaccine as a techno-fix, through authoritarian mandates, and QR codes that you have to scan to go to the pub, all of that stuff is taking us into a normalisation of ourselves as acceptable, digital members of society. And we move towards… a Chinafication of the West, where we’re basically walking into a social credit system. And if people have now normalised scanning their smartphone to go anywhere with their QR code that tells them they’re healthy, what gets added to that? Is it your insurance details? Is it your social media profile, whether you’ve said anything bad and got mobbed today?
- Paul Kingsnorth, UnHerdTV

On the Brexit parallels:

It’s feeding into pre-existing ideas about whether you trust authority or not. So in Britain, I get a real sense that this is feeding into the Brexit division… We know that the so-called Remainers, not all of them but many of them, are from the elites. And we know that as the position of every aspect of business, politics, the establishment media, etc. They lost. That was an existential crisis for them. They decided to deal with the existential crisis by demonising the Leave voters as fascists, racists, bigots, and ignorant people who needed to be educated. And then along comes this other issue, which is also about institutional trust. Because broadly speaking, the thesis position is people who trust what the science is said to be, and what the government says, and what the public health advisors say, and is very suspicious of any dissent.
- Paul Kingsnorth, UnHerdTV

On the shifting technological Overton window: 

I never thought we would be in the position of having to argue that we should not isolate a third of the people in our culture for medical reasons. Or indeed argue that we shouldn’t censor the media, so that we shut out dangerous decisions. It’s a little bit like the ongoing conversation about free speech, which I suppose we all thought was settled, and then turned out really not to be. So it’s almost like everything’s up for grabs now. Because somehow as the social structures break down, the wild desire for war and authoritarianism is coming out. On all sides as well by the way, this is not to one side or the other.
- Paul Kingsnorth, UnHerdTV

On the decline of a symbolic story in the West:

A religious story ties a culture together, it gives it a symbolic meaning. And our symbolic meaning was the Christian story. And we started to abandon that in the 18th century, and we moved into another story with a different symbolic meaning. And this was the story of progress. […] That started to break down really in the 20th century. It wasn’t really sustainable to talk about progress after the Holocaust. So Christendom broke down as our source of symbolic meaning. Progress has broken down as our source of symbolic meaning. So we’re a society in the West that doesn’t have a source, we don’t know who we are, we don’t know what to believe in.
- Paul Kingsnorth, UnHerdTV

On cooling the conversation:

The obvious thing to do would be for both sides to leave their extremists to the extremes and actually try to talk to each other. You don’t have to believe that this is a conspiracy to kill everybody. Neither do you have to believe that everybody who doesn’t like vaccines is a neo-fascist. You can just leave those people to scream on Twitter, and try to have a conversation. And at a personal level, that’s something everybody can do.
- Paul Kingsnorth, UnHerdTV

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J Bryant
J Bryant
10 months ago

That was a fantastic interview. I agree with Kingsnorth that ultimately we now face a spiritual crisis. We’ve torn down the ideas and beliefs that used to bind us and now we have no choice but to rediscover them or find new ones.
One reason I follow Unherd, and some other publications, quite closely is to understand how, or even if, Western society can heal itself. I’m looking for constructive ideas for a path forward. I’m increasingly convinced we have to recreate the fundamental beliefs and institutions of our society. There will be no quick fixes and no simple return to the past.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
10 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

See my post above. Many countries are just warming up…

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

A very popular trend in right economics now days is the ‘Fourth Turning’ theory – I do not go with it, but many do as it does show trends somewhat.

It basically is a historical tracking of generational trends, and is the quasi historical/socio/economic case for the old truism….

“Hard times create strong men,
Strong men create good times,
Good times create weak men,
Weak men create hard times.”

I cannot listen to the 4th turning guy – he wrote a famous book on it – but sociobiology, socio/history, and sociology in general are too much correlation = causation for me – but he does a talk on it on wealthion, and other places.

Jamie C
Jamie C
9 months ago

If I had to choose between a shooting squad and vaccine mandates, I’d choose shooting squad. I don’t want to live in a world that requires experimental medical treatment and authoritarian rule.
If people want that world, then fine. But they also have to do the wet work and get their hands dirty. Look me in the eyes, then shoot me and my wife.

Last edited 9 months ago by Jamie C
Warren T
Warren T
9 months ago
Reply to  Jamie C

“I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.”

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
9 months ago
Reply to  Warren T

Why not live and open a vaccine free restaurant bar: instant success.. a good lawyer will keep it open for you… also allow smoking and drugs..

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

What a completely childish comment. Vaccine hesitant people don’t have a problem with the vaccinated.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
9 months ago

Please try to refrain from abuse when replying to other commenters.
To call Liam O”Mahoney’s comment “childish” is just a put-down.
I personally know quite a number of “vaccine hesitant” people who have enormous problems with those of us who choose to be vaccinated. They just don’t like us.
As signed-up, paid-up members of the so-called “wellness” communities, and of communities of those who deem themselves chosen by God to avoid the eternal hell awaiting the rest of us mere mortals, they carry around with them an air of unimpeachable moral superiority.
Condescendingly, they reprove us humble tertiary-educated, science-reading citizens with encroaching on their health-cum-religious freedoms and encouraging governmental authoritarianism. They accuse us from the great heights of their sunlit uplands of not yet having seen their new age light, or of not knowing their pentecostal Jesus.
One cannot have a discussion with these people because they already know it all.
An outstanding characteristic of members of these wellness and cultic communities is that they always follow someone. Whether that be the latest health guru or some other self-appointed saviour of mankind makes no difference. The personality structure of these followers is invariably authoritarian, but masked—yes, masked!—by a veneer of libertarian individualism.
So far from being “completely childish”, as you so dismissively say, Liam O’Mahony’s comment is actually very discerning. And beautifully put. Because these followers will eat at the right sort of restaurant, but rarely will they open one.
They consume, endlessly. And when the product is not exactly to their liking, they throw a tantrum in a—well, completely childish manner.

Last edited 9 months ago by Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
9 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I don’t think the anti-vaxxers are into creativity. Protest and destruction are more their thing.

John Wilkes
John Wilkes
9 months ago
Reply to  Jamie C

I have no problem taking the vaccine (3 so far) but do not carry a smartphone and will never carry a vaccine passport. I will be the first on the barricades to protest this authoritarian nonsense,
I will also defend completely anyone’s right not to be vaccinated. If I were younger, I probably would avoid it too, but at 60 the risk from the disease is, I believe, greater than that of the vaccine. The younger you are, the less true this becomes as the risk from disease drops.

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
9 months ago

Good interview, many thanks.
Where I disagree is that an irrational bent is found only the “antithesis” side. To me (being on the “antithesis” side), the “thesis” side is completely irrational – to me, they’re like passengers on the Titanic insisting that she’s unsinkable even while the crew are already lowering the life-boats.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
9 months ago
Reply to  Jürg Gassmann

My pro-masking lodger is completely incapable of grasping the logic of my pro-vax anti-mask argument, namely that the marginal post-vax health benefits of masking will be more than offset by the psycho-social costs of masking. She doesn’t even disagree with this argument. For her, it simply doesn’t compute.

Warren T
Warren T
9 months ago

I’m glad to see another convert, but I’m afraid it might be too late. Like the article the other day about the Lib in Portland who suddenly supports the 2nd amendment, and the Jewish business owners in 1939 Germany, who thought it would never happen to them until the point that their businesses were taken from them.
We can go all the way back to Noah in Genesis to see what happens to the masses who didn’t think it would happen to them….until it does.
We have reached the point of no return, at least in this cycle, in my opinion. The next generation has already been programmed and indoctrinated, unfortunately. They may never know what freedom was like.

maria vl
maria vl
9 months ago

He seems a nice guy. BUT: there is no possible synthesis in questions of principle or in questions of facts (slavery is a crime, the earth is round). And the overreaction to covid is just like that, wrong from the beginning, no possible middle term (the right to work or free speech, both are unquestionable principles and no exception can justify their suspension, none). I know that’s not easy, for people that overreacted, to accept they were wrong in their overreaction. But this is the only way out. And we will be there some time soon, I’m quite sure (disclaimer: I’m from the Left)

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago

A point Kingsnorth missed from his position in the Western world, is the antithesis argument that lockdowns have forced hundred of millions into poverty the world over. This (and many other examples like those unable to access regular medical care), show that the moral argument is skewed toward the antithesis by the weight of sheer numbers alone.

Lena Bloch
Lena Bloch
9 months ago

Lesley, plus the denial of regular vaccination (malaria, TB, Dengue, for example) in the Global South. So far being “provaxx” – people who are provaxx, are not phased that the biggest part of the world stopped being vaccinated against regular threats and saw many more deaths from these preventable diseases (including kids) – only due to fixation on covid. Countries have also been starving to death while getting Pfizer concoctions instead of food. It is not as simple as thesis-antithesis. It is basically “let them eat cake, stay home and get vaccinated”. It is one-size-fits-all designed for a privileged well-off – and the rest of the world can go to hell, including hell from diseases. It does not matter as long as it is not covid. THAT has been our moral argument against the immorality and hypocrisy of holier-than-thou “provaxxers” (no, they are not provaxxers, just as anti-abortionists are not “pro-life”).

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
10 months ago

I watched an absorbing hour and a half youtube of Bret Weinstein’s chilling interview with a young woman in Australia outlining her medical (and other) tyranny experience in Queensland. Jaw dropping. Things are definitely getting a lot worse down under.

Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
9 months ago

My daughter has until mid Dec to take her 2nd Vax or be fired in Melbourne.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago

This is the link Alka. It is a must watch, especially for people who have family in Australia and also for those who look longingly at Australia for a new start.
Bret Weinstein “No Exceptions: A Story of Medical Tyranny in Australia”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qA0wZD0iPw

Jamie C
Jamie C
9 months ago

It is chilling. At worst, it is state sponsored execution, as best death by bureaucracy.

Last edited 9 months ago by Jamie C
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
9 months ago

I think intelligent readers would want to know more. Is your daughter an essential worker in the state healthcare system? Vaccines here are mandatory for those caring for vulnerable people, for example, those in hospitals and medical practices, for toddlers and school-age children, as well as those whose work demands face-to-face contact with large numbers of members of the public. These measures were brought in by the state government on the direct advice of the senior government health officials.
The Victorian state practice has been much the same as that followed by most European countries and many US states.
The last long lockdown was a direct result of an infected removalist illegally entering then largely Covid-free Victoria from New South Wales, which was locked down because it had had a dramatic surge in cases threatening to overwhelm its hospital system.
i live here in Victoria, and I can assure readers that the Victorian government has had the overwhelming support of the vast majority of the population. The protesting noise—recent demonstrations involving a couple of thousand people out of a population of 3+ million—comes from a tiny minority, whose misguided understanding of the facts has been whipped up by malicious extremist rightwing propaganda on the internet—social media—which is largely a front for an ugly mixture of neo-Nazis, lunatic fringe crazies, bikie gangs, fringe religious fundamentalists, and similar. The stuff mostly originates from the USA. It is mostly not homegrown here in Australia. Then there is a very small leaven of genuine ideological objectors—adherents of some new age well-being groups, libertarians, etc.
It is distressing to see the facts of the situation here in Victoria, and in Queensland, and in Australia as a whole, being misrepresented by Lesley van Reenen and Alka Hughes-Hallett, who cite two cases—2, out of a population of 25+ million—then claim that this tells us something about the population as a whole.

Jill Corel
Jill Corel
9 months ago

Yes Lesley it certainly is chilling. Her experience is Victoria not Queensland. Victoria has had the most draconian measures.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
9 months ago
Reply to  Jill Corel

“Draconian” is an emotive and vague term.
The facts are that Victoria’s lockdown measures have been much the same as other eastern states. But Victoria’s time spent in lockdown has been longer. As I explain in my response to Alka Hughes-Hallett, this longer lockdown was caused by an infected New South Welshman entering Victoria illegally and spreading the virus widely. At the time, Victoria’s measures had been working brilliantly, and we were on very low figures. So it is uninformed and grossly unfair to blame that on the Victorian government.

robert stowells
robert stowells
9 months ago

Yeh. That’s an idea. Maybe I will just make do with Youtube.

Last edited 9 months ago by robert stowells
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago

Yawn…. really not seem like it had much to add, another Liberal/Lefty mugged slowly by reality and beginning to see the cracks in his cosmology. He seemingly comes from some University Protest mindset, He says (paraphrase) ‘I never thought we would have to argue against authoritarianism and Tyranny’ when it is the Tyranny of the Left that has been the entire theme of society for decades –
His thesis that the Thesis/anti-thesis group are quasi neo-religious is same old twaddle all the intelligentsia drag out. No they are not – they are Fas* ists and Free in ideological struggle.

Freddy says, paraphrased, ‘Once the Antithesis group concedes it is about the efficacy of the virus they have already lost that argument as you are not going to win that one long term’. COME ON, that is the Issue. And you miss it entirely. The argument IS That the entire response is Wrong because this is all about using a sterilizing vaccine process to save the world, achieve ‘Zero Covid’, – and the Vax is NOT Sterilizing. It cannot stop covid as vaxed get covid, pass covid, die of covid – it is NOT a vaccine, it is a medical thing which reduces symptomatic illness, but does not solve the covid. THUS the entire ‘Thesis’ group are Lying. They are destroying the world, economy, freedom, decency, education, lives, for a LIE!!!!! The vax is a lie. (sure it is great for vulnerable, but not for universal use, Mandates) At the same time all medicines are forbidden to be discussed as they actually could work, but would destroy the militant Vax agenda.

The antithesis group will win that, because it is all about the efficacy of the vax – because all this is being done in its name – and its name is a LIE because it has no true efficacy, only Natural Immunity, or traditional whole, dead, virus vaccine could.

The Thesis group are causing a Totalitarian Response, one which is causing more harm and third world, and all world, death than just no response and common sense – destroying the global economy, destroying all – FOR A LIE.

Anyway, this whole interview misses all points other than stating the obvious – or what should have been obvious to anyone who were not sheep who drank the Liberal/left Kool-aid.

Watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lraR1R_Imi8 to see you guys are just having some intellectual Swiftian ‘Big end, Little end’ argument wile the world is descending into a New World Order as the WEF and the other suspects are using this plandemic (it is a true, but very minor, pandemic, but the response is a Plandemic) to cause ‘The Great Reset’.

I suggest the interviewee watch some George Gammon ‘White Board youtubes on the economic situation, maybe some Demartino-Booth, some Dalio (worlds biggest Hedge fund founder) some Jim Rogers (Soros old partner who ‘Broke the Bank of England’) maybe some Wealthion, and see what this is all about in reality – Economics, and thus global control. This is not about the masks and lockdown inconveniencing folk – it is about re-wiring the global system of money. It is to usher in CBDC, and Power, and creating ‘Super Monopolies’ If he does not understand CBDC he has no right to pontificate on this response and outcomes of it.

USA spent $11 Trillion on covid response! That is Twice what it brings in from Taxes a year! Biden is getting another $4 Trillion, QE is $120 Billion a month to keep interest Zero – which is destroying the middle class and workers as the Ultra Wealthy have grown their wealth by $12 Trillion!!!!

This guest has absolutely no idea. He is talking of who gets to sit where in the Titanic dining room, where the deck chairs need to face…..

Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
9 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

You have a point.
Xi in China , Big tech with feeble government in the west, Putin in Russia,

But could it be that that’s what people WANT. They don’t really see the logic , not because they are stupid but don’t want to see it. They want a GOD to pray to. And god is mysterious, there are no clear answers . After it’s emergence, science provided a lot of those answers, so people flocked to this new god, now this too has a blot because the priests ( who speak for god) have always been, will always be corruptible. This has burst the safe ballon we were living in assuming that the new priests cannot be corrupted because science is like maths, one final answer. But it’s not, it still has many mysteries. Some of us have been left nonplussed. By my calculations and what I have been taught, that equation is producing a different answer to the others. The methods are both right, the answers are different!!!

The human brain has still not evolved enough to understand and fully grasp the true nature of science. Perhaps never will. The algorithms are too complex and too subtle even for the computers.
Hence we are looking at morality once again. Religion cannot provide that any longer, science cannot either, we are trying to reach deep within ourselves to look for something prehistoric and evolutionary. Instinct? Whatever it is we are at the cusp of something.
Reset, the dreaded word, is happening anyway regardless of what we imagine it to be. It’s a circular phenomena and we are bound to go round and round, or like a mouse on treadmill.

For me it is extremely important that I should be able to look at myself in the mirror and be able to understand that despite my flaws, I have tried my best to live with both my instincts and the understanding of science, nature, humanity, morality combined. No data , no charts, no books. But who I have become after all this cosmic evolution, my birth, education , belief system, and the cumulative knowledge of all that within me.

It doesn’t sit right with the thesis .

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
9 months ago

I think you may be underestimating the impact of a great deal of conditioning that you underwent throughout your life. Jyst because you can recall maybe 1% of all that was thrown at you doesn’t eqyate to the real effect of it sinking in there…
Of course any thesis of this sort will of necessity have be be generalised some will not fit it well and a frw won’t fit in at all..
The less one follows the herd the less will be the fit.. some of us are still able TG to see past the catch cries and rabble rousing..

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
9 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

“another Liberal/Lefty mugged slowly by reality and beginning to see the cracks in his cosmology … His thesis that the Thesis/anti-thesis group are quasi neo-religious is same old twaddle all the intelligentsia drag out. No they are not – they are Fas* ists and Free in ideological struggle.”
I agree, but we still need to be nice to prodigal sons when they finally stumble into the light.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
9 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

“It is to usher in CBDC, and Power, and creating ‘Super Monopolies’ If he does not understand CBDC he has no right to pontificate on this response and outcomes of it.”
If you want him and the rest of us to understand you, maybe start by writing out what “CBDC” stands for in full. I can’t be the only one who doesn’t feel like decoding acronyms just to show what an expert I am.

D Glover
D Glover
9 months ago

This is the clause that I tripped over;

 the grip of which is unlikely to release even once the pandemic is over.

The thing is; mutation never stops; evolution never ceases; and that’s why you need a different flu jab every autumn.
The pandemic isn’t ever going to be over. Do we accept that it’s jabs twice every year from now on, or accept that the genie is out of the bottle now and a level of mortality will persist?

Liz Walsh
Liz Walsh
9 months ago
Reply to  D Glover

The “pandemic” narrative will not be easily let go by the powers that be, agreed. But wasn’t “pandemic” a disingenuous branding for just a new and improved nasty flu? ( “The level of mortality” in each life will continue to be, as always, 100%.) Isn’t the point of reaching “riper years” to be free of being controlled by ghost stories and bogeymen? Isn’t the point of paying taxes to a government to have an arrangement where the ratio of “protection” to “limitation” is in the individual’s favor? Look at governmental regulations and ask yourself: “Is the screwing I get worth the screwing I get?” Everyman’s Razor.

Joe Donovan
Joe Donovan
9 months ago

Fantastic discussion.
“There no longer is a story that holds us together.” That sums it up beautifully.
As for what story may come next, I see the pendulum swinging back towards a rejection of runaway scientism. Various threads seem to be coming together. An awakening to the dangers of the metaverse envisioned by Zuckerberg. Philosophers such as Bernardo Kastrup recharging the debate about “the hard problem of consciousness.” Renewed interest, via people like Jordan Peterson, in a Jungian conception of the soul and spirit. Mainstream physics moving in directions that inevitably bring old-school, big picture philosophical questions back into view.
And (this is where I will lose you) the Big Disclosure that is coming, with respect to the entities that have been rudely crossing over into our territory, especially since 1947, will challenge our every conception about God and science and our place in the multiverse. The demigods will have us by the scruff of the neck. Maybe that will put a damper on our tribalisms, but if there is a circling of the wagons, across cultures, as a result, the fears expressed here about authoritarianism may have to be magnified a thousand fold.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
9 months ago
Reply to  Joe Donovan

Are you really David Icke?

David Lawrence
David Lawrence
9 months ago

The reference in the text to Girardian scapegoating is a misunderstanding. The whole point of scapegoating is that once it is done the rest of the population can relax, having excised the cause of the problem. So once we have ritually burned a couple of vaccine resisters on prime time TV we will be able to get back to business as usual.

Arild Brock
Arild Brock
9 months ago

WHEN CESAR TAKES ALL
I agree with the interviewee that the ongoing political disagreement is about more than medical science. But I disagree with the suggestion that only Antithesis pursues a “spiritual” need. On the contrary, the Theses side finds it spiritual need (and zeal) satisfied by their “appropriation” of science into a story which primarily serves political, moral and spiritual needs.
Is the Corona pandemic a disaster? Well, it is not always about the number of victims. If a plane crashes, the whole world is shaken and pays close attention (rightly, in my opinion). It would then be inappropriate to compare the number killed to the world’s population. For another comparison, which I also suggest to be relevant, let me tell a fiction story. If some strange plague were to hit babies only, the world would make anything to fight it, right? – even if “only” 1 out of ten thousand were to die. How many babies are there? A quick calculation suggests about 150 million. In this fiction story some 15 000 babies would then be about to die. A campaign against the plague saving half of them would be seen as a victory, right?
But how should the Corona 2019-21 story be told? We may have some freedom to edit our stories according to morality (if we have one), but no right to change the facts. Let me try: How many people died on the planet the latest 20 months? About 200 million. How many of them related to Corona? Less than 10 million, of those perhaps 2 or 4 million FROM Corona. Put this way, there is not much drama in my opinion, provided the people dying were mostly old. After all, didn’t they die a natural death?
Could the baby story above be re-edited leading to a different outcome, maintaining the facts? Well, for one thing, it is not obvious that such an epidemic would ever have been discovered. One out of ten thousand dying would not be conspicuous. If someone suggested a plague, they might have been told not to scare 300 million parents.
Returning to the Corona 2019-21 story, the renowned epidemic expert John Ioannidis suggested in March 2020 that the Corona virus could have passed undiscovered, if an alarm had not been released at an early stage. It is not extraordinary that old people die from a lung disease. I think Ioannidis repeated his view in April.
Since then the vulnerable have been exposed not only to Corona, but to social isolation, fear and what you can call a negative placebo effect. I believe you don’t need a medical education to see that those most vulnerable to Corona are also vulnerable to negative side-effects of the measures. They may have died from both. If so, I guess they only partly died a natural death. Partly they can be said to have suffered a tragic death – but which tragedy?
There is an old Hindu ethic saying that if you aim at only one good thing, you will not even have that. If you let science be the only source of right and good, not even scientific truth will prevail. The distinction between dying with and dying from Corona is blurred; the medical effect of masks is taboo rather than an object of eager research. Unfortunately we have destroyed our Christian source of right and good. Now Cesar takes all. 

John Riordan
John Riordan
9 months ago

I’m going to get into the whole interview later, but one thing I am not quite sure about is the breakdown of Christendom. I think, personally, that the West made a success of the process by which Christendom merged itself into a secular hybrid that formed the basis for institutional plurality and the dispersal of power. This has succeeded for most of the past two centuries: the breakdown we’re seeing lately isn’t rooted in the demotion of the Church two centuries ago, but in failures far more recent than that.

Kevin Dee
Kevin Dee
9 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I don’t think it’s been a success. The common story offered by Christianity was replaced with nationalism and political ideologies like communism, we’ve had two world wars and industrial scale genocides to go along with it.
Christendom lasted for 1500 years. The secular hybrid might survive this breakdown but still has a long way to go to prove itself. It’s off to a bad start and the future outlook doesn’t look great either.

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
9 months ago

Spirituality? Faith? People are more interested in football, pizzas and reality TV. Progress? Covid has dragged that down economically; progress needs money. It would seem a majority have faith in the government edicts, the new religion, the soon to be new Spanish Inquisition. Watch Freddy in Austria. The tyranny is the majority faith, the indifference; the minority the resistance, the 1930s.

Last edited 9 months ago by Zorro Tomorrow
robert stowells
robert stowells
9 months ago

To me this is a cesspool discussion. There are so many shadows, half truths and misrepresentations that I would not know where to begin in commenting. Zero trust here, Badly framed and rife. I will try to comment but the more I look into the interview the less I like it. Unexpectedly perhaps goodbye!

Last edited 9 months ago by robert stowells
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
9 months ago

The whole point of the interview was surely to see deeper than the same old tribal ranting (on both sides) so it would be nice if contributors could refrain from trying to score a point here and there on unsupported, one off anecdotal tales: and focused instead on the underlying issues.
It seems to me that society threw the baby out with the bathwater! What have replaced the value systems we had (call them Christian or anything else but call them some thing!)..
It seems to me that anything of value is gone: social responsibility? Gone! Expertise is now worthless – the opinion of idiots is just as valuable! Data are lies: anecdotes are better! Lies are better if it suits your tribe’s (lack of) world view. It’s me me me: I want it all now! I’m stupid but my opinion matters just as much as yours! Your 10 years of university education doesnt matter!
The elites have manipulated data and used every means to rob the masses (bribery and corruption) but instead of seeing who the bad guys are the fools want to attack reason and commonsense, expertise and fact and find some golden calf instead.
I believe we need a whole new new political movement and who better to lead it that Paul Kingsnorth himself: like St Paul? He even has King in his name fgs! And we all want to go North of where we are!

Warren T
Warren T
9 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

The one fly in the ointment in your utopian dream is that Mr. Kingsnorth is a human being. Therefore, he will become corrupt like all the others before him.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
9 months ago
Reply to  Warren T

But me n you will keep an eye on him Warren to keep him honest!

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
9 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

The reason people attack “expertise” is because it’s usually used as a synonym for “10 years of university education” which, it turns out, is basically worthless. The systemic failure of universities as institutions is a massive part of the current social upheavals. Too many people who have paid their coin to get a degree find it hard to accept that academia plays host to lots of people who are not only incompetent, but dishonest, manipulative and entirely insulated from any consequences of those behaviors.
This problem is especially acute in the media world, where a degree in journalism has become a de-facto requirement and it seems to embed into people’s psyche “professor can’t be wrong” as a guiding principle.

Last edited 9 months ago by Norman Powers
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
9 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

…it would be nice if contributors could refrain from trying to score a point here and there on unsupported, one off anecdotal tales: and focused instead on the underlying issues
Yes, oh yes! But how does one get a decent discussion? Few commenters seem to understand the difference between anecdote and statistics, between unsubstantiated opinion and evidence-based reasoning. I despair of getting through.

Lena Bloch
Lena Bloch
9 months ago

Mr Paul Kingsnorth, there is one essential interview of Giorgio Agamben for Greek TV from 2013 where he speaks about the ontology of command in language in terms of two ontologies:apophantic and non-apophantic. https://youtu.be/skJueZ52948 (it says “english subs” but it is not true. The interview is in French). It is absolutely mind-blowing and it explains why we have such a situation today, when on the surface we are praising “science”, but deep inside we are longing for a religion, faith. Religion in a broader sense, not in terms of Abrahamic tradition. He also wrote a brilliant essay “Medicine As Religion” coming from the famous Benjamin’s “Capitalism As Religion”. https://itself.blog/2020/05/02/giorgio-agamben-medicine-as-religion/

Jeremy Rolls
Jeremy Rolls
9 months ago

The world and people’s thinking about it doesn’t have to be so black and white. It’s possible to be anti-lockdown (which I am), believe (as I do) there is little credible evidence to suggest masks work (at least outside of a medical setting) but at the same time believe vaccines massively reduce the risk of serious illness or death (which clearly is the case from all the data) and think people who refuse them (unless there is a valid medical reason to do so) are selfish and causing unnecessary strain on the healthcare system which is then used as a stick to beat the rest of us and force us back into lockdown.

Michael Askew
Michael Askew
9 months ago

Does anyone seriously doubt:that
CV-19 has killed between 5 million and 15 million people?That the vaccines have been administered to many more millions with relatively few and minor adverse reactions compared with the impact of CV-19? That vaccines provide a reduction in a) The likelihood of catching CV-19?
b) The seriousness of symptoms if you do catch the disease?
c) The probability of passing on the disease?
In the light of this, why would anyone object to being vaccinated if they don’t have a sound medical reason? The people I know who have refused vaccination are either dead or have had weeks of severe illness. The unvaccinated person is more ;likely to transmit the disease to others, and therefore it is unreasonable of them to demand the right to work with vulnerable people in a care home. Or enter a crowded building. One may be sympathetic to the arguments about individual liberty without believing that the freedom to endanger others without their consent is a reasonable liberty to demand.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
9 months ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

Sure, lots of people doubt all those things, and they can cite plenty of scientific studies, data sets, logical arguments etc to back up their points.
So we arrive at an impasse. Science, or to be more accurate the publications of academics, can be used to support more or less any position at all. Who can say what is rational or not?
For example you are repeating the untrue claim that vaccinations are about protecting other people. Wrong. Maybe some vaccines do that but these ones don’t, not even a little bit. Thus it is always and everywhere a decision that boils down to the personally perceived risk/reward ratio, which is, ultimately, what liberty is about.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
9 months ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

One may be sympathetic to the arguments about individual liberty without believing that the freedom to endanger others without their consent is a reasonable liberty to demand.
You make an important point.
I’d like to cite my own position as an illustration. I count myself a leftwing liberal. I practise a spiritual path, so morality and ethics are important to me.
Ethical individualism is a worthy ideal for me, a goal I aim to attain as far as possible.
The individualism bit leads me to value freedom—to be myself, live my life as I see fit, etc.
The ethical bit leads me to care about, and to do my best to care for, others—both individually, and as those individuals come together to form a society. A society is a living organism, and it is greater than the sum of its parts. A society has a glue, a social fabric which holds it together. This social fabric can be damaged by antisocial behaviour.
So what is my personal solution to the Covid problem?

  1. As a freedom lover, I chose some time ago not to use a smartphone because I object strongly to the type of societal surveillance it and social media enable, which is creeping up on us, exemplified especially by China, at the moment. This means I took conscientious objection to the Q-code sign-in.
  2. As a lover of a healthy and harmonious society, however, I agreed to sign in with pen and paper anywhere I visited that asked for documentation of my visit. I see that as my ethical duty to my society. It is legitimate for a health system to want to trace me if there is factual evidence of disease transmission affecting me.
  3. I choose to be vaccinated because on the evidence, there is no doubt it prevents me from contracting Covid. This leaves me free to do my individual thing without harming others.
  4. I choose to wear a mask in public because, on the evidence, it prevents me from infecting others. This is the ethical bit again.

There is incontrovertible evidence of the havoc and tragedy wrought by pandemics in the past, where populations had no means of protection from the disease. Solid historical records of pandemics go right back to Roman times in Europe and the Middle East. How anyone can ignore that evidence beats me.
And the general principle of vaccination is not new. If I go to a country where Yellow Fever is widespread, it makes sense to get vaccinated in order not to catch it. I get a flu jab each year for the same reason. Freedom is thus enabled, to move around and travel.
Finally, mask-wearing in the case of flu or even a common cold has been standard and voluntary for people in East Asia for as long as I can remember. They wear a mask out of common courtesy and consideration for their fellow citizens, so as not to spread the infection.

Nikolai Hegelstad
Nikolai Hegelstad
9 months ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

By wearing a mask in public, on the evidence, it prevents you from showing facial expression which plays a crucial role in cross person communication.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
9 months ago

That’s true. Masks also cause breathing difficulties. Their disposal is causing pollution problems too.
With all these things, though, it’s a question of balancing the issues. Most people, I think, would agree that maskless transmission of dangerous diseases is a worse price to pay than increased difficulties in interpersonal communication.

Last edited 9 months ago by Penelope Lane