Day: 29 January 2022

Why Neil Young’s Boycott of Spotify Over Joe Rogan is a Mistake

Toby has a piece in the Spectator today on why Neil Young was wrong to pick a fight with Spotify over Joe Rogan daring to interview two medical experts who have expressed concerns about the coronavirus vaccines.

Thankfully, Toby says, almost no one has rallied to Young’s banner – though don’t go thinking Spotify is some principled champion of free speech.

When Neil Young issued his threat to Spotify – get rid of Joe Rogan’s podcast or remove my music from your platform – he was probably hoping a chorus of other musical artists would weigh in behind him. After all, Spotify paid a reported $100 million to Rogan for the exclusive rights to host his podcast and, given that each episode attracts 11 million listeners, it must be quite a money spinner for the music streaming service. I’m sure Young’s music does alright on Spotify, but from a purely commercial point of view it was a no-brainer.

Thankfully, only Joni Mitchell seems to have joined Young’s boycott so far, and that’s the most significant thing about this episode, not Spotify’s decision to side with Rogan. Some commentators are hailing Spotify for its principled stance, but its track record on free speech isn’t great. Plenty of controversial podcasters have been removed from the platform and when Rogan transferred his back catalogue to the service many of his more controversial episodes were not made available at the company’s insistence.

Perhaps the lack of support from other musicians is because Neil Young has chosen an odd hill to die on, Toby suggests.

Young took the stance he did because he believes Rogan is ‘spreading fake information about vaccines’, according to a now deleted letter. This, he said, is ‘causing death’ by prompting some people not to get vaccinated or boosted. What appears to have pushed Young over the edge was Rogan’s decision to interview two prominent vaccine sceptics, Dr Robert Malone and Dr Peter McCullough. But this is an odd hill to die on. As Vinay Prasad, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistic, pointed out in a piece for UnHerd:‘Rogan is not a scientist, and, like everyone else, he has his biases. But he is open-minded, sceptical, and his podcast is an important forum for debate and dialogue. It is not enough, moreover, to simply dismiss Malone and McCullough as conspiracy theorists. They are controversial and polarising figures, but they do have real credentials. Malone is a physician who has worked in molecular biology and drug development for decades, while McCullough was, until recently, an academic cardiologist and researcher.”

Toby goes on to make a plea for free speech on the grounds that people who are wrong on some things are often right on others, and besides, “sunlight is the best disinfectant”.

Worth reading in full, naturally.

Stop Press: In a sign of how seriously other musicians are taking the boycott, James Blunt has jokingly threatened to release new music if Spotify doesn’t remove Joe Rogan’s podcast.

Infecting Yourself With Omicron: The Unvaccinated Rebel in Italy

There follows a guest post by a Daily Sceptic reader based in Italy, who wishes to remain anonymous, on the devastating impact of vaccine passports and the lengths the unvaccinated will go to to get the infection that gains them an exemption.

Sometimes they meet with the positivo in a flat. Sometimes they go further and share water bottles, embraces and masks. The aim is simple. To infect yourself with omicron. In December and January I increasingly ran into unvaccinated Italian friends actively looking to get Covid. This has barely been covered in Italy’s newspapers, but it involves hundreds of thousands of Italians and it is part of the explanation for rising numbers here.

Why would you get ill on purpose? If you ask the self-infectors you will be offered various evasions: deliberately spreading Covid is a crime. However, the simple answer is a perverse mechanism introduced by vaccine passports. Passports are given to those: i) who have been vaccinated; and to ii) those who have had Covid. If you can register a hit with a certified test, you avoid government passport restrictions for six months.

In September 2021 this did not matter so much. Only restaurants and some meetings were off-limits to those without vaccinations. Even in these cases it was possible to get a temporary ‘passport’ with a test. Then the Government extended its writ across different areas of the economy, not least the teaching professions and healthcare. Next the simple loophole of a test was threaded tighter. Then rules on planes were extended to busses and trains… The screw has slowly been turned.

The Government presented in early January 2022, a new raft of laws to hem the unvaccinated in still further. The unvaccinated will no longer, from February, be able to go in a shop save for certain ‘essentials’ without a passport. Hairdressers and beauty saloons, banks and post offices have also been decreed off-limits. The above rules applied to all residents older than twelve. The unvaccinated over fifty were liable, meanwhile, to ill-defined spot fines.

“Taliban Treated Me Better,” Says Pregnant New Zealand Journalist Stranded in Afghanistan

A pregnant New Zealand journalist stranded in Afghanistan for months has found the Taliban more helpful than her own Government, which has failed to let her back in. MailOnline has the story.

Charlotte Bellis, a broadcast journalist, said she has repeatedly tried to return to New Zealand since she learned she was pregnant in September. 

She has submitted 59 documents to New Zealand officials in Afghanistan in an attempt to secure an emergency return home, but her bid was turned down and led her to turn to the Taliban, one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, for sympathy.

It’s a particularly cruel twist of fate for the woman who was revered worldwide for her fearless questioning of the jihadist group’s previous record on women’s rights.

To add insult to injury, Ms Bellis has warned that pregnancy can be a death sentence in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan because of the poor state of maternity care and lack of surgical capabilities.  

Speaking to 1News about her situation, Ms Bellis asked: “To the NZ Government, I ask what do you want me to do? I have done nothing wrong I got pregnant and I am a New Zealander.

“At what point did we get so bogged down in these rules we’ve come up with that we can’t see that she’s a Kiwi in need of help and she needs to come home?”

Although the spread of COVID-19 has been limited in New Zealand and just 52 deaths have been reported since the start of the pandemic, the nation still requires citizens to spend 10 days in isolation hotels run by the military.

The ‘zero Covid’ policy has repeatedly come under fire and the strict self-isolation restrictions have now caused a backlog of thousands of people desperate to return home.

Ms Bellis has become one of the most high-profile Kiwis to fall victim to New Zealand’s extreme border controls, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Government face further embarrassment over their own policies.

Writing in the New Zealand Herald on Saturday, Ms Bellis said it was “brutally ironic” that while she had once questioned the Taliban about their treatment of women, she was now asking the same questions of her own Government. 

“When the Taliban offers you – a pregnant, unmarried woman – safe haven, you know your situation is messed up,” she wrote. …

Last year, Bellis was working for Al Jazeera covering the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan when she gained international attention by questioning Taliban leaders about their treatment of women and girls.

In her column on Saturday, she said she returned to Qatar in September and discovered she was expecting a baby with her partner, freelance photographer Jim Huylebroek, a contributor to the New York Times.

She described the pregnancy as a “miracle” after earlier being told by doctors she could not have children. She is due to give birth to a girl in May.

Extramarital sex is illegal in Qatar and Ms Bellis said she realised she needed to leave. She repeatedly tried to get back to New Zealand in a lottery-style system for returning citizens but without success.

She said she resigned from Al Jazeera in November and the couple moved to Mr Huylebroek’s native Belgium, but she could not stay long because she was not a resident. She said the only other place the couple had visas to live was Afghanistan.

Ms Bellis said she spoke with senior Taliban contacts who told her she would be fine if she returned to Afghanistan.

“Just tell people you’re married and if it escalates, call us. Don’t worry,” she said they told her.

She said she sent 59 documents to New Zealand authorities in Afghanistan but they rejected her application for an emergency return.

Vaccine Effectiveness Against Death Falls to Zero or Below, UKHSA Data Suggest

A new week and a new update from the UKHSA on the performance of the vaccines. Table 12, the rates data for vaccinated and unvaccinated, once again shows data for those triple-jabbed rather than two-or-more doses as was given for the data for 2021 since September up to Week 2’s report, however, we can estimate the rates for those with only two jabs using data in tables 9-11 and vaccination data available from the NHS.

Using these data we can estimate infection rates by vaccination status (above); from these data we can then estimate the unadjusted vaccine effectiveness for infection for those having two or three doses (below).

The vaccine effectiveness data for those receiving two doses are particularly concerning. Because we do not have full data available to us there is a risk of some biases creeping into the data and making things look worse than they are in reality. However, the very very negative estimates of vaccine effectiveness for the double-jabbed shown in the graph above (lower than minus 300% in those aged 40-59, meaning four times as many infections than in the unvaccinated) are likely to be much greater than what could easily be accounted for. What’s more, the data show significantly negative vaccine effectiveness for those aged between 18 and 50, a group which has not received the booster in particularly high rates, reducing the impact of some potential biases that occur with small numbers in each cohort, meaning we can be more confident the figures are closer to reality.

MPs Launch Investigation into Government Covid Propaganda After Psychologists Criticise Nudge Unit For “Grossly Unethical Tactics” of Fear

The Government’s “grossly unethical” use of its “nudge unit” stoked fear among the public during the pandemic, psychologists have said – prompting MPs to launch an investigation into the Government’s Covid propaganda. The Telegraph has the story.

A group of psychologists have written to Parliament’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, warning that a team of civil servants dedicated to “nudging” public behaviour during the pandemic were unaccountable and unethical.

The letter’s 40 professional signatories – led by Dr. Gary Sidley, a retired clinical psychologist – said they opposed the use of dramatic adverts, which included slogans such as: “If you go out you can spread it, people will die.”

They also condemned the use of “images of the acutely unwell in intensive care units” on billboard and television adverts, as well as the “macabre mono focus on showing the number of COVID-19 deaths without mention of mortality from other causes or the fact that, under normal circumstances, around 1,600 people die each day in the U.K.”.

The signatories said it was “highly questionable whether a civilised society should knowingly increase the emotional discomfort of its citizens as a means of gaining their compliance”.

The letter added: “Government scientists deploying fear, shame and scapegoating to change minds is an ethically dubious practice that in some respects resembles the tactics used by totalitarian regimes such as China, where the state inflicts pain on a subset of its population in an attempt to eliminate beliefs and behaviour they perceive to be deviant.” …

The letter drew attention to a government memo from March 2020, which suggested that “the perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent” and called for more frightening messaging.

The Telegraph understands that Parliament’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee will investigate the use of the Behavioural Insights Team as part of its investigation into the Government’s activities during the pandemic. It will coincide with the second anniversary of the first lockdown.

Worth reading in full.

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