Piers Corbyn and Free Speech 1166


The arrest of Piers Corbyn is yet another sign of the intolerance of dissent and devaluing of free speech in the modern UK. Neither being tasteless nor being wrong is a police matter. Furthermore the attempt to distort this into a question of anti-semitism is ludicrous. The clear import of the leaflet involved is that Auschwitz was an instrument of mass murder, and so is the covid vaccine. There is no way of reading this that makes out Corbyn to be denying Auschwitz or promoting it as a good thing. That the Auschwitz comparison is tasteless as well as simply wrong is a view I would share; but neither is a crime, and I perfectly accept other people may view it as neither tasteless nor wrong.

The intrusion of the state into the legitimate expression of dissenting views is becoming commonplace. The hatred directed at Piers’ brother explains something of the glee that swept both social and mainstream media at Piers’ arrest, as does another chance to contrive Corbyn and anti-semitism into the same sentence. However the incident betrays the very real shift in society towards intolerance of non-mainstream views. It is only the vigilance of citizens which will ever limit the power of the state, and it is therefore no surprise that in the age of cancel culture the state stamps down on dissenting opinion.

I leave aside the question of Piers Corbyn’s connection to the leaflet and cartoon or not as irrelevant to my argument here, though of course it is relevant to his legal position; there is no reason for the leaflet to be illegal anyway.

I do not think that anybody will ever put the argument for free speech better than the great John Stuart Mill:

First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.

Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions, that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.

Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds.

[Despite a lifetime of studying Mill, it was only in researching Sikunder Burnes that I discovered that when John Stuart’s father James left Montrose for London he anglicised the family name from Milne to Mill. John Stuart and Burnes became friends in the East India Company, as had been their fathers in Montrose.]

As to this particular opinion of Piers Corbyn, I have no qualification that makes my view any more authoritative than yours. But it seems to me probable that the massive advances in knowledge of how vaccines work within the body at the level both of incredibly small structures and of atoms, better enable theoretical constructs to underpin the discoveries of the vaccine testing process, and thus vaccine safety can indeed be established sooner than in earlier years, when the testing of empirical effects of a vaccine proved efficacy and safety or otherwise, without knowledge of precise mechanisms being entirely essential to the process. I shall myself take the vaccine when offered and urge everybody else to do so, despite myself tending to the view that the risk of death from covid-19, other than to clearly defined vulnerable groups, is extremely small. The risk to those vulnerable groups is acute, so for their sake I hope everybody vaccinates.

I might expand into my general view of vaccines. Being of an age where I can recall people only slightly older than myself living lives in forms twisted by polio, I have always regarded “anti-vaxxers” as deeply misguided. Any vaccine of course carries an inherent risk, as does any instance of putting anything at all in the human body. But for all established vaccines, those risks are very small. In fact, I view those who do not take vaccinations as extremely selfish, because while refusing the vaccination because of a very small risk to themselves, they still benefit from the herd immunity created by everybody else who has taken that tiny risk. I therefore view anti-vaccination as an immoral position; with the caveat that not everything that in my view, or even the state’s view, is immoral should be illegal. We come back again to the right to be different, to the fact that neither the state nor I are infallible judges of personal morality, and that the arm of the state is already too far extended.

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1,166 thoughts on “Piers Corbyn and Free Speech

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  • Bob The Hod

    Can one of the people who believe in the official narrative make comment on the fact that the average age of a person that has died with covid in the UK is slightly higher than the average life expectancy? (82.4 years with covid, 81.4 years all cause mortality)

    Surely if it was a disease of high consequence the average age of a victim would be significantly lower than the average life expectancy?

    For example, the average age of a person who died from Spanish flu was 28, and life expectancy was around 56 at that time.

    • glenn_uk

      Which “official narrative” is that?

      Also noted that you don’t consider the life of an elderly person to be of high consequence.

    • Dave

      Yes truth is stranger than fiction, but as the average age of a corona death is higher than a non-corona death it sadly means effective vaccines will cost lives!

    • Clark

      Yes you can do that sort of things with averages. If you’re down the pub with your mates and Elon Musk walks in, the average wealth in the pub suddenly goes off the scale.

      It’s a disease of high consequence because you can’t leave a couple of million people gasping for breath for a fortnight while a load of them die, not even if most of them are doddery old gits and too fat*. You have to at least try to help, even if only to alleviate the suffering, but you can’t fit a tenth of that number into existing health facilities.

      * Or at least I couldn’t; maybe you’d be fine with it, but then I don’t know what you’d be doing here at a blog that objects to extraordinary rendition and waterboarding.

      • Clark

        Maybe you’d like a job going into their homes and putting them out of their misery? because that’d be better than just letting them choke. Not sure you’d deserve PPE though 🙂

    • Clark

      “Can one of the people who believe in the official narrative…”

      And fuck the official narrative. The original official narrative was to let it rip through the population and kill as many as it could, and it’s not a lot better now.

    • Pigeon English

      Babies, young children no many young people etc do not die from Covid but do die normally
      Big majority of Covid deaths are over 70. To push average but one Year it is not really a miracle or suspicious

    • SA

      Assuming that this is a genuine question. The life expectancy at the age of 80 for males is not 0 it is 8.4 years, and still 6 years at 85 years and even at 100 years is 2 years. So you just don’t pop your clogs when you reach a certain age you know.

      https://www.ons.gov.uk/file?uri=/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/lifeexpectancies/datasets/singleyearlifetablesuk1980to2018/singleyearlifetableswales/singleyearlifetablesw.xlsx

      So looking at it this way many of those who died of covid-19 would have lived for several years of not for the virus.

      • SA

        I should add that these figures are specific to each year and the general trend has been small yearly increments with exceptions in years like 2017 with more deaths due respiratory infections in the elderly. The figures I quoted are from 2019 and the figures for 2020 will doubtless show a significant drop in life expectancy of the elderly but the figures will be available in autumn 2021.

    • Pigeon English

      Ask yourself the same question in different order.
      Why is average life expectancy lower than average age of Covid death? Might make more sense.

  • Lev Ke

    Your assessment of anti-vaxxers as misguided is based on what exactly? Which information about vaccines do you have that is not promotional info from the companies that produce them or the institutions paid by those producers?

    I want to ask you a question that is very simple but reveals a lot about our society: how do you know what exactly happened to the people who suffered from polio?
    Am I right in assuming that once again, you and I and most other people know nothing more than the story we were told? Which we simply took for granted, as it came from the perceived authority on the matter? People suffer and die, yes, absolutely. But how do we know the physical cause? Only through being told by “authority”, right?
    What is different with the people of bygone centuries who believe that they would burn in hell, simply because their perceived authority on the matter told them so?

    I suggest we all go look a bit deeper, if we want to have a real opinion on something. Simply repeating what people who self-proclaim to be an authority on something say is not really a sign of wisdom. Whether this opinion is shared by the majority of the people or the majority of the authorities is irrelevant. History in fact shows very blatantly that the view held by the authority and thus the majority of the people was generally wrong. And it has been the dissident voices of the heretics that have moved knowledge and society forwards. Not the interests of the powers that were.
    (There seems to be a widespread belief that today is somehow the most singular singularity in the whole timeline of history, where the ruling class, against all historical habit, are suddenly honest, reliable and charitable people instead of lying profiteers. Very curious to live in such a singularity. This belief seems to be extremely widespread in history, though. Every generation seems to fall prey to it.)

    • U Watt

      If that is the basis of your objection you need to surmount a major problem. Namely the wholehearted support for vaccination not only among the most highly trained and knowledgeable people in the field but also among virtually everybody in society who is most committed to protecting human life.

      That’s one problem. There is another. Namely the notable prominence among those who scorn both vaccination and the virus itself of many of the most hard faced, callous and pitiless individuals in society. People who on every other issue are notorious for their lack of compassion and humanity.

      Were it the other around your objection would have some significant force to it and virtually nobody would be wanting to be vaccinated.

      • Dave

        I don’t recognise your distinction, which implies the drug cartels and pushers are cuddly philanthropists whereas those who support healthy living and therapeutics are anti-social. I find some of the loudest pro-vaxxers also support humanitarian bomb and hope of defenceless countries because they self-righteously care!

        I mean some posters say the vaccines aren’t much use, agree the drug cartels should be paid billions and indemnified against claims and prefer the Chinese model of penal confinement in interment camps, until everyone obeys the rules. They’re sadly afflicted! Whereas others simply say why medicate an entire population with expensive experimental drugs when cheaper and more effective alternatives are available.

        subject the entire population t

        • SA

          You continue to reiterate that there are cheaper and more effective therapeutics with no shred of evidence like a malfunctioning robot. What is your agenda other than reinstating the discredited Trump?

          • Dave

            Its remarkable you believe vaccines can be produced in record time, a danger in itself, but therapeutics remains elusive.

          • Garth Carthy

            @SA
            …and you continue to ignore Dave’s questions.


            [ Mod: ‘Garth Carthy’, you have already posted multiple times on this thread as ‘Irritant’. From the moderation rules for commenters:

            Sockpuppetry.
            …. the adoption of multiple identities within the same thread is not to be allowed.

            Comments under each identity may now be removed. ]

          • SA

            Garth Carthy
            You must be a newcomer here. Dave has been asking the same questions in a robotic manner for several weeks. He has been answered several times ad nauseam not just by me but by many others here who are not in favour of dissemination of misinformation. Please consult other forums and go back on this forum if you are a real truth seeker.
            https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/forums/topic/anti-vaxxer-playbook/page/3/#post-66762
            https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/forums/topic/sars-cov2-and-covid-19/page/31/

          • SA

            There is no ministry of disinformation. I belong to no organisation and answer to nobody. I have no personal heroes and do not have racist or bigotted beliefs. I act alone on what my knowledge and what my conscience dictate.

          • Dave

            Glad to hear it, and I’m sure you didn’t mean to impugn my motives, but you didn’t retract your false “bleach” claim against Trump! Why?

          • SA

            Sorry Dave, you must have missed it, here it is for your records:
            SA
            February 9, 2021 at 10:00
            Dave
            It was very widely understood by many that bleach is a widely used household disinfectant and cleaning agent. Trumps misguided and ignorant off the cuff remark has been widely interpreted that this referred to household bleach by journalists and by household bleach manufacturers and health agencies and rebuttals were issues to prevent ignorant people from following the advice given by the president. Go have your fight with them and try to convince them. This is a typical diversion and we lose sight that this dangerous ignoramus who was president is being defended by the likes of you.

          • SA

            No it is not. When you retract all the untruths about therapeutics and mildness of covid 19 and so on I might consider to modify what I said, but frankly it makes no difference either way.

    • Pigeon English

      Compering authority of priests and authority of medics and scientist is in my opinion bizarre.
      People of knowledge and science were heretics while majority were flat earthers.

      • Pigeon English

        Flat Earth community challenge the “dogma”of spherical Earth. Satellite Images of Earth are just fakes.Similar
        pattern used in Covid forums.

    • Clark

      Lev Ke – “People suffer and die, yes, absolutely. But how do we know the physical cause? Only through being told by “authority”, right?”

      Wrong. There are entire global disciplines dedicated to examining evidence. One such discipline, with millions of practitioners, is called science. It produces extensive literature which is available to the public in which that evidence is presented, discussed, questioned and challenged.

      If all you can find are pronouncements by authority, Lev Ke, that is your own omission.

      https://www.cochrane.org/our-evidence/coronavirus-covid-19-resources

  • Mushy

    It is incredible that whilst GP’s sometimes may not know for certain, not sure, what caused the death of a patient whom they knew reasonably well, there are a number of individuals on this blog who do know precisely what killed someone they have never heard of if Covid was mentioned on their Death Certificate.

    And it need only be a “mention” on the Death Certificate and it will be recorded as a Covid death.

    Acceptance without inquiry or evidence is all that is required by those with closed minds to adopt the high ground and declare “I am right, you are wrong because the government tells me so”

    Don’t question, don’t seek evidence, just regurgitate, life is easier that way and it instills a warm feeling of superiority over those that are not sure. How pleased you must be with yourself if you are unfortunate enough to be cursed to live in that delusional state.

    https://drmalcolmkendrick.org/2020/05/31/covid-deaths-how-accurate-are-the-statistics/

    • SA

      Mushy
      Without being diverted by what we think of your good doctor, something we have discussed before and reached a conclusion on, let us get something right. The death certification process is well known and may have just had clarification recently because of a new cause of death that has become out of nothing, the most common cause of death in 2020. Again you are implying that doctors, who are trained for 6 years to be allowed to practice, followed by many more years to become specialists, and whose training involves ethics and whose main aim is to treat disease effectively, are either just docile obedient followers of instructions, or are onto a conspiracy. I suggest that you do not know what you are talking about.

      • ET

        @SA
        What I find irritating is assertions that “the government” or “they” require anyone who dies who had a positive Sars-cov-2 test within 28 days of death must have that recorded on their death certificate because it is a notifiable disease. This simply isn’t true. The two things, notifiable disease and death certificaton are different and seperate processes. This muddies where the real debate is.

        I find it equally irritating arguing over whether there was or wasn’t a significant increase in deaths from all causes in 2020 compared to other years. There clearly and self evidently was. Even arguing over the damned figures when simple basc primary school maths is required.

        Regarding death certification I do think, and here Malcolm Kendrick is correct, there is a difference between death certification in hospital deaths where recent investigations will be available to help and community or care home death certification where doctors won’t have (or are less likely to have) recent investigations to help and is less likely to be as accurate.

        My mother’s death certificate had “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease” and “Ischaemic heart disease” on her death certificate initially. She never smoked and had neither of those conditions, ever. So it had to be changed once that was pointed out. I suspect it was the doc mixing up patients but still one wonders how often such mix ups happen and are not recognised.

        I do think that lockdowns will inevitably result in more deaths (and morbidity) due to curtailed services etc though my own view is that they are yet to happen for the most part. It’s a shame the debate isn’t more centred on what we ought to be doing and why.

        • Ankle Sum

          ET: “Regarding death certification I do think, and here Malcolm Kendrick is correct…”
          Are you implying that Dr Kendrick is incorrect in his description of how death certification is applied elsewhere, eg care homes?

        • Mushy

          ET

          Are you suggesting that there are actually more Covid 19 deaths than being reported (ONS / worldometers etc) because not every one is going onto the Death Certificate?

          Number of times Covid 19 was reported as an Notifiable Infectious Disease (NOIDS) in the past 52 weeks (wk 5, 2020 to wk 4, 2021):

          18,828 times

          Number of times that it appeared on Death Certificate 100,000 +

          Re your last point I agree there ought to be less fractious and more focused debate re deaths due to lockdown and how the numbers can be properly assessed without being mis-recorded as covid deaths.

          I disagree that the numbers are not being seen at the moment, my guess is that they have occurred in there 10’s of 1,000’s for the obvious reasons, the main one being stress. The numbers are set to skyrocket this year after the furloughs are lifted and job losses, companies going bust and the harsh financial realities hit home.

          The UK two biggest killers; Heart Disease and Cancer along with every other disease are exacerbated by stress, stress will bring on death much sooner. People that have a terminal or extremely severe illness are much more likely die sooner if they are stressed by the lockdown restrictions, the solitude, money worries, reduced diagnostics / treatments and hopelessness. If they happen to catch the virus is that going to tip them over the edge? I think not.

          And if anyone buys that the excess deaths this year are due to wave 4,5 & 6 or new strains a,b,c to z, then they are clearly not in touch with the reality of the situation.

          • Clark

            “And if anyone buys that the excess deaths this year are due to wave 4,5 & 6 or new strains a,b,c to z, then they are clearly not in touch with the reality of the situation.”

            Sorry, who is out of touch with reality? We’ve seen Wuhan, hospitals built in a fortnight, a tenth of the global population under travel restrictions; we’ve seen Diamond Princess, Bergamo, New York, Manaus, state after US state relax restrictions only to have to reimpose them. We see New Zealand and Isle of Man, under no restrictions because they stamped it out and then kept it out, and we have the graphs and the unambiguous stories they tell; the death curve follows the infection curve. And you put the deaths down to stress? The virus kills, and social restrictions kill the virus.

          • ET

            “Are you suggesting that there are actually more Covid 19 deaths than being reported (ONS / worldometers etc) because not every one is going onto the Death Certificate?”

            No, I wasn’t Mushy. I was to an extent agreeing with Malcolm Kendrick’s observation that community/Care home deaths as reported in the death certificates might not be as accurate as hospital deaths (are reported in death certs) and I agree with his reasoning for that particular point as he stated in the article you linked to. I related my own personal experience as an example.

            I have no idea why the numbers of notifications of a notifiable disease are reported as so low. Strictly speaking everyone who was diagnosed as covid-19 not just deaths should have been notified and should be a lot higher than deaths. I expect it just didn’t happen or there is some admin blunder but I really have no idea.

            I don’t disagree that stress is a factor. My own feeling though is that lockdowns and financial stressors will lead to mental health issues and a consequent increase in suicides, delayed cancer diagnoses which will, in time, lead to more cancer deaths and other chronic conditions such as diabetes, renal disease and others will have gotten worse without the usual routine assessments and follow up and will lead to people being in a worse condition than they otherwise would have been.

          • Clark

            I expect that after a while doctors just stopped reporting covid as a NOID; more important things to do. What’s the point in the middle of the UK epidemic? The purpose of reporting a NOID is to trigger containment and isolation measures, which obviously aren’t happening, making it just a pointless form to fill in.

      • Ankle Sum

        Worth pointing out that Herr Fuellmich is not just any lawyer, he is Germany’s top lawyer, he is the one that sued VW cars over fraudulent emissions claims and won a settlement of £700million. Such a lawyer does not publicly accuse named persons of fraudulent behaviour unless he is certain he can prove it in court.

        • SA

          Tom
          You seem to have no signs of irony. So Reiner Fuellmich’s allegations are facts! Whoops indeed.

        • Clark

          Ankle Sum – “Worth pointing out that Herr Fuellmich is not just any lawyer, he is Germany’s top lawyer…”

          So what will you say if he loses? That the court were in on the conspiracy? It would certainly be a travesty of law if he wins, but that seems exceedingly unlikely.

      • SA

        It is not a summary of the known facts, it is a summary of what Dr Reiner Fuellmich alleges are the known facts. As I am sure you know the legal process is sometimes used in medical cases to test these so called facts, but they do not become ‘facts’ until an appropriately qualified court rules on them. Can you not get these basic facts right?

        • Tom Welsh

          “…they do not become ‘facts’ until an appropriately qualified court rules on them. Can you not get these basic facts right?”

          Whoops.

    • Clark

      Mushy, why do you evade discussion?

      Your assertions have been challenged, with evidence and reasoning; here are just three examples of many:

      https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/02/piers-corbyn-and-free-speech/comment-page-4/#comment-976306

      https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/02/piers-corbyn-and-free-speech/comment-page-4/#comment-976286

      https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/02/piers-corbyn-and-free-speech/comment-page-4/#comment-976279

      Yet you act as if nothing had been said, which is disrespectful. You make personal accusations, eg:

      Acceptance without inquiry or evidence is all that is required by those with closed minds to adopt the high ground and declare “I am right, you are wrong because the government tells me so”

      Yet those you deride have never referenced the government as a source, and they consistently make their personal attitudes towards the government very clear:

      https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/02/piers-corbyn-and-free-speech/comment-page-4/#comment-976292

      https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/02/piers-corbyn-and-free-speech/comment-page-4/#comment-975937

      Yet you continue to insultingly dismiss those challenging your demonstrably false assertions as mindless dupes of “the government” (which government? New Zealands?) –

      ‘Acceptance without inquiry or evidence is all that is required by those with closed minds to adopt the high ground and declare “I am right, you are wrong because the government tells me so”’

      Do you evade discussion because your assertions wouldn’t withstand scrutiny?

      • Clark

        “Don’t question, don’t seek evidence, just regurgitate, life is easier that way and it instills a warm feeling of superiority over those that are not sure. How pleased you must be with yourself if you are unfortunate enough to be cursed to live in that delusional state. “

        Utterly insulting.

        • Clark

          https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/02/piers-corbyn-and-free-speech/comment-page-4/#comment-975959

          “I can assure you that I have a firm grasp of reality and I know without a shadow of doubt that the PCR test is a worthless diagnostic tool for an illness caused by a virus for many reasons”

          “Without a shadow of a doubt” (and yet you went on to cite an entirely irrelevant anecdote about Elon Musk as “evidence”)

          So how did you determine such certain knowledge? Did you test PCR for yourself? Or are you just regurgitating something you read? Because I suspect psychological projection.

        • Ankle Sum

          Clark “Utterly insulting.”
          I don’t want to start a flame war, but glass houses and all that 🙂
          You called me a Nazi a couple of pages back when all I was doing was pointing out that rationalwiki is not a reliable source for a character reference and provided the example that its article on Craig Murray characterises him as an antisemitic conspiracy theorist.
          I hadn’t even had any conversation with you at that point. It seemed a bit mad, to be honest, so I let it go. Now I can see you’re at least slightly sane, I’m reminding you of it. Sauce for the goose and all that 🙂

  • SA

    I must admit I find sockpuppetry very disturbing. Here is someone willing to deceive and adopt a different persona in order to gain an advantage. This is not honest debating and here I was thinking I am answering genuine people. Shame.

    • Ian

      It’s a well known tactic for astroturfers such as the examples we see here, people who are otherwise absent on Craig’s blog. And it is always the same – assertions made with great fanfares of certainty which turn out to be based, if at all, on the same sources, themselves often part of the same game. They dissemble when challenged, then ignore the points made, and then just keep repeating it. It is just about flooding certain zones with BS, as Bannon memorably said. Same tactics as the climate change deniers, the smoking lobby etc. They waste valuable time and bandwith, which is part of the point.

    • Steve

      The 193 page pdf article by Quay that Kate linked to yesterday purports to be a thorough analysis of the question of zoonosis vs lab creation of SARS-CoV-19.
      I am still only half way through (p119 so a bit over) but so far it appears to show that there is no animal source for the virus, so the WHO judgement is premature.
      If they can find a vector that existed prior to end 2019 and which had the necessary prolonged interaction with humans to enable a jump then there may be a case for the claims they are making now.
      On the other hand they have been seeking a suitable vector since Peter Daszak made his claim of zoonosis and have yet to find it, despite the full weight of the CCP desperate to prove anything other than a lab escape in Wuhan.
      The pdf is well worth a read, and should not be dismissed ‘out of hand’, because of the ground covered is comprehensive.

      • SA

        Why if this is ground breaking and provable has it not been submitted for peer review? Unless you are an experienced scientist in that field I doubt that you can challenge or agree with this very long publication.

        • Steve

          I have no idea.
          But it is true to say that many papers concerning all aspects of the pandemic have appeared long before they have been published in mainstream journals – aren’t we always told that we are in a medical emergency?
          And please stop trying to infer that those you disagree with are not qualified to pass comment on articles that don’t agree with your personal worldview.
          I am not into Willy-waving so please don’t bother explaining how you are so much more qualified than I must be, according to you.

      • Clark

        I started reading that paper but it seems very long-winded for the point it’s making.

        If you look at the table on page 6, you’ll see that nearly all the weight of the conclusion is based on about six pre-existing papers; the author considers that the other twenty or so papers which he assessed increase the probability of the lab origin hypothesis by less than 0.1% combined.

        It is those six contributory papers that need to be assessed, along with the author’s attribution of their significance ie. their contribution to the probability of lab origin.

        I see no mention of pro-zoonotic papers in the list, or at least none that decrease the author’s assessment of the probability of lab origin – though that may be covered in the text, which I have not read. But just from the table it seems a major omission, suggesting that the author probably cherry-picked, rather than systematically reviewing the available literature, which is the consensus methodology.

        For these reasons, I suspect that a peer review would send the paper back for amendment.

        Disclaimer – personally, I still consider lab origin as likely as direct zoonosis. I advocate greatly increased biolab safety with labs relocated to unpopulated regions, all staff living on-site until quarantined, and a mandatory international inspection regime.

  • Clark

    Elimination could be the optimal response strategy for covid-19 and other emerging pandemic diseases

    BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4907 (Published 22 December 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4907

    Michael G Baker, professor of public health, Nick Wilson, professor of public health, Tony Blakely, professor of epidemiology

    “One of the perceived barriers to applying a vigorous response, such as elimination, to the covid-19 pandemic is the belief that this might sacrifice the economy and ultimately result in more hardship and negative health effects. Our preliminary analysis suggests that the opposite is true. Countries following an elimination strategy (notably China, Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand) have had markedly lower covid-19 mortality than those in Europe and North America pursuing mitigation and suppression. Similarly, the effect on gross domestic product (GDP), based on International Monetary Fund projections for all of 2020, was more favourable for countries with elimination goals than for those with suppression goals (see supplementary file).”

    • SA

      Note reliance on good old tested and tried public health not mathematical modelling by theoretical epidemiologists. Also needs a competent leadership and working for its people. So called draconian measures by the Chinese government caused much less suffering to everyone and did not ruin the economy and did not lead to the proliferation of idiotic conspiracy theories partly related to the incompetent way this was handled here.

  • Clark

    And for those rightly suspicious of surveillance:

    New Zealand’s COVID‐19 elimination strategy
    Michael G Baker, Amanda Kvalsvig, and Ayesha J Verrall

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7436486/

    “An elimination strategy requires highly functioning public health infrastructure. Similar to many other countries, NZ has supplemented traditional approaches with newer tools, such as the use of digital technology to speed up contact tracing. The NZ COVID Tracer app is now operational, although it has yet to be used for contact tracing given the lack of community cases.”

    • Dave

      An elimination strategy requires an extreme religious rather than scientific view of the world, because you can’t eliminate viruses only tame them with strong immune systems from healthy living and therapeutics. Some creeds promise salvation, but its conditional on consigning disbelievers to the hellfire, and explains why some on here profess humanity whilst proposing inhumane penal solitude as the road to salvation for the many not the few.

      • Clark

        Smallpox. Polio. Measles.

        “Elimination” refers to a bordered area in that paper. Smallpox wasn’t merely eliminated from areas and communities, it was eradicated globally.

        Polio and measles have been eliminated from Europe and the US. Polio was very nearly eradicated globally, but for the spread of misinformation by religious leaders.

        It is people in Britain and Europe who are isolated by government social restrictions. Again. People in China and New Zealand, for instance, are not, because their governments pursue elimination of the virus.

        So you’re for surrender to the virus are you Dave? Let it spread and mutate? China and New Zealand have proved that victory is possible, yet you’re for surrender.

        • Dave

          I’m not sure Smallpox, Polio and Measles are respiratory viruses of which there are untold numbers, hence why they’re normally gathered together under the term ‘flu’. And I think the elimination of Smallpox, Polio and Measles involved improvements in sanitation, herd immunity and therapeutics, rather than penal confinement, albeit vaccines had a role, but again chequered history.

          Respiratory viruses mutate to avoid elimination and are mostly almost harmless, that’s how they survive, as killing the host can be counter-productive to its survival, but inevitably the old and vulnerable will be at greater risk and crudely but honestly is for many the last nail in the coffin. As the way of the world is for people to be born and die and people are now living longer than ever, albeit certain modern medicines may have reversed the trend. Hence why genuine humanity involves letting people live whilst they’re alive, rather than pedalling social isolation nonsense about China and New Zealand.

          • Clark

            Who here is “pedalling social isolation nonsense”? The people of China and New Zealand are not socially isolated, and haven’t been since May 2020, because they did eliminate the virus. Meanwhile, the people of Europe again suffer social isolation because we haven’t.

            “viruses mutate to avoid elimination and are mostly almost harmless, that’s how they survive, as killing the host can be counter-productive to its survival”

            Your statement is teleological, Dave, displaying a fundamental misunderstanding of natural selection. To become mostly harmless, SARS-CoV-2 would have to kill people until depletion of their availability disadvantaged its own survival. What proportion of humanity do you regard as expendable in this way?

        • Steve

          For my sins I have watched Wakefield on Measles, and remember him mentioning that measles in Europe (at that time) was likely no longer serologically monotypic – in that immunity to one on the many circulating strains conferred immunity to all the other – and that many with full vaccination histories were succumbing to the disease.

          This

          https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Luojun_Yang/publication/336980619_Measles_vaccine_immune_escape_Should_we_be_concerned/links/5ea0af7192851c87d1acf48e/Measles-vaccine-immune-escape-Should-we-be-concerned.pdf

          suggests that vaccine immune escape may well be happening, so a new vaccine maybe?

      • Clark

        Because I have been quite open about myself on other threads, Dave knows that I suffered an abusively religious upbringing which isolated me socially from my peers and prevented me from bonding with my father. Dave chooses to use this to attack me in the most intimate way possible, on this subject and all the others about which Dave spreads lies.

        Dave, attacking my psyche through the fear massively indoctrinated into me from the age of four onwards is an incredibly cowardly form of bullying.

        Steph? Entertaining?

      • SA

        Dave, it is you who is indulging in pseudo religious hero worshiping trumpism. SARS of 2003 and MERS of 2012 were both contained and eliminated. I dare say that what you seem to know about virus immunity would not occupy much space on a postage stamp. It is your belief in this vague notion of therapeutics that is akin to religious salvation.

        • Dave

          I know that a strong immune system attacks an intruder and if it kills it you have immunity to that specific intruder. That’s how humanity has survived throughout the ages and therapeutics help you recover if you fall ill. The novelty of vaccines is they are intended to stop you becoming ill in the first place, but there is no guarantee they will and depends on the illness. So going all in on experimental vaccines makes no medical sense, particularly when tried and tested effective alternatives are available.

          • Clark

            “going all in on experimental vaccines makes no medical sense…”

            Every vaccine was experimental initially.

            “…particularly when tried and tested effective alternatives are available.”

            Name these “tried and tested effective alternatives”. Show me the trials and tests.

          • Ian

            It’s obvious ‘dave’ hasn’t a clue what he is talking about, just making up generalised waffle as he goes along. Pub bore #478593.

          • Dave

            “Every vaccine was experimental initially”

            Yes and the trials were proportionate, not all of humanity at once.

            “Name these “tried and tested effective alternatives”. Show me the trials and tests”.

            Ask a doctor.

          • SA

            Dave
            The vaccines attempt to make you immune to a certain disease by just stimulating immunity against the microbes but without the sickness associated with the actual microbe.. You are right that there is no guarantee that a new vaccine would work, but that is why different scientists have taken different approaches to produce these vaccines. These vaccines are then tried in a trial first of all to test that they don’t have side effects that are alarming, but then also by testing whether they do what is required. This is done by testing those given vaccines for the production of antibodies that bind to the microbes and of specific cells that directly kill the microbes or the cells harbouring the microbes, and these effects can be measured in the lab. Even then the efficacy of the vaccines can really only be assessed in real life by measuring protection. The surest way of doing this is what is known as a challenge, where the microbe is directly given to the person or animal given the vaccine. This is obviously not always ethically possible with humans although can be done where animal models are available. So for the SARS 2 vaccine, because of its fast spread the way to test the efficacy is to vaccinate a large number of people and also to inject an equal number with a harmless ineffective substance (a placebo) and then see how many of each group become infected. This has been done with all the vaccines which have shown protection measured by infection rates and also by whether any of the vaccinated group gets ill with covid-19 or dies from it. So they are not experimental in that sense because they have been shown to protect. What we don’t know yet is how long the immunity lasts and also whether there are also some very rare or very late side effects.

            Then when you say tried and tested effective alternatives, any effective alternatives are always being tried as they are used to treat all patient in ITU with serious illnesses. For example one of the commonly used drugs, steroids in high doses, have been known to improve mortality. Initially when doctors first saw patients with covid-19 they did not know how to best manage them but now they know more such as for example to look for a hypercoagulable state and manage it appropriately and other ITU supportive measure. So effective ‘therapeutics’ are already being used.

            Then there is another category of drugs that have been suggested to work by some, amongst them chloroquine and ivermectin, very widely used drugs that are also cheap. But because they are available and cheap does not mean that there is no consequence of using them without proper assessment as to whether they work because they may also have serious side effects if given incorrectly and may interfere with other drugs. So these drugs undergo clinical trials, and so far these trials have not come up with anything positive, because believe me, doctors would jump at using them if they work, they have no vested interest not to.

            The common excuse given by some, that there is no incentive to use cheap effective drugs because of the pressure form governments and pharmaceutical companies, is utter tosh. There are many examples of cheap drugs that have been resurrected because they have been found to be useful in a different context. Amongst these are: Aspirin, thalidomide, hydroxychloroquine, hydroxycarbamide, arsenic, vitamin analogues and probably many others, so being cheap and available is really not a deterrent to a drug being used.

          • Clark

            Dave – “Ask a doctor.”

            You have repeatedly and consistently claimed to know, so I’m asking you. If you don’t know, then admit your ignorance; you wouldn’t want to look like a liar when life, death, and immense suffering are in the balance, would you?

          • Clark

            And Dave, you have again avoided answering:

            https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/02/piers-corbyn-and-free-speech/comment-page-5/#comment-976623

            You seem to be discussing in bad faith, presumably attempting to mislead readers:

            “I appreciate we’re repeating ourselves from another thread, albeit this one highlights the attack on freedom of speech and assembly, but as there are more readers here, its worth the effort.”

            https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/02/piers-corbyn-and-free-speech/comment-page-4/#comment-975794

          • Clark

            “SA has answered for me.”

            OK, thanks. So those drugs are in use, but they don’t prevent the hospitals from overloading, and that’s why the government applies social restrictions sometimes. I’m for doing it right once and getting it over with, like New Zealand, Australia and China etc. have done, and then there’s be time to test the vaccines properly. Under your approach, what would you do with all hundreds of thousands of suffocating people?

            And do you retract your assertion that therapeutics are being suppressed?

          • Dave

            @ Clark

            “OK, thanks. So those drugs are in use”

            Do you think they’re effective?

            “but they don’t prevent the hospitals from overloading”

            As you know social distancing and self isolation undermines the NHS by reducing capacity, compounding the policy, rightly or wrongly, to reduce the number of beds in favour of care in the community., which the empty Nightingale hospitals haven’t helped solve!

            “I’m for doing it right once and getting it over with, like New Zealand, Australia and China et”

            Its already worked as Covid-19 has been eliminated, we’re now on Covid-20+ What you propose permanent detention?

          • Clark

            “Do you think they’re effective?”

            By my back-of-an-envelope guestimate, improvements in treatments have saved an additional 25,000 lives.

            “…social distancing and self isolation undermines the NHS by reducing capacity”

            No; covid stuffs the hospitals full; that’s what reduces other capacity. Serious cases can’t be treated at home, eg. oxygen support is needed.

            “…the empty Nightingale hospitals…”

            Stupid UK government showing off; proved they could throw together hospitals as fast as China but didn’t stop to wonder how they’d staff them. Wasn’t a problem in China with over twenty times as many staff and only one city with a major outbreak.

            “What you propose permanent detention?”

            Well it might help if you were locked up.

  • Mushy

    The validity of the PCR tests is to be tested in Courts in the US and Europe along with the veracity of statements by the leading influencing experts in promoting their use.

    The experts will be accused in Court of lying and evidence will be submitted which states the PCR test is not only useless in diagnosing Covid but the results which have been accepted by governments have caused untold damage and destruction because of the restrictions introduced on the back of the results.

    So the argument is now going to be decided in the Courts and not on blogs like this.

    An update from Dr Reiner Fuellmich; https://www.bit(remove brackets with text)chute.com/video/iMe2qtlQnRpv/ (25 mins)

    As a follow up to his video statement a month ago; https://vimeo.com/498442220 (49 mins)

    By way of a prelude to an upcoming documentary; https://planetlockdownfilm.com/ (to be released soon)

    • SA

      Do you know that anybody who has a lot of money can take anybody to court on any pretence. But that does not mean that they have won their case, they will have to rely on expert witnesses on both sides to decide on this. And in any way it is an odd way of settling a scientific matter through the law, it would not in any way alter the scientific findings.

      You know I looked at any scientific reactions to Rainer Fuelmich’s court action, who in a sort of grandiose delusional way, is suing the WHO, the German government and many other bodies. He is certainly getting a lot of publicity from the conspiracy theory websites, but nobody in the scientific community seems interested to even try to refute his allegations.

      • SA

        And here is an interesting study from Wuhan. After the end of the lockdown they tested the whole population of 10 millions for SARS cov2.
        https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-19802-w

        ~”All city residents aged six years or older were eligible and 9,899,828 (92.9%) participated. No new symptomatic cases and 300 asymptomatic cases (detection rate 0.303/10,000, 95% CI 0.270–0.339/10,000) were identified. There were no positive tests amongst 1,174 close contacts of asymptomatic cases. 107 of 34,424 previously recovered COVID-19 patients tested positive again (re-positive rate 0.31%, 95% CI 0.423–0.574%). The prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in Wuhan was therefore very low five to eight weeks after the end of lockdown.”

        So they detected 300 asymptomatic cases out of about 10 million population that is a rate of 0.00003. So if all of these were false positives it suggests that the false positive rate of the PCR test was more than 99.99997%, so much for the ridiculous claims that the PCR is unreliable because of high false positive rates.

        • Dave

          Even with a proper test the Health secretary agreed a False Positive Rate of about 1% or 100,000 per 10,000,000 tests. If China only recorded 300 False Positives out of 10m tests it sounds made up.

          • SA

            You would say that wouldn’t you?
            And here is Dave taking literally an off the hoof comment by our dear health secretary as gospel when the same Dave also distrusts everything else the same health secretary says. Typical example of selective cherry picking.

          • SA

            And the beauty of it all is that even the 300 cases were not false positives. Why do you mistrust the Chines so much?

          • Dave

            A False Positive Rate, a false reading, is a recognised scientific fact and applies to all testing, albeit the % will vary. You can double check with another test, but this doesn’t happen as the government wants to inflate the numbers to terrorise the public, for political reasons, hence why the PCR test is preferred to the Lateral Flow test. Whereas the Chinese want to deflate their numbers for political reasons.

          • Clark

            The false positive rate really doesn’t matter because it is hospital admissions and deaths that are alarming, not the number of positive test results.

            The tests are clearly accurate enough to predict the hospital admission rate about a week later and the death rate about two weeks later; that is obvious from the graphs, and not just the UK, from multiple countries.

            The test will also have a false negative rate, and probably the largest inaccuracy is that far from everyone infected gets tested – none of which denialists and trivialisers ever mention, of course.

          • Dave

            “The test will also have a false negative rate, and probably the largest inaccuracy is that far from everyone infected gets tested – none of which denialists and trivialisers ever mention, of course”.

            What you mean all the healthy people without symptoms?

          • Clark

            “What you mean all the healthy people without symptoms?”

            Yes, people who are likely to spread the virus because they don’t know they’re infectious. They’re either pre-symptomatic, or asymptomatic (especially children), or they haven’t noticed their symptoms or haven’t realised that their symptoms are covid, or they have a cold too and so they think that’s all they’ve got, or they don’t want to get a test because they don’t have time or they can’t afford the time off work to self-isolate if it comes back positive.

            We know it multiplies rapidly by how fast it can overload the hospitals once it takes off, so it must be multiplying in the general population and not just “the vulnerable” – I’ve put that in scare quotes because it’s only realised after a severe case; around a third of the population are in one vulnerable group or another. And the population testing programme confirms that it does multiply in the general population.

          • Clark

            “So all healthy people tested how many times a day?”

            Well I suppose there might be a few fetishists who like to have a swab stuck right up their olfactory orifices, but I expect the staff would notice.

          • SA

            So in answer to your question they were not but they tried to culture virus from them and no one grew viable virus. Moreover all close contacts tested negative.

            190 out of the 300 had positive antibodies indicating previous asymptomatic infection and 110 had no antibodies. So from this study you could say that these 110 may be false positive. That is pretty good out of 10 million, a FPR of 0.000011 or one in 100000.

        • Pigeon English

          I watched the video suggested by Mushy.
          a) Interesting
          b) My problem is it deals mostly with first wave. At one point even claims there will not be a second wave.
          c) This is pure speculation
          Are the Chinese for better or worse using the same tests?

    • Kempe

      Courts are not the places to rule on things which should be determined in a laboratory. Fuellmich’s case looks weak and contradictory, he claims asymptomatic cases are a ‘lie’ based on one example but then claims we don’t need the vaccine because we’ve attained herd immunity. I don’t know where he got that from but it would mean that millions of people must’ve contracted the virus without knowing. Asymptomatic in other words.

      Then quoting well known conspiracy theorist and anti-vaxxer Robert Kennedy…

      • Tom Welsh

        “Things that should be determined in a laboratory” should, in theory, be published without bias or holding back, so that the whole world learns of them. That is how science worked – mostly – until the 20th century, when it started to be owned by wealthy and powerful corporations and governments. These “sponsors” choose which research projects are to be done, by whom, and under what conditions. Then they decide which results – if any – are to be published.

        Courts of law are not laboratories, but the judges and lawyers who work in them are experts in penetrating lies and deceit, and establishing the truth as best it can be known. As the Portuguese court did, for example: “Portuguese Court Rules PCR Tests As Unreliable & Unlawful To Quarantine People”

        https://healthimpactnews.com/2020/portuguese-court-rules-pcr-tests-as-unreliable-unlawful-to-quarantine-people/

        • SA

          And a court of Law in UK said that it is OK to extradite Assange for a political offence to the US. You know what, judges are all superhuman and can penetrate these lies that are fiddled up by scientists being paid by corporations to fiddle their results and make up pretend tests that are give you so many false positive results that even bits of fruit test positive. And this piece of fiddling by the scientists was discovered by none other than the president of Zambia. Wow. Also I wonder why the justice system has escaped this massive ring of corruption by THEM.

          • Dave

            Certain affairs of state are a political rather than legal matter and a legal decision can become a very political decision, but should parliament or the courts determine political matters. The courts were willing to challenge parliament over Brexit, but not over Lockdowns, but on whose authority. I mean war is a crime but can be legal unless you lose and so political cases may not prove facts only decide whether something is legal unless they refuse to take the case, because its too political, unless they’re told to. In short taking it to court is part of a legal fight to overturn a political decision rather than simply determine the facts which are ignored by the government until they change their minds, for political reasons.

          • SA

            What a load of waffle Dave. No court can decide on scientific findings. It is totally inappropriate. The case being brought is a high profile distraction and do you think a court of law is going to write and dictate how the PCR is to be carried out in laboratories and order the WHO to pay compensation? There is no more mileage in discussing this nonsense.

        • SA

          This was a very bad case of copy and paste from a conspiracy website “Health Impact News” with a very clear agenda but without referring to the original judgement and looking at the reason why the court ruled the way they did. So please admit that you did not click on the link that takes you to the translation of the judgement which is this:

          https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=&sl=pt&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dgsi.pt%2Fjtrl.nsf%2F33182fc732316039802565fa00497eec%2F79d6ba338dcbe5e28025861f003e7b30

          and this is the text of the judgement:

          “I. The ARS cannot appeal against a decision that ordered the immediate release of four people, due to illegal detention, in the context of a habeas corpus case (art. 220 als. C) and d) of CPPenal), asking for the confinement to be validated mandatory for applicants, for being carriers of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (A….) and for being under active surveillance, due to high risk exposure, decreed by health authorities (B…, C…, and D…) for having no legitimacy or interest in acting.

          II. The request made would also be manifestly unfounded because:

          A. The prescription and diagnosis are medical acts, under the exclusive responsibility of a doctor, registered in the Order of Doctors (Regulation No. 698/2019, of 5.9).
          Thus, the prescription of auxiliary diagnostic methods (as is the case of tests for the detection of viral infection), as well as the diagnosis of the existence of a disease, in relation to each and every person, is a matter that cannot be performed by law , Resolution, Decree, Regulation or any other normative way , as these are acts that our legal system reserves to the exclusive competence of a doctor, being sure that, in advising his patient, he should always try to obtain his informed consent ( 1 of article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights).

          B. In the case that concerns us now, there is no indication or proof that such diagnosis was actually carried out by a professional qualified under the Law and who had acted in accordance with good medical practices. In fact, what follows from the facts taken for granted, is that none of the applicants was even seen by a doctor, which is frankly inexplicable, given the alleged seriousness of the infection.

          C. The only element that appears in the proven facts, in this respect, is the performance of RT-PCR tests, one of which presented a positive result in relation to one of the applicants.

          D. In view of the current scientific evidence, this test is, in itself, unable to determine, beyond reasonable doubt, that such positivity corresponds, in fact, to the infection of a person by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, for several reasons , of which we highlight two (to which the issue of gold standard is added, which, due to its specificity, we will not even address):

          For this reliability to depend on the number of cycles that make up the test;

          For this reliability depend on the amount of viral load present.

          III . Any diagnosis or any act of health surveillance (as is the case of determining the existence of viral infection and high risk of exposure, which are included in these concepts)performed without prior medical observation of the patients and without the intervention of a physician enrolled in the OM (who proceeded to assess their signs and symptoms, as well as the tests that they deemed appropriate to their condition), violates Regulation No. 698/2019, of 5.9 , as well as the provisions of article 97 of the Statute of the Ordem dos Médicos, being liable to configure the crime of usurpation of functions, p. and p. by article 358 al.b), of C.Penal.

          IV. Any person or entity that issues an order, the content of which leads to deprivation of physical, ambulatory, freedom of others (whatever the nomenclature this order assumes: confinement, isolation, quarantine, prophylactic protection, health surveillance, etc.), that does not fit the legal provisions, namely in the provisions of article 27 of the CRP , he will be proceeding to an illegal detention , because ordered by an incompetent entity and because motivated by a fact for which the law does not allow it.

          (Summary prepared by the rapporteur)”

          If you care to read this carefully you will see that this is a case of 4 people detained by authorities because they had tested positive for SARS cov2 with a PCR test. The judgement was that the diagnosis of infectivity could only be made by a doctor and that clinical judgement should be used to do so as it has been pointed quite rightly, that non-infectious individuals can test positive but not be infectious either because of a low viral dose, or because they have had an infection but no viable virus. In fact the sensitivity and cycle number for the PCR was a secondary and in my view erroneous issue for the decision. These individuals were not even assessed medically and presumably Portugal did not have emergency laws to detain people testing positive and therefore these individuals exercised the right of Habeas Corpus.
          So lesson to Mr. Welsh: please read the originals not the reporting, whether it is by the MSM or by the CTM.

          • Ankle Sum

            SA,

            I DID read the original Portuguese court judgement some time ago so when I saw your quote I knew you were being VERY selective. I followed your link and refreshed my memory. I was right. If you’d extended your quote by a few lines, you’d have included reference to a named, linked, peer-reviewed study which concludes:

            “At a cycle threshold (ct) of 25, about 70% of the samples remain positive in the cell culture (ie they were infected): in a ct of 30, 20% of the samples remained positive; in a ct of 35, 3% of the samples remained positive; and at a ct above 35, no sample remained positive (infectious) in cell culture (see diagram).

            This means that if a person has a positive PCR test at a cycle threshold of 35 or higher (as in most laboratories in the USA and Europe), the chances of a person being infected are less than 3%. The probability of a person receiving a false positive is 97% or higher ”.

            iv. What follows from these studies is simple — the possible reliability of the PCR tests carried out depends, from the outset, on the threshold of amplification cycles that they contain, in such a way that, up to the limit of 25 cycles, the reliability of the test will be about 70%; if 30 cycles are carried out, the degree of reliability drops to 20%; if 35 cycles are reached, the degree of reliability will be 3%.

            That is, the Portuguese court ruled that the PCR test used on the German tourists was likely to be no better than 3% reliable. SA, that was very careless of you to end your quote immediately before the above passage.

          • Ankle Sum

            SA, I apologise, my quote did not follow immediately after yours – it was much further down the document. I retract any insinuation that you might have been deliberately selective.

            Nonetheless, my quote is part of the scientific judgement published by the Portuguese court to explain its judgement. I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

          • SA

            Just for the record, the ruling was about unlawful detention based on a nonqualified person assessing the situation and depriving people of their freedom. The court did not and could not determine what you are insinuating it did, it has no power to do so in fact they state that. Also what that publication is trying to say is not to determine the false positive rate of the PCR but to alert to the fact that at that high amplification the PCR May pick up fragments of non viable virus or virus at a very low level that may be non infectious.
            There is no way that a PCR with whatever number of cycles will give false positives unless there is contamination, if the test is carried properly, the correct primers are used, and appropriate controls used.

          • Clark

            The peer reviewed papers considered by the court show that a person who had been infected but whose immune system had beaten the virus could still receive a positive PCR result.

            These peer reviewed papers do not show that a person who had never been infected could receive a positive PCR result.
            – – – – – – – –

            In the context of the UK testing programme, such false positives are irrelevant. The purpose of the testing programme is to detect increase in infection prevalence as a warning, so that the government can apply social restrictions before hospital overload becomes inevitable. When the infection is spreading ie. infecting more and more people, there will always be less “false” (or rather late) positives from people who have beaten off the virus than from newly infected people.

            It’s a bit like the temperature gauge on an old fashioned car; it doesn’t have a scale because its steady state doesn’t really matter, you just get used to wherever it normally sits. But if it begins to rise even slightly you have to stop immediately because it’ll rise faster and faster and if you don’t stop your engine will seize.

          • Ankle Sum

            SA “Just for the record, the ruling was about unlawful detention based on a nonqualified person assessing the situation and depriving people of their freedom. “

            Just for the record, the ruling was (in simple terms) that establishing the existence of covid must be by medical acts carried out by a doctor, and that there was no evidence that the diagnosis was done by a doctor, and in fact the only medical act was the PCR test, and it could be discounted on grounds of unreliability.

            The quote I gave was from the evidence the court considered in ruling the PCR test unreliable. The judgement stresses (in bold) that to assess the reliability of PCR tests, “the judge will have to rely on the knowledge of experts in the field, … then goes on to describe the report I quoted from as “published at the end of September this year, by Oxford Academic, carried out by a group that brings together some of the greatest European and world experts in the field.

            There are 2 points to consider
            (1) the peer-reviewed paper “by world experts” that stated (in simple terms) that the PCR test as practiced in the USA and Europe was at best only 3% reliable.
            (2) that a European court of law judged this paper to be reliable evidence

          • Clark

            Ankle Sum, why are you so obsessed with test results?

            Something overwhelms hospitals, by causing the demand for treatment to repeatedly double every week or two. That rise in demand is predicted by test results, and arrested by social restrictions. It is ill people that matter, not test results.

            You keep repeating that the PCR test “as practiced in the USA and Europe was at best only 3% reliable”, but this is false, and it is not what the court accepted. Others can read for themselves; that was what the paper found at worst. The court could not determine how the test was performed in Portugal:

            “However, in the present case, the number of amplification cycles with which PCR tests are carried out in Portugal, including the Azores and Madeira, is unknown, since we were unable to find any recommendation or limit in this regard.”

            And you omit that the subjects the paper considered had all been infected previously. So far as the papers cited are concerned, any positive result, no matter how many cycles, indicates that the subject had been infected previously, even if no longer infectious.

            Why do you not make these crucial points clear? Please answer me.

          • Ankle Sum

            Clark: “Why do you not make these crucial points clear?”

            The court said they were unable to establish the number of amplification cycles with which PCR tests are carried out in Portugal but they pointedly DO say that most labs in Europe use a CT of 35 or over.

            I joined this conversation to correct SA who claimed that reliability of the PCR test was not part of the Portuguese court ruling. I hope I have demonstrated that it was, and that after considering evidence from “the greatest European and world experts in the field,” they ruled the test unreliable for determining whether a person has covid.

            Let me ask you a question now. These tests are being used to justify historical damage to our society, economy and human rights. Their accuracy is crucially dependent on the cycle threshold. What CT does your country’s tests use? If you don’t know, why not?

          • SA

            Ankle Sum
            Please see my comment further down. The number of cycles is usually fixed at a maximum, but each individual sample will have its own cycle threshold and therefore for this question to be answered you will need to know what each individual’s positive test CT value is. This is not usually reported except perhaps in a clinical setting in order to for example see if there is a changing CT with treatment, or whether there is persistence of the virus before discharge from hospital.

          • Clark

            Ankle Sum, you have evaded answering me, and you have distorted the facts.

            “they ruled the test unreliable for determining whether a person has covid.”

            They ruled that the test can be unreliable for determining if someone who has had covid is still infectious. The paper they and you cited did not indicate that someone never infected could receive a positive result. Why are you still distorting this?

            “These tests are being used to justify historical damage to our society, economy and human rights.”

            That is false. The pandemic is inflicting damage on our society and economy, and will continue to do so until we eliminate it. The tests are not being used to justify social restrictions; they are being used to predict demand for hospital treatment and pre-emptively limit it, to reduce damage to our society and economy. They are also being used all over the world, even in places where social restrictions have ceased because they are no longer necessary.

            I don’t know how many cycles are being used, and I’m not going to bother finding out because it is of no significance. The tests are clearly good enough to predict demand for treatment, as evidenced by the graphs:

            https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/02/piers-corbyn-and-free-speech/comment-page-4/#comment-976279

            I had already explained all this in earlier comments dotted about this page; please review them, and if there’s anything you don’t understand, ask as clearly as you can and I will attempt to clarify. But if you continue to ask misleading questions I will have to conclude that you are attempting to confuse other readers.

    • Clark

      Mushy, PCR tests cannot be very misleading because they predict the death rate two weeks later:

      https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/02/piers-corbyn-and-free-speech/comment-page-4/#comment-976279

      Mushy, why do you avoid discussion? Is it because you know that your allegations do not withstand scrutiny?

      https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/02/piers-corbyn-and-free-speech/comment-page-5/#comment-976432

      You claimed to know “without a shadow of a doubt” that PCR is worthless, and I asked you the source of your certainty, but you have evaded answering:

      https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/02/piers-corbyn-and-free-speech/comment-page-5/#comment-976440

      Why?

      • Dave

        Separate from whether the PCR test is a suitable test in itself, there is also the question of how many cycles/magnifications take place to detect an infection. The higher the cycles, above about 25>35 the more likely a False Positive result, and so changing the cycles will change the number of “cases”. So how many cycles are used above 35, and is this information publicly available and if not, would that be evidence of a deliberate policy to inflate the numbers?

        • glenn_uk

          It’s amazing how often when you – or a fellow traveler – is a bit pinned down, you want to change the subject.

          Don’t you feel in the least bit embarrassed at how often you do this rather obvious bit of smoke-blowing?

          Back to the subject – how come PCR tests forecast the death rate a couple of weeks later (given you’re saying they’re so inaccurate an’ all that)?


          Btw, I’m noting your distraction techniques – your bit of kung fu with the truth if you will. The likes of “Tests are all false!” and “Lock-downs are the cause of death!”, and “Therapeutics work, but doctors don’t want to use them”, and “Doctors fake results on death certificates!”, and “THEY are inflating the numbers to scare us!” and so on.

          There are a finite number of these silly distractions, and by listing them, we can properly refer each to the appropriate response. You denialists bring them up with such tedious regularity, it’s only fair to make the disposal of each repetition more efficient.

          • ET

            I shouldn’t worry too much Glenn. As Craig pointed out in his affidavit very few people actually read beyond the first page of comments. We are all probably just posting to ourselves at this stage :D. It would be a welcome change – Dave, Mushy and others – if you would actually make an attempt to counter the counterarguments to yours. Then at least there is a two-way discussion.

        • Clark

          “…would that be evidence of a deliberate policy to inflate the numbers?”

          Why care whether the government inflates the number of positive test results? It’s not the number of positive test results that matters; it’s the number of people needing hospital treatment and the number who die or suffer long term damage to their health.

          Something very suddenly increases the number of people seeking and/or needing hospital treatment. The rate rises almost exponentially ie. it doubles in a given time, and that time is a matter of days. That something has been arrested by social restrictions three times in the UK alone. This is consistent with a respiratory virus, and the short doubling time is consistent with there being very little immunity to it among the population.

          When the hospital doctors treat the patients they see a consistent pattern – great difficulty breathing, shadows on both lungs, low oxygen saturation in the bloodstream, high bloodstream concentration of D-dimer etc. About one third die of the condition. Many more, including many who didn’t even attend hospital, suffer long term health damage which also has recognisable characteristics.

          The doctors call this pattern of illness COVID-19, and a new virus is detected in the patients, one which was sequenced at the start of the pandemic and was named SARS-CoV-2. It is all consistent, all over the world.

          But for reasons of their own some people promote a political explanation instead, and to bolster their strange argument they even try to muddy the physical facts.

          • Clark

            And in any case, no:

            ‘The higher the cycles, above about 25>35 the more likely a False Positive result, and so changing the cycles will change the number of “cases”’

            Increasing the number of cycles cannot increase the number of false positives; all it does is look further back in time, as it were. According to the paper cited by the Portuguese court, more cycles detect an infection that was longer ago, even after infection has been overcome, but more cycles do not give a positive result for someone who has never been infected. When infection prevalence is increasing, the contribution from these old infections is insignificant, because more recent infections always greatly outnumber less recent ones.

            But why care anyway? Such testing of the population is obviously good enough to predict the demand for treatment because the shapes of the graphs match.

  • James Hutchinson

    I’m very impressed by your suggestions for an independent Scotland and have followed your incisive criticisms of the Skripal affair but on seeing your defence of Piers Corbyn on the basis of free speech., I have been turned off sending in donations. John Stuart Mill along with Adam Smith are the thin end of the wedge to accepting the potty libertarianism that Piers Corbyn seems to follow. There should be no quarter given to anti-vaxxers. You seem to accept that yourself. The present situation would bear this out with still increasing infections and more threats from variants. Piers is making the same tragic errors as Johnson, Cummings etc in underestimating how dangerous this virus is when it is uncontrolled.
    For international socialism with Scotland being the First Nation
    Jim Hutchinson

    • glenn_uk

      Well said. Anti-vaxxers ought to be regarded with no more respect than fifth columnists in our actual war against an invading force, which has already killed more civilians than the Germans managed to see off in WW1 and WW2 combined. These anti-vaxxer / Covid denialists are actively working on behalf of the virus, even if they’re too stupid to realise it.

      i would advise giving Craig Murray a bit of slack, though. Despite his indulgence of these utter morons, he is guilty of no more than that which Chomsky is guilty – being something of a free speech absolutist.

  • SA

    Re the PCR question. There may be a genuine misunderstanding or deliberate obfuscation. Let me try to explain.

    The PCR test is based on amplifying a tiny amount of genetic material from an organism or a person or anything that has DNA or RNA. DNA and RNA are complex and are made up of what is finally translated to different proteins that give each person, animal, or microbe or any living material its characteristics. There are many pieces of genetic material that are common to different species, and these are conserved domains, but there are also areas that are variable to such an extent that they are characteristic only of one species and detecting this sequence means that the DNA or RNA comes from that specific organism. In the case of SARS cov2 these are the bits used in the PCR test to detect the presence of the virus. The test is highly specific and if positive and carried out with appropriate precautions and controls will detect only RNA from the virus and nothing else. But specificity is not everything you need sensitivity. So the process involves amplification using what is called thermal cycling, heating and cooling of reagents to amplify the segments of specific genetic material to a level which can be detected. The number of cycles needed to amplify the DNA or RNA to detection levels is usually between 20-40 cycles and this depends on the starting amount of material in the sample. If you have a high viral load, the test will be positive after 20 or 25 cycles say but if there is a small amount of material then you may need more cycles. This is called the cycle threshold (CT) and is used as a semi quantitative measure to indicate whether there is a high viral load or a low one. This is explained in this NHS Guide:

    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/926410/Understanding_Cycle_Threshold__Ct__in_SARS-CoV-2_RT-PCR_.pdf

    This guide also explains how the test becomes positive at low levels at the outset of infection, then rises as infection progresses, then falls with recovery. So low levels can be detected in asymptomatic carriers, in pre-symptomatic cases and also in those who are recovering usually after 2 weeks of the infection. Some patients, those with disordered immunity, will take longer to clear the virus, but most people do after 2 weeks and hence therefore self-isolation is limited usually to 2 weeks.

    So, if the PCR test is positive it means that the individual has encountered the virus at some stage. However, we have to bear in mind that errors can occur
    “Technical problems including contamination during sampling (eg, a swab accidentally touches a contaminated glove or surface), contamination by PCR amplicons, contamination of reagents, sample cross contamination, and cross-reactions with other viruses or genetic material could also be responsible for false positive results.2”

    https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S2213-2600%2820%2930453-7

    There are no current studies that assess the extent of this error that may be responsible for a true false positive result, but as I indicated above, practical whole city study of Wuhan shows that this false positive rate is extremely low. High FPR rates due to contamination means sloppy technique.

    But the thing to take into consideration is that the positive test does not mean a live virus capable of infecting others, because the genetic material, bits of the virus, may be present but not the whole virus capable of infection. In some cases, the difference between these two can be shown by culturing the virus and in those who have the live virus, the cultures will be positive, but in those convalescing the virus culture will be negative.

    So now we came to the question of the number of cycles. The reason why this is important is that the higher the number of cycles taken to detect the more likely it is that the viral load will be either too low for infectivity, or there may not be a live virus in the sample. This is what the study quoted above says:

    ” Prolonged viral RNA shedding, which is known to last for weeks after recovery, can be a potential reason for positive swab tests in those previously exposed to SARS-CoV-2. However, importantly, no data suggests that detection of low levels of viral RNA by RT-PCR equates with infectivity unless infectious virus particles have been confirmed with laboratory culture-based methods.7 If viral load is low, it might need to be taken into account when assessing the validity of the result.8”

    There is also a study

    https://academic.oup.com/cid/advance-article/doi/10.1093/cid/ciaa1491/5912603

    which shows a correlation between PCR positivity and viral cultures and they arrived to the following conclusions:

    “It can be observed that at Ct (Cycle threshold) = 25, up to 70% of patients remain positive in culture and that at Ct = 30 this value drops to 20%. At Ct = 35, the value we used to report a positive result for PCR, <3% of cultures are positive. Our Ct value of 35, initially based on the results obtained by RT-PCR on control negative samples in our laboratory and initial results of cultures [8], is validated by the results herein presented and is in correlation with what was proposed in Korea [9] and Taiwan [10]. “

    So really my interpretation of the conclusions of the Portuguese court case discussed above quite rightly stated that just having a positive PCR result is unreliable to reach a conclusion that someone is infectious and that they can therefore be deprived of their habeas corpus. The interpretation of the court cannot comment on the reliability of the PCR test but on how it is being used in this legal context. They quite rightly rule that infectivity is a clinical decision and that the PCR together with clinical date must be taken into consideration by a qualified medical practitioner in order to carry out the detention legally. This was not done in this case. I hope this clarifies the situation.

    • Ankle Sum

      SA, I agree, the CT is of crucial importance in assessing the usefulness of a PCR test. What CT is used in the labs in your country?

        • Ankle Sum

          SA, “the number of cycles is usually fixed at a maximum”

          OK, then what is the maximum CT for your country? Why is this important information not available? Why could a Portuguese court “not determine how the test was performed.”

          • SA

            Because each laboratory and each kit determines how many cycles are the maximum. From my first link above:

            “A typical RT-PCR assay will have a maximum of 40 thermal cycles. The lower the Ct value the higher the quantity of viral genetic material in the sample (as an approximate proxy for viral load). Ct values obtained in this way are semi-quantitative and are able to distinguish between high and low viral load. A 3-point increase in Ct value is roughly equivalent to a 10-fold decrease in the quantity of viral genetic material. “

          • Dave

            The more False Positives the more “cases” the more virus terrorism undermining public health to improve the financial health of the few, not the many, which is why the reliability of the PCR test matters and why the number of cycles used is withheld to avoid putting the number of false “cases” into context.

          • SA

            Dave
            You either did not read or did not understand what I wrote. Alternatively you are just here as a megaphone to reiterate misinformation with your fake claims of virus terrorism.

          • Clark

            Huh. Dave too.

            It’s COVID-19 that makes people ill and overloads health systems, not tests. People don’t go into hospital gasping for breath as a result of being tested, such a suggestion is absurd.

            The testing programme is clearly good enough to predict demand for hospital treatment, because the positive test rate rises, peaks and falls about a week before the hospital admission rate, and about a fortnight before the death rate:

            https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2021/02/piers-corbyn-and-free-speech/comment-page-4/#comment-976279

          • Clark

            SA, as I warned you some weeks ago, beware these apparently dishonest commenters. If they can provoke you into detailed technical answers, they have created “controversy”, and that is all that is necessary to confuse the public:

            “Doubt is our product,” Michaels quotes a cigarette executive as saying, “since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.” Michaels argues that, for decades, cigarette manufacturers knew that their product was hazardous to people’s health, but hired mercenary scientists who “manufactured uncertainty by questioning every study, dissecting every method, and disputing every conclusion”. In doing so the tobacco industry waged a campaign that “successfully delayed regulation and victim compensation for decades”.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doubt_Is_Their_Product#Title

          • SA

            Clark

            “SA, as I warned you some weeks ago, beware these apparently dishonest commenters.”

            I know but let it not be said by the likes of such commentators, some of whom are disappointingly long term contributors here, that I have evaded the question. I am full aware that my explanations will fall on deaf ears or will be used to create a controversy but at least it would be on more rational terms, and the irrationalities clearly highlighted.

  • Clark

    Dave & co., if you got your way, what would you do with the million or so people gasping for breath? Just let them gasp until they either got better or died? What would you do with all the corpses? There aren’t enough undertakers to clear them so quickly, nor enough mortuary facilities to store them, they would start to rot. And what would you do with the hospitals? Post security to keep out anyone who seemed to have COVID-19?

    • Dave

      Due to the populist revolt the native population is being subjected to the deadly humanitarian intervention to save lives aka deep state business model, previously reserved for Johnny foreigner, with the same MSM double-speak, seen here, to turn victims into villains for objecting to their fate.

        • glenn_uk

          Covid-19 is known to cause “brain fog”, as a long term symptom.

          Perhaps Dave is suffering from this, but doesn’t believe in viruses, so its going untreated?

      • Clark

        Dave, you’re ranting. I know the social restrictions can be distressing; try turning off the telly and doing some origami, or get the missus to teach you how to crochet.

        • Clark

          It won’t be long; infections are well down again now and the government said they’d review the restrictions mid month. Hang in there mate!

  • Clark

    If anyone’s still worried about false positive results rather than hospital admissions and deaths, we can determine the maximum possible false-positive rate very simply, straight off one of the graphs I keep referencing. Here’s an archived copy; see the “Daily New Cases”, second graph down. As always, tick the “7 day moving average” box:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20210211174702/https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/uk/

    Let’s assume that covid-19 had been eliminated from the UK at some time in summer, so that all positive test results were false. Mouse over along the line to get the lowest value you can; I make it about 550 around 10 July 2020. So the false positive rate cannot be greater than that.

    More tests are being performed now, so more false positives would show up. The number of tests being performed is shown here:

    https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/testing

    Call it about 155,000 tests per day. This January’s peak was on about the 9th; testing averaged at 576,000 per day and positive results at 59,660 per day.

    550 x (576,000 / 155,000) = ~2044

    2044 / 59,660 x 100 = ~3.4%

    So even by this ridiculously pessimistic method, no more that 3.4% of the positive test results could have been false positives during January’s peak.

    • SA

      The whole thing of false positives has been used by deniers in different ways

      1. True false positives: that is extremely low as I argued above.
      2. Those who are positive PCR tests but have no viable virus, which is people who have recently recovered or at the tail end of an asymptomatic case.
      3. Asymptomatic cases.

      One of the primary errors of reporting has unfortunately made these allegations easier to make: daily new ‘cases’ are reported which includes everyone with a positive test. These are not all suffering from Covid-19.
      It is difficult then to break down this figure into components in order of importance, deaths, ITU admissions, general hospital admission, symptomatic cases treated in the community or self isolating, mild cases, asymptomatic cases and convalescents. This is fodder for the conspiracy theorists who keep repeating that the figures are inflated because the number of positives far exceeds those who are sick or who die.

      • Ankle Sum

        SA,
        If you must use labels, may I suggest you use the word ‘sceptics’ rather than ‘deniers.’ I suspect I am included amongst those you call ‘deniers’ but I don’t deny the existence of a virus, I just dispute its severity, and the measures that are being taken to combat it. Whether you intend it or not, ‘deniers’ comes over as pejorative. You are lumping everyone you disagree with into one basket, thus belittling the opinions of individuals.
        Would you like it if I habitually referred to you as ‘sheeple?’ I wouldn’t do that because it would indicate a lack of confidence in my own beliefs, but do you think that would encourage sensible discussion, or just the opposite?

        • SA

          Denier is someone who denies something in your case the actual proven severity of a virus which is universally recognised by all authorities in the world. It is descriptive and not pejorative. Sheeple on the other hand is a word invented by those who feel superior because they have seen through all the deception that those stupid ordinary people can’t see, THAT is pejorative.

          • Ankle Sum

            OK, it doesn’t look like it’s worth arguing the point. I will merely say that in my case I believe it has the opposite effect to the one you intend. I read it as weakness on your part, like you feel the need to bolster your arguments with name-calling. Do please carry on if you feel the need.

        • Dawg

          May I suggest you use the word “cynics” rather than “sceptics” (or “skeptics”)? As I explained earlier in the thread, people who call themselves “covid sceptics” or “lockdown sceptics” are nothing of the sort: they’re “covid cynics” and “lockdown cynics”.

          What’s the difference? Scepticism is “generally a questioning attitude or doubt towards one or more putative instances of knowledge which are asserted to be mere belief or dogma”. (See Wiki: Skepticism.) Cynicism is “a disposition of disbelief in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions”, characterized by “a general distrust of others’ motives”. (See Wiki: Cynics.)

          Sceptics are rational doubters. The methodology is used in both science and philosophy. Science is designed to question everything in a focused, systematic and empirical way. Philosophy questions all knowledge in a more fundamental, profound way. Those are established methods of doubt, and they can be traced back to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. If you take heed of the general consensus of scientists and philosophers, you won’t go far wrong.

          Conspiracy theorists primarily use cynicism as a methodology, fundamentally based on distrust of authority. They spurn the official sources first and foremost then seek out anything that will confirm their suspicion. They tend to be very credulous of anything opposing the generally accepted view. They accept the far-fetched claims of maverick scientists, misinterpret and exploit ambiguities in official statements, and justify their approach with appeals to other conspiracies. It’s not a reliable method of knowledge acquisition.

          • Ankle Sum

            Dawg.

            “Scepticism is “generally a questioning attitude or doubt towards one or more putative instances of knowledge which are asserted to be mere belief or dogma”.”

            Then I’m a sceptic, thanks.

            Cynicism is “a disposition of disbelief in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions”, characterized by “a general distrust of others’ motives”.

            Then most of the people on this thread who argue with me are cynics. Almost without exception they possess “a disposition of disbelief in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions.” I accept that all those people are sincere in their beliefs, but I believe they are misguided. They believe that I (and other sceptics) are insincere, that we deliberately and knowingly spread false information. For what motive? Never explained.

            I believe you are sincere but question your dogmatic beliefs: I am a sceptic.
            Those who believe I am insincere and question my motives: they are cynics.

          • Dawg

            Ha, nice try, Ankle Sum! But quite wrong. Sneaky cynics don’t get to relabel themselves according to their own delusions of grandeur.

            The terms “sceptic” and “cynic” are relative to the body of established knowledge (or ‘facts’, in conventional lingo), which is determined by the general consensus of relevant experts.

            If you want to use the words with their normal public meaning then you can’t redefine them as relative to anything you happen to choose.

          • Clark

            “For what motive? Never explained.”

            I can’t possibly know your motive Ankle Sum, but why the tobacco and fossil fuel companies did similar is both obvious and well documented.

            You may have been taken in by cynically motivated media.

        • Clark

          I won’t use sceptics for the reasons Dawg outlines; the people who deny or play down the severity of the pandemic seem entirely without scepticism about the assertions and arguments they promote. All that seems to matter to them is convincing others by any means, fair or foul. Since their argument is basically the opposite of the truth, most of those means are inevitably foul, ie. dishonest.

          Ankle Sum, I agree with Dawg that the word ‘cynics’ is most appropriate. Is this acceptable to you?

  • Ankle Sum

    Good news!!
    A study of 188 countries has found no relationship between stringency of lockdown measures and death rate from covid-19.

    Regarding government’s actions (i.e., containment and stringency index), no association was found with the outcome, suggesting that the other studied factors were more important in the Covid-19 mortality than political measures implemented to fight the virus,…”

    https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2020.604339/full

    • SA

      Ankle Sum

      Rather difficult paper to read and digest. Thank you for telling us what it’s significance is. There seem to be many variables analysed requiring a multi variance analysis which can sometimes be difficult to interpret.

      Of particular interest to me is the method of calculating the stringency of complying with lockdown measures, something which in itself needs a very detailed analysis. Not only is this stringency index based on complex data but it is also changeable on time. For example a country like new Zealand might have had a stringency index of 100% in April but of 20% now.

      I have not looked at this yet but would you be able, as you brought this to our notice, whether these questions have been addressed in this study?

      • Ankle Sum

        SA: “Of particular interest to me is the method of calculating the stringency of complying with lockdown measures, something which in itself needs a very detailed analysis. Not only is this stringency index based on complex data but it is also changeable on time. For example a country like new Zealand might have had a stringency index of 100% in April but of 20% now.”

        I’m no academic but I think this answers your question, ie they gave a point value to short term government measures, then aggregated those scores to give an overall score for each country.

        We used the Oxford university data source to characterize the state responses, regarding the containment and health index, the stringency index, and the economic support index (https://www.bsg.ox.ac.uk/research/research-projects/coronavirus-government-response-tracker) including public health measures taken by each country at short term. The Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT) systematically collects information on several different common policy responses that governments have taken to respond to the pandemic on 17 indicators. The data from the 17 indicators were aggregated into a set of three common indices, reporting a number between 1 and 100 to reflect the level of government’s action on each topic: (1) the containment and health index combines lockdown restrictions and closures with measures such as testing policies and contact tracing, short term investment in healthcare, as well as investments in vaccines; (2) the economic support index records measures such as income support and debt relief; (3) the original stringency index records the strictness of lockdown and policies that primarily aimed at restricting population mobility.

        (Thank you to whichever backroom boys/girls have been tidying up my quotes. If you tell me the tags I’ll do it myself and save you time)

        • SA

          I am really at a loss here because I see data like this:

          • Libya 80.56%
          • China 78.24
          • UK 81.48
          • Australia 52,.31
          • Nigeria 58.33
          • Mali 46.1
          • US 71.76
          • Norway 61.11

          In fact all this is very confusing and to me, not a statistician rather suggests that lockdown actually is a bad thing!!!!!!

          Just really goes to show how statistics, statistical analysis and especially multivariate analysis can prove anything depending on how you spin the data.

          Now look I by no means think that I am really qualified to critique this paper, nor have I read it in detail, but just through common sense find that since these measures are dynamic there is much more to it than you can ascribe to a single crude measurement. For example the UK where I live appears to be very stringent but the strict rules of isolation of symptomatic cases have never been applied, nor has there been any serious attempt at limitation of movement at airports or public transport, whereas at the active part of the epidemic, China’s lockdown was extremely stringent so I cannot believe that China, with about the fifths of the world population counts far less stringent as UK with a much smaller population and that these can affect results of this analysis.

          You have merely cut and pasted a bit you think is appropriate to your argument and in doing so have done exactly what you accuse others of doing: believing any ‘experts’ without real analysis just because their argument confirms yours. Give me real reasons why you feel this report proves your point other than just cut and paste a statement.

          • Clark

            SA, it’s from a school of government rather than a school of epidemiology so they’re probably using criteria appropriate to civil liberties but inappropriate for the epidemiological objectives of the restrictions. But I haven’t had time to check yet.

          • Pigeon English

            You are right all statistics data can be cherry picked.
            I was playing with Oxford data (btw did you get where you can check day-by-day index?) .I got there in my second attempt by chance.
            Anyway on 19/4 2020 To prove Clark point New Zealand had index of 96/100
            To prove Ankle Sum point Belarus has hardly any lockdown. 16/100

            What I find interesting is:

            a) Sweden has higher index than portrayed(not much of lockdown)

            b) UK and Sweden could be good examples of delaying measures resulting in longer lockdown.

            c) China has index for the whole country starting early but in my opinion based on one documentary city of Wuhan was at least 110 index.

            If you scroll down a lot I believe you will get maps and dates and indexes.

          • Clark

            Pigeon English, I agree with all of your points a, b and c. Belarus deported some Russian news crews for documenting deaths the government was covering up. But many people do social restrictions of their own accord; the great contributions a government can make are normalising restrictions by mandating them, and coordinating them to maximum effect.

    • Clark

      No study of social restrictions will show much correlation unless the timing of restrictions is considered. Early restrictions are more effective. The UK statistics are an example; the restrictions have been quite strong, but they were applied too late each time, by which time infection had spread to millions of people, resulting in high numbers of hospital admissions and deaths.

      Ankle Sum, how did you find that paper?

      I ask because the single conclusion which you cite from that paper appears to have been cherry-picked, in that it contradicts both the statistical evidence from the UK graphs I keep citing, and the consensus of the great majority of epidemiologists. Cherry-picking takes time, to trawl through hundreds of papers to find the few anomalous conclusions that support the desired agenda, and I would like to know who is doing this work, so please tell me how you found it.

      There are probably systematic reviews of social restrictions; you should perform a search at the Cochrane Library. Try “NPI” (for “Non Pharmaceutical Intervention”) for a search term. Systematic reviews collate all the papers relevant to a particular subject; they are the antidote to cherry-picking.

      The authors appear not to be general human epidemiologists. Their affiliations are sport health and medicine, and animal cognition. They do include sport epidemiology; I don’t know what that covers but it probably has little to do with the spread of infection.

      • SA

        Clark
        I have suspected that these persistent newcomers who make these trawled arguments are part of an organisation or organisations that cherry pick these nuggets and brings disseminate them. We had Kate who came and went with that study that proved beyond doubt that China manufactured the virus and now we have Ankle Sum and others testing all the defenses as it were. Your questions to Ankle Sum are very pertinent but I doubt we will get an answer.

        • Ankle Sum

          SA.
          I supplied a peer-reviewed scientific paper but you say it proves you “can prove anything depending on how you spin the data.” I did my best to answer your questions about it but you accuse me of cut and pasting with intent to deceive. You accuse me of being part of a secret organisation which disseminates, er, nuggets. Your replies are peppered with insults which you say aren’t insults because they’re true. Then you wonder why I stop engaging with you.

          • SA

            You can or may not engage with me, it is up to you. Why is it that you trawl the internet to find these obscure studies that only prove a single point you wish to discuss when there are so many other references to the contrary view when you are seeking the truth?

          • Clark

            “Nuggets” is a good word for it. Yesterday it was false “false positives” (but don’t mention the hospitalisations and deaths), and today it’s “lockdowns don’t work” (but don’t mention Wuhan and China). How long until we’re back to “but did they die of or with covid-19?” and have to superimpose the covid mortality curve over the excess deaths graph again?

            The nuggets are all obviously organised towards one single objective, namely, getting rid of “lockdown”.

            Look, if you want to achieve that (as I do, as we nearly all do), the way to do it (and incidentally avoid killing half a million people or more) is to close the borders, do it right, and get it over with. Then we’ll be a Green Zone, and we can reopen our borders to other Green Zones – Australia, China, New Zealand, and a growing list of beautiful Asian countries and Pacific islands:

            https://www.endcoronavirus.org/green-zones

            So if you’re posting nuggets for a PR company, tell your bosses to tell their clients that you tried, it doesn’t work, but you did find out that there’s a better way 🙂

      • Ankle Sum

        I highlighted that one conclusion out of several because it was the most interesting one to me. If I’d included the others, it would have detracted from the impact of the one I highlighted, but it wouldn’t have diminished its significance. I don’t call that cherry-picking.
        This is a peer reviewed scientific paper. With respect, Clark, I don’t believe you’re qualified to criticise their methodology.

        • Clark

          And I don’t believe you are either. I’ll critique as I choose. Readers can read 🙂

          And is it really rigorously peer reviewed? It’s published in Frontiers in Public Health, part of Frontiers Media, which looks pretty dodgy to me:

          Frontiers’ journals have a controversial reputation. In 2015, Frontiers Media was included in Jeffrey Beall’s list of potential predatory open access publishers[6] and has been accused of using email spam.[7] Retraction Watch refers to the publisher as one with “a history of badly handled and controversial retractions and publishing decisions”.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frontiers_Media#Controversies

          As of 2013, the overall rejection rate was 20% of all submitted manuscripts, compared to the top-tier, paywalled Nature journal, which rejected 90% of them.

          In late September 2014, Frontiers in Public Health published a controversial article that supported HIV denialism; three days later the publisher issued a statement of concern and announced an investigation into the review process of the article.[36] It was eventually decided that the article would not be retracted but instead was reclassified as an opinion piece.[37] It has since been retracted.[38] Collaboration between the Nature Publishing Group and Frontiers ended when the two groups decided in November 2014 “to make a clean separation and never to mention again that [Nature Publishing Group] has some kind of involvement in Frontiers.”[39]

          – In May 2015, Frontiers Media removed the entire editorial boards of Frontiers in Medicine and Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine after editors complained that Frontiers Media staff were “interfering with editorial decisions and violating core principles of medical publishing”.

          Not exactly Nature or the Lancet, is it?

        • Clark

          Ankle Sum – “With respect, Clark, I don’t believe you’re qualified to criticise their methodology.”

          Albert Einstein was merely a clerk in a patents office with only a teaching diploma and a poor school record, in no way qualified to critique the work of the James Clerk Maxwell, the great theoretician in electromagnetism. But he did, and very readable it is too; he lays out Maxwell’s mistake in a manner anyone can understand:

          https://www.fourmilab.ch/etexts/einstein/specrel/www/

          Science is a matter of evidence, not authority. Three times in the UK the infection rate has rocketed, and all three times, social restrictions have arrested its rise. The same pattern can be seen from all over the world. That’s evidence, no matter how “rigorously peer reviewed” the paper you cited from a dodgy journal.

          • glenn_uk

            AS: “Ah, you compare yourself to Albert Einstein. Very interesting.

            No, he pointed out how stupid you are in saying the methodology or work is not up for questioning, and illustrated it with an example even you would probably recognise. Either through idiocy or dishonesty, you then claimed this was Clark comparing himself to Einstein, and completely ducked the actual point being made.

            But don’t worry, nobody is surprised at your slippery tactics at this stage.

          • Ankle Sum

            Oh dear, it’s Glenn from the Blunt Instrument Debating Society, come to pierce me with rapier wit. I’d better find out what I’m up against. I’ll check all his posts on this page for signs of intelligence. Well, that didn’t take long. Four posts, all slagging others, no contribution whatsoever to the topic, specialist subject: unimaginative sarcasm. Recommended response: condescension.

          • Clark

            Funnily enough, I was riding our pedal-trike into town to go shopping a few weeks ago. At the St John’s Green crossroads in Writtle, a car driver with his window open gave way to me despite it being his priority, and called out “go ahead, professor!” He wasn’t anyone I know, and I’m not a professor. Later, cycling out of Lidl and about to head home, secondary school boys laughed at me being on a trike and one called out “Einstein!” So I went back and belayed him as he came out of Farm Foods and gave him a lively lecture about the relativity equations, black holes and event horizons. Best shopping trip I’d had in a while.

          • glenn_uk

            AS: “Oh dear”

            Oh dear indeed. Having had another week, desperately scouring the great anti-vaxxer and covid-denialist sites – which AS was _so sure_ had a dynamite case, he still has nothing. Absolutely nothing. Yet he persists in his delusion that medical science is all wrong, it’s all a plot, and a massive worldwide conspiracy is there… just gosh-darn it, not really _quite_ provable.

            Funnily enough, a poster by the name of Node did exactly this. He liked the “Oh dear” thing too. He also argued and referenced itty-bitty little things which he hoped was the “gotcha!” to finally overturn established medical science. He also attacked Clark, tried to pretend he was delusional. He also couldn’t engage in any proper debate, sidling away from detailing this vast conspiracy, and dropping every “Oh what about this then?” reference once its validity was refuted.

            Haven’t you got another holocaust denialist lined up, that you’re going to proudly present to us this weekend, Ankle Sum?

          • Clark

            Oh cheer up you two; it’s bad enough under social restrictions without getting all tetchy. No of course I don’t think I’m Einstein, though I did briefly understand the necessity of relativity almost thirty years ago, but then I lost it again and never quite got it back. I so wish this idiot government would do one proper stint of restrictions so we could get it over with; they’ve been faffing about for nearly a year. If we’d had this lot for WWII we’d have been overrun by Nazis.

            Uncle Sam, you’ve been doing sterling service by sequentially presenting each of the half dozen nuggets for summary execution, but may we try something a bit more challenging now please?

          • Clark

            No, about forty years ago; my, how the time has flown. It was a documentary called Einstein’s Universe that triggered my revelation; a visual analogy consisting of two motorcyclists riding side by side, one throwing a tennis ball to the other…

        • Pigeon English

          Conclusion is that many other factors are at play: how old the population is, how fat it is, how inactive they are etc.
          Those factors seem to be more relevant than lockdowns but the study does not compare impact of social measures in countries with those problems. We can not become fit, active, healthy and young from one day to another.

          • Pigeon English

            Of course there is the Eugenics option to get rid of us fat, lazy, old motherfu## and rejuvenate the population for the next pandemic!

          • Clark

            And indeed the economy does need a Great Reset or something; I hear that’s what the World Economic Forum has been discussing.

          • Clark

            “Of course there is the Eugenics option…

            Well that is effectively what the UK government is doing, as fast as they can process them through the health service; I suppose Dave is right that it’s akin to “humanitarian intervention”. At this rate it’s going to take about five years with massive collateral damage including a huge death toll among healthcare staff.

            But of the two ways of getting it over with, I’d prefer a couple of months of stringent restrictions over a couple of months of corpses in the streets followed by a choice between six monthly vaccinations or periodic covid-19 for everyone.

            Talk about the “MSM”; they barely ever mention the option of stamping it out.

          • SA

            And this is how properly carried out and humane quarantine should be carried out and be successful, rather than the UK wishy washy too little too late voluntary self isolation. In this article in the Guardian, Tae Hoon Kim, who is an associate senior lecturer in military history at the Swedish Defence University, describes what happened when he went to visit his parents in South Korea in November.

            “Once at home, I had minimal contact with my parents, both of whom wore masks the entire time and who quickly indicated that I should stay in my room. The test results came back the next morning and I was surprised to find out that I was positive, since I had no symptoms. What shocked me was that officials from the local district’s public health service then came to take me to a government facility. Not long after I was taken away, more officials in full PPE came to disinfect our apartment, check on my parents and tell them to get tested.”

            Note the self discipline of all concerned, the strict observance of recommendations, the immediate official response and the government run isolation facilities and the thorough follow-up. None of this happens with our voluntary self isolation. But this does not stop there:

            “Self-quarantining at home if you have Covid-19, no matter how mild the symptoms, is not an option in Korea. Thus began my 14-day stay in a youth hostel in the heart of Seoul that had been converted to a quarantine facility for mildly symptomatic Covid-19 patients……….For 14 days, no one could leave their rooms. We were allowed to open the door only to pick up food delivered to us or to put out our rubbish, which we had to treat with disinfectant. Anyone who attempted to get out was sternly warned through the public address system. We were reminded daily that breaking or bending quarantine rules could result in prosecution.”

            And it gets even better:

            “Despite these restrictions, however, two things stood out. First was the level of service on offer. Every patient was provided with a box of “essentials” such as body wash, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrushes, shaving kits, two types of disinfectant, masks, towels and slippers. The food was equally good, better than the most expensive Korean restaurants I had visited in London. These were all provided free for Korean citizens. The nurses and doctors at the facility would check on each patient twice daily, communicating via an app, asking us to measure our blood pressure and temperature and whether we needed medicine. They even offered counselling services to those who were mentally exhausted.”

            This is an example of a government working for its people and the common good, whatever their external policies are. Can you imagine Johnson doing the same?
            I am sorry quoting extensively from this but I couldn’t produce a better comment than this:

            “Korea’s Covid-19 quarantine facilities are thus underpinned by a mixture of compulsion, state-run (rather than outsourced) public service, and exhortations of social solidarity. Whether such facilities could or should be replicated in the UK is open to question. But their purpose, which is to clarify the boundaries between government-compelled restrictions for the few, and safety for the many, could be worth considering in Britain, amid the policy vacillation between loosening and tightening lockdowns.”

          • Clark

            SA, admirable. South Korea’s population is not much smaller than the UK’s. They have had just over 1500 deaths so far, less than 2% the deaths-per-population of the UK.

  • Ankle Sum

    Voice of America – “Robert Kennedy Jr has been banned from Instagram for false posts”
    NBC NEWS – “Instagram bans Robert F. Kennedy Jr. over false vaccine, Covid claims”
    New York Times- “Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is barred from Instagram over false coronavirus claims.”
    etc…
    etc…

    Putting aside the affront to free speech, there’s another point here. Instagram has taken upon itself the right to decide what is true or false and all these MSM outlets are doing it too. They don’t say “alleged” false claims, they don’t report the story and let us decide what’s false or not, they decide for us.
    Social media and traditional media are hand in glove, controlled by the same overlords, and they are no longer exercising censorship by omission, they are now flaunting it. “These opinions are taboo; this person is a pariah. It doesn’t matter what your opinions are about coronavirus,; if you can’t see that this is a terrifying development, you are hopelessly blinkered.

    • Clark

      I think you’re overreacting, but rather than me argue with you, would you apply critical thinking and critique your own comment, maybe see if you can guess what I’d have to say about it?

      And I have a question for you. Do you accept that there is any such thing as fact, or in your opinion, is there only opinion?

    • SA

      Ankle Sum and Clark
      I have to say I have a bit of sympathy for AS. There are several issues at stake here and one should look at them separately. One is the diversity of the MSM, the second is freedom of speech and the third is that of the right to de-platform and censor.
      We have now become accustomed to the MSM being privately owned by rich individuals and corporations including the public service broadcasters. This means that all media are biased, there is nowhere to go for balanced neutral media where opinions can be aired freely, hence Clark you have called it the corporate media in the past. Being mainly privately owned means that the media has no need or requirement to be balanced and may therefore censor anyone they do not like and give no reason. This is now being practiced widely by Facebook, Twitter and Telegram and so on. They can make their own rules.
      On the other side there is also a limit to free speech which should be limited especially if it can be harmful, either by being deliberately, discriminatory or inciteful of hate or violence. Unfortunately RFK junior is notorious for being a leader in trying to disseminate misleading anti-vaxxer fake information.

      • Clark

        SA, I too have considerable sympathy for Ankle Sum, but I do get tired of being driven by feelings of duty to readers to correct and contextualise the misleading nuggets. Superficial plausibility is disproportionally convincing, and people are continually habituated to accepting it by the corporate media, which should instead be exercising a duty of setting a good example in critical thinking.

        I call it the corporate media because it is dependent upon corporate advertising for its income, and hence its existence, and hence the incomes of everyone it employs. Its business model is to sell audiences to advertisers, so despite appearances its readership are not its customers, they are merely its product. Therefore it has to aid and must not obstruct its advertisers’ commercial agenda, and that means that it has to condition suggestibility into its readership, to make them as susceptible to advertising as possible. And advertising plays heavily upon superficial plausibility.

        I avoid calling it the “MSM” for two reasons. Firstly, despite its claims, it represent the interests of corporatism rather than the mainstream of people. Secondly, to call it the “mainstream media” is defeatist; the mainstream is precisely what we wish to wrest from it.

        I shall defer my comments on the other matters you raised until the discussion I have requested with Ankle Sum.

      • Ankle Sum

        AS. “I have to say I have a bit of sympathy for AS.”
        Clark. “I too have considerable sympathy for Ankle Sum”

        Whilst I’m pleased you two generally agree with me, let’s be clear: this isn’t some petty grievance I’ve dreamed up and come here to enlist support for. Don’t sympathise with me, sympathise with us, the whole world barring a tiny elite. We’ve allowed a handful of private companies to claim the right to censor us, and they haven’t gone to that trouble just to victimise little Ankle Sum. They are doing what they always do – erode our rights in the name of a popular cause, then use their new power to oppress the very people who cheered them on. FFS, they de-platformed the president of the US. Again, it doesn’t matter what you think of Trump, they just proved they are more powerful than “the most powerful man in the world,” and they were applauded for doing it.
        They act to exactly the same agenda as the MSM, because they are owned by the same people. Ordinary people think they know what’s going on because they have so many information streams to choose from, but all those streams are pushing the same lies and reinforcing each other. Propaganda has never been so easy or so effective. People need to wake up to the fact that these overlords can project any illusion they choose. Only once you’ve accepted that fact can you seriously start looking behind the screen.

        • Clark

          For goodness sake stop preaching and calm down! I said I thought you were overreacting, and I have reasons for thinking that. Aren’t you interested in what they might be? Hasn’t it occurred to you that you might be an “ordinary person” too?

        • SA

          AS
          It is therefore important to realise how to fight intelligently. Not everything that is said by the media is to be contradicted and is wrong and in fact disseminating misinformation and doubt is perhaps part of the game that is fostered and encouraged to weaken trust in alternative media. Everyone in this blog is aware of the information domination by the few, it is part of capitalism, but let us fight this with together with solid information and not shaky theories.
          The antivaxxer movement and climate denier movements are also supported by some organisations I am sure. In fact the oil industry probably plays a big part in climate scepticism fostering. But the way that the denier movement (sorry if I use this term as a shorthand) is aligned seem to be with the hard right who are interested in small government and light touch regulation and not from a truly people-oriented view.
          It is this fight between the so-called neoliberals and conservatives that now dominated politics in the west, and the true left has been marginalised.

    • SA

      I am not sure I conveyed my meaning clearly but looking at it in another way it is important not to confuse fighting the current dogma and governments and rulers with fighting the basic system. You will notice for example that there will be very little foreign policy change after the US elections, there never was for the last 70 years. The battles between ruling parties are skirmishes for small cosmetic details that really often do not improve the lives of ordinary people, this is true also in U.K. and Europe. When someone promises real change they are crushed. We have seen this recently in Greece, with Sanders in U.S. and with Corbyn in U.K. it also translates to this serious antagonism towards any countries that do not wish to be dominated by this system, with consequences that vary from verbal antagonism, to sanctions, to fostering of civil unrest, to regime change to attempted genocide. But let us be aware we need to change the system not the government.

  • Sabine von Torne

    There is no such thing as ‘the Covid19 vaccine’. Different vaccines are on the market. Traditionally manufactured vaccines and messenger RNA vaccines. The pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the latter, e.g. Pfizer BioNTech, openly admit that there is no scientific data available yet in regard to long term safety of this completely new approach. It is by no means an ‘established’ approach. The fact that populations all over the world are not sufficiently informed of these differences is where the trouble starts. People are unable to make an informed decision. Many can sense though that they are not given accurate information and that’s why we have conspiracy theories and ‘anti-vaxxer’ groups flourishing like no tomorrow.

  • ET

    This is a sobering read from consortium news on “cancel cultire.”
    https://consortiumnews.com/2021/02/15/chris-hedges-cancel-culture-where-liberalism-goes-to-die/

    “The cancel culture, a witch hunt by self-appointed moral arbiters of speech, has become the boutique activism of a liberal class that lacks the courage and the organizational skills to challenge the actual centers of power — the military-industrial complex, lethal militarized police, the prison system, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, the intelligence agencies that make us the most spied upon, watched, photographed and monitored population in human history, the fossil fuel industry, and a political and economic system captured by oligarchic power. “

    I think Twitter cut Trump off because of a commercial decision, their advertisers didn’t want to be associated with Trump and probably vociferously said so. They are also I think trying to make a virtue of doing so and hiding that it was a commercial decision. In my opinion, all the big tech companies need to be broken up as well as the larger corporate media. I don’t really have any ideas on where to start that process and where it ought to lead but we are or have entered an era where very few transnational mega corporations are going to corner every market.

    • SA

      ET

      “In my opinion, all the big tech companies need to be broken up as well as the larger corporate media.”

      But corporations tend to form cartels and to merge into monopolies as Marx has pointed out. The principle of regulation and licensing of broadcast media arose in the early days of broadcasting when broadcasters, especially publicly funded state broadcasters, had a public service duty and a duty to be informative and neutral. A similar principle should have been applied to major internet ‘publishers’ and owners of technology companies. Even now state broadcasters, let alone others are far from neutral.

    • Clark

      With Brexit and then Trump, the major Internet platforms finally had to admit that they’d created a problem.

      They’d been promoting conspiracy theory for years, pure sensationalism, click bait. Very similar to the tabloids, just slightly less deliberate. They set up algorithms to identify and profile their users so that advertising could be targeted. But they’re just a newer branch of the corporate media; their revenue comes from selling audiences to advertisers, so they also needed to secure audiences. To do that, they set their algorithms to watch the links users clicked on, and time how long until each one returned. That way, the algorithms determined each user’s interests. Then, using this data, search results, and suggestions eg. YouTube’s sidebar were tailored to each user.

      In other words, they deliberately made the media they present addictive. A side effect, which further amplified the effect, was that this stimulated confirmation bias. People’s lack of critical thinking and affinity for conspiracy theory made many believe that they’d discovered the real news; Google’s search results and YouTube’s sidebar suggestions added unwarranted authority and authenticity to all manner of bunk generated by Internet users, and where did people share their new discoveries? Facebook and Twitter, of course…

      Then the British quasi-military psyops outfit Cambridge Analytica started to exploit the vulnerabilities inherent in this corporate-public system to influence elections. They used a con trick to obtain Facebook’s data about users and used it to swing the Brexit and Trump voting. Predictably, with a bit of prompting from the secret services, the neocon old fashioned broadcast news media misrepresented both of these as “Russian meddling” and in the latter case blamed Wikileaks and Assange.

      Now, the major Internet platforms are in panic mode because they want the covid vaccines to work but they’ve programmed half the population into being conspiracy theorists, who of course have swallowed the anti-vax nonsense along with the rest of the bunk.

      What a farce!

      • Clark

        The broadcast media can’t accuse the Internet platform corporations of corrupting democracy without being accused of the same thing in return. No one’s going to own up…

    • SA

      Interesting paper but with some reservations. These were not properly randomised patients if you read the small print. Also some patients in the placebo group who had low levels did not get supplements which is ethically questionable.. But in any case it does no harm to have vitamin D checked and or supplemented according to this very comprehensive review:

      “Key recommendations:

      — There seems nothing to lose and potentially much to gain by recommending vitamin D supplementation for all, e.g. at 800–1000 IU/day, making it clear that this is to help ensure immune health and not solely for bone and muscle health.

      — This should be mandated for prescription in care homes, prisons and other institutions where people are likely to have been indoors for much of the time during the summer.

      — People likely to be currently deficient should consider taking a higher dose, e.g. 4000 IU/day for the first four weeks before reducing to 800 IU–1000 IU/day

      — People admitted to hospital with COVID-19 should have their vitamin D status checked and/or supplemented and consideration should be given to testing high-dose calcifediol in the RECOVERY trial.”

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7813231/

    • Clark

      The Barcelona paper has been withdrawn:

      https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3771318

      “We have removed this preprint due to concerns about the description of the research in this paper. This has led us to initiate an investigation into this study.

      – The comments that have been posted on this preprint will remain available on this page. Please note that this comment thread is now closed to further posts.”

      Some of the comments raise ethical concerns.

      Jonathan Cook linked to it:

      Why politicians and doctors keep ignoring the medical research on Vitamin D and Covid:

      https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2021-02-15/lives-lost-covid-vitamin-d/

  • glenn_uk

    I’m a little late with this paper, but it shows how government policy almost certainly aided the spread of Covid-19:

    https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/centres/cage/manage/publications/wp.517.2020.pdf

    From the abstract:

    “Areas with higher take-up saw both, a notable increase in new COVID19 infection clusters within a week of the scheme starting, and again, a deceleration in infections within two weeks of the program ending. Areas that exhibit notable rainfall during the prime lunch and dinner hours on days the scheme was active record lower infection incidence – a pattern that is also measurable in mobility data – and non-detectable on days during which the discount was not available or for rainfall outside the core lunch and dinner hours. A back of the envelope calculation suggests that the program is accountable for between 8 to 17 percent of all new local infection clusters during that time period.

    The study also serves to make a detailed nonsense of the denialists’ insistence that lockdown measures, socially isolating, and closures of gathering events has nothing to do with the spread of Covid-19. Ok, you might say, “Well, duh!” – but denialists are rather peculiar in their position that the social proximity of multiple people has nothing to do with the transmission of a provably transmittable (i.e. infectious) disease.

    I imagine such denialists also will confidently assert – without evidence! – that AIDS has nothing to do with HIV infection, that vaccines did not halt major scourges on humanity such us typhoid, smallpox, or even tetanus. Incidentally, do anti-vaxxers not have tetanus shots either? I just wonder if there’s any limit to their denial of facts, reason and science.

  • Clark

    A small victory for freedom of speech and expression from Cambridge University – with an amendment that I find very significant:

    https://www.cambridgeindependent.co.uk/news/university-of-cambridge-free-speech-vote-tolerance-wins-over-respect-9144582/

    The University of Cambridge has voted against introducing a guideline that would have required students and staff to be “respectful” of other people’s opinion, favouring “tolerance” instead.

    – There had been concern that demanding respect implied approval, even of views that were patently false.

    – Proposing the amendment to the initial wording, Arif Ahmed, a reader in philosophy, said: “‘Respect’ as used here may be taken to imply admiration or approval. We should not be expected to respect all opinions or identities that the law permits, eg patently false views concerning vaccination or climate change. We should however permit them to exist. That is exactly what ‘tolerance’ means.”

    – A third amendment on events sought to rein in “overly permissive” and “dangerously vague” terminology describing when the university could halt controversial events.

    – The original wording included examples such as the “expression of views that risk drawing people into terrorism or are the views of proscribed groups or organisations” as grounds for stopping an event, but said the university “was not limited” by such grounds.

    I remember that an event at which Craig was speaking was moved from University premises on such grounds, so I’m very glad to see that the amendments gained such a large majority.

    • Clark

      I find it interesting that calls to “respect” all views (including obvious nonsense) came from the same group that proposed restrictions upon expression. The amendments downgraded “respect” to mere “tolerance”, but actually upheld freedom of expression more strongly.

      I think these rules are appropriate for scheduled events, but inadequate for comments on the Internet. The problem on-line is that conspiracy theorists try to take over parts of the Internet to give a false impression of a strong consensus. Rationalists can’t be available 24/7 to counter their endless repetition of their handful of superficially plausible but false assertions. Conspiracy theorists simply do not acknowledge refutation; they just keep pushing the same old stuff, over and over and over, wearing the rationalists down until they have a clear field. After that they get bored and stop posting, but by then they’ve monopolised the most recent and thus most visible spaces, and they get the last word unopposed.

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