Thursday, 28 May 2020

Oh, Aunty!

This morning I heard the news that the BBC Promenade Concerts will go ahead in virtual form with the last few days and especially the world renowned Last Night, live at the Albert Hall. The British Broadcasting Corporation has been part of British soft power for generations, spreading the news, informing the world and presenting an image of the United Kingdom as a bastion of tradition, morals, culture and statesmanship; something to be admired; something to aspire to.

But what must the world think now of the Britain the BBC portrays? Constant attacks on government when they should be bolstering the government's measures against the viral threat. Embracing the largely unwanted phenomenon of multiculturalism and repeatedly rubbing our noses in diversity. And in the case of the Proms, over the last few years using the last night as an occasion to indulge in EU propaganda with a sea of blue and gold flags where once only the red white and blue flew.

There is a rising tide of patriotism and nationalism which the BBC believes must be ignored, derided and side-lined. In the face of growing disquiet at what appears to be favourable embrace of islamic culture, the national broadcaster chooses to have a muslim as head of its religious programming. They have exercised discriminatory employment practices, rejecting applicants from white Britons in favour of brown people, regardless of competence. And it bangs the drum for every minority cause going.

Watch any political programme and you will see it stuffed with commentators who toe the approved line introduced as authoritative voices while those whose views veer even slightly away from leftist doctrine are invariably introduced with qualifiers such as ‘right wing activist’, or ‘hard right campaigner’, thus prejudicing the audience from the off. The left-wing talking heads are given respectful free reign to put across their point but woe betide the ‘Nazi’ who tries to complete a sentence.

 George Orwell’s statue at Broadcasting House stands next to an inscription of his words: “If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” No doubt this is what the BBC thinks it is doing but it is about time the BBC itself faced up to some uncomfortable truths. The mealy-mouthed non apology following Emily Maitlis’s blatantly biased and judgmental introduction to Newsnight on Tuesday is indicative of an organ which, while pretending it is showing contrition, showed nothing of the kind.

I grew up with the BBC and until very recently I would defend its quality, its reach and, to some extent, its impartiality because no matter what it looks like the Beeb does believe it is impartial and frequently points to the fact that it receives flak from both left and right and so must be doing the right thing. The trouble is, though, it judges itself, it marks its own homework, and when people refer to the media bubble, that description practically defines the culture of the BBC. Orwell himself was critical of their groupthink even back then.

The Corporation is supposed to serve the country, not just those it believes hold the correct opinions. The licence fee is seen as an unfair tax on those who feel unfairly browbeaten by its agenda prone programming and especially unfair on those who have stopped watching altogether. In the light of some quite blatant ignoring of its guiding mission to inform, educate and entertain, maybe it is finally time to let the market decide.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Doubling Down

Who could have predicted it; after three and a half years of Parliament and the media doing their level best to scupper Brexit  a team steps up with the balls and the popular appeal to demand that the will of the British people be honoured. An 80-seat majority for a Conservative government was a dream after ten years of compromise and half-arsed virtue signalling. At last we could get on and rebuild the country after the damage wreaked by the last Labour government and their project to screw our demographic makeup.

Deficit neutralised, debt repayment well on track and Brexit in the finishing straight, we could finally relax the minimal austerity programme and begin work on improving productivity, education, the health service, transport and infrastructure with no serious opposition. After the general election even the Remain lobby seemed to have finally accepted their defeat and plunge into irrelevance. But then along comes a gift.

Who could have predicted the corona virus outbreak? In fact if some opinions are taken into consideration, WHO should have predicted it. The still new government took command and control and did what every western government did. They watched, took advice, waited, regarded the experience of other countries then launched what seemed to be the only plausible short-term solution; lockdown.

The press was ecstatic; here was the chance they had been waiting for – because no matter what any government did, it could be spun as the wrong thing. At every stage. Deeper lockdown; why not earlier? Lifting the lockdown; why not now? After the lockdown: more deaths bad, but also fewer deaths bad because too much lockdown. Astute spanner throwers could see that whatever the government response was, they could persuade people that it was clumsy, incompetent or poorly communicated.

But still the public broadly supported the government, most of us logically figuring that their handle on the situation was always going to be better than ours. Other countries’ experiences could be edited , as with statistics to tell whatever story the press wanted to tell. If such-and-such has plenty of PPE why don’t we? Well Thisland didn’t lock down and nobody died. And Thatland has been testing since day one. And of course, the darling of the left, Jacinda Arden, managed New Zealand’s perfect response.

The fact that what has happened in every country is largely a matter of fortune, good or bad, is irrelevant. There is no news, good or bad, that cannot be pressed into criticism of our situation. And of course the press still wields powerful influence because once a hackneyed hack has invented an attack line, many of the public will subsume it into their psyche and say they always thought this way. Hypocrisy is built into the human model; it is remarkably effective and the press have pressed every button they could put their grubby fingers on.

Still it was not enough to shift public opinion away from Boris’s crew… but then there was Dom. The bĂȘte noire of the chattering classes; a man with a brain so big nobody could fathom its depths. A man with a disdain for idiots that could be pressed into service in the line of toppling the government. A figure to hate, and hate comes so readily to the left-leaning that all they had to do was paint him as the evil genius who deliberately engineered the corona crisis in order to hurt poor people… who he despises!

At last there was a chance to revive all the old animosities. It has been widely reported that during the illnesses of both the PM and his closest advisor a plot was hatched to quietly extend the Brexit transition period. Another bite at the remain cherry in some eyes; an opportunity to engineer the softest of Brexits. But Cummings put a stop to that on his return to duty, thus incurring the wrath of some very senior civil servants.  A leak here, a word in the ear there and the race was on to pin something on him.

I'm not alleging conspiracy, but...

There can be absolutely no doubt that the pursuit of Cummings is entirely political; people have done far worse without being censured in any way. But as flimsy as it is Durhamgate is the red square they have bet all their remaining stake on. Even the virus has been abandoned in the unseemly melee to destroy this man. But I have a suspicion he is made of sterner stuff and I hope that Boris stands by his man. When the wheel stops spinning, let’s hope it lands on black.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Panto Season

It’s behind you! Oh no it isn’t! As the press pack crowd together, totally abandoning any pretence at social distancing, but knowing full well that their transgression will be ignored, they focus on the minutiae of events of six weeks ago. Just like a pantomime plot, their aim couldn’t be more transparent; harass and hound a man they hate until he snaps or is snapped. But this man is not for snapping, it seems.

The Dominic Cummings hate industry has grown from being a cottage affair to become a seething, polluted and festering metropolis; every broadcast ‘news’ outlet is Cumming 24-7. Confected outrage has been whipped up among the public who, as ever, bark on command. Sitting here, working from home I hear, one after another, callers to phone-in shows repeating the words the press have planted in their clouded minds.

The media is the message. This isn’t anything to do with seeking the truth. This is blind hatred and possibly fear of one slightly built man who yesterday comprehensively shot their fox. The press conference really should have been the end of it, but in any pantomime a willing suspension of disbelief is necessary to endure the hackneyed script that we have heard a thousand times before. Our fox cannot be dead, they cried, for we have not been satisfied.

Today the pursuit continues unabated. Disaffected Tories join with the remain establishment and the unruly gallery does its best to drown out the voices onstage. By now, Mr Cummings is at least as vilified as Charles Manson, or perhaps Anders Breivik. I mean, he was already ‘literally Hitler’; a super-villain for the social media age, a Moriarty to the Meeja’s Sherlock, a Machiavelli for the moment.

But now the story becomes ‘why’? Why hasn’t he stepped down? Why hasn’t he made a grovelling apology to the genius reporters who ‘forensically’ examined all the evidence that he himself actually laid before them? Why hasn’t he shown humility and shame for being in a better position than many who are enduring lockdown in flats and back-to-back houses in northern suburbs? How dare he not break down and beg forgiveness?

Quite simply, because he has no case to answer. I am not just slavishly toeing the Johnson line here; I am no uncritical BoJo fanboy. Others have pointed out that Stephen Kinnock wasn’t censured for visiting his parents, that Ian Blackford took himself over the sea to Skye. I couldn’t care less because none of them endangered anybody. But only Cummings has been so brazenly challenged over an issue which is long past its sell-by date.

I'm waiting for the ugly sisters...

Now it is the press who have questions to answer. Why are you so afraid of this one man? How is it that you have failed to land a single blow in all your skirmishes? How come the rules and guidelines you accuse him of breaking don’t apply to you? Haven’t you got some actual news to report? Why do you need the country to hate him so much? Will you only be satisfied if your actions cause permanent harm to him and his family? And shouldn’t you all be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves?

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Stop the Press

I am not going to write about Dominic Cummings except to say that the press must be truly desperate to unseat the government to dig up a two month old story and plug it relentlessly when most reasonable people are shrugging and saying, so what? As we begin to relax lockdown rules, who cares that somebody the left fears and hates did a reasonable thing without any apparent risk to others? Meanwhile, we have been inundated on a daily basis with videos of police, press and certain communities blatantly disregarding the rules and no action being apparent.

The press is supposed to inform us but more often than not it acts like a self-serving behemoth, gobbling up snippets of information and regurgitating it as fancy. The world as portrayed by the newspapers is simply not real, it is a fiction designed to sell newspapers. How’s that going for you, The Independent? If you have ever been involved in something that has been written about in the papers you will know the extent to which they write the story first and disregard the facts.

The language is invariably hyperbolic, more resembling the Four Yorkshiremen Sketch than Woodward and Bernstein. So much so that the Man Booker Prize would be more appropriate than the Pulitzer for these fanciful distortions. A mild annoyance is described as ‘fury’ or ‘rage’ in an effort to whip up interest about a story which may not even be true. The adjectival use of ‘incandescent’ is trotted out daily and everybody involved in a press sting is red-faced. There is rarely any attempt to use the fabulously rich English language when all you have to do to is stick to the assumption that your readers are too stupid to demand better.

A source close to government could just be somebody who lives in the constituency of a cabinet minister. A Senior government source is an unnamed and thus unaccountable sacked minister or, these days, a Remain voting backbencher. In anti-government stories (all stories right now) ‘Parliamentary’ sources are, obviously, opposition MPs and even when the source is named the partisan nature of their contribution is so blatant as to be an argument for the other side.

The papers, however, are dwindling in their influence, handing over the baton to the broadcast journalists. But such is the clamour for fame and the gotcha interview that the whole charade gets even more ridiculous on air. Relentless phone-in shows hosted by antagonists with clear agendas for discord. Fatuous magazine shows like Good Morning Britain whose main aim seems to be fame for their presenters. And of course we have the social media based news outlets where the political stench is overwhelming.

He's played you all

The news is rarely about the news, but about what interpretation of events the outlet wants to sell. The affiliations of the main organs is widely known so if you are a taxpayer who has never been on a protest it’s probably a good idea not to read The Guardian and if you are a rabid, red-flag flying Trott the Spectator isn’t going to be your cup of tea. Which means that the only reason you read your favoured papers is for its authors. The story here isn’t about Dominic Cummings, it’s about the storytellers.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Unskilled and Unaware

Many people will be familiar with the Dunning & Kruger study from 1999 which broadly tested the thesis that people with low levels of knowledge tend to overestimate their own competence. In a nutshell, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. This axiom is universally accepted – the study was merely to formalise an understanding of it – and it is nowhere more widely demonstrated than in the national discourse on any topic you care to name.

Another axiom – better to remain silent and be thought stupid, than to speak out and leave no doubt – might better be observed by the plethora of armchair experts who, on the basis of a few headlines, suddenly know all you need to know. In the delayed debate on the Immigration Bill, David Lammy (a near perfect example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect) tweeted out: “Just voted against the Conservative's Immigration Bill. I still can't believe this government has the nerve to call countless key workers in this pandemic 'low skilled' - and legislate to make others like them no longer welcome in the UK.”

Conflation is at the heart of being unskilled and unaware and the logical fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc is regularly deployed to create arguments such as this, which have no merit. A working definition of ‘low-skilled’ could be work which could be performed by the majority of the population, in contrast with work that can only be undertaken by very few who have the aptitude and have put in the countless hours acquiring the necessary skills. Anybody in reasonable shape could re-stock shelves in a supermarket; very few could ever be trained to perform brain surgery.

This is self evident. What might be less so, but is nonetheless true, is that just because you may be highly educated and niche-skilled in a particular discipline, it does not automatically follow that you are better placed to comment on an entirely different topic than any others. Your doctorate in astrophysics does not make you an epidemiologist – I’m looking at you Brian Cox – and your pre-eminence in the entirely self-indulgent discipline of philosophy does not endow you with omniscience in matters political, Mr Grayling.

So, it is entirely appropriate to refer to the mass importation of foreign labour as low-skilled and to honestly examine who they are and why we do it. In theory we invite in the lowest paid and most productive workers from all over the world, they busy themselves enriching us while we Brits get to live the life of Riley. Then, once the economic units have done their bit they get to go back to their mud huts with a bit of cash so they can feed the family they have been absent from for so long.

When I worked in North Africa, all those years ago, we employed people from all over the continent, working 7 days a week, in grim living conditions, often for years on end with very little paid leave. They were happy because in their own countries of origin what we were paying them was very attractive and they were prepared for the hardship because the reward offered them a better life. But there was never any option for citizenship, for permanent residence, or for benefits of any kind. Once the work ended, home they went without question.

But that was Libya; this isn’t. In the caring, liberal, virtue-driven west we have a thing called ‘human rights’ which seems to exist purely to defend the rights of the least desirable elements in society against the majority opinion. Once a worker is here in the UK they appear to gain most of the rights of UK citizens, to the delight of the employers and the chagrin of the rest. It is a murky area because reality is obscured by the tabloid stories of excessive migrant benefits and the cries of ‘racist!’ whenever the subject comes up for scrutiny. We, the hoi polloi, are not well enough informed to make valid judgements, but the politicians are hidebound by their ideologies, making their judgment equally questionable.

More accurate than you dare to think

Having the debate about the true cost and benefits of immigration is long overdue and the bill may be a necessary instrument in imposing controls. But the left will not countenance a second tier of residency, the right will not question the supply of low-cost labour and the general population will continue to be informed by talking heads from the press and entertainment industry. The Immigration Bill may look like we are doing something but the chances are that nothing will really change.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Suffer the Children

Mary Bousted is at it again. The Marxist co-leader of the amalgamated power-grabbing glorious socialist comrades teaching collective – the National Education Union – now wields considerable and harmful influence over the people we should trust to educate the next generation. While supermarket workers, and others who have no hope of maintaining effective social distancing, have kept us in provisions the teaching unions are arguing about whether it is safe for them to go back to work. And they are right to have concerns.

But I have a graver concern and that is; is it safe for your children to return to the left-wing activist factory? Give me the child until seven, the Jesuits declaimed, and I will give you the man. And there’s the problem; you hand over your wee darlings in loco parentis to strangers you simply have to trust, with little or no control over the influence they will have. We have all heard the stories about what gets taught; remember all the kids being told their own parents were ‘destroying their future’ by voting for Brexit?

I am sure that all teachers believe they have the children’s best interest at heart and I am equally sure there are dedicated senior management teams who abhor the idea of politics at school, but in the classroom any teacher with a stance can drip, drip, drip the poison into their ears. We learn facts and principles, methodology and expression from structured lessons, but we learn social mores and ideology simply by being immersed in it. These lessons within lessons stick.

A Twitter account posted the image below with the explanation: “My daughter’s ‘Geography’ classwork for today. We need to start challenging the political bias and climate alarmism our children are being subjected to.

It’s not even subtle, and whatever the merits, or otherwise, of the argument, this is overtly political and should never have been used. Over the years we have seen countless example of school textbooks with left wing ideology embedded right through, like the writing in a stick of rock. No super-woke ideology is considered off limits. Drag queens telling stories to toddlers, gender as a social construct and the constant, ‘Britain is a nation of immigrants’ rhetoric. The best hope we have is that this period away from school might just have given some parents a chance to hear and challenge some of the things their offspring have been taught and be emboldened to demand to know why and how this has come about.

I don’t believe children should be involved in politics or activism, whether that is by being dragged along to protests by their parents, or by being nudged towards adopting a political stance before they have developed the basic skills to discern fact from fiction. Children believe in ghosts, for goodness’ sake, yet children’s television is riddled with messages about left wing moral and social hobby horses. I have no recollection of anything in my youth which did any such thing, except, perhaps, for the annual guilt trip which was the Blue Peter appeal.

They say the cure for socialism is to live it. It is also well observed that most people turn away from the left as they grow older, acquire responsibility and particularly when they begin to accumulate any personal wealth. But by inculcating the notion that such aspirations are contrary to being a good citizen the desire to acquire becomes a sin. The cognitive dissonance this creates is resolved by the simple hypocrisy of ‘do what we say, not what we do’. Highly paid socialists like Mary Bousted no doubt tell themselves that their wealth is their just reward, but exactly what lesson is this teaching our junior comrades?

Friday, 15 May 2020

They Seek it Here…

Following the general election of June 2010, it took Belgium a further 589 days to negotiate, agree on and formally recognise and enable a government. It didn’t seem to bother the Belgians greatly. In fact, beginning in December 2018 they seem determined to repeat the process and have only recently installed a caretaker Prime Minister to oversee the coronavirus issue. Given the inability of the diverse and disparate parties to agree, this could become a permanent arrangement, in which case the Belgian people would be justified in wondering what was the point of having elections at all. (Pretty much the ultimate ambition of the EU, as it happens.)

The fact is some roles in society, many of them extremely well paid, perform no useful function and would not be missed. Such roles are often so obscure that most people are unaware they exist at all. A whole plethora of functionaries can be described as rent-seekers. Rent seeking is when somebody seeks remuneration without contributing any productivity and is particularly prevalent in publicly-funded bodies, although many advisors and consultants in the private sector are equally leech-like.

The fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes is well known, but regularly goes unheeded while parasitic charlatans continue to practise their blood-sucking with impunity until they are revealed for the thieves they really are. Thief isn’t too harsh a word, either. The exotic con man who persuades your middle-aged aunt to part with her savings for love is doing exactly the same thing as the life coach who convinces you that you need help to wipe your arse. They may tell themselves that the money was offered freely, but in their hearts they know exactly what they are doing.

But these are relatively small beer and such lone scammers’ careers are often short-lived. In large organisations, however, there are plenty of places to hide and the insertion of rent-seeking blood-suckers has been incorporated directly into the core of the entity’s paradigm. Remember all those ridiculous mission statements that were all the rage not so long ago? People were paid to come up with those. Just as the Iron Law of Bureaucracy decrees that bureaucrats document a company to death, once you have one non-job in place the infection soon spreads and the nonsense quickly follows.

Addicts often have to go cold turkey rather than try and cut down or substitute one dangerous substance for a slightly less dangerous alternative. Many recovered addicts report that they do not miss the thing they once thought they utterly depended upon. And especially in these times when we have had to tighten our belts no doubt most of us have carried out an audit of our lives and discovered all sorts of things we can give up. We all understand buyer’s remorse and sometimes even feel shame for our folly, but in the end we see the funny side and laugh at the stuff we bought, but had no real need for.

We have a resident Face Painter???

The best way of working out if something is necessary is to see if you can get by without it.  If you can, you didn’t need it. If you didn’t even notice it was missing you never needed it. Now, ask yourself, during lockdown did you experience any great craving for any of the following: human rights lawyers, sociologists, race relations advisers, inclusion and diversity officers, customer experience managers and any of the other costly and pointless non-jobs? What, in all honesty, did they bring to the table? Whose lives did they enrich other than their own? I reckon it’s way past time for that audit and high time for us all to have a  bloody good laugh.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Back to Work

I’m back to work tomorrow for at least a couple of days, then very likely in full time quite soon and while I have thoroughly enjoyed the lockdown, it will be something of a relief to return to gainful occupation. In addition, knowing that I will be playing a larger part than most in pushing new online, virtual ‘solutions’ means I will be one of the more important cogs in our little machine. New ways of working should make us more productive and allow expansion of income without having to try and cram ever more into our already crammed premises.

It will also be a relief to get away from the madness of Twitter and the media in general. So many people clamouring to be heard. So many people falling prey to the worst prognostications and then, by some curious online osmosis, making their own prophecies of doom in turn. So many clueless pontificators, each afflicted with their own special mix of gullibility, fear and devious sophistry; all of them putting together two and two and coming out with whatever number they first thought of.

People like Carole Cadwalladr see devious cadres plotting sinister world domination; the creeping tendrils of whichever organisation she believes she has exposed this month are everywhere. Your thoughts are being manipulated by shady capitalists who have the world’s politicians in their pocket. But why should Catlady have the monopoly on who are the good billionaires and who are the bad? Or are they ‘all in it together’. We need to be told! No, actually, we don’t. People are gullible enough without being fed such a rich diet of alarm.

The media has done its job and by repetition of the same questions over and over again, questions which are not really questions at all, has managed to push the credulous to doubt that the government has done anything right at any part of the pandemic. Naturally, there is a political divide, with those broadly backing government remaining calm and listening to the relaxation of lockdown advice. But, if you have a hard-on for Boris, as intellectually superior as you are, it seems you have an inordinately difficult time of grasping what ‘stay alert’ means. Odd, really, especially as just days ago you were all experts in epidemiology.

The new national pastime appears to be dreaming up further inanities to put to government. “I have a niche hobby. Why has the government not given specific advice as to whether it is safe to return to it?” Wags have managed to re-hash the same gag, with different accents, but all based on Vicky Pollard’s “Yeah, but no, but yeah, but…” shtick and suggesting that ordinary people can’t grasp whether they can go back to work or not, whether they can use public transport or not, whether they, blah, blah, blah.

But I have a suspicion that, like me, ordinary working people are perfectly capable of staying alert and staying safe. We’ve long lost interest in the statistics, the science, the conjecture and the blame game and we just want to gradually return to whatever employment remains. Let’s face it, without the private sector returning to being taxpayers, the public sector is going to run out of money. Again. So, you’ll excuse me, I’m sure, if I continue to not have an opinion on the government’s handling of things other than to assume that they know far more than I do. And you’ll excuse me, please, if I just get back to work and do my bit.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Migration Watch

We are harbouring an invader which threatens the very fabric of our society. A creeping menace insidious and inserted in every corner of our land, which will, unchecked, destroy all that we hold dear. And it is neither the corona virus nor the government’s response to it. It has been observed plenty of times that the west’s tolerance is one of its biggest weaknesses. In seeking to confer fair judgment and equality we have, time and again been exploited by those who have no reciprocal appreciation of the tolerance afforded them.

For a decade now the Conservative and coalition governments have continued to say it will tackle the problem of illegal immigration. Daily we see reports of dozens, hundreds even, landing on the Kent coast alone. These are the ones we know about, and almost none of them are being returned. In fact we are told that only around 5% are ever, eventually, deported to wherever they came from. In the meantime we are responsible for their welfare. Think about that; they commit a crime injurious to us as a nation, but it is we, the victims of that crime, who must pay.

International rules about conduct at sea mean that outside an act of war we can’t endanger them by sinking their boats. And if they deliberately sink their own boats we are compelled to rescue them. Our border ‘force’ appears to use no force at all but instead acts more like a courtesy escort service. Certain EU provisions mean that we are powerless to simply tow them or ferry them back to France and no doubt intercepting them in the parts of the Channel under French dominion would have its own legal implications.

It might be helpful if Priti Patel, as Home Secretary gave us a full account, in layman’s terms of the complexity and difficulty, but no doubt there are political reasons why this might be problematic. The argument can, of course, be made that if we land them we know where they are, but given that a couple of years ago the Home Office estimated that we had around 1.2 MILLION illegal immigrants, is that as wise as some may think.?

Are they detained, in which case, where? Or is it far more likely that they have submitted their bogus asylum claims, which prevent them being immediately ejected and have been released into the general community to vanish without trace? To give you an idea of the scale of this, as at 30th June 2019, the total UK prison population was 82,676. That means there are almost FIFTEEN TIMES as many foreign criminals at large than domestic criminals under lock and key. And it is worth repeating that this is just the number we know about.

But the creeping menace isn’t the migrants themselves; they are just doing what perhaps all of us would do if we truly believed life would be better elsewhere and we had the means to make that move. The menace is the industry which has grown up around their presence. It is an interesting case study in capitalism yet driven exclusively by the left in a staggering example of doublethink. Through persistent lobbying, marketing the notion of multiculturalism and branding all dissenters as racists, this insidious and deeply damaging industry employs thousands if not hundreds of thousands of activists, paid for by the public purse but doing not one bit of public good.

Even were La Patel to be able to extricate us from international treaties and conventions, pacts and promises, I very much doubt that the situation would change and certainly not in the short term. The worst of it is that we allowed ourselves to be browbeaten into accepting it. We deliberately chose not to delve too deeply and when whistle-blowers popped up they were side-lined and ignored. In the 1980s we faced a deadly disease in response to which the government launched the slogan – AIDS: Don’t die of ignorance. Perhaps the same slogan should apply to our immigration situation.

Thursday, 7 May 2020


The misinformation, disinformation, spin and just plain lies continue to shower down from Mount Corona. It is practically the ONLY thing anybody is discussing and if you are going to use the metaphor of a war, it has more in common with a frenzied bare-knuckle scrap than any organised campaign. What weapons anybody turned up with are neutralised as soon as they are drawn or rendered useless on impact. But it’s not as if any sensible battle lines are drawn and it isn’t even clear how many combatants are engaged. It is a shit show.

The denizens of the Press Pack appear to be in contention with each other for the awards for most misused statistics, clumsiest attack lines and the near universal inability to stitch together an article which retains even its own inner logic. Confused, combative and rabidly driven to find the scoop, all they are really doing is turning the public against them. Expect some venerable titles to cough up their last and disappear from print forever.

If anything, the broadcast media are even worse, needing as they do to fill 24-hour spit roasts of anybody they can drag into their studios. This is a platform which has become more and more discredited as viewers tire of the gotcha interview, the relentless interruptions and the uneven treatment of guests on different sides of the argument. And it is even more desperate than normal as, in these locked down times, the ever pointless vox pop programme punctuators are near impossible without inviting the long arm of the law to reach out and feel your collar for unnecessary human interaction.

And now with the Neil Ferguson affair[sic] the airwaves are a-buzz with yet new conspiracies that he persuaded the government to lock down knowing that it would worsen the situation… at the whim of his lefty mistress. Oh yes, people – and including serious people - are actually touting the notion of deliberate harm being advised to cynically bring the Johnson government into disrepute.

Notwithstanding the fact that BoJo is perfectly capable of doing that all by himself, you all need to take a long hard look at yourself because a Cambridge study has apparently revealed that instead of being reassured that all these agencies, that all these actors are united in combating the pandemic, the British public is said to be the most fearful in the world about the possible outcomes. It is little wonder when the press gleefully reports our rising death toll as the worst in the world! Alarum! Alarum! Throw out your dead and lock your doors!

But as a few remaining sane figures have pointed out, every country collects and reports its data differently. It will be many months, if not years, before anything approaching a direct comparison can be made. You know all the variables: deaths with or deaths of, deaths in the community included or not, what about care homes, what about relative timings, lockdown or not, population density, disproportionate effect on different parts of the demographic? And then there is the variable experience of testing, including it not being entirely clear what current testing has actually achieved other than present another target for the press.

Some people have stuck to their obsessive support for everything the government has done, while others have clung rigidly to the idea that whatever the government has done has been wrong. This suggests that regardless of how knowledge of the pandemic grows these people only see the situation through the lens of their pre-existing political affiliations. But there are also the ‘floating voters’ who have changed their tune at each announcement, rather like Indecisive Dave from the Fast Show. 

I say again, I have literally no means of judging other than my own experience. Right now I am unconcerned for my safety and I genuinely don’t know if that insouciance would have changed had we not locked down. And because we are not in a lab where we can reset and run the experiment again under different conditions, nobody else does, either. I have no answers; if you’re honest with yourself neither do you.

Monday, 4 May 2020

Be Careful What You Think

There was lots of rage and joy in last Friday’s coronavirus testing figures. Pro government voices were of course, ecstatic that the nominal target had been reached even though they knew not whether it was particularly significant. On the other side of the fence, obviously, the narrative was that the government had cheated, by changing the accounting method. This detail was rebuked later in the day at the press conference where the extra-governmental advisor made it clear that the method had not changed.  None of this matters though, because you will tend to believe whatever your tribe believes, and even if you imagine you don’t belong to a tribe, you do.

No, you really do. One of the more egregious attributes of tribalism is convincing yourself that you are impartial. You think you can spot when others are being partisan in the way they are using and disseminating information, but it is almost impossible to turn the spotlight on yourself. We can all appear neutral and understand and empathise with both sides of an argument from the outside, but as soon as we are on either side, try as we might, we lose that noble ability. Probably not more than a handful of people can do otherwise and I expect they are all mystics, sitting in splendid isolation on misty mountain tops.

It is pretty much hard wired into us to adopt a position and stick to it. But it is possible to shift an entire group’s attitude to a particular issue and have them believe they have not altered their stance at all. What you believe now is what you always believed. That is called propaganda and it is a deliberate act. Everybody thinks they understand propaganda and would recognise it when they see it. But if this was the case it wouldn't work. The fact that it does work shows how little we understand and can recognise it.

Propaganda relies on pushing a limited and uncomplicated message. Keep on doing it and the more you see people you respect repeating the point the more your groupthink-led brain will lead you to accept it. A famous propagandist of the last century had this to say: “The receptivity of the masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.”

If you doubt the effectiveness of simple messaging, consider fashion. You laugh now at the clothes you wore in your teens, just as you laugh at what teens are wearing now. But you all went there. You bought gadgetry which didn’t work. You all signed up to social media, even if you don’t use it a lot. The weight of the crowd is a heavy one to bear and few can resist it. Those who do are either true mavericks, or they are fooling themselves. Can you honestly claim to be a maverick? How’s the rarefied air up that mountain, by the way?

So, before you proffer an opinion about the response to the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Before you give your opinion on whether and how we should suspend the lockdown, how and who we should test or how long it will take to develop a vaccine. If you intend to opine about the state of the economy and the prospects for recovery and whether or not life will be the same afterwards. Before you do any of that, take a moment to have a good long think about whether that opinion you are about to give is actually your own.