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Evidence of Early Spread in the US: What We Know


35 minute read

From the Brownstone Institute


In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story “Silver Blaze,” Sherlock Holmes famously solved a murder case by noting a dog that didn’t bark.

Gregory (Scotland Yard detective to Holmes): “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”

The “official” timeline of the spread of the novel coronavirus has been false from the very beginning. The “dog that didn’t bark” is the fact officials have refused to sincerely investigate the copious evidence of “early spread.”

When events and activities that clearly should have happened obviously did not happen, a truth-seeking detective would ask several common-sense questions.

For example: Why didn’t these activities take place? Are America’s trusted officials perhaps hiding something, and, if so, why? Should certain people and certain organizations be considered the primary suspects in one of the most shocking crimes in world history?

In previous articles, I identified 17 known Americans who possess antibody evidence of being infected by the novel coronavirus months before the virus was supposed to be circulating in America. Three of these Americans had antibody evidence of infection by November 2019.

I also recently identified at least seven other Americans who claim to have had Covid symptoms in November or December 2019 who state they later received positive antibody results. I’ve thus identified at least 24  known Americans who very likely had Covid at some point in the year 2019. Also and significantly, federal officials never interviewed any of these people.

Today’s deep dive into “early spread” evidence focusses on 106 other Americans who also had antibody evidence of early spread. These 106 Americans tested positive for Covid antibodies in a CDC study of Red Cross blood donors.

While the “Red Cross Blood Study” received a fair amount of media coverage when belatedly published on November 30, 2020, the “narrative-changing” or “seismic” implications of this study have still not been given the weight they deserve.

Conclusions flowing from this analysis include the following:

* By late December 2019, more than 7 million Americans had likely been infected by the coronavirus… more than three months before the lockdowns of mid-March 2020, lockdowns implemented to “slow” or “stop” the spread of a virus that had spread across the country and world many months earlier.

“Probable” cases of Covid had already occurred in at least 16 U.S. states by January 1st, 2020 – weeks or months before the first “confirmed” case of Covid in America was recorded January 19, 2020.

  • Antibody studies of archived blood in Italy and France also support the hypothesis that that virus had infected large numbers of people in these two nations as early as September 2019.

Key unanswered questions include:

Why was the Red Cross blood study the only antibody study of blood samples collected by blood bank organizations?

Why did it take so long to publish the results of this one Red Cross blood study?

When did officials test this blood and when did U.S. policy makers know the results?(This is literally a trillion-dollar question. Also, If this blood had been tested earlier, millions of lives might have been saved).

Why didn’t officials interview the 106 Americans who had antibody evidence of prior infection?

It’s possible at least some public health experts may have intentionally concealed evidence of early spread. Reasons prompting this disturbing conclusion are presented below.

The first known knowable

Between December 13-16, 2019, 1,912 Americans in the states of California, Oregon and Washington donated blood via the American Red Cross. Another 5,477 Americans also donated blood via the Red Cross between Dec. 30, 2019 and January 17, 2020. These donors were from the states of Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Iowa.

At some point, the CDC decided it should test these 7,389 samples of  “archived” blood for Covid antibodies. When this took place – and why it took so long for this to happen – are two of many still-unanswered questions.

DISCUSSION – Tranche 1 (California, Oregon and Washington)

Of the 1,912 samples tested for Covid antibodies, 39 were positive for IgG and/or IgM antibodies.

The above represents 2.04 percent of the total samples from this tranche. In samples tested from the Red Cross’s Northern California district, 2.4 percent of the sera samples tested positive for Covid-19 via an ELISA assay.

If this was a representative sample of the American population, 2.04 percent would translate to approximately 7.94 million Americans who had already been infected by this virus in the weeks before Dec. 13-16. (Math: American population of 331 million x 0.024 percent = 7.94 million).

If we include both tranches, the 106 positive donors represents 1.43 percent of the larger “sample group.” This seroprevalence rate would translate to 4.73 million Americans nationwide being infected by some time in early January 2020.

We’re not supposed to perform this extrapolation

Public health officials working overtime to hype the fear factor must appreciate the fact  journalists in the mainstream press did not perform the extrapolations I just performed above.

This particular “dog that didn’t bark” (a press that wouldn’t perform common-sense extrapolations) is probably explained by language/guidance the authors included in the study.

From the study: Findings “may not be representative of all blood donors or donations in these states and the findings may not be generalizable to all blood donors during the donation dates reported here. Therefore, population-based seroprevalence estimates or inference on magnitude of infections on a national or state level cannot be made.”

I did note the authors used the words “may not be generalizable to all blood donors during the donation dates reported here.”  To me, this choice of words does not rule out the possibility these results may be generalizable to the larger population.

The authors’ reasons that readers should not “generalize” the results to the entire population are unconvincing. A random group of blood donors is about as good a sample as one can perform. For example, this was NOT a “biased” sample of people who thought they may have had Covid earlier.

This sample almost certainly undercounts virus prevalence in these states

In mainstream press stories about this study, all of them report as fact that this study dates the possible beginning of virus spread to December 2019. This is not accurate. The findings, for reasons outlined below, actually reveal that Americans were becoming infected in November 2019 or (almost-certainly) even earlier.

Regarding the possibility the sample may have under-counted true prevalence, the following points should be considered.

Some of the donors, especially those who had asymptomatic cases and never even knew they were sick, may not have had time to develop antibodies by the time they donated blood. Per one study, “the average time to detectable neutralization was 14.3 days post on-set of symptoms (range 3-59 days.)”

Also, it’s possible some of the donors may have had detectable levels of antibodies at an earlier date, but those antibodies had “waned” or “faded” and were no longer “detectable” at the time they gave blood samples.

Furthermore, all regular blood donors know that they should not donate blood if they have recently been sick. This deduction further backs up the possible date of infection for some “positive” donors by at least two weeks.

Also, backing up the true “infection date” of many of the donors is the fact that 32.23 percent of the donors who tested positive for “neutralizing antibodies” tested negative for the IgM antibody and positive for the IgG antibody.

Per many studies, IgM-positive antibodies only persist for approximately one month. That is, after 30 days, those who were previously infected by Covid will test negative for IgM antibodies. However, IgG antibodies can last for many months, years or, in some people, perhaps a lifetime.

Per the Red Cross study, 32 percent of donors were negative-IgM but positive IgG, which suggests that approximately one-third of this sample were infected a month or more before they donated blood. This combination of antibody results would push likely infection dates back to October (or even September) for some percentage of positive donors.

We don’t know when these people in the three Western states (or the other six Midwestern and Northeast states) may have been infected – but for probably most of them it would have been many weeks or even months before they donated blood.That is, the “Red Cross blood study” provides compelling evidence that early spread in America probably occurred by at least early October and perhaps even September.

What does the word ‘spread’ really mean?

Also, the fact that positive samples were found in ALL nine states (California, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Connecticut and Rhode Island) by itself strongly suggests virus “spread.” Question: How could a virus be infecting people in nine widely-dispersed states without first “spreading?”

To these nine states, we can add seven other states  (New Jersey, Florida and Alabama) from my first round of stories and now also New YorkTexasNebraska andNorth Carolina from my most recent story where readers with antibody evidence contacted me. This gives us 16 states where this allegedly non-existent or “isolated” virus had infected people before the first official case in America.

I would also note that whatever virus made many of these people “sick” spread between family members. For example, at least four married couples infected each other and/or at least one child. Mayor Michael Melham says “many” people at the conference where he first became sick with Covid symptoms also became sick at the same time, which, to this layman’s definition, connotes virus “spread.”

To the above numbers, we could add all the unknown individuals who infected these people … as well as the unknown individuals who infected these unknown individuals.

It should also be noted that the Red Cross blood study was not a perfect sample as blood donors are much older than the median age. In this sample, the median age was 52 – 13 years older than the U.S. median age of 38.6. Common sense tells us that older retirees do not interact with nearly as many people on a daily basis as more active younger people.

I’ve also come to believe it’s possible that officials who “authorized” or approved official antibody tests may have manipulated the tests to ensure fewer “confirmed” or “positive” cases, a result that would minimize any fallout from larger percentages of positives. A difference of 1 or 2 percent in seroprevalence estimates might not seem like much. However, in real terms, this would represent 3.3 to 6.6 million additional early cases.

For these reasons, I believe the number of Americans who’d been infected by the novel coronavirus in the year 2019 is notably higher than 1.43 or 2.04 percent of America’s population.

The Dog that Didn’t Bark Evidence

Regarding the Red Cross antibody study, several points deserve much greater attention than they’ve received. The following unanswered questions address these points:

Why was only ONE study of archived Red Cross blood performed?

By December 31, 2019, every American public health official was acutely aware that Chinese officials had reported an outbreak of a novel new type of “pneumonia” virus to the World Health Organization.

It’s my belief at least some U.S. officials either knew or had compelling reasons to suspect this months earlier. (This topic/theory will be explored in future articles).

Even if one accepts that the Dec. 31st notification was the first American officials had heard of a possible global pandemic, wouldn’t one of the first reactions of these officials be to test archived blood to see if this virus might have been spreading in this country?

One answer to this question might be that America’s scientific community simply did not have an antibody test capable of testing for antibodies in early January. This may be true, but, per my research, creating an antibody test for any virus poses no formidable challenge to smart and motivated scientists.  If such an assay wasn’t available in the early weeks of the official pandemic, one should have certainly been available by the end of January.

Also, I’ve read several studies authored by Chinese scientists who were performing antibody tests in January 2020. For example, this study “was published on January 24, 2020” and includes the following sentence:

“Additional evidence to confirm the etiologic significance of 2019-nCoV in the Wuhan outbreak include … detection of IgM and IgG antiviral antibodies …”

Surely, in the face of an unfolding “global crisis,” America’s top scientific minds could have done the same thing (or just borrowed the technology from the Chinese).

The Red Cross didn’t have any more spare blood?

It must also be true that plenty of “archived” blood samples from throughout the country were available for testing (and the Red Cross is not the only organization that serves as a blood bank for hospitals).

In the face of a national emergency, it would seem odd if all of these organizations presented  serious objections to some of their stored blood being “repurposed” for important research.

If two tranches of blood were donated for science, couldn’t other tranches of Red Cross blood have similarly been donated? Why was no Red Cross blood collected before December 13th tested for antibodies? Why was blood collected and tested from only nine states? Why not all 50 states? Why wasn’t blood from the same locations tested two or three weeks later (or from earlier dates) … or two months later to see if the percentage of positives might be increasing?

The public doesn’t know the answer to any of these questions and apparently no reporter asked officials these questions.

Again, projects that would seem like common-sense to most people … did NOT take place.

When did officials test this blood and when did U.S. policy makers know the results?

One piece of information not included in the report is the date the archived blood was finally tested. This is actually (and literally) a trillion-dollar question.

Another “known knowable” is the date in which lockdowns commenced – roughly March 13th 2020, the date Fauci, Birx et all “snuck in” the provisions of what the non-pharmaceutical intervention would actually entail (basically closing all non-essential businesses and organizations).

One might ask if the decision to lock down the country to “slow” or “stop’ the “spread” of this virus would have been authorized if it had been known that Americans in nine states already had antibody-evidence of infection by early January (or December or November)? Asked differently, if these results had been known by, say, late February 2020 how would officials justify the lockdowns?

Late February would be 73 days after the first tranche of Red Cross blood had been collected from donors and 58 days after the Wuhan Outbreak became known. How long does it really take to transport 1,900 units of blood to the CDC’s preferred testing lab and then test such a small batch of samples for antibodies? If this was a national emergency and scientists and lab workers were working 24-7, it would not have taken 58 days.

Perhaps the only reason this would not have occurred is that no member of the U.S. Scientific Bureaucracy thought of doing this …. a possibility this author finds hard to believe.

An alternative explanation is that officials intentionally delayed the testing of this blood so there would be no reason to call off the lockdowns. Here the assumption is that if Americans learned that many millions of Americans had already been infected with this virus by early December – and nobody in the entire country had even noticed – maybe the fear and panic that did ensue would not have ensued.

Why did it take so long to publish the results of this one Red Cross blood study?

Not only was the California-Washington-Oregon tranche of blood not tested in time to avert the lockdowns (at least as far as the public knows), the study that did take place wasn’t published until November 30, 2020. This was almost 12 months (!) after 1,900 people had donated blood Dec. 13-16.

In my research, I found numerous examples of serology studies that were conceived, conducted and the results published in a matter of weeks (In one case in Idaho in a matter of days).

Tucker Carlson thinks like I do

I’m a big fan of Tucker Carlson’s contrarian monologues, but I missed the fact he posed some of my same questions in a commentary that aired in the days after the Red Cross blood study was finally published.

Tucker: “So clearly, what we have been told for almost a year about the origins of the coronavirus is not true.

“Why are we just learning this now, a month after a presidential election? We’ve had reliable antibody tests since the summer, yet no one thought to test Red Cross blood samples until now?”

“Why weren’t elected officials demanding a coherent account of where this virus that has changed American history forever came from, how it got to the United States and how it spread through our population? Why don’t we know that yet?”

My only quibble with Tucker’s essay is that the American scientific community would have had “reliable” antibody tests far before “summer.”

(Another personal hypothesis: I also think “authorized” antibody tests were not made widely available until late April to conceal evidence of early spread,  another theory I will expound on in a future article).

Carlson pointed out that as of December 2020, Americans still didn’t know where
this virus that “changed American history forever came from (or) how it got to the United States and how it spread through our population? Why don’t we know that yet?”

Carlson asked these questions two years ago … and Americans still have no answer.

As to Carlson’s question as to “why we don’t know that yet?” I can offer one possible answer: Because the people who know the answer must know that their fingerprints are on the creation of this virus. If the truth became known, they might be facing charges of “crimes against humanity.”

If the dog did bark and tell the sordid tale, it wouldn’t be one felon Sherlock Holmes nabbed, but a swamp full of felons. As it turns out, the felons are almost guaranteed protection by the massive numbers of accomplices (“stakeholders” in the authorized narrative) who are also interested in the truth never being revealed.

Why didn’t officials interview the 106 Americans who had antibody evidence of prior infection?

Any public health official genuinely interested in tracking down the earliest known cases would have rushed to interview every one of these 106 Americans.

The obvious goal would be to ascertain if any of these individuals happened to experience Covid-like symptoms weeks or months before they donated blood. If they had, available medical records (and perhaps even preserved tissue samples) might support this diagnosis. “Contact tracers” chasing down possible “Case Zeros” could have also found out if any of these individuals’ close contacts might have been sick.

But this did not happen (yet another dog that didn’t bark). Instead, we learn from the language in the study that blood donors were “de-identified” for unstated reasons.

Presumably, this was done to protect the medical privacy of these individuals. However, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where an American citizen in January or February 2020 would have been offended if a public servant investigating the origins of the century’s greatest pandemic asked him or her a few questions.

This hypothetical excuse would also be shown to be a canard by the fact that public health officials in France also performed an antibody study of archived stored blood. This study (summarized below) also found copious evidence of early spread, including French citizens who had antibody evidence of infection in early November 2019.

However, in France, unlike in America, public health officials did take the time to interview some of the positive subjects.

French Antibody Study found 3.9 percent of residents had antibody evidence of early spread

The French study selected and tested 9,144 serum samples collected betweenNovember 4, 2019 and March 16, 2020 in participants living in the 12 mainland French regions.

Three-hundred and fifty-three (3.9%) participants were ELISA-S positive, 138 were undetermined and 8653 were negative (undetermined and negative, 96.1%). The proportion of ELISA-S positive increased from 1.9% (42 of 2218) in November and 1.3% (20 of 1534) in December to 5.0% (114 of 2268) in January, 5.2% (114 of 2179) in February and 6.7% (63 or 945) in the first half of March.

A few observations/comments:

The percentage of positive samples (3.9 percent) of French participants is more than double the rate of the American Red Cross study (1.44 percent among 7,392 donors).  The total number of positive cases (353) is more than three times greater than was found in the smaller Red Cross study (106 positive samples).

The American Red Cross study found “positives” in all nine states sampled and the French study found positives in all 12 mainland French regions … thus the results of both studies strongly suggest that the virus had spread across both countries.

In France, two percent (1.99 percent) of those studied had antibody evidence of infection by November 2019 – approximately four months before the global lockdowns. Perhaps surprisingly, the rates went down in December but then spiked to 5.0 percent in January and kept rising in February 5.2 percent) and had reached 6.7 percent in the first half of March (before the lockdowns).

The population of France in 2020 was 67.38 million. This means 6.7 percent of the population already had evidence of infection before the lockdowns commenced. Extrapolated to the entire French population, this would equate to 4.51 million French citizens.  For context, the first  three “confirmed” cases of Covid in France are still recorded as January 24, 2020.

No “pre-pandemic” serology study including archived blood collected in February 2020 was performed in America.  If 5.2 percent of Americans had antibody evidence of infection by February (as was the case in France), this would equate to 17.21 million Americans.

French public officials did interview some early spread possibilities

From the study: “Participants with both ELISA-S and SN positive tests in serum sampled before February 1, 2020 were interviewed to identify potential exposure to SARS-CoV-2 infection. A trained investigator collected standardized information on clinical details … and any remarkable event in close contacts (e.g. unexplained pneumonia).

According to the French study, 13 people tested positive with “neutralizing antibodies” (a higher standard than just plain IgM or IgG positives) “between November 5, 2019 and January 30, 2020.”

Table 1 describes the serological results in these 13 participants, among whom 11 were interviewed.

Of the 11 subjects who were interviewed, eight (8) – 73 percent –  were either sick themselves or had close contacts with someone who was sick with Covid-like symptoms. For purposes of illustration, three of these individuals’ findings are presented below:

Person 3 – Sampled in November 2019: Positive with Covid symptoms. Also noted: Her partner was sick with intense cough in October 2019 …”

Person 6 – blood drawn November 2019 … Travel in Spain in early November. She had daily encounters with a family member who had a respiratory illness of unknown origin between October and December. She suffered from dysgeusia, hyposmia, and cough before the sample was taken, but could not remember the date of illness …”

Person 7: Positive in November with symptoms. The participant and his partner were sick with a severe cough in October 2019. He had a follow-up serology at the end of July, 2020. ELISA-S = 3.82. (Note: This means this person received TWO positive antibody tests).

The above information provides another benefit of interviewing people who have antibody evidence of early infection – namely, officials can re-test these individuals at different points in the future to see how long antibodies last. Furthermore, if a large percentage of these early spread candidates did not later develop PCR-confirmed cases, this would suggest they do, in fact, have “natural immunity” (which would be further evidence of an earlier infection).

Italy Antibody Study is eye-opening

The most eye-opening “pre-pandemic” antibody study was carried out by a team of academic researchers in Italy.

The main text: “SARS-CoV-2 RBD-specific antibodies were detected in 111 of 959 (11.6%) individuals, starting from September 2019 (14%), with a cluster of positive cases (>30%) in the second week of February 2020 and the highest number (53.2%) in Lombardy. This study shows an unexpected very early circulation of SARS-CoV-2 among asymptomatic individuals in Italy several months before the first patient was identified, and clarifies the onset and spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.”

“Table 1 reports anti-SARS-CoV-2 RBD antibody detection according to the time of sample collection in Italy. In the first 2 months, September–October 2019, 23/162 (14.2%) patients in September and 27/166 (16.3%) in October displayed IgG or IgM antibodies, or both.”

“The first positive sample (IgM-positive) was recorded on September 3 in the Veneto region …

The 959 recruited patients came from all Italian regions, and at least one SARS-CoV-2–positive patient was detected in 13 regions – more evidence of wide-spread and “early,” person-to-person transmission.

More from the study: “Notably, two peaks of positivity for anti-SARS-CoV-2 RBD antibodies were visible: the first one started at the end of September, reaching 18% and 17% of IgM-positive cases in the second and third weeks of October, respectively. A second one occurred in February 2020, with a peak of over 30% of IgM-positive cases in the second week.”

According to the study’s authors: “Finding SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in asymptomatic people before the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy may reshape the history of pandemic.

My comment: I’ve thought the same thing with all the articles I’ve written that presented copious evidence of “early spread.” However, I clearly thought wrong. Apparently, for some reason, the “early spread” dog ain’t barking.

Reprinted from the author’s Substack


  • Bill Rice

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

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Brownstone Institute

The Best Life Lesson for a Teen Is a Job

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute


During the Covid debacle, kids were locked out of school or otherwise condemned to an inferior Zoom education for up to two years. What were the alternatives? Unfortunately, since the New Deal, the federal government has severely restricted teenagers’ opportunities for gainful employment. But new evidence proves that keeping kids out of work doesn’t keep them out of mental health trouble.

Yet suggesting that kids take a job has become controversial in recent years. It is easy to find expert lists on the dangers of teenage employment. Evolve Treatment Center, a California therapy chain for teenagers, recently listed the possible “cons” of work:

  • Jobs can add stress to a child’s life.
  • Jobs can expose kids to people and situations they might not be ready for.
  • A teen working a job might feel like childhood is ending too soon.

But stress is a natural part of life. Dealing with strange characters or ornery bosses can speedily teach kids far more than they learn from a droning public school teacher. And the sooner childhood ends, the sooner young adults can experience independence – one of the great propellants of personal growth.

When I came of age in the 1970s, nothing was more natural than seeking to earn a few bucks after school or during the summer. I was terminally bored in high school and jobs provided one of the few legal stimulants I found in those years.

Thanks to federal labor law, I was effectively banned from non-agricultural work before I turned 16. For two summers, I worked at a peach orchard five days a week, almost ten hours a day, pocketing $1.40 an hour and all the peach fuzz I took home on my neck and arms. Plus, there was no entertainment surcharge for the snakes I encountered in trees while a heavy metal bucket of peaches swung from my neck.

Actually, that gig was good preparation for my journalism career since I was always being cussed by the foreman. He was a retired 20-year Army drill sergeant who was always snarling, always smoking, and always coughing. The foreman never explained how to do a task since he preferred vehemently cussing you afterwards for doing it wrong. “What-da-hell’s-wrong-with-you-Red?” quickly became his standard refrain.

No one who worked in that orchard was ever voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” But one co-worker provided me with a lifetime of philosophical inspiration, more or less. Albert, a lean 35-year-old who always greased his black hair straight back, had survived plenty of whiskey-induced crashes on life’s roller coaster.

Back in those days, young folks were browbeaten to think positively about institutions that domineered their lives (such as military conscription). Albert was a novelty in my experience: a good-natured person who perpetually scoffed.  Albert’s reaction to almost everything in life consisted of two phrases: “That really burns my ass!” or “No Shit!”

After I turned 16, I worked one summer with the Virginia Highway Department. As a flag man, I held up traffic while highway employees idled away the hours. On hot days in the back part of the county, drivers sometimes tossed me a cold beer as they passed by. Nowadays, such acts of mercy might spark an indictment. The best part of the job was wielding a chainsaw—another experience that came in handy for my future career.

I did “roadkill ride-alongs” with Bud, an amiable, jelly-bellied truck driver who was always chewing the cheapest, nastiest ceegar ever made—Swisher Sweets. The cigars I smoked cost a nickel more than Bud’s, but I tried not to put on airs around him.

We were supposed to dig a hole to bury any dead animal along the road. This could take half an hour or longer. Bud’s approach was more efficient. We would get our shovels firmly under the animal—wait until no cars were passing by—and then heave the carcass into the bushes. It was important not to let the job crowd the time available for smoking.

I was assigned to a crew that might have been the biggest slackers south of the Potomac and east of the Alleghenies. Working slowly to slipshod standards was their code of honor. Anyone who worked harder was viewed as a nuisance, if not a menace.

The most important thing I learned from that crew was how not to shovel. Any Yuk-a-Puk can grunt and heave material from Spot A to Spot B. It takes practice and savvy to turn a mule-like activity into an art.

To not shovel right, the shovel handle should rest above the belt buckle while one leans slightly forward. It’s important not to have both hands in your pockets while leaning, since that could prevent onlookers from recognizing “Work-in-Progress.” The key is to appear to be studiously calculating where your next burst of effort will provide maximum returns for the task.

One of this crew’s tasks that summer was to build a new road. The assistant crew foreman was indignant: “Why does the state government have us do this? Private businesses could build the road much more efficiently, and cheaper, too.” I was puzzled by his comment, but by the end of the summer I heartily agreed. The Highway Department could not competently organize anything more complex than painting stripes in the middle of a road. Even the placement of highway direction signs was routinely botched.

While I easily acclimated to government work lethargy, I was pure hustle on Friday nights unloading trucks full of boxes of old books at a local bindery. That gig paid a flat rate, in cash, that usually worked out to double or triple the Highway Department wage.

The goal with the Highway Department was to conserve energy, while the goal at the book bindery was to conserve time—to finish as quickly as possible and move on to weekend mischief. With government work, time routinely acquired a negative value—something to be killed.

The key thing kids must learn from their first jobs is to produce enough value that someone will voluntarily pay them a wage. I worked plenty of jobs in my teen years – baling hay, cutting lawns, and hustling on construction sites. I knew I’d need to pay my own way in life and those jobs got me in the habit of saving early and often.

But according to today’s conventional wisdom, teenagers should not be put at risk in any situation where they might harm themselves. The enemies of teenage employment rarely admit how the government’s “fixes” routinely do more harm than good. My experience with the highway department helped me quickly recognize the perils of government employment and training programs.

Those programs have been spectacularly failing for more than half a century. In 1969, the General Accounting Office (GAO) condemned federal summer jobs programs because youth “regressed in their conception of what should reasonably be required in return for wages paid.”

In 1979, GAO reported that the vast majority of urban teens in the program “were exposed to a worksite where good work habits were not learned or reinforced, or realistic ideas on expectations in the real world of work were not fostered.” In 1980, Vice President Mondale’s Task Force on Youth Unemployment reported, “Private employment experience is deemed far more attractive to prospective employers than public work” because of the bad habits and attitudes spurred by government programs.

“Make work” and “fake work” are a grave disservice to young people. But the same problems permeated programs in the Obama era. In Boston, federally-subsidized summer job workers donned puppets to greet visitors to an aquarium. In Laurel, Maryland, “Mayor’s Summer Jobs” participants put in time serving as a “building escort.” In Washington, D.C., kids were paid to diddle with “schoolyard butterfly habitats” and littered the streets with leaflets about the Green Summer Job Corps. In Florida, subsidized summer job participants “practiced firm handshakes to ensure that employers quickly understand their serious intent to work,” the Orlando Sentinel reported. And folks wonder why so many young people cannot comprehend the meaning of “work.”

Cosseting kids has been a jobs program for social workers but a disaster for the supposed beneficiaries. Teen labor force participation (for ages 16 to 19) declined from 58 percent in 1979 to 42 percent in 2004 and roughly 35 percent in 2018. It’s not like, instead of finding a job, kids stay home and read Shakespeare, master Algebra, or learn to code.

As teens became less engaged in society via work, mental health problems became far more prevalent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in “the 10 years leading up to the pandemic, feelings of persistent sadness and hopelessness—as well as suicidal thoughts and behaviors—increased by about 40 percent among young people.”

The troubled teen years are producing dark harvests on campus.  Between 2008 and 2019, the number of undergraduate students diagnosed with anxiety increased by 134 percent, 106 percent for depression, 57 percent for bipolar disorder, 72 percent for ADHD, 67 percent for schizophrenia, and 100 percent for anorexia, according to the National College Health Assessment.

Those rates are much worse post-pandemic. As psychiatrist Thomas Szasz observed, “The greatest analgesic, soporific, stimulant, tranquilizer, narcotic, and to some extent even antibiotic – in short, the closest thing to a genuine panacea – known to medical science is work.”

Those who fret about the dangers that teens face on the job need to recognize the “opportunity cost” of young adults perpetuating their childhood and their dependence. Sure, there are perils in the workplace. But as Thoreau wisely observed, “A man sits as many risks as he runs.”


  • James Bovard

    James Bovard, 2023 Brownstone Fellow, is author and lecturer whose commentary targets examples of waste, failures, corruption, cronyism and abuses of power in government. He is a USA Today columnist and is a frequent contributor to The Hill. He is the author of ten books.

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Brownstone Institute

How Major Media Suppressed My COVID Journalism

Published on

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.

Foreign Policy Magazine (top-left), Maclean’s Magazine (top-right), The New York Post (bottom-left), The Globe and Mail (bottom-right)

Pieces that I’m perhaps most proud of are the explosion of inner-city violence in Minneapolis in the aftermath of George Floyd and the new phenomenon of Asian women out-earning white men in the US.

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


  • Rav Arora

    Rav Arora is an independent journalist based in Vancouver, Canada.

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