The UK Narrative Falls Apart with Leaked Messages
From the Brownstone Institute
Leaked messages from December 13, 2020, show former UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock planning to “deploy the new variant” in Covid messaging to “frighten the pants out of everyone” in order to “get proper behaviour change” in the British public’s compliance with lockdown measures.
The new leak is the most damning revelation to come so far from the Daily Telegraph’s recently-announced ‘Lockdown Files,’ which are based on an archive of over 100,000 messages sent between Hancock and other officials. Journalist Isabel Oakeshott ostensibly obtained the WhatsApp messages to assist with a book about Hancock, comprising the biggest leak of UK Government data in over a decade and shedding new light on the UK’s lockdowns, mandates, and fear messaging.
As the Telegraph summarized:
The Lockdown Files – more than 100,000 WhatsApp messages sent between ministers, officials and others – show how the Government used scare tactics to force compliance and push through lockdowns.
In another message Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, said that “the fear/guilt factor” was “vital” in “ramping up the messaging” during the third national lockdown in Jan 2021.
The previous month, Hancock, the then health secretary, appeared to suggest in one message that a new strain of Covid that had recently emerged would be helpful in preparing the ground for the looming lockdown, by scaring people into compliance.
In a WhatsApp conversation on Dec 13, obtained by the Telegraph, Damon Poole – one of Mr Hancock’s media advisers – informed his boss that Tory MPs were “furious already about the prospect” of stricter Covid measures and suggested “we can roll pitch with the new strain.”
The comment suggested that they believed the strain could be helpful in preparing the ground for a future lockdown and tougher restrictions in the run-up to Christmas 2020.
Mr Hancock then replied: “We frighten the pants off everyone with the new strain.”
Mr Poole agreed, saying: “Yep that’s what will get proper bahviour [sic] change.”
Psychologists have already warned that some Government messaging during Covid, including using alleged “fear tactics” in poster and health campaigns, were “grossly unethical” and that inflated fear levelscontributed to excess non-Covid deaths and increased anxiety disorders…
Four months later, in Oct 2020, Mr Poole suggested in a group chat that a decision to stop publishing a so-called watchlist of the areas with the highest prevalence of the virus would be helpful to the Government, because it would make every area of the country concerned about the spread of Covid in a second wave.
“It helps the narrative that things are really bad if we don’t publish,” messaged Mr Poole.
In a second article on the new revelation, the Telegraph went on:
Throughout the course of the pandemic, officials and ministers wrestled with how to ensure the public complied with ever-changing lockdown restrictions. One weapon in their arsenal was fear.
“We frighten the pants off everyone,” Matt Hancock suggested during one WhatsApp message with his media adviser.
The then health secretary was not alone in his desire to scare the public into compliance. The WhatsApp messages seen by the Telegraph show how several members of Mr Hancock’s team engaged in a kind of “Project Fear,” in which they spoke of how to utilise “fear and guilt” to make people obey lockdown.
An Imperial College London survey of Covid infections in the community – called the React programme and led by the eminent professor Lord Darzi – provided “positive” news for Mr Hancock and his team… But when the media focused on a separate report by Public Health England and Cambridge University showing a high transmission rate in some parts of the country – prompting speculation that local lockdowns could follow – Mr Hancock said: “That’s no bad thing.” Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, agreed.
With recorded Covid cases now down to just 689, the Government was days away from reopening pubs, restaurants and hairdressing salons.
But on June 30 2020, Leicester had just gone into a local lockdown. In a WhatsApp group called “Local Action Committee,” Emma Dean, Mr Hancock’s special adviser on policy, reported back to the group a rumour that Milton Keynes may be the next town plunged into a local lockdown.
Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, Mr Hancock’s media adviser, replied that it would not be “unhelpful” for the public to think they could be next.
They agreed that minor adjustments, such as banning angling, would be “parodied galore” – so decided that “fear” and/or “guilt” were vital tools in ensuring compliance.
They discussed making mask-wearing mandatory in “all settings” because it had a “very visible impact.”
Along with Hancock’s terror campaign are several other eye-opening revelations. In one conversation, then-PM Boris Johnson declined to lift lockdown restrictions after being told that reopening was “too far ahead of public opinion.”
Johnson later expressed regret about his decision to implement a second lockdown after being informed that the decision had been based on “very wrong” mortality data.
In another incident, a mask mandate was imposed on British schoolchildren for the first time after Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty reasoned that the issue was “not worth an argument” with First Minister of Scotland and strict lockdown advocate Nicola Sturgeon.
By any measure, the Telegraph’s Lockdown Files provide invaluable and astonishing new insight into the depths to which the British Government and its counterparts all over the world sunk as they weighed the perceptions of these unprecedented, unscientific, futile measures against the opinion of the increasingly-terrified and ravenous segment of the public that kept demanding more of them, while devising ever-more-manipulative means of terrifying the more skeptical segment of the public into complying.
Still, critics of the Telegraph have valid reasons for skepticism. While the Telegraphhas revealed astonishing evidence of what happened during Britain’s Covid response, after the initial lockdowns of spring 2020, it has yet to reveal any information as to why those initial lockdowns happened.
This is a conspicuous oversight, as the Telegraph itself, and most of its journalists, supported the initial lockdowns of spring 2020. Additionally, as a study by Cardiff University demonstrated, the primary factor by which most citizens judged the threat of Covid was their own government’s decision to impose strict lockdowns. The measures thus created a feedback loop in which the lockdowns themselves sowed the fear that made citizens believe their risk of dying from Covid was hundreds of times greater than it really was, in turn causing them to support more lockdowns, mandates, and restrictions.
For that reason, thoughtful commenters tend to believe that determining how the initial lockdown decision was made in spring 2020 remains the most important question of the entire Covid story. Everything else was downstream from the unprecedented terror sown by that initial decision. And, because widespread terror could be used as an excuse for all the decisions that came after, the activities that instigated the initial lockdown decision in spring 2020 may be the only ones in which criminal conduct is likely to be found.
Thus, insofar as the Telegraph fails to shed any light on the activities that led to the initial lockdowns in spring 2020, the value of the Lockdown Files in obtaining justice for the response to Covid will be severely limited.
That said, some of the Telegraph’s revelations of what happened—such as Hancock’s desire to “deploy the new variant” to “frighten the pants off the public”—are so damning that hopefully the public will begin taking seriously the question of why this all happened as well.
Republished from the author’s Substack
Sorry, This Is Not Going Away
From the Brownstone Institute
The kids are two years behind in education. Inflation still rages. White-collar jobs are disappearing thanks to the reversal of Fed policy. Household finances are a wreck. The medical industry is in upheaval. Trust in government has never been lower.
Major media too is discredited. Young people are dying at levels never seen. Populations are still on the move from lockdown states to where it is less likely. Surveillance is everywhere, and so is political persecution. Public health is in a disastrous state, with substance abuse and obesity all at new records.
Each one of these, and many more besides, are continued fallout from the pandemic response that began in March 2020. And yet here we are 38 months later and we still don’t have honesty or truth about the experience. Officials have resigned, politicians have tumbled out of office, and lifetime civil servants have departed their posts, but they don’t cite the great disaster as the excuse. There is always some other reason.
This is the period of the great silence. We’ve all noticed it. The stories in the press recounting all the above are conventionally scrupulous about naming the pandemic response much less naming the individuals responsible. Maybe there is a Freudian explanation: things so obviously terrible and in such recent memory are too painful to mentally process, so we just pretend it didn’t happen. Plenty in power like this solution.
Everyone in a position of influence knows the rules. Don’t talk about the lockdowns. Don’t talk about the mask mandates. Don’t talk about the vaccine mandates that proved useless and damaging and led to millions of professional upheavals. Don’t talk about the economics of it. Don’t talk about collateral damage. When the topic comes up, just say “We did the best we could with the knowledge we had,” even if that is an obvious lie. Above all, don’t seek justice.
There is this document intended to be the “Warren Commission” of Covid slapped together by the old gangsters who advocated for lockdowns. It is called Lessons from the Covid War: An Assessment. The authors are people like Michael Callahan (Massachusetts General Hospital), Gary Edson (former Deputy National Security Advisor), Richard Hatchett, (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations), Marc Lipsitch (Harvard University), Carter Mecher (Veterans Affairs), and Rajeev Venkayya (former Gates Foundation and now Aerium Therapeutics).
If you have been following this disaster, you know at least some of the names. Years before 2020, they were pushing lockdowns as the solution for infectious disease. Some claim credit for having invented pandemic planning. The years 2020-2022 was their experiment. As it was ongoing, they became media stars, pushing compliance, condemning as disinformation and misinformation anyone who disagreed with them. They were at the heart of the coup d’etat, as engineers or champions of it, that replaced representative democracy quasi-martial law run by the administrative state.
The first sentence of the report is a complaint:
“We were supposed to lay the groundwork for a National Covid Commission. The Covid Crisis Group formed at the beginning of 2021, one year into the pandemic. We thought the U.S. government would soon create or facilitate a commission to study the biggest global crisis so far in the twenty-first century. It has not.”
That is true. There is no National Covid Commission. You know why? Because they could never get away with it, not with legions of experts and passionate citizens who wouldn’t tolerate a coverup.
The public anger is too intense. Lawmakers would be flooded with emails, phone calls, and daily expressions of disgust. It would be a disaster. An honest commission would demand answers that the ruling class is not prepared to give. An “official commission” perpetuating a bunch of baloney would be dead on arrival.
This by itself is a huge victory and a tribute to indefatigable critics.
Instead, the “Covid Crisis Group” met with funding from the Rockefeller and Charles Koch Foundation and slapped together this report. Despite being celebrated as definitive by the New York Times and Washington Post, it has mostly had no impact at all. It is far from obtaining the status of being some kind of canonical assessment. It reads like they were on deadline, fed up, typed lots of words, and called it a day.
Of course it is whitewash.
It begins with a bang to denounce the US policy response: “Our institutions did not meet the moment. They did not have adequate practical strategies or capabilities to prevent, to warn, to defend their communities, or fight back in a coordinated way, in the United States and globally.”
Mistakes were made, as they say.
Of course the upshot of this kvetching is not to criticize what Justice Neil Gorsuch calls “the greatest intrusions on civil liberties in the peacetime history of this country.” They hardly mention those at all.
Instead they conclude that the US should have surveilled more, locked down sooner (“We believe that on January 28 the U.S. government should have started mobilizing for a possible Covid war”), directed more funds to this agency rather than that, and centralized the response so that rogue states like South Dakota and Florida could not evade centralized authoritarian diktats next time.
The authors propose a series of lessons that are anodyne, bloodless, and carefully crafted to be more-or-less true but ultimately structured to minimize the sheer radicalism and destructiveness of what they favored and did. The lessons are cliches such as we need “not just goals but roadmaps,” and next time we need more “situation awareness.”
There is no new information in the book that I could find, unless something is hidden herein that escaped my notice. It’s more interesting for what it does not say. Some words that never appear in the text: Sweden, Ivermectin, Ventilators, Remdesivir, and Myocarditis.
Perhaps this gives you a sense of the book and its mission. And on matters of the lockdowns, readers are forced to endure claims such as “all of New England — Massachusetts, the city of Boston, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine — seem to us to have done relatively well, including their ad hoc crisis management setups.”
Oh really! Boston destroyed thousands of small businesses and imposed vaccine passports, closed churches, persecuted people for holding house parties, and imposed travel restrictions. There is a reason why the authors don’t elaborate on such preposterous claims. They are simply unsustainable.
One amusing feature seems to me to be a foreshadowing of what is coming. They throw Anthony Fauci under the bus with sniffy dismissals: “Fauci was vulnerable to some attacks because he tried to cover the waterfront in briefing the press and public, stretching beyond his core expertise—and sometimes it showed.”
This is very likely the future. At some point, Fauci will be scapegoated for the whole disaster. He will be assigned to take the fall for what is really the failure of the national security arm of the administrative bureaucracy, which in fact took charge of all rule-making from March 13, 2020, onward, along with their intellectual cheerleaders. The public health people were just there to provide cover.
Curious about the political bias of the book? It is summed up in this passing statement: “Trump was a comorbidity.”
Oh how highbrow! How clever!
Maybe this book by the Covid Crisis Group hopes to be the last word. This will never happen. We are only at the beginning of this. As the economic, social, cultural, and political problems mount, it will become impossible to ignore the incredibly obvious. The masters of lockdowns are influential and well-connected but not even they can invent their own reality.
The Best Life Lesson for a Teen Is a Job
From the Brownstone Institute
During the Covid debacle, kids were locked out of school or otherwise condemned to an inferior Zoom education for up to two years. What were the alternatives? Unfortunately, since the New Deal, the federal government has severely restricted teenagers’ opportunities for gainful employment. But new evidence proves that keeping kids out of work doesn’t keep them out of mental health trouble.
Yet suggesting that kids take a job has become controversial in recent years. It is easy to find expert lists on the dangers of teenage employment. Evolve Treatment Center, a California therapy chain for teenagers, recently listed the possible “cons” of work:
- Jobs can add stress to a child’s life.
- Jobs can expose kids to people and situations they might not be ready for.
- A teen working a job might feel like childhood is ending too soon.
But stress is a natural part of life. Dealing with strange characters or ornery bosses can speedily teach kids far more than they learn from a droning public school teacher. And the sooner childhood ends, the sooner young adults can experience independence – one of the great propellants of personal growth.
When I came of age in the 1970s, nothing was more natural than seeking to earn a few bucks after school or during the summer. I was terminally bored in high school and jobs provided one of the few legal stimulants I found in those years.
Thanks to federal labor law, I was effectively banned from non-agricultural work before I turned 16. For two summers, I worked at a peach orchard five days a week, almost ten hours a day, pocketing $1.40 an hour and all the peach fuzz I took home on my neck and arms. Plus, there was no entertainment surcharge for the snakes I encountered in trees while a heavy metal bucket of peaches swung from my neck.
Actually, that gig was good preparation for my journalism career since I was always being cussed by the foreman. He was a retired 20-year Army drill sergeant who was always snarling, always smoking, and always coughing. The foreman never explained how to do a task since he preferred vehemently cussing you afterwards for doing it wrong. “What-da-hell’s-wrong-with-you-Red?” quickly became his standard refrain.
No one who worked in that orchard was ever voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” But one co-worker provided me with a lifetime of philosophical inspiration, more or less. Albert, a lean 35-year-old who always greased his black hair straight back, had survived plenty of whiskey-induced crashes on life’s roller coaster.
Back in those days, young folks were browbeaten to think positively about institutions that domineered their lives (such as military conscription). Albert was a novelty in my experience: a good-natured person who perpetually scoffed. Albert’s reaction to almost everything in life consisted of two phrases: “That really burns my ass!” or “No Shit!”
After I turned 16, I worked one summer with the Virginia Highway Department. As a flag man, I held up traffic while highway employees idled away the hours. On hot days in the back part of the county, drivers sometimes tossed me a cold beer as they passed by. Nowadays, such acts of mercy might spark an indictment. The best part of the job was wielding a chainsaw—another experience that came in handy for my future career.
I did “roadkill ride-alongs” with Bud, an amiable, jelly-bellied truck driver who was always chewing the cheapest, nastiest ceegar ever made—Swisher Sweets. The cigars I smoked cost a nickel more than Bud’s, but I tried not to put on airs around him.
We were supposed to dig a hole to bury any dead animal along the road. This could take half an hour or longer. Bud’s approach was more efficient. We would get our shovels firmly under the animal—wait until no cars were passing by—and then heave the carcass into the bushes. It was important not to let the job crowd the time available for smoking.
I was assigned to a crew that might have been the biggest slackers south of the Potomac and east of the Alleghenies. Working slowly to slipshod standards was their code of honor. Anyone who worked harder was viewed as a nuisance, if not a menace.
The most important thing I learned from that crew was how not to shovel. Any Yuk-a-Puk can grunt and heave material from Spot A to Spot B. It takes practice and savvy to turn a mule-like activity into an art.
To not shovel right, the shovel handle should rest above the belt buckle while one leans slightly forward. It’s important not to have both hands in your pockets while leaning, since that could prevent onlookers from recognizing “Work-in-Progress.” The key is to appear to be studiously calculating where your next burst of effort will provide maximum returns for the task.
One of this crew’s tasks that summer was to build a new road. The assistant crew foreman was indignant: “Why does the state government have us do this? Private businesses could build the road much more efficiently, and cheaper, too.” I was puzzled by his comment, but by the end of the summer I heartily agreed. The Highway Department could not competently organize anything more complex than painting stripes in the middle of a road. Even the placement of highway direction signs was routinely botched.
While I easily acclimated to government work lethargy, I was pure hustle on Friday nights unloading trucks full of boxes of old books at a local bindery. That gig paid a flat rate, in cash, that usually worked out to double or triple the Highway Department wage.
The goal with the Highway Department was to conserve energy, while the goal at the book bindery was to conserve time—to finish as quickly as possible and move on to weekend mischief. With government work, time routinely acquired a negative value—something to be killed.
The key thing kids must learn from their first jobs is to produce enough value that someone will voluntarily pay them a wage. I worked plenty of jobs in my teen years – baling hay, cutting lawns, and hustling on construction sites. I knew I’d need to pay my own way in life and those jobs got me in the habit of saving early and often.
But according to today’s conventional wisdom, teenagers should not be put at risk in any situation where they might harm themselves. The enemies of teenage employment rarely admit how the government’s “fixes” routinely do more harm than good. My experience with the highway department helped me quickly recognize the perils of government employment and training programs.
Those programs have been spectacularly failing for more than half a century. In 1969, the General Accounting Office (GAO) condemned federal summer jobs programs because youth “regressed in their conception of what should reasonably be required in return for wages paid.”
In 1979, GAO reported that the vast majority of urban teens in the program “were exposed to a worksite where good work habits were not learned or reinforced, or realistic ideas on expectations in the real world of work were not fostered.” In 1980, Vice President Mondale’s Task Force on Youth Unemployment reported, “Private employment experience is deemed far more attractive to prospective employers than public work” because of the bad habits and attitudes spurred by government programs.
“Make work” and “fake work” are a grave disservice to young people. But the same problems permeated programs in the Obama era. In Boston, federally-subsidized summer job workers donned puppets to greet visitors to an aquarium. In Laurel, Maryland, “Mayor’s Summer Jobs” participants put in time serving as a “building escort.” In Washington, D.C., kids were paid to diddle with “schoolyard butterfly habitats” and littered the streets with leaflets about the Green Summer Job Corps. In Florida, subsidized summer job participants “practiced firm handshakes to ensure that employers quickly understand their serious intent to work,” the Orlando Sentinel reported. And folks wonder why so many young people cannot comprehend the meaning of “work.”
Cosseting kids has been a jobs program for social workers but a disaster for the supposed beneficiaries. Teen labor force participation (for ages 16 to 19) declined from 58 percent in 1979 to 42 percent in 2004 and roughly 35 percent in 2018. It’s not like, instead of finding a job, kids stay home and read Shakespeare, master Algebra, or learn to code.
As teens became less engaged in society via work, mental health problems became far more prevalent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in “the 10 years leading up to the pandemic, feelings of persistent sadness and hopelessness—as well as suicidal thoughts and behaviors—increased by about 40 percent among young people.”
The troubled teen years are producing dark harvests on campus. Between 2008 and 2019, the number of undergraduate students diagnosed with anxiety increased by 134 percent, 106 percent for depression, 57 percent for bipolar disorder, 72 percent for ADHD, 67 percent for schizophrenia, and 100 percent for anorexia, according to the National College Health Assessment.
Those rates are much worse post-pandemic. As psychiatrist Thomas Szasz observed, “The greatest analgesic, soporific, stimulant, tranquilizer, narcotic, and to some extent even antibiotic – in short, the closest thing to a genuine panacea – known to medical science is work.”
Those who fret about the dangers that teens face on the job need to recognize the “opportunity cost” of young adults perpetuating their childhood and their dependence. Sure, there are perils in the workplace. But as Thoreau wisely observed, “A man sits as many risks as he runs.”
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