I’ve been meaning to revisit the Great Barrington Declaration, its authors, and the new right wing “institute” promoting it. 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. The reason is that, increasingly, Great Barrington Declaration-associated groups and scientists have been letting their antivaccine freak flag fly high.
Given the obvious libertarianism and right wing politics rather than science behind this Declaration, 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 isn’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 recent 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, which I’ve discussed before. (Longtime readers who remember past posts on these topics can skip sections that are repetitive, but I like making it easy for new readers not to have to click on a lot of links.) 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.
The influence of the Great Barrington Declaration thus far
The Great Barrington Declaration was the product of a long weekend retreat held in early October 2020 in Great Barrington, MA at the headquarters of the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), the free market right wing/libertarian think tank from which the Brownstone Institute spun off. It’s worth recounting first just how influential the Great Barrington Declaration has been and how this conference came about, because both of these bits of history help illustrate how the Great Barrington Declaration is astroturf.
First, this is how influential the Declaration has been (full disclosure, I was co-author of this article):
The GBD influenced covid-19 policy on both sides of the Atlantic. According to the Sunday Times, in September 2020, Gupta, along with Oxford University’s Carl Heneghan and Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, advised UK prime minister Boris Johnson not to institute a national “circuit breaker” lockdown to forestall a predicted second wave, persuading him to delay. Details of this meeting, and of the opposition to a circuit breaker by Gupta and Heneghan, were described by Dominic Cummings in his testimony to members of parliament on 26 May 2021. However, Gupta and Heneghan dispute Cummings’s recollection of the meeting and have provided written evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee detailing their version of events. They deny Cummings’ claim that they said that there was already herd immunity in the population and that there would be no second wave. Their written evidence suggests that they discussed the need for a strategy to control covid, while minimising societal disruption. Johnson’s “delay in imposing national restrictions,” argues Alan McNally, professor of microbial genomics at the University of Birmingham, “resulted in an estimated 1.3 million extra covid infections.” Gupta also kept Georg von Opel apprised of her efforts: in April 2020, after a television appearance on a Channel 4 debate called “Can Science beat the Virus?”, she wrote an email to von Opel obtained by Open Democracy under Freedom of Information legislation, “I tried to make the point even more strongly that we cannot just consider the question of lifting lockdown in the single dimension of what it will do to the pandemic, but they [Channel 4 news] have cut it down dramatically.”
In October 2020, Gupta, Kulldorff, and Bhattacharya met with two of US President Donald Trump’s senior health officials, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Scott Atlas. Atlas was at the time on leave from his fellowship at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank affiliated with Stanford University. The meeting reportedly led the administration to eagerly embrace the GBD. Nor did the GBD authors limit their efforts to national governments. For example, in March 2021 Florida Governor Ron DeSantis hosted a video roundtable with Atlas, Gupta, Kulldorff, and Bhattacharya, where they expressedopposition to masks, testing and tracing, physical distancing, and mass vaccination. YouTube removed the video “because it included content that contradicts the consensus of local and global health authorities regarding the efficacy of masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19.” GBD authors, predictably, cried, “Censorship!” Bhattacharya continues to advise Governor DeSantis on Florida’s covid-19 policies, including providing legal testimony in support of DeSantis’s ban on mask mandates in public schools.
More recently, physicians supportive of the Great Barrington Declaration have achieved positions of influence that would allow them to implement their policies. For example, a few months ago, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appointed Dr. Joseph Ladapo, a member of the COVID-19 minimizing, ivermectin-promoting America’s Frontline Doctors, as Florida’s Surgeon General and head of the state’s Department of Health. Predictably, Dr. Ladapo immediately began dismantling the puny remains of Florida’s pandemic response by implementing policies based on “natural herd immunity“.
Even more recently, recently elected Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin appointed Dr. Marty Makary to chair his medical advisory team. Regular readers will recall that Dr. Makary is a surgical oncologist at Johns Hopkins who first came to my notice six years ago for his innumerate and poorly supported claim that medical errors are the “third leading cause of death” in the US. More recently, he has been using similarly incorrect numbers to prematurely declare the pandemic “over” and referring to the masking of children as “abusive”, while making the false claim that masks are “vectors for pathogens“. He used these sorts of arguments to promote a “herd immunity” approach to the pandemic, even after having made the risible claim (even then) nearly a year ago that we would have “herd immunity by April“. It was a prediction that Makary used to as a basis to propose very Great Barrington Declaration-like policies involving the loosening COVID-19 restrictions. (Eleven months later, how’d that prediction work out? Maybe Dr. Makary really meant April 2022. Oh, wait…) Now he’s in charge of the advisory committee guiding Virginia’s COVID-19 response. This will not end well.
Before I move on to the current activities of Great Barrington Declaration-associated scientists and groups, let’s first discuss how the Declaration came about.
The birth of the Great Barrington Declaration
The conference that led to the drafting of the Great Barrington Declaration, it turns out, was a spur-of-the-moment affair. It came about through a combination of behind-the-scenes recruitment by AIER leaders combined with a fortuitous (for AIER) discovery of a scientist who enthusiastically agreed with them. I first looked into the origins of the Great Barrington Declaration after seeing its authors complain about the article I cited above:
That was Dr. Jay Bhattacharya sharing a Spectator article by Martin Kulldorff (who, spoiler alert, was AIER’s first recruit of the three signatories). In the article, Kulldorff tries to deny being the tool of a right wing think tank and even invokes the Galileo gambit and fantasy of future vindication. Let’s start, though, by looking at what AIER itself said about the conference that resulted in the Great Barrington Declaration:
First, though, let’s look at what AIER itself said:
From October 1-4, 2020, the American Institute for Economic Research hosted a remarkable meeting of top epidemiologists, economists, and journalists, to discuss the global emergency created by the unprecedented use of state compulsion in the management of the Covid-19 pandemic. The result is The Great Barrington Declaration, which urges a “Focused Protection” strategy.
As I like to say, sure, they were there just for “media interviews”. From the AIER description, it sure sounds as though it was more than just that. One might speculate that the Great Barrington Declaration was a hoped-for outcome of the meeting, its protestations otherwise notwithstanding:
The AIER staff did not even know about the Declaration until the day before it was signed, and the AIER president and board did not know about it until after publication.
Unfortunately for Kulldorff, Jeffrey Tucker, “founder of the Brownstone Institute and an independent editorial consultant who served as Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research”, was, as the famous song from the Broadway musical Hamilton goes, in the “room where it happened,” as he stated at around 5:15 in this episode of the official podcast of the John Locke Foundation posted to YouTube only a week after the confab at the AIER headquarters that led to the Great Barrington Declaration:
I can’t resist transcribing what Tucker said about the Great Barrington Declaration soon after it had been issued and his role in its drafting, given that it’s contemporaneous and before all the mythology AIER built up around it:
I was there while it [the Great Barrington Declaration] was being drafted. I was very moved. I made a couple of suggestions here and there.
Remember, in 2020 Tucker the editorial director of AIER. He was in charge of its entire messaging apparatus. Earlier in the video, he also characterized the process of writing the Great Barrington Declaration this way:
Scientists—most scientists—are not political people. They’re in science and epidemiology and public health because they want to help people and minimize the social damage of infectious diseases and pathogens. They’re scientific people, not political people. Unfortunately, because of lockdowns, suddenly infectious disease became highly political. It never should have happened, but it happened, and they found themselves in awkward positions.
So after months and months some of them began to speak out. I noticed in particular Martin Kulldorff, and then also I noticed Sunetra Gupta, who’s a godlike figure in epidemiology, and also Jay Bhattacharya, who’s similarly a highly credentialed MD/PhD at Stanford. Sunetra is over at Oxford and Kulldorff is at Harvard. I noticed that they started to speak out a little bit. I began to feel bad for Martin because I thought that it must be a lonely life over at Harvard being against lockdowns, and he was taking a risk to his career speaking out this way. I quickly dropped him a Twitter notice, “We’ve got a nice place, why don’t you come and visit here?” We’re a few hours away. We’ll feed you well and relax a bit, and he wrote me back, “OK.”
So when I realized that Kulldorff was coming, I dropped a note to an attorney in New Jersey, Stacey Rudin, and then another one in New York who had become anti-lockdown…and said, “Listen, Martin Kulldorff is coming. Why don’t you join?” So they all came here. We had no agenda whatsoever. We went out to the cider mills, enjoyed each other’s company, got to know each other, because he had lost all of his old friends, you know….So we just had a really lovely weekend.
Besides having written a number of articles for AIER, Rudin is the one who likened lockdowns to “slavery” and the AIER and other “anti-lockdown” activists to “abolitionists.” Check out her Twitter feed if you want to get an idea of the crankery she regularly displays, although this should give you an idea. I found these on Saturday, their having been Tweeted out earlier in the day:
Brownstone flack Rudin aside, after Kulldorff went back home to Boston, having spent a weekend hanging out with Tucker, Rudin, and other AIER luminaries and hangers-on, he emailed Tucker, as Tucker describes:
Well, within about ten days, he wrote me back and said: I have an idea. Let’s bring some high end journalists from around the country. We can meet at your place, and then I’ll get Jay Bhattacharya flown in from Stanford and then I’ll get Sunetra Gupta from Oxford. Well, I was nonplussed, thinking, “That sounds…interesting. When do you propose to do this, because we can’t do it until the 31st of October?”
He said, “No, we’re going to do it this weekend.” He said, “We can’t wait until the 31st, the crisis is too bad.”
So the next thing you know, we had all these people here, and we scrambled to get the recordings right. We didn’t have a big agenda, but we held a question-answer session. We taped a few interviews and that sort of thing, and they wrote the declaration and released it. We built and released the website in 18 hours (something like that), and it was all kind of crazy and wonderful.
This account explains this observation:
Let me remind you again what Jeffrey Tucker’s job was at AIER at the time, as described by AIER President Edward Stringham himself:
Jeffrey will join me and colleagues to expand the influence of AIER, an illustrious institution founded in 1933 by MIT professor E.C. Harwood (1900–1980). AIER became the first market-oriented research institution in the world, inspiring the creation of many more and giving the liberal movement the boost it needed. An early contributor to what is now referred to as the Austrian theory of the business cycle, Harwood warned about the coming stock market crash that came in 1929, and the ill-effects of monetary expansion and devaluation on human wellbeing. He was friends with Henry Hazlitt and F.A. Hayek and his work helped shape the free-market thinking in the United States.
With the hiring of Jeffrey, I feel confident that AIER will take that necessary next steps in expanding our impact to help promoting economic knowledge in America and beyond. Thanks to his joining our team, we are honored and very excited for the future.
There’s no doubt that, through his role in facilitating and publicizing the Great Barrington declaration, Tucker succeeded beyond Stringham’s wildest expectations in expanding the impact of the AIER and its influence among governments with similar political alignments.
Mythologizing of the Great Barrington Declaration aside, the story that I perceived was that Kulldorff, at least, was an enthusiastic participant, if not the instigator of the Great Barrington Declaration. If Tucker’s contemporaneous account is to be believed, AIER reached out to Kulldorff and invited him for a weekend at AIER to be wined and dined while hanging out with like-minded anti-lockdown activists. Kulldorff, perceiving that he’d finally found his people, signed on enthusiastically to AIER’s mission and then brought on board Bhattacharya and Gupta to help him and the AIER promote its anti-lockdown message, crafting, with Tucker’s help, a very effective propaganda tool.
That propaganda tool was the Great Barrington Declaration.
The birth of the Brownstone Institute
Two months ago, it was announced that Kulldorff had resigned his tenured faculty position as professor at Harvard University in order to join an institute formed last year called the Brownstone Institute as Senior Scientific Director:
The Brownstone Institute is pleased to announce that Dr. Martin Kulldorff is joining our institute as Senior Scientific Director. Having served as a professor at Harvard Medical School for the past ten years, he will guide the scientific activities of the Institute, particularly as it relates to the pandemic and the needed public health recovery and reform so that no country will repeat the terrible errors of 2020-21.
Professor Kulldorff’s position at Brownstone begins on November 1, 2021.
“We cannot overstate the excitement we feel about Kulldorff’s deep involvement with our work,” says Brownstone Institute founder and president Jeffrey Tucker. “He brings rigor, focus, and true brilliance, and his position portends great things for us as an institution.”
The Brownstone Institute was founded in 2021 to respond to this crisis with research, publishing, education, and other programs intended as a guiding light out of the crisis.
But what is the Brownstone Institute? In brief, it was founded by the aforementioned Jeffery Tucker last May. Unsurprisingly, Tucker strenuously denies that AIER had any involvement in the founding of the new institute, claiming that AIER “in no way sponsored or backed Brownstone,” but rather Brownstone really is “the child of [his] own obsession” and that Brownstone aims to publish content that represents all political backgrounds, perspectives, and ideologies. Amusingly, though, if you search the mailing address for Brownstone, it resolves to Scan Mailboxes, in Austin, TX. The Brownstone Institute, as yet it appears, has no physical address other than a mail drop.
Consistent with its founder’s politics, the website describes the Brownstone Institute as the “spiritual child” of the Great Barrington Declaration:
The mission of the Brownstone Institute – which is, in many ways, the spiritual child of the Great Barrington Declaration – is constructively to come to terms with what happened, understand why, discover and explain alternative paths, and prevent such events from happening again. Lockdowns have set a precedent in the modern world and without accountability, social and economic institutions will be shattered once again. Brownstone Institute is essential in preventing the recurrence of lockdowns by holding decision makers intellectually to account. In addition, the Brownstone Institute hopes to shed light on a path to recovery from the devastating collateral damage, while providing a vision for a different way to think about freedom, security, and public life.
Brownstone Institute looks to influence a post-lockdown world by generating new ideas in public health, scientific discourse, economics, and social theory. It hopes to enlighten and mobilize public life to defend and promote the liberty that is critical for an enlightened society from which everyone benefits. The purpose is to point the way toward a better understanding of essential freedoms – including intellectual freedom and free speech – and the proper means to preserve essential rights even in times of crisis.
You can see from this that the Brownstone Institute is primarily a political and, indeed, mostly aligned with the right, its denials notwithstanding:
Our content is neither left nor right, though our contributors have their own views. As an institution, Brownstone celebrates democratic institutions, freedom as the path to scientific progress, a trustworthy system of public health, a vibrant culture, and economic prosperity. We also share a concern for all members of society, including the poor and the working class. In accordance with these ideals, we publish a wide variety of perspectives and viewpoints, including contradictory views by different authors.
Let’s just say that I’ve long perused the Brownstone Institute’s list of articles, and they are depressingly similar in their message, be it promoting disproven treatments like hydroxychloroquine (the promotion of which first brought America’s Frontline Doctors to prominence in 2020) and ivermectin, deceptive promotion of “natural immunity” as a way out of the pandemic, more false descriptions of masking children as “abusive“, a hilariously and dramatically overblown article by Stacey Rudin titled “The Monumental Sacrifice of Novak Djokovic” (the tennis player barred from Australia for being unvaccinated), articles credulously touting the “lab leak” conspiracy theory, and articles arguing that COVID-19 vaccines aren’t working and against vaccinating children. There’s even an article that compared vaccine mandates to the sort of “othering” of minority populations that led to the crimes of the Soviet gulag, the Holocaust, Jim Crow, Rwanda. This, of course, is a common blatantly antivaccine narrative going back, well, as long as I’ve been paying attention to the antivaccine movement.
More recently, Drs. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff are promoting COVID-19 misinformation claiming that “natural immunity” undercuts the case for vaccine mandates; vaccine mandates for healthcare workers harm patients; vaccine mandates are destroying labor markets and hospitals; Fauci was wrong about school closures; and Fauci oversold masks and undersold better ventilation. These claims are all at best deceptive and at worst false. Unsurprisingly, in addition to Kulldorff, the other two signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration, Jay Bhattacharya and Sunetra Gupta, are regular contributors to the Brownstone Institute, along with some of the doctors who spoke at the Defeat the Mandates rally in Washington, DC a week ago (the one where Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. compared vaccine mandates to Nazi Germany and Anne Frank’s persecution), such as Aaron Kheriaty, Paul Alexander (he of “we want them infected” fame), and Pierre Kory. Indeed, yesterday, Brownstone Institute flacks were posting glowing articles praising the protesters as the “rise of the resistance,” with Jeffrey Tucker himself beside himself likening vaccine mandates as “segregation” as he begged for donations, and Clayton Fox gushing about a “coalition of medical doctors and PhD’s all heavily credentialed in their fields” that included Peter McCullough, Pierre Kory, Paul Marik, and Robert Malone, while marveling at Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. while (sort of) conceding that some of the speakers were antivaccine.
Also, no surprise, Vinay Prasad and Peter Doshi have contributed, as well. One wonders how long it will be before Brownstone commissions an article by RFK Jr. himself, you know, in order to show that they are accepting of voices from the “left” (RFK Jr. isn’t really “left wing” any more) as well, as long as those voices agree with the right-wing, anti-lockdown, anti-(vaccine)mandate voices that make up 100% of Brownstone’s output.
Given this history, the activities of the Brownstone Institute in Uganda should come as no surprise.
Promoting anti-public health misinformation in poor countries: A common antivax theme
US Christian legal organisation Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Texas-based libertarian think tank the Brownstone Institute are among the organisations backing Uganda’s ‘End Lockdown Now’ campaign.
End Lockdown Now has platformed anti-vax, anti-mask, anti-lockdown and pandemic-denying arguments, with journalists and scientists from Europe and Australia among those spreading misinformation to Ugandans at the group’s online events. One such event was hosted by ADF.
Just 5% of Uganda’s population is fully vaccinated, with the country on the cusp of reopening after one of the world’s longest and toughest lockdowns. Last week the virus was the number two cause of death in the country.
End Lockdown Now was launched in June by Ugandan lawyer and preacher Simon Ssenyonga, It has platformed arguments for the use of ivermectin, an unproven treatment for the virus, and a recent Facebook post shared by the campaign claims that PCR testing is not a valid way to detect COVID. Ssenyonga insists his organisation is “not a misinformation campaign” and says it does not “propagate” the use of ivermectin.
Brownstone Institute founder Jeffrey Tucker, who made the “natural immunity” claim, also stated falsely at the same event that COVID-19 vaccines were “a technology that’s not been proven as safe and effective”.
But wait! I thought that Tucker and Brownstone were “provaccine”! He even says so when contacted by the journalists:
Asked for comment, Tucker said: “Though neither scientist nor doctor, I am a fan of vaccines for those who will benefit from them and the Brownstone Institute has published articles favouring vaccination against COVID. Lockdowns are the worst assault on the poor, working-class communities and small businesses all over the world.”
I searched the Brownstone Institute for such articles in all its articles tagged with “vaccines“. I can’t help but wonder if Tucker meant articles like the one about the “monumental sacrifice of Novak Djokovic,” the one lamenting the “defenstration of Dr. Robert Malone” (who, recall, has gone full antivax lately and was a headliner at a recent antivax confab), the one portraying the “denial” of “natural immunity” as “psychological cruelty” (by Tucker himself!), or the one touting “146 studies” that prove “natural immunity” is better than vaccine-induced immunity (they don’t). Maybe he meant Vaccines Save Lives, which, despite its title, is chock full of antivax omissions, factual errors, and flaws in logic, as recounted by Jonathan Howard, or maybe the concession in an article about COVID-19 that it “would appear that vaccination is protective of severe disease” that attributed strokes and cardiac deaths to the vaccine while arguing that masks don’t work.
Unsurprisingly, Ssenyonga is very much antivaccine, as a quick search of his Twitter feed showed me:
While referring to vaccine mandates as “medical tyranny”:
So it’s unsurprising that Brownstone-affiliated academics are a favorite of End Lockdown Now events:
Writers attached to Tucker’s Brownstone Institute have been a common thread through many of the online events for End Lockdown Now. At one event, Netherlands-based immunologist Carla Peeters said she believed COIVID-19 had already entered its “endemic” stage, meaning it was no longer a pandemic. She also claimed masks do not prevent transmission and that the virus is “not that dangerous for younger people”.
Gigi Foster, another Brownstone author and professor with the School of Economics at the University of New South Wales, Australia, claimed at another event that lockdowns are “the wrong thing for public health” and said politicians around the world are “facing personal incentives to keep the narrative going”.
Nothing like a variation on the “pharma shill gambit” to convince me that this isn’t a conspiracy theory! Pray, continue, though:
A number of key players at the Brownstone Institute, including Tucker himself, were involved in writing the Great Barrington Declaration – an online statement promoting ‘herd immunity‘ through mass infection approach to the pandemic, a strategy criticised as “unethical” by the World Health Organization.
“We thought that the Barrington Declaration offered something which was reasonable, something which was based on science,” said Ssenyonga, adding that the authors’ credentials made him “even more critical” of government COVID-19 mandates.
Add to that the natural suspicion people of color and people in less wealthy countries have of European countries and the US based on their historical experience with imperialism, and it’s no wonder that the Brownstone Institute found a receptive audience in Uganda.
Brownstone Institute: Same as it ever was
Antivaxxers have a long and horrible history of trying to export their message to minorities and poor nations, populations where antivaccine messaging can do the most harm. I first started discussing this unfortunate tactic many years ago, when antivaxxers targeted the Somalian immigrant community in Minnesota with Andrew Wakefield’s message that the MMR vaccine causes autism (with Wakefield himself appearing there at least once), resulting in years and years of intermittent measles outbreaks. In 2019, mere months before the pandemic hit, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and other antivaxxers targeted Samoa, which at the time was in the middle of one of the worst measles outbreaks imaginable, with dozens of deaths. The misinformation about MMR and measles spread by RFK Jr. and his acolytes (including a letter by RFK Jr. himself to the Samoan Prime Minister mere weeks before the outbreak of a novel coronavirus disease in Wuhan, China started making the news) hampered vaccination campaigns for months.
Here in the US, these efforts take the form of targeting minorities, particularly communities of color, to spread conspiracy theories about vaccines, using examples of medical atrocities from history like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, to stoke the fear and mistrust that lead to vaccine hesitancy in these communities. How is what Brownstone Institute-associated people are doing in Uganda by appearing at local events virtually any different than these previous efforts to stoke vaccine hesitancy? It isn’t, other than being virtual appearances, rather than the in-person appearances that antivaxxers made in, for example, Minnesota.
Deny it as much as Jeffrey Tucker might, the Brownstone Institute has tilted decisively in the direction of spreading antivaccine misinformation. If there was ever any doubt, seeing Suntra Gupta herself argue two months ago that the way out of the pandemic was “natural herd immunity” through “repeated infection” with different strains of COVID-19 and “our long history of previous exposure to seasonal coronaviruses may well have protected many of us from severe Covid-19”. (Ironically, she didn’t mention Omicron, which at the time was preparing to take off in the US and globally, thanks to its increased transmissibility compared to Delta and its ability to evade previous immunity, both vaccine-induced and “natural.”) I knew, even fifteen months ago, that the Great Barrington Declaration signatories and everyone associated with that misbegotten piece of astroturf were going to go this way.
Sadly, given how influential this dangerous advocacy of eugenics has been, it’s hard not to conclude that the Great Barrington Declaration signatories and think tanks have won. Oddly enough, though, they refuse to take credit for millions of infected children and young adults that resulted from their influence in the US and Europe and are trying to export their “success” to poor African countries. Ideology is a powerful drug.