I have been shocked at the unprecedented exertion of power by the government since last March—issuing unilateral decrees, ordering the closure of businesses, churches, and schools, restricting personal movement, mandating behavior, and suspending indefinitely basic freedoms. Second, I was and remain stunned—almost frightened—at the acquiescence of the American people to such destructive, arbitrary, and wholly unscientific rules, restrictions, and mandates.
The rationale for forcing anyone to wear a mask is questionable, as my colleague Connor Harris has meticulously demonstrated. Wearing masks might provide some protection for some high-risk adults in crowded indoor settings, but the evidence is mixed, and masks can be not just uncomfortable but harmful. Some adults may judge the trade-offs worthwhile for themselves, but for children it’s all pain and no gain.
The mask mandates are especially cruel to young children. Adults are supposed to ease their fears, to reassure them that monsters aren’t hiding under the bed. Instead, we’re frightening them into believing they’re being stalked by invisible menaces lurking in the air. A year of mask-wearing will scar some of them psychologically—and maybe physically, too, according to a team of Italian professors of plastic surgery, who warn that the prolonged pressure from the elastic straps could leave young children with permanently protruding ears. By hiding teachers’ lips and muffling their speech, mask-wearing makes it harder for young children to develop linguistic skills and prevents children with hearing impairments from lip reading. Unable to rely on facial cues, teachers and students of all ages are more likely to misinterpret one other, a particularly acute problem for children on the autism spectrum. How are children supposed to develop social skills when they can’t see one another’s faces, sit together, or play together?
Researchers from the University of Witten/Herdecke in Germany have catalogued other problems. They established an online registry for parents to report on the side effects of mask-wearing. Among the nearly 18,000 parents who chose to respond (not a random sample, obviously), more than half reported that the masks were giving their children headaches and making it difficult for them to concentrate. More than one-third cited other side effects: increased reluctance to go to school, unhappiness, malaise, impaired learning, drowsiness, and fatigue. After considering those reports as well as testimony from other researchers, a court in Weimar, Germany, recently ruled in favor of a parent arguing that her children’s basic rights were being violated by the mandates for masks and social distancing at her children’s two schools. The court ordered the schools to end the mandates, declaring that they damaged the “mental, physical and spiritual well-being” of students while failing to offer “any discernible benefit for the children themselves or for third parties.”
Last year, Gallup ran a poll for Franklin Templeton in which they asked Americans what percentage of people who’ve been infected with COVID-19 need to be hospitalised. Less than 20% of respondents gave the correct answer of “1–5%”. And a staggering 35% said at least half of those infected need to be hospitalised. Interestingly, Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to overestimate the risk of hospitalisation….
To those saying “Nuh uh! Taiwan took 124 countermeasures to control covid!” in response to notice of its non-lockdown status, you should really look into what those countermeasures entail. They are not even remotely comparable to a stringent lockdown regime.
Instead, most of these measures are just routine hygiene advice and public information campaigns. Taiwan did close its borders down and did so very stringently, taking advantage of a unique geography…but that’s hardly an uncommon measure given that almost every country on earth used some sort of border closure.
As an added twist, it appears that the JAMA article where this stat comes from arrived at it by sequentially counting changes to the same policy on the timeline. So it isn’t even 124 separate measures as is often implied – it’s just the same measure being implemented and made more strict over time.
From the outset, his approach has been to take every Government policy and double it. If the Government locks us down, he says that they should have done it earlier. If the Government relaxes its grip, he says that it should have happened later. If the Government opens the schools, he wants them closed for longer. If there are sparks of our former liberal tradition left, he wants them extinguished.
The mark of true moral and political stature is a willingness to stand up for the public interest in the face of public fear and governmental folly. Why has Sir Keir failed to live up to his initial promise?
On Monday, he was put on the spot in Bath by Rod Humphris, the landlord of The Raven pub, who threw him off his premises. Mr Humphris’s business, like countless others, has been closed down by ministerial order for seven of the last 12 months. As one might imagine, he has not taken kindly to being treated like this.
Initially, Mr Humphris was manhandled into a corner of his own pub by security men. When he was eventually allowed to confront Sir Keir, he made two basic points, crudely and loudly but effectively. First, the lockdown was indiscriminate. Instead of protecting the old by sheltering them, the Government tried to do it by interfering with the right of the young and healthy to visit his pub and his own right to serve them. Secondly, the lockdowns have not worked, and have themselves caused thousands of deaths. Sir Keir, he concluded, had “failed to do his job and ask the right questions”.
What is a totalitarian state? It is a state in which citizens have no autonomy because they are mere tools of government policy. Until last March, it was unthinkable to treat citizens like this at the discretion of ministers. No government statement, planning document or published scientific advice ever previously contemplated such a thing. Why not? Because it was thought to be morally repugnant as well as economically destructive. A Leader of the Opposition should be able to do more than mouth platitudes when someone points this out to him in the street.
Kathy Gyngell shares “[t]he damning verdict of Christian leaders on vaccine passports.” (DBx: I’m not Christian. But I am human. And these Christian leaders are defending humanity from a tool of tyrants. I applaud and support them and their heroic efforts.)
And now we have pandemic hygiene theater to give uninformed people a false sense of control and sustain their fear of the virus.
Think of the number of hours that schools, restaurants, and other businesses spend wiping down surfaces to prevent COVID-19 transmission even though we’ve known since last July that this wiping isn’t necessary. Yet Americans continue to spend untold hours and dollars wiping surfaces to provide the appearance of virus protection to their patrons.
While some of these examples may seem silly, hygiene theater has huge costs and wastes precious resources. It also keeps Americans unjustifiably scared of the virus while promoting the delusion that with enough such measures, we can finally live in a world free of risks.