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Essay

Conspireality: Is It Time For A Serious Conversation?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The mainstream and traditional media seem to be failing to have important conversations that are controversial, while at the same time perhaps there isn't enough rigor and critical thinking in alternative media communities.

  • Reflect On:

    Given we are deeply feeling the need to make sense of our world, is it time we begin to look at developing the inner faculties necessary to move beyond ideology, limited thinking patterns and truly begin looking at what evidence around us says?

Before you begin...

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One thing I’m noticing now more than ever before in my experience as a journalist and researcher, and as a human in general, is that people are hungry for information that is deeper than what they are getting through the mainstream media. It feels as though people are beginning to recognize that there is a degree of corruption involved in our world and that politicians and traditional media outlets have been compromised in the process.

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How can you weed through the confusion? What media can you trust? What is the truth? These are all big questions many are now asking. We are also seeing a general lack of trust in many professional or societal experts due to a felt sense that they have been compromised as well. Compromised by who? I guess it depends on the situation – and it can also be tough to know. To get answers to these questions, people have been looking for alternative information or perspectives about many current events in an attempt to make sense of the world.

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I’ve worked for 12 years in independent media now. I don’t see myself as a journalist, but that being a journalist is simply a hat I wear at times. My general passion is more philosophical, exploring culture, current events and human consciousness to determine why things are the way they are, and how we can bring new information and experience to the forefront to deeply shift our individual and collective worldviews to change our reality.

I founded Collective Evolution in 2009 for the purposes of having conversations I felt were important but perhaps not widely available. Initially beginning as a platform for exploring consciousness, CE ventured into current events, as I felt they often reflect the inner aspect of who we are as people – and as a collective. What happens out there is a reflection of the beliefs, values and ideals we hold. That said, for most of the time CE has been around, we’ve covered some sort of alternative perspective on current events as part of our mission. Our commitment was to do this in a way that was as open, transparent, and unbiased as possible, not being afraid to venture into ‘controversial subjects.’ Improving in our style and quality over the years, we often get feedback from a wide audience feeling that we do a pretty good job of staying neutral and open to various possibilities, while still covering what might be considered controversial subjects – things people call ‘conspiracies.’ This is where the focus of this piece is crucial.

Calling these sometimes controversial subjects ‘conspiracy theories’ is a bit unfortunate as it’s a loaded term that brings about many connotations and a general lack of clarity. Does ‘conspiracy theory’ mean there is no evidence? It is not probable? It is not to be believed? Does it mean only crazy people who don’t think critically look at them? Was the fact that the NSA spied on US citizens illegally a conspiracy theory before Edward Snowden revealed the truth about that to the world? It was. The idea that ‘big brother’ is watching or spying was considered a paranoid delusion by many, yet they were in fact watching and recording almost everything people in the US did – and even in other countries from that matter.

Thus, the title of this piece includes the term ‘conspire’-reality as it is my feeling that some things we often call conspiracy theories are in fact true, we just don’t know it yet or haven’t accepted it. Usually due to our lack of realizing the available evidence, or our unwillingness to challenge our worldviews. In the same breath, there is an observation I’m seeing, and have for years now, within the space of ‘conspiracies’ that is truly important to discuss and reflect on.

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The Rise of The Alternative

For decades people have felt that there is more to mainstream media narratives when it comes to current events. The JFK assassination, UFOs, MK Ultra, the real cause of wars, powerful people who control aspects of society, etc. Typically, much of these conversations remained on the fringe and were had on late night radio shows or unpopular books few knew about. But the advent of the internet and its subsequent popularity birthed an opportunity for these ideas and conversations to spread more easily. As time went on, people began to feel ‘alternative’ history or facts about events that happen in our world were increasingly important. While it might be common for some to chalk this up to some form of mental illness or misstep in logical thought, there are actually a large number of intelligent and well-read people who are actively exploring very credible information that tells a different, and credible, story about widely accepted mainstream narratives. A recent podcast on The Joe Rogan Experience with guest Tom O’Neil is a perfect example. Tom has spent the last 20 years of his life investigating and writing a book called Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties which was published by Little, Brown in the summer of 2019.

As the description of his book reads:

Twenty years ago, when journalist Tom O’Neill was reporting a magazine piece about the murders, he worried there was nothing new to say. Then he unearthed shocking evidence of a cover-up behind the “official” story, including police carelessness, legal misconduct, and potential surveillance by intelligence agents. When a tense interview with Vincent Bugliosi — prosecutor of the Manson Family and author of Helter Skelter — turned a friendly source into a nemesis, O’Neill knew he was onto something. But every discovery brought more questions.

O’Neill’s quest for the truth led him from reclusive celebrities to seasoned spies, from San Francisco’s summer of love to the shadowy sites of the CIA’s mind-control experiments, on a trail rife with shady cover-ups and suspicious coincidences. The product of two decades of reporting, hundreds of new interviews, and dozens of never-before-seen documents from the LAPD, the FBI, and the CIA, Chaos mounts an argument that could be, according to Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Steven Kay, strong enough to overturn the verdicts on the Manson murders. This is a book that overturns our understanding of a pivotal time in American history.

As I listened to the podcast episode, many of the subjects discussed, including the United States government mind control program MK Ultra, and the JFK Assassination were explored with undeniable evidence and important lines of questioning. Contrary to the belief that many of these subjects are mere ‘conspiracy theories’ brought on by people who only deal in circumstantial evidence and who believe anything that sounds like an entertaining theory, we’re seeing some real truth here. Truth that would completely change the public’s perspective on government and the intelligence community. The implications are huge when you really start to look at it and what the evidence clearly indicates.

This is not the only event that evidently shows coverups. Recent admissions by the US Navy has clearly indicated that government and intelligence communities have been keeping the public in the dark about UFOs for a long time. Looking at government documents and whistleblowers that have been available for decades, you can find out very quickly that much more is going on behind the scenes than people realize, and the discussion of UFOs is really nothing to be gawked at as it often is. Before public admission of the reality of UFOs, the media and many academics made fun of people who believed in UFOs as if they were crazy. Look at the 2008 TED talk of Skeptics Magazine founder Michael Shermer, he takes a comedic approach in discussing the topic of UFOs and concludes that if he could create a fake UFO picture, it likely meant that all are fake and people only believe in UFOs because they are crazy or have an undesirable proclivity to believe in weird things. This type of poor subject matter research has infected academia and the science community for decades, and it has informed a mainstream culture so deeply that people no longer know how to look at information objectively. Their emotions often decide whether they can even take a subject seriously.

Now those same ‘credible’ people and mainstream media are telling the public that UFOs are real. While they aren’t necessarily saying who is manning these UFOs, the conversation is quickly turning towards admitting to many of the things ‘conspiracy theorists’ have discussed for decades. One could say that UFOs, ‘the conspiracy theory,’ became reality when the NAVY admitted to the validity of the video evidence that emerged. Does this mean we know exactly what is going on with UFOs? No, but we know a lot more than what is being discussed publicly. Likewise, with the NSA’s ‘big brother spying’ program – it’s no longer a conspiracy theory thanks to Edward Snowden. In that sense, you can see where I’m getting my ‘conspireality’ term from – conspiracies that have become reality.

The question now is, how do we have conversations about remaining ‘conspiracies’ seriously? Where we look at the evidence with an open mind and truly see what it says.

Alternative media has been covering these topics for years prior to mainstream media even opening up to the idea. Alt media has been filling a void in media that aligns with a correct intuition people have that there is more to what we’re being told – and it involves some highly controversial topics. Hence the rise in alternative media. Popularity grew because it was feeding something deep within people that they felt but could not get from the mainstream. In return, the mainstream culture seems to have taken issue with the rise of alternative media as it represents a loss of having a monopoly on narratives.

Time For A Serious Conversation?

Before I continue I want to be clear that this is a complex and nuanced conversation, and the themes I’m going to discuss don’t apply to all people, but seem to be a big part of ‘alternative’ thinking culture.

As mainstream or traditional media continues to fail to ask the ‘right’ questions about what is going on in our world (whether it was due to a lack of interest on the part of journalists, direction from media directors, or perhaps a gag order from someone ‘higher up’), it can be said that alternative media may not always carry the necessary standards in reporting and conversation to be taken seriously. Yet these emerging conversations are incredibly important and needed. What I mean by this is, while the vast majority of those in alt media mean well, sometimes the standards for ‘proof’ or ‘evidence’ can be quite low. When this ‘evidence’ is presented to other people and they don’t believe it, there seems to be confusion on the parter of the presenter as they don’t understand why the ‘asleep’ person can’t seem to see the evidence they see.

In some cases, sure, we may see an outright denial of information, but in other cases, it truly is the case that the evidence is poor, but that some have a proclivity to simply believe every conspiracy – hence the need for a more serious conversation.

One other aspect of this I want to mention, that can be found in both mainstream/traditional media and some alternative media, is the lack of ‘spiritual’ context within current events. Meaning, there are deeper questions about who we are, why we’re here and what life is about that many who are starting to re-question and even experience. Yet mainstream media often doesn’t have the context to understand this nor empathetically report on it. It can be said that most of alternative media fits in this boat as well.

Just to summarize, there are two ingredients here.

  1. Fear of Controversy – A lack of covering controversial topics with an open mind.
  2. Foundational Worldview Context –  The lack of ‘deeper’ context pertaining to how we apply emerging understandings to deeper questions about who we are, why we’re here and what type of world we want to create. i.e. seeing current events as a reflection of an underlying human worldview/narrative/story.

Lately, I’ve been grappling with this difficult topic, and I sometimes find it a bit tough to even put into words. It is something I’ve loosely discussed for years now, but am now really moving to open up a dialogue about it more publicly as I believe we’ve reached an absolutely critical juncture in time where we must begin to explore themes I’m about to present. Themes that involve anything from free speech to societal decline, division, and our potential to create a world where we can thrive. I believe much of what we’ll discuss here is critical to all that and more.

I’m honestly reluctant to share this next short anecdote because I don’t want it to come off wrong, but I believe it lends very well to the overall point of this essay. The mere fact that I have taken the inspired position of discussing controversial subjects and the underlying human story (consciousness) that supports these events, all while focusing on hard evidence, has been a tough one professionally. Regardless of our huge platform reaching millions, we don’t get invited to events, talks or asked to present. Even though many organizers know who we are, claim to like our work and respect us, our perspective doesn’t seem or feel welcome. With no bad blood between anyone, we often wonder if it’s because some aspect of our work doesn’t fit into the box of any given event. Our ‘conspiracy beliefs’ are not wild enough for the conspiracy events, and our discussions of consciousness not accepted because we talk about ‘controversial stuff.’

The sentiment I’m sharing with this anecdote is, these two worlds cannot merge if we aren’t willing to have an honest, grounded, and serious conversation about both.

Moving on.

More specifically here, the topic I’ve struggled with lately is that I feel many people in the ‘alternative’ or ‘conspiracy’ community, defined contextually for this article as those who are often well-intended in seeking alternative narratives the mainstream does not offer, seem to have become very ideological, absolute, and extreme about their positions. The conversations being had often jump to conclusions even without evidence, and attack anyone who doesn’t agree with them as being ‘sheeple’ or brain dead. It’s creating huge divides, yet very few want to admit it. Most importantly, it’s making it very hard to have these important conversations about controversial topics that need to be had at this moment. Further, and as I foresaw years ago, it’s also inviting censorship.

Let’s get clear here. You might see a meme that shows a picture with Bill Gates and Jeffrey Epstein, and thus it automatically means we now have proof Gates is a pedophile. Or this type of stuff “The Deep State mass arrests are coming any day now…” just as they have been for the last 10 years. Yet still, “if you don’t understand that these mass arrests are coming, you’re asleep.”

The key distinction here is the sense of certainty, the sense that it’s all so obvious, even when it’s not. The use of poor evidence, circumstantial evidence, or none at all, to ‘prove’ what’s going on has overtaken critical thinking. It almost seems like people have become more interested in the entertainment value of this controversial information as opposed to how true it actually might be or how much evidence there truly is. It begs the question: “What’s the end goal? What is the point of alternative media really?”

Take the X22 report for example. He pulls together a ton of circumstantial evidence, matches it with Q posts and then offers an analysis. Many believe his work clearly shows facts in drawing conclusions, but in reality, it’s mere speculation. This is perfectly fine, but people are getting lost in seeing this as unequivocal fact, as opposed to mere speculation. X22 has suggested for example that Julian Assange is safe and sound and his arrest is nothing but ‘part of the plan’ by the Q patriots to save America from the Deep State. In his video, you can follow all of the evidence he proposes, why Assange had a book in his hand, what that book meant, and how it was a code for people to look deeper. This, while those close to Assange, including independent reporters and family, have been saying he is being tortured and suffering deeply in prison. So on one hand you have ‘truthers’ saying he’s fine, don’t worry, part of the plan. And then you have those who actually know him and have access to him saying the situation is bad and people need to help do something about it. Those same truthers have then said “don’t worry, those reporters and family are part of the plan too… it’s all optics.” You can see the issue here.

What I’m getting at is many popular voices in alternative media approach ‘conspiracy theories’ in a way that turns circumstantial evidence into unquestionable truth. Delivered with a sense of certainty or sweeping generalizations. They can often lack critical thinking because they match their circumstantial evidence with the overarching story they have chosen to believe as fact. In turn, many viewers of alternative media seem to have begun believing these ideas as pure truth, without applying the same critical thinking and rigor to alt narratives as they would have to mainstream narratives.

This by no means is everyone who watches alternative media. In fact, I have often stated and observed that many who do view alternative media do so because they have developed great critical thinking skills and have realized that there is not much value these days in watching mainstream or traditional media. That said, there is still a large group of presenters and viewers who make up a culture within the alternative space that does contribute to undermining these conversations. Take Jeffrey Epstein for example. A huge case that began to connect underage sex/pedophile rings to powerful people in the world. An idea that has been around for a long time thanks to survivors and whistleblowers who have told their story. The mainstream media has never done a good job of covering this, and traditional journalists have often shied away from it. Now though, this conversation is huge and ready to be had – people are listening.

Now again comes the part I’m trying to raise awareness about here: some people in the alternative community will undermine these conversations by aggressively positing that every politician pictured with Epstein is automatically a pedophile and involved. This among other assertions that are easy to debunk of course. This makes it easy for mainstream media or fact-checkers to begin easily debunking ‘conspiracy theories’ related to Jeffrey Epstein as bogus – and in a lot of cases, they are right. Yet, there is actually a meaningful conversation to be had here, there is truth to explore, but if people are not more careful, these conversations won’t be had because their lack of critical thinking and completely certain positions close the door for other onlookers. It ultimately makes it easy to bury this information as unfounded, delusional and baseless conspiracy theories. After all, a quick Google search will return plenty of mainstream media positions analyzing the psychological nature of ‘those who believe in conspiracy theories’ as if there is no real truth to any of them, and that people are just ‘out of their minds’ of sorts.

For myself personally, in doing this work for the last 11 years, it is extremely common to have our work lumped in all other “baseless conspiracy theories” due to the fact that we’re often covering the same topics that are considered baseless conspiracy theories because they were covered poorly by others or simply because they sound similar. We become guilty by association and part of a culture of people who seem to simply believe everything without any real evidence, this, regardless of the fact that we approach these important conversations with evidence and rigor. I know this because every time I meet one on one with people who think I’m a conspiracy theorist they realize very quickly I’m not, and see the bigger picture of our work. When I ask them where they get the idea from, it’s often because they just saw ONE headline that looked like some other conspiracy theory, so they shut it all out. This is the crux of my point, for a community so keen on getting truth out, the end result of the current approach is that serious dialogue is not being had. And no, it’s not always due to cognitive dissonance. We have to be more willing to look at the implications of our approach.

Perhaps you’ve had the experience where you suggest in conversation “I don’t feel Jeffrey Epstein killed himself.” And right away a friend says “oh, you sound like a conspiracy theorist.” One might assume it’s because that friend is not open-minded or was convinced by mainstream media it’s all a conspiracy, when in reality that friend may have witnessed a ton of laughable and paranoid content with weak evidence and harshly stated ‘facts’ that when researched, returned no real results. Thus the question becomes, is the ‘conspiracy’ community actually digging their own grave and just blaming mainstream media for why people don’t listen?

How Can We Adjust?

11 years ago I had a vision of creating media that approaches understanding our world in a different way. As our About Us page on CE states:

We live in a time where virtually every aspect of our society is changing or crumbling. Power is shifting and old ways of looking at and understanding our world are no longer working. New voices and ideas are emerging that encourage us to look more deeply at why our world is the way it is, and what about us creates it to be this way.

Collective Evolution is a news-media and education company that creates content to explore how humanity can shift our consciousness and way of being to evolve beyond the personal and global challenges we face. We help encourage the development of inner faculties to explore more about how we can arrive at truth as opposed to just saying what truth is. Our work encourages a greater connection to self, an increase of self-awareness and being aware of what’s around us. We encourage others to let information be as opposed to it defining who we are and developing ideology. 

What do our current events say about how we operate as people? What do our societal structures and common issues say about our level of thinking (consciousness) and what type of ideas we’re bringing to the table? What if the solution to the many challenges we feel we face today is actually in changing how we think, relate to one another, and even relate to our world?

We feel this is one of the key missing factors in mainstream media, alternative media and traditional societal discussions today, and therefore we create our content to inspire personal transformation and the expansion of collective consciousness through two key avenues: news media and personal transformation content.”

We’ve always felt that bringing the inner work, inner transformation aspect into making sense of our world was key as it is empowering and actually allows each person to take responsibility for what they are creating in their life and in the world. By developing inner faculties like critical thinking, presence, self-awareness, and intuition, we can better understand our world and why it is the way it is. We can also begin to become aware of an expanded state of who we are, which may choose to create society from a completely different mindset than simply believing we are a cog in the wheel with beliefs and ideologies that are outdated and don’t resonate with us.

Thus I’m putting forth a call here, firstly, perhaps it’s time we move on from this whole idea of calling things a “conspiracy theory.” We have learned by now that if we apply critical thinking and proper journalism to many of these controversial ideas, what’s worth exploring further becomes clear quickly. I discuss these ideas much more deeply in a video I produced on this subject in relation to a few early statements made by David Icke during a London Real interview about COVID-19. David assertively states that “COVID-19 does not exist” and then proceeds to make a strong link between COVID-19 and 5G. I’m not saying David is a bad researcher or anything of that fashion, on the contrary, I believe some of his work is solid, and asks some great questions. But what I’m saying is, if you look at the aftermath of that conversation, whereby assertions are made that are certainly nothing more than speculation but not presented as such, we can clearly see what shifts need to be made in how these conversations are approached so we can do a better job of having them seriously and uniting people.

5G as a conversation was deeply undermined as mainstream media had an easy time stating there is no evidence linking 5G to COVID, and now those who look into 5G safety might be highly skeptical because the ‘crazy conspiracy’ was that 5G created COVID. Further, there are serious discussions to be had around the origins of COVID-19 and whether or not the authoritarian measures are truly necessary, yet how can we easily have those conversations when such a large portion of the community is simply saying COVID is a hoax and that it doesn’t exist? This isn’t to say that these ideas should not be explored, this is the piece many seem to miss. They want it to be a black and white conversation – who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? Should I do this, or that? When in reality, this is a conversation about making sense of a situation that is extremely complex, and if we try and put forth one all-encompassing theory that is certain about what’s going on right now, we can’t possibly be accurate in that as we simply don’t know everything. So why assert it as such?  It is virtually impossible. Yet those who don’t agree with this all-encompassing and obvious agenda…. asleep.

We recently produced a 5 week course for our CE members called “Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.” This course is designed to help us increase our self awareness so we can better examine our thinking and bias. If we are to make sense of our reality more effectively, we have re-wire our thinking and build a deeper sense of connection to how we’re perceiving information. This course is a combination of video content and powerful exercises that effectively bring to light the way we think. You can learn more about this course here.

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Essay

The Unseen Damages Fact Checking Has On Public Discourse

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By now the discussion around the potential lab leak origins of COVID-19 is where it should be – in a space where we can admit we don’t know exactly what the truth is, but that there is in fact evidence of lab origins that should be investigated. This evidence was widely available to public health officials and the public as far back as February of 2020 when the pandemic began hitting Western countries and the origins battle began. Yet here we are in disarray, wondering how mainstream media and science labelled this story a ‘conspiracy theory’ in the first place.

We’ve covered the question of lab origins in depth through multiple pieces we’ve published since the pandemic began. A more recent article we published in March 2021, by Dr. Madhava Setty, pointed to the validity of lab origins even before the famous,  Nicholas Wade investigative piece. Due to public sentiment at the time, Dr. Setty’s article was met with criticism of course.

Back in September of 2020, I published a piece exploring the claims of a Chinese virologist named Dr. Li-Meng Yan who said she had proof that COVID was made in a Wuhan lab. Interestingly, our coverage was met with a fact check from PolitiFact claiming that our piece was false because her claims have been widely debunked. And it’s here where I want to turn your attention to how fact checking works and also discuss the unseen damages it causes to not only independent media public also public discourse. Inevitably, we’ll also have to discuss a truth I feel is emerging: fact checkers seems to be glorified journalists that re-enforce mainstream perspectives, as opposed to fact checking content.

How Fact Checking Happens

The way it works is, we painstakingly work on a piece, fact check it, edit it, and then publish. We then start disseminating our content to our networks via email and social media. If we’ve made a mistake, we usually catch it within hours as inevitably someone brings it to our attention. While this is not common, it happens, and it is a normal part of running a news/media publication. We then issue a correction and make it clear in the article. But when a fact checker gets involved it’s a bit different. We receive the dreaded email in our inbox claiming that an independent fact checker has rated our content posted on Facebook as false. We know what this means, and it’s rare that it’s actually a mistake.

It’s important to understand what happens next.

A notice is placed over top of our content on Facebook newsfeeds. Someone on Facebook would see something like this:

Readers are then given the option to read why it was considered “false” or “misleading” by reading an article written by a fact checker. In some cases, the fact checker is correctly ‘debunking’ poor claims made in an article. But in many cases, this isn’t quite what is going on. Sometimes, the fact checker merely disagrees with the objectivity of the article in question.

Before we continue, this “False Information” notice doesn’t just look bad on brand who produced the content, who’s logo appears next to the post in millions of newsfeeds, it also affects the content reach of the brand and thus their ad revenue.

From our data, which admittedly isn’t perfect, we typically see about a 75% reduction in traffic from Facebook when we are hit with a ‘fake news’ claim. That equates to a 75% reduction in our ad revenue as well considering that traffic is now gone. What’s worse is that Facebook seems to keep a log of how many fact checks a brand gets over time, and they claim that repeated false news strikes will result in long term reach reduction .

According to a 2021 article in Adweek,

Facebook will begin showing prompts to users who are about to follow a page that has repeatedly shared content deemed to be false by its independent fact-checking partners.

Facebook has also said that repeated sharing of misleading information could result in page deletion as well. Of course, no one knows just how much reach is taken away or how many strikes a brand needs for their page will be removed, but I can tell you we’ve gone from doing about 20 million page views a month in web traffic to about 3 million a month.

Evidence of our traffic loss over time. Source: Google Analytics

Almost all of our traffic loss is from the Facebook side, with about 15% coming from Google search after they systematically removed us from their search results in 2020.

Google’s systematic removal of our content from their search results. Source: Google Search Console.

Looking specifically at the Facebook side, ‘false news’ claims have huge implications on independent media companies, and it directly affects the bottomline. And what we’re about to get into explains how it’s not as though in all cases fact checkers are cleaning up fake stories, they are actually dead wrong – a lot. This attack on objective journalism can literally put a news company out of business. And no one is holding fact checkers accountable when they are flat out wrong.

Let’s take our story of the Chinese virologist that PolitiFact claimed was false back in September 2020. As of May 17, 2021, PolitiFact retracted their claim saying:

When this fact-check was first published in September 2020, PolitiFact’s sources included researchers who asserted the SARS-CoV-2 virus could not have been manipulated. That assertion is now more widely disputed. For that reason, we are removing this fact-check from our database pending a more thorough review. Currently, we consider the claim to be unsupported by evidence and in dispute. The original fact-check in its entirety is preserved below for transparency and archival purposes. Read our May 2021 report for more on the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19.”

I struggled to include this next bit in this piece because I truly don’t want to become petty here, but I don’t know how else to bring attention to how serious this situation truly is. Having been so intimately connected to this particular example since last year, I feel PolitiFact needs to be more honest and say something like:

“Here at PolitiFact we ignored sources of information that provided evidence that COVID may have originated in a lab. We only looked at evidence we thought was trustworthy from establishment sources. We did not spend enough time truly digging and applying objectivity, as journalists would, and thus we made unfounded assertions. We have since updated our story now that mainstream discourse has opened up to the idea of lab origins and now that our parents, mainstream media, told us it is OK to talk about it.”

However, this is obviously not what they wrote, because why would they? Instead, they are passing off their lack of objective research and blaming the “researchers” they sourced. For reference, here is what an objective look into this story would have produced, and why an obvious conflict of interest that ‘debunked’ the lab origins theory would have been found.

Recently, I’ve heard many people come to the defense of mainstream media and fact checkers when it comes to this ‘new’ information about COVID’s origins. Many have said things like “this is what science and journalism is, we update ideas. When new information comes forward and we see we are wrong we admit it, and move forward – updating our understandings. You should be congratulating people for changing their mind.”

But that’s not what happened. It’s not like no one knew what was going on with this information, they were just too busy hating Trump. Mainstream journalists ignored the evidence – and fact checkers followed right behind mainstream media and did the same. They did an objectively bad job of investigating this story and are now trying to celebrate their mind changing, all while continually attacking the sources that got it right from the start – independent media.

The position we took in our piece in September 2020 was simple: we don’t know enough about the origins of this virus and we need a call for further research. This was met with “this is a conspiracy theory that has been widely debunked.” And now those debunkers are admitting “we don’t know enough about the origins of this virus and we need a call for further research.”

So where is our compensation for lost revenues from Facebook or PolitiFact? Where is an apology and notification to people of Facebook that clears our name of wrong doing? There won’t be one and I’m OK with that. Could we really expect otherwise? At the same time, I feel we need to learn from the choices we’re making right now.

Learning From Cultural Mistakes

The sad part is, this is not the first time this has happened to us. To our tally of ‘fact checks’ since the start of Facebook’s campaign, only 2 of 15 have been correct, and they were more so about providing a bit of deeper context as opposed to incorrect facts.  Multiple times we have received ‘fact checks’ that stay on our page for a couple of days, only to be removed by fact checkers a day later claiming “oops this was a mistake” or even sometimes they sit in dead silence. Of course, the damage has already been done by the time they remove their mistaken fact check.

An email we received from Politifact for a fact check they wrongly applied to a piece of content we put out in 2020.

One recent fact check we received was from the small outfit called Lead Stories. They applied a fact check to one of our articles, but they cited an article that wasn’t ours. When we asked to discuss what was wrong our piece in particular they said they would look into it. They took over a month to respond, and they still have not provided any clarity as to why our piece is “missing context.” This too might be a case where pride is getting in the way and admitting there is nothing wrong with our piece is just too much – we don’t know, and that’s the problem. We won’t know if this bogus strike will be added to the pile of strikes we receive on Facebook that could one day lead to facebook terminating our account due to ‘repeated publishing of fake news.’

Another company called Science Feedback has a division called Health Feedback. They are who we deal with most. Typically Health Feedback handles health related stories that are usually the most relevant in culture at any given time. Think of things like COVID-19 or vaccine hesitancy. We’ve had multiple interactions with Health Feedback where they fact check our work and use straw-man arguments, that we do not make in our pieces, so they can debunk the straw-man claim and pretend they’ve debunked our piece. Communication with this organization typically goes nowhere productive as they hold strong to their opinions. Since they hold all the power, they wait for you to concede so you can get your business revenue back. This single fact is probably what the public does not understand about fact checking: they have the power to hold your ad revenue hostage by means of holding your social media traffic hostage.

How This Affects Public Discourse

Mainstream media often sends out a pretty common narrative across the board. Alternative or independent media often provide more information, another perspective, or even a counter perspective. Yet fact checking seems to have come along and ‘debunked’ that alternative perspective by using the same sources the mainstream uses – and in a lot of cases they are downright false. This makes fact checkers an apparently objective re-enforcement of mainstream narratives. This effectively negates the point of independent media.

Look at the COVID lab origins story as just one example of literally hundreds. People gave up on the idea, even called it downright crazy, just because mainstream media and fact checkers wrongly labelled the story a ‘conspiracy theory.’ For over a year, people argued, fought over this story. Companies who stuck with the truth saw their revenues and social media reach cut – only to be vindicated a year later, but with no real benefit to that vindication other than a personal pat on the back.

Fact checking does well to debunk obviously and verifiably false claims, but it is not always objective and thus shutting down meaningful discourse in public policy and science. Both important factors to creating a thriving society.

People have speculated that fact checking is just a way for powerful corporate interests to further police factually based dissenting ideas – they might be right. After all, look at the people behind some of these organizations.

Another way to look at it is, perhaps people began to notice that objectivity in journalism was dying. Fact checking then was a way to bring objectivity back to journalism by being a third party. Only, what’s happening doesn’t seem to support that idea as it appears fact checkers and mainstream media push their narratives in lockstep.

There are real problems in media too that aren’t just about facts. The political slanting in most mainstream and alternative media is obvious. Does that cloud the facts of a story? Does it manipulate the viewer? Does an organization choose to cover what supports its view as opposed to what is in the best interest of people? Sure, news organizations have to make money. And in many cases the first step to that is finding out who your target market is and tailor your message towards them. And in most cases, mainstream and alternative organizations are doing just that; usually aligning their content to the political views of their audience.

But in the case of mainstream media, they are also aligning with corporate interests or their main TV network sponsors, which is likely why when it comes to health and Pharma, one can’t expect to get ‘the whole story’ from mainstream news. It would be a direct conflict of interest. A conflict of interest that is not widely disclosed to you, the viewer, during every broadcast about these products, which it should be.

Now, in June 2021, with the Wuhan lab origins story of COVID being taken seriously by mainstream media, in stead of coming out and admitting they had it wrong from the start because they ignored facts an published improper journalism, they continue to weave a narrative of protection – further confusing the mass populace. Which is why, I hope, you read our news and watch our media, because we have consistently been ahead of the curve over the last 12 years.

This won’t be the last time.

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Essay

If You Want To “Trust The Science” Don’t Read The Washington Post

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10 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    When we trust media sources to explain the science, we are trusting the media source, not the science. The Washington Post's explanation of the risk the unvaccinated face is based on assumptions but presented as measurable fact.

  • Reflect On:

    So called fact checkers rarely challenge narratives coming from the MSM but unfairly attack the dissenting opinion. Who can we rely upon to fact check the fact checkers? In this piece, I demonstrate what is required of a reader to "know for oneself."

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It is being proclaimed on lawn signs and social media memes, on T-shirts and in PSAs. From sea to shining sea, the message is clear: Trust the Science! This is the mantra chanted by pro-vaccine portions of the population to encourage us to do our part. Getting the jab is no longer a matter of debate. There is only one sensible choice: vaccinate or be condemned to the anti-science movement that denies the horrors of polio and remains entrenched in a flat-earth delusion.

Scientists Do Not “Trust The Science”

I have a message for all you “science trusters”: scientists don’t trust the science. Scientists are the most skeptical of the science because they know that science is always changing. That is why our understanding evolves, and why we trust the scientists to begin with.

Scientists trust the scientific method, which is an entirely different thing. In order to do the systematic measurement, experimentation, observation and reformulation of hypotheses, the scientific method demands that we approach what is happening with an open mind, so that all possibilities are on the table to begin with. It is their unbiased approach to examining what is that instills credibility to their opinion.

Unless you are a scientist yourself, it is very hard to understand what the scientists are actually saying. Trusting the science is not the same thing as trusting what the media is telling you what the science says. This is becoming more and more evident as MSM sources continue to distort and oversimplify nuanced and complicated subjects into sound bites, tweets and headlines. In this article I attempt to explain how to critically examine content published in Mainstream Media that attempts to explain “the science”.

“Lab Origins” Was Always The Scientific Position

Perhaps the biggest example of the enormous amount of Mainstream media distortion around scientific matters is the recent acknowledgement that the SARS-COV2 virus was most likely engineered in a laboratory. Of course no new evidence emerged recently. The evidence pointing to lab origins was available 15 months ago, but it was portrayed as an absurd notion unworthy of any consideration by any legitimate news source. Nevertheless, Collective Evolution covered it here nearly three months ago.

How Do We Know If The Vaccine Is Proving Effective ?

The arguments for universal vaccination have been starting to shift now that hundreds of millions of people have been vaccinated. Is the vaccine making an impact on the spread of Covid-19? That is an extremely difficult question to answer. Unless we have access to clear data that demonstrates the rate of infection in the unvaccinated compared to the vaccinated we can only guess. Why don’t we have those numbers now? It’s because we haven’t completed Phase III trials of the first vaccines that were formulated. That’s why we do the trials and why we generally wait for them to be completed before giving the vaccine to anyone.

The best data I have seen has come from Israel and published in the New England Journal of Medicine on February 24, 2021. They matched nearly 600,000 vaccinated individuals with unvaccinated ones and observed them over 42 days. At the end of that period approximately 10,000 documented cases of Covid-19 resulted, the unvaccinated outnumbered the vaccinated by about 5 to 4. To be precise, 57% of the people who got documented Covid-19 in this examination were not vaccinated. What this means is that vaccine efficacy over the entire period of observation is:

(57-43)/57=24.6%

On the other hand, the vaccine seemed to be more effective (over 91%) as time went on. This is of course encouraging and is more representative of what the vaccine’s efficacy really is. However, if we compare the incidence of the disease in the unvaccinated to the vaccinated after 35 days we are now dealing with a much smaller pool of subjects. At that point there were 47 unvaccinated people that contracted the disease compared to 4 that were vaccinated. The vaccines may prove to be that effective as time goes on.

Perhaps what is more telling is that at the end of the study period only about 1% of the people got Covid-19. Of those, 43% were vaccinated. This means the absolute risk reduction of vaccination is just over 0.1%. In other words, in order to prevent 1 case, 1000 people need to be vaccinated. If the vaccine continues to demonstrate a 91% efficacy then 110 vaccinations would prevent a single case in the long run. The point here is that unless one is willing to look more closely it is very easy to come to unsound conclusions, especially around the true impact of the vaccine.

The Washington Post Used Circular Reasoning To Make False Claims

The Washington Post has built an interactive Covid-19 data tracking page called “The Unseen Covid-19 Risk for Unvaccinated People” on May 21, 2021. This page was cited by a member of my social media community as proof that the vaccines were very effective and, based on the title of their page, the unvaccinated were facing a risk “unseen”. This person was quite convinced that remaining unvaccinated was irrational if not unconscionable and the data proved it. After all, it was in the Washington Post, a publication with a long history of balanced and rigorous inquiry.

The page demonstrates rates of infection among unvaccinated compared to the total population over time. From the day that vaccines began, it seemed (from the dozens of graphs presented) that the rate of infection in the total population began to drop faster than that of the unvaccinated. This was demonstrated in a number of selected states and not the country as a whole. Could they be cherry picking data? Of course. Nevertheless, I was surprised to see such a marked effect of the vaccines in any given population, cherry picked or not.

However, upon closer inspection something was missing. Where was the plot showing the rate of infection among the vaccinated? It wasn’t shown. The graphs only plotted total rates compared to unvaccinated rates. The mystery deepens…

Numbers of unvaccinated and vaccinated people with infection were not counted

If you searched for the raw data (the numbers of people who got covid who were vaccinated and unvaccinated), you won’t find it. So how are they able to tell us the rate of infection in the unvaccinated? They weren’t telling us that at all. Instead they created a variable which they call “Rate adjusted for Unvaccinated”. To see how they arrive at this “rate” you must read their methodology section at the bottom. In it they demonstrate their deception. They assume that 85% of all people vaccinated could not contribute to the total number of cases. They make that assumption based on a small study from the CDC involving about 4,000 people (one tenth that of the Pfizer study). They then apply this to all the states in their plots. 

This is a big assumption. Although the authors cite the study upon which this assumption is made in at the bottom of the article in the “methodology” section, the assumed efficacy of the vaccine (85%) is never explicitly stated in the body of the article. Perhaps the vaccine will turn out to be that good. The point here is that there is no consensus on what the vaccine efficacy is (Phase III trials are yet to be completed), and they buried their assumptions in the methodology section.

Let’s go back to the basics. These are the proper scientific definitions:

Total Case rate = Total Number of Cases/Total Population

Vaccinated rate = Number of Cases in Vaccinated/Number of Vaccinated 

Unvaccinated rate = Number of Cases in Unvaccinated/Number of Unvaccinated

Hopefully that was straightforward and logical. The Washington Post then introduces this term:

Rate adjusted for Unvaccinated = Total Cases/(Total Population – 0.85 x Vaccinated)

What is wrong with this? Nothing–as long as they know that only 15% of the vaccinated are contributing to the number of cases. But they don’t know this, they are assuming this in order to make their graphs. To casual Washington Post readers (numbering in the millions), it would be easy to look at the graphs and believe that that is what is being reported while in fact that is what the graphs would look like if their assumption were true. 

They are taking out 85% of the vaccinated people from the total population to calculate the new “rate” and calling that the Rate of Unvaccinated. This would in fact be true if they actually measured every population in each plot and confirmed that 85% of the vaccinated people were not contributing to the case count. But that is not what they did. They assumed that was the case, drew their plots and “demonstrated” that the rates in unvaccinated people were much worse than the vaccinated. This is pure circular reasoning.

Notice that in their formula for “Rate adjusted for Unvaccinated” the denominator is the difference between the Total Population and 85% of the vaccinated. What do you suppose happens to the adjusted unvaccinated rate as more people get vaccinated? Before answering, “it gets bigger!” notice that it depends. It depends on “Total Cases” which had also been dropping day after day. However in every graph they compare Total Case rate and Rate adjusted for Unvaccinated. A quick glance at the formulas above should lead you to the conclusion that “Rate adjusted for Unvaccinated” will always be larger than Total Case rate as more and more people get vaccinated. That is what every graph they published demonstrated. They are not introducing another artifact; it is the direct result of their assumption that in every geographical area plotted 85% of the vaccinated are protected.

They deepen the deception by subsequently referring to their “Rate adjusted for the unvaccinated” as “case rate for the unvaccinated” by subtly removing the word “adjusted”. As explained and defined above, the unvaccinated case rate requires that the actual number of unvaccinated individuals who are infected were counted. This is pure manipulation. What happened to the fact checkers?

They conclude the article by quoting Umair A. Shah, Washington State Secretary of health who makes this audacious claim:

“The people who are not vaccinated are the ones who are not wearing a mask or washing their hands. Those are the very people who oftentimes will socialize and be around similar like-minded people. You’re going to have the pandemic continue in those clusters.”

I wonder how Dr. Shah, an MD and epidemiologist was able to make this measurement? Did he survey unvaccinated people to see if they were wearing masks or washing their hands? Did he surveil them? This level of propaganda coming from the Washington Post or any other media platform is unconscionable yet continues to go unchecked.

The Takeaway

The Washington Post is not the only culprit in this kind of manipulation. In this piece from CE, similar kinds of spin were apparent in the NYTimes in their effort to paint 5G naysayers as Russian apologists and citing articles that contradicted their own position. Are established, corporate funded publications given an enormous amount of latitude because of their reputation? Or is it because they contribute to a narrative that is accepted by their sponsors and “independent” fact-checkers? I believe it is both.

(This article was corrected on June 7, 2021 to clarify the efficacy results from the NEJM paper submitted 2/24/21)

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Essay

Scientists Explain The Catastrophic Impact of Covid Forced Societal Lockdowns

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CE Staff Writer 33 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A group of doctors and scientists published an Essay for the American Institute for Economic Research explaining and presenting the data and science as to why they believe lockdowns are not only harmful in many ways, but useless to combat COVID.

  • Reflect On:

    Why is evidence, information and opinion that contradicts the information we are receiving from government health authorities and mainstream media usually ridiculed, censored, and unacknowledged? What's going on here?

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The COVID-19 crises has been quite the catalyst for more people to question whether or not our governments are capable of making the right decisions in such a time, decisions based on rationality, science and data. Never before have we seen such a split in the scientific and medical community, and that’s okay. Science is about transparency, discussion, debate and critical questioning. If anything during such a time, this should be encouraged. Instead, what’s happened with COVID-19 is a complete shutdown of evidence, data, science and opinions that seem to constantly contradict the information and recommendations given to the masses by government/public health authorities, the World Health Organization (WHO), and mainstream media. Scientists, doctors, journalists and people of all backgrounds and professions risk having their social media accounts deleted if they decide to ‘go against the grain’ so to speak.

Over the last few months, I have seen academic articles and op-eds by professors retracted or labeled “fake news” by social media platforms. Often, no explanation is provided. I am concerned about this heavy-handedness and, at times, outright censorship. – Vinay Prasad, MD, MPH (source)

This censorship campaign itself has also been a catalyst, it simply makes people more curious as to what type of information is being censored and why. Why is it that someone like Dr. Anthony Fauci, for example, gets all of the air time he desires yet some of the most prominent scientists in the field who oppose measures taken by governments to combat COVID-19 never see the light of day? Mainstream media, unfortunately, has the ability to control the perception of the masses when it comes to not just COVID, but various other issues our world has been plagued with for decades.

Science is being suppressed for political and financial gain. Covid-19 has unleashed state corruption on a grand scale, and it is harmful to public health. Politicians and industry are responsible for this opportunistic embezzlement. So too are scientists and health experts. The pandemic has revealed how the medical-political complex can be manipulated in an emergency—a time when it is even more important to safeguard science. – Dr. Kamran Abbasi, recent former executive editor of the British Medical Journal, editor of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, and a consultant editor for PLOS Medicine, Editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine and JRSM Open.

This is why I feel it’s important to present a recent article published by the American Institute for Economic Research outlining the “catastrophic” impacts of forced societal lockdowns.

The article was written by Dr. Paul E. Alexander, PhD, University of Oxford, University of Toronto, McMaster University-Assistant Professor, Health Research Methods (HEI). It was co-authored by Howard Tenenbaum, DDS, PhD, MD , a professor at the University of Toronto; Harvey Risch, MD, PhD, a Professor of Epidemiology at the Yale School of Medicine; Ramin Oskoui, MD; Peter McCullough, MD, Vice Chief of Medicine at Baylor University Medical Center, and Nicholas E. Alexander. You can also find their contact info here.

“We present 31 high-quality sources of evidence [which] show that COVID #lockdowns have been a failure.”

The Catastrophic Impact of Covid Forced Societal Lockdowns:

The present Covid-inspired forced lockdowns on business and school closures are and have been counterproductive, not sustainable and are, quite frankly, meritless and unscientific. They have been disastrous and just plain wrong! There has been no good reason for this. These unparalleled public health actions have been enacted for a virus with an infection mortality rate (IFR) roughly similar (or likely lower once all infection data are collected) to seasonal influenza. Stanford’s John P.A. Ioannidis identified 36 studies (43 estimates) along with an additional 7 preliminary national estimates (50 pieces of data) and concluded that among people <70 years old across the world, infection fatality rates ranged from 0.00% to 0.57% with a median of 0.05% across the different global locations (with a corrected median of 0.04%). Let me write this again, 0.05%. Can one even imagine the implementation of such draconian regulations for the annual flu? Of course not! Not satisfied with the current and well-documented failures of lockdowns, our leaders are inexplicably doubling and tripling down and introducing or even hardening punitive lockdowns and constraints. They are locking us down ‘harder.’ Indeed, an illustration of the spurious need for these ill-informed actions is that they are being done in the face of clear scientific evidence showing that during strict prior societal lockdowns, school lockdowns, mask mandates, and additional societal restrictions, the number of positive cases went up! No one can point to any instance where lockdowns have worked in this Covid pandemic.

It is also noteworthy that these irrational and unreasonable restrictive actions are not limited to any one jurisdiction such as the US, but shockingly have occurred across the globe. It is stupefying as to why governments, whose primary roles are to protect their citizens, are taking these punitive actions despite the compelling evidence that these policies are misdirected and very harmful; causing palpable harm to human welfare on so many levels. It’s tantamount to insanity what governments have done to their populations and largely based on no scientific basis. None! In this, we have lost our civil liberties and essential rights, all based on spurious ‘science’ or worse, opinion, and this erosion of fundamental freedoms and democracy is being championed by government leaders who are disregarding the Constitutional (USA) and Charter (Canada) limits to their right to make and enact policy. These unconstitutional and unprecedented restrictions have taken a staggering toll on our health and well-being and also target the very precepts of democracy; particularly given the fact that this viral pandemic is no different in overall impact on society than any previous pandemics. There is simply no defensible rationale to treat this pandemic any differently.

There is absolutely no reason to lock down, constrain and harm ordinarily healthy, well, and younger or middle-aged members of the population irreparably; the very people who will be expected to help extricate us from this factitious nightmare and to help us survive the damages caused by possibly the greatest self-inflicted public health fiasco ever promulgated on societies. There is no reason to continue this illogical policy that is doing far greater harm than good. Never in human history have we done this and employed such overtly oppressive restrictions with no basis. A fundamental tenet of public health medicine is that those with actual disease or who are at great risk of contracting disease are quarantined, not people with low disease risk; not the well! This seems to have been ignored by an embarrassingly large number of health experts upon whom our politicians rely for advice. Rather we should be using a more ‘targeted’ (population-specific age and risk) approach in relation to the implementation of public health measures as opposed to the inelegant and shotgun tactics being forced upon us now. Optimally, the key elements for modern public health include refraining from causing societal disruption (or at most, minimally) and to ensure freedom is maintained in the advent of pathogen emergence while concurrently protecting overall health and well-being. We also understand that at the outset of the pandemic there was little to no reliable information regarding SARS CoV-2. Indeed, initial case fatality rate (CFR) reports were staggeringly high and so it made sense, earlier, to impose strict lockdowns and other measures until such a time as the danger passed or we understood more clearly the nature of this virus, the data, and how it might be managed. But why would we continue this way and for so long once the factual characteristics of this virus became evident and as alluded to above, we finally realized that its infection fatality rate (IFR) which is a more accurate and realistic reflection of mortality than CFR, was really no worse than annual influenza? Governments and medical experts continuing to cite CFR are deeply deceitful and erroneous and meant to scare populations with an exaggerated risk of death. The prevailing opinion of our experts and politicians seems to be to “stop Covid at all costs.” If so, this is a highly destructive, illogical, and unsound policy and flies in the face of all accepted concepts related to modern public health medicine. Unfortunately, it seems that our political leadership is still bound to following the now debunked and discredited models of pandemic progression, the most injurious and impactful model having been released upon the world in the form of the Imperial College Ferguson model that was based on untested fictional projections and assumptions that have been flat wrong. These models used inaccurate input and were fatally flawed.

How Did We Get Here?

Let us start with a core position that just because there is an emergency situation, if we cannot stop it, this does not provide a rationale for instituting strategies that have no effect or are even worse. We have to fight the concept that if there’s truly nothing we can do to alter the course of a situation (e.g., disease), we still have to do something even if it’s ineffective! Moreover, we do not implement a public health policy that is catastrophic and not working, and then continue its implementation knowing it is disastrous. Let us also start with the basic fact that the government bureaucrats and their medical experts deceived the public by failing to explain in the beginning that everyone is not at equal risk of severe outcome if infected. This is a key Covid omission and this omission has been used tacitly and wordlessly to drive hysteria and fear. Indeed, the public still does not understand this critically important distinction. The vast majority of people are at little if any risk of severe illness and yet these very people are needlessly cowering in fear because of misinformation and, sadly, disinformation. Yet, lockdowns did nothing to change the trajectory of this pandemic, anywhere! Indeed, it’s highly probable that if lockdowns did anything at all to change the course of the pandemic, they extended our time of suffering.

What are The Effects of Lockdowns on the General Population?

On the basis of actuarial and real-time data we know that there are tremendous harms caused by these unprecedented lockdowns and school closures. These strategies have devastated the most vulnerable among us – the poor – who are now worse off. It has hit the African-American, Latino, and South Asian communities devastatingly. Lockdowns and especially the extended ones have been deeply destructive. There is absolutely no reason to even quarantine those up to 70 years old. Readily accessible data show there is near 100% probability of survival from Covid for those 70 and under. This is why the young and healthiest among us should be ‘allowed’ to become infected naturally, and spread the virus among themselves. This is not heresy. It is classic biology and modern public health medicine! And yes, we are referring to ‘herd immunity,’ the latter condition which for reasons that are beyond logic is being touted as a dangerous policy despite the fact that herd immunity has protected us from millions of viruses for tens of thousands of years. Those in the low to no risk categories must live reasonably normal lives with sensible common-sense precautions (while doubling and tripling down with strong protections of the high-risk persons and vulnerable elderly), and they can become a case ‘naturally’ as they are at almost zero risk of subsequent illness or death. This approach could have helped bring the pandemic to an end much more rapidly as noted above, and we also hold that the immunity developed from a natural infection is likely much more robust and stable than anything that could be developed from a vaccine. In following this optimal approach, we will actually protect the highest at risk amongst us.

Where has Common Sense and True Scientific Thought Gone?

There appears to be a surfeit of panic but a paucity of logic and common sense when it comes to advising our politicians and the public in relation to the pandemic. We hear often misleading information from hundreds of individuals who either hold themselves out as being infallible medical experts or are crowned as such by mainstream media. And we are bombarded relentlessly with their ill-informed, often illogical, and unempirical advice on a 24/7 basis. Much of the advice can only be described as being intellectually dishonest, absurd, untethered from reality and devoid of common sense. They exhibit a kind of academic sloppiness and cognitive dissonance that ignores key data or facts, while driving a sense of hopelessness and helplessness among the public. These ‘experts’ seem unable to read the science or simply do not understand the data, or seem blinded by it. They and our government leaders talk about “following the science” but do not appear to understand the science enough in order to apply the knowledge towards the decision-making process (if there are processes, that is; most political mandates appear random at best and capricious at worst). These experts have lost all credibility. And all this despite the fact that our bureaucrats now have had at their disposal nearly one year of data and experience to inform their decision-making and despite this they continue to listen to the nonsensical advice they receive from people who are not actually experts. Consequently, we are now faced with a self-created medical and societal disaster with losses that might never be reversed.

Sadly, when faced with rational arguments that run counter to the near religiously held beliefs, which hold that lockdowns save lives, bureaucrats and medical experts act as ideological enforcers. They attack anyone who disagrees with them and even use the media as their attack dogs once their fiats are questioned. Even more egregious are the often successful actions aimed at destroying the reputations of anyone holding diverse views related to the Covid pandemic. There is also no interest or debate on the crushing harms on societies caused by decrees made by ideologues. The everyday clinicians and nurses at the forefront of the battle are our real heroes and we must never forget and confuse these Praetorian vanguards with the unempirical and often reckless ‘medical experts.’ We hold that the very essence of science and logical thought includes the ability and in fact the responsibility to challenge (reasonably) currently held dogmas; a philosophy that appears to be anathema to our leaders and their advisors.

Current Data Concerning Lockdown Effects

Let us start with the staggering statement by Germany’s Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development, Gerd Muller, who has openly cautioned that global lockdown measures will result in the killing of more people than Covid itself. A recent Lancet study reported that government strategies to deal with Covid such as lockdowns, physical distancing, and school closures are worsening child malnutrition globally, whereby “strained health systems and interruptions in humanitarian response are eroding access to essential and often life-saving nutrition services.”

What is the actual study-level/report evidence in terms of lockdowns? We present 31 high-quality sources of evidence below for consideration that run the gamut of technical reports to scientific manuscripts (including several under peer-review, but which we have subjected to rigorous review ourselves). We set the table with this, for the evidence emphatically questions the merits of lockdowns, and shows that lockdowns have been an abject failure, do not work to prevent viral spread and in fact cause great harm. This proof includes: evidence from Northern Jutland in Denmark, country level analysis by Chaudhry, evidence from Germany on lockdown validity, UK research evidence, Flaxman research on the European experience, evidence originating from Israel, further European lockdown evidence, Western European evidence published by Meunier, European evidence from ColomboNorthern Ireland and Great British evidence published by Rice, additional Israeli data by Shlomai, evidence from Cohen and Lipsitch, Altman’s research on the negative effectsDjaparidze’s research on SARS-CoV-2 waves across Europe, Bjørnskov’s research on the economics of lockdowns, Atkeson’s global research on nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), Belarusian evidence, British evidence from Forbes on spread from children to adults, Nell’s PANDATA analysis of intercountry mortality and lockdowns, principal component analysis by De Larochelambert, McCann’s research on states with lowest Covid restrictions, Taiwanese research, Levitt’s research, New Zealand’s research, Bhalla’s Covid research on India and the IMF, nonpharmaceutical lockdown interventions (NPIs) research by Ioannidis, effects of lockdowns by Herby, and lockdown groupthink by Joffe. The American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) further outlines prominent public health leaders and agencies’ positions on societal lockdowns, all questioning and arguing against the effectiveness of lockdowns.

A recent pivotal study from Stanford University looking at stay-at-home and business closure lockdown effects on the spread of Covid by Bendavid, Bhattacharya, and Ioannidis examined restrictive versus less restrictive Covid policies in 10 nations (8 countries with harsh lockdowns versus two with light public health restrictions). They concluded that there was no clear benefit of lockdown restrictions on case growth in any of the 10 nations.

Key seminal evidence arguing against lockdowns and societal restrictions emerged from a recent quasi-natural experiment (case-controlled experimental data) that emerged in the Northern Jutland region in Denmark. Seven of the 11 municipalities (similar and comparable) in the region went into extreme lockdown that involved a travel ban across municipal borders, closing schools, the hospitality sector and other settings and venues (in early November 2020) while the four remaining municipalities employed the usual restrictions of the rest of the nation (moderate). Researchers reported that reductions in infection had occurred prior to the lockdowns and also decreased in the four municipalities without lockdowns. Conclusion: surveillance and voluntary compliance make lockdowns essentially meaningless.

Moreover, in a similarly comprehensive analysis of global statistics regarding Covid, carried out by Chaudhry and company involved assessment of the top 50 countries (ranked as having the most cases of Covid) and concluded that “rapid border closures, full lockdowns, and widespread testing were not associated with Covid mortality per million people.” Conclusion: there is no evidence that the restrictive government actions saved lives.

A very recent publication by Duke, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins researchers reported that there could be approximately one million excess deaths over the next two decades in the US due to lockdowns. These researchers employed time series analyses to examine the historical relation between unemployment, life expectancy, and mortality rates. They report in their analysis that the shocks to unemployment are then followed by significant rises (statistically) in mortality rates and reductions in life expectancy. Alarmingly, they approximate that the size of the Covid-19-related unemployment to fall between 2 and 5 times larger than the typical unemployment shock, and this is due to (associated with) race/gender. There is a projected 3.0% rise in the mortality rate and a 0.5% reduction in life expectancy over the next 10 to 15 years for the overall American population and due to the lockdowns. This impact they reported will be disproportionate for minorities e.g. African-Americans and also for women in the short term, and with more severe consequences for white males over the longer term. This will result in an approximate 1 million additional deaths during the next 15 years due to the consequences of lockdown policies. The researchers wrote that the deaths caused by the economic and societal deterioration due to lockdowns may “far exceed those immediately related to the acute Covid-19 critical illness…the recession caused by the pandemic can jeopardize population health for the next two decades.”

Overall, the research evidence alluded to here (including a lucid summary by Ethan Yang of the AIER) suggests that lockdowns and school closures do not lead to lower mortality or case numbers and have not worked as intended. It is clear that lockdowns have not slowed or stopped the spread of Covid. Often, effects are artifactual and superfluous as declines were taking place even before lockdowns came into effect. In fact, in Europe, it was shown that in most cases, mortality rates were already 50% lower than peak rates by the time lockdowns were instituted, thus making claims that lockdowns were effective in reducing mortality spurious at best. Of course, this also means that the presumptive positive effects of lockdowns were and have been exaggerated grossly. Evidence shows that nations and settings that apply less stringent social distancing measures and lockdowns experience the same evolution (e.g. deaths per million) of the epidemic as those that apply far more stringent regulations.

What does this all mean?

As a consequence of their (hopefully) well-intended actions, our governments along with their medical experts have created a disaster for people. It means that the public’s trust has been severely eroded. Lockdowns are not an acceptable long-term strategy, have failed and have severely impacted populations socially, economically, psychologically, and health wise! Future generations would be crippled by these actions. The policies have been poorly thought out and are economically unsustainable and there is a massive cost to it as it is highly destructive. Our children and younger people are going to be shouldered with the indirect but very real harms and costs of lockdowns for a generation to come at least.

What are the real impacts on populations from these disastrous restrictive policies? Well, the poorer among us have been at increased risk from deaths of despair (e.g. suicides, opioid-related overdoses, murder/manslaughter, severe child abuse etc.). Politicians, media, and irrational medical experts must stop lying to the public by only telling stories of the suffering from Covid while ignoring the catastrophic harms caused by their decree actions. Lives are being ruined and lost and businesses are being destroyed forever. Lower-income Americans, Canadians, and other global citizens are much more likely to be compelled to work in unsafe conditions. These are employees with the least bargaining power, tending to be minority, female, and hourly paid employees. Moreover, Covid has revealed itself as a disease of disparity and poverty. This means that black and minority communities are disproportionately affected by the pandemic itself and they take a double hit, being additionally and disproportionately ravaged by the effects of the restrictive policies.

Why would we impose more catastrophic restrictive policies when they have not worked? We even have government leaders now enacting harder and even more draconian lockdowns after admitting that the prior ones have failed. These are the very experts and leaders making societal policies and demands without them having to experience the effects of their policies. There is absolutely no good justification for what was done and continues to be done to societies, when we know of the very low risk of severe illness from Covid for vast portions of societies! We do not need to destroy our societies, the lives of our people, our economies, or our school systems to handle Covid. We cannot stop Covid at all costs!

How is Population Health and Well-being in the US Affected by Current Public Health Measures?

Businesses have closed and many are never to return, jobs have been lost, and lives ruined and more of this is on the way; meanwhile, we have seen an increase in anxiety, depression, hopelessness, dependency, suicidal ideation, financial ruin, and deaths of despair across societies due to the lockdowns. For example, preventive healthcare has been delayed. Life-saving surgeries and tests/biopsies were stopped across the US. All types of deaths escalated and loss of life years increased across the last year. Chemotherapy and hip replacements for Americans were sidelined along with vaccines for vaccine-preventable illness in children (approximately 50%). Thousands may have died who might have otherwise survived an injury or heart ailment or even acute stroke but did not seek clinical or hospital help out of fear of contracting Covid.

Specifically, and based on CDC reporting (and generalizable to global nations), during the month of June in the US, approximately 25% (1 in 4) Americans aged 18-24 considered suicide not due to Covid, but due to the lockdowns and the loss of freedom and control in their lives and lost jobs etc. There were over 81,000 drug overdose deaths in the 12 months ending in May 2020 in the US, the most ever recorded in a 12-month period. In late June 2020, 40% of US adults reported that they were having very difficult times with mental health or substance abuse and linked to the lockdowns. Approximately 11% of adults reported thoughts of suicide in 2020 compared to approximately 4% in 2018. During April to October 2020, emergency room visits linked to mental health for children aged 5-11 increased near 25% and increased 31% for those aged 12-17 years old as compared to 2019. During June 2020, 13% of survey respondents said that they had begun or substantially increased substance use as a means to cope day-to-day with the pandemic and lockdowns. Over 40 states reported rises in opioid-related deaths. Roughly 7 in 10 Gen-Z adults (18-23) reported depressive symptoms from August 4 to 26. There is a projected decrease in life expectancy by near 6 million years of life in US children due to the US primary school closure. These are some of the real harms in the US and we have not even discussed the devastation falling upon other nations. From June to August 2020, homicides increased over 50% and aggravated assaults increased 14% compared to the same period in 2019. Diagnosis for breast cancer declined 52% in 2020 compared to 2018. Pancreatic cancer diagnosis declined 25% in 2020 compared to 2018. The diagnosis for 6 leading cancers e.g. breast, colorectal, lung, pancreatic, gastric, and esophageal declined 47% in 2020 compared to 2018. From March 25 and April 10 in the US, “nearly one-third of adults (31.0 percent) reported that their families could not pay the rent, mortgage, or utility bills, were food insecure, or went without medical care because of the cost.”

Sadly, the very elderly we seek to protect the most are being decimated by the lockdowns and restrictions imposed at the nursing/long-term/assisted-living/care homes they reside in. Just look at the death and disaster New York has endured under Governor Andrew Cuomo with the nursing home deaths and the Department of Health (DOH) Covid reporting. The Attorney General Letitia James deserves credit for her bravery, for it brings to light not only a very dark day in New York’s history with Covid but that of the US on the whole given that New York and the accrued deaths make up such a large proportion of all deaths in the US and nursing homes from Covid-19. Deaths as per James may be at least 50% higher than was reported by Cuomo. Cuomo’s policy to send hospitalized Covid patients back to the nursing homes was catastrophic and caused many deaths. Gut wrenchingly, across the US nursing homes, reports are showing that the restrictions from visitations and normal routines for our seniors in these settings have accelerated the aging process, with many reports of increased falls (often with fatal outcomes) due to declining strength and loss of ability to adequately ambulate. Dementia is escalating as the rhyme and rhythm of daily life is lost for our precious elderly in these nursing homes, long-term care (LTC), and assisted-living homes (AL) and there is a sense of hopelessness and depression with the isolation from restricting the irreplaceable interaction with loved ones.

The truth also is that many children – and particularly those less advantaged – get their main needs met at school, including nutrition, eye tests and glasses, and hearing tests. Importantly, schools often function as a protective system or watchguard for children who are sexually or physically abused and the visibility of it declines with school closures. Due to the lockdowns and the lost jobs, adult parents are very angry and bitter, and the stress and pressure in the home escalates due to lost jobs/income and loss of independence and control over their lives as well as the dysfunctional remote schooling that they often cannot optimally help with. Some tragically are reacting by lashing out at each other and their children. There are even reports that children are being taken to the ER with parents stating that they think they may have killed their child who is unresponsive. In fact, since the Covid lockdowns were initiated in Great Britain as an example, it has been reported that incidence of abusive head trauma in children has risen by almost 1,500%!

In addition, the widespread mass testing of asymptomatic persons in a society is very harmful to public health. The key metric is not the number of new active cases (i.e. positive PCR test results) being reported and misrepresented by the vocal experts and media, but rather what are the hospitalizations that result, the ICU bed use, the ventilation use, and the deaths. We only become concerned with a new ‘case’ if the person becomes ill. If you are a case but do not get ill or at very low risk of getting ill, what does it matter if the high risk and elderly are already properly secured? It is also remarkable that while hospitals had nearly 10-11 months to prepare for the putative second wave of Covid, why do these healthcare institutions claim to be unprepared? Are the lockdowns and the resulting loss of businesses, jobs, homes, lives, and anguish that result, really due to government’s failures? And what are the reasons for the mass hysteria when most data show that whether prepared or not, most hospitals are not experiencing any more strain on their capacity than seen in most normal flu seasons? Why the misleading information to the public? This makes absolutely no sense.

Are we anywhere ahead today? In no way and we are much worse off today. So why not allow people to make common sense decisions, take precautions, and go on with their daily lives? We know that children 0-10 years or so have a near zero risk of death from Covid (with a very small risk of spreading Covid in schools, spreading to adults, or taking it home). We know that persons 0-19 years have an approximate 99.997 percent likelihood of survival, those 20-49 have roughly a 99.98 percent probability of survival, and those 50-69/70 years an approximate 99.5 percent risk of survival. But this ‘good news’ data is never reported by the media and “experts.” Covid is less deadly for young people/children than the annual flu and more deadly for older people than the flu. We must not downplay this virus and it is different to the flu and can be catastrophic for the elderly. However, the vast majority of people (reasonably healthy persons) do not have any substantial risk of dying from Covid. The risk of severe illness and death under 70 years or so is vanishingly small. We do not lock a nation down for such a low death rate for persons under 70 years of age, especially if they are reasonably healthy people. We target the at-risk and allow the rest of society to function with reasonable precautions and we move to safely reopen society and schools immediately. Moreover, and this cannot be overstated, there are available early treatments for Covid that would reduce hospitalization and death by at least 60-80% as we will discuss below.

Early Multidrug Therapy for Covid Reduces Hospitalization and Death

We must take common-sense mitigation precautions as we go on with life. This does not mean we stop life altogether! This does not mean we destroy the society to stop each case of Covid! We must let people get back to normal life. In fact, the most important information that is being withheld, bizarrely, from the US population is that there are safe and effective treatments for Covid! And most importantly we now know how to treat Covid much more successfully than at the outset of the pandemic. This therapeutic nihilism is very troubling given there are therapeutics that while each on their own could not be considered as being a ‘silver bullet,’ they can be used on a multidrug basis or as a ‘cocktail’ approach akin to treatment of AIDS and so many other diseases! This includes responding proactively to higher-risk populations (in private homes or in nursing homes) who test positive for SARS CoV-2 or have symptoms consistent with Covid by intervening much earlier (even offering early outpatient sequenced/combined drug treatment to prevent decline to severe illness while the illness is still self-limiting with mild flu-like illness). Early home treatment (championed by research clinicians such as McCullough, Risch, Zelenko, and Kory) ideally on the first day (including but not limited to anti-infectives such as doxycycline, ivermectin, favipiravir, and hydroxychloroquine, corticosteroids, and anti-platelet drugs that are safe, cheap, and effective) that is sequenced and via a multi-drug approach, have been shown to convincingly reduce hospitalization by 85% and death by 50%.

The key is starting treatment very early (outpatient/ambulatory) in the disease sequelae (ideally on the 1st day of symptoms emergence to within the first 5 days) before the person/resident has worsened. This early treatment approach holds tremendous utility for high-risk elderly residents in our nursing homes and long-term care/assisted-living facilities, including within their private homes, who are often told to ‘wait-and-see’ and all the while they worsen and survival becomes more problematic. We are talking about using drugs that are used in-hospital but we argue must be started much earlier in high-risk persons. This demands that governments and healthcare systems/medical establishments paralyzed with nihilism step back and allow frontline doctors the clinical decision-making and discretion as before in how they treat their Covid-19 high-risk patients. From where we started 9 to 11 months ago in the US (and Canada, Britain, and other nations), between the therapeutics and an early outpatient treatment approach, this is very good news! We must also not discount the potential damage to normally healthy immune systems that have not been locked down like this before but which otherwise could be expected to fight infection effectively in younger individuals at the least. We have to be concerned about the immune systems of our children that are normally healthy and functional and we have no idea how their immune systems will function into the future given these far-reaching restrictions.

Conclusion

In conclusion, given the cogent argument by Dr. Scott Atlas on the failure of lockdowns and school closures globally and the totality of the evidence presented above and AIER’s troubling compilation of the crushing harms of lockdowns, it is way past time to end the lockdowns and get life back to normal for everyone but the higher-risk among us. It is time we target efforts to where they are beneficial. Such targeted measures geared to specific populations can protect the most vulnerable from Covid, while not adversely impacting those not at risk. Why? Because we know better who is at risk and should take sensible and reasonable steps to protect them. Alarmingly, President Biden has already stated that there is nothing that can be done to stop the trajectory of the pandemic, yet fails to recognize that across the US, cases are already falling markedly, even going as far to warn of more deaths. More incredulous is that those in charge and particularly the ‘medical experts’ continue to fail to admit they were very very wrong. They were all wrong in what they advocated and implemented and are trying now to lay the blame on those of us who looked at the data and science and reflected and weighed the benefits as well as harms of the policies. They are blaming those of us who opposed lockdowns and school closures. They are using the tact that since you opposed these illogical and unreasonable restrictions and mandates, then it caused the failures, thus pretending and not admitting that their policies are indeed the reason for the catastrophic societal failures. Not our opposition and arguments against the specious and unsound policies.

It is very evident to populations that lockdown policies have been extraordinarily harmful. It is way past time to end these lockdowns, these school closures, and these unscientific mask mandates (see State-by-State listing) as they have a very limited benefit but more importantly are causing serious harm with long-term consequences, and especially among those least able to withstand them! Indeed, the Federalist published a very comprehensive description showing how masks do nothing to stop Covid spread. There is no justifiable reason for this and government leaders must stop this now given the severe and long-term implications! Donald A. Henderson, who helped eradicate smallpox, gave us a road map that we have failed to follow here, when he wrote about the 1957-58 Asian Flu pandemic and stated “The pandemic was such a rapidly spreading disease that it became quickly apparent to U.S. health officials that efforts to stop or slow its spread were futile. Thus, no efforts were made to quarantine individuals or groups, and a deliberate decision was made not to cancel or postpone large meetings such as conferences, church gatherings, or athletic events for the purpose of reducing transmission. No attempt was made to limit travel or to otherwise screen travelers. Emphasis was placed on providing medical care to those who were afflicted and on sustaining the continued functioning of community and health services.”

Dr. Henderson along with Dr. Thomas Inglesby also wrote, “Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted. Strong political and public health leadership to provide reassurance and to ensure that needed medical care services are provided are critical elements. If either is seen to be less than optimal, a manageable epidemic could move toward catastrophe.” Overall, they messaged that several options exist for governments of free societies to use to mitigate the spread of pathogens (traditional public health responses which are less intrusive and disturbing) but closing down the society or parts of it is not one of them. These experts never championed or endorsed lockdowns as a strategy when confronting epidemics or pandemics for they knew and articulated the devastation that would fall upon societies that were in many instances potentially irrecoverable.

As Dr. Martin Kulldorff explains, it is critical that the bureaucrats, the public health system, and medical experts listen to the public who are the ones actually living and experiencing the public health consequences of their forced lockdown and other actions. Social isolation due to the lockdowns has devastating effects and cannot be disregarded and government bureaucrats must recognize that shutting down a society leads to suicidal thoughts and behaviour and excess deaths (deaths of despair to name one). I end by perhaps the most cogent phrase by experts (The Great Barrington Declaration): “Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone.”

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