Instant Opinion

‘Covid conspiracy theorists are not necessarily stupid – they’re scared’

Your digest of analysis and commentary from the British and international press

1

James Bloodworth in the New Statesman

Why Covid-19 conspiracy theories are flourishing

on fear and unpredictability

“It has been argued that we are again living in a golden age of conspiracy theories,” writes James Bloodworth in the New Statesman. Indeed, a “rabble of cranks and conspiracy theorists” descended on central London over the weekend. “When people march with placards calling Covid a hoax and linking the virus to 5G, we tend to dismiss them as idiots, or cite the Dunning-Kruger effect: the idea that stupid people don’t know they are stupid, and as such they walk around with delusions of intellectual grandeur,” says Bloodworth. And while there is some research to support this, it is worth considering another factor: “fear and unpredictability”. “That conspiracy theories may ease feelings of uncertainty has been strikingly apparent during Covid,” says Bloodworth. “Those drawn to Covid conspiracy theories are not necessarily stupid – they’re scared and desperate to feel in control.”

2

Katy Balls in The Spectator

Why the Tories are losing support

on narrowing polls

Boris Johnson hoped to mark his two-year anniversary “with a series of big domestic policy announcements”, but instead he was stuck in isolation as a “series of polls pointed to a dip in support for his government”, writes Katy Balls in The Spectator. So, what is going on? Behind the scenes, the dip is being put down to a stall in the “vaccine bounce”. The surveys suggest the public are “worried about the pace of easing”, says Balls. And, “the issue that those conducting focus groups believe could have tipped things in the wrong direction for the government is the prime minister’s own attempt to avoid self-isolation,” she says. The Tories are still in front, though, and the PM’s approval rating is likely to go up if the Covid situation improves. “However, with difficult spending decisions looming in the autumn and questions growing over No. 10’s grip on key issues, any narrowing of the poll lead only serves to increase Tory nerves.”

3

Laura Freeman in The Times

Forget Victorians, we need to go full Georgian

on better times

“What a dreary period we’re living through; what a tutting, humourless lot we’ve become,” chides Laura Freeman in The Times. “‘Shame!’ goes the cry… Shame on the health secretary who dared to say ‘cower’. Shame on Carrie for her Prince Regent tastes… Shame on the panic buyers, the holidaymakers, the nightclubbers and shame, shame, shame on the man who put a firework up his bum. Shame, most of all, on any comedian who cracks an off-colour joke. The howl goes up on Twitter: We Are Not Amused,” she writes. “How very Victorian it is, this purse-lipped Ruskinism, this prim pretence of moral outrage.” Freeman calls for an end to the “Victorian vapours” and suggests we all “go Georgian”. “A return to ribald irreverence laced with irony would help us escape our dreary era of censorious finger-wagging.”

4

Philip Johnston in The Telegraph

Ministers always promise to cut crime but the public rarely feels any safer

on the same old story

“Entire forests have been demolished over the past 30 years to provide the consultation documents, white papers, press releases and legislation to accompany umpteen attempts to tackle the law-breakers,” says Philip Johnston in The Telegraph. Crime-fighting is the “go-to initiative for any administration keen to change the political narrative in its favour”. Yet even after Tony Blair’s “law-making frenzy” starting in the 1990s, “people still worried about crime because we always will”. The latest proposals from Boris Johnson’s administration are nothing new, says Johnston. “Tackling burglary and putting more police on the streets isn’t innovative. It’s the least we should expect.”

5

Arwa Mahdawi in The Guardian

Are Covid jabs ‘Trump vaccines’? No, but I’ll call them that if it means people will take them

on helpful myths

“Forget Pfizer or AstraZeneca, the hottest shot this summer is the Trump vaccine,” writes Arwa Mahdawi in The Guardian. “Hang on, you might cry: there is no such thing. Well, Donald Trump’s former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders – a woman who has always had an unusual relationship with facts – begs to differ.” Sanders, who is trying to boost vaccination rates in Arkansas, where she is running for governor, has published a column on why she had “the Trump vaccine” and why the left should “give President Trump and his team the credit they are due” for the programme. Both sides need to look at how they politicised the vaccines, says Mahdawi. But, in the meantime, “if Sanders calling the various vaccines ‘the Trump vaccine’ results in more people getting it, I’m all for it. Heck, maybe we should introduce that strategy to different areas. The Trump Green New Deal, anyone?”

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