I don’t normally watch TVNZ’s Seven Sharp, but on 5th October 2021, we were told that an immunologist would be on the programme to debunk certain ‘Covid myths’.
One such ‘myth’ was the belief that natural immunity is superior to vaccine-induced immunity. In response, clinical immunologist Dr. Maia Brewerton said that natural immunity to Covid-19 is not as good as the vaccine.
No evidence was given. Just an assertion.
As an ex-science teacher, I found Dr. Brewerton’s statement to be unsatisfactory, for the following simple reason: the vaccine can only generate antibodies to a single viral antigen (the ‘spike’ protein), whereas the whole virus particle reportedly contains 29 proteins, which can therefore evoke the production of a correspondingly greater diversity of antibodies.
So, if the part of the viral RNA that codes for the spike protein RNA undergoes a mutation, the vaccine-induced antibody may be unable to bind to the mutant antigen, but with natural immunity there will a range of ‘back-up’ antibodies that can bind to the other proteins of the virus.
I wrote to Dr. Brewerton to make this point, asking her if she could provide evidence for her Seven Sharp statement.
I received no reply.
This was particularly disappointing because we had repeatedly been urged by the authorities to ‘accept the science’.
One might think that such a single experience may not be particularly significant; Dr. Brewerton might be snowed under with work. But soon after Dr. Brewerton’s appearance*,* Stuff invited readers to submit questions on Covid, so I sent a similar question to the one I had asked of Dr. Brewerton.
Again, I received no reply.
I was beginning to sense that the authorities might not be too keen to take their own advice to ‘go with the science’, since the very essence of science is examination and questioning of evidence.
This feeling was solidified in August 2022, when I came across a paper co-authored by Professor Michael Baker, an epidemiologist at the University of Otago, who has been one of the chief advocates for the wearing of masks during Covid-19. The paper was titled “The Covid-19 experience in Aotearoa New Zealand and other comparable high-income jurisdictions and implications for managing the next pandemic phase”.
In the article, I could find no evidence supporting the efficacy of masks in the Covid-19 ‘pandemic’, so I wrote to Prof. Baker, saying that I had looked for, but failed to find, any research evidence supporting the efficacy of mask wearing and hoped that he might be able to provide it.
Again, I received no reply.
An essential element in science is the challenging of established ideas in robust, untrammelled debate, in an environment that encourages questioning. Without such openness, science can be misused by powerful interests as a means of disguising misinformation as information.
In the complete absence of evidence-based debate in the media, I was forced to go elsewhere to find out what’s going on. One such source is Ian Miller’s “Unmasked: The Global Failure of Mask Mandates”. Using data from North America, Europe, and parts of South America, and county level in the U.S., Miller presents a compelling case that masks have failed their most significant test – to significantly reduce transmission of Covid. Indeed, it’s clear that masks have no health utility at all, but are, instead, an emblem of obedience to power.
In March 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. Government’s chief medical expert was interviewed on 60 Minutes, and he unequivocally expressed his opinion on masks:
“There’s no reason to be walking around with masks.. . . . .when you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is. And, often, people keep fiddling with the mask and they keep touching their face.”
Until his recent retirement, Dr. Fauci has spent his half-century-career as the U.S. Government’s chief medical expert, whose calm, avuncular charm inspired confidence in millions, so his word on the airwaves carried a lot of weight.
Though his was the most familiar voice, organisations such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) prior to Covid, had expressed similar reservations on the utility of masks.
In February 2020, the CDC issued a document called “Community Mitigation Guidelines to Prevent Pandemic Influenza – United States, 2017”. It drew on the findings of nearly 200 research articles published over the years 1990 and 2006, and was specifically concerned with non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI’s) by which people could protect themselves in the event of an epidemic. The NPI’s the CDC document described for influenza pandemics included voluntary home quarantine of exposed household members and use of face masks in community settings when ill (emphasis added). There was no recommendation that masks should be used by healthy people in the general population.
The CDC was not the only prominent public health body to update its pandemic planning. In 2019 the WHO produced a document “Non-pharmaceutical Public Health Measures for Mitigating the Risk and Impact of Epidemic and Pandemic Influenza”. The first comment on the available evidence was hardly justification for subsequent compulsory masking in public places:
“The evidence base on the effectiveness of NPIs in community settings is limited, and the overall quality of evidence was very low for most interventions. There have been a number of high-quality randomized controlled trials (RCTs) demonstrating that personal protective measures such as hand hygiene and face masks have, at best, a small effect on influenza transmission . . . . ” (emphasis added).
And in the United Kingdom’s Department of Health issued a guidebook titled “UK Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Strategy 2011” which, in point 4.15, said:
“Although there is a perception that the wearing of facemasks by the public in the community and household setting may be beneficial, there is in fact very little evidence of widespread benefit from their use in this setting. Facemasks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly, disposed of safely and used in combination with good respiratory, hand, and home hygiene behaviour in order for them to achieve the intended benefit. Research also shows that compliance with these recommended behaviours when wearing facemasks for prolonged periods reduces over time.” (emphasis added).
It’s clear, then, that pre-Covid, public health authorities were unconvinced of the utility of mask-wearing by the general public. So, one is entitled to wonder why, soon after the WHO announced that Covid-19 had pandemic status, governments in North America, Europe, and Australasia began to ‘encourage’ people to wear masks in indoor public places. This was achieved by a combination of legislation and publicly expressed statements by ‘experts’.
In some cases the language was hyperbolic, verging on blood-curdling. In an interview on Newshub in July 2022 Prof. Michael Baker said:
“If you go out when you have this infection and infect your friends and family…you are going to kill some people – just like drinking and driving. We need a massive shift in thinking,”
Newstalkzb asked Michael Baker if he ever said that masks don’t work . . . .
In my e-mail to Prof. Baker, I had mentioned that I had been unable to find any evidence to support enforced wearing of masks in indoor public places. Since then I have come across two research papers, the most recent showing an investigation into the effects of masking by Beny Spira, Associate Professor of Infectious Disease at the University of São Paulo in the Journal Cureus, Journal of Medical Science.
The research, titled Correlation Between Mask Compliance and COVID-19 Outcomes in Europe, and published April 19, 2022, analysed the correlation between mask usage against morbidity and mortality rates in the 2020-2021 winter in Europe. Data from 35 European countries on morbidity, mortality, and mask usage during a six-month period were analysed. They found that countries with high levels of mask compliance did not perform better than those with low mask usage. On the contrary, there was a positive (though not strong) correlation between mask usage and mortality, suggesting that mask use was associated with slightly greater risk of death.
Of course, correlation does not prove causation, but these results are, or should be, cause for reflection by the authorities. But it seems not.
Whereas the Beny Spira study was retrospective, studying possible effects of mask wearing in whole populations, a prospective study follows the fate of samples of volunteers, some of whom wore masks and others who did not.
A particularly important study by scientists at the University of Copenhagen during April and May 2020 was published in the academic journal Annals of Internal Medicine. It cast doubt on policies that force healthy individuals to wear face coverings in hopes of limiting the spread of COVID-19. The New York Times reported that
“Researchers in Denmark reported on Wednesday that surgical masks did not protect the wearers against infection with the coronavirus in a large randomized clinical trial.”
The experiment involved over 6,000 participants who had tested negative for Covid-19 immediately prior to the experiment. Half the participants were given surgical masks and asked to wear them at all times in public places; the other, control half, were instructed to not wear masks. After a month, participants were tested for Covid-19 and for antibodies against the virus.
The Times reported that of the 4,860 participants who finished the experiment, 42 people in the mask group, or 1.8 percent, got infected, compared with 53 in the unmasked group, or 2.1 percent. The difference was not statistically significant.
Dr. Henning Bundgaard, lead author of the experiment and a physician at the University of Copenhagen, told the Times the results of his research were clear.
“Our study gives an indication of how much you gain from wearing a mask,” Bundgaard said. “Not a lot.”
Surprisingly, or perhaps (in view of what follows) unsurprisingly, the most elite medical journals – The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association – all refused to publish the paper.
Though the study’s researchers have been reticent about their results, some have hinted that it was their conclusions rather than their methodology that lay behind the rejections. Christian Torp-Pedersen, Professor and Chief Physician at the research department at North Zealand Hospital, told Denmark’s Berlingske Daily:
“We can’t start discussing what they are dissatisfied with. For if so, we must also explain what the study showed. And we do not want to discuss this until it has been published.”
When asked when the study would be published, one of its researchers, Thomas Benfield, Professor of Infectious Disease at the University of Copenhagen replied:
“As soon as a journal is brave enough to accept the paper.”
In their paper, the Danish scientists described their findings as ‘inconclusive’, yet it seemed that their failure to produce evidence to support the official narrative was enough for the most élite journals to refuse to publish it.
Anyone who was cynical enough to suspect that discouragement of open debate was not confined to these journals would have found support for this ‘conspiratorial’ view from two leading Oxford University academics, Carl Heneghan, Professor of Evidence-based Medicine, and Dr Tom Jefferson, a clinical epidemiologist and Senior Associate Tutor, when they published an article in the Spectator magazine on Nov 19, 2020. The article was titled: ‘Landmark Danish study shows face masks have no significant effect.’
In quoting the Danish findings, Heneghan and Jefferson added: “As a result, it seems that any effect masks have on preventing the spread of the disease in the community is small.”
But then Facebook warned that the article was ‘false information’ claiming that it had been ‘checked by independent fact-checkers’.
An angry Prof. Heneghan told 70,000 followers on Twitter: ‘I’m aware of this happening to others – what has happened to academic freedom and freedom of speech? There is nothing in this article that is false.’
Such attempts to shut down views contrary to the official narrative should come as no surprise, especially in light of recent revelations about what amounts to ‘public-private censorship’ of free speech.
The revelations began soon after billionaire Elon Musk bought Twitter, in which he pledged to release internal documents that would reveal how the previous owners of Twitter had suppressed free speech. The files were released for examination by two independent journalists, Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss. In an interview on Fox News, Taibbi said:
“I think the major revelation of the Twitter files so far is that we’ve discovered an elaborate bureaucracy of what you might call public-private censorship. Basically, companies like Twitter have a system by which they receive ten tens of thousands of requests for action on various accounts, typically through the DHS [Department of Home Security] and FBI, but these requests were coming from basically every agency in the government. We’ve seen them from the HHS, from the Treasury, from the DOD [Department of Defence], even from the CIA, and they will send basically long lists of accounts in Excel spreadsheet files and ask for action on those accounts. And in many cases, Twitter is complying.”
So it’s not too much of a stretch to think that governments have been using Twitter to stifle public dissent over masks.
And it’s not just censorship that’s been the only tool in the box; even more has been the deliberate stoking up of fear, as Laura Dodsworth explains in an introduction to her book A State of Fear. In an introductory article to her book she gives some examples of things to be afraid of. A small sample:
- Being tall: “People over 6ft have double the risk of coronavirus, study suggests.” (28 July 2020)
- Being bald: “Bad news for baldies as new US study finds they’re 40% more at risk of coronavirus. New research has found a strange link between male baldness and the severity of the virus showing men without hair are more likely to end up in hospital.” (July 23, 2020).
- Owning a dog and taking home supermarket deliveries: “Dog-owners face 78% higher risk of catching Covid-19 – and home grocery deliveries DOUBLE the risk, study finds.” (online 17 November 2020).
- Being male: “Is testicle pain potentially a sign of Covid? 49-year-old Turkish man who had no other symptoms is diagnosed with the virus.” (18 November, 2020)
- Erectile dysfunction: “COVID-19 could cause erectile dysfunction in patients who have recovered from the virus, doctor warns.” (Dec 6, 2020)
- Your toes: “Coronavirus: People who contract COVID may develop red and swollen toes which turn purple, say scientists.” (UK 29 October, 2020)
Taken individually, these might be amusing, but together, they are part of “a panoply of doom-mongering headlines.”
No doubt some will say that Dodsworth is a ‘conspiracy theorist’, but her allegations are confirmed by UK Government publications. On 22 March 2020, SPI-B, the behavioural science sub-group of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), published a document titled “Options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures”, advocating the use of applied psychology to influence social behaviour. Though the focus of the document was on social distancing rather than masks, the intention to use fear is clear:
“The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging. To be effective this must also empower people by making clear the actions they can take to reduce the threat.”
Moreover, Option 2 of Appendix B recommends using the media “to increase sense of personal threat” (emphasis added).
The cynical use of behavioural psychology to manipulate the attitudes and behaviour of populations has not been restricted to the U.K.; it’s been international. Here in New Zealand, in the early days of the pandemic, Jacinda Ardern’s use of the phrase ‘team of 5 million’ was a masterstroke.
But while this might have worked with a fearful, apathetic, naïve, and gullible public, masks and lockdown rules were flouted by some of our leaders in New Zealand, who didn’t see the need for such petty restrictions.
Chief among these was Siouxsie Wiles, the 2021 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year, and a key adviser to Jacinda Ardern. On Sept 18, 2021 Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon interviewed her.
“Now that we know Covid-19 is airborne, stay away from people who aren’t in your bubble. With new knowledge that Covid-19 is airborne, that’s no longer something safe to do. Please don’t go out and chat with a friend while you are out. Don’t hang around and have a chat, connect in other ways. We’ve got phones, we’ve got Skype, we’ve got Zoom…we need to physically disconnect for a little while,” she said.
“Stay away from people.”
The trouble is, Wiles wasn’t following her own advice. On September 3, 2021, while Auckland was still in Level Four lockdown, she was observed “hanging around and having a chat” with a journalist at Judges Bay, Parnell.
Even more damning, the whole episode was recorded on video, in which Wiles was shown sitting in close proximity to the journalist, and neither was wearing a mask, in clear breach of her own and the government’s advice and mandates.
And on 7 September 2021, RNZ, Wiles said that wearing a mask at Level Two is advisable:
“It depends on where the wind is blowing you could have a gust of wind that if someone infected blows it to you or if you were infected blows it to someone else… For the good of everybody, wearing a mask when you’re out of your home is a good idea.”
As independent journalist Cameron Slater pointed out: “If her advice is to wear a mask at Level Two, presumably it would apply doubly at Level Four.”
“Siouxsie Wiles lives in Freemans Bay, and in order to get to Judges Bay would require a trip in excess of 5km one way and 5km back again. This is in contravention of Level Four regulations that require you to ‘stay local’”.
Slater reported that when the Prime Minister was approached for comment about why it was acceptable for one of her key science advisers to be seen breaking lockdown rules, while Police are busy harassing shoppers, no reply had been received.
In a healthy democracy, the media would be speaking truth to power, so why were the media silent on Wiles’ flouting of the rules? Slater explained why the BFD made it public:
“The simple reason is that we are not part of the Prime Minister’s Team of $55 million [a reference to the NZ government fund to rescue “grassroots public interest journalism”, which many see as a form of government control]. This story was given to 1News journalist Benedict Collins. After sitting on the story for five days he informed my source that they had spiked the story. The reason given was that it wasn’t a politician so there was no public interest in the story. Make no mistake, this story was suppressed by an editor at 1News.”
The Wiles case is one of many. The one garnering the most international odium was the 2021 G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, U.K. Among the leaders attending were President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photographs taken of the President and First Lady, the Queen, President Trudeau and Prince Charles show them clearly in breach of the ‘two metre’ social distancing rule, and neither is any of them wearing masks, and some show them with arms on each other’s shoulders.
Cynical comments referred to their ‘hypocrisy’ – ‘do as I say, not as I do’, and so on, but their behaviour goes deeper than that.
For one thing, the elite clearly didn’t believe there was any actual medical need for such social measures, implying that the real purpose was the enforcement of obedience.
Moreover, in making no attempt to conceal their flouting of their own rules was, they were showing ostentatious contempt for us, the proles.
In the greater scheme of things, Covid-19 is but one ‘dot’ of many in the picture. While many can cope with the individual ‘dots’, joining them together to see the whole picture is, for some, just too much.
One thing that can make it easier is the fact that it’s nothing new. Over 2,300 years ago the Greek philosopher Plato dealt with the problem of how hierarchical societies ensure that people did not think ‘incorrectly’ using his Allegory of the Cave, described in his Republic. The allegory takes the form of an imaginary conversation between Socrates and his pupil, Glaucon.
Socrates asks Glaucon to imagine people living in a huge cave that is only open to the outside world with difficulty. Most of the people in the cave are prisoners since early childhood. They are chained to the wall, facing the back of the cave, unable to move so they cannot turn their heads to see a fire behind them. Between the prisoners and the fire is a low wall, behind which is a path along which non-prisoners carry puppets and other objects that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. The shadows playing on the wall are all the prisoners can see; unable to see the fire, the prisoners believe the shadows to be real.
The central message of Plato’s allegory is that the human-created shadows are the political doctrine of a nation state. Although that was over two millennia ago, the cave allegory is more relevant than ever today. Industrial society is living in a state of deep ignorance, in which ‘reality’ is created by powerful agencies and their ‘puppeteer’ stenographers, the media.
Nearly a century ago, Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud, implied that we are being manipulated by the clever use of psychology. Bernays is widely regarded as the ‘father’ of public relations, the polite term for the manipulation of public opinion. In his 1928 book Propaganda he wrote:
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. . . . . it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons… who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world. This is merely a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organised.”
Much of the above will be very disturbing to neophytes, so much so that many will throw up their hands and reject it out of hand. To such doubters, I would ask them to explain the facts I’ve presented in any other way.
(Featured Image: “The Last Straw” by Bennilover is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.)