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Come On, Peggy Noonan, Just Say You Were Wrong

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Jeffrey A. TuckerJEFFREY A. TUCKER  

The answer to the question “Will they ever admit to being wrong?” is of course: no. I’m speaking in particular of the architects of the lockdown and mandate policies that wrecked the rights and liberties of billions worldwide.

Now they want to pretend like it never happened or that someone else is responsible. And they do this even as they hammer out policies and treaties that normalize that exact response – ok some tweaks here and there – in the future, while forging institutions that crush dissent.

Those people we know about. They are rather hopeless.

Let’s address a different case, the run-of-the-mill pundit who got it wrong and just cannot admit it. These are the people who should trouble us more because saying sorry in this case is completely cost-free. In fact, the opposite is true. Readers would cheer their humility and congratulate them for honesty. The only cost would be psychological in some measure. They are supposed to be these great opinion leaders and cannot bring themselves to admit that they were so bloody wrong on such a huge topic.

This comes to mind because of an effusive and even absurdist article by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal. It was about how and why Taylor Swift is the greatest thing America has to offer. The language here is intentionally over the top and she knows it. It’s a fun way to write. I know this because I used to write this way all the time, celebrating the glories of vending machine chicken salad or the McDonald’s cheese stick or what have you.

My argument here is not with the hyperbole as such. The problem comes deep into the article where she says the following: “Downtowns across the country—uniquely battered by the pandemic and the riots and demonstrations of 2020—are, while she is there, brought to life, with an influx of visitors and a local small business boom. Wherever she went it was like the past three years didn’t happen.”

Battered by the pandemic? Seriously? The pathetic pathogen never closed a single business, school, church, country club, arts theater, mall, stadium or public park. Governments did that, on the advice of crazed experts who pushed for this nonsense with no concern for public well-being. Media got involved cheering the lockdowns and denouncing anyone who doubted their glories. Big Tech censored dissident voices.

Noonan could have fixed that sentence with the addition of one word: response. The pandemic response. It would be easy enough to type that word. Sure, that’s a bit lame but at least it is accurate.

Why does she refuse? You know the answer. She was among the panic-mongers who thought the lockdowns, masks, and vaccine mandates were just fine. She wrote about it constantly.

I don’t know why, but she did. She has assiduously avoided admitting this for years now, even to the point of writing about the “great resignation” without ever mentioning lockdowns or vaccine mandates. She mentions in passing that “At the height of the pandemic more than 120,000 businesses temporarily closed” but does not mention they were closed by force! She continually refers to the “shock of the pandemic” without mentioning that it was the shock of the pandemic response.

Her penchant here runs far back even to the vaccine rollout, which she called a “human and scientific miracle.” Whoops.

Even at the onset of lockdowns, she was all in: “We should go forward with a new national commitment to masks, social distancing, hand washing. These simple things have proved the most valuable tools in the tool chest. We have to enter each day armored up.”

Ok, Peggy, we get it. You bought all the propaganda. Many did. We corresponded at the time and it was very cordial…until you realized that I was on the anti-lockdown side. It didn’t matter after that whatever evidence I presented to you that the government was up to no good. I sent link after link and was very friendly.

At that point, you stopped replying, despite having many mutual friends. I was not being antagonistic. I was simply hoping that you would get ahead of the curve. You didn’t want to get ahead of the curve. You wanted to thread the needle of opinion very carefully.

The trouble is that the needle changed or went away completely. Now you are stuck with your old opinions of the past, which you keep trying to justify in the least auspicious way possible. Today’s article was the latest example. I assume that you are going to keep this up so long as the WSJ affords you the space.

I cannot say that I fully understand this way of thinking. But this much is clear: Peggy is hardly alone. Nearly every writer in every venue talks this way. Finally, the media is talking about ill-health, learning loss, shut businesses, demoralized population, angry voters, loss of trust, inflation, you name it. Finally there is talk about all of this.

But universally, the prattle is the same. It’s always the pandemic, never the government’s response.

  • “Kids Played Team Sports Less In 2022 Than Before Covid-19 Pandemic” ~ Forbes
  • “Walking trips fall sharply in Portland post-pandemic” ~ Axios
  • “Mesilla restaurant owner navigates pandemic recovery” ~ Fox

And so on it goes, as if to wipe out the history of the worst public health policy in the history of humanity. Plenty of people want to do that. Certainly most governments in the world would like that. Regardless, pundits should not help them. Even if they were wrong in the past, nothing is stopping them from admitting the truth now.

It would be nice if we would get some truth from politicians too rather than this strange silence. No one has had the guts to grill Trump in particular on the details of why he green-lighted the mess.

That aside, the pundit class is paid not to be government propagandists but tellers of truth. In this case, it simply would not take much, only a bit more than claiming that a single pathogen among trillions floating around caused the whole world to fly into upheaval.

Truly, these writers discredit themselves with their contorted attempts to pretend that the microbial kingdom and not government itself is responsible for disaster.

The truth is nonetheless getting out there, even if you cannot read about it often in mainstream news. We have to get this history correct. Everything depends on it.

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  • Jeffrey A. Tucker

    Jeffrey Tucker is Founder, Author, and President at Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Liberty or Lockdown, and 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

Did Lockdowns Set a Global Revolt in Motion?

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Jeffrey A. TuckerJEFFREY A. TUCKER 

It does seem like the backlash has empowered populist movements all over the world. We see them in the farmers’ revolt in Europe, the street protests in Brazil against a sketchy election, the widespread discontent in Canada over government policies, and even in migration trends out of US blue states toward red ones.

My first article on the coming backlash – admittedly wildly optimistic – went to print April 24, 2020. After 6 weeks of lockdown, I confidently predicted a political revolt, a movement against masks, a population-wide revulsion against the elites, a demand to reject “social distancing” and streaming-only life, plus widespread disgust at everything and everyone involved.

I was off by four years. I wrongly assumed back then that society was still functioning and that our elites would be responsive to the obvious flop of the whole lockdown scheme. I assumed that people were smarter than they proved to be. I also did not anticipate just how devastating the effects of lockdown would be: in terms of learning loss, economic chaos, cultural shock, and the population-wide demoralization and loss of trust.

The forces that set in motion those grim days were far more deep than I knew at the time. They involved a willing complicity from tech, media, pharma, and the administrative state at all levels of society.

There is every evidence that it was planned to be exactly what it became; not just a foolish deployment of public health powers but a “great reset” of our lives. The newfound powers of the ruling class were not given up so easily, and it took far longer for people to shake off the trauma than I had anticipated.

Is that backlash finally here? If so, it’s about time.

New literature is emerging to document it all.

The new book White Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy is a viciously partisan, histrionic, and gravely inaccurate account that gets nearly everything wrong but one: vast swaths of the public are fed up, not with democracy but its opposite of ruling class hegemony. The revolt is not racial and not geographically determined. It’s not even about left and right, categories that are mostly a distraction. it’s class-based in large part but more precisely about the rulers vs. the ruled.

With more precision, new voices are emerging among people who detect a “vibe change” in the population. One is Elizabeth Nickson’s article “Strongholds Falling; Populists Seize the Culture.” She argues, quoting Bret Weinstein, that “The lessons of [C]ovid are profound. The most important lesson of Covid is that without knowing the game, we outfoxed them and their narrative collapsed…The revolution is happening all over the socials, especially in videos. And the disgust is palpable.”

A second article is “Vibe Shift” by Santiago Pliego:

The Vibe Shift I’m talking about is the speaking of previously unspeakable truths, the noticing of previously suppressed facts. I’m talking about the give you feel when the walls of Propaganda and Bureaucracy start to move as you push; the very visible dust kicked up in the air as Experts and Fact Checkers scramble to hold on to decaying institutions; the cautious but electric rush of energy when dictatorial edifices designed to stifle innovation, enterprise, and thought are exposed or toppled. Fundamentally, the Vibe Shift is a return to—a championing of—Reality, a rejection of the bureaucratic, the cowardly, the guilt-driven; a return to greatness, courage, and joyous ambition.

We truly want to believe this is true. And this much is certainly correct: the battle lines are incredibly clear these days. The media that uncritically echo the deep-state line are known: SlateWiredRolling StoneMother Jones, New RepublicNew Yorker, and so on, to say nothing of the New York Times. What used to be politically partisan venues with certain predictable biases are now more readily described as ruling-class mouthpieces, forever instructing you precisely how to think while demonizing disagreement.

After all, all of these venues, in addition to the obvious case of the science journals, are still defending the lockdowns and everything that followed. Rather than express regret for their bad models and immoral means of control, they have continued to insist that they did the right thing, regardless of the civilization-wide carnage everywhere in evidence, while ignoring the relationship between the policies they championed and the terrible results.

Instead of allowing their mistakes to change their own outlook, they have adapted their own worldview to allow for snap lockdowns anytime they deem them necessary. In holding this view, they have forged a view of politics that it is embarrassingly acquiescent to the powerful.

The liberalism that once questioned authority and demanded free speech seems extinct. This transmogrified and captured liberalism now demands compliance with authority and calls for further restrictions on free speech. Now anyone who makes a basic demand for normal freedom – to speak or choose one’s own medical treatment or to decline to wear a mask – can reliably anticipate being denounced as “right-wing” even when it makes absolutely no sense.

The smears, cancellations, and denunciations are out of control, and so unbearably predictable.

It’s enough to make one’s head spin. As for the pandemic protocols themselves, there have been no apologies but only more insistence that they were imposed with the best of intentions and mostly correct. The World Health Organization wants more power, and so does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even though the evidence of the failure of pharma pours in daily, major media venues pretend that all is well, and thereby out themselves as mouthpieces for the ruling regime.

The issue is that major and unbearably obvious failures have never been admitted. Institutions and individuals who only double down on preposterous lies that everyone knows are lies only end up discrediting themselves.

That’s a pretty good summary of where we are today, with vast swaths of elite culture facing an unprecedented loss of trust. Elites have chosen the lie over truth and cover-up over transparency.

This is becoming operationalized in declining traffic for legacy media, which is shedding costly staff as fast as possible. The social media venues that cooperated closely with government during the lockdowns are losing cultural sway while uncensored ones like Elon Musk’s X are gaining attention. Disney is reeling from its partisanship, while states are passing new laws against WHO policies and interventions.

Sometimes this whole revolt can be quite entertaining. When the CDC or WHO posts an update on X, when they allow comments, it is followed by thousands of reader comments of denunciation and poking fun, with flurries of comments to the effect of “I will not comply.”

DEI is being systematically defunded by major corporations while financial institutions are turning on it. Indeed, the culture in general has come to regard DEI as a sure indication of incompetence. Meanwhile, the outer reaches of the “great reset” such as the hope that EVs would replace internal combustion have come to naught as the EV market has collapsed, along with consumer demand for fake meat to say nothing of bug eating.

As for politics, yes, it does seem like the backlash has empowered populist movements all over the world. We see them in the farmers’ revolt in Europe, the street protests in Brazil against a sketchy election, the widespread discontent in Canada over government policies, and even in migration trends out of US blue states toward red ones. Already, the administrative state in D.C. is working to secure itself against a possible unfriendly president in the form of Trump or RFK, Jr.

So, yes, there are many signs of revolt. These are all very encouraging.

What does all this mean in practice? How does this end? How precisely does a revolt take shape in an industrialized democracy? What is the mostly likely pathway for long-term social change? These are legitimate questions.

For hundreds of years, our best political philosophers have opined that no system can function in a sustainable way in which a huge majority is coercively governed by a tiny elite with a class interest in serving themselves at public expense.

That seems correct. In the days of the Occupy Wall Street movement of 15 years ago, the street protesters spoke of the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent. They were speaking of those with the money inside the traders’ buildings as opposed to the people on the streets and everywhere else.

Even if that movement misidentified the full nature of the problem, the intuition into which it tapped spoke to a truth. Such a disproportionate distribution of power and wealth is dangerously unsustainable. Revolution of some sort threatens. The mystery right now is what form this takes. It’s unknown because we’ve never been here before.

There is no real historical record of a highly developed society ostensibly living under a civilized code of law that experiences an upheaval of the type that would be required to unseat the rulers of all the commanding heights. We’ve seen political reform movements that take place from the top down but not really anything that approximates a genuine bottom-up revolution of the sort that is shaping up right now.

We know, or think we know, how it all transpires in a tinpot dictatorship or a socialist society of the old Soviet bloc. The government loses all legitimacy, the military flips loyalties, there is a popular revolt that boils over, and the leaders of the government flee. Or they simply lose their jobs and take up new positions in civilian life. These revolutions can be violent or peaceful but the end result is the same. One regime replaces another.

It’s hard to know how this translates to a society that is heavily modernized and seen as non-totalitarian and even existing under the rule of law, more or less. How does revolution occur in this case? How does the regime come around to adapting itself to a public revolt against governance as we know it in the US, UK, and Europe?

Yes, there is the vote, if we can trust that. But even here, there are the candidates, which are that for a reason. They specialize in politics, which does not necessarily mean doing the right thing or reflecting the aspirations of the voters behind them. They are responsive to their donors first, as we have long discovered. Public opinion can matter but there is no mechanism that guarantees a smoothly responsive pathway from popular attitudes to political outcomes.

There is also the pathway of industrial change, a migration of resources out of legacy venues to new ones. Indeed, in the marketplace of ideas, the amplifiers of regime propaganda are failing but we also observe the response: widened censorship. What’s happening in Brazil with the full criminalization of free speech can easily happen in the US.

In social media, were it not for Elon’s takeover of Twitter, it’s hard to know where we would be. We have no large platform in which to influence the culture more broadly. And yet the attacks on that platform and other enterprises owned by Musk are growing. This is emblematic of a much more robust upheaval taking place, one that suggests change is on the way.

But how long does such a paradigm shift take? Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions  is a bracing account of how one orthodoxy migrates to another not by the ebb and flow of proof and evidence but through dramatic paradigm shifts. An abundance of anomalies can wholly discredit a current praxis but that doesn’t make it go away. Ego and institutional inertia perpetuate the problem until its most prominent exponents retire and die and a new elite replaces them with different ideas.

In this model, we can expect that a failed innovation in science, politics, or technology could last as long as 70 years before finally being displaced, which is roughly how long the Soviet experiment lasted. That’s a depressing thought. If this is true, we still have another 60 plus years of rule by the management professionals who enacted lockdowns, closures, shot mandates, population propaganda, and censorship.

And yet, people say that history is moving faster now than in the past. If a future of freedom is ours just lying in wait, we need that future here sooner rather than later, before it is too late to do anything about it.

The slogan became popular about ten years ago: the revolution will be decentralized with the creation of robust parallel institutions. There is no other path. The intellectual parlor game is over. This is a real-life struggle for freedom itself. It’s resist and rebuild or doom.

Author

  • Jeffrey A. Tucker

    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

Pfizer Lied to Us Again

Published on

From Brownstone Institute

BY Ian MillerIAN MILLER 

There used to be a time where claims from pharmaceutical companies may have been treated with some degree of skepticism from major institutions and media outlets.

Yet in late 2020 and into 2021, suddenly skepticism turned to complete blind faith. But what changed? Why, political incentives, of course!

Initially, Covid vaccines produced by Pfizer were seen as dangerous and untested; they were considered a Trump vaccine that only idiots who were willing to risk their own health would take. However when the 2020 election had been officially decided, and Biden and his political allies represented the Covid vaccines as the pathway out of the pandemic, a moral choice that would help yourself and others, narratives and incentives changed dramatically.

Pfizer became a heroic symbol of virtue, and all questioning of Covid vaccines was grounds for immediate expulsion from polite society, regardless of the actual efficacy of Pfizer’s products.

Much of the blame for the vaccines’ underperformance could be placed on Pfizer itself; the company relentlessly promoted hopelessly inaccurate efficacy estimates and supported efforts to unnecessarily mandate mRNA shots.

Sure enough, on the back of progressive orthodoxy, corporate and institutional incompetence and media activism, they proudly reported record revenues.

We all know how that turned out in 2022 and 2023.

Skepticism towards Pfizer’s vaccine was obviously quite well warranted. And it turns out that now we, and of course, Pfizer’s chief promoters in the media and public health class should have been even more skeptical.

They weren’t.

Pfizer’s Claims On Covid Treatments Were Wildly Inaccurate

As the Covid vaccines failed spectacularly to stop the spread of infections and did nothing to lessen all-cause mortality or even decrease population level Covid-associated deaths in highly vaccinated countries, Pfizer saw another opportunity.

Sure, their signature product failed to perform as expected. So why not create another one as an antidote?

Enter Paxlovid.

Paxlovid, an antiviral drug, was supposed to help individuals with symptomatic Covid, who’d already been infected, recover more quickly and lessen the risk of severe illness. Sounds great right?

It would appear that it sure did to Anthony Fauci and the cadre of media-promoted “experts.”

Fauci praised Paxlovid in 2022, after the mRNA vaccines and booster doses failed to prevent him from contracting Covid. Bizarrely, Fauci implied that the same Pfizer products that he demanded everyone take would not have been enough to keep him healthy, saying that he believed Paxlovid had kept him out of the hospital.

Never mind, of course, that Fauci had a “rebound” case of Covid-19 after taking Paxlovid and getting vaccinated and boosted. Acknowledging imperfections would undercut his desire to get everyone to take more of his preferred products.

Paxlovid made headlines again later in 2022 as Rochelle Walensky also praised Pfizer’s efforts, despite once again testing positive for “rebound” Covid after Paxlovid treatments.

Even today, the CDC’s own website says Paxlovid is an “effective” treatment for those who’ve contracted the virus and want to avoid severe illness.

There’s just one problem; it’s not true.

A newly released study on Paxlovid on randomized adults with symptomatic Covid; one subset was given Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir-ritonavir) or a placebo every 12 hours for five days, with the intent of determining how effective it was at “sustained alleviation” of Covid-19 symptoms.

In this phase 2–3 trial, we randomly assigned adults who had confirmed Covid-19 with symptom onset within the past 5 days in a 1:1 ratio to receive nirmatrelvir–ritonavir or placebo every 12 hours for 5 days. Patients who were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and who had at least one risk factor for severe disease, as well as patients without such risk factors who had never been vaccinated against Covid-19 or had not been vaccinated within the previous year, were eligible for participation. Participants logged the presence and severity of prespecified Covid-19 signs and symptoms daily from day 1 through day 28. The primary end point was the time to sustained alleviation of all targeted Covid-19 signs and symptoms. Covid-19–related hospitalization and death from any cause were also assessed through day 28.

Spoiler alert: it wasn’t effective at all.

Their measured results revealed that there was effectively no difference whatsoever in the “sustained alleviation” of symptoms between Paxlovid and a placebo. Those taking Pfizer’s miracle antiviral treatment saw their “signs and symptoms” resolve after 12 days, while the placebo recipients took 13 days.

The median time to sustained alleviation of all targeted signs and symptoms of Covid-19 was 12 days in the nirmatrelvir–ritonavir group and 13 days in the placebo group (P=0.60). Five participants (0.8%) in the nirmatrelvir–ritonavir group and 10 (1.6%) in the placebo group were hospitalized for Covid-19 or died from any cause (difference, −0.8 percentage points; 95% confidence interval, −2.0 to 0.4).

This is the product that to this day is relentlessly promoted by the CDC, the media, and politicians as an effective tool to reduce the severity of symptoms and the length of illness. And it was virtually meaningless.

Even with regards to the most severe outcomes, hospitalization, and death, the difference was negligible. Confidence intervals for the difference in outcome even stretched to a positive relationship, meaning that it’s within the bounds of possibility that more people died or were hospitalized after taking Paxlovid than a placebo.

Succinctly, the researchers confirmed in their summary that there was no difference between the two treatments.

The time to sustained alleviation of all signs and symptoms of Covid-19 did not differ significantly between participants who received nirmatrelvir–ritonavir and those who received placebo.

But who are these researchers, you might ask…surely they’re fringe scientists, desperate to undercut a big, bad pharmaceutical company, right? How else could their conclusions so thoroughly undermine Pfizer?

Let’s take a look at the disclosure to see who funded this study, designed the trial, conducted it, collected the data, and analyzed the results. Surely, that will reveal the nefarious intentions behind this dastardly attempt to cut at the heart of Pfizer’s miracle drug.

Pfizer was responsible for the trial design and conduct and for data collection, analysis, and interpretation. The first draft of the manuscript was written by medical writers (funded by Pfizer) under direction from the authors.

Oh. Oh no.

Pfizer created the trial, conducted it, collected the data, and analyzed it. And it found that Paxlovid made no difference to the resolution of symptoms or with keeping people alive or out of the hospital. That has to sting.

Even worse, Covid vaccination was once again proven to be almost entirely irrelevant where results were concerned. Results were the same between “high-risk subgroups,” meaning those who had been vaccinated but had an elevated risk for more serious symptoms, and those who had never been vaccinated or had received the last dose more than a year ago.

Similar results were observed in the high-risk subgroup (i.e., participants who had been vaccinated and had at least one risk factor for severe illness) and in the standard-risk subgroup (i.e., those who had no risk factors for severe illness and had never been vaccinated or had not been vaccinated within the previous 12 months).

So not only did Paxlovid not make a difference, but vaccination status AND Paxlovid wasn’t enough to create a sizable gap in outcomes between healthy, unvaccinated individuals.

But wait, there’s more.

Viral load rebounds were also more common in the Paxlovid group, and symptom and viral load rebounds combined were more common among those taking Pfizer’s treatment. While percentages were generally low, other studies have pegged Paxlovid-associated rebound as occurring nearly one quarter of the time.

So it’s not particularly effective at reducing symptoms or resolving them more quickly, doesn’t lead to statistically significant improvements in the most severe outcomes, and is more likely to result in a rebound case of the illness it’s supposed to be protecting you from.

Sounds exactly like the type of product that Fauci, Walensky, and the CDC would praise, doesn’t it?

Paxlovid is the entire Covid-pharmaceutical complex summarized perfectly. Created to solve a problem that was supposed to be fixed by another product…understudied, overhyped by the “experts,” and prematurely authorized by a desperate FDA…and ultimately shown to be mostly ineffective.

Once again, the actual science disproves The Science™. And once again, we’ll get no acknowledgment of it or apologies for the billions of taxpayer dollars wasted. Can’t wait to see what Pfizer does for an encore.

Republished from the author’s Substack

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