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Select Language​▼ How a War on ‘Misinformation’ Led To a Coronavirus Tragedy

How a War on 'Misinformation' Led To a Coronavirus Tragedy
How a War on 'Misinformation' Led To a Coronavirus Tragedy

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts.” – Richard Feynman

Spectacular falsehoods, deep truths, and Canadian truckers are finally piercing the long-impervious Covid storyline.

When a justice of the Supreme Court on January 7 asserted that 100,000 children were hospitalized with Covid-19 “in serious condition, and many on ventilators,” it reflected the ill-informed panic that’s driven policy the last two years. In fact, CDC data showed just around 3,200 children were hospitalized while Covid-positive, few were in serious condition, and almost none were on ventilators.

The episode was just the latest false droplet in a flood of erroneous Covid-speak. We’ve known since near the beginning that young people are not at serious risklockdowns don’t halt the spread and do far more harm than good; and an array of cheap, safe, long-approved generic drugs often stop the virus dead in its tracks when taken early. Yet each of these central facts was suppressed by a sprawling array of old and new media, digital platforms, captured medical journals, non-profit scolds, and public health spokespeople claiming omniscience.

It turns out Canadian truckers listening to Joe Rogan know more than many “experts.” Had the truckers been in charge the last two years, the world would probably be healthier, and freer.

The Covid saga began with orchestrated misdirection. On January 31, 2020, some of the world’s top virologists told Dr. Anthony Fauci they believed the SARS-CoV-2 virus was probably “engineered” and they “can’t think of a plausible natural scenario.” Within weeks, however, these same scientists insisted in the Lancet and Nature Medicine that the virus was natural and to question its origin was spreading “misinformation” and “prejudice.” Last week we learned Fauci’s National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) granted these scientists $50 million in 2020 and 2021 alone.


The next battle in the war on misinformation targeted generic drugs – first hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and then ivermectin (IVM). Doctors around the world have used these extraordinary drugs with astonishing success. In the summer and fall of 2021, Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in India, with 241 million people, nearly eradicated Covid-19 with aggressive deployment of ivermectin. Even during the highly infectious Omicron wave, Uttar Pradesh suffers a relative trickle of cases and deaths compared to wealthy Western nations.

A massive new study from Brazil has just been published. Doctors followed nearly the entire city of Itajaí for six months, where 113,845 residents took small doses of ivermectin twice a month, and 45,716 did not. The sophisticated propensity score matched (PSM) analysis shows that even low-dose prophylactic use of ivermectin – with no particular treatment after infection – resulted in a 56% reduction in hospitalization and a 68% mortality improvement. The regulatory and propaganda campaigns against these drugs, and their complementary protocols including simple things like zinc and vitamin D, likely cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Western nations.

Yet you still find smart people who laugh or scowl, insisting ivermectin is only a livestock medicine. When I began warning against digital censorship years ago, many of my friends insisted it wasn’t real, or that it was ok if a few fringe voices were silenced. It was hard to argue with them at the time. I certainly didn’t relish defending unsavory or downright devilish characters. But now we’ve seen how quickly “content moderation” choices on select social networks can slide into total media blackouts and lockstep propaganda. And how blackouts and propaganda can so totally fool a large class of highly educated people.

When Dr. Scott Atlas began advising the U.S. government in August 2020, Facebook erased his videos arguing against widespread business and school closures. YouTube erased the December 2020 U.S. Senate testimony of Drs. Peter McCullough and Pierre Kory, world-class experts in cardiology and critical care, respectively, and demonetized evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein, who were all trumpeting effective early treatments. YouTube also erased the testimony of Drs. Jay Battacharya (Stanford), Sunetra Gupta (Oxford), and Martin Kulldorff (Harvard) at a forum led by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Twitter permanently banned Dr. Robert Malone, pioneer of mRNA and DNA gene therapy technologies.

These acts of censorship were just some of the most obvious. Yet they reverberated far and wide. The erasure and smearing of eminent scientists sent a clear message to thousands of other physicians, professors, medical editors, journalists, CEOs, and influential leaders: toe the party line, or we will destroy you. These rippling layers of cancellation then denied an even wider circle of people in all walks of life the information needed to make sound medical, personal, and political decisions.

The smart, young doctor who successfully treated my wife’s moderately severe case of Covid-19 two weeks ago had recently lost her hospital privileges at a major health system. They didn’t like the fact she was aggressively and successfully deploying ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine and thus keeping people out of the hospital. “I spend all day everyday treating Covid patients,” she told us, exhausted. “I wish my colleagues would help me.” She’s one of many heroes fighting another kind of censorship against the effective and compassionate practice of medicine.

The total bamboozlement of the nation’s policymakers, journalists, and, sadly, too many health professionals, reveals something far more systematically askew. The war on misinformation has achieved the exact opposite of its stated goal. Clamping down on unapproved outside voices has exacerbated groupthink, concentrated risk, and amplified mistakes to epic proportion.

Nowhere has the insulation from reality been more hermetically complete, and more devastating, than the non-discussion over vaccines. On Twitter last week, a smart, thoughtful economist showed just how behind the curve much of the intelligentsia is. Stanford’s Jay Battacharya had been arguing against vaccine mandates and travel requirements because “the covid vaccine does not stop disease spread.” “I don’t follow your logic,” the economist replied. “If the vaccine keeps us from getting infected, why wouldn’t it reduce spread, too? The CDC disagrees with you: ‘COVID 19-vaccines are effective and can lower your risk of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.’” This was January 22, at least seven months after we realized – first in Israel, then the UK, then everywhere – the extremely short durability of the vaccines, especially against infection.

In November, I wrote that “The first results of the booster experiment will yet again come from Israel, which mass-boosted this summer and fall.” Well, in recent weeks, uber-boosted Israel led the world in positive tests per capita and is suffering a new record-high wave of hospitalization and death. Likewise, throughout the fall and winter, the most heavily vaccinated places on earth, almost without exception, also suffered high infection rates.


Vaccine effectiveness was already severely waning against Delta, as shown by the massive Swedish study of 1.6 million people. Now, the vaccines, which target an extinct variant, may be negatively effective against Omicron. In the UK, boosted adults (3x vaccinated) suffer higher infection rates than the unvaccinated. The World Health Organization now says, “a vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable.” The European Medicines Agency now warns: “Repeat booster shots risk overloading the immune system.”

This elementary fact – that the vaccines are non-sterilizing and likely manifest original antigenic sin, among other immune dysregulations, something top vaccinologists knew a year ago – should have ended talk of vaccine mandates before any such discussion began.

In fact, it should have driven an entirely different vaccine strategy. Mass inoculation during a widespread outbreak with “leaky” vaccines can generate dangerous evolutionary dynamics. Yet we never had a robust vaccine discussion. Instead we heard a mantra, leading to sacramental worship of the shots. This, despite the fact that most of the population was not at serious risk from Covid. Instead of targeting high-risk populations for vaccination with the highly experimental mRNA and DNA technologies, many of the world’s leaders went for broke, insisting on universal vaccination. And demanding no questions be asked.

It now appears the stifling of questions and alternative strategies may have resulted in one of the biggest debacles in the history of science and public policy.

Even enthusiastic vaccine backers now acknowledge the substantial risk of myocarditis, especially though not exclusively among young men (see  Chua, et al.Patone, et al.; and Sharff, et al.). Heart inflammation, which often leads to longterm heart failure, however, is just the tip of the vaccine injury iceberg. We now know the Spike protein, which the vaccines instruct our cells to produce in variable and unknown but often large quantities, is toxic. And that it doesn’t stay in our shoulders but may travel and express in organs around the body. Here is a non-exhaustive list of hundreds of scientific papers explaining the pathophysiology, and case-studies documenting specific instances, of a wide array of Covid-19 vaccine injuries – cardiovascular, neurologic, autoimmune, reproductive, oncologic.

The most serious adverse event is of course death. On this count, a new Columbia University Medical Center study finds a tight temporal relationship between vaccine doses administered and fatalities in the U.S., Europe, and Israel. The authors, Spiro Pantazatos and Herve Seligmann, estimate the Covid-19 vaccines may have caused between 146,000 and 187,000 deaths in the U.S. between February and August 2021. The majority of these deaths occur in older people. New reports from both the CDC and life insurance companies, however, are also showing unheard-of mortality rates among 18-64 year olds. Large numbers of these deaths are not Covid, not homicide, not suicide, and not overdose.

One CEO of a $100-billion life insurance company recently expressed his alarm at the unprecedented fatality rates – a 40% non-Covid death spike – among young and middle-aged people. You can see nearby the preliminary CDC data for 15-44 year olds, which suggest something – not Covid, not opioids – went terribly wrong in 2021.

U.S. Deaths Natural Cause - Ages 15-44 - Triple Chart 2.0.png

Emerging evidence from around the world reinforces this analysis. The HART Group in the UK finds a “statistically significant” 19% increase in deaths compared to the five-year average among British boys aged 15-19. A new German study, which echoes the Columbia Med paper, shows even higher resolution temporal patterns of vaccination and fatalities across each of Germany’s 16 states. An analysis from New Zealand, which has suffered very little Covid, shows a similar tight correlation between vaccination and all-cause mortality. Let’s not forget the newly available Pfizer documents, which show the company knew by February 28, 2021, that 1,223 people had already died from its vaccine, just 10 weeks into the rollout. The Columbia Med study concludes that “the risks of COVID vaccines and boosters outweigh the benefits in children, young adults, and older adults with low occupational risk or previous coronavirus exposure.”

The most detailed evidence of vaccine-induced morbidity comes from three Department of Defense whistleblowers. During the course of 2021, these military physicians – Drs. Theresa Long, Peter Chambers, and Samuel Sigoloff – witnessed astonishing increases in numerous illnesses among soldiers, sailors, and airmen, who tend to be younger and healthier than most. Using the Pentagon’s massive information system known as the Defense Medical Epidemiology Database (DMED), they looked at the incidence of many illness codes over the five year period 2016-2020. They found case code totals for many illnesses tracked closely year to year. Until 2021, when there was an explosion of sickness, matching what they’d seen with their own eyes.

In 2021, compared to the five-year average, they found:

– a near-three-fold increase in miscarriages (4,182 vs. 1,499);

– a three-fold increase in cancers (114,645 vs. 38,700);

– a 10-fold increase in neurological disorders (863,000 vs. 82,000); and

– jumps of 200-400% in heart attacks, Bell’s Palsy, female infertility, and pulmonary embolisms, among many others.

These are the same types of adverse events being reported in large numbers in the civilian population, for example through the VAERS system. Mandated vaccination in the military, where the bulk of servicemen and women are at very low risk from Covid, may have unnecessarily harmed tens of thousands of troops and substantially reduced military readiness. The same goes for mandates at universities and schools, where low-risk students were forced to submit to unnecessary inoculation.

But don’t vaccines reduce severe Covid outcomes for those at high risk? There’s lots of evidence they do, at least for a couple months until they sharply wane. We must weigh vaccine deaths and injuries against the benefits.

Measuring vaccine efficacy is far trickier than it looks, however. One example is the jabbed-but-not-fully-vaccinated miscategorization problem. That’s when someone takes the shot, then gets Covid or dies within two or six weeks, but, as is standard in many places, is miscounted as unvaccinated. “Unvaccinated” gets an artificial debit while “vaccinated” receives a false credit, doubling the efficacy error. The same thing happens when “2-doses” gets unfairly charged with the negative outcomes of “3-doses.” This is just one of several seemingly small data collection and analysis problems that results in large differences in apparent efficacy. (And it’s more important than one might think because of the well-known immune suppressive effect which “boosts” infections in the weeks following inoculation, when adverse events tend to happen as well.) The vast divergence between U.S. and international hospitalization and fatality totals by vaccination status is another signal that efficacy reporting is way off.

It’s also why all-cause mortality and morbidity over longer time periods are the crucial measures. The basic fact is that in most places with high vaccination rates, we see higher morbidity and mortality – both Covid and non-Covid – in 2021 than in 2020. In the U.S., 539 million vaccine doses resulted in more death and illness than in pre-vaccine 2020. The original Pfizer trial showed the same pattern, where among 45,000 participants the vaccine arm suffered 21 deaths and the placebo arm just 17 deaths. The vaccines are probably reducing the severity of Covid-19 disease for some – but possibly at the monumental expense of worse health overall.

One may strongly disagree with the forgoing analysis. But at the very least these data and arguments should demonstrate that early treatments, vaccines, and the full range of Covid-19 scientific and policy questions are complex and highly debatable.

The war on misinformation, however, denies questions and debates. Increasingly, governments, non-profits, and political parties, working with Big Media and Big Tech, have made the war on misinformation their central organizing tactic. Refuse any debate whatsoever. Demonize contrary people and views. Destroy inconvenient data and science. Other words for the war on misinformation are censorship and propaganda.

One of the saddest episodes of 2021 was Facebook’s serial erasure of groups sharing stories and medical advice on Covid vaccine injuries. These groups often grew to tens or hundreds of thousands of people but were then snuffed out by Facebook, citing its duty to censor any content which might lead to vaccine hesitancy. The Internet’s ability to connect people is uplifting and can help us more quickly find the truth. But as I wrote in the spring of 2020, “not everyone is happy with this new transparency. Information threatens the totalitarian mindset and its programs. As the Internet breaks down the old barriers which hid private truths, the central goal of authoritarians is to erect new structures to maintain public lies.”

The public officials, intellectuals, business leaders, and journalists who came to stridently believe so many falsehoods also happen to be the ones driving the war on misinformation. And their inability to grapple with complexity and trade-offs in sprawling systems goes well beyond Covid-19. This combination of midwitgullibility and censorious arrogance has been building for years. It breeds hubris and leads to “knowledge falsification” in multiple realms.

The war on misinformation seeks false consensus. If everyone agrees, no one can be wrong. It’s why they go after dissenters with such ferocity. Not just to make sure alternative messages don’t break through. But also because putting dissent on the record exposes the decision-makers to wrongness and thus accountability later. It’s why they demonized Sweden’s traditional but heterodox non-lockdown, non-mask, and ultimately successful approach to the pandemic. Differentiation is the lethal enemy of the bureaucrat.

Censorship both covers up and incentivizes rhetorical and policy maximalism. Authoritarian policies like blanket lockdowns or universal mandates of experimental vaccines require propaganda to enforce. Once the tools of censorship are in place, they encourage policymakers to push the policy envelope far beyond normal bounds because they know they won’t be challenged. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s growing.

Before Covid, we saw a burst of new for- and non-profit groups supposedly dedicated to combatting misinformation. There was New Knowledge, the Atlantic Council’s DFR Lab, Hamilton 2.0, the Integrity Initiative, NewsGuard, and the Trusted News Initiative, in addition to disinformation divisions at NBC and many other legacy news outlets. Instead of acting as neutral referees, however, these groups, almost to a one, ended up promoting propaganda and smearing the enemies of partisan and parochial interests.

Now, instead of apologizing for its early lockdown advocacy, Johns Hopkins’ Center for Health Security is doubling down, launching a new “Environment of Misinformation” project. NewsGuard just signed a big contract with the American Federation of Teachers to ensure our schools only access approved “news.”

The war on misinformation is a conceit. The illiberal fantasy class, which happens to be in charge, is crippling America as an idea and a nation. It is frustrating pluralistic entrepreneurship, speech, and discovery worldwide.

Wrongness is the natural state of our fallible world. Misinformation is everywhere, always. More, better information will always expose misinformation. The work of philosophy, technology, culture, and commerce is to slowly build layers of less-wrong ideas and explanations in search of truth. As Covid has tragically proven, the war on misinformation, not misinformation itself, is perhaps the greatest threat to our civilization.

Bret Swanson is president of the technology research firm Entropy Economics, nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and chairman of the Indiana Public Retirement System (INPRS). 

What do you think?

Written by colinnew

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