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Brownstone Institute

A Pandemic of Lockdown Denialism

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9 minute read

From the Brownstone Institute

BY Jeffrey A. TuckerJEFFREY A. TUCKER

There is an old expression: “Success has a thousand fathers but failure is always an orphan.”

It’s a spin on Tacitus: “This is an unfair thing about war: victory is claimed by all, failure to one alone.”

We can judge the results of the pandemic response, then, by the number of people who claim it as their own. So far the answer seems to be: none.

These days, if you listen to the rhetoric, you would think that absolutely no one forced anyone to do anything, not even take the jab. There were no mask mandates. No one was ever locked down. There were some mistakes, sure, but those came only from doing the best we could with the knowledge we had.

Other than make well-considered recommendations, they didn’t force anyone to do anything.

Even from 2021, the media routinely referred to the “pandemic” and not the pandemic policies as responsible for learning losses, depression, business failures, and poor economic conditions. This has been deliberate. It’s designed to normalize lockdowns as if they are just something one does to deal with infectious disease, even though lockdowns have no precedent on that scale in the West.

More recently, this denialism has taken a strange turn. Now the people who actually did pull the trigger on the loss of liberty are routinely refusing to admit that they forced anything.

We’ve heard Donald Trump make this claim for a good part of this year. Mr. “I left it to the states” has yet to be publicly confronted with his decisions from March 10, 2020 and throughout the rest of his presidency. Interviewers don’t press him on the subject for fear of having access cut off later. And yet the record is very clear.

Then Anthony Fauci joined in, claiming that he never recommended the lockdowns at all.

But the pandemic of lockdown dentialism has gotten worse, to the point that the head of Health and Human Services plus the head of Occupational Safety and Health Commision are doing the same, even though the Supreme Court actually ruled against their edicts.

Ah, what a difference time and events make.

It gets worse. One of the most imperial and invasive of the governors was Andrew Cuomo of New York. He issued a massive number of edicts that he enforced with police power, including even dictating that bars couldn’t sell drinks alone but also mandating the selling of  food, even to the point of spelling out the quantity of food. This resulted in the infamous Cuomo Fries served around the state.

But to hear him talk now, he didn’t do a thing and no one had to comply with anything.

“Government had no capacity to enforce any of this,” he says now. “You must wear a mask and people wore masks in New York. But if they said I’m not wearing a mask there was nothing I could do about it. You must close your private business. I won’t. Well there was nothing I could really do about it. It was really all voluntary. It was extraordinary when you think about it. Society acted with that uniformity voluntarily because I had no enforcement capacity.”

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And that’s why hundreds of thousands of people fled the city and state? It was all voluntary?

As Thomas McArdle explains:

 In fact, the “New York State on PAUSE” executive order Mr. Cuomo signed on Friday, March 20, 2020, included a directive that all businesses in the state deemed non-essential by the government must cease employee activities within their offices before the following Monday. That December, an army of police sheriffs shut down a popular bar and restaurant on Staten Island that responded “I won’t” and arrested its general manager for defying coronavirus restrictions by remaining open for indoor business, in just one example of enforcement of lockdowns in the state.

Cuomo’s dissembling rhetoric is simply incredible. And it speaks to why we’ve seen no justice for what they have done. It’s simply because not one pandemic leader has admitted to having done anything at all. The entire pandemic response was so brutal, so outlandish, and so utterly wrong even according to their own goals, whatever they were, that no one wants to take credit for any of it.

All of which reminds me of Dr. Carter Mecher, who Michael Lewis in The Premonition celebrates as the key architect of lockdowns. In the Red Dawn emails of 2020, he pauses from his frenzied push for lockdowns with a winsome comment. He says that if everything goes well with the lockdowns, they will have saved society from a deadly disease. The irony, he says, is that if their strategy works, everyone will be saying: look it wasn’t bad after all, so why did we lock down?

So either way, he predicted, they are doomed.

This was the real premonition. Today, no one likes these people. The public is furious beyond measure. The leaders of the response all over the world are being toppled and fleeing offices with as much dignity as they can muster, which usually means landing in the Ivy League (Jacinda Ardern, Lori Lightfoot, Yoel Roth. and Cuomo).

The one thing they will not do is admit that they were completely wrong and only caused massive wreckage from which we are still suffering, plus completely discredited public health and government for a generation or two.

Early on, I and many others were accused of Covid denialism for citing the data on the age disparities of risk. The alarmists and lockdowners were said to be the realistic ones. Three years later, this has completely flipped. Reality bit back. Now the denialists are those who actively promoted and enforced lockdowns, and now implausibly deny that anything happened at all.

All of this gives new meaning to the word gaslighting. Indeed, it is enough to drive one crazy. We encounter it everywhere, even in the second Republican debate where not even one question was about the lockdowns, much less the surveillance, censorship, vaccine mandates, or the failures of the shot. Here we have the greatest failure of government in my lifetime or any living lifetime and we don’t have official institutions out there even willing to talk about it.

The major media is tacitly conspiring with the political establishment, the corporate sector, and the administrative state to pretend like that fiasco was completely normal and also entirely forgettable, not even worth naming. We did the best we could with the information we had so just stop complaining about it!

This is not going to work. It is too close to living memory for this level of gaslighting to be effective. The more these official institutions engage in this crazy form of denialism, the more they discredit themselves.

Author

  • Jeffrey A. Tucker

    Jeffrey A. Tucker is Founder and President of the 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.

Brownstone Institute

Conspiracy Theory Debunker Finds Real Conspiracies

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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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Brownstone Institute

The WHO and Phony International Law

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute

BY Bruce PardyBRUCE PARDY 

A new pandemic treaty is in the works. Countries are negotiating its terms, along with amendments to international health regulations. If ready in time, the World Health Assembly will approve them in May. The deal may give the WHO power to declare global health emergencies. Countries will promise to follow WHO directives. Lockdowns, vaccine mandates, travel restrictions, and more will be in the works. Critics say that the agreements will override national sovereignty because their provisions will be binding. But international law is the art of the Big Pretend.

You drive down Main Street. Cars are parked everywhere. The signs say “No Parking” but they also say, “The City does not enforce parking restrictions.” In effect there’s no rule against parking. Laws are commands imposed with the force of the state. Rules without sanctions are mere suggestions. Some people may honor the request, but others won’t. Those who disagree with the rule can safely ignore it. In domestic law, “enforceable” and “binding” are synonyms.

But not in international law, where promises are called “binding” even if they are unenforceable. In the international sphere, countries are the highest authority. Nothing stands above them with the power to enforce their promises. No such courts exist. The International Court of Justice depends on the consent of the countries involved. No international police enforce its orders. The UN is a sprawling bureaucracy, but in the end, it is merely a place for countries to gather. The WHO is a branch of the UN whose mandate countries negotiate amongst themselves.

In the proposed pandemic treaty, parties are to settle disputes through negotiation. They may agree to be subject to the International Court of Justice or to arbitration. But they cannot be required to.

Yet international law jurists insist that unenforceable treaty promises can be binding. “The binding character of a norm does not depend on whether there is any court or tribunal with jurisdiction to apply it,” Daniel Bodansky, a professor of international law at Arizona State University, wrote in a 2016 analysis of the Paris climate agreement. “Enforcement is not a necessary condition for an instrument or norm to be legally binding.” Without this Big Pretend, international law would collapse like a house of cards on a windy beach.

All countries are sovereign. They are free to retaliate against each other for perceived wrongs, including breaches of treaty promises. They can seek to have other countries censured or expelled from the international regime. They can impose trade sanctions. They can expel ambassadors. But retaliation is not “enforcement.” Moreover, international relations are a delicate business. Aggrieved countries are more likely to express their disappointment in carefully crafted diplomatic language than to burn bridges.

The threat from WHO proposals come not from outside but from within. We live in a managerial age, run by a technocratic elite. Over time, they have acquired for themselves the discretion to direct society for the common good, as they declare it to be.

As journalist David Samuels puts it, “Americans now find themselves living in an oligarchy administered day-to-day by institutional bureaucracies that move in lock-step with each other, enforcing a set of ideologically-driven top-down imperatives that seemingly change from week-to-week and cover nearly every subject under the sun.” These bureaucracies regulate, license, expropriate, subsidize, track, censor, prescribe, plan, incentivize, and inspect. Pandemics and public health are the most recent justifications for yet more control.

Domestic governments, not international bodies, will impose WHO recommendations on their citizens. They will pass laws and policies that incorporate those directives. Even an exasperated WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said so in a briefing this week. “There are those who claim that the pandemic agreement and [amended regulations] will cede sovereignty…and give the WHO Secretariat the power to impose lockdowns or vaccine mandates on countries…These claims are completely false…the agreement is negotiated by countries for countries and will be implemented in countries in accordance with your own national laws.”

Ghebreyesus is correct. Local and national authorities will not give up their powers. To what extent international commitments will be “binding” on a country depends not on international law but on that country’s own domestic laws and courts. Article VI of the US Constitution, for example, provides that the Constitution, federal laws, and treaties together “shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” That does not mean that treaties supersede the Constitution or federal laws. Domestic legislation and policy will be required for the proposed pandemic treaty and WHO directives to be enforced on American soil. Such legislation is an exercise of sovereignty, not a repudiation of it.

The proposals are not benign. Domestic authorities seek cover for their own autocratic measures. Their promises will be called “binding” even though they are not. Local officials will justify restrictions by citing international obligations. Binding WHO recommendations leave them no choice, they will say. The WHO will coordinate their imperatives as the face of global public health.

The WHO is not taking over. Instead, it will be the handmaiden for a coordinated global biomedical state. Managers hate straight lines. Diffuse, discretionary powers avoid accountability and the rule of law. The global health regime will be a tangled web. It is meant to be.

Author

  • Bruce Pardy

    Bruce Pardy is executive director of Rights Probe and professor of law at Queen’s University.

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