Pissed-off Toff

Boris – Bingo Little or Benito Mussolini?

in Big Issues

In which Pissed-off Toff demolishes, line by line, the recently broadcast ‘address to the nation’ by Boris Johnson.

He appeared on our screens at 8pm on Tuesday of last week, and although I can hardly bear to look at Boris Johnson any more, his ‘address to the nation’ was required viewing. I said in my last offering that I’d demolish it, line by line. So here goes, starting at the beginning and ending at the end. 

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Covid 19, claims Johnson, is “the single biggest crisis the world has faced in my lifetime,” and has “killed one million people worldwide.”

Straight away he sets the tone with the language of doom and apocalypse, all life on earth at risk. “One million deaths! Oh how frightful!!” we are meant to think. But pneumonia – I take a disease at random – killed an estimated three million worldwide in 2016. Diarrhoea kills about 800,000 children worldwide every year. The Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1970-1971, which originated in China (yes, them again), killed between one and four million, and no-one seemed to much mind. Whereas back in 1918-1919, the so-called ‘Spanish’ flu killed between 25 and 50 million. So even if one accepts the figure of one million Covid deaths, it’s par for the course, disease-wise, and well within the parameters of what we can live with.

Or look at it another way. Granted a world population of 7.8 billion, a death-toll of one million represents one person in every 7,800. That is statistically negligable. Indeed, what we really need, it sometimes seems to me, is a virus that will knock out not one person in 7,800 but one in three. Including, please, the entire British underclass, as well as Emily Maitlis, ‘Jo’ Brand, Mary Beard, ‘Matt’ Hancock, ‘Chris’ Whitty, and various others to be named by myself. But I digress …

Finally, look at the death-toll of one million another way still. Every year road accidents cause about 1.35 million deaths worldwide … i.e. considerably more than Covid. Why, then, do we not ban driving?

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I analyse Johnson’s opening statements at length to demonstrate that from the outset, this ‘address to the nation’ is shot through with hyperbole so extreme that it amounts to falsehood. It also demonstrates an extraordinary lack of any sense of proportion and an extraordinary inability to appreciate the relative nature of risk. All of which has brought us to our present sorry pass.

“We’ve kept the virus at bay,” the clown now states, as though we’ve all been terribly brave, locked up at home. This is an unfounded claim. Because no-one really knows how this virus spreads, and there is no proof that the ‘lockdown’ has saved a single life. Though we do know for sure that it is bankrupting us. Or rather, our fear of it is.

“The virus has started to spread again in an exponential way,” continues Boris, and “the iron laws of geometrical progression” mean that if we don’t act now it will only get worse. This claim – technical in its desire to convince and bombastic in its desire to ram the message home – is based not on fact, but on ‘projections’ produced by advisers whose ‘science’ is no more reliable than the wild prophecies of raving Old Testament prophets, and who are loving every moment of the unaccustomed fame that their predictions of doom create. I refer, in this instance, to the recent televised announcement, made by Chris ‘non-entity’ Whitty (Chief Medical Officer) and Sir Patrick Vallance (Chief Scientific Adviser), and accompanied by the inevitable silly graph, to the effect that Covid infections might reach 50,000 a day by mid-October. 

It is worrying, too, that the demented Neil Ferguson appears to have the ear of the Prime Minister once more, even though almost every ‘projection’ he has ever made with his flawed computer modelling has turned out to be spectacularly wrong. And I repeat: with all these ‘projections’ and ‘models’, we are dealing not with facts, but with fears.

Leaving aside the doomsday scenario which his advisers promote with undisguised relish, what Johnson does not say is that in terms of actual deaths (these being rather more important than infections, almost all of which are asymptomatic), the virus seems to have pretty much petered out. But infections are better, because they are an unknown quantity, more vaguely scary, and because they provide the desired excuse to impose the “package of tougher measures” that Johnson now announces; such measures to include “expanding [sic] the wearing of face masks,” those miserable symbols of servitude which, it seems, are now ‘mandatory’ everywhere except in the open air.

So there we have it. Shameless scaremongering as a prelude to a second lockdown, which Johnson now defends as being “robust but proportionate.” But for ‘robust’ read ‘tryannical’. As for ‘proportionate’, the Prime Minister’s approach is no more proportionate than that of the man who finds a patch of damp on the wall of his kitchen, and proceeds to knock the whole house down. His approach to this not-very-serious disease is not ‘proportionate’. It is wildly, insanely dis-proportionate.

Along with the lack of any sense of proportion, we have the inevitable hyperbole, again. He thus warns that “your mild cough might be someone else’s death knell.” In the same way, perhaps, that I might get run over by a bus tomorrow. Or that the earth might get hit by a meteor which wipes out all life, as seems to have happened about 67 million years ago.

By now Johnson is getting into his stride. From time to time he thumps on the table and jabs a fat finger at the camera. And why do I get the uneasy impression that throughout all this, he is on the point of grinning? As though it were all some buffoonish vaudeville act performed by a comedian who can’t make up his mind whether he is Bingo Little or Benito Mussolini.

There is, however, nothing funny at all about the measures that Bingo/Benito/Boris intends to adopt in order to “suppress the virus now.” From now on, he assures us, there will be “tougher penalties […], fines of up to £10,000 […] and more police on the streets.” It is frankly terrifying. But that’s not the end of it, because “if people don’t follow the rules we’ve set out, we reserve the right to go further.”

‘Reserve the right’, Boris? You rule by diktat already, old boy. And as for ‘going further’: how far, exactly? Reintroduce public floggings, perhaps? Burn a few heretics at the stake, even? That would be certainly more fun than handing out £1 fines as a member of Pop, all those years ago at Eton; and more consistent with your childhood ambition of becoming ‘world king’.

Threats of the most dire retribution having being issued, the mood suddenly turns cosy, and we’re all children back in the nursery with nice Nanny Johnson reminding us that “a stitch in time saves nine.” Which prompts the reflection that if the lockdown we have already endured, plus the second one we are about to endure … if these together represent just one stitch, what would nine look like?

And towards the end of this nine-minute address which has me wondering whether Johnson is now borderline insane, he summons up the ghost of Churchill. “Never in our history,” he intones, “has our collective destiny and our collective health depended so completely on our individual behaviour.” In response to which I mouth a string of unprintable obscenities.

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The really worrying thing, however, is not the contents of this pep-talk by a visibly deranged clown. It is the fact that a snap You-Gov poll immediately afterwards revealed that over three-quarters of the public support the continuation of this madness. In other words, the government and the broadcast media have so successfully persuaded a cowed and compliant public that Covid 19 is a revisitation of the Black Death, that the people applaud their own enslavement and ask for more.

Which puts me in mind of an Italian proverb. Chi si fa pecora, il lupo se lo mangia, it goes. If you turn yourself into a sheep, the wolf will eat you.

And we’re all bleating sheep now, waiting to perish. Which is exactly what we deserve.

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PS: On the same Tuesday night as Boris’ tub-thumping speech, prominent TV ads announced the recruitment of 20,000 more police, inviting applications for these jobs which were described in touchy-feely social-worker terms. These recruits will presumably ensure compliance with the countless new rules that govern our servitude. And since Boris has razed the economy to the ground, there will be no shortage of newly unemployed people quite willing to persecute their fellow-countrymen in return for a regular salary. Well done, Boris! Complimenti! Bravo!

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