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  • Alastair Cavendish

The Lockdown and the Vaccine

Michael Gove has said that it is a selfish act to refuse the vaccine against coronavirus, a statement which will presumably have a galvanic effect on all those who look to Michael Gove for moral guidance. You can doubtless picture the scene of all those contrite millions, weeping tears of gratitude as the needles enter their arms, murmuring to themselves: “How could I live with myself, knowing that Michael Gove, honest, honourable, upstanding Gove, a prince among men and a saint among princes, doubted the quality of my altruism? This one’s for you, Govey!”

Meanwhile, much ink has been spilled on the subject of “vaccine hesitancy”. In order to write one of these articles for a national newspaper, you have to pass a simple test. You are interviewed in a small room, most of which is occupied by an elephant. The questions do not matter, all you have to do is ignore the pachyderm.

This will give you some practice when you write about the vaccine and have to ignore a much larger, nastier, and noisier creature. The government, in which Gove is so thoroughly implicated that they put his name at the beginning of it, has engaged in ever-more hysterical propaganda and disinformation in relation to the vaccine and those who refuse it, as they have about everything else. To take one minor example, which I have noted before, they have persistently smeared anyone who questions the use of this particular non-traditional, experimental vaccine as an “anti-vaxxer” regardless of what their attitude to vaccination in general happens to be. They have used the highly illiberal notion of “vaccine passports” as a way of coercing and bluffing younger people into taking the vaccine. The fact that the vast majority of British citizens, including almost everyone in the most vulnerable categories, have been perfectly compliant has done nothing to persuade them to tone down their deafening rhetoric.

If a random person in the street were to whip a grimy needle out of his pocket and offer to jab it in your arm, it is unlikely that you would acquiesce. I trust Michael Gove far less than a random person in the street. People who prefer to avoid the vaccine are almost never expressing scepticism about vaccines in general. They are expressing distrust of the government. Taking all the circumstances into account, it is amazing that this distrust is not more widespread.

The greatest of all these circumstances is lockdown. To adopt the classification system employed by the authors of 1066 And All That, vaccines are (pace the real anti-vaxxers) a Good Thing, whereas lockdowns are a Bad Thing. This is why there has been a schism in the Church of Lockdown Scepticism, between those who favour the vaccine, including many who are evangelical about its merits, and those who view it with suspicion. The legacy media has attempted to draw a single line between the good, kind, thoughtful intelligent people who accept the vaccination, and the knuckle-dragging cretins who refuse. The real picture is far more complex, and includes:

1. True believers, who were delighted to take the vaccine

2. People who took the vaccine because everyone else they knew was doing so, and it seemed to be the path of least resistance

3. People who reluctantly took the vaccine because they thought it would open up travel and other freedoms

4. People who are fundamentally opposed to vaccines, and never take them

5. People who are concerned about aspects of this particular vaccine, and intend to wait and see if it is safe

6. People who do not believe a word the government says, and are convinced that anything they are plugging so hysterically must be bad

There are various other possible attitudes, and a person’s views on the vaccine tell one nothing about how s/he will regard the question of vaccine certification, or any other matter. Some of the most vociferous opponents of vaccine passports have been vaccinated themselves. For the moment, however, I want to concentrate on the sixth group above, in which I include myself. I have never refused a vaccine before. When visiting the type of destinations for which one is enjoined to pack a mosquito net and consult a pharmacopeia, the sort of places Noel Coward wrote songs about, I have simply visited the doctor and enjoined him to view my arm as a pincushion. I had initially assumed that I would also take any coronavirus vaccine that happened to be going.

Then came the lockdown. This is a word with which I still have difficulty, a word I think we should ration quite carefully when not specifically talking about it. There are certain words, racial slurs for instance, which probably ought not to enter one’s vocabulary at all, since they are very painful for some people to hear, and even quoting them smacks of false bravado. There are other words, however, which it may be necessary to use occasionally, but which should not enter one’s conversation at all often. I am thinking of words for particularly horrible things, like “rape” or “castration” or “syphilis”. These words are not per se taboo, but you would not say them at a family picnic, for instance. If you find yourself using them on a regular basis, something has probably gone wrong with the temper of your mind. I would include “lockdown” among these words. The thing it refers to is disgusting and degrading. It is something which should never happen in a free and democratic society.

It is certainly not a word which governments should use when addressing the populations they serve. Of course, all sensible people have treated the so called “rules” of lockdown with contempt, but this is scarcely enough. It is appallingly rude of the government to use a term which describes the punishment meted out to rioting criminals when referring to what it claims is a public health measure. Even “house arrest” would be more dignified. And if the word is disgraceful, the thing is even more so.

Johnson, Gove and their cronies accompanied this fascist policy with a campaign of propaganda designed to terrify the public into compliance. This was entirely counterproductive from the perspective of public health, since fear and isolation clearly compromise the immune system. It makes sense only when you understand that the objective was simply to allow the culprits to steal as much public money and grab as much power as possible.

Why would you accept a vaccine from the people who brought you lockdown? They have amply demonstrated that they do not have your interests at heart, indeed, that they are altogether inimical to your welfare. The analogy of the man in the street who offers you a grubby needle requires some adaptation. This man in the street is liberally tattooed with swastikas, and has just kicked a puppy to death. His face, when you take a closer look, resembles that of Michael Gove, though this seems a harsh thing to say about anyone, even a Nazi-sympathising kicker of puppies.

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