Matt Drake – Russia Today Sept 9, 2020
The pro-lockdown cheerleaders in the mainstream media have been following No.10’s orders and wrongly branding all lockdown sceptics as nutty conspiracy theorists – but the tide is turning.
More and more people are coming round to realise lockdown has been a major mistake. Yet newspapers and TV, here in the UK at least, are still loyally hounding down dissenters and tarring each one as some sort of lunatic who needs, well, locking up.
Those sceptics who it was hard to place in a loony bin, such as Lord Sumption, one of the most brilliant minds in Britain, were simply ignored. When the former Supreme Court head wrote in The Times on March 31 that the UK was “sliding into a police state” after Parliament was granted unprecedented powers in the Coronavirus Bill (which was rubber-stamped with no debate in the Commons), did this liberal-minded intellect get heaps of press attention? No, of course not. It was palpably quiet. The mainstream media was simply not interested in any other narrative than the official, exaggerated danger of the virus.
The media has failed to do its job properly, unless that job is to be the government’s cheerleader-in-chief. Other than a few brave exceptions, the job of their reporters has been to report every (literal) cough and scare as a grave threat to life and limb, all the better to generate online clicks. Every new death, any new medical scare story, was quickly written up and thrown online with sensationalist headlines. The warnings by the likes of Jonathan Sumption, whose profession is to actually think for a living, that this was all damaging “hysteria”, were buried.
The modern press does not have the mental wit to take on an intellect like Lord Sumption. The rest of us have been easier targets.
When there was a relatively large gathering of lockdown sceptics at Trafalgar Square late last month, the media was far from kind. Many of the headlines were along the same lines as the Evening Standard’s: “Thousands gather in Trafalgar Square to promote coronavirus conspiracy theories at ‘anti-lockdown’ protest.”
Now, while there were some undoubted cranks in the crowd – including the keynote speaker David Icke, who believes that lizards control the world, and one man at the back briefly unfurling a fascist flag – was everyone there really a conspiracy theorist?
Conspiracy theorists are on the fringe of politics and mainstream society. But on the same day, over 30,000 protesters marched in Berlin – which the New York Times scoffed at as “bizarre.”
Does that mean conspiracy theories are becoming more popular? Or, more likely, maybe there were perfectly normal people attending these protests who are perturbed at the state of their country and who worry about such trifling matters as freedom and liberty. People who believe lizards are more likely to be found basking in the sun on heaths than sitting in Buckingham Palace or No.10.
People like Rose, who did not want to give me her last name but has attended all three anti-lockdown protests. She told me this week: “I’m very worried about the country and I am not a conspiracy theorist. I feel the government is abusing its power. Their actions don’t make sense over a few Covid deaths a day.”
Most people who attended the anti-lockdown rallies are reluctant to give their names or even admit to attending, for fear they will be branded a conspiracy theorist – or worse, lose their jobs.
One man, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I think David Icke made a lot of sense at the protest, but I don’t actually believe what he says the rest of the time. But according to the BBC, we’re all conspiracy theorists.”
Others admitted to not attending, despite wanting to, because they didn’t want to be labelled as a crank. Kayleigh Barnes, 27, from south-east England, said she wanted to attend the protests but couldn’t due to ongoing health issues.
She added: “I don’t believe in the 5G conspiracy theorists or that the Queen is a lizard. Covid-19 is real but the world just massively overreacted.”
“The protesters either received no coverage at all or were painted as selfish conspiracy nuts. There was no neutrality.”
Perhaps the protests would seem more ridiculous if the UK didn’t act like a police state. Piers Corbyn, brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, was grabbed, arrested and fined £10,000 for organising a peaceful gathering. Meanwhile, several other protests took place that day and their organisers were not bothered by the police. Mr Corbyn believes the order for him to be arrested came from “up high,” and it is hard not to believe that it was politically motivated.
Perhaps the smearing of protesters is politically motivated. After all, if people reading the reports were shamed into thinking they too were some irrational tinfoil-hat-wearer, or a criminal liable to an extortionate fine, they will be less inclined to want to attend any future protests.
Australia is fast becoming the go-to state for such despotism, in a terrifying foreshadowing of what may lie in store for Britain. Cops in Melbourne are storming into people’s homes to arrest those supporting protests, including a pregnant woman who broke down into tears in front of her children as she was arrested for “incitement” earlier this month.
Victoria Police said in a statement that anyone thinking of attending the protest she promoted could expect a “swift and firm response from the police,” in an obvious attempt to scare people into obedience.
Yet, The Guardian still focussed on the “conspiracy theorists,” who are now apparently “energised” by the lockdown restrictions. But why focus on them?
Like the folly of 2016, when the liberal media elite scoffed at Trump and Brexit supporters, they could very well be in for a rude awakening. How much more can people take being called stupid and mad by smug BBC, CNN and Sky News apparatchiks?
And yes, they are apparatchiks, because they are well and truly in the government’s pocket. From personal experience, as well as reports from BBC journalists, the government has had an inordinate amount of influence over the media, “suggesting” stories for them to cover if they enthusiastically toe the government line and “go easy” on ministers while interviewing them.
While working for a certain mainstream publication in our scorching spring, when people were only allowed an hour’s exercise a day, my editors revealed they were asked by Downing Street to “hammer home the message” that people shouldn’t be enjoying the sunshine on weekends.
All reporters were told they were on no account to publish anything which could go against the government line. This was coupled with self-censorship, an editorial decision to not report on anti-lockdown protests so as not to “legitimise” their platform – while giving plenty of reporting space to Extinction Rebellion and BLM.
It has all the hallmarks of the sort of un-free press found in a despotic state. After all, what does totalitarianism really look like? For most people, they will think of the USSR, Nazi Germany or North Korea. The kind of brutal regimes that inspired George Orwell’s ‘1984’.
But another novel, ‘Brave New World’, written by Aldous Huxley many years before in 1932, foreshadowed a different kind of dystopia. A scientific dictatorship in which people blindly follow authority and actually love their servitude.
Like in the USSR, where dissenters were classed as mentally disturbed, today any dissenter is branded a conspiracy theorist. Their opinions are pathologies, not legitimate points of view to be taken seriously, about our de facto police state, or about the exaggerated threat of coronavirus, or about the appalling damage done to our economy and our health by lockdown. Instead, we are dangerous, eccentric heretics that only deserve to be jeered at, scorned, and pushed out of mainstream society, while the rest don their masks and applaud the police for cracking down on non-conformists.
Matt Drake is a British journalist covering news and film. Bylines include Spiked, The Spectator, The Telegraph, The Independent, Evening Standard, LBC, The Sun, and the Daily Express.