#27 of Podcast: Conversation with Simon Elmer

#27 of Podcast: Conversation with Simon Elmer

In this episode, I talk to Simon Elmer, from Architects for Social Housing, who is critical of the biosecurity state from what I’ll call a left perspective. We talked about why he uses the term revolution to describe what we are experiencing, why he prefers not to use the term fascism, and much more.

Radically Human; Episode #27. / / Youtube link

Send a voice message @ https://anchor.fm/frieda-vizel/message


Simon is a writer and researcher. In 2001 he received his Ph.D. in the history and theory of art and architecture from University College London. He has taught at the universities of London, Manchester and Reading and for two years, was a visiting professor at the University of Michigan. In 2015. He co-founded architects for social housing, ASH, for which he is Director of Research. Over the past year, he has published two collections of articles on the Coronavirus crisis: ‘COVID-19 Implementing the UK Biosecurity State’ and ‘Brave New World, Expanding the UK Biosecurity State Through the Winter of 2020-2021’. Previous publications on the UK housing crisis include, with ASH co-founder Geraldine Denning, ‘For a Socialist Architecture Under Capitalism,’ ‘The Costs of State Regeneration’ and ‘The Truth About Grenfell Tower.’ The work of ASH can be accessed on their website, or you can follow Simon on Twitter on @9thfloor.

Welcome, Simon. I will tell you your installments and the UK biosecurity state… I’ve read a number of times… and there are a lot of nuggets there that have given me so much pause for thought. And it’s so different from what you read elsewhere. So I really wanted to unpack it. And actually, I wanted to start by asking you about the term biosecurity which you use a lot. And I think we hear a lot of people saying we’re in the digital dystopia or such… What does the word mean to you?

Simon Elmer (2:00)
It’s a difficult one. The reason I used it, I guess, was from reading the works of Giorgio Agamben, the Italian philosopher, on biosecurity. I read a number of his books, maybe 10 years ago, actually, longer. Actually, when I was doing my doctorate twenty-odd years ago. And when this crisis, if you want to call it that for the moment, started, I went back to his books. But also he started a blog of small commentaries on what was going on generally across the world, but specifically in Italy, which was the first place to really enter into a crisis in Europe. And he wrote these very short blogs when he started using this, or started reusing or applying the term biosecurity to what was going on in Italy. And then I returned to his books – things like ‘Homo Sacer’, and started reading some more ones. And he uses the term a lot. And he takes it I guess, from Michel Foucault, the French philosopher’s idea about biopower. And he develops that on.

I guess, very briefly to kind of gloss that: Foucault’s concept of biopower was a way of, not negating, but going beyond or adding to the Marxist critique of ideology. That is, that the power is not limited to government, police, army, the economy, the law… But goes through discourses, if you like, particularly medical discourses… that’s one of the focuses of Foucault’s work and certainly Agamben’s…

Frieda Vizel
What do you mean by discourses?

Simon Elmer (4:00)
Discourse is ideas that have institutional support, I guess, in very simple terms. That there is the discourse of race, for instance – in the 19th century, which had the support of various institutions – anthropological and financial. There’s the discourse of neoliberalism if you’d like to bring it up to the modern-day, which is supported by lots of different institutions, the media, and so on. So it’s not just a set of ideas, it’s ideas that have got institutional, financial, governmental backing, and so on. And Foucault’s big… one of his big contributions, I guess, to philosophy, was that sometimes – I’m not quite sure when there’s a lot of different debate about that – that power became about control of bodies… of human bodies. And Agamben and Foucault, but Agamben has kind of applied this to the Coronavirus crisis. One of the distinctions he makes, if I can get this right, is that rather than having a right to medical care in the crisis, we’ve now got an obligation to biosecurity. So our bodies no longer have: I fall ill, I go to the doctor, I’ve got a right in a liberal democracy to have medical care… There are various rights around that. But now I have an obligation to submit myself and my body to the programs and technologies of the biosecurity of the state. And this does kind of fundamentally change our status as citizens under the law. And so I found that a very persuasive way to understand what was going on.

But it’s not just a set of ideas or philosophical doctrines. The term, certainly in the UK, that’s where my focus of research has been… the term has been used by the government very openly and by various medical bodies of the government… we have something called The Joint Biosecurity Center. The joint refers to the fact that it has the authority of the UK government to do what it does. But it’s actually run by, basically financed by, private organizations. It’s modeled on the UK’s anti-terrorism organization, which was about assessing the level of threat… of terrorist threat… to UK citizens and people living in the UK. And it’s taken this as a model at the beginning. And I think it still is, it is still run by people who are kind of spies really. People who work for MI5, and so on. And they’ve taken this as a model for looking at the threat presented to us by diseases, by viruses, and so on. So right from the beginning, in the UK, the crisis has been put on a kind of a war footing. I think that’s fairly universal across the world. I think in the US, everyone’s talked about this as a war on the virus and all that sort of rubbish.

And the Joint Biosecurity Center is not subject to debate by our parliament. It bypasses all democratic processes… it merely makes recommendations, very strong recommendations, to the government, about whether we should be under lockdown, how much lockdown, what the degrees are, and so on, and so forth. And nobody really knows how these decisions are made, in fact, nobody knows except the government. Because the decisions are not subject to public scrutiny as well. And this Joint Biosecurity Center, which is a public-private coalition, if you like… public only insofar as it has the force of UK law behind it, but private in terms of its workings and who it is that makes these decisions… they’re now deciding on our absolute fundamental rights under lockdown restrictions.

So Agamben over the last quarter of a century has been the philosopher of the use of emergency powers and biosecurity in the world. And of course, that’s why over the last year and a half, he’s been absolutely slaughtered and attacked by media, academia, and so on and so forth.

So those are the kind of the two reasons; both of the discursive philosophical, but also the fact that this term was being used very, very openly by the organizations which had taken away our rights.

Frieda Vizel
Just describe to us what your experience has been with this entire thing over the last year and a half? Did this take you by surprise in March? And what did you make of it throughout… what’s been your philosophy?

Simon Elmer (8:00)
When we went into the first lockdown in March, I straight away started to write short articles and publishing them on our website. And they were very, very tentative. They were looking at the kind of fatality figures that were coming out of places like Italy, which we were told was where we were going to be in the UK, within a month or two weeks or so on. I was looking at the kind of figures that were coming out of China, the kind of, the epicenter of the viral spread. I was very, very struck right from the beginning by the level of fear-mongering that was going on in the media.

And when I was looking at these figures, I was very, very struck that what I was seeing in them was not getting reported. So right from the very beginning, I was very suspicious of this. But I was also very tentative. You know, we were talking about the death of people. You have to be careful making large claims or generalizations or judgments about it. But the more I read about this, and the more I researched it, I became more and more suspicious. And eventually, I kind of came out and started to say, there’s something wrong going on here.

I guess from my background with ASH, that’s was what we call Architecture for Social Housing, I’ve done a lot of research into legislation. I’ve done a lot of research into… I kind of know how to get into government documents and read them. And it became very apparent very early on that there was an enormous amount of information, which was absolutely crucial for the way the government was responding to this crisis, the way in which government was developing it into a crisis, certainly with the help of the media, that wasn’t being made available to the public.

So from the very beginning, my attitude was just let’s get this information out there. Let’s talk about this. Let’s analyze it and say, Whoa, hold on, what’s actually going on here. So that was the first few months. I think, when I wrote this article called Manufacturing Consensus, I started to look more and more at the role of the media, which had completely… I don’t know if it’s like this in the US, but in the UK, the national media, almost without exception.. there are some honorable exceptions… have completely given up their roles as the Fifth Estate to hold to account, to hold the government to account, to hold power to account, to question and criticize… And it has become, purely in a way that I’ve never seen before, not during the war in Iraq, not during anything… no event that we’ve gone through… it has become purely a propaganda arm of the government. And I say that without any exaggeration at all. That was very concerning as well.

So I began to look at how we had been talked into this. And there was almost no opposition to it on the street. You know, I come out of what we used to call the housing movement in the UK, which is about no trying to expose and redress the enormous crisis of housing affordability in the UK, particularly in London, where I live. And there were almost no street protests at all. One of the things I’ve been, which I know you have as well, most appalled and shocked and surprised by, is that the various organizations which I would usually consider my allies, I think various left-wing or socialist or anarchist, or communist or whatever you want to call them, or all of those…all of those organizations… had almost universally come down on the side of this extremely right-wing government that we had voted into power in December 2019 – the government of Boris Johnson. And the polarization of the response to this, of our ways of understanding what on earth is going on.

Because we’ve got an extreme right-wing government, the left saw that the only thing they could do is to kind of outdo it, if you like. What we call the Labour Party, the equivalent of the democrats in the US, called for longer lockdowns, for harsher measures, for more punitive punishments of anyone who broke lockdown rules, and so on and so forth. And I found this absolutely kind of incredible. I still do. It’s definitely one of the shocks.

So now, to try and finish off the answer to your question a little bit… since the spring, we’re still officially under lockdown in the UK because it was extended yesterday by a further four weeks… in the spring, I think there’s been a kind of a build-up of… a lot of people just don’t believe what’s going on. And there’s also an enormous amount of suffering from people who are suffering the effects of lockdown. People who’ve lost their jobs, people that are terrified about the vaccination program — which is now getting around to their children… there’s a lot of terror about that, fear about that. And also the so-called vaccine passports, which has been put on hold for the moment, but which I believe is the ultimate aim of all this.

There has been growing opposition to this. And I’m very, very happy to say that since… when did it start… in March of 2021 and going on now… we’ve had, I think, five very, very large – and getting bigger – demonstrations, sometimes across the country, sometimes linked up to demonstrations across the world, but particularly London, we’ve had enormous ones. We’ve had two demonstrations and marches, which I think had something like half a million people in each of them.

So there’s a bit of hope in me now. But only with the people marching because every other institution in the UK — education, media, the legal profession, the education, and medical, obviously, and the police and security — have completely collaborated with this vast deception. And also collaborated in its implementation… or its imposition on the people of the UK. So that’s kind of where we are now I guess, to give you a sort of shorter response.

Frieda Vizel
Are you feeling optimistic about the power of these marches? Do you think they move the needle?

Simon Elmer (13:00)
Ehhhr… No.

I have seen too many marches and demonstrations over the last, you know, decade or so.

There are some good things about the marches now. First of all, they’re immense. They’re bigger than anything I’ve ever seen in this country. They’re absolutely huge.

Frieda Vizel
Bigger than Iraq?

Simon Elmer
Yeah. Well, there was one march, there was one anti-Iraq march which was claimed to have a million people on it. They are of that kind of size, but there’s been two and the next one’s gonna get bigger… they’re growing. And the demonstration against Iraq had huge support from the media, of the papers, of the liberal papers. It had the support of various parliamentary parties, and so on.

These marches that we’re doing, we’re being opposed by everyone. We have no supports, no representation in Parliament. The media either completely blacks it out, or denigrates it as a few hundred right-wing conspiracy theorists. It’s opposed by almost everyone except the people on the street. And that’s something I like about it – the fact that it hasn’t been branded by a political party. It hasn’t been branded by the left, it hasn’t been branded by identity politics has been branded by all the usual things that usually come in and grab this. The question facing us, though is how we get this huge number of people… you know, UK is a pretty de-politicized country. And after all, the sort-of three or four years of Brexit, everyone had really had enough. And yet, there’s an enormous amount of people coming out, and rightly so, onto the streets. How we turn that into political power that will change this is something which we’re all going to have to address and confront over the next few years if we’re not going to go into a permanent biosecurity state.

Frieda Vizel
You know, when I see from my perspective, from here in New York, the kinds of turnouts over there… and we can hardly get a couple of 100 people here in New York City, even though… to go to school in New York City, the children are tested repeatedly, they have to wear masks, they are mostly virtual, and our state has partnered with all the big tech companies to introduce all of these programs that will slowly engulf every aspect of life, which I find very, very concerning. And yet, we can’t get more than a handful of people to come out.

Simon Elmer (16:00)
It’s not just in New York, or is it across the US? Because I’m kind of surprised, or maybe not so surprised by New York, which has changed as a city over the last 10-20 years or so. But you’re getting big marches elsewhere in the US and other sorts of cities?

Frieda Vizel
I don’t think so. I don’t think we’re getting big marches elsewhere. And this is I guess, my question. Because I don’t think we’re being pushed in the same way. We have a lot of private schools, we have a lot of private institutions. And for those with money, there’s always an alternative. So I think the pendulum doesn’t swing as far as it seems to swing in, for instance, the UK. We don’t have that heavy-handed restriction. I don’t know, maybe that is a part of it. Or maybe it’s cultural.

Simon Elmer
I don’t know, it’s hard to say, because, you know, a few months ago, I was looking at Germany or Berlin, where they had, Berlin had, protests, huge marches. In Italy, in other countries across Europe, particularly, sort of Eastern Europe and stuff. There were enormous marches, where they had really, really, really severe restrictions from the government. And I was waiting. And I thought, God, where is this… in the UK… this response.

And strangely, it’s happened this spring. Before that there was really absolutely nothing from us for a year, you know. A few brave small groups, groups of people. But now it’s rising up. And I hope it does continue on. It’s very hard to say when a population kind of cracks…

This is not to undermine the seriousness of what’s going on, but the UK is a very climate-led population because our winters are so bloody miserable. And we’re having a sunny spring. So you know, people are out on the street… they really enjoy this joy and getting out doing that. The question is, are we going to continue this when we go into the autumn of the winter?

Frieda Vizel
It’s easy now to go out, the spirit is, you grab your stuff, you stay outside, you’re not standing in the freezing rain.

Simon Elmer (19:00)
It’s not just that. The other thing is, as I said before, I think there are two things that have really defined these so-called anti-lockdown protests – they haven’t actually been primarily about anti-lockdown here. They’ve really been about the vaccination program over here, which is really pushed hard, really being pushed hard. It is absolutely everywhere. It pops up all the time on your laptop, there are ads all over the bus stops and stuff like that. It’s on adverts on TV. Every time you write something which uses one of the keywords on your computer, something will come up promoting it. It is being pushed enormously hard.

And one of the things I do is I keep a record of the adverse drug reactions to these experiments, these DNA-based gene therapies if you want to call them that… One thing is for sure, they’re definitely not vaccines because they’re not stopping… well, they certainly don’t seem to be massively reducing positive tests, with PCR tests, which are themselves deeply flawed. And you’re constantly hearing about people who got vaccinated and took a Pfizer vaccine and tested positive afterward. So you know, there’s a large number of people who have died. Again, none of this has been reported in our press. So there’s an awareness of that.

But I think the really big thing is, we’re getting to our children. And there are a lot of mothers, not only mothers obviously, but particularly on the marches, there is a very large contingent of women out there who are really scared and very, very angry that their children, when they go to school, are first of all being forced into wearing masks. It is having an enormous negative psychological effect on children. There’s documentation on that. But also, you know, under threat constantly of vaccination. The laws are constantly being changed so that a child, I think the age of consent has been reduced enormously. There have been declarations that if the child doesn’t actively say no, these National Health Service workers will take that as a yes. And inject the child. And there are a lot of families who are very, very scared, and very, very opposed to that.

And I think that’s one of the things… Because we’re getting to the children now, we’re not quite there, because it’s, I guess, like in the US, the vaccination started with the most elderly and has gone down at periods of five years. I think it’s still in the young 20s. And if it gets to children, there’s a real resistance to that. So I think, it’s not just the weather, it is the seriousness of the real fear of what that’s gonna do…

Frieda Vizel
When they start to vaccinate children… Well, they have been vaccinating children here for months now,

Simon Elmer

Frieda Vizel
Oh, yeah. And they actually in New York City have brought vaccination centers in, I think, for high schools. For a start, it’s a pilot program, and they’re going to what they hope to do is spread it to all the high schools and what they’ll count as consent. Who knows?

Simon Elmer (20:00)
It’s very, very worrying. It’s very worrying that anyone would take these experimental vaccines, which actually are not vaccines. They are biotechnology that had never been used by humans before. Certainly the Pfizer, the Moderna. And the AstraZeneca has an appalling record of the damage it is doing to people, including death. And also very, very serious reactions, which you just, you know, if you’re like us, we are gonna dig into this, you are gonna read about it. But again, you don’t read about it in the mainstream press. And the really scary thing is, there’s so much fear-mongering out there. And there’s so much exaggerations.

I really try and keep my research to the facts. And to the analysis of those. And when I present these, we’ve got to the point after 15 months or something, people just don’t want to know. They just want to take the vax, as they call it, and move on with their lives. Because this is how it’s been presented. I’m sure it’s the same over there. You know, the UK Government has said, the vaccine is our route back to freedom, which has got so many things wrong about that statement. That’s the framework in which people understand this.

You know, lots of people that I know, people who either live on the block that we live in, but also friends, just sort of said: I don’t want to know. I just want to take the vaccine and get back to this normal life. Yesterday, the government announced… they didn’t announce it to Parliament, they announced it to the press… that the lockdown, which they’ve been promising to end since last November, is going to get continued on. And I think people are now beginning to think: Well if it goes to July, then you got two months of summer left, and then when we go into autumn everyone’s gonna get the flu again, and we’re going to be locked down again. I think people are beginning to… hopefully… even those who are most committed to this – the COVID faithful as I call them – are beginning to think, Hmm, maybe this is the future; this is it. I mean, our chief medical officer, Chris Witty, who has been kind of the dreaded figurehead, the face of doom of this eternal lockdown, has basically said, we’re going to be living with this virus forever, and people will die from it. But he’s also said, we’re gonna be living with lockdown forever.

And you know, this is what I’ve seen many other people have been predicting. This is not a transient thing. This is not about locking down, getting healthy, getting vaccinated, and moving on. This is a new paradigm of government, which is going to be universal, certainly in formerly Western democracies. And it, therefore, represents a fundamental shift in our world. And in the way that, certainly those of us who live in liberal, formerly liberal democracies, are going to live our lives.

Frieda Vizel
So to understand why, why extend lockdowns? We’re going on 15 months, as you said, and of course, a lot of people have had different explanations for what’s going on. But I think you’ve put together a very compelling way you explain what was going on. So maybe you can summarize here some of that.

Simon Elmer (23:00)
Let’s start with one thing. One of the things that really struck me, because I consider myself a kind of… I’m trained as an art historian, but a kind of historian… is that right from the very beginning, there was a discourse, (again, to use that term) that what we were facing was unprecedented.

“This is an unprecedented situation, which we’ve never faced before, which requires unprecedented measures.”

So the unprecedented situation was this terrible killer virus which had an infection rate and mortality or fatality rate never seen before, requiring emergency measures which we’ve never used before. You know, I wrote, as a historian, I’m always very suspicious of this term: unprecedented. Because for anyone who reads history, there are very, very, very few things which are new. And surely enough, through research that a lot of people have done on it – it is not unprecedented in its infection rates, in its ease of transmission, or certainly in its fatality rate. In fact, it’s about a severe in the UK as a sort of bad season of influenza. And that’s accepting the number of deaths that have been attributed to COVID-19 on very, very tenuous and deliberately inaccurate criteria — the PCR test being the obvious one of those.

The other thing which is not unprecedented is the use of emergency powers to suspend civil liberties and human rights during a crisis. This has got a long history, and certainly in Europe, Germany, and Italy and France, and in the UK, up until very recent times, really. It was used even in the UK in the 70s. What we’ve done in the UK, we haven’t actually declared a state of emergency. We’ve merely gone into an emergency period. In which it is in the government’s power to continue as it is now in perpetuity. For as long as it wants.

Under these emergency powers in the UK now, for the last 15 months, we have, and this is talking very technically, I mean accurately, we’re living in a constitutional dictatorship. But our laws are made… the Coronavirus Justified Regulations which last time I looked we had 425 or something… we’ve probably got more than that now… They’re making them at a rate of seven… What is it… about one a day or something. It is the enormous wave of legislation, vast numbers of which, sort of over 80-90 of which, are about removing our rights and liberties. They have been made completely outside of any oversight by Parliament, and they have been not prepared by an impact assessment or any of the effects they’re going to have.

When I saw this thing about them being unprecedented, I thought they were trying to use this very well-known ‘doctrine of crisis’. In the last few years, everything has been a crisis. It’s an environmental crisis, there’s a housing crisis, there is a crisis of crime, there’s a crisis of population, etc. And the crisis, the discourse of crisis, I’m sure you know, because it’s very well known by now, makes the population accept extreme measures to address the crisis. It’s a fear mechanism. And people go, “Oh, my God, we’re facing something terrible.” The government says, “It’s okay, we got a way to address this.” And then they bring in inevitably extreme measures, which capitalize on that crisis. And this seemed to me, having studied the crisis of housing affordability in the UK, and sort of studied it around the world, I realized there was a kind of repetition of this mechanism.

One of the things that’s actually emerged over the last year – I think a lot of people knew about this before, but I didn’t because I’ve never looked into this kind of area – is that a lot of organizations, not just governments, but other private bodies, both medical and non-medical, have been preparing for a viral pandemic for many, many years. There are various books published long before this and have been published since this crisis started, which have exposed that lots of organizations, including those who are not actually medical, and certainly not governmental — the obvious one being the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — have developed scenarios of how to respond to a viral pandemic. And that shows that the response of the governments, particularly in liberal democracies, Western democracies, whatever you want to call them in capitalist countries, part of the homogeneity of that response is because the responses have been in the pipeline for a very, very long time.

Now, on the one hand, you could say, well, obviously, there’s a huge population of people, we live in a global world in which viruses can get passed around the world very quickly. And therefore, it’s very good that these governments had these reactions in place. But you could look at it from another point of view and go, actually, this virus is nothing like the way that they’re characterizing it. It is not something that presents a threat to most people in the world. It’s dangerous. It’s fatal to people who are generally over 70 and have serious medical conditions, heart disease, dementia, etc, etc.

What that suggests though, is the when this virus came along, the organizations who had invested in this – both political and financial – saw an opportunity to put into action very well developed responses, whose ultimate aim is to move us out of the liberal democracies that we have been living with. (I’m putting both of those terms in very big quotation marks… both liberal and democracies. They’re certainly neo-liberal. I wouldn’t say they’re quite democratic, but they look like dreamlands compared to what we’re in now.) And into what we’re going into now, which is a global, biosecurity state. And by global I mean… a lot of other countries are not really going along with this. But the G8, if you like, the big, most powerful economic countries in western capitalism, obviously leaving out powerful countries like India, and obviously, China and so on, have all homogenized and collaborated in affecting this transition into something else.

So I guess that’s the way I see it in the big term, the macro term, the big context, of what’s going on. I think that accords with the way that Western capitalism has responded to a whole series of crises that we’ve seen over the last let’s say 20 years, just to have a cutoff. Whether it’s the 911, which became a justification for the complete erasure of so many of our human rights and liberties and the building of the security state… so that now if you want to travel, it’s actually unrecognizable to what travel used to be before that. More recently, the environmental crisis has become a kind of a justification for a green new deal for capitalism. The housing crisis, which was created as a consequence of the financial crash has become an excuse for driving up housing costs globally. So all these crises, most of which have come not really as of human error, but out of the periodic crisis to which capitalism is subject, have been used to re-entrench governmental power, and particularly corporate power, more firmly in our societies.

And I don’t see the coronavirus crisis as being any different, except in its degree. It is immense. It’s bigger than anything I’ve seen before. And I think that’s what makes it not merely another development in capitalism, but something, as I’ve tried to argue, of a watershed.

Frieda Vizel
Did you call it a revolution in capitalism?

Simon Elmer (31:00)
Yeah, in my article, I definitely called it that. People seem to be a little bit resistant to that. So they’re more amenable to using a term like transition. But I do think this… I just look at the world around us… If this isn’t a revolution, I don’t know what is.

Frieda Vizel
Maybe the reason that people are resistant to revolution is that… so much of the left has seen this as a revolution against capitalism.

Simon Elmer
Yeah. I mean, you had philosophers who I kind of like, like Slavoj Žižek, saying; hey, this is a model of the future communism. And I was like: God, you must be out of your head.

I think what has been accelerated enormously, and definitely is a revolution, is this merger – that’s not really the right term – between public and private. You know, we’ve seen this for a long time through neoliberalism. And neoliberalism’s erosion of the public sector has undoubtedly prepared the way for what’s going on now. One of the terms that people who are questioning this, and scared of this, and worried about this, have used is: fascism. Now, I don’t like using that term myself. Because it’s a historical term. It’s about a particular moment in capitalism. It was about a particular political moment in Europe.

Frieda Vizel
How would you define fascism?

Simon Elmer (32:00)
Well in economic terms and political terms, fascism was defined by Mussolini himself – and this is slightly apocryphal, but generally, this is kind of the truth — It’s the moment where the interests of the state and the corporate interests: you can’t pass a cigarette paper between them. Now, what Mussolini meant by corporate interest is different to the kind of the global corporations now. But it was definitely about private interests, using the state, that is – the law and its enforcement, security services in place to control the various organizations that might have come from a socialist or left-wing or working-class perspective and were meant to protect against the plundering and control of private interests.

But I think what we see now is this isn’t simply a public-private collaboration. The realm of the state has been completely, almost entirely, outsourced to corporate bodies. And the state has become an administrative body of corporate interests. But also, what’s changed is our relationship to corporate interests, which are now no longer within the private sphere — as in the power of capital to influence government bodies. They actually are now the governing bodies. So we’re going into a new form of governance, which I think is very close to fascism, but updated to 100 years later, where the technologies of surveillance of control are way, way, way beyond what Europe was looking at the 1920s and 30s.

You know, there’s been a lot of talk about places like the World Economic Forum. I don’t think it is this incredibly Machiavellian body that is controlling the world. But if you look at what it talks about, it’s very aggressively promoting a future in which governance itself, whether that’s international governments, or national governments, or at every level, is a collaboration between public bodies and corporate bodies. And that is very much a kind of a fascist agenda. But the power of these corporate bodies is way beyond anything that it was in the 1920s and 1930s. So I don’t know…did that answer your question…

Frieda Vizel
I think you’re coming around to how this is driven by a revolution in capitalism.

Simon Elmer (35:00)
Yeah, let me try and talk a bit about that. I think we are undoubtedly going through a revolution. This is the biggest event that’s happened in the West, perhaps since the First Industrial Revolution. During the First Industrial Revolution, there was a process of impoverishment of the working class of the UK. We went through the Industrial Revolution sometime between the 1830s and sort of the 1850s-70s. They had to drive a primarily rural population off the land and into the cities to provide the workforce for the Industrial Revolution. And the only way they could really do that, even back then when the working class was treated even worse than they are now, was to simply impoverish them. So the working class had to go to the cities because it was the only placed they could get work.

When they went into the city, they weren’t only entered into this new economy, they were also subjected to new biosecurity measures in a sense, new forms of bio-power. So the bodies of the working class were subjected to discourses of hygiene. Because when you get a lot of people, you put them into the cities, there is a much greater chance of disease. But it wasn’t only about protecting them; it was also about characterizing the working class as vectors of disease. As dirty. As sub-human and so on. They were also subject to discourses of policing as well. You have the rise of police forces during the First Industrial Revolution. And you’ve also got the rise of new forms of governance of time. You know, the idea that you go into a factory and you clock on and clock off. And every moment of the day is adjusted, not as it would be in rural societies to the sun, but to the abstract measurement of time, which is clocks.

That’s just a broad sort of analogy. Something similar is happening now. We can see it with this regimentation and control of the bodies of these new subjects of the state. Now, I’ve already brought attention that my movement now around the city – that’s the most obvious evidence of this – is determined, or is on the cusp of being determined, by my compliance with those security measures. Social distancing, being injected, carrying a phone and so on.

There is an enormous change that is going on in the economy as well. Small businesses in the UK, tens of thousands of small businesses, and in the future, there would be hundreds of thousands, are going into bankruptcy. Obviously, who’s going to pick up that market share is going to be the very large corporations. Everybody knows that the billionaires, the biggest corporations, have gotten enormously rich on this. I think last year, the wealth of the thousand richest people in the world increased more than it ever has in human history. And this is during lockdown when everyone else is suffering. But we’re not just simply seeing this rapid increase in wealth. We’re seeing a change in the nature of business itself. You know, since the first Industrial Revolution, capitalism has been based on the infinite expansion of production. Every year the economy grows, that’s sort of coming to an end. The levels of production in the world had reached some watershed, there simply isn’t the consuming power of people, we can’t really buy any more. So the global battle now is not simply between competing corporations and countries to expand their economies infinitely but to get hold of the finite resources and capabilities in the environment for capitalism.

You know, there are estimates that… what is it now something like nine out of ten British workers will have to retrain over the next 20 years. That’s predicated on an enormous number of workers not having a job, being unemployed, being impoverished, being in a really, really bad state. When furlough and the government’s support for people who’ve been out of work for 18 months or 15 months or something is withdrawn, when that happens, you’re going to have a huge workforce who are waiting to be re-deployed; that’s the term that Klaus Schwab and our own health minister Matt Hancock use. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is not about unemployment. It’s about the re-deployment of the workforce. That’s what revolutions are always about. The digital revolution and so on. It’s about re-deploying the workforce into new jobs, new markets, new functions, and so on. And that new market is not going to be about the infinite expansion of production. Because the world can’t sustain that anymore. It’s going to be about something else.

I’m not an economist, so I don’t really want to speculate on that. But I imagine a lot of these jobs are going to be digital jobs. They’re going to be about what you kind of talked about in some of your podcasts… About the vast increase that the capabilities of digital records, of digitalization, or they talk about quantum computing now. That’s going to be put in the service of running this biosecurity state, which the vast amount of people on the planet, that’s even in liberal democracies, let alone the poorer countries in the world, which is, of course, most of the world… They are gonna see their standard of living drop enormously, hugely, vastly. And to manage that, you’re going to need very, very powerful forms of surveillance, monitoring, and control. And that ultimately, I think, is what the biosecurity state is about. It’s about dealing with the fallout from it. And that’s what we’re going to be coming up to, probably next year or the end of this year, I think.

These are speculations, you know. I hate sounding apocalyptic because there’s enough of that going around. I’m just trying to understand where this is going. I don’t believe something which the left, I think very, very stupidly thinks, that the people, at least those responsible for the response to this virus, don’t know what they’re doing. Politicians may look like idiots. And some of them may be. I’m sure many of them are. They certainly are in the UK. But the people running these corporations are not idiots. They are definitely not idiots.

And they’re taking their time overseeing what is very clearly, to me, a revolution. And like a lot of people, I don’t believe that Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates all of them… are philanthropists. I don’t think they’re trying to make these kinds of dreams that they write about in the prefaces… About this brave new world that we’re going into… I don’t believe that at all. I think the immiseration of the population, which is already happening, and it’s going to increase enormously once furlough and government support is withdrawn… they’re going to use that. They are going to do what capitalism always does, which is capitalized on this. They’re going to be dealing with an enormous number of people, hundreds of millions of people, whose standard of living is going to drop to the floor, like not since the last Industrial Revolution, I guess. Certainly the First Industrial Revolution. And they’re going to have to manage those people. And this is what this is about.

Frieda Vizel
So here’s my question, how would you explain to someone who says to you, are you saying that this is all planned out in order to get us there? A lot of people are very uncomfortable with talking about what’s going on outside of it being a bad reaction to the pandemic because they are afraid that this is going to make them, I suppose, come up with unsubstantiated conspiracies?

Simon Elmer (42:00)
I don’t think this is planned. I think they were definitely preparations. It’s quite apparent that a lot of governments and global corporations that have got absolutely nothing to do with medical responses have anticipated and put in place protocols to respond to a viral pandemic. That’s a fact. That doesn’t mean that they conspired to make this happen.

Earlier on, you said: What is a Marxist response? Or as I like to call it, a historical-materialist response? Historical materialism means that the driving force of history is the economy, to put it in very basic terms. The material necessities of life.

I don’t believe that the world is run by a conspiracy of very powerful people who get down and decide, “Hey, we’re going to have a pandemic, we’re going to invent this thing, and then we’re going to wrap people up in this terrible thing called biosecurity state.” That’s not the way the world works. That’s not the way capitalism works. It hasn’t for a very long time.

That isn’t to say, however, that the governments of the world and the corporations of the world, their boards, don’t behave like that. I think they definitely behave like that. But that’s not the way the world works.

One thing I’ve observed, and not me alone, but I think I’ve been most angry at, is the way that in the UK, we don’t actually have as harsh or severe restrictions as they do in other countries. You know, my friend who’s in the south of France says that in France, they can’t legally go outside without a mask on. They haven’t done that here. In Australia, my sister-in-law told me that they’re under curfew, that they’ve only just been allowed to go from five kilometers from their house to ten kilometers from their house. You know, Australia’s official death toll from COVID-19 is under how many get killed on roads every year. It’s kind of lunacy.

So, even though we’ve actually got officially, let’s put these figures in vertical columns, one of the higher death rates in the UK, we’ve actually got quite relatively, I say this “relatively”, because there’s nothing light about what we’re doing — we’ve got relatively lighter restrictions compared to places like Germany, or Spain or France, or maybe the US; I’m not quite sure; I’m more aware of what’s going on in Europe.

The way that things have happened in the UK is we’re kind of a bit more suspicious of authoritarian governments over here. We don’t have social revolutions, we haven’t, for a very, very long time… we like to think we live in a liberal world. But the way that the government’s done it is they haven’t come down like a ton of bricks with top-down legislation. They’ve done a lot compared to anything we’ve seen before, but they haven’t actually gone to making masks mandatory every time we leave home. They haven’t yet injected kids. The policing has been appalling. But it’s been nothing like what we’ve seen in Germany or Australia or Denmark, recently with water cannons and stuff like this going on.

What it’s done is, it relies on business. Napoleon once said: The English are a nation of shopkeepers. And we are. We do things not through legislation, but through business. But what has been done is: through threats, and through incentives, financial incentives, the government has relied on the civic society to implement this transition. And I believe that’s something about the way that capitalism works. If business wasn’t able to capitalize on this, if businesses… if people weren’t able to capitalize on this, this would never have happened.

Let’s put this in a class kind of basis because I know you have an interest in this. If the middle classes haven’t collaborated with this, if the teachers and the lecturers, the doctors, the nurses, the business people, the civil servants, the media… If the middle classes who implement the governance of the ruling class had put up any resistance to this, we wouldn’t be where we are now. If they put up a lot of resistance, it wouldn’t have happened.

Because the world is not ruled by individual conspiracies, even if they’re immensely powerful, as they are. But capitalism doesn’t work that way. It needs the collaboration of the middle classes and the collaboration of businesses. It needs the collaboration of civil society. It needs the collaboration of the people who run the state. And that makes up a huge number of people. And that’s why I don’t believe that it’s a conspiracy.

It’s not that I don’t believe it… rather I think it’s a bad way to understand what’s going on. This isn’t a conspiracy of evil people who look like Klaus Schwab, with his strange kind of, you know, small glasses that he wears, and his bald head, he’s kind of a James Bond villain, who goes “Now we are going to take over the world.” If it was easy to do that, other much more powerful people would have done that before. Much more people. That’s not the way the world is.

The world is in contention. It’s worked because there has been a collaboration across society. And what we’ve seen, especially in the UK (I don’t know if it’s like this everywhere else, I imagine it is because capitalism is fairly similar across western neoliberal democracies) is that the middle classes, recognize a chance to capitalize on this. In the same way that the digital revolution, you know, you could look at the carrying of mobile phones and say; well, what is this doing to our kids? What is it doing to us, and all that. Or you can say: well, I can make a lot of money out of this.

You know, in one of the articles I did try and document over a period of merely two weeks, the number of offers that we got at our company, Architects for Social Housing. We’re a very small community-based company, and we had something like fifty other companies writing to us, making pitches for business based on Coronavirus regulations and legislation. It’s an opportunity to move into different types of markets, to open up different markets, to promote new types of products.

But above that, above that collaboration, there is intentionality. And there is if you like, conspiracy. Or far more powerful corporations and governments, who can see in this how to immensely expand not just their wealth, but their power and their control over global resources as well.

Frieda Vizel
Why are they never? Why are they never satisfied?

Simon Elmer (48:00)
Yeah. I get asked questions like this a lot. I don’t try to speculate on people’s motivations. Well, I mean, yeah, of cause I do that, you know. But I guess maybe the things I’m more interested in trying to understand… is how it is that notionally secular, liberal, so-called populations of fairly wealthy, comfortable, and educated nations have so easily handed over their rights and freedoms to what should be quite obviously an attempt at tyranny, to call it in those words.

How people who have been in the UK… everything that’s happened in this country… through various governments going back to say, the Iraq War, just to have a little cutoff point, but you can go way back further than that…Everything we’ve done in the Iraq War, the imprisonment of Julian Assange, the fiscal austerity, which is, you know, the financial crisis, the housing crisis, all this sort of stuff. We all know that it’s been done on a pack of lies. We know that our press has lied to us repeatedly, over and over again, and I’m not talking about little lies, I’m talking about really big lies. The lies that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and stuff like that… Suddenly these people believe everything the media say. That’s something that I’m trying to understand. How that has happened.

Because it’s that, it’s the collaboration… This is not a conspiracy, this is a collaboration at every level with this revolution that’s happening. And I think that is something which is more important to understand than why Bill Gates wants to run the planet… it’s pretty obvious why he wants to do that: because he’s a lunatic! You know that’s how very powerful people operate, isn’t it?

But they can’t do it without collaboration. And it’s their manipulation, the ability to manipulate us to believe something, which is quite obviously, a big pack of lies. So many of my friends, people, you know, I’ve got a friend who’s a senior economist at the Bank of England, I’ve got another friend who’s doing a Ph.D., I got another friend who was a senior engineer, you know, who builds bars, great stuff, and they’ve all got vaxed up and they’re all like, Well, I think I’m gonna believe this stuff. And I really find that hard to understand. That’s what’s kind of really nagging my noggin at the moment, rather than the motivations of, you know, the corporate leaders.

Frieda Vizel
You are frustrated when people speculate about the men in the smoke-filled room, planning their big plan to take over the world, like in some kind of movie villain plot. What do you feel gets lost when we focus on the people with money who have an outsized amount of power to shift things into a way that benefits them?

Simon Elmer (51:00)
Let me say from the start because this does seem to sort of upset people… But as I said before, and I’ll say it again, I have no doubt in the people in these organizations, there are many of them, and they’re becoming increasingly lacking in transparency and accountability. Nobody knows what all of these organizations are going on. And they are basically taking over governance. So if you want to call that a conspiracy, you aren’t getting an argument from me. I think, What is the G8 If not a conspiracy? What is a government? You know, what is a cabinet, except a conspiracy to increase the power and the wealth of the people it represents? If you want to call that conspiracy, I don’t really like the term…

That is the nature of power. That’s the nature of government.

You know you got this ludicrous situation now where if anyone attributes any kind of intentionality to any organization or body, they are now denounced as a conspiracy theorist. This is one of the things that “conspiracy theory” does; its function within our culture is to reduce what should be rational debates based on evidence of the influence of powerful corporations or governments or unelected bodies of which there is an increasing amount, to the ridiculous debate about whether you are a conspiracy theorist or not. I think that’s part of the function of it.

But I think there’s something else about it as well. And that is, it kind of evacuates our agency. Because we don’t live in a feudal society. Because we do live in a capitalist system. This movement into a biosecurity state, this vast increase in corporate power, relies on us to collaborate with it. And yes, we are obviously subject to a vastly increased power of media manipulation, of, what people call psyops and stuff like that, you can see that all around you.

This has been the biggest propaganda campaign I had ever seen. I’ve never seen anything like this. So we have been subject to that. But we still have agency. And I think it’s very important that we don’t attribute these godlike powers to these bodies, which are definitely conspiring to increase their power, but that’s not the way the world works. We do still have agency in a very simple way. If everyone took off their mask tomorrow and doesn’t wear them, mask mandates will be dropped. If everyone refuses to take the vaccine, it can’t be made compulsory. If everyone takes their kids out to the schools and says we’re not going to put them back in, you know, etc, etc, etc. In other words, we do have control. There are not enough police in the world, even in our world, to impose a dictatorship.

It happens as dictatorships have always happened with the collaboration of the people. It’s very important to remember that. And conspiracy theories are so popular because they have been promoted as the model of how we understand power. And they serve the power which they pretend to be exposing. They’re not exposing it. They’re reinforcing it.

I’m sure, like me, every time we talk to people about what’s going on, even if they think the government is lying to them, even if they think the virus is not this killer thing which we have to protect from, even if they don’t believe in masks and they don’t want to get injected, they all say the same thing. Not all of them. But a lot of them say, “What can you do? We don’t have any power. We can’t do anything. They’re too powerful.” That is the ultimate, and I would say the primary, function of conspiracies. Which is to make us feel powerless.

And that’s why we have these comedy… they’re not comedy villains. They are villains. Like Bill Gates, Klaus Schwab, blah, blah, blah, they are appalling, monstrous people, but they don’t run the world. What they do run, what they do have in power, is of this vast state apparatus that convinces us that we don’t have any power. And I think that’s a very fundamental distinction. Which we got to learn really quick if we want to turn the growing opposition to this into actual political change.

Frieda Vizel
Yeah, well, there’s that. But of course, the other part of the power dynamic is that there’s a financial incentive for people to feel disempowered. As you talked about the middle class, I think, their interest in believing that they are powerless is a big part of the problem as well.

Simon Elmer (55:00)
Yeah… When this started over here in the UK, I mean, I live in a tower block in a council estate, and probably about 90% of the residents here are working class, and 80% of them are black, both born in England, or from Africa, or the Caribbean. And there’s a huge number of them who wear masks, and look very scared and kind of social distanced and stuff like that because they’ve been targeted by the government, by saying, if you come from a black or Asian minority, an ethnic background, you’ve got a higher percentage chance of dying from COVID-19, and all this sort of stuff. And so they’d be really targeted as well.

And so in the beginning, I couldn’t really see how the usual divisions, class divisions, race divisions, or even geographic divisions within UK society, somehow allowed us to map out compliance with this growing number of Coronavirus Justified Restrictions and Regulations. But I think that’s beginning to change now. One of the things I’ve noticed on the… well… “noticed”… it’s been really, really blatant… is that these huge marches; anti-lockdown marches, anti-vax marches, anti-vaccine-passport marches… that we’re seeing, which we’re tracking half a million people or something, huge numbers… they are overwhelmingly working class. And that division is becoming more apparent.

And it seems to me, the middle classes seem – don’t “seem to be”, this is quite evident actually – to have collaborated with this both individually, in terms of their own individual compliance with these regulations, their personal choices to take the vaccine, to mask up, and so on and so forth. But also as middle-class agents, as professionals, and middle managers, and all that sort of stuff. So I think there is a kind of class division, which is emerging, and I think that has hope in it. But also, there’s also a lot of challenges to overcome there.

But it also shows kind of the point you were making, it shows that the middle classes implement – they administer – capitalism. They have been financially incentivized to comply with it.

They’ve also got a class consciousness, I think. An allegiance. These people are… if they were not themselves, their parents were doctors, were teachers, they were lecturers, they were in the media or are in the media. These are their industries.

You know, my partner, Geraldine Denning who is the co-founder of Ash – Architects for Social Housing – she also teaches architecture at Leicester University. And last year, the university was really putting pressure on her to become a kind of policeman. To make sure that students were wearing masks in class were observing social distancing, and also were signing up to a kind of pilot testing, a lateral flow antigen testing pilot, which had been introduced into Leicester University… And she said I’m not doing any of these things. And we wrote up together a letter that we sent around to every student in her department, but also every teacher, fellow lecturer in the university. I mean in the architectural school, of which there were about a hundred. She didn’t know all of them… but there are a hundred lecturers in the School of Architecture. And not a single word. Nobody responded at all.

Frieda Vizel
There was not even an acknowledgment.

Simon Elmer
They’re in fear of losing their jobs. But there’s also… there’s a lot of incentives. There is allegiance to your class, which people pretend doesn’t exist. It’s absolutely ridiculous. I think this has really shown how much class allegiance is being employed to push this thing through. Because you know, nobody wants to lose their job, because otherwise, they might fall out of being professional, blah, blah, blah.

And I think again, that shows that this is a crisis not in health, but in capitalism itself. And there is a re-deployment of people into the roles that they’re going to play in this new emerging, not merely form of governance, but this new stage, this moment, if you like, within capitalism.

Frieda Vizel
Well, speaking of the class and the diversity… that there’s a great cross-section of people who have tried to push back. Something that strikes me in your writing is you often write about ‘conservative identity politics’. Am I right? In using that phrase, which I think to most people would be an oxymoron because they think of identity politics is the opposite of conservative…

Simon Elmer (1:00:00)
I call it radical conservatives identity politics.

Frieda Vizel
Oh. What do you mean by that?

Simon Elmer
Well, that’s the oxymoron. Radical conservative. Radical comes from the Latin root radix, which means to the root. So if you’re radical, you’re someone who goes back to the root of things.

But this is usually equated with… The radicals within British political history were a branch of the Liberal Party. They didn’t have any sort of socialist project. They certainly didn’t want to overthrow parliament. They wanted to simply go back to the roots of, I guess, political agency, and political representation, and so on. They wanted to reform parliament. They certainly didn’t want to overthrow it.

So what we now think of as a radical project becomes acquainted with something, maybe anarchism or socialism or some kind of fundamental change. That’s not at all what radicalism is.

I think identity politics is radical in the sense that it wants to go back and question the premises on which a lot of things are based. Whether that’s gender, race, power, representation, identity politics, gender politics, etc, etc. But I think what it’s doing is; it is incredibly conservative in its proposals. It seems to be almost entirely divorced from understanding the economic structures through which for instance, to take one example, racism is continued.

The proposals it makes are almost all about increasing surveillance, increasing punishments, increasing the power of the state to issue fines and lock people up, and so on and so forth.

It’s kind of a slightly separate project. But we’re seeing at the moment now, the powers of the state to survey us and to punish us if we step out of line, not just with the laws, but with government ideology. So if I try to question anything about coronavirus justified regulations, anything that doesn’t go with WHO regulations or the government regulations on this stuff, is considered dangerous to people. And therefore, I am a risk. So I get censored at best, and maybe I get arrested or something.

I mean, one of the questions you asked here is, How are we coping? And we had some good news this week in our organization! Because over the last six months, particularly in the last few months, our organization has been under investigation by the architects’ registration board for comments, writings – my writings in particular. And they were threatening Geraldine, who is our lead architect. They said that we had brought the profession into disrepute… and therefore she was threatened with a whole lot of punishments going from a fine of a few thousand pounds to suspension for a few years, to actually losing her license as an architect and never being able to practice again.

And this is an example of how the institutions, the professions themselves, the middle-class professions, in the institutions of the state, have been implementing this censorship.

Yesterday, I went to the launch of this book, The People’s Lockdown Inquirer, to which I contributed something on the effects of lockdown on housing. We had the launch yesterday that one of the people at it had written about the effects of lockdown on kind of education, generally, but also specifically about lecturers.

And, I could have talked to him about what my partner has to go through. She’s being asked to police students… She herself went in, and she said to the room of students, anyone who doesn’t want to wear a mask can take it off because I don’t care. You don’t do it for me. So the whole room took it off, except one person who said, Actually, I’d like to keep it on. So she said that’s fine. It’s okay. And then the next day she was called in by her — not a head of department because they don’t exist anymore – but her line manager. And she was told that she had been observed doing this and questioned why and stuff. So there’s an enormous amount of censorship here.

And this guy I was talking to yesterday was saying how it’s actually about identity politics. That in universities now you have to sign up to all these different courses on unconscious bias and, political race theories, all this other stuff. And you don’t have a choice in it. This is now an official ideology. And this is being done in the guise of protecting people, or protecting minorities, or protecting women or protecting kids, or protecting… all these things which are good. But this is not what it’s doing.

What it’s actually doing is censoring and punishing dissent or disagreement or debate. Fundamentally debate. And that’s why I think the ideology of identity politics, which is a radical conservatism, has prepared the ground for the extraordinary level of censorship and punitive measures, which are being posed on a similar justification, which is now not protecting us from racists or rapists, or child molesters or just bad lecturers… it is protecting us from this killer disease. And on that justification, anything can be done.

So I do think the radical conservative identity politics, not to mention the way it’s been pursued on social media and so on, has prepared the way for what’s going on now. There’s complete suppression of any debate. If I question anything about coronavirus, I’m endangering lives. You know, people wrote to me and said, You should be locked up. Those are the nice ones.

So, I’m very, very, very against identity politics. I don’t teach anymore, but I wouldn’t be able to teach now, I don’t think. You know, I was a Marxist and a feminist. And I don’t think I could be either of those now.

Frieda Vizel
So… what happened to your investigation?

Simon Elmer
Oh, yes. Yeah, there’s the good news.

When we first got told about this, we were like… this is just a bunch of Twitter trolls moaning about, and we kind of brushed it off. And eventually, they wrote and said, We’re thinking of putting you up for a tribunal, you know. We were really scared. And because it would basically mean the end of our company, and I’m afraid a lot worse than that. So I wrote a very long response refuting what they were doing.

But something really good happened. Generally, the legal profession has been – there are some exceptions, there’s quite a number of exceptions – but the legal profession has been very silent about what’s been going on in the UK. But there are a few lawyers. And we contacted a lawyer called Francis Hoar, who is a barrister. And he’s been fantastic in defending people, with other lawyers as well, against all sorts of stuff. I think he collaborated with an organization that was trying to defend a mother who was really concerned about the psychological effects of imposing masks on her, I think, of a young daughter of nine or six or something like that, in school. And this has now become a template for people challenging this bullying… not when saying you have to wear the mask at school, but bullying kids into doing it.

Anyway, we contacted him. And he very, very generously offered up his time. Because you know, lawyer’s fees are not something we can afford. And he wrote this extraordinary response to them. And he made a fundamental point, which was about free speech. And it was basically defending me on fears that I’ve expressed in my articles and online statements that there are comparisons between the erasure and censorship we are facing now and previous authoritarian regimes. And he wrote this amazing document that I’m actually about to publish on the ASH website. And the gist is that offending people is not really contrary to human rights. It’s actually the basis of free speech. For the right to offend someone, for that person not to imprison you, or strike you or, you know, to want to hurt you or to shout you down or be able to censor you…this is the very basis of free speech in liberal democracies.

And that’s something which the radical conservatism of identity politics has tried to erase over the last twenty-whatever years, when saying, if you offend someone…you don’t have the right to do that. He actually kind of inverted this. I’m just gonna publish this because I think what happened to us. we’re very, very lucky.

So I haven’t got around to the good bit yet, have I. The good bit is, in response to all this last week, which we only discovered this week because they sent it to the wrong email address… They told her that they’ve dropped the investigation. That’s where we’re at.

Frieda Vizel
That’s wonderful.

Simon Elmer
It’s very good news. It’s the only good news we’ve probably had in about a year and a half.

Frieda Vizel
Are you feeling relieved?

Simon Elmer
Yes, yes, my partner is very.

Frieda Vizel
It was very stressful for her.

Simon Elmer (1:09)
Very, very stressful. But that’s part of what this is about. This is what trolling and harassment and threats are about. It takes up a huge amount of your energy. Very unpleasant. And a lot of people say, I don’t want to do this again, I do want to go through this.

The censorship that we’re facing… those of us who are not complying with the biosecurity state, it doesn’t only come from war, it doesn’t only come from regulations and doesn’t only come from the police and the law and legislation. It comes from the culture which has allowed that to be put in place. And I think identity politics has been absolutely crucial, germane, in creating a cultural environment, an atmosphere, of course, facilitated by technology like social media, in which these outrageous censorships of our fundamental rights and rights of movement of assembly, or freedom of speech, of freedom of belief, freedom of philosophical ideas, of conscience, and so on, are being repressed on the justification that we are causing someone else’s offense, or threatening them in some way.

So I’m going to publish this because other people will take courage from it. And also, maybe be able to use it and say there’s a lawyer here, this is case law, I got a right to offend you. As long as I don’t incite violence against you, or danger in any way, you taking offense from something I say is not your right to therefore to tell me to shut up. And I think a lot of this is going to be about all sorts of freedoms. But freedom of speech, the ability to say that this is a lie, to say that this is wrong, to talk about and expose the damage of lockdown, what everything else is going on, there’s going to be a fundamental right that we’re gonna have to defend that. In the next few years,

Frieda Vizel
It’s not going to be easy, because there’s been such a hyperbolic and emotionally laden.

Simon Elmer
Yeah, yeah.

Frieda Vizel
Well, I was gonna wrap up because I took way too much of your time. But did you want to add anything?

Simon Elmer (1:11:00)
There’s something going around recently where someone said, People can be deceived collectively, but they have to… come to enlightenment one by one. And I think that’s what we’re facing. Vast numbers of the population of the world have been mass deceived. Unfortunately, you can’t mass undeceive someone. There is just a very laborious process of trying to expose this stuff, to not be afraid or cowered or silenced by the enemies of reason. And to be brave, and to keep speaking out.

So thanks for giving me the opportunity to do that. And it’s great to speak with you, Frieda. There’s more of us… we are growing, but we to really support each other on this because then nobody else does.

Frieda Vizel
I think so. I think so. It gets very lonely and I think it’s very important to try. And when you see other people who are strong it means a lot.

Well, thank you.

Simon Elmer
Thank you. I enjoyed that.

Frieda Vizel
All right. Have a good night.

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