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

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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."

Before you begin...

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

The Unseen Damages Fact Checking Has On Public Discourse

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CE Staff Writer 13 minute read

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

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

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?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

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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The Conspirituality Podcast: Clear Signal or More Noise?

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“Conspirituality” is a captivatingly named podcast that has been getting a lot of attention of late and for good reason. The hosts are bringing light to a phenomenon that is rapidly emerging in our collective psyche. The belief that certain very large conspiracies are in play in our world is growing, especially in the New Age spiritual community. A growing subset of people in these circles are finding common ground with those in right-wing political factions, something that seemed unimaginable a short while ago. However, in its well-intentioned effort to bring dialogue around this emerging phenomenon, the podcast is introducing another voice that is adding more confusion to an already confusing world of divergent and conflicting narratives. If we are interested in arriving at a better understanding of how our world works we must dig deeper to find our own blindspots and notice those that may exist for others, especially for those who are graced with a growing audience.   

The co-hosts describe the podcast as:

“A weekly study of converging right-wing conspiracy theories and faux-progressive wellness utopianism. At best, the conspirituality movement attacks public health efforts in times of crisis. At worst, it fronts and recruits for the fever-dream of QAnon.

As the alt-right and New Age horseshoe toward each other in a blur of disinformation, clear discourse and good intentions get smothered. Charismatic influencers exploit their followers by co-opting conspiracy theories on a spectrum of intensity ranging from vaccines to child trafficking. In the process, spiritual beliefs that have nurtured creativity and meaning are transforming into memes of a quickly-globalizing paranoia.

Conspirituality Podcast attempts to bring understanding to this landscape. A journalist [Derek Beres], a cult researcher [Matthew Remski], and a philosophical skeptic [Julian Walker] discuss the stories, cognitive dissonances, and cultic dynamics tearing through the yoga, wellness, and new spirituality worlds. Mainstream outlets have noticed the problem. We crowd-source, research, analyze, and dream answers to it.”

Why is the Conspirituality podcast gaining support?

The three co-hosts are intelligent. They rely on their diverse backgrounds and experiences to formulate formidable arguments to explain why people in these two communities are succumbing to “conspiracy theories” as they call them. In their opinion, those in the New Age, spiritual, and yoga communities more easily succumb to the ideas like the “New World Order” and “Global Agendas” because, as the hosts say, spirituality is associated with a more creative and open way of looking at things. This flexibility in their belief system is apparently a fertile ground for conspiratorial thinking to take root. Folks in Right-Wing libertarian circles believe in hidden, dark agendas because, according to them, that’s what Right-Wing libertarians believe. 

The hosts’ tidy assessment of a concerning “problem” is gaining a lot of support not only inside of the New-Age yoga communities from which they hail but also in the population at large. In the podcast’s relatively brief existence, it has already received attention from the NY Times, WNYC Studios, CBC Radio, and the Brisbane Times. 

Much of what the hosts say about human psychology and emotion is insightful. I agree wholeheartedly with their assessment of the Conspirituality phenomenon: it is ascendant and gathering momentum in these two groups who may indeed share the same blindspot. Their effort to put this all together is commendable, but they have a very large blindspot too.

For those of us who have openly and assiduously examined the independent investigation into conspiracies, their podcast represents yet another obstruction to clarity that is gaining traction. Matthew, Derek and Julian are making a crucial mistake in their approach to the “conspirituality” problem. They assume that there are no large conspiracies in play in our world at this time. To state it flatly, to them the idea of current large-scale conspiracy is so preposterous that they cannot even see that they are making an assumption when dismissing the possibility. I do not condemn them for it. It was only a handful of years ago when I would have cherished their position as a rare voice of reason in this confusing time.

What big assumptions are they making?

If you believe that hidden, ill-intending entities are seeking to slowly enslave the population is just a dystopian fantasy that is becoming uncomfortably popular, then the Conspirituality podcast will no doubt be a go-to resource for you. They use well-practiced cadence in their delivery, as if guiding their listeners through a sequence of increasingly challenging asanas that gently lead the audience to a level of self-assurance not previously thought possible. They bring on notable guests and exude authentic confidence to weave together an explanation as to why the conspirituality phenomenon is not just a nuisance, it is a dangerous threat to our way of life. Notably they never explore whether some, or even one of these conspiracy theories might actually be a true conspiracy. Entertaining such ideas, in their opinion, could only be a symptom of the weak mindedness they seek to identify and eradicate for the greater good.

In their opinion, easily seduced spiritual practitioners and rightwing “Q-anoners” should justifiably be thrown together with every “conspiracy theorist”, from anti-vaxxers to 9/11 truthers to flat-earthers. Rather than denigrating them, the hosts of the  podcast attempt to give us a deeper understanding of this growing population by pointing out how their biases and proclivities make them susceptible to false narratives. Addressing the facts that build these narratives is unnecessary in their opinion. Why? Because they assume these narratives are false to begin with. For those in their camp this strikes an acceptable tone of tolerance. To those of us who recognize the danger in making such assumptions and are quite convinced, through our own open-minded and diligent investigation that there may in fact be a number of big conspiracies in play, their tone could easily be regarded as poorly veiled condescension of the most unacceptable kind. Not only would they be underestimating our understanding, they would be grossly overestimating their own. 

Aside from making the error of assuming that large conspiracies do not exist, they are succumbing to the common mistake of lumping all people who are challenging conventional wisdom together. For example, there are thousands of engineers and architects that are patiently waiting for their day in court to present evidence that would overturn NIST’s explanation of the events of 9/11. There are also an enormous number of children who may have been irreversibly harmed by vaccinations over the decades. Health advocates and doctors who have recognized this very real possibility have been lobbying for a reformulation of vaccines since the inception of their widespread use. According to the hosts of the podcast, these thousands of structural engineers, architects and health professionals are just as crazy as people who maintain we live on a flat Earth. They may continue to assert that such conspiracies have been “debunked”, but equating highly educated professionals with flat-earthers is a stark overgeneralization that speaks to the scale of the bias they carry but refuse to acknowledge.

Their approach is based on unbalanced research, and their tone is sometimes divisive. Simply put, they are adding more noise to an already confusing picture.

“Coincidence Theorists?”

They have used the moniker of “Conspiracy Theorists” to label the subset of the population that are “afflicted” by a certain form of weak mindedness that makes them prone to a certain kind of narrative. But how might one see the hosts of the podcasts? I do not know how they would prefer to self-identify. 

For the purposes of this article I will call them “Coincidence Theorists”, a term I credit to David Helfrich, a contributor to Collective Evolution as well. By “Coincidence Theorists” I am referring to those who remain fixated on the idea of coincidence to explain events in this world that seem intimately connected: massive military exercises leaving the Eastern Seaboard undefended on the morning of 9/11? Coincidence! Three skyscrapers completely veering from expected models of behavior in a gravitationally driven collapse on the same day? Coincidence! Thousands of previously healthy children who suddenly experience cognitive decline and neurologic effects immediately after a series of vaccinations? Every single case must be a coincidence.

Coincidence is one of the primary mantras they use to dismiss extremely suspicious circumstances that would point to a conspiracy. Once dismissed, real investigation into the matter is considered flippant which justifies their characterization of all who feel differently as paranoid and easily seduced “conspiracy theorists”. It should be clear that using coincidence to explain the apparently inexplicable is not logical, it is founded on a basic assumption that because large conspiracies do not exist, any suspicious observations that point to a conspiracy must be a coincidence. This is bias and it has no part in earnest inquiry.

How convincing would a defendant on trial be to a jury if he explained his presence at the scene of a crime as pure coincidence? He may be innocent, but using the coincidence argument would not clear him from suspicion. In fact, in court, the more coincidences add up in a case, the more likely the defendant is guilty.

The other common argument they use to dismiss suggestions of a conspiracy is to flatly assert that “it’s been debunked”. This continues to astonish me. As the critical thinkers that they claim to be, how is it possible that they cannot see that the mainstream media and often the scientific establishment that they cite as debunkers and fact-checkers are the primary conspirators in all of the very real conspiracies that are in consideration? The only proof they will ever consider to be credible has to come from the very parties implicated in a conspiracy. This is pure dogmatic thinking.

Should we adopt their approach and view their position as forgivable because they are in the New Age community and we all know that those folks are prone to dogma too? How different would that be than their approach to profiling all “conspiracy theorists” as individuals that are inherently prone to paranoid delusions? It wouldn’t be any different or any less unfair.

In an effort to be more constructive, I would instead like to share my personal experience of a direct but brief exchange I had with one of Conspirituality co-hosts. I hope that this will shed some light on how their own approach to information may be the very same problem they impute to the “conspiracy theorists” that they identify as a growing threat. In other words, people who believe that “everything is a conspiracy” are suffering from the very same blindspots as those that are certain there are only conspiracy theories and no true conspiracies. The possibility that there are many (unfounded) conspiracy theories and a few very real conspiracies does not exist in minds that suffer from a certain type of bias.

My Exchange with Conspirituality podcast co-host Julian Walker

I must admit that it has been challenging for me to approach this topic. I am a physician, an engineer, a diligent researcher and an author of a book that dissects the nature of some of the false-flags and conspiracy in our history. I am also a member of several spiritual communities and view this podcast as a dangerous impediment to open inquiry–something that all spiritual communities should be espousing. If that weren’t enough, I have also participated in an exchange with one of the co-hosts of the Conspirituality podcast, Julian Walker, that was less than amiable. In order to strike the most effective tone in this piece I had to first find commonality between myself and the co-hosts. Despite our disparate view of the world I had to concede that they are as well-intending as I am. At least that is my hope.

I am part of a large spiritual community that is led by a teacher of acknowledged lineage who is an adept writer and recognized scholar in his area of study. We also happen to be friends on social media. Several weeks ago, on his own personal page, he posted a link to bonus material on the Conspirituality podcast that was published on October 12, 2020. In it, Julian Walker, co-host of the podcast, attacked an article written by anti-globalist, scholar, environmental activist and author of 20 books, Dr. Vandana Shiva, who was highly critical of a patent submitted by Microsoft titled “Cryptocurrency System using Body Activity Data”. In the article, Dr. Shiva first contextualizes our pandemic as part of a larger problem involving our species and its relationship with our environment. She writes: 

“New diseases arise because a globalized, industrialized, inefficient agriculture invades habitats, destroys ecosystems, and manipulates animals, plants, and other organisms with no respect for their integrity or their health. We are linked worldwide through the spread of diseases like the coronavirus because we have invaded the homes of other species, manipulated plants and animals for commercial profits and greed, and cultivated monocultures. As we clear-cut forests, as we turn farms into industrial monocultures that produce toxic, nutritionally empty commodities, as our diets become degraded through industrial processing with synthetic chemicals and genetic engineering, and as we perpetuate the illusion that earth and life are raw materials to be exploited for profits, we are indeed connecting. But instead of connecting on a continuum of health by protecting biodiversity, integrity, and self-organization of all living beings, including humans, we are connected through disease.”

Mr. Walker states that this perspective is shared by people like Dr. Zach Bush who use similar buzzwords like “virome” and “holistic” models that appeal to a susceptible audience. It is quite clear that Mr. Walker doesn’t see it in quite the same way. I take no issue with that. This is a debatable perspective on a very complicated paradigm and outside the scope of this article. However, he then goes on to dismiss Dr. Shiva’s assessment of the patent in question. At minute 21:30 of the podcast, he claims to “have done his research” and concluded that this is harmless technology that can be worn, like a watch, to help a system identify when a person has completed a “task”. This wearable technology can measure things like heart rate, EEG patterns, body temperature and eye movement to figure out if the subject has completed the activity in question. This is where I felt compelled to weigh in.

Having a career spent intensively monitoring patients’ physiology on an operating table as an anesthesiologist, I was surprised to discover, while doing my research, that the technology Mr. Walker considered harmless and wearable would also be able to monitor organ function, blood flow, and localized brain activity.

At this moment in time, we do not have the ability to measure such things with wearable technology. If we did, it would be used in operating rooms around the world. Moreover, it poses the obvious question: what sorts of tasks would require us to monitor such kinds of “Body Activity Data”? We are not talking about planting crops, mowing lawns or delivering packages. This kind of data can be best used for one thing: to monitor a person’s response to stimuli. It is not so hard to put it together. This technology is extremely well suited to measure a user’s level of engagement with technology submitted by one of the biggest creators of technology in the world, coincidentally.

When I offered my impression of the patent I soon learned that Mr. Walker was also on the thread. Julian did not respond to my take on the technology in question but instead deemed it unnecessary because a third party agreed with him. It was then that I asked if he would be willing to discuss the article and the patent openly in a mediated discussion here on Collective Evolution. His response:

My sense is that a speculative discussion with you on what that patent may or may not be is about as useful as the endless circles we can go in with 9/11 Truthers about building 7…The larger set of conspiracy claims and attribution of nefarious motivations are part of a style of paranoid thinking that can always take some facts and sound analysis, some reasonable seeming speculation and some outlandish nonsense and weave it all into a captivating seeming argument. I am not particularly interested in debating on a public stage in front of people who find arguments like [Dr.] Shiva’s in any way convincing or laudable, just as I would not be interested in debating creationists, flat earth-ers or 911 truth-ers.

The Dangers of Confirmation Bias

This is where we left it. How is one privy to this exchange supposed to make sense of this? I cannot expect everyone to accept my analysis because I happen to be more equipped to assess the technical aspects of the patent. Though it may seem logical to listen to the engineer and physician, I also seem to be arguing for a potential nefarious use of the technology and that would imply that Bill Gates and Microsoft have dubious intentions. If that proposition is impossible for you to believe, it is more sensical to side with the yoga teacher, podcast co-host and meditation instructor here and dismiss my analysis as the ranting of a paranoid flat earth-er. This is Confirmation bias. When looking at the world with confirmation bias we tend to focus on stuff that confirms our preconceived notions and dismiss stuff that opposes them. Confirmation bias creates unfounded confidence in our opinions.

Mr. Walker is testing positive for confirmation bias. In his mind the idea that the Earth is flat should be dismissed just as quickly as the idea of a conspiracy behind 9/11 or that patent WO2020060606 could be anything more than wearable technology that will help a person get fairly compensated with cryptocurrency for the work they do.

This is a challenge that not only faces Julian but many others. If their research into subjects like 9/11 or this patent is flimsy and superficial, they likely won’t have the understanding and context to truly unseat their initial foundational belief. Why bother going through the twenty-odd pages of technical descriptions of proposed embodiments of the patent if you begin with the assertion that this could never be anything more sinister than a smart watch? Why even read the supporting technical documents provided by NIST supposedly explaining the nature of the collapse of Building 7 if you know a priori that it must be what we have been told? In the case of Julian’s thinking here, his assumptions must be right. Otherwise it would undermine the entire premise of his attack on the “Conspiritualists.”

There is far more in the balance here than being right or wrong. We are talking about a different world view that puts everything into a different context. Isn’t that worth looking a bit more diligently?

If we examine Mr. Walker’s response a little more closely we can perhaps learn about where he may be “stuck.” First, he calls our proposed discussion to be speculative. That is true; neither of us can know for sure what this technology really represents. However, that is not how he describes his position in the podcast when he claims he “has done his research” and that it is self-evident to anyone who reads the patent description.

Next, he portrays any opinion that this technology may not be what he has claimed as part of a style of “paranoid thinking”. You can see that if he was right, I would necessarily be paranoid. Yet, if he admits that this is all speculative, how can he be certain he is right?

Finally, he claims that Dr. Shiva’s arguments are not at all laudable or convincing. However here he is using his admittedly speculative conclusions about this patent to attack Dr. Shiva’s entire position. Rather than addressing my analysis of the technology, he has labeled it unworthy of discussion because it is speculative too. Why is it fair to use speculation to dismantle Dr. Shiva’s position while claiming that a conversation about it would be useless because it is all speculative? This is clear evidence of a double standard, a necessary element in confirmation bias.

Is it possible to be objective?

This brings us to the most telling aspect of this exchange. Under what circumstances would a discussion about the difference of opinion be useless, especially if it is speculative? Aren’t those the kind of discussions that can lead to more clarity? Mr. Walker is essentially saying that because the Collective Evolution audience are all conspiracy theorists a discussion on this platform would be pointless. Why are we afraid of discussion on these issues?

Julian, if you happen to be reading this, I am not offended that you believe my opinion is no more worthy of consideration than a “flat earth-er’s”, but why would you shun the opportunity to explain your position on a platform that has over five million followers that may or may not agree with you? Are you able to understand that you have absolutely nothing to lose and the potential of helping a few million people see your side? If you are truly concerned about a dangerous “movement [that] attacks public health efforts in times of crisis” why not address those in the movement directly? What would motivate you to eschew such an opportunity to explain yourself to the very population you believe are misguided? Would you be willing to bring me on your podcast so that you can demonstrate how I have lost my bearings or better yet find some common ground and articulate a more accurate position together? If you are concerned that some of your listeners may be easily dissuaded by my “captivating sounding argument” how then would you regard their understanding of your position if it is as unassailable as you proclaim? In any case, we are not trying to win an election here. We are both after the same thing: clarity…aren’t we? 

The Takeaway

From an even deeper perspective, I hope that we can agree that being graced with a platform to express our positions comes with a large responsibility. Shouldn’t we be making every effort to examine all contrarian positions openly before leading our listeners in what we think is the right direction? Wouldn’t it be more constructive to come together and unify under a common understanding and purpose? As two practitioners of yoga, a science that is steeped in the ancient wisdom of embodying unity, shouldn’t seeking common ground be our primary intention?

Namaste.

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