Saturday, October 9, 2021

Covid-19 FAQ vs GB Declaration (1): Introduction

Covid-19 FAQ on the Great Barrington Declaration 
I: Introduction

by George J. Dance

from "A Defence of the Great Barrington Declaration from Its Powerful Critics", The Daily Sceptic, 22 March 2021.

The Great Barrington Declaration (GBD),(1) under which thousands of scientists and medical practitioners have called for a end to lockdown policies, was drawn up last October 1st-4th, was announced on October 5th, and was already being denounced by October 6th. Over the next month, the GBD and its message were virtually buried beneath an “avalanche of scathing criticism condemning it as ‘very dangerous, unscientific, unethical, total nonsense, dangerously flawed, conspiratorial and grotesque’. Among the critics were prominent role-players such as World Health Organization director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, British chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance, and US infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci”.(2) Defenders of the lockdown consensus even released a counter-manifesto, the John Snow Memorandum,(3) ironically named for epidemiology’s most famous dissenter from a scientific consensus.

At the time I read everything I could on the topic and made copious notes, hoping to write my own perspective on the GBD. Long before I was in a position to do that, though, the debate had moved on, and I never had an opportunity to revisit the subject.

Fortunately, there is a new FAQ in town: Anti-Virus: The COVID-19 FAQ.4 This new FAQ may not be the best place to go for scientific advice about the disease; the ‘doctors’ behind it seem to mainly have doctorates in economics and psychology (though I have read that there is an anonymous scientist involved), and some of their claims, such as “Covid still has a high fatality rate among younger people”, seem supported more by semantics than by science. (“Younger” in context turns out to be “younger than 65”).(5) But at least the FAQ has revived the Declaration and assembled a ‘best of’ the criticisms levelled against it, making it worthwhile to revisit the debate.

Before getting to that, it is helpful to look at background context. A major player in the Anti-virus FAQ is a Member of the UK Parliament, Neil O’Brien, introduced (by The Times) in November as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “new policy guru”.(6) Johnson has faced a backbench rebellion from a group of lockdown sceptics within his Conservative Party, the Covid Recovery Group (CRG); concerns have been expressed that the CRG could defeat the Government in Parliament, should the opposition Labour party vote with them (unlikely as that seems, with Labour leader Keir Starmer reading the same polls as Johnson).(7) At least one cabinet minister has privately lashed out at both the CRG and the GBD.(7) Johnson’s new policy guru has now taken the fight against lockdown sceptics and scepticism to the public, apparently with Government backing;(8) and the COVID-19 FAQ seems an integral part of his messaging.

Strangely, though, there is little talk of lockdowns or lockdown sceptics on the FAQ at all. Its first paragraph briefly mentions those who say “that governments shouldn’t try to contain the virus with lockdowns”, but only to lump them in with those who believe that “Covid isn’t particularly dangerous”, rebrand the lot as “Covid Sceptics,”. and then attribute a number of absurd beliefs to them, including but not limited to:

  • “the number of infections is much lower than it really has been”
  • “health systems were under less strain than they really were”
  • “the fatality rate and number of deaths were lower than they have been in reality”.(3)

That stated, the FAQsters turn their full attention to the alleged Covid Sceptics and their alleged claims. The underlying strategy seems to be not to defend lockdowns directly, but to avoid mentioning or discussing them: to keep readers from thinking about them as much as possible; changing the subject to “Covid Sceptics” and their “absurd claims”; it also gives lockdown zealots lots of bullet points to easily repeat and cite, while making the lockdown sceptics spend their time and energy rebutting same, thus both (1) discrediting opposition to lockdowns and (2) suppressing any real discussion of them.

The FAQ's page on the GBD follows the same script. Titled “The Great Barrington Declaration gives a good alternative to lockdown”, that page begins by quoting the position it is opposing (from the GBD): 

Lockdowns are a very bad idea – they cause economic havoc, stop people getting medical attention for non-COVID problems, and increase loneliness, isolation, and mental health problems. Instead, we should be shielding the vulnerable, and allowing younger, healthier people to live their lives, building natural herd immunity when they catch the virus.(9)

Then it drops the subject of lockdowns, and never gets back to it. 

Instead, the FAQsters try to rebut the GBD claim with seven counter-claims of their own, meant to add up to a comprehensive refutation. It is best to take those in turn.

  1. Great Barrington Declaration.
  2. Gerritt Olivier, “Terrifying citizens with overwhelming statistics is no help during a pandemic”, Business Day, February 20th, 2021.
  3. Nisreen A. Alwan et al., “Scientific consensus on the COVID-19 pandemic: we need to act nowThe Lancet, October 15th, 2020.
  4. What is Anti-Virus”, Anti-Virus: The Covid-19 FAQ.
  5. Claim: Covid is only a problem for the elderly and vulnerable,” Anti-Virus: The Covid-19 FAQ.
  6. Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson, “PM’s new policy guru takes Trump to task”, The Times, November 21st, 2020.
  7. Jessica Elgot, Heather Stewart and Peter Walker, “Tory rebels fire warning shot as 42 MPs vote against stricter Covid measures”, The Guardian, October 13th, 2020.
  8. Sam Bright, “CONSERVATIVES DIVIDED: Scourge of Lockdown Sceptics Neil O’Brien MP Receives Government Backing”, Byline Times, January 27th, 2021.
  9. All quotations in italics are from: “Claim: The Great Barrington Declaration gives a good alternative to lockdown”, Anti-Virus: The Covid-19 FAQ.
  10. Gavin Yamey, “This thread is brilliant”, Twitter, March 8th, 2021.
  11. Dominic Lawson, “The second wave of Covid has drowned the sceptics’ delusions”, The Times, January 17th, 2021. 
  12. Dominic Lawson, “This vaccine needles the lockdown sceptics”, The Times, December 6th, 2020.

No comments:

Post a Comment