From the Brownstone Institute
The COVID-19 emergency has at last come to an end as even the most restrictive countries — the United States, most recently — have lifted draconian Covid mandates. Freedom has been restored, but the pandemic has left an indelible mark on the bedrock institutions of our society. The corruption of the FDA, CDC, the White House, and Big Pharma has been undeniably exposed — a topic I have exhaustively covered for over a year.
Notably, journalism — the filter through which ordinary people living busy lives come to understand the complex matrix of power, money, and influence — has also been exposed for its bizarre servility to public health decrees and pharmaceutical companies. Writing for the most prominent journalistic outlets since 2020, I saw the decay from the inside. Though I have been hesitant to share my experiences of colliding with the inner machinery of media — for my reputational and financial security — I now feel galvanized to lay it on the table after starting a new Substack with Dr. Jay Bhattacharya.
One of the reasons I unexpectedly found myself in the journalism industry was the real possibility of speaking truth to power, presenting radically novel perspectives, and challenging institutional orthodoxy.
My first major forays into the industry were on topics such as how my experiences with racism from childhood inform my view of race relations, how white guilt and identity politics corrupts our discourse, and how 2020 Black Lives Matter riots wreaked havoc in poor, minority communities.
My heterodoxy and unwavering commitment to the truth — whether that made me look right-wing, left-wing, or just an artsy weirdo (at times) — didn’t land me a weekly New York Times column, but it did grant me spots in a number of top liberal and conservative-leaning outlets, such as the New York Post, the Globe and Mail, Foreign Policy Magazine, the Grammys (yes, the music awards — their online vertical), and others.
Until it didn’t.
Having taken the heretical line on race, gender, policing, I thought I was immunized from editorial censorship. But, as the pandemic became increasingly politicized through 2021 and 2022 with the rollout of vaccines and public mandates, our society seemed to plunge into further collective psychosis, as spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle has persipaciously observed.
For the first year-and-a-half of the pandemic, I didn’t take any public stance on what was a complex epidemiological issue requiring legitimate expertise to navigate. Besides, I was regularly writing about race, BLM, and policing in the summer of 2020. Then, in the summer of 2021 Justin Trudeau and provincial leaders announced vaccine mandates across the country. Suddenly, going to the gym, restaurants, and large gatherings was conditional on taking a novel mRNA vaccine for a virus that posed less than a 0.003 percent mortality risk for people my age.
I started to examine whether this was the right medical decision for my health. Upon close scrutiny of the best available data, I came away thinking it was not. I didn’t think the Covid vaccine would be an instant death sentence for me, but I didn’t see clear evidence of benefit for healthy people in their 20s. It also just happened to be the case that I fell in the very demographic that was most at-risk of developing a serious vaccine side effect — myocarditis or pericarditis (cardiac inflammation).
Among the most rigorous, comprehensive data we have on vaccine myocarditis is from Dr. Katie Sharff who analyzed a database from Kaiser Permanente. She found a 1/1,862 rate of myocarditis after the second dose in young men ages 18 – 24. For boys ages 12 – 17, the rate was 1/2,650. Active surveillance monitoring in Hong Kong shows virtually identical figures.
Confused and looking for clarity, I reached out to Dr. Jay Bhattacharya — who was among the most sensible public health policy advocates throughout the pandemic — and he validated my serious concerns of vaccine safety and draconian public health policy more broadly.
Frustrated by the government coercing me into taking a medical procedure that was not in my best interest, I resolved to write about this injustice in the several outlets which had previously published my work.
Right away, I faced tremendous resistance of the kind that I never expected. The rejection I experienced when pitching a wide variety of pieces on Covid mandates — reported, opinionated, based on the views of credentialed scientific experts etc.— was unprecedented. Even editors who I deemed as allies — publishing polarizing pieces such as the “fallacies of white privilege” or why Robin DiAngelo’s last popular racism guidebook promotes a “dehumanizing form of condescension towards racial minorities” — were averse to my work questioning scientifically dubious vaccine mandate policies on the grounds of bodily autonomy and medical freedom.
Many editors explicitly stated their outlets were “pro-vaccine” and didn’t want to run anything that may promote an iota of “vaccine hesitancy” — even in young, healthy groups for which we still have no data on reduction in severe disease or death. One editor responded to my pitch on the lack of epidemiological basis for vaccine mandates with the following:
This paper has been encouraging Covid vaccination for everyone. We don’t want to promote vaccine hesitancy that will get people seriously ill and killed.
Journalists need to be responsible in not sowing distrust in public health guidelines that are meant to keep us safe.
Another editor made it painfully clear after a handful of unsuccessful pitches that the publication as a whole was not keen on publishing anything that deviated from the CDC and FDA’s universal vaccine advisory (vigorously critiqued by the likes of Vinay Prasad and Tracy Beth Høeg MD, PhD.).
I’m going to pass.
As I’ve said many times before, we are a pro-vaccination newspaper, and personally I just wish everyone would get vaccinated already. While I respect your decision not to do so (and I agree jail time for those who don’t is overkill), I’m not keen on op-eds that even appear like they’re arguing against vaccination for Covid or anything else.
Trying to figure out a way to capitalize on a hot news story — as every freelancer learns how to do — I started sending pitches on viral stories of athletes being barred from competition due to their personal choice not to get vaccinated. In response to my proposal on tennis star Novak Djokovic’s debacle, one editor expressed his utter contempt for Djokovic:
In no way do I want a piece supporting people who refuse to get vaccinated. In my opinion, people such as Djokovic, who refuse to get vaxxed, make their own beds and should lie in it.
They are not heroes.
On my pitch about NBA star Kyrie Irving, who had to sit out several games for the Brooklyn Nets because of some undefined risk he posed to society as an unvaccinated player, an editor I was very close with made her profound disagreement undoubtedly clear:
Sorry Rav, but I vehemently disagree with you on this issue. Feel free to pitch elsewhere.
Kyrie Irving refused to help the public get out of the pandemic and now he’s suffering the consequences. It’s on him.
On a couple of occasions, I attempted to cover the perpetually escalating Joe Rogan Covid controversy. In my several pitches, I took various angles such as how many credentialed scientific experts — such as Bhattacharya, Makary, Prasad, and others — were more in line with Rogan’s anti-mandate views than the government and public health agencies were. Here are two editor responses I received when pitching a story on the bizarre controversy of Rogan’s comments that young people in their 20s didn’t need to take the Covid vaccine (May 2021):
Rav, we are not interested in running stories like this.
I think Rogan is actively endangering the lives of children and young adults with his anti-vaccine propaganda — and you need to be more responsible in your coverage as a journalist.
I’m not interested in the Rogan story. It could too easily be construed as anti-vaccine and we want to steer well clear of that.
I don’t want any ambiguity on the issue.
One publication, whose whole mission has been from the start to expose and dismantle institutional orthodoxy, uncritically took the mainstream view on vaccine recommendations as gospel. This editor, who had “platformed” my work explaining the oft-justifiability of police shootings of highly violent, threatening suspects — which, again, was in line with their anti-mainstream view —opposed any view critical of vaccine mandates. In response to one of my pitches on the downplayed risk of vaccine-induced myocarditis in young men, he responded:
Rav, sorry but we’re not going to run any anti-vaccine pieces.
I think the risk is totally overblown and amplified by right-wing pundits who have no concern for public health. These are the safest vaccines we’ve ever had and virtually everyone seeks to benefit.
None of this was based on rigorous scientific analysis — it was all premised on a naive trust in public health authorities and pharmaceutical companies.
As it turns out, the mRNA vaccines are, by all current accounts, the most dangerous government-promoted pharmaceutical products in history. Fraiman and colleagues’ independent analysis of Pfizer and Moderna’s safety data in the medical journal Vaccine shows that mRNA covid vaccines are associated with a 1 in 800 adverse event rate — substantially higher than other vaccines on the market (typically in the range of 1 in a million adverse event rates).
[Note: this study does not negate the effectiveness of mRNA vaccines in reducing death and severe disease in elderly populations (for which we have good data). I personally recommended my grandparents to get vaccinated and was happy they followed through.]
Due to the increasing censorship I faced, I ended up self-publishing my vaccine-myocarditis investigations, including one story on how a 38-year-old law enforcement member in my area almost died from acute vaccine-induced myocarditis after he was forced to get double-jabbed against his will.
At a time when government officials and public health bureaucrats are actively misleading the public, it is the media’s crucial responsibility to hold them accountable. Unchecked power — when unrecognized by the masses — metastasizes and devolves into tyrannical control. This is how you get the FDA approving and recommending the new “bivalent” booster shot to all Americans — as young as 6 months old — based on lab-testing in eight mice (with the White House recklessly advertising on their behalf).
When the media fails, civilization begins to unwind. The powerful get away with more corruption and media homogeneity solidifies, congeals, and becomes increasingly treacherous to question.
This has been my experience over the past two years.
An industry already compromised in the age of Trump and wokeism completely fell apart during a global pandemic. My collisions with this inner machinery are not merely a story of left-wing media bias (a given fact for decades), but — as I alluded to several times — people working in even alternative and right-leaning media spaces refusing to air any form of refutation of authoritarian public health mandates.
This is why traditional left-versus-right paradigms are obsolete. Many “conservatives” bought the public health propaganda wholesale while a number of traditionally progressive thinkers — such as Russell Brand, Matt Taibbi, Jimmy Dore, and Glenn Greenwald (regardless of their personal medical decisions) — vigorously objected to Covid mandates on the basis of foundational, societal principles.
I have largely abstained from sharing my visceral feelings on the demoralizing rejection (and financial loss) I faced for two years as a previously welcomed journalist in major outlets, but suffice it to say I felt incredibly trapped, helpless, vexed, and lost. Some of the aforementioned editors recommended I stick to stories on “cancel culture,” “identity politics,” “race,” and the rest. While all those issues remain deeply concerning, the proposition of being pigeonholed in one specific topic while being censored in another that is far more alarming on a societal level (“Take the jab, or lose your job”) was repugnant to me.
I refuse to be censored.
I won’t perpetually write stories about wokeism spiralling out of control in liberal sectors of society in order to gain clicks and a steady paycheck on conservative websites who want to feed their readers only one narrative.
Today, I am no longer indignant and hopeless, waiting for one of my previous editors to offer me an opportunity again. I have now started my new, independent venture on this platform — The Illusion of Consensus — and am looking forward to bringing new, exciting content to my readers.
Thank you to those who helped share and amplify the several stories I independently wrote on my personal Substack (with a small audience and minimal financial gain) such as Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, and Glenn Greenwald.
As I progress in my ever-evolving journalistic path to expose the truth, I hope you will continue to support my work.
Republished from the author’s Substack
A Pandemic of Lockdown Denialism
From the Brownstone Institute
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.
Medicine in the Wilderness
From the Brownstone Institute
I once was proud of my profession. I spent over 40 years as a clinician, educator, and researcher and for most of that time thought I was engaged in a noble calling. But all that has changed in the last 3 years. Medicine is lost in The Wilderness.
There were warning signals, to be sure. For many years I was heavily involved in medical associations on the local, state, and national levels. Gradually I became disillusioned when I saw that many of my colleagues who gravitated to this activity did not share my views. They enjoyed the politics of medicine. In fact, they enjoyed it too much. I lost interest. Perhaps in retrospect that was part of the problem. The policy of medicine gradually became the politics of medicine. And as is often the case, where there is politics there is also corruption.
Twenty years ago I was appointed as a technical advisor to a panel of the federal government. I was flown to Washington, housed in an upscale hotel and dined on fancy meals. I saw how intoxicating power can be. I began to somehow consider that I was special. The problem was I was expected to use my technical expertise to advise in a certain way. I realized, almost too late, what was going on. But I did realize it and was not reappointed to that position.
Looking back on it, this experience gave me a taste of how the events of the past three years came to be. I saw how money, power and flattery could cause physicians to shade their recommendations. It happened oh so gradually until one day, integrity was completely lost. The tragedy is that many times, those who lost it did not miss it.
I have come to realize that ethics and medicine have parted ways for many physicians, myself included. Things we once took for granted are gone…evaporated. We reached a point where, relating to COVID, attempts to treat disease were not just ignored but penalized. As a surgeon, I had operated under the obligation of giving Informed Consent to all my patients. I was expected to clearly explain the risks, benefits, and alternatives of my proposed course of action and allow the patient to make the decisions regarding their response to those recommendations. I could be sanctioned for failing in this obligation. However, in COVID, Informed Consent was criminalized…but only for that disease. Those who still felt an obligation to their patients were, and continue to be, vilified, slandered, fired from their position, and in some cases, prosecuted.
One would have thought that organized medicine, and academic medicine in particular, would have rallied to their defense, but that was not the case. They were the primary prosecutors. I shake my head when I think back to the days that I taught medical ethics to residents and medical students. One of the case studies involved discussing how accepting a lunch, or even a pen, from a drug company was unethical. Somehow, individuals who made life and death decisions were suspected of being bribed by a pen! And owning stock in a company and prescribing medications manufactured by that company were absolutely forbidden!
Now where are we? A good deal past the use of pens, for sure!
If a physician from even 10 years ago would look at the contents of most of our medical journals today, I am sure he or she would think they were reading fiction. These are the four articles that make up the Viewpoint section of the September 19, 2023 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
- Affirmative Action Ruled Unconstitutional: Options for Building a Diverse Health Care Workforce
Eli Y. Adashi, MD, MS; Philip A. Gruppuso, MD; I. Glenn Cohen, JD
- The Supreme Court’s Rulings on Race Neutrality Threaten Progress in Medicine and Health
Harald Schmidt, PhD; Lawrence O. Gostin, JD; Michelle A. Williams, ScD
- The Supreme Court Decision on Affirmative Action—Fewer Black Physicians and More Health Disparities for Minoritized Groups
Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD; Martha L. Elks, MD, PhD; Mark Howse, PhD
- Holistic Admissions at UC Davis—Journey Toward Equity
Mark C. Henderson, MD; Tonya L. Fancher, MD; Susan Murin, MD
In order to truly understand the departure from what was the norm a mere 10 years ago, this is a link to the contents of the Viewpoint section in the September 18, 2013 issue:
- The HIPAA Conundrum in the Era of Mobile Health and Communications
C. Jason Wang, MD, PhD; Delphine J. Huang, MS
- A Trial-Based Approach to Statin Guidelines
Paul M Ridker, MD, MPH; Peter W. F. Wilson, MD
- Medicare Payment for Chronic Care Delivered in a Patient-Centered Medical Home
Andrew B. Bindman, MD; Jonathan D. Blum, MPP; Richard Kronick, PhD
- PEPFAR’s Antiprostitution Pledge Spending Power and Free Speech in Tension
Lawrence O. Gostin, JD
The difference in the tenor of the articles is striking, at least to me. In the current articles, the author’s primary focus seems to be finding ways to circumvent the rule of law. In 2013, the two articles that deal with a legislative focus explore how to comply with the rule of law. While some may claim that is a distinction without a difference, I would disagree. Something has changed! Change is inevitable, but is it always positive? Looking back on history, many nations have changed in response to internal and external pressure. Unfortunately, the majority of those changes have been negative.
Back in 2019, before the Great COVID disaster, Baffy and associates warned us of a change that was occurring in medical and scientific publishing. They observed the concentration of medical and scientific publishing in the hands of a few very large corporations which answered to stakeholders with conflicting interests:
Because the use of complex digital tools and rapidly growing electronic databases require advanced computing skills, Internet-based mega-companies such as Google (Mountainview, Calif), Amazon (Seattle, Wash), Facebook (Menlo Park, Calif), and Apple (Cupertino, Calif) may become interested in spearheading further transformation and outcompete current stakeholders in scholarly communication and develop more user-friendly tools. Such developments could potentially lead to a few large entities controlling the gateways to scientific knowledge, a sobering thought…
Scientific publishing has been a highly profitable industry, and there is little doubt that financial interests will continue to drive its transformation. However, the academic community has a fundamental stake in this process and should understand the trajectories of change to protect enduring values, embrace promising developments, and make scholarly communication increasingly inclusive and efficient.
It would seem the authors were amazingly prescient, as their world has come to pass. Medicine seems, at least to me, to have become the Willing Servant of an Unholy Trinity of Big Pharma, Big Tech and Big Politics. Medical publication and medical education have become more interested in ideology and propaganda than healing, more interested in class than the individual. It is the very antithesis of the concepts contained in the Hippocratic Oath. Although the proponents of the transformation may claim it is being done for a “greater good,” that excuse has been used before in medicine of some nations of the last century. When sanity returned, that excuse was repudiated.
Society now finds itself a passenger on a ship which has been taken over by ideologues. The ship is heading for the rocks. Lookouts stationed high above can see the disaster unfolding and urgently inform the captain of the ship. The captain solves the problem by throwing the lookouts overboard.
This is the dystopian world in which we now live.
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