FOR the past few days the media have been obsessed with allegations that a Christmas party was held at 10 Downing Street in 2020, just as Christmas was more-or-less called off by the Government because of rising COVID cases.
Until the emergence on Wednesday night of video evidence to the contrary the Prime Minister had been denying that such an event occurred. But today (Thursday) he conceded it did occur, but without his knowledge.
So the BBC has effectively been telling the nation that there was a party where social distancing was not observed: implying that the Prime Minister has been lying about this – an implication Johnson’s profession of ignorance and redirection of blame to the party’s attendees is no doubt designed to undermine.
The BBC’s wall-to-wall coverage has also been directing the public as to what to think and how to feel about the parties. It hasn’t been doing this overtly, of course. As has now become standard for the Corporation, along with just about every other mainstream broadcast news outlet, it has been doing it covertly, by means of astroturfing (ie: the attempt to grow opinion by pretending that opinion is what the majority shares.)
According to scowling newsreaders and judgmental reporters, we should all be “furious” that “it’s one rule for them and another rule for everyone else”, and we should all be questioning the Prime Minister’s moral authority to impose further restrictions upon us following the discovery and proliferation of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.
One significant thing here is the targeting of the Prime Minister. Hundreds of people work at 10 Downing Street, one would have thought, and there are plenty of Ministers and Conservative MPs who might have attended the party in question, and yet it is Johnson, who no-one has claimed to have been in attendance, who has been singled out for blame.
And past allies who played a large part in his becoming Conservative Party leader and winning the 2019 General Election are among the most vocal.
Last spring these ‘allies’ turned on Johnson. Suddenly the airwaves and Tory-friendly papers’ were full of stories about Johnson’s alleged financial irregularities, hypocrisy, incompetence, and the dodginess and ineptitude of Ministers close to him.
Dominic Cummings, the git that keeps on giving, has re-emerged frequently to twist the knife in the ample belly of his former boss. It is very clear that now they want a Prime Minister other than Boris Johnson.
The first question we should ask, then, is why. I think we should look at the wider context in which the ongoing attempt to oust ‘Boris’ is embedded.
The vaccination programme has been ‘rolled out’ across and most adults have had the standard two doses of vaccine, and a fair percentage of children a single dose.
The large number of subsequent new cases of COVID shows either that, inherently, the vaccines do vanishingly little to limit infection and transmission, or that their efficacy diminishes fairly rapidly. Yet the vaccines do appear to have lessened the chance of severe COVID, with far fewer hospitalisations and deaths.
The media’s attempts to astroturf over the uptake of the third dose notwithstanding (“They’re queueing round the block! We’re turning people away!”, etc.), the Government has on occasion let slip that fewer people are coming forward for that than for the first two doses. It’s almost as though, despite the continuing hype, more and more people are waking up to facts such as that most cases of COVID are mild to moderate in terms of severity, vaccination “doesn’t stop you getting it and it doesn’t stop you passing it on” (Johnson’s own words), a lot of us have some degree of longer-lasting natural immunity due to our having been infected, and unpleasant side-effects are a common consequence of the third dose especially.
Despite these facts and the people’s increasing recognition of them, plenty have been very keen to say, and to keep on saying, that the ‘new normal’ absolutely must be one in which everyone is re-vaccinated once or maybe twice a year for the rest of their lives. Most vociferous in this regard, of course, have been many of those who, it seems reasonable to suppose, have a vested interest in perpetual COVID vaccination. Big Pharma springs most readily to mind, along with political figures determined not to waste a golden opportunity to exert draconian social and financial control over a fearful and grateful population evermore. Such people, we might suspect, are always only a breath away from calling publicly for vaccination – perpetual vaccination – to be made compulsory, individuals’ liberty and right to decide on their own medication be damned. Thus, many of us were expecting to hear of a new ‘variant of concern’ which would reignite terror among those apt to be terrified, boost vaccine uptake accordingly, and reinforce demands for compulsory medication in perpetuity. Sure enough, up pops Omicron. Except that Omicron might not fit the bill. On the plus side, as far as the people I’m talking about might be concerned, it spreads much more easily and rapidly than the Delta variant, and can re-infect those naturally immune to earlier variants. On the minus side, though, it probably evades vaccine-induced immunity too. Worst of all from, this heinous perspective, it looks as though Omicron causes only mild illness, where it causes illness at all. It seems, indeed, that, far from being the nightmare hoped for by the vested interests, Omicron presents a natural way out of the pandemic, immunising everyone against deadlier variants even as it supersedes them. Vested interests would want governments around the world to follow the despicable lead of Austria and Germany in making lifelong vaccination compulsory despite this being at best unnecessary and at worst almost certainly injurious to public health. They would need this to happen now, before the truth about Omicron gets out, the light shines in, and resistance grows. What if the Prime Minister of the UK was standing in their way? What if he was just about enough of a libertarian to resist the pressure of the vested interests in this regard? Then these vested interests would have to use their media to discredit that UK Prime Minister. Having once backed him, they would now turn against him, filling their news broadcasts with stories of financial irregularities, sleaze, incoherence, and double-standards. Just as the media are doing now in fact, in the case of Boris Johnson. Now, I’ve no time for Mr Johnson. I hate the right-wing side of his politics, I hate his sense of entitlement, and so on. But now, when left-wingers and neoliberal Starmerites alike join in calls for his resignation, I am bound to advise them to be careful what they wish for. Waiting in the wings is a new incumbent who might do as the vested interests want, ruining us forever as a consequence. The second question we should ask is: Why were those who attended the Downing Street Christmas party happy to do so despite the lack of COVID-security? Why weren’t they afraid of contracting COVID-19?This question is never asked. The media, again, ask – because they want us to ask – about double standards and hypocrisy, about how the public, all dutifully following the rules, feel about Downing Street employees ignoring those rules and laughing about it, and so on. But the media never ask – because they don’t want us to ask – about the source of the fearless alacrity of those who attended the party, laughing in the face of COVID-19 as well as the public. Remember Cummings’ car journeys during the first lockdown? How could we forget? Again and again in his Rose Garden statement, he sought to excuse his restriction-defying behaviour by saying that, regardless of the rules, he ‘exercised his judgment’ about what was correct and what was incorrect. I believe that the smirking one was telling us to disregard the prevailing narrative and exercise our own judgment to assess not only the veracity of his statement, but the whole COVID/lockdown situation. (The acronymic nature of the word ‘omicron’ may present – may indeed be intended to present – a similar opportunity for such critical evaluation.)I am not nor have I ever been a COVID-denier. I have had COVID. COVID is real, and it can be (though it mostly isn’t) severe enough to hospitalise and to kill. But just look at these party-goers. They work very close to the heart of government. They are party not just to parties but to data-sharing and policy-making discussions, as well as the construction of narratives for public dissemination. They knew better than almost anyone what was going on. And, knowing what they knew, they partied hard all night at a time of lockdown, and hugged each other, and (for all we know) kissed each other under the mistletoe. Narrative aside, media aside, what does your judgment say to you, about this?
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