- THE BROWNSTONE INSTITUTE - RAMESH THAKUR - MAR 15, 2023 -
Matt Hancock was the UK Health Secretary in 2020 when the pandemic struck. A lockdown hawk and a moral pygmy, he was the author of draconian restrictions imposed on business, social, educational and recreational activities in England in a rolling series of lockdowns.
He was forced to resign on 26 June 2021 after CCTV images captured him kissing and groping Gina Coladangelo, a senior aide he had hired, at the entrance to his office at a time when such intimate contacts were forbidden outside established relationships. The footage was promptly leaked to The Sun.
Both Hancock and Coladangelo were married with children at the time but separated from their families in the ensuing scandal and have been living together since.
Hancock then decided to write a memoir and hired journalist Isabel Oakeshott as a co-author. Pandemic Diaries: The Inside Story of Britain’s Battle Against Covid was published in December. The misleading title (now there’s a surprise) notwithstanding, the book was not based on a contemporaneous diary but on Hancock’s recollections supplemented by his records of communications.
As part of the collaboration and with the false security of a non-disclosure agreement, Hancock handed over to Oakeshott the entirety of his WhatsApp communications with all the key players involved in making policy to manage the Covid pandemic. She gave all 100,000 of the text messages to The Telegraph which has been publishing a series of reports and commentaries under the generic title The Lockdown Files since 28 February.
Oakeshott explained her decision to break the non-disclosure agreement by saying the country and the people deserve urgent answers to the flawed crisis management. They cannot afford to wait for the official inquiry report years down the track with the real risk of a whitewash.
The MSM Journalists’ Lack of Professional Curiosity
Had the media done their job, I would not have felt compelled to embark on what turned out to be an epic voyage of discovery about pandemic policies. In thinking back over the still scarcely believable experience of the last three years, I’ve been combing through ideas and thoughts.
I started filing away in 2020. I have a Word document with the working title “Where have all the liberals gone” dated 23 May 2020. Another from 28 May has the title “Where have all the journos gone.” It was published the next day, albeit with a different title, in the left-of-centre online Australian daily commentary Pearls and Irritations. Referencing official claims on the deadliness of the virus and the putative justifications for lockdowns, I wrote:
Almost all journalists seem to have lost their cynicism towards claims by the authorities and instead become addicted to pandemic panic porn. The measures taken have been extreme, more even than has been done during a war and more than was attempted during earlier, deadlier flu epidemics…. A critical and sceptical profession would have put the government’s and modellers’ claims under the blowtorch and subjected them to withering criticism for the magnitude of errors by which their predictions have been off. Instead they have mostly joined the adoring multitudes in showering praise on the magnificence of the emperor’s new robe. Or, to change the metaphor, it is as if the Wicked Wizard of Wuhan (WWW) has cast an evil spell over the whole world and turned it into an enchanted forest with humans confined to limited spaces and the other creatures roaming freely, no longer terrorised by homo sapiens.
In an article published in the online Australian right-of-centre daily commentary The Strategist on 5 June on coronavirus winners and losers, I listed the media as among the losers: “an inquisitive, detached and critical press should have asked tough questions on justifications and evidence. Instead, most of the media became pandemic porn addicts.” In an article in Spectator Australia in April 2021, finally, I noted that coronavirus had produced a “blizzard of bogus journalism.”
I mention these not to pat myself on the back (understandable though that might be!). Rather, it’s because reading the Lockdown Files has left me seething with ice cold rage. (Or is “white hot” the stronger expression? Funny language, English.) As Janet Daley comments, we went “from disinterested journalism to Pravda in a single bound.” And as Jeffrey Tucker so elegantly put it: “What is amplified and what is buried [by the MSM] is an editorial decision, not a reflection of reality.” They amplified the superstitious fear and buried scientific scepticism in a double distortion of reality.
On 25 January 2020, unbelievable as it now seems, Donald Trump tweeted his thanks to China’s President Xi Jinping: “China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well.”
Two days later, noting Trump’s remarks, Siobhán O’Grady wrote in The Washington Post that only a draconian government could institute such tough measures to restrict people’s activities. She quoted Yanzhong Huang from the Council on Foreign Relations that China’s extreme measures were “an emotional response.” Often, they are not based on evidence and can cause serious side effects that are exacerbated by an unquestioning media that parrots the state’s talking points. No s**t, Sherlock.
It didn’t take long for the US media to flip and smear individuals and politicians who questioned lockdown and go after countries (Japan, Sweden) and states (Florida, Georgia, Iowa, South Dakota) that refused to lock down, while lavishing praise on Andrew Cuomo’s performance in New York. YouTube removed a video of a US Senate committee hearing, and of the roundtable discussion by Governor Ron DeSantis with Trump’s coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas and the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD), despite Florida’s comparative success among US states on most key pandemic metrics based on their advice.
And still Dana Milbank wrote in the Post on 3 March a mocking piece on the GBD authors: “There is no known cure for long covidiocy.” The glib retort would be to query if perchance he was looking in the mirror when the “long covidiocy” smear occurred to him. The more substantial response would be for someone to draw his attention to the Lockdown Files in the UK and ask: Who among his fellow-American journalists has done the Watergate-era equivalent investigations, in which the Post played the starring role, in relation to the pandemic?
Oakeshott has been criticized by some British journalists – Nick Robinson, Cathy Newman (who was so comprehensively yet courteously taken down in a viral interview with Jordan Peterson in January 2018 that has been viewed by more than 43.5 million people), Kay Burley – for having betrayed trust and confidentiality.
They would do better to engage in some soul-searching on the infinitely greater damage done to their profession by the way they joined the drumbeat of ever harder and serially longer restrictions dictated by data-free voodoo science. I doubt I was the only one to stop watching/listening to TV and radio news entirely just to avoid being triggered into extreme irritability at the fear porn being peddled by catastrophizing reporters.