By Chris Sweeney, author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney
British protest group StandUpX is gaining in numbers. They mostly protest restrictive anti-Covid
-19 measures, but members also oppose 5G and vaccines
, among other things. The overarching belief is that democracy is under threat.
StandUpX made headlines for storming a busy branch of supermarket Morrisons in London recently. This weekend, they have marches planned all over the UK including in London, Birmingham, Bedford, Bournemouth and Norwich.
If you scroll through the group’s Facebook
feed, you’ll see the concerns shared by many in the wider British public – the over-reach of Covid
-19-related restrictions, the shifting numbers and narratives, the fear of draconian enforcement of mask-wearing and lockdowns – floating in a soup of dubious claims and conspiracy theories, which include anti-vaccine
speculations, claims that 5G towers spread viruses, and the denial of the coronavirus
’ very existence. The group doesn’t turn anyone away, which could be the reason its numbers appear to be swelling.
RT spoke to senior member and activist Joss – he was part of the incident in Morrisons, but doesn’t want his full name publicized for fear of being targeted.
“We're a community trying to spread awareness," he said. "This new normal is being spouted about and we’re told we need to accept it. It was supposed to be a three-week lockdown to flatten the curve. We did that, the hospitals were never overwhelmed, yet here we are 14 weeks later still partially locked down.”
The lockdown doesn’t just worry the StandUpX members. A lot of people don’t like having their entire lives overturned on the orders of a government that has itself demonstrated a very poor understanding of the situation and the science that’s supposed to guide such measures.
“The restrictions are ridiculous and so unnecessary for a virus with such a small death rate. My view is it’s a real virus, but the exaggeration is massive,” Joss says. "They call it a pandemic but pandemics are supposed to take at least five percent of the population and according to Doctor Dan Erickson it only has a 0.03 death rate – it’s a tiny amount and it’s not a pandemic.”
California-based Dr Erickson’s claims were among those removed from YouTube and Facebook
and a video of his interview on FoxNews was also taken down due to claims of inaccuracy. While fatality rates are low on a population basis, most physicians advise measuring deaths based on the number of recorded cases. Using that basis, the global death rate is 3.5 percent. It’s 14.8 percent in the UK, 3.2 in the US, 1.7 in Russia, 8.5 in Spain.
StandUpX are driven by the need to question what is being reported and why media, both social and traditional, have been given the power to overrule the opinions of medics and scientists.
Joss, who’s from North London, believes the UK is too complacent.
“We are taught in history how England saved the world in the war and how great England is – whereas in Germany, they know the dangers of government, they’ve had a dictatorship before. A lot more people are asleep here than somewhere like Germany.”
(Members of the group, like many conspiracy theorists, describe themselves as ‘awake’.)
"Over there, they’ve had massive demonstrations, I’ve seen pictures and videos of thousands of people on the street, but there’s been no coverage of it. They remember what happened in their country before, I call it a cultural scar, we don't have that and it stops us being skeptical.”
One of StandUpX’s main doubts, and the one that brought them into media scope, is the prospect of mandatory mask-wearing. News reports on their Morrisons stunt call then ‘anti-mask’, but Joss says that’s inaccurate.
“Those are the wrong words, pro-choice are the right ones," he told RT. "If someone wants to wear a mask, that’s fine. But what is going on right now is everyone is being told to wear one, that’s what we’re against. That’s why we went through Morrisons to spread information, we picked them as they are the only supermarket chain enforcing masks. On our marches, we’ll chant ‘take off the mask’ but we’re not trying to intimidate anyone. I’ll go up to people wearing one and tell them, do you know you’re breathing in your own carbon dioxide and bacteria gets caught in the mask?
“We need to wear masks now but during the height of the so-called pandemic, people were told not to wear masks. The government was censoring any advert that said a mask would help stop the spread of Covid
-19. Now of all of a sudden, you need to wear a mask,” Joss added.
The messaging on facemasks has indeed been very inconsistent over the course of the pandemic. Their efficiency has been called into question, but they have become a near-religious symbol of the fleeting concept of public safety from the pandemic.
Across the Atlantic, it has even been suggested that masks should be worn at home or on video calls with colleagues, and StandUpX members are wary of possible draconian punishments for refusing to put one on.
Vaccination is another touchstone for StandUpX. And this is where conspiracy vibes start to really break through. Understandably apprehensive of a hasty Covid
, which they fear could be made mandatory, members often talk on social media about previous vaccines
They cite the Nuremberg Code from 1946 which says that "any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned."
"I’ve spoken to individuals at StandUp events whose children have been damaged by previous vaccines
, and these vaccines
are tried and tested," Joss said. "Whereas this vaccine
is being rushed out, so what’s this one going to do?”
And again, for Joss it’s apparently about having access to all sides of the debate.
"The science is split but again we’re only hearing one side. There is a whole other scientific argument saying this stuff isn’t good for you. It’s got mercury, which is listed as the most dangerous metal on earth. Personally I don’t want mercury in my bloodstream, I don’t want human foetus cells inside my bloodstream. And my source for these ingredients is the Oxford University website, they list them right there for you.”
The website does mention mercury-based Thiomersal (also known as Thimerosal), a commonly used preservative in vaccines
opponents have long argued that it can cause autism, a notion that survives despite multiple medical organisations dismissing the link in the early 2000s.
Another campaigning theme is 5G. StandupX wants to see its rollout halted and claims trees are being chopped down around Britain, as they interfere with the signal. They believe, and it’s even outlined on their website’s front page, that 5G signals are harmful to humans.
Joss’ explanation is simple: “At Standup, we all agree 5G is not good in general but people have different opinions on its effects. My opinion is that we are electric beings, you can move your hands because of an electric signal. If you think other kinds of electrical magnetic fields and radiation aren’t going to affect you, then you don’t understand human biology.”
Once again, conspiracy meets the more tangible concern of media censorship.
“But you don't hear anything negative about 5G in the media and that’s because the mainstream media is regulated by Ofcom, who are also responsible for giving out 5G contracts," he adds. "So you can’t say anything bad about 5G or Ofcom will take action. This is a conflict of interest and it’s a problem throughout our government.
"There was a European appeal with hundreds of scientists and medical professionals speaking out against the rollout of 5G and calling for more testing. It was ignored by the media."
That appeal did take place; back in January, 200 doctors published an open letter in Brussels which they refer to 5G as “an experiment on humankind and on the environment.”
This is also tied to their opposition to Track and Trace, which will be aided by the 5G network.
"With Track and Trace you can be told to be locked up in your home for two weeks. We are against that kind of control," Joss seethed. "When we give them the right to tell us to lockdown in our houses, it’s no longer a democracy.”
Joss, who has been attending StandUpX marches every weekend since the beginning of lockdown, confirmed that membership stretches across age and racial boundaries. There is no leader, despite reports of Piers Corbyn – brother of high profile socialist politician Jeremy – being in charge, with decisions made by consensus.
The group also stress they are completely peaceful. Joss reveals they do face aggression from those who disagree, and are often verbally abused during marches.
“People may think they are doing the right thing," he added. "Imagine a doctor told the Prime Minister that this was all just a bad flu. Then Boris Johnson
would look like an idiot, he would have imposed these restrictions for no reason. Hypothetically, he might be covering up right now as he knows that it’s not that bad, but he’s done all this stuff so he’s dug himself into a hole.”
"I don’t know if I’d use the word sinister, but they are making deliberate decisions to cover themselves – that's what happens in politics.
“Also in the SAGE documentation that’s been released, it states they are going to use the media to increase levels of concern. In other words, that’s fear mongering. That’s them saying we’re going to exaggerate all this to increase fear. Maybe they think it’s for the best, but for me it’s irrelevant as fear kills."
If this, too, sounds like a conspiracy theory, check again: the papers are real ‘behavioral scientist’ advice to SAGE, as “options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures.”
Joss even suspects that the high-profile case of Boris Johnson
’s advisor Dominic Cummings coming under massive media pressure for leaving London and breaking lockdown rules may have been a ploy.
"When that happened, we were just about to go into our seventh week of lockdown. On the news, it should have been, why are we still in lockdown? Children are not in school, the economy is crashing," he said.
Again, it circles back to narrative control and the concern that governments and social media have full power over what we are allowed to see and hear.
"Algorithms are pushing things down so it’s hard to find the other sides of the argument," Joss said. "There was a video of 20 doctors speaking about Hydroxychloroquine and how it’s a cure but before I could watch it, it was taken down on Twitter and YouTube. Donald Trump
tried to tweet about it and his tweets were deleted.”
StandupX’s first protests numbered only around 20 people. They are now attracting thousands and according the group, the numbers are continuing to increase rapidly – hence why more events are taking place all across the UK.
What about the skeptics who dismiss them as a bunch of crazy conspiracy theorists?
“We know we’re in a minority and we’re fine with that,” Joss said. “But I say to everyone, please become an independent researcher and look at both sides of the argument.”
"We are supposed to be in a democracy – we’re supposed to have choice over what we put in our bodies and what we put over our faces.”