Lockdown Sceptics is a blog for people who don’t think that quarantining entire populations, the healthy as well as the sick, is a sensible response to the coronavirus crisis. It publishes a daily round-up of the latest Covid news seen through a sceptical lens, as well as original articles by scientists, doctors, financial analysts, economists, statisticians, actuaries, philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, historians, biomedical entrepreneurs and journalists. It is edited by Toby Young, associate editor of Quillette and General Secretary of the Free Speech Union.
On Friday, April 3rd I wrote an article for the Telegraph about the tsunami of criticism I’d received after publishing a sceptical piece earlier that week about the Government’s lockdown strategy. That piece appeared in the Critic and shortly after it was published I started trending on Twitter, with thousands of people denouncing me, often using intemperate language. In the Telegraph article I expressed my disappointment about this reaction and said people shouldn’t feel shy about criticising the lockdown even if those views put them at odds with the majority. Our leaders are making decisions every day that will affect all our lives for years to come and it’s right that we should debate their options in the public square.
In the days that followed the publication of the Telegraph article I was contacted by dozens of people, most of whom shared my reservations and were frustrated that the Government’s decision to lock down the country wasn’t being adequately challenged. Some had tried to get their views published in newspapers, either as letters or articles, but without success. That’s why I’ve decided to set up this website. The idea is for it to serve as a hub for sceptical articles, papers and interviews that have appeared elsewhere, as well as a platform for lockdown sceptics to air their views in the form of comments. (I also welcome rebuttals of those views. You can see a thoughtful response to my piece in the Critic by Sam Bowman here, as well as my reply to Sam’s critique here.) Although I believe the lockdown needs to be dialled back, I’m not absolutely certain of that and am open to having my mind changed. The critical thing is that we should have an informed public debate about it. This isn’t a decision that should be “left to the experts”, as some people believe. To invoke David Hume’s famous distinction, scientific knowledge can tell you what is; it cannot tell you what you ought to do.
I’ve done my best to get across the main sceptical arguments in the form of questions. If you click on one, it will take you to a new page where I’ve tried to summarise the issue concerned and then linked to the best articles, papers and interviews I can find on the topic. If you’ve written a sceptical blog post that you’d like me to link to, or seen something you think is interesting, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In this way I hope to gradually build up a useful resource for thinking about how long we should keep the lockdown in place and what the exit strategy should be.
If you want to post comments, try and avoid conspiracy theories. If you believe 5G masts are linked to the spread of coronavirus, this site isn’t for you. It’s important that we all keep clear heads in the current crisis. And if possible, try not to engage in too much partisan point-scoring. (I realise that’s a bit rich coming from me.) Most sceptics will be small ‘c’ conservatives because we believe in liberty and are horrified by the confinement of people in their homes and… well, because scepticism is at the core of our political philosophy. But there’s no reason liberals shouldn’t be sceptical too. In Sweden, the Government’s more laissez-faire approach to managing the outbreak (the strategy our Government was pursuing before it was frightened into changing course by the Imperial College paper on March 16th) is broadly supported by the country’s progressive elites. The remarkable enthusiasm for the lockdown currently exhibited by our own metropolitan elite – and their ferocious hostility towards anyone who questions it – isn’t inevitable. Perhaps we can help to change their minds, assuming they don’t change ours first.
The important thing is that we have an informed debate, regardless of which side wins. I’ll leave you with the words of Pericles, the Prime Minister’s political lode star: “Instead of looking on discussion as a stumbling-block in the way of action, we think it an indispensable preliminary to any wise action at all.”
- Toby Young
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