Categories
Antivaccine nonsense Computers and social media Medicine

Who could ever have seen this coming?

Since the pandemic I’ve said, “Everything old is new again”, referring to antivaxxers. As 2022 dawned, I thought I’d expand a bit on what I mean. Is there a term for déjà vu, but what I’m seeing now is amplified a thousand-fold? Who could ever have seen this coming? Only nearly all of us who have been paying attention to antivax misinformation and conspiracy theories.

As I approached what I should write about early in 2022, I thought that I should write about something more “meta”. (No, not the metaverse or Facebook’s crappy new name!) This reminds me of something I saw before the holidays on Twitter about retiring NIH director Francis Collins, who irritated me so much that I almost broke my vow not to blog over the holidays. Fortunately, I didn’t, which allowed me to contemplate it more and my anger to recede. That doesn’t change my level of frustration; so here we go.

Here’s what I mean:

At the time, Dr. Collins had been on a farewell tour since having announced that he would be stepping down as NIH Director. Annoyingly, at nearly every stop he repeated his regret at how he (and the NIH) had for so long failed to appreciate how potent health and antivaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories were and how badly they could impede public health efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. This led to a number of articles showing up in December with titles like this:

Let’s examine the problem with Dr. Collins’ take.

The problem with Dr. Collins (and the rest of the public health apparatus prepandemic)

Let’s begin with what appear to be the most shared quotes from Dr. Collins regarding medical misinformation, aside from his using his status as a religious man to urge evangelicals to reject vaccine- and COVID-19-related misinformation:

You’ve watched science and politics collide for years. Do you believe politicization of science has grown worse?

It is much worse. And it’s a reflection of the fact that polarization is much worse — and tribalism is much worse. We’re in a really bad place. If science happens to produce a result that a political perspective doesn’t like, then science has to be attacked. That’s exactly what we see now happening, to the detriment of getting the facts out there.

What role does the NIH have in pushing back against misinformation about science?

This has turned out to be a much more severe situation than I would have imagined a year ago. I wish we had more insights from behavioural social science research into how this has come to pass, and why it could have gotten so completely widespread. I want to call this out as one of my most major concerns as I stepped down from the NIH, of looking at the situation in our nation. Somewhere along the way, our political hyperpolarization began having a lot of really dangerous consequences, where in many instances we seem to have lost a sense of how to tell the difference between a fact and an opinion — or some Facebook post that’s, frankly, a lie. That’s truly dangerous. That’s another epidemic that is not going to go away even if we triumph over COVID-19. We need to figure out what happened here, and how to bring ourselves back to a place where our nation has a more stable future.

In another interview:

You have called it “bizarre” that politics influences precautions like mask-wearing. Can you talk more about divisiveness and disinformation around science?

We have two epidemics. One is caused by the virus that causes COVID-19. The other is an epidemic of misinformation and distrust about science.

People’s conclusions about almost everything seem to be driven by what their ‘tribe’ says is right. Objective facts often get overruled by the latest political statement or the conspiracy that just popped up on Facebook.

Estimates are that more than 100,000 Americans have died in 2021 unnecessarily because of misinformation campaigns that discouraged people from taking advantage of lifesaving vaccines.

We need all those who have the ability to sift through evidence to work tirelessly to get accurate information out to the public. It can’t just be coming from the government or scientists, because sadly we’re now considered a little bit suspect. It also needs to come from community leaders.

And politicians who have been some of the worst offenders in spreading misinformation need to recognize that history is going to judge them harshly.

This is a common view among those completely out of touch with what’s been happening “on the ground”, so to speak: Who could possibly have predicted what’s happened in the last two years? The retort of a lot of us who’ve been at this a while is: Who couldn’t have? I will admit that even I didn’t foresee things getting quite as bad as they have, but I was at least in the ballpark, writing about the first coronavirus conspiracy theory I encountered, way back in January 2020, before COVID-19 even had a final name, much less had become a pandemic. In the meantime, we were pointing out how COVID-19 was a golden opportunity for quackery and conspiracy theories.

I couldn’t help but get a little peeved and Tweet:

And as a friend (and former ScienceBlogger) Dr. Mark Hoofnagle noted:

There were a lot of similar responses from groups that promoted vaccination and countered antivaccine misinformation long before the pandemic, and, as much as I know that some of my readers don’t like my embedding Tweets in my posts, for this post I don’t care. These deserve to be quoted, and those who don’t like embedded Tweets can just scroll past this list of responses:

My favorite response comes from freelance journalist Tara Haelle:

Another aspect of this misunderstanding comes from elite physicians and scientists like Dr. Collins, who tend to assume that it’s so bad now solely because of political polarization. While political polarization is quite bad right now, those of us who have dealt with medical misinformation of this sort for decades know that it is not, strictly speaking, political polarization that is responsible for the tsunami of COVID-19 misinformation, although certainly it contributes. While I’m glad that someone of Collins’ stature is finally recognizing that misinformation and disinformation about health, in particular vaccines and COVID-19, are having a horrific effect and leading to unnecessary death and suffering, I can’t help but be frustrated over the long delay.

As my colleagues, who before the pandemic struggled to believe how (or dismissed the even the possibility that) people could believe the bizarre things about disease, medicine, and vaccines that we had been documenting for decades, were having their noses rubbed into the very bizarre things that people believe about disease, medicine, and vaccines, some of us had a hard time not rolling our eyes. I realize that saying “I told you so!” was probably not the most productive reaction in the world, but I hope you’ll forgive me that lapse and stay with me as I recount a little history and look at what might be done now and in the future.

“Shruggies” and even outright hostility

I, as well as a lot of other physicians, scientist, and others, have been warning about the malign effects of medical misinformation, pseudoscience, and conspiracy theories for decades, but few in authority listened or took the threat seriously. Why is this? And, more importantly, now that COVID-19 has awakened large number of physicians, public health officials, and scientists to the threat posed by medical and scientific misinformation of the sort that I (and a lot of other medical bloggers) have been warning about for two decades, how can we maintain that appreciation and momentum after the pandemic finally recedes into history?

Longtime readers might remember that I sometimes quote Dr. Val Jones, who long ago coined a pithy term to describe the attitude held by most physicians towards antivaccine and medical misinformation: “Shruggies“, a term that she defined thusly:

Shruggie (noun): a person who doesn’t care about the science versus pseudoscience debate. When presented with descriptions of exaggerated or fraudulent health claims or practices, their response is to shrug. Shruggies are fairly inert, they will not argue the merits (or lack thereof) of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) or pseudoscience in general. They simply aren’t all that interested in the discussion, and are somewhat puzzled by those who are.

She then went on to describe how she used to be a “shruggie” herself, but had come to appreciate the danger of medical misinformation, pseudoscience, and conspiracy theories.

Unfortunately, there’s another attitude that’s also not at all uncommon among physicians, particularly academic physicians. It’s an attitude that goes beyond indifference into outright contempt for science communication aimed at correcting medical misinformation. The core of this attitude is based on the assumption that no one but crackpots would ever believe ridiculous things like homeopathy and antivaccine conspiracy theories and that it’s somehow “beneath” the oh-so-massive intellects of physicians, particularly academic physicians, to “waste” part of our supposedly-considerable brain power to debunk. To them, instead we should devote our incredible intellects and talents not to such dirty, plebeian concerns, such as alternative medicine and antivaccine misinformation, but rather to clinical trials, the depredations of big pharma, and topics like the question of overdiagnosis and mammography, a topic that I’ve covered a lot over the years.

Perhaps the best example of this attitude came from an oncologist named Dr. Vinay Prasad, who a couple of months before the pandemic mocked me and others who spend a lot of time deconstructing medical misinformation as being akin to LeBron James “dunking on a 7′ hoop”, the implication being that deconstructing medical misinformation (such as Goop’s jade eggs) is as easy to a physician as dunking on a short hoop would be to a basketball star.

Here’s a representative Tweet clearly directed at me (and later deleted):

Gee, whom do you think the “eminent” Dr. Prasad meant by this?

Again, a lot of us had a hard time not rolling our eyes at the whole line of attack, even as this occurred roughly a month before the very first cases of deadly pneumonia due to a new coronavirus were observed in Wuhan, China:

I won’t say a lot more about this, other than to refer you to responses to Dr. Prasad by Steve Novella and myself, written a year ago, when inexplicably Dr. Prasad decided to double down on his Twitter attacks, which had not aged very well given that a deadly pandemic had appeared within months of his “7′ hoop” Tweets and was immediately followed a veritable tsunami of deadly misinformation, in the form of a MedPage Today article.

It isn’t just doctors, either, who discount the importance of “soft targets”. A few years ago, Scientific American columnist John Horgan made much the same arguments about skepticism in general, not just skepticism of dubious medical claims. I hasten to add right here that there are certainly legitimate criticisms of the skeptic movement and what topics that it tends to expend the most energy on, but Mr. Horgan wasn’t about that. He basically framed skepticism, much as Dr. Prasad did later, as attacking “soft targets” like homeopathy and Bigfoot and ignoring “hard targets” like cancer and world peace. (I’m not exaggerating.) As I put it at the time, his entire argument could be summed up as, “Soft targets” = What you care about. “Hard targets” = what I care about. (Very much like Dr. Prasad, actually.) Again, Steve Novella agreed, characterizing Mr. Horgan’s take as “superficial to the point of being wrong” and betraying “utter ignorance about what skeptics discuss and what our actual position is on the examples he gives”.

I can’t help but mention before moving on to the next section how…interesting…it is that it didn’t take long after the pandemic hit before Dr. Prasad was issuing highly dubious hot takes on the COVID-19 pandemic and has become one of the foremost members of a group that I (and others) like to refer to as “COVID-19 contrarians”, doctors who tend to minimize the danger of COVID, exaggerate the risks of COVID-19 vaccines, and downplay (or sometimes even deny) the efficacy of public health interventions, such as masking and vaccines. As a result, a lot has been written about him, both by me but also by Dr. Jonathan Howard. Examples include the time Dr. Prasad made bad arguments against an emergency use authorization (EUA) for COVID-19 vaccines in children, downplayed the risks of COVID-19 in children, praised an utterly incompetent study that “dumpster dived” into the VAERS database, and more. Indeed, Dr. Prasad even went so far as to characterize mask, social distancing, and vaccine mandates as the first steps on the road to fascism, basically going full Godwin, so to speak.

Dr. Prasad might represent one piece of anecdotal evidence, but his turn rather suggests that perhaps it would have served him better not to be so disparaging and full of contempt towards the efforts of us humble skeptics promoting science-based medicine and refuting misinformation. However, he is just a part of the problem.

Social media = fake news multiplied

Over the holiday break, I read a book by Jason Stanley, the Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University, entitled How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them. I highly recommend the book, but hasten to point out that it is not my purpose to discuss actual fascism (much) in this post; that is, in contrast to Dr. Prasad’s misguided attempts to portray COVID-19 control measures as incipient fascism or, at the very least, a slippery slope towards the death of US democracy. Rather, one chapter very much caught my attention in light of the pandemic and the problem of disinformation and misinformation about COVID-19. In his book, Professor Stanley takes pains to point out that there is nothing new about “fake news”, referring to examples from history in which fake news was used to foment violence. For example, after World War I, mass hysteria was provoked by fake news stories about mass rape of German women by African troops serving with the French troops who were occupying the Rhineland. Noting the similarity between how fake news spread in history, Prof. Stanley notes about newer examples of fake news in the social media era:

The fact that all of this eerily mirrors the spread of the German propaganda campaign in the 1920s of the “Black Horror on the Rhine” should dissuade us from adopting the view, currently in vogue, that this sort of “fake news” is a consequence of the modern revolution in social media.

The point, of course, is that “fake news” is nothing new. Nor, of course, are rumors, stories of dubious provenance, and conspiracy theories. These have been with us ever since humans developed language and used for nefarious ends. What is new is that social media allows this sort of misinformation a rapid global reach that it could not achieve before, or, even if it did, would take months or years to do. Worse, social media companies labored too long under the delusion that “bad speech” (such as medical misinformation and conspiracy theories) could be driven out and countered by “good speech” based on data, science, and reason. Particularly disingenuous is that these companies knew that their algorithms are designed to amplify material that provokes “engagement” (shares, responses, etc.). What is most likely to encourage such “engagement”? Obviously, it’s material that angers, frightens, or otherwise provokes strong emotion, which is why misinformation- and conspiracy theory-laden content tends to spread very rapidly compared to any sort of science-based countering. What that means is that information that the ever-so-eminent Dr. Prasad would consider “ridiculous” or beneath his engaging with, can almost instantaneously spread to all corners of the earth with an Internet connection. While it is true that Facebook (excuse me, Meta), Twitter, and the rest are finally waking up to the danger, they appear unwilling to invest the resources necessary to take on the task of minimizing the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories on their networks, often instead relying too much on algorithms that don’t work very well.

Bloggers, at least, have been warning about the problem of misinformation spreading for a long time. Back when I started my first blog on a snowy Saturday in December in 2004, part of my motivation (besides feeling that my efforts on Usenet were going nowhere and Usenet was a dying platform) was that I saw how fast medical misinformation was spreading on the Internet. Remember, too, that this was before Facebook had been made available to the general public, before Twitter, before the rise of YouTube, and before Instagram. Back then, blogs were the new “thing”, and I observed the rise and proliferation of a number of antivaccine blogs. Then, several years later, I noted the first fumbling efforts of antivaxxers to use Facebook and Twitter, efforts that, unfortunately albeit predictably, became much less fumbling and more adroit over time. Now, there is a veritable juggernaut of misinformation, a social media ecosystem in which quacks, antivaxxers, cranks, and grifters spread COVID-19 and antivax misinformation along with conspiracy theories and politically and ideologically motivated fake news in huge quantities.

Everything old is new again

I conclude with a bit of fantasy here. As I said before, I’ve been sarcastically saying that “everything old is new again” for at least a year now. In general, I’m referring to antivaccine misinformation, and nearly every time I discuss specific COVID-19 antivax propaganda claims, I like to mention how none of these claims is new. Here are some examples of specific false or misleading claims:

I sometimes joke that the only reason that antivaxxers haven’t yet claimed that COVID-19 vaccines cause autism is because they weren’t approved for use in young children yet. I’m sure that will change, if it hasn’t already, with the EUA for a COVID vaccine for children ages 5-12, and, if that doesn’t do it, this old trope will appear when the vaccines are approved for children under five.

Then there was the claim that there is Hydra vulgaris in the vaccines. (Hydras are tiny freshwater animals that can grow to about an inch in size.) I guess that maybe there is one new antivax claim under the sun about COVID-19 vaccines. I suppose that this one could be filed as a variation on a favorite antivax technique of looking at vaccines under the microscope and gasping at scary-looking things whose identity antivaxxers don’t know, which has been done before.

And what about the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) database? My last post of 2021 discussed in detail the history of antivaxxers weaponizing VAERS, using its open nature and passive reporting design to paint a false portrait of vaccines as deadly—a new Holocaust, even!—causing autism, sterilizing our teenaged girls (Gardasil), and the like? Those of us familiar with the long history of antivaxxers weaponizing VAERS reports dating back to the 1990s were warning before the vaccines were released under an EUA over a year ago. Indeed, I was even writing about how VAERS was already being weaponized in December 2020, after I had received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Now here’s the fantasy.

Imagine, if you will…

Imagine, if you will, that those of us “dunking on a 7′ hoop” hadn’t been mostly ignored or viewed as wasting our time. Imagine that, before the pandemic, there had been an appreciation among our profession that it is worthwhile, as Jonathan Howard put it, to debunk the seemingly ridiculous because it often serves as the basis for much less “benign” misinformation and pseudoscience. Imagine that the NIH hadn’t served, through the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), as a base for promoting pseudoscience in medicine since the 1990s, now run by a true believer in woo. Imagine that quackery such as anthroposophic medicinehomeopathy, and naturopathy hadn’t infiltrated leading academic centers as quackery infiltrated major medical journals. Imagine that this infiltration hadn’t led a medical center like the Cleveland Clinic to tolerate an antivaccine doctor like Dr. Daniel Niedes for so long. Imagine that Dr. Collins had actually done what he now regrets not having done (and that Dr. Anthony Fauci had done it too), and dedicated considerable NIH resources over decades leading up to the pandemic to understanding medical misinformation and conspiracy theories. Imagine that they understood the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement, the conspiracy theory on which all antivax conspiracy theories are based and of which all antivax conspiracy theories are but a variation? Let’s go even farther and imagine that it was understood how all science denial is a form of conspiracy theory, so that it could have been foreseen how rapidly antivaxxers would team up with “anti-lockdown” and “antimask” protesters. Imagine that science communicators were appreciated, with science communication being widely understood to be a discipline in itself, contrary to the case over the last 25 years since Carl Sagan died. Imagine that state medical boards recognized that being a physician is a privilege, not a right, and that using one’s stature as a physician to spread dangerous health and antivaccine misinformation is an offense worthy of suffering the penalty of having one’s medical license removed, rather than having to have been dragged into that realization only a few months ago.

Would it all have made a difference if all the elements of my fantasy had been in place in January 2020? Maybe not, but I’m quite sure that we would nonetheless have been in much better shape to deal with the pandemic and wouldn’t have seen the fumbling efforts against, for instance, the Great Barrington Declaration “natural herd immunity” strategy, whose premises Collins himself said required a “devastating published takedown” but was unable or unwilling to do.

The question, of course, is: Now that physicians and scientists have finally awakened to the threat of health misinformation, how do we keep them engaged now? In the future, how do we our professions from retreating back into “shruggie” complacency or even “dunking on a 7′ hoop” hostility to combating this misinformation after the pandemic finally fades into history?

I don’t claim to know the answers now, but I have ideas that I hope to discuss in 2022, along with links between not just old antivaccine misinformation and COVID-19 misinformation, but how old alternative medicine beliefs undergird much of the misinformation we see. We will need help in advocating for science in medicine. Everything old might seem new again now, but it’s all just part of the longstanding problem of combatting irrational beliefs to which humans have always been prone.

Please, though, I really don’t want to hear the question, “Who could ever have seen this all coming?” The answer is simple: Everyone who’s been paying attention.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

77 replies on “Who could ever have seen this coming?”

Just FYI, Twitter isn’t real life. It’s hyper biased toward one-think.

If natural immunity (post infection) isn’t better than vaccine immunity, which immune system do vaccines have special access to which the viral infection itself does not?

“If natural immunity (post infection) isn’t better than vaccine immunity, which immune system do vaccines have special access to which the viral infection itself does not?”

1) drop the “if”; there is no “if”.
2) The same system (you are either not thinking straight or are deliberately using a strawman) our bodies use to counterattack is used, but a vaccine hands your body a target that seems like it’s a massive dose of virus, but is actually safe.

Would you get a vaccine that has a 2% mortality rate and at least a 10% severe complication rate? I sure as hell wouldn’t. Unfortunately, that’s the risk with promoting “natural immunity”. Not to mention spreading this risk to those closest to you.

That’s why I got the 2 doses and booster as soon as I could.

Is that 2% mortality with four co-diagnoses? Death from Covid or death with Covid? Colin Powell died from Covid? Are you serious?

@Chris Grammar It is death caused by COVID. If you have asthma, you are more probably to die because of COVID. This does not change the fact that without COVID.there would be no death.

“If natural immunity (post infection) isn’t better than vaccine immunity, which immune system do vaccines have special access to which the viral infection itself does not?”

There seems to be study which shows vaccination is better than having caught the disease: https://covid.joinzoe.com/post/covid-infection-antibodies-protection

Not being an expert I can only for fun posit that the vaccine is specifically tailored to make the body target the most common factor behind infection, such as the protein used to access the cell, whereas the immune system may grab hold of anything and everything, which may be more variable in the virus population? Any experts care to elucidate?

Whether vaccines or a disease provide better immunity is actually something that varies and depends. To give the most extreme example, natural tetanus won’t leave you immune, but vaccines will.

For other diseases too, whether immunity is stronger – and longer lasting – with vaccines or disease varies. For several vaccines the disease leaves stronger immunity, but not all.

So no, you can’t assume natural immunity is better. It’s an empirical question that needs data.

And of course, you have to risk the disease for any immunity from it.

“Natural immunity” is not really demonstrably “better” (as in longer lasting or more effective) than vaccine-induced immunity, as evidenced by the number of re-infections. They also use the same immune system, which is why I like to point out to antivaxxers who fetishize “natural immunity” that both vaccines and the disease use the same immune system.

Let’s talk about the measles. Vaccination against the measles produces a decrease in all-cause mortality because infection with the measles damages the memory portion of the adaptive immune system.
Basically the measles virus kills your memory immune cells for all the diseases you’ve already had.

So obviously post-infection immunity isn’t just about a single disease.

Here’s another way vaccine-induced immunity is “better” than post-infection immunity: you haven’t gotten sick. Your body’s resources haven’t been depleted from fighting the virus, so you have more resources available to fight your next infection with anything.

Basically the vaccine is a small poke, and infection is a small poke followed by being shot at by a baseball gun. You might manage to doge the balls, you might only get a few bruises, or it could crack your skull. Why on earth would you take that chance?

Perhaps a charitable foundation along the lines of the UK based ‘Good Thinking Society’ to which I contribute?

Although I could never predict that anti-vax would become as powerful a social force with far reaching consequences as it is now during the pandemic, I knew that it was truly something to be reckoned with when I witnessed alties during the financial crisis ( 2008-9) drift into economic speculation and demonisation of the financial industry/ corporations in general that continues to this day. ( I predicted that anti-vax would be de-fanged after Andy was struck off- which didn’t happen – as his martyrdom ensued and fandom grew.)
I’ve always felt that events in the 1990s set the stage for anti-vax: the widening of the definitions of ASDs, lessened scrutiny of supplement sales and the growth of the internet. Later on, social media allowed alties to spread CTs and dodgy “science” to an audience only too willing to absorb their misinformation and buy their products. Today, as traditional social media clamps down on misinformers, a new virtual ecosystem has evolved that allows less reality-based creators to thrive.
As we’ve seen in the past year, vaccine hesitancy and outright vaccine refusal have become common while Covid numbers soar in places that reject vaccine realism.

Antivax in-and-of itself is NOT a powerful social force. The social force in question is radical, neo-fascist right-wing political movement devoted to conspiracy theory and reality denial of all sorts. Science denial, and more specifically antivax are merely one expression of this bat-guano weltanshauung, along with (of course) election denial, the demonization of minorities, Great Replacement theory, etc. All of these are of a piece, component symptoms of a broader central pathology.

Orac certainly did not see this coming, as he barely sees it’s existence now. (He keeps treating COVID antivax as some discreet autonomous movement. Such a movement still exists of course, but it’s still small.) While Orac may have predicted how social media would amplify antivax nonsense amidst the pandemic, he didn’t predict how far and where that would spread, nor did he predict vaccine fearmongering would be onew of the go-to themes of the most-watched cable TV host on the most-watched cable network, plus a huge chunk (if not a majority) of officials from one of our major political parties.

Did Sadmar just check every virtue signalling box on the leftist list? Anti-vax is not just a product of the right. Jenny McCarthy ring a bell? Rolling Stone has 17 anti-vaxx celebrities none are right wing fascists. This site is not a place for moral preening. It is a place for facts, critical thinking, and testable hypotheses. Do you think that you can make proclamations without evidence. How is that scientific? Name me one age when scientists weren’t wrong about many things. You throw out the word fascist to hide the paucity of your thought. Words like racist, communist, climate denier are so poorly defined that you can’t defend yourself. In the words of Joe Friday-“just the facts ma’m.”

In the not-so-distant past the antivaccine movement was much less concentrated on the right. Indeed, it wasn’t so long ago that the most common stereotype of an antivaxxer was a crunchy hippie-dippy leftist. So pervasive was that incorrect stereotype that it was being invoked in the press a lot even up to right before the pandemic. However, around a decade ago, things began to change. Antivaxxers enticed right wingers with rhetoric of “freedom,” “parental rights,” and opposition to any sort of government mandate. By 2015, there were strong ties between antivaxxers and right wing groups, and by 2019 antivaccine demonstrations were including outright fascist militia groups. All of this was before the pandemic. Since the pandemic, the rightward shift of the antivax movement has been decisive, with even “lefties” like RFK Jr. now pandering to fascists.

Although antivaccine conspiracy theories can be found on the left, right here, right now, in 2022, the most vocal and dangerous voices in the antivaccine movement are nearly all far right wing.

@ sadmar:

Of course.
What I should have said is that anti-vax has been additionally fuelled by the righties and has added to the already energised mass of alties, natural health advocates and contrarians. I think that there were always libertarians and evangelicals in the mix but only recently has anti-vax ( and PH and Covid denialism) become a constant feature of rightie news channels.

As I’ve pointed out before, psychologists have looked at types of personality traits and demographics of anti-vaxxers ( particularly Hornsey, Douglas, others) and most likely, there is overlap with variables associated with rightist orientation. I haven’t seen anything like this yet but I imagine that paranoid style, less education, conspiracy belief, less concern with the welfare of others not self and anxiety in general might show up.

What I have observed is that some anti-vaxxers ( mothers, alt med providers) who used to sound rather liberal now buy into really conservative talking points. I suppose the lure of mass broadcasting and a wider audience has taken hold. it’s quite amusing to hear Mike Adams talk about ” left wing Nazis” or Gary Null call for an end to “cancel culture” and ” white fragility”

Sadmar, I’m going to call bullshit a bit on this.I will certainly concede (as I do whenever I discuss this now) that I did not anticipate that the problem would get as bad as it is now, but then, quite frankly, I don’t see any evidence that you did either, as far as I can tell looking over your comments going back years. Moreover, I was warning about the growing alliance and union between the far right and antivaxxers as far back as 2015—arguably even back to 2012 in the wider context of populist science denial, such as evolution denial.

@ Orac

Let me also be clear in acknowledging that you were indeed commenting on right-wing anti-science, including right-wing antivax, way before the pandemic. My “issue”, such as it is, is how we understand what is going on now, under the premise that diagnosing the ‘disease’ correctly is a prerequisite to doing something effective to counter it. My analysis, again, is that COVID antivax is more a symptom of an underlying ailment than an illness unto itself, and that ailment is (for want of a better word anyway) political. I’ll attempt to frame it by comparing old-school antivaxers — e.g. Jenny McCarthy since she’s been mentioned and RFKJ — to COVID antivaxers thusly: to the former antivax is the center of the universe around which all else appears to resolve, to the later antivax is a badge of tribal identity, a form of, yes, “virtue signaling”. So I don’t think we can understand COVID antivax outside of that wider reality-denying thing — whatever we choose to call it: neo-fascism, Trumpism, populism…

I confess that as far as RI is concerned, I get a bit upset that the anti-science and COVID denial of political actors on the right doesn’t get more attention here: Ron DeSantis, Ron Johnson, Rand Paul, Tucker Carlson and pretty much everybody else on Fox, just to name a few. This may just reflect my own depression over the larger political situation (and the pandemic) and the fact I’m in the habit of checking in here. I do understand that as a medical scientist you are inclined to pay more attention to your own turf, and take on the likes of Prasad, as they have some credibility in your field. But really, their influence in terms of the vax resistance that continues to threaten public health is relatively small. Maybe you find the statements of someone like Ron Johnson beneath a debunking effort, but if say, Tucker Carlson is a 7-foot hoop he’s a damn powerful one and, IMHO, worth all the insolence anyone might direct his way. Same with DeSantis, given that he’s a possible heir to Trumpism and there’s s non-zero chance Joseph Ladapo could be the U.S. Surgeon General in 2025.

From time to time, I run across some opinion or analysis piece in the press that does seem to speak to that broader unreality affliction of which I take COVID antivax to be a symptom. I’ll think, ‘I should post a link to that on RI’ but then, is I’m not too depressed, I might get waylaid by the chronic nervousnous and sort of attention deficit thing I suffer from to follow up in any timely fashion. Anyway, a couple of those, not necessarily OT:

NYT piece on the ideology of Dr. Oz, connecting the ethos of his TV show to his Senate campaign. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/09/opinion/culture/dr-oz-covid-wellness-individualism.html

Also in the NYT, Tressie McMillan Cottom discusses “scam culture’, MLM, and “expertise” gained from ‘doing your research’ on the Web. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/10/opinion/scams-were-all-experts.html (Also links to Olivia Nuzzi’s piece about Oz in NY magazine…) My takeaway: folks have to tell themselves they’re knowledgeable, otherwise they’d have to admit just how lost and powerless they feeling as they hurtle towards the abyss.

@ sadmar ( re 3.55 pm- your last sentence -YES!)

The scholars at Google U are arming themselves against expertise that they disagree with by creating their own “credentials” as a counterbalance against, usually, reality itself.

One of the studies that looked at characteristics of anti-vaxxers/ CT believers showed that they often do not recognise hierarchies of expertise, in other words, degrees and experience in a particular field can be trumped ( and I don’t use that verb lightly) by impassioned self-study initiated by personal concerns. Emotional ties are not seen as a conflict that could interfere with impartiality, in fact, they make them MORE reliable ( in their own eyes).

You can observe this in action at RI when warrior mothers insist upon scenarios that we know are highly unlikely to have occurred.

As an aside, I wonder if the partial public acceptance of wildly florid CTs ( e.g. a pizza restaurant pedophile ring) makes it easier for adherents of other hooey to rest assured of their own truths?

“As we’ve seen in the past year, vaccine hesitancy and outright vaccine refusal have become common while Covid numbers soar in places that reject vaccine realism.” Is this true? Didn’t the head of Pfizer just tell us that the vaccine is not effective and that we should have three shots and a booster?

re “three shots and a booster”

If you look up vaccine schedules for children ( see US or UK for detail), you’ll find that — most of the vaccines involve multiple doses – 2, 3 or 4 – at designated intervals.
— Influenza requires yearly administration because of multiple viruses’ global distribution patterns and mutation.
Why should Covid-19 be different ?
Will it require several doses or annual ones? That will be learned eventually.
Notice that there are no current vaccines for the common cold.

multiple doses – 2, 3 or 4 – at designated intervals

Or more – the Australian childhood schedule for DPT vaccination is 6 doses: 2, 4, 6, 18, 48 months and 12-13 years.
https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/immunisation/immunisation-throughout-life/national-immunisation-program-schedule

Tetanus protection needs continuing boosters for life, often at 10-year intervals.

There seem to have been a regular stream of those opposed to the COVID vaccines claiming the the current vaccine advice for them, 2 + a booster, or for at-risk groups in Israel, 2 + 2 boosters is somehow extraordinary. It’s not.

I have a special disdain for John Horgan. He is a shallow thinker who believes he is the smartest person in the room. His take on skepticism is moronic: “Why don’t they criticize WAR?”

Personally. as a physician and a pathologist, I have a lot of hard-earned knowledge about medical issues. My undergrad in Chemistry has equipped me to take on topics like homeopathy.
What the hell would I have to add to a discussion of war?

War is bad, okay? Edwin Starr did a much better job than I ever could.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztZI2aLQ9Sw

Dead right about Horgan as pompous but shallow thinker. Which is too bad, because there’s a reasonable critique of the skeptic community to be made somewhat along the lines he takes. It’s just that his take isn’t it at all.

When I was working at the Maryland Department of Health, one of my bosses laughed at me when I told her about Twitter’s ability to amplify the antivax message. She clearly said to me that people just don’t get any kind of information from social media. This was 2011.
That same year, I was almost fired and told to take down my blog because of my interactions in disputing claims by an antivaxxer. Calling him a “douchebag” was just too much for leadership, and they sided with the antivaxxer because I was mean to him.
So, yeah, the dinosaurs in the leadership positions in public health are seeing that bright thing in the sky coming at the planet and think nothing of it.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, CDC needs to end. It needs to have a reboot. Stat!

I must confess to a bit of schadenfreude when I see these dinosaurs having their noses rubbed in what we’ve been warning them about for a couple of decades and having the revelation that they should have had a decade ago. However, I’d gladly forego the satisfaction and deal with them continuing to be as clueless a bunch of dinosaurs as they were before if getting them to see the light required a global pandemic and millions of deaths and the worsening of the situation by the very misinformation and conspiracy theories we’ve been warning about for so many years.

Here’s the thing. Now that they’re aware, how much do you want to bet that, when the pandemic finally abates, they’ll scurry back to their pre-pandemic cluelessness?

So, yeah, the dinosaurs in the leadership positions in public health are seeing that bright thing in the sky coming at the planet and think nothing of it.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, CDC needs to end. It needs to have a reboot. Stat!

Indeed! Some years ago before a major anti-vaxx “event”, I suggested to an acquaintance affiliated with a rather well-known public health agency that said public health agency should start paying attention and push back against their disinformation. They are getting bigger and better at spreading anti-vaxx propaganda. I was brushed off because anti-vaxxers were viewed as fringe and as long as you didn’t pay attention to them, they would just stay fringe.

Hah.

@ Science Mom:

Agreed.
I am trying to pinpoint exactly when it appeared to me that anti-vaxxers were emerging from the fringe. Could it only be after Covid took over the news? Two years or less? I’m not sure but I can say that it’s been in that time periods that we began to hear or read about ” anti-vaxxers” ( spelt that way) frequently on mainstream news. Before that, I read/ heard most about them through sceptics or from the perpetrators themselves ( although they didn’t call themselves that) .

Some antivaxx commenters have been mentioning the supposed lower death rates from COVID in countries that haven’t vaccinated as much.
About that:
COVID-19 may have killed nearly 3 million in India, far more than official counts show

India, from the earliest days of the pandemic, has reported far fewer COVID-19 deaths than expected given the toll elsewhere—an apparent death “paradox” that some believed was real and others thought would prove illusory. Now, a prominent epidemiologist who contended the country really had been spared the worst of COVID-19 has led a rigorous new analysis of available mortality data and concluded he “got it wrong.” India has “substantially greater” COVID-19 deaths than official reports suggest, says Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto— close to 3 million, which is more than six times higher than the government has acknowledged and the largest number of any country.

Well, sure. It’s as if those antivaxxers don’t note that there is a correlation between lack of access to vaccines and lack of access to testing and a tendency to miss COVID-19 deaths, attributing them to something else. India is a great example, given how many people were dying without ever being tested for COVID.

“largest number of any country.” well that would stand to reason since India has over 1 billion people

From the Science paper:

“The result: a much higher estimate—between 2300 and 2500 deaths per million by September 2021, comparable to the rate in the United States, which has one-third as many people.”

So what the research shows is that India, that did very little in the way to stop the spread, masks, social distancing, vaccines etc. had the same result as a country that spent 1-3 Trillion dollars and put millions out of work and caused other health and social issues.

@ Kay West

You continue with your incredible dishonesty. Official reports from India have been found to grossly underestimate deaths. A while back I posted several papers, some written by experts at Indian think tanks. You just are one really SICK SICK individual.

As Orac explained above, it is only one immune system that protects us, whether that immune system is alerted by a vaccine, thus avoiding risk of serious disease, or some suffer severe disease and then same immune system protects. However, some recent studies have found that if infected with covid, any variant, many, even those asymptomatic, develop various degrees of autoimmune diseases. How long these will last is currently unknown.

So, keep making a fool of yourself. The one thing you do have expertise in.

Joel I just posted what was written in the report,(it was cut and pasted) did you even read the link/report.Please explain how you came to the conclusion I was being dishonest.

“You continue with your incredible dishonesty.”

with this statement you obviously didn’t read the story and linked research.

“Official reports from India have been found to grossly underestimate deaths.”

I pointed out the fact that India did very little in comparison to the US and had the same outcome.
I have no idea where the rest of your rant was even about, yet you commented……

While I appreciate the links.
1. the mask and other rules were for only two weeks (their social distance was for 1 meters or about 3 feet, the US rules were 6 feet). (I actually read the links unlike some people that post here.)
2. as to the compensation their supreme court only allowed for about 50,000 rupees (674 US dollars) and that compensation was only paid to the 450,000 that officially died from Covid, the research not withstanding.
cbsnews.com/news/covid-19-india-victims-compensation-674-dollars/

My comparison still stands, even if you want to use the research paper and article that Julian posted, India spent far less then the US did and ended up with the same outcome (per the Science paper) as the US did which spent 2-3 Trillion dollars. India spend Billions while the US spent Trillions, the US has 1/3 the population of India

the Science paper

That quote is from an opinion piece in Science Insider (“Breaking news and analysis on science policy”), not a formal journal paper published by Science.

https://www.science.org/content/article/covid-19-may-have-killed-nearly-3-million-india-far-more-official-counts-show

The actual report published in Science (which is linked to from the Science Insider article) is:
https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abm5154 (DOI:10.1126/science.abm5154)

@Kay West This is from horse’s mouth
https://www.mohfw.gov.in/
a) intense vaccination effort (check the numbers)
b) home isolation
c) rules for health care workers
d) rules of foriegn arrivals
Of course, current policy is what matters. Who would change a policy, if it works

I was listening to an NPR program about vaccine hesitancy in Peru in the upper Amazon. While most of the objections seemed to be based on religion, There was also mention about the microchips in the vaccines. If that particular trope made it all the way to the end of civilization, where will it not reach?

Orac writes,

“Since the pandemic I’ve said, ‘Everything old is new again’, referring to antivaxxers.”

MJD says,

A gifted cancer surgeon who is hyper-focused on vaccine lifestyle, that’s Orac. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fascinated by your respectful insolence (RI) hobby targeting antivaxxers but wish you would focus thy acumen on alternative anti-cancer therapies. Cancer is the second leading killer in our neighborhoods.

@ Orac,

If applicable, apply some of that RI towards a recent medical paper by MJD titled, ” Vitamins and Cancer Immunotherapy.” I’m a fan of one megavitamin. Guess which one? A,B,C,D,E, or K?

https://gsconlinepress.com/journals/gscarr/sites/default/files/GSCARR-2021-0309.pdf

Sincerely, one of Orac’s minions at the blog Respectful Insolence – Michael J. Dochniak (MJD)

” alternative anti-cancer therapies”

Why push quackery? Simply because clowns like you support it because it makes you look like rebels who want to help? Following your advice would help nobody other than you grifters.

When there is a major controversy, and you are on one side of it, and you are confident that your side is 100% correct and the other side is 100% wrong, then you are a good tribe member. You are NOT a rational skeptic.

There is extreme political divisiveness in America today, and extreme covid and vaccine divisiveness. Both extremes contain some truth and lots of untruth. Orac’s certainty is a sure sign that he is an extremist.

Orac’s list of “misinformation:”

“Natural immunity” is better. (It isn’t.)”
That is not known.

“Vaccines don’t work”
Some work, some don’t. Like any drug, they are not perfect.

“The virus isn’t deadly/is an artifact of testing/is misdiagnosed”
As Orac must have heard, in the very great majority of cases, the virus is NOT deadly.

“The virus was made in a lab or leaked by a lab”
We still don’t know. We do know there was an attempted coverup early in the pandemic. But many experts now think it could have resulted from the gain-of-function research being done at WIV, which was partly funded by the US.

It is absolutely, positively, without a doubt known if “natural” immunity is better or worse than vaccine-induced immunity when you control for the risks, and of course that’s true for all diseases in all cases for all recommended vaccines.

After all, what’s the purpose of immunity? That’s right: It’s to not get the disease, and to not get consequences from getting the disease.

And how do you get so-called natural immunity? Yep, you get the disease with all attendant risks and complications and chance of long-term consequences.

So, for the vaccine to be worse than the disease, it would have to, well.actively be worse than the disease. It would have to make your breakthrough infection worse than if you weren’t vaccinated (it doesn’t do that), or increase your odds of getting infected (it doesn’t do that), or make you more likely to get infected subsequently (it also doesn’t do that.)

It’s not a two-point matrix of “natural vs vaccine”, it’s a four-point matrix, and in every case the direction of better is in favor of vaccine and against getting the disease.

If you had covid? Vaccine improves your immunity at low risk. If you didn’t have covid? Vaccine improves your immunity at low risk.

Being in favor of “natural immunity” is saying you should go seek out a covid infection so that you don’t get covid. That’s the entire argument, and I’ve yet to hear someone explain why it would be anything other than trying to smuggle that premise in unchallenged.

This Saterday there was an interview with 6 people, who didn’t want to vaccinate. One stated she wanted to get infected, because then she would have acces to places like restaurants and other places, where one only would have acces when vaccinated, or have had an infection.
But, well that lady was also into all kind of quackery and didn’t want to do anything to prevend spreading the infection, like masking and things. She also said, people should not be affraid of dieing.

No balance is not half way between opposing views and you kind of missed the point here. Orac specifically called them ‘misleading claims’. In other words there may be some truth to them but they are used to deliberately mislead and are usually made as black and white positive assertions. Taking your selection:

It is still incorrect to assert that Natural Immunity is better, even if you were correct in asserting it isn’t known. The statement is still wrong. Conversely however, there is a study showing Natural Immunity for CV is worse, which I linked to earlier and another commentator gives another instance where the vaccination provides better immunity, so Orac is quite correct in asserting “it isn’t”.

The assertion that vaccines don’t work is indeed wholly incorrect. Ironically you immediately go on to say some work illustrating that anyone who asserts they don’t work is wrong! That was Orac’s point!!!

As above the claim that the virus is not deadly (aka as its only the flu) is also wrong. It can be deadly and a lot more so than the flu so to assert it isn’t is misleading. Orac was commenting on the incorrect statement, not on how deadly the virus is.

To positively assert the virus was made in a Lab, principally as part of a China or Fauchi conspiracy, when there is insufficient evidence to say so is just rumour mongering. You may speculate it escaped from benign work as you do, but to assert it positively, as the conspiracy theorists do, is misleading.

Quite frankly I’m puzzled as to how you could miss the point so badly but in charity perhaps you have not engaged with these people on social media and have had statements like “vaccinations don’t work” thrown at you. They don’t even accept Polio was nearly eradicated by vaccination and claim it was all to do with diet and hygiene.

If a vaccine does not work.it is not approved.
COVID has killed 5 500 000 peoole. Is this deadly enough.

Not so fast Aarno. Colin Powell did not have a co-diagnosis of asthma. No he was dying of multiple myeloma. Unlike you I have actually taken care of COVID patients. Those who died often had stage 4 cancer. There have been case reports of people being shot or struck by lightning who have been designated with death from COVID. What perverse process would allow this to take place? Is it replicated elsewhere? If it is such a deadly virus why does it kill exclusively the elderly. Oh I can hear you now ” it also kills the young.” Tell that to a mother of a dead child blahh blahh blahh. No Aaarno it kills the sick. People that are sick from other diseases. Oh they would have lived if they hadn’t got COVID. blahh blahh blahh,.I really grow tired of you people. Over intellectualized buffoons who can talk themselves into anything. Please don’t reply. Just go away.

“I have actually taken care of COVID patients.”

How? By slipping a knife between their ribs?

“MD”

Pants on fire.

@ Chris ” No Aaarno it kills the sick. People that are sick from other diseases.”

So are you saying we should be OK with sick people dying? Even if it is likely that they could have gotten better?
Are you really a doctor and do you really think that sick people should just die? Sounds like you want to follow in the footsteps of Dr Harold Shipman.

Chris Grammar MD:

Not so fast Aarno. Colin Powell did not have a co-diagnosis of asthma.

I’m sure you’ll be able to cite where Aarno said that…

And the irony is that we’re currently seeing dozens of movie critics panning #DontLookUp as too heavy-handed, too obvious, too exaggerated, too on-the-nose

Well? It was. I loved it. I could not get my dad to watch it after recalibrating his visio “atmos” ‘experience’ and rearranging his funiture because he was warned about it in advance (tender pshyche, i guess). That is actually how I figured it would probably be good. So, “hurummph” and he put the couch back into the dead spot.

“who could have predicted that lying to the public would erode public trust?!”

We knew repeated lying could do that. The question is why do you and people like you work so hard at lying with the goal of eroding trust in science?

@Chaos Infusion

“I mean… who could have predicted that lying to the public would erode public trust?!”

What a surprise.

I have to admit that I have been somewhat taken by surprise, not by the fact that anti-vaxxers have weaponised COVID-19, but by how extensive the embrace of anti-vaxxer views by the American Right has been. I was aware that anti-vaccine ideas had been taken up by libertarianism, but for 30% of the population to prefer risking illness and death rather than take a vaccine to demonstrate their allegiance to a cult did surprised me.

On social media, when facebook first came on the scene, I noted to one of my acquaintances that is was perfectly designed to cultivate echo chambers and conspiracies. I first saw this in its full expression with Meryl Dorey’s AVN, where any dissenting voices were immediately banned. We used to joke that there was a stadium full of people who had been banned from the page. Of course we have now seen this process on steroids with all the “free speech” social media platforms.

@ Indie Rebel

You write: “When there is a major controversy, and you are on one side of it, and you are confident that your side is 100% correct and the other side is 100% wrong, then you are a good tribe member. You are NOT a rational skeptic. There is extreme political divisiveness in America today, and extreme covid and vaccine divisiveness. Both extremes contain some truth and lots of untruth. Orac’s certainty is a sure sign that he is an extremist.”

Do you understand the difference between science and politics? Yep, politics can influence whether people listen to science or not; but not what science has to say. You don’t understand immunology and, yet, you keep making the same stupid claims. Science is NOT a tribe, it is an objective way of looking at the world. A good scientist is a rational skeptic. Which is why I seldom rely on one or two studies.

You write: “Orac’s list of “misinformation:”
“Natural immunity” is better. (It isn’t.)”
That is not known.
“Vaccines don’t work”
Some work, some don’t. Like any drug, they are not perfect.
“The virus isn’t deadly/is an artifact of testing/is misdiagnosed”
As Orac must have heard, in the very great majority of cases, the virus is NOT deadly.”

First, correct, the vast majority of covid sufferers don’t die. However, only a callous self-righteous sicko like you would downplay these deaths. They are loved ones, etc. And even if older and/or with significant comorbidities, they may have lived a lot longer if not for covid. And, whether natural immunity is better or not, and, you are right, currently we can’t be certain; however some studies have found that even those who have had severe covid didn’t develop strong antibodies and vaccines prevent suffering, reduce shedding, etc. And recent studies have found that those who have been infected with any of the variants, even asymptomatic, many developed various autoimmune diseases and not certain how long these will last.

You write: ““The virus was made in a lab or leaked by a lab”
We still don’t know. We do know there was an attempted coverup early in the pandemic. But many experts now think it could have resulted from the gain-of-function research being done at WIV, which was partly funded by the US.”

And I could care less. The U.S. has experienced numerous leaks from gain-of-function labs. More importantly is that we were totally unprepared despite experts explaining that sooner or later a pandemic would occur. And even now we have people like you who ignore how vaccines work, ignore the literally hundreds of studies around the world that those vaccinated at far less risk of severe disease, etc. So, I still think probably covid arose naturally; but I wouldn’t bet on it and, again, it doesn’t matter. What if the leak had been from U.S. lab? In either case, if leak it wasn’t intentional, and if natural, more likely, and we still were unprepared. The National Strategic Stockpile was not renewed. We allow almost all Personal Protective Equipment to be manufactured abroad. So, if a pandemic arises, those countries will use first. A high percentage of even our basic medicines are manufactured in India or China.

Why do you just keep making a fool of yourself. I guess as long as no one knows who you are, you don’t care.

@ Indie Rebel

I realize that, though you speak of science, you also refer to the “spiritual” dimension, and, for instance, regarding Reiki, claimed no funded studies and didn’t try to measure the “energy.” And continued to do so even after I literally listed numerous studies, etc. And you claimed no funding of alternative medicines; but I gave name of federal department that has spent over $2 billion and you ignore. So, in essence, you really don’t understand nor accept science. The fact that you continued to refer to RFKs book, despite my tearing it apart, showing it was dishonest hyperbolic, etc. and you basically make statements with same type of rhetoric, says just what an idiot you are. Again, what science is and isn’t:

“Western science arose, gradually evolved, and became self-consciously dissociated from religion and other supernaturalistic perspectives. Science became a peculiar epistemology arising out of a distinct philosophy about the acquisition and manipulation of knowledge. Enlightenment writers saw science as an endeavor emanating from man’s rational mind, unfettered by superstition or blind emotion.

Today, modern science comprises those ways of knowing and understanding that theoretically exclude the supernatural and the mystical; that is, it is based fundamentally on empirical knowledge, independently and objectively acquired through normal human sensory faculties or mechanical techniques. It is guided by a body of concepts, formal procedures, specific rules, methodologies, and perspectives that carry the presumption of objectivity and neutrality. We are conditioned to view it as a separate sphere of culture and its findings as products of strict empiricism and rigid procedures.”

Why don’t you crawl back under your rock and stop making a fool of yourself.

I agreed with you until you said its makes no difference whether the virus leaked from a lab or was a wild type. You didn’t really mean to say that did you? You don’t think going forward that is an important issue?

Genuine question-what the hell difference does it make? I wouldn’t be shocked to learn it got out of that lab. Indeed, their very own director admitted publicly that she was immediately worried about the same when she heard it was a coronavirus. If it did? So what? They’ll do it again. They’re probably right back at it right now.

Here’s the thing…does anyone honestly believe we can stop China or North Korea from doing anything? We are probably a few years away from NK genetically engineering soldiers. They have openly admitted they are doing this. Why? Because they want to and no one will stop them. China will watch and learn with tacit encouragement.

I’ll say one thing for IR, regardless of how misguided and confused he/she/it is-we DO have a massive issue with obesity and physical fitness in our country. The DoD has already rung the alarm several times that we couldn’t bring a draft back to defend ourselves because something like 70%+ of males between 18-42 are unfit for service right now. It would take months to get enough into reasonable shape.

I don’t like our odds in direct combat against humans who were engineered or bred to be stronger, use oxygen more efficiently, need less food and sleep, etc, etc.

@ Chris Grammar

As I explained, the U.S. has had numerous leaks of gain-of-function viruses, some quite dangerous, so, it could have originated here. If it were an accidental leak from a Wuhan lab then I’m confident the Chinese have made improvements to reduce future such events. However, as I explained and you ignored, whatever the source, since if it wasn’t this particular virus, it could and will be others from nature, we were NOT prepared and looks like we won’t be prepared for the next one.

When you’re in the middle of fighting a million acre wild fire, does it matter to fighting the fire if it was arson or poorly-maintained equipment or a lightening strike?

Not really.

It will matter later, for future prevention, but it doesn’t change the way you fight the fire right now.

” Who could have seen this coming?”

Today Dr Fauci, a recipient of Rand Paul’s attacks for a long time, struck back:
Paul “kindles the crazies” who then threaten his life and harass his family. An armed man drove from Sacramento towards Washington to kill Fauci. On his website, Paul raises money for his campaign with admonitions to “Fire Fauci”. “Click this box”.
Another senator asks about Fauci’s investments- which Fauci assures him are and have been PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE for decades.

He felt safe with aids activists as opposed to these people.

There will probably be video of his interview with Chris Hayes MSNBC.

@MedicalYeti

“does anyone honestly believe we can stop China or North Korea from doing anything?”

No we can’t stop China or NK from developing bioweapons. We can’t even stop our own country from doing it, since we can’t let others get ahead of us.

But there should be some consequences for our medical and military leaders who promoted and funded the WIV research. We can’t stop it, but we don’t have to encourage it.

By the way, Fauci and Gates have been warning about a pandemic for several years now. What made them so sure this would happen? Maybe because they knew all about, and were involved in, the vaccine-bioweapon projects.

“By the way, Fauci and Gates have been warning about a pandemic for several years now. What made them so sure this would happen? ”

Oh, I don’t know, that every disease ecologist in the world has been warning about this kind of thing for decades? Emerging Infectious Diseases is a whole discipline in public health/epidemiology/ecology. Heck, it was a class I took in undergrad, and one of the texts we used was “The Coming Plague”, and the first edition of that was published in 1994!

The world is full of pathogens, and the more people there are in places people haven’t been before, the more likely it is that one of those people will become the host of a new pathogen, and by simple probability eventually one of those pathogens will unleash a pandemic. To students of history and infectious disease this pandemic was something of an inevitability. We just didn’t know when or what pathogen. (I was wrong, my bet was on another super flu.)

Science Fiction has been using it as a staple for decades in one form or another. Anyone remember The Death of Grass by John Christopher? It even starts in China. If SF uses it then you can guarantee scientists have thought about it too.

On the other hand, using conspiracy logic, if any vaccine mass death occurred, it would be anti-vaxxers fault. They’re the ones predicting it so they must be causing it.

“What made them so sure this would happen Maybe because they knew all about, and were involved in, the vaccine-bioweapon projects.?”

The same things most people who worry about these things were reasonably sure it would happen. No conspiracy needed — not that that observation will stop you from implying there was one.

“By the way, Fauci and Gates have been warning about a pandemic for several years now. What made them so sure this would happen? Maybe because they knew all about, and were involved in, the vaccine-bioweapon projects.”

Yes, people involved in nefarious schemes always warn victims about them ahead of time.

And if figures like Fauci and Gates don’t issue such warnings, it’s also proof they were conspiring to spring these things on us.

Indie Rebel is a self-described scientist who did not warn us in advance. That tells us all we need to know about his complicity in the pandemic.

In other news…

Because I frequent ( virtually that is, I would never be caught there otherwise) those sinkholes of unreason, prn.live and Brighteon, I see/ hear he worst lies, drivel and fantasy:
from Project Veritas through Steve Bannon with additional commentary by Naomi Wolf, The Many Crimes of Anthony Fauci ( not the real title) . Wolf: ” We need a second Nuremberg trial”

@ Indie Rebel

You write: ““does anyone honestly believe we can stop China or North Korea from doing anything?”
No we can’t stop China or NK from developing bioweapons. We can’t even stop our own country from doing it, since we can’t let others get ahead of us.
But there should be some consequences for our medical and military leaders who promoted and funded the WIV research. We can’t stop it, but we don’t have to encourage it.”

Well, congrats, you got one thing right. We can’t stop China or North Korea from developing bioweapons, just as we were caught after promising not to continuing, just claiming for research purposes only. But you don’t know where to stop. You want to blame covid on Wuhan escape; but the evidence is NOT there, only presumptions. As I’ve written before, if it was an escape, it was certainly accidental; but the main problem is that we were NOT prepared, screwed up how we handled it, and probably won’t be prepared for the next one. And the odds of another pandemic, almost certainly from nature, are extremely high and it could be much worse. We aren’t really building up the National Strategic Stockpile, most of our Personal Protective Equipment is manufactured abroad, and even a high percentage of our medications.

You write: “By the way, Fauci and Gates have been warning about a pandemic for several years now. What made them so sure this would happen? Maybe because they knew all about, and were involved in, the vaccine-bioweapon projects.”

Or maybe because people who understand infectious diseases understand that world developments have significantly increased the risk of pandemics. Among these are:
1. wet markets in Asia where they capture exotic species in the wild. These species who don’t interact with people have numerous potentially risky viruses
2. cutting down of rainforests, people moving in, increasing exposure
3. huge number of international travelers
4. increases in population density
and several more

So, you just continue to show your ignorance, your stupidity, wanting to blame Fauci and Gates and ignoring what people who actually have studied pandemics, immunology, etc. understand. Yep, your rigid asinine bias, your absolute stupidity just never seems to end.

I’m sure, given your rigid one-sided extremist positions, that if you were on a jury, if you believed defendant guilty, you would totally ignore the defense, even if they proved prosecutors evidence flawed or if you believed innocent, you would ignore any and all evidence. You are probably one of the most closed minded individuals I have experienced in some time.

Want to respond to Orac? Here's your chance. Leave a reply! Just make sure that you've read the Comment Policy (link located in the main menu in the upper right hand corner of the page) first if you're new here!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.