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This Week in the New Normal #21

A successor to This Week in the Guardian, This Week in the New Normal is our weekly chart of the progress of autocracy, authoritarianism and economic restructuring around the world.


Not a big story this week, just snuck into the papers without much fanfare, is a report claiming that lockdown saved lives by increasing the air quality in cities.

I mean, it does make any sense, because even if people were driving less, delivery trucks were driving more, and public transport was still running, and planes were still flying, and police vehicles and ambulances and fire engines. Garbage trucks and recycling vans too.

Plus all the essential workers – meaning grocery store workers, gas station attendants, delivery drivers, healthcare workers, police, craftsmen, firefighters – well they all still had to commute to work.

Given all that, it’s hard to see how much the air quality could have improved.

Nevertheless, the report says it did by up to 60%, and that as a result over 800 lives were saved…across 47 of Europe’s biggest cities, concluding:

The information can be important to design effective policies to tackle the problem of pollution in our cities.”

It doesn’t take a genius to decode that sentence.

Now, some of you might be saying that 17 lives per city per year is a number so small as to be insignificant and not worthy of news coverage, let alone impacting public policy…but when your endgame is justifying future “climate lockdowns” to “save the planet”, you need every tiny crumb of propaganda support you can find.


Last week Fiona Bruce, host of the BBC’s flagship political “debate” program Question Time, put an appeal out on social media for unvaccinated people to take part.

The appeal was “slammed”, to use tabloid parlance, by a lot of (completely real) people on social media who believe it is dangerous to allow “implacable” and “nonsensical conspiracy theorists” any airtime at all. Laughably, there were also “concerns” about unvaccinated people sharing an auditorium with the vaccinated.

Guardian columnist Zoe Williams argued against it in the proprietary blend of smugness and ignorance that is unique to the Graun’s opinion pages. The position that “these people are too wrong to argue against, and letting them on TV might convert other people to being wrong” is not one I will ever understand.

In response to the concerns, the BBC has said they will be employing “audience vetting” and “disinformation specialists”:

The issue facing the BBC is how to find “ordinary” unvaccinated members of the public, rather than obsessive anti-vaxx activists, and whether it is possible to distinguish between the two groups. The BBC also runs the risk of broadcasting dangerous medical disinformation to millions of viewers.

Do you see the trick? How all sides work together to direct the narrative?

By issuing the invite the BBC puts up a veneer of even-handedness, and then theatrical “public outrage” means they are “forced” to do what they always intended to do in the first place: Stack the deck against the unvaccinated argument through censorship and “fact-checking”.

Now all they have to do is allow the “audience vetting” to weed out the “obsessive campaigners” (read: the rational or well-informed people), whilst at the same time employing useful idiots or even shills to deliberately argue badly and make factual errors, discrediting the whole movement on live TV.


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