The Epoch Times, along with the Spectator Australia, were two of very few media outlets around the world that came out against the lockdowns from virtually day one and never wavered.
We knew and argued that these policies were wrong on the data; wrong in principle for any society with a passing commitment to freedom and civil liberties; wrong in terms of sensible decision-making by throwing out carefully laid-down pandemic plans that focused on protecting the vulnerable in favour of a sledgehammer approach to attack just one perceived threat, without undertaking any cost-benefit analysis of doing so.
Pretty much every other media outlet adopted what Canadian-Australian writer James Allan calls the “Pravda approach” of being cheerleaders/fearmongering agents for the government.
In other words, the fourth estate abdicated en masse from its role in a liberal democracy; that of holding the government to account for its decisions, telling us ad nauseam that “we’re all in this together,” even though they all kept their jobs and pay while so many others didn’t.
At the same time, governments made neighbours, friends, and even relatives turn on each other, turned the police into thugs (who could forget what happened to Zoe Buhler), and conscripted the army to force people to stay indoors. I could go on.
However, over the last couple of weeks, our arguments on this score were shown to be right all along via the Matt Hancock Lockdown Files scandal.
Matt Hancock was the UK Health Secretary for nearly all of the COVID period. However, he had to resign after being caught on CCTV cameras in Westminster kissing his mistress in breach of lockdown rules.
Last year, he approached journalist Isabel Oakeshott to ghost-write his memoirs on the COVID years. To do this, Hancock gave her all of his encrypted WhatsApp texts to everyone that mattered in pandemic decision-making. In return, Oakeshott signed a non-disclosure agreement.
After publishing the book, Oakeshott decided to break the non-disclosure agreement and gave all of the messages (some 100,000 amounting to 2.3 million words) to the UK Telegraph.
They reveal the scale to which the British public was misled by their political leaders.
Rules for Thee but Not for Me
The messages show, for example, how Hancock rejected advice to reduce the time required for COVID-19 isolation because to do so “would simply say we’ve been wrong,” and that he planned to “frighten the pants off everyone,” and that school students in England were forced to wear face masks because officials declared it was a measure “not worth an argument.”
In other words, they knew there was no scientific evidence for doing so, but the politics of enforcing it were good.
We knew from the outset that the chances of a healthy person under 30 dying from COVID was less than one one-thousandth that of someone over 75. It was essentially zero. They knew it too.
Then there was the explicit targeting of sceptics and dissenters, including some of the best epidemiologists in the world, to discredit them and have them silenced because that was undercutting the messaging.
In the messages, Hancock even addresses the video of him kissing his girlfriend, pleading with his advisers to “stand this up.”
As Senior Fellow of the Institute of Public Affairs, John Roskam, points out, Hancock’s WhatsApp messages aren’t just about British politics.
During COVID-19, governments around the world copied each other, and here in Australia, those in the media who barracked hardest for lockdowns and mask mandates regularly referred to what was occurring in the UK, the United States, and China.
In Australia, Daniel Andrews, the Premier of Victoria, who enforced the world’s longest lockdown—often brutally—was also exposed in documents recently made public.
A Freedom of Information release in Victoria exposes the failures of a premier who was blind to the distinction between policies in the public interest and those that were in the interest of boosting his own public image.
Correspondence between the premier’s department and research company QDOS reveals that Andrews’s personal approval ratings became the prime metric for measuring success.
The best advice of senior advisers on health, economics, education or social policy was acceptable only when it aligned with the primary goal of keeping the premier in power.
Not Yet Time to Put It All Behind
Of course, so far, nearly all of the Australian media has carefully avoided any mention of the Hancock Lockdown Files. Many media outlets have similarly ignored the Andrews story.
Indeed, Isabel Oaskeshott has been pilloried by other journalists for “betraying” Hancock. However, as Oakeshott says, the public interest for people to see these texts and know that their political class was comprised of charlatans and heartless zealots fired by self-interest.
They often made it up as they went along, all the while declaring they were “following the science” even though the primary consideration was not people’s health, but politics, which far outweighed any considerations about keeping promises.
What is more, without the disclosure of these messages, any inquiry (one has recently been announced in the UK) was likely to be a whitewash.
In other words, Oakeshott was doing her job. The journalists criticising Oakeshott (or not even covering the story) are the same journalists who haven’t done their jobs for three years and who, for most of that time, told us to unquestioningly obey the government.
As Roskam states, it would disturb the narrative for journalists to admit to the public or to themselves that so much of what we were told to do during the COVID-19 crisis by politicians was the product of the selfishness and self-interest of those politicians.
All the while, Sweden has the OECD’s lowest cumulative excess deaths from the start of the pandemic, while Australia’s are 13 percent above expectations, thanks to lockdowns and other useless COVID mandates.
There may be a reluctance to revisit the COVID-19 period, not just among politicians, bureaucrats, and journalists, but the public who would prefer to put bad memories behind them.
However, as the Lockdown Files and Andrews polling scandals show, it must be revisited to ensure such abuses of power never happen again.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.