The collaboration between a major UK broadcaster and the Nudge Unit to promote one of the most controversial policies today is deeply alarming. The report, The Power of TV: Nudging Viewers to Decarbonise their Lifestyles, jointly published by BIT and Sky, shows little regard for the obligation imposed on broadcasters by Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code to maintain “due impartiality” across all their output, particularly when it comes to news and current affairs. It also neglects the requirement that broadcasters expose viewers to a wide range of different views when it comes to “matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy”.
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Masks act as a crude reminder that danger is all around, that we are all potential biohazards. So, on a common-sense level, continued wearing of them will exacerbate anxieties rather than reduce them. But there is another, less obvious reason why the continued use of face coverings is counterproductive as a means of promoting confidence and encouraging people to return to normality: masks will act as a “safety behaviour” that will prevent disconfirmation of anxious beliefs.
Boiling the bioethical frog – The Critic
This hunger games scenario of a middle-aged, potentially pre-infected and already immune health secretary taking a nominal, rushed, improperly trialled novel-technology vaccine after the pandemic has already passed on live TV is as unethical and obscene as any of the propaganda we have been subjected to. What have we become? If it happens, the supposed vaccinator, the TV station, the secretary of state, and the vaccine company should all be roundly condemned. It proves nothing and risks everything. Obnoxious and dangerous as he is, he hasn’t a clue what might happen to him. He is still that sacred thing: somebody’s patient. A power-crazed, ignorant man for whom the mantras “whatever it takes” and the “end justifies the means” are dear, offering himself for a macabre, televised ritual sacrifice fit for the Incas to appease his political masters. It is truly grotesque. There is no medical reason for him to have these chemicals.
Our mission: save the NHS by neglecting ourselves and the NHS. I received numerous CCG advice and flow-charts on the coronavirus-centric mass processing of patients. Most of it was about whom not to see, and who could pass the pearly gates of the hospitals. Then there was the advice on the parallel IT and video-consultation medical industrial revolution: our new NHS normal.
…For clarity, the “D” in coronavirus means “disease”, the second “S” in SARS-CoV-2 means “syndrome”. In a sense, the WHO had already decided Covid-19 was a distinct disease entity caused by a novel coronavirus before characterising it as a syndrome called SARS-2, and before the naming of the virus as SARS-CoV-2. The importance of scientific syntax and semantics cannot be overemphasised. Such cognitive slip-ups trickle unnoticed into general parlance and may have fatal consequences for us as a species.
Without a definite cause, one cannot definitively conclude to treat anything in particular. Is Covid-19 a syndrome, a mixed bag of symptoms and signs that has been negligently and politically globally fast-tracked to a scientifically wrong conclusion? Is it, in practice, a conflation of different, distinct disease entities including influenzae, rhinoviruses, pneumoniae and other coronaviruses, not to mention other non-infectious phenomena?
Face masks make you stupid – The Critic
Face masks make you suggestible; they make you more likely to follow someone else’s direction and do things you wouldn’t otherwise do
In Joost Meerloo’s analysis of false confessions and totalitarian regimes, The Rape of the Mind, he coins a phrase for the ‘dumbing down’ of critical resistance – menticide. “In the totalitarian regime,” he wrote, “the doubting, inquisitive, and imaginative mind has to be suppressed. The totalitarian slave is only allowed to memorise, to salivate when the bell rings.”
…The fact that masks likely don’t even work brings us to the final reason that wearing one inculcates stupidity and compliance: through a bombardment of lies, contradictions, and confusion, the state overwhelms your ability to reason clearly…
…As Theodore Dalrymple wrote, “In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control.”
In reality many of the people who died from Covid-19 were likely to die this year anyway, so in one respect this estimate is likely to be too high. In another respect it’s likely to be too low, as it will not include ‘lockdown deaths’, that is, the deaths from delayed cancer and heart treatments, and so on, but as I was interested in the effect of Covid-19 I didn’t want those in my graph anyway. (Another complication is that not everyone who is classed as a Covid-19 death actually died from it, but I decided to ignore this.)
The five year average for 2015-19 is 531,355 deaths per year. As of writing this there were 42,462 Covid-19 deaths in the UK. There are likely to be a few more deaths in the next few weeks, but not many more, as the disease is (barring an unlikely second wave in winter), on its way out. Besides, the number we are adding on here is for the whole of the UK, not just England and Wales, so if anything this number is inflated. That gives us 573,817 deaths for 2020. Then I got hold of the historical population figures for England and Wales, and calculated the death rates per 1000 from it, so that population increases are taken account of. Here is the result:
- Far from following the science, the government turned its back on all available data.
- Until mid-April, with the escalating deaths in care homes agonisingly clear across Europe, government policy was still for patients to be discharged to care homes from hospitals without requiring negative tests. And so the toll: around half of UK Covid-19 deaths are care home residents, despite them accounting for only 0.6 per cent of our population.
- Germany, whose population is roughly 25 per cent bigger than ours, has suffered approximately a quarter of our Covid deaths.
- Ministers have deferred to scientists who themselves deferred to the projections of models, even when data on the ground told a completely different story.
- Statisticians on social media had a field day pointing out the chasm between modelled outcomes and reality, but it is not clear that the models on which SAGE relied (both their input parameters and mechanical dynamics) were continually refined with on-the-ground data (or simply discarded as wrong).
- Why weren’t Oxford’s team, who specialise in zoonotic viruses and who looked at the same data as Neil Ferguson’s modelling-led team but came to wildly different conclusions, on SAGE’s panel to provide an alternative view?
- Why were there no economists on SAGE? Economics is not the bloodless pursuit of money but the science of decision-making under uncertainty where resources are finite; could they really have brought nothing to the party?
- In mid-March, Stanford’s Nobel laureate Michael Levitt (biophysicist and professor of structural biology) discussed the “natural experiment” of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, a petridish disproportionately filled with the most susceptible age and health groups. Even here, despite the virus spreading uncontrolled onboard for at least two weeks, infection only reached a minority of passengers and crew.
- The data towards the end of March clearly showed we were already near the tipping point of the bell-curve (meaning the disease is on the wane). We were already past the point where lockdown could have made much difference.
- Knut Wittkowski: “respiratory diseases [including Covid-19] . . . remain only about two months in any given population”.
[O]ne thing the Coronavirus pandemic has shown us is that rather than turn away from experts plenty of people appear to ascribe almost supernatural powers to them.
The bottom line is this: if Shipman were killing under the Coronavirus Act, he might have gotten away with even more murders. And if the safeguards held others back from killing their patients, well, they’re not anymore.
“What’s happening, exceptionally, with Covid is that not only do you not have to be an attending doctor to make a statement that someone has died of Covid, you don’t have to discuss it with anybody else, you don’t even have to be medical, you don’t have to have any test positivity – you can even deem a death to be due to Covid if it’s not mentioned on the death certificate and, say, you’re a care home provider and you think it ought to be mentioned.. and few of these cases are being autopsied. So we’re not building up any sort of knowledge about what this disease actually does to the body, or even whether it was present in the body of somebody who was said to have died of Covid. We actually know less about who’s dying of what now, particularly concerning Covid, than at any time in the past. So it really is a complete mess”.
Unlike covid-19, this is a killer we have created and that we can do something about. Boris called the first lockdown because the science pointed that way at that time, and the First Secretary, Dominic Raab, presumably renewed it because Boris was ill. But whoever renews the lockdown again would simply have blood on their hands.
The political reality is that the government has boxed itself in by allowing policy to be dictated by opinion-poll; it bowed to pressure to copy everyone else (apart from the free Swedes), then had to scare the public into compliance with the lockdown they’d demanded, and now the public is indeed scared. But look purely at the likely toll: even if declaring lockdown was originally the right move, leaving it in place can certainly be the wrong move. Protect the vulnerable, sure, but lift the lockdown: back to Plan A.