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.

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