The New Season


As far as the Met Office is concerned, it seems that Autumn has started. It began on 1st September.  I can hardly believe it. Time passes. But despite the social distancing required to avoid Covid 19, the end of Summer and the beginning of Autumn has been accompanied by quite a lot of events involving quite a lot of people. The children have gone back to school, as witnessed by the line of their parents’ parked cars in our road at school closing time. We can now see and hear large orchestras and choirs at the Proms concerts, even if only because they have the whole of the otherwise empty Royal Albert Hall in which to spread themselves out. There is talk of some theatres reopening, but so far nothing significant has happened. On the other hand, over the week-end live and recorded music (all in the same key) was beamed down to the streets and bemused citizens of Bristol from loudspeakers attached to seven hot-air balloons floating in the relatively becalmed air over the city. It’s true that football matches have restarted, but are watched with only the echoing sound of recorded audience reaction - presumably both applause and boos at the same time from different ends.

With the partial lifting of lock-down, we have increases in infection rates where people refuse to observe the usual rules about distance and wearing masks. But this effect is multiplied up considerably where people are on the street protesting, as seems to be happening increasingly in numerous countries after the summer. And quite naturally, the demonstrators consider their cause to be far more important than the risk of infection either for themselves or for others. Some demonstrations are violent and others are peaceful. In Belarus they are largely peaceful for fear of giving Putin an excuse to send in his troops.

In the USA the BLM protests increasingly fall into the violent category. Supported by the reporting of the violence on TV, Trump’s rhetoric is used to justify any actions taken against the black community by police officers or even armed civilians. He no longer makes any attempt to speak the truth and so whether the BLM demonstrations are peaceful or involve some violent protesters, he portrays them as being one long round of property destruction and assaults on the forces of law and order by the demonstrators.

The difficulty is that much destruction has indeed taken place, and Jo Biden is seen as weak on law and order by not criticising it strongly enough, so harming his chances among swing voters. The BLM movement excuse the destruction as a justified response to the killing of George Floyd and now the shooting in the back of Jacob Blake in Kenosha. The New York Times tells us that, so strongly does the BLM movement feel about this, that a commentator on Twitter, who pointed out that peaceful protest has historically worked better than violent protest, has lost his job for saying so. Omar Wasow, a professor at Princeton, recently published a paper in a prestigious political-science journal. It argued that non-violent civil-rights protests had, in the 1960s, been more politically effective than violent ones. Shor, a data analyst at consulting firm Civis, which works for the Democratic Party, tweeted a simple summary of it to his followers. Numerous people on Twitter demanded that he lose his job. And less than a week after he tweeted the findings of Professor Wasow, who is black, Civis’s senior leadership, which is predominantly white, fired Shor. So much for rational debate and peaceful protest.

But we can come closer to home. Early this week we had demonstrations in various cities in the UK and elsewhere by Extinction Rebellion. They want to persuade us to take the forthcoming extinction of the human race seriously. In fact a film which they were due to release said that scientists had confirmed that our extinction was imminent, only for the film to be hurriedly re-edited when the scientists concerned told them that they had said no such thing. As the rest of us know, there is no science to back such an extreme view of the effects of man-made global warming. This is particularly so granted the measures already taken to combat it – and this without replacing all bovine stock with a genetically modified version which does not belch methane. Yes, as well as the production of champagne in Yorkshire, in the absence of further measures to reduce carbon emission, there would be massive problems around the coasts where sea-level rises would flood various towns and villages. The cost of dealing with it would be enormous. But then the cost of deliberately going back to the Stone Age would be enormous as well.

I suppose that they feel that we have lost sight of global warming in our concern to avoid Covid 19. This may well be true, but we are living in a time when our power consumption is lower than it has been for many years and people are concerned about their jobs and just surviving the virus. I’m not sure that now is really the time to blockade city streets in order to try to get our attention. I suspect that most people will not be very impressed by the priorities of Greta Thunberg and her acolytes. 

But what was really quite extraordinary at the week-end was the demonstration against the ‘Covid fraud’ - that the very existence or at least the lethal nature of the Covid virus is a story made up by governments around the world in order to control the people. Thousands of protesters from across the UK gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square on Saturday afternoon to protest against coronavirus restrictions and to reject mass vaccinations.

The event drew people from a variety of protest groups including coronavirus sceptics, 5G protesters, anti-vaxxers and the other usual conspiracy theorists. Even supporters of the mainly American conspiracy theory movement, ‘Qanon’, were there. The placards railed against the World Health Organization, Bill Gates, George Soros and the government restrictions to reduce the spread of coronavirus. They called for an end to movement restrictions and mandatory face coverings. Many placards described the coronavirus pandemic as a “hoax” or “scam”. Speeches were made from in front of Nelson’s Column denying the reality and severity of the pandemic and accusing the government of using it to attempt to curtail civil liberties.  

Among those who spoke were Piers Corbyn, the weather forecaster and older and equally wise brother of the former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the former sports reporter and now conspiracy celebrity and complete idiot, David Icke.  Although the demonstration focused on coronavirus restrictions, those taking part had anti-authoritarian grievances ranging from the imprisonment of Julian Assange, to claims of child sexual abuse by the elite and allegations of a deep state which controlled the world.

I think that the rationality of the protest is best summed up by one protester who carried a placard that said on one side, “Let food be thy medicine” and on the other, “Health doesn’t come from the tip of a needle.” Of the food message on her placard, she said: “This is what we need to do. It’s worked for our ancestors, it’s worked for a lot of people around the world – and still is.”  That’s probably why the black death never took off, the Spanish flu caused so few deaths and why smallpox is now completely eradicated, despite the introduction by Jenner of the very first vaccination – the one used against that highly infectious disease.  But just in case she’s wrong, I’ve booked in for my flu vaccination next week and await the Covid vaccination with eager anticipation. I’d like to take back my life.

Paul Buckingham

3 September 2020

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