The Lies Of Others

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Guardian columnist George Monbiot

Anything good in the liberal press?

Via George Monbiot in The Guardian:

Why do we value lies more than lives? We know that certain falsehoods kill people. Some of those who believe such claims as “coronavirus doesn’t exist”, “it’s not the virus that makes people ill but 5G”, or “vaccines are used to inject us with microchips” fail to take precautions or refuse to be vaccinated, then contract and spread the virus. Yet we allow these lies to proliferate.

We have a right to speak freely. We also have a right to life. When malicious disinformation – claims that are known to be both false and dangerous – can spread without restraint, these two values collide head-on. One of them must give way, and the one we have chosen to sacrifice is human life. We treat free speech as sacred, but life as negotiable. When governments fail to ban outright lies that endanger people’s lives, I believe they make the wrong choice….

…I believe that spreading only the most dangerous falsehoods, like those mentioned in the first paragraph, should be prohibited. A possible template is the Cancer Act, which bans people from advertising cures or treatments for cancer. A ban on the worst Covid lies should be time-limited, running for perhaps six months. I would like to see an expert committee, similar to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), identifying claims that present a genuine danger to life and proposing their temporary prohibition to parliament.

Oh.

Covid lies cost lives – we have a duty to clamp down on them (George Monbiot, The Guardian)

Meanwhile…

Fight!

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65 thoughts on “The Lies Of Others

  1. Nigel

    Whatever about cracking down on it, to talk about freedom of speech without acknoweldging that the prominent disinformation of the last four or five years is itself a tool of authoritarianism just means you’re willing to ignore the second prong of a two-pronged problem: disinformation being a threat to public health, safety and freedom, and cracking down on disinformation being a threat to freedom of speech. In the modern world, asserting that the real threat to freedom are people who point out that disinformation is a threat to freedom is either authoritarianism hiding behind a posture of entirely self-serving idealism, or really, really stupid. The smart, sincere people acknowledge that the cure could be potentially worse than the disease, but the disease untreated could end up with the same result.

    (Oh, that’s the same Naomi Wolf who had her book cancelled because its premise was shown to be a complete misconception.)

  2. V aka Frilly Keane

    ah this fella goes on like he’s already been Sainted or Canonised
    or whatever tis they do

    I actually like his stuff – most of the time
    but the last year of so
    he’s been taking himself far too seriously tbh

    He’s like Greta but in middle-aged Dad form

  3. dylad

    There is no merit to broadcasting baseless debunked crap. The irish famine never happened (picky eaters) and bloody sunday was a false flag operation btw.

  4. gallantman

    So just today the WHO have advised pregnant women not to take a vaccine and the CDC say its okay to do so. Which of these contradictory positions are going to be prosecuted under your new clearly defined disinformation law??

    1. millie bobby brownie

      I don’t think I’d be happy taking that vaccine whilst pregnant. One thing to take a vaccine for your own health, quite another when it may impact a developing baby in utero.

    2. Nigel

      What disinformation? This is a difference of medical opinion on the balancing of risk versus reward, and it sucks for people confronted with the choice, but it’s not disinformation.

  5. newsjustin

    This is a wrong-headed campaign that is (rightly) doomed to failure. Banning even off-the-wall ideas or claims has a Barbara Streisand impact and encourages a martyrdom frame of mind.

    1. Nigel

      It’s shouldn’t be about the banning of ideas, but about which ideas get funded, promoted, megaphoned, and why, and who is doing it. Nations interfering in the political processes of other countries, for example, is not new, but there are whole new asymmetrical information warfare strategies being used. Does freedom of speech mean that a country is powerless to protect itself from that kind of thing? There are billionaires funding tech companies to acheive plotical and cultural outcomes. There are internet trolls who manage to get ridiculous ideas mainstremed by disseminating them through the social media of disaffected voters willing to believe the worst about their political opponents. There are prominent politicians for whom blatant lying is a form of control and an exercise of power. And most of this filters up and around and through private international tax-dodging, poorly regulated indifferently moderated social media companies for whom these can represent streams of lucrative revenue.

      The Streisand Effect is obsolete as an argument against moderation or regulation. Exposure does not mean disinfection, but propogation of the hardiest of the worst, and sometimes weirdest, ideas. The people who push these ideas do not defend them, but adopt the posture of martyrdom and invoke freedom of speech at the slightest pushback or disagreement, so invoking martyrdom as a negative effect of regulation seems quaint and naive, They will also routinely claim that the same tech companies that host their ideas freely are opressing them and biased against them. Does freedom of speech mean we are completely powerless against these trends? Bearing in mind that the same people who benefit from these things will happily use any attempt to moderate or regulate them as an excuse to crackdown on, yes freedom of speech.

  6. ce

    If we have to resort to banning morons spouting nonsense it says a lot about the state of our education, civic society, and politics… basically treating the symptom not the cause, and ultimately going the likes of China and Russia a chance to beat you (and their own people) over the head with the fact that we’ve had to resort to suppression … just like them

    1. scottser

      See, this is my problem. Douchebags with their douchey opinions is not society’s fault, or a reflection of us all. People should be made to own their douchey opinions, their lies and hypocricies without hiding behind freedom of speech or some perceived notion of oppression.

      1. ce

        It does point to failure in aspects of society and politics

        People can be made to own their stupid ideas… but it’s really hard to ban/suppress/legislate against them, which is a very different thing… see my later comment about the difficulty of bad and unenforceable laws, not typing that one again

  7. Daisy Chainsaw

    This fight against conspiraloons gets an “oh”, not a “gulp” from Bodger? You’d think after the Qanon embarrassment he’d stop looking down rabbitholes for something other than a rabbit.

    When you have cranks invading hospitals, filming patients on ventilators and declaring to a doctor that they only need a few vitamins, something has to be done to ensure the safety of people on the coalface of this. The same crank may end up in the same hospital in a couple of weeks suffering from a disease they say is a hoax.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/27/hospital-incursions-by-covid-deniers-putting-lives-at-risk-say-leaders

  8. frank

    Shocking stuff from a leading intellectual. But if you trust experts unconditionally. Well…
    At the beginning of this ‘deadly global pandemic’ we were promised mass testing on a scale hitherto unheard of. That didn’t happen. Why? Why is it still not happening?
    Almost a year into this ‘deadly global pandemic’ we were promised mass vaccination on a scale hitherto unheard of. That is not happening. Why?
    I wouldn’t hazard the answer to either of the above except to my mind it seems entirely financial rather than life saving public health for the good of all humaity.

    However, I think with some certainty and I say (in my opinion) this is NOT the ‘deadly global pandemic’ the ‘tsunami’ of death that was predicted.

  9. Micko

    Freedom of speech and expression is the most important ideal and principle we have.

    It is very much worth dying and killing for.

    1. Nigel

      What about truth? Are truth and honesty and openness not imprtant ideals worth fighting and dying for? Where are we left if the former becomes inimical to the latter? Are we left to wallow in a post-truth world where the cynical exploitation of misinformation can be used to curb freedom and destroy lives because it hides behind freedom of speech?

      1. Micko

        I think we’ve had this conversation before Nigel.

        Who decides what’s true and what isn’t?

        Right now this conversation is about about what is true in our current time and in science. Very important things in our society, more than ever nowadays.

        The conversations of previous generations used to be about who’s God was the right God to believe in…

        Remember how that turned out? Millions of dead mother f*^#)rs, all coz they gave the wrong answer to the God question. ;)

        Let people believe and say what they want.

        1. Brother Barnabas

          should that apply to, for example, advertising?

          should an advertiser be allowed to say whatever he wants in an ad so long as it’s his “truth”?

          1. Crocodile Dundalk

            @ BB

            Advertisers often tell lies, and get away with it.

            One example, is the car Industry, mpg figures are regularly pimped up with little to no accountability.

          2. millie bobby brownie

            The advertising industry is built on falsehoods.

            I hate car ads in particular. There’s no creativity there at all.

          3. Brother Barnabas

            yes they do, pat

            and that’s why there are standards applied and regulatory bodies in place to monitor that – because we know it’s dangerous when someone has a vested interest (usually €, but not always) in deceiving others and manipulating their attitudes and behaviour

            assume you agree with that?

            so assume youd agree too that the fat emporer – nor his disciples – shouldnt be tolerated?

          4. Crocodile Dundalk

            “and that’s why there are standards applied and regulatory bodies in place to monitor that – because we know it’s dangerous when someone has a vested interest (usually €, but not always) in deceiving others and manipulating their attitudes and behaviour”

            Red bull 2014:

            “Additional complaints mentioned Red Bull’s claims that its beverage could improve concentration and reaction speeds. Red Bull eventually settled for a $13 million payment, but said: “Red Bull settled the lawsuit to avoid the cost and distraction of litigation. However, Red Bull maintains that its marketing and labeling have always been truthful and accurate, and denies any and all wrongdoing or liability.”

            Paid fine, kept lying even after being held “accountable” by the relevant authorities.

            Regulations my backside.

            “so assume youd agree too that the fat emporer – nor his disciples – shouldnt be tolerated?”

            Stop looking at them and they’ll cease to exist.

            As I’ve shown above, your example of advertising and regulations as a litmus for silencing contrary opinion is poor. So no I don’t agree.

            Wtf is Pat?

          5. Brother Barnabas

            not at all

            I didnt say there isnt any lying in advertising- you’re ‘disproving’ a claim I never made

            I said that we all agree that advertisers shouldnt be allowed make false claims

            and the same goes for anti-vaxxers

            and if I they stomp off in a huff because they’re called out on their lies, fine

          6. Crocodile Dundalk

            “I said that we all agree that advertisers shouldnt be allowed make false claims”

            But vaccine producers can claim 95% effectivity with little to no clinical trialling, no historical data and no proofing against transmission.

            Lmao

            “and the same goes for anti-vaxxers”

            Not sure you’re in any position to call anyone on their world view, considering your point is null and void.

            “and if I they stomp off in a huff because they’re called out on their lies, fine”

            Basically admitting you ran SOQ off for having an opinion contrary to yours. And being proud of it..

          7. Brother Barnabas

            1. there is clinical trialling – and it’s there for all to see

            2. yes, I am

            3. no, not even close to that. you’ve gone from “contesting someone with an agenda who’s lying” to “running someone off the site for having a different opinion”

            and, in fairness, you’re not one to talk – you can change your name but you cant change your history of persistent bullying and harassment of, for example, daisy chainsaw

          8. ce

            I think they already do… cause I’m worth it, truth is you’re not…

            A bit grim, but it’s been a long day!

        2. Nigel

          If truth is unknowable, what’s the point of freedom of speech? Science has a simple and well-established and ongoing process for reaching the best conclusions possible given the available data. They don’t just throw their hands in the air because there is no final absolute authority to check their conclusions with. Speaking of religion, one thing that people were allowed to say and think if they wanted was, eg, Jews are evil and should be wiped out every now and then. Who’s to decide if that’s true or not? If the freedom to express those views was worth dying and killing for, then all those Jews died for an importtant ideal and principle.

          1. Crocodile Dundalk

            “reaching the best conclusions possible given the available data”

            What if the data is wrong?

            Where does that leave the conclusion?

            Given the profit driven corporate influence, its almost impossible to garuntee impartiality and a process free of ulterior agenda’s.

          2. Micko

            Look Nigel, anytime in the past when people’s freedom of speech and expression has been curtailed, bad stuff happens. Fact. Every single time.

            You’re here arguing that “oooh let’s give it one more go and see if the outcome is different, coz we’re smarter now”

            We’re not

            Let people believe and say what they want.

            End of

          3. Nigel

            ‘What if the data is wrong?’

            Then the conclusion will be wrong.

            ‘Given the profit driven corporate influence, its almost impossible to garuntee impartiality and a process free of ulterior agenda’s.’

            Science can be independently checked, double-checked, refined and revised.

          4. Nigel

            ‘Look Nigel, anytime in the past when people’s freedom of speech and expression has been curtailed, bad stuff happens.’

            Remember the Rwandan radio station that helped incite the genocide of the Tutsi? Let people believe and say what they want. No bad thing ever happened because of that.

          5. Micko

            “ Remember the Rwandan radio station that…”

            Ummm no. Coz I was about 16 years old when that happened and couldn’t give two f’s what was going on in other countries, I was more interested in getting into girls knickers ;)

            “Remember the Rawandan radio station”…

            That’s your best one yet man ;p

          6. f_lawless

            @Nigel

            “Remember the Rwandan radio station that helped incite the genocide of the Tutsi?”

            Isn’t the situation your describing a classic example of when people’s freedom of speech and expression was curtailed? The government-supported broadcaster, RTLM, had monopoly over Rwandan media and so prevented any alternative viewpoints from being aired which might have countered the extremist establishment-backed narrative.

          7. Nigel

            The model is one of money and power promoting toxic and destructive ideas. Validity and truth are rendered irrelevant when the decisive factors are money and impunity.

  10. ce

    Truth or lies – I don’t think it’s really about that. There is the simple problem that you can not ban ideas, you can’t ban thoughts, you can only change them, thoughts whether you like them or not will find a way out no matter what a law says… beware of unenforceable and/or bad laws.

    Remember in Gulf War 2 and Afghanistan when one of the main criticism of Kiddie Bush and Co was the absurd notion of “the War on Terror” and “your either with us or against us” etc… basically a war on abstract concepts and thoughts in addition to a real war….and that somehow peoples ideals could be changed (liberated) by a good old fashioned invasion, that they’d just somehow change when they learned the truth and benefits of western democracy (not that there is actually one idea of western democracy…)

    Anyway, a bit rambling, but basically, all of this truth, post-truth, lies debate has a similar ring about it…. and beware of unenforceable and/or bad laws

      1. ce

        Agreed, but I’m not sure who I’d trust to legislate on this… any suggestions

        Happy to have laws against threatening or inciting violence, but I’m just not sure how you can effectively create laws against ideas, even untrue ones

        And like many aspects of life – locking people up doesn’t really solve much in the mid to long term, our growing prison populations in various countries don’t need to grow any more

  11. ce

    That’s the problem with legislation around free speech, ultimately it’s an attempt and used to legislate against ideas

    In addition, laws (or attitudes) which create ostracization, can do incredible amount on long term damage… kind why we’re in this mess in the first place

    Ultimately every few years the right wants to ban speech/ideas and then a few years later the left wants it… maybe it’s all just short term outrage, which while perhaps justified in the moment, doesn’t solve the problems

    In the current climate, every country in the world needs to convince 80% of their population to take a vaccine, try to do it voluntarily, and simultaneously counter act misinformation – including misinformation spread in geopolitical playground games – so good times… what we really need now is to spend time trying to crafting and arguing about impossible laws

    1. Nigel

      You don’t regulate the ideas, you regulate the media – oversight and accountability. That’s why you can sue a newspaper for calling you a pedophile, but suing an anonymous poster, or a hundred anonymous posters, on a website for calling you a pedophile can be trickier.

  12. ce

    One of the issue with the internet is that it wasn’t treated as broadcasting/media… many people believed the spin of the internet companies at the time that this was something “new”… it wasn’t… and that was certainly a big mistake. But I don’t think this is just about media regulation, internet regulation etc…. there is a push for more

    But in saying that, you make a point about a clear cut defamation, but what about more nuanced situations – even in the regular papers, look at the Brexit debate (or most other political issues), how do you regulate those lies that were told?

    1. Nigel

      Yes, that’s left us with the current state of affairs.

      Better journalism would help, but that’s been degraded and gradually monopolised too.

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