SBM: The “spiritual child of the Great Barrington Declaration” promotes antivaccine misinformation
Posted by Sinister Burt on January 25, 2022, 11:03 am
Another from Gorski (take it or leave it) - has some interesting background to the GBD and its links to the AIER, plus its later offshoot, the Brownstone institute. |
"As I approached the question of what to write about this week, I looked at our guest post about the Great Barrington Declaration authors and the Brownstone Institute spreading antivaccine misinformation under the guise of libertarianism and thought: Here we go. I’ve been meaning for a while now to revisit the Great Barrington Declaration, its authors, and the new right wing “institute” promoting it. Although I’ve written about it a number of times over at my not-so-super-secret other blog, I haven’t really addressed it here much since it was published in October 2020 and I originally likened it to “magnified minority”-style disinformation with more than a dash of eugenics in the form of the Declaration’s call about the virus, in essence, to “let ‘er rip” while somehow using “focused protection” to prevent mass death among those vulnerable to severe disease and death from COVID-19.
Tellingly, what “focused protection” would actually mean in public health practice and how it would protect the vulnerable were never really described in sufficient detail to determine if this was a viable strategy. (Hint: It wasn’t, and, despite more recent claims by Great Barrington signatories, still doesn’t.) Basically, when I first encountered the Great Barrington Declaration, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that the whole thing had a very strong “Screw the elderly and sick!” vibe to it that reeked of eugenics. Amusingly, when criticized, AIER portrayed itself and the advocates of the Great Barrington Declaration as the “new abolitionists,” parroting a common antimask and antivaccine theme that likens public health interventions against COVID-19 to “slavery“.
In any event, the idea behind the Great Barrington Declaration, such as it was, was that letting as many of the “low risk” and “healthy population” become infected with the virus would produce “natural herd immunity” and hasten the end of the pandemic. As I and a number of other have long pointed out, it’s not possible to protect the vulnerable if a contagious respiratory virus is spreading unchecked through the rest of the “healthy” population, and the cost of achieving “natural herd immunity” is widespread infection and far more death and suffering. More recently, the rise of the Delta and Omicron variants, the latter of which can easily reinfect many with “natural immunity” from prior infection, shows how foolish such a strategy would have been then and is now, given the existence of effective vaccines that can, at the very minimum, vastly decrease the risk of severe disease.
A lot has happened in the last 15 months. In October 2020 I did not view the Great Barrington Declaration signatories Dr. Sunetra Gupta (University of Oxford), Dr. Martin Kulldorff (then at Harvard University), and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya (Stanford University) as antivaccine. However, it must be remembered that the Declaration was first published two months before the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was distributed to the public under an emergency use authorization (EUA), and events have moved in a direction that leads me to doubt my previous characterization. The most recent revelation comes in the form of a report by Alice McCool and Khatondi Soita Wepukhulu, US conservatives spreading anti-vax misinformation to unvaccinated Uganda. Its tagline? “Revealed: US Christian legal organisation and a Texas-based think tank are among those promoting anti-lockdown and vaccine hesitancy messages in Uganda”.
Why is the fact that the think tank behind spreading these messages is based in Texas? Here’s why. The think tank spreading misinformation about “lockdowns,” vaccines, and masks is the Brownstone Institute. I’ll start by revisiting the Great Barrington Declaration and the birth of the Brownstone Institute. I hope that my narrative leads you to see that it wasn’t a matter if the Great Barrington Declaration signatories and the think tanks behind them would start drifting into standard antivaccine territory, but when."