The lockdown has done untold damage to this country

Democracy, liberty and wealth have been decimated by this hysterical policy.

Brendan O'Neill

Covid Britain feels like a one-party state. Normal political life has been suspended. Political protest and industrial action have been banned. Even small gatherings that question the ruling ideology of this strange new nation – the ideology of lockdown – are violently broken up. Witness the police brutality that was visited upon lockdown sceptics in Hyde Park a few days ago. You dissent at your peril.

The role of the citizen in the Covid dystopia is to applaud the state, not question it. Every Thursday night, on your doorsteps or your balconies, you must clap for the benevolent state and its gracious health service. Big Brother loves you and you must love it back. Vast propaganda billboards remind us of this duty. From Wembley Stadium to motorway hoardings to the front windows of the most respectable citizens’ houses, the same three words loom, like an omnipresent reminder to the masses of the only opinion you’re allowed to hold in Covid Britain: ‘Thank you NHS.’

The despotic instinct runs riot. We have seen police officers telling people to get out of their own front gardens, to stop walking in the Peak District, to get off park benches and return to their house arrest. Snitching is the only thriving business. By the end of April, British police forces had received 214,000 calls from Covid Britain’s willing army of spies. ‘Always the eyes watching you’, as Winston Smith put it.

New rituals ensure order and obedience. A face mask, like a burqa in Afghanistan, signifies your fealty to the new religion: social distancing. ‘Stay two metres apart’, the relentless propaganda instructs, even though the medical benefits of such distance are far from clear. People do the awkward pavement dance to avoid getting too close to passing strangers, and take their place in long, silent, fractured queues outside supermarkets, keen not to displease any lockdown fanatic who might be watching.

Not only is work strictly regulated in this one-ideology nation – so is play. There will be no hugging of people from outside your household until autumn at the earliest, says Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for human touch. A survey found that some people (possibly as high as one in five) are breaking lockdown to have sexual intercourse. Sex is an illicit activity in Covid Britain, as in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Hancock is our one-man Junior Anti-Sex League keeping a watchful eye over citizens and their wandering hands. In Orwell’s dystopia, ‘the sexual act, successfully performed, was rebellion’. Same here. Just ask Neil Ferguson. He lost his job for having sex (when it should have been for his dodgy models).

Public debate has disintegrated. Do not for one minute be fooled by the noisy media discussions of the government’s failures or the pantomime yelling matches between TV presenters like Piers Morgan and some hapless minister. All of this takes place within the lockdown ideology. The only ‘dissenting’ view you may hold in Covid Britain is that the lockdown didn’t come early enough / wasn’t severe enough / is being eased too early. The media-government spats over the Covid crisis are the narcissism of small differences. The very shrillness of these discussions is an indicator that what we have here are groups devoted to the same cause – locking down the country – but who differ over how successfully the cause has been implemented. Hell hath no fury like fanatics bickering over details.

It’s the same in politics. Every clash and row takes place within the parameters of acceptable thought. Genuinely demurring voices are notable by their absence. Lockdown scepticism is staggeringly absent. Jacob Rees-Mogg is right to say that MPs must get off their Zoom calls and physically return to the Commons. But it isn’t their physical absence that’s the problem – it’s their intellectual absence. Where are the voices for reason and liberty and a return to work and production? The speed and thoroughness with which our allegedly conflictual political system was bent to a singular, myopic cause raises profound questions about the health of our democracy.

In lockdown Britain, there’s one way to think and one way to behave. You must accept the lockdown or risk being demonised as a hateful individual and possibly being beaten by the police. You must mask your face, keep your distance, foreswear sex, go shopping, go home again. Question nothing. Eat your meals, get your exercise, watch the news, go to bed. And await deliverance by officialdom. Although deliverance will be into a ‘new normal’, we are now chillingly told, in which the low-carbon, socially distanced, populace-managing dreams of the technocratic elite will finally become a real-world nightmare.

‘But it is all necessary’, the lockdowners cry. This was questionable from the very start of the lockdown. Now it is utterly untenable. The lockdown was justified as a temporary measure to ensure that the NHS was not pushed to breaking point by the hundreds of thousands of Covid cases that the ideologues of doom predicted. The cases never came. Many hospitals are half-empty. The lockdown’s justification has evaporated.

And yet it continues. And it’s easy to see why. It’s because lockdown has become a political, ideological cause, not a medical one, on to which so many of the elite’s prejudices – about the harmfulness of economic growth, the undesirability of mass society, the unimportance of liberty, the need for mass compliance to expert advice – have been projected. The lockdown is now separate from the pandemic. It has its own logic. It is the ruling ideology of our age. That is why Covid-related reason – whether one is pointing out that the models were wrong or that cases in London have plummeted – is proving such a feeble tool. Because the lockdown is no longer really about Covid.

How has the subjugation of democracy, liberty, daily life and reason to Covid hysteria been so successful? Through terror. It is not an exaggeration to say that the government launched a campaign of terror against the populace. Government adviser Professor Robert Dingwall is right to say that officials have ‘effectively terrorised’ people into believing that coronavirus will kill them. We have been incited to fear not only a disease, but each other. Misanthropy is the fuel of the lockdown ideology. Steer clear of people. Do not touch them. Do not sit next to them. They might be diseased. And you might be diseased. That baleful instruction, now rescinded, to ‘Stay Home’ and ‘Save Lives’ made it clear: you are dangerous, and if you go outside you could kill people. The purest form of the culture of fear.

Polls show that many people are now reluctant to go back to normal life. Many want schools to remain closed. There is fear about returning to work. Things are so bad that the government is having to redirect its resources, away from terrorising us to stay indoors towards trying to coax us to come out again. It is reported that Boris Johnson recently joked with his colleagues, saying: ‘I’ve learnt that it is much easier to take people’s freedoms away than give them back.’ That isn’t funny. The use of terror to cow much of the public, decimate economic life and suspend everyday liberty is not a joking matter. Terror has consequences, especially in a situation where any form of meaningful dissent from the terror was demonised and even criminalised.

How do we get out of this? With truth and reason. With facts about the virus, not hysteria. With clear information about the very small risk that Covid poses to the vast majority of us. And with a renewed commitment to freedom and democracy and to the thing that makes those things possible: the treatment of citizens as adults to be engaged with, not miscreant children to be terrorised into changing their behaviour. For the sake of liberty and the economy, the lockdown must end. But that isn’t enough. After that we need a reckoning with the ideology of the lockdown, and with the pre-Covid prejudices, elitism and hysteria that are its fuel.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

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John Urquhart

1st June 2020 at 2:03 pm

There is one fatal flaw in the recent diatribe about lockdown – the claim that lockdown is based on “dodgy models”, which were promulgated by Neil Ferguson and Imperial College. Unfortunately, on the contrary, this model has proved to be remarkably accurate, showing how before lockdown Covid-19 was increasing exponentially not only in the UK but other countries and then predicting a gradual decline with lockdown.

Any attempts to prematurely loosen lockdown, particularly responding to ill-formed comments about the threat to democracy, will see a return of Covid-19 to previous unwanted levels. Be warned – behind this diatribe is the neo-Nazi philosophy of herd immunity which entails the death of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands for “the greater good.”

You may be sure that if Covid-19 is allowed to ramp up again, this will “eliminate” many of the weak and elderly, which was of course a prime objective of the Nazi regime. Yes, lockdown does impose challenges to our democracy, but so did World War Two and we survived that through compassion and intelligence, not carping about the necessary rules that had to be imposed for our survival.

Jack Enright

27th May 2020 at 3:30 pm

Data compiled by ‘The Telegraph’ shows over 23,000 excess deaths in care homes or at home, not linked to Covid-19, since 13th March.  In that period, hospital deaths fell by more than 10,000 as many dying patients were sent back into the community to free up beds ahead of the predicted ‘spike’ of Covid-19 cases. But, even after allowing for the numbers who would ordinarily have died in hospital, some 12,818 deaths are left unaccounted for. Statisticians at Oxford and Cambridge universities said the numbers were now sufficiently worrying for an inquiry to be launched into the cause.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, the chairman of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge, said: “There’s a huge spike in non-Covid deaths at home very quickly into the epidemic, close to the time when hospitals started minimising the normal service that they were providing. A call went out to all hospitals to send as many patients as you possibly could out of hospitals, and it was the community’s responsibility to look after them. It is important to know how many might have been at least delayed if the normal healthcare had existed. This isn’t to attribute blame, but this isn’t going to be our last epidemic and we need to learn about the indirect impact of measures.”

During the lockdown, urgent cancer referrals across England dropped by 62%, while chemotherapy treatments have been running at just 70% of their normal levels. A&E attendance has plummeted in recent weeks, and there are also concerns that people have stayed away from hospitals despite suffering life-threatening heart attacks or strokes. On 25th April, Sir Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, was forced to launch a new drive to persuade the public to seek urgent care and treatment when it is needed.

Are the “Stay Insiders!!” raising Cain about these thousands of deaths? Noooo . . . they’re ranting away about Dominic Cummings taking perfectly reasonable steps to protect a small child . . . and totally ignoring all the other politicians who ‘broke lockdown rules’, but barely got noticed, and totally ignoring the fact that Cummings did not break the law. In fact, the government’s guidelines made allowance for a bit of common sense – something which has been noticeable by its rarity since this pandemic started, hasn’t it?

I wonder if the “STAY INSIDERS!” are proud of those nearly 13,000 avoidable, preventable, and needless deaths which their hysteria and lack of thought has helped to bring about?

Maybe the government’s slogan should have been “Stay Inside! Protect the NHS! And KILL PEOPLE!”

I can only hope that, whatever people say about me when I’m dead and buried, it isn’t the most savage condemnation of all – “But he MEANT well . . . “

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