Scaremongering

This afternoon, my companion received a video via WhatsApp, forwarded onto her by a friend. This is worrying, she said, passing it onto me to investigate.

The video featured a professional-looking man speaking to camera, a computer workstation by his side. He could have been a doctor, union rep or legal advisor. He starts with a smile and friendly greeting, but then immediately begins: “Today we’re going to talk about our rights when it comes to having a mandatory vaccine.”

He reads us extracts of an article on the meaning of consent from the British Journal of Medical Practitioners. His presentation sounds moderately authoritative. Then he moves on to survey the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, with its interventions to prevent the spread of diseases like TB. Here he wobbles a bit, as he struggles to explain what is sinister about legislation that has been in place for 36 years. He tries his best, but what he really wants to talk about are the 2020 amendments with respect to Covid-19.

Just to let you know. The first thing that will strike you when you look at this act on the government website is that it says “changes to legislation” and this has been updated on the 27th of April 2020. So just a day or so ago, and it has come into force on that day. So that is applicable from now. This is in operation now.”

He is referring, of course, to the following panel which appears at the head of all legislation on the website. Unfortunately, he is mistaken, because this notice merely states that the Act is up to date with all changes known to be in force on or before today’s date. When he printed off his copy, the date was 27 April; when I visited, it was 30 April.

He is right, of course, that the legislation has been updated to take account of the current crisis, but those revisions were brought into force on 25 March 2020. No matter, he goes on to explain what the amendments mean in practice. Which is to say that provisions relating to a quarantine or treatment of an infected person generally relates to everyone listening to his video.

Where it says a contaminated person may need to wear protective clothing, he suggests it means “an all in one jump suit like in Guantanamo Bay or something.” Where it says that the person may attend training or advice sessions on how to reduce the risk of infecting or contaminating others, he says this is “re-education which you will be subjected to”. Where it talks about the handling of an object which could present significant harm to human health, he says that it means the authorities “can take everything in your house.”

By now it should be clear that this individual is not the reliable adviser he may at first have seemed to be in the early moments of the video. So who is he? After a little investigation, I found him to be a former child-actor called Ben Fellows, also known as Zed Phoenix, once described in court as “an inventive and sometimes persuasive fantasist”.

As for the claim that the 2020 amendments to the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 allow for a mandatory vaccination for all, he neglects to reference this part:

45E   Medical treatment

(1) Regulations under section 45B or 45C may not include provision requiring a person to undergo medical treatment.

(2) Medical treatment” includes vaccination and other prophylactic treatment.

But alas, the trouble with videos such as this — this one seventeen minutes of scaremongering — is that few will bother to look up the legislation he refers to. If they did, the video would never have gone viral. People would have realised almost immediately that his claims were entirely spurious, the provisions enacted in law sensible precautions for the treatment of a highly contagious virus.

Instead, many have gone to bed tonight even more scared than they were before about events unfolding around them. But hopefully not my beloved, whose husband suffers from an obsessive compulsive urge to check the provenance of every viral snippet forwarded en masse that flits before his eyes.

2 thoughts on “Scaremongering

  1. Saw the video as well.
    I’m tired of telling people not to forward nonsense. I asked learned people who forward stuff the following:

    “treat news with the appropriate sanad (chain of narration) and don’t forward if you aren’t absolutely certain. “Forwarded as received” is a marker of less than weak (dhaeef) news.

    Here’s a question for the more learned elders.

    When hadeeth were being gathered but the narrator was known to gossip, would the hadith be counted as an authentic chain of narration or not?

    How would that be seen in a social media context?”

    Liked by 1 person

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