What’s the one idea that can’t be debated at a festival of ideas? The answer, it turns out, is the Covid Pass.
I was delighted to be asked to give a book talk and join a debate at How The Light Gets In, the world’s largest festival of philosophy and music. I checked the website to ensure there were no discriminatory Covid Pass policies and agreed. So, I was surprised when someone who had bought tickets told me that they had cancelled their tickets because the festival had imposed the policy.
I have withdrawn from the event. I would like to attend (I’ve enjoyed it before) and debate the ideas of our time, but Covid passports are discriminatory and illiberal, There is no strong scientific case for their use and I don’t wish to participate in an event that endorses them.
I would have made these points in ‘Playing With Fire’, the debate about safety and risk at which I was supposed to speak. Sociologist and author, Frank Furedi, has withdrawn from the same debate. Meanwhile, Silkie Carlo, the director of Big Brother Watch, has withdrawn from a debate about big tech and democracy for the same reason. I know other high-profile speakers are following suit. What could be more typical of the age of Covid: event organisers are trying to put on lively discussions about freedom vs safety, but their own restrictive Covid policies mean they can’t get decent voices on the side of liberty.
One of the organisers of How The Light Gets In told me they had introduced the policy to make the audience ‘feel safe’. Although I respect that they wanted to reassure ticket buyers, I find it difficult to respect the voluntary adoption of a controversial and unjustified policy that will exclude both audiences and speakers.