Three seemingly unrelated facts:
First, the least important fact (well, important to me, but maybe not to others): my birthday is February 17.
Much more important, on February 17, 1600, the philosopher and scientist Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for a variety of intellectual “crimes.”
And, finally, on July 25, 2021, at a mass rally in London attended by “thousands” of anti-vaccine militants, British conspiracy theorist Kate Shemirani told the crowd that soon doctors and nurses promoting the anti-Covid vaccine would be tried like Nazi-era war criminals, and “hung” (sic) as a consequence.
And I’m afraid.
Giordano Bruno...a great man, killed by fools and frauds
I’m going to mention Bruno first and then get to the other stuff.
Giordano Bruno (1568-1600) was an Italian Dominican Friar. He was also an extraordinarily talented man, a freethinker, and an intellectual of enormous power. Among many other things, he speculated that the stars were, in fact, other suns, circled by other planets, and perhaps inhabited by creatures like ourselves.(1)
But, of course, 15th century Europe was no place to be a freethinking intellectual, at least in matters of interest to the church. Oh, yes, the Renaissance was getting under way, but it was early days. You could still get into serious trouble questioning what the authorities believed…or, at least said they believed, and demanded that everyone else believe also.
So, when Bruno came along asking questions about the soul, and speculating about whether or not humanity was really that unique (even Popes), and wondering about other worlds…
He was done for. And they burned him on 17 Feb.
An aside: historians aren’t 100% sure which of his “crimes” Bruno was condemned for. I gather that the majority opinion is that his religious speculations are what got him into trouble. But there is also a minority position which says it was that business about other worlds and suns that was the real problem. (2)
But, either way, I think you can make the argument that they killed him for his interest in what today would be called “science,” and “reason.” Even though he was centuries away from the Enlightenment, he was one of that era’s forerunners. He spoke, eloquently, for the supremacy of reason, and for evidence (not faith!) as the basis for belief.
Which is why I identify with him, and honor him on my own birthday.
But what has this to do with Kate Shemirani?
According to the Business Insider, on 25 July, Shemirani joined “several renowned right-wing conspiracy theorists, including David Icke, Katie Hopkins - who just got refused entry to Australia for refusing to produce COVID-19 documentation - and Gillian McKeith.” Together, they addressed an audience of thousands (all maskless, of course) and railed against vaccines of every sort, and anti-Covid vaccines in particular.
Ms. Shemirani’s highpoint came when she told the crowd, “"Get their names [of doctors and nurses]. Email them to me. With a group of lawyers, we are collecting all that. At the Nuremberg Trials, the doctors and nurses stood trial, and they hung. If you are a doctor or a nurse, now is the time to get off that bus... and stand with us, the people.”(3)
And she frightens me. She frightens me because she could be right. Not about vaccines. Vaccines are safe and good. They have saved humanity from much death and suffering. The anti-Covid vaccines are, in fact, literally life-savers, and they are the only way we are ever going to get the Covid pandemic under control.
But what I fear is that she may be right about the Nuremberg-like Trials for medical personnel…
I fear because I look around me and see so many men and women embracing unreason…unreasoning hatred, unreasoning fury…
And if they…our modern fanatics and anti-rationalists…did triumph…
I cannot help but think that blood would flow in the streets.
Which brings me, finally, back to Giordano Bruno.
He was murdered for no other reason than that he believed in science, and reason, and evidence.
Or, to put it in modern terms…
Today, he would advocate vaccinations, wear a mask in crowded public places, and put his faith in medical science …
And, today as well, there are people who would just as eagerly condemn him to torture and death…
Thus my conclusion…
We need to pay very close attention to the militants among us…to those who say that, if they were in power, they would send medical professionals to the gallows…
Because they are deadly serious.
We need to be prepared…
We need to be prepared to …peacefully, but firmly…stop them…
Before they kill again.
Until next time…
Onward and upward.
Quick aside: I’ve researched Shemirani a bit more. Turns out even her own son regards her as a threat to human health and well-being. Bravo to him, and I can’t imagine how hard it would be to have such a person as your mother, and know that she is, in fact, dangerously insane.(6)
Copyright©2021 Michael Jay Tucker
1. See, for example, “Burned at the Stake for Believing in Science: The life and work — and unorthodox beliefs — of Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno,” By Michael Mason, Discover Magazine, Aug 19, 2008 7:00 PM, https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/burned-at-the-stake-for-believing-in-science. His entry at wikipedia is also quite useful: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giordano_Bruno#Imprisonment,_trial_and_execution,_1593%E2%80%931600
2. “Was Giordano Bruno Burned at the Stake for Believing in Exoplanets? Most historians say no, but new evidence suggests otherwise,” by Alberto A. Martínez, Scientific American, March 19, 2018. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/was-giordano-bruno-burned-at-the-stake-for-believing-in-exoplanets/
3. “Anti-vaxx conspiracy theorist tells rally that healthcare workers fighting COVID could face Nuremberg-style trials,” Bethany Dawson, Business Insider, Jul 25, 2021, 6:17 AM, https://www.businessinsider.com/london-anti-vaxxer-says-healthcare-workers-face-nuremberg-style-trials-2021-7
5. Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia's Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane Kindle Edition, by S. Frederick Starr, https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Enlightenment-Central-Conquest-Tamerlane-ebook/dp/B00F8MIJMQ/
6. See the following video in which son, Sebastian Shemirani, says that his mother is “beyond help” : https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/covid-vaccine-doctors-hanging-shemirani-police-b1890636.html