Graeme, my “Shield isolating” friend in Scotland reminds me of another WW2 slogan “Careless talk costs lives”. This was part of the British propaganda strategy designed to try and stop people talking about sensitive material where it could be overheard by enemy Spies. It was also intended to stop morale-sapping rumours from spreading amongst the population during the War.
Whilst WW2 and the War against Covid-19 are not quite the same, there are parallels to be drawn. The Government and Ministers are desperate to hold the party line of the Lockdown and social distancing strategy, with their own central message and slogan.
STAY HOME, PROTECT THE NHS, SAVE LIVES
I confess, I just had to look it up despite hearing and seeing it so many times on TV.
The daily Press Briefings have been labelled “Government Propaganda” by many, with banal valedictory speeches given by different Ministers, often with what appears to me to be fake sympathy and sorrow.
On the other hand, The Press and Media reporters are trying to hold the Government to account, and to get answers to the questions that the Public at large want to know, which are met with typical filibustering, not answering the question, and always returning back to re-emphasise the central slogan.
Yesterday’s Sunday Times Insight investigation into the Government’s initial handling of the Pandemic is a devastating indictment of failings – the headline says it all : “Revealed – 38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster”
To me, what is almost more shocking is the Government taking the time and effort to defend its position with a six page document, when the evidence from many other Countries (eg Germany and South Korea in particular) that early action has clearly saved many thousands of lives.
Today’s Daily Mail headline “Stung government issues 14 -point rebuttal at claims Boris Johnson “skipped” Cobra meetings and Ministers dragged their feet and “lacked grip” over Covid-19. The Government has accused the Sunday Times of “falsehoods” and “errors”
You then have the Medical and Scientific experts giving clear factual interviews, answering the questions everyone wants to know, particularly with regard to immunity, vaccine testing and development, and testing strategy etc..
Then you have interviews with Doctors and Nurses on the front line, talking about the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), and Care Home managers and their staff telling the grim reality of how it is on the front line, with thousands of unrecorded deaths, and again, lack of basic PPE.
Also, you have heart-rending stories of families split up by Covid-19, people with severe medical problems having to “Shield” isolate at home for 12 weeks (initially) whilst a partner , often a NHS or Care home worker has to isolate at work for fear of bringing the virus home. There are hundreds of similar stories too many to mention here.
So who are the Spies in this War ? In WW2, the answer is quite clear – there was a mortal enemy, Germany and its allies, and they had sympathisers and Spies. With this war against Covid-19, the answer is less obvious, to me anyway. This is a global War, with all Countries in the same boat, fighting an invisible enemy that can cross borders and infiltrate to the highest levels of Government. There is mostly global co-operation in the battle to defeat the virus, but with different countries taking different strategies – some more successful than others. The worldwide Scientic and Medical community are collaborating with, hundreds of research programmes designed to develop a vaccine, testing already licenced drugs which may help.
So, I think the “Spies” in this War are the enemy within – the purveyors of fake news and conspiracy theories on social media, including Twitter and Facebook, with false quotes often attributed to trusted sources.
Fake news theories are circulating online with the coronavirus hashtag, spreading false claims, many questioning the seriousness of the crisis. Or the opposite eg false claims saying that ambulances will no longer respond to calls from Covid-19 patients, or that an ambulance call handler purporting to say that a third of covid-19 deaths are set to be children.
Conspiracy theories abound, such as Covid-19 is a bio-weapon developed by the Chinese, or that the virus was released accidently from a laboratory in Wuhan studying coronaviruses in bats. Some of these theories can sound plausible, particularly if they are given some level of credence from World leaders eg President Trump, which make them all the more dangerous. Up to 30% of Americans are said to believe this. Then there is deliberate misinformation and disinformation spread innocuously online by Trolls and Hackers eg new mobile phone masts for 5G can spread the virus .
All of this feeds into a narrative of people desperate for the Truth and clarity of when, where and how the Crisis will be over, and when life can return to normal. The best fact checking web site I have found is Full Fact, a UK independent fact checking charity.