The Public’s Overwhelming Obedience Has Been Immensely Depressing

Social media self-consciousness is breeding conformism, collectivism and cowardice

Just when I was beginning to give up on the judiciary, along comes Lord Sumption saying something surprisingly sensible. During a discussion on lockdown and the law, this retired Supreme Court judge is reported to have cheerfully admitted to breaking lockdown rules. Hurrah! 

Sumption went on to point out just how draconian many of the lockdown measures have been. Over an extended period of time, millions of us found ourselves placed under house arrest.

Warming to his theme, Sumption proceeded to point out how the human rights lobby, normally the first to flag up any apparent incidence of arbitrary government, has been ‘extraordinarily silent’. 

Having spent years lecturing the rest of us on why we need a European Convention on Human Rights to protect our freedoms, confronted with a real-life instance of mass incarceration, nothing. Learned QCs who might normally leap at the chance to fight any sort of injustice – for a fat fee, of course – instead talk about the need to balance liberty with effective executive action.

To me, the hypocrisy of human rights lawyers is only to be expected. It is the reaction of the rest of us that makes me want to despair. Why have we been so deferential? Confronted by measures that are not only draconian, but often obviously of limited efficacy in combating the spread of the virus, why have we simply done as we are told?

My own hunch is that it has much to do with novelty. Whether it is wearing a face mask, or working from home, or simply sitting outside to socialise, at first it all seemed, if not a lark, then an interesting shared experience. It certainly was not intolerable.

Some, we should not forget, especially in the early stages of the lockdown, undoubtedly felt real fear. Under the impression that a killer virus was in our midst, spreading exponentially, many felt instinctively obedient of authority – even if the things that the authorities were demanding we do (“Get off that park bench!”) were clearly ridiculous. Today, even though we have a far better understanding of who is at risk, some are still scared enough to meekly obey any edict.

At the same time, for many, the lockdown has not actually been all that inconvenient. If you don’t have kids and are able to “work” from home, you have lots of extra ‘me time’. If you work in the public sector, you are likely to have been kept on full pay. Millions in the private sector have been furloughed on 80 per cent of their salaries. For some, the past few months have felt a little like an extended bank holiday break.

Perhaps, too, deference to lockdown restrictions has come from a feeling that it is only temporary. Not many people felt aggrieved when asked to help “squash the sombrero”. When that then morphed into helping “stop the second wave”, well, it might seem churlish to complain.

Sumption suggested that an early generation would not have tolerated all these restrictions on their liberty. But I imagine that people went through a similar process of acceptance when, in the early stages of the Second World War when everyone was required to carry an identity card. However much folk might not have liked it, it must have seemed like a small step to help uncover all those Germany spies. 

Of course, it turns out that folk were anything but prepared to accept this particular limit on their liberty once it became clear that this ‘temporary’ measure was in place after the threat had passed. Folk simply refused to carry cards or cooperate with police constables who asked to see them – and the government had to scrap them.

We are a long way from that moment with face masks. Or are we?

Opinion polls show 60-70 per cent of the public want face masks to be made compulsory. But when I walk around my neighbourhood, I can’t help noticing that only a small minority seem to be wearing any face masks at all.

Are most of us hypocrites? Are we all going to ‘mask up’ before this Friday when facemasks are made compulsory in shops? And how are we all going to feel after sweating it out behind a face mask throughout August?

Lord Sumption, I suspect, is not unusual in breaking lockdown rules. He is only unusual in admitting as much to himself and to everyone else. 

If our national character has changed as Sumption seems to suggest perhaps it owes something to social media? Might a decade or so of Instagram and co have widened the gap between what people do, and what they say they do?

Perhaps. Social media platforms encourage millions of us to think in terms of messages sent and how we are perceived. This encourages us to want to be seen to be doing the right thing – whether its wearing a mask or taking the knee – almost irrespective of the actual merits of doing so. The pressure to conform to perceived social norms is only intensified, and if everyone else is going along with it, who am I to complain?

Being want to be seen to be doing the right thing is certainly something that obsesses government officials. There is a reason they have spent millions of pounds during this crisis on polling and focus groups. Indeed, throughout they have appeared to put a premium on wanting to send the right signals over and above being effective.

Sumption sounded disappointed that the country does not share his concerns about the loss of liberty. I suspect his lordship is simply ahead of the rest of us. What a pity there aren’t more judges like him.

Source: The Telegraph

  1. voza0db says

    “immensely depressing”

    NOT THAT MUCH… Only those living in wonderland thought that the HERD was NOT THE HERD!

    In fact OPERATION COVID is awesome to show who the sheeple are!

  2. disqus_3BrONUAJno says

    “The Public’s Overwhelming Obedience Has Been Immensely Depressing” although it has been a very successful demonstration of how well the American sheeple have taken on their programming.

    1. BigDaddy says

      When I saw all the sheeple in Amerika start coughing into the inside of their elbows during the Obama administration like HHS had taught them, instead of into their hands like people have done for millennia, I knew our goose was cooked. The sheeple had become so dependent on government telling them how to behave at every turn this was inevitable. We’re doomed as a country and will soon be in the dustbin of history, if they ever teach than again in schools.

      1. disqus_3BrONUAJno says

        In what way is a hand better than an elbow?

        1. BigDaddy says

          What studies have shown a decrees in incidence and severity of colds and flu since the sheeple started coughing into their elbows? None. So why the change? Simply to test the sheeple and see how gullible they’d become.

          1. disqus_3BrONUAJno says

            The simple fact that they believe anything that they see on their telescreens is the best indication that their indoctrination was successful. The fact that you believe that hands can do a better job than an elbow indicates that your reasoning ability has been anesthetized.

            1. BigDaddy says

              Ya know, you’re a fucking moron. Where did I say in any of my comments that coughing into your hand is better than coughing into any other of your body parts? Your reasoning ability is that of a fruit fly. You’re the moron that threw out that stupid question asking why a hand is better than an elbow. I was simply pointing out that nearly the whole country changed over night without any evidence that one was better than the other. Probably you’re one of them, you seem stupid enough. So go back under your bridge little troll and suck on your goat’s ass. I’m not going to play your stupid game.

  3. ke4ram says

    “Opinion polls show 60-70 per cent of the public want face masks to be made compulsory”

    Maybe the polls are skewed? Maybe? Jesus…..

    1. sabelmouse says

      hard to say. people do seem to go along with this a fair bit.

    2. Joe Spotfly says

      Its not the people who vote that count, it is the people who count the votes that count. Same with covid tests, polls, “scientific studies” and sex surveys. The author of the survey gets exactly what he wants from the survey notwithstanding any contrary evidence discovered.

      Why would anyone trust anything that comes out of the mouths of the third estate?

      Remember some of this crap: If we don’t fight the Nazis, we will all speak German, Oswald shot Kennedy, the communist domino theory, the Soviets had a prosperous economy, and they were going to rule the world, a old man with dialysis who lived in a cave directed 19 guys to fly complex commercial airliners into US buildings, ISIS will take over the world, there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and Assad is on verge of collapse any day now, the state will successfully manage the weather and now the virus hoax. All howlers.

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