Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Hitchens v Hodges – sense v nonsense


A CASE could be made that Peter Hitchens is among the greatest living Englishmen: a fundamentally conscientious and courageous man defending common sense and liberty against all and every enemy. It would occur to nobody to make the same case for fellow Mail on Sunday columnist Dan Hodges.

Precisely for this reason the debate between them (on TalkRadio’s first edition of Head to Head a few days ago) is illuminating, since there can be no doubt that Hodges is more typical of the individuals who control this country and offers a window into the way they think.

Hodges thinks via a procedure of reductio ad expertum, directed towards identifying power and placing himself in its service. If an accredited expert says something, no matter how risible, Hodges affirms their claims.

Hence increased rates of suicide over the last twelve months could have no connection to government’s lockdown policies, Hodges asserts, because experts say so. Equally, lockdowns must have an effect in reducing mortality, once again, because experts say. The fact that other experts have reached different conclusions does not pose a problem to Hodges, because these other experts are not advising the government, which is finally the only principle in Hodges’ mental universe which matters.

Hitchens, in contrast, has essentially only one point, which isn’t elaborate, but appears incomprehensible to the government and their apologists, since it involves the application of moral and intellectual principles they no longer recognise. Have the policies which the British government, and other governments enacted in order to combat the pandemic been reasonable or proportionate given the harms which they caused?

The answer is no. Not only have Sweden and other countries proved that lockdowns were never necessary, but more effective and less destructive treatments, for example, distribution of Vitamin D or Ivermectin were never even considered. At a minimum the British government is guilty of extraordinary arrogance and incompetence. It is not unfair to say that Hodges embodies those same qualities.

In March 2020, Boris Johnson and his enablers imported a public health policy from a totalitarian police state, in the face of all medical wisdom and respect for individual liberty, and launched a campaign of psychological warfare to compel public compliance. Eleven months later, the failure of this policy is evident on every level. There is next to no evidence that Britain has seen any medical benefit by transforming itself into a national plague hospital while the costs of the policy continue to mount.

As Hitchens remarked at the end at the broadcast, the likelihood of this outcome was initially recognised by Hodges himself. ‘This is the point we have reached,’ he wrote in March last year. ‘A moment in our history where reticence at turning one of the world’s leading democracies into a police state is derided as confused flippancy. Those cheering their own imprisonment, and attacking Boris for his perceived timidity, need to realise they are in danger of unleashing forces far more deadly than even the most lethal pandemic.’ According to Hodges, his position changed in the face of changed facts. But what changed was the political calculus. Once the government decided on a policy, Hodges changed his own position to retain his access to the government.

Throughout the debate, Hodges responded to logic with rhetoric; in particular with the term ‘lockdown denier’. The castigating purpose of the trope, with its association with Holocaust denial, is self-evident. The shamelessness with which Hodges is prepared to mobilise it betrays his cynicism, but it is not clear what is being denied.

The stubborn fact remains: there is no correlation across hundreds of countries between the severity of lockdowns and the mortality rates of the virus. This fact, in itself, supplies compelling evidence they are unnecessary. If there were no alternative, Sweden and other countries which were never locked down should have suffered exponentially heightened mortality compared with countries which did. They did not.

Why, then, do they persist? Invited to supply an explanation, Hitchens offered only the hypothesis of the weakness of Johnson himself. Johnson is certainly amongst most morally repulsive individuals ever to hold high office in this country, along with Tony Blair, and there’s no question that his fundamentally broken personality is one important aspect of this story, but there’s also an element of what the German political scientist Edgar Grande calls the ‘paradox of weakness’. As Thomas Fazi summarises, ‘national elites transfer some power to a supranational policymaker (thereby appearing weaker) in order to allow themselves better to withstand pressure from societal actors . . . (thereby becoming stronger).’

This mask of power is currently being supplied in the United Kingdom by Sage, in line with similar strategies in other countries, but it is the politicians who are controlling the scientists, not vice versa. As Neil Clark noted in Russia Today in October, the contracts for a UK lockdown advertising campaign were signed a full three weeks before Johnson ordered the first lockdown. Last week, Die Welt revealed that the German government pressured scientists to emphasise the most threatening scenarios to provide a pretext for more repressive policies.

Gates Foundation haruspex Neil Ferguson embodies the logic to the point of baptising the principle: the Ferguson Principle, like the Peter Principle which notes that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their ‘level of incompetence’, but in this case governing the political abuse of science. Plainly, given his abysmal track record, no serious scientist could take Ferguson seriously. His prominence derives instead from his willingness to predict extreme outcomes in order to justify aggressive interventions, that is, his propaganda function.

What now seems obvious is that the Government wanted to impose a lockdown, and hyperbolic modelling was promoted to justify it, rather than the lockdown being imposed on the basis of the modelling. The vaccine passports which now seem on the cards were probably always the desired outcome of the exercise. With the alienation of the rights of individuals to the point of allowing governments first to impose mandatory experimental genetic therapies as a precondition for normal life, and then to track them, a door is opened that will not be closed. In the same way the new political weapon of lockdown will not be abandoned without serious concerted action, as New Zealand is demonstrating. Johnson and his collaborators must be urgently removed from power and an inquiry launched into their actions. The alternative is the total and permanent destruction of British liberty in the near future.

‘I stand on the small patch of ground which I can defend with the trusty weapons of demonstrable fact and hard reason,’ Hitchens once affirmed, ‘and there I’ll stay.’ He will stay there like Spengler’s soldier at Pompeii, because this ground is now collapsing underneath us.

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Daniel Miller
Daniel Miller
Daniel Miller is a writer.

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