by Toby Young
This site is a successor to Lockdown Sceptics, which I set up at the beginning of April, 2020. The idea for the original site was that it would serve as a hub for sceptical articles, academic papers and interviews that had appeared elsewhere, as well as a place for experts and non-experts to air views they couldn’t get published elsewhere. As the ‘state of emergency’ dragged on for longer than most of us expected and public enthusiasm for the lockdowns remained stubbornly high, the tone inevitably became rather stoical. I even published a series of articles under the heading ‘Why Haven’t Our Points Landed?’ But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. From the start, the more serious content was broken up with lighter fare, such as a daily selection of musical numbers chosen by readers to reflect whatever was dominating the news. We tried never to repeat the same song twice, but “I Want to Break Free” by Queen appeared at least a dozen times.
I always imagined I would retire the site one day – turn it into an archive that would serve as a record of a dark period in our history – and ‘Freedom Day’ seemed like a good time to do that. But after almost 16 months of continuous activity, the site had developed in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I don’t just mean it was averaging 1.5 million page views a month and had almost 15,000 email subscribers, as well as a staff of seven. It had also attracted a community of regular contributors and commentators, either above the line, below the line, or in the forums, as well as a team of tireless moderators. Together, we’d created a kind of intellectual home for tens of thousands of people, and I got regular emails from people all over the world telling me that if it wasn’t for Lockdown Sceptics they would have gone mad. I turned some of these emails into ‘Postcards’ and grouped them under the heading ‘Around the World in Eighty Lockdowns’.
So instead of shutting down Lockdown Sceptics, I’ve decided to turn it into the Daily Sceptic. All of the original content we published will still be there, organised under the headings you can see on the right-hand vertical, but the subject matter will be a bit broader. The focus will remain on the lockdown policy for the time being, not least because many of the measures that the Government introduced to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, such as NHS Test and Trace, remain in place, and because the freedoms that have been returned to us will probably be taken back before long. But I wanted to create something more permanent, something that wasn’t contingent on lockdowns continuing but which was imbued with the same irreverent, antic spirit as the original site, and the same rigorous, analytical approach.
So the Daily Sceptic will include sceptical articles by disaffected journalists and academics – including citizen journalists and independent scholars – about a range of public policies that are supposedly based on science or data or evidence, where ‘the Science’ is being invoked as a source of unassailable authority, but which often appear to be rooted in a covert political agenda. The idea is to challenge the new powerful class of government scientists and public health officials – as well as their colleagues in universities, grant-giving trusts, large international charities, Silicon Valley and the pharmaceutical industry – that have emerged as a kind of secular priesthood during the pandemic, providing not just practical advice but moral guidance, too. And to challenge them on their own terms, much like the group of citizen journalists who successfully rehabilitated the ‘lab leak’ hypothesis after it had been designated a ‘conspiracy theory’ in the pages of the Lancet. (Scientific and medical journals will also be in our crosshairs.)
The temptation when debunking ‘the Science’ behind these policies is to see sinister cabals at work, bent on some secret plot to subvert democratic institutions and usher in a New World Order in which they control every aspect of our lives. But as someone who’s earned his living as a journalist for over 35 years, occasionally with a front row seat on the inner workings of government, I’m a subscriber to the cock-up theory of history. I don’t doubt that plenty of clever, successful people have seized upon opportunities during this crisis, enriching themselves or consolidating their power and status in some other way, and a fair few are now doing what they can to prolong it. But that’s a far cry from the ‘Plandemic’. History can in rare circumstances be bent to the will of an extraordinary individual, but it is never planned. Societies ‘reset’ themselves all the time, but not in a way that’s ‘great’ if by that is meant ‘permanent’, and I doubt even Klaus Schwab really believes that. He’s just a carnival barker standing outside a tent called ‘Davos’ and we shouldn’t take his flimflam too seriously.
I hope you enjoy the new site. Do keep the contributions coming, both above and below the line. (Email us here.) And if you appreciate what we do, please help us keep the wolf from the door by making a donation. The Daily Sceptic, like Lockdown Sceptics, is a labour of love, and the staff of seven is now a staff of five: me, Ian Rons, Will Jones, Noah Carl and Michael Curzon. But we also have wives and girlfriends and mortgages and families, and every little helps.
I know some readers will disagree and I look forward to seeing that debate play out in the pages of the Daily Sceptic, much like it did in Lockdown Sceptics. I’m a free speech zealot. In February 2020, a couple of months before I created Lockdown Sceptics, I helped set up the Free Speech Union, a non-partisan, mass membership public interest body that stands up for the speech rights of its members and campaigns for free speech more widely. The timing was perfect since one of the hallmarks of the coronavirus crisis has been the suppression of dissenting voices within the scientific and public health communities – the creep of cancel culture into the hard sciences. That process was already underway, as any doctor who dissents from trans orthodoxy can tell you, but the pandemic acted like an accelerant. The Daily Sceptic, like Lockdown Sceptics, will campaign against this climate of Maoist intolerance that is sweeping through our most important institutions and companies – and that includes taking the Mickey out of woke gobbledegook. Scientific censorship is a deadly serious business, but the way to take down the would-be Torquemadas is often to aim at the funny bone.
Toby Young has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the author of several books, including How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, and co-founded the Knowledge Schools Trust. In addition to editing the Daily Sceptic, he is the General Secretary of the Free Speech Union. His latest venture is a substack newsletter about following QPR in the 2021-22 season.
Ian Rons is a coder who built the Daily Sceptic website and makes sure all the different components work together. He is a co-founder of the Free Speech Union.
Dr Will Jones is a writer currently focused on countering misinformation around the COVID-19 crisis. He has a PhD in political philosophy and a BSc in mathematics, as well as an MA in ethics and a diploma in theology. He lives in Leamington Spa with his wife and two young children.
Michael Curzon is a recent university graduate from the East Midlands. He is the Editor of Bournbrook Magazine and likes to see himself as a musician.