Mandatory vaccination was a conspiracy theory – now Austria's doing it

Plus the perils of political tribalism and an "Islamophobic" ISIS survivor.

I can’t say I’m all that surprised to see the mass protests – some descending into riots – taking place across Europe as people from Austria to the Netherlands to the Czech Republic feel pushed to the brink by their overseers.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was eating Wiener schnitzel and sipping an Einspänner in Vienna, enjoying how normal it all felt relative to the locked down Ontario life. But as the pandemic has shown us, freedom can never be taken for granted. Austrians are now facing mandatory vaccination and a nationwide lockdown out of Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg’s fear of a “fifth…sixth and seventh wave.”

Schallenberg lamented it’s taken until now for Austrians to come around to the idea of forced jabs.

“For a long time, the consensus in this country was that we didn’t want mandatory vaccination,” he said. “For a long time, perhaps too long.”

The health minister in neighboring Germany was asked if he planned to mandate vaccination and said he wouldn’t “rule anything out.”

(Just what one wants to hear from a German leader).

In Austria, which has a vaccination rate of just over 65 per cent, citizens have had to show proof of vaccination, a negative test, or proof of natural immunity to go to a hotel or restaurant for some time. As of February, vaccination will be mandatory not just to dine out or board a plane, but simply to exist as an Austrian.

It’s not even “Get the jab… or else,” as there is no “or else” option.

The fine print of Austria’s forced vaccination policy hasn’t yet been released. The Guardian predicts the penalty for being unvaccinated will be “administrative fines, which can be converted into a prison sentence.” I wonder if they’ll skip the punishment altogether and just send public health officials door to door to start jabbing. Once you’ve made vaccination mandatory, you’ve already decided your citizens don’t have rights. How you enforce it is just a matter of preference.

By my count, the only other country with mandatory COVID vaccination is Turkmenistan, which generally isn’t the company I like to keep on matters of public policy.

Austria’s pivot to mandatory vaccination is another point in favour of my belief that yesterday’s conspiracy theory is today’s public policy.

World Health Organization regional director Dr. Hans Kluge said on the weekend that Europe would log 500,000 more deaths by spring unless countries start doing more to push vaccine passports and masks, as though these things have not been ubiquitous while cases have continued to rise.

No doubt fully vaccinated Europeans will, in due course, find themselves de-vaccinated as booster shots become required to evade the “lockdowns of the unvaccinated” being implemented in Germany, Slovakia, the Netherlands, and countless others.

I get why people are skeptical about doubling down on a policy that evidently hasn’t worked. Okay, it will really flatten the curve this time.

People have had enough.

In the Netherlands, police opened fire into an unruly crowd that had had started rioting Friday night.

France has dispatched dozens of “elite police and counter-terrorism officers” to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe to quell looting and rioting that arose during protests of a new evening curfew.

These are thankfully relatively isolated incidents in a landscape of peaceful protests across Europe and the world, in which tens of thousands have lined the streets to resist these mandates, which are not encroaching on individual liberty, but obliterating it.


Update on Libertarians and Conservatives Who Care

On Saturday, Libertarians Who Care and Conservatives Who Care will gather (virtually) to vote for the first recipients of the groups’ collective generosity.

Danielle Smith will lead the Libertarians Who Care meeting while I’ll be taking the reins of the Conservatives Who Care session. Members have already narrowed down nominees to two short-lists, but there’s still time to join ahead of Saturday morning’s vote (9am MT / 11am ET).

As Danielle and I have both said in our respective newsletters, this is a great project to not just get linked up with like-minded folks across the country, but also to put some real money behind causes and organizations that are ignored by mainstream media, and funding sources.

It’s a simple concept: Every member agrees to donate $100 every quarter to whatever cause the group selects. It’s pure, it’s easy, and it’s democratic. But it only works if everyone contributes.

With over 300 members in the two networks, we’ll be poised to direct more than $30,000 on Saturday, which is pretty exciting. To join, just subscribe to this list (and make sure to check your junk mail folder for the confirmation email). This was started rather spontaneously, but we’re working on getting a website set up and making it easier for people to connect and contribute, so do stay tuned.

The perils of political tribalism

I’ve had a fair bit of criticism as of late for Conservative leader Erin O’Toole. I won’t rehash it here, except to restate my point that O’Toole needs to make the pitch to conservatives for why he deserves to stick around. This was the subject of my newsletter last Thursday.

In response to it, one gentlemen, with whom I’ve only ever had favourable interactions, dismissed it by saying I was in the “Bernier camp.” When I responded that I’m in no camp, he was unconvinced.

Just a couple of days later, another gentlemen with whom I’ve had a couple of cordial exchanges accused me of ignoring the People’s Party of Canada and shilling for the Conservatives.

Such a juxtaposition isn’t all that uncommon for me. Sometimes I face these duelling accusations in response to the same segment of the same show.

There’s a Rorschach effect to media in that people see what they want to see, irrespective of what’s actually in front of them. I don’t know how new this phenomenon is, but it does seem to be worsening. The benefit of focusing on ideas is that I don’t need to hitch my wagon to politicians and parties, whose primary goals are simply to get into office.

I spent several days on the campaign trail following O’Toole, and several following Maxime Bernier. I’ve interviewed them both and will do so again if given the opportunity.

Partisanship is useful to give people a cause to rally around, but it also can breed a paranoia that everything is a slight. There’s a place for partisanship in our political system, but it doesn’t always put things in the clearest focus.

Nobel Prize-winning former ISIS captive an Islamophobe?

There was a kerfuffle in Toronto a couple of weeks ago when the Toronto District School Board initially declined to promote a book club session with superstar criminal lawyer and author Marie Henein, because she had successfully defended Jian Ghomeshi against sexual assault charges.

An aspect of this story I hadn’t seen until this weekend was that the TDSB superintendent apparently told the book club organizer students couldn’t participate in a book chat with Nobel Prize-winning former ISIS captive Nadia Murad, because of concerns about… “Islamophobia.”

The organizer told superintendent Helen Fisher that criticizing the Islamic State had “nothing to do with ordinary Muslims,” but was then sent a “copy of the board’s policy on selecting equitable, culturally relevant and responsive reading materials.”

Like with the Henein story, the board has said this is all one big misunderstanding. Whether it is or not, these stories speak to a more concerning trend which is that for most individuals and institutions, the default position is cowardice. Sure, you might be able to persuade or cajole one way or another, but in a vacuum, there are enough people willing to fold without a fight.

On that cheery note, I hope you enjoyed this lengthier newsletter. This is free for anyone to enjoy (or hate-read) but it goes along way if you take out a subscription. Just click the ‘Subscribe now’ button, and if you’re so inclined do sign up for a paid subscription which ensures it remains viable to keep publishing these dispatches.