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the astonishingly un-astonishing case of mathew hancock
new revelations are striking in the degree to which they are EXACTLY what you suspected
for those who have not been paying attention or who read US media who (surprising no one) seem to have failed (again) to have noticed that this is even a story, the UK’s covid karen health minister matt hancock is in a bit of hot water.
certain cheeky internet felines might even go so far as to coin the term
because there is just no other way to describe the goose of señor matt.
long decried as an amoral atrocity architect who would, on the best of days, struggle to locate his posterior with both hands and renowned for the sort of vainglory cum popinjay preening and projection that only the most venal of cowards may exhibit, monsieur mathew in his infinite wisdom seems to have made available to a reporter (as she aided him in writing his “pandemic diaries” puff piece memoir) what can only be described as a “tremendous treasure trove” of his personal correspondence from times covidian including a large pile of whatsapp messages to other luminaries in which we can see in their own words the characters and considerations of the united kingdom’s halls of power.
to call it “unflattering” would be akin to referring to world war one as “that kerfuffle over the arch duke.”
these messages are so astonishingly indicting that one must seriously wonder just what sort of mental defect would lead a “leader” already hounded from office not for his gross mishandling of purported pandemia but for the tawdry tabloid trauma of being caught snogging his own top aide in the office in violation of social distancing rules (and quite a few nepotism issues one imagines to say nothing of wedding vows) to once more fuel the salacious fires with more evidence of mendacious misbehavior.
if matty was looking for some sort of rehabilitation or vindication, he did not get it.
instead he got gutshot by oakeshott who deemed it to be in the public and national interest that she reveal this primary source material about momentous decisions made to the detriment of so many.
what an astonishing han-cockup.
now, morality is a funny thing. the clear cases are, well, clear. the tricky ones are always the cases where multiple valid interests oppose one another. you have a duty to keep your promise to a friend. but, if they swear you to secrecy and then confide to you that they are driving around in a van dressed in a clown suit and abducting children, well, few would argue that a higher duty to exists to keep the secret than to reveal it. so, despite my general suspicion of people claiming to be “acting in the public good” while breaking promises, i take zero issue with her choice here. journalism is supposed to be for the people, not the government and (to my mind) the highest duty of the 4th estate is the check government corruption and malfeasance.
so, well done isabel.
the picture that emerges here is just hideous.
matt is clearly stupid, craven, lacks any basic grounding in science, medicine, or epidemiology, and is thinking near totally in “politics, message, and narrative.” he’s also got a fun sideline going in crony capitalism.
more than anything, what emerges from this morass is just more proof of the proper frame for analyzing modern governance:
these are not the science kids working hard to be technocratic tutors.
these are the theater kids being drama queens.
please keep this framing in the back of your mind as you read on. it’s a key pivot.
let’s take a peek:
the ostensible purpose of public health agencies and systems is to protect the public. but what we see here is an inversion of this idea. the literal slogan was “protect the NHS.”
this is the sort of idea that kills.
one of the truly extreme travesties of “handled by hancock” was this dire deviation from morality and sense. it lead to the horrific policy of “not testing people being returned to nursing and care homes for covid.”
hancock overruled chris whitty (UK chief medical officer at the time) on this.
given his later lies about “having thrown a protective ring” around care homes, this is a nasty revelation. everywhere they were implemented, these “fill the nursing homes to protect the hospitals” policies were massive killers. this was the epidemiological equivalent of diverting ships of plague rats to the galapagos. and they did it for deeply stupid and shortsighted reasons like “not my fiefdom.”
this refusal to test those being placed in/returned or diverted to homes is particularly glaring as “massive test and trace” was one of matty’s signature plays, so much so that he was flat out giving exclusives to newspapers to get more people to go get tested so he could hit “his target.”
but it’s all of a piece once you realize that this was all about drama and appearances, not science, health, or welfare.
it also shows just how hand and glove this got with media outlets.
it was all about perception and pushing.
they want to use the temporary hospital (london nightingale) to create a “big public moment” and “ramp up the fear/guilt" factor. permanent secretary case speaks of it “being full with (sic) a couple days” but certain internet felines (and longstanding stalwarts like yinon) were already out ahead of him telling quite a different tale, one rooted in data, not story time.
all the “the hospitals are at massive risk” screaming was utter codswollop. hospitals and health systems all over the world damn near went out of business and had to be propped up with vast subsidies because volumes were so low.
but that story does not engender compliance. fear stories do. so guess what they told?
you got it. fear and guilt. just like they said they would.
keep in mind that all this shrill messaging with fear narrative, emotional appeals, and endless guilt from made up science like “stay home save lives” and “your mask protects me” was not an accident. it was military grade propaganda and weaponized behavioral economics. the UK in particular had a “nudge unit” of behavioral economists whose explicit job it was to help health agencies manipulate the public. many ultimately resigned in disgust at what was being done and some publicly apologized for having been involved.
but fear was what they wanted. fear is compliance. and they did it on purpose and with malice aforethought. it was not an accident. it was a program. it was a choice. and the citizenry were not the beneficiaries, they were the victims.
all this talk of “narrative” instead of science or data or morality?
perhaps it seemed like exaggeration.
well, here it is in their own words.
consider the hubris to not only posses but to share such sentiments and to do it in writing. they do not even seem self-conscious about it. it’s just reflex, something autonomic like breathing.
this is not science, it’s public relations gaming.
these elitist echo chambers of “our betters” do not even see their behavior as problematic. this is just life on the public stage.
again, not the science kids. the drama kids.
and the drama kids do not seem to like the teachers…
they wanted visible impact. efficacy is nowhere in these discussions.
they care more about appearing to be “doing something” or being out of step with scotland than science, data, child welfare, or education.
they are neither brave nor wise. they are afraid of parents freaking out if they do not indulge in pandemic cosplay by forcing kids to mask in schools.
they want you masking in public to drive home the idea that it’s a crisis.
and i’m sure that things like this had no bearing….
while i have not done the work myself and cannot speak to the validity of all these accusations, they certainly seem widespread and very much of a piece with his tactical morality and “rules for thee but not for me” attitude.
indeed, mister matt seems to take the view that he should be absolved of all blame and culpability
especially in that last paragraph where he overruled the chief medical officer to spare his NHS barony from stress by shunting the sick into nursing homes full of the most vulnerable. the death toll from that choice alone would be the envy of many an african despot.
and for a time, he seemed able to control the narrative by attacking those who disagreed.
but it would appear that that time is over and a new broom is sweeping if not clean then at least perhaps getting up some of the really big chunks.
my overwhelming suspicion is that matty thought his memoir was going to be a bit of reputational rehab, more narrative to spin and spit-polish a tarnished legacy.
instead, a right thinking reporter took one look at the meal she was being fed and said
this is going to be the story, over and over.
this is going to be underneath every rock that gets turned over.
from fauci to pfizer to birx and trudeau. from newsom to lightfoot to cuomo and whitmer. from the new york times to the twitter files and evening standard to CNN.
it was drama club, not science society.
it was self-service not public service.
it was loud, manipulative, and wrong.
wrong in conception and worse still in practice.
they would not tolerate debate or discourse.
and the reasons were simple and banal.
"Free speech is dangerous to foes of the Enlightenment and they know it. So they have at it by accusing these opponents of all sorts of grave crimes and misdemeanors, most of them clearly absurd--in other words, by calling them names and trying to scare them." --HL Mencken
this was not some 8d chess game.
watch these people speak. these are not cunning masterminds. these people are idiots.
they are stupid, venal, and narcissistic.
they think ONLY in narrative, not in facts or science or public welfare.
they are not even technocrats, they are the people who play technocrats on TV.
you did not get treated by health experts, you got treated by the people who played doctors on grey’s anatomy.
that’s going to be the everywhere autopsy of this debacle.
and the only real astonishment in it is how they ever thought they could get away with this.
they assumed the mantle of “benign despot” and those who do so never seem to nail the benign part, do they?
no one with the narcissism to presume to such power ever does.
folks like matt should be prosecuted. they waged war on we the people. it was not an accident. they set out to terrify and terrorize.
there should be no liability shield for such behavior nor any “qualified immunity.”
and it should not stop with them. do not accept sacrificial scapegoats but seek to corral the whole herd. there are a great many here who owe.
if we are not going to hold leaders accountable when they get stone cold busted deliberately lying to we the people to force us into subjugation and abridge and abolish our rights through deliberately made up/exaggerated fear narratives, just what are we defining as “the proper role and boundaries of government”?
do you really want to inhabit a society where such things are part of the permissible scope of work?