Wednesday, 16 February 2022 — Swiss Policy Research
Not everything that has been left unreported is the truth, as several recent claims by a reasonably well-known US author and noted covid propaganda skeptic show.
Some of the author’s recent claims that do not stand up to scrutiny include:
- In a post on 20 November 2021, the author pointed out that “vaccinated English adults under 60 are dying at twice the rate of unvaccinated people the same age”, adding that “I don’t know how to explain this other than vaccine-caused mortality”. But the author failed to note that both vaccination and natural mortality rates are much higher in 60-year-olds than in 15-year-olds. Thus, the British data didn’t show vaccine-caused mortality at all (though it does exist).
- In a post on 29 December 2021, the author claimed that “vaccines don’t stop Covid hospitalizations or deaths. They never have, even at peak effectiveness. A huge US database offers proof.” But the author simply misinterpreted a table in the annex of a study on patients with immune dysfunction (see here). In reality, covid vaccines strongly reduced covid hospitalizations and deaths, but only for about six to nine months.
- In a post on 24 January 2022, the author pointed out that Denmark had more “covid hospitalizations” than ever before, despite a very high vaccination and booster rate. The author claimed that this was “all you need to know about Covid vaccine failure”. Yet the author failed to mention that Denmark had over ten times more infections than during their previous (very low) peak, but only about half as many ICU patients and deaths (i.e. a relative reduction by a factor of 20, also due to omicron), while a third of PCR-positive hospitalizations weren’t “due to covid”. Thus, the Danish data didn’t show vaccine failure (against severe disease) at all.
- In a post on 22 January 2022 (and many others), the author claimed that “many people over 80 who have not been vaccinated are simply too frail to tolerate even a single Covid vaccine”. But a British analysis found that this “healthy vaccinee hypothesis” is not correct; in fact, the most frail people were vaccinated first (e.g. nursing home residents and even patients in palliative care), while vaccine exemptions typically applied to people with known allergies.
- In a post on 4 February 2022, the author claimed that “Covid deaths in Israel have hit an all-time daily high. The mRNA vaccine experiment has failed.” In this case, the author relied on false (or misleading) data provided by OWiD (see here).
- In a post on 10 November 2021, the author claimed that “long Covid doesn’t exist, volume one zillion”, arguing that a French study showed “long covid” was just a psychosomatic condition. But the French study showed nothing of the sort, as it relied on mostly unspecific symptoms and unreliable antibody data.
- While still on Twitter, the author made numerous other false claims, including that “Delta is milder”, “protection against severe illness is just a theory”, or “infections only increase in highly vaccinated countries” (see here). Many of these claims simply ignored developments in countries with low vaccination rates (e.g. Russia, Iran, South Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America).
How can so many false or misleading claims be explained? Various possible explanations have been proposed, including:
- Misinformation: Due to cognitive bias and a lack of expertise, the author doesn’t realize these claims are misleading or false.
- Disinformation: The author knows these claims are misleading or false, but pushes them anyway, perhaps to boost clicks and sales (of subscriptions and books).
- “Controlled opposition”: The author knows these claims are misleading or false, but pushes them to make skeptics look stupid and trigger calls for censorship.
- “Counter-propaganda campaign”: The author knows these claims are misleading or false, but pushes them to counter the many egregiously false claims by health authorities.
Based on an overall assessment of the author’s output, the most likely explanation appears to be misinformation (due to cognitive bias and a lack of statistical and medical expertise), although some of the claims are certainly bordering on disinformation (e.g. ignoring infection rates), and the overall result has indeed been calls for more censorship on platforms such as Twitter and Substack.
If the issue really is misinformation due to a lack of expertise, a simple solution would be to run a medical and statistical quality check prior to publication, ordered by the author himself or even provided as an optional service by platforms such as Substack. On the other hand, if the author is intending to run a large-scale counter-propaganda campaign against the “public health” establishment, he may need a platform more robust than Twitter or even Substack.
In April 2021, US magazine The Atlantic called the author discussed above “the pandemic’s wrongest man”, but this is, of course, ludicrous, as the author got most pandemic questions right, including lockdowns, schools, masks and the overall danger of the virus to the general population, while the final jury on the novel vaccines really is still outstanding (and will be mixed at best).
It was rather outlets like The Atlantic that got most things wrong.