Everyone is Wrong about Covid-19 for a Reason
Sensemaking Covid-19 Has Become Impossible
The connection between social media and for-profit click based media is fundamental to our inability to make sense of the world around us. HWFO has screamed about this since the publication’s inception in 2018 debunking bad gun control narratives, explaining from whence they come, and foretelling various disasters of the social superorganism. There is no better example of this problem than Covid-19.
It Came from The Lab
A recent 900-page Freedom of Information Act lawsuit from The Intercept proves that Dr. Anthony Fauci lied to congress about funding gain of function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and that the research being funded by the United States was exactly the kind of research that could have produced Covid-19. They were adding spike proteins to existing coronaviruses to make them more infectious to humans, tested them on "humanized mice," and proved that it worked. Here’s what Richard H. Ebright, a Board of Governors Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers University, had to say about the recent Intercept release, nine hours ago, on Twitter:
The materials show that the 2014 and 2019 NIH grants to EcoHealth with subcontracts to WIV funded gain-of-function research as defined in federal policies in effect in 2014-2017 and potential pandemic pathogen enhancement as defined in federal policies in effect in 2017-present. (This had been evident previously from published research papers that credited the 2014 grant and from the publicly available summary of the 2019 grant. But this now can be stated definitively from progress reports of the 2014 grant and the full proposal of the 2017 grant.) The materials confirm the grants supported the construction--in Wuhan--of novel chimeric SARS-related coronaviruses that combined a spike gene from one coronavirus with genetic information from another coronavirus, and confirmed the resulting viruses could infect human cells.
The materials reveal that the resulting novel, laboratory-generated SARS-related coronaviruses also could infect mice engineered to display human receptors on cells ("humanized mice"). The materials further reveal for the first time that one of the resulting novel, laboratory-generated SARS-related coronaviruses--one not been previously disclosed publicly--was more pathogenic to humanized mice than the starting virus from which it was constructed, and thus not only was reasonably anticipated to exhibit enhanced pathogenicity, but, indeed, was *demonstrated* to exhibit enhanced pathogenicity. The materials further reveal that the the grants also supported the construction--in Wuhan--of novel chimeric MERS-related coronaviruses that combined spike genes from one MERS-related coronavirus with genetic information from another MERS-related coronavirus.
The documents make it clear that assertions by the NIH Director, Francis Collins, and the NIAID Director, Anthony Fauci, that the NIH did not support gain-of-function research or potential pandemic pathogen enhancement at WIV are untruthful.
In combination with the recently exposed intelligence that three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized with symptoms very specific to Covid-19 in November of 2019, the chance that this virus wasn’t created intentionally in a lab is so miniscule it should be disregarded.
It came from the lab. It was either built with United States money, or it was built one room over from things that were curiously similar being built with United States money, using techniques and technologies that were absolutely developed with United States money.
Period. Done. That horse is in the stable. Fauci knew. Therefore Fauci cannot be trusted.
HWFO already came to the conclusion that zoonotic origins were ridiculously improbable with solid statistical analysis in April of 2020. The analysis went like this:
The “official channels” have maintained for four months that this virus originated in a wet market in Wuhan, not at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is the world’s Mecca of studying emergent SARS coronaviruses that originate in bats. A lot of speculation by the media has gone into supporting this case, as well as the solid support of the Chinese government, but the case is obviously garbage. I grant that wet markets for exotic harvested wild meats are a great vector for something like this, but set that aside for a moment.
There are between a hundred and a thousand wet markets in China. There are well over a thousand wet markets in Vietnam. There are well over a thousand wet markets in Thailand. There are hundreds or thousands of wet markets in Laos, hundreds or thousands more in Cambodia, hundreds or thousands more in Burma and Myanmar and Malaysia. Nobody knows for sure, but it’s completely reasonable to estimate the total number of wet markets in East Asia being at least ten thousand.
But only one of these ten thousand or more wet markets is two blocks from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The chance that a brand new never before seen SARS coronavirus variant would emerge at the only wet market two blocks from a laboratory whose primary function is to study never before seen SARS coronavirus variants, specifically from bats, is simply too astronomical to believe. If a brand-new world epidemic virus were to emerge every day from a wet market in east Asia, it would be three years or more on average before one emerged from Wuhan. No honest scientist would believe that coincidence given what we know.
Phrased another way, if we had one new novel bat coronavirus outbreak per year, every year since Jesus Christ was born, there’d still only be about a 20% chance that any of them came out of Wuhan. When presented with this analysis, some zoonotic origin supporters told me I was making The Lottery Fallacy but they didn’t understand the framework of the argument. I wasn’t talking about the chance of Random Bob winning the lottery, I was talking about the chance of Bob-The-Guy-Who-Pulls-The-Lottery-Balls winning the lottery. I got defriended by half a dozen smart people on Facebook over this argument, because their social media feeds were telling them I must be an anti-Chinese racist. And that social pressure was not only against me, it was against the very scientists attempting to raise the question within their own professional circles, and it was so severe that they had to self-censor to keep their jobs.
When confronted with preliminary inklings about this by Congressman Rand Paul, Fauci produced one of the most trafficked rebuttals in Congress this year. Here’s the exchange.
When confronted with studies by Senator Paul explicitly showing research where “functions were added” Fauci basically says “that didn’t count,” because presumably some virologists decided that those gains of function weren’t gains of function according to some nebulous semantic detail within the ban on researching gains of function. And when he said it, the Blues cheered and the Reds booed and nobody listened to the words either of them said.
Sensemaking becomes impossible because the truth of a thing in 2021 is not based on reality, it’s based on whether it fits a preferred narrative. It’s based on whether it gets clicks. One tribe has decided they trust Fauci because the other tribe doesn’t. The other tribe has decided they don’t trust Fauci because the other tribe does.
And nobody’s talking about the wider implications of this. Any multi-millionaire could seed fund an off-grid gain of function lab to develop Measles-19 and kill much larger swaths of the human population than Covid-19 if they wanted. The cost to do that is thousands of times cheaper than building a nuke. ISIS could be doing it right now. The Taliban could do it for a fraction of the resale value of the military gear abandoned in Afghanistan.
HWFO has spoken at length about the idea that internet memes, graphics easily conveyed, act as a kind of data compression for social media sharing. But up until recently I tried to stay out of the meme game, because I find it disingenuous. I tried it last week, and got half a million impressions and almost fifty thousand engagements. Here’s the tweet.
And here are the stats on the tweet.
Let’s do some meme analysis on it.
Every line of the image is a story the blue establishment told the public at some point or another during the pandemic. These stories were not, largely, authored by scientists. They were authored by policy makers in tandem with the social media organism itself, and the most prominent and most wrong messages in there are ones that flowed from the virality of the message. “It was never about Herd Immunity,” for instance, was a viral Blue Tribe social media organism response to the Red Tribe’s discussion of ending lockdowns by getting to herd immunity naturally. “Asymptomatic cases have long term damage” was a Blue Tribe social media organism response to the Red Tribe saying that Covid-19 is no big deal to most people. Science that supported the social organism’s argument got elevated, science that didn’t support it got suppressed, and the tail wagged the dog. Lab leak is only one of many obvious examples of the tail wagging the dog. What’s true is what’s viral.
I watched closely who shared the tweet above. Anti-vaxxers, obviously. And I am not an anti-vaxxer, I’m sitting on double Pfizer and may get a booster on it, depending on how things go. But I only got vaccinated because I spent a tremendous amount of time and effort breaking down the numbers on my own, because Fauci is not to be trusted, nor is the CDC, nor is anyone who ever said any of the things in that tweet, which means most or all of the Blue Tribe establishment. The messaging isn’t about truth, it’s about virality. Let’s look at a CDC webpage as an example:
I took a screenshot in case they change it.
Nothing in this web page is false. It is true that vaccinated people are less likely to contract Covid-19 than unvaccinated people. It is true that people who recover from a Covid-19 infection and then get a vaccine afterward are slightly more protected than people who recover and do not get vaccinated. But the most important piece of information for the purposes of the “vaccine passes” debate is intentionally withheld. You’re 13 times less likely to be a breakthrough case if you’ve achieved natural immunity than if you’re vaccinated. “Science Says” forcing recovered people to get a vaccine pass is stupid, but the CDC webpage is written as if forcing recovered people to get a vaccine pass is obviously the right thing to do.
This same thing shows up in the current Ivermectin debate. Media outlets, the CDC, and the FDA, are summarily trashing Ivermectin with abandon, recasting the entire miracle antiviral drug as “horse dewormer” and claiming there are no studies showing it works, nor even that it’s a drug safe for humans at all. Here’s a table of peer reviewed trials (in humans) showing that it works.
I’ve followed a tremendous amount of the Ivermectin debate, and it would take ten articles to cover it fully. Some of the studies in this graphic aren’t all that great. Some are wrong. Ivermectin is not a substitute for vaccination because you couldn’t make enough of it to supply the world with a regular dose. The idea of achieving any sort of global elimination of Covid-19 through a daily drug is logistically asinine. But Ivermectin may help some as a treatment. There are lots of anecdotes, and a bundle of studies, showing it may help some. And since Ivermectin is a completely safe drug at human doses when prescribed by a doctor, there’s no reason not to do it. It’s as harmless as masks – perhaps more harmless. If I contract Covid-19, which I postulate is extremely likely in the long run, I’m going to take it even if it doesn’t work because there’s no drawback.
Why is our sensemaking apparatus telling us it’s dangerous when it’s obviously not? Virality and social manipulation.
Let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s pretend there’s a new drug called Miracletosin, which absolutely would improve Covid-19 infection results by 10% in treatment. Not much but enough to warrant taking. Let’s pretend the anti-vax community latches onto it as a vaccine alternate and uses the existence of Miracletosin to justify not getting vaccinated. Let’s pretend the existence of Miracletosin causes 15% less people to get vaccinated. The CDC, FDA, and the sensemaking apparatus looks at the bottom line and says “that’s 5% more dead people, we should trash Miracletosin to make sure nobody takes it,” even if taking it is beneficial.
And since tribal signaling in the social media organism makes it fun to share HORSE DEWORMER memes, the FDA rides this virality component to suppress a drug that is absolutely helpful and in no way harmful.
Is this what’s happening with Ivermectin? I don’t know. But it should be plain that in our currently fabulously broken sensemaking system, they would be against Ivermectin even if it did work. Even if they were good, nice, smart people whose only interest is in saving the lives of others, and had no financial ties to the vaccine industry, and believed personally that it might work, and would take it themselves if they caught Covid-19, they’d still trash it in the media as a method of social control. Trashing it in the media would fit their Hippocratic oath. They may feel obligated to do so. What’s true is what’s viral.
Is it a vaccine at all?
I took Pfizer and had zero issues so I’m inclined to believe the vaccine isn’t going to kill me, which inclines me to probably get booster shots. But it’s looking increasingly like vaccine conveyed immunity probably only lasts six months. I have never heard of a vaccine that only lasts six months. Our last great Vaccine Culture War was over the HPV vaccine, which cost $500 a shot and even if applied universally across over 300 million people would only avert a thousand or less cervical cancer deaths per year. Lots of people argued about the Return on Investment (ROI) on that one. But if the HPV vaccine only lasted six months, I don’t think the pro-vax community would have even allowed them to call it a vaccine.
Outbreaks in several of the most vaccinated countries in the world seem to indicate that this vaccine, even if universally applied, will not eliminate Covid-19. The best description for this treatment, based on what we know now, is that it’s a targeted temporary immune booster. And that the “vaccine mandate” should at least be changed in nomenclature to “targeted temporary immune booster mandate.”
And while I selfishly might seek out the booster, I have grave concerns about what this treatment is going to produce in the long term. The best science available for mandated vaccines in animal populations flows from the agricultural industry, where it’s been shown repeatedly that leaky vaccines create deadlier variants. I do not think vaccines caused Delta because Delta originated before the vaccine wave, but there is no doubt in my mind that our current “leaky vaccine” strategy is going to create more variants that bypass vaccines and kill more people, in the same way that heavy use of antibiotics creates antibiotic resistant superbugs. It’s the same evolutionary mechanism. Covid-19 is already in deer, by the way, so unless you plan on vaccinating them we’ve got a permanent nationwide reservoir of germs on our hands.
The only remaining path to a life free of Covid-19 is to move to an island country with secure borders and a very robust contact tracing program. New Zealand is nice this time of year. Outside of that, buckle up buttercup.
For now I personally recommend but would never dream of mandating:
Go ahead and get your targeted temporary immune booster shot, but
Never give an ounce of trust to Fauci again, nor or any individual or agency who used the phrase “horse dewormer” in the last month.
I'm right there with you, BJ. I will get something other than the Pfizer as a booster because it appears to have created menstrual complications in many women, including myself. Nothing serious so far but enough for me to give it a pass.
You were going just great until “targeted temporary immune booster.”
Are annual flu vaccines not vaccines just because one dose doesn’t last a lifetime? How about tetanus, which requires boosters every ten years, and also after any potentially infecting wound? Or all of the other routine adult vaccines which require more than a single dose, such as varicella, zoster, varieties of hepatitis, pneumococcal vaccines, and, of course, HPV?
Very few diseases can and have been eliminated by a single vaccination. The near eradication of polio and smallpox are triumphs of modern medicine, but they are very much the exception. See the American Academy of Family Physicians Immunization Schedules here https://www.aafp.org/family-physician/patient-care/prevention-wellness/immunizations-vaccines/immunization-schedules.html
Also, our current portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines don’t become worthless after six months. Your linked graph suggests exponential decay when something like a sigmoidal function almost surely better represents reality.
Unsurprisingly, the media, public health officials, physicians and scientists—each with a little too much braggadocio—have misled the public into believing that all real vaccines are “perfect.” Which brings us to the “imperfect vaccine hypothesis,” which is just that: a hypothesis. And it’s been pursued pretty much by one researcher, Andrew Read. In the chicken disease he’s studied (Marek’s disease), it’s a real thing. But most human vaccines aren’t “leaky.” And there is no current evidence for a risk of vaccine-driven virulence evolution in COVID-19 (see https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.12.01.20241836).
You’ve previously written that COVID-19 will almost assuredly become endemic. This is correct. Adults can avoid almost all symptomatic disease with vaccinations, and children will develop natural immunity from asymptomatic illness. COVID-19 will be with us for a long time, maybe forever. But in a generation or two, it will become invisible.
You’re also absolutely right that “everyone is wrong about COVID-19 for a reason.” COVID-19 has become another classic political wedge issue. One tribe, the vaccinated communitarians, have an irrational fear of the unvaccinated, and are delighted to have found a sectarian opponent they can openly condemn with virtue. The other tribe, the individualist anti-vaxxers, have an irrational fear of modern medicine, and their resistance to innocuous self-protection only hardens as the vaccinated communitarians ridicule them. Above all, extraordinary strong rational incentives operate on politicians, bureaucrats and the media—especially including social media—to exploit and calcify the divisions between these two tribes.
There is a strong overlap between both tribes and that portion of the public which is susceptible to conspiracy theories (see https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12084). This proclivity means that even if all COVID-19 disease were eliminated tomorrow, we’d still be embroiled in a vaccination and masking culture war.
Which leaves the rest of us hopelessly annoyed.