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Is it Time for Ofcom to Have a Word with Jeremy Vine?

‘What should we do about anti-vaxxers?’ As inflammatory and disturbing as this question is, it’s one audiences of Jeremy Vine’s various radio shows will not be unfamiliar. Tune into Vine’s shows on BBC Radio 2 or Channel 5 and listeners will indeed be met with the eponymous host routinely assailing guests with what is essentially a thinly-veiled call to action: ‘we’ (the vaccinated i.e. clean) need to do something about ‘them’ (the unvaccinated i.e. unclean). Precisely what action the presenter wants however, he appears not so keen to divulge.

Fines and lockdowns specifically aimed at the unvaccinated, when it has become acceptable in the mainstream to not only mention, but also promote intolerance, Vine’s coyness seems a trifle odd. Why not join his fellows in calling for the social exclusion of so-called anti-vaxxers? After all, within the corridors of ITV, BBC, Sky and Channel 4, discrimination is currently en vogue. Among certain mindsets, dreaming up ways to socially exclude a large minority of the population is quite the fashion with former BBC pundit Andrew Neil recently musing how best to ‘punish’ the unvaccinated.

What measures over and above overt discrimination might Vine then have in mind? Given the reality that a substantial number of his ‘anti-vaxxers’ have decided not to participate in the vaccine trial and refuse to be cowed or bullied into doing so, the presenter can only be thinking in one direction: even greater human rights violations.

Is Mr Vine and others like him envisaging going even further than excluding the ‘unclean’ from theatres and night-clubs? How about denying them vital medical care or access to supermarkets thus raising the spectre of starvation? Why stop there? If, as seems likely, ‘anti-vaxxers’ will not submit their bodily integrity at any cost, then the ultimate destination leads to an especially sinister scenario: agents of the state able to remove citizens from their homes to places of internment where, safely out of earshot, they can be forcefully injected with Covid shots. Are these the kind of ‘persuasive’ measures mein host secretly desires?

The course of action that dare not speak its name, such sentiments cannot however be shared on air – at least not yet. Hence the hesitation and pussy-footing around the topic, the prodding of guests in the hope it will be they who raise this dreadful spectre and not Jeremy Vine, the impartial BBC radio presenter.

Despite his best efforts however, Vine has not yet been able to elicit the response he appears to be seeking. Regular guests such as media commentator Andrew Pierce tip-toe around the subject, host and contributor, equally impotent, almost daring one another to cross the rubicon of good taste and decency, to be the first to utter the horrific vernacular associated with out and out authoritarianism: ‘camps’, ‘re-education,’ or ‘forced medical procedure.’

And herein may lie the source of Vine’s agitation. How precisely does one urge the descent into this dark, immoral world without being able to use the precise language? The host and his panellists are thereby faced with a dilemma: until persecution of the variety experienced during certain dark epochs in human history becomes once more socially acceptable, the likes of Vine and Pierce are stuck with woolly euphemisms. They must be content to prepare the ground, to soften up the public, to manufacturer consent for potential atrocity. They must speak in code: something must be done . . .

Mr Vine’s patience though is wearing thin. He wants action and he wants it now. However, the mainstream does not quite know how to square this particular circle, the same mainstream that preaches ‘kindness’ and ‘tolerance’ and routinely presents itself as human rights champions. As to how long mainstream reticence will last though is anyone’s guess. It’s a precipice towards which the UK broadcast media may be edging towards slowly and oh so carefully, but make no mistake: its progress is inexorable. Discrimination, segregation, vilification . . . the UK broadcast media is simply gagging to unleash its artillery on an unsuspecting public.

As to why and how the kind and compassionate broadcast (and print) media has arrived at this dark place is easily explained. For the liberal intelligentsia the vaccine debate is simple: as ever there is a ‘right-side’ (pro-vaccine) and a ‘wrong’ side (pro-choice). Polarisation is deliberate. It is designed to obviate, to overwhelm, to ultimately ensnare society in an fraudulent cul-de-sac: right or wrong, clean or unclean? Choose a side.

Listeners to Vine’s shows are thus bombarded with pro-vaccine propaganda obvious not only in the host’s habitual use of the derogatory and fallacious term ‘anti-vaxxer’ but also apparent in the choice of panellists. Carl Heneghan, Sunetra Gupta, Sucharit Bakhdi . . . while Vine’s panels may occasionally contain a vaccine sceptic such as Beverly Turner, there to be harangued and outnumbered, experts who could seriously derail his narrative are only notable by their absence.

It's not only credible experts whom Vine’s producers endeavour to keep off the airwaves – narrative management as it’s known. Back in August a caller made it through pre-screening to confront Vine with some startling Covid vaccine data sourced from VAERS. The host was not best pleased. Rather than discuss the caller’s evidence and concerns, Vine berated him for having misled the programme’s researchers. The presenter had assumed he would be talking to a regretful and suitably contrite ‘anti-vaxxer,’ who, having seen the error of his ways, would urge fellow sceptics to take the vaccine.

Instead, he was confronted with inconvenient facts. The caller wanted to know why Vine and his colleagues had not mentioned 1,500 post-vaccination deaths and several hundred thousand adverse reactions. According to a condescending Vine adverse reactions are confined to what he described as ‘a pain in the arm.’ An incredulous caller instantly corrected this casual dismissal: heart attack, stroke, blindness, deafness . . . ‘I hate to cut people off,’ replied an irascible host as he proceeded to do just that.

All of which may help to explain Mr Vine’s current agitation. As forums strictly reserved for pro-vaccine propaganda the programmes of Vine and his broadcast media colleagues are damned to repeat the same script, week after week and by doing so create an echo chamber charged with sterility and hostility. Long since purged of dissenting voices, the tone of such programmes thus becomes ever more belligerent, ever more vindictive, ever more provocative. Indeed, listening to mainstream panellists and pundits edging towards normalisation of tyranny is a profoundly chilling experience, déjà vu of the most horrific kind imaginable.

The path to tyranny is incremental, so history teaches us. History also teaches that it’s a path that often begins with creation of an outgroup, a group which prior to being dehumanised is stigmatised, presented as causing a profound problem to ‘us’ – the enlightened majority. What ensues when this point is reached is entirely predictable: persecution and much, much worse.

All of which leaves a hugely important question: at what point does the rhetoric of Jeremy Vine and his colleagues in the broadcast media equate to incitement? That’s a question for media liberals to ponder – not least Ofcom, the organisation charged with regulating the broadcast media. Don’t hold your breath.