Sean Walsh

Lockdown and the Protocols of Fear

by Sean Walsh Though I walk in the valley of death I shall fear no evil, for my double jab and face mask comfort mePsalm 23:4; Covid Version For a Catholic the Mass is the “source and summit” of the Christian life. It culminates in a divine speech act, mediated via the priest in loco Christi, which brings us into the Real Presence of Our Lord via the Eucharistic celebration. This Sunday, as last Sunday, congregants will be thanking the Lord, in His presence. And as ever, He will be joyful in receipt of that gratitude, even though most of those offering it will be hiding their face from Him, in an act of cowardice which is, at best, a bit rude. Our Lord offered Himself up to the rest of us in act of supreme sacrifice… the members of my parish, encouraged by the bishops, will lower the mask for about three seconds: enough time to swallow the Host, cover the face again, and then re-engage with the secular protocols of social distancing. Because they are worried that in the presence of Jesus Christ himself, they might catch a virus. How has it come to pass that the Government’s mechanisms of fear have been able to reach into the soul of the most observant – and most of my...

The War on Pubs is Being Waged by Puritans Against Joy

by Sean Walsh This is what Chris Whitty thinks a pub looks like Hugh Osmond and Sacha Lord are back in court this week to argue that the Government’s refusal to reopen indoor hospitality is inconsistent with the opening up of “non-essential” retail. I wish them luck, I really do. But I fear that they are battling not against SAGE evidence but against the miserable assumptions on which that “evidence” is based. Why has this Government gone to war on pubs when the hospitality industry was last year responsible for fewer that 3% of Covid infections? It’s tempting to conclude that the SAGE types are not worried that pubs are possible vectors of transmission, but that they are concerned that hospitality venues are potential theatres of dissent. Or, worse, that they are places where people have the temerity to enjoy themselves. Heaven forfend. The Lockdown Sanhedrin, the SAGE clerisy, is itself infected with the virus of puritanism. It’s impossible to look at Chris Whitty without concluding that other people’s enjoyment presents itself to him as a sort of personal Kryptonite. Boris’s self-announced “libertarianism” seems to amount to little more than the thesis that he gets to do what he wants and the rest of us can go hang. But I think it goes deeper than that – the Government and...

SAGE Should Not Even Exist

Governments should never be in thrall to scientists by Sean Walsh The philosopher of science (and incorrigible mischief maker) Paul Feyerabend once wrote this: Unanimity of opinion may be fitting for a church, for the frightened or greedy victims of some (ancient, or modern) myth, or for the weak and willing followers of some tyrant. Variety of opinion is necessary for objective knowledge. And a method that encourages variety is also the only method that is comparable with a humanitarian outlook.Against Method Feyerabend claims in that book that the separation of science and state is at least as important as that of Church and state. The problem with SAGE, he’d argue, is not that it is composed of rubbish scientists (although he’d certainly have thought that), but that it exists at all. When you throw epidemiologists, computer modellers, behavioural ‘nudge’ scientists, immunologists, sociologists and (for all I know) tarot card readers into a Government briefing room and instruct them to find a consensus then you are making the mistake of believing that ‘consensus’ is the friend of knowledge, when in fact it is usually an enemy. Those who would advocate the inclusion of, for example, Sunetra Gupta onto this group miss this point: her best work will be done outside the Lockdown Establishment. Were Professor Gupta to be invited to...

Liars, Fakers, and the Seductive Texture Of Authoritarianism

by Sean Walsh In 1986 the philosopher Harry Frankfurt wrote an article called 'On Bullshit' in which he pointed out that there is an epistemological and therefore morally significant difference between lying and faking. When you lie, he argued, you inadvertently disclose that you have some concern for the truth. To fake, on the other hand, is to reach for whatever bullshit you can spout in service of your desired end. This lack of concern for truth is what makes the chancer worse than the liar. The faker, having lost any interest in separating the true from the false, will inevitably end up deceiving himself. He has no skin in the game. The liar is at least theoretically capable of being brought to book; the faker is beyond help. His world is fundamentally distorted. The histrionic response to COVID-19 has shown that we are presided over by a Lockdown Sanhedrin, the High Priests of which are all fakers. These are not dispassionate and objective observers of “the science”, because science, properly done, eschews fakery. They are people trapped in the addiction of authoritarianism. And self-deception is a driver of that pathology. There is a bewildering disparity between the ‘data’ they offer us and the homily they compose from it. When you acquire the habit of lying to yourself you end...

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