Opinion by Kip Hansen — 25 September 2020
A group calling itself “The Global Health Security Network (GHSN) Limited” was formed last June, in Australia. Sounds great, doesn’t it. Health, Security, it’s Global and it’s a Network!
Here’s their mission statement:
We encourage free thinking and support those that wish to make a meaningful impact to improve the health and well-being of all people globally. The GHSN community is an opportunity to engage with members, sharing their ideas through the Association and at GHSN events around the world.”
And the GHSN’s About page states that it “was created to provide a space where global health academics, scientists and policy-makers from across multiple sectors and around the world have a platform to share their thoughts, ideas, research and innovations with other professionals.”
As has become all too common in this topsy-turvy world of today, they have just issued their first Policy Report. Inventively titled “The COVID-19 Pandemic vs Post-Truth” [ available as a .pdf file here ] it recommends policies that are the complete opposite of their stated mission. It was written by “Dr. Jennifer S. Hunt, National Security College, Crawford School of Public Policy ANU, for the Global Health Security Network, August 2020”.
Although the Policy Report was prepared at an Australian university, it is expressly about the United States:
“Though the United States is the focus of this report, the impact of COVID-19 conspiracy theories is potentially global. As far away as Melbourne, Australia, demonstrators defied lockdown orders, shouting “Death to Bill Gates!” – a key figure in US-based conspiratorial assertions. Public discussion of the pandemic must take into account the viral spread of conspiracy theories surrounding it and the longer-term impacts of the ‘post-truth’ age in which it thrives.”
There are several well-known “conspiracy theories” circulating about the Covid Pandemic. I put quotes around the term conspiracy theories in order to make it clear that this is a term being thrown about to denigrate any idea that is contrary to desired governmental or social narratives on any subject. Here are the “conspiracy theories” mentioned in the GHSN’s policy report:
So, let’s parse this table:
The exact origin of SARS-CoV-2 , the virus that causes Covid-19, is still subject to ongoing investigations by the Chinese government, the US intelligence community and other international bodies. Both listed “conspiracy theories” are currently generally considered, depending on the investigating group, as “possible” to “probable”. Neither of these is a “conspiracy theory”.
Hoax: The idea that SARS-CoV-2 is a “hoax” would be a conspiracy theory if attached to a source – eg: “Covid-19 is a hoax perpetrated by the CIA”. The polls given in the Policy Report do not report any widespread support for this idea.
“Just the flu” and mortality exaggerated: These are oddly both probably nominally true. Corona viruses are not strictly influenzas, but they do produce influenza-like illnesses and the current numbers of actually sick people (as opposed to just “positive tests” from RT-PCR tests with extremely high sensitivity resulting in non-actionable “positive tests”) are in line with previous very bad flu seasons and far lower than historic catastrophic influenzas. Recent revelations have shown it to be categorically true that “Covid-19 deaths” have been exaggerated, at least in the United States, by mandate from the CDC and other health officials.
Unprepared: That the world’s health institutions were unprepared for a pandemic of this nature is so obviously true especially in the United States, that the listing of this idea as “misinformation” itself seems like an attempt to misinform. WHO and national health organizations were unprepared and opinions vary wildly as to the appropriateness of their various responses. Quoting the World Health Organization’s 2019 report:
“While disease has always been part of the human experience ….. the spectre of a global health emergency looms large. If it is true to say “what’s past is prologue”, then there is a very real threat of a rapidly moving, highly lethal pandemic of a respiratory pathogen killing 50 to 80 million people and wiping out nearly 5% of the world’s economy. A global pandemic on that scale would be catastrophic, creating widespread havoc, instability and insecurity. The world is not prepared. “
“to active part of Deep State or globalist WHO/UN plot” (sic): I don’t understand this statement but it seems to imply the idea that there is some theory that Health Institutions themselves are plotting as part of the “Deep State” or UN Globalism general conspiracies – to do what, I don’t know. I do think that there are groups that promulgate these “Deep State” and “One World Government” conspiracies and that they base their belief on exaggeration or wild spinning of existing real world problems. The idea that the UN should be established as a single world government is being openly promoted and tied to the Covid-19 pandemic: “After COVID, time to consider a UN parliament and a world federation” and “Coronavirus and the case for one-world government” . So, the idea of a push for one world government as a response to Covid-19 is not [edit – 1900 hrs ET — kh ] some entirely crazy conspiracy theory and there are reasons to speak out against this idea if one disagrees.
Unconstitutional: It is generally considered, in the United States, that it is legal and constitutional for public health officials to issue emergency rules and regulations to protect public health, particularly in response to epidemics. This includes quarantining persons who might be contagious with illness such as malaria and smallpox. The courts in the U.S. have generally upheld the various edicts, dictates and orders from Governors and Health Officials. This does not mean that everyone agrees that many of the sweeping closures of private business and restrictions on public activities are constitutional. This piece from the Cato Institute covers the topic pretty well. One of their points is a survey done in May 2020 that found that “Close to half (47 percent) of Republicans believe these lockdowns [undefined – so we don’t know exactly what the question was – kh ] are unconstitutional, while just about a quarter (26 percent) of Independents and 10 percent of Democrats say the same.” So, whether “lockdowns” are unconstitutional is a legal question, believed in May 2020 by about one third of American citizens, and cannot be considered a “conspiracy theory” – individually, it is a matter of personal opinion and for American society, it is a matter of legal decisions. Further, the question hinges on the sticky details – exactly what features of which lockdowns and where — which are everywhere different.
“to orchestrated attack (sic) on economy and Trump’s re-election”: Again, something strange about the statement itself. In the United States, it is traditional, and fully expected, that the party that is out of power hopes for bad economic news in the three months leading to a Presidential election. The devastation of American businesses caused by the response to the pandemic is being used by the out party (the Democrats) as a bludgeon against the Republicans, the in party. There is no doubt whatever that part of the ongoing political fight in the U.S. running up to the 2020 Presidential Election is based on the Democrats attempting to blame the Covid Pandemic personally on the sitting President, as if U.S. Presidents were “in charge” of viruses and their effects and could have made them go away if they had only tried harder.
Quoting The 2020 Democratic Party Platform:
“Democrats stand ready to take immediate, decisive action to pull the economy out of President Trump’s recession ….”
“Make no mistake: President Trump’s abject failure to respond forcefully and capably to the COVID-19 pandemic—his failure to lead—makes him responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans.“
While very few people believe that SARS-CoV-2 is a tool produced specifically for the task, it is simply a fact that the Democratic Party, in their official platform, is actively using the Covid-19 Pandemic as an attack on the sitting President of the United States. So, as there is an orchestrated attack on the Trump re-election effort using the Covid Pandemic, it is not quite right to claim that pointing this out is a conspiracy theory — as it is actually happening.
“Ineffective”: It is perfectly clear that World and National health authorities, governors, county and town boards and even village councils are all-in for mask wearing – even more so as the pandemic fades, for reasons nobody but they know. The actual science regarding the efficacy of various medical and homemade facemasks for the prevention of the spread of viral diseases, including SARS-CoV-2, is much more nuanced.
Studies performed before the current pandemic tend to find that mask wearing for the general public is what the can be termed a “thumb-sucking exercise” – meaning doing something that makes a person doing it feel better without actually having any other discernible beneficial effect. A convenient list of such studies is available at the end of an opinion piece by Denis G. Rancourt, PhD here. [ I only mean to link the list of original studies, not the opinion piece itself – kh ].
Studies performed in an effort to support current mandates during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic find evidence that masks may, could or even, in some cases actually do, help prevent the spread of Covid-19 but only when used in rigorous adherence to hand-washing and social-distancing.
In short, the actual science on the wearing of simple ear-loop medical masks or home-made cloth facemasks is uncertain – ranging from life-saving to life-endangering.
For doctors or medical researchers to question the efficacy of face masks for the prevention or reduction of the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is not misinformation or a “conspiracy theory” – it is simply unsettled medical science.
“actively harmful to ‘God’s breathing system’”: In her struggle to find actual cases of Covid-19 conspiracy theories, Dr. Hunt managed to find a Tweeted YouTube of a single woman ranting about all sorts of crazy ideas about the Covid Pandemic. Now that’s some great investigative science reporting….
A 2015 study found that certain types of cloth face masks can actually be harmful, increasing infection rates. There are a series of responses to that study, all written in 2020, five years later, as others try to nullify or downgrade the findings here – this responses page includes an update comment from the original authors.
So, once more, the posited misinformation or “conspiracy theory” turns out to be differing medical opinion based on different studies. Current studies reek of “compliance bias”.
Last minute update – the U.S. C.D.C. had stirred things up a bit by updating and then retracting an update on transmission of Covid-19 via aerosol droplets.
If one wants to talk of medical misinformation and conspiracy theories, one has to touch on the anti-vaccination movement. There are a lot of anti-vax activists and they are well-funded and have a huge negative impact on beneficial vaccination programs. They are responsible for outbreaks of measles and the deaths of some children in the United States from easily preventable diseases.
In the Covid Pandemic, the battle regarding vaccination seem to be being fought in alignment with two-party politics – and are more along the lines of accusing (in advance) the current administration of planning to rush through a vaccine for Covid-19 in an effort to influence the presidential election. Thus, some are saying they will refuse to receive any vaccine approved under the current Republican President – on the basis that it might be unsafe or inadequately tested. This idea is conjoined with the general anti-vax sentiments.
I have seen no evidence of claims that vaccination against Covid-19 is “unnecessary” – other than the general anti-vax idea that vaccination for anything is itself “unnecessary”.
There is, in fact, a burgeoning conspiracy theory regarding Bill Gates and his financial support for vaccine manufacturers attempting to come up with a Covid-19 vaccine. I will not link to them – as I consider them too ridiculous to credit in any way.
The anti-vax movement is engaged in widespread social harm.
There are valid things to be discussed in public forums about the current scheduled childhood vaccinations. Some vaccines could be improved and are subjects of continued medical research.
On a personal note, when my children were getting their vaccinations, I consulted with my father, a leading Los Angeles area pediatrician, and he steered us to two alternate vaccine formulations, which had to be special-ordered, which he felt had less negative side effects than those normally used by most pediatricians at that time –
30 40 years ago [edit – 0100 hrs 26/9/20 — kh ].
Most of the information spewed by anti-vax groups varies from questionable to outright false information. There is considerable conspiracy ideation in these groups.
“a tracking mechanism using 5G”: Now there’s an idea I had never heard. The cell phone technology “5G” has absolutely nothing to do with vaccination, obviously. But it is true that Apple and Google announced earlier this year:
“…a joint effort to bolster this public health service — a task known as contact tracing — by building software into smartphones that relies on Bluetooth technology to track users’ proximity to one another. Facebook is participating in a similar effort led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”
Apple and Google installed the APIs (not actual apps) for Covid trackers on their branded cell phones (iPhone and Android phones) without first asking the consumer for permission. There are, of course, serious privacy trade-offs to Bluetooth-proximity-based tracking apps.
So, while there is absolutely no connection between 5G cell phone technology and Covid vaccination, there is smoke, as they say, in the idea of cell-phone based Covid Proximity Trackers. Currently, any app based on the Apple/Google APIs is entirely “opt-in” – the user has to download the app and agree to its functionalities.
My personal opinion? I would never ever allow an app to track me or my proximity to others via my cell phone and report it to any corporation or government. When the Apple/Google story broke, I carefully searched my phone of any such app, found the API, and ensured that it was not in use by any app. My general settings limit all data sharing as far as technically possible on today’s modern phones.
Where does this all lead?
So, as we see, the whole Policy Report from GHSN is based on the idea that all opinions that substantially differ from “official” governmental decrees or the policies supported and promulgated by WHO, national and local health authorities must be considered as “misinformation” – even if true – and speaking publicly about these differing medical/scientific opinions or facts should be labelled as “conspiracy theory” – whether there is any mention of a conspiracy or not. (There are, as I have said, some really nutty conspiracy theories out there – but they are so obviously nutty that they have almost no effect on the general public).
The GHSN tells us:
- That it welcomes professionals who seek to share their knowledge and research on global health security.
- Encourages free thinking
- Offers an opportunity to engage with members, sharing their ideas through the Association and at GHSN events around the world
- Provides a space where global health academics, scientists and policy-makers from across multiple sectors and around the world have a platform to share their thoughts, ideas, research and innovations with other professionals
Here are their recommendations on what should be done concerning health academics, doctors and policy-makers who are free-thinkers and openly share their thoughts, ideas, research and innovations with other professionals and the general public – keep in mind that when they say “conspiracy theories” they mean what I have shown above – any divergent opinion or research.
I translate each recommendation into its practical, real world application.
1. Government, in concert with researchers, should work with technology companies and social media platforms to establish programs that actively monitor, target and take down conspiracy theories and associated user accounts for repeat offenders.
Translation: Governments and “us” (right-thinking researchers) should work with the Big Tech Elites to remove all divergent, non-conforming, opinions and scientific research from the Internet and Social Media – and cancel those persons or groups who don’t get the hint that their kind of free-thinking will not be allowed.
2. Governments should adapt the law enforcement mechanisms used to fight child pornography and domestic extremism, and introduce accompanying legislation or statutes to combat conspiracy groups that disseminate extremist content.
Translation: Governments should criminalize the speaking (social media, internet, blogs, YouTubes) of opinions that “we right-thinkers” don’t agree with — along with any speech that is contrary to or disagrees with current public policy or which “we” decide to label as “extremist”.
3. Professional associations should update their codes of conduct to include formal review and disciplinary processes for individuals in positions of public trust (e.g. licensed physicians) who endanger public health through promulgation of conspiracy theories.
Translation: Doctors who don’t fall in line with current narratives and mandates, or who publish or speak publicly about scientific findings or research that fails to support current thought-mandates should be disciplined and/or be stripped of their licenses to practice.
4. Political parties could include in their election and policy platforms a commitment to professional code of conduct, with sanctions and removal of campaign support for candidates and members that fail to adhere to minimum standards around the dissemination of misinformation and conspiracy theories.
Translation: Political parties should not support candidates who have and talk about ideas we don’t like – specifically Donald Trump (read the Policy Report).
5. Civil society organisations and professional associations should mobilise their membership networks to target corporate advertising in outlets that promote or facilitate the dissemination of conspiracy theories.
Translation: Media should be punished economically for allowing any opinions, facts, or research to reach the general public that fails to support current “approved” narratives on public health.
They are 36 years late – but the Thought Police have finally arrived on the field of medicine and public health:
We welcome all free-thinkers, as long as they think as we do.
We encourage sharing of opinions, as long as they align with our preferred narratives, and sharing of research but only if the findings support our policies.
Those who not only fail to agree with us but then have the audacity to speak out publicly are criminals, on the order of child pornographers, and should be hunted down and treated as such.
Commercial enterprises that give a platform to the free expression of opinions or the open sharing of medical research must be punished economically if those opinions or research findings do not support our viewpoints.
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Thank you for reading today. This essay is entirely my own opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Anthony Watts, our blog host or his associates who help operate this blog. I appreciate the opportunity to speak out freely here.
I will not engage in any discussion pro- or con- the anti-vax movement – I have already made my views clear in the main essay. Nor will I reply to anything related to Bill Gates and vaccines.
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