Overcoddling Safetyism


To lockdown-weary ears, the word ‘safety’ now takes on a rather dark, draconian ring.

Such ears, upon hearing Nadine Dorries’ hopes for the UK to become ‘the safest place in the world to go online’, are attuned to decipher that to mean the least free. Safety was, after all, the pretext for which our freedoms were so casually thrown away.

According to the Daily Mail, Ms Dorries’ proposed Online Safety Bill will seek to criminalise ‘Covid disinformation’. Notice they say disinformation rather than misinformation – the difference being larger than one letter. To accuse someone of disinformation is to accuse them of spreading misinformation with the intent to mislead. Quite a high standard of proof, I’d have thought. Still, the bill allows the impression to form that there’s something vaguely criminal in thinking for oneself.  

A society that legislates against ‘misinformation’ can hardly call itself a free one. Who gets to decide what misinformation is? What was considered as Galileo’s misinformation in the 16th century is now regarded as empirical fact in the 21st.

There is a  touch of Munchausen by proxy in this safetyist approach to governing. Protecting the public from fictional ills for the government’s own gratification. This sadistic paternalism is cheered on by the credulous and the mediocre; people who are happy be relieved from the burden of thinking for themselves and to be granted the authority to persecute those who do. Safetyism can accurately be described as a tyranny of the mediocre. Minimally gifted people have little to fear from censorship given that they are unlikely to ever say anything interesting enough to be censored.

From this moral panic of ‘misinformation’, a hideous and paradoxical partnership has emerged between big pharma and so-called left wingers. Atheist progressives will gleefully incant the phrase ‘follow the science’ as if it were a kind of spell to cure people of superstitious thought. But these people demand the same unquestioned reverence for science as the superstitious and religious do of their own beliefs.

How strange that to blindly and uncritically accept the word of ‘experts’ is now considered a sign of intelligence. Last year, the TV doctor Sarah Kayat said with breathless enthusiasm that the AstraZeneca vaccine offers ‘100% protection against hospitalisation and death’. The demonstrability of this lie was apparent even then, and yet Ms Kayat doesn’t appear to have paid any kind of price for her misinformation. But it seems that Covid misinformation is a one-way street. So long as it means overselling the benefits of the vaccine and underselling its risks, the government are quite happy for the public to be misinformed.

This pseudo reverence for experts is a thinly veiled attempt from the London ‘intelligentsia’ to tell the working class that they aren’t entitled to an opinion. The same journalists who, after the Brexit plebiscite, concluded that ‘democracy isn’t working’ now express their Nietzschean contempt for democracy through Covid. The notion that untitled people aren’t entitled to talk about something as all-encompassing as Covid is as wrong as it is insulting.

It seems that liberty has only been a very minor consideration in Ms Dorries’ Online Safety Bill. The public are not children, and the government is not their parent.  End this credulous culture of safetyism and allow people to say and hear what they choose to.

C S Lewis was prescient indeed:

‘Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.’

James Bembridge is Deputy Editor of Country Squire Magazine.