Wednesday, December 1, 2021
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Stay angry, Jordan Peterson

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I HAD a fleeting interaction with famed Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson on Twitter a few weeks ago. 

He’d shared a link to the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan’s emergency declaration on Covid-19 with the comment: ‘Am I the only one who finds this level of ascription of power during this “emergency” just a trifle excessive?’ 

‘A trifle?’ I replied. ‘You’re more than a year late’. 

He retweeted my comment, saying: ‘I was ill. And what have you done?’ 

I tried to explain myself, pointing to the 20 or so articles that I’ve written and published on the subject since the pandemic began.

I got plenty of nasty comments from other Twitter users, but I don’t think Dr Peterson saw my reply. 

Here’s what I was getting at.

The greatest assault on civil liberties in my lifetime has occurred over the past two years, and Dr Peterson, perhaps the most prominent advocate for the sovereignty of the individual, has been silent about it. 

He had good reasons. I’m sorry he was so ill and I’m glad he’s recovered. As I said in my reply, my comment wasn’t meant to be a dig at him. I wrote it more out of exasperation at the lack of any mainstream opposition to this unprecedented and unwarranted suppression of liberty than I did to criticise Peterson specifically.

But it is a fact that he was late calling out these excessive emergency powers. His voice has been desperately needed during this time, when so few public figures dared question the official narrative.

The truth of what’s happened over the past two years is extremely difficult for anyone to grasp fully, especially someone who might not have been paying close attention at the beginning. But we can all make an attempt to look at it from the proper starting point.

Until March 2020, we lived according to a system of shared values, as expressed in our culture, constitution, customs and conventions. We maintained a contract with our governments that allowed for the possible restriction of our civil liberties if necessary. But there was a tacit understanding that if the government wanted us to deviate from the norm, they had to meet a high threshold of proof to justify why we couldn’t continue as normal, and to prove that their proposed solution was proportionate to the threat, providing maximal benefit and minimal harm.

At first no one knew how serious this virus was, and many feared the worst. However there were pandemic response plans in place in every developed country, including the UK and Canada, for just this scenario. I worked in emergency management in Canada for six years, from 2003 to 2009, including during the SARS outbreak in 2003. Every province in Canada had plans for all sorts of potential disasters – natural, human-caused and technological. 

From the World Health Organisation down, these plans were broadly in line with each other. They were the result of years of work, building upon accumulated knowledge, shared experience and lessons learnt in previous pandemics. The clear duty for our governments was to follow the response plans. But they didn’t. 

Recognising the abandonment of our plans at the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is the prerequisite for any accurate analysis of the past two years. Retired Lieutenant Colonel David Redman, former head of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, has articulated this better than anyone. I hope Dr Peterson interviews him.

This catastrophic act of negligence occurred after Canadian doctor Bruce Aylward of the WHO led a team to Wuhan to observe China’s response to the initial outbreak. He came back extolling their success. ‘If I had Covid-19 I’d want to be treated in China,’ he said. (Dr Aylward is perhaps best known for an astonishing interview that he gave to a Hong Kong media outlet last year, in which he appeared to pretend not to hear a question about Taiwan, then hung up rather than answer, and then insisted they move on to the next question.)

The major turning point was when Boris Johnson, acting on Professor Neil Ferguson’s apocalyptic modelling, U-turned away from what was then called a mitigation strategy to a suppression strategy – in other words, lockdown. 

Ferguson’s modelling was based on a number of baseless assumptions: that this virus affects everyone equally, that asymptomatic individuals are a major driver of the pandemic, that there was no pre-existing immunity, and that the government restrictions would have an effect on the behaviour of an airborne virus. Professor Ferguson later provided some insight into his motivation: ‘We couldn’t get away with [a lockdown] in Europe, we thought’, but then, after the initial Chinese lockdown was copied by Italy, ‘we realised we could’. 

China stooge Dr Aylward said ‘lock down’, Professor Ferguson predicted half a million will die in the UK if you don’t lock down, and the intelligent but foolish Johnson (acting on the advice of evil technocrat genius Dominic Cummings) capitulated and chucked out the pandemic response plan. But Johnson hesitated long enough to convince his critics of the unfalsifiable belief that he’d locked down too late. 

No other leader wanted to be accused of that.

Canada never really had to make its own decision. The initial lockdowns were imposed out of hysteria and fear, but Britain’s hesitation and then wholesale embrace of China’s totalitarian tactics made it easy for Canada and other countries to proceed with confidence. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers of the provinces saw what Britain and other European countries did, and thought only of how they could do lockdown better, rather than what else they might do (such as follow their pandemic response plans). Almost no one in the media or opposition insisted they justify their actions. 

The real effects of this virus are not that much worse than a bad flu, as Peterson has acknowledged. But once the decision to lock down was made, there was no going back for our politicians. Almost everything that has occurred since that initial error – mass testing, mask mandates, ever-changing travel restrictions, mandatory quarantines, vaccine requirements— has been to cover up or retroactively to try and substantiate that error, all with very little scientific justification. 

The reason this situation appears grave is that our governments reacted disproportionately and negligently, not because the threat warranted the extreme reaction. 

Mail on Sunday journalist Peter Hitchens (Peterson should interview him too) gives the analogy of a man discovering a wasps’ nest in his house and responding by burning the house down. But it’s worse than that. The man is holding an instruction manual for how to remove a wasps’ nest from his house, but decides to burn down the house anyway, throwing in the manual for good measure.

I’m sure that Dr Peterson would have called out the disproportionate assault on freedom had he been well enough to do so at the time. But nearly two years later, freedom is ending and the truth is going with it. We have already entered a new paradigm in which governments can suppress liberty without proper justification. He needs to catch up quickly.

The good news, if his latest interview with Dave Rubin Shared post (rubinreport.com) is anything to go by, is that Peterson is starting to voice his anger about continuing government restrictions. 

To that I say: stay angry, Dr Peterson, because we need your voice and we need it now.

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Andrew Mahon
Andrew Mahon is a Canadian-British writer based in London. He is the author of Don't go to University: A decision-making guide for young adults without a plan.

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