The Covid-19 pandemic is a fact. Now consider this story from the Evening Standard last weekend. “A doctor has spoken of his devastation after encountering a crowd of maskless revellers shouting ‘Covid is a hoax’ outside London's St Thomas's hospital on New Year's Eve. Dr Matthew Lee said he was ‘disgusted but mostly heartbroken’ after filming the group outside the hospital where medics battled to save Prime Minister Boris Johnson's life last year after he contracted coronavirus”. There was more.
Dr Lee videoed the scene and Tweeted it out with this comment: “Worked the late A&E SHO shift on NYE and came out to this. Hundreds of maskless, drunk people in huge groups shouting 'Covid is a hoax', literally outside the building where hundreds are sick and dying. Why do people still not realise the seriousness of this pandemic?”.
Why indeed. Fast forward to yesterday evening, and BBC Newsnight gave a platform to the loathsome Toby Young, who was at pains to stress that he, and others published on the Lockdown Sceptics site, did not claim that Covid-19 was not real, and nor did they deny there was a pandemic. It was just debate, and good old FREEZE PEACH.
This is the same argument as that advanced in defence of the unappealing roster of hosts at Murdoch property TalkRADIO: they’re just debating the issue. And to that I call bullshit: this is the equivalent of papers like the Sun and Mail claiming they aren’t (for instance) bigoted against people who are not white, while carefully selecting arguments and pundits in the sure and certain knowledge that the bigots will hear the dog whistle loud and clear.
The argument is the same: they’re just having a debate, and it’s all about FREEZE PEACH. Just like all the publicity given to the Birmingham schools’ “Trojan Horse” story that turned out to be a hoax. Just like the “Muslim fostering” story, which turned out to be a pile of seriously unreliable dog whistle Islamophobic bigotry.
What Tobes and the TalkRADIO goons effectively do is to keep picking out figures, arguments, and alleged experts who cast enough doubt on the scientific consensus to make the more easily led question not only that consensus, but because they haven’t yet experienced Covid-19 infection, to question whether it is actually real.
After all, it has to be remembered that the BBC says Covid-19 is real, and those out there on the right are constantly attacking the BBC, as well as other broadcasters, for getting things wrong. It is not too far a stretch to go from “just having a debate” to a disturbingly large number of people becoming convinced that it’s all a hoax.
That is why the Beeb should not be giving the oxygen of publicity to Toby Young, or indeed any of the Covidiot brigade. Because while the latter are right in that they are not claiming the pandemic is a hoax and the virus doesn’t exist, you can see it from there.
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