BY JAMES BEMBRIDGE
‘The virus is bringing out the best of us’, proclaimed an anti-Brexit campaign group. Well, yes, in so much as UV light brings out the best of a befouled mattress. And what sordid stains Covid has illuminated in our society: misanthropy, hypocrisy, adultery and a spike in domestic violence – not since Chantelle won Celebrity Big Brother has credulity been so widely celebrated.
But perhaps the worst stain has been that on journalism. Why were obvious lines of inquiry (i.e., the Wuhan lab leak theory) ignored by those who claim to hold truth to power? Ask this on social media and you’ll find talk of shadowy figures, ‘dark money’ and the vague suggestion of government interference. But the truth is that the British state has no need to censor its journalists: the journalists are all too ready to censor themselves. That C word haunts them daily (not cancer, but conspiracy) and they will manoeuvre themselves away from any story that has the slightest whiff of it while throwing shade on those who dare to cover them.
One gets the impression most journalists would sooner be accused of murder than of conspiracy theorising. And while no one likes Prozac-crazed, shouty tinfoilers or their whiff of unchanged cat litter, nor does anyone like a racist. Yet most would acknowledge that far too often accusations of racism are used to silence or obfuscate truth. The same is true with conspiracy; although, with news that attempts were made by the CCP to hide evidence that the virus originated in a lab, and that a British doctor tried to ‘gag the Wuhan lab leak theory’, what word is more appropriate than the C one?
British journalism seems to have morphed into more of a social class than an industry. While the nouveau riche will signal their status with tawdry jewellery and lurid handbags, the journalist will do so by tweeting something radically orthodox, and with the secret hope that he can find someone from the lower orders to disagree with it. It’s a sort of flypaper with which to catch bigots.
I’m sure when Iain Dale tweeted this he did so sincerely, but it acts like ‘bigotpaper’ all the same:
Outside of the metro journalist loop, most would surmise that opposition to an organisation like BLM that wishes to destroy capitalism, the police, and even the nuclear family, is not motivated by hatred, but by a love for our values. Ben Cobley, a journalist who is outside the metro loop, argued this in a recent article for Spiked. And though Cobley’s article was both well-reasoned and well written, Dale’s response to it was somewhat terser and by some magnitude coarser:
There are still some journalists who take the novel view that journalism should be about finding truth rather than finding a class or club. And as Laura Dodsworth has found, a society hungry for truth is ready to reward those who find it with a bestseller. Her book A State of Fear: How the UK government weaponised fear during the Covid-19 pandemic details journalists’ response – or lack thereof – during the pandemic. Did anyone actually validate that B movie horror type footage that emerged from China in Febuary 2020 showing people collapsing in the street? Dodsworth asked the question, but neither the Mail Online, Metro Online or The Sun cared to answer. As Dodsworth says, ‘The epidemic never transpired to look like this, people haven’t suddenly fallen flat on their faces to be immediately surrounded by hazmat-suited medics anywhere except these videos. They depicted a totally overblown horror story vision of Covid-19.’ Dan Wootton, now of GB News, told Dodsworth that there is a ‘groupthink mentality. If the BBC covers a story, then ITV and Channel 4 do it too. A lot of journalists will take the easy option.’ That explains how such videos went viral, but not how they went without question.
Laura Dodsworth not only questions the prevailing narrative of fear porn, but does so with professionally researched evidence, statistics and with the help of various experts. Take, for instance, mask wearing. Dodsworth points out that the media were publishing low-quality evidence that supported their use while seldom reporting the only randomised control trial (the gold standard) on masks, which found a ‘statistically insignificant difference in infection between mask-wearers and non-mask wearers.’ More concerning though is when she reports that a member of the Independent Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B) said that ‘masks are effective not least because of the signal they create’. And what a signal they have created in our society. ‘Collectivism’, Dodsworth calls it. It’s a more polite word than my preferred one of credulity. Perhaps the notion that Britain is a nation of fierce freedom fighters was true once, but you need only see the Lycra-clad little Hitlers, with their venomous demands to see people’s exemptions (forgetting they are exempt from having to show them) to see that it’s now nothing but a wistful myth.
But even bestsellers have their worst critics. Proving the only thing more tiresome than a reformed communist is a one who also happens to be a columnist, David Aaronovitch critiqued Dodsworth’s book with his usual brand of affected sneer. ‘The great brainwashing theories of the film-maker Adam Curtis all make an appearance; it is amazing what you can pick up on iPlayer these days.’ Aaronvitch appears to think it funny enough to centre his whole article around such quips. When deriding Dodsworth’s points, one might expect facts or statistics to occasionally make an appearance, but rather than following the science, his readers are forced to follow a tortuous series of quotes followed by snide asides: ‘And yet, by a miracle, a book so outrageously dumb can find its way into the Top Ten’. Why does one get the impression that Aaronovitch always writes his articles with a sort of giddy astonishment at his own brilliance? But to dwell on Aaronovitch’s zingers would be to miss the larger irony of being told state manipulation doesn’t exist by a man who the state manipulated into believing that those elusive weapons of mass destruction did.
The average man is no more a racist when he objects to communism in football than he is a conspiracy theorist when he suggests that this coronavirus may have originated from the lab that collects them rather than from some adventurous gastronomer. But to say these things would be to invite scorn from their journalist class betters.
James Bembridge is Deputy Editor of Country Squire Magazine.