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Opinion

Afghanistan collapse illustrates failed doctrine of interventionism

“Never fight a land war in Asia”. A prophetic quote, attributed to military figures throughout history such as Bernard Montgomery and Douglas MacArthur, and popularized in the 1987 movie The Princess Bride by the Scillian criminal Vizzini; “You’ve fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia”. 

This oracular quote has been further exemplified by events in Afghanistan in the last 10 days. After the full withdrawal of US troops from the country by the Biden administration in June, the Taliban, an Islamist movement and military organization, swept through the country, seizing the first provincial capital on 6 August, and seizing the capital, Kabul, within nine days. A 20-year military operation, globally coordinated, at the cost of billions of dollars, collapsed in the blink of an eye (in terms of the wide, sweeping nature of historical chronology). 

The Taliban began planning a nationwide offensive in May, coinciding with the US departure, and made their first moves on 9 July, laying the groundwork for the capture of Kabul, the final piece of the jigsaw. Taliban fighters captured land surrounding the western city of Herat, home to over 500,000, before completely surrounding the city within three days.

By 23 July, government, US-backed forces reclaimed land in the centre of the country, but between 5-11 August the Taliban had squeezed the city of Kandahar from the east and west, and made movements towards the city of Mazar-i-Sharif. 

The 13-15 August were the crucial days – huge swathes of northern and central land were easily seized by Taliban fighters, before Kabul was conquered fully by 16 August. Taliban fighters encircled the city, proclaiming a transfer of power would be peaceful and orderly. Fighting and looting soon broke out in the city, and the Taliban arrived not as invaders, but as policemen, to restore order as official statesmen.

It was revealed President Ashraf Ghani had fled to neighboring Tajikistan – with the country rapidly falling into lawlessness and anarchy. Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar subsequently declared himself President of the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ – a partially recognized state between 1996 and 2001 before the US-led invasion. 

The images of Afghani’s desperately clinging to a departing US Air Force jet are harrowing. The UN Refugee Agency estimates over 2,500,000 refugees have fled the country – this is an accumulative figure from over two decades of intermittent fighting. The Taliban appear poised to reinstate their governance of the nation in the late 1990s – a repressive, theocratic state based on ‘Sharia’ law – with little to no rights afforded to women and religious minorities.

This has prompted a crisis for the Afghani people, with hundreds of thousands fleeing their homes with only the clothes on their backs, and in a geopolitical sense for American and European leaders. How will the Taliban interact with NATO, what will their relationship be like with Iran and China, could fighting spill over into neighboring Pakistan? It is a worrying and highly disconcerting situation. 

These events provoke many damning questions. Was the US war in Afghanistan pointless? Is the country really doomed? Can any campaign of military interventionism be successful? 

Firstly, let’s look at the immense cost of the ‘War on Terror’. According to estimates from the Costs of War Project at Brown University, the US has spent over $2trillion in Afghanistan alone. This includes direct funding of over $800billion towards the invasion and fighting itself, plus an additional $83billion towards training the Afghan army. Brown University has also predicted this war debt will rise to an astonishing $6.5trillion by 2050 – equating to a cost of roughly $20,000 for every US citizen.

The loss of life has been huge too. The US lost 2,448 servicemen as of April 2021, as well as almost 4,000 civilian contractors. In terms of Afghan costs, more than 66,000 military and police personnel have lost their lives since 2001. In addition to this, 47,245 civilians have died in the country, as well as 51,191 Taliban (and other opposition) fighters. 

Was this really all for nothing? On the face of it, this 20 year campaign appears to be in vain – the country has collapsed in a matter of weeks, the Taliban turning back the clock to 2000 with relative ease, to the horror and bewilderment of the international community. 

However, it is worth noting certain interests have benefitted from the War in Afghanistan. Lockheed Martin, a US-based arms and defense company, have seen their profits and revenue consistently increase since this was first measured in 2005.

In 2005, the company’s total annual revenue amounted to $37.21billion. By 2012, this figure rose to $47.18billion, as US troop presence in the country rose in the same time from 19,000 to 76,000. By 2020, Lockheed Martin’s revenue rose to an all-time high of $65.39billion – the company is evidently benefiting financially from America’s military involvement in Afghanistan and other war-torn countries by selling equipment via lucrative contracts. 

The ‘military-industrial complex’ is a term that has been bandied about throughout history – outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the threats of such a complex in his farewell address: “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.” Surely now this disastrous rise of misplaced power has reared its ugly head, to the cost of the Afghan people and thousands of US (and other nations) soldiers. 

Lockheed Martin also spends considerable sums of money “lobbying” – endorsing political candidates and funding campaigns to continue and increase their embeddedness in the political process. After spending just over $7,000,000 in 2001 on all lobbying-related activities, this sum grew to nearly $15,000,000 in 2008.

Despite decreasing to $13,000,000 in 2020, this is still a gargantuan amount directly channeled into promoting political candidates that have no interest in fully ending the War on Terror, and instead seek to continue the military operations due to purely financial interests.

This brings me to the next point; the bipartisanship of the Afghan War. Republican, Democract, it doesn’t really matter, the vested interests at the heart of the American executive process remain firmly submerged underneath the surface, churning out troops into Afghanistan, selling more military equipment, until the original goal of interventionism is almost forgotten and unknown. 

President Obama was elected as a fairly ‘dovish’ President in terms of military interventionism. He pledged to close Guantanamo Bay (which didn’t happen), refused to engage Gaddafi’s government in Libya militarily (he sent NATO bombers in instead), and pledged to end the US involvement in Afghanistan. Instead, troop levels in the country rose rapidly – from 30,000 in 2008 to 110,000 in 2011. Republicans and Democrats claim to vary on foreign policy and military interventionism – in reality, the aforementioned vested interests ensure this is merely an illusion. 

Perhaps it is also worth musing upon the inevitability of history to repeat itself – in the words of philosopher George Santayana, “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it”. In 1919, after the Emirate of Afghanistan invaded British India, British troops were deployed to the country to assist their Indian allies.

Despite outnumbering Afghan forces and possessing far greater military equipment, the British troops ran into various problems in their battles with the Afghans, under the command of Amanullah Khan. The 5,000 mile distance to London created a considerable delay in communications, and British troops severely struggled with the tough terrain, which the Afghans were accustomed to. After just 3 months and 2 days, the British Empire signed the Treaty of Rawalpindi, recognising Afghan independence, after a loss of 236 men, and a further 1,500 injuries. A diplomat of the era, Sir Hamilton Grant, described the affair as “the most meaningless, crazy and unnecessary war in history”.

It would be interesting to know what Grant thinks of the events of the last month in Afghanistan. Interventionism as a doctrine promotes freedom – freedom from oppression and totalitarianism, giving help and assistance to civilians in countries across the world unable to dislodge their dictatorial governments.

In reality, interventionism is nearly always futile. Billions are spent, lives are lost, progress is reverted, all in the blink of an eye. At the same time, the vested interests and lobbyist culture in America ensures the sliding doors continue to open and close, regardless of who is President, and regardless of what lessons history tries in vain to teach us.

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Opinion

Vaccines don’t stop transmission – it’s time to truly live with COVID-19

All legal COVID-19 restrictions have ended. In one week’s time, if you have been double-jabbed, you will not have to self-isolate even if you come into contact with a positive test. Over 75% of the British population has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

So there we have it. The pandemic is over and everything is back to normal, right? I mean, on a day-to-day basis, depending on how you live your life, this might be true. But the reality is, the nation is still gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flick on any mainstream news channel and you will see reporters dissecting tiny increases or decreases in daily COVID-19 infections, deaths and hospitalisations.

Sky News remains particularly gripped by the pandemic. Throughout lockdown, before its show went to a break, there would be a reminder of what rules were in place to curb the spread of COVID-19; the rule of six, the two-metre rule, and so on.

Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash

And now, despite all restrictions having been lifted, such reminders still remain – except, there are no restrictions to remind us of. And so, the reminders simply state that there are no legal restrictions in place, as if anyone could forget.

This surmounts to a nation still mentally challenged by the last 18 months, unable to break free of its sheer obsession with daily figures, or the fear of things getting out of hand once again.

Cases are not low – yesterday, 23,510 people tested positive – nor are deaths, as 622 people died in the last seven days. But things are not as bad as they may seem.

Indeed, we must ask ourselves – do these figures equate to a significant disease burden? If 622 people died every week for an entire year, 32,444 people would die from COVID-19.

Of course, that is an extremely weak way to predict a potential yearly death toll from COVID-19. More would likely die in winter, though perhaps less would die in spring and summer, with there to be no artificial rise in cases in the immediate aftermath of a ‘Freedom Day’-style event.

Given that, on average, 30,000 people will die in a bad flu year, around 32,000-35,000 deaths would surely be an acceptable price to pay, right now, if it means we can continue to live our lives free from draconian restrictions?

Photo by Yasmina H on Unsplash

This always seems like quite a harsh statement, and indeed a harsh trade-off. But as silly as it may seem to say, it needs saying – people die. People have died from COVID-19 and people will continue to die from COVID-19. People have died from other diseases and will continue to do so. It is something we simply must accept.

Vaccines will no doubt continue to save lives as uptake increases, and more prescriptive remedies will be developed, too. This means that in two or three years, yearly deaths from COVID-19 could average below 30,000. Chris Whitty himself stated that 25,000 deaths per year would be acceptable.

Seemingly, then, we are not far off that reality. So why all the panic? Why the continued obsession with daily rises and falls? The way certain people continue to treat the pandemic is no longer proportionate to the risk, especially in light of a recent report presented by scientist to MPs.

Speaking to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on COVID-19, Professor Andrew Pollard, member of the Oxford vaccine team, stated: “Anyone who is still unvaccinated will, at some point, meet the virus.”

“We don’t have anything that will stop transmission, so I think we are in a situation where herd immunity is not a possibility.”

Given this reality, Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine at the University of East Anglia, also told the Parliamentary group: “We need to start moving away from just reporting infections, or just reporting positive cases admitted to hospital, to actually start reporting the number of people who are ill because of Covid.”

“Otherwise we are going to be frightening ourselves with very high numbers that actually don’t translate into disease burden.”

Pollard went on to argue that continued mass testing would create a false sense of danger and would ultimately lead to a perpetual [and unnecessary] cycle of vaccination.

And yet, as noted, vaccines are never going to eliminate transmission. If we constantly use positive cases as reasons to re-vaccinate, the cycle will never be broken.

The solution?

Pollard states that testing needs to move towards ‘clinically driven testing in which people are willing to get tested and treated and managed, rather than lots of community testing’.

Of course, all of this is easier said than done, both practically and mentally. If we stop mass testing, we might lose sight of virus hotspots and therefore find it difficult to locate those seriously ill with COVID-19, making it harder to treat them.

It is also a big leap to make considering the scale of testing in this country for the last 12 months. At times, we have been testing one million people every day. It is a remarkable feat of science. Now, though, it is simply not necessary.

Vaccines will continue to play an important role in fighting COVID-19. They will, essentially, turn COVID-19 into a very mild illness for most who catch it.

I, for one, can attest to this. Despite being double-jabbed, I contracted COVID-19 a couple of weeks ago. For a couple of days, it felt as though I had jumped in a pool and accidentally snorted the water; I also lost my sense of smell and taste. Perhaps most interestingly, I developed a crippling obsession with Hugh Grant rom-coms from the 1990s.

Two weeks later, I am completely fine, back in the gym and no longer longing for the love Grant’s characters so easily found. Ultimately, the vaccine did its job: it neutralised COVID-19 and saved my life. It is worth noting that I am a type-one diabetic and asthmatic, seemingly more vulnerable.

The vaccines work better than we could have ever hoped. They are saving lives. Now, we need to take the next big leap – it is time to truly live with COVID-19.

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Opinion

Inside the politics of deceit, deception and denial

Governments lie all the time – like it or not, it is a common feature within the world of politics. Sometimes it makes sense; if the government was totally transparent about every aspect of its dealings, trade would suffer, weaknesses would be exploited and international security would cease to exist.

The current UK government though – that is, Boris Johnson’s Conservative government – has adopted a policy of lying and deception to such an extent it is becoming a notable, unavoidable feature of its day-to-day behaviour.

Just this week, when prompted about whether the government ever seriously considered a ‘Herd Immunity’ approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, Priti Patel said: “Not at all, no. Absolutely not.”

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson also said: “Herd immunity was never a priority for the government or policy for the government.”

Quite clearly, though, the lady doth protest too much. After all, Patrick Vallance, the government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, said this about the government’s policy in March last year:

“Our aim is to try and reduce the peak – not suppress it completely, also because most people get a mild illness, to build up some degree of herd immunity whilst protecting the most vulnerable”.

SAGE member Dr David Halpern also said: “There’s going to be a point, assuming the epidemic flows and grows as it will do, where you want to cocoon, to protect those at-risk groups so they don’t catch the disease.

“By the time they come out of their cocooning, herd immunity has been achieved in the rest of the population.”

Anybody with half a brain could clearly identify two mentions of herd immunity by senior government advisors and conclude it was the government’s initial response.

And yet, rather than concede that this was the case, admit its initial response was poor and move on, the government still feels it must outright lie rather than face the music.

Why is this? It’s quite simple.

To tell the truth, in this case, would be to accept responsibility of a mistake. To accept responsibility of a mistake would be to accept, on some level, some degree of incompetence and ultimately, the government would be accepting its actions caused the unnecessary loss of life.

What, then, would the government rather be brandished? Flailing, incompetent, fools who cannot protect its citizens – or mere liars? The fact that we are even focusing on their lies, rather than the actual policy mistakes themselves, is exactly what the government wants.

As well as being a simple approach, it is not a new one either.

Broader trends of denial and deception have plagued the political arena across the globe for several years, and is only culminating now during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remember when former US President Donald Trump claimed that the so-called ‘China Virus’ would magically disappear a few months after appearing? Or when he hailed the anti-malaria drug, Hydroxychloroquine, the saviour of the pandemic, only to be shut down on numerous occasions by health officials?

The President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, favours this approach too; when faced with Brazil’s latest COVID-19 death toll, he responded: “So what? What do you want me to do?'”

Not only does this level of deceit, deception and denial leave government reputations largely untouched; not only does it devolve governments of responsibility, it pushes ludicrous narratives into the public domain, encouraging polarisation and division.

This level of explicit deceit creates a society where the truth becomes a subjective matter; it normalises deception to the point where people are willing to look past blatant lies in pursuit of any given political agenda and in some cases, adopt this behaviour themselves.

And so, be mindful of when the government is lying but also be mindful of why it is doing so – what could its outright denial and deceit be contributing to an already volatile political arena?

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Opinion

Super League saga shows the potential of people power

The entire football world was thrown into disarray this week when the self-proclaimed ‘Big Six’ of the Premier League signed themselves up to a new European ‘Super League’ breakaway project.

Six English clubs [Arsenal, the two Manchester clubs, Spurs, Chelsea and Liverpool] joined several other football giants cross Europe in doing so, in what would have represented the most radical change to football for over 30 years.

It would have seen the aforementioned clubs join an elite European league, with access hinging on wealth and status, rather than success. The teams would never have been faced with relegation, and opportunities to enter the league were insultingly small.

The plans were met with an unmistakable backlash from leading voices across the football landscape; Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher tore the plan to pieces live on television, while ex-footballer Rio Ferdinand labelled the project a ‘war on football’.

The response from within the game itself was no different. When asked about the plans, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp proclaimed that he and his players had nothing to do with the breakaway project, while vice-captain James Milner said: “I don’t like it, I don’t want it to happen”.

Photo by Ajay Meganathan on Unsplash

Football organisations from the Premier League to UEFA and FIFA also spoke strongly against the plans, threatening to ban players from competing in domestic and international competitions.

Perhaps the most hard-line response came from the UK government, and was led by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. He threatened the plans with legislative action, ranging from the removal of work visas for international players to an outright ban on the league going ahead.

While we will never know whether such levels of government intervention could have got through Parliament, Johnson did send a special envoy to the United Arab Emirates to warn its government that Manchester City’s involvement in the plans would put a strain on UK-UAE relations, given the status of City’s owners within the nation.

Though several sources, including from within UEFA itself, have confirmed that Johnson’s staunch opposition was crucial in bringing down the plans, there is little doubt that ultimately, it was the collective voice of football fans who made the difference.

Within 24 hours of the league being announced, hundreds of Liverpool fans gathered outside Elland Road ahead of their game against Leeds United to make their opposition heard.

The following day, thousands of Chelsea fans congregated outside Stamford Bridge and chanted ‘Fuck the Super League’. They blocked the team bus from entering the ground, leading to former goalkeeper Petr Cech engaging with the fans and a delayed kick off.

Within hours, Manchester City announced that they would no longer join the Super League – all six clubs had withdrawn by the end of the night. Just like that, the whole project came crumbling down like a pack of cards.

Apologies to the fans came pouring out of each club – Liverpool owner John Henry released a three minute video, while Manchester United owner Joel Glazer wrote an open letter to the fans expressing his remorse.

And yet, while Boris went back to his usual business and UEFA and the Premier League were relieved to see the status quo maintained, the fans remain as hungry as ever.

Photo by Fleur on Unsplash

Just this morning a group of Manchester United fans broke into the club’s training ground waving banners around hailing ‘Glazers Out’. The group only left after they were confronted by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and several other coaches and players.

While some may disagree with these methods, no one can dispute the power that football fans still hold within the game. The symbolism of owner apologies show just that – while it may be a surprise to those not involved in football, fans rarely, if ever, hear from their club’s owners.

They are shrouded in mystery, and this is no accident. It allows them to carefully pull the strings from behind the scenes, whilst drawing out as much money as possible to line their own pockets. It would not be out of line to say that for these owners, it is money first, football and fans second.

So the fact that the fans managed to draw an apology from these usually absent owners is a victory in and of itself – though an apology is the bare minimum to be expected.

Perhaps, though, there is something that society can learn from this this saga – that is, the power of effective group mobilisation. When you disagree with something the government is doing, for example, make your voice loud and clear.

Photo by Zach Rowlandson on Unsplash

Protests are nothing new – they have worked before and they will fail in the future. What made these protests so successful so quickly was not only because of the outrageous nature of the project but because almost every single person who spoke on the issue viscerally opposed it – every fan, every ex-footballer, every player, every manager, every politician.

Naturally, this dominated social media for days upon end, to the point where companies felt they had to get involved too. Two broadcasters, Sky and BT, who may have benefited from the project, said they could not support it. Gary Lineker, former player and current football TV presenter, also vowed never to work on such a job.

The backlash was so large, so collective and so powerful that club owners were left with no other choice but to withdraw their support for the plans. And yet, not a single bit of violence ensued, not by the fans nor by the police.

It is easier said than done – clearly, the fans had those in power on their side, from the government to celebrities and football organisations. If the government had supported these plans, the outcome may have been different. Yet, they did not because it was abundantly clear what the implications would have been for football clubs, fans and their communities.

When the message is loud and clear, and when mobilisation is collectively strong, the people can win. Ultimately, power still lies with the people.

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LRC

Remembering HRH Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh

The United Kingdom was rocked by the news that His Royal Highness, Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, sadly passed away at the age of 99 on the morning of 9th April.

Touching tributes have poured in from across the globe for a man who served Queen and country for his entire life.

LeftRight to Centre commemorates Prince Phillip’s life by remembering three primary parts of his life: his military years, royal service and sheer devotion to his wife, Queen Elizabeth II.

Military Years

For much of his earlier life, Prince Phillip served for many years in the British Armed Forces. After training with the Royal Navy in the 1930s, he served in the British forces throughout World War Two, while two of his brothers-in-law fought on the opposing German side.

On 1st February 1941, Philip was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant after a series of courses at Portsmouth, earning the top grade in four out of five sections of the qualifying examination; shortly afterwards, he was involved in the Battle of Crete, earning himself the ‘Greek War Cross’.

In October of 1942, he became first lieutenant of HMS Wallace, and at 21 years old, he was one of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy. During the invasion of Sicily (July 1943), he saved his ship from a night bomber attack. 

Royal Service

In terms royal service, what Prince Phillip will perhaps be most remembered for is his role in founding the infamous ‘Duke of Edinburgh’ award, which he set up in 1956 to give young people ‘a sense of responsibility to themselves and their communities’.

Phillip’s time in the Royal Family came not without controversy, however, especially in relation to the Prince Charles and Lady Diana love affair, as well as the Diana’s sad death in 1997.

Mohamed Fayed, whose son was also killed in the crash, claimed that Prince Philip had ordered the death of Diana and that the accident was staged. According to an inquest, however, there was “not a shred of evidence” that the Duke of Edinburgh ordered Princess Diana’s death or that it was organised by MI6.

In fact, it came to light how supportive the Duke of Edinburgh had been throughout Charles’ marriage with Diana, and after her untimely death. It has since been documented how Philip wrote to Diana, expressing his concern at both Charles’ and Diana’s extra-marital affairs, whilst acting as a mediator to salvage what was left of their marriage.

At Diana’s funeral, Philip told her son, Prince William, “If you don’t walk, I think you’ll regret it later. If I walk, will you walk with me?” On the day of the funeral, Philip, William, Harry, Charles, and Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer walked through London behind her bier.

The Duke also partook in the formation of the World Wildlife Fund in 1961 and later served as its President, leaving a tangible legacy on the wildlife conservation movement.

Marriage to Queen Elizabeth II

Despite Prince Phillip’s devotion to his country, his family and issues across the world, he will no doubt be remembered most for his sheer devotion to his beloved wife, Queen Elizabeth II.

After falling in love with the Elizabeth upon a visit to the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth; by March 1947, Philip abandoned his Greek and Danish royal titles, adopted the surname Mountbatten from his mother’s family, and became a naturalised British subject. His engagement to the Queen was announced to the public on 10th July, 1947.

It was the day prior to his wedding that King George VI bestowed the style of Royal Highness on Philip and on the morning of the wedding, he was made the Duke of Edinburgh.

Phillip and Elizabeth were married at Westminster Abbey, a ceremony that was broadcast across the world to over 200m people.

The two were married for 74 years, a royal marriage which he saw not only personally, but as an act of public service. Speaking of republicanism in 1969, he noted: “It is a complete misconception to imagine that the monarchy exists in the interests of the monarch. It doesn’t. It exists in the interests of the people. If at any time any nation decides that the system is unacceptable, then it is up to them to change it”.

The Duke retired from public service in 2017, making a visit to the Royal Marines his final act, aged 96.

The news broke about HRH’s passing yesterday morning, just two months before his 100th birthday. He might have been happy about that, though, since he was not particularly enthused about living an extremely long life. In 2000, he remarked in an interview (when he was 79) that he could not “imagine anything worse” and had “no desire whatsoever” to become a centenarian, stating “bits of me are falling off already”.

May he rest in peace.

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LRC Opinion

UK Traveller Community Facing Sustained Discrimination

In an era of multiculturalism and diversity in the UK, underscored by the recent government commissioned race report, and celebrated by Black History month in October and LGBT history month in February, one ethnic group has been sidelined and marginalized in society in recent decades.

The traveller community have faced persistent discrimination and predujice, measured in a range of factors. This has been further highlighted in the news cycle by two particular stories – Labour MP’s Charlotte Nichols recent party leaflet, and the implications of the new police powers bill.

But first, some background. It is estimated roughly 300,000 travellers live in the UK, including significant communities in the London boroughs of Harrow and Brent, some dating back to the 1850s. Under the Equality Act of 2010, travellers are considered a “protected characteristic”, forbidding discrimination based on ethnic origin, among other factors. 

Despite this, prejudice against travellers is commonplace in modern day Britain. A 2017 YouGov poll, published by advocacy group The Traveller Movement, exposed various negative and discriminatory societal views held against the community. Only a third (34%) of respondents (the wider public) consider travellers to be an ‘ethnic group’.

Only 41% would be happy for their child having a “playdate” at the home of a traveller friend, whilst 42% would be unhappy with a close-relative having a long-term relationship with a traveller.  Shockingly, 13% believe pubs should ban travellers from entry.

The same report, titled “The Last Acceptable Form of Racism?”, also summarized that 70% of travellers faced discrimination regarding education, 49% regarding employment, and 30% regarding healthcare. 55% had been refused services due to their ethnicity, whilst 77% had experienced hate speech or a hate crime. 76% had hid their ethnicity at some point to avoid further discrimination. 

This report is not wholly groundbreaking and instead reinforces long-held research evidencing pervasive attitudes of an anti-traveller culture. Nine out of ten children have suffered racial abuse. A 2004 report found the group were castigated as “unsightly, dirty, or unhygienic”. After 15-year-old traveller Jonny Delaney was attacked and killed in 2003, the judge refused to rule the killing as “racially motivated”.

In March, a whistleblower at holiday firm Pontins revealed a company “blacklist” of “undesirable guests” with mainly Irish surnames, investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Such practices were part of the company policy.

As mentioned, this discrimination has entered the news cycle in both a sharp and developing sense. Primarily, this occurred after a slip-up by Labour’s Charlotte Nichols, MP for Warrington North since 2019. Last week, Nichols was pictured with an official party leaflet in her constituency, detailing various policy aims. 

One of the bullet points listed “dealing with traveller incursions”. Incursions is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “an invasion or attack, especially a sudden or brief one”. This language is clearly problematic and ostracizes travellers as a threatening and harmful group.

Nichols was criticized on social media, including by Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley as “vile and obviously racist”, demanding an  “apology and appropriate disciplinary action”. Nichols quickly offered an “unreserved apology” whilst Labour, typically portrayed as the party for diversity, promised to destroy the leaflets. Nichols said she was unaware of the “problematic definition” of the language used, but anyhow, it was a shocking PR move and a total blunder. 

Compounded to this, the various socioeconomic implications of the new police powers bill, a ’mammoth’ piece of legislation already embroiled in controversy and outrage, have damning effects for travellers. The bill includes a clause giving the police powers to seize vehicles, which could potentially encompass homes, and issue £2,500 fines, or 3 months imprisonment, for the offence of trespass. 

Trespass has traditionally been a civil offence in the UK, so this legal change has severe impacts for travellers across the country. A report by Friends, Families and Travellers concluded the bill “compounds inequalities”, “disproportionately affects minority ethnic groups”, and blamed a lack of space for travellers originally, slashed by the Conservatives, for the issues in the first place. 

Spokesperson Abbie Kirkby said “the cruelty is unfathomable, nobody should be imprisoned for the crime of having nowhere to go”.

In a society supposedly intent on rightfully celebrating and embracing multi-ethnicity and diversity, this is a serious shortfall. Two things would have to occur to swell this tide of discrimination.

Firstly, political parties must be better educated and regulated on party material containing language that is directly discriminatory to a group protected under the Equalities Act.

Secondly, provisions of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill must be revised to protect the traveller community as an ethnic group, with greater consultation and dialogue. In this current culture and environment, whether either of these is feasible or attainable is another question entirely. 

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Opinion

Vaccine passports are dangerous and discriminatory – we must oppose them now

The government is treading dangerously along the path of compulsory COVID-19 vaccinations in all but name – we must make our voices heard if it is to be stopped.

You might need a vaccination to go abroad, they said a couple of months ago. Then they said it might be necessary to attend large-scale gatherings, such as football matches or concerts. Now, you might need a COVID-19 vaccination to go to the pub. What might it be next? To obtain employment or God forbid, leave your home?

Though it may seem totally unfeasible that the government would mandate a ‘Stay At Home’ order solely for those who have refused vaccination, this is essentially what they would be doing by mandating vaccination in order to get back to the things we love.

And in doing so, the government would, effectively, be breaking the law – the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 specifically states that members of the public should not be compelled to undergo any mandatory medical treatment, including vaccinations.

Given what this nation, and this world, has endured for the last 12 months, would the sustained removal of one’s freedom not constitute compulsion? Ultimately, government powers would be coercing individuals into acting in a certain manner – removing one’s freedoms and changing the conditions upon which they are returned.

It could even be said that it would represent a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which grants an individual the right of respect for one’s ‘private life’.

Now, the ECHR also states an important exception: when it comes to the protection of public health. However, we have been repeatedly told by a whole raft of experts that a so-called ‘COVID-zero’ policy is not an option and that we would have to live with the virus once we have achieved herd immunity.

Given the policy of herd immunity [through vaccination], and what it offers, alongside the realistic acceptance that more lives will inevitably be lost due to COVID-19, the government cannot justifiably claim they are protecting public health by mandating vaccinations.

In fact, you could argue that they would be making it worse. The mental health implications would be huge – not only would a whole manner of individuals feel ostracised by their personal choice to refuse a vaccine but for many, merely knowing that they had no choice but to get a vaccine would have devastating consequences for one’s perception of freedom.

The results would not only be devastating for individuals but for our entire society. What we would be left with is an increasingly two-tiered society, one that not only creates new forms of discrimination but encourages and exacerbates existing ones.

It is well documented that there is a relative increase when it comes to vaccine hesitancy within ethnic-minority communities – though we absolutely need to communicate with such communities to encourage take-up, compelling vaccination through passports whilst aware of this existing discrepancy would ultimately represent a very real and damaging form of state-inflicted racial discrimination, which would inevitably spill over into the rest of society.

The government needs to stop treading along this path and really embrace what it means to live with the virus: vaccine passports would not represent living with COVID-19, it would mean changing the way we live because of it, and not for the better.

Categories
POLITICS ON SCREEN

Politics on Screen: Breaking Bad & the reality of the US healthcare system

Beware, spoilers lie ahead – surely everyone’s watched Breaking Bad though, right? Right? If you haven’t, then what the fuck are you doing?! We have all been locked indoors for the last year – there really are no excuses.

There has been a Breaking Bad-shaped hole in our lives for almost ten years now, though its legacy definitely still lives on – in 2019, Vince Gilligan picked up the pen again to tell a classic ‘what happened next’ story of universally-loved character, Jesse Pinkman.

There is also the highly-rated prequel series ‘Better Call Saul’ – this follows the original series’ shady lawyer Saul Goodman, or Jimmy McGill, in the years leading up to Breaking Bad.

And yet, Breaking Bad is arguably still to be replaced as the TV show that everybody talks about.

When people reminisce over the series, they tend to think of the series’ complicated protagonist, Walter White, killing his arch-nemesis Gus Fring, or when he ran over those two drug dealers, or when he ordered Jesse to kill Gale, or when he watched Jesse’s girlfriend die…yeah, that guy was fucking tapped.

Something that is perhaps not remembered as commonly is the social commentary inextricably tied to the series – specifically, what it said about the American healthcare system.

This is particularly intriguing coming from the UK, where there is universal access to a state-funded, national health service.

After all, Walter was originally lured into the world of methamphetamine due to the financial disaster surrounding his cancer diagnosis.

And though his ascendancy to the throne of a methamphetamine empire within the space of two years might have been exaggerated for entertainment, the inability to pay for one’s medical bills, or even insurance, is the reality for millions of people across the US.

Despite being the self-proclaimed leader of the free world, the United States is one of the only nations in the Western world void of a universal healthcare program.

Healthcare facilities are largely owned and operated by private sector businesses. Over 58% of community hospitals in the United States are non-profit, though still profit; a mere 21% are government-owned and a staggering 21% operate on a for-profit basis.

Unsurprisingly, there are real-life repercussions to the United States’ flawed system of healthcare – out of 35 industrialised OECD countries, America ranks 22nd for public health.

Since Breaking Bad aired, the situation only seems to be getting worse: in 2016 and 2017 life expectancy in the United States dropped for the first time since 1993.

A 2017 survey conducted of the healthcare systems of 11 OECDs also found the US healthcare system to be the most expensive and worst-performing in relation to health access, efficiency, and equity.

It is no wonder that Gilligan felt so compelled to centre his dramatic drug-infused crime-drama around an average American citizen who simply could not afford to pay for his cancer treatment.

The persistence of the healthcare problem since the show aired demonstrates Gilligan’s understanding of the scale and nature of the crisis, only making its social commentary more profound upon rewatch.

Most disturbingly, the 27 million uninsured Americans do not have the luxury Walter had – we are talking about a TV show here, a highly-dramatised piece of fiction. Walter, in his own fucked up way, ended up paying for his medical bills, and those of his DEA brother-in-law, Hank Schrader.

Outside of Walt’s world, millions of Americans work for the rest of their lives in order to pay for any sudden medical problems that come their way – given that these are often fatal, people can be left with little dignity as they succumb to illness.

This is not fiction, it is reality: America’s healthcare system costs lives every year. This was confirmed by a study carried out by Harvard Medical School in 2009 – it found that over 45,000 preventable deaths occur every year in the US and are directly associated with a lack of medical insurance.

In a scarily-ironic metaphor for the American healthcare system, Walter White’s method to pay for his medical bills led to the deaths of countless people across the series. In real-life, thousands of people die no matter what.

And so, while Walter White starts off as a victim of the healthcare system, he soon becomes a representation of it – a money-driven, ruthless cancer that leaves countless victims in its wake across the United States.

Categories
Opinion

Not-so-New Labour: why Keir Starmer is failing

He was meant to be the man, the Lord and Saviour, the man who could pull Labour back from the brink – dare I say it, the new Tony Blair. Nearly one year on, Keir Starmer’s Labour revolution has barely even begun.

Last April, Keir Starmer replaced one of the Labour party’s most controversial leaders ever, Jeremy Corbyn, after it suffered its worst electoral result in nearly one hundred years.

It was the 2019 General Election that saw Labour lose 60 seats, many of which were thought to be part of an indestructible ‘Red Wall’ – and yet, as in Westeros, the wall came crashing down.

Labour lost Birmingham Northfield, Wrexham, Bridgend – perhaps most shocking was the loss of Bolsover; this saw Parliament’s longest-serving MP, Dennis Skinner, lose his seat.

It truly was a shocking performance and there is no doubt that the party leadership had to change – it was not resonating with the public anymore. But why?

There are likely many reasons for Labour’s shocking performance. Perhaps the British public simply was not interested in a radical, left-wing government; the party had also been unforgivably slow and reluctant to deal with a vile anti-Semitism that had spread across the party.

However, this contradicts Corbyn & co’s success just two years earlier, when they forced Theresa May’s minority government into cahoots with the Northern Irish DUP.

Rather, it is abundantly clear that Labour’s historic defeat was largely defined by Britain’s issue of the day: Brexit.

Corbyn failed to clarify his stance during the 2016 referendum and then proceeded to vote against every single solution May’s government came up with. To this day I could not tell you what Corbyn wanted out of Brexit.

Of the 60 seats lost by Labour, all but eight voted to leave the European Union – that is 52 constituencies that looked at Labour’s dreadful Brexit stance [if you can even say they had one] and thought “I’m not having any of that”.

The eventual winner Boris Johnson, on the other hand, framed the 2019 GE as the second referendum Remainers had craved for so long. The results of this make-shift referendum were so conclusive that talk of an actual follow-up all but disappeared.

It is worth noting that Keir Starmer was a ferocious Remainer himself, and frequently called for a second referendum during his time as Shadow Brexit secretary.

So, given the huge role Brexit clearly played in the last election, was it really wise to respond to the nation’s decision to double-down on Brexit with somebody who does not believe in it at all?

Of course, Starmer would tell you now he wanted the ‘will of the people’ to be respected, but his prior behaviour clearly suggested otherwise.

To make matters worse for Starmer, Boris has since ‘Got Brexit Done’, achieving a deal that, at least on some level, has managed to appease most factions across the country: Remainers were relieved to see a deal, while hard-liners were happy to see us leave the single market and customs union.

But it would be lazy to pin Starmer’s troubles solely on Brexit – the reality is, it is no longer the nation’s biggest worry.

As well all know, the UK has been gripped in battle against the deadly COVID-19 virus for over one year, which has totally upended the normal political agenda.

Perennial debates about the economy, education and the state of welfare have not disappeared, but have been re-framed in the context of a global pandemic.

It’s no longer about improving education, it’s about getting kids into school safely; it’s not about who should get welfare, it’s about who isn’t being furloughed.

I am in no way suggesting that Starmer and his party should exploit a terrible situation in what would be a ruthless and maniacal attempt to move up the polls, but these are issues Labour have dealt with before, and frankly, they should be doing a much better job holding the government to account for its inexcusable mistakes.

The ground is ripe for opposition and we are in dire need of it: the UK has the third-highest per-capita death rate in the world and has experienced some of the worst case and hospitalisation rates across Western Europe. We lack a fully functioning test & trace system, as the UK government fails to provide indispensable support to those in need across the country.

And yet, the government has been given a fairly easy ride. That is because Starmer’s priority appears to be ‘one-upping’ the government, rather than dealing with the issues that so desperately need addressing.

A common criticism has been that Labour waits until it hears rumblings of a policy that the government is seemingly veering towards; it then calls on the government to do exactly what it is already planning to already do.

One recent example is the party’s suddenly extreme stance on the issue of border control; we have been in this pandemic over one year, with this particular issue being one of concern for some time now.

Despite this, it is only now that Labour are attempting to dominate the national discourse and lament the Tories for their lack of action – even more ironic, then, that Starmer was an avid Remainer.

Unsurprisingly, the government already plans to introduce ‘quarantine hotels’ for high-risk countries.

And then there is issue of schools. This is a very sensitive moral dilemma, the solution to which is by no means easy.

Right at the start of the year, Boris and his government were hammered by the national press for dithering and delaying on the issue of school closures. In a typical-timely manner, right at the last moment, Starmer urged to the government to close schools – just days later, the government did.

Now the party’s policy has changed again: vaccinate all teachers and open schools immediately – keep in mind, the country has not yet vaccinated everyone from the four most vulnerable groups. Not only this, but there would still be 17 million more people considered to be at high-risk of serious disease in need of vaccination.

The desire to vaccinate nearly one million people who work in schools would mean one million people with serious vulnerabilities not getting vaccinated and would almost certainly lead to unnecessary deaths.

It would be understandable if teachers were at serious risk of illness or death, but the profession sits in 12th for overall number of COVID-related deaths – with lorry drivers first, why is the focus not on giving them greater protection?

Starmer’s overall position on education perfectly encapsulates the party’s approach over the last year: wait until the right moment to criticise the government, claim they are holding it to account when it inevitably enacts a policy, and then wait for a new angle on the same issue.

Seemingly, the public see right through it: the latest YouGov/Times voting intention figures show the Conservatives on 39% (+1), gaining a lead over Labour, who are down on 38% (-1).

As for a recent Survation poll, Conservative voting intentions sit at 39%(-2), while Labour remains unchanged at 37% – even as the Tories drop, Labour do not gain.

The gap is respectable, perhaps even more so given the dismal outcome of the last General Election, but the trajectory is worrying and with this government, it should be doing much better.

In a recent interview we conducted with ‘The Kunts’, a satirical-punk band most famous for its recent song ‘Boris Johnson is Fucking Cunt’, Kunt, the main act, gave us a sense of what people across the country think of the Labour leader:

“When I look at Keir Starmer, I just see Tony Blair. He’s part of the system because he’s a “Sir” presiding over the Crown Prosecution Service when they chucked out the Jimmy Saville case. I’m not saying he’s personally responsible but it’s what he represents as a leader”

Starmer’s first year as Labour leader must be considered a failure. The party is failing to hold the government to account, it’s failing to win over the public and lacks any sort of general image or policy direction.

There are four years until the next General Election, so there is some time yet to shift the post-pandemic debate in Labour’s favour.

If the last 12 months are any indication, however, Keir Starmer has shown he is incapable of leading the Labour party.

Categories
Opinion

My experience with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Two days ago, I had my first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. This morning, I woke up with crocodile skin, a third leg and visions of Bill Gates tickling my feet at the end of my bed.

Right, now the anti-vaxxers are hooked, let’s get started.

I qualified for inoculation on the basis of my Type 1 Diabetes, which puts me in group six based on the JCVI’s recommended prioritisation for COVID-19 vaccination.

It was quite a nerve-wracking experience and initially, I am not really sure why – every year, I get the flu vaccine without problems, and I have had several other vaccines too.

After all, it is a totally new vaccine, the clinical trials for which ended just months ago. That is not to say that I, a meagre 21-year old politics student, is in any position to doubt the science – nonetheless, any slight apprehension is a natural human reaction.

No matter how ridiculous some of the theories out there are, as you wait in line, seconds away from being jabbed, you can’t help but think of what the maniacs pedal on social media.

“Shit, what if Bill Gates actually will be able to track me after this?”; “I am definitely going to have an anaphylactic shock” were some of the ones playing over in my head as I waited in line.

I quickly reminded myself that Bill Gates already tracks me and that I have never had an anaphylactic shock and went to get my jab.

The overall booking system was very slick – being in group six, I had to wait for my GP to contact me, rather than vice versa, which was initially frustrating.

Soon enough, though, I was contacted. Immediately, I began to run around my flat like Anton from Love Island screaming ‘I’ve got a text!!!!!!!!!’, whilst hoping that the vaccine wouldn’t give me a wandering eye.

I received my text on the Wednesday at 12pm and I was booked in for Saturday at 9am.

When I showed up at the vaccination centre, there was a queue of around 30 or 40 people, which moved very quickly. Two men were arguing in the queue, with one screaming ‘all you have done since I have been speaking to you, sir, is complain – there are thousands dead who would love to be in your position’.

God, I thought, it’s not even 9am on a Saturday, please leave it out. Why do us Britons love to argue?

Anyway, I was inside within 20 minutes. A helpful clerk inside informed me that my particular GP surgery [in Coventry] had been inoculating patients for around seven weeks, with just five GPs, and that they had carried out over 10,000 vaccinations already – that’s nearly 285 per doctor per week – impressive to say the least.

Then the doctor called my name. I went straight in and was asked some brief screening questions about allergies, medications and clarifying on what basis I was there. He explained some of the potential side effects and ten seconds later I had been jabbed.

And just like that, I had been given protection against COVID-19. I left the surgery and waited in the car for fifteen minutes [you can’t drive immediately after inoculation] and waited for my inevitable anaphylactic shock – to my avail, it never came. Happy days.

It was a good nine or ten hours before I started to experience any side effects and even then it was just a sore arm and some fatigue.

The fatigue eventually intensified, which was followed by about one or two hours of chills, and a horrible headache. By the morning, though, the majority had passed and for the rest of the day, it felt like a mild hangover.

Two days on, all side effects are gone, bar my sore arm. No facial drooping, no microchip – no seriously, I feel completely fine and it is a relief to have some protection against COVID-19, even if it takes several weeks and a further second dose for full protection.

The NHS is doing an incredible job at rolling out this vaccine, as well as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – if and when you are called up, I absolutely would recommend that you take the opportunity. The science shows it’s safe, it will protect you and others from illness, so why not?

Categories
Opinion

Unregulated social media companies should worry all of us

We all spend too much time on social media. Every time I look at my screen time, I squirm in my seat, throw my phone on the floor, delete all my social media, only to re-download it all again just two hours later.

Almost every social media user has experienced something similar in their time online, yet we always seem to be drawn back in.

This is not done by default but by design. In other words, social media companies design their platforms to create and subsequently feed addiction.

The notion of ‘social media addiction’ is something that has been bought to the fore by former Google employee, Tristan Harris, who claims that social media apps act as a substitute for ‘Big Tobacco for our brains’.

Harris was a key figure behind the recent Netflix documentary, ‘The Social Dilemma’, which presented a compelling case against the recent expansion of social media and smartphone technology.

During an interview with Fox News, Harris argued that the smartphone is “the most deep and subtle issue of our time … I believe it’s actually an existential threat to democracy”.

”Three billion people have a brain implant that’s a remotely controlled brain, because – especially in the coronavirus times – we are relying on these things to make sense of what’s reality out there in the world,” Harris said.

‘They have become the fabric for our sense-making and the fabric of our choice-making, the fabric of how children develop.”

Harris is not wrong – I have been on Twitter since May 2013. This means that Twitter has been shaping my beliefs for over eight years, despite being just 21 years of age.

A key driver behind the sustenance of these platforms is interaction: likes, retweets, comments, direct messages – all of which usually occur when one user agrees with another.

The resulting dopamine release that is proven to occur following such interactions means that people naturally continue to post thoughts that will likely be interacted with.

As a result, independent thought is something that is seemingly lacking from social media these days, especially in relation to politics.

Companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all use complex algorithms to measure your preferences: what you like, what you do not, what you linger on for one second more, or one second less. This data not only informs your timelines but is packaged and sold to the highest bidder.

We are all aware of how Facebook and Cambridge Analytica were able to influence the 2016 Brexit and US Presidential elections, respectively – social media companies not only have the power to influence individuals but their political beliefs and by extension, political outcomes.

When are we going to draw the line? If social media companies can control what political opinions you do and do not see, it is entirely feasible that they can swing elections results one way or another.

Twitter has also shown form with their recent ban of former US President Donald Trump. Regardless of his beliefs, should Twitter really act as the final arbiter of what he can and cannot say online?

The only next logical step is government intervention; following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook promised change. Since then, it has promised more change – what’s changed? Nothing.

Social media companies have shown time and time again that they cannot be trusted to self-regulate. Our only hope of change lies within real, meaningful legislation that removes social companies from the secret positions of power they have put themselves in.

An easy counter-argument would be: if you do not like it, just delete your account.

This is simply not realistic for the people of today or the children of tomorrow. Twitter and other forms of social media platforms, like it or not, have become essential forms of communication for people across the globe.

Social isolation, especially among children, is at an all-time high due to the restrictive implications of the COVID-19 pandemic – the last thing that is needed is the total removal of forms of communication.

Instead, we need to make sure that social media companies are held accountable for their actions and stripped of their ability to orchestrate our socio-political futures on a mass scale.

Categories
Opinion

Social media companies require government regulation – here is why

We all spend too much time on social media. Every time I look at my screen time, I squirm in my seat, throw my phone on the floor, delete all my social media, only to re-download it all again just two hours later.

Almost every social media user has experienced something similar in their time online, yet we always seem to be drawn back in.

This is not done by default but by design. In other words, social media companies design their platforms to create and subsequently feed addiction.

The notion of ‘social media addiction’ is something that has been bought to the fore by former Google employee, Tristan Harris, who claims that social media apps act as a substitute for ‘Big Tobacco for our brains’.

Harris was a key figure behind the recent Netflix documentary, ‘The Social Dilemma’, which presented a compelling case against the recent expansion of social media and smartphone technology.

During an interview with Fox News, Harris argued that the smartphone is “the most deep and subtle issue of our time … I believe it’s actually an existential threat to democracy”.

”Three billion people have a brain implant that’s a remotely controlled brain, because – especially in the coronavirus times – we are relying on these things to make sense of what’s reality out there in the world,” Harris said.

‘They have become the fabric for our sense-making and the fabric of our choice-making, the fabric of how children develop.”

Harris is not wrong – I have been on Twitter since May 2013. This means that Twitter has been shaping my beliefs for over eight years, despite being just 21 years of age.

A key driver behind the sustenance of these platforms is interaction: likes, retweets, comments, direct messages – all of which usually occur when one user agrees with another.

The resulting dopamine release that is proven to occur following such interactions means that people naturally continue to post thoughts that will likely be interacted with.

As a result, independent thought is something that is seemingly lacking from social media these days, especially in relation to politics.

Companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all use complex algorithms to measure your preferences: what you like, what you do not, what you linger on for one second more, or one second less. This data not only informs your timelines but is packaged and sold to the highest bidder.

We are all aware of how Facebook and Cambridge Analytica were able to influence the 2016 Brexit and US Presidential elections, respectively – social media companies not only have the power to influence individuals but their political beliefs and by extension, political outcomes.

When are we going to draw the line? If social media companies can control what political opinions you do and do not see, it is entirely feasible that they can swing elections results one way or another.

Twitter has also shown form with their recent ban of former US President Donald Trump. Regardless of his beliefs, should Twitter really act as the final arbiter of what he can and cannot say online?

The only next logical step is government intervention; following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook promised change. Since then, it has promised more change – what’s changed? Nothing.

Social media companies have shown time and time again that they cannot be trusted to self-regulate. Our only hope of change lies within real, meaningful legislation that removes social companies from the secret positions of power they have put themselves in.

An easy counter-argument would be: if you do not like it, just delete your account.

This is simply not realistic for the people of today or the children of tomorrow. Twitter and other forms of social media platforms, like it or not, have become essential forms of communication for people across the globe.

Social isolation, especially among children, is at an all-time high due to the restrictive implications of the COVID-19 pandemic – the last thing that is needed is the total removal of forms of communication.

Instead, we need to make sure that social media companies are held accountable for their actions and stripped of their ability to orchestrate our socio-political futures on a mass scale.