My five takeaways from week one of 2021

Dominic Roberts
Hello, my name is Dominic Roberts and welcome to my blog! When I am not busy creating YouTube videos from my parent's basement, I enjoy keeping active by running and cycling, writing articles, hanging out with family and friends, and travelling across the world to explore new places and cultures.

Welcome to the end of the first full week of 2021, and to say it hasn’t been a slow news week would be an understatement. On Monday Boris Johnson imposed a third national lockdown on the United Kingdom, on Wednesday a group of fanatical Trump supporters stormed Congress in an attempt to overturn an election result, and on Friday Donald Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter and practically every other major big tech platform. There are a lot of things that I have taken away from this week, but here are my top five. I will try and make this a regular feature on my blog going forward as I enjoyed writing this.

Questioning lockdown does not make you a Covid denier or a conspiracy theorist

I don’t think that lockdowns work given the data and the results of previous lockdowns both in the UK and other countries.A lockdown sceptic (Covid denier and conspiracy theorist to some)

You are stirring up hatred against NHS staff! You are encouraging people to break the lockdown rules! YOU HAVE BLOOD ON YOUR HANDS!A moral supremacist who is a better person than you

The fact that this even needs to be stated is itself rather worrying, and it’s also an insight into just how willing many people are to accept the curtailment of their civil liberties, often with complete indifference and without question, in the name of safety.

Recently, there has been a growing wave of intolerance and censorship directed towards anyone who has the temerity to suggest that lockdowns are not a proportional response to the risks that we face from this virus. Any anti-lockdown sentiment, however grounded it is in data and evidence, is met with snarling accusations of stirring up hatred against NHS staff, encouraging people to break the lockdown rules, and having blood on one’s hands.

We have the luxury, as sad and horrifying as it is, of knowing the number of deaths of or with Covid. We will probably never know the number of deaths that have resulted from the lockdowns, whether that’s from missed or delayed cancer treatments and operations, death from heart disease and stroke as a result of people not being able to access medical help in time, or suicides. But we know they are happening and they will continue to happen long term. Eventually, they will have to be confronted and balanced against the lives potentially saved by lockdown.

We need to start prioritising meaningful action and change over empty gestures

We are bringing back the 8pm applause in our 3rd lockdown. I hope it can lift the spirit of all of us. Carers, teachers, homeschooling parents, those who shield and all who are pushing through this difficult time!Annemarie Plas (founder of Clap for Carers)

Fuck off.The general public

On Wednesday we were told that Clap for Carers, a weekly applause that took place on Thursdays at 20:00 GMT during the UK’s first lockdown to thank NHS staff and key frontline workers, was to make a return but under the rebranded name of Clap for Heroes. The founder of this initiative, Annemarie Plas, said she hoped the initiative would “lift the spirit of all of us” including “all who are pushing through this difficult time”.

Suffice to say that it had the complete opposite effect. There was simply no appetite from an exhausted and exasperated general public, who had just had fresh national lockdown restrictions imposed on them, to stand on their doorsteps in the freezing cold and indulge in a display of mass virtue signalling that does nothing to help the NHS in its current predicament. Indeed, many NHS staff were instead calling for the general public to stay at home, demand pay rises for frontline public sector workers and to vote accordingly.

The optics of recurring displays of gratitude and solidarity look great on television and social media, and partaking in such displays can give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside that you have done something good, but fundamentally they are nothing but empty gestures that satisfy the human instinct of minimum effort for maximum reward. Perhaps it’s about time that we move them down the priority list below meaningful action and change.

All political violence should be condemned in the strongest terms

I fully condemn and abhor the political violence we saw from Trump supporters who stormed Congress.A Biden supporting Democrat

Yeah, but what about the political violence we saw from members of Black Lives Matter and Antifa, who torn down statues, burned buildings and looted stores?A Trump supporting Republican

It amazes me that there are a lot of people who have a really hard time condemning political violence when it comes from their own tribe. All too often, when they are confronted with evidence of violence from people on their side of the political aisle, this will automatically trigger their “whataboutism” module, where they proceed to point at violence from the other side and say “yeah, but what about that?” Basically, this is the intellectual equivalent of pointing to something else and then running away.

The most frustrating thing is that for the myriad of differences between liberals and conservatives, the condemnation of all political violence should be the one common denominator that unites both sides. The fact that it doesn’t in the United States, the country that did more than any other to export democracy around the world, is a sad reflection on just how divided they really are.

What the United States needs now more than ever is an extended period of calmness where temperatures are cooled and law and order is maintained. The storming of Congress will enter the history books and we will once again be forced to learn from it.

Freedom of speech should not rest entirely on the existence and behaviour of a few big tech companies

We are seeing unprecedented censorship of conservatives from monopolistic big tech oligarchs. THIS IS CORPORATE FASCISM!Upset Twitter user

This is not a First Amendment issue. They are private companies. They can ban and censor whoever they like. Deal with it.Not upset Twitter user

I really don’t understand this borderline hysterical reaction from people about censorship on big tech platforms like Facebook and Twitter in the wake of Donald Trump’s permanent suspension from these platforms on Friday. It’s as if they believe that their right to freedom of speech rests entirely, or at least to some major degree, on the existence and behaviour of these private companies, which is rather sad to be honest. They also mistakingly state that this is a violation of the First Amendment’s provision to protect freedom of speech, even though the First Amendment protects against censorship from the government, not from private companies.

Are these big tech platforms too big and powerful? Yes. Do they contribute to the spread of misinformation and fake news? Yes. Do they pose a serious threat to democracies around the world? Yes. Do they apply double standards when it comes to applying their terms of service? Yes. Do they illegally misuse our data? Yes. Do they routinely violate our privacy? Yes. This is all the more reason to permanently suspend ourselves from these big tech platforms and deprive them of the power that they have acquired over our lives. We need to start exercising our freedom of speech in the real world public square again, rather than the digital one on our screens.

Twitter continues to bring out the very worst in many of us

I won’t be taking the Covid vaccine.A Twitter user

I HOPE YOU ARE REFUSED NHS TREATMENT AND DIE YOU SELFISH CUNT!An angry Twitter user

Twitter, especially political Twitter, continues to be an increasingly hostile place that brings out the worst in just about everyone, including me! Endless yelling, screaming, insults, ad hominem attacks and limited intelligent discourse. It’s perfectly natural and ok to disagree, but just because someone disagrees with you and has a different view or opinion to you doesn’t mean they are stupid and it certainly doesn’t give you licence to be abusive to them.

Featured image by Brett Davis and used under the CC BY-NC 2.0 Creative Commons license.