In What Moral Universe Can Owen Jones Watch the Hamas Massacre Video – Then Sow Seeds of Doubt About its Horrors?
By Toby Young
Andrew Neil has written a powerful column in today’s Mail about Owen Jones’s bizarre, 25-minute YouTube video in which he reacts to being shown footage of Hamas’s barbaric attacks on October 7th. Here is an extract:
While accepting – several times – that Hamas did indeed commit war crimes on that terrible first Saturday of October, Jones nevertheless proceeds to nitpick, undermine, question and sow seeds of suspicion about the veracity of parts of the video. It is a worrying, disturbing, chilling, often irrational performance which descends into incoherence as it reaches its weary end.
Jones regards the IDF video as Israeli propaganda designed to justify the death and suffering that it has since rained down on northern Gaza in retaliation for October 7th.
If that is its purpose, then it has clearly failed. As the death toll of civilians, including thousands of women and children, mounted while much of Gaza City was reduced to rubble, public opinion across the globe has turned against Israel, as it always does when it responds to some terrorist atrocity.
Even America, the only ally that matters to Israel, is insisting that – with hostilities breaking out again now hostage swaps are over – the IDF must be more careful, considered and proportionate in its efforts to wipe out Hamas.
Israel has indicated it is listening and will behave differently in the next phase of its war on Hamas. But Jones is wrong. The real purpose of the video was not to pave the way for Israel’s invasion of Gaza. It was to show the world exactly what Israel is up against.
How can you negotiate with people capable of such barbarism? What is the point when the Hamas leadership has already pledged to launch more October 7s the moment it has re-established the capacity to do so.
Its aim is not to force Israel to the bargaining table but to wipe it off the map. It revels in killing Jews simply because they are Jews. Exactly what kind of ‘peace deal’ can you do with people committed to your extermination?
Throughout his long ramble, oddly cold and calculating, Jones fails to confront or respond to any of these points. Instead, he concentrates – curiously, perhaps even immorally – on trying to establish that, though Hamas are indeed evil, perhaps they are not quite as evil as the Israelis are making out… and anyway there are lots of evil Israelis too.
It has long been an outrageous conceit of the British hard Left – and proof positive of its moral bankruptcy – that Hamas, a bloodthirsty terrorist group, and the IDF, the military arm of a thriving, disputatious democracy under constant threat, are two sides of the same coin.
Jones is certainly keen to give Hamas the benefit of the doubt and cut its killers the sort of slack he would never grant the IDF. He accepts that Israeli women and children were massacred but is strangely keen to point out that the IDF video provides no “conclusive evidence” that babies were beheaded, women raped and children killed “intentionally”. What kind of bizarre mindset, what sort of moral vacuum leads anybody to posit such crazy caveats?
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: Brendan O’Neill had a similar reaction to Andrew Neil when viewing the Owen Jones reaction video. He writes: “It provides the starkest proof yet of the collapse of moral reason and plain decency that has occurred on the middle-class left these past seven weeks.” You can read the rest of his piece in Spiked.
King Charles Delivers Highly-Politicised Speech to Support Collectivist Net Zero Project
It could have been worse. King Charles could have ascended to his desert dais and pronounced that we had just 96 months to avert “irretrievable climate and ecosystem collapse”. But that was the Right Charlie back in 2009, giving us the benefit of his sandwich-board scientific wisdom. These days it is all fashionable bad weather and undefined “tipping points”. The man is now King, and at COP28 he threw away his irksome politically-neutral constitutional role, wrapped himself in Guardianista pseudoscience, and punched down hard on the poor who will be forced to pay for the collectivist madness that is the Net Zero project.
King Charles is no friend of general humanity. Speaking at COP28, he said: “The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth.” As with many know-your-place elitists, he appears to abhor the impacts that humans have on the planet. He exhibits, sadly on a world stage, a snobbish distain for capitalism – what used to be dismissed in British aristocratic circles as ‘trade’. This capitalist trend over the last 200 years has harnessed the power of natural hydrocarbons to raise billions to a standard of living and health unimaginable to previous generations. In 2009, Charles said we can no longer afford consumerism and the “age of convenience” was over.
Not for the new British King, it need hardly be observed. He lives a life of pampered indulgence where no expense is spared to ensure his every comfort. On his accession to the throne, he added considerably to his Palace Portfolio. To spread his malevolent Net Zero fantasies, he has a fleet of cars, private planes and even a personal train at his command. He uses these to call for “transformational action” to be taken to save the planet. In his COP28 speech, he called for the restoration of nature, the need for sustainable agriculture, and co-operation between the public and private sectors.
Few calls could be more political in tone. The restoration of nature and sustainable agriculture is shorthand for largely meat-free diets and massive reductions in nitrogen fertiliser. The latter, in particular, will lead to worldwide famine. COP28 seems set to announce new food and agriculture restrictions using the tactic of demonising methane, a gas emitted by animals and humans that is barely measurable in the atmosphere due to a very short lifecycle. Whenever the subject of ‘co-operation’ between public and private sectors is raised, there is an immediate dash to count the spoons, since it can only signal a large transfer of cash from productive industries to unproductive and inferior green operations.
At one point in his COP speech, King Charles veered into sandwich-board territory claiming that “we are seeing alarming tipping points being reached”. There was no evidence presented to justify this claim, often made by climate extremists using modelled data. In fact, he didn’t even refer to any actual ‘tipping’ event that has been reached. Many scientists have concluded that bad, or extreme, weather events are no worse than in the immediate past. Many categories of natural disasters such as floods, droughts and ecosystem productivity “show no clear positive trend of extreme events”, note a group of four Italian scientists. They argue that the data shows there is no “climate emergency”.
None of these facts seem to matter to a political King, who, like a stuck Guardian record, keeps on pressing on with made-up emotional stories of impending climate Armageddon. At one point he referred to repeated cyclones battering vulnerable islands, something that cyclones have always done.
The King can always cherry-pick individual storms but there is plenty of evidence to show that hurricane and cyclone frequency, along with intensity, has changed little over the recent historical record, as the above graph shows.
Wildfires are a bit of a dud when it comes to whipping up climate hysteria, not least because the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes that most conflagrations are started by humans. “Human activities have become the dominant driver,” it observes. But when there is political Net Zero work to be done, the King is only too happy to overlook the evidence. In common with many other countries this year, Canada experienced its worst wildfires for a century, he said.
Despite all the human involvement, the above graph shows the gradual decline of global emissions from wildfires over recent decades. In fact, wildfires are almost impossible to pin on any changes on climate since so many other factors, such as arson and land management, are in play.
Net Zero is rapidly becoming the dominant political issue of the age. Its obvious collectivist nature gathers support from mostly sectional interests in society. It has no significant grassroots support, since it aims to restrict human lifestyles and wealth on a scale never attempted before in history. It is awash with junk science, fake statistics and computer models.
The late Queen, in her infinite wisdom, never went anywhere near it.
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.
Stop Press: David Cameron at COP28 has said the U.K. will pay £60 million in climate reparations to developing countries. The Epoch Times has more.
History Lecturer Claims Britain Did Not Abolish Slavery
Dr. Jenny Bulstrode, a University College London lecturer accused of besmirching a hero of the Industrial Revolution, has now derided the notion that Britain eradicated slavery. The Telegraph has the story.
Dr. Jenny Bulstrode of University College London has already prompted a weeks-long academic dispute over her claim that Henry Cort stole his groundbreaking iron-making process from Jamaican slaves, with Oxbridge professors dismissing her account as a “fairy tale” and a correction subsequently being issued by the prestigious journal that published her work.
Now, another war of words has flared over her “historically stupid” suggestion that Britain did not abolish the slave trade, in an interview to promote her controversial paper.
She told the Context of White Supremacy podcast earlier this year, while laughing: “In the U.K. we have the British Government saying ‘well we abolished slavery’, again the shock – you tell a Jamaican that the British abolished slavery and they will tell you something back.
“We know that this wasn’t gifted, this was something that people fought for and civil rights movements fought for – it’s completely extraordinary and what was brought in instead, the indenture, the sharecropping and extraction and theft under different names, different guises of the same system.”
It has raised questions about whether her research – which claimed that Mr. Cort’s patent in 1784 for processing scrap iron into high-quality wrought iron was “theft… from black metallurgists in Jamaica” – was influenced by her views.
The latest esteemed historian to criticise the paper, Nigel Biggar, Emeritus Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at the University of Oxford and an expert on colonialism, said her comment about abolition was “ridiculous”.
Worth reading in full.
The Federal Government Paid Media Outlets to Promote the Covid Vaccine
By Rav Arora
After releasing my three-part series earlier this year showing how multiple media outlets refused to platform dissent on the Covid vaccine, I was asked on multiple podcasts why this was the case. Ideological groupthink, fear of exacerbating institutional distrust and financial motives were on my list of potential explanations, but I did not have concrete evidence.
As I highlighted in my first piece, the responses I got from editors claiming their publication’s “pro-vaccine” allegiance was quite jarring. More than anything else, a publication should be “pro-truth” – whether that means highlighting the astounding benefits of a therapeutic or exposing its serious side effects. The idea that a whole media corporation would take a firm stance on a novel, experimental product is antithetical to the core purpose of journalism.
As it turns out, mainstream media’s nearly monolithic coverage of mRNA vaccines and other Covid measures can be at least partially explained by a clear financial interest. Recently, independent journalist Breanna Morello – who left Fox News because of draconian vaccine mandates in New York City – alerted me to a FOIA request filed by the conservative media company Blaze, which found a number of major media outlets were paid to promote the Covid vaccine. Such venues included the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, NBC, CNN, Fox News and several others. Blaze’s report received little coverage – even in conservative media (perhaps because some of those outlets were also paid by HHS) ideologically predisposed to criticise government-fuelled narratives on the pandemic. As Blaze reports:
Hundreds of news organisations were paid by the federal Government to advertise for the vaccines as part of a “comprehensive media campaign,” according to documents the Blaze obtained from the Department of Health and Human Services. The Biden administration purchased ads on TV, radio, in print and on social media to build vaccine confidence, timing this effort with the increasing availability of the vaccines.
During the vaccine roll-out, the Biden administration made a number of efforts to bolster vaccination rates. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s COVID-19 Public Education Campaign states they employed “both paid advertising and media interviews, presentations, radio/TV tours and other public events to educate people about the importance of vaccination”.
The HHS website contains public access to all vaccine campaign advertisements for media outlets and beyond. One past advertisement promotes Covid vaccination in children, featuring a montage of selected medical doctors stating in unison:
We can all agree on this: You can trust the Covid vaccine for yourself, or your kids or your grandkids… I mean it from the heart.
In another ad directed to parents, HHS’s selection of doctors state:
We want you to know, Covid vaccines are ‘safe and effective’. My grandkids are vaccinated… what’s not safe is getting Covid.
Is it ethical for the Government to dubiously claim Covid vaccines are uniformly beneficial for kids, and contracting Covid is far less “safe” than getting your child double-vaccinated? No such randomised clinical evidence exists suggesting the benefits of the Covid vaccine outweigh the harms in young cohorts with a nearly zero risk of serious outcomes. The concentrated risk of myocarditis in boys and menstrual irregularities in girls suggest the Covid vaccine may be harmful on net. Moreover, is it ethical (for either party) for the federal Government to advertise such medical misinformation on platforms allegedly committed to investigating the truth and holding the powerful accountable?
HHS advertisement on the updated Covid booster
A new Government ad on the HHS website now promotes the updated Covid vaccine. It falsely claims the new booster shot prevents long Covid and hospitalisation when the only available evidence from Pfizer and Moderna are rat studies and a 50-person trial (with an unexplained 2% rate of serious adverse events).
Rather than critically covering such propagandistic attempts to promote a longitudinally ineffective therapeutic with a one in 800 serious adverse event rate, major media outlets allowed the federal Government to freely spread its misinformation on their platform. The New York Times’s reporting on vaccine-induced myocarditis, for example, downplayed the side effect at every sight and compared it to misleadingly higher rates of Covid-induced myocarditis:
For over two years, the media and Government officials have been peddling dangerous misinformation – the very sin they accuse of the conspiracy web of committing – about COVID-19 posing a higher risk to young people than the vaccine. Instead of examining age, gender and health-stratified risk-benefit ratios, they elementarily look at aggregate data and cherry-pick seemingly beneficial outcomes to justify their “everyone should get vaccinated!” campaign. A few of umpteen examples:
As an admittedly biased Zoomer, one of the most discrediting media assault campaigns grew in opposition to Joe Rogan’s claim in a June 2021 podcast that healthy 21 year-olds didn’t need the vaccine. Over two years later, Rogan’s judgment has been vindicated – as it was at the time – given the 0.003% mortality risk among 20 year-olds and unusually high rates of myocardial and menstrual-related vaccine adverse events. However, the mainstream media ecosystem conducted a fierce reputational decapitation in response to Rogan’s impermissible dissent from the CDC and Pfizer’s edicts:
The United States wasn’t alone in spending large sums of taxpayer dollars to promote its agenda. The Trudeau Government invested over $600,000 in hiring social media influencers to advance federal directives, including the push for Canadians to get vaccinated and boosted.
As CTV reports, Health Canada spent the most on hiring influencers to promote Government information; $130,600 was spent towards an “influencer campaign in support of the COVID-19 vaccination marketing and advertising campaign”.
None of this is to mention Pfizer’s vaccine campaigns paying celebrities to rhapsodise about marvellously ‘safe and effective’ mRNA inoculation. Travis Kelce – a professional football player watched and revered by many young American men in particular – promoted getting the updated booster shot and flu vaccine in the same visit.
The journalists I grew up admiring – such as Megyn Kelly, Glenn Greenwald, Alex Berenson (Unreported Truths) and Matt Taibbi (Racket News) – were known for challenging consensus and providing novel perspectives on complex sociopolitical topics. I relied on select journalistic outlets and individual commentators for an honest, independent evaluation of the facts.
The heavily biased coverage of race relations and criminal justice issues in 2020 following the tragic death of George Floyd was self-discrediting but hardly surprising given the dominance of identity politics in elite liberal discourse.
The deterioration of journalistic standards during the vaccine roll-out beginning in 2021, however, was particularly disorienting. The Washington Post, NBC, and the New York Times should have held the Biden administration’s feet to the fire for promoting experimental vaccines in all Americans irrespective of risk and continued revelations regarding concerning side effects.
They miserably failed to do so.
The last standing bulwark against government propaganda and censorship is crumbling before our eyes, losing relevance by the month. Perhaps a solution for media institutions to earn back credibility is to critically cover federal agencies misinforming the public rather than take funds to promote their agendas.
Just a thought.
It’s Not That Ministers Can’t Control Their Civil Servants – They Can’t Even Influence Them
By Ian Price
Allister Heath lamented in the Telegraph this week that David Cameron’s appointment to the Foreign Office showed that the “pro-EU anti-Israel blob” was now back in charge. The truth is far worse than that. The blob was always in charge just as it also appears to be in charge of every other key department of state.
If James Cleverly had genuinely been in control of the FCDO, would the U.K. in late October have abstained rather than vote with the U.S. against Jordan’s motion at the United Nations general assembly for a prolonged humanitarian truce in Gaza?
The fact is that cabinet ministers are not just unable to control their departments – they are now barely able to merely influence them. Jacob Rees-Mogg has talked candidly of ministers’ lack of direct line management authority over civil servants. As Cabinet Office Minister in April 2022 he was frustrated with their work-from-home culture but could do little about it. He was reduced to touring empty offices and leaving behind cards on empty desks that read: “Sorry you were out when I visited. I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon.”
According to Yuan Yi Zhu on Unherd, Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, told his civil servants to comply with the Government’s instruction for Whitehall departments to fly the Israeli flag for a week as a gesture of solidarity after the October 7th Hamas massacres. Barclay’s officials refused. Barclay “persuaded” them to put the flag up only, it was reported, for it to be taken down by a “recalcitrant” civil servant. As Yuan Yi Zhu writes:
Meanwhile, Barclay tried to cajole his civil servants into lighting the entrance to the department’s building in the colours of the Israeli flag, but had only managed to have blue light projected in the face of official opposition. Apparently, the department’s projectors, which are quite capable of reproducing the rainbow, could not provide white lighting on that particular occasion.
Jacob Rees-Mogg is studiously polite and Barclay is nobody’s idea of a bully. Perhaps ministers with a more forthright reputation hold more sway over their department. Kemi Badenoch, for example? Badenoch has been very vocal about Critical Race Theory (CRT) and has been dismissive about the value of training in the divisive pseudoscience. In the House of Commons in 2020 she described CRT as “a dangerous trend in race relations”. And yet the Department for Business and Trade has a Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage (Reach) network which recently met to discuss the book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. As Matthew Goodwin told the Telegraph:
For all of Kemi Badenoch’s [the Secretary of State for the Department for Business and Trade] rhetoric attacking Critical Race Theory, it is now clear that this divisive ideology has captured her own department. Whilst civil servants should not waste their work time discussing these radical narratives around race, it is up to ministers to put an end to this. The Conservative Party has had 13 years to clamp down on officials who promote concepts like CRT, yet nothing ever seems to change. Instead of talking the talk, as Kemi and other Conservative MPs sometimes like to do on these issues, it is time for ministers to walk the walk.
Surely, someone more fiery – say, the recently defenestrated Suella Braverman – would be better at imposing her will on civil servants. Not according to an anonymous Home Office Staffer writing in the Telegraph:
For all her strident bearing, Suella was cringingly apologetic in speeches to Home Office staff. Instead of instilling much needed discipline, she would tell us what a great job we were doing, not that this got her any kind of loyalty. She was mocked and insulted by London-based staff furious at the refusal to extend safe routes to an ever-growing number of countries.
It is possible that some past ministers genuinely stood up to their civil servants. Both Priti Patel and Dominic Raab fell to confected bullying complaints against them which suggests some form of falling out. But the depressing truth appears to be a tacit acceptance on the part of ministers: Talk tough in public but do not attempt to change the direction of travel chosen by the blob. That direction is very much leftwards – anti-Israel, pro-open borders and all the other items on the misanthropic prix fixe menu of the New Left. Much as Foreign Office staff may welcome the appointment of Cameron, it makes little difference – they’ve been in control for some time.
Ian Price is a Business Psychologist. Find him on X (Twitter).
Scientific Modellers Have no More Clue About the Future than Historians do About the Past
Prophecy (which today we call scientific modelling) rides on the back of history. Indeed, it has no meaning or relevance without history. So, I want to start with that. It’s central to the Covid Inquiry which as far as I can see has descended into an extraordinary but inevitable party game in which the contestants have lined up to be the person who can claim they wanted lockdowns the earliest of all.
At the rate things are going, I suspect the winner will be the punter who claims they thought lockdowns ought to have been brought in about 20 years ago.
It’s an unfair game because it’s all down to having to play their cards clockwise from the dealer. It means each player has the chance to up the stakes by insisting that back in those heady days of February and March 2020 they were uniquely able to see before anyone else when lockdown – now being wheeled out as the Silver Bullet that would have killed Covid – should have been wheeled out, but were only thwarted by the motley collection of orcs, cretins, and demons who surrounded them.
I had an A-level student once who went for a university interview to study History. He was asked: ”When does History begin?” and was flummoxed, having never considered that before. He returned to school and asked me. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about that either but after a moment or two I suggested that History begins when people start disagreeing about what happened, which is immediately.
I spend my every waking moment immersed in history. But I have spent my life tantalised by the impossibility of ever quite being able to grasp the true sense of the moment in the past. The truth, if there is one, is that at any given moment there are countless parallel narratives that are blurred and conflicted with, and oblivious to, one another. There is no single story which is why consensus about ‘what happened’ is impossible to achieve.
The historian Robin Lane Fox summed the problem up brilliantly in his Alexander the Great. “The past,” he said, “like the present, is made up of seasons and faces, feelings, disappointments, and things seen… It is a naïve belief that the distant past can be recovered from written texts.”
All historical narratives are therefore constructs, artefacts of historians’ minds and of those recounting their experiences. They form an essential ingredient of every culture, creating meaning and a framework to contextualise the present, and provide a foundation for the future. This does not mean they set out maliciously to deceive. They all create their own pastiches of the past blurred with the concerns and obsessions of the present day, which of course include covering one’s own tracks, saving face for the sake of professional reputations, and being wise after the event.
Let’s not be too quick though to turn this into Us and Them because we all do it. It’s in our nature.
Several years ago, I met the former state prosecutor of the state of Pennsylvania while hiking in the U.S. One of the sharpest minds I’ve ever encountered, and I have kept up with her. I asked her once what her most important experience had been in her years in the law. She said that she had learned that the most unreliable evidence of all is eyewitness testimony and never more than when it was proved to her that her own memory of an event was in error. And of course, we all know that eyewitness testimony plays a dominant part in miscarriages of justice.
The falsification of the past is therefore all around us, whether by deliberate intent or simply because we all distort or even change it. It matters not what the cause is because the effect is the same. Our mirage of the past takes on an identity of its own and becomes the metaphysical foundation of our individual and collective beliefs, prejudices, grievances, and fantasies. This is a gift to political and religious leaders, or politicised movements, who can manufacture foundation and destiny myths based on these inclinations and drive forward their own agendas.
Two of the most egregious claims of recent years have been that both Cleopatra VII of Egypt and the Roman emperor Septimius Severus were of black African heritage. The evidence that exists is that she was of Syrian and Macedonian origin. He was from Leptis Magna in North Africa, born to a Punic family whose origins were in Phoenicia (roughly modern Lebanon). It’s a rum example of modern right-on racism to steal their origins and substitute fantasy versions of the past. And from what we know, Cleopatra was a lot more Syrio-Macedonian than she might have been: she was the product of a succession of consanguineous and even outright incestuous unions.
The Roman statesman Cicero had discovered that certain jokes were being attributed to him that he knew he had never cracked. This is a phenomenon which might be coined as prestige attribution, a process by which an action, comment, or saying is given false authority by attributing it to someone whose reputation enhances its credibility and significance.
Prestige attribution also means that an opinion expressed by, or attributed to, a person with an esteemed academic or professional title is automatically imbued with authority and treated as such. ‘Scientists believe’ is, in fact, as absurd and meaningless as saying ‘the dog thinks that’ or ‘they say that’ but always carries more authority.
We find ourselves, as all ages do, trapped between the past and the future. Every instant starts as the abstract future and before a moment has occurred it has become the fleeting present and then forever the past. All societies have sought to anticipate, control, and define the future which they see tumbling towards them. Once that future is behind them there is an unholy rush to set the past in stone in multifarious different ways that suit whoever’s version it is.
Our age is no different, but we have a new way of taming the future, or so at least some of us choose to believe. Instead of omens, and reading entrails, ours is an age of modelling, or perhaps better, prophecy. The future is contained within the data and the maths. Or so we are told.
“Among all forms of mistake, prophecy is the most gratuitous,” said George Eliot. She also said: “Probabilities – the surest screen a wise man can place between himself and the truth.”
I blame eclipses. Alone almost among natural phenomena, they can be predicted down to the last second because, uniquely, all the factors involved are known. It’s certainly an impressive human accomplishment. I stood in a back country dirt road in Nebraska on August 21st 2017, where I’d planned to be for over a decade, and watched the Moon begin its slow crawl across the solar disk exactly on cue. The sun duly disappeared and two minutes or so later, it reappeared. The irrefutable science of eclipses, the product of the extraordinary chance of our Moon’s orbit and its relative size in the sky, has given mankind the illusion that we can count our way into the future in any other way we want.
Modelling might seem to have nothing to do with history, but it does. Modelling is about trying to construct the history of the future before it happens.
Appropriately enough, it has all the shortcomings of the history of the past, and even more of its own, largely because not all the factors are known or ever can be known.
We now have a whole industry of people from scientists to educationalists bent on convincing us that their measurements of the past, as selective and as biased as any written history, contain the secrets of the future which they map out with breezy hubris and expect us all to modify our behaviour in the light of their sacred revelations.
Yet time after time we see that the future they have predicted without being there never quite happens which of course leads to the circular argument of claiming that the only reason the predicted outcomes didn’t happen is because we did as we were told. On the rare occasions someone does predict the future they rarely concede that it might have been a lucky strike.
Look at the ludicrous efforts to predict election results. If you think about it, the practice is almost beyond laughable, but even worse it creates a sense of expectation that might in practice through media coverage actually help the outcome approximate to the prediction: how many people don’t bother to vote because of the polls?
Covid’s Usual Suspects have been lining up at the Inquiry, bent on manufacturing a revisionist version of the pandemic in which they were all on lockdown message, only handicapped by Government ministers who were variously ‘bamboozled’ by their wisdom or other obstructive agents. We’ve already seen how Patrick Vallance found a way to explain how the words that came out of his mouth about herd immunity actually meant he was a lockdown hawk.
Meanwhile, various ex-Government ministers are now starting to appear. The redoubtable Matt Hancock is the most prominent so far, and needless to say, it now turns out he was even further ahead on the lockdown curve than everyone else around him. Fancy that! Handicapped by the people around him, he was thwarted in his attempt to bring in lockdown three weeks sooner. Had he been able to, then “many lives would have been saved”. Of course they would.
Not might have but would have. An implicit certainty.
Here we have his version of another future that would have happened, had he been given a chance to preside over it. Since that isn’t what happened, he has resorted to the refuge of all such people – he has created the retrospective myth of an alternate reality that he owns but which only exists in a parallel universe of his own imagination. It’s predicated on his own version of the history of the past in which he was the bastion of wisdom and foresight. Only the “toxic culture” of Whitehall obstructed him, with Dominic Cummings wheeled out as the Evil Genius.
Call me a cynic, but had the first lockdown been brought in three weeks earlier than it was, I fancy we’d now be subjected to all the Inquiry’s red carpet guest stars telling us that they knew back then it should have been brought in three weeks before that. Or three months. Or three years.
Of course, they all thought lockdowns should have been harder and faster. I have an uncomfortable feeling that this is a hypothesis they are all champing at the bit to test at the earliest opportunity. When it comes, I hope there’ll be enough time for me to catch a plane to Mexico City and join my youngest son.
It’s a desperate attempt to separate themselves from the effects of Covid because if only we’d locked down three weeks earlier it would all have been so much better. Of course, one possibility is that it would have been a lot worse in ways we cannot now imagine. Or maybe without lockdowns it might have been no worse or even better. The empirical evidence of Sweden is being swept conveniently under the carpet.
Yet “it was both politicians and scientists making mistakes” said the BBC’s Nick Triggle, in my opinion the only journalist in that organisation who has emerged from Covid with any credibility. In that piece he focuses on a consummate failure to consider the wider consequences of an unprecedented lockdown policy, among them “rising rates of mental health problems in the young, record-high hospital waiting lists and continued attendance problems at school”:
A consequence of this was that SAGE came to define the debate. Its meeting papers were pored over by the media and commentators when they were published and used to suggest scientists were calling for action when in reality SAGE was only providing information for ministers to make decisions.
But because they focused solely on the consequences of doing something or not, there was no counter narrative of what those options would mean for the economy, education or wider wellbeing.
And based on what we heard at the Inquiry last and this week, those considerations seem to have been virtually eliminated from the rush to be the person who wanted lockdown before everyone else.
This is how it happens. Our modelling or political geniuses tell us what the future is going to be, their own forward version of future history. Then the real future, every part of it, one by one, becomes the present but never as we were told it would be. In another instant it has tumbled into the past, in theory now immutable and inevitable except that of course it is now manipulated, redrawn, and rebranded so that what was a false account of the future is now a false account of the past.
We are watching that happening in real time at the Covid Inquiry. The past is being reconstructed by the witnesses and participants. In that mythologised past, hindsight can be reimagined as a new alternate reality.
As Dan Hodges amply explained in the Mail, the problem was that politicians were confronted with scientists who in reality didn’t have a clue what to do, were floundering around, giving conflicting advice, and generally causing mayhem. As usual, real events didn’t pan out according to the plans and predictions.
To be fair, what else would one have expected? Who would or could have known what to do? But in an age of Experts no-one wants to admit that being an expert doesn’t usually mean being very expert at all. It exposes the unpalatable fact that most of what goes on around us on this planet is far bigger than us and doesn’t operate automatically according to the rules we have invented to understand all these phenomena. It also exposes the fact that none of them gave any serious consideration to the consequences of lockdown, negligence on an epic scale currently being obliterated at the Inquiry.
Everyone is entitled to change their minds, to admit they got it wrong, to come to the realisation that their expertise and experience wasn’t equal to the occasion, that we are very small pieces of a vast edifice of circumstances that rearrange themselves in spectacularly unpredictable ways.
“A little humility would become you Mozart,” says a court official in the movie Amadeus. It would also do well for all those at the Covid Inquiry and perhaps all of us who think we would have known better.
But, hey, what do I know? Fancies of history and predictions of the future are part of who and what we are. We have to believe we know the past and can control the future, while at the same time blaming others for their fake versions of the past and the future. Or else we’d all go mad. Or madder than we already are.
There is a history in all men’s lives,Shakespeare, Henry IV Pt II
Figuring the natures of the times deceas’d;
The which observ’d, a man may prophesy,
With a near aim, of the main chance of things
As yet not come to life, who in their seeds
And weak beginning lie intreasured.
Such things become the hatch and brood of time.
Stop the War Coalition and Cage Behind Schoolchildren’s Pro-Palestinian Protests, as Teachers “Wave Through Absences”
Children as young as seven are skipping school to join pro-Palestine marches, with various hard Left groups behind the protests. The Mail has more.
Hardline groups are advising parents on how to avoid fines from schools and on setting up protests, according to the Policy Exchange think-tank.
The wave of truancy comes amid a school absence crisis triggered by the pandemic.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said last night that it was unacceptable for pupils to put activism ahead of study.
The report claims some parents were allegedly told by teachers they would not be penalised over the protests.
The Policy Exchange also says that:
- The hard-Left Stop the War Coalition co-ordinated parents and children to strike together across the country
- Young activists were directed to material from Cage, a hardline group accused of sympathising with terrorists after calling Islamic State fanatic Jihadi John a “beautiful young man”
- Children as young as seven were seen chanting the slogan ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’
- Activist teachers in Bristol have waived through the absences saying there would be “no risk of a fine”
Mrs. Keegan said: “Children should be in school. While I would always encourage young people to engage in world events, doing so by joining protests during school time is unacceptable.
“I am deeply concerned political groups are encouraging children to join protests at the cost of invaluable time in the classroom. Children should not be used as political tools by campaign groups, who in some cases hold extreme views.
“I strongly support schools and local authorities in setting clear expectations that pupils should be in school, and in taking action where that is not the case including using fines where applicable.”
Thousands of schoolchildren have attended marches in recent weeks. More than 400 attended a single protest in Tower Hamlets, East London, on November 16th, while 500 marched in Redbridge, North-East London, on November 17th.
Another 300 children at Beal High School in Ilford, East London, boycotted an assembly with local Labour MP and Health spokesman Wes Streeting over his stance on the war in Gaza.
The report by the Policy Exchange sparked outrage from MPs and experts who called for parents who allow their children to join protests to be fined.
Worth reading in full.
The Times has also reported on the involvement of Stop the War Coalition, a front for the Socialist Workers’ Party, in the schoolchildren’s protests.
Stop Press: Leading period product company Hey Girls has prompted outrage by telling schoolgirls that men can have periods.
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