Today is the third anniversary of the first lockdown, a day of infamy that, I hope, will go down in history as a mistake never to be repeated. But we cannot take that for granted, which is why I’m taking this opportunity to ask you to make a donation to the Daily Sceptic.
Regular readers won’t need me to point out that the risk of another lockdown is still with us. We now know that the threat posed by SARS-CoV-2, particularly to healthy people under the age of 65, was wildly exaggerated, while the costs of the various interventions designed to ameliorate it were far higher than anticipated. Yet while this might be bleedin’ obvious to us, the wider public appears to believe not only that locking us in our homes was the correct response to the outbreak of a fairly mild respiratory virus three years ago, but that the Government should have been even stricter. According to a recent YouGov poll, 37% of the public think the Government’s infection-control measures weren‘t strict enough, compared to just 19% who thought they were too strict.
Even if we don’t think the risk of the Government locking us down again in response to another surge in COVID-19 case is particularly high, how is the political class likely to react if we’re faced with another pandemic – H1N5 jumping the species barrier, for instance? Optimists believe the public inquiry will conclude that indiscriminately quarantining the entire population was a mistake, given the catastrophic costs to our health, economy and well-being, but it’s unlikely to pronounce its verdict for seven years. You can bet your bottom dollar the Government will come under pressure to place us all under house arrest again in the interim, even it it’s only to avert a ‘climate emergency’. So we need to keep making the case that such a grotesque interference in our liberty in the name of keeping us ‘safe’ is completely unacceptable.
I wouldn’t be asking you to make a donation if it wasn’t needed. But regrettably we’ve had to shelve our plans to finance the site via advertising thanks to the unrelenting attacks on the Daily Sceptic by various ‘fact checking’ bodies, as well as the myriad shadowy agencies and private companies in the ‘disinfo’ sector that comprise what Michael Shellenberger and Matt Taibbi have dubbed the ‘Censorship-Industrial Complex’.
One agency in particular – NewsGuard, part-funded by Microsoft and part-funded by the U.S. Defence Department – has successfully ‘disrupted’ our attempt to attract advertising. At the top of its page about the Daily Sceptic it says: “Proceed with maximum caution: This website is unreliable because it severely violates basic journalist standards.”
Here’s what I wrote about my run-in with NewsGuard last December:
An organisation called NewsGuard, which ranks websites according to how ‘safe’ they are for companies to advertise on (among other things), decided to downgrade the Daily Sceptic on the grounds that we frequently publish ‘misinformation’ about the Covid vaccines and climate change. I was sent a long email by an employee of the company, listing all the articles on the site that had been red-flagged by supposedly impartial ‘fact checking’ organisations – as well as NewsGuard’s own employees – and inviting me to mount a defence. Knowing how damaging a poor NewsGuard rating can be to a site’s ability to attract advertising – and this coincided with our decision to start selling ads on the site – I sent back a lengthy response in good faith, rebutting each of the fact-checks in turn, but saying I would link to them beneath the articles in question (as well as to our rebuttals). I duly spent a couple of days sticking ‘postscripts’ beneath the articles, as well as below some additional pieces NewsGuard hadn’t mentioned but which had also fallen foul of fact-checkers – and I let NewsGuard know about that, thinking it would be pleased. After all, I thought, it would be able to tell its big clients – which include Microsoft – how it had prompted a website that publishes ‘misinformation’ to include links to dozens of fact-checking websites.
Instead, NewsGuard wrote back to tell me it had downgraded the Daily Sceptic to 37.5 out of 100, about half the points it had before. The reason was because I hadn’t said beneath the articles that the content that had been identified by the fact-checkers as false was in fact false. My defence is that in every case the fact-checkers hadn’t red-flagged the articles in question because they contained factually inaccurate information; rather, they just disagreed with our interpretation of the data. But – as is common among fact-checkers, who are invariably Left-of-centre – they pretended none of this was up for debate and labelled our interpretation as ‘misinformation’. I explained all this to my NewsGuard correspondent, but it didn’t cut any ice, presumably because he shares the same ideological biases as the fact-checkers. …
The American Institute of Economic Research, which published the Great Barrington Declaration, has had its own difficulties with NewsGuard, which Phil Magness, Director of Research and Education at AIER, labels a “propaganda entity”. Magness’s piece on NewsGuard and how it operates is well worth your time.
Another thing that makes it hard to run the Daily Sceptic as a commercial business is that Facebook keep suspending my personal Facebook account, as well as the website’s account, for supposedly violating its ‘standards’. We were banned for 30 days in December and, after briefly being allowed to post again, we were banned again, this time for longer. The accounts were restored a couple of weeks ago, but a warning note made clear that if we continue to publish ‘misleading’ claims about the lockdowns, the mRNA vaccines and climate change, we will be permanently banned. It then helpfully linked to the suspect articles that had led to our previous bans and at the top of the list was a piece by Gus Dalgleish – or, to give him his full title, Angus George Dalgleish FRCP FRCPath FMedSci, a professor of oncology at St George’s, University of London. Does Facebook really believe an ‘independent fact-checker’ with a degree in Media Studies from the University of Hicksville knows more about how the mRNA vaccines affect someone’s vulnerability to cancer than Professor Dalgleish? Nevertheless, this was branded a “post that goes against our standards on misinformation about vaccines”.
Yet in spite of all these obstacles thrown in our way, the Daily Sceptic continues to attract a huge global audience. In January, we got 2,401,131 page views, a new record. We’ve also launched a podcast with Nick Dixon – the Weekly Sceptic – and the last episode was downloaded more than 15,000 times. On May 20th, we’ve organised our first live recording of the podcast at the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster – more on that soon. Yet as with the Daily Sceptic, it’s proving difficult to attract advertising on the podcast, meaning it’s a money loser for us. The only thing keeping the bailiffs from the door – of my garden shed, that is, we don’t have anything as grand as an office – are the generous donations of readers.
So, if you continue to enjoy our work, please think about making a donation to mark the third anniversary of the first lockdown. Will Jones, Nick Dixon, Ian Rons, Noah Carl, Chris Morrison and the rest of the team devote a huge amount of time to bringing you a high-quality product – no, NewsGuard, we don’t violate basic journalistic standards – and the only way we can continue doing that is with the support of our readers. Remember, you only have to donate £5 a month to be able to comment (or £50 to comment for a year). You can donate by clicking here.
A big thank you to all those people who have donated already in 2023. It’s hugely appreciated.
Profanity and abuse will be removed and may lead to a permanent ban.