In an attempt to escape the more egregious fatuities of modernity, I took my annual short break on the Isle of Wight where—blissfully—time seems always to stand still. It enabled me to enjoy a draught of common sense from Baron Moore of Etchingham (aka Charles Moore, the journalist) over breakfast, without interruption—the full English, twice over, as it were.
I was also able to follow the investigations of the Sunday Times Insight team who have, yet again, uncovered a scandal. I promised myself that I would ignore the global panic that has taken the world over (one might say it has ‘gone viral’) and substituted itself for every other known psycho-pathology. But the U-turn by the international commentariat was too much of a gift to satire to be missed. Let me explain.
But first, I must declare an interest: I had ‘Wu-flu’ when it first arrived hot from somewhere (of which more later) and regret to have to tell the doomsayers that I survived. It knocked me out for two weeks and then, mirabile dictu, I recovered. All by myself. Just like that. I had to travel to Dubai on business which necessitated a test and it proved positive for antibodies. So, yes, I definitely had it.
We first learned from the aforesaid international commentariat that the new bubonic plague (and you thought plagues were that medieval thing that modern medicine had eliminated, right?) had just appeared from, err, well, we don’t know where, but we can be sure it wasn’t China.
Thank you, Mr. Tedros Ghebreyesus and the WHO for re-assuring us that China had “helped prevent the spread” of the new plague to other countries. Oh, and did I mention that it was China who had backed the appointment of Mr. Ghebreyesus to the WHO? Yes. Funny, that.
Oh, and thank you, Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, leader of the WHO investigating mission to China, for re-assuring us that it was “extremely unlikely” that the new plague had spread from a lab leak in Wuhan. Why? Well, because China told us so, that’s why.
Of course, the BBC swallowed it all—hook, line, and sinker. But, hey, what’s the BBC for if not to swallow pro-Communist propaganda without question, cavil, or query?
And let’s not forget that Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, senior Vatican official and Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, said of the Chinese Communist state that “right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese.” Yes, he really said that.
Out of a report of 313 pages, the WHO devoted a massive four pages to the possibility that the new plague might have originated in China—but chiefly to pigeon-hole the idea under the heading “conspiracy theory.” Facebook duly obliged and—entirely in a spirit of open enquiry and First Amendment free speech, you understand—removed all comments that gave any credence to what the commentariat dubbed a “Right Wing conspiracy.”
Yes, it’s that fellow in a bed-sit in Neasden, again. You know—the Right Wing nutter who keeps hatching these intolerable conspiracy theories. All one of him. Or maybe there’s two of them?
The possibility put me in mind of that famous event in Scottish history known as the “Rout of Moy,” during the Jacobite uprising, when Anne, Lady MacIntosh, successfully sent a couple of her staff to scare off 1,500 Hanoverian troops with gun shots and clan battle cries. Legend has it that one English soldier crawled out of the mist and called to his commanding officer “Sir! Beware! It’s a trap! There’s two of them!”
But these two Neasden conspiracy theorists must really be something to contend with. After all they have not troubled a mere 1,500, but billions. Or so we are led to believe by the likes of Facebook. It’s impressive. Who would ever have thought that two nerds from Neasden could have caused so much trouble?
But wait! It seems Dr. Embarek is changing his mind. Can it be so? Back in his native Denmark, as early as January, he had privately expressed his worry about a possible leak from the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control. Could we be forgiven for thinking this is the new name for what might otherwise be called the Chinese Centre for Biological Warfare? Well, let’s not complain. That’ll be the Chinese government turning swords into ploughshares, right? (Or was that swords into poisoned darts? Who can say?)
Then, in June, Dr. Embarek openly stated in an interview that it was now “likely” that a member of the Wuhan Centre staff had contracted the new plague.
Much convivial laughter from the Neasden two followed. Conspiracy theory? Has the WHO mission leader succumbed to it? Or was it just that the WHO scientists on mission were not necessarily chosen for their skill in investigating lab leaks. But perhaps he has been successfully duped by those two ingenious Right Wingers from Neasden bed-sit land? I think we should be told. Perhaps Facebook will tell us?
As Lord Moore so cleverly put it, Dr. Embarek “admits the pressure he was under as he faced 60 Chinese officials, many of whom were not scientists.” Quite. Not “scientists” indeed—at least not in the conventional sense. One suspects that they were more like those heavy-set, muscle-bound, stick-wielding escapees from the set of a film about Chinese triad gangs who were photographed in Hong Kong last year preparing to “deal with” the crowds of protesters calling for the restoration of democracy. “Scientifically,” of course!
But Dr. Embarek has been back in Denmark during the intervening period. So, what particular cat has had hold of his tongue, the meanwhile? Perhaps he was worried about losing his Facebook page? Or could it be that the fiendish pair in Neasden have had to take all of five months to work on the good doctor to get him to endorse the infamous “Right Wing conspiracy theory”? Or was he just afraid of finding himself in agreement with Donald Trump? Or perhaps President Xi Jinping himself has now contracted the new plague and—finally—wants to find out how it really occurred and how to stop it? The experiment was fine while it lasted but this is too much. It really must be stopped now. And that means we need to find out how it originated. So perhaps he has instructed his “scientists” to ease off the “pressure” on Western scientists and the commentariat.
I feel a sequel coming on: how about Return to Wuhan: Just when you thought it was safe to come out. Or a spy thriller: The Wuhan Protocol. Or an existentialist novel (with apologies to Albert Camus): The Plague. Or a musical: The Plague and I. Or a comedy: Wu-hoo! You, too? Or an advertisement: Don’t be vague. Ask for the Plague.
Or we could just carry on being silent. After all, we might be giving aid and comfort to the Neasden duo. And, let’s face it, that would be a far graver thing than locking down the world, destroying the economy, abolishing liberty and the rule of law, trashing the First Amendment and free speech and—oh, yes—eliminating the new plague. After all, we must maintain a proper perspective, right?
James Bogle is a writer, historian, barrister and former army officer.