Could the pill be worse than the ill? The Left remains unmoved.
In this three-part blog, I explore the absence of critical thought and debate by the Left on the global response to Covid, using two commentators I am familiar with as examples. Below, I discuss the Left’s silence on the disproportionate collateral damage from lockdown. While the government has intensified its propaganda campaign, propaganda busters Media Lens have remained strangely silent.
So, what of the measures? Is shutting down Britain really the best answer? That’s the perfectly reasonable question that Peter Hitchens asked on 22 March in his Mail on Sunday column. He added up as many of lockdown’s potential harms as he could foresee and asked if the threat posed by the virus, which we knew something about at that time, warranted such an extreme measure. He was doing, in journalistic fashion, what we expect the government to do in a more thorough and scientific way — a cost-benefit analysis.
The logic behind attempting a cost-benefit analysis in principle — ignoring the pressure to get it right — is unassailable regardless of which side of the political divide you are on. If Professor John Ioannidis of Stanford University, one of the world’s most cited and respected scientists, was asking the same questions and voicing similar doubts, why would you pillory Peter Hitchens for doing this in his capacity as a journalist who, in any event, was quoting Ioannidis?
And yet that’s exactly what Media Lens did. I have lost count of the number of times the Media Lens crew have complained, with dignity, about the pillorying they endure when challenging journalists in their capacity as propaganda busters. So it was jaw-dropping to see them round on Hitchens with a 38-word ad hominem attack in the precise manner of the school-yard press bullies they criticise day in and day out. It was the antithesis of everything I had come to admire and respect in them. Above all, it was the antithesis of their own stated philosophy:
“Our aim is to increase rational awareness, critical thought and compassion. Our goal is not at all to attack, insult or anger individual journalists…” [bold emphasis added]
We know there is no scientific basis for lockdowns in countering respiratory illnesses. More importantly, we knew before lockdowns that there never was a scientific basis for them. It’s important to stress that, had there been any scientific basis for lockdowns in countering respiratory illnesses, they would have been included in the pandemic preparedness plans of EU countries. They were not. Sweden understood this and was one of the few countries to calmly and rationally follow the science. In short, there had been a longstanding acceptance of the fact that stopping humans from being humans would not stop this virus from being a virus and running its course in the way respiratory illnesses always have. The precedent for sensible and rational mitigation was well established and there was no case for a wild deviation from this. No sane person suggested doing nothing. Sweden certainly did not sit back and do nothing. But lockdowns were never part of the suite of accepted measures for respiratory illnesses.
So all EU countries that applied lockdowns did so in the full knowledge that they were not being ‘led by the science’, a phrase that must now surely enter the lexicon as, at best, a cognitively dissonant rationalisation of irrational stupidity or, at worst, a whitewashing of deliberate recklessness.
The sharp age and comorbidity dependence of Covid risk was already known pre-lockdown and demanded a targeted risk-based approach. That is what science dictates. Understand who is at risk and shield them. The single focus on one disease combined with a blanket population approach and the waste of vast resources (not just economic but human in the form of NHS staff) can, and did, lead to enormous collateral damage, still unfolding.
Putting on my apologist’s cap, I would have said that it was impossible for government officials watching images of military trucks transporting coffins from Bergamo in northern Italy not to respond with lockdown. But then I learnt that 70% of the undertakers in the region were obliged to isolate under quarantine rules, so they asked the military for a one-off transportation of 60 coffins. Surely the journalists compiling that report would have had to have known that? And I genuinely (not sarcastically) wonder how difficult it would have been for propaganda busters like Media Lens to uncover this sort of media manipulation and expose it.
If the Left could somehow be forgiven for missing the sceptics’ boat on Lockdown 1, plenty of evidence had accumulated by the time of Lockdown 2 to make a repeat of that mistake unforgiveable. Lockdown 2 in the UK, which began in November, was predicated, in large part, on the outlandish claim that 93% of the population was still susceptible to the virus owing to non-exposure. In other words, the government made two claims: only 7% of the population had been infected, and; there was no prior immunity. This was wrong at the time and known to be wrong.
Dr Mike Yeadon has a degree in biochemistry and toxicology and a research-based PhD in respiratory pharmacology. He has spent over 30 years leading new medicines research in some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, leaving Pfizer in 2011 as Vice President & Chief Scientist for Allergy & Respiratory. That was the most senior research position in this field in Pfizer. Since leaving Pfizer, Dr Yeadon has founded his own biotech company, Ziarco, which was sold to the world’s biggest drug company, Novartis, in 2017. He demonstrated prior to Lockdown 2 that two arms of herd immunity (yes, ‘herd’ — humans are animals and always working extremely hard to prove we are far more degenerate and stupid than all other animals) acquired by infection with Covid and through pre-existing T-cell immunity provided a more realistic immunity level in the population of 60–70%.
Immunity acquired through infection can be corroborated approximately with a junior-school maths calculation using the government’s own statistics on Covid deaths to October of 43,000 and the upper range of the known IFR of 0.2% — 21.5m infected or 32% of the UK’s population of 67m. On that single arm alone, the government’s claim of 7% immunity is out by a wide margin of 25 percentage points. Then in September, the BMJ published a compelling case for pre-existing immunity citing at least six studies reporting T-cell reactivity against SARS-CoV-2 in 20% to 50% of people with no known exposure to the virus. Dr Yeadon’s compelling conclusion is that “the pandemic was over by June and herd immunity was the main force which turned the pandemic and pressed it into retreat.”
So the question for media analysts has to be: how does the ridiculous claim of only 7% immunity made by the government’s chief scientists go largely unchallenged in the mainstream media? Is Media Lens not even remotely curious about this propaganda and the potential impact of it on our society? And why were they unwilling to apply their own stated principle of “check[ing] the media’s version of events against credible facts and opinion provided by journalists, academics and specialist researchers”?
There was growing consensus in the scientific community that lockdowns were causing more harm than good before Lockdown 2 in the UK was decreed in November. This excellent piece by three PhD scientists with extensive experience collectively in genetics, clinical research, biochemistry and immunology assessed lockdown as a clinical intervention according to the same criteria that other medical treatments are assessed. It failed on all counts. Equally astounding is the fact that the most extreme measures taken by Western governments since the Second World War were not preceded by even the most rudimentary cost-benefit analysis. This makes the first wave of lockdowns grossly negligent at best. The second wave of lockdowns is nothing short of criminal.
There is no longer even a pretence at carefully weighing up public policies in the West along moral, ethical, legal or economic criteria. ‘Can we get away with it?’, now seems to be the sole yardstick by which ‘democratic’ governments measure their Covid decrees. And they are confident that they can get away with it for two reasons: democracy was scrapped in a fear-fuelled power grab and both the power grab and climate of fear remain completely unchallenged by the Left in particular and mainstream media in general.
PCR testing, and the ‘cases’ it delivers, is undoubtedly one of the core pillars on which this mountain of insanity currently balances. More and more experts are renaming this pandemic a ‘PCR pandemic’ owing to the unreliability of the test when used as a screening tool in the general population, which is exactly how it is being used by governments across the world. Dr Yeadon’s conclusion, and that of many other experts, is:
“It’s important to appreciate…that the only data suggesting a ‘second wave’ is upon us are PCR results. Everything is dependent on this. A “case” is a positive PCR test. No symptoms are involved. A “COVID-19 admission” to a hospital is a person testing positive by PCR before, on entry or at any time during a hospital stay, no matter the reason for the admission or the symptoms the patient is presenting. A “COVID-19 death” is any death within 28 days of a positive PCR test. If there is any doubt about the reliability of the PCR test, all of this falls away at a single stroke. I have to tell you that there is more than common-or-garden doubt about the PCR mass testing that purports to identify the virus. We have very strong evidence that the PCR mass testing as currently conducted is completely worthless.”
In September, the eminently qualified authors of this BMJ article sounded alarm bells, stating:
“Using PCR for population screening — even with a lower maximum Ct value cut off — is not epidemiologically sound. The balance of costs and harms against the potential benefits has not been evaluated”.
So widespread is the lack of confidence in the testing that the Portuguese Appeals Court ruled in November that this PCR test is not a reliable way to determine the health status or infectiousness of citizens, nor to restrain their movements. Other countries are also receiving legal challenges, one being submitted late November in Germany by Reiner Fuellmich, a lawyer who successfully sued VW in relation to diesel emissions. Dr Yeadon is aware of legal challenges being mounted in other countries, including Italy, Switzerland and South Africa.
I wonder how many ordinary citizens know that the scientific validity of this test is under such severe challenge. If they did know, would the government be able to press ahead with spending £100bn on mass testing? I suspect not. This is just one of many examples of the enormous cost of propaganda, and it boggles my mind to think of the Left burying its head in the sand while the free world burns in an inferno of lies and lives are trashed by the response to Covid.
Before Covid, the scientific consensus on mask-wearing in the general population was that it was ineffective. In November, the most comprehensive randomised controlled trial to date targeting Covid infection specifically (as opposed to the proliferation of pseudo-science measuring aerosol expulsion) was published confirming that mask wearing in the general population was a waste of time. And what have the government’s most senior scientists done in response to The Science? They’ve doubled down and threatened continuation of mask mandates into 2022.
And why no vociferous challenge from the mainstream media? Perhaps because Ofcom “strongly advise[s] [broadcasters] to take particular care when broadcasting:
· discussion of potential treatments or cures for the Coronavirus that do not align with advice of the NHS or other public health authorities;
· statements that seek to question or undermine the advice of public health bodies on the Coronavirus, or otherwise undermine people’s trust in the advice of mainstream sources of information about the disease.” [bold emphasis added]
In other words, Ofcom is aiding government propaganda by censoring scientific debate. The havoc this crisis has wreaked, aided and abetted by formal press censorship, will continue to reverberate for at least the next generation. All of this is not worthy of a single post by the seasoned experts on propaganda and censorship at Media Lens.
If we ever succeed in clearing the pall of lies cast over almost every aspect of our lives in 2020, this retch-inducing piece of BBC propaganda in which you are encouraged to “imagine the pandemic as a flower” must surely be made mandatory material in studies of state sponsored propaganda. The BBC would have us believe that “the suffering from the coronavirus pandemic has come to define 2020”. Perhaps what has truly come to define 2020 in the so-called democracies of the West is the following quote, attributable to Elena Gorokhova:
“The rules are simple: they lie to us, we know they’re lying, they know we know they’re lying, but they keep lying to us, and we keep pretending to believe them.”
It doesn’t feel like we’re being led by the science. It feels like we’re being led by a cult.
You know your government is lying to you when it tells you to wear a mask for the 5-metre walk from the restaurant entrance to the table and then unmask for the remainder of your 90-minute stay so that you can eat and drink.
You know your government is lying to you when it tells pub owners to serve alcohol only with a ‘substantial meal’ in the interests of keeping a virus at bay. Many people now have a strong sense that the government’s Covid diktat looks like it was cobbled together by Stalinist bureaucrats at the end of a marathon Vodka party.
You know your government is lying to you when its public service broadcaster carefully defines its daily announcement of Covid deaths as ‘people who died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid’.
This is what industrial-scale lying by governments looks like.
From 23 March to 30 June 2020, the government intensified its media propaganda campaign, increasing its spending on media advertising by 5000% to become the UK’s number one advertiser. Lockdown proponents might claim this was an appropriate response to a grave public health threat but this claim collapses under the weight of the evidence for mortality which was understood to be low before societies were locked down. A more measured response was both entirely appropriate and possible, as demonstrated by the Swedish authorities who actually did calmly follow the science.
The moral turpitude of the government’s campaign becomes apparent when you begin to understand that its key levers of manipulation, documented by its Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), were fear, shame and blame. It should go without saying that fear and hysteria are anathema to sound decision making. Fear and hysteria are tools of terror and, unsurprisingly, a terrified British public is today at its most enervated and depressed since the Second World War.
Media Lens’ own lens allowed them to expose, with steely determination, the mainstream propaganda campaign that led the British public to mistakenly believe that Jeremy Corbyn was a dangerous anti-Semite. And yet that same lens completely filtered out a relentless campaign that manipulated the same public into believing that Covid was the most catastrophic public health threat since the Black Death, even after the government had downgraded the status of the disease before lockdowns began, owing to known low mortality. Media Lens, so adept at detecting mainstream media filters, could not see the filter before their own eyes. Why?
In part 3, I will discuss the Left’s unwitting embrace of Disaster Capitalism and its consequences for progressive politics. I also examine Caitlin Johnstone’s contradictory statements and speculate on the role of ideology in the Left’s blind spot.