Sunday, 25 April 2021

The Twitter mob is at it again

I've stirred up a hornet's nest on Twitter. Again. This time regarding the people who showed up to the anti-lockdown protest wearing yellow star badges.

Straight off the bat I said it was crude and "perhaps inappropriate" which is not unequivocal enough for Twitter so all the blue tickers have piled in to call me an antisemite for pointing out that there are certain parallels, assuming that the point pertains to vaccine passports.

Just for clarity, I have absolutely no animosity toward Jews or Israel except for the horrible paint job on their F15s which caused me no end of problems when I attempted to model it.

The thing about Nazi Germany, though, or indeed any authoritarian regime, is that it did not happen overnight. It happened by way of salami slices over time to which the public largely consented, or did not offer any outright opposition. Though the motivation comes from another place with Covid measures there are two similar patterns. One of casual acceptance and secondly, herd conformity.

The concern with vaccine passports is that they could be used as a mode of bureaucratic coercion, and as with masks, if you don't conform, you are then singled out and ostracised.

No vaccine passport? You can't shop here.
No vaccine passport, you can't come in this GP surgery.
No vaccine passport, you can't apply for x benefits.
No VP, you cant...
Where does it stop?

You then see individuals and mobs taking vigilante action against individuals, especially so in a climate of irrational fear - which is going to happen when the media is running lurid scare stories and the government is at it as well. When you formalise it by way of vaccine passports, essentially creating vaccine apartheid, you enable irrational prejudice.

The more pedestrian truth of the matter is that someone in a beer garden who isn't vaccinated or isn't wearing a mask in a beer garden is unlikely to kill you. Especially not with half the population vaccinated and in what we can essentially call summer.

At no point have I said it is directly comparable with the Holocaust, only that the exact same authoritarian human behaviours are on display. So that leaves the question of whether such parallels are proportionate. Perhaps not but do recall that we went from handwashing advice through to partial lockdowns through to politicians openly debating compulsory vaccination, curfews and putting soldiers on the streets. It could happen because politicians pander to the worst instincts of curtain twitchers unless there are enough people willing to speak out.

As ever, the reaction on Twitter largely confirms much of what I fear. Today I've been called everything but a child of god, with subsequent demands to simply "wear a mask" even though that's not actually what the debate was about. I'm not unequivocally anti-mask as you know. Or anti-lockdowns for that matter.

As usual people are piling in to register their disapproval and disgust. This isn't about safety. This is about their self-righteousness and a demand for conformity. And that really IS the point. They demand I obey, do not question, and insist that dissent is off limits and indeed debate is simply beyond the pale.

It is precisely that kind of herd conformity and thought policing that makes people hesitate to express a different opinion. In my case it doesn't matter because I've already been cast as an "actual nazi" for having expressed far right opinions such as joining Efta, increasing the foreign aid budget and clamping down on people smugglers. It's a wonder I'm tolerated in polite society at all.

But when you successfully silence people you are then free to take whatever freedoms you like, There were plenty of Germans who could have spoken up but didn't.

I am told this comparison is strictly off limits. Far beyond the pale and utterly offensive. But of course offence is subjective. The protesters have certainly highlighted the the issue and started a debate - which is what protests are supposed to do. No protest has ever succeeded by minding its manners, being careful not to tread on the sensibilities of polite society. I doubt I would have gone that far, but if there is a lesson from the Holocaust it is that things you didn't think were likely or possible in your country do happen, the people who think they're the most virtuous are usually accomplices to it, and it always happens with public consent.

I've seen for myself on Twitter multiple videos of individuals harassing people in shops for not wearing masks. When people are living in fear, their worst instincts take over. Ordinarily good, decent people will give way to their fears, and they will gang up on anyone they've been told is a threat. We therefore have to be very careful about any government measure that effectively codifies a basis for such prejudice.

It all comes down to how much you trust British jobsworth bureaucracy with your freedom. I'm not a Covid denier, nor especially a lockdown sceptic or an anti-masker, but I do think twice about lending government powers they are unlikely to return. That above all is the lesson from history.

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