A dissent in time saves nine

I will tell my own story of walking off a gurney as I was being wheeled into the operating room. I had had what I thought, and every doctor I had visited had thought, was a fungal infection on my finger, and I had had it for more than a dozen years when the specialist I was dealing with recommended an operation to clear it up. And so, all was arranged, but literally as I was being wheeled in I asked if it were too late to change my mind. No, the doctor said, so I changed my mind. A few years later it turned out that the problem was a very rare form of cancer. You trust experts when you have no choice. At all other times, you think for yourself. The following is from Peter Hitchens: Is shutting down Britain – with unprecedented curbs on ancient liberties – REALLY the best answer?

Some years ago I had the very good luck to fall into the hands of a totally useless doctor. It was hell, and nearly worse than that, but it taught me one of the most important lessons of my life. He was charming, grey-haired, smooth and beautifully dressed. He was standing in for my usual GP, a shabbier, more abrasive man.

I went to him with a troubling, persistent pain in a tender place. He prescribed an antibiotic. Days passed. It did not work. The pain grew worse. He declared that in that case I needed surgery, and the specialist to whom he sent me agreed with barely a glance. I was on the conveyor belt to the operating table.

In those days I believed, as so many do, in the medical profession. I was awed by their qualifications. Yet the prospect of a rather nasty operation filled me with gloom and doubt. As I waited miserably for the anaesthetist in the huge London hospital to which I had been sent, a new doctor appeared. I braced myself for another session of being asked ‘Does this hurt?’ and replying, between clenched teeth, that yes it blinking well did. But this third man was different. He did not ask me pointlessly if it hurt. He knew it did. He was, crucially, a thinking man who did not take for granted what he was told.

He looked at my notes. He actually read them, which I don’t think anyone else ever had. He swore under his breath. He hurried from the room, only to return shortly afterwards to say I should get dressed and go home. The operation was cancelled. All I needed was a different antibiotic, which he – there and then – prescribed and which cured the problem in three days. He was furious, and managed to convey tactfully that the original prescription had been incompetent and wrong.

The whole miserable business had been a dismal and frightening mistake. He was sorry. Heaven knows what would have happened if Providence had not brought that third doctor into the room. I still shudder slightly to think of it. But the point was this. A mere title, a white coat, a smooth manner, a winning way with long words and technical jargon, will never again be enough for me.

It never, ever does any harm to question decisions which you think are wrong. If they are right, then no harm will be done. They will be able to deal with your questions. If they are, in fact, wrong, you could save everyone a lot of trouble.

And so here I am, asking bluntly – is the closedown of the country the right answer to the coronavirus? I’ll be accused of undermining the NHS and threatening public health and all kinds of other conformist rubbish. But I ask you to join me, because if we have this wrong we have a great deal to lose.

I don’t just address this plea to my readers. I think my fellow journalists should ask the same questions. I think MPs of all parties should ask them when they are urged tomorrow to pass into law a frightening series of restrictions on ancient liberties and vast increases in police and state powers.

Did you know that the Government and Opposition had originally agreed that there would not even be a vote on these measures? Even Vladimir Putin might hesitate before doing anything so blatant. If there is no serious rebellion against this plan in the Commons, then I think we can commemorate tomorrow, March 23, 2020, as the day Parliament died. Yet, as far as I can see, the population cares more about running out of lavatory paper. Praise must go to David Davis and Chris Bryant, two MPs who have bravely challenged this measure.

It may also be the day our economy perished. The incessant coverage of health scares and supermarket panics has obscured the dire news coming each hour from the stock markets and the money exchanges. The wealth that should pay our pensions is shrivelling as share values fade and fall. The pound sterling has lost a huge part of its value. Governments all over the world are resorting to risky, frantic measures which make Jeremy Corbyn’s magic money tree look like sober, sound finance. Much of this has been made far worse by the general shutdown of the planet on the pretext of the coronavirus scare. However bad this virus is (and I will come to that), the feverish panic on the world’s trading floors is at least as bad.

And then there is the Johnson Government’s stumbling retreat from reason into fear. At first, Mr Johnson was true to himself and resisted wild demands to close down the country. But bit by bit he gave in.

The schools were to stay open. Now they are shutting, with miserable consequences for this year’s A-level cohort. Cafes and pubs were to be allowed to stay open, but now that is over. On this logic, shops and supermarkets must be next, with everyone forced to rely on overstrained delivery vans. And that will presumably be followed by hairdressers, dry cleaners and shoe repairers.

How long before we need passes to go out in the streets, as in any other banana republic? As for the grotesque, bullying powers to be created on Monday, I can only tell you that you will hate them like poison by the time they are imposed on you.

All the crudest weapons of despotism, the curfew, the presumption of guilt and the power of arbitrary arrest, are taking shape in the midst of what used to be a free country. And we, who like to boast of how calm we are in a crisis, seem to despise our ancient hard-bought freedom and actually want to rush into the warm, firm arms of Big Brother.

Imagine, police officers forcing you to be screened for a disease, and locking you up for 48 hours if you object. Is this China or Britain? Think how this power could be used against, literally, anybody.

The Bill also gives Ministers the authority to ban mass gatherings. It will enable police and public health workers to place restrictions on a person’s ‘movements and travel’, ‘activities’ and ‘contact with others’.

Many court cases will now take place via video-link, and if a coroner suspects someone has died of coronavirus there will be no inquest. They say this is temporary. They always do.

Well, is it justified? There is a document from a team at Imperial College in London which is being used to justify it. It warns of vast numbers of deaths if the country is not subjected to a medieval curfew.

But this is all speculation. It claims, in my view quite wrongly, that the coronavirus has ‘comparable lethality’ to the Spanish flu of 1918, which killed at least 17 million people and mainly attacked the young.

What can one say to this? In a pungent letter to The Times last week, a leading vet, Dick Sibley, cast doubt on the brilliance of the Imperial College scientists, saying that his heart sank when he learned they were advising the Government. Calling them a ‘team of doom-mongers’, he said their advice on the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak ‘led to what I believe to be the unnecessary slaughter of millions of healthy cattle and sheep’ until they were overruled by the then Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King.

He added: ‘I hope that Boris Johnson, Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance show similar wisdom. They must ensure that measures are proportionate, balanced and practical.’

Avoidable deaths are tragic, but each year there are already many deaths, especially among the old, from complications of flu leading to pneumonia.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) tells me that the number of flu cases and deaths due to flu-related complications in England alone averages 17,000 a year. This varies greatly each winter, ranging from 1,692 deaths last season (2018/19) to 28,330 deaths in 2014/15.

The DHSC notes that many of those who die from these diseases have underlying health conditions, as do almost all the victims of coronavirus so far, here and elsewhere. As the experienced and knowledgeable doctor who writes under the pseudonym ‘MD’ in the Left-wing magazine Private Eye wrote at the start of the panic: ‘In the winter of 2017-18, more than 50,000 excess deaths occurred in England and Wales, largely unnoticed.’

Nor is it just respiratory diseases that carry people off too soon. In the Government’s table of ‘deaths considered avoidable’, it lists 31,307 deaths from cardiovascular diseases in England and Wales for 2013, the last year for which they could give me figures.

This, largely the toll of unhealthy lifestyles, was out of a total of 114,740 ‘avoidable’ deaths in that year. To put all these figures in perspective, please note that every human being in the United Kingdom suffers from a fatal condition – being alive.

About 1,600 people die every day in the UK for one reason or another. A similar figure applies in Italy and a much larger one in China. The coronavirus deaths, while distressing and shocking, are not so numerous as to require the civilised world to shut down transport and commerce, nor to surrender centuries-old liberties in an afternoon.

We are warned of supposedly devastating death rates. But at least one expert, John Ioannidis, is not so sure. He is Professor of Medicine, of epidemiology and population health, of biomedical data science, and of statistics at Stanford University in California. He says the data are utterly unreliable because so many cases are going unrecorded.

He warns here:

‘This evidence fiasco creates tremendous uncertainty about the risk of dying from Covid-19. Reported case fatality rates, like the official 3.4 per cent rate from the World Health Organisation, cause horror and are meaningless.’

In only one place – aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess – has an entire closed community been available for study. And the death rate there – just one per cent – is distorted because so many of those aboard were elderly. The real rate, adjusted for a wide age range, could be as low as 0.05 per cent and as high as one per cent.

As Prof Ioannidis says: ‘That huge range markedly affects how severe the pandemic is and what should be done. A population-wide case fatality rate of 0.05 per cent is lower than seasonal influenza. If that is the true rate, locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences may be totally irrational. It’s like an elephant being attacked by a house cat. Frustrated and trying to avoid the cat, the elephant accidentally jumps off a cliff and dies.’

Epidemic disasters have been predicted many times before and have not been anything like as bad as feared.

The former editor of The Times, Sir Simon Jenkins, recently listed these unfulfilled scares: bird flu did not kill the predicted millions in 1997. In 1999 it was Mad Cow Disease and its human variant, vCJD, which was predicted to kill half a million. Fewer than 200 in fact died from it in the UK.

The first Sars outbreak of 2003 was reported as having ‘a 25 per cent chance of killing tens of millions’ and being ‘worse than Aids’. In 2006, another bout of bird flu was declared ‘the first pandemic of the 21st Century’.

There were similar warnings in 2009, that swine flu could kill 65,000. It did not. The Council of Europe described the hyping of the 2009 pandemic as ‘one of the great medical scandals of the century’. Well, we shall no doubt see.

But while I see very little evidence of a pandemic, and much more of a PanicDemic, I can witness on my daily round the slow strangulation of dozens of small businesses near where I live and work, and the catastrophic collapse of a flourishing society, all these things brought on by a Government policy made out of fear and speculation rather than thought.

Much that is closing may never open again. The time lost to schoolchildren and university students – in debt for courses which have simply ceased to be taught – is irrecoverable, just as the jobs which are being wiped out will not reappear when the panic at last subsides.

We are told that we must emulate Italy or China, but there is no evidence that the flailing, despotic measures taken in these countries reduced the incidence of coronavirus. The most basic error in science is to assume that because B happens after A, that B was caused by A.

There may, just, be time to reconsider. I know that many of you long for some sort of coherent opposition to be voiced. The people who are paid to be the Opposition do not seem to wish to earn their rations, so it is up to the rest of us. I despair that so many in the commentariat and politics obediently accept what they are being told. I have lived long enough, and travelled far enough, to know that authority is often wrong and cannot always be trusted.

I also know that dissent at this time will bring me abuse and perhaps worse. But I am not saying this for fun, or to be ‘contrarian’ –that stupid word which suggests that you are picking an argument for fun. This is not fun.

This is our future, and if I did not lift my voice to speak up for it now, even if I do it quite alone, I should consider that I was not worthy to call myself English or British, or a journalist, and that my parents’ generation had wasted their time saving the freedom and prosperity which they handed on to me after a long and cruel struggle whose privations and griefs we can barely imagine.

Will we ever get an apology from these hysterics if all of this ends up the over-the-top over-reaction it might easily be. Not a chance. They are just softening us up for the next one.

My thanks to SMcL for sending this along.

There is no basis for morality in a Godless universe

This is Peter Hitchens discussing John Gray’s Seven Types of Atheism. Lots of points being made. This is one of the many that reading the entire review will bring to your attention:

Perhaps most definitive of all is his observation that godless searches for a universal law are futile. “Without a law giver, what can a universal moral law mean?” he asks. “If you think of morality as part of the natural behaviour of the human animal, you find that humans do not live according to a single moral code. Unless you think one of them has been mandated by God, you must accept the variety of moralities as part of what it means to be human.” Well, exactly. No God: no law. No law: no morals, just situational, alterable ethics. I am amazed that so few seem to realize the implications of atheism for the rule of law over power, the one thing that really sustains human civilization.

Hitchens also provides an insightful quote from Albert Einstein, which he says is not well known which is why he quoted it. It is why I quote it as well.

I am not an Atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. May I not reply with a parable? The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvellously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza’s Pantheism. I admire even more his contributions to modern thought. Spinoza is the greatest of modern philosophers, because he is the first philosopher who deals with the soul and the body as one, not as two separate things.

A wonderful article.

Refugees are the last patriotism of the scoundrel

There are different sorts of refugees, some of which are related to the times in which they were born and raised. We refugees from the 1950s have found ourselves in an alien place, which at first we mistook for the places from which we had come. First this from Peter Hitchens, We won’t save refugees by destroying our own country.

Thanks to a thousand years of uninvaded peace, we have developed astonishing levels of trust, safety and freedom. I have visited nearly 60 countries and lived in the USSR, Russia and the USA, and I have never experienced anything as good as what we have. Only in the Anglosphere countries – the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – is there anything comparable. I am amazed at how relaxed we are about giving this away.

Our advantages depend very much on our shared past, our inherited traditions, habits and memories. Newcomers can learn them, but only if they come in small enough numbers. Mass immigration means we adapt to them, when they should be adapting to us.

So now, on the basis of an emotional spasm, dressed up as civilisation and generosity, are we going to say that we abandon this legacy and decline our obligation to pass it on, like the enfeebled, wastrel heirs of an ancient inheritance letting the great house and the estate go to ruin?

We are now like squatters living in a stately home with no concept of what it took to build or how easy it will be to bring it to ruin. Let us, however, go on a bit further with what Peter had to say:

Having seen more than my share of real corpses, and watched children starving to death in a Somali famine, I am not unmoved by pictures of a dead child on a Turkish beach. But I am not going to pretend to be more upset than anyone else. Nor am I going to suddenly stop thinking, as so many people in the media and politics appear to have done.

The child is not dead because advanced countries have immigration laws. The child is dead because criminal traffickers cynically risked the lives of their victims in pursuit of money.

I’ll go further. The use of words such as ‘desperate’ is quite wrong in this case. The child’s family were safe in Turkey. Turkey (for all its many faults) is a member of Nato, officially classified as free and democratic. Many British people actually pay good money to go on holiday to the very beach where the child’s body was washed up.

It may not be ideal, but the definition of a refugee is that he is fleeing from danger, not fleeing towards a higher standard of living.

It is a higher standard of living for them, but not for the people whose countries are being invaded. They will pay and never stop paying, with their own prosperity, with no doubt at all, torn away by these invasions. And at the end Peter has some sensible things to say about us here in Australia:

Can we stop this transformation of all we have and are? I doubt it. To do so would involve the grim-faced determination of Australia, making it plain in every way that our doors are open only to limited numbers of people, chosen by us, enduring the righteous scorn of the supposedly enlightened.

Of course, if you already get the point, you hardly need it said to you over again. Still, there is this that may be worth keeping in mind, from The Diplomad, The Threat: Is Hungary’s PM the Only One Who Understands?

The so-called “refugee” crisis in Europe is more than alarming. It, of course, is much more than a “refugee” crisis. All across the Old Continent we are seeing massive flouting of law and order as thousands, tens-of-thousands, maybe more, of so-called refugees flood into Europe and then slosh about from one country to another looking for the best deal. The UK has become a particular target as “refugees” try to make their way to Britain’s generous public benefits.

None of us writing about such things have the slightest belief that anything can be done. Australia may hold out for now, but Labor may yet be only a year from government.

A round-up of the usual suspects and others less usual

From Kathy Shaidle: If you can read this, I guess I didn’t block you yesterday during #JeSuisCharlie.

From Mark Steyn: The Fire Rages and “I’d Rather Die Standing Than Live on My Knees”.

From Jay Curry: Useful Horror.

From Frank Pledge: The Left’s Unholy Alliance.

From Peter Smith, On Making Hatred Disappear.

From Paul Mirengoff: Four observations prompted by the Paris attack.

From Anjem Choudary: Why did France allow the tabloid to provoke Muslims?

From Stacey McCain: On Anjem Choudary

From Pam Geller: Jihad in America 2014

From Ezra Levant: Slams Media’s #JeSuisCharlie Phonies with must-see video

From Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Charlie Hebdo: West must stop appeasing Islamic purveyors of hatred

From Roger Simon: 2016 and Paris. It’s the jihad, stupid

From Brendon Bordelon: I am not Charlie: Leaked Newsroom Emails Reveal al Jazeera Fury over Global Support

Peter Hitchens: The sinister, screeching mob who want to kill free speech (And no, I DON’T mean the Islamist terrorists in our midst)

Robert Crumb: Legendary Cartoonist Robert Crumb on the Massacre in Paris

From Henry Ergas: Eyes wide shut to Islamist threat

From Clarice Feldman: Je Suis Sick and Tired of Cant

Pope Francis: Pope condemns ‘deviant forms of religion’ in the wake of French massacre, accusing them of causing ‘the breakdown of society and spawning violence and death’

From Victor Davis Hanson: Multicultural Suicide

From Marine Le Pen: To Call This Threat by Its Name: France Was Attacked by Islamic Fundamentalism

Democratic principles and the people be damned

Let us begin with Peter Hitchens’ reflections on the democratic principle as seen by the people the people elect:

Democracy is very well-defended against public opinion. Political parties, especially, are immune to almost everything that the majority actually desires, and are much less interested in mass tastes than shopkeepers, broadcasters, or industrial corporations. Modern politicians employ battalions of professional deceivers and manipulators, whose main job is to persuade the electorate to want what they are already being given, or what they are going to get. Our democratic leaders much prefer this to giving the people what they actually want.

So it is quite funny to watch men and women who are publicly dedicated to government for, by, and of the people, getting angry and exasperated when the people actually speak.

Events in Britain over the last few days have reminded me strongly of Berthold Brecht’s embittered sneer at his East German Communist comrades who, faced with a revolt by the workers they claimed to represent, ordered those workers to do penance for this outrage.

As Brecht sarcastically enquired, “Wouldn’t it be simpler if the Government just dissolved the people and elected another?”

And what has brought on these reflections on politicians and democratic principles?

Here, the very large vote for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), a fourth party which incoherently but emphatically defies the consensus, has been treated by politicians and their media toadies as a problem with the voters which has somehow to be contained.

The idea that all these voters have broken the loyalties of a lifetime for good reason, and that leaving the European Union and restoring control of the national borders are good ideas (which they are), is never considered for a second. Instead, having been dismissed as ignorant bigots for the past six weeks, the insurgent voters are now the object of a campaign to bamboozle them with fake sympathy, combined with an utter refusal to do what they want.

Quite unaware of how this sounds, my country’s political and media elite simply cannot stop themselves treating legitimate discontent as some sort of pathology. They, the governing class, cannot possibly be the problem. It must the voters who are mistaken, misguided, or in some way mentally ill.

Our elites wish for world government while people like myself wish to preserve those tiny enclaves of sanity in the midst of a quite mad world. It won’t happen and so 2114 will be as unimaginably different from 2014 as this year is from the world a century ago. But a one-world horror with an international elite is the aim right now amongst our progressives irrespective of what anyone might wish for and desire. I remember border crossings and national money and much else about which I wish we could turn back the clock. So I am with Peter Hitchens on this and much else besides.

Peter Hitchens on Q&A

q and a with peter hitchens

It seems from the thread that most of those who watched Q&A last night were disappointed but for me it was not only the first one I have been able to get through from end to end but when it ended I could not believe that the hour had gone by so quickly.

Hitchens for me was amazing. Absolute and complete disdain for everything said by the others and a total grasp of the moral facts in play. He cared nothing at all for the good opinion of any of them – not the host and not the other guests – and mowed them down in turn with an incredibly deep understanding of the values and culture of the West which in his hands made the rest of them appear for what they were: shallow, destructive, vulgar and vile. I have never seen anything like it. Even if these others were unable to experience shame, they would have known they had been completely done over.

And while I had not come across that Savage chap, Germaine Greer and Hannah Rosin are not rookies in presenting their line of argument and I suppose Savage had been at it for a while himself. But they were absolutely done over. And Hitchens’ disdain for the host was in itself a pleasure to see, which really came out when he asked why he alone from amongst all the guests was being interrupted in the middle of his point. And he would not let go and made the point over again even while being interrupted.

There is not much you can do with the ABC but trying to get more people like Hitchens in front of a camera seems a good place to start.

You can watch the entire show or read the transcript here.