In a time of Global Crisis, now is not the time to play Contrarian | Simone Hanna

Slowly, but surely, there has been growth online working tirelessly to downplay the seriousness of coronavirus. In the beginning, I sat and ignored it, but with a constant bombardment of desperately contrarian nonsense – I think I have finally reached my limit on how much idiosyncratic bile I can take.

No matter what situation we face as a nation, whether it is a new government approach; new laws; new political groups, social movements; or even a new diet, there will always be someone out there eager to form an ‘anti-conformist’ movement in response.

Whether this is because they feel genuinely opposed to it or just feel inclined to for the sake of standing out, I’ll never know; nor do I care. But this week, amid a global pandemic, there has been something that has held my attention and settled terribly in the back of my mind.

The half-witted, brainless splutter that particularly caught my eye this week comes from Brendan O’Neill. If it wasn’t enough for him to bombard his own site Spiked with a clear agenda for downplaying the virus with his classic, cretinous ‘give me liberty or give me death’ malarkey; he also decided to take his views over to The Spectator to plague them with an article that went down worse than a mug of sick.

In this drowsy piece, O’Neill calls the closing of pubs, ‘a dark day for Britain’ – and I won’t disagree, but this whopper of an article takes the crown for being one of the most overdramatised, cringeworthy, eccentric, phenomenally-dramatic pieces I have seen all year.

Opening this article, I manage to convince myself that this is a somewhat-weak attempt at satire, but it is only when I come to the killer line of ‘I feel like I am in North Korea’ that I feel my eyes roll to the back of my head.

He soon goes on to describe the closing of his local pub as ‘almost too depressing for words’ – and its times like this I wish he found it so depressing that it hindered him from actually putting these thoughts down into words and allowing someone to publish it, and yet, it ticks every box he wants it to: its controversial; outrageously foolish; and reeks of someone with a thirst for backlash. The closing of pubs does not come close to a communist regime, and O’Neill knows this, but it is clear that this man will stop at nothing to have a quirky take, even if that means making an unendurable, insufferable fool of himself.

Now, what really is ‘depressing’ is that people like O’Neill, desperate to work their libertarian-splutter into the media, are downplaying a virus that has already killed thousands across the globe. Complaining about it and trying to ‘stick it to the man’ and disobey government advice will get nobody anywhere. The longer the selfish few decide to not self-isolate, the longer we will all have to. This individualistic, egocentric buffoonery will do no good to anyone except for burden those having to read it, or convince small-minded individuals that their freedom is at stake and the only way to protect it is simply: pub.

O’Neill sees Spiked as a home of free speech, and don’t get me wrong, there are some well written pieces on there, mostly from our own Dr. Rakib Ehsan – but for a news site that prides itself on having no agenda, I wonder whether O’Neill would be eager to post a piece that backs the protection of temporary self-isolating? I don’t think so.

To conclude his article, O’Neill states, ‘Britain without its pubs is not Britain’. So, I’ll conclude mine by saying that Britain is not Britain without its people. With coronavirus rates now rising, we risk losing many. We need make sure we protect our people and do as much as we possibly can, the government are now doing a little bit more, now people must do the same.

Brendan, your government are simply asking that you stay at home for a while to keep others safe. You can still drink, it is not permanent, it won’t demolish your liberty, and it’s not ‘North Korea’.


Photo by John Mac on Flickr. 

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