Bad News Item of the Week was an Economist/Ipsos Mori poll revealing that around two thirds of Britons want a number of covid restrictions to remain in place until covid is ‘under control worldwide’, an uncertain end game with an elastic definition. Over a third want the restrictions, including masks in shops and on public transport, travel controls, compulsory check-ins for pubs and restaurants, and social distancing in theatres, pubs and sports grounds to remain in place for ever. Assuming the polling is accurate and representative, that means two thirds of fun loving Britons want Freedom Day postponed indefinitely, and a shocking one third want it postponed for ever. What on earth persuaded a once proud people, who stood ready only seventy years ago to fight on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets and hills, against the odious menace of tyranny, to become a nation of curtain twitching traffic wardens who want the suffocating embrace of authoritarianism?

It is a rude, startling and apparently inexplicable change to come about, that has baffled Dr No for many a long night. How could a nation that has spent the best part of a thousand years carving in stone the principles of freedom and liberty, only to shatter that stone into a thousand shards at the drop of a hat? A good many others too have struggled with this painful question, and come to a variety of conclusions and non-conclusions, often at the expense of a good many words. No common threads have yet emerged to explain the inexplicable, until very recently, when it occurred to Dr No that possibly, possibly very possibly, there is in fact a very simple set of circumstances that will cause a majority of a nation’s people to turn coat overnight, from John Bull to authoritarian apparatchik. We can even go further. If we can accept two givens, then there is just one lever that needs to be pulled, one circumstance to be brought about, that will bring into being an authoritarian state.

The two givens are about human nature. The first is that it is a truth universally acknowledged that a government in power must be in want of more power. No government willingly relinquishes power. Some may tinker at the margins and release themselves on occasion from trivial obligations, but the urge and impulse of most governments, most of the time, is to increase their power. How else can a government function, if it doesn’t have power? No government plans a bonfire of its statutes, instead, as we have seen so clearly over the last 18 months, it does quite the opposite, it adds ever more statutes to the stinking pile. Nor is it just about covid, loathsome as those regulations are. We have regulations to allow the health secretary powers to hoover up your medical records, a likely preliminary to a Chinese style social credit system, a Police Act, to among other things give the state more powers to shut down lawful protest, and only last week the NHS Bill, to give the health secretary powers to take a chain saw to the National Health Service. Even Freedom Day, if it should happen, isn’t about new freedoms, it merely restores some of the freedoms so rudely snatched from us in recent times.

If the first given is about the urge by governments to grab more power, the second given is about the urge by many people, perhaps even a majority of people if the Economist/Ipsos Mori poll is to be believed, to relinquish power, to be subjugated. Subjugation is a state of many shades. At the noble end, we have the shinning loyal subject defending his island home, whatever the cost, but at the other we have the dimmed and cowered subject, who has made a Faustian pact with the state, trading in essential freedoms for imaginary safety. It is part of the tragic comedy of human nature that the latter all too often see themselves as the former, as the bringers of light, when in truth they draw a curtain of darkness across the land. This willing subjugation has always been a baleful stain on human nature, but its import has been heightened greatly in recent years by the relentless rise in safetyism, which has the identical Faustian pact at its heart, the trading in of essential freedom for imaginary safety. These are the people who want the suffocating embrace of authoritarianism, because it makes them feel safe.

With these two givens acknowledged, we can now turn to the circumstance needed, the lever to be pulled, to turn a nation into an authoritarian state. It is remarkably simple: all the government has to do is define an enemy within. It is crucial that it is an enemy within. If it is without, the loyal subjects will rise up as one to fight the external threat, but if it is within, the subjects will cower, and fight amongst themselves, and the authoritarian state becomes self-perpetuating. It is what happened in Russia, where the Bolsheviks cast the bourgeoisie as the enemy within. It is what happened in Nazi Germany, which cast the Jews as the enemy within. Mao had his Five Black Categories, the landlords, rich farmers, counter-revolutionaries, bad influencers and rightists deemed to be enemies of the revolution. It is and always has been the same: authoritarian states, and worse, rely on an enemy within as the

These examples are of course extreme examples, of totalitarian rather that mere authoritarian states, but their extremeness makes it easier to see the lever that has been pulled. Defining an enemy within is an inherently evil and dangerous thing to do. It plays, as we can see in the results from the Economist/Ipsos Mori poll, directly into the hands of those who will willingly make a Faustian pact with the state, trading is essential freedom for imagined safety. The results are always ugly, or worse. And who are the enemy within in Britain today? Not the virus, which is a merely mindless jumble of chemicals, oh no; instead, it is the anti-mask/anti-lockdown protesters, the vaccine refuseniks, all those derided as dangerous covidiots by the self-appointed authoritarian apparatchiks. One cannot help but wonder how the much touted and soon to be upon us ‘personal responsibility’ over covid–19 will be interpreted Britain. July 19th: Freedom Day — or Kristallnacht?       


  1. Shawn Reply

    I think that on the surface you’re right but I think these feelings that people have now, of perceived safety and its level of importance to people, are superficial. The polling, to my eye, does not fit with what I see in the real World. I think that if the poll had included an additional question it would have been very revealing: I would have asked, “do you imagine these restrictions applying to you?” (Or to other people?). Because that’s what people are saying when they answer these questions, they don’t mind restrictions so long as they don’t affect them.

    • DevonshireDozer Reply

      Exactly. It’s always ‘other people’.

      Of Mao’s Five Black Categories, several are with us here and now. Landlords, rich farmers, counter-revolutionaries, bad influencers and rightists are terms that could be (mis)applied to various groups today. The MSM talks about ‘the far right’, ‘anti-vaxxers’, ‘lockdown & mask sceptics’, ‘farmers/fishermen’ & ‘landlords’, usually with inflexions that remind me very much of the cultural revolution.

      The labels might be slightly different from Mao Tse Tung’s, but the consequence is the same.

  2. James Robinson Reply

    The polls are there to influence and steer public behaviour, not to reflect it! “Oh, a third say lockdown forever, perhaps I should follow suit?” says the would be reader of the poll (case in point).

    Accepting that, with respect Dr No your arguments unfortunately become a waste of breath!

    If the dam is going to fall, we need to get behind the growing number of legal and medical professionals beginning to mobilise and take action.

  3. dr-no Reply

    Shawn – no doubt that third group exists, but structurally things remain the same: they look down on and condemn those who they see as covidiots. It’s entirely possible that their hypocrisy will make them even more zealous in their condemnation (ie projection at work), and they will be at the front of the mob, the first to break glass.

    Devonshiredozer – as you say, exactly. Echoing the above, the terms/labels may be slightly different, but the structure is identical. Come July 19th, with its shift to ‘personal responsibility’, things could just get ‘personal’ in very ugly ways.

    James – the poll is just a peg to hang the post on, a starting point. The real point of the post is in the title, and the fact we have the structure necessary to have things turn very ugly. And with all due respect, Dr No is one of the doctors who is taking action – this blog, over 120 posts, and counting!

  4. Tom Welsh Reply

    “…a once proud people, who stood ready only seventy years ago to fight on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets and hills, against the odious menace of tyranny…”

    Dr No, may I point out that no one actually had to fight on the beaches, the landing grounds, or the streets and hills.

    That rather splendid (or turgid and overblown, according to your point of view) rhetoric was just what Churchill told the nation it felt. Rather like today, in fact – in each case we have bombastic leaders warning of exaggerated threats and pretending that extreme measures are the only recourse.

    A fairly superficial study of British history will usually reveal the same pattern. Those who are now lauded as having fought for “freedom” were usually pursuing their own freedom to exploit others without being unduly exploited by their superiors (if any). Magna Carta, contrary to what many fondly imagine, did not refer to peasants and merchants – only to nobles. and perhaps (to some extent) the gentry.

    Those who rebelled against King Charles I were by no means concerned with the freedom of common people. On the contrary, they sought freedom to make and keep profits, and to impose their own peculiar religious prejudices on others (sometimes on pain of death).

    Rightly has it been said that the “Pilgrim Fathers” fled to America, not to escape persecution, but to obtain the freedom to persecute (and hang, drown or burn) those whose religious opinions differed from theirs.

    What we are seeing today is exactly in line with all previous British history. One section of the people is battling viciously, with no holds barred, to increase its own wealth and power at the expense of everyone else.

  5. Tom Welsh Reply

    “These are the people who want the suffocating embrace of authoritarianism, because it makes them feel safe”.

    While official history has little say about this claim, I suspect that nothing has changed – except that the powers that be, during the 19th and early 20th century, saw fit to disguise their iron grip by a show of democracy and freedom.

    Until perhaps 1848, almost everyone was subject to the suffocating embrace of authoritarianism, willy nilly. Rebel and die, in simple terms. Since then we have been subjected to a kind of super-musical extravaganza calculated to give the proles the feeling that they are free citizens and have some influence on government – but without a shred of the substance. A pretend justice system, pretend elections, pretend free markets, pretend freedom of speech… need I go on?

    If, at any point, the powers that be had believed for a moment that the great masses did not secretly welcome the suffocating embrace of authoritarianism, they would have taken far sterner measures.

  6. dr-no Reply

    Tom – Dr No said stood ready, not did. As it happens, Darkest Hour which was screened over the weekend (and is available on iPlayer for those who missed it and would like to see it), has shall we say a dramatically correct but historically questionable scene in which Churchill does a focus group on a tube train, from which he gathers seeds of what will become We Shall Never Surrender.

    Dr No can listen to recordings of Churchill’s oratory for hours, and never get bored. If not the written word will do. But if the tube story is true in spirit if not in fact – Churchill did his own DIY focus groups – then what we have is a leader who first judged the mood of the country, and then lead on that, rather than a leader who truly led from the front. But it is still the case that Churchill made that judgement call (“That is the will of Parliament and the nation.”) when many still favoured appeasement.

    That our nation’s history is not one of cooperation, but one of one group bashing another, most often along class or religious lines, is beyond doubt. Dr No’s point in this post is that we are at an acute stage in this chronic state, and a flareup looks increasingly possible (we are not quite at the certain stage – yet). And then there is the double handed deviousness of giving back freedoms (‘so very generous’) (and of course very welcome) and urging ‘personal responsibility’, knowing full well that ‘taking personal responsibility’ can mean very different things to different people. The brownshirts who broke the glass on Kristallnacht would no doubt have said they were merely taking personal responsibility for sorting out a problem…

    Again, Dr No is not saying Kristallnacht will happen here, just that the conditions are moving to an arrangement where it is more likely.

  7. dearieme Reply

    And yet WKPD says of Magna Carta: “It focused on the rights of free men—in particular, the barons; however, the rights of serfs were included in articles 16, 20 and 28.”

    It’s most famous clause is perhaps:
    “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”

    Everyone above the rank of Villein was covered by that, which would include merchants. The clause protecting the rights of the City of London and other cities would obviously cover merchants and, presumably, artisans.

    • Tom Welsh Reply

      What is WKPD when it’s at home? Sounds like a TV channel.

      Thanks for the exact information about Magna Carta’s text. However the context is also important. King John was persuaded to sign Magna Carta by the barons, so it’s reasonable to infer that it favoured the barons.

      Any clauses about the rights of the lower classes (below, say, the rank of knight) would have been dead letters, as no one who mattered had any interest in enforcing them.

      The Peasant’s Revolt and Cade’s Rebellion, about 200 years later, showed clearly what the rights of ordinary working men were.

      Mind you, episodes like the malicious prosecution of Julian Assange and the… malicious prosecution of Craig Murray serve to show that, even today, you do not have the rights the law says you have unless you also have a great deal of cash and a bunch of sharp (possibly crooked, connected) lawyers.

    • DanP Reply

      Here in France we have people on tv saying exactly what you’re describing.

      Here’s a translated quote from someone called Martin Blachier:

      “Today there is a war and this war is against the anti-vax. Let me be very clear, these people are without scruple. They use the worst methods end they do extreme harm all over the world. They are our real collective enemy. It’s not the virus because the virus can be beaten. It’s the anti-vax.”

      “Aujourd’hui, il y a une guerre et cette guerre, elle est contre les anti-vax. Je le dis clairement, ce sont des gens qui n’ont aucun scrupule, qui utilisent les pires méthodes et qui font extrêmement mal dans le monde entier… C’est notre vrai ennemi collectif. Ce n’est plus le virus, parce que le virus, on peut le combattre, c’est l’influence des anti-vax”

  8. dearieme Reply

    I seek your help, doc. What do people mean by “infected”? Consider for example “what proportion of the population is exposed to an infective dose of the virus, which they either fight off with no or minimal symptoms or are infected by?”

    To this layman that makes no sense. If your immune system is to fight off the virus then first you have to catch it – in other words, first you have to be infected.

    But that’s clearly not what this chap means by “infected”. What’s the standard medical use?

    • dr-no Reply

      dearieme – good question. The quite appears to come from a post on, and the context doesn’t make it any clearer. Nor is it clear who Will Jones, the author is. Doctor? Medical journalist? Staffer?

      Frankly, the quote is almost unreadable. But to try and answer your question: there are Dr No suggests three states. In the first you are exposed to a virus, but it never gets a hold. Perhaps your ‘natural immunity’ is good, the ‘I never get a cold’ type. In that case there is no question of being infected. In the second case you do get infected but have no, or only mild, symptoms, and you usually clear the infection through your immune response, or much more rarely become an asymptomatic carrier, eg Typhoid Mary, Staph etc. In the third case, you do get infected, and you develop symptoms.

      The problem is the ‘either’ bit of the quote seems to cover the first two of these three possibilities, the exposed but not infected and the exposed and infected, and so creates confusion.

      Another well established meaning of infected is that the virus has invaded you and is actively replicating. This covers why PCR tests with high thresholds are not detecting infections, they are detecting left behind broken needles buried in haystacks, which PHE tell us means the haystack is a working sewing machine.

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