Our free and fearless press can’t help itself: on the one hand, the right-leaning part of it, which means most titles, is so heavily invested in The Adoration Of The Boris that they are duty bound to tell readers whatever the Government wants them to, but on the other, they cannot break the habit of peddling a little contrarianism. For every genuine SAGE member, there has to be a place for the likes of Karol Sikora.
So it was with the Daily Mail this morning: shock readers into paying attention with the screaming front page headlines telling “PM: work from home if you can … Pubs will be hit by 10pm curfew … Police to crack down hard … UK SLAMMED INTO REVERSE” before sowing seeds of doubt with “Boris to impose new diktats among fears of soaring infections - as row breaks out over doom-laden experts’ projections”.
As with the BBC and its doomed attempts at faux “balance”, so it is now with the press - here’s a carefully argued and painstakingly researched analysis showing why the new measures will be needed, and here’s a contrarian wacko looking to score a little attention and, if possible, More And Bigger Paycheques For Themselves Personally Now.
Thus readers are told “Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove confirmed the U-turn this morning as he told Sky News 'there is going to be a shift in emphasis and one of the things that we are going to emphasise is if it is possible for people to work from home then we would encourage them to do so’”. But then comes an injection of doubt.
“The restrictions have divided the Cabinet, with Mr Sunak and Business Secretary Alok Sharma both warning about the potential impact on the economy … The prospect of a 10pm curfew has sparked anger from the hospitality sector with the UKHospitality group describing it as 'another crushing blow’”. Followed by the contrarian stuff.
Karol Sikora - the bad penny turns up once more
First it’s “Do Whitty and Vallance's numbers add up? NEITHER France or Spain are showing cases doubling every week like they warned … Experts today poured scorn over questionable claims the UK's Covid-19 outbreak is doubling in size every seven days … Critics accused Number 10 of trying to 'scare' people … scientists today pointed out that the claim of 50,000 cases a day … is based on … cases doubling every seven days”.
And with the inevitability of night following day comes “Thirty-two academics urge Boris Johnson to think twice about plunging Britain into a second lockdown - as critics question advisors' suggestion that UK cases could DOUBLE every week without action … More than 30 health experts yesterday criticised 'harmful' plans to impose blanket lockdown measures in an open letter to Boris Johnson”. And which “experts” would those be?
Yes, there in the list of “Authors” is Professor Karol Sikora, “Consultant oncologist and Professor of medicine, University of Buckingham”. At least he isn’t claiming to represent Imperial College, London. But he still gets himself into the papers, and so the seeds of doubt are sowed. Then, when the real fringe conspiracy stuff comes along, the Mail can act all shocked and outraged. At something their own reporting sparked off.
Meanwhile, infections continue to rise and hospital admissions are increasing. And no amount of dismissing SAGE as “scaremongering” will stop that. Boring but true.
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