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The Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) strikes back again

Cranks love to cry “Persecution!” So it’s no surprise that GBD authors are striking back against critics with that narrative. Again.

I first wrote about the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) not long after it was first published, way back during a time that now seems like ancient history, October 2020. At the time, I likened the GBD to similar “declarations” and petitions issued by other science deniers, such as HIV/AIDS deniers and climate science deniers, because “magnified minority” documents like this are designed to provide a patina of apparent scientific legitimacy to their antiscience declarations. Science deniers accomplish this by recruiting useful idiots in the form of scientists who are true believers in the declaration (in this case the GBD) write the declaration and then enticing physicians and scientists, the vast majority of whom have little or no expertise in the relevant scientific fields, sign the document, the more the better. The result is a document that other believers can cite as evidence for scientific support for their views. Basically, the GBD, and other documents like it, follow a script that was first pioneered by tobacco companies trying to show that their products were not causing cancer and all sorts of other health problems.

Of course, the useful idiots, true believers, and financial forces who used them to spread their propaganda don’t like having the true nature of declarations like the GBD discussed openly. They tend to react rather defensively to having light shown on them. In this case, the GBD was the result of a right wing “free market” think tank known as the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), who invited a true believing Harvard scientist named Martin Kulldorff to its headquarters in Great Barrington, MA, after which Kulldorff recruited like-minded scientists (Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University and Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University) to a second—and much bigger—weekend meeting at AIER headquarters. The idea behind the GBD, which was published before vaccines against COVID-19 were even available, was a “let ‘er rip” approach to COVID-19 among they young and “low risk” population in order to reach “natural herd immunity” faster, reserving “focused protection” (an ill-defined strategy”) for those at high risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 (e.g., the elderly and those with chronic health conditions that make them high risk, like type II diabetes). It was clearly a strategy that wouldn’t work, as we knew even then, because, even when it blunts a pandemic, the price of natural herd immunity (thanks to “natural immunity” to COVID-19 due to prior infection) is too high in terms of death and suffering. Also, as was suspected even in October 2020, there is always the potential for variants to arise that can evade the immune system, a prediction borne out by the Delta and, more so, the Omicron waves.

The GBD strikes again…

The last time involving me that the connections between right wing dark money think tanks and the GBD were pointed out in The BMJ last fall, particularly how the GBD was astroturf, the GBD struck back. Now, six months later, GBD authors and the AIER are reacting again to renewed criticism by…striking back. Two examples attracted Orac’s attention, first an article by Dr. Bhattacharya published in Bari Weiss’ Substack:

Because the COVID-19 response in the West has been just like the response of the authoritarian Communist Chinese government; that is, if you believe Dr. Bhattacharya.

As I’ve mentioned before, even though it does have a lot of excellent content (e.g., Yale historian Timothy Snyder’s blog) Substack is also, unfortunately, the new wretched hive of scum and quackery for antivaxxers, COVID-19 contrarians, and general right wing conspiracy theorists, including Bari Weiss. It is thus unsurprising that Dr. Bhattacharya would choose to publish there.

Also, as others pointed out, the GBD has been, contrary to the narrative of its authors and proponents being “silenced” or “canceled,” very influential, with GBD authors and supporters meeting with US President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration.

It isn’t just Dr. Bhattacharya, either. It’s also Phil Magness, Senior Research Faculty and Research and Education Director at AIER and a particularly odious Twitter presence. It turns out that he really, really didn’t like the comparison of AIER’s offspring the GBD to tobacco company disinformation tactics 50 years ago:

Mr. Magness is renowned for his histrionics—and general nastiness on Twitter.

I can’t help but note the massive straw man here. Neither Gavin Yamey nor I actually made that argument, at least not exactly. (Let’s just say that Mr. Magness left out some context.) Don’t believe me? Here’s a link to the article, Covid-19 and the new merchants of doubt. Actually, that’s not the article to which Mr. Magness linked in his rant, but it is the one he has always targeted because it’s really, really chapped AIER’s posterior ever since it was published and was the provocation that led AIER to strike back the first time. This time, Mr. Magness is reacting to a Rapid Response written in response to John Ioannidis’ execrable “science Kardashians” article. (I won’t dignify it by referring to it as a “study., given how awful it was in trying to discredit scientists who spoke out in opposition to the GBD.) You might recall that BMJ Rapid Responses are basically letters to the editor, with, in contrast to traditional letters to the editor, very little gatekeeping determining which ones are published.

Here is the passage that particularly irritates Mr. Magness:

It is now well documented that the GBD received major support from the AIER [20,21]. Indeed, the key scientist involved, Martin Kulldorff, was recruited by the AIER, which invited him for a long weekend to socialize with like-minded people [20]. Soon after, Kuldorff and the AIER invited Jay Bhattacharya and Sunetra Gupta to a weekend conference at the AIER headquarters. There, AIER wined and dined the GBD authors, provided meeting space and lodging, arranged a meeting with journalists, and provided editorial feedback in drafting the declaration. The AIER also provided tools to amplify the message of the GBD, including professional videography of the interviews, social media expertise, and web services that allowed the rapid creation of a website for the GBD. Moreover, AIER is funded through an investment fund that itself owns shares in tobacco companies and many organizations that stood to lose enormous amounts of money if the United States were to have enacted further lockdowns in 2020 [21]. This represents a large intellectual and financial CoI for the AIER, which was closely involved in the GBD creation. This cannot and should not be ignored in any objective analysis.

One notes that Dr. Kulldorff ultimately left Harvard and accepted a position as the scientific director at the Brownstone Institute, an AIER-like think tank dubbed by its founder Jeffrey Tucker as the “spiritual child” of the GBD and that Dr. Bhattacharya accepted an appointment as a senior scholar at the same think tank.

I referred to the GBD as “magnified minority,” a name indicating how such documents try to magnify the voices of a fringe viewpoint and represent them as mainstream. Mr. Magness’ response is is more an example of attacking a “magnified minority” part of a criticism, trying to discredit it and thereby—or so they think—discredit the entire criticism:

Indeed, it is the BMJ’s own published policy to specifically exclude “mutual funds or other situations in which the person is not in a position to control investment decisions” from its financial conflict of interest reporting requirements in published scientific research. This exclusion stems from a longstanding convention in the scientific community. The fact that you have a standard retirement account is not disqualifying of your research, because these instruments are specifically designed to maintain diversified and independently managed investments. The National Institutes of Health and most other agencies involved in medical research have similar exemptions for mutual funds and related investment vehicles. Stated differently, a mutual fund is specifically designed to ensure the long-term stability and growth of the portfolio as a whole – not to induce and manipulate short-term gains for a couple of individual stocks among the hundreds of companies that it holds.

I’ve written before how a favorite crank technique is to co-opt a legal argument known as falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. In law, falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, put quite simply, means “false in one thing, false in all things.” It’s a legal principle that dates back to ancient Rome that assumes that a witness who is false about one matter can be considered to be not credible in all matters. This principle is why lawyers are often so aggressive at trying to impeach the credibility of a witness and why lawyers on the other side labor so hard to prevent that from happening. If a witness can be shown to have been badly mistaken‚—or, even more damning—to have lied about one thing, then by the principle of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus it is considered reasonable to question everything else in that witness’ testimony, no matter how trivial the “one false thing” was. In a criminal case such questions could easily be enough to cast “reasonable doubt” on the testimony. As I’ve pointed out before, science doesn’t work that way. Also, falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus is, at its core, dichotomous thinking. Either every part of an argument is 100% true and correct, or it’s all false. Either all evidence supports a conclusion, or the conclusion is false, and if anyone ever in history involved in supporting an argument has ever lied about anything or been very much mistaken, then the whole body of evidence can be called into question. That’s exactly what Mr. Magness is doing here, trying to call into doubt all the other conflicts of interest.

As grudgingly admitted in his article, what the criticism in the Rapid Response discusses is undeniably true. One can argue the fine point of whether having tobacco company holdings in an investment fund owned by a think tank that brought together the authors of the GBD being defended against attacks in an article is a major financial COI, but I find Mr. Magness’ retort less compelling even than that consideration given that, as we discussed in the earlier article:

This declaration arose out of a conference hosted by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), and has been heavily promoted by the AIER, a libertarian, climate-denialist, free market think tank that receives “a large bulk of its funding from its own investment activities, not least in fossil fuels, energy utilities, tobacco, technology and consumer goods.” The AIER’s American Investment Services Inc. runs a private fund that is valued at $284,492,000, with holdings in a wide range of fossil fuel companies (e.g. Chevron, ExxonMobil) and in the tobacco giant Philip Morris International.  The AIER has also received funding from the Charles Koch Foundation, which was founded and is chaired by the right-wing billionaire industrialist known for promoting climate change denial and opposing regulations on business. Koch linked organisations have also opposed public health measures to curb the spread of covid-19. 

Note how in his article Mr. Magness tries to make it sound as though AIER just innocently holds shares in an investment fund that just happens to include tobacco company stocks, much as you or I might innocently hold shares in a mutual fund that just happens to include tobacco company stocks in its portfolio, for example as part of an IRA or a 401(k). Let’s just put it this way. There’s a rather significant substantive difference between having a 401(k), which most employees can’t even choose, even if they can choose the distribution of contributions between stocks, bonds, etc., and a think tank actually running a mutual fund to help fund its operations. Given how he completely ignores all the other arguments, Mr. Magness is obviously trying to cast doubt on the entire criticisms of the GBD—and AIER, which birthed it—by obfuscating about about one small part of the criticism. Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, indeed, and not even really false at that! He also makes a lot of hay about how tobacco companies actually benefited from the “lockdowns” that AIER and GBD opposed, as if making an incorrect prediction about one thing invalidates everything, even if unrelated.

However, this bit of obfuscation allows Mr. Magness to pivot to some whataboutism:

This curious situation is further compounded by a stunning hypocrisy. The BMJ appears to only selectively exempt its contributors from its own financial standards, because it turns out that one of the authors of the attack on AIER has a far more direct connection to Big Tobacco than minor and indirect stock market investments.

Professor Yamey is currently employed at Duke University. Duke was famously founded out of the fortune of its namesake, tobacco baron James Buchanan Duke. Mr. Duke’s tobacco fortune provided the seed money that turned the university into a renowned research center. Duke’s tobacco-fueled endowment grew with the campus, and is now worth over $12 billion dollars.

While we should not begrudge Professor Yamey’s employer for its strong fiscal situation, we may legitimately ask: Is it not true that what’s good for the goose is also good for the gander?

I suppose that if you’re a propagandist and astroturfer like Mr. Magness, it would be—in the real world, not so much. Also, donating seed money to a university endowment, which the university can use for basically anything it wishes, is a rather different situation than using tobacco income to fund a right wing think tank. I also can’t help but note that, if Mr. Magness really wants to get into the weeds, the Duke University Endowment’s income was initially derived from investments in Duke Power Company stock, not the tobacco company. I won’t say that the Duke Endowment is completely without concern, but I will say that Mr. Magness leaves out some significant context and differences.

Again, this is nothing more than the logical fallacy known as tu quoque, a subtype of the logical fallacy known as the red herring. The idea is to distract from the criticism directed at you by redirecting the same criticism at the critic and charging hypocrisy. It’s a very common tactic used by conspiracy theorists and pseudoscience advocates to deflect criticism. (Politicians love it too.) Mr. Magness is basically claiming “persecution” for supposedly innocently doing nothing more than anyone else with tobacco company stocks in a retirement fund does.

tu quoque defending GBD

The GBD strikes back…Dr. Bhattacharya’s turn

But what about Dr. Bhattacharya? He appears to be really, really peeved at the mockery he’s been getting lately on Twitter for having bragged about how he had asked Stanford University for a letter to allow him to work on campus as “essential personnel”:


I know it’s getting repetitive, but “Help! Help! I’m being repressed!”

Dr. Bhattacharya’s intent was obviously to deflect charges of hypocrisy over his frequent attempts to portray himself as a friend of the working class (especially restaurant and grocery store workers), who, in contrast to what he loves to call the “laptop class,” couldn’t work from home and suffered disproportionately from “lockdowns.” That’s right! No effete “laptop class” elite, he! He wanted to risk his life going to work in his office, where, if he wished, he could still close the door and work alone on his laptop, just not in his house! In any event, Dr. Bhattacharya’s bragging about this letter was just the most recent example of his amusingly tone deaf attempts to declare himself the advocate of the working class. He’s been doing it for several months now. Also note how, having been so roundly mocked—and deservedly so—for touting his letter (which he later deleted from Twitter), Dr. Bhattacharya is now saying that no one can determine who is and who is not “essential personnel.” Really? It’s not as though governments, healthcare facilities, and businesses haven’t been doing exactly that…forever.

That leads us to his article, in which he points to the most extreme lockdowns—indeed arguably the only example of real lockdowns, enforced by an authoritarian regime—in China, implicitly likening what China is doing to the “lockdowns” in the West, which were nowhere near as strict. He then likens what he’s suffered to the “stifling of scientific dissent” in an authoritarian regime like China:

In America, many of our officials still have not abandoned their delusions about Covid and the exercise of power this crisis has allowed. As the Shanghai debacle demonstrates, of all the many terrible consequences of our public health response to Covid, the stifling of dissenting scientific viewpoints by the state might be the most dangerous. 

I would know: For the past two years I have been the target of a smear campaign aimed at demonizing those who dare to question official policy. Now, a proposed California law threatens to make such dissent career-ending by handing the state the power to strip medical licenses from doctors who disagree with government positions on Covid.

Before I get to this awful bill, let me explain what happened to me.

I can’t resist adding right here that this is the shorter Dr. Bhattacharya:

Also, his definition of “repression” is rather…questionable, as has been pointed out.

“Did you here that, did you here that, eh? That’s what I’m on about—did you see him repressing me, you saw it didn’t you?”

Still, it’s amusing to see where Dr. Bhattacharya goes with this, but to do so means to understand the California bill that he’s talking about, AB 2098, which states that it shall “constitute unprofessional conduct for a physician and surgeon to disseminate or promote misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19, including false or misleading information regarding the nature and risks of the virus, its prevention and treatment; and the development, safety, and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.” Unsurprisingly, Dr. Bhattacharya characterizes the bill as meaning that “physicians who deviate from an authorized set of beliefs would do so at risk to their medical license.” In reality, the law, if enacted, would empower the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California to take action against physicians who spread misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines, up to and including revoking their medical licenses.

I’ve long argued that state medical boards should have the power to delicense antivax physicians and quacks. Technically, they do, but only for actually treating patients based on such views. Even then, as the case of cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski demonstrates, state medical boards only rarely do this and often fail when they do. That’s why I frequently refer to Dr. Burzynski when discussing the recent push to empower state medical boards to sanction physicians who promote dangerous COVID-19 misinformation and quackery and the expected resistance that mischaracterizes attempts to sanction abuse of professional speech as an issue of “persecution” for “free speech” that isn’t “state sanctioned.” It’s a tactic long used by quacks and antivaxxers when called to account for their quackery.

Dr. Bhattacharya is going in the same direction, portraying himself as “oppressed.” Invoking “magnified minority” and the number, rather than the quality, of signatories of the GBD, he writes:

Nearly a million people have signed our letter, including tens of thousands of doctors and scientists from over 40 countries. In other words, we were far from alone in our belief that this was the proper response to an unprecedented pandemic. 

But the official response was swift and brutal. 

Four days after we published the Great Barrington Declaration, Francis Collins, then director of the National Institutes of Health, wrote an email to Anthony Fauci calling the three of us “fringe epidemiologists.”  He called for a press “takedown” of us when an open discussion of our ideas would have been more productive. Big tech outlets like Facebook and Google followed suit, suppressing our ideas, falsely deeming them “misinformation.” I started getting calls from reporters asking me why I wanted to “let the virus rip,” when I had proposed nothing of the sort. I was the target of racist attacks and death threats. 

Despite the false, defamatory and sometimes frightening attacks, we stood firm. And today many of our positions have been amply vindicated.  Yet the soul searching this episode should have caused among public health officials has largely failed to occur. Instead, the lesson seems to be: Dissent at your own risk.

“Help, help! I’m being repressed!” indeed!

And, no, the GBD has not been “amply vindicated.” Quite the opposite! If there’s one thing that the last several months have taught us, it’s that “natural immunity” will not get us out of the pandemic. “Natural immunity” has been shown to be at best, not much longer lasting or robust than vaccine-induced immunity, if even that. Certainly Omicron can evade waning immunity from prior infections roughly as well as it can evade waning vaccine-induced immunity. The “natural herd immunity” that the GBD touted as the solution to the pandemic was always a pipe dream. The Delta and Omicron waves just demonstrated it.

Not that that stops Dr. Bhattacharya:

What is abundantly clear is that this bill represents a chilling interference with the practice of medicine. The bill itself is full of misinformation and a demonstration of what a disaster it would be to have the legislature dictate the practice of medicine. 

For starters, it fails to note that people who have contracted Covid—by now a considerable number of Californians—already have substantial protection against severe disease if they get Covid again. High quality studies have shown that this “natural immunity” provides equivalent or even greater protection than immunity generated by Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines. If this bill passes, would a California physician be in trouble for taking into account a patient’s Covid history when making vaccination recommendations? 

No, it would not, contrary to what Dr. Bhattacharya claims. Physicians already do that, just not in a way that he likes. GBD believers like to portray “natural immunity” as somehow not just as good as vaccine-induced immunity but far superior, such that if you have recovered from COVID-19 you don’t need the vaccine, even though it’s become quite clear that hybrid immunity (infection-induced plus vaccine-induced immunity) is superior to either, which means that vaccination is still advisable after having had COVID-19.

Consistent with how the “spiritual offspring of the GBD,” the Brownstone Institute, has pivoted to spreading antivaccine misinformation, Dr. Bhattacharya pivots to casting doubt on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine, because of course he does:

Another statement in the bill’s preamble asserts that the “safety and efficacy of Covid vaccines have been confirmed through evaluation by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).” But vaccine safety also depends on any given patient’s clinical circumstances. For example, there is an elevated risk of myocarditis in young men taking the vaccine, especially with the booster.

And yet the vaccine is still far, far safer for young men than getting COVID-19.

Finally, Dr. Bhattacharya finishes with a flourish that make me laugh. A couple of months ago, I deconstructed an article published on the Brownstone Institute website that likened public health COVID-19 interventions to the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In it, I asked the question, “The Cultural Revolution? Why not also Lysenkoism?” I was referring to invoke Trofim Lysenko, the Soviet scientist who rejected Mendelian genetics in favor of his own ideas and who, after he became director of the Institute of Genetics within the USSR‘s Academy of Sciences, Lysenko used his political power to suppress dissent and elevate his anti-Mendelian ideas to state-sanctioned doctrine. As I said at the time, the analogy is custom-made for cranks like this, given that the Soviet embrace of Lysenkoism greatly exacerbated and prolonged the famine and mass starvation in the USSR that resulted from Stalin’s policies in the 1930s. It’s an attractive false historical analogy for right wing cranks like those at the Brownstone Institute, complete with mass death, is right there, waiting to be weaponized, so much so that I was surprised it hadn’t been used.

Cue Dr. Bhattacharya about the GBD:

History provides abundant examples of what happens when the state regulates science. In the former Soviet Union, Stalin’s favorite geneticist, Trofim Lysenko, dominated biology and the agricultural sciences. Lysenko rejected Mendelian genetics in favor of his own theory that plants could inherit acquired characteristics. Stalin empowered him to destroy the careers and lives of geneticists who opposed him, causing many to suffer secret arrests and even death. When his theories failed, the consequence was mass starvation in Russia. The Chinese Communists also adopted his beliefs—at the cost of the starvation of 30 million. 

Great going, Dr. Bhattacharya! I knew you had it in you to toe the Brownstone Institute line to perfection by likening public health to Lysenkoism! As I said, it’s the perfect false historical analogy for cranks who want to find a way to compare public health to Communist, rather than fascist, dictatorships. (Why would Dr. Bhattacharya not want to compare public health to fascism? One wonders, one does.)

Still, Dr. Bhattacharya finishes with an amazing pivot. First, he grudgingly seems to admit that the California bill is nothing like Shanghai because California lawmakers don’t have authoritarian power, before saying that the bill really is the same as authoritarian Communism:

We are not the Soviet Union, of course, nor are we ruled by Chinese Communists. California lawmakers thankfully do not have the power currently being exercised in Shanghai. But this bill follows the same dangerous principle that government-authorized science should permit no opposition from people with the credentials and knowledge to oppose it. The false medical consensus enforced by AB 2098 will lead doctors to censor themselves to avoid government sanction. And it will be their patients, above all, who will be harmed by their silence.

Again, Dr. Bhattacharya’s concern for physicians “self-censoring” is touching, but performative. He himself doesn’t practice medicine. After medical school, he never did a residency. He hasn’t dealt with patients since he was a medical student, which is a highly monitored and supervised situation. He has no “skin in the game.” That’s why earlier he referred to doctors who apparently do. At least, they have medical licenses:

I do not practice medicine—I am a professor specializing in epidemiology and health policy at Stanford Medical School. But many friends who do practice have told me how they have censored their thoughts about Covid lockdowns, vaccines, and recommended treatment to avoid the mob. Though Stanford is supposedly a bastion of academic freedom, one junior untenured professor recently wrote to me: “I have heard you several times on television regarding the Covid issue and find myself resonating with your views. I am inclined to express those very same opinions to my colleagues and administrative members at Stanford. I have been reluctant to date because quite honestly, I expect that my faculty appointment would not be renewed. I have the perception that free speech is just not there.”

This forced scientific groupthink—and the fear and self-censorship they produce—are bad enough. So far, though, the risk has been social and reputational. Now it could become literally career-ending.

I can only react: “The horror. The horror.”

Seriously, though. The number of doctors out there questioning public health interventions, particularly masks, is distressingly high, and almost none of them face any sanctions—and then only after they have flagrantly violated the law and regulations, for instance, by not openly flouting mask mandates in healthcare facilities or providing substandard care far outside of medical standard of care. Yet these doctors, who tend to portray any constraint on their medical speech and practice as “persecution,” see themselves as victims.

Attack of the “brave mavericks”

One of the most important (and ego-gratifying) aspects of being a “brave maverick doctor” espousing narratives that go against the current scientific consensus (like the GBD) is that lets one portray oneself as smarter and braver than the average “sheeple,” someone who doesn’t “run with the herd.” In that worldview, rather than being an attempt to protect the public from quackery and dangerous misinformation, any effort to counter the misinformation that is being promoted must be an attempt to silence the “brave maverick” because what he’s saying is so “dangerous” to the establishment. Even though the GBD has, in essence, won politically, it still grates people like Mr. Magness and Dr. Bhattacharya that its message hasn’t won among scientists.

I will, however, express gratitude that both of them resisted the temptation to compare the GBD and its authors to Galileo. That must have taken enormous self-discipline.

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]

61 replies on “The Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) strikes back again”

I would suggest that when this right-wing organizations are discussed that “think tank” should be in quotes or better (IMO) replaced by dogma tank.

Re the “mavericks” being repressed. One of my high school teachers was married to a man who came to the States with his mother and his sister from Russia in the late 1940s. He and his sister were born before WWII began. The father was a tanker in the Russian army and managed to survive the entire war without being injured or captured.
Two months after the war ended and he was shipped out of the military Stalin’s secret police came to their apartment and took him, and he vanished in the basement execution room of some prison. That’s repression.

Fauci is the one true science; peace be with him. Wear your mask in fealty to him. Trust in the science. Trust in him. Do not question it or we will cancel you or refer to you as a fringe conspiracy theorist. This is the word of the science.

Nobody except you actually said that. Note that you’re commenting on a blog that goes in details into what is and isn’t scientifically correct. Not accepting anyone’s word.

If instead of trying to be funny (not very successfully) you tried to learn from it, you would likely learn quite a bit.

john, that was silly the first time you posted it. Now it’s just incredibly stupid, even by the low bar set by your usual uninformed and habitually dishonest posts.

You know, peer reviewed well designed studies are not necessarily the Word of God, but they are more reliable than whoever you are talking to.

How many times do people like me have to say this? “I don’t give a GODDAMN about Fauci.”

Your constant droning on about this says more about you than any of us.


Trust in him. Do not question it or we will cancel you or refer to you as a fringe conspiracy theorist. This is the word of the science.

The view that scientists actually take is much more in line with the motto of the Royal Society.

Ok if you are against mandating Covid-19 vaccine out of safety concerns or just because you think they aren’t that effective, does that make you ‘antivax’? If so, comment stands.

None of GBD people have been cancelled, they are actually extraordinary noisy. It is just that they do not get respect they want.
Part of antivaxxing is inventing dangers. One example: according to CICP data, there is one possible vacicne related myocarditis death. Yuo go for VAERS times ten.

Ok if you are against mandating Covid-19 vaccine out of safety concerns or just because you think they aren’t that effective, does that make you ‘antivax’? If so, comment stands.

The blatantly false safety concerns clowns like you put out? The ones based on gross misrepresentations (at best) of available data, but more likely on out-and-out lies about the vaccine? They qualify you as several things, anti-vacc being the first.
Uninformed, liar, dishonest, and worse are the better descriptions of you.

Orac: Thanks for posting these parody comments. You’ve really captured the inanity of the idiots who think that every time someone points out an error, they are being “cancelled.”

Meanwhile in the rest of the world, which isn’t USA! USA! USA! why, exactly would we give a flying anything about Fauci?

The Church of Scientism! I wonder when these folks will be equally critical of Fauci by posting analogous scathing critiques of the leading chief’s failures and lies?

ldw56old – everything you disagree with is blatantly false and there is a big anti-vax conspiracy to falsfsify VAERs data and to fake reactions. Do I have this right?

everything you disagree with is blatantly false and there is a big anti-vax conspiracy to falsfsify [sic] VAERs data and to fake reactions.

From you, yes. Apparently you were raised to believe that you can tell whatever lie you want as long as it makes you feel important.

Nobody is claiming that VAERS reports are falsified. Doctors are legally mandated to report everything, regardlrss of its implausibility. But you claimcompensation, if there is a passible vaccine injury. There is one claim that vaccines have cause deadly myocarditis. Difference is that you should submit meidical records, which could show the actual underlying cause.

I love how these guys conjure up loads of ordinary scientists and doctors who supposedly agree with them, but who can’t be identified because they’re afraid they’d be terminated, either in the job or Schwarzenegger sense.

Remind me again what percentage of knowledgeable experts those “tens of thousands” of GBD allies represent.

Magness and Bhattacharya may have avoided the temptation to compare themselves to Galileo, but we can’t say the same for Jay’s fellow Great Barrington proclamator (proclamato?) Martin Kulldorff.

Kulldorff, in a piece in The Spectator last October:

“As scientists, we must now tragically acknowledge that 400 years of scientific enlightenment may be coming to an end. It started with Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei and René Descartes. It would be tragic if it would end up as one of the many casualties of this pandemic.”


This group here in one breath says we should cancel all those who have a different opinion on covid-measures and then in another makes fun of those alleging that many are fear for their jobs coming out against such measures.

Would you hire an electrician who comes out against the need for electrical permits and inspections?

Funny, but there are libertarians who argue exactly that, at least permits, inspections, and certifications by the government. Their usual claim is that private independent testing and certification bodies would arise to take care of it. Hilariously, they ignore the likelihood that these bodies would have an incentive not to be too hard on the people paying them to be certified and would be rigorous in order to protect their reputation. Similarly, there are a lot of libertarians out there who claim that the FDA is killing more people than it protects by supposedly requiring too much red tape and testing to approve drugs. Some even argue that the FDA isn’t really necessary and that you can have a Yelp or Uber for drugs, in which online evaluations determine safety and efficacy.

Like COVID quacks losing their license ? They are dangerous to your health.

@JohnLabarge this is an anti-vaxxer Red Herring. Anti-Vaxxers whine about cancel culture whenever someone who is a vaccine advocate like Peter Hotez is calling anti-vaxxers to be investigated for Public Safety issues. Anti-vaxxers would cancel Richard Pan by ranting crazier conspiracy theories about him or directly harassing the person behind the vaccine mandates because “Religion Exemption” in a rally.

Note that the bill that is causing him alarm is actually pretty narrow. Here is the operative section in full:
“2270. (a) It shall constitute unprofessional conduct for a physician and surgeon to disseminate or promote misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19, including false or misleading information regarding the nature and risks of the virus, its prevention and treatment; and the development, safety, and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
(b) The board shall consider the following factors prior to bringing a disciplinary action against a licensee under this section:
(1) Whether the licensee deviated from the applicable standard of care.
(2) Whether the licensee intended to mislead or acted with malicious intent.
(3) Whether the misinformation or disinformation was demonstrated to have resulted in an individual declining opportunities for COVID-19 prevention or treatment that was not justified by the individual’s medical history or condition.
(4) Whether the misinformation or disinformation was contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus to an extent where its dissemination constitutes gross negligence by the licensee.”

This is not a broad “someone said something questionable online so they will lose their license” bill, and if Dr. Bhattacharya is presenting it as such, he is, at best, wrong, at worst, intentionally misleading.

And as you point out, he’s hardly been oppressed during the pandemic.

He has worked hard and long to put others in harm’s way, though. Directly, sometimes.

Yep. If anything, the bill is too narrow. It shouldn’t limit itself to just COVID-19 misinformation. It should cover all dangerous health misinformation.

@john labarge Actually read relevant paragraphs. It is about intentional misleaading, not critique.

What’s more, and I’m no lawyer, seems subsection “b” makes it pretty hard for an innocent to get caught in this net…

Translation: Hurting John’s feelings with facts is OPPRESSION. Mommy, makecthe mean man stop telling me things that are true

No need to sulk if you can’t surpass the evidence bar. Just work harder. As soon as you resort to ‘big conspiracy’, you’re admitting that your evidence can’t stand on its own.

@johnlabarge Tucker Carlson, Ron Desantis and other red state governor’s want their states to be like Jonestown over not enforcing COVID-19 mandates.


“Translation: vaccine heresy is not permitted. That’s not science. It’s a cult.”

Vaccine heresy doesn’t you get you jailed by government. That’s the crucial point.

If you want to know what heresy is, check out Menocchio The Heretic (trailer).

Chosen Menocchio koans:

“What are you doing giving alms in memory of these few ashes?” (about mass for the dead)

“I believe that the law and commandments of the Church are all a matter of business, and they make their living from this.”

“I believe that as soon as we are born we are baptized, because God who has blessed all things, has baptized us; but this other baptism is an invention, and priests begin to consume souls even before they are born and continue to devour them even after their death.”

“I believe it (i.e. confirmation) is a business, an invention of men, all of whom have the Holy Spirit; they seek to know and they know nothing.”

“God did not establish it (i.e. marriage), men did. Formerly a man and a woman would exchange vows, and this sufficed; later these human inventions followed.”

“You priests and monks, you too want to know more than God, and you are like the devil, and you want to become gods on earth, and know as much as God, following in the footsteps of the devil. In fact, the more one thinks he knows, the less he knows.”

“I believe the spirit of God dwells in all of us … and I also believe that anyone who has studied can become a priest without being ordained, because it is all a business.”

“And it seems to me that under our law, the pope, cardinals, and bishops are so great and rich that everything belongs to the church and to the priests, and they oppress the poor, who, if they work two rented fields, these will be fields that belong to the Church, to some bishop or cardinal.”

“I think speaking Latin is a betrayal of the poor because in lawsuits the poor do not know what is being said and are crushed; and if they want to say four words they need a lawyer.”

“God has given the Holy Spirit to all, to Christians, to heretics, to Turks, and to Jews; and he considers them all dear, and they are all saved in the same manner.”

Antivaxxism, on the other hand, is a position that denies the right of the state to impose constraints on the topic of public health that have been democratically decided, after consulting with scientists. The implicit claim of antivaxxism comparing itself to heresy, aside anti-democratic attitudes, is that knowledge on vaccines is no more reliable than claims of the Church on theological matters such as God which had far wider and far more far reaching social implications than imposing vaccines.

This is patently false.

Antivaxxism is heresy for small minds. Menocchio had a big mind under the guise of a simple miller. I am still waiting for antivaxxers with big minds.

You are confusing heresy with willful ignorance. Menocchio was trying to rise above ignorance. Most antivaxxers do not. They peddle demonstrable falsehoods to topple democratic authority. Heretics most often did not peddle their theories but lived in fear of being doxxed. Some were crazy, whereas some were intellectually honest with themselves and others, and the church was concerned with dogma, not search for truth or intellectual honestly, contrarily to science, not matter how much you want to lambast it. And democratic authority is not comparable in essence to theocratic authority.

These are the big differences.

Oh! and we do not burn antivaxxers at the stake.

Now, depending where you live, democratic norms may be insufficient for my argument to be fully valid. Where I live, people are voting in a week or so. They may vote far right and destroy their democracy on the grounds that elected representatives treated their constituency as captive vote banks for way too long. Debate is indeed focusing on the centre’s unwillingness to give legitimacy to referendums. And the far right claims to be more democratic. That’s a failure of democratic norms, and the antivaxx movement played a huge part in this state of affairs, because it blew a huge part of the façade of democratic consent our elected representatives took for granted. Sad state of affairs. But, yeah, here, little openness of administrative culture, no genuine equivalent FIA, lots of restriction on defamation laws, all this built up a culture which the antivaxx movement took a part in blowing up.

Nonetheless: the parallel with heretics is very naive. Only goes so far. And vaccine heresy is not the big social issue of our time. Back then, religion was.

Oh ! And here, catholic fundies tend to make the bulk of politically motivated antivaxxers, being so happy to find another medical reason (abortion and gays being other of their pet peeves, where they do not campaign for freedom…) to push a racial and antisemite agenda (I’m sorry to say it, but I’ve witnessed many times too often). Another piece of evidence that these “heretics” are not quite what they claim to be.

Now going back to some serious heresy watching the Constantine movie.

“Oh! and we do not burn antivaxxers at the stake.”

Unnecessary. They self-combust when exposed to daylight.

If Dr. Bhattacharya is really a crusader against authoritarian acts that violate the fundamental civil liberties of physicians, he should be really upset about what Kansas state senator Mark Steffen has been doing.

Steffen, an anesthesiologist, recently sent a note on Senate letterhead to health care providers in the state (including hospitals and clinics), advising them to prescribe drugs for Covid-19 that he claims have “hundreds of studies” showing a “clear signal of significant efficacy”, including ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. He says that a bill in the Kansas Legislature will protect them against punitive action by the state medical board for prescribing such meds off-label. Beyond that, his letter mentions ominously that “in consultation with the legal community, indications are that failure to treat will be considered wanton disregard.”

Sounds like unconscionable bullying by a government official. Jay Bhattacharya and other Freedom Fighters should be up in arms about this.

The state medical board has reminded physicians that Steffen’s letter is opinion carrying no legal weight. The bill, which also would grant lots more vaccine exemptions for children, is currently stalled in the legislature after the Senate passed it but the House refused to take it up.

In a final twist, Steffen himself is under investigation by the state medical board.* It’s not clear if Steffen’s own prescribing practices are being questioned, but he says public statements he’s made re Covid-19 are at issue.

*it’s called the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, which is kinda cute.

Plus he’s anesthesia not Pulm-Crit or Infectious Disease. People need to stay in their lane.

Whatever the GBD crew are getting out of this, the goal behind it, as the Bari Weiss tweet shows, is just adding more fuel to the ‘cancel culture’ tack in the great Culture Wars. This is all part of the insidious Democrat plot to erase freedom and force compliance with the Soros-socialist agenda. Public health = Stalinism = Nazism = Khmer Rouge…
[ barf]

Ah, yes, Substack!
I keep discovering so many contrarians, anti-vaxxers and other brave mavericks who post on it in my travels across Woo-topia-
it’s a place where cut rate intellectualism, discounted ideas and cheap shots can all earn writers actual money!

–I noticed that in the promo for his new televised standup show this coming Friday, Maher features a line stating that ( paraphrase) science/ medicine doesn’t know everything because doctors used to “prescribe” smoking, complete with the well known images of a 1950s style white man in a white coat smoking a cigarette, illustrating that he can’t differentiate basic historical information from slick advertising.

Doctors did not prescribe cigarettes. Maher is mistaking cigarette ads for reality. It’s true that doctors were enticed to recommend (“prescribe”) certain brands of cigarettes as somehow being “healthier” than other brands. It is also true that tobacco ads were published in medical journals, as well, with pictures of doctors “prescribing” (for example) Phillip-Morris cigarette brands. However, they didn’t prescribe smoking to people who weren’t already smokers. That’s just bullshit.

Maher really isn’t very smart, is he?

Actually, after thinking about it, Maher’s schtick is rather mild compared to the other loads of crap I follow ( in the past few days):
— Covid was caused by dropping hydrolised Cobra venom into NY and Italian reservoirs in 2020 and the vaccines make humans a snake hybrid via transhumanism/ DNA integration, i.e. mark of the devil ( NN)
— Atrocities in Ukraine were caused by or faked by Ukrainian Nazis ( PRN)
— Tribunals are coming soon! ( Del)
— Diverse theories about autism being due to vaccines’ corruption of the microbiome leading to encephalitis and strokes ( Katie Wright, twitter, every day)

Maher’s comedy special “is where comedy goes to die”. Daily Beast, updated today

“Diverse theories about autism being due to vaccines’ corruption of the microbiome”

Naw, autism is caused by vaccines causing leaky gut, exacerbated by 5G and GMOs.

Just don’t mention genetics.

*Covid vaccines cause alopecia. It’s twue! It’s twue! James Lyons-Weiler tweeted it.**
**L-W says alopecia is an immune disorder (so connect the dots). He has apparently never heard of alopecia due to medications, hormonal abnormalities, hairstyling techniques, stress or (gasp) genetics. Betcha if you ask 100 bald men if they were ever vaccinated, almost all would say yes.

Betcha if you ask 100 bald men if they were ever vaccinated, almost all would say yes.

That’s a yes from me. And I was circumcised too, so consider that. (That was especially rough: I couldn’t walk for over a year after that.)

“Covid was caused by dropping hydrolised Cobra venom into NY and Italian reservoirs in 2020”

That’s a lot of traumatised snakes. Or is this weaponised homeopathy?

“I would bet that for the first year after your first vaccines, you also had to wear diapers.”

It’s eerie how even the smallest amounts of data can lead to such accurate predictions. That’s why we were right to be worried years ago when we were told “but the government’s only taking metadata from communications” (and now they want more).

Also, 1950s. Famous for being seventy years ago. Isn’t that, like, Android 1 or somfing?

@ Dr Bacon:

Both Wright and Rossi ( AoA) bemoan all the money wasted studying genetics, early dx and especially, prenatal issues associated with autism because we should only study post-natal environmental determinants and GI issues associated with the condition.
These people know very little yet masquerade as experts who instruct parents.

Are GBD and AIER trying to brigade? Next you’ll tell me if you rearrange the letters, you get the word brigade.

Oh, wait, never mind

Has Dr. Bhattacharya announced to the world how many times he’s had COVID, since he would of course live by his principles and volunteer to protect the elderly by choosing to get infected?

Or do all the GBD folks put themselves in an “exempt” category for seeking out COVID infection?

In other anti-vax/ Covid denialism news…..

–( via Dr DG’s twitter) Dr Vladimir Zelenko has met with Governor De Santis!
Orac’s written about his alternate Covid ideas since 2020: he worked at Kiryas Joel, an Orthodox enclave in NY state, was dismissed and moved to another town, Monsey**. A few things are amazing about his recent move: according to stuff I’ve read, he had a serious form of cancer and wasn’t doing well at all and was perhaps dying ( NN, also some Jewish papers) BUT he seems to have improved enough to move to “health freedom land”.

— Kim Rossi ( AoA) is hoping that if Elon Musk takes over Twitter, she and her ilk will no longer be “censored” as they are now.

** the place where Del and Co held their infamous anti-vax extravaganza for Orthodox parents

It would be wrong of me to wish that Gov DeSantis got eaten by an alligator – because it would be bad for the alligator.

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