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Brownstone Institute

Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word


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From the Brownstone Institute


It’s been more than obvious since April 2020 that lockdowns were far too costly for individuals and society and could never earn a rational public-health defense. And the evidence was rolling in from one year later that the vaccine mandates were similarly indefensible.

Both tactics had in common the enormous use of state coercion that flew in the face of every principle of civilized government.

As we are constantly told, both people and government were panicked, and needlessly so. As it turns out, the infection fatality rate was not 2-3 percent, as the WHO had said early on, or 1 percent as Fauci told the Senate in March 2020, but rather 0.035 percent for anyone under the age of 60 (which is 94 percent of the population).

Covid has been highly transmissible and with it the resulting protection of natural immunity. The correct policy should have been to maintain all social and market functioning while the actual vulnerable population protected itself as it awaited widespread immunity. That’s how every generation for 100 years has handled infectious disease: as a medical and not political matter.

In other words, politicians and officials the world over made enormous and obvious errors, just not later but from the outset. This is not really worth arguing any more. The evidence is now 2.5 years deep. Insisting on 85 percent coverage of an ineffective vaccine was also an egregious error becaus people are not stupid and knew that they did not need this vaccine, especially since it protects not against infection or transmission and its approval bypassed all normal standards of clinical trials.

Where are the apologies? Sorry seems to be the hardest word. Faced with enormous failure, the machinery that did this to us has generally refused to say the simple word. It’s the hardest thing for people with power to admit their fallibility. Even though the whole world knows what they did and vast and increasing numbers are aware of the utter failure, the political class still insists on living in a fantasy land of its own creation.

There are exceptions.

Prime Minister Imran Khan apologized for lockdowns in April 2020.

Ron DeSantis of Florida has repeatedly said that the lockdowns were an enormous mistake and will never happen again so long as he is in charge. That’s very close to being an apology, though many residents are still awaiting the magic word.

Also in 2020, Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg went on Norwegian television to say that she and others panicked and “took many of the decisions out of fear.”

That’s close to being an apology.

So far as I know, that’s about it. Until yesterday. The new Premier of Alberta Canada Danielle Smith has offered an apology to Albertans who were discriminated against because of their COVID-19 vaccination status. “I am deeply sorry for any government employee that lost their job and I welcome them back if they want to come back.”

Glory be! That’s precisely what we are looking for. Not just from a few but from all. The near absence of such apologies is driving the massive political realignment the world over, as furious voters demand admission of wrongdoing and justice for the victims.

They are not forthcoming and therefore the anger is only rising. The storm clouds are gathering around the impossibly arrogant Anthony Fauci, with a new hit movie making the rounds and a judge demanding that he be deposed in a powerful lawsuit filed against his hypercritical collusion with social media companies to censor truth.

Now nearly three years into this disaster, the worry that humanity would just accept the outrage and move on is proving unwarranted. People are discovering that there is plenty of dissent out there, and it stretches across the partisan divide. The resulting cultural and political realignments will echo long into the future, like other major upheavals of the past.

Think of the big historical events that echoed for generations in American politics. The struggle over slavery. World War I. Prohibition. The New Deal. World War II. The Cold War. The last one I know well, having come of age in the latter years. In retrospect, the long episode of the Cold War was packed with mythology. Still, the struggle was expressed in ideological terms of freedom vs. communism. The alliances that lined up remained for decades and impacted cycle after cycle of political controversy at home and abroad.

For strange reasons of timing and loss of principle, the “woke” left found itself mixed up in lockdown politics and then the vaccine mandate. Many of them lined up with policies that violate the very rights they had spent decades defending. So much for the Bill of Rights, the freedom of movement, the appreciation for the classless society, bodily autonomy, and so on. The left lost its soul during these years, and thereby alienated multitudes of sane lefties who watched in horror as their own tribe abandoned them in favor of the authoritarianism they had long decried.

Lockdown/mandate vs not: this has the capacity to be a theme that will resonate far into the future. It also unites people on the political “right” again with small business, genuine civil libertarians, and champions of religious liberty. It permits the “left” to again find its voice for human rights and freedoms. For that matter, they do not have to be activists; they only need to be people who do not want their houses of worship padlocked, their business closed and bankrupted, their speech curtailed, or their bodily autonomy violated.

It also put the emphasis on the correct point: the protection of American liberties not from some shadowy foreign enemy but from our own governments. It also draws in the left that has long been suspicious of the place of big business, and, in this case, rightfully so. The largest corporations such as Google, Amazon, and Meta (Facebook), for all the good that they achieve in this world, have leaned decisively in favor of lockdowns.

Same with Big Media. The reason is not just that they are harmed less by lockdowns and, in many cases, actually benefited from them. It’s because the people ruling these companies enjoy ruling-class lives, and they see the world through them. Lockdowns were the favored policy for cultural and political reasons, which is itself a scandal.

There is another group of powerful people in a position to dedicate themselves to the anti-lockdown/anti-mandate cause: parents. In an astonishing act of despotic ignorance, governors closed schools down all over the country, with zero medical benefit and grotesque levels of abuse for children and parents.

These are schools for which people pay heavily in property taxes, while parents using private schools pay twice. Governments shut them down, robbing parents of their money and smashing their settled lives. Many children in this country lost two years of education. Many families with two incomes had to drop one of them in order to babysit their children at home as they pretended to learn on Zoom while being denied access to peers.

Then once schools were operating normally, the CDC approved without evidence the Covid vaccine as an addition to the childhood schedule. Parents are not this dumb. They will never go for it. They will pull the kids out of public school and into private and homeschooling, causing a real crisis for one of the most settled institutions in American life.

Then you have the problem of colleges and universities. Rightly or wrongly, parents and students make extreme financial sacrifices to pay for college in the hopes that the right education and degree sets people up for a lifetime of success. Whether this is true or not, parents are risk-averse with their children’s future so that they do whatever is necessary to make it happen.

Then one day, the kids were locked out of the universities that they pay to attend. No parties. No study sessions. No going to other people’s rooms. No in-person instructions. Many thousands of students in this country have been fined and harassed for noncompliance. They’ve had masks forced on them even though their risk from the virus approaches zero, and the memory of this humiliation will last a full lifetime. Then came the vaccines, forced on college students who did not need them and are most vulnerable to adverse events.

Why have the people put up with this? Under normal conditions, they never would have. None of this would have been possible. The one reason they did this time: fear. Fear of getting sick and dying or, if not dying, experiencing permanent health effects. This emotion can last far longer than one might think. But eventually emotions do catch up with facts, among which is that the danger of severe outcomes was wildly exaggerated and the lockdowns and mandates achieved nothing in terms of disease mitigation.

You mean all this suffering and horror was for naught? Once that realization dawns, fear turns to anger, and anger to action. If you understand that dynamic, you can see why the architects of lockdowns from Dr. Fauci to the CDC are doing their best to delay that dawning, with daily doses of alarmism designed to keep people languishing in fear and ignorance.

The fear however is breaking. We will reflect on all the incredible health theater to which we’ve been subjected for two and a half years, the hopping around people to stay 6 feet away, the silly ban on restaurant menus, the on-again-off-again mandatory masking of the people, the curfews and capacity limits, and we’ll realize that the people who passed on all these emergency measures were just making things up in order to appear decisive and precise.

We will look back and feel mortified at how we treated each other so brutally, how so many turned into rats hungry to get our friends and neighbors in trouble with the compliance police, how we willingly believed so many untrue things and practiced such preposterous rituals out of a belief that we were avoiding and thus controlling the enemy pathogen we couldn’t see.

None of this will soon be forgotten. It’s the trauma of our lives. They stole our freedom, our happiness, our way of life, and attempted to replace them all with a stern regime with puritan sensibilities that rivaled the Taliban, forcing the whole population to hide their faces and live in fear of the American Mandarins who then came after the whole population with needles and woefully vetted shots.

Karma is already turning on the whole gang of coercive totalitarians here and abroad. While the virus is invisible, the people who dreamed up and enforced lockdowns and mandates who wrecked the country are highly visible. They have names and careers, and they are right to be very worried about their futures.

The sociological basis of the Catholic institution of auricular confession is to habituate people into the psychologically most difficult practice of admitting error, asking forgiveness, and pledging not to do it again. Saying it out loud within earshot of others is harder still. Every religion has some version of this because doing so is part of becoming a responsible human being.

The best approach is a simple word: sorry. So rare but so powerful. Why won’t more follow the lead of Danielle Smith and just say it?


  • Jeffrey A. Tucker

    Jeffrey A. Tucker, Founder and President of the Brownstone Institute, is an economist and author. He has written 10 books, including Liberty or Lockdown, and thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He writes a daily column on economics at The Epoch Times, and speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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Brownstone Institute

Europe’s Digital Services Act Puts Free Speech at the Mercy of Eurocrats

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From the Brownstone Institute


The European Union’s Internal Market Commissioner, Thierry Breton, was apparently miffed that Elon Musk withdrew Twitter from the EU’s “voluntary code of practice against disinformation.” He was sufficiently put out by Twitter’s withdrawal from the “voluntary code” that he felt the need to publicly reprimand Twitter for not gratefully submitting to the European Union’s expert guidance: “You can run but you can’t hide…Beyond voluntary commitments, fighting disinformation will be legal obligation under Digital Services Act as of August 25th.”

The declared aim of the new Digital Service Act is “to contribute to the proper functioning of the internal market for intermediary services by setting out harmonised rules for a safe, predictable and trusted online environment that facilitates innovation and in which fundamental rights enshrined in the Charter, including the principle of consumer protection, are effectively protected.”

*Click here to give some extra support to my work by upgrading to a paid subscription*

Who can argue against a “safe, predictable and trusted online environment?” Who would argue against “consumer protection?” And who would argue against Mr Breton’s commitment to the fight against “disinformation?” I certainly would, because when a person or institution in a position of great power endorses values like “predictability,” rails against “disinformation,” and promises to keep us all “safe” on the internet, you can be sure that it will be “safety,” “predictability,” and “disinformation,” as viewed from their self-serving ideological and political perspective.

I am just as worried as Mr Breton about “disinformation,” but my chief concern is with disinformation coming from official sources, which can do an extraordinary amount of harm due to the extraordinary reach and prestige of official organisations. It is these same organisations that Mr Breton would like to put in charge of policing “disinformation:” organisations like national governments, that have been among the most frequent perpetrators of false and misleading information, on matters of no small moment, from the efficacy and safety of Covid vaccines, masks and lockdowns to the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the true standing of climate “science,” and the potential harms to the economy and food supply chain of aggressive climate interventions such as the expropriation of farmland.

The Digital Services Act is an endless maze of complicated regulations worthy of a team of lawyers. Seeing as I don’t have a budget to hire a team of lawyers, I decided to skim through the Act for myself. It does not make for pleasant bedtime reading, not only because it is a morass of complicated legalese, but also, because what hides behind this legalese is an attempt by EU politicians to get social media platforms under their thumb, through

  • the obligation on the part of social media companies to periodically submit content moderation and “risk mitigation” reports to EU bureacrats
  • EU supervision of social media platforms’ policing of “harmful” information, which could potentially include health misinformation as well as “illegal hate speech”
  • the creation of new emergency powers in the European Commission to “require” social media platforms to take actions to “prevent, eliminate or limit” any use of their services that might “contribute” to a “threat” to public security or public health

…and all backed up by crippling fines of up to 6 percent of a company’s worldwide turnover for non-compliance. Yes, you heard that right: up to six percent of a company’s worldwide turnover.

At bottom, the Digital Services Act is an attempt to ramp up the level of control that EU bureacrats have over the flow of information on social media platforms. You would have to have a very short historical memory to think that broad powers of censorship will generally be used to advance the cause of truth and justice. Whether Mr Thierry Breton and his colleagues will be successful in forcing social media companies to do their bidding, this much is clear: the Digital Services Act creates a European legal environment that is increasingly hostile to free speech.

Republished from the author’s Substack



  • David Thunder

    David Thunder is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Navarra’s Institute for Culture and Society in Pamplona, Spain, and a recipient of the prestigious Ramón y Cajal research grant (2017-2021, extended through 2023), awarded by the Spanish government to support outstanding research activities. Prior to his appointment to the University of Navarra, he held several research and teaching positions in the United States, including visiting assistant professor at Bucknell and Villanova, and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Princeton University’s James Madison Program. Dr Thunder earned his BA and MA in philosophy at University College Dublin, and his Ph.D. in political science at the University of Notre Dame.

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Brownstone Institute

Discovery Is the Covid Regime’s Greatest Fear

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The most recent batch of the “Twitter files” offers brief insight into the Covid regime’s fear that the details behind their censorship and collusion will become public.

On Thursday, Alex Berenson posted a series of email correspondences between Twitter attorneys concerning his 2022 lawsuit against the company.

Last year, Berenson sued Twitter after the company issued him a “permanent ban” for his August 2021 tweet opposing vaccine mandates:

“It doesn’t stop infection. Or transmission. Don’t think of it as a vaccine. Think of it – at best – as a therapeutic with a limited window of efficacy and terrible side effect profile that must be dosed IN ADVANCE OF ILLNESS. And we want to mandate it? Insanity.”

After a judge denied Twitter’s motion to dismiss, the two sides reached a settlement agreement that reinstated Berenson’s account and provided concrete evidence that government actors – including White House Covid Advisor Andy Slavitt – worked to censor criticism of Biden’s Covid policies.

In the emails, Twitter’s litigation team discusses the probability that they will lose the case.

“We believe our chances of success at the trial level are less than 50%,” writes Micah Rubbo, Twitter’s associate director for litigation. She then asks, “Are we willing to litigate and risk the potential public disclosure of *many* documents in order to prevent disclosure of some of them now?’”

Rubbo’s comments reveal Twitter’s primary motivation to settle the case. The company was not worried about monetary damages or regulatory fines; its concerns were entirely reputational. She focused on the risk of potential public disclosures, not the risk of losing the trial. Failure to reach a settlement jeopardized exposing the company’s communications with government officials, law enforcement agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and other pro-censorship actors in the Covid regime.

Twitter did not settle with Berenson out of remorse for its actions or care for journalistic freedoms. It was a calculated decision designed to mitigate public relations backlash.

Berenson’s reporting did not uncover the documents that the lawyers worried would become public, but the reaction indicates that any concessions would be better than discovery.

Now, Berenson has filed suit against President Biden, White House advisors, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, and Pfizer Board Member Scott Gottlieb for orchestrating a public-private censorship campaign against him.

In Berenson v. Biden: The Potential and Significance, we wrote:

The conspirators censored Berenson because he was inconvenient, not incorrect. Their ploy may backfire, however. Berenson v. Biden could unearth more information on the Covid era than his reporting would have ever uncovered.

Discovery and depositions from Pfizer and the White House would be the most valuable insight of the last three years – insight into the power structures that orchestrated lockdowns, censorship, forced vaccinations, school closures, economic upheaval, government overreach, and the merger of corporations with the state.

Berenson’s latest reporting reinforces the potential backfire against the censors. They have jeopardized their regime by banning a tweet that would have been relatively inconsequential. Now, Berenson’s suit threatens to uncover the inner workings of the censorship-industrial complex.

The revelations from Missouri v Biden (covered in a series here) are astonishing enough. They prove the existence of a vast, relentless, deliberate, communicative, and effective hegemon of control that impacts the news and information experience of every person connected to the Internet. It is still in full operation. The only real difference is that we know about it.

All indications are that the judicial system will favor a final and clean decision for free speech, even if that only comes at the hands of the Supreme Court at a much later date. That does not fix the continuing problem now and does not guarantee that government and business will not continue this in the future. But at least for now, there is some reason for hope that the Bill of Rights is not entirely dead.


  • Brownstone Institute

    The Brownstone Institute for Social and Economic Research is a nonprofit organization conceived of in May 2021 in support of a society that minimizes the role of violence in public life.

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