Tracking Media Distortion on the Virus & Lockdowns
I’m spending what little free time I have writing a book about media distortion, propaganda, and fake news. It’s a fascinating topic. But a number of you have reached out recently and asked for my take on current events and this upcoming election. Rather than one giant post, I’m putting my thoughts on the election in another post so that this can stay slightly smaller.
The election is crucial, but it’s even more important is to see that today our great nation is suffering from media distortion run amok. The mainstream corporate media has been an utter nightmare this year. There’s so little honest reporting it’s as if every type of distortion I’m writing about in my book is happening this year right right before our eyes. Or maybe I just see it more clearly because I’m looking.
So, the most important thing to do in 2020: Broaden and balance your media diet! I get specific on how to do that below.
In my forthcoming book, I document the levels of distortion used to sell the Iraq War in 2003, the perspectives suppressed, the journalists silenced and fired. This distortion today in 2020 about this virus and these crippling lockdowns has already blown that era out of the water. I have been astounded at the level of censorship and bias in the mainstream media.
One of the most important things to know is that the media suppression is not happening equally across the political spectrum or equally across all issues. The distortion is happening most intensely around the virus and lockdowns. And while I am no fan of Donald Trump, to a neutral observer it is clear that the bias has shifted and is generally against Trump and conservatives this year. While trust in the mainstream media has been dropping for years for all Americans, the Gallup poll that came out last month shows a shocking drop in trust in the mainstream media among Republicans, and actually an increase on the part of Democrats, and I believe this is because of biased coverage and the common human behavior called confirmation bias. Democrats are feeling better about the mainstream media because it has been repeating their viewpoints. This is not an endorsement of Trump, of course, only a report about bias here in 2020. My thoughts on the election are in the other post.
On the virus, virtually every morning, organs like the New York Times blast out articles giving the most dire perspective, and it is difficult to find mainstream media pieces dissenting. The party line has become almost scripture:
“The virus is very, very deadly; lockdowns are necessary; masks stop the spread; only a vaccine can save us; `herd immunity` is a wild dangerous notion; places like Sweden that didn’t lockdown were dead wrong.”
When in fact none of these tenets is true, or at least not scientifically proven.
But you wouldn’t know that if you simply watched CNN or listened to NPR. The list of experts challenging these assertions is as long and as prestigious as the list of those pushing them, but for some reason the media does not want us to know this. Let’s look at these claims one by one, and I’m challenging myself to be brief here, so reach out if you have any questions or follow the links to learn more.
Very, Very Deadly – The corporate media at first exclaimed that this virus had a case fatality rate that was extraordinarily high, at least 3.4%. These early numbers, which turned out to be based on poor science, led to some of the worst policy, including harsh lockdowns. Some experts claimed at the time that the fatality rate was likely much lower, but their articles were suppressed. We now know the case fatality rate is more like 0.25%, and probably as low as 0.06% for people under the age of 70, which is lower than for the flu. The original estimate was off by at least a factor of 10. For children, the fatality rate is a thousand times smaller, around 0.002%, which means fewer children will die from this than from drowning, let alone the flu. You would never know any of this if you read only mainstream media. We were told originally that millions — perhaps 10 million or more — Americans would die if we didn’t “flatten the curve” by shutting down our economy. No one has ever apologized or retracted the horrendous early errors. Now, this is not to say that this virus isn’t deadly at all, and we must not minimize the tragedy and outrage over those who have died from this virus. People over the age of 70 with heart or lung issues or diabetes are at significant risk, and it’s infuriating that we have not done more as a society to provide targeted protection for those truly vulnerable. (source, source, source, source, source, source)
Lockdowns – Back in March, as reports of the virus in this country first appeared, I thought we as a country were doing too little to protect people. The notion of “Flattening the Curve” seemed reasonable, and Pamela and Corin and I went into isolation and sheltered in place for three weeks. I knew there would be serious social and economic consequences of the lockdown, but it all seemed necessary at the time. Now, seven months later, with all we know about the virus and who is most at risk, and with all the awful, deadly effects of the lockdown we’ve witnessed, there is no logical, scientific case left for general lockdowns. These lockdowns are worse than the virus for basically anyone who cannot work from home, and that’s most people. I’ve been stunned how people on the left have become oblivious to this, as if they’ve never considered the dire consequences and the case against general lockdowns. Suicides, overdoses, domestic violence, sexual abuse, child abuse, depression, homelessness, hunger, starvation have all dramatically risen. People are avoiding routine care, missing diagnoses, skipping cancer screenings, and all of this will cause untold death in the years to come. Globally these lockdowns are predicted to kill more than 100 million people just from starvation this year. In the United States, studies have found that every 1% rise in unemployment leads to 30,000 excess deaths over the following six years, and our unemployment rate has risen from 3.5% to over 10%. Justifying all of this harm and misery would be easier if lockdowns actually worked, but what’s astounding is that if you look at the science, the proof just isn’t there. Countries across Europe experienced roughly the same arc in cases and deaths regardless of lockdown use and severity. The primary effect of a lockdown is making poor people poorer. That’s it. “Can we lift the lockdown?” is not the question. We must lift the lockdowns, as Scott Atlas puts it clearly in this Unherd interview, as lockdowns are killing thousands of people right now. Now, the good news is that it just so happens that by using a sensible approach put forward by experts at Stanford, Harvard and Oxford called the Great Barrington Declaration, which has now been endorsed by over 30,000 medical practitioners and scientists, we can not only immediately lift lockdowns on people under 65 but also follow a clear, scientific, and ethical plan for reducing overall deaths from the virus. I could write much more about this, but I’ll leave you with the link. Please sign the declaration if you see the unbelievable toll general lockdowns are taking on the country and planet and want an ethical strategy: The Great Barrington Declaration >. (source, source, source, source, source, source)
Masks – The incessant droning in the corporate media on masks, masks, masks, has become almost a religious mantra. Mask mandates are real in many parts of the country. The problem is, and I’ve now spent about 50 hours of my life researching this, the science on whether masks prevent the spread of viruses is unsettled at best. There is an intuitive appeal to masks — the idea that reducing the projection of saliva and mucus could reduce the transmission of an airborne virus seems compelling — and there are indeed a handful of observational studies this year showing that mask use reduces the transmission of the virus in certain areas of the world. But if you look at the body of science over the past 30 years, there are many more observational studies showing noimpact on virus transmission from the wearing of masks, and observational studies cannot be used to prove causation anyway. Controlled studies, on the other hand, of which there have been few, all demonstrate no protective effect from the use of masks. Most likely, the virus particles are simply too small and too numerous to be stopped by fibers, and masks provide a screen upon which saliva dries and virus is breathed in. OSHA experts have explained this. Worse, if one examines the body of science on mask wearing, you find many proven negative health effects from wearing masks, including hypoxia and hypercapnia that can depress immune function, as well as fomite transmission from mask handling. If we really are going to allow the government to interfere in this most basic and sacred act of life — breathing — they should be able to afford at least one decent controlled study to prove that it really works, right? But they don’t, they haven’t, and I expect they won’t. As even Tony Fauci said, mask wearing gives a sense of security to the wearer, but it isn’t providing real protection. Some say he was lying then to protect a supply of masks for workers, but if that’s true, and he lied to the country without apology, why should we believe he isn’t lying now? He and many of the top doctors probably know that the science behind masks is lacking but are supporting government control of people’s basic anatomic functions for some other reason. Now, I’m not anti-mask. If you are symptomatic and are sneezing or coughing and you are going to be near someone over 70, yes, wear a mask (or better yet, stay home or seek care); and likewise if you know you’re going to be right next to a symptomatic person who is coughing or sneezing, yes, wear a mask for protection; it might help a little bit. The rest of the time however, your overall health is too important, and the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body too precious to sacrifice for a mask which offers minimal at best protection. (source, source, source, source, source, source, source)
Vaccines – From the earliest days of this pandemic, the mainstream media has featured prominent people (not all doctors, ahem, Bill Gates), declaring sagely that only a vaccine will get us “back to normal.” How they claimed to know this back in March is one question, but the bigger question is how they assumed there could be a successful vaccine against a coronavirus. Coronaviruses are not new, despite the use of the term novel, and there have been countless coronavirus outbreaks. In fact every year people “catch cold,” which is in fact contracting a coronavirus. If Gates and others connected to the vaccine industry presume a vaccine could be developed to prevent spread of the virus, they were in effect saying we could have had a vaccine against the common cold all along but just no one ever tried. It’s highly unlikely a “safe and protective” vaccine to prevent infection will ever be developed for this coronavirus, or any other, and the current vaccine testing acknowledges this. The current goal is merely to lessen the symptoms of an infection, rather than actually prevent infection which is generally the stated purpose of a vaccine. This means the entire effort is now merely to improve on the human immune system, which already defeats the virus 99.94% of the time in people under the age of 70, at a cost of a dizzying array of possible side effects ranging from nausea and diarrhea to paralysis and death. The other thing the media rarely mentions is the fact that this vaccine is going to be an mRNA vaccine, a risky and unproven type of vaccine that has been theorized but never successfully developed. You add to these things — the low standard, the side effects, and the unproven type — the fact that their will be no liability protection, meaning if you are harmed or killed by the vaccine, you cannot sue anyone or recover anything from these pharamaceuticals. And then you note that the leading developers of the vaccine include Moderna, a company that has never successfully developed any product before but has connections to Tony Fauci and other government officials, and it really doesn’t look good. That’s all I would say were the pharmaceutical industry in possession of a sterling reputation, but given that they have suchacheckeredpast and now give more corrupting campaign cash to our politicians than any other industry — more even than Oil and Wall Street — and you’d have to say this whole vaccine push which started promptly in March stinks to high heaven of profiteering, cronyism, and fraud. Sadly, I don’t think this will result in a safe or protective injection, and my prediction is that any vaccine that might come out in the next 12 months will prove to be worse for human health than the virus itself. (source, source, source, source, source)
Herd Immunity – Perhaps the dirtiest word in the American lexicon right now, “herd immunity” is viewed in the media as some impossible and immoral goal, something only sociopaths would even contemplate. “Herd immunity” in fact is a term that describes an epidemiological situation. It’s not a plan to kill people, or even a strategy at all. It’s a state in which enough people have had a virus (or a protective vaccine) and developed immunity that it no longer spreads quickly. This is a state we will get to eventually, and there are many ways to get there. Our options are: 1. Get there without a strategy (the current plan), in which case a large number of older people will get the virus and be at highest risk of death; or 2. Get there with a deliberate strategy to minimize the number of older people getting it and allow younger people to develop the immunity that cuts off the path to the vulnerable, so to speak. This second option is ridiculously, obviously preferable, as it will not only lead to fewer deaths but also to a better standard of living for everyone almost immediately. As mentioned above, a number of prominent epidemiologists and virologists and other doctors at places like Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford, came together recently to propose this sensible and life-saving strategy to the country and world at a place called Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Their declaration, the Great Barrington Declaration, is the best path forward I believe, and would replace our current no-strategy with a plan to get most safely from where we are today to the herd immunity that is coming one way or another. It also opens up the country for business and normal hospital care, things that are absolutely essential given the widespread death and devastation the current lockdowns are causing. Some say the “GBD” is light on implementation details — that it doesn’t spell out exactly how to protect older people. I think there are enough details to start from, and this talk with Steve Atlas adds some details; in any event we must shift the paradigm we’re using about the virus currently, and the GBD shifts the paradigm in the right direction. With climate change, you wouldn’t refuse to support a declaration because there weren’t enough details on how to replace every single use of fossil fuels; you need to change the paradigm first, and you do that with statements of support for a new paradigm. ( source, source, source )
Sweden – As a final hot button issue to examine, we have the one country that most notably did not follow the hyperbolic worst-case-scenario predictions of the mainstream media back in March. Guided by seasoned public health experts and epidemiologists, Sweden did not lockdown at all and encouraged only voluntary social distancing. No businesses or gym or schools were closed; no one was forced to stay home, eat outdoors, or wear a mask. In short, they treated this like any other virus in history — they told their people to stay at home if sick, wash hands frequently, and live a healthy life. Few people will say Sweden was perfect — they should have targeted more care in nursing homes, just as every country should have — but they are now at herd immunity and they didn’t destroy the livelihood of their working class. Sounds pretty good to me compared to the 2020 the rest of us have endured. The Swedes did suffer more deaths in the short run than did neighbor Norway, but not more than other European countries on average, and today they are done with the virus, they are experiencing fewer than one daily coronavirus death for every million people, and there does not appear to be a second wave. (source, source, source)
Why? – So, the question becomes why, if lockdowns don’t work, and masks aren’t protective, and the virus isn’t more dangerous than the flu for young people, and Sweden got it (largely) right — why are we going so inexorably in the wrong direction? Why is the media so bent on suppressing critical analysis of incorrect assumptions? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about these things and researching, and I’m left without a certain answer. I have two theories I’m entertaining, which I’ll detail at the end of this email.
After all of this, if you remember one thing, remember that the primary effect of a lockdown is making poor people poorer. That’s what lockdowns do. There is no solid evidence they reduce overall deaths from a pathogen. How is it that progressives do not see the terrible costs of these lockdowns on the most poor and vulnerable populations of this country and planet? This brilliant piece lays out this massive and befuddling blindspot on the left here in 2020.
Meanwhile the right, historically the home of fascism and groupthink, has become the country’s unlikely champion of free speech, of personal liberty, and of setting scientists free from politics to interpret the data as it is not as one side of the political world would like it to be. Or at least they’ve been better than the left. I’ve been stunned at the political reversal this year — that right is left and top is down. Alice has gone through the looking glass.
And that brings me to this election, which I discuss in this post. I could write on the election too for hours, but I have a book to finish, so I’ll be as brief as I can while still hopefully demonstrating where I’m coming from. Please reach out if you have any questions about anything I say, or if any of it seems insufficiently supported. Perhaps you’ll teach me something, which is always a delight. The most important thing is to…
Balalnce Your Media Diet
Yes, this is the most important thing to do right now. Broadening one’s media diet doesn’t just expand one’s awareness about the world, it triggers the part of the brain that wants to know and not just to believe. I’m writing a bit about this in my book: The corporate mainstream media focuses on getting us to believe things, which can be done effectively via propaganda techniques and repetition. The act of reading independent media on the other hand — taking on the responsibility of becoming informed oneself — awakens the part of the brain that wants to know, that wants to learn, that can take a small mental adventure for the sake of knowledge. This second kind of informing oneself happens through eyewitness experience and encounters with primary sources. Independent media is wrong too about things, of course, but the important difference is that you know it is just one perspective and it doesn’t present itself as The Truth.
I do read the New York Times a couple times a week as well, and watch FOX and listen to NPR sometimes, and check on other corporate media, too, and it’s important to do so. But to have a reasonably balanced sense of the news and resist the incessant propaganda coming at you, you must read other sources.
I will be revising my Balanced Media Guide very soon, which I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I haven’t done at all this year.
That said, here is a set of news sources I recommend for balancing your media diet right now and into 2021.
Once a week each:
- Unherd – This is a great video magazine run by British journalist Freddie Sayers that has featured some astoundingly high quality interviews throughout 2020 with all manner of expert scientists. Indeed it is as un-2020 as news sources come I think. He strives for and actually delivers balanced and patient interviews rather than soundbites. WATCH >
Recommend: 2 hrs/week.
- Highwire – This weekly 2-hour news show will balance an entire week of NPR or MSNBC. Host Del Bigtree goes hard each week at the dominant paradigms about the virus, bringing on experts in the fields of immunology, virology, epidemiology, and others, like OSHA mask experts and doctors who have cured COVID with hydroxychloroquine and budesonide. WATCH >
Recommend: 2 hrs/week.
- Reason – A leading libertarian magazine with a refreshing perspective on politics and culture. In a time of intense two-dimensional political rancor, this is a 3rd dimension, and one that is particularly necessary when things like lockdowns and forced medical procedures are in the political discourse. READ >
Recommend: 1 hr/week.
- Rising – A daily news show produced by The Hill with a refreshing populist perspective and a bold balance of progressive and conservative thought. Co-hosts Krystal Ball (progressive) and Saagar Enjeti (conservative) analyze beltway and national politics, and when they get into principled debates with each other we have a model for engaged political discourse. WATCH >
Recommend: 1 hr/week.
- Kim Iversen – One of many solo video bloggers with an independent perspective, I’m recommending Iversen right now as she goes beyond basic labels of conservative and progressive in her approach. WATCH >
Recommend: 30 min/week.
- Jacobin – Progressive political magazine with a fearless attitude. READ >
Recommend: 30 min/week.
- Lockdown Skeptics – British review of news that questions the justification of these throttling worldwide lockdowns. Often some brilliant perspective pieces. READ >
Recommend 30 min/week.
Why Are We Locked Down?
As I mentioned above, the question eventually becomes why, if lockdowns don’t work, and masks aren’t protective, and the virus isn’t more dangerous than the flu for young people, and Sweden got it (largely) right — why are we going so inexorably in the wrong direction? Why is the media so bent on suppressing critical analysis of these incorrect assumptions? Not to think about this is to willfully ignore the fact that you’re living through a momentous time in world history. I’ve been thinking about these things and researching a lot, and I’m left without a certain answer, but I have two theories I’m entertaining and if you’ve read this far I guess you really want to know.
Theory #1: Corruption & Profiteering. For decades our government has increasingly come under corporate control, and the corruption of both parties has been well documented. Regulatory Capture refers to bodies like the FDA becoming controlled by the corporations they’re supposed to regulate, and it has become a widespread problem. If giant pharmaceutical corporations had no records of, say, maximizing profits from questionable drugs while turning a blind eye to public health, or, say, deliberately pushing the opioid epidemic for the sake of profits, it might be difficult to imagine a policy put in place that railroaded our country into the acceptance of a mandatory vaccine that would harm people while delivering massive profits to pharmaceuticals. Or if it were impossible to notice the perverse incentive pharmaceutical corporations have to promote and treat disease rather than cure disease and promote health, it might be difficult to imagine a deliberate attempt to convince a nation that its entire citizenry were ill or fatally vulnerable. But as we’ve seen, deliberate deception of this kind has happened with not only cigarettes and oxycontin, but glyphosate, leaded gasoline, and many other things, including vaccines. It isn’t hard to see this entire thing playing out as another exercise in deepening corruption and profiteering to the tune of billions of dollars.
Theory #2: A Massive Power Play. If that’s troubling to contemplate, this second theory is worse. If you consider yourself an open-minded person and haven’t yet contemplated the fascinating ways the actions taken to control a pandemic map neatly onto the actions taken during consolidation of power by an authoritarian government, you owe it to yourself and the rest of us to think this through for at least a minute or two. Watch V for Vendetta, for instance. Or better yet, watch Plandemic, which lays out the chilling possibility that all of this 2020 fiasco is a premeditated plan to install a surveillance state complete with “quarantine” internment camps and biometric “passports” required for participation in society. People not favored by the state will coincidentally “test positive” for the virus and disappear into quarantine forever. I’m not entirely convinced by Plandemic, but there’s too much there to dismiss flippantly, and I think we all owe it to ourselves to consider it just to ensure we’re not frogs in a proverbial pot of slowly boiling water. This year has been bad enough, let’s ensure it isn’t setting the scene for a 2021 that is worse.