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That’s Niall Ferguson, not Neil Ferguson

North American academia is in the grip of a hideous mania, a cross between the early-modern witch craze and Mao’s Cultural Revolution, in which implacable zealots conduct grotesque show trials, innocent individuals have their reputations, careers and sanity destroyed, and everyone else cowers, terrified that they will be next to be ‘canceled’. (Niall Ferguson, blurb from Quillette book, ‘Panics and Persecutions’).

Now let’s be accurate here. The millions of victims of Mao’s cultural revolution had a very high tendency to end up dead. In early-modern England, you were vastly less likely to be suspected of being a witch, and suspected witches had far better odds: 60% of English witch trials ended in acquittal, and in fully half of those that convicted, the penalty was not death (and those statistics include the notorious brief episode of Matthew Hopkins under the puritans during the civil war, without which they would be noticeable less lethal still). But even an English witch faced greater physical danger than the modern western ‘cancelled’. Who was more cancelled than Mark Judge, but he is still alive and even earning money – washing dishes.

In short, Niall Ferguson’s comparisons, like Neil Ferguson’s pandemic models, exaggerate. What Niall describes is a vile change from academia a few decades ago (politically one-sided though that already was), but it could yet be very much worse – and maybe one day will be if we neglect Edmund Burke’s wise warning:

The only thing necessary for the victory of evil men is that good men do nothing.

23 comments to That’s Niall Ferguson, not Neil Ferguson

  • Paul Marks

    I disagree with Niall Ferguson on many historical questions – for example his favourable view of Frederick the Great, and his favourable view of the creation of the Bank of England. But Professor Ferguson (Niall not Neil) would not “dox” me, he would not drive me from my job and humiliate me for the “crime” of not agreeing with him about Frederick the Great or the Bank of England.

    “Yes Paul, but the modern left do not KILL people”.

    Wait – you will find that they have not changed, and they will kill.

    They have encountered no resistance taking over the schools and universities, teaching lies and covering up the truth, they have met no resistance in taking over the language – even insisting that dictionaries change the definition of words such as “racism” in order to fit in with Frankfurt School of Marxism doctrines.

    They have met no resistance in closing down small business enterprises in many countries, or in covering up (and smearing) the medications that could have saved so many lives from Covid 19.

    It was “necessary” for so many people to die – in order to “justify” the “Sustainable Development” and “Inclusive Capitalism” (which is not really capitalism at all) Agenda – so what was that about the left not being prepared to kill?

    Whether it is Marxists or the latter day followers of Saint-Simon Technocracy (the “Davos” crowd), they are very much prepared to kill.

    Explain to a bunch of BLM indoctrinated students how “system racism” is a LIE – and see how “non violent” they are.

    And now we see that FEAR CONTROLS THE COURTS.

    The vast amount of evidence of Election Fraud (including so many sworn statements by people brave enough to risk five years in prison – by swearing to what they encountered) is not refuted – it is NOT HEARD.

    Some of the judges are corrupt – but other judges are SCARED, scared about what the left will do to their families if they oppose massive Election Fraud.

    Sadly Professor NIALL Ferguson is not over egging the pudding – indeed the situation is worse than even he believes.

    The battle is already lost – if a system is so corrupt that even a Presidential Election in the United States can be blatantly rigged, right out in the open, and creatures such as “Joe” Biden and K. Harris put into office as PUPPETS of the international Collectivists, then it is hard to see what the left can NOT do.

    And from January 20th the Marxist training (“Diversity and Inclusion”) in the UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES will be back – indeed it has not really gone away (contrary to the Executive Order of President Trump).

    When the ARMED FORCES are fully indoctrinated in Frankfurt School doctrines, it will all be over.

  • Paul Marks

    It started in the school and universities – but now it is in every institution, including the Big Business Corporations.

    This is defeat – indeed collapse.

    The future may not be formal Marxism – but it will be Collectivism, sickening in its dishonesty and total in its ruthlessness (they will kill – and they have already killed, and they do not care).

    Eventually ECONOMIC LAW will destroy them (as Ludwig Von Mises pointed out a century ago – “Destuctionism”, interventionism, is doomed to collapse just as socialism is), but I do not expect to live to see the evil international system that is being created, collapse.

  • Flubber

    The leftists at the CDC have decided that old white people should not get the COVID vaccine as there are too many of them, and a few dying might “even up” the cosmic balance.

    Yeah, they’re killing people already.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I am very broadly (far from entirely) in agreement with Paul Marks on this issue.

    The NY Times covered up for Commie mass murder from the early 30s to the collapse of the Soviet Union. They are complicit in over 100M deaths from Communism… and that is not counting early deaths from malnutrition. As an institution, the NY Times is in the running as the most evil of all times.

    And speaking of malnutrition, let me state once more that diet advice from American academia led to earlier deaths for pretty much everybody who died in the last few decades. And it will lead to your earlier deaths too, if you don’t watch out.

  • Paul Marks

    December 26, 2020 at 5:58 pm

    I disagree with Niall Ferguson on many historical questions – for example his favourable view of Frederick the Great, and his favourable view of the creation of the Bank of England. But Professor Ferguson (Niall not Neil) would not “dox” me, he would not drive me from my job and humiliate me for the “crime” of not agreeing with him about Frederick the Great or the Bank of England.

    “Yes Paul, but the modern left do not KILL people”.

    Wait – you will find that they have not changed, and they will kill.

    Actually, they have been killing. It’s hard to keep count since the media do not tell that story, but I believe more than twenty people were killed during the riots this summer. Most of them were black, but death has been the Left’s desire, and the identity of the victim is superfluous. No matter how innocent, it’s always possible to dig up a reason. I, for instance, am a white bourgeois kulak. That proves I need killing.

  • Snorri Godhi

    BTW my major disagreement with Niall F on broad historical issues is his favorable view of empires. I see the history of human progress as mostly the history of city-states; up until, let’s say 1688.

  • Mr Ed

    Mr Ferguson of Imperial has, per The Times as reported in (today’s update of) Lockdownsceptics.org. reportedly admitted to having been inspired by Communist China in his approach to lockdowns. Did he put this forward to Mr Johnson at the time?

    Professor Neil Ferguson has given an extraordinary interview to Tom Whipple at The Times, in which he confirms the degree to which he believes that imitating China’s lockdown policies at the start of 2020 changed the parameters of what Western societies consider acceptable.

    “I think people’s sense of what is possible in terms of control changed quite dramatically between January and March,” Professor Ferguson says. When SAGE observed the “innovative intervention” out of China, of locking entire communities down and not permitting them to leave their homes, they initially presumed it would not be an available option in a liberal Western democracy: “It’s a communist one party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought… and then Italy did it. And we realised we could.”

    He almost seems at pains to emphasise the Chinese derivation of the lockdown concept, returning to it later in the interview:

    “These days, lockdown feels inevitable. It was, he reminds me, anything but. ‘If China had not done it,’ he says, ‘the year would have been very different.’”

    To those people who, still now, object to lockdowns on civil liberties principles, this will be a chilling reminder of the centrality of the authoritarian Chinese model in influencing global policy in this historic year.

    Aiding and abetting or committing misconduct in public office, anyone?

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Mr Ed, the link in your comment does not work, but here is a link to the (paywalled) Times interview with Ferguson carried out by Tom Whipple to which the person you quote is referring:

    Professor Neil Ferguson: People don’t agree with lockdown and try to undermine the scientists

  • Snorri Godhi

    Mr Ed: if you think that the idea of lockdown used to be extreme before China did it, then you did not go to the movies often enough.
    Which is a pity, since you cannot do so safely right now 🙂

    May i recommend the following:
    Outbreak (1995);
    Contagion (2011);
    Cordon (TV series, in Dutch, 2014);
    Containment (TV series, in American English, 2016).

  • Mr Ed

    Natalie, sorry about that, here is the link.

    Snorri, you are right, I don’t go to the movies and I don’t have a TV (for over.a decade). Thet people make movies about horror scenarios is one thing, but we should not more copy Red China on this than copy films from Japan when making preparations for Godzilla.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Mr Ed: it’s not about what “we” “should” do.
    It’s about what the ruling class WILL do.

    Most “”libertarians”” seem to be utterly unable to distinguish between the 2 concepts.

    Indeed, they (you?) seem to be utterly unable to grasp the concept of ruling class.

  • Paul Marks

    Snorri Godhi – I assure you that Mr Ed does understand what the ruling officials are capable of (as do I). You will just have to trust me (or not) on this point – as I will not explain why I say what I have just typed.

    Ellen – yes you are correct. Marxist BLM have been killing – indeed some store owners were burned alive.

    I am sure that Amazon, Bank of America, Google and all the rest of these UTTER FILTH are very proud of the murders their money paid for.

    “The Woke executives are only doing the evil they were EDUCATED to do” – I do not accept that excuse.

    Deep down Jeff Bezos, and the rest of them, know they are funding evil.

  • bobby b

    Snorri Godhi
    December 27, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    “Mr Ed: it’s not about what “we” “should” do.
    It’s about what the ruling class WILL do.

    Most “”libertarians”” seem to be utterly unable to distinguish between the 2 concepts.”

    This is a confusing statement to me, as knowing one from the other provides the primary impetus to be more libertarian.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Bobby: it seems to me that you are bullshitting.

    Mr Ed wrote:

    we should not more copy Red China on this than copy films from Japan when making preparations for Godzilla.

    He was clearly writing about what “we” “should” do.

    He was also, implicitly, ignoring what the ruling class would do.

    –That is not to dismiss Paul Marks’s comment.
    I am happy to accept that Mr Ed is aware of the threat from “civil” “servants”.

    But if Mr Ed, or anybody else, was unaware that the ruling class could, and would, impose martial law in an epidemic; then i have 2 words:

  • bobby b

    Snorri Godhi
    December 27, 2020 at 8:39 pm

    “Bobby: it seems to me that you are bullshitting.”

    Really, not. I suspect that it’s simply me playing two-dimensional chess while you play the three-dimensional kind.

    Knowing of what the “ruling class” is capable is exactly what leads me to push for more liberty.

  • Snorri Godhi (December 27, 2020 at 8:39 pm), depending on context, ‘we’ in a comment can mean libertarians or British society or western states generally, and what that ‘we’ ‘should’ or ‘should not’ do can be (and, alas, too often is) far from what that ‘we’ does.

  • Mr Ed

    Snorri G: I am sorry, but I am completely unable to discern how you came to your (what I see as an unwarranted) extrapolation. The ‘we’ was the UK as a political entity, and yes the ruling class.

    I would be happy with correcting the current situation with a modernised Bill of Attainder. The only issue is how many evil-doers should be punished, as a ballpark figure, I would take the number of deaths arising to the UK in WW2. Send them all for hard labour in Belarus under local rules, 10 years without the right of correspondence seems about right.

  • Mr Ed (December 27, 2020 at 10:26 pm), I suppose it is a good test of one’s knowledge of Soviet Communism’s mass-murder whether one knows what ’10 years without the right of correspondence’ means, much as one’s knowledge of Nazi mass-murder is reflected in whether one know what ‘special handling’ means.

    You needed to convey your true views to the unreasonably-doubting Snorri – and perhaps also savoured the relief of blowing off steam. I assume you know what would actually happen if our woke ruling classes could inflict bills of attainder on us as the finale in their acts of cancellation – indeed, the thought is relevant to my post. (But they don’t read Samizdata so will not get any ideas from us.)

    At Christmastime, let us count our blessings relative to the dangers facing our US friends. The vote fraud in our 2019 election here was far below what could have changed its outcome. Liz Truss’ speech may have been censored on the government’s own website (by woke civil servants, not Boris, I hope) but she’s still in post.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Folks, i have nothing against the use of “we” to indicate a collective decision in which most of us play an insignificant role, and have used it myself.

    All what i was saying is that, in addition to wondering about what “we” should do, we (w/o scare quotes) should also wonder about what will actually be done. In this way, we can get ready, at least psychologically.

  • Mr Ed


    By ’10 years without the right of correspondence’ although it was a ‘term of art’ for the Soviets, I would mean just that, I am not one for Com-boasts and Com-lies or euphemisms. 10 years for the convicted miscreants to focus entirely on their redemption through labour, without any news to or from the outside world, (letters etc. might carry the virus, internet or emails might carry ‘fake news’ that might stymie the fight against the virus) in a Covid-secure camp in a marshy part of Belarus sounds about right. Then they might realise, if not the error of their ways, that actions have consequences, and the next lot in power might be more cautious. I am merely eager to improve them, just as they are eager to improve you and me.

    The difference is that I would be happy to leave them be, if they were not the active aggressors that they are. I would seek to punish them for acts, not thoughts.

    And yes, it seems to me that in the United States, the Left are far more advanced, the country seems far more polarised than the UK, with the Trump supporters being terrifyingly normal, the Democrats terrifyingly insane or evil and the RINOs terrifyingly despicable in their willingness to be the Judas Goat.

  • Snorri Godhi

    On second thought, I apologize for my intemperate answer to bobby. I’d like to go further and admit that i was myself bullshitting, in the sense that i replied without taking care of understanding what bobby was trying to say. I am sorry if Niall (Kilmartin, not Ferguson) is going to be the only person reading this.

    My reply to bobby should have been more like the following:

    1. The difference between what governments should do and what they actually do, ALSO provides an impetus to become socialist. That is an empirical fact.

    2. It’s not just a matter of knowing that the 2 will be different: it is primarily a matter of understanding that the 2 concepts are distinct, and that knowing what governments will do is of practical interest even if you have no views about what governments should do.

  • Snorri Godhi

    knowing what governments will do is of practical interest even if you have no views about what governments should do.

    To clarify with an example:
    Leaving aside your views on the desirability of lockdowns (what the government should do).
    Once you look at the rate of increase in the number of deaths in the UK during the 2 weeks after the start of lockdown, you’ll realize that it was extremely likely that, at some point during those 2 weeks, Boris would have imposed a lockdown.
    Even if Neil Ferguson had kept his modelling results to himself.

    And i write “extremely likely” because afaik there is only one country with comparable numbers of deaths which did not impose a lockdown. If Sweden had imposed a lockdown, then i would write “practically certain”.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Related: Matt Ridley’s grilling of Neil Ferguson.

    I find it of interest because:
    * The good Viscount talks about the Swedish response as a case study, not as a paradigm to be imitated; which is the way we should talk about it.

    * While the Professor looks somewhat uncomfortable, he is not trying to bullshit his way through. He points out that the Swedes had a bottom-up sort of lockdown, and admits that that is a flaw in his models.

    * Also, he pointed out that this bottom-up lockdown resulted in a slower decline of infections. The obvious follow-up question would be: is a faster decline with a top-down lockdown worth the cost? But that is impossible to answer, given that what works in Sweden would not necessarily work in another country.