Guest Notes

Lockdown notes

15 August 2020

9:00 AM

15 August 2020

9:00 AM

A good war

Who could ever have imagined that the greatest act of rebellion in the second decade of the 21st century would be to enter a supermarket without wearing a face nappy? I’ve been doing it a lot lately — a kind of anti-Dick-Turpin. He became a folk legend by wearing a mask; I’ve become a folk legend by not wearing one. The Times ran a piece about no-mask rebels and used a photo of my hideous, grinning, mask-free mug.

Alright, I admit: it’s not quite in the league of hiding Anne Frank and her family in your cupboard. But as Gandalf famously says to Frodo, we can’t choose the times we live in. ‘All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.’ For our ancestors, resisting tyranny might have involved suicidally holding the bridge so that the women and children could escape; being burned at the stake; dying in Gallipoli or the jungles of New Guinea. For our own generation, all it entails is flicking two fingers at our governments’ ridiculous Covid-19 directives. Yet still, most of us are too cowed, brainwashed or frightened to make even that tiny gesture towards defending our freedoms.

When did we turn into such a sorry bunch of cowards, snitches, collaborators, surrender monkeys and whipped curs? This is a question I’ve been asking myself with increasing frequency as the Coronavirus pandemic — or rather the authorities’ crazed overreaction to it — has got more and more insane. Sure I can understand at the beginning why people might have been nervous, when information was scarce and rumours were rife. But there’s really no excuse now. We know that Covid-19 is unlikely to kill you unless you were on your way out anyway; that there are effective treatments; that lockdowns probably cause more deaths than they save; that we’re well on the way towards ‘herd immunity’; that the Swedish model was the right one. So how is it that so many people remain convinced that this is our Spanish Flu and that no government measure, however draconian, is too extreme or intrusive to combat it?

Victoria, as you know, has gone further than most by implementing curfews, roadblocks, random, warrant-free house searches. On TV, police commissioner Shane Patton — in his natty all-black uniform — actually boasted that his officers had been smashing car windows and pulling out the drivers if they failed to answer questions about whether their journey was strictly necessary. And how have Victorians responded to this outbreak of fascism? Rather too enthusiastically in far too many cases. One enterprising local collaborator is even selling a range of celebratory souvenirs online: $12 will buy you a fridge magnet with a portrait of state Premier Dan Andrews; $18 buys you a ‘kids mask’ decorated with the face of Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos (‘Jenny — keeping Melburnians informed’, says the site); $40 buys an iPhone tough case, featuring Victoria’s chief health officer Prof. Brett Sutton (‘number one #Covidcrush for many Victorians’, gushes the designer).

Things haven’t got quite that bonkers here in Britain — yet — but Boris Johnson’s flailing regime is doing its best. Even though there’s little evidence that they work, masks are now obligatory everywhere from cinemas to supermarkets. I was even ordered to wear one when I tried boarding a small ferry in the seaside resort of Salcombe, Devon. The sun was shining; there was a stiff sea breeze; the boat was all open air: the chances of any virus spreading under those conditions were probably less than zero. But the zealous little Gauleiter in charge of the vessel was insistent — no mask, no ten-minute ferry trip. When I remonstrated, he asked scornfully: ‘Haven’t you been watching the telly?’

Had I bothered to answer I would have said: ‘No. I haven’t actually.’ That’s because it’s the telly — the BBC especially — which has been responsible for promulgating the most relentless, unquestioning, government-driven Coronavirus propaganda. I can sort of understand why the odd credulous moron might fall for this nonsense. What I cannot get, let alone forgive, is why so many of the supposedly educated classes continue to buy into it.

One of my Twitter pals — @sirdanofC — has been compiling regular reports on which members of the political and media classes have been having a ‘good war’ and which ones have been having an absolute shocker. I shan’t name names because it’s too close to the knuckle and some of these people are — or rather were — my friends.

Suffice to say that neither intelligence, wit or a previous record of robust conservatism are any guarantee of what I would call ‘soundness’ on the Coronavirus issue. Sure there’s a vague correlation: people who voted Remain rather than for Brexit tend, by nature, to be less in favour of risk and more fond of big government, and so quite often tend to be Covid bedwetters too. But you can never be sure. Two figures I had written off during Brexit as batshit crazy Remainer fanatics — The Spectator columnist Matthew Parris and top barrister Jonathan Sumption —have since revealed themselves as truly heroic Coronavirus sceptics. The corollary, unfortunately, is that people I’d always considered to be the staunchest of ideological comrades have turned out to be mask-touting, lockdown-supporting, vaccine-touting, ‘this-is-the-new-normal’-spouting candidates for my weekly Order of the Golden Mattress award.

You really don’t need to be a genius — or even a scientist — to see through the Coronavirus scam. (There’s now more than enough readily absorbable and well-explained data, collated at places like my friend Toby Young’s And you really don’t need to be that brave to join the resistance. How difficult can it be to refuse to wear one of those silly, pointless muzzles when you go out to do your shopping? Not only is it not difficult but it’s also very rewarding: those smiles, that glorious sense of camaraderie you get from your fellow refuseniks, the knowledge that in the great war against global tyranny, you at least are doing your bit.

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