Sunday, 6 December 2020

Coronavirus equivocation

The language of the coronavirus narrative is the language of equivocation. Its official narrators have adopted the policy of using a word to mean both what it denotes and what it does not, switching back and forth between the two in order to deceive. No matter how much the policies have changed, equivocation has remained the constant watchword of the propagandists. This misuse of language can be seen in the exploitation of every key term.

The term Covid deaths has been represented as though it means that the deaths were caused by the virus. Yet, the term has been used to refer to anyone who died and was with diagnosed with or presumed to have had the virus. These deaths could be from any cause. They might be caused by the virus or a heart attack or pneumonia or being run over by a bus. As long as the person either had or was presumed to have had the virus, the death has been counted as a Covid death.

When the government and the corporate media found in the summer that the number of deaths that could be attributed to the virus were so vanishingly few they stopped reporting them and resorted to the number of cases. A case is an individual who is ill and has been diagnosed and is in receipt of medical treatment, and that is how the term has been represented. However, what was being referred to in the daily reporting of all these so called cases was in fact positive results from the coronavirus tests. Yet, many of the people whose tests were positive were asymptomatic; they were not ill and they had not be diagnosed and they were not in receipt of medical attention. They were not cases.

Another example of this knowing misuse of the language has been the use of the word data. The government's most senior scientific advisor told the nation during a press briefing immediately prior to a parliamentary vote on the second lockdown: "The modelling, that's the data we are looking at." Patrick Vallance cannot but know that the outcomes of computer models are not data. Data are facts, things that have happened. He obviously knows this. Yet, he (and other expert advisers and government ministers and so called journalists) pretends that such mathematical projections are facts.

Last week the Medical and Health products Regulatory Agency announced that it had approved a vaccine. This was just another misuse of the language. A vaccine confers immunity from the disease on the vaccinated individual. Yet the developers of the product approved by the agency only claim that it will reduce the severity of symptoms. They do not claim that it confers immunity. Nevertheless, the coronavirus propagandists hail the approval as a historic moment and demand that everyone should be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity. The claim being that the "vaccine" is a public health measure and it is a moral duty to be vaccinated in order to protect others. Yet a vaccine is not a public health measure. It is a clinical treatment. The vaccinated individual is immune from the disease regardless of how many other people are vaccinated. The unvaccinated present no threat to the vaccinated as they have immunity. But of course in this case that is not true because the so called vaccine is not a vaccine as it does not confer immunity.

Throughout the pandemic the carriers of the narrative that the coronavirus is a deadly disease have deliberately misused the language in order to deceive. They have misused the language to consistently exaggerate the level of threat that the virus poses. This misuse of the language has lead directly and inevitably to the absurd situation where the government is intent on "vaccinating" the whole population with a "vaccine" that will not provide anyone with immunity from the disease in the name of protecting everyone from the disease.

If government ministers are being rational on the coronavirus issue (and there certainly is room for doubt), it would appear that the purpose of the so called vaccine is to dial down the fear that they generated and thus enable them to remove the restrictions that have caused such massive harm. If that is the case, a placebo labelled as a vaccine would be a better option as at least that would do no harm and would be considerably cheaper.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

To protect the NHS

Average age of coronavirus related death is 82.4.

Life expectancy is 81.

The virus is having zero effect on mortality.

In order to deal with this the government have decided to spend hundreds of billions (which they do not have). These are hundreds of billions that cannot be spent on other things, including health care to save lives.

In order to deal with the virus the government have hollowed out democracy. They cancelled elections. They turned parliament into a pretend parliament. They passed the Coronavirus Act 2020, which at Part 2 Section 90 gave the government the power to rule by ministerial fiat.

In order to deal with the virus the government have taken away our rights and liberties. We are now expected to be grateful if the government allows us to meet a few friends and relatives for a few days over Christmas. The violation of our rights and liberties is driving suicides, mental health problems, domestic violence and child abuse and neglect.

In order to deal with the virus the government have virtually shutdown the health service so as to protect the NHS. Thus, cancers have gone untreated and undiagnosed. Heart disease has been neglected, etc, etc. People are being denied health care to save the NHS.

In order to further protect the NHS the government moved older people out of hospitals to free up space for COVID 19. These people were put in lockdown within care homes, denied access to relatives and health care, and they died: in tens of thousands.

In order to further protect the NHS the government have decimated the economy. They have shutdown whole sectors of the economy, repeatedly, ensuring millions of people will be rendered unemployed: millions who will not be able to contribute to the economy, the economy that is needed to pay for the NHS.

The professed motivation of the government – to protect the NHS in order to Save Lives – is either a lie or government ministers are suffering from madness. Certainly, the government’s policies judged by the professed motivation are irrational, irresponsible and incompetent. The government’s responses to the virus are, entirely predictably, doing far more harm than the virus ever could.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Coronavirus propaganda is beyond satire

On Monday Boris Johnson told the House of Commons that the mass testing in Liverpool had caused a dramatic reduction in “infections”. This was obviously the government line, rather than just some off the cuff assertion, as can be seen by the fact that other government ministers are making the same assertion.

It now looks like the government thinks that its propaganda narrative is so firmly entrenched that it is no longer even necessary for its assertions to have even a scintilla of plausibility. The paraphernalia of the coronavirus have mutated into magical talismans. Tests magically remove the virus from infected individuals.

From this perspective, whatever happens proves the government’s coronavirus narrative. If the numbers (deaths, hospitalisations, cases, the R number, whatever) go down, it proves that the lockdowns, social distancing, face masks and the rest are working; if the numbers go up, it proves the need for more draconian measures/enforcement. Assertion and confirmation bias are “the science” of the coronavirus responses.

In this context, no dissent can be tolerated. All dissent is not just self evidently wrong; the dissenters are construed as not just ignorant and misinformed, but as immoral and dangerous. From the point of view of the lockdownistas, those who disagree are an existential threat. This leaves no room for evidenced and reasoned argument. One does not politely argue with the enemy to discover the truth; one defeats the enemy, by whatever means are necessary. This is why pointing out the lack of scientific evidence for social distancing or face mask wearing is so ineffective: it is not about science. The science is now nothing more than a rhetorical device. This is why pointing to the harm caused by lockdowns is so ineffective: it is not about saving lives. It is about defeating the virus.

The lockdownistas are believers, and, like believers of any belief system, they will use all the cognitive biases to which we are so prone to defend their belief that defeating the virus is more important than anything else and therefore any sacrifice is worth it. This was blatantly illustrated on Monday when Boris Johnson’s link to the House failed and Matt Hancock rose to his feet. He, with apparent sincerity, assured the House that he/the government had assessed all the risks and the only way to protect the people was by focusing on the virus.

Friday, 6 November 2020

Coronavirus responses: an examination of the government's motivation

The first lockdown in response to the coronavirus was announced on 23 March 2020. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, told the country that the measures were necessary to save lives. This has remained the government's rationale for all the constantly changing measures ever since. However, there is much about the government's policies and the justifications used to support them that draws into question the claimed motivation. This is especially marked in respect to the constantly reiterated claim that the policies are the result of "the science". Indeed, the gap between the claims to be basing policy on scientific evidence and the quality of the presented justifications is so wide as to demand serious scepticism.

At the Daily Coronavirus Update on 10 April 2020, Matt Hancock, the Secretary of Health, stated that the government had not made any attempt to assess how many people would die as a result of the government's lockdown measures. This was an admission (given the claim to be concerned to save lives) that the government had adopted an irrational, irresponsible and incompetent approach to policy-making on the coronavirus issue. If the government's concern was to save lives, and it was acting as a rational policy-maker, it would have weighed the risks and costs against the potential benefits before adopting any policy measure. The fact that the government had made no attempt to assess how many people (let alone a quality life years assessment) would die as a result of its measures completely undermines its claim to have been motivated by a concern to save lives.

This early indication that the government was not acting as a rational policy-maker has been followed by many others. This can be seen particularly clearly in respect of the claim to be "following the science".  Government ministers and senior scientific advisors have repeatedly made claims that they cannot but know to be false. One illustration of this is the claim that the two metre social distancing rule is based on the scientific evidence. When Professor Yvonne Doyle of Public Health England was asked by the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology for the evidence on 22 May 2020, her reply was a succinct: "The precautionary principle," which, as hardly needs stating, is neither science nor evidence. It is nothing more than wishful thinking, at best.

There are many more illustrations of this claim to scientific evidence that evaporate under even the most cursory examination. For example, Boris Johnson told the House of Commons that the government had scientific evidence for the ten o'clock rule. When pressed for the evidence, he resorted to what can only be characterised as a Just So Story. He said that the longer people socialise and the more they drink alcohol, the less able they are to observe social distancing. This social distancing being the rule that was adopted as a precaution, rather than as a result of scientific evidence, piling pseudoscience upon pseudoscience.

Every time advisors and ministers have claimed that the policies have been based on scientific evidence, they have been telling us things that they cannot but know are false. There is no scientific evidence for the various rules. Indeed, some of the rules are absurd on their face. The face masks required when standing in a hospitality venue, but not required when seated in the same venue looks like nothing so much as comedy. Yet, we have been told repeatedly that the science demands we follow the rule.

The same strictures apply to the presentation of what the government has dubbed the data. The outcomes of computer models have been presented to the public as data. Indeed, Patrick Vallance, the government's most senior scientific advisor, at a press briefing shortly before the introduction of the lockdown version two, said: "The modelling, that's the data we are looking at." Yet it is simply not credible that Vallance does not know that the outcomes of computer models are not data; that data are facts, things that have happened; and that the outcomes of computer models are nothing more than the mathematically inevitable results of the starting assumptions. But of course he does know. When he was questioned this week by the Select Committee on Science and Technology immediately prior to the vote in parliament to authorise the second version of lockdown, he at first referred to the computer model outcomes as predictions, but under questioning amended this to projections, and then to scenarios, and then resorted to: what will happen if we don't adopt the lockdown measures (ie, back to predictions). The notion that someone of his education does not know that predictions, projections, and scenarios are all very different defies credulity. When someone resorts to such linguistic tricks, scepticism is the only rational position to take.

The government has even gone so far as to invent facts. In an attempt to justify to parliament the need for the second lockdown, Boris Johnson told the House that seventy percent of all transmission of the virus was asymptomatic. He made no attempt to offer any evidence to support the claim, but simply resorted to the rhetorical flourish: "as you all know." Yet the notion that anyone knows this to be the case is fantastical. The World Health Organisation acknowledged that asymptomatic transmission is "very rare" and indeed were unable to identify even one definitely confirmed case of asymptomatic transmission.

In fact, the government has introduced a set of public health measures in response to the coronavirus that were until this year expressly recommended against for respiratory viral infectious diseases. Lockdowns, face masks for the general public, track and trace: these were all considered to be ineffective and indeed counter-productive measures until this year. And it isn't that the scientific evidence has changed. This can be seen in the World Health Organisation's change of position on face masks. The World Health Organisation reversed its advice on 8 June 2020 on the basis of political lobbying, as even the BBC reported. Unfortunately, the BBC did not report who did the lobbying.

Whilst the government has relied on the rhetoric of science for its public health measures in response to the virus, it has relied on actual science in order to elicit compliance with those measures. A sub-committee of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies made up of behavioural scientists at an early stage advised the government on how to elicit compliance. A major plank of that advice was to promote fear. It also advised the government to propagandise in terms of altruism and to exploit the power of social disproval and shaming. These techniques have been employed extensively by both the state and its allies, especially in the corporate media, subjecting the population to a veritable campaign of terror. 

This list of discrepancies between the government's professed motivation - to be following the science to save lives - and its actual practice could be substantially extended, but I think the point has been made. I do not know what the government's motive(s) is, but it is clear that they routinely say things that they must know to be false; that they claim to have scientific evidence when they clearly do not; that they have engaged in a campaign to terrorise the population; that they have pretended that the outcomes of computer models are data; that they have invented facts; that they have done precisely what was expressly recommended against by all health authorities in the event of a respiratory viral infection; that they have introduced these measures without any attempt to assess the harm that they will cause, including the number of deaths, which makes a mockery of the claim to be motivated by a concern to save lives.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Coronavirus pseudoscience

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a tsunami of pseudoscience. The government constantly claims to be following "the science", but the assertion is nothing more than a rhetorical device. This can be readily seen every time a minister is asked for the scientific evidence. Instead of citing the research, the minister invariably just asserts that it is "the science" or claims that it is the scientific advice or tells a Just So story or makes an appeal to emotion. Never is an actual, empirical scientific study cited.

Take the two metre social distancing rule. Ministers have since March asserted that this measure is scientifically proven to be a necessary and effective means to prevent the transmission of the virus. Yet, they have never cited the evidence to support the claim. The reason for this is that there is no such scientific evidence. This was admitted by Professor Yvonne Doyle of Public Health England, who when asked for the evidence by the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, replied: "The precautionary principle." The hope that something might prevent a harm is not science.

The same lack of scientific evidence can be seen for every measure. The claim that wearing face coverings prevents the transmission of the virus is something that decades of actual scientific research has shown to be false. And this was recognised by health authorities across the world. The World Health Organisation, which had consistently advised against face masks for the general population, suddenly reversed its position at the beginning of June. This was not done on the basis of any new research or any evidence. It was a response to "political lobbying" as even the BBC reported - a fact that is so contrary to the BBC's fear-mongering narrative that it must to accurate. Unfortunately, the BBC failed to report who was doing the lobbying.

Even more obviously just made up is the supposedly scientific Rule of Six. Even the government's scientific advisors, who are pushing these absurd rules, struggle to make this rule sound even remotely plausible. Why six rather than some other number? In an interview on the BBC Breakfast programme, an epidemiologist commenting on this rule pointed out that ideally it ought to be the Rule of One. He apparently realised that even the BBC's half awake viewers might notice the impractical nature of this solution and so switched to asserting that everyone should observe the two metre social distancing rule. I could not help but notice that his hair was immaculately styled.

Other rules are even more blatantly absurd. Take the ten o'clock closing time rule for instance. This is so absurd, I cannot understand why it has not provided stand up comedians with endless hours of material: unless it is because all the comedy venues have been shut down. When Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was asked for the scientific evidence that he had claimed it was based on, he told us that the longer people socialise and especially the more alcohol they consume, the less likely they are to observe social distancing. This is nothing more than a Just So story.

But the seated, no face mask required, standing, face mask required, rule is beyond even a Just So story; although, to be fair, ministers have had a go at it.

Of course, the really big one is the lockdown. But this too was just made it. There was no evidence for it, for the simple reason no one in history had ever been mad enough to think that subjecting a whole population of healthy people as well as ill people to quarantine. The word unprecedented has been much over-used in relation to the coronavirus, but the lockdowns were genuinely unprecedented. No one knew what the effects would be, and the British government wilfully closed its eyes to any possible negative effects. This was revealed by Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, at the 10 April Coronavirus Daily Update. He admitted that the government had not made any attempt to assess how many people would die as a result of the government's lockdown measures.

The science of the coronavirus responses is nothing but pseudoscience. Just yesterday, Sir Patrick Valance, the government's Senior Scientific Advisor, told the country that computer modelling outcomes are the data the government is looking at. The idea that anyone who is scientifically literate (or even just literate) does not know that the outcomes of computer models are simply the mathematically inevitable outcomes of the starting assumptions, and therefore are precisely not data, that is facts about the world, defies belief. Yet we are supposed to not notice this blatant category error. Apparently, Valance thinks assertions such as "Thursday is purple" is a scientific claim or at least he thinks the people are too stupid to notice when he tries to pass off such an absurdity.

Monday, 3 August 2020

There has never been a better time to be a member of our species

The prophets of doom have a long history. They all share one thing in common: whenever they have put a date to their prophecies, they have been wrong. Yet this unrelieved history of failure has not dampened the enthusiasm that so many have for tales of imminent doom. If these were just fairy tales, and seen as such, they would be no problem. Unfortunately, all too many people are prepared to suspend their critical faculties, to ignore evidence and reason, and prefer the horror story.

But the real story is one of progress and development. There has never been a better time to be a member of our species. No matter what metric of human welfare one selects, the result is the same. We live longer. We are wealthier. We are better educated. We are less violent. Yet whenever these facts are pointed out, many people will dismiss them out of hand. They simply are not prepared to look at life expectancy, homicide rates, literacy rates, poverty indexes, etc. It is as though empirical evidence is a closed book. But that empirical evidence exists and it shows a consistent trajectory.

Before the Industrial Revolution, life expectancy around the globe was around thirty years. Today, there are no countries in the world with life expectancy at the levels of the beginning of the nineteenth century. Since the beginning of the twentieth century global life expectancy has more than doubled. Today the country with the lowest life expectancy is the Central African Republic with fifty-three years. The people of Japan live a further thirty years. This one measure alone speaks volumes about the progress our species has made in the last two hundred years, a mere moment in the history of our species. It shows that we are thriving as never before.

And all these people are far better educated than ever before. In the past only tiny wealthy minorities had access to any education to speak of. Two hundred years ago, only twelve percent of the world's population were literate. Today almost the mirror image is the case with only fourteen percent of the world's population being illiterate. This dramatic change has enabled more and more of the world's ever increasing population to have access to the knowledges that enable people to survive and thrive.

All these people are far less violent than ever before. Homicides account for less than one percent of all deaths. Whilst this may sound to modern ears as very high, it is tiny in historical terms.  In fourteenth century Europe, homicide rates were in the range of thirty to fifty per hundred thousand people. Today, the same countries have homicide rates of less than one per hundred thousand. Whilst the decline in homicides has been a global phenomenon, it has been very uneven, with some countries still having rates of up to thirty per hundred thousand, such as South Africa and some Latin American countries. Yet, everywhere the trend is the same. People are increasingly less violent.

And all these people are wealthier than ever before. Today there is far less poverty than at any time in history. At the beginning of the nineteenth century over eighty percent of the world's population lived in poverty. Today, the situation has completely reversed with ten percent living in poverty. A great deal of this reduction in poverty has occurred in just the last generation, taking a billion people out of poverty. Most of them being people of China, a country that has not only made massive strides in eradicating poverty, but as also simultaneously massively increased its middle class.

Another measure of progress is the fact that global average fertility per woman is now down to two and a half children. When it reaches two point two, global population will stabilise and lower than that and it will decline. This measure of fertility has halved in the last fifty years alone. Its reduction is due to social and economic development. When women have access to education and incomes, they naturally have fewer children: children who receive better care. Improving women's access to education and economic opportunities is precisely what all the over-population doom-mongers would be doing if they properly understood how we achieve progress.

Our species is thriving as never before. We live longer, healthier lives. We are better educated and wealthier than ever before. We are less violent. Fewer people die in natural disasters than before. Fewer people die in wars or from famines. Whatever metric one chooses, if one looks at the empirical evidence, one finds progress, and substantial progress at that.

The website Our World in Data provides a convenient and easily accessible source for empirical data on all these metrics and many others.

The history of the past two centuries show that we have the capacity to make the world a better place for all of us. Notwithstanding all the horrors of those centuries, our species has progressed and life has become much better, better than any of our grandparents could even have dreamed of. I, for one, fully expect this progress to continue.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Pseudoscience informing public policy

Much of what passes for science is in fact pseudoscience. As the editor of the Lancet said:

The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. As one participant put it, “poor methods get results”.

This is a serious problem. Whole areas of “science” are currently little more than pseudoscience. Computer model outcomes are presented as though they are evidence about the world. Epidemiological studies are touted as proving X or Y when even a cursory reading of the actual research shows that no causal agent has been identified. Social science is filled with political activists who merely dress up their biases and prejudices in impenetrable jargon to hide its vacuity. None of this would matter very much if it all stayed within the ivory tower of academia. Unfortunately, all too often, such pseudoscience is used to inform public policy. This can be seen, not just in the current panic around a virus, but in such areas as global warming.

The use of pseudoscience to inform public policy inevitably results in policies that cause serious harm. An obvious defence against such harm would be a scientifically literate political elite. Unfortunately that is exactly what we do not have. The politically successful have virtually all been educated to hold the “correct” opinions rather than to understand the scientific method. This was laughably illustrated recently by Dawn Butler (then the Shadow Equalities Minister) when she asserted that 99% of giraffes are gay (meaning homosexual). She said this to exhibit her solidarity with the trans activists. As long as holding the right opinion is considered to be more important than anything else, we will have nothing but public policies that do more harm than good.

Friday, 5 June 2020

Coronavirus hypocrisy

The "lockdown" measures that have been introduced across the world in response to the coronavirus have resulted in a wave of hypocrisy. The ruling elites have flaunted at every opportunity their undoubted abilities for virtue signalling, and their equal lack of ability to observe their own rules.

Professor Neil Ferguson, whose computer model fuelled the fear-mongering, had no compunction about breaking the "lockdown" rules in order to meet his own desire to consort with his married lover. Scotland's Chief Medical Officer, Catherine Calderwood, after repeatedly exhorting everyone to follow the stay at home rules in order to save lives, happily ignored the rule to visit her holiday home. Chris Cuomo, the CNN journalist, broadcast to the world that he was self isolating in order to protect everyone from the deadly virus, whilst breaking the quarantine. He even continued to play this game of pretend after he had been publicly exposed.

Politicians have also joined in the hypocrisy. Stephen Kinnock ignored the rules and decided to visit his parents for his father's birthday. Barry Gardiner, another Labour politician, decided he could ignore the rules because a man had died in America. Apparently, the virus ignores social justice motivated protests. Of course, the violation of the "lockdown" isn't confined to just Labour politicians. Robert Jenrick, a Conservative government minister, got in on the act with a visit to his holiday home.

These are just the tip of a very large iceberg: politicians and experts and journalists have pushed for draconian "lockdowns" and then ignored the rules for their own convenience.

This hypocrisy was ramped up when George Floyd died at police hands (well a police knee). The virtue signallers, who had up until that point being denouncing anyone who violated the rules as idiots who were literally killing people, suddenly switched positions and supported protests and riots, completely forgetting (or hoping everyone else would) all about the necessity for social distancing.

All the apparent hypocrisy surrounding the "lockdown" rules shows that the supporters of these measures do not really believe their own propaganda. Everyday on broadcast television one can see news readers, demanding strict enforcement of "lockdown" measures, who have clearly not been deprived of the services of a hair stylist. A US governor, who imposed measures that ruled hairdressing unlawful, had no problem with having her own hair styled: she claimed she needed it, as she is in the public eye.

This claim to being exceptional is routine. Dominic Cummings, the prime minister's senior advisor, used the excuse when he was revealed to have travelled hundreds of miles to a second home. Many have used the excuse to justify mass gatherings they approve of, even though under the same rules, for the same rationale, the majority are denied the ability to spend time with dying relatives or attend funerals. Children are being denied their right to an education because of the virus, but protesters are being lauded for gathering together en masse, with no social distancing. If the carriers of the virus is the Black Death narrative believed their own propaganda, there would not be all these examples of hypocrisy. The hypocrisy reveals they know the virus is no more dangerous than any of the many other viruses that cause some of us to get ill.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Planning for the coronavirus pandemic

The government of the United Kingdom decided on 19 March 2020 on the basis of a review of the evidence that the coronavirus did not constitute a high consequence infectious diseaseOn 20 March 2020 Boris Johnson announced the start of the "lockdown" and rolled it out completely on 23 March 2020, even though the Coronavirus Act was not passed (without parliamentary scrutiny or division) until 25 March 2020. The Act (and the associated regulations) were the result of drafting that had been done in the light of the Cygnus Exercise in 2016, an NHS exercise which was designed to test our ability to deal with a pandemic. The conclusion of that exercise had been that the NHS would be overwhelmed; so rather than increase NHS capacity, the government decided to draft emergency legislation that would deny us our rights and liberties and give the government to power to do anything, forever, ie, they prepared, not to protect the people, but to exploit a potential pandemic to install an authoritarian regime.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Coronavirus and the violation of rights

The "lockdown" measures introduced to deal with the alleged risk posed by the coronavirus have violated rights on an unprecedented scale. The measures have resulted in:

the suspension of juries,
the cancellation of elections,
the suppression of the right to freedom of expression,
the denial of the right to assembly,
the suspension of the right to protest,
the limitation of the right to engage in legitimate economic transactions,
the removal of the right to receive or refuse medical attention,
the limitation of the right to freedom of movement within the country,
the limitation of the right to practise religion,
the suspension of the right to an education,
the violation of the right to family life,
the denial of the right to a livelihood,
the institution of a police state by giving the police and others the right to detain indefinitely on mere suspicion,
the removal of the right to privacy,
the undermining of the rule of law;
and, if all that were not enough, the Coronavirus Act 2020 Part 2 Section 90 gives a minister of the Crown the power to extend these powers indefinitely and to change any power by mere fiat.
None of this was subjected to parliamentary scrutiny; indeed parliament passed the act and associated regulations without scrutiny or division, sent itself on holiday and decided to reconvene on a digital basis, ie, turned itself into a pretend parliament. The Coronavirus Act 2020 is our Enabling Act 1933. Fascism has been implemented without even a hint of organised opposition.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Coronavirus legislation is unlawful

Last week the Supreme Court ruled that the detention of Gerry Adams in the 1970s had been unlawful. Mr Adams had been detained in Long Kesh on the basis that the authorities had suspected him of belonging to an unlawful organisation. The court found his detention had been unlawful on the ground that he had been detained on the basis of the authorities' suspicion. Whilst Mr Adams' case dates back to the 1970s, it is of much wider contemporary significance.

The coronavirus measures (The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020) introduced without parliamentary scrutiny or division provide the authorities with the power to detain people indefinitely on the basis of mere suspicion. This power is clearly incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998, and equally clearly violates the European Convention on Human Rights. Last week's ruling by the Supreme Court reinforces that judgement and provides an obvious precedent for action to be taken against the government.

The violation of human rights enshrined in this legislation was obvious. Yet parliament made no protest. And the corporate media are deafeningly silent on this abuse of state power; indeed, they support it. The usual army of human rights lawyers, who only months ago we busily warning of Boris Johnson's totalitarianism, are only noticeable by their silent acquiescence.

It seems fear of the coronavirus, which has been whipped up by an hysterical corporate media campaign, has driven many to the point where they are prepared to sacrifice any right or liberty in the hope that it will provide security from the virus. There do not appear to be any limits to this willingness to trade rights for a specious sense of security. The coronavirus measures violate right after right. In the name of combatting a virus, elections have been cancelled, juries have been suspended, the right to assembly has been violated, the right to protest has been removed, the right to a family life has been limited, the right to an education has been suspended, the right to practise one's religion has been limited, the right to earn a livelihood has been removed, the right to freedom of movement in the country has been violated, the rule of law has been undermined, a police state has been instituted, the right to receive or refuse medical attention has been abandoned, and parliament has been turned into a digital pretence. Public policy is being made by a select group of ministers in conjunction with hand picked experts. Taken as a whole, these measures constitute fascism. And yet this was achieved without any organised opposition. The only dissent has come from unorganised, isolated voices, who have been easy to ignore or suppress, as the corporations have enthusiastically colluded with the censorship of dissident voices.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Coronavirus: a case of collective madness

It was predictable that the government's "lockdown" measures would cause more harm than the virus. Predictable that is to anyone adopting a rational approach to this issue. However, it was not predictable to the government. Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, admitted on 10 April 2020 at the Coronavirus Daily Update that the government had not made any attempt to assess the number of people who would die as a result of the government's "lockdown" measures. This was an admission that the government had adopted an irrational, irresponsible and incompetent approach to policy-making on this issue.

This irrationality is also revealed in the constantly reiterated assertion that the government is simply following the "science". There is no way that science can determine policy. Science cannot tell you what your values should be; nor can it tell you what your priorities should be; nor can it tell you how to weigh competing demands and needs. If science could do these things, we would have a government of scientists. We don't, and we don't because policy-making is always about values, preferences, choices: ie, policy-making is always and inevitably a political process. The claim that the policy is just a matter of science is an obvious, blatant falsehood. A falsehood that is designed to rhetorically hide a set of value judgements and to protect those value judgements from political, democratic accountability.

You weren't asked if you wanted the "lockdown" measures. You weren't told that if implemented they would save X amount of lives but cost Y amount of lives. You weren't told which lives were to be prioritised and which were to be sacrificed. You weren't offered a chance to express your preference. What you were told was: Stay Home [in order to] Protect the NHS [in order to] Save Lives. But this was so simplistic as to be not just misleading, but essentially wrong, as it leaves out of the equation many very important variables.

I have no idea what motivated the government to introduce its "lockdown" measures. But I do know that the policy is not rational when judged on the criterion the government provides: ie, to save lives. There is also the government's track record, which to say the least, casts doubt on the claim that the government values lives above the economy - I am thinking here of the fact that the government's austerity policies have (perfectly predictably) resulted in hundreds of thousands of premature deaths. That track record has led many to claim that the government has a secret plan. Variations on this theme suggest the measures were introduced to protect and promote the interests of finance and corporate capitalists; to promote the interests of Big Pharma; to impose compulsory vaccination; to make all economic transactions electronic; to introduce a global police state, etc. These arguments are all based on a search for a rational explanation for a set of measures that are plainly irrational, inconsistent and clearly not going to achieve their stated objective. This search is, in my opinion, a fool's errand. The response to the coronavirus is nothing more than just another case of collective madness.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Corporate media spin "lockdown" deaths, blame public

The Office for National Statistics weekly death figures are both valid and reliable. For this year, they have shown there were fewer deaths than the five yearly average for the corresponding period, until the week ending 3 April 2020. That week and the following week both showed more deaths than the five yearly average for the corresponding weeks. These two weeks are the first weeks covering the government's "lockdown" measures. Looking at the figures in detail, even taking the (inflated) coronavirus related death figures at face value, it is clear that thousands of these above average deaths were the result of the government's anti-coronavirus measures.

The corporate media would, of course, have liked to have presented the increase in these death figures as being the result of the virus. However, as this was impossible, they were forced to seek an alternative narrative. They could hardly be expected, after all, to have attributed the above average non-coronavirus deaths to their own hysterical fear-mongering, which had bounced the government into implementing its draconian "lockdown" measures. They have, therefore, settled on the narrative that these above average deaths have been caused by members of the public failing to seek medical attention when needed (which even if that were the sole cause would anyway lead immediately back to their fear-mongering).

This narrative, not only absolves the corporate media, it maintains their representation of health care workers as heroes, and deflects attention away from the entirely predictable harmful effects of the "lockdown." These are significant propaganda benefits. They enable the corporate media to continue to push for the maintenance of the "lockdown" measures (which are killing people), and enable them to continue with their wall to wall sensationalist fear-mongering (which even according to their own position has stopped people from seeking medical attention and is killing people); the narrative also enables them blame an actor (the general public) who has no platform from which to reply, particularly as the "lockdown" measures have removed the right to assembly and protest and parliament is reduced to a digital pretence, where MPs have effectively formed a one party state that merely confers a specious aura of democratic legitimacy.

However, in pushing this new narrative, the corporate media have had to acknowledge that many health care facilities are virtually empty and some are even completely empty. These facts, of course, run completely counter to the earlier claims of the health service being over-stretched, with its heroic staff having to work ridiculously long (and obviously dangerously long) shifts to cope with the alleged crisis.

To say that the coronavirus propaganda narrative is creaking at the seams would be a gross understatement. The corporate media's narrative is hardly a narrative at all; it is a series of makeshift ad hoc rationalisations, which are barely coherent and lack any consistency. The corporate media are attempting to hide the falling apart of the narrative by resort to mere emoting and the hope that the public cannot remember what it is told from one day to the next, and if they can, then the hope that they will be fooled by the claim that "the science" is constantly changing.

The meme that the policy is the result of "the science" and that as the science changes so must the policy has been pushed from the outset. However, it was never more than specious and the longer this continues the less plausible it becomes. First, no policy is ever simply the result of science. Any policy is a value judgement. Any policy decision has to weigh risks and potential benefits; it has be based on a consideration of its effects across all aspects of policy-making. In terms of the decision to introduce the "lockdown" measures: a rational policy-maker would have considered how many lives the measures might save and weigh this against (at least) how many deaths the measures might cause. Yet, as Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, admitted at the Coronavirus Daily Update (10 April 2020) the government made no attempt to estimate the number of deaths the measures would cause.

The second way in which the notion that the policy is the result of the science is shown to be a sham is the way in which the assertions and exhortations change. The propaganda claim is that this is because the science has changed. Yet the science is never presented. Take the social distancing claims for instance. The scientific basis for this claim is computer modelling. However, any scientifically literate person knows that the results of computer models are not evidence. They are simply the Mathematically inevitable result of the assumptions. Another example of this - the science has changed nonsense - can be seen on the issue of the public wearing masks. For months the government and the corporate media were in lock step in asserting that there was no scientific evidence to suggest that wearing masks would be beneficial. Now the corporate media are trying to force the government into adopting a wearing masks position (because in order to maintain the fear, they have to constantly demand that something be done). So they are rolling out "experts" to say that there is scientific evidence that wearing masks works. Yet they never presented any evidence for their initial claim and so they are not even in a position to show research that over turns that position.

Indeed, in all the rhetoric around the coronavirus, "the science" has never been anything more than a rhetorical device designed to prevent criticism of the narrative. There is nothing scientific about the "lockdown" measures. Indeed, the measures are the result of an irrational, irresponsible and incompetent approach to policy-making, as Matt Hancock's admission revealed.

Friday, 17 April 2020

Corporate media lie about dolphins, and everything else

It is strange how people “read” the news media. Any scientist reading a corporate media news report about something in their field knows just how terrible the corporate media is. Yet the same person will generally assume that in other areas media coverage is accurate. During the miners’ strike of 1984, I met many miners who could see how terrible the media’s coverage of the strike was, but they (with very few exceptions) still took all other areas at face value. Unfortunately, most people, most of the time, consume “news” in a passive, acritical manner, simply accepting the narrative frame and assuming the facts must be accurate and the judgements authoritative. The corporate media know this and so know they can get away with virtually any lie.
I selected it because it was a global story, covered by all the mainstream outlets and everything about it was false. Everything. The story was allegedly a report of scientific research. But it seems a journalist (at fixated on the term “bisexual philopatry” (apparently having no idea of what it meant) and decided to make up a story of sex and violence, and the rest of the corporate media regurgitated the narrative.
What the study was actually about was a test of two hypotheses concerning pod formation. The study found that neither of the hypotheses was supported. The study had nothing to do with sexual or violent behaviour, as can be readily seen by just reading the study: Yet either none of these journalists had bothered to read the study or they did read it and decided to go with the rapist, bisexual, violent dolphins story instead.
Now I picked the dolphin example because it is relatively trivial – it does not involve global politics, the economy, human rights and liberties, the wealth, power and influence of the elites, etc. So, if the corporate media are prepared to lie for nothing more that clickbait, how much more motivated to lie will they be when the vital interests of the corporate, financial, political elite is at stake?

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Coronavirus policy-making

On Friday, 10 April 2020, at the Coronavirus Daily Update press briefing, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, made a startling admission. He was asked how many people would die due to the economic harm resulting from the government's response to the coronavirus. Hancock admitted that the government did not know, or even have a ball park figure. However, he was quick to reassure us that "as an economist" he took this very seriously, and he and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would (future tense) be looking into this. In other words, the government decided on a policy that could potentially cause hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths without weighing those lost life years against the potentially saved life years of the adopted policy. This is the very definition of irrational policy-making. However, the situation is even worse than Matt Hancock's admission implies.

In an earlier interview with LBC radio, Jeremy Hunt explained that in 2016 the government had conducted an exercise on an infectious pandemic. The exercise showed that the NHS was likely to be overwhelmed by a pandemic. Hunt explained that as a result of the exercise the government drafted emergency legislation. What Jeremy Hunt, who had been the Health Secretary at the time, conspicuously did not say was that the government had sought to increase the NHS's capacity. He also did not say, but it was implicit, that the drafted legislation became the three hundred and twenty page Coronavirus Bill that parliament passed without scrutiny or division before voting to recess indefinitely. That Act of parliament, as my previous post explains, gave the government the power to do anything, for ever.

In these few facts we clearly see the government's priorities. The government's concern, notwithstanding the spin, is not saving lives. It is providing the government with unlimited power. The government knew, from the 2016 exercise, that the NHS had insufficient capacity to deal with a pandemic, but made no attempt to increase that capacity, until the leadership contest that brought Boris Johnson to power. Furthermore, we know from the experience of the government's post financial crisis austerity measures just how lethal economic harm can be, and it was obvious when the government announced its coronavirus measures that the harm to the economy would be substantial. Yet, as Hancock's admission reveals, the government adopted those measures without any thought as to the deaths they would cause: something no rational politician or administrator would do, as there is no point in adopting a policy that would save a few thousand lives if it would also kill hundreds of thousands of people. The only conclusion I can draw is that the ruling elite have gone collectively mad.

Friday, 3 April 2020

Coronavirus fascism

The Coronavirus Act 2020 was passed into law on the 25th of March. The House of Commons approved the legislation without scrutiny or division. Having done so, the House voted for its own indefinite suspension (actually, it voted for recess until the 21st of April, but the recall is subject to it being deemed to be safe). And this is how easily fascism is instituted.

The Coronavirus Act contains two clauses that are of particular significance. They are tucked away in Part 2 Section 90 of the Act. The first states that a national authority may by regulation alter the expiry date. The second states that a national authority may by regulation alter any power. A national authority is a minister of the Crown. These two clauses provide the government with the power to do anything, for ever. The Coronavirus Act 2020 is our Enabling Act 1933.

In the space of a few weeks, the government has ended jury trials, abrogated the right to assembly, cancelled elections, curtailed the right to family life, ended freedom of movement within the country, restricted the right to freedom of expression, given the police arbitrary powers to arrest and detain, and provided itself with the power to control or prohibit any economic activity. The Coronavirus Act provides the legal fig leaf for these draconian measures and lays the basis for further, and unlimited, violations of our rights and liberties.

It is shocking to think that fascism could be implemented so easily and with so little opposition. The corporate media, far from attempting to hold the state to account, has been leading the call for ever more draconian measures. Piers Morgan, using ITV's Good Morning Britain, has emotively demanded, day after day, ever more restrictions on our liberties. Hardly a voice of scepticism, let alone dissent, has been heard on the platforms of the corporate media. Notable exceptions have been Peter Hitchens, using his blog at the Mail and Lord Sumption in an interview on the BBC Radio 4's World at One.

The lack of challenge from the corporate media is hardly surprising. However, that so many in the alternative media have supported this lurch to fascism is seriously depressing. It appears that the simple tactic of frighten the people and then offer a solution has worked like magic. Whilst many people may be sceptical (as can be seen on websites such as OffGuardian or the Blogmire), the lack of a platform for critical voices, the speed of the changes, the apparent unanimity of authority figures, the atomisation of the public imposed by social distancing, and fear of the unknown, has ensured that there is no organised opposition.

This is a significant difference between the introduction of fascism in Germany in 1933 and the introduction of fascism here in 2020. In Germany there was considerable organised opposition, from communists, socialists and trade unionists. Here there is nothing more than the isolated voices of individuals, who are either ignored or insulted. Their arguments and concerns are treated as acts of betrayal; they are construed as traitors and monsters; as mad, bad and dangerous. They are construed as idiots, who the authorities should treat harshly. Just as the Gestapo did not need to search for dissidents because ordinary Germans informed on their friends and neighbours, their colleagues and family, so now ordinary people are informing on anyone they suspect of not following the constantly changing, ever more draconian rules.

Everyone points to Nazi Germany and says we should learn the lesson of history, but apparently very few learnt that Hitler introduced fascism by parliamentary, legal means by offering a solution to exaggerated hysterical fears.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Government downgraded coronavirus, then imposed draconian measures

On the 19th of March 2020 the government decided on the basis of a review of all the evidence that the Coronavirus is not a high consequence infectious disease. Within days of this decision, the government introduced draconian measures to combat the threat posed by the virus. These measures violate fundamental human rights and liberties. There are justified by the government as necessary to protect public health. If this strikes you as odd, it gets even worse.

The government initially classified coronavirus as a high consequence infectious disease in January. Yet it did not secure the borders, but allowed people who might well have been carrying the virus to enter the country and mix freely with the general population. This lack of action ensured that communal infection would occur, as it did.

So, when the government held the opinion that the coronavirus posed a similar level of threat as such diseases as Ebola and SARS, it failed to take the necessary and obvious action to protect the public. Yet, after the government reached the opinion that the virus did not present such a threat it took draconian measures that violated rights and inflicted substantial damage on the economy; a package of measures that will be very likely to cause more harm than the virus would.

None of this makes any sense.

I suspect it makes no sense because it is senseless. As far as I can tell, the elite have gone collectively mad.

Collective madness is nothing new. We have seen outbreaks of it throughout history, over and over again. We have seen it in recent history. People generally emote, rather than think. Scary images and words result in immediate judgement. Having jumped to judgment, they use their intelligence to generate rationalisations to justify their judgement; to persuade themselves that they are right; to pretend that they reached their judgement on the basis of evidence and reason, rather than mere emotion. The educated are even more prone to this than the less well educated because their ability to generate specious arguments is highly developed. Once such a judgement is accepted by a critical core of the elite, it becomes a loyalty test: everyone has to believe (or at least pretend to believe) it. Anyone who dissents is either ignored or punished. This is how whole societies go mad. And it is what has happened with a mere coronavirus.

Friday, 20 March 2020

Coronavirus, mortality and fear mongering

The corporate media's coverage of the coronavirus outbreak is wall to wall fear mongering. Daily we are told about how dangerous it is and how it is completely unprecedented. The number of suspected cases and deaths are headline news. Yet in all this coverage, all cause mortality is completely ignored. I wondered why?

The answer might well lie in the Office of National Statistics. I visited their website and looked for weekly deaths. The number of deaths registered in England and Wales during the week ending the 6th of March (the latest available) was 10, 895. The average over the previous five years for the corresponding week was 11, 498. So, when the elite were hysterically fear mongering about the unprecedented threat posed by the coronavirus to public health, mortality was decreasing. This is the exact opposite of what should have happened if the virus really did constitute a serious public health problem.

Indeed, the presentation of the issue has been almost entirely devoid of any context. The coronavirus has reportedly killed ten thousand people since December; whilst influenza, which no one gets hysterical about, kills roughly half a million people a year, every year. Cars kill more than a million people every year; yet, no demands drastic action to stop all these preventable deaths. Indeed, there is nothing novel about a virus. We have lived with them throughout our history. And there is nothing exceptional about this particular virus. According to the United Kindom's Chief Medical Officer, its mortality rate is less than one percent. This is an estimate and it is probably too high as many people who have been infected have no symptoms. Moreover, many people who have been included in the ten thousand figure have died with, rather than from, the virus. Indeed, many in the ten thousand figure are merely suspected cases of coronavirus. The substantial margin for error in these estimated figures stands in marked contrast to the number of registered deaths, which is a completely reliable figure. Yet, there is no discussion of that figure in the mainstream.

This suppression of the actual mortality figure cannot be a result of ignorance. The government obviously is well aware of it. The Chief Medical Officer and the Senior Scientific Advisor must also be well aware it, as must Public Health England. Similarly, the information is readily and easily available to any journalist. Yet it is studiously ignored by the elite.

This failure to provide a proper perspective has led directly to fear and panic amongst many in the general population. It has resulted in public policy measures which are seriously harmful. Indeed, on any reasonable assessment, it seems highly likely that the reaction to the coronavirus outbreak will cause more harm than the virus itself.