The Darkness and the Light

I initially created Lockdown Sceptics – with the help of Ian Rons, co-founder of the Free Speech Union and computer whizz – in March of last year as an aide-mémoire for personal use. I was writing a lot about the new and still largely unknown virus and wanted to create a kind of online reference library, collating all the articles and papers and interviews about different aspects of the pandemic under separate headings. Then, when I’d created it, I decided to make it public in case anyone else would find it useful. I got into the habit of constantly updating it because so much new information about the virus was being published every day and, to do that, I found myself spending the best part of the the evening looking through news sites and blogs and medical journals. That, in turn, led to the daily update – I had gathered all this information, so why not publish it in one place? And so Lockdown Sceptics, as a daily news blog, was born.

Many readers have contacted me in the past 12 months to say that reading the blog has kept them sane because, until they discovered it, they thought they were the only ones who weren’t buying into the official narrative. Compiling it has also been therapeutic for me, although in a slightly different way, which I’ll try and explain.

First, the darkling plain.

For me, the most depressing thing about the past 12 months is that it’s destroyed my faith in so many of the people and institutions that I used to have some respect for – Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock, the Conservative Party, the judiciary, the police, the BBC, Sky News, the Civil Service, Imperial College, the Lancet, Nature, the Royal Society… the list goes on. I’ve always been alive to the risk that crowds are susceptible to collective hysteria and I’ve witnessed a few manias and moral panics first hand, but I hoped that Britain’s elites, particularly those who bear responsibility for steering the ship of state, would be immune to such madness. And it seemed they would be for a few weeks, which made their eventual surrender to a global psychosis that much harder to witness. To see them not only succumb to mass hysteria but consciously whip it up, using sophisticated psychological techniques, has been a shock. (I blame that, in part, for the British public’s willingness to surrender their liberty and hope they will recover their good sense once the propaganda ceases.) I won’t say this has been a deep shock because I’ve always been pretty cynical, but I used to have a sliver of confidence in Britain’s elites and I have struggled to hold on to that. It’s not an exaggeration to say my belief in Britain has been knocked for six.

But what has kept me from slipping into the slough of despond has been all the thoughtful, intelligent people who’ve contacted me, offering not only to help put out Lockdown Sceptics, but to contribute to it, too. They’ve come from all walks of life, different sides of the political spectrum and from a wide range of academic fields, all united in doubt about the wisdom of the Government’s approach to managing the pandemic. Some of them have been based overseas, but most have been my fellow countrymen and their presence and willingness to help has gone some way to restoring my faith in Britain. I often think, when reading a submission from a retired professor of economics or a lecturer in philosophy just starting out on her career, that here is the best of Britain – the heirs of Isaac Newton and David Hume and Rosalind Franklin. Like Orwell, writing in the Lion and the Unicorn during another crisis in our history when the people at the helm seemed to be steering us towards the rocks, I have persuaded myself that the problem isn’t with the country, just the people at the top. As he wrote: “A family with the wrong members in control; that, perhaps, is as near as one can come to describing England in a phrase.”

The wrong people have been in charge during this crisis in almost every sphere of public life. But there are good people out there – still – and not a few of them have been involved in this website – above and below the line. And the fact that Lockdown Sceptics has become such a thing – a kind of focal point for dissent from the official narrative, with an average of 1.25 million page views a month and – even more heartening – attacked and ridiculed almost daily by the lackeys of the Establishment is also a source of hope. And a tribute to the talent and energy of all those who’ve helped and contributed.

As a country, this has not been our finest hour. But I still believe in Britain – just.