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Brownstone Institute

Why Is Our Education System Failing to Educate?

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30 minute read

From the Brownstone Institute

BY Julie PonesseJULIE PONESSE

I suspect many of you know my story. But, for those who don’t, the short version is that I taught philosophy — ethics and ancient philosophy, in particular — at Western University in Canada until September 2021 when I was very publicly terminated “with cause” for refusing to comply with Western’s COVID-19 policy.

What I did — question, critically evaluate and, ultimately, challenge what we now call “the narrative” — is risky behaviour. It got me fired, labeled an “academic pariah,” chastised by mainstream media, and vilified by my peers. But this ostracization and vilification, it turns out, was just a symptom of a shift towards a culture of silence, nihilism, and mental atrophy that had been brewing for a long time.

You know that parental rhetorical question, So if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?” It turns out that most would jump at the rate of about 90 percent and that most of the 90 percent wouldn’t ask any questions about the height of the cliff, alternative options, accommodations for the injured, etc. What was supposed to be a cautionary rhetorical joke has become the modus operandi of the Western world.

Admittedly, I am a bit of an odd choice as the keynote speaker for an education conference. I have no specialized training in the philosophy of education or in pedagogy. In graduate school, you receive little formal instruction about how to teach. You learn by experience, research, trial by fire, and by error. And, of course, I was terminated from my position as a university teacher. But I do think a lot about education. I look at how many people are willing to outsource their thinking and I wonder, what went wrong? Confronted with the products of our public school system every day for 20 years, I wonder what went wrong? And, finally, as the mother of a 2-year-old, I think a lot about what happens in the early years to encourage a better outcome than we are seeing today.

My aim today is to talk a bit about what I saw in university students during my teaching career, why I think the education system failed them, and the only two basic skills any student at any age really needs.

Let’s start by doing something I used to do regularly in class, something some students loved and others hated. Let’s brainstorm some answers to this question: What does it mean to “be educated?”

[Answers from the audience included: “to acquire knowledge,” “to learn the truth,” “to develop a set of required skills,” “to get a degree.”]

Many answers were admirable but I noticed that most describe education passively: “to be educated,” “to get a degree,” “to be informed” are all passive verbs.

When it comes to writing, we are often told to use the active voice. It is clearer, more emphatic, and creates greater emotional impact. And yet the predominant way we describe education is passive. But is education really a passive experience? Is it something that just happens to us like getting rained on or being scratched by a cat? And do you need to be acted on by someone else in order to become educated? Or is education a more active, personal, emphatic and impactful experience? Might “I am educating,” “I am learning” be more accurate descriptions?

My experience in the classroom was certainly consistent with thinking of education as a passive experience. Over the years, I saw an increasing trend towards timidity, conformity and apathy, all signs of educational passivity. But this was a strict departure from the university culture that met me as an undergraduate in the mid-90s.

As an undergraduate, my classes were robust theaters of The Paper Chase-style effervescent debate. But there was a palpable shift sometime in the late 90s. A hush fell over the classroom. Topics once relied on to ignite discussion — abortion, slavery, capital punishment — no longer held the same appeal. Fewer and fewer hands went up. Students trembled at the thought of being called on and, when they did speak, they parroted a set of ‘safe’ ideas and frequently used “of course” to refer to ideas that would allow them to safely navigate the Scylla and Charybdis of topics considered to be off-limits by the woke zealots.

The stakes are even higher now. Students who question or refuse to comply are rejected or de-enrolled. Recently, an Ontario university student was suspended for asking for a definition of “colonialism.” Merely asking for clarification in the 21st century is academic heresy. Professors like myself are punished or terminated for speaking out, and our universities are becoming increasingly closed systems in which autonomous thought is a threat to the neoliberal groupthink model of ‘education.’

I spent some time thinking in concrete terms about the traits I saw in the novel, 21st century student. With some exception, most students suffer from the following symptoms of our educational failure. They are (for the most part):

  1. “Information-focused,” not “wisdom-interested:” they are computational, able to input and output information (more or less), but lack the critical ability to understand why they are doing so or to manipulate the data in unique ways.
  1. Science and technology worshipping: they treat STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as a god, as an end in itself rather than an instrument to achieve some end.
  1. Intolerant of uncertainty, complications, gray areas, open questions, and they are generally unable to formulate questions themselves.
  1. Apathetic, unhappy, even miserable (and I’m not sure they ever felt otherwise so they may not recognize these states for what they are).
  1. Increasingly unable to engage in counterfactual thinking. (I will return to this idea in a moment.)
  1. Instrumentalist: everything they do is for the sake of something else.

To elaborate on this last point, when I used to ask my students why they were at university, the following sort of conversation would usually ensue:

Why did you come to university?

To get a degree. 

Why? 

So I can get into law school (nursing or some other impressive post-graduate program). 

Why? 

So I can get a good job. 

Why? 

The well of reflex answers typically started to dry up that point. Some were honest that the lure of a “good job” was to attain money or a certain social status; others seemed genuinely perplexed by the question or would simply say: “My parents tell me I should,” “My friends are all doing it,” or “Society expects it.”

Being an instrumentalist about education means that you see it as valuable only as a way to obtain some further, non-educational good. Again, the passivity is palpable. In this view, education is something that gets poured into you. Once you get enough poured in, it’s time to graduate and unlock the door to the next life prize. But this makes education, for its own sake, meaningless and substitutable. Why not just buy the subject-specific microchip when it becomes available and avoid all the unpleasant studying, questioning, self-reflection, and skill-building?

Time has shown us where this instrumentalism has gotten us: we live in an era of pseudo-intellectuals, pseudo-students and pseudo-education, each of us becoming increasingly less clear why we need education (of the sort offered by our institutions) , or how it’s helping to create a better world.

Why the change? How did intellectual curiosity and critical thinking get trained out of our universities? It’s complex but there are three factors that surely contributed:

  1. Universities became businesses. They became corporate entities with boards of governors, customers and ad campaigns. In early 2021, Huron College (where I worked) appointed its first board of governors with members from Rogers, Sobeys, and EllisDon, a move author Christopher Newfield calls the “great mistake.” Regulatory capture (of the sort that led the University of Toronto to partner with Moderna) is just one consequence of this collusion.
  1. Education became a commodity. Education is treated as a purchasable, exchangeable good, which fits well with the idea that education is something that can be downloaded to anyone’s empty mind. There is an implicit assumption of equality and mediocrity, here; you must believe that every student is roughly the same in skill, aptitude, interest, etc. to be able to be filled this way.
  2. We mistook information for wisdom. Our inheritance from the Enlightenment, the idea that reason will allow us to conquer all, has morphed into information ownership and control. We need to appear informed to seem educated, and we shun the uninformed or misinformed. We align with the most acceptable source of information and forego any critical assessment of how they attained that information. But this isn’t wisdom. Wisdom goes beyond information; it pivots on a sense of care, attention, and context, allowing us to sift through a barrage of information, selecting and acting only on the truly worthy.

This is a radical departure from the earliest universities, which began in the 4th century BC: Plato teaching in the grove of Academus, Epicurus in his private garden. When they met to discuss, there were no corporate partnerships, no boards of directors. They were drawn together by a shared love of questioning and problem-solving.

Out of these early universities was born the concept of liberal arts — grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy — studies which are “liberal” not because they are easy or unserious, but because they are suitable for those who are free (liberalis), as opposed to slaves or animals. In the era before SME’s (subject matter experts), these are the subjects thought to be essential preparation for becoming a good, well-informed citizen who is an effective participant in public life.

In this view, education is not something you receive and certainly not something you buy; it is a disposition, a way of life you create for yourself grounded in what Dewey called “skilled powers of thinking.” It helps you to become questioning, critical, curious, creative, humble and, ideally, wise.

The Lost Art of Counterfactual Thinking

I said earlier that I would return to the subject of counterfactual thinking, what it is, why it’s been lost and why it’s important. And I would like to start with another thought experiment: close your eyes and think about one thing that might have been different over the last 3 years that might have made things better.

What did you pick? No WHO pandemic declaration? A different PM or President? Effective media? More tolerant citizens?

Maybe you wondered, what if the world was more just? What if truth could really save us (quickly)?

This “what if” talk is, at its core, counterfactual thinking. We all do it. What if I had become an athlete, written more, scrolled less, married someone else?

Counterfactual thinking enables us to shift from perceiving the immediate environment to imagining a different one. It is key for learning from past experiences, planning and predicting (if I jump off the cliff, x is likely to happen), problem solving, innovation and creativity (maybe I’ll shift careers, arrange my kitchen drawers differently), and it is essential for improving an imperfect world. It also underpins moral emotions like regret and blame (I regret betraying my friend). Neurologically, counterfactual thinking depends on a network of systems for affective processing, mental stimulation, and cognitive control, and it is a symptom of a number of mental illnesses, including schizophrenia.

I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that we have lost our ability for counterfactual thinking en masse. But why did this happen? There are a lot of factors — with political ones at the top of the list — but one thing that surely contributed is that we lost a sense of play.

Yes, play. Let me explain. With a few exceptions, our culture has a pretty cynical view of the value of play. Even when we do it, we see play time as wasted and messy, allowing for an intolerable number of mistakes and the possibility of outcomes that don’t fit neatly into an existing framework. This messiness is a sign of weakness, and weakness is a threat to our tribal culture.

I think our culture is intolerant of play because it is intolerant of individuality and of distractions from the messaging we’re “supposed” to hear. It is also intolerant of joy, of anything that helps us to feel healthier, more alive, more focused and more jubilant. Furthermore, it doesn’t result in immediate, “concrete deliverables.”

But what if there was more play in science, in medicine and in politics? What if politicians said “What if we did x instead? Let’s just try out the idea?” What if, instead of your doctor writing a script for the “recommended” pharmaceutical, s/he said “What if you reduced your sugar intake… or… tried walking more? Let’s just try.”

“The stick that stirs the drink”

The non-superficiality of play is hardly a new idea. It was central to the development of the culture of Ancient Greece, one of the greatest civilizations in the world. It is telling that Greek words for play (paidia), children (paides) and education (paideia) have the same root. For the Greeks, play was essential not just to sport and theatre, but to ritual, music, and of course word play (rhetoric).

The Greek philosopher, Plato, saw play as deeply influential to the way children develop as adults. We can prevent social disorder, he wrote, by regulating the nature of children’s play. In his Laws, Plato proposed harnessing play for certain purposes: “If a boy is to be a good farmer or a good builder, he should play at building toy houses or at farming and be provided by his tutor with miniature tools modelled on real ones…One should see games as a means of directing children’s tastes and inclinations to the role they will fill as adults.”

Play is also the basis of the Socratic method, the back-and-forth technique of questioning and answering, trying things out, generating contradictions and imagining alternatives to find better hypotheses. Dialectic is essentially playing with ideas.

A number of contemporaries agree with Plato. The philosopher Colin McGinn wrote in 2008 that “Play is a vital part of any full life, and a person who never plays is worse than a ‘dull boy:’ he or she lacks imagination, humour and a proper sense of value. Only the bleakest and most life-denying Puritanism could warrant deleting all play from human life…..”

And Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, wrote: “I don’t think it is too much to say that play can save your life. It certainly has salvaged mine. Life without play is a grinding, mechanical existence organized around doing things necessary for survival. Play is the stick that stirs the drink. It is the basis of all art, games, books, sports, movies, fashion, fun, and wonder — in short, the basis of what we think of as civilization.”

Education as Activity

Play is key but it’s not the only thing missing in modern education. The fact that we have lost it is a symptom, I think, of a more fundamental misunderstanding about what education is and is meant to do.

Let’s go back to the idea of education being an activity. Perhaps the most well-known quotation about education is “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” It litters university recruitment pages, inspirational posters, mugs, and sweatshirts. Typically attributed to William Butler Yeats, the quotation is actually from Plutarch’s essay “On Listening” in which he writes “For the mind does not require filling like a bottle, but rather, like wood, it only requires kindling to create in it an impulse to think independently and an ardent desire for the truth.”

The way Plutarch contrasts learning with filling suggests that the latter was a common, but mistaken, idea. Strangely, we seem to have returned to the mistake and to the assumption that, once you get your bottle filled up, you are complete, you are educated. But if education is a kindling instead of a filling, how is the kindling achieved? How do you help to “create an impulse to think independently?” Let’s do another thought experiment.

If you knew that you could get away with anything, suffering no impunity, what would you do?

There is a story from Plato’s Republic, Book II (discussing the value of justice) that fleshes out this question. Plato describes a shepherd who stumbles upon a ring that grants him the ability to become invisible. He uses his invisibility to seduce the queen, kill her king, and take over the kingdom. Glaucon, one of the interlocutors in the dialogue, suggests that, if there were two such rings, one given to a just man, and the other to an unjust man, there would be no difference between them; they would both take advantage of the ring’s powers, suggesting that anonymity is the only barrier between a just and an unjust person.

Refuting Glaucon, Socrates says that the truly just person will do the right thing even with impunity because he understands the true benefits of acting justly.

Isn’t this the real goal of education, namely to create a well-balanced person who loves learning and justice for their own sakes? This person understands that the good life consists not in seeming but in being, in having a balanced inner self that takes pleasure in the right things because of an understanding of what they offer.

In the first book of his canonical ethical text, Aristotle (Plato’s student) asks what is the good life? What does it consist of? His answer is an obvious one: happiness. But his view of happiness is a bit different from ours. It is a matter of flourishing, which means functioning well according to your nature. And functioning well according to human nature is achieving excellence in reasoning, both intellectually and morally. The intellectual virtues (internal goods) include: scientific knowledge, technical knowledge, intuition, practical wisdom, and philosophical wisdom. The moral virtues include: justice, courage, and temperance.

For Aristotle, what our lives look like from the outside — wealth, health, status, social media likes, reputation — are all “external goods.” It’s not that these are unimportant but we need to understand their proper place in the good life. Having the internal and external goods in their right proportion is the only way to become an autonomous, self-governing, complete person.

It’s pretty clear that we aren’t flourishing as a people, especially if the following are any indication: Canada recently ranked 15th on the World Happiness Report, we have unprecedented levels of anxiety and mental illness, and in 2021 a children’s mental health crisis was declared and the NIH reported an unprecedented number of drug overdose deaths.

By contrast with most young people today, the person who is flourishing and complete will put less stock in the opinions of others, including institutions, because they will have more fully developed internal resources and they will be more likely to recognize when a group is making a bad decision. They will be less vulnerable to peer pressure and coercion, and they will have more to rely on if they do become ostracized from the group.

Educating with a view to the intellectual and moral virtues develops a lot of other things we are missing: research and inquiry skills, physical and mental agility, independent thinking, impulse control, resilience, patience and persistence, problem solving, self-regulation, endurance, self-confidence, self-satisfaction, joy, cooperation, collaboration, negotiation, empathy, and even the ability to put energy into a conversation.

What should be the goals of education? It’s pretty simple (in conception even if not in execution). At any age, for any subject matter, the only 2 goals of education are:

  1. To create a self-ruled (autonomous) person from the ‘inside out,’ who…
  2. Loves learning for its own sake

Education, in this view, is not passive and it is never complete. It is always in process, always open, always humble and humbling.

My students, unfortunately, were like the Republic’s shepherd; they measure the quality of their lives by what they can get away with, what their lives look like from the outside. But their lives, unfortunately, were like a shiny apple that, when you cut into it, is rotten on the inside. And their interior emptiness left them aimless, hopeless, dissatisfied and, unfortunately, miserable.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Imagine what the world would be like if it were made up of self-ruled people. Would we be happier? Would we be healthier? Would we be more productive? Would we care less about measuring our productivity? My inclination is to think we would be much, much better off.

Self-governance has come under such relentless attack over the last few years because it encourages us to think for ourselves. And this attack didn’t begin recently nor did it emerge ex nihilo. John D. Rockefeller (who, ironically, co-founded the General Education Board in 1902) wrote, “I don’t want a nation of thinkers. I want a nation of workers.” His wish has largely come true.

The battle we are in is a battle over whether we will be slaves or masters, ruled or self-mastered. It is a battle over whether we will be unique or forced into a mold.

Thinking of students as identical to one another makes them substitutable, controllable and, ultimately, erasable. Moving forward, how do we avoid seeing ourselves as bottles to be filled by others? How do we embrace Plutarch’s exhortation to “create […] an impulse to think independently and an ardent desire for the truth?”

When it comes to education, isn’t that the question we must confront as we move through the strangest of times?

Author

  • Julie Ponesse

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

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Brownstone Institute

The Pandemic Excuse for a Corporatist Coup

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute

By Jeffrey A. Tucker

We’ve just come across a document hosted by the Department of Homeland Security, posted March 2023, but written in 2007, that amounts to a full-blown corporatist imposition on the US, abolishing anything remotely resembling the Bill of Rights and Constitutional law. It is right there in plain sight for anyone curious enough to dig.

There is nothing in it that you haven’t already experienced with lockdowns. What makes it interesting are the participants in the forging of the plan, which is pretty much the whole of corporate America as it stood in 2007. It was a George W. Bush initiative. The conclusions are startling.

“Quarantine is a legally enforceable declaration that a government body may institute over individuals potentially exposed to a disease, but who are not symptomatic. If enacted, Federal quarantine laws will be coordinated between CDC and State and local public health officials, and, if necessary, law enforcement personnel…The government may also enact travel restrictions to limit the movement of people and products between geographic areas in an effort to limit disease transmission and spread. Authorities are currently reviewing possible plans to curtail international travel upon a pandemic’s emergence overseas.

“Limiting public assembly opportunities also helps limit the spread of disease. Concert halls, movie theaters, sports arenas, shopping malls, and other large public gathering places might close indefinitely during a pandemic—whether because of voluntary closures or government-imposed closures. Similarly, officials may close schools and non-essential businesses during pandemic waves in an effort to significantly slow disease transmission rates. These strategies aim to prevent the close interaction of individuals, the primary conduit of spreading the influenza virus. Even taking steps such as limiting person-to-person interactions within a distance of three feet or avoiding instances of casual close contact, such as shaking hands, will help limit disease spread.”

There we have it: the pandemic plans. They once seemed abstract. In 2020, they became very real. Your rights were deleted. No more freedom even to have house guests. In those days, the rule was to enforce only three feet of distance rather than six feet of distance, neither of which had any basis in science. Indeed, the actual scientific literature even at that time recommended against any physical interventions designed to limit the spread of respiratory viruses. They were known not to work. The entire profession of public health accepted that.

Therefore, for many years before lockdowns wrecked economic functioning, there had been two parallel tracks in operation, one intellectual/academic and one imposed by state/corporate managers. They had nothing to do with each other. This situation persisted for the better part of 15 years. Suddenly in 2020, there was a reckoning, and the state/corporate managers won it. Seemingly out of nowhere, liberty as we have long known it was gone.

Back in 2005, I first came across a Bush administration scheme, an early draft of the above, that would have ended freedom as we know it. It was a scheme for combating the bird flu, which officials back then imagined would involve universal quarantines, business and event closures, travel restrictions, and more.

wrote: “Even if the flu does come, and taxpayers have coughed up, the government will surely have a ball imposing travel restrictions, shutting down schools and businesses, quarantining cities, and banning public gatherings…It is a serious matter when the government purports to plan to abolish all liberty and nationalize all economic life and put every business under the control of the military, especially in the name of a bug that seems largely restricted to the bird population. Perhaps we should pay more attention. Perhaps such plans for the total state ought to even ruffle our feathers a bit.”

For years I wrote about this topic, trying to get others interested. It was all there in black and white. At the drop of a hat, under the guise of a pandemic that only state managers can declare, real or drummed up, freedom itself could be abolished. These plans were never legislated, debated, or publicly discussed. They were simply posted as the result of various consultations with experts, who worked out their totalitarian fantasies as if scripting a Hollywood film.

The 2007 blueprint is more explicit than anything I’ve seen. It comes from the National Infrastructure Advisory Council, which “includes executive leaders from the private sector and state/local government who advise the White House on how to reduce physical and cyber risks and improve the security and resilience of the nation’s critical infrastructure sectors. The NIAC is administered on behalf of the President in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act under the authority of the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security.”

And who sat on this committee in 2007 that decided that governments “may close schools and non-essential businesses”? Let us see.

  • Mr. Edmund G. Archuleta, General Manager, El Paso Water Utilities
  • Mr. Alfred R. Berkeley III, Chairman and CEO, Pipeline Trading Group, LLC, and former President and Vice Chairman of NASDAQ
  • Chief Rebecca F. Denlinger, Fire Chief, Cobb County (Ga.) Fire and Emergency Services
  • Chief Gilbert G. Gallegos, Police Chief (ret.), City of Albuquerque, N.M. Police Department
  • Ms. Martha H. Marsh, President and CEO, Stanford Hospital and Clinics
  • Mr. James B. Nicholson, President and CEO, PVS Chemical, Inc.
  • Mr. Erle A. Nye, Chairman Emeritus, TXU Corp., NIAC Chairman
  • Mr. Bruce A. Rohde, Chairman and CEO Emeritus, ConAgra Foods, Inc.
  • Mr. John W. Thompson, Chairman and CEO, Symantec Corporation
  • Mr. Brent Baglien, ConAgra Foods, Inc.
  • Mr. David Barron, Bell South
  • Mr. Dan Bart, TIA
  • Mr. Scott Blanchette, Healthways
  • Ms. Donna Burns, Georgia Emergency Management Agency
  • Mr. Rob Clyde, Symantec Corporation
  • Mr. Scott Culp, Microsoft
  • Mr. Clay Detlefsen, International Dairy Foods Association
  • Mr. Dave Engaldo, The Options Clearing Corporation
  • Ms. Courtenay Enright, Symantec Corporation
  • Mr. Gary Gardner, American Gas Association
  • Mr. Bob Garfield, American Frozen Foods Institute
  • Ms. Joan Gehrke, PVS Chemical, Inc.
  • Ms. Sarah Gordon, Symantec
  • Mr. Mike Hickey, Verizon
  • Mr. Ron Hicks, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation
  • Mr. George Hender, The Options Clearing Corporation
  • Mr. James Hunter, City of Albuquerque, NM Emergency Management
  • Mr. Stan Johnson, North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC)
  • Mr. David Jones, El Paso Corporation
  • Inspector Jay Kopstein, Operations Division, New York City Police Department (NYPD)
  • Ms. Tiffany Jones, Symantec Corporation
  • Mr. Bruce Larson, American Water
  • Mr. Charlie Lathram, Business Executives for National Security (BENS)/BellSouth
  • Mr. Turner Madden, Madden & Patton
  • Chief Mary Beth Michos, Prince William County (Va.) Fire and Rescue
  • Mr. Bill Muston, TXU Corp.
  • Mr. Vijay Nilekani, Nuclear Energy Institute
  • Mr. Phil Reitinger, Microsoft
  • Mr. Rob Rolfsen, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  • Mr. Tim Roxey, Constellation
  • Ms. Charyl Sarber, Symantec
  • Mr. Lyman Shaffer, Pacific Gas and Electric,
  • Ms. Diane VanDeHei, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA)
  • Ms. Susan Vismor, Mellon Financial Corporation
  • Mr. Ken Watson, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  • Mr. Greg Wells, Southwest Airlines
  • Mr. Gino Zucca, Cisco Systems, Inc.
  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Resources
  • Dr. Bruce Gellin, Rockefeller Foundation
  • Dr. Mary Mazanec
  • Dr. Stuart Nightingale, CDC
  • Ms. Julie Schafer
  • Dr. Ben Schwartz, CDC
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Resources
  • Mr. James Caverly, Director, Infrastructure Partnerships Division
  • Ms. Nancy Wong, NIAC Designated Federal Officer (DFO)
  • Ms. Jenny Menna, NIAC Designated Federal Officer (DFO)
  • Dr. Til Jolly
  • Mr. Jon MacLaren
  • Ms. Laverne Madison
  • Ms. Kathie McCracken
  • Mr. Bucky Owens
  • Mr. Dale Brown, Contractor
  • Mr. John Dragseth, IP attorney, Contractor
  • Mr. Jeff Green, Contractor
  • Mr. Tim McCabe, Contractor
  • Mr. William B. Anderson, ITS America
  • Mr. Michael Arceneaux, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA)
  • Mr. Chad Callaghan, Marriott Corporation
  • Mr. Ted Cromwell, American Chemistry Council (ACC)
  • Ms. Jeanne Dumas, American Trucking Association (ATA)
  • Ms. Joan Harris, US Department of Transportation, Office of the Secretary
  • Mr. Greg Hull, American Public Transportation Association
  • Mr. Joe LaRocca, National Retail Federation
  • Mr. Jack McKlveen, United Parcel Service (UPS)
  • Ms. Beth Montgomery, Wal-Mart
  • Dr. J. Patrick O’Neal, Georgia Office of EMS/Trauma/EP
  • Mr. Roger Platt, The Real Estate Roundtable
  • Mr. Martin Rojas, American Trucking Association (ATA)
  • Mr. Timothy Sargent, Senior Chief, Economic Analysis and Forecasting Division, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Finance Canada

In other words, big everything: food, energy, retail, computers, water, and you name it. It’s a corporatist dream team.

Consider ConAgra itself. What is that? It is Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Healthy Choice, Orville Redenbacher’s, Reddi-Wip, Slim Jim, Hunt’s Peter Pan Egg Beaters, Hebrew National, Marie Callender’s, P.F. Chang’s, Ranch Style Beans, Ro*Tel, Wolf Brand Chili, Angie’s, Duke’s, Gardein, Frontera, Bertolli, among many other seemingly independent brands that are all actually one company.

Now, ask yourself: why might all these companies favor a plan for lockdowns? Why might WalMart, for example? It stands to reason. Lockdowns are a massive interference with competitive capitalism. They provide the best possible subsidy to big business while shutting down independent small businesses and putting them at a huge disadvantage once the opening up happens.

In other words, it is an industrial racket, very much akin to interwar-style fascism, a corporatist combination of big business and big government. Throw pharma into the mix and you see exactly what came to pass in 2020, which amounted to the largest transfer of wealth from small and medium-sized business plus the middle class to wealthy industrialists in the history of humanity.

The document is open even about managing information flows: “The public and private sectors should align their communications, exercises, investments, and support activities absolutely with both the plan and priorities during a pandemic influenza event. Continue data gathering, analysis, reporting, and open review.”

There is nothing in any of this that fits with any Western tradition of law and liberty. Nothing. It was never approved by any democratic means. It was never part of any political campaign. It has never been the subject of any serious media examination. No think tank has ever pushed back on such plans in any systematic way.

The last serious attempt to debunk this whole apparatus was from D.H. Henderson in 2006. His two co-authors on that paper eventually came around to going along with lockdowns of 2020. Henderson died in 2016. One of the co-authors of the original article told me that if Dr. Henderson had been around, instead of Dr. Fauci, the lockdowns would never have taken place.

Here we are four years following the deployment of this lockdown machinery, and we are witness to what it destroys. It would be nice to say that the entire apparatus and theory behind it have been fully discredited.

But that is not correct. All the plans are still in place. There have been no changes in federal law. Not one effort has been made to dismantle the corporatist/biosecurity planning state that made all this possible. Every bit of it is in place for the next go-around.

Much of the authority for this whole coup traces to the Public Health Services Act of 1944, which was passed in wartime. For the first time in US history, it gave the federal government the power to quarantine. Even when the Biden administration was looking for some basis to justify its transportation mask mandate, it fell back to this one piece of legislation.

If anyone really wants to get to the root of this problem, there are decisive steps that need to be taken. The indemnification of pharma from liability for harm needs to be repealed. The court precedent of forced shots in Jacobson needs to be overthrown. But even more fundamentally, the quarantine power itself has to go, and that means the full repeal of the Public Health Services Act of 1944. That is the root of the problem. Freedom will not be safe until it is uprooted.

As it stands right now, everything that unfolded in 2020 and 2021 can happen again. Indeed, the plans are in place for exactly that.

Author

Jeffrey Tucker is Founder, Author, and President at Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Life After Lockdown, and many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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Brownstone Institute

The Media’s Latest Pathetic Blame Game

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute

By IAN MILLER

By late 2020, the media and public health establishment had two obsessions. One of their obsessions involved forcing the public to wear masks, even though the mountains of data and several studies had already confirmed that they don’t stop the transmission of respiratory viruses. The second obsession was forcing everyone to take Covid vaccines, regardless of their actual efficacy, risk of side effects, age or underlying health, or the vaccines’ rapidly waning efficacy.

Neither of those obsessions has abated, though even the most extreme, hardened Covid extremists have acknowledged that the vaccines were flawed, mandates were a mistake, and side effects should be acknowledged.

The media, unwilling to give up on the increased power, influence, and moral judgment it gained during the pandemic, has refused to accept that it effectively ended years ago.

So it’s no surprise that media outlets have noticed that, as we’ve seen every single summer since 2020, cases have increased, predominantly across the Western and Southern United States. Thankfully though, Los Angeles media, of course it had to be Los Angeles, has determined the culprit.

The Media Refuses to Accept Covid Reality

Turns out it’s not seasonality causing the increase, it’s outdated Covid vaccines and a lack of public masking, of course!

NBC Los Angeles “reported” that Covid cases in California and Los Angeles have “doubled” in the last month. This sounds horrifying and scary, doesn’t it? Yet it again, as is so often the case with Covid coverage, is misleading.

Let’s take a look at the current daily average of new cases in Los Angeles County:

Cases are so low they’re functionally indistinguishable from zero.

You can see why the media is scared, given how dramatic this surge appears to be compared to those in the previous four years. And thanks to NBC’s crack reporting and expert analysis, we know why this terrifying increase is happening. Spoiler alert: it’s all your fault that you haven’t controlled an uncontrollable respiratory virus with individual behavior that has no impact whatsoever on the spread of the coronavirus.

“People aren’t necessarily wearing masks; they’re not required to in certain places,” nurse practitioner Alice Benjamin, referenced as an expert by NBA LA said. “We’re traveling, we’re getting out for the summer. We also do have some reduced immunity. The vaccines will wane over time.”

Nowhere in the story is it mentioned that the massive jump in Covid cases in late 2021 and early 2022 happened immediately after LA County Public Health issued a press release celebrating the county for achieving 95+ percent masking rates at indoor businesses. No one seems willing or able to ask this nurse practitioner why she believes wearing masks would reduce this “surge,” if it failed so spectacularly in previous surges.

Endless Misinformation from ‘Experts’

She wasn’t done with the misinformation though. Benjamin warned that not enough Angelenos are getting the “updated” vaccine, which explains the summer increase.

“If you got it in October and later, that’s generally the updated vaccine,” Benjamin said. “If you got it prior to October, double check because if you did get the bivalent which has not been phased out, we recommend you do get an updated vaccine.”

And according to her, everyone should get it. Because the CDC said so.

“Per CDC recommendations, anyone 6 months or older should have at least one of the updated Covid vaccines,” Benjamin said.

Though, of course, no one on the crack NBC Los Angeles team thought to ask Benjamin why the “updated” October vaccine would help against the now common FLiRT variant when it emerged six months after the “updated” vaccine was released. Especially when the “study” process for booster doses is effectively nonexistent anyway. Pfizer and Moderna churn out a “targeted” dose that is supposed to protect against a variant that’s no longer circulating, never has to show any real-world benefit, and the regulatory agencies sign off on it, while the CDC recommends everyone get it.

Rinse, repeat.

Nor did anyone ask her what possible rationale there could be for forcing six-month-old babies to get vaccinated with a booster that has no studied efficacy against the currently circulating variant.

Her comments and the media reaction exemplify the problems with Covid discourse that started in 2020 and will apparently continue forever. A complete and purposeful ignorance of the facts, the data, and the evidence base. A willingness to advocate for the same sort of restrictions and interventions that have already failed. Ignorance of the booster process and endless appeals to public health authorities. Even though those authorities have made countless mistakes and refused to update their findings after being proven wrong.

The obvious question is: How does this type of absurdist discourse ever end? The answer, as we continue to see, is it doesn’t.

Republished from the author’s Substack

Author

Ian Miller is the author of “Unmasked: The Global Failure of COVID Mask Mandates.” His work has been featured on national television broadcasts, national and international news publications and referenced in multiple best selling books covering the pandemic. He writes a Substack newsletter, also titled “Unmasked.”

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