he debate today is whether Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s Chief Advisor, should resign, or not. Whether he broke the lockdown rules, or even the law. Whether his trip was justified or if there was some perfidiousness behind it.
Mostly, they miss the vitally important point.
The same was true when Neil Ferguson – main author of the Imperial Model, and consequently the lockdown – was found to be breaking lockdown with his married girlfriend.
The press divided between the lockdown enthusiasts defending him, or the anti-lockdowners eagerly calling him a hypocrite.
Both, again, were missing the point.
Yes, it’s satisfying to cast people down for being hypocrites. Yes, it’s easy to conduct witchhunts based on shallow issues against people whose politics we disagree with. But to take part in the free-for-all is to endorse a distraction that actually reinforces the narrative, and misses the fundamentally more important issue at the root of it.
We’re all meant to be “sheltering in place” and “protecting the NHS” and “saving lives” because there is a “deadly virus”. We’re being told this is for our own safety. Because the virus is allegedly dangerous.
When the people giving us these orders do not follow them themselves, they are not showing themselves to be “hypocrites”. They are showing themselves to be liars. They are admitting they don’t really believe what they’re saying.
The best example is actually from the other side of the pond – Chris Cuomo, CNN anchor, brother of one New York governor and son of another.
When Cuomo was meant to be “self-isolating”, after allegedly getting infected, he was spotted by a cyclist socialising on the site where his new house is being built. (Days later, Cuomo made a big deal out of emerging from his basement as if he hadn’t seen his family in two weeks).
You don’t invite your married girlfriend round to your house, then send her back to her husband and children, if you really believe there’s a dangerous virus.
You don’t drive to Durham in the middle of a “national emergency” if you really believe we could all get infected and die.
You don’t break your self-isolation early to have a barbecue with your neighbours if you truly think you have a terrible disease that could make your family sick.
If I tell you you shouldn’t eat chocolate, because it will make your head explode, then I take your chocolate off you and eat it – you wouldn’t think “You hypocrite! You fool! That could make your head explode!”, would you?
You’d be far more likely to think “Hey, he lied to me so he could steal my chocolate.”
(To fully complete the metaphor there needs to be a third person there, saying “but chocolate never made our heads explode before”, and being roundly insulted by the other two as a “Chocolate Denier”, who “just wants people’s heads to explode!”)
Whether it’s Neil Ferguson or Dom Cummings or Chris Cuomo the message is the same. They are telling us they do not really believe there is any danger.
More than that, the press covering it obviously don’t really believe it either.
Look at the crush of reporters and cameramen swarm over Dom Cummings outside his home this morning:
Remember: Cummings alleged crime is “breaking social distancing rules”.
Are any of those people social distancing? Are they all wearing masks? Are they acting – in any way whatsoever – as if there is a genuinely “deadly virus” out there?
No, they’re not. Because they don’t really believe it.
The same is true of the police, who will happily man-handle someone for not wearing a mask, despite not wearing masks themselves: