The mask slips

The spiked team discusses lockdown fanaticism, the rise of China, and Bristol’s BLM statue.


Will Britain ever go back to normal? Is China as big a threat as some are making out? Who would Black Lives Matter erect a statue to? Brendan O’Neill, Tom Slater, Fraser Myers, and special guest Lee Jones, discuss all this and more on this week’s spiked podcast.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Mor Vir

19th July 2020 at 11:24 pm

Good for China if they are investing massively in a project to get ahead with innovation in the next generation of technologies so that they can stop making stuff cheaply for the West and make their own stuff.

That is exactly what they should be doing. They still need to massively increase their productivity and profits if they are to reach anything like the ‘frontier’ of modern living standards.

The West seems unable to go any further than it already has, with collapsed productivity growth and stagnant living standards.

If China can make their political and economic system work better than ours, and get ahead in technology, then good for them. There may be some hope yet for a further improvement in the human lot.

It is a shame that USA and UK cannot work with China to help them to do that but everyone else seems willing to, so I suppose that is how it goes.

George Whale

20th July 2020 at 1:06 pm

I’m no fan of Chinese communism, but I believe there could be great benefits all round if the West and China were to pool expertise and resources on the environmental front.

Ava Tar

19th July 2020 at 3:09 pm

Lee Jones sounded almost an apologist for China – I was shocked! Surely he knows that if you don’t stand up to a bully they keep on doing it. Why didn’t he mention the Belt and Road initiative which has basically colonised much of Africa and other countries by offering them so much in loans that they can be manipulated through debt. Just today there is an article about Huawei attempting to infiltrate UK universities by hiring campus ambassadors. There are also reports of Chinese students insisting on the restriction of freedom of speech in universities. The threats to Hong Kong and indirectly towards Taiwan and military build up in the South China Sea are also ominous. China is a threat to peaceful world order much more than Trump is: not least because Trump may only get another 4 years, but Xi is there for life.

Mor Vir

19th July 2020 at 6:47 pm

Or another four months. It is a shame that he did not do more about cancel culture when he had the chance. He is all talk at elections. He has not got USA out of MENA like he said he would.

Bracing if he gets chucked in Nov just before UK is looking for a trade deal.

> President Trump won’t agree to accept 2020 election results as Biden leads in polls — ‘I have to see’

President Donald Trump declined Sunday to say he would accept the results of the 2020 election, adding that he will “have to see” and claiming without evidence that mail-in voting will “rig the election.”

Trump’s comments came during a wide-ranging interview with “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace in which he criticized so-called cancel culture and repeatedly downplayed the coronavirus, which has infected more than 3.7 million people in the U.S. and killed at least 140,131, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

During the interview, Wallace debuted the results of Fox News’ latest national poll, which showed Democratic candidate for president Joe Biden leading Trump by 8%. The poll showed Biden leading on specific issues as well, including a 1% lead over Trump on the economy.

When presented with the results, Trump downplayed the findings as “fake polls.”

“First of all, I’m not losing because those are fake polls,” he said. “They were fake in 2016 and now they’re even more fake.”

– CNBC, today

James Knight

19th July 2020 at 10:33 pm

It looked like the US who bullied the UK on the issue.

Ed Dalton

19th July 2020 at 9:39 am

Just listened to the podcast. Pretty shocked by the apparently poor grasp of the mechanisms associated with the spread of this Corona virus. The fact that there’s a relatively low prevalence of the virus in the community now is not BECAUSE the outbreak is nearly over, it is because of the range of interventions that we have all accepted. The current relatively small numbers of infections will rapidly grow back into widespread infection and death if these are all reversed.

The government is attempting to work out which measures have most effect and which least and relax everything possible. This is a clear strategy at least. Masks have a cost, as described, particularly in social capital, but the balance of opinion is that it is worth it.

If wearing masks means that other measures can be relaxed without driving a new peak, I’m all for them.

Gareth Edward KING

19th July 2020 at 9:47 am

There was no need at all for any of the ‘interventions’ that you mentioned. What needs to be asked is why this particular Coronovirus has been so defined in order to pile on control after control (none of it evidence-based) and to encourage this mass hysteria? What makes it so ‘special’? it’s not as if it kills off young people in their prime, unlike most flu viruses, of course. Also, why was the unpublished study from Imperial College taken on as a basis for subsequent governmental action despite the appalling record of Neil Ferguson? And the team at the University of Oxford led by Professor Gupta ignored? These questions need to be answered urgently, it’s not as if these outrageous measures have no effect at all on wider society.

George Whale

19th July 2020 at 11:56 am

There’s no scientific consensus on any of this, certainly not on the effectiveness (or futility) of ‘lockdown’. (Sweden’s doing fine, thank you for asking.) Had the virus been allowed to run its course (whilst protecting the most vulnerable), it would have been over by now. How can I be sure? Because that’s precisely what’s happened in previous years with major flu outbreaks.

John Clack

19th July 2020 at 8:48 am

I’m sorry, what? Brendan says “it’s pretty much fizzled out”. What dangerous and disingenuous garbage. Take a look at the global figures. The virus is accelerating.

George Whale

19th July 2020 at 12:04 pm

It’s fizzed out in Britain. How you seen the graph?

George Whale

19th July 2020 at 12:07 pm

I meant: It’s fizzled out in Britain. Have you seen the graph?

John Clack

19th July 2020 at 1:52 pm

It hasn’t fizzled out in Britain. Infection rates are persistent. They are flat or rising in some areas. And that’s with distancing.

George Whale

19th July 2020 at 5:12 pm

The fatality rate is still on a down slope, which indicates decreased virulence. Do we continue ‘lockdown’, ‘social distancing’ and muzzling until the incidence of mild flu is near zero?

John Clack

19th July 2020 at 5:15 pm

The death count isn’t the most important stat. That will always be last one to reflect changes. It’s the new infections you need to keep an eye on. It’s jumped by 20% in 24hrs.

Gareth Edward KING

19th July 2020 at 6:05 pm

No. In Spain for sure, what’s being confused are those tests turning up positive and then this upsurge in ‘cases’ being represented as an excuse for further draconian measures. Most positive Covid cases are not even symptomatic. It’s not as if this is unimportant.

Highland Fleet Lute

19th July 2020 at 8:29 am

The Russian Hacking of UK Vaccine Research – The Story That Reveals The Reality Of The Government’s COVID 19 Response

Sion Davies

19th July 2020 at 6:30 am

I don’t often disagree with the Spiked team, but this time I have to. I live in Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated places on the planet, and not too far from Wuhan. As soon as the virus started to break, a few things happened. 1) Everyone started wearing masks. 2) They switched to online learning at schools and unis. 3) The government implement SARS-style procedures for hospitals, nursing homes, etc. There was no lockdown, just some temporary (and quite short-term) rules like only 4 people at a table in restaurants and no buying alcohol without food. I checked the relative death rates for the UK and HK recently, and it was UK: cases: 300,000ish; deaths: 45,000ish. HK: cases 1,300ish; deaths: 7. The UK has ten times the population of HK, but still there’s a huge difference there.

There are obviously a lot of factors to take into account, so I can’t be sure that the masks are a major one, but reasonably, I have to assume that they are at least part of the reason. It’s culturally accepted or even expected in East Asia to wear a mask if you’re sick, as a social courtesy to others. I understand that it’s never been a thing in the UK, hence my own scepticism and reluctance to wear one at the start. But in the absence of any evidence that tells me masks were NOT a factor in keeping the death rate so low, I will assume that they do have an effect and wear them when on public transport or in shops, etc. (I’d be the 8th casualty if I tried to wear one outside during the HK summer.)

Andrew Mawdsley

18th July 2020 at 6:23 pm

Did I hear correctly? Did Lee Jones actually try to say that it was primarily the governments of the affected nations fault that they didn’t handle the C19 outbreak in a timely and reasonable manner. Also stating that China may have been slightly culpable for the disease but if we had been more prepared the virus wouldn’t have taken hold as quickly or widely?

Might I remind him that: without China, there wouldn’t have been a virus in the first place.

Trying to displace blame away from the Chinese government is a disgrace and anyone who looks to do so is being at least disingenuous and at worst an apologist for a totalitarian regime.

Gareth Edward KING

18th July 2020 at 7:56 pm

I think what he was trying to say was that virus or no virus from Wuhan, it’s been the over-top response to Covid that has been reprehensible. There was no reason why flights from China were not banned as from late January, whatever the WHO and it’s pro-Chinese General Secretary said. The mess at the moment, well, I don’t see the Chinese as responsible, that’s not to say that they won’t take advantage of the chaos. Civitas has brought out a report: ‘The Year of the Bat’, which is well worth reading. It is noteworthy that the Chinese took to banning all flights out of Wuhan early on, whereas international flights per se from China continued. They’ve certainly taken advantage of the West’s failings, including our stupidity in terms of not being ‘offensive’. As if the Chinese care.

Andrew Mawdsley

19th July 2020 at 6:42 pm

Gareth. None of what you say makes the slightest difference to the fact that the Chinese released a virus into the general global population. It doesn’t matter that the world’s response was disproportionate. It matters that it was released in the first place. Everything leads back to the original outbreak.

There would be no masks, cancelled flights, authoritarian control, etc etc without the initial epidemic.

I agree that the response has been fairly ridiculous but again, it wouldn’t have happened at all had there been no disease to start with.

Gareth Edward KING

20th July 2020 at 12:52 pm

But it does matter. No-one’s letting China off. If the Maoists were able to take that decision not to prohibit international flights from China at the end of January, why didn’t Italy immediately stop flights from China in the winter? The Italians knew for sure that January is peak holiday time in China. They didn’t take that decision, in fact, in Milan, they actively encouraged the ‘hugging’ of Chinese residents! in order not to appear ‘racist’. I’m not saying that ‘hugging’ per se is a sure fire way to transmit, but the Italian government should’ve taken that decision on flights and it didn’t. Crass error. Sánchez over in Spain also failed to take some serious decisions; again there were no controls on flights from China or indeed Italy; but it’s his government that’s to blame for this fiasco. This weekend he had the gaul to expect 140 billion Euros without any kind of conditions from the EU and of course, that particular course of action has spectacularly back-fired. Oh yes! we’re talking about moribund Spain, which was expected to grow by 1.6% back in January; and now look at it! It’s expected to contract by 14%! All thanks to the disastrous Sánchez government! Masks aren’t going to ‘save’ Spain now; as far as I’m aware they have absolutely no role in the control of particles associated with poverty.

Gareth Edward KING

18th July 2020 at 11:03 am

If in Madrid today the government decided to re-instate ‘house arrest’ everybody would comply without question. They seem to be gagging for the state to ‘save them’. How can literally everybody be with a flannel on their face? Stepping out of one’s way like there was no tomorrow! It’s 38 degrees C! Do you know what UV light is? Yes, that’s right! it sterilises, killing all viruses, bacteria, fungi, nematodes in its path! However, ticks thrive in the heat! I was nearly bitten by one recently AGAIN! In October 18 I suffered from a disease which is on the increase in the Mediterranean region-not as severe as Lyme’s Disease though but still nasty. Does this mean that no-one is entering into the countryside because of the likelihood of being bitten by a tick? No. But they’ll don a mask though. Does this mean that people are having their dogs put down because they’re a sure fine way of bringing them home! Of course not!
Spain is ripe for its next dictatorship: fear provides the ideal medium for it to be taken on board. The minority government can say ‘Boo!’ and everyone steps into line. The economy’s in freefall and the 750 billion Euros expected from the EU to be shared out between Spain and Italy in both grants and loans is far from settled. Rutte (Holland) is not happy about bailing out these countries, and it’s no surprise. Spain got itself into this economic mess but it won’t own up to its failings. Its tourism potential is being ruined; the country’s not opening up; where will that 12.3% of Spanish GDP be replaced from? Young, lively tourists in the Baleares are being lambasted for getting drunk! You need them! you wet blankets!
Is social unrest in the offing? I don’t see it. If it ever is, who will pick up the pieces? Vox? (4 million votes). One of their policies is a dismantling of the entire ‘Autonomous Community’ arrangement which was put together in 1978 as a way to placate both the Basques and the Catalonians. They’ve just won a seat in the Basque. If they get into government, the Basque separatists will declare ‘war’ on the right-wing government leading to bombings especially in Madrid. The whole of Spain’s post-Franco arrangement is teetering on the brink but it won’t be the working class that ’causes’ this war.

George Whale

18th July 2020 at 9:15 am

Doom-laden ghoul Christopher Whitty is ordering the government to keep ‘social distancing’ in place forever.

Treacle Tart

18th July 2020 at 12:21 am

Boris Johnson isn’t going to let us go back to normal until Christmas, by which time the economy and the country will be completely finished.

M Williams

17th July 2020 at 11:59 pm

According to PHE no one in the UK has actually recovered from Covid 19. That’s why we’ve had such a relatively high death toll; because people who’ve had it and subsequently died have had Covid put as CoD on their death certificates. Even if they had it over 28 days ago. made a full recovery and then died of something else.


18th July 2020 at 8:09 am

Yes, I came across that somewhere M Williams. Is it really true? I personally know of a care home in which the average age of the residents must be over 85 years, in which many, if not most, have had Covid and recovered at least 2 months ago. In time we could reach a point in this country that thanks to the ineptitude of a quango we could have long term ‘average’ deaths (which we’ve actually now had in the UK for the last 8 weeks, about as long a period as we had a spike in April and May) and yet it is reported that more than 50% ‘die of’ Covid! That will keep the great mass of sheeple in a state of permanent terror.

Christopher Tyson

17th July 2020 at 10:54 pm

Towards the end of the 20th century, a young contemporary of mine called Kenan Malik wrote a book called ‘The Meaning of Race’, I thought that it was a phenomenal achievement and I still do.
I sometimes think of us as the ‘punk generation’, the tail end of the baby boom, brought up in a world where children were to be ‘seen and not heard’. We were too young for prog (I’ve grown to be a huge fan of early Genesis, late Genesis is okay in a different way, but that’s a discussion for another day), and too old for Cool Britannia. We get the rap for Boomerism which was nothing to do with us, and the kids these days show us no respect at all. People like Malik or even lesser mortals like myself, were children of immigrants, been there, seen it, bought the Tee-shirt, but these activists today, don’t want to know, not interested (I’m not even joking).

Gareth Edward KING

18th July 2020 at 4:07 am

How intriguing! I knew Kenan’s brother in Madrid in 1988; we would’ve worked together then. If I recall, Kenan would’ve been in the RCP in the mid-eighties when I would’ve been a supporter, for better or worse. I don’t underestimate the severity of what is going on in the West presently. ‘The mask slips’ as a title in itself is relevant. Something’s up, and the last people who seem to be asking questions are the young. Why are people who’ve got their life ahead of them and need to be out enjoying life to the full and in a city like Madrid (which has seen enough oppression in its time) conforming so abjectly to these social controls? It’s inexplicable! I’m not that ‘old’, in fact, that I can see that the minutae of life are being handled in such a way by the State with barely a gasp by anyone. For me it’s like the calm before the storm. I’m not exaggerating, but there must be an uptake in this muzzling by 99% of people who I just see in the street. If I meet up I have to ask people I know to take the wad off because I can’t hear what they’re saying. It impedes communication, but isn’t that obvious? It seems to me that that is half the objective to ‘impede communication’. I read El Mundo (a conservative daily) Thursday and according to an official survey 68% of voters support the PSOE-UP government and people are gagging it seems for more controls. So, they want another ‘confinement’? Madrid and Valencia are the only big cities in Spain (5.1 million between the two) without onerous restrictions from on high (apart from the obvious); in the case of the former, Madrid’s president: Isabel Díaz Ayuso has specifically argued against another ‘confinement’ (=house arrest). But the city’s mayor does want this (Almeída-Martínez), or at least wants ‘surgical hits’ on those areas of the city with ‘mini-outbreaks’. But why? Unfortunately, if he had the local power he’d have the city on his side. That’s the thing. ‘Madrid será la tumba del fascismo’ was the city’s slogan when it was surrounded by the Francoists, I realise that was 81 years ago, but the mere essence of this has gone. Breezie, brassy, in-your-face Madrid is no longer here. Its become a horribly, conformist, face-mask tugging, fussy irrecognisable city.

James Knight

17th July 2020 at 7:27 pm

Compared to the widespread acceptance of the lockdown, the reaction to mandatory masks from some has been borderline psychotic. People have been beaten up and even killed for requesting others wear masks. A face covering is a trivial imposition compared to the virtual house arrest and economic and social carnage created by the lockdown.

Even if masks are just part of an experiment – with risks – they are worth considering. Compared to a lockdown they are cheap: it is pennies vs trillions of dollars. Yet there was no proof the lockdown was effective and mounting evidence it is costing lives. The problem is the government and scientists have no credibility on the issue as they advised people to avoid buying masks to cover up for their failures to ensure health workers had sufficient PPE.

Treacle Tart

18th July 2020 at 12:25 am

You speak as though PPE were an easy and simple thing to obtain. It’s only plastic, but so far we have needed so much of it that it has cost the same as one-third of the cost of HS2.

Gareth Edward KING

18th July 2020 at 4:11 am

James, I think in Madrid one bus driver was severely beaten up by passengers refusing to wear the pesky thing. It’s not the thing to do. See my post above; but people here are wearing their muzzle with pride, almost. Total conformity, and for what reason?

George Whale

18th July 2020 at 9:28 am

Given the dearth of supporting evidence, a muzzle has deep symbolic significance, the wearer is effectively saying, “I submit unquestioningly to any arbitrary imposition by the state. Consider me no longer a free citizen.” Hence the strong reactions.

Ness Immersion

18th July 2020 at 11:33 pm

There is an even easier and cheaper option.
Wash your hands!!!!!
Singapore got its Nosocomial infection rate in hospitals down to statistical zero in April.
It was back to basics, being rabid about proper handwashing and no pratting about with masks.

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