Virus pest and German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has announced that most remaining coronavirus measures will end on March 1st, one month and seven days before they were scheduled to expire. This follows his rough treatment on the nationwide talkshow Markus Lanz last week. Lauterbach spent most of his pandemic as a chronic guest on Lanz and similar venues, where his every opinion was treated as an oracular pronouncement straight from Delphi. Lanz and his guests have made it clear that all of that is over with now. For 30 minutes, they harangued Lauterbach for his virus hysteria, for his imprudent tweets, for his failed predictions and for the few remaining pandemic restrictions upheld by his office. As Lauterbach struggled to defend himself, Lanz played an old clip of Anders Tegnell from 2020, in which the Swedish state epidemiologist bemoaned the coming economic and educational harms of lockdowns.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the pendulum is swinging the other way in Germany now. Our press are certainly doing their level best to lend the impression that we’re in the midst of a wholesale reappraisal of our pandemic policies. Creepy Lauterbach fangirl Christina Berndt has even published a defensive wall-of-text in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Like all our other Science Gurus, Berndt has been relentlessly, consistently, embarrassingly wrong about everything, which means she’d prefer that nobody be called to account for all the stupid stuff they’ve spent the past three years doing and saying.
In the midst of all this, it’s easy to miss that nobody is actually calling Berndt to account for anything. She’s still employed at her newspaper; she’s still one of Germany’s most prominent SciEnCE journalists. Nor has anybody else been fired or prosecuted. We’re not witnessing anything like a general reassessment of pandemic overreaches, let alone a backlash. Instead, two very different phenomena are at work here.
The first is simply that nobody is any longer taking the trouble to suppress dissenting voices. This means that we’re finally hearing from a whole host of otherwise prominent people whose opinions have been suppressed since the pandemic began. That Lanz episode where Lauterbach received his extended scolding featured Heribert Prantl, for example. Like Christina Berndt, Prantl is a major figure at the Süddeutsche Zeitung, but unlike Berndt, he’s criticised pandemic policies from the beginning and has accordingly spent the past years in a discursive Siberia. It’s inevitable, now that discussion is no longer being so heavily managed, that we’ll hear more from the Prantls of the world. This means only that the propaganda campaign is over, not that elite opinion has shifted.
I’ve already alluded to the second thing: The press, as always, are doing their level best to simulate a broader public discussion without actually providing one. Pandemic policies involved everything from mask mandates to extended solitary confinement for the elderly, to nationwide house arrests, to outrageous fines for entertaining friends in your own home, to vaccine coercion and the minimisation of vaccine injuries. The press and the politicians are all agreed that they’d like to talk about as little of this mess as possible. Thus it’s telling that the central point of the simulated German media debate is not pandemic policies in general, or even lockdowns or vaccine mandates, but school closures. This is a battle the pandemicists lost well over a year ago, and it means absolutely nothing – not a scintilla of anything – that pandemic rats like Lauterbach appear on evening television to announce that confining kids at home for a year was, in retrospect, the wrong way to save Oma. The goal is to avoid any broader discussion by admitting error in one isolated area, where the opposition have already won, and moving on.
Lauterbach is definitely being positioned to take the brunt of the blame, and it’s possible he’ll be forced to resign at some point. He’s said a great many embarrassing things, and without sympathetic treatment of journalists he comes across as the kind of dishevelled lunatic you wouldn’t let near your children. As obnoxious as he might be, though, we should remember that he wasn’t even in Government until the 2021 elections. He bears responsibility for the 2G and 3G regime, which sharply limited the ability of the unvaccinated to participate in public life, but for the bulk of pandemic policy formation he was a backbencher in the Bundestag who spent his free time Feigl-Dinging on Twitter. He’s not at the top of my perpetrator list, and we’re very far from seeing his professional demise anyway: The press are still granting adulatory interviews to Lauterbach and Christian Drosten where they are allowed to repeat all of their usual lies totally unchallenged.
It’s important to remain optimistic and forward-looking, but we’re not going to see any kind of near-term victory here. As I say all the time, complicity in pandemic abuses is extremely widespread. The media, the greater part of our political establishment and our bureaucratic and academic institutions all had a hand in these crimes. They’ll never accept blame as long as they’re still in power.
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