2021 Apr 25, 12:00am
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First, I have been shocked at the enormous power of the government, to unilaterally decree, to simply close businesses and schools by edict, restrict personal movement, mandate behavior, and eliminate our most basic freedoms, without any end and little accountability.Second, I remain surprised at the acceptance by the American people of draconian rules, restrictions, and unprecedented mandates, even those that are arbitrary, destructive, and wholly unscientific.This crisis has also exposed what we all have known existed, but we have tolerated for years: the overt bias of the media, the lack of diverse viewpoints on campuses, the absence of neutrality in big tech controlling social media, and now more visibly than ever, the intrusion of politics into science. Ultimately, the freedom to seek and state the truth is at risk here in the United States. ...All legitimate policy scholars should, today, be openly reexamining policies that severely harmed America’s families and children, while failing to save the elderly. ...Studies, including one in January from Stanford University’s infectious disease scientists and epidemiologists Bendavid, Oh, Bhattacharya, and Ioannidis, have shown the mitigating impact of the extraordinary measures was small at best and according to the study’s senior author Ioannidis, “usually harmful” – in his words, “pro-contagion.” President Biden openly admitted their lack of efficacy in his speech to the nation on January 22, when he said, “there is nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.”Bizarrely, though, many want to blame those who opposed lockdowns and mandates for the failure of the very lockdowns and mandates that were widely implemented. ...We know we have not yet seen the full extent of the damage from lockdowns, because it will last for years, even decades. Perhaps that is why lockdowns were not recommended in previous pandemic analyses, even for infections with far higher lethality.To manage such a crisis, shouldn’t policymakers objectively consider both the virus harms and the totality of impact of policies? ...To determine the best path forward necessarily means admitting that social lockdowns and significant restrictions on individuals are deadly and extraordinarily harmful, especially on the working class, minorities, and the poor. ...Worse, we hear the same faces on TV once again stressing uncertainty, and issuing new warnings – that social distancing, masks, and other restrictions will still be necessary after vaccination and until 2022. Is there no intention of those who control the narrative – the often proclaimed “consensus” – to allow Americans to live normally, to live freely, without fear, again?Just as in Galileo’s time, one real problem is the experts and “vested academic interests.” Faculty members of many universities, America’s centers for critical thinking, have overtly intimidated views contrary to their own, likely out of political reasons, leaving many afraid to speak up. That intimidation has been effective – I know, I have received hundreds of emails from scientists and policy scholars all over the country, all over the world, telling me to never give up, but they are afraid to come forward. And yes, even a number of infectious disease experts right here at Stanford are afraid to step forward publicly and say the truth. ...Widespread, general-population mask usage has shown little empirical utility for stopping cases, even though that evidence has been censored by Twitter and Amazon. Widespread mask usage showed only minimal impact in Denmark’s randomized controlled study. Those are facts. And facts matter.Here’s the reality: those who insist that universal mask usage is absolutely proven to be effective at controlling the spread of this virus and is universally recommended by “the science” are ignoring the published evidence to the contrary. ...I posted a list where mask mandates empirically failed to stop cases, along with direct quotes, without any edit, from WHO, CDC, and Oxford University. That was censored by Twitter. And I stated numerous times that it would be irrational to wear a mask “when alone riding a bicycle outside, when driving your own car alone, or when walking in the desert alone.” I stand by those words.Those who charge that it is unethical, even dangerous, to question broad population mask mandates must not realize that several of the world’s top infectious disease scientists and major public health organizations explicitly question the efficacy of general population masks. The public needs to know the truth. ...Stanford’s Jay Bhattacharya stated “mask mandates are not supported by the scientific data … there is no scientific evidence that mask mandates work to slow the spread of the disease.” ...The CDC, in a review of influenza pandemics, “did not find evidence that surgical-type face masks are effective in reducing laboratory-confirmed influenza transmission, either when worn by infected persons (source control) or by persons in the general community to reduce their susceptibility.” ...At this point, one could make a reasonable case that those who continue to push significant societal restrictions without acknowledging their failures and serious harms are themselves putting forth dangerous misinformation. As Stanford’s Ioannidis stated on February 20, 2021, “most of the estimates show the draconian lockdowns increased the problems, it was pro-contagion.” ...As a health policy scholar for over 15 years and as a professor at top universities for 30 years, I now fear for our students and our nation’s future. Some faculty members of our acclaimed universities - many of whom are automatic recipients of society’s respect because of those university titles - are now dangerously intolerant of opinions contrary to their personally favored narrative. Without permitting, indeed encouraging, open exchange of views and admission of errors, we might never solve any future crisis.At a minimum, university mottos, if such things matter – like Harvard’s “truth,” Stanford’s “the winds of freedom blow,” and Yale’s “light and truth” – need to be explained to all faculty members at these universities. ...We should also fear that the concept of “the science” has been seriously damaged. Even the best journals in the world – NEJM, Lancet, Science and Nature – have become contaminated by politics and published bad science. That adds to the public’s confusion, and it diminishes trust in experts. ...The United States is on the precipice of losing its cherished freedoms, with censorship and cancellation of all those who bring views forward that differ from the “accepted mainstream."It is not clear if our democracy, with its defining freedoms, will recover, even after we survive the pandemic itself. But it is clear that people must step up – meaning speak up, as we are allowed, as we are expected to do in free societies – or it has no chance.Finally: Mackay, again, presciently spoke about the herd: "Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one."So, how do we proceed at this very moment, in this country, with its heavily damaged psyche? Those of us who want the truth must keep seeking it, and those of us who see the truth must keep speaking it. Even if the recovery from madness is slow, and even if it is only one by one. Because truth matters.
Policymakers failed to place adequate emphasis on individualism and made rash and monumental tradeoffs on behalf of their citizenry. Even worse, leaders like Gavin Newsom failed to recognize the importance of the freedoms that they callously decided to undermine. After consistently banning indoor and outdoor dining, Governor Newsom felt safe enough to attend a dinner party at the French Laundry with powerful lobbyists. Ironically, this happened while Newsom’s statewide restrictions were still in effect, preventing his constituents from exercising their individual freedom like Newsom did. Shockingly, similarly hypocritical behavior was seen from other members of California’s political elite, casting doubt on the true intentions behind the restrictions that they espoused.