Gary Sidley

Neither ‘Noble Lie’ Nor ‘New Evidence’ Can Justify Chris Whitty’s Mask U-Turn

by Dr. Gary Sidley For those of us at the Smile Free campaign – and the many other people campaigning to remove all mask mandates – it has been a positive few weeks. On January 20th, secondary school children in England were liberated from the requirement to wear face coverings in the classroom, followed, a week later, by the removal of all mask mandates in England. A similar easing of mask restrictions was announced by Nicola Sturgeon on February 22nd (although this reprieve for the Scottish people will not happen until March 21st). And even London mayor, Sadiq Khan, has conceded that masks will no longer be a condition of carriage on the capital’s transport system. Although this news is all very welcome, it is not good enough for our politicians to claim that these measures are being relaxed solely because of the currently reduced risk of harm associated with the Omicron variant; such a rationale means that masking the healthy, the most insidious of all the COVID-19 restrictions, will be imposed again at the first hint of another viral threat. What we require is a clear and unambiguous acknowledgement that our political leaders, with support of Government scientists, inflicted an intervention on the British people that was unethical, ineffective and harmful and – importantly – their commitment never to...

The Disturbing Impact of Face Masks on Victims of Abuse

by Gary Sidley After a four-month respite, the legal requirement to wear a mask in shops and on public transport was re-imposed in England on November 30th 2021, thereby re-aligning it with the rest of the United Kingdom. Ten days later, the mandates were extended to cinemas, theatres and most other public venues – purportedly on the basis of the threat posed by the new Omicron variant. It is apparent that Government officials, along with their mono-focused scientists who repeatedly fail to consider the bigger picture, do not understand the distressing impact of their actions on many people within our society. The victims of physical and sexual abuse are a case in point.   It is often assumed that compelling people to wear face coverings in community settings has no downsides. We’ve all heard the mantras: ‘It’s only a mask’; ‘It’s a small inconvenience’; ‘It shows respect for others’. Many people fail to grasp that, not only is masking people who aren't ill ineffective at reducing viral transmission, it is also associated with a wide range of negative consequences. One often-neglected example of the collateral damage of face coverings is the profound emotional impact on previously-traumatised people. In this article, the testimonies of such individuals (drawn from personal stories submitted to the Smile Free campaign, with pseudonyms to maintain anonymity)...

Why is the Left So Enthusiastic About Covid Restrictions, Given that the People they Harm the Most are the Poor and Vulnerable?

by Dr. Gary Sidley When recently asked why he was wearing a mask, musician Billy Bragg said, "I don’t want anyone here to think that I’m a Tory." His comment betrays how politicised the degree of compliance with the Covid restrictions generally, and mask-wearing in particular, has become. Even Professor Clifford Stott, a pro-mask member of SPI-B, the SAGE subgroup of behavioural scientists, recently acknowledged that covering the face is a politicised act; an observation that is consistent with reports that lobbying, rather than any robust new scientific studies, caused the World Health Organisation to reverse its advice in June 2020 and start recommending masks as protection against the virus. A political dimension shaping attitudes towards the Government’s response to Covid might help explain an intriguing observation I made in the spring of 2020, and one that continues to baffle me: that the large majority of my left-wing, socialist friends immediately embraced and supported unprecedented restrictions that were always going to disproportionately disadvantage the less affluent people within our communities. Twenty months on, and despite accumulating evidence that impositions such as lockdowns and masks are ineffective and hugely damaging, their views seem resistant to change. What are likely to be the key reasons why most Labour Party supporters have backed the Government’s draconian Covid restrictions? Although I do not claim...

The Dubious Ethics of ‘Nudging’ the Public to Comply With Covid Restrictions

by Dr. Gary Sidley A middle-aged woman, walking along a pavement in the afternoon sunshine, sees a young family approaching and instantly becomes stricken with terror at the prospect of contracting a deadly infection. A man in a queue in a garage kiosk leans into the face of another and screams, "You selfish idiot! Hundreds of people will die because you don’t wear a mask." The aggressor is oblivious to the fact that his victim suffers a history of asthma and anxiety problems. A neighbour puts on a face covering and plastic gloves before wheeling her dustbin to the end of her drive. These are three recent examples of many similar events I’ve observed or read. What could be the main reason for such extraordinary behaviour? Has the emergence of the SARS-COV-2 virus magically re-wired our brains, transforming many of us into vindictive germaphobes? No, of course not. These extreme human reactions are, I believe, primarily the result of the Government’s deployment of covert psychological ‘nudges’, introduced as a means of increasing people’s compliance with the Covid restrictions. In an article in the Critic, I discussed the remit of the Government’s behavioural scientists in the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), a subgroup of SAGE which offers advice to the Government about how to maximise the impact of its...

The ‘Smile Free’ Campaign

by Dr. Gary Sidley Never mind that masks don’t work, masking the healthy harms us all socially and psychologically: all mandates must end on June 21st The Government requirement for healthy people to wear a face covering in a range of indoor community settings, purportedly to reduce the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, has arguably been the most insidious of all the coronavirus restrictions. Anyone reluctant to wear a face covering risks being challenged by others: “It’s only a mask”; “It’s no big deal”; “If it prevents just one infection, it’s worth it”. These comments are based on the premise that healthy people have nothing to lose from donning a mask when moving around their communities, but they fail to recognise an important truth: Masking the healthy is not, and has never been, a benign intervention. Anyone remotely sceptical may already know that, prior to June 2020, public health organisations and their experts did not endorse masking healthy people in the community as a means of reducing viral transmission and that, in the real world, mask mandates or the lack thereof appear to have made no discernible difference to the spread of coronavirus. Famously, the decision of Texas to ditch their mask mandates was called “Neanderthal thinking” by President Biden – only for the Lone Star State to witness declining...

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