Author Topic: How Many More Have to Die?  (Read 2516 times)

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Offline Vertigo Swirl

Re: How Many More Have to Die?
« Reply #30 on: May 08, 2022, 07:20:50 AM »
As usual Matthew Syed in the Sunday Times gets it spot on - I doubt Faithlilly will bother to read it but she really should, and express some contrition for her propagandistic views and tasteless avatars during the pandemic:

Now we know our ministers did OK against Covid, but I hear no apologies
Matthew SyedMay 06 2022, 12.00am
At the time, we were all surrounded by a thick fog of uncertainty. Epidemiologists were frantically seeking to understand the properties of the virus, medics were estimating the length of time to a vaccine, economists were examining what different restrictions might mean for commerce and interdisciplinary teams were exploring the subtle relationships and feedback loops between these variables.

Last week marks a useful moment to look back at this surreal period of history after the publication of a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that ranks nations on excess deaths. The UK is roughly in the middle of the bunch when compared with similar nations: we had 109 excess deaths a year per 100,000 people, compared with 133 in Italy, 116 in Germany and 111 in Spain. European nations that performed better include France and Ireland. The worst performers included Peru and Russia.

I suspect that these results will not much surprise the public. From the outset, the British people were willing to give the government the benefit of the doubt for errors in decision-making, recognising that ministers were facing a complex, fast-moving crisis while surrounded by the divergent opinions of experts. They also recognised that early reports of a seemingly higher death rate here than elsewhere were not a consequence of unique incompetence in Westminster but the deceptive nature of government statistics in other parts of the world.

This, by the way, is another thing that shines out of the new report. The WHO estimate of the number of UK excess deaths is almost precisely the same as that already produced by the National Audit Office. In India, by contrast, the WHO estimates five million excess deaths while the Indian government continues to pretend that it is closer to 500,000. To put it simply, the British authorities were rather more honest with the public, something that should make us proud.

But what strikes me most about the past two years is the abject, often irrational nature of public discourse. At times it was as if social media and some of its mainstream equivalents were observing an entirely different crisis. Far from a government doing its best in challenging circumstances, left-wing pundits glimpsed an evil cabal that failed to lock down early in March 2020 because it revelled in the mass deaths of the elderly and vulnerable and perhaps wanted to euthanise them. “Eugenics” trended so often that I almost lost count.

Consider this from The Guardian in the summer of 2020: “The Luftwaffe did not chalk up such a gruesome death toll.” Or a piece from the same period speaking of “a daily mortality rate far deadlier than the Nazi onslaught on British towns and cities between September 1940 and May 1941”. Others talked in lurid detail about the suffering of people on ventilators, juxtaposing it with character assassinations of conniving minsters. Even scientists such as those on Independent Sage got in on the act, making partisan points under the guise of objectivity.

On the other side were equally rabid critics who argued that, far from locking down too late, the government should never have locked down at all. There was no acknowledgment of the uncertainty faced by minsters; no recognition that it was possible for decent people to disagree in good faith. No, anyone who took a different position had to be stupid, and possibly evil. When minor restrictions were placed on the unvaccinated, Hitler was cited again; another confirmation of Godwin’s law. Websites such as Lockdown Sceptics rose up like cancers, metastasising across the internet, sucking rationality from the debate like intergalactic debris into a black hole.

In short, what the Covid era reveals is the shocking decline in the standard and probity of public discourse. It is hardly novel to place the social media at the centre of this malaise, but we perhaps fail to grasp how it has infected other areas of our lives. Think back to how television functioned during the pandemic — the constant attempts to ask “gotcha” questions rather than elicit information. This was not because interviewers were superficial but because they had an eye to how the clip might go viral later in the day.

A few days ago I came across a video that showed an interview of Harold Wilson after the 1970 general election, and it was almost shocking to behold probing questions and direct answers. David Dimbleby was actually seeking to extract information on behalf of viewers, and the prime minister was doing his best to oblige. Political discourse was by no means perfect back then, but a cursory glance at these fragments of history reveals the vivid contrast with the sewers we occupy today.

But let me suggest that it is no good blaming social media for the rise of the divisive and sensational. It is time for the public to take responsibility, too. I am talking about those who mindlessly retweeted “eugenics” hashtags; those who amplified the rants of mouthy radio presenters on the one hand and lockdown sceptics on the other; and those who danced on the graves of elected officials who succumbed to gotcha questions, revelling in their discomfort without a scrap of empathy.

It has become de rigueur to condemn the shiftiness and evasiveness of politicians, but can you blame them when they are beset with these elephant traps? Can you blame them when they see Twitter mobs circling, hoping for another kill? Can you blame them when they make difficult decisions in what they perceive to be the public interest only to be condemned as Nazis by one side and fascists by the other?

Honesty? Integrity? Yesterday I trawled the internet feeds of those who most aggressively attacked the government, particularly those on the left who condemned the “high” death rate. Do you think these fearless pursuers of truth acknowledged the new evidence from the WHO? Do you think they informed their followers that the UK wasn’t the worst performer in Europe after all? Did Independent Sage scientists revise their criticisms, too? Not a bit of it.

I disagree with many policies of this government, but that doesn’t mean I feel moved to disagree with everything. Like many, I have become weary of the bad-faith attacks, the inability to offer even a soupçon of credit for policy successes, the exhausting criticisms that do nothing for democracy and everything to inflame the cynicism that has become a democratic disease. The truth is that on the whole, and with only a few exceptions, ministers did their best in unenviable circumstances.

And to think otherwise is not a reflection of them, but a truly devastating one of us.

@MatthewSyed
I no longer read nor reply to posts made by those posters I perceive to be WUMS and TROLLS so if you think I'm ignoring you this may be the reason.  Best wishes.