RE: End mass jabs and live with Covid, says ex-head of vaccine taskforce: I say NO NO NO NO NO

12/01/2022 Comments Off on RE: End mass jabs and live with Covid, says ex-head of vaccine taskforce: I say NO NO NO NO NO

Marge Berer

This is a copy of an email I sent to the Guardian Editor, Katharine Viner,

10 January 2022

Dear Ms Viner

I have been a loyal Guardian reader since… 1973. In the past several years, however, I have become increasingly concerned about a growing number of aspects of your editorial policy, to the point where, several months ago, I cancelled my already minimal subscription of £11.99 per month, which is for the mobile version. Having decided to write to you to talk about my concerns, I re-started the subscription. But my concerns continue to grow, as follows:

1. The differing content and layout of the: i. mobile version, ii. email version, iii. print version, iv. website version. I chose several years ago to get the mobile version daily, although previously for many years when I was in an office with others, we bought the paper daily and shared it. … No longer in an office, and not being interested in a fair amount of what you publish, I feel getting the paper version was an indulgence. Environmentally, read or unread, it creates a large amount of waste for one person. Yet I feel punished by this decision, as it means I miss important articles that I would have wanted to know about practically every day. You can’t leaf through a phone version like you do a paper copy. However, it isn’t clear to me whether the paper copy is the sum total of the day’s news and reports, or whether it’s the website. It certainly isn’t the phone. Periodically, I visit the website version to look up something I missed, told me by a friend, in the mobile version. Once in a while, I still buy the paper version in the supermarket if a headline jumps out at me. But all this eats up time, a scarce commodity, and creates annoyance. Have you considered a daily table of linked contents? Though it would be rather too large…

2. In the mobile version, there are few or no letters to the editor, one of my favourite sections, though there are more than none now, sometimes; sport is given a far higher status than both Covid-19 and international news (the latter is minimal and covers the USA far more than anywhere else) – by being higher up the page. I go elsewhere for most international news these days. At the same time, there is an unholy mix of important, well-argued and highly pertinent news articles and cutting-edge opinion pieces alongside a lot of what I can only call populist drivel, including moans about relationships, foodie stuff, let alone far more on sport often than serious news.

3. I give you a score of zero on Covid-19. The information you provide on Covid-19 is often poor and/or you report unsubstantiated views, especially from those (often Tories) who don’t take the short- and long-term public health implications of this pandemic seriously (including politicians, scientists and members of the public) – both in the context of the pandemics that preceded Covid-19 and those that will follow it in the future. The steady stream of epidemics and pandemics in the past century is one of the predicted outcomes of the growing climate crisis. You have barely reported what the members of Indie SAGE have been saying every Friday on YouTube since early in this pandemic, and yet individually and as a group they represent the most progressive and evidence-based point of view from a wide range of scientific expertise on how to defeat Covid-19 that exists in this country. On 7 January 2022, Anthony Costello said UK government policy on Covid-19 represents a crime against humanity, which in the human rights world that I inhabit, should mean a criminal trial for causing gross endangerment to health and a high number of avoidable deaths, not a photo of Boris dressed as a doctor or the sort-of wishy-washy criticism you indulge him in. Let alone opinions about how we will just have to learn to live with this. And at least in the mobile version, you have more or less ignored the World Health Organization’s steady stream of valuable information and recommendations, as well as those of WHO Europe, which are so cogent for us and one of 100 other reasons why Brexit is the disaster it was predicted it will be.

You have also been extremely poor at reporting what other countries have done successfully to contain and control this virus – far more effectively than the UK has done – e.g. China, Taiwan, Korea, New Zealand and much of Scandinavia. I don’t think you have published one opinion about stopping people from travelling internationally, as a major source of preventing infections being carried across borders. You have failed miserably to emphasise and promote (daily) the crucial need for all middle and low income countries – through the WHO COVAX programme – to be able to produce vaccines with global financial support in order to be able to achieve high levels of vaccination. “No one is safe until everyone is safe.” (WHO) How often have you published that statement of fact? You have given barely any attention to the necessity of removing the profit-driven refusal of countries, especially the UK, whose position on this is key, to ensure that can happen.

Yesterday’s headline in my phone: “End mass jabs and live with the virus, says ex-head of vaccine taskforce” with the inevitable photo of Boris, made me livid. Let him live with the virus if he’s so keen, and lock him up somewhere far away by himself to do it. I don’t want to live the rest of my short life in my sitting room, thank you very much. “Omicron could be “first ray of light” towards living with Covid.” What? Rhubarb! Ask WHO. The story contradicts the headline almost immediately. Consider how many people look at the headline and think, oh well, I’ll stop using that bloody mask then, eh! If they ever did. Have you ever addressed the fact that young men are the worst offenders when it comes to refusing to mask on public transport? Have you ever reported that in Spain “you must wear a mask” means you will be kicked out if you don’t, not tolerated or ignored, as happens here?

You published a report maybe 10 days ago by an expert on masks, about which kinds of masks are the best for protecting ourselves. Did you give one line of information about what brands, where to buy them without paying £12 or £15 per mask, as my local pharmacy charges? No! Have you ever addressed the price of masks for people who are poor, and that they should be treated the same as prescriptions? Have you ever reported that the cheap light blue masks provide inferior protection? When was the last time you told your readers about how the virus is airborne and comes out of their noses as well as their mouths, and can get in through their eyes as well? Or about the importance of physical distancing when you are in a public space, including outdoors in the street! Have you ever mentioned that cigarette smoke will carry virus far and wide if there’s a breeze? Or that runners without masks should stay away from others on the pavements because they are huffing and puffing as they run? No!

4. Your political reporting on Labour Party policy has been superseded by your almost always negative focus on “the leader” (whether Jeremy or Keir) and has been cringe-makingly poor for many years now, while you under-report what Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru are doing (including locally) that is progressive. I’m sure you would never describe yourself as a Tory-supporting newspaper, but you are – by default – due to your failure to give front and centre positive space when deserved to all the opposition parties. Have you considered promoting a united opposition to the Tories or an end to first-past-the-post voting, which the majority of members of the Labour Party approve of?

5. I’m relieved that Jonathan Freedland has finally got off his “my Israel right or wrong” high horse and is writing about political issues the way he used to. I missed his critical voice. But more broadly, that you have swallowed and repeated so much right-wing, cleverly put-together slander about anti-semitism in the Labour Party is unforgivable. Do you not know that the only people Keir Starmer is kicking out of the Labour Party for anti-semitism these days, apart from Corbyn, who did not deserve it no matter what your opinion of him is, are Jewish? I have never seen you mention that. You have never reported the denial of citizenship to Palestinians by Israel, nor gross daily violations of human rights against Palestinians by Israel, nor news such as the current hunger strike among Palestinian prisoners who have never been charged with anything. It is beyond my understanding how you can justify that. Do you remain silent about Russia doing that, or Myanmar, or Kazakhstan …or…? No!

I would like to end by giving you a list of the articles that keep me reading the Guardian, as there are a lot of those too, but not today. I’d like to see your editorial policy change, so that everything you publish is as good as the best that you publish. You don’t need to entertain your readers, as you seem to think. Look at yesterday’s mobile version below after you have read this. You need to inform us and motivate us your readers to be informed about and take action against injustice. I look forward to you finding a way to ensure that all the important stories and opinion pieces are included in the mobile version, and disappear the populist stuff to make room for them.

Thank you!!

With best wishes,

Marge Berer

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