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Brownstone Institute

Covid Amnesty: Is Mercy the Answer?


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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Alex WashburneALEX WASHBURNE   

Mercy is a missing ingredient of our modern society.

As we fire 280-character social missiles, learn the necessary aim and outrage for maximum effect, update, and reload to fire again into the volley, I worry we might be forgetting about a world without constant cross-cultural conflict and the moral courage it takes to make peace.

COVID sucked. In case a pandemic wasn’t bad enough, we also had to live through the warzone of pandemic discourse between people afraid of a virus, conservatives afraid of an authoritarian bureaucracy of The Scientists, liberal scientists afraid of Trump, climate change, and securing tenure, and all manners of other aggrieved parties desperate for acknowledgement of the validity of their points.

Now, cases wane and subsequent outbreaks lead to diminishing medical demand and mortality burden (as predicted by my 2020 forecasts and corroborated by our analysis of Delta + Omicron outbreaks). As the dust settles and our battle-hardened souls soften amidst the social wreckage wrought by our battle, it’s understandable to thirst for the divine drink of peace. I, too, thirst for peace. While I’m grateful to see people apologizing for lockdowns, apologizing for harming kids, and so on, there’s still some unsettled dust we need to discuss before the balm of mercy can be applied.

For an anecdotal exercise, consider Professor Scott Galloway calling for COVID amnesty and apologizing for his advocacy of school closures to Bill Maher. The data now shows that school closures were harmful to kids and in a highly inequitable way. We pursued school closures despite many of us (myself included) having laid out all these anticipated consequences, and yet those of us who saw this train wreck coming don’t have the reparations nor do we see the grace from school closure proponents that would make mercy easier.

Not only did school closures harm kids, but massive inequalities in our media, corporate, academic, and social media ecosystems permitted the harm of people who spoke up to oppose school closures and other harmful pandemic policies. Jennifer Sey lost her job at Levi’s for opposing school closures, I left my academic position because I didn’t want to use taxpayer funds to model quarantines in college kids, and countless others experienced significant professional consequences from engaging in the public health policy process by speaking their sincerely held views.

Great Barrington Declaration authors were ostracized in the academy for merely reminding the world’s doctors of their Hippocratic Oath and the simple medical ethics of not harming patient A to help patient B. Vinay Prasad is cancelled at medical conferences.

As those who anticipated the harms to kids suffered professional harms, those who used their bully pulpit to push for school closures rose to prominence. Andy Slavitt was an obscure McKinsey bro until the pandemic hit, McKinsey consulted the Cuomo team during the March 2020 NYC surge, and Slavitt centered himself as a thought leader. This thoughtless thought leader called kids vectors of disease, and as a consequence of his intolerant fear mongering he was awarded a position on the Biden administration’s COVID task force.

Countless other epidemiologists who centered their ethnocentric perspectives as “The Science” saw their Twitter followings explode, and they used this new bully pulpit to block young scientists – myself included – who brought diversity into the room by speaking our independent beliefs.

For me, personally, the reason I opposed school closures was because I grew up in the school-to-prison pipeline of underfunded public schools in Albuquerque. I had friends whose dads beat them, whose parents were alcoholics, one friend whose parents did meth and cut the heads off of chickens in front of all of us while laughing, whose home lives were not conducive to remote learning. I brought these friends with me in my heart to academic discussions on school closures.

I also grew up with a profound hearing loss and I’ve always relied on lip-reading to survive (not to mention to succeed and get a PhD from Princeton), so at times I articulated the competing risks of mask mandates in schools by advocating for hard-of-hearing students.

For all their talk about diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, many white, liberal, and privileged academics have a lot to learn about tolerance. The response to my personal advocacy was not tolerance, curiosity, understanding, and compassion, but rather call-outs from people who grew up in private schools and a persistent blocking and bullying from leaders in the field, including people like Gregg Gonsalves at Yale, Gavin Yamey at Duke, Peter Hotez, Kristian Andersen, Angela Rasmussen, and others who have risen to prominence because of their bullying, because of their shots-fired at people with different views.

When I hear these people call for COVID amnesty, while I remain blocked and shunned by people with immense power in our academic institutions, while my reputation is dragged through the mud with lies and mischaracterizations about my truths and my character, forgive me but I have a difficult time being merciful. When I see someone on MSNBC or Bill Maher calling for amnesty despite having obtained the privilege of being on international news outlets because of their wartime hostilities and intolerance, I see a problem. While they call for mercy to safeguard the social capital of people who were wrong, whose behavior caused harm, they have done nothing to elevate the voices – and the people – they suppressed.

I remain blocked, bullied, and shunned by academics who used their tenure & institutional power to exclude diverse views from the room. Jennifer Sey remains unemployed by Levi’s. Prasad remains cancelled by medical conferences. The Great Barrington Declaration authors remain ostracized and mischaracterized by those who determine science funding, conference committees, and other bottlenecks of academic opportunity and power. These are just a few examples and there are countless more of us who suffered in this social warzone, fighting for our sincere beliefs in a courageous act of public health participation.

The dust that settles too early contaminates our open wounds. The kids remain harmed, those who harmed them remain centered as thought leaders, and those who had the courage and insight to anticipate these harms remain excluded from the information bubble that caused this harm in the first place.

From my heart of hearts, I don’t hate the people who caused us harm in order to exclude us from the public health policy process and cause further harm to kids like the friends I grew up with. I understand that they were afraid, that they grew up with vastly different circumstances, that they, like me, are products of circumstance, and that they just happened to control the cannons and mortar shells when I only had a Swiss army knife.

I would be overjoyed to drop my knife if only they would yield control of the cannons, stop firing from their positions of power, help us heal the wounded, and help us glorify the heroes who were right all along.

Why don’t they hand the microphone to us to learn more about who we are as humans and how we were able to anticipate these harms? If they feel bad about being wrong, why not share their social capital with the people they excluded from the room?

Until we have meaningful reconciliation, amnesty will merely cement the incumbents’ hold on academic, media, and narrative power, all but ensuring we repeat the failures of pandemic public health policy. Thus, for those of us who anticipated the harms to kids, we can further anticipate the harms of granting mercy to those whose trembling, intolerant hands still hold the cannons.

Republished from the author’s Substack


  • Alex Washburne

    Alex Washburne is a mathematical biologist and the founder and chief scientist at Selva Analytics. He studies competition in ecological, epidemiological, and economic systems research, with research on covid epidemiology, the economic impacts of pandemic policy, and stock market response to epidemiological news.

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Brownstone Institute

Assange and the Whistleblowers That Could’ve Been

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From the Brownstone Institute


“‘Can’t we just drone this guy?’ Clinton openly inquired, offering a simple remedy to silence Assange and smother WikiLeaks via a planned military drone strike, according to State Department Sources…”

In the last four years of our Orwellian New Abnormal, the following thoughts occurred to me countless times:

What the world desperately needs is far more brave whistleblowers. What we need is an active and robust WikiLeaks…or far more organizations that perform the vital work of WikiLeaks.

The reasons this has not occurred are, of course, obvious.

The main reason is that the people who could disclose important information about government or Deep State crimes are simply terrified to do this.

They are afraid to do this because they, quite correctly, know they’d suffer deeply unpleasant consequences if they did disclose “inconvenient truths” that expose how corrupt the world’s most important organizations have now become.

Another reason: Organizations that might actually publish the claims of important whistleblowers, largely, do not exist. The entrepreneurs who might create and try to run these organizations have clearly noted the undeniable message the Establishment sent to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

That message? If you do publish documents or testimony that embarrasses or threatens us, THIS is what will happen to you.

Truth Bombs That Never Detonated

It’s true WikiLeaks continued to exist while its founder was imprisoned on bogus charges. However, the significant work product of WikiLeaks effectively disappeared while Assange was “dealt with” by the State.

With a few lower-profile exceptions, no organizations assumed the risks of performing the dangerous work of WikiLeaks.

Because of this, many narrative-changing “truth bombs” never detonated…at a time when the world needed Real Truth more than ever.

While Assange is no longer in a British prison—and won’t have to serve the rest of his life in an American Maximum Security prison—the Intimidation State largely achieved its primary goal of taking proactive measures to ensure no one would expose their crimes.

Even today, 100 shocking scandals—genuine “crimes against humanity”—could be definitively exposed if more whistleblowers came forward…and if the information provided by these whistleblowers was disseminated to the mass public.

These Revelations That Never Happened are all “unknown unknowables.” The public will never know things it might otherwise have learned about our society’s real rulers.

It is surely not a coincidence that in the 12 years Assange was either in prison or seeking refuge in an embassy, the Censorship Industrial Complex transitioned from non-existent to the largest growth industry in the bureaucratic state.

Whether it’s NewsGuard, Media Matters, or the Stanford “Virality Project,” scores of anti-disinformation organizations now exist to shut down or deamplify dissenting voices. These well-funded and coordinated organizations eagerly do the bidding of governments that fear and despise “free speech” and a “search for the truth.”

If Julian Assange was trying to warn the world that Big Brother was going to get much bigger (and he was sending this warning), he was clearly proven right.

A Few Details of the Assange Saga Should Not Be Forgotten

Before writing this story, I refreshed my memory regarding the details of the Assange saga.

I was reminded that Mike Pompeo, the former US Secretary of State and CIA director, once seriously considered a plot to assassinate Assange.

So did Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State.

According to this Substack review, “Hillary Clinton, one of the worst warmongers in the history of America, proposed to use Barrack (sic) Hussein Obama’s favorite illicit assassination method for Assange.

“‘Can’t we just drone this guy?’ Clinton openly inquired, offering a simple remedy to silence Assange and smother WikiLeaks via a planned military drone strike, according to State Department Sources…”

Hillary was no fan of Assange because it was WikiLeaks that revealed her sycophants conspired with the Democratic Party (via Clintonian “dirty tricks”) to ensure her nomination.

WikiLeaks went a Leak Too Far when the organization published videos showing that US Army helicopters killed many innocent Iraqi civilians—including several International journalists—in one of our nation’s wars to “protect democracy.”

The organization also published reports of torture and mistreatment of prisoners and documented revelations showing how the massive US Intelligence Community was spying on, potentially, millions of citizens.

I Get Why Most Americans Don’t Want to Think about Assange

I think I understand why many Americans view Assange as either a villain or simply prefer to not think about what’s been done to this man.

Every WikiLeak revelation supports the conclusion that America might not be the force for “freedom” most Americans grew up thinking our nation was.

For most people, the thought that “Maybe we aren’t the Good Guys after all” is intolerable medicine.

Still, the national consensus should have been that it was the country’s leaders—and government entities—who are acting as tyrants. That is, it wasn’t everyday Janes and Joes who were mimicking North Korea; it was our government and all the organizations that wanted to stay on the safer side of this 900-pound gorilla.

The message that’s yet to resonate with enough people is that “We the People” could easily get rid of these Bad Actors who are trying to rebrand the “American Way.”

Portrayed as Enemy No. 1 by our government, Julian Assange was simply trying to provide citizens the knowledge we needed to self-correct and purge these actors before they became too powerful to stop.

Let Us Not Forget Who Was Fine with Assange’s Imprisonment

As some of us celebrate Assange’s release, we should also reflect on the powerful institutions and influential citizens who never rallied to his defense.

Surreally, chief among these groups is the vast majority of members of the mainstream media “watchdog” press.

The Washington Post tells us that “Democracy dies in darkness” and yet the Post was more than content with Julian Assange languishing in a dark prison cell for the rest of his life. That is, the Post never used its considerable editorial influence to free the man who had shed the most light on the true nature of our leadership organizations.

Ninety-nine point-nine percent of the country’s activist celebrities were conspicuously silent about the deplorable treatment of Julian Assange (or Ed Snowden or Chelsey Manning or any person who disagreed with Anthony Fauci).

The best-known defenders of Julian Assange were the conceptual leader of Pink Floyd and an actress who once starred in Baywatch.

One has to ask where Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Bono, Jane Fonda, and Robert DeNiro were when Assange was in a British prison? They certainly weren’t outside his prison cell protesting.

Assange Has Not Received ‘justice’

Some are now saying that “justice” has been served for Assange. As Caitlin Johnstone reminds us, Assange hasn’t gotten any “justice.”

“So while Assange may be free, we cannot rightly say that justice has been done.

“Justice would look like Assange being granted a full and unconditional pardon and receiving millions of dollars in compensation from the US government for the torment they put him through by his imprisonment in Belmarsh beginning in 2019, his de facto imprisonment in the Ecuadorian embassy beginning in 2012, and his jailing and house arrest beginning in 2010.

“Justice would look like the US making concrete legal and policy changes guaranteeing that Washington could never again use its globe-spanning power and influence to destroy the life of a foreign journalist for reporting inconvenient facts about it, and issuing a formal apology to Julian Assange and his family.

Justice would look like the arrest and prosecution of the people whose war crimes Assange exposedand the arrest and prosecution of everyone who helped ruin his life for exposing those crimes. This would include a whole host of government operatives and officials across numerous countries, and multiple US presidents …”

On the occasion of last year’s World Freedom Day, “President” Joe Biden said, “Today—and every day—we must all stand with journalists around the world. We must all speak out against those who wish to silence them.”

Does anyone remember Joe Biden speaking out—even one time—against those who “silenced” Julian Assange?

And, for the record, who silenced him?

Republished from the author’s Substack


Bill Rice, Jr. is a freelance journalist in Troy, Alabama.

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Brownstone Institute

Karma Catches Up to the Stanford Internet Observatory

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From the Brownstone Institute


Karma has caught up with the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO), which will be scaled back to just three staff, according to the Washington Post. The contracts of its leading protagonists, Alex Stamos and Renee DiResta, have not been renewed. It was former CIA fellow Renee DiResta who led SIO’s signature initiatives, the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP) and the Virality Project (VP).

SIO’s demise is a result of a string of efforts including those of RacketPublic, the Murthy v. Missouri plaintiffs, the New Civil Liberties Alliance, the Disinformation Chronicle, the Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, and many more. Network Affects also contributed original research.

Founded with a $5 million donation from Craig Newmark, SIO took countering “misinformation” to new heights; the Virality Project advised its Big Tech partners to consider “true stories” to be “misinformation:”

I unearthed that document while assisting Matt Taibbi with Twitter Files research, just in time for his and Michael Shellenberger’s testimony before the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. It is perhaps the most egregious example of the internet research and digital rights fields 180°– an inorganic flip that undermined a decades-long commitment to free expression.

Inorganic because the EIP and VP were not “research initiatives” as is often claimed; they were seeded by the security state, namely the Department of Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, as demonstrated by emails released by the House Committee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. Below the Atlantic Council’s Graham Brookie (an EIP/VP project partner) explains that “we just set up an election integrity partnership at the request of DHS/CISA:”

The Atlantic Council is essentially NATO’s think tank and its board includes Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Secretary General of NATO the Rt. Hon. Lord Robertson, former US Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta, Goldman Sachs Secretary of the Board John F. W. Rogers, and many, many more.

As Taibbi further demonstrated, Twitter was aware of EIP’s links to the intelligence community:

So when content takedown recommendations came onto Twitter, they knew they were more than just serving suggestions.

The content of those requests was made clear after SIO was forced to release details of their internal flagging system. This again, via Taibbi’s reporting:

Furthermore, VP was in close contact with the White House and hosted Surgeon General Murphy for a discussion on health “misinformation.”

They also had pipeline-level access to more than 50 million Covid-related tweets per day:

This was in no way an insignificant research project.

VP pushed to censor other academics, such as Martin Kuldorff, a former Harvard Professor of Epidemiology and former member of the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Subgroup. As Alex Gutentag and I reported, VP  “played a major role” in censoring Kuldorff. On March 15, 2021, Kulldorff tweeted, “Thinking that everyone must be vaccinated is as scientifically flawed as thinking that nobody should. COVID vaccines are important for older high-risk people, and their care-takers. Those with prior natural infection do not need it. Nor children.”

VP flagged the tweet to Twitter and it was subsequently labelled as “misleading” and Kuldorff was temporarily suspended from the platform.” VP also marked him as a “repeat offender.”

However many outlets describe SIO’s demise as the result of “sustained right-wing campaign” by “conservative outlets” and ignore the corruption at the heart of the project. Predictably Stanford, DiResta, Stamos, and their supporters shout “Everything is right-wing” as they scramble to come up with a narrative that deflects accountability for their actions.

The truth is just that SIO was doing something egregiously wrong and was targeting people regardless of ideology. Those reporters could easily find that out – the lead tweet of Taibbi’s House testimony has been viewed more than 40 million times:

Stamos and DiResta will of course find other work. Stamos already has, starting a company with former CISA head Chris Krebs. Meanwhile, DiResta has a new book out – endorsed surprisingly by Jonathan Haidt, who was also among the top signatories of the Westminster Declaration. Despite SIO crumbling accountability still appears to be sorely lacking. DiResta appeared top of the bill at a recent Yale conference on propaganda.

It should never have gone this far; a properly self-regulating anti-disinformation field would have sniffed out bad actors early, but the conversation and the ecosystem are broken. SIO shouldn’t be the last center to be shut down or see leadership changes. Breaking basic research ethics, hiding your relationship with government and intelligence agencies, protecting corporate products from proper scrutiny, and pushing for the censorship of other academics is not “free academic inquiry” or “free speech;” it is corruption.

My non-profit, liber-net, will be strengthening our efforts over the coming months to bring accountability to other leading civil society censorship initiatives.

Meanwhile, SIO leaves a malign legacy, having damaged the reputation of the anti-disinformation field, and academia more broadly. The question is, will the anti-disinformation field clean house, or continue to ignore the corruption within its ranks?

Links to my past Stanford Internet Observatory and Virality Project-related content can be found below.

Stanford’s Virality Project pushed to censor the vaccine-injured

The Virality Project was a government front to coordinate censorship

Stanford Group Helped US Government Censor Covid Dissidents and Then Lied About It, New Documents Show

Twitter Files Extra: How the World’s “No-Kidding Decision Makers” Got Organized

Republished from the author’s Substack


Andrew Lowenthal is a Brownstone Institute fellow, journalist, and the founder and CEO of liber-net, a digital civil liberties initiative. He was co-founder and Executive Director of the Asia-Pacific digital rights non-profit EngageMedia for almost eighteen years, and a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and MIT’s Open Documentary Lab.

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