‘We are living in an era of global madness’

Heather Mac Donald joins Brendan O’Neill to discuss the Covid-19 lockdowns and why they might be worse than the virus itself.

Heather Mac Donald, New York Times bestselling author and Thomas W Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute, joins spiked’s editor for the latest episode of The Brendan O’Neill Show. They discuss the destructive consequences of shutting down society in response to Covid-19, and why the virus is likely to inflame the culture wars.

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


Max Watts

21st April 2020 at 10:33 pm

This is simply Trollyology.

One would have thought that a best selling author and fellow at the Manhattan Institute would have some kind of understanding of basic maths.

Does SARS-CoV-2 exist. Yes.

Does it have an R0 value of greater than 2 (which makes the spread exponential?) Yes, unchecked, its R0 value is 3-4. A value of 2 takes just 26 jumps to infect the entire population of the UK.

Do the current lockdown rules lower the R0 value. Yes.

There is a consensus that, if left to spread without social distancing/lockdown measures, the herd immunity threshold is approximately 60% of the population. Early estimates of case/fatality rates stated 1%.

The population of the UK is around 66.5 million.
60% of that is 39,900,000.
1% of 39,000,000 is (obviously) 399,000.
That’s 399,000 dead people in the UK at a case/fatality rate of 1%.
As I write this, the known case/fatality rate in the UK is above 13%.
399,000 x 13 = 5,187,000.

Some people are prepared for over 5 million people to die, either to protect capitalism at all costs, or as self-appointed arbiters and implementers of one possible outcome of the trollyology principle. I await to see their papers of authority with eager anticipation…

Were this virus like some kind of ‘death ray from space’, whereby sceptics and flouters just vanished in a puff of smoke, that would be great. Darwinism in action. The problem is that they have the capacity to spread it to [n] other people, so essentially they’re no better than the psychos that have been jailed for intentionally passing on their HIV to unwitting victims.

The UK Government is a cabal of privileged, wealthy people, who want to get ‘back to normal’ as soon as humanly possible, as ‘normal’ equates to them bolstering their wealth. Left or Right, NO Government wants this situation to continue for ONE DAY longer than is *absolutely* necessary.

We’ve currently switched to a quasi-Communist incumbent by the implementation of policies that pay people for not working.

Q: Why has a tory government done this? Why is not just a case of “tough titties, force majeure, we don’t believe in Socialism/Communism, so no work, no money…” ?

A: Civil unrest on a scale that the combined forces of Police and Army could not control; a revolution, essentially. There is no alternative explanation, period. The notion that they ‘care’ a fig for the proles is risible. The proles are there for their labour, period(2). Watch the US descend into this imminently (irony alert: a virus doubter and proponent of the ‘liberty or death’ nonsense died of SARS-CoV-2 today – I shouldn’t laugh, but…)

There are [n] scientists, epidemiologists, etc., etc., advising the Government. Heather MacDonald has a single brain, which is superior to a body of experts, all over the World, numbering many thousands. We should be in awe of her.

The notion that the lockdown is going to cause more harm/deaths than a policy of letting SARS-CoV-2 run free is ‘off the reservation’ bonkers, and Ms MacDonald and her ilk need immediate help for their mental illness.

Example: If the Government can pay people for doing nothing, they can use the self same ‘QE created out of thin air’ ‘money’ to preclude the harm done to people in Ms MacDonald’s deluded future scenario. This is simple, dialectic logic.

I care for two elderly relatives. I’m not in the so-called risk bands (I’m healthy, young, slim, etc.) but the virus has been killing atypical personae, and that number is increasing without explanation yet. I’m not prepared to become one of those, for a lunatic woman and her crackpot theories, to say nothing of her ego.

Were I to contract it, and take it back to my elderly relatives, and either/both of them were to die, Heather Mc Donald would need armed personal security, 24/7/365. Another beautiful irony is that her theory regarding ending the lockdown would facilitate me getting to America to find her.

Is this a real death threat? Maybe, but then it’s just another example of trollyology whereby I have declared myself the self appointed arbiter of one possible outcome and have decided to sacrifice her for the good of the many…

greg mcivor

24th April 2020 at 5:54 am

this is really simply a case of numbers – and there are 1 million die in the world each week and there are 3 million born each week
the majority of the deaths are for older people for what ever reason. Over 900,000 of the deaths per week are for over 65 year olds. The current rate of corona virus deaths is around 40,000 per week of which most of these are over 65 year olds.
to lock down or not lock down
a lock down will result in many millions more deaths mainly due to starvation (and mainly in 3rd world countries) of which many of these will be at the start of their lives (children). Of course there will be a significant increase in death due to violence and suicide – and the ongoing deaths because of lock down related health issues (loss of employment, democracy, feeling of helplessness)
no lock down will result in no significant increase in the normal deaths, per week.
simple question – are the number of lives the basis of the decision ? if so then the only solution is no lock down.

Max Watts

26th April 2020 at 10:38 pm

As I said, it’s the epitome of Trolleyology (now spelled correctly).

There are two flaws in your argument that I can see. One is that nobody has the right to make decisions about ‘the good of the many’. Yes, I know these decisions are made on a daily basis, by those that believe they have power over us, but…

If anybody makes a decision based on that principle, and it leads to the death of any of my loved ones, then they can have no complaints when I turn up with my crew, and visit our version of trolleyology upon them…

Secondly, deaths from starvation, etc., despite nobody having a clue what the potential numbers are, can be solved quite easily by doing something rather radical, and that is… FEEDING PEOPLE!

The same applies to any other resultant hardship. The tories are presently implementing a Marxist policy of paying people to do nothing, simply to stave off a revolution (I have access to rather a lot of internal police contingency reports, and I care not if people don’t believe me) .

If they can do that, any incumbent can use the ‘created out of thin air’ ‘money’ that capitalism is predicated on, to fix any of the ills you may attribute to the pandemic.

That they choose not to does not negate the fact that they CAN.

Effectively, you are saying ‘no lockdown’ in order to preserve capitalism in it’s current form, which is evil, and predicated on paradoxes and fraud.

I don’t have personal issues with those that espouse right wing politics, but only because I don’t take part in society and cannot be found (this account is through TOR, VPN behind it, spoofed IP, third party’s email account, paid for with BTC, etc.), so they present no threat to me as an individual.

Once they become malignant to me or mine, then let me just say that we have ways of politely suggesting that they rethink their point of view.

I’ve broken the habit of a lifetime by actually posting an opinion online, but I’m just as bored as most with the lockdown, and I’ve seen B.O.N. on the press preview a few times, and I don’t always disagree with him, even though our politics are 95% of the time diametrically opposed. Unlike the vast majority of politicians these days, at least he has a brain in his head!

Hey ho… Off to break my principles once again, but somebody on the Internet is wrong… 🙂

Stephen Griffiths

21st April 2020 at 7:54 pm

The Left will quite happily accept the collapse of Western Economies. They think that socialism will come riding in on a white horse to save everybody.

Jackie Marcus

17th April 2020 at 2:37 am

Thank you for these intelligent interviews! Nothing like it here in the US…Aloha from Hana Maui

Geoffrey Grey

16th April 2020 at 5:55 pm

Just as a sideline on vaccines. Three years ago in a moment of weak-mindedness, I had a flu jab. Two weeks after that I had started having successive illnesses and diminution of breathing capacity, heavy night sweats, physical weakness and general ill health for the following two years. A few months ago I became a Vegan, went to a naturopath and started stocking up on the vitamins (chiefly ACD & E) since when I have been recovering rapidly and losing weight into the bargain. Two neighbours of mine had the same reaction at the same time as I did – unfortunately one of them died of cancer not long ago – probably noted on the death certificate that he had tested for the corona virus and added to the numbers. Well, don’t we all have the corona virus in our DNA? That would be embarrassing for the shakers and movers of this pantomime, wouldn’t it!

Phil Beckley

15th April 2020 at 5:00 pm

The idea that there will be more deaths because of a deep economic downturn has been challenged by Jonathan Portes, with a Tweet on 14 April, quoting economists Angus Deaton and Anne Case, who argue that overall mortality goes down, not up. It seems unlikely to me: I wonder if anyone has any views on this.

Peter Newt

15th April 2020 at 8:23 pm

Time will tell Phil, Its all guess work at this point ever the lockdown, although with each day the Lockdown for me and the type of lockdown the Uk has opted for seems over the top and the economic downturn underrated, I guess its pick what works for you and do what you can the lower the risk ie for me not worry too much about covid 19 and worry a lot about the economy and the aftermath.

Gareth Edward KING

15th April 2020 at 1:42 pm

Let’s hear it for Heather MacDonald! An Excellent contribution.
Yes, where will all of this hysteria lead to? These social distancing rules are ridiculous and arbitary. 45 billion Euros was lost last week in Spain over the total flop that was Easter-related tourism, and then the minister who has tourism as part of her portfolio, had the audacity, not to mention stupidity, of recognising the importance of ‘social distancing’ even on the beach!

In Negative

15th April 2020 at 1:36 pm

If it is a global madness that has been transmitted from the West to the rest of the world, it has been done via the achievements of science and technology. The West for some while has been destroying all radical difference with its own single truth, and in this way the rest of the globe has no resistance and no immunity to the Western language. Once you have a formula for gravity and a genetic code for all the materials of the earth, there is only one truth. In the absence of any radical otherness, any alternative to the technical analysis of life, all the world is subject to the same waves of bio-technical-insanity.

Highland Fleet Lute

15th April 2020 at 9:29 am

Heart attack: Died of coronavirus. Terminal cancer: Died of coronavirus. Hit by a truck: Died of coronavirus.

The NHS have a vested interested in hyping up Covid 19 figures. The more hysteria and rabid sentimentality they can generate re: “Keep our NHS safe’, “NHS Frontline Heroes”, “Clap like a fucking seal for The NHS”, whatever, the more gravy they can generate.

A good percentage of the British public are prepared to accept the idea that a “beloved” institution like The BBC is rotten to the core, but few have any idea about the high level of cynicism and corruption with which The NHS is run, nor the amount of patients NHS professionals are prepared to throw under a bus in order to protect their nasty little fiefdoms.

As per their current dazzlingly spellbinding PR campaign, the effect of which is somewhat akin to being carpet-bombed with violins and then drowned in syrup, my grandmother was a nurse in WWII, and wouldn’t have been caught dead hamming to a camera and blubbing her eyes out because she had to work on a flu ward, of all things.

Eing1941 IdaR

15th April 2020 at 7:48 am

Thousand Of the Peoples are Died From Corona Virus…On The Other Hand Thousand Peoples Are Died By Poorness Its Means Poorness is More Dangerous As Compare to Corona Virus…… Read more

Mor Vir

14th April 2020 at 11:13 pm

Maybe B needs to look on the bright side and, perhaps beware of catastrophisation.

Economists fancy that the economy will bounce back because it is fundamentally healthy, and that is the TP attitude. So let them get on with it.

And, if some businesses go under then presumably that will tend to be the less resilient firms that are low-profitable or unprofitable and that depend on monetary support. Look at them as the vulnerable in business ‘care homes’. It is better that morbid businesses should pass than our old folk.

Sp is always saying about how we need churn in the economy and to let zombie businesses go under, so let them go under now? Maybe the economy needs to develop some ‘herd immunity’ by churning through businesses that have some resilience and are not so weak that they go under from a few weeks off.

The right is always begging for a bit of natural selection in the economy, well here it is. Two months of austerity for businesses, for a change, lets see which ones come through intact. If the weaker, zombie firms go under then it will free up space for the more dynamic, profitable businesses.

So, one could be optimistic, that not only will the economy bounce back, but it will be stronger for this shut down. Not only will the job market recover but the jobs will be of a higher quality, more productive and better paying.

Perhaps we should institute a three month shutdown once a decade, to churn the economy, and to give everyone some peace and quiet to get into some other stuff. A few months orff from the insanity of the daily rush – but without the pandemic news stories. The media could treat it as an arts festival with some more highbrow stuff.

Peter Newt

15th April 2020 at 8:12 pm

Very easy to be nasty about peoples lives when it comes to money, eh? yet this is about lives v lives, So don’t hide behind the money to be nasty, because most people see right through you Mor, The hate you have is clear to see and your hypocrisy is embarrassing.
As is your lack of understanding about the conversation, which, to give you the benefit of the doubt you clearly not listened too.. Classic emotional bias.

Mor Vir

15th April 2020 at 8:32 pm

I have no idea how you read that from my post, which was about jobs vs. jobs.

Your reply comes across as excessively hysterical and unnecessarily denunciatory. Perhaps the lockdown is understandably taking some toll. Please calm down.

Ronda Roman

14th April 2020 at 10:55 pm

Thousand Of the Peoples are Died From Corona Virus…On The Other Hand Thousand Peoples Are Died By Poorness Its Means Poorness is More Dangerous As Compare to Corona Virus……Help Poors

Christopher Tyson

14th April 2020 at 10:31 pm

I’m temperamentally well suited to sitting around not doing very much, but even I am beginning to feel unsettled. With each passing week the idea of returning to normal seems more unlikely.
I’ve compared the therapeutic society to being suffocated by cotton wool, or perhaps like carbon monoxide poisoning, when you become aware of its dangers it’s too late to do anything about it.
We are committed to the government’s strategy. ‘What would you do?’ Brings to mind the old joke about the guy asking for directions ‘I wouldn’t start from here’. Having sat at home for three weeks hearing about nothing but coronavirus, people will be more scared than ever. Who benefits from the fear? Some will argue that the fear will keep people on the straight and narrow. If the pandemic does not reach predicted levels, some will take credit for the fearmongering (public information). Some are already anticipating how they will look in some future enquiry.
On a recent news show, a behavioural psychologist explained that her role was to advise government of whether people would be willing or able to cope with the lockdown. I imagine a graph showing people’s rising anger and frustration over time, and the psychologist advising the government to flatten the curve, ‘if we can just get over that critical point, they will be broken, we will have them’, there is a danger that we will become comatose, a lobotomized nation.
As writers like Phil Mullan have written, these things tend to bring forward existing trends, I guess a machine could do my job, if or when my office re-opens, if I manage to get past security, I expect to hear someone say ‘who are you and what are you doing here?’. I appreciate that I’m still in the fortunate position to be able to joke.
I was flagging, I was running out of things to say (that is not an invitation to my troll enemies!), so thanks for the interview guys, your countries need you, we have to stay awake, stay functioning, this is real, this is not a dream. Our news shows have got around to talking about the economy, but they did give the impression of people concerned for themselves, and some will come out of this unscathed or better off.

Peter Newt

15th April 2020 at 7:48 am

You raise an interesting point about what behavioural changes will come of this, How many will not fly this year or next.How many will not want to go to a night club or any crowded place, the very places that make money, why travel to France and risk mixing together with all those people on planes, ferries etc etc, If you think Spain and France are going to be in a mess just wait until 12 months time, it could make this Lockdown seem like the good times.

Peter Newt

14th April 2020 at 8:41 pm

I agree totally with you both, I’m truly shocked by how little the media and people in general question this Lockdown, There is no evidence its the right thing to do or its working, yet the main stream media keep plugging it and saying how it is working!,
I’m in a stronger position living wise, having planned to be self sufficient years ago, So after a while of little or no interest from the media and the public I have come to the conclusion that people are not worth saving, It will be interesting how bad this turns out and how different things will be going forward., You guys who support the lockdown want it and boy so shall you reap. enjoy.!

James Knight

14th April 2020 at 8:25 pm

Flattening the curve means the same number of people still get the virus. If there is no vaccine, that means the same number of deaths. Even if a vaccine is developed, it is not necessarily a silver bullet. The flu vaccine is only partially effective, due to different strains. During the Spanish flu the second wave was more deadly than the first because it is thought people had the anti-bodies. It is the immune system going into over-drive that can be deadly.

The lockdown response is like invading Iraq. Iraq was a hugely complex geo-political problem. So we thought we could simplify it by bombing it. The result was like entropy: unparalled disorder and chaos, anything but simple.

Mor Vir

14th April 2020 at 10:33 pm

Flattening the curve keeps care beds/ ventilators available, lowers deaths.

Brandy Cluster

14th April 2020 at 10:33 pm

The vaccine I received last week is good for 26 separate strains of flu!! In Australia this is available free to the over 65 cohort.

James Knight

15th April 2020 at 11:07 am

In the UK the deaths from flu in winter can hit tens of thousands, despite vaccination programs targetting those most at risk. Yet there is no lockdown.


Max Watts

21st April 2020 at 9:39 pm

James Knight, here’s a joke:

Two airline pilots are talking whilst cruising at 30,000ft.
One says to the other, “Does this ever worry you?”
The second pilot replies, “No. There’s more chance of being killed crossing the road than flying.”
The first pilot says, “We have to do BOTH!”

Just in case you’re not being deliberately obtuse (no offence), Flu + SARS-CoV-2 = Flying + crossing the road…


14th April 2020 at 8:16 pm

I haven’t listened to any of this podcast because, frankly, you know exactly what BON is going to say before he says it…

Neil McCaughan

14th April 2020 at 8:37 pm

As we do you. But at least O’Neill has something to say.
Unlike you.

Brandy Cluster

14th April 2020 at 10:34 pm



15th April 2020 at 7:57 pm

Arrant nonsense. BON has been writing the same article and saying the same ‘edgy’ things since he was a teenager, and he still is a teenager… Go to unherd.com for more balanced debate without this constant bleating on about ‘the left’, whatever that means…

John McGhee

14th April 2020 at 10:38 pm

Nah – you’re just being lazy and dismissive.
I’ve seen some of your posts and some of them are good – interesting, informed and funny; but your cheap shot here does you no favours.
The discussion, which I have just listened to, is worth the hour. It’s the most interesting and grown up one I’ve heard in relation to C19, the world reaction to it and the potential fall out. it stands out against the exceptionally low bar so far set by most of the newspapers and the BBC.

Steve Roberts

14th April 2020 at 8:07 pm

Undoubtedly the most powerful critique of this destructive irational madness i have read ,heard or seen. This is a must listen for anyone genuinely concerned for how the future of our socieities could be reordered after all this . We owe a debt in all this not only to frontline workers in the health systems throughout the world but also to those who are bravely standing against the attacks on our freedoms, democracy, economy’s and entire social fabric.
We should be inspired by people like Macdonald and many others , experts among them too,who have stood firm, led when others have hidden, and of course to the relatively small , but influential media outlets like Spiked, and they are not alone.

Matthew Langston

14th April 2020 at 7:19 pm

Oh great. Another episode of Brendan O’Neill’s Safe Space. I can’t wait to hear Brendan’s views remain monumentally unchallenged yet again. As dangerous as a feather duster.


15th April 2020 at 7:58 pm

Well said, Matthew. This s ite has the potential to be a real forum for free discussion and debate but is currently no more than an echo chamber for BON’s putrid views.

Sceptical Prince

16th April 2020 at 4:59 pm

Did either of you listen to the podcast or grapple with any of the points raised or are you just trolling BON?

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