I was interviewed for a documentary about movements opposed to Coronavirus regulations and any kind of coercion in the vaccination programme, to be broadcast in January.
I have voted against coronavirus regulations, and am opposed any suggestion of coercion in the vaccination programme, as will have been clear by my earlier contributions to this column.
The Programme’s producer showed me a video by an organisation which raised questions about vaccination which included extracts from a speech I made in the Commons. She asked me if I had previously known about the video or if my permission had been sought. Well, I didn’t know, but I couldn’t object: proceedings in parliament are everyone’s property. Overall, the video was, despite a rather sinister voice-over, not on the loopier end of the Anti-Vax spectrum.
Now, I don’t want to be offensive, but clearly, whilst most are sane enough, some of the anti-vax emails that I get are from constituents who are clearly deranged, some others are just a bit odd.
There is a spectrum: belief that the vaccination is an excuse to inject us with microchips to control our subsequent behaviour, is obviously at the nuttier end. Where expressions of concern about the speed at which vaccines have been tested and approved, come at the other end.
To be fair the ‘normal to nutty’ proportions do not differ significantly between anti-vax emailers and those who email me on any other subject, or indeed those who take the trouble to write to me.
I am not ‘anti-vax’. As a child, my father’s occupation took me to all sorts of remote places, as a soldier I served where there were issues with biological weapons, as a minister I visited some of the world’s poorest and most conflicted places. Consequently, I have been vaccinated against almost every medical condition, perhaps with the exception of rigor mortis.
On the contrary, I see vaccination as the escape clause from our current enforced confinement with all its devastating economic consequences: The more people who are vaccinated the better, and the sooner the better.
The thrust of the interview however, was to explore whether anti-vax opinions, being injurious to our public health policy, ought to be censored on social media and any other platform.
I am deeply nervous about extent to which we allow the ‘tech giants’, or any other agency, to censor views of which they ( and we) disapprove.
I believe in freedom of expression, and that there is no right of ‘not to being offended’. Equally, we are under no obligation to respect opinions with which we disagree, we have every right to argue robustly against them.
And that is the proper course with the anti-vax movement: not to silence them, but to defeat them by exposing the falsehood of their claims.
Currently most of my emails are from people wanting to be vaccinated immediately, and who believe I can pull strings to get them to the front of the queue. Alas, I can’t, but I understand their enthusiasm.