This essay first appeared at Mars Review of Books.
Listen to The Science!
Here is what The Science said:
Stay inside for two weeks and we’ll flatten the curve. Lock down for a month or two, and the whole thing will blow over.
Install two-foot by two-foot Science Shields between cashiers and customers. Viruses won’t be able to figure how to go around them. Go to the store to buy groceries but don’t touch non-essential items. The virus will get you if you have over 12 items.
Follow the arrows on the floor, because the virus knows which direction you go.
Install Science Stickers on floors spaced precisely six feet apart—1.5 meters outside the USA. The virus tires after this distance. Install glory holes and avoid face-to-face sex, for that is how viruses breed.
Forget lockdowns. Wear Science Masks instead, and the virus will suffocate. The masks definitely work and must be worn at all times, even when alone in your own home, which is why the vaccines are necessary and must be mandated. The vaccines are safe and effective, and the side effects many experienced are rare. One shot is sufficient, which is why you must have two, and that is why three is the number—except when it is four. Annually.
If you sit and eat maskless in any public space you are safe. If you stand, you die. And kill others.
Vaccines work. But your vaccine’s efficacy is canceled when you come near an unvaccinated person. Unless you carry a vaccine passport. Then the virus will be unable to infect you. Fire those who refuse a vaccine: Unemployment guarantees immunity.
THE PANIC BEGINS
Rumors that some kind of virus was going around in China started to spread as early as December, 2019. Across the globe, people were spooked after they saw a video of a masked man dropping dead on a Wuhan, China sidewalk.
What made this video curious was not only that the tightly controlled Chinese media produced and broadcast it, but that men in space suits arrived instantly to scrape the body off the sidewalk.
Either China knew its Wuhan Institute of Virology leaked a new and horrible virus and they had armies of space-suited men trained in body scraping at the ready, or we were being duped.
Both could be true, too. And probably were.
It’s clear China recognized the propaganda potential of the video, and used it brilliantly to juice a panic—a global panic going into its third year, whose ardor is only now showing signs of cooling.
Incidentally, where, in the last two years of intense scrutiny, are all the bodies dropping dead mid-walk from COVID-19? Seen any others?
In their recent book Viral: The Search for the Origin of Covid-19, Alina Chan and Matt Ridley put forward persuasive evidence that both the Chinese and the Americans had a hand in creating the virus through research euphemistically called “gain of function.” Since the “function” gained is ability to kill, a more honest name is gain of lethality research.
The purpose of these studies is ostensibly to discover cures for viruses should they, in nature, develop into the same kind of killers created in the lab. Yet since these creations are wholly artificial, it is far from evident that nature would ever provide such abominations. And just where are the promised cures for the man-made gain of lethality lethality viruses? None exist. (The substances known as mRNA vaccines were developed independently, and not as part of gain of lethality research.)
Who knew what and when?
The leaders of national governments must have been given information, either from China directly, or through other intelligence efforts, about the virus and its origins. Their belief that a plague had been released explains their initial fanatical overreaction. It especially accounts for the remarkable efforts of China to constrain what they obviously believed was a shattering catastrophe.
It is rarely noted that humanity lived through two body count-similar panic-free pandemics in the mid-20th century. Or did everybody forget the Asian flu of 1958–1959 and the Hong Kong flu a decade later? Estimates vary, but the Asian flu killed around 4 million in an 18-month period, and the Hong Kong flu about the same. And this at a time when the population was about a third of what it is now.
Perhaps one reason these pandemics are not well known today is there was no official hysteria around them. No great global spasms of fright, and no hubris that convinced governments they could rein in a respiratory virus and keep it from spreading.
THE INITIAL REACTION
Wherever COVID-19 came from, it had to be dealt with.
The Trump administration, bearer of supposed inside intelligence, argued for closing borders, to bar entry to those who might carry the “China virus.” Naturally, Trump’s opponents used this moment as an opportunity to paint him as a racist.
Chuck Schumer invited people to prove their non-racism by venturing to Chinatown. There he was, the headline says, celebrating Chinese New Year and leaving fear behind.
It was about then we began to hear from Experts, who are credentialed, educated persons appointed to authority by governments. It was they who created what I have termed The Science.
For instance, after infections were discovered on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, Chief Medical Advisor to the President of the United States Anthony Fauci said, “If you are a healthy young person, there is no reason if you want to go on a cruise ship, [not to] go on a cruise ship.” The Science is a strong function of politics.
Fauci later became, by fiat, The Science Itself. He got his position in the farce because he was there, and because Trump trusted him. Fauci was originally famous for panicking the world during the AIDS crisis, convincing us that “anybody” could get HIV.
Trump hired Fauci, physician Deborah Birx and other bureaucrats, all immune to criticism, as part of Operation Warp Speed. This was the “public-private” effort to fund pharmaceuticals to speed up vaccines, and the roll out massive testing efforts. When Birx was confronted by evidence her ideas were wrong, she accused her enemies, whom she now called “coronavirus deniers,” of sneaking in “parallel data.” The CDC would soon follow her lead.
Propagandists delighted in these confrontations, because they were able to use Trump’s hires as ammunition against Trump himself. They considered it their sacred duty to remove Trump, while also shoring up the permanent bureaucracy, of which they were, and still are, a part.
Trump at last became responsible for every bad thing in the pandemic, and his successor credited with every good thing. This isn’t all wrong. Trump never had the guts to fire his foolish hires, thinking that it would make him look weak. And so America led the world in managerial class-directed panic.
THE PANIC SPREADS
The online right, partly in expectation this could lead to the collapse they had been expecting, and mostly because they are natural pessimists in modern governance, excitedly pointed up the initial rumors. They touted ridiculous videos showing squads of supposed Chinese hospital workers spraying mysterious substances in the streets. They obsessively checked the numbers China released. Their favorite word was “exponential.”
Most followed the usual political divisions and parroted their favorite propaganda sources. Many wanted the government to “do something.” Nay, they demanded it. Some doctors in the US, sensing this was a chance to get in on a big story, began exaggerating their personal “battles” with the “piles” of bodies that were, at first, entirely fictional.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, of Black Swan fame, argued a common line of the Expert class: We should follow the precautionary principle. This principle states that you should pay any cost to protect against the largest threat you can imagine, and that you should imagine the largest threat you can imagine if you don’t have any other information.
In the case of COVID-19, the largest threat conceivable was an apocalyptic pandemic. Therefore, no cost was too high to pay. Panic, to this class, was the only rational response. Those who would not panic Taleb called, in print, psychopaths.
There was, however, a minority, a sad few who recalled history, and so advised calm. They pointed out that pandemics were common. That there was nothing in any of the early data that warranted extraordinary steps. That the cures were almost surely going to be worse than the disease, which couldn’t be stopped anyway, because it was spread by breathing.
They were not listened to. The model, though. Everybody believed that.
Enter Neil Ferguson, a well known infectious disease epidemiologist at the Imperial College of London and serial fornicator of reality. He and his Imperial College team’s model predicted millions of dead in the USA by mid-summer, 2020. Even if his lockdown recommendations were heeded.
Not only was this scary, but Ferguson said that his model was done on a computer, which for some became proof of its veracity.
What many do not understand is that every model, of every kind, in any application, on any platform, only says what it is told to say. This used to be a bedrock principle of science. It was forgotten, however, when people wanted to pass off models as independent evidence.
At the time, a few of us were amazed Ferguson was listened to. He had made a career of being wildly wrong, predicting medical catastrophe after catastrophe, none of which ever happened. My co-authors Jay Richards and Doug Axe and I documented his serial failures in The Price of Panic: How the Tyranny of Experts Turned a Pandemic into a Catastrophe.
In 2001, Ferguson asked for mass culling of beasts in the UK because of foot and mouth disease. This cost around 10 billion pounds. His model was called by Michael Thrusfield, professor of veterinary epidemiology at Edinburgh University, “severely flawed” and a “serious error.”
In 2002 he said between 50 and 150,000 people would die from mad cow disease. 177 died. That’s in the window, but both the UK and US governments fixated on the upper number. In 2004 he said “up to” 200 million would die from bird flu. The WHO agreed with him. Turns out fewer than 300 died from 2003 to 2009. And in 2009 he predicted a global 0.4% mortality rate for swine flu. That would have been about 65,000 dead in UK. 457 died.
And in 2020 anybody with a calculator, if they had wanted to, could have noticed Ferguson’s model was predicting 56,000 dead per day in the US somewhere around June 2020. This was not sane. But its very insanity caused more people to believe it.
It was then I discovered you can never be fired for being wrong in the right direction.
Ferguson’s model promised millions dead even if lockdowns were embraced. But his model promised a great savings in lives. Several governments went for those lockdowns, and with a passion. To “flatten the curve.”
Great Britain, for example, locked down hard. Residents were allowed outside once a day for exercise or to buy supplies. Neighbor was encouraged to rat out neighbor, and did. Citizens were so grateful not to have died instantly, they trundled outside one extra time a day to clap for their nationalized medical system.
In the UK, people were arrested for being outside. Even by themselves, far away from others in the germicidal fresh air and virus-killing sunshine.
Only “essential” people were allowed to work. Non-essential people, so designated by their all-knowing governments, had to suck it up. The pain caused by this would eventually contribute to a spike in global price inflation, the effects of which are still being felt.
In America, Ferguson’s model was embraced with ferocity. Then New York Governor Andrew Cuomo thought hospitals would be overwhelmed. Thus it would be prudent to insert the infected into nursing homes. Which is where the old and infirm live. He did this at a point where it was already clear that the vast majority of those dying from COVID-19 were old and infirm. He killed many people this way, but won an Emmy.
Model-based apologies for lockdowns began to appear. Why, not only were lockdowns stopping deaths, they were making trillions of dollars for us! Yes, the t-word was used. Oligarchs got unimaginably wealthy due to the lockdowns.
Nations like New Zealand opted for a zero-COVID strategy. It was their government’s opinion that a respiratory virus could be stopped if only people believed strongly enough that it could be. Magical thinking like this became pervasive during the panic. Bad people thinking bad thoughts were killing people. Good people with good thoughts saved lives.
Sweden was one of a few holdouts. They refused to panic. Therefore, every minor uptick in any measure of misfortune was touted as the beginning of their certain doom. And every improvement was roundly ignored. As it is to this day. Florida in the US got the same frenzy-freeze-out treatment.
What makes all this fascinating is that the World Health Organization recommended against lockdowns, masks, and social distancing in 2019 in a major report anticipating the “next” pandemic. They abruptly switched advice after Chinese money began to flow in the spring of 2020. Curious, no?
It’s odd. In medicine before 2020, cases were separate from infections.
A case was a patient seeking or requiring treatment, such as by a hospitalization. A case was infected, but not all infected people became cases. It became “fake news” to remind people of this. Or to suggest that anybody who was infected wasn’t going to have a near-death experience.
This was helped along by all the usual sources. We were treated to images of the pitiful withering away in oxygen tents inside sealed rooms, attended by space-suit wearing dancing nurses. Everybody, they said, could suffer this—if they didn’t listen to their betters.
It wasn’t until September of 2021 that the CDC quietly released a report stating that 15% of those infected never knew it. And that most infections were mild.
From the beginning, it was clear this was a disease of the elderly and infirm. Which is why, naturally, kids had to miss school and be strapped into useless masks. Even today, well into this thing, two times as many children under 17 have died of pneumonia than of COVID-19. And about ten times as many have died in car crashes. But with no mandates to bar kids from riding in cars.
Other official numbers couldn’t be trusted, either, as the temptation to classify any suspicious death, even falling off a roof, as COVID-19 became overwhelming. Testing went mad, with even the most minor puff of an infection called a case.
Early in 2020, we had Experts warning about farts. Others cautioned against speaking English, because English speakers use too many consonants, and consonants spread COVID better than vowels.
Kids were forced inside tents, or had holes cut in their masks, so that they could play wind instruments.
Early on, the healthy were touting the benefits of vitamin D, zinc, quercetin and even drugs like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ). This angered Experts, perhaps because they didn’t think of it first. Many were banned on social media for spreading “conspiracy theories” about these alternatives. By mid 2021, Facebook had suspended over 3,000 accounts, and that was after a year earlier they deleted 7 million posts for COVID “misinformation.” Twitter infamously banned many prominent accounts, including Robert Malone, one of the scientists who helped create the mRNA vaccines. YouTube banned “all” accounts it deemed were anti-vaccine.
Initially, vitamin D was discouraged. Later, when it no longer mattered, Experts allowed that, for example, vitamin D deficiency was bad.
Both ivermectin and HCQ were outlawed in some places. Fauci was for HCQ before he was against it.
On any hint ivermectin was efficacious, especially after the vaccines were released, propagandists rushed to their computers to type “Horse Paste!” This included not a few doctors, who developed a weird amnesia about this heretofore universally acknowledged “wonder drug” used to treat infections that led to river blindness, among others.
More than once we heard of Experts praising the noble lie. Gross untruths were allowed if they were for people’s own good. Experts would decide what that good would be. This hasn’t stopped. Even in late February 2022, the CDC was caught hiding information about vaccine efficacy—and exposed, if you can believe it, by the New York Times. The CDC was concerned that if people saw the data they might not come to the official conclusions.
The CDC was adept, however, at pursuing the new kind of science we now see everywhere: The Science. Anyone who criticizes The Science is a “denier.” The Science is generated by starting with a conclusion, and then by hunting for evidence to back it.
The CDC, trying to generate The Science, made the same stupid error at least twice. Once in its efforts to “prove” that immunity granted by vaccines was superior—a first in the history of medicine!—to that acquired naturally through infection. And another time to show that masks worked.
In the immunity research, they “discovered” that people with natural immunity who were in the hospital had a slightly higher rate of testing positive for COVID than those in the hospital with vaccination-acquired immunity. But they forgot that people who had acquired immunity naturally would hardly ever go to the hospital to be counted. Only the sickest would.
If masks work, masks would have worked. There would have been massive obvious signals in any measure of mask wearing and illness suppression. For instance, locales with mask mandates would have had visibly fewer COVID deaths. There would have been no need for nuanced subtle obscure statistical studies and models that only Experts with special training could see.
There was and is no such signal. The rise and fall of the virus did not depend in any way on masks. Masks did not work.
Yet masks became illegal not to wear around the summer of 2020 in many locales. There were skeptics, like Fauci himself, who was televised in March 2020 speaking a rare thing for him: the truth. He said, in essence, ‘wear a mask if it makes you feel better, but it won’t stop the virus.’
He later changed his story. But initially, he was echoing a century of studies that have shown masks of the type worn by citizens and mask mandates did nothing to stop respiratory viruses from spreading. In the Spanish Flu, a few cities mandated masks. Their use was investigated afterward. One of the earliest papers was in Science in 1919. The conclusion was: don’t bother with masks.
It’s only one of many. It was not a new question. Old-school scientists thought to study the masks in the past. There are many papers published year after year. There is even one famous study in which surgeons went maskless for a month in the OR of a major UK hospital. There were no increases in infections during the maskless era.
Masks did one job well, though. They spread fear. A masked person seeing an unmasked person would be convinced the unmasked had the disease, a disease of a special kind that went right through their own mask. But if two masked people met, then both were convinced each probably didn’t have the disease, and the masks could even be dispensed with, as long as others weren’t around.
Cloth masks were okay and then they weren’t. One mask was fine, then two, then three, then one again, as long as it was an N95.
All rulers, politicians, and celebrities gave us the truth, however. They never wore masks when they thought the cameras were off. They did not suffer unduly.
And how about the Denmark study which handed out free N95 masks to a huge group of people, trained them in their use, and compared their health with a group that went maskless? The study that showed no difference? It was ignored.
Instead, obfuscatory papers like Harvard’s “Model-Estimated Association Between Simulated US Elementary School-Related SARS-CoV-2 Transmission, Mitigation Interventions, and Vaccine Coverage Across Local Incidence Levels” were touted. This study wanted to justify continued mask wearing in children at the end of the panic, long after it was clear kids don’t suffer from this disease. The paper began by assuming masks work, ran a model of infections in kids assuming masks work, and the results confirmed that fewer infections resulted when masks were worn. Press releases touted how Harvard showed us masks work.
Again we must remember that all models only say what they are told to say.
In the end, all mask mavens had left was to admit, as The Atlantic did, that masks were for tribal identification and to make people feel good.
Then came the vaccines. Coronaviruses are one of the causes of the common cold. And, until 2020, everybody knew there was no cure for the common cold. Only now, they said, there was a cure in the shape of new kinds of vaccines. These were novel therapies that would cause your own body to act as if it was the virus. Your body would manufacture the dreaded spike protein. Your body would then organize an attack on the parts of your body making the spikes. With luck, the attacking parts would win over the bad-thing-producing parts.
And then you would be immune. One hundred percent. Against infection. Said the Experts. Initially, anyway.
Do you recall? CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said, “Vaccinated people don’t carry the virus, don’t get sick.” President Biden, reading what was written for him by Experts, said “You’re okay; you’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.” Fauci said, “When people are vaccinated they can feel safe they are not going to get infected.” And there were many more, the world over.
This is idiotic, and should have been seen as idiotic from the beginning. Even the best vaccines in the world, such as for rubella, do not protect one from infection. Vaccines do not cause an energy aura to form around your body that zaps parasites when they heave into view. They do not and cannot prevent infection. They can only provide protection after infection.
Further, all vaccines cause injury. Intentionally. If they did not cause injury, they would be useless. It became forbidden to remind people of this.
One kind of vaccine utilizes what is known as an inactivated or “dead” virus, which is the virus itself, but modified so that it cannot self-replicate. It causes the same damage that a live virus does, which is damage that your body trains itself to defend. Because the dead virus can’t make copies, the damage is limited. But, the hope is, the damage is still sufficient to give your body time to learn how to defeat the live one when the time comes.
Another kind is the new mRNA vaccine. This creation has a special coating to help it survive the trip to the cells near the injection site, though the coating can cause allergic reactions. The coating can’t be too thick, or else the vaccine might migrate to places it shouldn’t. Such as the ovaries. Some said the vaccine ended up where it shouldn’t and, for instance, altered menstrual cycles. It was a conspiracy theory and then an acknowledged fact. Many such cases.
Another problem is that the spike encoded in the mRNA has to be of a known form to match the spike protein of the virus itself. If the virus mutates into variants with their own spikes, the protection offered by the vaccine declines. Even with new variants surging, Experts still boasted of the original vaccines’ total efficacy. Until they admitted they were working on new vaccines for the new variants.
China went mainly with the traditional inactivated vaccine, Sinovac, which was likely safer than mRNA vaccines. The US went mainly with two mRNA vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna. The Johnson & Johnson version was a non-replicating viral vector vaccine. It, very quietly, was acknowledged to cause too many problems and was deprecated.
Then two things happened. First it became official policy to deny vaccines could cause injury. The noble lie ploy again. Second, vaccines became mandated.
There was an enormous rise in VAERS (the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System) reports. Critics scoffed that COVID received more “scrutiny”, therefore the increase in VAERS reports . . . was not real. It was a conspiracy theory to say, for instance, that myocarditis rates were rising because of vaccinations among the young. Who didn’t really need to be vaccinated anyway, because they suffered least from infections. And then it was acknowledged myocarditis could be caused by the vaccines, but that myocarditis wasn’t serious. Except in “rare” cases.
As is their wont, the US government repeated the comedy from 1976 when Swine Flu vaccines were pushed hard. 60 Minutes then reported how the CDC withheld discussion of neurological side effects, and denied deaths from the vaccine. At that time Mike Wallace reported that the CDC “helped create the advertising to get the public to take the shot.” It’s the same story today. After the nation panicked, it was found that, yes, indeed, the vaccine was causing harm.
Same thing now. In the US, Australia, and other places, experts are admitting the vaccine was deadly in “rare” cases. Mostly in the young. The same people who very likely would not have died if they got COVID.
The vaccines were mandated because Experts believed their own press about efficacy. Given that coronavirus vaccines in animals never worked well, there was no good reason to expect them to work well in people. It became, like many other things, a “conspiracy theory” to deny efficacy and warn that more shots than two would be needed. Until, of course, more than two shots were required.
Some brilliant bureaucrat had the idea of vaccine passports. These, too, were a conspiracy theory in early 2020, when the EU was caught leaking the idea. How a vaccine passport would keep anybody from becoming infected was never explained. It cannot be explained. Except by more magical thinking.
Your lack of a vaccine negated mine. The vaccinated needed to be “protected” from the “epidemic of the unvaccinated.” Nobody ever explained how a vaccinated person’s vaccine failed when they came near an unvaccinated person. Again, it cannot be explained except by magical thinking.
Officials insisted everybody must be vaccinated. And fired if not. Because there was no way, Experts implied, an unvaccinated person can get infected or spread a disease if he doesn’t have a job.
In truth, the unvaccinated were seen to be dirty. They were those bad people whose bad thoughts were hurting the tribe. They needed to be punished. The slogan “Your body, your choice” became “The government’s body, the government’s choice.”
The only word to describe this is madness.
There have been protests erupting here and there these past 27 months. Governments have ignored all of them. They controlled and still control the flow of information to the majority, and weren’t too concerned about a few rabble-rousers. Governments have nowhere lost power due to their futile, preposterous and harmful “solutions.” As far as I know, in places that had elections during the panic, the incumbents won handily. Even muscular protests meant little. The Canadian government declared martial law and seized bank accounts of their protesters.
Experts take these protests as proof they, the Experts, are right. Only the uncredentialed complain. Protesters and critics are not Experts, therefore they cannot possibly have valid complaints. Therefore their complaints are frivolous and must be based on plain ignorance, or on mis- and disinformation. Therefore—this completes the circle—they are right and the critics wrong.
Not only that, but Experts really dislike being questioned. Worship they will accept. Adulation, praise and rewards are fine. But questions? No way. That’s not how The Science works. Recall, it begins with the solutions and conclusions and works backward to supporting evidence. This is why criticism of evidence is superfluous.
Government rulers can’t keep a panic going forever. The world is not static. Energy flags. Priorities shift. They’ve been lucky with votes, the world over, but luck never lasts. In the US, there is no chance any candidate in the midterms will run on a lockdown platform.
The bureaucracy, however, is indefatigable. Their Experts can keep a low grade panic going indefinitely. They will try. There will be a host of new regulations to track all kinds of new diseases, real and imagined. Their budgets have swollen, and there’s no way they’re going to give up.
Still, come this Christmas, almost all of us will swear we never panicked. It was the other guy.
Buy my new book and learn to argue against the regime: Everything You Believe Is Wrong.