The Heroes-to-Zeros who belong on the 2021 Covid Wall of Shame

Any 2021 Covid Wall of Shame must have a place on it reserved for a generic citation – the media commentator whose prior opposition to State-authoritarianism was revealed to have been a sham         

Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked“- (US mega-investor Warren Buffet)

Identifying the most obvious prominent candidates for a 2021 Covid Wall of Shame isn’t hard. The list of Prime Suspects almost writes itself, but would certainly include-

  1. the Mainstream Media, assiduous purveyors over 21 months of Covid-propaganda, doom-laden statistics and dire ‘expert’ analyses, with – unsurprisingly – the BBC to the fore;
  1. Professor Neil Ferguson, whose personal breach, for assignations with his married mistress, of the first lockdown – imposed largely on his advice – served only to focus more attention on his unfortunate record of predictions which, though officially revered, often turned out to be wildly inaccurate;
  1. Professor Susan Michie, aka “Stalin’s Nanny”, lifelong Communist doyenne of both SAGE and ‘Independent’ SAGE and for whom, apparently, no regime of draconian restrictions on economy and society could ever be too long, or too harsh, or too damaging,

However, with British politics undergoing an unfolding realignment from the traditional Left vs Right continuum towards a more contemporarily realistic Authoritarian vs Libertarian divide, the Covid pandemic has seen several striking metamorphoses from the Libertarian side of that divide to its Authoritarian side by certain media figures from whom one would have least expected it. Two particularly egregious examples illustrate the point.

First the nominally conservative columnist, presenter and commentator Andrew Pierce. In the now far-off days when I used to watch Sky News, the papers review featuring Pierce and stock London media-lefty Kevin Maguire – the double-act once dubbed ‘The Lenin and McCarthy of late-night political TV” – was often notable for Pierce’s robust advocacy of small-c conservative positions, notably on the conflict between personal freedom and State-authoritarianism.

So it was especially disappointing to see Pierce, appearing on the BBC’s Jeremy Vine Show on 18 November, embracing full-on State-authoritarianism, including discrimination against anyone declining to take the Covid vaccine.  He-

  1. praised Austria for forcing the unvaccinated to go into a lockdown tantamount to house-arrest;
  1. dismissed the growing incidence of serious medical side-effects, some even fatal, from the vaccine;
  1. made an inaccurate claim about the relative ratio of Covid deaths between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, which subsequently needed public correction;
  1. demonised anyone with legitimate concerns about the efficacy of vaccines as impliedly mentally deficient conspiracy theorists: and
  1. ended by being equivocal on a lockdown of the unvaccinated in Britain, but only because practical difficulties might arise in its enforcement.

Neither has he stopped there. Since then, he has gone on to demand both a compulsory vaccine passport scheme for pubs and restaurants, and compulsory continuous mask-wearing for students in all, not merely communal, areas of all secondary schools,

as well as making another contentious claim, namely that 90% of Covid cases in hospital were un-vaccinated, 

which also turned out to be wrong, it having been established as early as 21 October that this was factually untrue, and that roughly two-thirds of Covid cases in hospital were actually among the vaccinated. Far from the defender of individual liberty against authoritarian State over-reach that he once was, Pierce seems to have been transformed into a virtual medico-totalitarian.

Secondly, and arguably even worse, Andrew Neil, erstwhile doyen of political interviewers, hitherto famous for his forensic filleting of disingenuous politicians peddling claims more in the realms of fantasy than fact, and searching interrogations of tinpot tyrants threatening our liberties.

In a quite extraordinary intervention in the Covid debate on 9 December, Neil lashed out at the unvaccinated with a degree of intolerance and malevolence that many found shocking. Not content with merely criticising the unvaccinated for being hesitant or sceptical, for both of which they may have many and varied reasons, Neil went on to disparage them for their presumed selfishness and to demand that they be punished.

His intemperate tirade contained some highly tendentious philosophical propositions. He asserted, for example, that we have a responsibility to act in ways that protect not only our own health but that of others – a foray into leftist-collectivist ideology which in effect substantially absolves me from responsibility to protect my own, by transferring it to the State to compel you, on pain of punishment, to protect it for me. The critic of Neil, who remarked that, while you can take the Neil out of the BBC, you evidently can’t take the BBC out of the Neil, had a point.

His argument repeated to critics subsequently on social media seemed to hinge on a purely transactional trade-off: that the costs of lockdown legitimised vaccine passports as a preventive alternative, even to the extent of creating a two-tier, “Show us your papers!” society in which the minority would be ‘othered’ and discriminated against. But this again carries echoes of a collectivist ‘ends justifies means’ ideology which dismisses the rights, autonomy and freedoms of the individual.

Like Pierce, Neil, too, sadly, appears to have succumbed to the blandishments of the medico-authoritarians.

It’s invariably disappointing to discover that the people we thought were strong allies have, just when it mattered most, when it comes to the crunch, and when the metaphorical chips are down, weakened, turned away from the fight, and made common cause with our opponents.

So, this nomination for any 2021 Covid Wall of Shame isn’t a person, but a generic type – the commentator whom we thought was One Of Us, but who turned out instead be One Of Them.  The assumed Hero whom Covid revealed as a Zero. A 2021 Covid Wall of Shame would surely contain few, if any, examples more deserving of inclusion.

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