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John Ioannidis vs. the “science Kardashian” and critics of the Great Barrington Declaration

John Ioannidis’ “science Kardashian” article is the bad science that keeps demonstrating why we should have no superheroes in science. Ideology can warp any of us.

The other day, I wrote about a breathtakingly awful “study” by John Ioannidis, prepandemic science superstar turned booster of the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) and unrelenting foe of anything resembling “lockdowns.” Given that my post was long even by Orac standards, I will try not to rehash (much) of it, other than to mention that my key criticism of Ioannidis’ “study” (such as it was) was that it suffered from a fatal flaw: Its author apparently didn’t realize that the “Kardashian index” that he used to portray signatories of the John Snow Memorandum (JSM), an answer to the GBD criticizing its premises and recommendations, as “science Kardashians” had always been intended as a satirical means of mocking certain scientists’ obsession with scientific publication citation metrics. Even worse, even the peer reviewers (whose reviews were published, albeit belatedly, per BMJ Open Access policy) apparently also never recognized that very same fatal flaw in the Kardashian index, thus leading me to wonder whether Ioannidis’ paper was satire like the Kardashian index, only some sort of satire too subtle for me or the peer reviewers to have recognized as satire. That’s one reason why I rather sarcastically suggested that perhaps there’s no better example of the accuracy of the satire intended by the Kardashian index than Ioannidis’ paper.

Given how many times I’ve discussed the GBD, I won’t belabor the point, but it is important to understand that the GBD, published months before safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 were widely available, recommended a “let ‘er rip” strategy for the disease among the “low risk” and “young,” while advocating “focused protection” for the elderly and those with medical conditions that made them high risk for severe disease and death from COVID-19. Basically, it was the product of a weekend public relations meeting arranged by a right wing “free market” think tank (American Institute for Economic Research) featuring three scientists, Martin Kulldorff (Harvard), Sunetra Gupta (Oxford), and Ioannidis fellow Stanford professor, friend, and collaborator, Jay Bhattacharya. The JSM simply countered that message with standard epidemiological and public health science about the dangers of such an approach and the impossibility of “focused protection” for the vulnerable when a highly transmissible respiratory virus was spreading unchecked.

One of the interesting features of BMJ Open Access and other BMJ publications is their feature known as the “Rapid Review.” In brief, unlike traditional letters to the editor in peer-reviewed journals, which often take months to be published and usually have ridiculously strict format and word count requirements for the era of online—as opposed to dead tree print—publication, Rapid Reviews (usually) live up to their name in that they are published very quickly with only minor editorial gatekeeping; indeed, The BMJ describes the Rapid Response as a “moderated but not peer reviewed online response,” although my experience with them has sometimes involved long delays in publication due to libel concerns of The BMJ. This is somewhat understandable given the UK’s notoriously plaintiff-friendly libel laws. Indeed, the discussion in the Rapid Responses has led me to conclude that the reason for Ioannidis’ support for the GBD and obtuseness in the face of criticism boils down to a combination of ideology, obliviousness to COVID-19 conspiracy theories, and a belief in his own superiority that leads him to dismiss reasonable criticism and expressions of genuine anguish from his former admirers over the turn he has taken and characterizing descriptions of how his previous words have amplified COVID-19 and antivax conspiracy theories as a result of these descriptions somehow “facilitating” the “weaponization” of conspiracy theories against him, all while donning the mantle of victimhood, even though he is perhaps the most published scientist alive right now.

As an aside, I realize that antivaxxers and other cranks have a long history of having frequently weaponized Rapid Reviews by taking advantage of the features that make them useful, their immediacy and open nature, to publish responses to article on vaccines and then represent them as “BMJ publications,” even though The BMJ‘s policies explicitly point out that, unlike the letters to most peer-reviewed journals, Rapid Responses are not indexed in PubMed and do not get DOI numbers. That doesn’t mean, however, that Rapid Responses can’t be incredibly useful. Indeed, in the specific case of Ioannidis’ infamous “science Kardashian” article, Rapid Responses, all of them other than Ioannidis’ responses incredibly negative, have been. For example, excellent Rapid Responses to him have pointed out even more gross methodological problems than I have, as well as other serious problems, such as lack of important information that makes the paper basically uninterpretable, lack of disclosures of Ioannidis’ conflicts of interest, ethical concerns over lack of institutional review board (IRB) approval for a study that named scientists, and Ioannidis’ fallacy in equating citation data with scientific quality and impact.

One shortcoming that I alluded to in my post, but didn’t go into in any depth was this:

A key limitation not noted in this study is that the author has chosen to use a metric designed for one of the smallest social media platforms in the world. While precise figures may be opaquely calculated due to commercial interests, Twitter reported 192 million monetizable active users in 2020 (1), and according to the data aggregation website Statista has a total of 436 million ‘active’ users as of October 2021 (2). This is in stark contrast to other social media sites such as Facebook (2.9 billion users) Youtube (2.3 billion users) and even newer platforms such as Telegram (550 million users) Snapchat (538 million users) and Tiktok (1 billion users) (2).

On examining other social media sites, the inadequacy of using only metrics derived from Twitter becomes immediately apparent. Facebook shares can be analyzed freely through several websites linked to the API (3,4), and these show that the URL for the Great Barrington Declaration (https://gbdeclaration.org/) has been shared more than 700,000 times on the platform. The John Snow Memorandum (https://www.johnsnowmemo.com/), meanwhile, has seen just 10,000 shares, or roughly one seven-hundredth the number. This may be in part due to the large following of the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) on Facebook (340k followers) the organisation that hosted the GBD in 2020.

As I said, Twitter is not the be-all and end-all of social media and social media influence, and Twitter follower counts are far less important than how many times content is actually shared and thereby amplified. Yet, no matter how many times this is pointed out to Ioannidis, in his responses he simply seems completely unable to “get it.” Similarly, when it is pointed out how his narratives and words have been embraced by antivaxxers and even echoed common antivax and QAnon conspiracy theories, he has viewed that not as an opportunity to learn but as an attack that encourages conspiracy theories to use his words. When he criticizes his detractors for being harsh and, worst of all, “divisive,” ignores even worse rhetoric from his friends and those supporting the GBD.

For example, one must cite the example of the Brownstone Institute. Described by its founder Jeffrey Tucker, former AIER editorial director (who has bragged about helping edit the GBD), as the “spiritual child of the GBD“, Brownstone actually boasts of having all three GBD authors affiliated with it. Indeed, three months ago Martin Kuldorff himself left his tenured faculty position at Harvard University to become its Scientific Director, and Jay Bhattarcharya is a Senior Scholar there, with Sunetra Gupta having co-authored a number of articles. One would think that, if GBD supporters truly wanted “nuanced” and “civil” debate, as Ioannidis seems to think they do, there could be no better platform for them to demonstrate their commitment to that and lead by example than at the Brownstone Institute. Yet instead, he accuses his critics (me included) of actually hindering vaccine uptake with our criticism!

Unfortunately, as has been noted many times here, Brownstone is hardly “nuanced” in its messaging about public health interventions against COVID-19 or its response to GBD critics. For example, articles on the its website have likened treatment of the unvaccinated to “othering” that led to the Holocaust, the gulag, and the Rwandan genocide, vaccine mandates to prohibition, public health efforts to Nazi manipulation of crowds, and Dr. Robert Malone, who has promoted many antivaccine conspiracy theories, to a hero. Other articles have likened vaccine mandates to atrocities such as the Chinese Cultural Revolution, all while falsely claiming that masks harm children (20) and cause “brain fog,” while and likening mask wearers to “tribes” and masks instruments of slavery and control rather than public health. Worse, recent news report describes how the BI has spread antivaccine misinformation in Uganda. Let me suggest to Prof. Ioannidis that the messaging portraying vaccine and masking mandates as “tyranny” and ineffective is likely to be more harmful to widespread vaccine uptake than anything Dr. Yamey or I could ever do, our Kardashian indices notwithstanding.

Of course, Prof. Ioannidis probably has a hard time believing that GBD authors had anything to do with these sorts of “divisive” messages from Brownstone. That denial would be rather unconvincing to me given Kulldorff’s and Bhattacharya’s continuing to serve in high ranking positions there. After all, if they so opposed to such “divisive” messages, why do they continue to lend their reputations to the BI and its message? An answer suggests itself to me, at least. One only has to quote certain GBD signatories themselves to realize that, at the very best, they are not strongly opposed to BI’s “divisive” messages. For example, Kulldorff and Bhattacharya have written, “The idea that everyone must be vaccinated against COVID-19 is as misguided as the anti-vax idea that no one should. They have also likened Anthony Fauci and public health officials who do not accept the GBD to a “‘covidian’ high priesthood,” a message repeated by Kulldorff on Twitter. As before, I note from my long experience dealing with these issues that comparing scientists to priests or cult leaders is a common rhetorical technique by antivaccine activists and science deniers. Even the kindest description of such rhetoric would not include the words “nuanced” or “civil.”

While Ioannidis, having had his nose rubbed in it, had little choice but to accept that GBD advocates have not been particularly nuanced, civil, or interested in building bridges with the other side, he was quick to “bothsides” it, which is where, stung by his words being linked with COVID-19 conspiracy theories, he accused us of “facilitating” the “weaponization” of conspiracy theories to be linked with him, to which I respond: Conspiracy theorists do not need me in the least; they were doing an outstanding job of “weaponizing” Prof. Ioannidis’ own words without my input, thanks to Prof. Ioanndis himself! His irresponsible and inflammatory claim that “a lot of lives” were lost early in the pandemic in part because of doctors “not knowing how to use mechanical ventilation, just going crazy, and intubating people who did not have to be intubated,” whether Prof. Ioannidis realizes it or not, couldn’t have been better for conspiracy theorists if he had intended it to be!

Again, it is not facilitating “weaponization” to try to educate Prof. Ioannidis, who was—and apparently remains—blissfully unaware of the particular conspiracy theory to which I had referred, which is why I am more than happy to continue his education with one example from the Natural News website, an article by S.D. Wells entitled WHISTLEBLOWER: Medical device sales expert reveals ‘morbidly unsuccessful’ Covid VENTILATORS as ‘deadly therapy’ in this population reduction scamdemic. A brief taste:

Mr. Chambers of Los Angeles, a medical equipment expert and salesperson with 50 years experience, which includes selling ventilators to hospitals for Covid patients, is done staying quiet about this pandemic of deaths caused by the mechanical ventilators, so he’s blowing the whistle.

You don’t have to be famous, or a scientist or doctor to let the world know the awful truth about something dangerous that the medical industry claims is working. Western medicine, after all, is wrought with fraud through and through, but this whistleblower explains in great detail exactly why very few Covid patients survive the ultimate choke machine, and this information needs to go viral, soon.

I can list more examples, obviously, but this article on the most prolific conspiracy and antivaccine sites in the world, is but one of many examples why it is not a good idea for someone as respected as Ioannidis to echo, even partially and, apparently, inadvertently, the sorts of horrible conspiracy theories being promoted in the deepest, darkest conspiracy sites on the Internet. That’s not all, though.

Prof. Ioannidis took particular umbrage at Dr. Jonathan Howard, who observed that Ioannidis also “continues to promote a QAnon meme” about death certificates. Dr. Howard was, of course, correct. Again, assuming that Prof. Ioannidis was unaware of a viral conspiracy theory that arose during the summer of 2020 that did, in fact, turn into the very QAnon meme described by Dr. Howard, the idea that death certificates were being gamed by doctors for the nefarious purpose of inflating COVID-19 deaths and justifying extreme interventions (like lockdowns) arguably reached its apotheosis in what I originally dubbed the “6% gambit.” This misinformation and conspiracy theory claimed that only 6% of COVID-19 deaths reported were actually due to COVID-19, the rest being due to “comorbidities” listed on the death certificates that really killed the patients but were not correctly listed as the primary cause of death. Whether Prof. Ioannidis realized it or not, his narrative in 2020 that COVID-19 death counts were likely highly overreported based on death certificates fed that conspiracy theory that became a QAnon meme and continues to exist today as a conspiracy theory about COVID-19.

There’s no greater validation to a conspiracy theorist than to see a narrative similar to his repeated by a scientist as eminent as Prof. Ioannidis. That’s why, whether Prof. Ioannidis is willing to accept it or not, his promotion of the idea that COVID-19 deaths were being massively overcounted thanks to incorrectly filled out death certificates contributed considerably to this conspiracy theory.

Why might Ioannidis be so inflexible and unwilling to accept these criticisms? Why would he, as he accused me of “weaponizing” conspiracy theories against him, actually “weaponize” science against GBD critics by using the Kardashian index to portray them as a bunch of unserious “science Kardashians“? (It was a method enthusiastically taken up by the AIER and AIER-linked GBD advocates and allies.) Why did he do the same thing in December by publishing a paper that denigrated COVID-19 science communicators by suggesting that, by citation bibliometrics, most of them aren’t at the top of their fields? One reason, clearly, is that Ioannidis very much supports a the GBD’s message about “lockdowns” and pandemic mitigations, calling them a “threat to democracy”:

Several governments responded to the lethal pandemic by undermining the very systems that were in place to ensure accountability and to protect public health and well-being. No single individual can be blamed for this—it was a systemic problem, as decisions taken by one government or government agency instantaneously affected the decisions of others. But the result was the restriction of basic freedoms and the normalization of scapegoating and exclusion, both historically a prelude to atrocities. While some extreme actions were justified as efforts to achieve otherwise laudable goals (like increasing rates of vaccination), the attempt to isolate vast numbers of people while whipping the general population into agreement on aggressive public health policies probably damaged even these goals.

Wow. I hadn’t noticed before, but there’s Ioannidis claiming that pandemic mitigation measures are a danger to democracy akin to incipient authoritarianism and, even worse, arguing that they are the sort of actions that are a “prelude to atrocities”! I will give him credit for restraining himself and not explicitly linking them to incipient fascism, as Dr. Vinay Prasad once did, or to the “othering” that led to the Holocaust, as the Brownstone Institute recently did. On the other hand, perhaps Ioannidis is far closer to these extreme viewpoints than I had realized, even if he did restrain himself from directly likening COVID-19 mitigations to the Holocaust and the governments undertaking them to Nazis, choosing an only slightly more subtle way of doing it.

In a similar vein:

Concern about the manipulation of power and influence has also been exacerbated by the performance of media and social media. It is critical in free, democratic societies that media never become a vessel for a single, state-sanctioned, official narrative at the expense of public debate and freedom of speech. The same appliesfor social media: Removing content considered “fake” or “false” in order to limit the ability of ordinary people to judge information for themselves only inflames polarization and distrust of the public sphere.

This of course reveals that Prof. Ioannidis’ lack of understanding of social media is even worse than I had thought reading his Kardashian index paper. He completely ignores the role of the algorithms that decide what social media users see in their feeds, as well as organized and concentrated disinformation campaigns designed to feed that algorithm, all while ignoring the role of conspiracy theories in those efforts. No wonder he can’t seem to accept criticisms in the Rapid Responses to his Kardashian index paper that he had inadvertently amplified conspiracy theories about intubations and COVID-19 death certificates! In retrospect, I now realize that I had forgotten how Ioannidis’ most famous study about how over half of scientific studies are “wrong” was also misrepresented by conspiracy theorists as meaning that evidence-based medicine is “no better than a coin flip.”

Ioannidis protests that he can’t control how cranks use his words and work, which is true but far from the whole story. Just because he can’t totally control how people use their words doesn’t mean that he has no control. If he doesn’t want his words misused by cranks and conspiracy theorists, it’s probably impossible for him to stop it entirely, but he sure as hell can make it a lot harder for them to do so if he were to put his mind to it. All he has to do is to be aware of the conspiracy theories out there, particularly how his words are used to support them, and try! He could, if he desires, make his message, even when it might somewhat echo conspiracy theories, much more difficult than it is now for cranks to cite and weaponize. He doesn’t and doesn’t even bother to try.

I can only sincerely hope that, stung by the criticism he’s now receiving, Prof. Ioannidis might take a moment to reflect and ask himself why so many of those who formerly admired him greatly (myself included) now view him as a cautionary example of how ideology can lead any scientist or skeptic down a dark path of using science not as a tool of enlightenment but rather as a tool of ideology. This is nothing new of course. It’s not as though the climate science denial that ran rampant among the libertarian-leaning side of the skeptics movement a decade ago or the “gender critical” attack on transgender people that is now echoed by some of the same self-identified skeptics don’t provide copious examples. I just never thought that, among scientists, Prof. Ioannidis would be another example. I consider this a lesson learned: No more heroes, at least not as big as Ioannidis was to me.

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]

66 replies on “John Ioannidis vs. the “science Kardashian” and critics of the Great Barrington Declaration”

Well Iceland with almost 90% of the adult population vaccinated and 80% boosted, threw in the towel today and will lift ALL restrictions as cases are rising to over 2,800 cases a day and admitted:
“To achieve this, as many people as possible need to be infected with the virus as the vaccines are not enough, even though they provide good protection against serious illness,” it added.”

yahoo.com/now/iceland-lift-covid-19-restrictions-143145326.html

But Nature magazine once proclaimed

“How Iceland hammered COVID with science.”

nature.com/articles/d41586-020-03284-3

Maybe the Great Barrington Declaration was spot on.

Or maybe, as Iceland (and other high-vaccinated countries) have seen that deaths are no longer as linked to the rise in cases (possibly due to imunity), they are starting to return to ‘normal’.

BTW, Iceland has had only 60 deaths due to Covid-19, and (-)30 excess deaths in 2020-2021. Sound pretty good to me

The county I live in has about the same size population as Iceland. We’re one of the least impacted places in the country from Covid and had almost no deaths in 2020 (they’ve mostly happened since vaccination and involved the unvaxxed and the very old). We’ve still had several times more deaths than Iceland has had. Iceland also doesn’t have nearby Republican counties full of deniers who trust their immune system but then rush to the hospital when they can’t breathe, and their smaller hospitals refer the sickest to the larger hospital in our (liberal Democratic) county.

“And Barrington declaration folks would still be correct.”

Only in the mind of a liar and science denier.

Oh, it was lagarbage — so the comment’s correct.

“And Barrington declaration folks would still be correct.”

Without the massive number of deaths though John. The GBD wanted to ignore covid from the start. The end point might be similar (eventually) but millions more people would be dead.

Do you want to argue that those deaths would be worth it? I’m sure somewhere has projections estimating the full spread, without taking vaccination and other public health measures into account.

No, the GBD was not “spot on.” Its authors wrote it before there were vaccines available and argued in essence, that “natural herd immunity” was inevitable, meaning that we should have just “let ‘er rip” to reach that magical “natural herd immunity” sooner. Of course, the rise of the Delta variant, then the Omicron variant, and now the Omicron BA.2 variant, all of which were ever more transmissible and, seemingly, more able to evade “natural immunity” as well as vaccines, demonstrated the folly of the GBD, which was pointed out to GBD authors even back in 2020. Advocating GBD-like policies without widespread availability of vaccines would have lead to even more of a disaster than we already endured.

That being said, the vaccines still provide very good protection against severe disease and death, albeit imperfect, and that is what allows lifting of other restrictions, not any sort of “natural herd immunity.” Let’s put it this way. If 90% of the population is fully vaccinated, and 80% boosted beyond that, that leaves a far smaller pool of people susceptible to COVID-19 for infections to work with to push the percentage of those who have either vaccine-induced or infection-induced immunity past the herd immunity threshold.

As I replied when you posted this to the other thread. Your own reference says they were WAITING FOR TGE VACCINES.

“limit the ability of ordinary people to judge information for themselves”

Sorry, Dr. Ioannidis, but, as we say on the Internet: LOL

I would love to think that ordinary people are good at judging the information they find on social media. But then I remember all the times my Facebook feed would be flooded with people absolutely certain that they were going to have to cull their friends list or start paying a monthly fee (or that Bill Gates was going to give them money, or whatever), and I realize that most people don’t approach stuff on social media with a critical eye. (Because I don’t need a critical eye to look at a picture of my friend’s cute baby or cat or what they had for dinner or to chat about the latest episode of whatever show.)

LOL is correct.
Not only do ordinary people make poor judgments about social media but they similarly accept outrageous BS from misinformation websites and so-called news reports. Going from the number of followers or shares I observe at truly horrendous sites/ social media, I wonder how they can go along with such nonsense/ obvious lies and still function as adults in society- running households, shopping, taking care of children, paying bills etc.

Based on estimates of the amount of people who accept various CTs/ myths as real ( easy to find) and recent measures of vaccine rejection, I estimate that perhaps about 20% might have serious issues with reality and haven’t a clue about which sources are worth reading. Holy crap, they taught us this in school when I was 12!

David you are correct, they had less than 30 deaths 2020 thru 2021 (two years).

But they have had over 30 deaths in the last 2 months, so they doubled their deaths in only those two months, so no they did not “seen that deaths are no longer as linked to the rise in cases”, they went from sometime zero cases per week to over 2,800 cases A DAY

Iceland imposed travel restrictions, mask, closed school etc. and it worked, until things started to open up. If you seal a petri dish, nothing will grow, but once you expose that dish to the air it will quickly be inhabited by ‘things’, people are just bigger versions of a petri dish.
Iceland just chose to ‘let it rip’ as it made only a small difference in the final out come. Just look at states that chose to lock down or impose mandates vs, states that didn’t.

Do your petri dishes come with preloaded vermin, viruses etc, like windows 11 comes with preloaded stuff you don’t need,want or use.

“So you are saying deaths go up when lockdowns end ? ”

Infections and deaths both go up when lock downs end. You have a choice: end the lock downs and treat/isolate the most vulnerable/at risk and accept the losses or the lock downs would/will never end, they will both get to the same point with similar deaths and infections as I said look at the states that had mandate vs states that didn’t.

Well, Clint, to continue your analogy that you clearly didn’t understand and still clearly don’t- YES. If humans are the petri dishes in this analogy they are LOADED from birth and, especially after they begin feeding, with vermin, viruses, etc. Have you any idea how many viruses kids contract by age, say, seven? There’s a reason we call them “Fourth, Fifth Disease” etc. Your skin is also CRAWLING with vermin.

You’re really bad at this whole clinical microbiology thing.

@Clint You forgot option to protect everybody, that is vaccination. Isolation of every obese person in US would be a quite big lockdown, btw.

On examining other social media sites, the inadequacy of using only metrics derived from Twitter becomes immediately apparent. Facebook shares can be analyzed freely through several websites linked to the API (3,4), and these show that the URL for the Great Barrington Declaration (https://gbdeclaration.org/) has been shared more than 700,000 times on the platform. The John Snow Memorandum (https://www.johnsnowmemo.com/), meanwhile, has seen just 10,000 shares, or roughly one seven-hundredth the number. This may be in part due to the large following of the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) on Facebook (340k followers) the organisation that hosted the GBD in 2020.

Orac 700.000 divided by 10,000 is 70, not 700

Two additional thoughts:
A. The quote you use above shows Ioannidis as thinking vaccines mandates are extreme measures.
That seems like a pretty strong position.

B. Not only does he seem unaware of algorithms, he seems unaware of the available of multiple forums. Simply put, there is no way today to really keep content offline. The misinformers are not being silenced, and the claim social media owes them a platform is unconvincing.

And if he was not aware traditional media filtered content, he has more to learn there, too.

There are more, not less, forums available today for misinformed promoters.

Dorit is right: there are lots more online forums available since social media clamped down on mis-informers:
— anti-vaxxers list where their followers can migrate: Telegram, Gab, Parler, MeWe, etc
— longer-form sites like substack ( which can be monetised)
— personal social media like Adams’ Brighteon, PRN, expanding websites like CHD
— alties also maintain commercial sites for sale of their products that include their polemics/ essays as an added dividend.

“If he doesn’t want his words misused by cranks and conspiracy theorists, it’s probably impossible for him to stop it entirely, but he sure as hell can make it a lot harder for them to do so if he were to put his mind to it. All he has to do”

Better yet, he can stop writing biased articles in Tablet, WSJ, and disingenuously claiming have a point of view in the matter in BMJ. He’s been at it from pretty much the beginning of the epidemic. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-bearer-of-good-coronavirus-news-11587746176
If he really want’s to be seen as a disinterested academic, staying in journals would have worked better.

Yep. Ioannidis has made his political orientation with respect to the pandemic and public health mitigation measures clear from the very beginning. The retrospectoscope is, of course, 100% accurate, and I should have seen his turn coming. But I didn’t. Oh, well. No one’s perfect, not even this Plexiglass box of blinking lights.

Of course, Prof. Ioannidis probably has a hard time believing that GBD authors had anything to do with these sorts of “divisive” messages from Brownstone… Prof. Ioannidis apparently remains blissfully unaware… [etc. etc.]

It’s hard for me to believe that Ioannidis is so naive/stupid to be sincere in his protestations. At first I thought Orac was just being too kind to Ioannidis, trying to leave open the benefit of a doubt as to ‘where he’s coming from’, due to Ioannidis stature and Orac’s previous respect for him. But, re-reading the OP, it came to me that this language could also be read as dry, subtle sarcasm, given how Orac follows each observation of Ioannidis’ apparent cluelessness with the reasons any sentient being should know better.

When Ioannidis first started his pandemic minimization schtick, one of his first big TV appearances was on Fox News with Mark Levin. Levin, like Tucker Carlson, is another red-meat slashing culture warrior, i.e. all about divisiveness. His show is the last place anyone goes for nuance, civility, or building bridges with the other side. I suppose we could give Ioannidis a pass for one appearance in such a mega-politicized forum. But that was long ago, and it just stretches credibility beyond the tearing point to imagine Ioannidis didn’t get some blowback for hanging with an extremist. (I’m thinking not so much about public commentary as within personal circles. I can’t believe every medical scientist at Stanford is swallowing Koch-ian money and Hoover kool-aid ideology.) So the idea that, at this point, he would defend his GBD buddies Bhattacharya and Kuldorff without taking at least a quick gander (as I did earlier this week) at the Brownstone Institute website… well, call me skeptical. I smell disingenuousness. Anybody else?

I struggle with the question of whether Ioannidis is truly as clueless about GBD authors and signatories, as well as the groups supporting them, as he claims to be. I really do think that there is, in fact, at least some real obliviousness there, given my observations of his behavior. On the other hand, as you say, it’s hard to believe that, 16 months after the GBD was published, someone as intelligent as he is and connected to GBD authors like Kulldorff and Bhattacharya and signatories like Michael Leavitt isn’t by now totally aware of its political aims and who’s supporting and promoting them. Indeed, while researching this post, I found an article that Ioannidis published early in the pandemic (April 2020), in which he advocated an approach that sounded very GBD-like as he lowballed the estimate for IFR. He was promoting the GBD before there even was a GBD. Then there’s that TabletMag op-ed cowritten by him that I cited in this post from a month ago. Just read the op-ed in its entirety. It would fit very nicely on the Brownstone Institute website.

I’m also familiar with Mark Levin, which is why seeing Ioannidis appear on Levin’s show at the time was a real slap on the side of the head. (However, as you say, anyone can make one mistake like that.) Back in the day, 20+ years ago, when I was still conservative politically, on afternoons when I wasn’t in the clinic or operating room, I used to have Rush Limbaugh, followed by Sean Hannity, and then on some nights Mark Levin on in the background in my office or lab as I worked. (No, seriously; I’m definitely not proud of it. I lived in central NJ at the time, and this was the afternoon lineup on WABC out of New York City back then.) Even back then, when I could still listen to Rush and Sean without facepalming, Levin used lead me to grinding my teeth because he was too extreme and obviously batshit bonkers even for me, and his coming on the air was the sign for me to turn the radio off or change the station. His combination of conspiracy theories, partisanship, nauseatingly over-the-top appeals to patriotism, personal attacks, willingness to lie shamelessly, and sheer nastiness were unparalleled (at least until the much more recent rise of Tucker Carlson, who supplanted him in those areas).

Obviously, my politics are much different now. Even 20 years ago, I was near the end of decade-long “conversion” process had that started around the time Newt Gingrich took over the House that led the GOP’s lurch into antiscience conspiracy theories to accelerate into hyperdrive. I’m embarrassed to look back on how long the process took, although 9/11 and the rallying around the flag that followed on all sides probably delayed it. In any event, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the last straw, but even by the early 2000s I had concluded that the Republican Party was becoming far too bonkers for me to continue to support. Little did I know what would over the next 12 years that led to Donald Trump running for President and winning and then the years after that. Back then, even I could never have predicted just how bad the GOP would become.

In any event, I do smell disingenuousness. It’s there in the very asymmetry of Ioannidis’ tone policing. He never criticizes a GBD adherent for tone except in the context of weakly “bothsidesing” it in the context of attacking GBD critics, as in, “GBD critics are so nasty. Although it is true that there is rancor on both sides, why are GBD critics so opposed to civil debate?” The schtick gets old fast. Add to that his articles comparing public health mitigations to creeping authoritarianism, and, even though he avoids outright Nazi and Holocaust comparisons, I see where he’s coming from, and so do those who aren’t as restrained in making those comparisons.

“… it’s hard to believe that, 16 months after the GBD was published, someone as intelligent as he is and connected to GBD authors like Kulldorff and Bhattacharya and signatories like Michael Leavitt isn’t by now totally aware of its political aims and who’s supporting and promoting them.”

We’ve certainly seen people heavily invested philosophically and emotionally in particular ideas involving themselves with rancid bedfellows, without necessarily sharing their overall ideology. Getting support and spreading influence is what’s important, as in the case of antivaxers glomming on to Trump and the Nation of Islam.

@ Clint

You write: “Well Iceland with almost 90% of the adult population vaccinated and 80% boosted, threw in the towel today and will lift ALL restrictions as cases are rising to over 2,800 cases a day and admitted: “To achieve this, as many people as possible need to be infected with the virus as the vaccines are not enough, even though they provide good protection against serious illness,” it added.””

Didn’t you notice “good protection against serious disease?” So, with a very high vaccination rate and very low risk of serious diseases they llifted all restrictions. And, I repeat what I’ve written over and over again: being infected means nothing. We are surrounded by potentially pathogenic microbes every day, some even in our intestines; but as long as our immune systems function, including immunity from vaccines, not a problem. If the U.S. reached 90% vaccinated and 80% boosted, maybe we could also lift restrictions since we would have reached herd immunity (vaccinated plus those sickened); but I will still wear a mask because herd immunity doesn’t guarantee a few individuals can become infected from time to time, just can’t break out into population. You are just one more MORON who doesn’t believe in public health and vaccines.

I repeat: you missed or didn’t understand that the vaccines “provide good protection against serious illness.”

And you write: “threw in the towel”

A couple analogies: if an oncologist is treating a patient with chemotherapy and after two rounds of chemotherapy no cancer cells found so the oncologist doesn’t continue chemotherapy, is he “throwing in the towel?” If a hospitalized patient with a serious systemic bacterial infection is being infused with antibiotics and after some time NO bacteria are found and his/her doctor ceases the intravenous antibiotics, it the doctor “throwing in the towel?’ Combining vaccinations with infected people and Iceland reached herd immunity, so, given risk of serious infection, etc. extremely low, the lifted mitigation. So, they reached the goal of herd immunity, so lifting mitigation wasn’t “throwing in the towel”. Once a goal is reached, one usually doesn’t continue with whatever was used to help reach the goal. I really doubt you,

You write: “David you are correct, they had less than 30 deaths 2020 thru 2021 (two years). But they have had over 30 deaths in the last 2 months, so they doubled their deaths in only those two months, so no they did not “seen that deaths are no longer as linked to the rise in cases”, they went from sometime zero cases per week to over 2,800 cases A DAY.”

168,000 cases in two months. 30/168,000 = 0.0001, far lower than almost anywhere else in the world. And what you don’t understand, as I explained, herd immunity protects against spread, not individuals becoming infected, getting sick, etc. So, opening up and allowing in visitors obviously exposed Iceland’s population, so, yep, a few unfortunate deaths; but, again, cases don’t equal sickness, so I would bet that the vast majority of the 168,000 at worst had mild symptoms.

It doesn’t surprise me that you twist/distort things. And I realize that you refuse to accept that vaccines don’t confer 100% immunity; but significant reduction of risk for serious, etc. with minuscule risk of serious adverse events. Also, you don’t understand that once vaccinated, being exposed, that is, a case, can be considered a natural booster. That is, once vaccinated, as long as antibodies up, exposure to natural virus can act as a booster.

Everyone should also keep in mind who sponsored the Great Barrington Declaration. For-profit corporations, at least some who have in the past fought against worker safety legislation and/or controls on pollution. Right-wing billionaires. And people, like Clint, johnlabarge, and others who don’t understand immunology, infectious diseases, epidemiology, and see the world in black and white and subscribe to paranoid conspiracy theories.

@ Orac

What many don’t understand is that historically in the most democratic nations various degrees of reductions in freedoms, including martial law, have been applied during some form of catastrophic emergency; e.g., earthquakes, floods, etc. In some cases to protect both individuals and to deal with looters, etc. As several Supreme Court Justices have said: “The Constitution isn’t a Suicide Pact”. And if Americans weren’t so polarized and many so scientifically ignorant, maybe we would have had more cooperation and far fewer deaths. Too many Americans think they know their rights; but rights don’t exist in a void, they exist in societies, in communities, and, thus, are balanced with obligations. The old saying: “Your rights end at my nose”, that is, asymptomatic can infected third parties, etc.

If US could reach 90% vaccinated as Iceland we could eliminate many, if not all, mitigation actions. Though requiring masks even if vaccinated when, for instance, visiting nursing homes, etc. should still be required.

Joel, you are such a tool and I don’t mean the good kind of tool, like Dewalt or Craftsman.

“given risk of serious infection, etc. extremely low, the lifted mitigation.”

What part of half of Iceland deaths have occurred in the last 60 days equate to risk of serious infection extremely low.
Given the population of Iceland is about 350,000 and (according to your numbers) 168,000 people have been infected in the last 60 day, that would mean almost half of the population has been infected in the last 60 days…. So yes their mitigation efforts have been successful (sarc).

And “we could eliminate many, if not all, mitigation actions” well right now we don’t have 90% immunization levels and almost all the states have quit mitigation actions, are you claiming all those governors are anti-science. And if it is not anti-science then it is a political decision.

A chemo doctor or infectious disease doctor would monitor the patient after treatment, Iceland on the other hand is reducing testing (the three monkey solution) so your weak analogy does not apply.

But now you will reply in your usual witty reply, as you do others that question your wisdom, that I am stupid or call me names,

Yoiu may wanr to recheck Iceland COVID deths.
Iceland would monitor hospitalisations, which is more to the point.
You are, btw, a horrible party hak.

“But now you will reply in your usual witty reply, as you do others that question your wisdom, that I am stupid or call me names,”

If you, or labarge, or the other clowns who don’t like science don’t enjoy being identified as stupid the fix is simple: stop repeated lies and other stupid things.

Have you any proofs for your claims ? Repeating party line is not science.

What does PUTIN have to do with this? You really are a sad troll, aren’t you?

Some of us have to clean up the mess a-holes like you make with your sick works in the world. That’s the disdain you are sensing. Has nothing to do with “Disagreeing with you.” Disagreement implies you had a valid point or concern that required a counterpoint.

“Covid has created a capitalist nightmare”
unherd.com/2022/02/covid-has-created-a-capitalist-nightmare/

‘Follow the Science’ Is a Slogan, Not a Policy”

bloombergquint.com/gadfly/-follow-the-science-is-a-slogan-not-a-policy

@ Clint

Yep, I call you STUPID. I explained that vaccines don’t confer complete protection and that Iceland allowed visitors from abroad, so, obviously, some could have been asymptomatic carriers. I gave the percentage of deaths, minuscule. Obviously, you don’t understand simple arithmetic.

Yep, I’m a tool who wasteing over 40 years learning about immunology, microbiology, epidemiology, public health, etc. and during the past two years wasted literally many hundreds of hours finding, downloading, and reading papers on current pandemic, both peer-reviewed journal articles, and reports from CDC, WHO, Swedish Halsovardsnamnden, etc.

Why did I waste so much of my life when someone like you knows more than me without investing any time and effort???

So, once more, YOU ARE STUPID

@ Ed

You write: “Covid has created a capitalist nightmare” and give link to article by Thomas Fazi and Toby Green. Well, I did background check on Toby Green and read his book: “The Covid Consensus”. Green is an historian with expertise in early modern history, the slave trade. He admits in beginning of book he knows nothing of infectious diseases, etc. Then, among other things he criticizes measures taken for COVID based on how we handled flu pandemics. Obviously, he doesn’t understand that FLU and COVID are very different viruses, COVID more transmissible, COVID far more hospitalized and dead, COVID year round, not seasonal, etc. So, one of his basic premises is TOTALLY wrong. Might as well compare threat of madman with knife to threat of madman with assault rifle. He also says COVID probably not viable in warm climates. WRONG. And he grossly undercounts deaths. I actually thought of writing a review of the book; but not worth the effort.

From the FORWARD to his book: “As a historian, I am not qualified to talk about virology, immunology, and the validity of experiments which have been done to prove/disprove various matters from mask-wearing to how much asymptomatic people can spread Covid-19. . .I am not a scientist, but I am trained in the interconnections of economies and societies.” But he basis his economics and society on assumptions about COVID. In other words, a hypocrite.

In the book he criticizes early predictions of high deaths; but, though correct, he explains much lower death rates, wrong, and the current death rate in UK is higher.

Yep, Ed, find articles written on Conservative websites, written by people who really don’t know what they are talking about; but quite good at “explaining” their biased ignorance.

One of the most nauseating things about all of this right now is watching all of these “Conservatives” who want “Free markets” and hate “Totalitarians” praise just just carry water for Putin. A couple who meet this description, I suspect, post here. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

“Seasonable”?

You mean, garlic and basil are effective antivirals? How about grated Romano cheese?

Seems like an ideal opening for someone to create an Dune/Star Wars Top Trumps pack.

Sarlacc vs Sandworm

Kessel vs Arakis (number of parsecs?)

Tattooine vs Arrakis (average rain fall and population occupation)

Bene Gesserit vs Jedi (the Voice vs the Force)

Storm Troopers vs Sardaukar (who missed the most?)

@ Everyone

Currently: “Based on company financial statements, the Alliance estimates that Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna will make pre-tax profits of $34 billion this year between them”

“From the start of the US vaccination campaign through the end of November 2021, Covid-19 vaccines prevented about 1.1 million deaths and 10.3 million hospitalizations in the United States, according to estimates by the health care foundation The Commonwealth Fund.”

Combining deaths and hospitalizations, the vaccines for each person saved from hospitalization or even death about $3,000. So, at least for me who values human life and wishes at least as little suffering as possible, $3,000 for each person saved from suffering or even death actually not very expensive. And when one thinks about our Congress who approved both a new tank and fighter plane that Army and Air Force Chiefs testified before Congress were neither needed nor wanted, just one example of literally hundreds of billions of dollars spent to benefit a few military contractors. So, I prefer less than 1/10th profit going to reducing, preventing human suffering. And what about in 2008 trillions of dollars spent to bail out banks guilty of fraud and allow those who committed the fraud to keep their jobs and collect bonuses?

Bottom line is that antivaxxers ignore the big picture, ignore the benefit of vaccines, and focus on vaccine profits as if they were in a vacuum.

p.s. the average smoker if they smoke only one pack of cigarettes per day at, depending on state, around $5 to $11, so on average $8 per pack, so $2920 per year, then add on medical costs, just another example that one can compare with cost of vaccines, one saving lives, preventing suffering, the other the exact opposite.

@ Ed

You write: “As usual Joel resorts to ad hominem attacks, when faced with facts. Even Fauci said Covid is seasonable.”

Fauci said that during early months of pandemic. Now: “he United States has been through waves, spikes and surges of Covid-19 throughout the pandemic, and now there is concern that the nation may be entering a new winter surge. Sometimes scientists know which factors drive a new rise in cases, but some surges have been inconsistent and hard to predict. Eventually, scientists suspect the rise and fall of coronavirus infections could shift into a more typical seasonal pattern.” [Jacqueline Howard (2021 Dec 10). Covid-19 could eventually be seasonal, scientists say. CNN]

So, first, don’t remember if you one of them; but most antivaxxers have attacked Fauci’s credibility; but early in the pandemic one first assumed covid would act like flu. It doesn’t and as more and more data come in, well, it hasn’t been clearly seasonal.

So, not an ad hominem attack to point out that once more you didn’t do your homework and I could also list some peer-reviewed research; but it is obvious it wouldn’t affect you

@ Ed

I want to make one thing quite clear, when I call someone stupid it is NOT referring to any innate intelligence; but to someone not using whatever intelligence they have. Someone who finds, cherry-picks, something that confirms what they want to believe, rather than thinking, maybe I should do some further research, see if there are other sides to the story and then make a thoughtful judgement. Someone who, when someone like me, doesn’t have to agree with me; but should respond with something like, well, doesn’t seem right; but I’ll have to think about it and do my own further investigation. Not someone who just rejects what I or others say. That is when I call someone STUPID, not for refusing to agree with me; but for sticking to their cherry-picked confirmation paper or two and not even indicate a willingness to consider, to do further investigation.

As for Fauci, what he said about COVID being seasonal was in Feb and Mar 2020 when it had just broken out and had only been known since China in Dec 2019, so, only one season. But as I’ve written before, Fauci and others, having no idea that COVID could differ from flu, based their assessment on what they knew about flu. And we know there were serious outbreaks in summer 2020 and 2021, so not seasonable; but, as the article I quoted said, could become seasonal in future, depending on . . . So, typical of you and others, you found quote from Fauci, didn’t bother to think it through; but just used it to attack me, which you failed at.

“United States has been through waves, spikes and surges of Covid-19 throughout the pandemic, and now there is concern that the nation may be entering a new winter surge.”

Yet we we today there were over 1,000 deaths.

But the CDC just lifted the indoor mask recomendation.

Cloth masks don’t have scientific support and N95s don’t work if they aren’t fitted properly. Therefore we should mandate fully sealed helmets or plastic bags. That will stop all the covid.

I agree that they were wrong to lift the indoor recommendation, but why do you think that and the still-high death rate from covid are an argument against what either Joel or Orac have been saying?

Yes, I can still mask, and will, but I don’t want to risk a smug anti-vaxer getting in my immune-compromised face if I dare go to the grocery store.

@ Ed

You write: ““United States has been through waves, spikes and surges of Covid-19 throughout the pandemic, and now there is concern that the nation may be entering a new winter surge.”
Yet we we today there were over 1,000 deaths. But the CDC just lifted the indoor mask recomendation.

My criticism of Toby Green’s book included he claimed covid seasonal. You tried to refute what I wrote with citing Fauci, ignoring it was in beginning of pandemic and I refuted you. So, you don’t directly respond, admit you were wrong; but change to current mask guidelines. First, many places have already lifted mask mandates and/or not enforcing them. Second, vaccination rates are increasing. However, I think mask mandates should stay in place until vaccination rates reach 90% or higher or pandemic winds down; i.e., much lower rate of hospitalizations, etc
But, the point is, you were wrong, so shift the argument. Just one more example of the dishonesty of people like you.

Couldn’t find a reputable site for your latest bit of conspiracy mongering eh labarge? Just what bits of low-IQ, bigoted, racist, conspiracy-laded places do you surf?

Unfortunately John didn’t dig any deeper. The two significant numbers of AEs in the BKK data were:

T88.1 (other post-vaccination complications, skin rash post-vaccination) =101,663

U12.9 (Adverse reactions to the use of Covid‐19 vaccines) = 52,499

No actual details on any serious issues. Now, it strikes me that both of these categories could easily cover bog standard stuff like sore arms, feeling faint, possible allergies, bad injection technique etc etc. Just the kind of stuff that is always under reported. Since the BKK guy doesn’t know what issues HAVE been reported, he can’t actually show anything at all, other than that under-reporting exists (especially for less serious issues). Which is old news.

[…] Dr. Amerling isn’t offering an honest critique based on a fair reading of history, though. He just wants to Godwin public health officials and vaccine advocates, to portray them as being like the Nazis in their lust to control. To do that, he mixes a few legitimate criticisms of the pandemic response with a whole lot of bullshit. For example, he points out the cruelty of “absurd and inhumane rules restricting family visitation of sick and dying patients.” There is actually a critique there, but he mixes it with attacks on “strict treatment protocols that were at best ineffective, and at worst lethal” and incentivization of “diagnosing COVID-19 and following the ‘guidelines,'” the latter claim being a conspiracy theory that doctors were somehow “incentivized” to misattribute deaths as being due to COVID-19, a conspiracy theory that arguably originated with John Ioannidis. […]

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