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Brownstone Institute

The Vaccine Narrative Is as Leaky as the Vaccines

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Let’s start with two simple questions. If regulators had the information available to them of the leakage between Covid-19 efficacy rates in controlled trials and their effectiveness in the real world, would they still grant emergency use authorization? Would their legal framework permit them to do so?

Remember, all laws serve a dual purpose. On the one hand, they are permissive and enabling, granting powers to do certain things. On the other, they are limiting and restrictive, ring-fencing what may lawfully be done even by the state.

Second, is Denmark being ruled by an anti-vaxxer government and health authority? From July 1 Denmark, which has an excellent health infrastructure including data collection, banned under-18s from being vaccinated and in mid-September the ban was extended to boosters for under-50s, other than in exceptional circumstances for immunocompromised and high-risk individuals in both cases.

The explanation offered by the health authorities is interesting both for what they said and what they did not say. They anticipate a rise in Covid-19 infections over autumn and winter and “aim to prevent serious illness, hospitalisation and death.” This risk applies to 50-year olds and above and not those younger. Because the vaccines are not meant to prevent infection, they will no longer be offered to the under-50s.

However, governments don’t ban products merely because they are not beneficial. Bans apply only to products that inflict harms. So the unstated reality is the benefit: harm ratio is no longer favorable. The really interesting question therefore is: why don’t they say so? The empirical data from around the world demonstrates negligible to negative vaccine effectiveness for healthy under-50s and greater risk of serious adverse events. Denmark’s decision marks official if implicit acknowledgment that harms are greater than benefits.

Baffling Origins of Lockdown

The lockdowns across the Western world remain, to me, inexplicable and baffling. The abandonment of a century’s worth of cumulative scientific knowledge and global and national pandemic preparedness plans were based neither on new science nor emerging data.

Rather, they were based firstly on apocalyptic modelling using flawed assumptions and secondly on dubious data from China whose authoritarian policies played to innate instincts in our own health bureaucrats and politicians, cheered on by the mainstream media. In a further nod to anti-scientific groupthink conformism, critical and contrarian voices within the health and political establishments were silenced and exorcised. Outside government, they were vilified and expelled from the public square in active collusion with the social media tech giants.

In February 2020, when the cruise ship Diamond Princess docked in Yokohama with 3,711 people on board, Kentaro Iwata, an infectious diseases expert at Kobe University, described it as a “Covid-19 mill.” Outbreaks seed easily on cruise ships because of the high numbers of susceptible elderly passengers living and socializing in confined quarters.

Even under these worst possible conditions, under one-fifth of the captive population was infected, a small number of the infected died and 98.2% recovered. Using age-adjusted data, Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine estimated the infection fatality rate (IFR) of 0.5% and a case fatality rate (CFR) of 1.1% on the Diamond Princess and, as of March 26, 2020, a global IFR of approximately 0.20% (compared to the seasonal flu’s 0.1% and the Spanish flu’s >2.5% which killed mostly people in the 20–40 age bracket). Reassuringly, even for the over-70s without comorbidities, the IFR was below 1%.

All this ‘bullet proof’ data was thrown out in favor of completely unreliable data and fake videos from China that were then fed into mathematical modelling to produce apocalyptic scenarios that in turn were treated as forecasts by the media and governments. Madness.

India’s Experience: Vaccines Are Not Necessary for Beating Back Covid

India’s experience in mid-2021 proved that vaccines are not necessary for rapid mass recovery from a virulent Covid wave. Anyone who has followed the Covid narrative will remember the horrific pictures in spring-summer 2021 with bodies floating ashore on riverbanks and piling up in cremation grounds. The gradient was broadly similar during the curve’s ascent and descent, with the death rate reaching 1.06 per million people on April 20, peaking at 2.98 on May 21 and 23 and falling back to 1.00 on June 24 (Figure 1). On those three dates India’s full vaccination coverage was 1.26%, 2.96% and 3.53% of the population, respectively.

People questioned the reliability of the data, openly asserting a vast undercount in order to cushion the political embarrassment. Knowing something of India, I disagree and noted more than a hint of racism in the coverage. No matter. Even if the authorities deliberately suppressed the rising numbers of dead, it would be absurd to suggest they did the same with the downward numbers. The symmetrical rise and fall is consistent with the experience of most countries with successive waves of the virus. Whatever else might explain the fall, it certainly wasn’t high vaccination coverage. Herd immunity to the then-dominant Delta variant through a mix of uncontrolled infections and modest vaccination, possibly.

Another contender for the explanation is the widespread use of ivermectin. Mid-crisis in May last year, the state government of Uttar Pradesh (India’s most populous state with 200 million people!), boasted it had been the first to authorize large-scale prophylactic and therapeutic use of ivermectin against Covid-19 in May–June 2020. Studies were confirming that “the drug helped the state to maintain a lower fatality and positivity rate as compared to other states.”

A meta-analysis by Andrew Bryant and Tess Lawrie in the American Journal of Therapeutics of 24 randomized control trials (RCTs) in 15 countries (one of which was subsequently pulled as possibly fraudulent) concluded that ivermectin significantly helps to prevent and treat Covid-19 and, with a 62% mortality reduction, can potentially save millions of lives. They published a follow-up analysis in the same journal that removed the suspect study and the results still showed robust ivermectin efficacy.

An analysis of seven RCTs, covering 1,327 patients, by Swedish physician Sebastian Rushworth found “a 62% reduction in the relative risk of dying among Covid patients treated with ivermectin.” A recent large-scale study from Brazil published on August 31 found that, compared to regular users, non-use of ivermectin increased the risk of Covid-related mortality by 12.5 times and dying from Covid by seven times.

Yet for some strange reason, Western health bureaucracies would neither recommend ivermectin – a low cost, off patent and no profit drug for Big Pharma – nor fund a rigorous but fair (that is, not designed to fail) clinical assessment of its efficacy against Covid. It had morphed into Voldermectin: the drug that must not be named.

Global Experience: Vaccines Are Not Sufficient to Beat Back Covid

My earlier articles show why Australia’s Covid numbers this year demonstrate that vaccines are not sufficient to prevent mass infections, hospitalization and deaths either. Steve Kirsch alerted his Substack subscribers on September 17 to an internal report for the governing Liberal Party of Canada back in June. It makes for depressing reading that will come as no surprise to all of us who have grown increasingly cynical about public health authorities and governing elites. The report draws on official Ontario data, is informed by wide international scholarship and emphasizes that the empirical results are in line with trends in other Canadian provinces and countries.

The fully vaccinated show rise in hospital admissions within 5-6 months; the boosted, within two weeks and rising thereafter for several months. Immunity through natural infection can last up to 20 months. Vaccination shows considerable benefits to over-70s and some benefit to over-60s but virtually no benefit to under-60s with respect to hospitalization and mortality rates. By contrast, adverse events are concentrated in the 18–69 age groups, and especially, in order of most to least, in the 40–49, 50–59 and 30–39 age groups.

Because the “abundance of data” demonstrates that vaccines do not prevent infection, transmission, hospitalization and deaths for the under-60s, “public health policy tools such as, mass vaccination campaigns, mandates, passports and travel restrictions need to be re-evaluated for relevance.” Factoring in also “known adverse events and unknown long-term effects,” the “empirical evidence investigated in this report … does not support continuing mass vaccination programs, mandates, passports and travel bans for all age groups.” The government has sat on this report since June – what a surprise.

Meanwhile there continues to be very little evidence in the real world that countries with high rates of multiple vaccine doses suffer correspondingly lower rates of Covid-19 mortality (Figures 2 and 3). In the two charts, Chile has both the highest booster rollout and the highest Covid-related death rate per capita, while India has the lowest booster coverage yet the second lowest mortality rate.

Some experts point to a worrying trend of rising excess mortality among under-14s in 28 European countries. An article in Vaccinedownloaded more than 110,000 times in preprint – seems to suggest, albeit tentatively, that added risks of serious adverse events are 2.4 and 4.4 times higher than the reduced risk of hospitalization for Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, respectively. Cautioning that the harm-benefit ratio will vary with populations at different Covid risk profiles and in different time periods from the Moderna and Pfizer studies they analyzed, the authors conclude with the need for large, randomized trials to come to robust conclusions. It would help if Moderna and Pfizer would release the granular, individual level data in their possession.

In a follow-up note on Substack, two of the study’s authors note that the normal rate of adverse events for other vaccines is 1-2 per million. The swine flu vaccine (1976) was pulled after it was associated with Guillain-Barre Syndrome at a 1 in 100,000 rate. By comparison, the Pfizer and Moderna clinical trials show 125 adverse events per 100,000 vaccinated people, while preventing between 22-63 hospitalizations.

Another new study of almost 900,000 5-11-year-old children in North Carolina, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, adds to concerns that vaccines don’t just lose their effectiveness in just a few months; they also destroy natural immunity against reinfection severe enough to put them in hospital.

Panels C and D (the study’s authors use “Panel” rather than “Chart”) clearly show that among people infected by the Delta variant, protection against reinfection of the unvaccinated lasts longer than of the vaccinated. The former’s effectiveness was still above 50% eight months later in May 2022 while the latter’s had fallen to zero (Figure 4). But with the Omicron variant, the previously infected are slightly better off vaccinated than unvaccinated after two months (94.3:90.7%) and much better off after four months (73.8:62.9%). The likely, albeit not definitive, explanation is that the vaccines themselves are destroying the protection provided by natural immunity.

Three comments about Panels E and F (Figure 5). First, while the x axis for Panel E is in weeks, Panel F’s is in months. So the first visual impression is misleading. Second, the maximum effectiveness of a vaccine against a reinfection severe enough to require hospital admission is around 88%, reached approximately four weeks after the first dose is administered. By contrast, the initial effectiveness of a previous infection is 100% and remains above 95% (remember the vaccine’s much-touted 95% efficacy rate?) until seven months later.

Third, the effectiveness of a previous infection against reinfection requiring hospitalisation does not decline to the same level as the vaccine’s peak effectiveness until nine months after infection. This is the reality that the CDC denied until recently and used as the justification for discriminating between the vaccinated and unvaccinated for access to public spaces.

Three conclusions follow:

  1. The risk of severe outcomes for children from infection by current Covid variants is low;
  2. The risk of severe adverse reactions from vaccines is higher, meaning vaccination is a net harm for young children – exactly why Denmark has banned them for children;
  3. Exposing healthy children to the risk of infection may be better for both individual and herd immunity than mass vaccinating them.

The FDA is not likely to restore its credibility as the US regulator with the widely ridiculed revelation that the new bivalent boosters were authorized on the basis of trial results from eight mice. Professor Marty Makary from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health tweeted his concerns about this and also about the announcement of an annual Covid vaccine that is not data-driven and ignores natural immunity as well as the risks of immune imprinting (where the immune system remembers its initial response to infection or vaccination in a way that usually, but not always, weakens the response to future variants of the same pathogen) from a multi-dose vaccination strategy.

From mRNA Vaccine Hesitant to Anti Vaxxer

The Financial Times – as mainstream establishment as they come – recently warned that the US decision to roll out new booster shots without clinical testing on humans – already dubbed the mouse vaccine by some – risks undermining public trust and deepening vaccine hesitancy. “We already have a trust problem in this country and we don’t need to make it worse,” Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said. Yet, even while bemoaning the loss of public trust in health experts and institutions, Topol just couldn’t help himself and smeared the Covid vaccine hesitants and sceptics as “anti-vaxxers, anti-science” people.

He thereby demonstrates precisely the pathology so beautifully described by Julie Sladden in an article in Spectator Australia on September 8. The Tasmanian doctor, “Having probably received more vaccines than most, given I am both a doctor and fairly well travelled,” used to begin her apology for refusing the Covid jab with “‘I’m no anti-vaxxer!’” However, after two years of “government-endorsed segregation and dehumanisation of those who exercised their right to refuse the jab,” she has changed her mind.

If an “anti-vaxxer” is someone who cannot give informed consent to a “vaccine” that fails to prevent infection or transmission, has alarming safety signals, must be taken to earn back the right to live and work in society, for a disease that has a greater-than 99 per cent survivability rate, then “yes,” I’m an anti-vaxxer… My government made it so.

To this we should add the very high likelihood of crossover vaccine hesitancy to other vaccines. In my own case before the pandemic I have dutifully gone in for the annual flu shot strongly recommended for my age demographic. Not any more. The Covid experience killed my trust in the medical and public health establishment and, having done my own research, I now politely decline the annual pre-winter flu shot.

Author

  • Ramesh Thakur, a former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, is emeritus professor in the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.

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Brownstone Institute

If We Only Knew

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Julie PonesseJULIE PONESSE

Last September, I released a video in which I explained my moral objection to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate being implemented by my employer, Western University. That video went viral.

Since its release, I have watched the video only a handful of times, and not once at my direction. I find it hard to watch, it being an acute reminder of the unfathomable world in which we now live.

But I have wondered, why did it resonate so much with people? Was it because I had the science right about the mRNA vaccines? Maybe.

Was it because I gave a good ethical argument against the mandates? I think so, but that surely isn’t the whole story.

Or was it something else?

I’ll let you think about that and offer my answer in a little bit.

One thing that video did is it instantly and irrevocably gave me outlier status. It put me on the outside of a system that has no tolerance for questioning or independent thought of any kind.

How many of you, at some point over the last two years, felt like an outlier, a misfit? How many of you felt like a foreigner within a new operating system in which conformity is the social currency, its reward the ability to keep your job, preserve your reputation, and avoid the censure of rebellious thought?

For its devoted followers, the stigma and bother of questioning that system is too costly, too inconvenient. But for you, it’s the price of conformity that is too high, and the need to question and, possibly resist, too hard to ignore.

It’s this social operating system that singled me out, expressed its intolerance for my nonconformist ways and, ultimately, did its best to string me up in the proverbial public square.

Until last September, I lived the quiet life of an academic, removed from the world of politics, podcasts and protests. I published in journals only a few colleagues ever read. I taught ethics, but it was always theoretical and, often, relied on the entertainment value of fantastical thought experiments like:

“What would you do if a trolley was barreling down a track toward five people inexplicably tied to it?”

Teaching ethics, I always felt, honestly, like a bit of a hypocrite, trying to envision what one would do if a crisis arose, or criticizing history’s moral villains. My work mattered, or so I told myself, but only in a big-picture way. There were no acute moral crises, no bioethics emergencies, as a good friend used to tease.

Not until last September, anyway, when all the theory culminated in what felt like the supreme ethical test. Faced with the decision to comply with my university’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate or refuse and lose my job, I chose the latter, for better or worse, and was efficiently terminated “with cause.”

I failed the test spectacularly according to my colleagues, our public health officials, Justin Trudeau, the Toronto Star, the National Post, the CBC, and even the NYU ethics professor who said “I wouldn’t pass her in my class.”

When I spoke at events at the height of the crisis, when almost unfathomably, we couldn’t even legally gather to do what we are doing today, I talked a lot about science and evidence, and why the mandates are unjustified and harmful. But I couldn’t imagine doing that now. And I don’t think that’s why you are here today.

We have all drawn our battle lines on that front and we aren’t seeing much movement across those lines. The pro-narrative position is alive and well. Conversions are uncommon and mass revelations unlikely.

Events are starting to impose vaccine passports once again and masking is returning. A Moderna plant is being built in Quebec…with production to beginin 2024.

And, honestly, I don’t think the situation in which we find ourselves was generated by a miscalculation of the data in the first place but by a crisis of the values and ideas that led to it.

So when I was invited to speak today, I started thinking about where you are these days, I wondered about your stories. What are your experiences of alienation and cancellation? What would you have done differently over the last two years if you could go back? What keeps you on the road less traveled? Are you ready to forgive?

So what I offer today are some thoughts on the themes of regret and endurance, thoughts on how we created the deep culture of silence that now stifles us, and what we can do now to move through it.

First, regret. Regret is, simply, the thought that it would have been better to do otherwise. If you give your friend expired milk that makes her sick, you might think “It would have been better first to check its expiry date.”

If you comply with COVID public health measures that end up causing harm, you might think “I should have questioned the lockdowns before McMaster Children’s Hospital reported a 300% increase in suicide attempts last fall, the vaccine rollout before the mandates came along.”

But the vast majority of us who should have known better, done better, didn’t. Why not?

There is no doubt that the government response to COVID is the largest public health disaster in modern history.

But what is interesting is not that the authorities demanded our compliance, that our sycophantic media was too lazy to demand the right evidence but that wesubmitted so freely, that we were so ready to trade freedom for the assurance of safety that we inverted the demands of civility to the point where we applaud sarcasm and cruelty.

And so the question that keeps me up at night is, how did we get to this place? Why couldn’t we see it coming?

I think part of the answer, the part that is hard to hear, hard to process, is that we did know. Or at least the information that would have allowed us to know, was available, hiding (we might say) in plain sight.

In 2009, Pfizer (the company that claims to “profoundly impact the health of Canadians” — no doubt) received a record-setting $2.3 billion fine for illegally marketing its painkiller Bextra and for paying kickbacks to compliant doctors.

At the time, Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli said the case was a victory for the public over “those who seek to earn a profit through fraud.” Well, yesterday’s victory is today’s conspiracy theory. And, unfortunately, Pfizer’s misstep is not a moral anomaly in the pharmaceutical industry.

You might be familiar with some of the notable moments of the industry’s history of collusion and regulatory capture: the thalidomide disaster of the 50s and 60s, Anthony Fauci’s mismanagement of the AIDS epidemic, the Opioid epidemic and the SSRI crisis of the 90s, and that just scratches the surface.

The fact that drug companies are not moral saints should never have surprised us.

So we really can’t say “If we only knew” because the evidence was there; the collective ‘we’ did know.

So why didn’t that knowledge get the traction it deserved? Why did our blind adherence to “follow the science” lead us to be more unscientific than at, arguably, any other time in history?

Do you know the parable of the camel?

One cold night in the desert, a man is sleeping in his tent, having tied his camel outside. But as the night grows colder, the camel asks his master if he can put his head in the tent for warmth.

“By all means,” says the man; and the camel stretches his head into the tent.

A little while later, the camel asks if he may also bring his neck and front legs inside. Again, the master agrees.

Finally, the camel, who is half in, half out, says “I’m letting cold air in. May I not come inside?” With pity, the master welcomes him into the warm tent.

But once the camel comes inside, he says: “I think that there is not room for both of us here. It will be best for you to stand outside, as you are the smaller; there will then be room enough for me.

And with that, the man is forced outside of his tent.

How could this happen?

Well, it seems you can get people to do just about anything if you break the unreasonable down into a series of smaller, seemingly reasonable ‘asks.’

It is the humble petition of the camel — just to first put his head inside the tent — that is so modest, so pitiful, that it seems unreasonable, even inhumane, to refuse.

Isn’t this what we’ve seen over the last 2 years? It’s been a master class in how to influence a person’s behaviour one step at a time by encroaching a tiny bit, pausing, then starting from this new place and encroaching again all the while making us feel somehow beholden to those who are coercing us.

We got here because we consented to tiny encroachments that we never should have consented to, not because of the size but the nature of the ask. We got here not because we fail to see the harms we do or because we consider them to be a reasonable sacrifice for the sake of public good (though some surely do).

We got here because of our moral blindness, because we are temporarily unable to see the harms we do. How can little things like collateral damage and “autonomy” and “consent” possibly stack up against the deep, blinding devotion to the idea that we are “doing our part,” saving the human race?

Let’s go back to the camel for a moment.

One way to describe what the camel is doing is to say he is ‘nudging’ his master’s behaviour for his own purposes, in much the same way we have been nudged over the last two years.

I mean that literally. The COVID response of most major world governments was framed by the nudge paradigm, a form of behavioural psychology that uses the active engineering of choice to influence our behaviour in barely discernible ways. Based on the 2008 book Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, the paradigm operates on 2 very simple ideas:

  1. Someone else, a supposed expert, will make better choices for you than you could make for yourself
  1. It is right for that person to make those choices for you

The real-world actualization of this model in the UK is MINDSPACE, a behavioural insights team (or “nudge unit”) composed largely of academics from the London School of Economics.

Some of the unsurprising insights of MINDSPACE include the fact that we are deeply influenced by the behaviours of those around us and by appeals to ego (i.e. we typically act in ways that make us feel better about ourselves proven, I think, by the virtue-signaling practices of masking and social media vaccine stickers.)

Our equivalent of MINDSPACE is Impact Canada, housed within the Privy Council Office, which not only tracks public behaviour and sentiment but plans ways to shape it in accordance with public health policies. This isn’t a secret. Theresa Tam bragged about it in an article in the Toronto Star last year.

These “nudge units” are composed of neuroscientists, behavioural scientists, geneticists, economists, policy analysts, marketers and graphic designers.

Members of Impact Canada include Dr. Lauryn Conway, whose work focuses on “the application of behavioural science and experimentation to domestic and international policy,” Jessica Leifer, a specialist in self-control and willpower, and Chris Soueidan, a graphic designer responsible for developing Impact Canada’s digital brand.

Slogans and hashtags (like “Do your part,” #COVIDvaccine and #postcovidcondition), images (of nurses donning masks that look like something from the movie Outbreak), and even the soothing Jade green colour on the “Get the facts about COVID-19 vaccines” fact-sheets are all products of Impact Canada’s research and marketing gurus.

Even the steady flow of more subtle images — on billboards and electronic traffic signs — normalizes the relevant behaviour through the subtle suggestion and justification of fear.

With greater than 90% vaccination rates, our nudge unit’s efforts are wildly successful.

But why were we so susceptible to being nudged in the first place? Aren’t we supposed to be the rational, critical thinking descendants of the Enlightenment? Aren’t we supposed to be scientific?

One of the great lessons of the last two years is just how much we are all affected by fear. The world’s nudge units masterfully manipulate our fears according to a precisely calculated cadence. But this is a dicey business.

If we feel helpless, fear appeals will make us defensive but, if we can be made to feel empowered, like there is something we can do to minimize the threat, our behaviours are highly moldable. We need to believe, for example, that the little mask we theatrically don at the entrance to the grocery store will fight a deadly virus, that the injection we take will save the human race (or at least give us the reputation for doing so).

But where did the idea that we should be manipulated in these ways come from?

None of it happened quickly and it didn’t start in 2020. Our moral blindness, our moral panic, is the culmination of a long-term cultural revolution and a devolution of our core institutions. As Antonio Gramsci, founder of the Italian Communist party, proclaimed, to achieve socialism’s triumph in the West, we must “Capture the culture.” And what he envisioned to do so was what Rudi Dutschke described in 1967 as a “long march through the institutions.”

Gramsci’s followers created, as Allan Bloom wrote in The Closing of the American Mind, the powerful cultural left. With the universities as their laboratories, the West’s radical leftists for decades taught students the virtues of relativism and groupthink.

These students graduated, worked their way up their respective professional ladders, molding each of the institutions we have been trained to trust: academia, medicine, media, government, even the judiciary. Molding them with the guiding ideology of the “politics of intent” which assumes that, if your intentions are noble and your compassion boundless, then you are virtuous, even if your actions ultimately lead to disaster on a colossal scale.

There is no accountability in the politics of intent. No apology. No autonomy. No individuality.

This is what’s behind social activism, progressivism, wokeism, neoliberalism, purity politics and the cancel culture that seems to run roughshod over reason in the frenzied rush to protect “acceptable” ideas.

And this is why language came to be the ammunition of the COVID war: because it is the most expedient and effective capture-the-culture tool. Think of everything from “Self-isolate” to “covidiot” to, of course, “Anti-vaxxer,” the linguistic scalpel that carved society up at its joints. Even the fact that “COVID” came to be capitalized (in the US, Canada and Australia, in particular) has an effect on the weight we give it.

These insidious shifts in our language help to entrench a social operating system that has proven its ability to reshape society without limitation, that led to my termination, that upheld the suspension of Dr. Crystal Luchkiw for giving a COVID vaccine exemption to a high-risk patient, that made Tamara Lich and Artur Pawlowski political prisoners, that saw narrative spin at its finest as our Prime Minister testified (under oath) at the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa yesterday, that demands amnesty for the (apparently) innocently ignorant, and that brought us all together today.

If this is the cause of our moral blindness, how do we cure it? How do we ‘wake people’ up to the harms of what we are doing?

As the Belgian psychologist Mattias Desmet says, jarring awake an acolyte of this system is like trying to wake someone up from a hypnotic state. If you try to do so by giving arguments about the effects of pandemic measures on children starving in India, for example, it will be futile because you are relying on ideas to which they give no psychological weight. Like the hypnotized person who feels nothing when a surgeon makes a cut, evidence that runs counter to the narrative is outside their focus of attention.

I have, personally, yet to hear of a case of someone being convinced of the absurdity of the COVID narrative on the basis of reason or evidence alone. I worked for months with the Canadian Covid Care Alliance to provide evidence-based information about COVID but I didn’t see any real traction until I made a video in which I cried.

Why did you cry when you watched that video? Why do tears well up when we meet at the gas station or while walking the dogs?

The answer, I think, is that none of this is about evidence and reason. “Effective versus ineffective” was never the point. It’s about feelings, on both sides. Feelings that justify our purity obsession, feelings (for many of you here today, I suspect) that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” as Hamlet’s Marcellus quipped, and that we don’t matter.

Do facts matter? Of course they do. But facts, alone, will never answer the questions we really care about. Let me say that again. FACTS, ALONE, WILL NEVER ANSWER THE QUESTIONS WE REALLY CARE ABOUT.

The real COVID war is not a battle over what is true, what counts as information, what it means to #followthescience; it’s a battle over what our lives mean and, ultimately, whether we matter. It’s a battle over the stories we tell.

Do we keep telling the seductive story of statism (which is what happens when we ask the state to assume authority over all spheres of our lives)? Do we outsource our thinking and our decision-making to the state that says:

  • Don’t worry about providing for your family, we offer welfare;
  • Don’t worry about taking care of each other when sick, we’ll give you free health care;
  • Don’t worry about caring for your aging parents, there’s long-term care for that;
  • And now insurance and overdraft and lines of credit, and even perfect student loan forgiveness?

Do we tell the story that our individual lives don’t matter, that we are expendable for the sake of the greater good, that technology will purify us, that if only we elect the right leaders, all our problems will be solved?

Or do we tell a better story? A story according to which our leaders are just a reflection of ourselves, that making ourselves wiser and stronger and more virtuous will always be better than relying on the state to make us healthy, safe and good, a story according to which we keep reaching for what we all deeply crave: meaning, mattering, and connecting with the humanity in others. This, I think, is a much more compelling story and the one we need to tell as we continue to fight.

So, where do we go from here?

Much has been written about the moral qualities of today’s outliers. In an eloquent letter to the unvaccinated narrated by Del Bigtree: “If Covid were a battlefield, it would still be warm with the bodies of the unvaccinated.”

Very true, but lying there alongside them would be anyone who refuses to outsource their thinking, who refuses to wallow in the comfort of willful ignorance, and who keeps trudging along through the darkness without a lantern to light the way.

Moral endurance is a problem these days. Empathy is low, and not just on the pro-narrative side. I don’t know about you but the feeling I can’t quite ignore or reconcile these days, something I am not proud of as an ethicist or a human being, is a palpable feeling of being numb. Numb to the repetition of history’s atrocities, numb to the laziness of the compliant who helped to create the world in which we now live, numb to inauthentic pleas for amnesty.

Those who have been speaking out are growing tired and we don’t even know what round of the fight we are in. With the injury of time, even the most devout can fall away, and what once seemed a noble, unrelinquishable goal can start to lose its force in the haze of shifting crises. And it will be a long time before the choir of humanity sings our praises, if it ever does.

But those who can persist are the ones, I believe, who will one day lead us out of this moral catastrophe, those who can remind us that more rules, restrictions, and signals of our apparent virtue are just a veil over our moral emptiness.

You might wonder, what if I’m ignored? What if I’m not brave? What if I fail?

The truth is, we all fail… every day. It’s unavoidable. But I think the greatest human failure is to pretend that we are gods, saints, or perfect heroes, that we can be made pure and invincible.

We all want to be the hero in our own story, of course — to slay the villains around us. But it’s turning out that the real villains are living inside us and growing stronger every day.

The true COVID war won’t be fought across the aisles of our parliaments, in our newspapers or even in the boardrooms of Big Pharma.

It will be fought between estranged sisters, between friends uninvited from Christmas dinner, between distanced spouses trying to see something vaguely familiar in the person sitting across from them. It will be fought as we struggle to protect our children and give our parents dignity in their last days. It will be fought in our souls.

Is COVID amnesty possible? Of course it is… if we hold onto our willful blindness, if we whitewash our mistakes. It is possible if I forget that within the last year, my prime minister called me a racist, that police came to my door, that I stayed home while friends sanctimoniously went to restaurants without me, that I lost rights that only the truly unreflective enjoyed, and that I am trying to teach my 2 year-old how to play and imagine and hope while the world crumbles around her.

But to “forgive and forget” will only solidify our brokenness. We need to look our mistakes in the face. We need to say our sorries. And we need to mean it.

We are going to be in this war a while longer and there will likely be more casualties than we can fathom in this moment. As Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mark Strand wrote, “…. if only we knew how long the ruins would last we would never complain.”

In the meantime, we tell our stories. We tell our stories because this is what we’ve done for thousands of years to make sense of our fears, to communicate with people from other tribes, to give our ancestors some degree of immortality and to teach our children. We tell our stories because we believe a cry in the dark will eventually be heard. These stories are what set a crisis in context. And sometimes a crisis can be productive.

In 1944, Jean Paul Sartre wrote an article for the Atlantic about those who fought against the occupation of France. Sartre begins the article with an apparent contraction:

“Never were we freer,” he wrote, “than under the German occupation. We had lost all our rights, and first of all our right to speak. They insulted us to our faces….The deported us en masse…. And because of all this we were free.”

Free? Really?!

For Sartre, it isn’t our circumstances that control us; it is how we interpret them. Sartre said they were unified because they all experienced the same fears, the same loneliness, the same uncertainty about the future.

And it was the courage of those who resisted suffering amidst all of this that led them out of it.

Leading us out of this will be up to those who, for some reason, choose resilience over helplessness, whose need to question is as natural as breathing, whose voice rings out in the silence, and who can see the humanity in others through the thick fog of shame and hatred.

It will be these outliers — people like you who were brave enough to be here today — that will make us look back on this moment in history and say, “Never were we freer.”

Author

  • Julie Ponesse

    Dr. Julie Ponesse, 2023 Brownstone Fellow, is a professor of ethics who has taught at Ontario’s Huron University College for 20 years. She was placed on leave and banned from accessing her campus due to the vaccine mandate. She presented at the The Faith and Democracy Series on 22, 2021. Dr. Ponesse has now taken on a new role with The Democracy Fund, a registered Canadian charity aimed at advancing civil liberties, where she serves as the pandemic ethics scholar.

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Brownstone Institute

Chinese Rise Up Against Lockdowns that Elites Advocated in the US

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute

BY Michael SengerMICHAEL SENGER

Mainstream headlines are alight with stories about protests of unprecedented proportion that have erupted across China in response to Xi Jinping’s draconian Zero Covid lockdown policies. I post these with the caveat that, owing to both the unique restrictions on information from China and our media’s false pretense of hawkishness in order to retain the public’s trust, stories about protests and instability in China are perennially exaggerated.

protests erupt across China
China's Covid Controls failing
China protests
Clashes in Shanghai China over covid restrictions

That there have been protests against the Chinese Communist Party’s lockdowns is not surprising, however, given how horrendous those policies have been. Exaggeration aside, during China’s lockdowns, most residents haven’t been allowed outside their homes even to get food. Meal deliveries are frequently inadequate and rotten and medical care is often inaccessible. Covid health status apps are strictly enforced. Those who test positive for Covid are taken to sparse, overcrowded quarantine camps resembling prisons. Infants are separated from their parents. Pets are killed.

I post these, too, with the caveat that stories of the CCP’s Zero Covid policies are often exaggerated as well, owing to both the establishment’s pretense of hawkishness and the consistent media narrative that during the response to Covid, at least we didn’t have it as bad as those poor Chinese who had to experience a “real lockdown.”

Wow, that’s some bad stuff. It’s an open question why the CCP remains so obsessively dedicated to this policy of Zero Covid; theories range from bureaucratic inertia to “saving face,” to a test of loyalty for Party members, to keeping “the science” alive, to simply putting on a show to reassure international onlookers that the CCP really does believe in what it sold them and at least they don’t have it as bad as in China. It remains to be seen whether these protests will result in any real change in the country’s direction.

But in the meantime, it’s worth remembering who it was exactly who advocated these insane Zero Covid lockdown policies and urged us to emulate them: Our own media elites and health officials.

Here’s the New York Times touting the Chinese “version of freedom.”

NYT praises China "freedom"
China tries ZeroCovid

Here’s the Washington Post wishing the US was more like China.

WP loves China

Here’s the New Yorker on the secrets to China’s “success.”

New Yorker fawning over China

Here’s Salon whining about America’s failure to “learn” from China’s success.

Salon sees China as a success on covid

Here’s CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on the incredible results China was able to “achieve” with their “really strict lockdowns.”

ncredible results China was able to “achieve” with their “really strict lockdowns.”

Here’s former CDC Director Robert Redfield on China’s “control of their outbreak.”

Redfield says China controlled outbreak.

Here’s former CDC Director Tom Frieden on how China used lockdowns to “crush the curve.”

CDC Director Tom Frieden on how China used lockdowns to “crush the curve.”

Here’s Anthony Fauci advising India to “learn from China” as late as 2021.

Fauci says India can learn from China on covid.

Here’s Bill Gates praising China’s “authoritarian response” and blaming America’s failure on “freedom.”

Here’s WHO Assistant Director-General Bruce Aylward rubber-stamping the CCP’s lockdowns into global policy.

Here’s WHO Assistant Director-General Bruce Aylward rubber stamping the CCP’s lockdowns into global policy.

Here’s former Surgeon General Jerome Adams toeing the line.

Here’s former Surgeon General Jerome Adams toeing the line.

Here’s Neil Ferguson on how China led the way.

Here’s Neil Ferguson on how China led the way.

Here’s Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of the once-esteemed medical journal the Lancet, touting China’s response.

Here’s Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of the once-esteemed medical journal the Lancet, touting China’s response.

Here’s Devi Sridhar urging the UK to copy China’s “early and hard lockdown.”

Here’s Devi Sridhar urging the UK to copy China’s “early and hard lockdown.”

Here’s professors Gavin Yamey, Gregg Gonsalves, and Angela Rasmussen defending China’s data.

Gavin Yamey says China
gregggggg

Here’s the Financial Times attributing China’s “success” to Xi’s “strict lockdowns.”

Here’s the Financial Times attributing China’s “success” to Xi’s “strict lockdowns.”

Here’s Canada’s former Health Minister Patty Hajdu defending China’s data.

Here’s Canada’s former Health Minister Patty Hajdu defending China’s data.

Here’s Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam on the “key lesson” to be learned from China.

Here’s Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam on the “key lesson” to be learned from China.

Of course it’s no accident that Matt Pottinger and Deborah Birx, arguably the two most important officials behind lockdowns in the United States, got their idea of virus containment from China as well. As did Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who signed the first lockdown orders in the western world.

In 2020 and 2021, these calls for Western nations to emulate China’s lockdowns reached a fever pitch. But you don’t even need to look that far back. In fact, just yesterday, Washington Post journalist Taylor Lorenz defended the CCP’s Zero Covid policy amid the widespread protests that had erupted among the Chinese public.

Even some Covid “moderates” like professor Francois Balloux continue to toe the line that China’s lockdowns were effective.

And two days prior, Anthony Fauci gave a sworn deposition describing how China had inspired the advice on Covid containment that he issued to the United States.

And two days prior, Anthony Fauci gave a sworn deposition describing how China had inspired the advice on Covid containment that he issued to the United States.

As protests continue to erupt across China and Zero Covid is lain bare as the moral and intellectual catastrophe that is always was, it’s worth remembering that if we’d taken these officials and media elites seriously, the entire free world would look very much like China does today. Moreover, not a single one of these officials or media elites has been held to account or even lost their position. On the contrary, several of the most important pro-lockdown officials have had their exploits glorified in hagiographic memoirs, and some, such as UK SAGE advisor and 40-year British Communist Party member Susan Michie, have been given big promotions.

This in sharp contrast to the countless professionals who lost their positions due to noncompliance with Covid mandates, or those—as I found out the hard way—who’ve been censored for the mere suggestion that we may need an inquiry into why all these elites suddenly felt it appropriate to advise their countries to adopt one of the CCP’s most ruthlessly totalitarian policies.

It’s possible that when we get to the bottom of this story, we’ll find that these elites had perfectly good reasons for treating China’s data as real and treating Xi Jinping’s lockdowns as a legitimate public health policy, and a perfectly good explanation for why they couldn’t share those reasons with the public. But somehow, that doesn’t seem likely.

Republished from the author’s Substack

Author

  • Michael Senger

    Michael P Senger is an attorney and author of Snake Oil: How Xi Jinping Shut Down the World. He has been researching the influence of the Chinese Communist Party on the world’s response to COVID-19 since March 2020 and previously authored China’s Global Lockdown Propaganda Campaign and The Masked Ball of Cowardice in Tablet Magazine. You can follow his work on Substack

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