How Major Media Suppressed My COVID Journalism
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.
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
My Official Apology to the New York Post
From the Brownstone Institute
There is an art to meaningful apologies. A sweet spot. Wait too long and they become pointless.
Ideally, they should also be accompanied with some kind of atonement as well.
I, along with many New Yorkers, have been waiting for apologies that don’t appear to be coming. But as I’ve been waiting in the interminable void, it’s occurred to me that I might owe some apologies myself. So here goes
Years ago, I used to sneer at anyone who read the NY Post. At the café where I worked, I took quiet pleasure in tossing it in the trash whenever someone left it behind on a crumb-covered seat. Had I ever read it? No. But I knew I wasn’t the type of person to read the NY Post, and I was proud of that fact.
Then, a few years back, things started to look a little different to me. They started to look wrong, like a wool hat in summer, or a mask on a baby’s face. I started to detect lies and impossibilities coming out of the mouths of important people. “Gradually, then suddenly,” as the Hemingway quote goes, I saw things in a different light.
I could almost stomach the politicians lying, but when friends began repeating the lies it became too much to bear. Truth seemed to hover just outside of them, leaving them infuriatingly untouched.
It was a little after this time, my awakening of sorts, that I myself became an outcast.
I hadn’t set out to become an outcast. I’d reached middle age an average upstanding citizen, fairly respectful of authority. I was a mother who made her children take piano lessons for god’s sake!
But one morning, late in the summer of 2021, I woke up to find I no longer had civil rights. And things took a turn. I still marvel at how it all unfolded:
Early 2021, I thought I’d survived the worst of covid. I’d made it through a year of hysteria that I presumed would surely fade, maybe even some bashful apologies would follow, like after a long drunken night gone too far.
By then, the miracle vaccine had finally arrived and any American who wanted it could have it. But it so happened that I didn’t want it. I’d already gotten covid during lockdown, while selling essentials like coffee and toilet paper from the café I now owned, a café limping along on government funds.
An experimental vaccine for a virus I’d already had just wasn’t that appealing to me; why would it be? The decision, quite honestly, made itself. Who knew it would land me in the middle of a nightmare.
I recall the incremental announcements from our mayor at the time, a tall goofy man people likened to Big Bird. The first announcement came on the morning of August 16th, 2021;
My kind was no longer allowed to sit down and eat in cafés, he said, though we were allowed to take something in a paper bag to go.
My kind was no longer allowed to enter cultural buildings, he said; art and history were for the good citizens.
We were no longer allowed the privilege of working, or a college education.
We weren’t allowed to enter our child’s school or to serve the people we served when the vaccine was just a twinkle in Fauci’s eye. And society agreed. The “unvaccinated” deserved it. Damn them.
My anger simmered. It turned to rage. All I asked for was common sense. Every day that New York City hummed, I burned. Didn’t they see us withering with loss of hope and loss in general?
Didn’t they know there were a million of us who said no thanks? A million who didn’t have civil rights. A million who were right, as it turned out, about everything.
It seemed they did not, or if they did, they didn’t care.
And just when I was about to give up on humanity, out of the haze of covid hysteria came some of the clearest voices to be found in, of all places, the NY Post.
But of course!
I should’ve recognized Alexander Hamilton’s handsome face on the ten-dollar bill as a sign, right there next to the scrolled “We the People.” A Founding Father, Hamilton had worked to abolish the slave trade in New York City. I’d forgotten he founded the NY Post too!
While other mainstream news still wilted with ruminations on the invisible threat of long covid, or the latest Fauci whim, the NY Post blazed a trail with its demands for a return to common sense and decency.
There in print it called for an end to all mandates – if baseball players and celebrities didn’t need them why did the working class?
In chorus its editorial board called for a reckoning by way of a covid truth-and-reconciliation commission – Amen!
And long before anyone else, it dared to publish the opinions of some of the bravest academics and scientists of our time, the co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, Dr. Martin Kulldorff and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya.
So, I’m sorry, NY Post. I judged you by your cover. By your red and black barking headlines. But I was wrong. And for anyone else out there who feels they might owe someone an apology, let me tell you it feels good to settle a debt. I highly recommend it.
The Best Life Lesson for a Teen Is a Job
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.”
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