TIME after time, we hear the following lament from lockdown sceptics: ‘I’ve looked into data on Covid and the lockdown and it’s clear that government measures have been wildly disproportionate, but my relatives refuse to look at the data or listen to reasonable argument. Why?’
The answer seems to be partly temperament, partly historical.
The state and its proxies
As Gawain Towler reported in TCW yesterday, researchers discovered that lockdown sceptics are more likely to assess data critically, want to examine sources and are resistant to mass-media narratives. (Incidentally, the report writers considered these traits to be bad.) This tells us that the less inquisitive tend to accept arguments from authority with fewer (or no) doubts. Since 1945, with the comforting (or suffocating) mantra ‘from cradle to grave’, the British people have been lulled into complacency. They expected the state to educate, police, care for them, treat their health, pension them and bury them. Over decades, responding to the British state with such trust has been deleterious to the nation (as distinct from the state) by loosening bonds within nation, family and community, but it has not necessarily been dangerous to individuals. Today, under Covid lockdown, the state’s imposition of forced isolation and idleness – and its campaign of fearmongering – reveals the state’s reckless disregard for individuals’ welfare.
Exactly when the state transitioned from being essentially benign to mainly malign depends on your perspective. Peter Hitchens might state that it became irreversible in 1997 with the election of Blair’s Labour Party or with the adoption of progressivism by David Cameron around 2009. Perhaps the slippage towards serfdom was inherent in the Fabian principles of 1945. Regardless, years of Blair’s invasive paternalism and Tory reluctance to let go of the levers of nudge politics and social behaviourism paved the way for the hysterical safetyism of Covid lockdown.
Things change. The British state is not what it was; the BBC is no longer the respected broadcaster which attempted to be impartial and inclusive; the Sun and the Daily Telegraph cannot be described as politically or socially conservative – nor can the Anglican Church or the Conservative Party, complete with the globalist slogan of ‘build back better’. The frog has well and truly been boiled, incrementally. Supposed beacons of conservativism, tradition and neutrality have been in the hands of progressives and activists for some time now.
Where government ends and private corporations begin is unclear. The massive sums pumped into newspapers and broadcasters to advertise lockdown promulgations and spread fear propaganda has kept newspapers solvent. The press is now an arm of government, as seen in its near-universal support for the principles of lockdown and mask-wearing. Small firms were closed while giant ones stayed open; no one could buy shoes from a shop but they could order them via Amazon. Government-enforced suppression of market competition led to a massive wealth transfer to mega corporations. Meanwhile, Big Tech suppresses criticism of Covid measures.
Corporate partners do the bidding of the government not simply due to pressure or money: civil servants and corporate management share outlooks and goals. There is no conspiracy per se, just a convergence of interests and outlooks. The managerial elite of the civil service, police, judiciary, NHS, schools, universities, major political parties, the Church of England, mainstream press, NGOs and mega corporations see the British population as in need of their stewardship.
Lessons from behind the Iron Curtain
I lived in the territory of the former GDR and often talked to Germans about their experiences of communism. They told me there was an official culture (where everyone knew what the acceptable line was) and an informal culture (where one could tell the truth among friends). Of course, in a state riddled with informants, one could never be entirely sure of one’s safety, but the evident falsity of claims made by the state and the failure of socialism (except for the senior Party members) showed anyone who wanted to apply objectivity that they lived in a system that was both hostile and crumbling. They knew that schools and the Ernst Thälmann Pioneer Organisation were for the benefit not of children but of the Party. They understood that the state was lying to them and that the media could not be trusted.
Our sense of normality is established between the ages of 15 and 25. So if you ask someone in their 60s about the probity of the BBC, they will be reaching back to the 1970s or 1980s to recall not facts but how they felt. That BBC is long gone but it is painful to admit such a loss. In Britain, older people, authoritarian-inclined individuals and youngsters fired by idealism view the state and its adjuncts as essentially beneficial. To admit that, as in the GDR, the state works for its own interests above ours is a difficult pill to swallow. Many compatriots and family members close their eyes and ears in an attempt to deny the frightening possibility that authorities in which they have placed their faith do not care about their welfare and are prepared to impose arbitrary, ineffective and cruel policies.
We need to treat all arms of the British state with the suspicion that residents of the GDR had for their state. We must withhold our trust until it has been earned by anyone in a position of power.