Features Australia

Human rights, civil liberties

Four words that became four-letter words

19 June 2021

9:00 AM

19 June 2021

9:00 AM

Citizens have inalienable rights and freedoms. Governments have limited powers. Which part of this equation do governments not understand?

China’s record of deceit, deflection and cover-up has visited death, disease, misery, and impoverishment and also curtailed freedoms globally. Why did Western democracies copy China’s authoritarian practices, the media, social media and leading scientific journals collude in censorship, with publics mostly supportive? Neil ‘Pantsdown’ Ferguson admits to being impressed by China’s success in controlling the virus through tough lockdown measures. At first this was considered impossible for a Western democracy, but when Italy did it, suddenly it became politically feasible, and freedom died of Covid. Unchecked medical tyranny seems hellbent on destroying freedom in Western society with the presumption that we are all sick, whether we know it or not; or will soon be sick; and we must be dealt with as potential germ-ridden disease carriers who pose a constant threat to all others. In the name of keeping us safe, the entire machinery of state, backed by fear-peddling media and unprecedented censorship of social media by Big Tech, has been let loose upon citizens.

All the institutions that we rely on to keep abuses of power by the executive in check have failed us: parliaments, opposition parties, the judiciary and a sceptical and investigative press. In the UK, the press regulator Ofcom, whose primary mission should be to defend press freedom, instead silenced criticisms of government guidance even when it was under scientific and political debate. Snitching on neighbours has been encouraged. Smartphones that once liberated us from being tied down in one place have become an effective new instrument of enslavement. If the digital certificates idea takes hold, we’ll end up with a nearly irreversible consolidation of big government, big tech and big pharma.


On the back of the global pandemic, governments have taken control of every aspect of our lives. Healthy people who’ve committed no crimes have been put under mass house arrest for prolonged periods of time in order to buy ‘three weeks to flatten the curve’. The state has asserted the right to order who we meet, how many, where, for how long, faces muzzled and sans hugs; what businesses may remain open for how long and serve how many people and what must close; whether religious services are permitted or not; if, how far and where we may travel; which health services are able to operate under what conditions, including overriding screenings and treatments for deadlier diseases than Covid-19; and all without accountability and exit strategy. Walks in the park, sitting on a bench, swimming in the sea or joining a peaceful protest have been criminalised, as have attempts by Australians to return home. Finally, and there is no polite way to say this, as we saw in Melbourne last year and again more recently Victoria police have often acted like thugs in uniform indulging their inner bully.

In a featured Sunday interview in the major Argentinian daily La Nacion on 22 August, I expressed shock and dismay at ‘the extent to which majorities in literate countries can be successfully terrorised into surrendering civil and individual liberties’. The ever-feisty Lionel Shriver and Florida’s standout Governor Ron DeSantis share the sentiment. Our adversaries, DeSantis says, must be thinking: ‘Man, if we can instil panic and fear, we can get them to close down their whole society, cripple the strongest economy in the world’. Recently, there was a surreal article in the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, advocating a democracy support agenda by the leading Western democracies. Physician, heal thyself.

In the 1950s, US psychologist Albert Biderman developed a coercion chart based on eight techniques to extract confessions from American POWs: isolation, monopolisation of perception, humiliation and degradation, exhaustion, threats, occasional indulgences, demonstrating omnipotence, trivial demands. All have been used to impose public health fascism (‘Faucism’ is gaining popularity) by the unethical weaponisation of fear. In A State of Fear, Laura Dodsworth comprehensively exposes how the Orwellian SPI-B (Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours) came up with the equivalent of ‘PsyOps’ on citizens by such means as co-opting the media to increase the sense of personal threat ‘using hard-hitting emotional messaging’ and promotion of ‘social disapproval’. Ofcom has said nothing about state weaponisation of fear using taxpayer-funded propaganda.

‘Social’ distancing is deeply dehumanising. Isolation robs people of social support; exhaustion and fatigue weaken mental ability and physical capacity to resist; monopoly perception eliminates information at variance with compliance demands. The shocking arrest of Zoe Buhler was a very public demonstration of omnipotence in inflicting degradation and humiliation, as is forcing women to wear masks during labour. Suddenly, enforcing 5km travel limits, and mask mandates on solitary fishermen and farmers driving tractors in lonely paddocks, make sense as the enforcement of trivial demands to develop habitual compliance. Obedience is doing what you are told, regardless of right and wrong. Resistance is doing what’s right, heedless of consequences.

The opening sentence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms ‘the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family’ as ‘the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world’. Putting ‘inherent dignity’ before ‘inalienable rights’ was deliberate. Take away people’s dignity and you take away their humanity, enabling the state to commit atrocities at will and sustain a long-term abusive relationship with citizens. State propaganda has whipped up public emotions with public shaming and social ostracism of sceptics and recalcitrants. This helps to explain why science has been turned on its head by replacing scepticism with cult-like absolutism: if you cannot question, that’s dogma and propaganda, not science.

Scott Morrison, whose grasp of free speech is limited to its job-creation potential, is PM of a LINO (Liberal in name only) government that has expanded the reach of the state to trash individual freedoms and business autonomy and indulge in financial profligacy like the proverbial drunken sailor. Most Western governments have succumbed to the fatal conceit that one group of citizens has the right to use coercion, to set their personal protection as an absolute value and to disregard the safety-values balance of others. To escape death, we stop living and claim to have cheated the virus in the very act of giving it victory. As the great American broadcast journalist Edward Murrow warned prophetically, ‘A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves’.

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