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Brownstone Institute

Witnessing the Media’s Covid Coverage from the Inside

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13 minute read

From the Brownstone Institute

BY Gabrielle BauerGABRIELLE BAUER 

If right-leaning outlets wanted my words and left-leaning ones did not, my Occam’s razor landed on ideology as the explanatory factor. So-called progressive media had a story to uphold and rejected any plot twist that threatened the cohesion of its narrative.

In the movie An Education, the main character gets sidetracked from her studies by a smooth-talking art dealer who turns out to be a criminal—and married. Our protagonist learns more from that experience than from all the medieval literature books she cracked open before. I have similar feelings about my own education. While I’ve been earning my living as a writer for the past 29 years, it’s only during the Covid era that I learned what the writing business is really about.

I wear two hats in my professional life: medical writer, creating materials for doctors and the healthcare industry, and feature-article journalist for consumer magazines. It wasn’t until Covid that I began pitching essays and op-eds for publication.

I started with a piece called “A Tale of Two Pandemic Cities,” which grew out of my short trip to Amsterdam and Stockholm in the summer of 2020, when the European Union opened its doors to “well-behaved” countries like Canada. The Covid hysteria in my country had made me desperate to visit more balanced parts of the world, and my trip didn’t disappoint. The article found a home at a Canadian outlet called Healthy Debate, though the editor asked me to temper my enthusiasm for the Swedish strategy with an acknowledgement of its risks. Happy to find a legit publisher for my first Covid piece, I capitulated, sort of. (You can judge for yourself.)

Thus began a feverish outpouring of essays, each one motivated by the same bewildered questions: What the hell is happening to the world, and why? Has everyone else gone mad, or is it me? I had written a few controversial articles throughout my career, but never before had I held a “dissenting view” about an issue that affected the whole world—or felt such an urgent need to express it.

The Great Divide

I quickly learned that certain news outlets were less open to my pieces than others. Salon, fuggedaboutit. Spiked Online, bull’s eye on the first try. Washington Post, not a chance. Wall Street Journal, a couple of “close, but no cigar” efforts and then finally a yes. It boiled down to this: the further left a publication leaned, the less likely it would publish my pieces (or even respond to my inquiries). I’m sure a statistician could write an equation to capture the trend.

So why the radio silence from left-wing publications? I doubted I was tripping their “Covid disinformation” radars, as my pieces had less to do with scientific facts than with social philosophy: the balance between safety and freedom, the perils of top-down collectivism, the abuse of the precautionary principle, that sort of thing. If right-leaning outlets wanted my words and left-leaning ones did not, my Occam’s razor landed on ideology as the explanatory factor. So-called progressive media had a story to uphold and rejected any plot twist that threatened the cohesion of its narrative. (Not that right-wing media behaved much differently. Such is the age of advocacy journalism.)

Most nerve-wracking of all were the publishers who accepted my articles but, like that first Healthy Debate editor, insisted I make substantive changes. Should I concede or push back? I did a bit of both. The most important thing, I told myself, was to make people reflect on the topsy-turvy policies that had freeze-framed the world. If I had to soften a few sentences to get the word out, so be it. I have the utmost respect for writers who refuse to yield on such matters, but 29 years of paying the bills from my writing have tipped my internal compass toward pragmatism.

I did stand my ground with an article on the mask wars. My thesis was that the endless and pointless disputes on social media—masks work, no they don’t, yes they do, no they don’t—had less to do with science than with worldview: irrespective of the data, social collectivists would find a way to defend masks, while my freedom-first compatriots would never countenance a perma-masked world.

One editor agreed to publish the piece if I mentioned that some studies favor masking, but I argued that quoting studies would undercut my central argument: that the forces powering the mask wars have little to do with how well they block viruses. He wouldn’t budge, so we parted ways and I found a more congenial home for the piece at the Ottawa Citizen.

Hidden Treasures

The process of pitching counternarrative essays, while arduous at times, led me to a smorgasbord of lesser-known, high-quality publications I never would have discovered otherwise. Topping the list was the glorious UnHerd, a UK news and opinion website with such daring thinkers as Mary Harrington and Kathleen Stock on its roster of contributors. The US-based Tablet magazine offered consistently fresh takes on Covid and never took the easy road in its analyses. In its pages I found one of the most powerful Covid essays I have ever read. The author, Ann Bauer (no relation), teased out the common threads between the “settled science” about the virus and the litany of quack theories about autism, which fed into her son’s death by suicide.

Then there was Quillette, whose contempt for the sacred cows of wokeism gave me a special thrill. True confession: I blew my chances with Quillette and it’s my own damned fault. Like many working writers, I sometimes pitch a piece to more than one outlet at the same time, a practice known as simultaneous submissions. This goes against protocol—we’re supposed to wait until an editor declines our pitch before approaching the next one—but the reality is that many editors never respond. With the deck thus stacked against us, we writers sometimes push the envelope, figuring the odds of getting multiple acceptances (and thus pissing off editors) are low enough to take the risk.

On this particular occasion, I submitted an article called “Lessons from my Half-Vaxxed Daughter” to three publications. Medpage Today responded right away, and I accepted their offer to publish it. (This was while Marty Makary, the dissident-lite physician who called out people’s distorted perception of Covid risk in mainstream media, led the editorial team.) A few hours later, Quillette’s Canadian editor sent me a slightly reworked version of my piece and told me when he planned to run it. I had no choice but to proffer a red-faced apology and admit I had already placed the article elsewhere. He never responded to my email or to a follow-up mea culpa a few weeks later—and has ignored everything I’ve submitted since then. I guess I’ll have to wait until he retires.

Podcast Polarities

Earlier this year, Brownstone Institute published my book Blindsight Is 2020which critiques the pandemic response through the lens of 46 dissident thinkers. By all standards a moderate book, it stays clear of any “conspiratorial” speculations about the origins of the pandemic or the political response to it. Instead, it focuses on the philosophical and ethical issues that kept me awake at night during the peak Covid years—the same themes I explore in my essays, but in greater depth. I wrote the book not just for “my team,” but for those who vehemently opposed my views—perhaps especially for them. I didn’t expect to change their minds as much as to help them understand why some of us objected so strenuously to the policies they cheered on.

After the book came out, a few podcasters invited me to their shows. I appeared on a Libertarian Institute podcast in which the host puffed on his hand-rolled cigarettes while we talked. I spoke to an amiable ex-con podcaster who made it his mission to share Ayn Rand’s ideas with the world. I bonded with Rupa Subramanya—a brilliant Canadian conservative journalist and podcaster featured in my book—over the Freedom Convoy we had both supported.

All told I’ve appeared on 22 podcasts to date, each of them hosted by a right-leaning or libertarian host. Crickets from the left. Not one to accept defeat, I’ve begun reaching out to left-leaning podcasters on my own. Perhaps one day I’ll hear back from them.

Covid media, like so much else in modern life, has become hopelessly fractured: the tall, left-facing trees dominate the landscape, telling the story of a deadly virus that we “did the best we could” to manage. Below the tree canopy lies the tangle of weeds that sway in the wind, whispering songs of freedom and warning against the totalitarian impulses that all too readily emerge during crises. While I’ll continue to throw my essays at those unyielding trees, the messy underbrush is where I’ve found my journalistic home.

Author

  • Gabrielle Bauer

    Gabrielle Bauer is a Toronto health and medical writer who has won six national awards for her magazine journalism. She has written three books: Tokyo, My Everest, co-winner of the Canada-Japan Book Prize, Waltzing The Tango, finalist in the Edna Staebler creative nonfiction award, and most recently, the pandemic book BLINDSIGHT IS 2020, published by the Brownstone Institute in 2023

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Brownstone Institute

Gears of the Refugee Machine

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute

BY Spike HampsonSPIKE HAMPSON

This refugee epidemic is an orchestrated phenomenon, planned and supported by international organizations in cahoots with the United States government. It is not intended to solve a refugee problem. Its purpose is obviously something other than an amelioration of the suffering of displaced people.

A solid majority of American citizens now recognize that Biden’s many millions of alleged refugees are anything but the real deal. In all probability, some of these illegal immigrants are members of the “tired and poor” seeking a shortcut into the United States, but also include a number of spies, drug mules, human traffickers, criminals, and convicts. As for legitimate refugees, in all likelihood they represent less than 10% of the total.

The moment Biden took office, he invited the world to come to America — illegally.

He dismantled the proven methods used to stem the flow of illegal immigrants and publicly encouraged foreigners to come through the Southern border. As the numbers of illegal immigrants increased, the border patrol were shifted from patrolling the border to sitting behind desks and helping illegal immigrants to gain entry into the country. Most of the border patrol resent having been converted into neutered bureaucrats but had to follow orders or else get drummed out of the corps.

In short, Americans (indeed, the entire world) now realize that the Biden administration is dedicated to getting as many illegal aliens into the country as possible. This is, of course, aiding and abetting illegal behavior, but rampant corruption in the media, academia, and politics ignores or dismisses it.

Captive to leftist agendas, these institutions view citizenship as an antiquated concept that, along with an anachronistic constitution, must be eradicated — no holds barred.

Since Biden became president, his ushers have guided roughly nine million illegals into the United States. By pretending that they are refugees from war or persecution, it was possible to cloak them in sympathetic attire: ‘No compassionate person would ever reject a poor, mistreated refugee.’

At the start of Biden’s presidency, the flow of illegal immigrants originated from relatively few countries, most of which were in central America. In those days, a majority were impoverished people seeking a better life — illegal in their entry but not malevolent in their intent. A certain remainder, however, were not good people.

But over the past three years the border jumpers have started coming from all around the world — so much so that they now represent over 160 different countries. Most of them, by the way, are healthy, single, young men.

Since war and persecution are considered to be the causes of refugee flows, one should ask if it is reasonable to believe that three-quarters of all the countries in the world are afflicted by war or oppression. Next, one might ask why it is that women and children and the elderly are less susceptible to becoming refugees than healthy young men.

This refugee epidemic is an orchestrated phenomenon, planned and supported by international organizations in cahoots with the United States government. It is not intended to solve a refugee problem. Its purpose is obviously something other than an amelioration of the suffering of displaced people.

Since this refugee invasion is tearing apart our country, the federal government — especially the Department of Homeland Security — should be publishing detailed statistics regarding daily, weekly, monthly, and cumulative numbers for illegal immigrants admitted into the United States. There should be similar tabulations for deportations, gotaways, etc. Comparable tables should be readily available for age and sex structure. Parallel statistical fact sheets regarding contraband and drug seizures along with relevant data regarding the apprehended smugglers should be made public as well.

As long as the government was anxious to scare the bejeezus out of everybody regarding Covid-19, it had no trouble publishing data regarding infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. The fact that it is not doing anything similar for the ongoing refugee invasion suggests it is trying to hide something.

Since there are only about 35 countries in all of the Americas, this infiltration out of Mexico across our Southwest border includes invaders from about 130 additional countries located overseas. Those people fly to the Americas, but not to the United States (which is their destination). We can draw a couple of conclusions: they are not poor and they would have trouble getting into the United States legally. Most anybody who could get into the US on a visitor’s visa and then simply overstay would do that rather than flying to, say, Mexico City and then hoofing it northward.

Huge chunks of the American populace have been hoodwinked into thinking that anybody who crosses the border illegally is just trying to grab a share of the good life and should be allowed to remain. But, alas, the invasion is an orchestrated phenomenon. We have known for years that various countries and non-governmental organizations have been organizing and assisting the mass movement of people up through Mexico to and across the US border.

This was evident even back in the first year or two of the Trump presidency when organized caravans of illegal immigrants were arriving with the specific intent of numerically overwhelming the border patrol.

We now know that even the United Nations is involved in housing, feeding, and transporting would-be illegal immigrants headed north. It follows that our federal government is the main source of funding for much of this UN effort. The American citizenry remains ignorant about this.

Border crossings in Central America are tightly regulated for people like you and me, but clustered hoards of illegal immigrants are magically waved through from one country to the next. There are six or seven border crossings to be made before reaching the United States. Do you really think administrations in those countries are unaware of the situation? The unencumbered passage of millions of migrants is only possible if critical palms have been well greased — by Yankee dollars that Americans have paid in taxes.

For those who are unaware, the frontier zone between Central America’s Panama and South America’s Colombia is called the Darien Gap — a thick, wet jungle of hill country through which no road passes. Until recently, it was rarely penetrated and only by extreme adventurers or suspect characters, but now has three different jungle trails for illegal wannabes headed north. On any given day, thousands of people complete the trek, virtually always in large groups accompanied by several guides.

This 50-75 miles of jungle trekking has become a conduit for those from the Caribbean and South America who can find no easier pathway to the US. It is also favored by many of those coming from overseas since the country of Ecuador does not require a visa for entry and the circumvention of designated border crossings into Colombia is relatively easy.

Those with means but from countries whose citizens are severely restrained from traveling to other countries fly to Quito, circumvent the Colombian border stations, hazard the Darien Gap, and use either their feet or buses and trains to reach the US border. And virtually always this is done as part of a large group consisting mostly of strangers.

Many Americans are unaware of the degree to which illegal migrants are recruited and assisted by international and non-governmental organizations — all of which wish to see the United States Southern border eradicated. The flood of illegal immigrants across the border is clearly an invasion being sponsored by a globalist ideology.

This Muckraker.com video documents the nature of all that support and the characteristics of the actual migration.

What with the assistance of the UN and nongovernmental agencies, the Panamanian end of the Darien Gap now has established encampments offering meals and dry sleeping arrangements for the clusters of migrants who make the passage. More sinister is a separate camp specifically for Chinese passage-makers.

Evidently, crossing the Darien Gap takes the lives of some who become sick or have an accident, but the attrition is not sufficient to deter the flow. The larger point is that getting into the United States from distant locations involves a support system designed to game the American border controls. Millions of illegal border crossers are part of something bigger and more nefarious than simple, individualistic decisions to sneak into the United States.

American citizens are being exploited by the globalist elite that view countries as anachronisms. So convinced are they of their own moral superiority that the wishes of America’s ordinary people carry no weight. What we on this side of the border view as a chaotic influx of illegal immigrants is in fact a planned effort, a coordinated attempt to break down the integrity of the United States, the only country in the world still in a position to defeat the globalist agenda.

It is a difficult battle since much of America’s elite has been seduced into believing that globalism imposed from the top down is the ideal way to achieve the “unification of all humanity” — an idealistic goal that would just happen to put many of those same elite in control of the envisioned New World Order. The ordinary American who disapproves of illegal immigration wants it to stop but many of the national leaders want it to continue (although they hide their true intentions).

For all its flaws and weaknesses, for all its corruption, the United States remains the final bastion for protection of individual rights. The system being imposed from the top down will inevitably sacrifice the will of the people to the globalist vision — and that will prove to be the essence of tyranny and a wellspring of untold suffering.

Those interested in this topic might appreciate the more detailed observations of Bret Weinstein in the Dark Horse Podcast. He develops a hypothesis (i.e. a possible explanation of a phenomenon) that there are in fact two different migrations going on, one involving very large numbers of people from a great variety of source areas and evidently motivated by a desire for a better life, but the other being a purely Chinese flow that enjoys greater affluence and therefore less hazardous transit.

Bret explores the possibility that this sub-stream is in fact a Trojan migration designed to inject into the United States a sort of fifth column of healthy young males that with the ripeness of time will be well-positioned to undermine America whenever a US-China conflict becomes kinetic. He observes that this stream maintains a separate identity until having completed the journey through the Darien Gap but then presumably becomes integrated into the larger flow before reaching the United States border, thereby masking its distinct character. The meat of Bret Weinstein’s hypothesis is discussed between the 10th and 110th minutes of the podcast.

Author

  • Spike Hampson

    A retired academic, Spike Hampson did a PhD in population geography at the University of Hawaii and the affiliated East West Center. For most of his career he was a geography professor at the University of Utah and a ski instructor at Deer Valley.

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Brownstone Institute

Conspiracy Theory Debunker Finds Real Conspiracies

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute

BY Doran HowittDORAN HOWITT  

The first genuine conspiracy he describes involved the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) manipulating data in the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). The second involved a newspaper editor-in-chief refusing to report about vaccine side effects observed by a hospital

The 2023 book Misbelief by Dan Ariely belongs to a genre I would label “debunking Covid conspiracy theories.” The book is meant to explore the thought process of people who subscribe to conspiracy theories, especially about Covid and the Covid vaccines.

Thus I was surprised to encounter in the book two stories in which the author uncovered real conspiracies to hide information about Covid from the public.

Ariely, a professor of psychology at Duke University, played a bit part in promoting Covid lockdowns around the world. By his own description, he worked

…on projects related to Covid-19 with the Israeli government and a bit with the British, Dutch, and Brazilian governments as well…I was mostly working to try to get the police to use rewards to incentivize good mask-wearing behavior and observance of social distancing instead of using fines… (p. 4)

The first genuine conspiracy he describes involved the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) manipulating data in the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). The second involved a newspaper editor-in-chief refusing to report about vaccine side effects observed by a hospital. The author reports these situations matter-of-factly, and even gives the conspirators the benefit of the doubt, saying maybe they did the right thing!

Let’s look at the VAERS conspiracy (recounted on pp. 274-276). Ariely says he got this information directly from a person who works “in the information technology department of the FDA.” The agency, according to the story, determined that:

…foreign powers, mostly Russian and Iranian, had found a way to spread disinformation using VAERS. So when the FDA identified cases that had clearly come from such sources, it removed them from the system…

Not only did it delete this data, but it did so silently. Ariely only found out by accident: Parents of vaccine-injured children maintained their own copy of the VAERS data, downloaded from the FDA site. They noticed that cases appearing in their downloaded data later disappeared from the government copy of the database, and they told Ariely about this.

Supposedly the FDA tried to keep these actions secret because it “did not want to announce to the foreign powers that it was onto them,” the FDA employee told him. But to anyone reasonably well-versed in information technology, keeping such acts secret is an obvious mistake. The bad guys will figure out what is going on; the folks we are trying to protect are left in the dark about possible mischief affecting data they rely on. And that’s the most charitable assessment of their actions. It could be worse: the FDA might have removed valid information inadvertently (putting aside possible nefarious intentions at this point). How might that come about?

Since we don’t have details as to how the FDA found this bad data, we need to speculate. Here is the easiest scenario to imagine. A straightforward way to detect computer sessions originating in Russia or Iran is by IP (internet protocol) address. Did the FDA personnel identify the supposedly bogus entries by this method?

But there’s a flaw in that approach. Many computer users obfuscate their IP address for privacy reasons. Some popular browsers such as Tor and Brave do that automatically: each browser page gets detoured through servers in different locations. Those servers are located worldwide, including in Russia. Thus if a US-based individual using the Tor browser added an entry to VAERS, and the session was routed through Russia, the FDA might well have identified this incorrectly as misinformation.

Compare how the world of open-source software deals with malware. These software publishers routinely make information about vulnerabilities public, so that user organizations can both protect themselves and evaluate what damage might have been done. A publisher may wait a few days or weeks while they fix a bug and get it distributed, but then they disseminate the details.

A variety of US laws and regulations even require corporations to promptly reveal data breaches that happen to them. For example, the Securities and Exchange Commission mandates that public companies report “cybersecurity incidents” within four days of determining that the incident has a “material” effect on a company’s business.

VAERS is supposed to be a public resource. If FDA has a policy to remove entries, it should be transparent about its criteria, and make the data available for audit. Or it could just as easily have flagged the entries as “suspicious origin” and left them in the database. Then others could review their judgment and either confirm or dispute the classifications.

Let’s look at the second conspiracy Ariely recounts (pp. 277-280):

I was speaking with a doctor from a large health care organization…I couldn’t resist asking her what she thought about all the online chatter about unreported vaccine side effects. To my surprise, she agreed there was a problem. She said that she had observed a lot of side effects in her clinic that had not been reported and had been collecting such data from her patients…

Ariely at that point decided this was newsworthy. He met with the editor-in-chief of “a large newspaper,” told the editor about the situation, and suggested the editor get the doctor’s data and report about it. The reaction:

The editor told me he suspected that I was correct about the underreported side effects. However, he had no intention of publishing anything about them…because he suspected that the misbelievers would use the published information in an unethical way and distort it…I was disappointed that he did not publish the story, but I could see his point.

Ariely spends a few sentences philosophizing about what is the true responsibility of a newspaper – is it just to publish true information, or is it “to do this cost-benefit analysis for the society…?” But apparently he let the matter lie, acquiescing in real censorship of real information.

The debunker has debunked his own debunking project.

Author

  • Doran Howitt

    Doran Howitt is a semi-retired marketing executive and former financial journalist. He blogs as “Occasional Economist” on LinkedIn.

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