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Soon, only official narratives will remain
Free speech has been in decline for the last 20 years, but never as starkly as since 2020. The Covid era has sired a newish category of censorable speech – “misinformation.”
This has turned institutions that once welcomed debate into enforcers of a mononarrative, and has licensed censorship from official organs of the state, such as Britain’s Ofcom.
There are now two types of content – the official narrative and misinformation. There can be no debate or discussion. When the official narrative changes (even if it starts to align with what was “misinformation” a few minutes earlier), so too does the composition of unacceptable opinions.
This morning, Ofcom found Mark Steyn and Naomi Wolf guilty of wrongthink for a discussion they had on GB News about Covid vaccine risks last October. You can read Wolf’s response on Substack. Steyn will be weighing in on his show later today.
As Ofcom says in its summary of the case: “This programme featured potentially harmful comments about the Covid-19 vaccine without adequate protection for viewers.”
The interview took place seven months ago, so surely if Steyn’s and Wolf’s conversation caused any harm we’d know by now. Forget about Lone Wolfs – are scores of Britons now suffering from Long Wolf?
But Ofcom is shrewd like that. It doesn’t need to prove harm, just speculate about the “potential” for it. This is much like the old section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which required only that speech be “likely” to incite hate to be prosecuted.
Most notable in Ofcom’s claim is the premise that viewers need “protection” from ideas.
“The Code imposes a clear requirement that if the broadcast of any content – an unchallenged conspiracy theory, in this case – has the potential to be harmful, the broadcaster must ensure that its audience is adequately protected,” the regulator says.
This “conspiracy theory” is Wolf’s use of the term “mass murder” to describe vaccine harms.
“This is a massive crime, of course. They want to sweep it under the rug, because mass murder has not just taken place, it is taking place, disabling people into the future, sterilizing the next generation.”
Ofcom also takes issue with Wolf, who is Jewish, referencing “doctors in pre-Nazi Germany in the early thirties who were co-opted by the National Socialists and sent to do exactly what we’re seeing kind of replaying now.”
I expect many reading will think she’s right on the money, while others will think she’s a paranoid kook. This is the inevitable outcome of the reduction of discourse on vaccines into the aforementioned categories of officialdom and misinformation.
I disagree with several of Wolf’s conclusions, but I needed no protection from her beliefs because I, like everyone else, can form my own opinion.
Individuals should be able to hear both these sides, especially since those in officialdom have, by their own admission, gotten things wrong and reversed what were previously presented as unchallengeable truths.
Discussing vaccine injuries would once get you booted from social media platforms. Now, governments are paying out compensation to the vaccine-injured and vaccine-bereaved.
Ofcom’s demand that Wolf’s comments be challenged or balanced by something else is absurd given the interview was, itself, a challenge to the narrative awaiting viewers on any other channel (or, for that matter, in any other timeslot on GB News).
I’ve deliberately avoided discussing vaccine science on my show because I’m not a scientist and I don’t feel adequately able to challenge the claims made by vaccine promoters or skeptics without blindly appealing to some other authority. Steyn, gratefully, has not been so timid.
Those who can’t win the debate try to shut down the debate.
People who reject free speech and open debate on contentious issues accuse debate of “both sidesing” facts, rather than opinions. In other words, we can debate whether to eat indoors or outdoors, but not whether it’s raining.
But suppose two people are standing in the street, drenching wet from the rain, arguing about the weather. So what? Let them debate. Let the sopping wet rain denier expose himself as an idiot. The only alternative is a world in which someone else – often the government – gets the final say on what is fact and what can be debated.
As we’ve seen with Ofcom, this has devastating consequences.
While Ofcom’s investigations into GB News were underway, I happened upon the organization’s chief executive in Davos. Why Britain’s chief censor was cavorting with Klaus Schwab and company I’ve no idea, but in my interview with her she held firm that Ofcom protects “free and frank and open conversations on any topic.”
Well, clearly not any topic. You can debate anything you’d like, as long as both sides are within the bounds of officialdom.
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