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Brownstone Institute

The Trouble with Testing

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11 minute read

From the Brownstone Institute

By Jeffrey A. Tucker

Deborah Birx is at it again, urging mass testing for the detection of bird flu. She wants cows and dairy workers examined to ferret out asymptomatic infections and exposures in animals and people. We have the technology so why not use it, she demands to know. We are making the same mistake we made with Covid early on, she argues.

The role of testing is relatively uncontroversial but it probably should be. Early on in the Covid crisis, though completely against the lockdowns, I was an enthusiast for testing simply because I thought doing so would overcome the epistemic void that was driving public panic.

If you are scared of a disease and have no means to discover whether or not you have it, what is your choice but to hop around in a frenzy and comply with every edict? That was my thinking in any case. We live and learn.

What’s left out of the testing issue is the great question of why. Is it track, trace, and isolate? That has been proven impossible – and long known to be impossible – in the case of a fast-spreading and fast-mutating respiratory virus with a zoonotic reservoir. They tried it anyway with many states quickly hiring tens of thousands of contact tracers.

The iTunes and Google app stores had contact tracing programs you could download. That way if you came close to someone who had tested positive, you would be alerted. It worked like a digital leper’s bell. In fact, even now, the airlines are still doing Covid contact tracing for flying in and out of the country.

Another possible rationale is likely the one in the mind of Birx. She was formed in the AIDS era where the goal was zero infections. Early on, she was a proponent of zero Covid and made that very clear. She is a virus exterminationist: every policy is structured to drive infections, cases, and even exposure to zero, despite the utter impossibility of this goal.

Another possible rationale would be to discern early intervention therapies for people who need them. But realizing that goal is contingent on two other conditions: having therapeutics available and knowing with some sense of confidence that an asymptomatic infection is certainly going to get worse.

Think of the movie Contagion (2011) in this way. It was a killer virus that you get and get worse and then die, all rather quickly. In the movie, the job of the health authorities was always to find the infected and notify everyone with whom they had contact. By the way, this didn’t even work in the film but we are presented with some impressive disease forensics that ended up isolating patient zero.

Again, the question beckons: why are we doing all this? The goals of stopping the spread, driving exposure to zero, and actually treating the sick (if they are sick versus just exposed) are certainly in tension with each other. If you are going to embark on an elaborate and invasive scheme to find and isolate every instance of the pathogen, it’s a good idea to know what precisely you are trying to achieve with the effort. No interviewer has been smart enough to ask this fundamental question of Birx.

And keep in mind that Birx does not want to limit testing to people. She wants cows and chickens tested too, and there’s no particular reason to limit it to that. It could include every member of the animal kingdom, every four-legged creature, and every fish and foul. The expense would be enormous and truly unthinkable, driving the cost of meat production sky-high, especially given the inevitable slaughters that would be mandated.

This is made worse, as we learned last time, by PCR tests that can be set at any cycle rate to discover the mere presence of a virus in just about anything. The last time, this led to unwarranted assumptions of contagiousness, up to 90 percent in 2020, as reported by the New York Times. Because there was and is so much confusion about this piece, let’s quote it directly.

The PCR test amplifies genetic matter from the virus in cycles; the fewer cycles required, the greater the amount of virus, or viral load, in the sample. The greater the viral load, the more likely the patient is to be contagious.

This number of amplification cycles needed to find the virus, called the cycle threshold, is never included in the results sent to doctors and coronavirus patients, although it could tell them how infectious the patients are.

In three sets of testing data that include cycle thresholds, compiled by officials in Massachusetts, New York and Nevada, up to 90 percent of people testing positive carried barely any virus, a review by The Times found.

On Thursday, the United States recorded 45,604 new coronavirus cases, according to a database maintained by The Times. If the rates of contagiousness in Massachusetts and New York were to apply nationwide, then perhaps only 4,500 of those people may actually need to isolate and submit to contact tracing.

While it’s not quite precise to say that the PCR tests generate 90% false positives, it is correct to say that in those tests looked at by the NYT at the height of the pandemic, 90 percent of positive results did not warrant concern at all. They should have been thrown out entirely.

That’s a serious problem for the test, track, trace, and isolate regime that Birx is proposing. Is it any wonder that people today are highly suspicious of this entire idea? Rightly so. Nothing is to be gained by throwing the whole of society into a mysophobic panic when the tests themselves are so poor at discerning the difference between a mild exposure and a medically significant case.

For more on this, see my interview with Jay Bhattacharya, who was onto this problem very early on.

Indeed it was precisely the PCR tests that created this wild confusion between an exposure, an infection, and an actual case. The word case in the past had been reserved for someone actually sick and needing some medical intervention. For reasons never explained, that entire language was blown up, such that OurWorldinData suddenly started listing every documented PCR exposure as a case, creating the feeling of disaster when actually life was functioning entirely normally. The better the authorities got at testing, and the more universal the testing mandates, the sicker the population seemed to be getting.

This all depends on the conflation of exposure, infection, and cases.

Once the disease panic is created, what’s left to do about it remains entirely within the realm of public health authorities. Already last week, the authorities ordered 4 million chickens to be slaughtered. Already more than 90 million birds have been killed since 2022.

As Joe Salatin points out: “The policy of mass extermination without regard to immunity, without even researching why some birds flourish while all around are dying, is insane. The most fundamental principles of animal husbandry and breeding demand that farmers select for healthy immune systems. We farmers have been doing that for millennia. We pick the most robust specimens as genetic material to propagate, whether it’s plants, animals, or microbes.”

This is precisely where this obsession with testing gets us. Whether it is animals or humans, the power of government to compel disease tests and act on the results has led to destructive policies in every instance. You might think we would have learned. Instead, reporters just let Birx ramble on without asking fundamental questions about severity, purpose, viability, or consequences.

There has probably in the history of government never been a more presumptuous aspiration than for bureaucrats to seek to manage the whole of the microbial kingdom. But that is where we are. There’s never been a better time for every citizen of a would-be free nation to proclaim: my biology is none of the government’s business.

Author

Jeffrey Tucker is Founder, Author, and President at Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Life After Lockdown, and many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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Brownstone Institute

The Media’s Latest Pathetic Blame Game

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute

By IAN MILLER

By late 2020, the media and public health establishment had two obsessions. One of their obsessions involved forcing the public to wear masks, even though the mountains of data and several studies had already confirmed that they don’t stop the transmission of respiratory viruses. The second obsession was forcing everyone to take Covid vaccines, regardless of their actual efficacy, risk of side effects, age or underlying health, or the vaccines’ rapidly waning efficacy.

Neither of those obsessions has abated, though even the most extreme, hardened Covid extremists have acknowledged that the vaccines were flawed, mandates were a mistake, and side effects should be acknowledged.

The media, unwilling to give up on the increased power, influence, and moral judgment it gained during the pandemic, has refused to accept that it effectively ended years ago.

So it’s no surprise that media outlets have noticed that, as we’ve seen every single summer since 2020, cases have increased, predominantly across the Western and Southern United States. Thankfully though, Los Angeles media, of course it had to be Los Angeles, has determined the culprit.

The Media Refuses to Accept Covid Reality

Turns out it’s not seasonality causing the increase, it’s outdated Covid vaccines and a lack of public masking, of course!

NBC Los Angeles “reported” that Covid cases in California and Los Angeles have “doubled” in the last month. This sounds horrifying and scary, doesn’t it? Yet it again, as is so often the case with Covid coverage, is misleading.

Let’s take a look at the current daily average of new cases in Los Angeles County:

Cases are so low they’re functionally indistinguishable from zero.

You can see why the media is scared, given how dramatic this surge appears to be compared to those in the previous four years. And thanks to NBC’s crack reporting and expert analysis, we know why this terrifying increase is happening. Spoiler alert: it’s all your fault that you haven’t controlled an uncontrollable respiratory virus with individual behavior that has no impact whatsoever on the spread of the coronavirus.

“People aren’t necessarily wearing masks; they’re not required to in certain places,” nurse practitioner Alice Benjamin, referenced as an expert by NBA LA said. “We’re traveling, we’re getting out for the summer. We also do have some reduced immunity. The vaccines will wane over time.”

Nowhere in the story is it mentioned that the massive jump in Covid cases in late 2021 and early 2022 happened immediately after LA County Public Health issued a press release celebrating the county for achieving 95+ percent masking rates at indoor businesses. No one seems willing or able to ask this nurse practitioner why she believes wearing masks would reduce this “surge,” if it failed so spectacularly in previous surges.

Endless Misinformation from ‘Experts’

She wasn’t done with the misinformation though. Benjamin warned that not enough Angelenos are getting the “updated” vaccine, which explains the summer increase.

“If you got it in October and later, that’s generally the updated vaccine,” Benjamin said. “If you got it prior to October, double check because if you did get the bivalent which has not been phased out, we recommend you do get an updated vaccine.”

And according to her, everyone should get it. Because the CDC said so.

“Per CDC recommendations, anyone 6 months or older should have at least one of the updated Covid vaccines,” Benjamin said.

Though, of course, no one on the crack NBC Los Angeles team thought to ask Benjamin why the “updated” October vaccine would help against the now common FLiRT variant when it emerged six months after the “updated” vaccine was released. Especially when the “study” process for booster doses is effectively nonexistent anyway. Pfizer and Moderna churn out a “targeted” dose that is supposed to protect against a variant that’s no longer circulating, never has to show any real-world benefit, and the regulatory agencies sign off on it, while the CDC recommends everyone get it.

Rinse, repeat.

Nor did anyone ask her what possible rationale there could be for forcing six-month-old babies to get vaccinated with a booster that has no studied efficacy against the currently circulating variant.

Her comments and the media reaction exemplify the problems with Covid discourse that started in 2020 and will apparently continue forever. A complete and purposeful ignorance of the facts, the data, and the evidence base. A willingness to advocate for the same sort of restrictions and interventions that have already failed. Ignorance of the booster process and endless appeals to public health authorities. Even though those authorities have made countless mistakes and refused to update their findings after being proven wrong.

The obvious question is: How does this type of absurdist discourse ever end? The answer, as we continue to see, is it doesn’t.

Republished from the author’s Substack

Author

Ian Miller is the author of “Unmasked: The Global Failure of COVID Mask Mandates.” His work has been featured on national television broadcasts, national and international news publications and referenced in multiple best selling books covering the pandemic. He writes a Substack newsletter, also titled “Unmasked.”

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Brownstone Institute

Censorship and the Corruption of Advertising

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute

The most powerful companies in the world have united against free speech, and they’ve deployed your tax dollars to fund their mission.

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee released a report on the little-known Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) and its pernicious promotion of censorship. GARM is a branch of the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), a global association representing over 150 of the world’s biggest brands, including Adidas, British Petroleum, Nike, Mastercard, McDonald’s, Walmart, and Visa.

The WFA represents 90% of global advertising spending, accounting for almost $1 trillion per year. But instead of helping its clients reach the broadest market share possible, the WFA has appointed itself a supranational force for censorship.

Rob Rakowitz and the Mission to Supplant the First Amendment

Rob Rakowitz, the leader of the WFA, holds a particular disdain for free speech. He has derided the First Amendment and the “extreme global interpretation of the US Constitution,” which he dismissed as “literal law from 230 years ago (made by white men exclusively).”

Rakowitz led GARM’s effort to boycott advertising on Twitter in response to Elon Musk’s acquisition of the company. GARM bragged that it was “taking on Elon Musk” and driving the company’s advertising income “80% below revenue forecasts.”

Rakowitz also championed the unsuccessful effort to have Spotify deplatform Joe Rogan after he expressed skepticism for young, healthy men taking the Covid vaccine. Rakowitz attempted to intimidate Spotify executives by demanding to hold a meeting with them and a team that he said represented “P&G [Proctor and Gamble], Unilever, Mars,” and five advertising conglomerates. When a Spotify employee said he would meet with Rakowitz but not his censorsial consortium, Rakowitz forwarded the message to his partner, writing “this man needs a smack” for denying his demands.

The WFA extended its efforts to direct manipulation of the news market. Through a partnership with the taxpayer-funded Global Disinformation Index, GARM launched “exclusion lists,” which created de facto boycotts from advertising on “risky” sites, which it described as those that showed the “greatest level of disinformation risk.” These lists included the New York Post, RealClearPolitics, the Daily Wire, TheBlaze, Reason Magazine, and The Federalist. Left-wing outlets, such as the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed News, were placed on the list of “Least risky sites,” which facilitated increased advertising revenue.

GARM, the WFA, and Rakowitz is the latest scandal demonstrating the destruction of our liberties at the hands of consolidated power. Like the Trusted News Initiative or the Biden White House’s censorship efforts, the aim is to remove all sources of dissent to pave the way for the further corporatization of the oligarchy that increasingly replaces our republic.

The WFA’s Attack on Democracy

Just as Rakowitz could not hide his contempt for the First Amendment, WFA CEO Stephan Loerke demanded that his conglomerate overtake the democratic process.

In preparation for the Cannes Lions Festival (a gathering of billionaires and multinational corporations in the South of France every June), Loerke released a statement demanding companies “stay the course on DEI and sustainability.” According to Loerke, these policies must include responses to “climate change” and the promotion of “net zero” policies,” which have already wreaked havoc on Europeans’ quality of life.

Loerke wrote: “If we step back, who will push for progress on these vital areas?” Though he suggests the answer must be nobody, traditionally self-governing countries would charter their own courses in those “vital areas.” And in that paradigm, the corporation would be subordinate to the state.

But instead, the WFA has inverted that system. Through its clients, the trillion-dollar behemoth extracts money from governments and then deploys those funds to demand that we accept their reshaping of our culture. The parasite becomes the arbiter of “progress,” eroding the society responsible for its very existence.

As the WFA sought to punish any groups that criticized the Covid response, its client Abbott Laboratories received billions of dollars in federal funding to promote Covid tests in the US Army. As Loerke demands “net zero” policies that will unravel the Western way of life, WFA patrons like DellGEIBM, and Microsoft receive billions in revenue  from the US Security State.

The organization is fundamentally detached from traditional advertising, which aims to connect businesses with consumers to sell products or services; instead, it is a force for geopolitical and cultural manipulation.

Perhaps no WFA client better represents this phenomenon than AB InBev, the parent company to Bud Light, which destroyed billions of dollars in market value last year after selecting Dylan Mulvaney as the icon for its advertising campaign.

On its surface, the selection of Mulvaney as a spokesman appeared to be the result of an executive class detached from their clientele. But Rakowitz and the WFA reveal a deeper truth; they don’t misunderstand the public, they loathe them.

The organization is a force designed to punish them for their unfavorable, unapproved belief systems. It is an attack on the freedoms written into our Constitution as “literal law from 230 years ago,” as Rakowitz scoffed. The mission is to eviscerate “the right to receive information and ideas,” as our Supreme Court recognized in Stanley v. Georgia, and to make our republic subservient to its corporate oligarchy.

The stakes here are very high. The economic revolution of the 15th century and following was about a dramatic shift in decision-making, away from elites and toward the common people. With that came a wider distribution of property and rising wealth over many centuries, culminating in the late 19th century. Along with that came a shift in the focus of marketing, away from elites and toward everyone else.

The consolidation of advertising and its control by states strikes at the very heart of what free economies are supposed to be about. And yet, states that desire maximum control over the public mind must go there. They must gain full hegemony and that includes advertising. It should be stopped before it is too late to restore freedom over corporatism.

Author

Brownstone Institute is a nonprofit organization conceived of in May 2021 in support of a society that minimizes the role of violence in public life.

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