Antivaccine nonsense Medicine Politics Popular culture

Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff want to hold “lockdowners” accountable

Great Barrington Declaration author Dr. Jay Bhattacharya claimed that the pandemic was over and “regular people” will hold “them” accountable, while coauthor Martin Kulldorff Tweeted an article with an image of a guillotine. Do they know that calls for “justice” like this echo an old and very dark antivax fantasy?

I’ve been writing about the violent rhetoric coming from the antivaccine movement for many years now. One strain of such rhetoric has been the call for Nuremberg-style tribunals for physicians, public health officials, and politicians advocating science-based mitigations against COVID-19, such as mask and vaccine mandates, for their “crimes,” to the point that I even coined a term for this antivax trope, the “Nuremberg gambit.” With disturbing frequency, too, along with this call for “Nuremberg 2.0” there is often the implication (or the outright statement) that the “justice” or “accountability” meted out after these tribunals will include hanging, just as some of the doctors convicted at the Nuremberg Doctors’ Trial were hanged for their crimes. There are even a number of hashtags on Twitter for the idea—although it can get confusing because in some of them calls for “Nuremberg 2.0” are mixed with calls for a war crimes tribunal for Vladimir Putin for his invasion of Ukraine—some quite threatening sounding, such as #NurembergCode, #NurembergTribunal, #Nuremberg2, #NurembergTrialsForCovid, and #Nuremberg2ticktock, among others. Unfortunately, sanitized versions of what was once a sentiment restricted to the deepest, darkest, most bonkers antivax underground are appearing from people like Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) author Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, who, fresh off his having parroted other old antivax talking points, recently Tweeted this:

See what I mean by “sanitized”? There’s no call for hanging (just holding people “accountable”), but this echoes an old antivax trope, as I will demonstrate.

As you will see, Dr. Bhattacharya’s GBD coauthor Martin Kulldorff goes even further. First, though, let’s deal with what Dr. Bhattacharya Tweeted and show why it echoes an old antivax trope, a fantasy of “justice”—in reality retribution”—against vaccine advocates and public health officials. I’ll deal with one concern right out of the box.

But, wait! you say, Dr. Bhattacharya isn’t calling for blood. He isn’t demanding that we “string the bastards up” or horsewhip vaccine advocates, as I have seen—for instance—antivaxxers and anti-GMO cranks and quacks do going back nearly 20 years. True enough. Notice how Dr. Bhattacharya cleverly phrased his observation as a prediction that “they” (i.e., “regular people,” working-class, poor, etc.)—not he—will demand that “justice” be meted out to government public health officials and public health scientists and advocates who lobbied for mask and vaccine mandates and “lockdowns.” It’s an example of plausible deniability. I say this because I bet that Dr. Bhattacharya is well aware of calls for “justice” directed against public health officials coming from his supporters, and by phrasing his Tweet as an observation, he can then say, “No, I didn’t call for a ‘Nuremberg 2.0.’ I just observed that the people will demand it.” It also echoes his not infrequent claim that it was the “laptop class” who demanded punishing “lockdowns” that barely effected them but disproportionately affected the poor and working class, who will, of course, naturally want justice.

Also, he likes to use imagery of war:

I also find Dr. Bhattacharya’s choice of historical event rather…curious.

As an aside, let me just observe that Dr. Bhattacharya’s frequent invocation of the “laptop class” as COVID-19 bogeymen unconcerned about the harms their interventions were causing always struck me as a combination of a straw man so enormous that if set on fire it could be seen from space plus breathtaking hypocrisy. After all, no public health official advocating business closures and shelter-in-place orders early in the pandemic denied potential harms. (It’s not their fault that governments didn’t adequately support those whose livelihoods were impacted by such orders.) moreover, Dr. Bhattacharya himself is most definitely part of the “laptop class.” Although he is an MD, he’s a Stanford University academic and researcher, not a clinician. He never did a residency and, as far as I can tell, never practiced clinical medicine after medical school, which means that he has never treated a COVID-19 patient, nor has he struggled (for example) to provide care to cancer patients (as I have), due to the effects of the pandemic overwhelming hospitals and, now, due to severe staffing shortages now affecting my hospitals and many others. He could easily do most of his work from home, and I’d be willing to bet that in 2020 and much of 2021 he did.

Yet, having been ensconced in his ivory tower and home office, in October 2020 he joined his fellow GBD authors Martin Kulldorff (then a professor at Harvard) and Sunetra Gupta (a professor at Oxford) at the headquarters of the libertarian “free market” think tank American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) for a confab with like-minded AIER officials, reporters, and scientists to discuss a “natural herd immunity” approach to the pandemic, ending “lockdowns,” and using “focused protection” for the elderly and those at high risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19. The result was the GBD, which advocated a “natural herd immunity” approach to the pandemic, ending “lockdowns,” and using “focused protection” for the elderly and those at high risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19.

I’ve written before a number of times about how the GBD is a campaign that has always been far more about ideology than science and is more what we in the skeptics biz call “magnified minority” of the sort long used by science denying cranks of all varieties, including creationists, HIV/AIDS denialists, and antivaxxers. The idea is to write a statement denying some aspect of science and to get a bunch of what appear to be “experts” to sign it. Nearly always, the vast majority of the “experts” who sign such documents are not really experts at all, but they appear to be to the general public. Moreover the GBD originated in ideology from the new merchants of doubt, not science, and the GBD’s “focused protection” was never really a viable strategy—a great argument why can be found here, with a good recounting of why the GBD was more of a branding campaign than a serious proposal here—but rather cover for opposing collective action to slow the spread of COVID-19 using a seemingly scientific rationale that “natural herd immunity” would be reached faster that way. I always ask now: How’d that work out, with Delta and Omicron?)

Before moving on, I will warn you that this post contains a lot of embedded Tweets. I realize that some of my regular readers don’t like this, but I also realize that some might think I’m exaggerating if I don’t provide lots of documentation. So I will.

Kicking up the retribution fantasy a notch above Dr. Bhattacharya’s

Back to the fantasy of retribution. Just yesterday morning, I saw this from a certain art dealer who somehow has managed to rebrand himself as a COVID-19 expert, even as he deludes himself that he knows more than the experts and has been correct far more often than they have, Eli Klein:
It’s OK to laugh at the typo, given who made the error.

Leaving aside the most feared typo on earth when you meant to write the word “public” (which, admittedly, led to some fairly hilarious responses about “pubic trials”), Mr. Klein is kicking it up a notch from Dr. Bhattacharya’s more plausibly deniable Tweet, calling for public trials of “experts” over the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But wait, Orac! you say. Klein isn’t calling for public hangings! True enough, at least explicitly. Implicitly, however, his followers certainly got the hint without any help:

Right off the bat, Klein’s followers heard the dog whistle!
Hearing the dog whistle, Klein’s followers want to inflict maximal cruelty on their perceived “enemies.”
And, of course, making this fool wear a mask must be a hanging offense.

Elsewhere on Twitter:
A lot of right wing politicians have been echoing this old antivax fantasy of putting vaccine and public health advocates on trial, too.
“We are going to need a LOT of rope?” I wonder what he means by that…
This one’s from last summer. Hmmm. Which antivaxxer about whom I’ve written a number of times over the years lives in Maine?

Let’s not forget, too, that it’s not just doctors who are being targeted with calls for “Nuremberg 2.0.” In January’s “Defeat the Mandates” rally, antivax leader Del Bigtree was calling to expand “Nuremberg 2.0” to the press as well:

Attacking the lügenpresse (“lying press,” as Adolf Hitler frequently called the press) has been a favorite fascist message and tactic going back as long as there’s been such a thing as fascism. Just sayin’.

After all that hate—and, believe me, I could have posted ten times the number of Tweets advocating variations on the same theme—here’s a humorous little chaser for you (hopefully) to chuckle over before I move on to discussing the history of this trope:

I concede that making fun of Eli Klein based on his “pubic” typo is a cheap shot but argue that it’s a very justifiable cheap shot.

As I’ve written many times before, the message that “they” will be held “accountable” that Dr. Bhattacharya is promoting is an obvious echo of a longstanding antivaccine trope that public health officials will be somehow held accountable for the “harms” done by their vaccination program. Again, I’m sure that, should he see this post, he will whine to high heaven that he was not advocating killing “lockdowners” or mask and vaccine mandate advocates, and I’m sure he probably wasn’t. He might even claim that he wasn’t even advocating a “Nuremberg 2.0” tribunal for them at all, merely observing that “they” (the “people”) would. If it is true that that’s not what he intended by his statement, then, after his education bout this trope, I would expect that, at the minimum, he will never make such a statement again. Better would be for him to apologize and delete the Tweet. I predict that he will do neither.

At least I haven’t yet been able to find any examples of Sunetra Gupta writing something similar. So there’s that.

Echos of “String the bastards up!”

Let’s get back to the history of this “Nuremberg 2.0” or “tribunal” trope, at least from when I first started encountering it. When I first started blogging, that “harm” was supposedly autism‚—at least, then the most common antivaccine claim was that vaccines cause autism—but also included mental retardation, autoimmune diseases, neurologic injury and death. Indeed, the “Nuremberg gambit” is so hoary that two of the founders of the modern day antivaccine movement, Andrew Wakefield and Barbara Loe Fisher, have invoked it going back to long before the pandemic:

During her talk, Barbara Loe Fisher, the grande dame of the American anti-vaccine movement, explained how vaccines are a “de facto selection of the genetically vulnerable for sacrifice” and said that doctors who administer vaccines are the moral equivalent of “the doctors tried at Nuremberg.” (That parallel, she said, had been pointed out to her by Andrew Wakefield, in whose honor the 2009 conference was held.)

Interestingly, one of the earlier versions of this trope came from Mark Sircus, whom I wrote about just this Monday for his promotion of MMS (a.k.a. bleach) to treat COVID-19 and cancer. In 2011, Sircus wrote a post for his blog (now gone and this post only archived at the Wayback Machine) entitled String the Bastards Up. As it’s been a while since I last quoted Sircus’ rant, I’ll take the liberty of doing so again, and at greater length than I did the last time:

In general I am against the death penalty as I am against killing of any kind. Though the Bible sanctions death and killing, it is clearly against murder and the taking of innocent life. We could argue all day about what some people clearly seem to deserve and we could argue about the legitimacy of many things from the Old Testament or anything else written that the elites of the world have had their dirty fingers in.

For all those who are for the death penalty, my message will be clear. I am calling for the conviction and the worst possible punishment under the law for certain people in government who are in the medical field. There seems to be no limit to what our present society will accept. We are letting the bankers and the shysters on Wall Street destroy western civilization, allowing them the fattest paychecks on earth as a reward. And we are letting doctors in white coats inject poisonous heavy metals into babies and paying them well for it.

They say there is a sucker born every minute but I think things have gotten out of hand. Before I go into detail about what has been clear to many of us for years I want to bring the image of the case of a monster who commits mass murder and torments children and their parents. In this case we have a group of them who deserve to be lynched and they work for the federal government at the Centers of Disease Control (CDC).

Most people would have no contention with lining up mass tormentors of children against a wall with the punishment of life imprisonment in solitary confinement. It certainly looks like we have solid evidence that there are people who have conspired to mislead doctors so they continue to inject highly dangerous chemicals into children.

Sound familiar? Sircus starts out by saying he’s normally against killing of any kind, but he views “them” as so evil and guilty of such atrocities that he’s willing to make an exception just for them, because he views them as uniquely deserving of a horrible death.

As do some of the commenters, such as “Joyce”:

I agree with Dr. Sircus, but we need to identify the bastards to be strung up and to do that we have to go far above or behind the CDC, Monsanto, WHO, the FDA to find who the one world global government, aka the new world order “elitists” are because they are the ones giving the orders their brainwashed puppets are following.

Same as it ever was. This was 11 years ago. The rhetoric is only worse now.

From hanging to the guillotine?

With the background that I discussed in mind, let’s move on to take a look at what Dr. Bhattacharya’s GBD coauthor Dr. Kulldorff has been saying lately:

You know who else used the guillotine as a method of execution besides le tribunal révolutionnaire during the Reign of Terror? The Nazi regime in Germany! No, seriously, look it up if you don’t believe me. Members of the White Rose resistance group, for example, were executed by guillotine after show trials. Just sayin’.

Note added 7/2023: Brownstone apparently had enough shame to change the image associated with that article to something a lot more benign. Here’s a screenshot of the original which was swapped out for the much more benign image above sometime between March 29, 2023 and April 7, 2023:

The Internet is forever, Mr. Tucker. Also, thanks, almighty Wayback Machine, for letting me pin down approximately when Brownstone tried to gaslight us.

As hard as it might have been a couple of years ago to believe that he might do such a thing, a few months ago Dr. Kuldorff did indeed Tweet out an article from the Brownstone Institute’s founder Jeffery Tucker asking who will be held responsible. Lest you fail to see the subtext, Tucker even includes an image of a guillotine! (I’ll just take this opportunity to remind people that Tucker, as the editorial director of AIER in 2020, was in the “room where it happened” as the GBD was being drafted and then later founded the Brownstone Institute as the “spiritual child of the GBD.”)

Here’s another image of the tribunal révolutionnaire (Revolutionary Tribunal) that sentenced so many to the guillotine during the Reign of Terror, just to remind you of what images of the guillotine in the context of lamenting that no one will be held “accountable” for COVID-19 “lockdowns” imply.

This development did not escape some snark:

Indeed. In November, Kulldorff announced that he was leaving Harvard in order to become the scientific director at the Brownstone Institute. In that role, Dr. Kulldorff, apparently sees no problem with his new bosses including such imagery in a post about holding “them” accountable or the historical association of the guillotine with executions during Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. By Tweeting a link to the article above, he also appears to be enthusiastically agreeing with Mr. Tucker’s assessment, quoted here from the article:

Much of this reminds me of World War I, the “Great War.” Look up the causes. They are all amorphous. Nationalism. An assassination. Treaties. Diplomatic confusions. The Serbs. Meanwhile none of these reasons can actually account for 20 million dead, 21 million wounded, and wrecked economies and lives all over the world, to say nothing of the Great Depression and rise of Hitler that came as a result of this appalling disaster. 

Despite investigations, countless books, public hearings, and public fury that lasted a decade or more after the Great War, there never was anyone who accepted responsibility. We saw a repeat of the same following the Iraq War. Is there any record of anyone who said “I made the decision and I was wrong”?

So it might be for the lockdowns and mandates of 2020 and 2021. The carnage is unspeakable and will last a generation or two or more. Meanwhile, the people responsible are slowly slipping out of public life, finding new jobs and sanitizing their hands of any responsibility. They are scrubbing resumes and, when asked, blaming anyone and everyone else but themselves. 

This is the moment in which we find ourselves: a ruling class terrified of being found out, called out, and held accountable, and therefore incentivized to generate an endless series of excuses, scapegoats, and distractions (“You need another shot!”). 

Note the nod to antivaxxers, with Tucker’s reference to boosters. This is not the only time Dr. Kulldorff has expressed such views, either. For example:

Because trying to save millions of lives during a global pandemic is just like holding witch trials that resulted in the deaths of innocent women, right?

That sounds an awful lot like what Tucker has written. To conclude his piece, after adding that it is “very likely that the people who did this to us will never be held accountable” and that this likely result is “not and will not be justice or anything that even vaguely resembles justice,” Tucker then writes:

That is what history would suggest, in any case. If it is different this time and the perpetrators actually do face some consequences, it would still not make things right, but at least it would set a fabulous precedent for the future. 

I’ll just emphasize that that’s Brownstone Institute founder Jeffrey Tucker fervently hoping that things will be different this time and that “they” will actually face “some consequences” (left intentionally vague) for their “crimes,” thus setting “a fabulous precedent for the future.”

Again, Tucker will likely claim that he wasn’t calling for Anthony Fauci, for instance, to be hanged or have his head lopped off after a trial. He does, however, very much appear to be calling for something like an investigation, a trial, and punishment before all the miscreants can slink away, and thereby, like Dr. Bhattacharya, unwittingly (I hope) echoing the calls of antivaxxers going back a long time. I can’t help but ask, though: If Tucker wasn’t calling for executions, why did he and the Brownstone Institute choose a very menacing image of a guillotine? They could have chosen literally any other image, but they didn’t. They chose a view of a guillotine from beneath the lunette that emphasizes the blade coming down, a very ominous and threatening image. (It very much looks like the view of a guillotine that someone near the front of the crowd baying for blood during the Reign of Terror might have had—or the view that someone walking up the steps to be executed might have had.) If Tucker and the Brownstone Institute were really interested in portraying justice, instead of retribution, wouldn’t an image of a courtroom or a jury—or of virtually anything other than a guillotine—have been more appropriate? Did Dr. Kulldorff not even see the not-so-subtle message that such an image paired with an article like Tucker’s broadcasts?

It’s hard not to conclude that Tucker was dog whistling to the antivaccine/anti-“lockdown”/antimask crowd that does want to see executions. Certainly, some got the message, for example:

Nuremberg 2.0, Truly antimaskers and anti-“lockdowners” share much in common with antivaxxers.

Dr. Bhattacharya, of course, is a senior scientific scholar at the Brownstone Institute. Just like Dr. Kulldorff, he can’t easily disavow this sort of rhetoric either, given that he can easily leave or speak out against it if it truly offends him. Of course, Brownstone Institute is working according to a strategy: Call for reasonably “scientific debate” over the GBD, “lockdowns,” and mask and vaccine mandates while lamenting the “incivility” of GBD critics.

Meanwhile, they say they want “reasonable scientific debate”:
Yes, That’s what Drs. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff claim to want, but the Brownstone Institute using an image like a guillotine for a post like Tucker’s post gives the game away.

While using the same sort of rhetoric that antivaxxers have used as long as I’ve been paying attention to them and, I’m sure, long before:

Speaking of guillotines, as much as I hate to do it, I have to bring up Kent Heckenlively again because he’s such a good example and I like to cite him whenever this topic comes up because he provides so much background material. He’s a one man library of these sorts of old antiavccine tropes, and a good reminder that if you say anything that even sounds remotely like something Kent Heckenlively has written you rally should reexamine your life to ask how you could have gone so wrong:

There’s another image of a guillotine, and this time it dates back to 2017! As I said at the beginning, this thirst for “justice” (in actuality retribution and vengeance) against vaccine advocates is not a new phenomenon.

Heckenlively isn’t just a lone crank, either. It would be nice if he were, but he’s not, and in the age of COVID-19 he really isn’t in any way unique among. antivaxxers. For instance, there was this lovely gem of a fantasy of future victory and retribution against vaccine advocates from 2015, entitled I Will Accept Your Surrender. Heckenlively begins:

I’ve made this offer several times in the past.  I’m making it again.  I am willing to accept the surrender of those who have perverted science, harmed a generation of children, and even as of this late date are willing to harm more children so as to not to upset the balance of their lives.

Then he concludes:

And so I’m offering you a way out.  A complete and unconditional surrender.  You can’t ask what we’re going to do to you.  You’re just going to have to trust in our good graces.  Maybe sometime in the distant future your children and family might believe you had a shred of courage if you act at this very moment.  But the time for choosing is drawing near.  Choose wisely.

Note the menace. Also note that I did choose wisely and declined Mr. Heckenlively’s kind offer.

More recently, antivaxxer, quack, and all-around conspiracy theorist Mike Adams cranked up the crazy to 11, as he is always wont to do when he writes anything, and demanded the executions of scientists “who use children for covid vaccine medical experiments.

Mike Adam's violent rhetoric
Mike Adams calls for the execution of scientists for “experimenting” on children.

This was a bit far even for Adams, and he did walk it back a little:

Mike Adams walks back his violent rhetoric
Mike Adams walks back his violent rhetoric, sort of, by cutting out the word “execute” from the headline.

Adams added:

UPDATE: This article is being misconstrued. It does not call for violence. It calls for Nuremberg style trials against those researchers who are using children for medical experiments.

This article is being removed until further notice.

What have I been saying all along, though? That’s right. The call for “Nuremberg 2.0” (as in Nuremberg-style tribunals to judge vaccine advocates and public health officials) is a very old antivaccine trope. Where Adams erred was in getting too carried away and saying the quiet part out loud by calling for executions. He even issued a rare apology, kind of, in record time:

Earlier this morning, Natural News published an article calling for Nuremberg-style trials for researchers who use human children for medical experiments.

The article called for court hearings, prosecutions and punishments against those carrying out these crimes against humanity, in much the same way that Nazi war criminals were prosecuted.

The article was misconstrued as calling for violence against vaccine researchers, even though it specifically emphasized court-ordered prosecutions and punishments and additionally called for due process so that “society” could decide the punishments for those engaging in medical violence against children.

Nope. As I said at the time, Adams’ article was not “misconstrued.” It was quite clear what he was saying. He was calling for executions of scientists, but “court-ordered” executions after trials. That’s the dodge. What most people don’t know because they haven’t been following antivaxxers as long as I and others have is that it’s actually long been a recurring theme in antivaccine fantasies that pro-vaccine physicians and scientists be subjected to “Nuremberg” trials for their “crimes against humanity.” They also, apparently, don’t see how this desire for retribution is linked with even darker politics.

Consequences that Dr. Bhattacharya is likely unaware of

There are real consequences to this sort of rhetoric, too, as one scientist found out yesterday after having written about this phenomenon with respect to Drs. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff on Twitter. I can’t show you his Tweets, because he decided to delete them after a torrent of abuse and insinuations that he had an ulterior motive or wasn’t being honest, and I won’t mention his name. (Some of you no doubt know who he is.) Then another doctor also pointed out the consequences of the fantasy of future vindication coupled with the Nuremberg gambit:

I know the feeling. I’ve lost track of how many trolls have come at me with the “you’ll get what’s coming to you” and emails saying they can’t wait to see me tried for crimes against humanity. Again, this is nothing new, but it has gotten worse since the pandemic started.

I’m not alone, either. Just as antivaxxers have joined with COVID-19 minimizers, conspiracy theorists, antimaskers, anti-“lockdown” activists, and lab leak conspiracy theorists, so, too, have these other cranks started to imbibe the same old antivax fantasies of retribution and started applying them to their conspiracy theories. For instance, here’s an example from lab leak conspiracy theorists:

She’s right. That’s where it starts. Drs. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff, by echoing this antivaccine trope, are—either knowingly or unwittingly—firing up the cranks to bring out the pitchforks.

Dr. Rasmussen is correct. By their seemingly reasonable (or at least not entirely unreasonable or bonkers) calls for “accountability,” Drs. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff are, either knowingly or unwittingly, serving up dogwhistles that antivaxxers and conspiracy theorists recognize because they are very old antivax dog whistles demanding “investigations” and “tribunals” to bring “accountability” (in reality, retribution) to scientists. It’s somewhat plausible (albeit growing less so every time they say something like this) that Drs. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff are blissfully unaware of this subtext, but I find it implausible in the extreme that Jeffery Tucker and the political PR flacks at the Brownstone Institute are similarly ignorant of the implications behind this message.

In conclusion, there’s no doubt that both Mr. Tucker and Drs. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff, should they see this post, will strenuously deny that they want to execute scientists or that their statements in any way echo a “Nuremberg 2.0” narrative, and I’m not saying that I do. Moreover, I have little doubt that they believe themselves to be provaccine (not to mention oh-so-reasonable) and will automatically view construing anything they say as in any way echoing old antivaccine talking points as intellectually dishonest “guilt by association.” However, this not my first rodeo, as they say, and I’ve seen all this before. However much Mr. Tucker and Drs. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff might delude themselves otherwise, they are parroting old antivaccine narratives, and their call for “accountability” is not the first time they’ve done this.

There are only two possibilities. Either Drs. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff know that their calls for “accountability” are a watered down version of an old antivax trope that’s been sanitized, the better to provide them with plausible deniability, or they don’t. If they don’t, then they should take advantage of this education in order to learn about the history of the antivaccine movement and stop inadvertently parroting old antivaccine propaganda, just as they should stop using the argument that COVID-19 “doesn’t kill very many children” as a rationale for opposing vaccinating children, given that that is the very same bogus rationale that antivaxxers have long used to attack MMR and varicella vaccines.

Again, just as I wasn’t calling Drs. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff “antivaccine” but was instead trying to educate them that their argument that vaccinating children is inadvisable because COVID-19 “doesn’t kill healthy children” is the exactly SAME argument that antivaxxers have long used against MMR, varicella vaccine, etc., I’m not calling them “antivaccine” here, but trying to educate them that their calling for “accountability” is an obvious sanitized version of the antivaccine fantasy of future vindication (and revenge). Again, if Drs Bhattacharya and Kulldorff fail to learn and keep repeating old antivaccine tropes, then what am I supposed to conclude about them other than that either they are antivaccine or they are intentionally dog whistling to the antivaccine, anti-mask, and anti-public health ideologues? Neither is a good look for a scientist.

Remember, calls for “justice” and “accountability” echo an antivaccine fantasy about a time, sometime in the future, when they’ve been proven to have been absolutely correct all along and can now focus their attention on meting out retributive “justice” to their enemies. In its mildest form, this fantasy involves nothing worse than telling public health officials and doctors “I told you so” and shaming them into apologizing for their mistakes. In a somewhat more virulent form, this fantasy involves advocating prison for one’s perceived enemies in the public health and medical establishment. This sort of rhetoric is particularly frightening coming from someone like Dr. Paul Alexander, who was a high ranking science advisor at the Department of Health and Human Services under the Trump administration, who is now a regular contributor to the Brownstone Institute:

Dr. Paul Alexander, by the way, was, as the headline above says, a science advisor to President Trump’s HHS Secretary Alex Azar who is most known for having advocated wanting more COVID-19 infection to achieve “natural herd immunity” faster, just as the GBD advocated. He’s also a regular writer and contributor for the Brownstone Institute.

This sort of rhetoric is particularly frightening coming from someone like Dr. Alexander, who was a high ranking science advisor at the Department of Health and Human Services under the Trump administration.

In its most virulent form, which is becoming unfortunately more and more common today, this fantasy involves “justice”—really revenge—in the form of hangings and guillotines after a “Nuremberg 2.0” tribunal, as I documented with so many Tweets and quotes throughout this post.

The difference between past invocations of the fantasy of future vindication and tribunals is that these days, antivaxxers, antimaskers, and anti-“lockdowners” think that the day of reckoning has arrived. Drs. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff, as well as the Brownstone Institute flacks, should realize that they are playing with fire when they allude to “accountability” in such a vague fashion. They might not realize the dog whistles behind such calls and the potential for disaster, given the violent rhetoric of the antivaccine movement that has long included fantasies of violent retribution against vaccine advocates and doctors.

Finally, never forget this. Whenever antivaxxers call for “Nuremberg 2.0,” what they are really calling for is a new tribunal révolutionnaire. Whether Drs. Kulldorff and Bhattacharya realize it or not, when they make a similar call for “accountability,” they are echoing antivax calls for retribution, not justice, and thereby lending their previous scientific reputation to very dark rhetoric.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

99 replies on “Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff want to hold “lockdowners” accountable”

The hypocrisy is just breathtaking! To wish retribution on people trying hard to prevent mass illness and death. They and their fellow travelers have tried to maximize illness and death and feel that somehow they are not accountable for diverting people from effective measures to protect themselves and their loved ones. What percentage of the awful toll covid has taken in the US is a result of all their fanning the flames of uncertainty? Will they ever be held to account for their role? Probably not, except for in blogs like yours and SBM.

I fully support Gorski’s right to lock himself in his house until he feels safe. And your right to do so.

Those of us with lives to live will continue to live our lives.

I’m frankly surprised that an alleged oncologist has so little grasp of infection control. But that probably explains why there are so few comments here. No professional wastes time arguing with a conspiracy nut.

So you’re saying that Jay Bhattacharya, Martin Kulldorff, and Jeffrey Tucker are conspiracy nuts? Guess what? I agree!

I thought the new antivaccine commenter is a writer. That’s an at-home job, isn’t it?
Dr. Gorski is a doctor. He works with people. He and his colleagues will be there to help out new guest when he needs it, even as he works to put others at risk.

“I thought the new antivaccine commenter is a writer”

You think its the milSF author Michael Z Williamson? If so, it’s interesting that he’s willing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of people who don’t necessarily agree with him, for the benefit of himself and like minded people. A crime he usually attributes to the ‘enemy’ in his books.

Who is locking himself into his house ? People haing obviious symptoms shoul do that

I don’t know if he’s the writer you thought he is, but from his website he seems to be primarily a right-wing conservative loon. One point about voting “irregularities”:

“Now, 13 years of working the polls in IL and IN has taught me that if there is cheating, it is a Dem doing it, and there will almost always be cheating. Your mileage may vary, but I speak from experience.”

Now, 13 years of working the polls in IL and IN has taught me that if there is cheating, it is a Dem doing it, and there will almost always be cheating.

And yet, in the last U.S. Presidential Election, all the cheating discovered so far has been by people who voted for Trump. Strange, that.

FYI, the “awful toll” the Covids has taken is below .087%.

About twice as bad as the flu.

That’s per the CDC’s current numbers for 2020, as they continue to revise down.

Citiation(s) required. (You don’t think we’ll just take your word for this claim without being able to look at the numbers ourselves, including context.)

For a little context, I note that COVID-19 killed ~345,000 Americans in 2020.

The 2020 census estimated the US population at 331,449,281. Using the US population as the denominator, 345K deaths in 2020 represents ~0.104% of the entire US population, which is close enough to the 0.087% figure you cited to lead me to believe that that number represents the fraction of the entire US population who died of COVID-19 in the US in 2020, just using slightly different, perhaps provisional, statistics.

You do realize, don’t you, that the lethality of an infectious disease is not expressed using as the denominator the entire population, right? The proper denominator is the number of infections (for asymptomatic plus cases) to get the infection fatality rate (IFR) or the number of cases (symptomatic, diagnosed) to calculate the case fatality rate (CFR).

You do realize, don’t you, that using the entire population as a denominator to estimate a fatality rate of a disease is a fundamentally dishonest tactic designed to downplay how deadly a disease is, right?

You do realize, don’t you, that even small percentages can translate to huge numbers of dead and suffering when applied to a population of hundreds of millions (or, billions worldwide), right????‍♂️

I suspect, besides the errors, that’s there’s also a reason he chose pre-delta and pre-omicron 2020 for his effort to downplay Covid-19 (and note the usual ignoring of other harms besides deaths).

Of course! That’s why I called him out with more recent figures and showed how the lower bound for IFR is close to double the IFR he claimed.

Mr. Williamson really isn’t even a particularly interesting or clever antivax troll. It’s just too easy to slap down his claims.

My guess is that this is one of those “in healthy populations” numbers, which are meaningless, because you can always just keep slicing away at the risk factors until you get a number you want to show off.

Actually, it is million people.
IFR is down beaue of vaccinations:
Chapman LAC, Barnard RC, Russell TW, Abbott S, van Zandvoort K, Davies NG, Kucharski AJ. Unexposed populations and potential COVID-19 hospitalisations and deaths in European countries as per data up to 21 November 2021. Euro Surveill. 2022 Jan;27(1):2101038. doi: 10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2022.27.1.2101038. PMID: 34991776; PMCID: PMC8739340
But you do not support vaccinations, I suppose.

Forcing bad policy on others should have consequences, as should lying to Congress etc.when you are the head of that policy making. Calling for accountability when people behave badly affecting others is not a trope. Lots of people were hurt by lockdowns and somehow those jurisdictions that pursued them didn’t really accomplish more than those that didn’t(Sweden). Indeed some even pursued murderous policies -Cuomo and nursing homes-. So yeah Fauci should lose his job and probably be investigated. The rest of the political class that could rely on insider training to weather the pandemic should answer to those who couldn’t e.g. to those that lost their businesses because of those bad policies. This is how democracy supposed to work. When you f. up in a big way you’re supposed to be voted out. Officials with questionable ethics should be investigated. And if the vaccines come down that way as well (not there yet) then those who pushed them should answer as well. Crimes and malicious intent are harder to prove than mere f ups. We’ll just have to see. For the most part it’s clear in retrospect that the lockdowns were a big mistake. If people who pursued that lose their jobs then it pales in comparison to those that lost their businesses and livelihoods because of the lockdowns and it’s how it should go. Indeed, I wouldn’t be opposed to disgorgement of insider trading profits from Congress to fund those little people.

You just got me all the way to filling out both my “pure bs anti-vacc clowns push” and my “conspiracies the science illiterate believe”.

Really, you don’t have a clue about what happened the last two years yet you feel confident enough to spread falsehoods and unsupportable accusations.

Thermale studies in the lockdowns. They were a blunder and a harmful one at that.

@john labarge You as usual, do not cite a study. I gather you imagined them.

“Calling for accountability when people behave badly affecting others is not a trope.”

So you support state licensing boards sanctioning M.D.s who spread Covid-19 misinformation, lie about vaccination’s benefits and make money promoting phony Covid-19 treatments?


Note however that these physicians are not facing imprisonment or beheading by trumped-up tribunals.

No. Because misinformation is a trope. It’s definition changes with the politics and those in power.

“No. Because misinformation is a trope. It’s definition changes with the politics and those in power.”

Good lord you’re an idiot.

@john labarge Misinformation means lying, probably purposefully- IFR numbers do nor change when government does.

You could some real numbers. Compare Sweden with Finland, and you perhaos see resutls of lockdowns

Are you really calling for an investigation into the pandemic response of the Trump administration? Do we get to call the informal advisers as well, or just the White House Coronavirus Task Force?

I think that we agree.

Or are you calling for the USA to learn from Sweden, and institute socialized medicine? I’m confused

I’m adding the Science Media Centre to my list of medical BS refutation resources. Thank you!

Oooo! Now I’m a member of the “laptop class” not just the “elite”! I have an actual laptop!

More seriously, do alties start calling for tribunals/ heads whenever it looks as though their predictions/ programmes aren’t being clearly demonstrated in order to rally their troops?

Covid rates have varied vis a vis vaccination rates. We have seen success controlling the virus in many places worldwide where vaccination and other PH measures have been assiduously adopted. Many left-leaning areas appear to have decreased restrictions recently.

Alties whose MO includes frightening followers about governmental suppression, lockdowns and forced vaccination haven’t been able to document those events happening so they need a new meme to shift attention to dreams of future retribution. The idea that eventually they will be vindicated is a frequent topic at sites like NN and PRN as well as anti-vax havens. Everyone will soon see that we were right, as the paradigm shifts from SBM to GaiaRules, has been a constant refrain as long as I’ve watched them ( a really long time).

To support this, they usually bend facts and make use of the Nirvana fallacy as well as focusing on the imperfection of the vaccines rather than how much vaccines improve control over the virus’ spread. Also, fantasies of hangings and guillotines illustrate their hatred and jealousy of PH officials and experts whom they wish to supplant.
Right, Del instead of Fauci, Hotez and Offit! Or Orac!

@Denice Walter

Hahaha. I guess I’m also among the laptop class. Before my recent-ish move, I was using a stack of legacy, mostly broken ones as an ergonomic/backup hack.

That said, it perturbs me that it seems never to occur to some of these formerly mainstream doctors/scientists contrarians whose contrarianism has blown up their social media and/or what they assess as their realpolitik lives to take a moment to look at the nature of who responds. I mean, if I got a lot of positive feedback from people espousing tribunals and summary executions, I’d tend to question my priors. (I’m thinking there is some secondary gain-like motivation, in addition to the obvious.)

That they don’t care, or don’t examine it is damning. It seems purposeful, or at “best,” indifferent.

A. I think you already wrote about the harm already done to public health officials by similar rhetoric from the antimask crowd. As you point out, it’s not hypothetical. What they’re doing leads to violence and threats – again, as you show.

B. Aside from the fact that these people are, themselves, laptop class par excellence, I don’t know that they can seriously make that claim for the working class, many members of which – though not all – were likely working as essential workers through the pandemic (and paying the price with high risks of infections). School closures may have been more of an issue for many of these people.

C. I agree stay at home orders had devastating consequences for some. One reason is that we did not offer anywhere near enough support with it. Of course, the natural solution there is to offer appropriate economic support to people harmed by public health measures. As some countries did. I have a feeling these people don’t support that. And they certainly don’t call for it.

Damn this will or already lead to insurrections in other countries. How would you call for Newsom and Richard Pan to be impeached for something the majority of Californians support and similar reasons in other parts of the USA that took stricter controls over COVID-19 vaccinate mandates.


“I agree stay at home orders had devastating consequences for some. One reason is that we did not offer anywhere near enough support with it.”

As do I agree. It seemed like a no-brainer at the time, and I thought our government might rise to the occasion (although, at the time, it seemed like a long shot). But, no. That was just an expectation of good faith, which was, sadly, misplaced.

It’s not the mitigations at fault (as seen from the perspective of those harmed). It’s the pandemic, and the failure to rise to the occasion, for d_G’s sake.

“How We Borked the Pandemic” may be the next “What I Did on My Summer Vacation”-style 7th grade paper or murder movie.

The next question, though, is how do we not repeat our errors? Before we’re even done with dealing with the present situation.

You know AIER hired Bhattacharya because of his great concern for the working class and the poor, which was also why he got invited to meet with Scott Atlas and Trump at the White House…

Excuse me while I vomit.

@ johnlabarge

First, MORON, Sweden had the highest number per capita deaths from COVID by far among the Scandinavian nations and it was because they delayed implementing various mitigations, including lockdowns. Jag bodde i Sverige på nästan 10 år (I lived in Sweden for almost 10 years) and I read online both Swedish newspapers and have bookmarked their national health department (Hälsovårdsnämnden). And you continue to ignore that over half dozen commenters have over and over completely refuted your ignorant, unscientific claims. Claims that make absolutely clear that you don’t understand the basics of immunology, microbiology, epidemiology, etc. That you rely on anecdotes and your own BIASED IMMENSE STUPIDITY.

Why do you continue to make an ASS of yourself?

@ johnlabarge

You write: “Thermale studies in the lockdowns. They were a blunder and a harmful one at that.”

Give VALID references and not just one.

@ johnlabarge

You write: “No. Because misinformation is a trope. It’s definition changes with the politics and those in power.”

Yet, what you call “misinformation” has been refuted over and over. So, not a trope you FRIGGIN MORON1

Do you just pull your comments out of your ass? Of course you do as your brains, the little you have, are in your ass.

To follow up about what alties do now that the outlook on the pandemic doesn’t look quite so bleak…
( NN today) Mikey forecasts the dire consequences of worldwide famine, societal breakdown and total collapse where 1-2 billion will die miserably soon. A few preppers living in eth country might survive and thrive.

But he is advocating/ teaching followers to make use of low or “no” tech solutions for the oncoming last days. The grid may be down so much may have to be non-electrical or machines that use diesel ( ?) He collects old tractors and trucks so he can farm to avoid starvation. He proudly claims to have found a really old sewing machine that could work off of a generator ( ?) so he can repair canvas and leather goods ( and is seeking out a foot pedal powered one**). He will grow his own produce and raise rabbits to kill and save bullets, recasting used ones. He is afraid that if he pays with silver coins, people might suspect his cache so he is recasting the coins as cheap rings etc. for bartering. He tapes old radio shows NOW for when the internet is finished for entertainment. He has SO MANY solutions for end times problems!
-btw- Mike is as rich AF so I doubt he needs to do anything

** my grandmother used one that my cousin still has

Because of all the fuel that will still be available after the collapse……

He strikes me as a classic dilettante.

Treadle sewing machines are easy to find but the instruction book will not be in English. Antiques are also easy to find but rarely still work.

“If he grows sunflowers he can make bio-diesel.”

Yeah. Animal fat too. Solar power, wind generators, etc etc. He’s not really planning for the collapse of civilisation, just a few weeks inconvenience and some trespassers.

We have already seen limited antivax terrorism in some nations but clearly the AV believe they haven’t been international terrorists on a large enough scale yet. If it is not already the case every major player in the cult needs to be under constant surveillance by the appropriate intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

@ Daniel Pyron:

AV leaders, of course, endlessly incite their followers by portraying PH, SBM and vaccine supporters as an evil empire of profit hungry miscreants “destroying” children BUT I doubt that any of these provocateurs would ever actually take action because most of them ( e.g. CCDH’s dozen, alties I survey) are well-to-do businesses with assets and “reputations” to protect.
I doubt that RFK jr or Mercola would risk a jail term or large fine.
It’s much safer for them to rile up unstable followers who might do the dirty work of harming a scientist, doctor or advocate which they could then claim to condemn.

Many advocates have received death threats or had interference by AVers where they are employed.

Honestly, mate, you are both overthinking it. Everyone here knows full well what the Antis are really signalling, and they are not the least bit sophisticated or shy about it:

As Denice says, the trick for their leadership is to trigger their extremists to act without getting that blood splashed directly on themselves. First though, they must prepare the ground, by taking ownership of the discussion and steering the rhetoric so that yesterday’s extreme becomes today’s new normal; which in turn makes that critical step from violent words to violent actions ever smaller, easier, and more acceptable to take.

Every shocking rage-inducing front-page public statement, every bare-faced notpology and sly hahaonlyserious deflection, is absolutely deliberate and absolutely calculated; strategic planning and preparation for the main event. For what sort of a human being would say such awful traumatic things unless they had some compelling and imminent need to shake the rest of us from our complacent, compliant slumber? Hell, their narrative writes itself—and it is Glorious! For those brave enough to step up and Serve.

And there are toes on that line as we speak. Lots of them. Gagging for a reason to cross.

Once that step is taken, discarding the social and legal norms in service to their higher cause, the easiest way to justify that initial violence is to double down on it and commit lots more violence even more extreme. Thus it quickly becomes self-sustaining, for their only alternative is to admit that what they have just done is wrong; and ideological extremists are rarely given to accepting or admitting error. Infinitely easier to press forward than pull back. And if a few should waver at the sight of real blood, don’t worry: their own mob does not suffer apostates and will fix that right up. While bystanders—the little people—will stay well out their way if they-know-what’s-good-for-them as they Do What Needs To Be Done.

And for those at the pointy end? Well damn them for making it necessary, but they have no-one to blame but themselves.

It worked great for Kristallnacht, it worked for the Khmer Rouge and the Hutus, it’s working so far for Putin (just as long as he stays well out of fragging range of any dissenters, which he is). It is absolutely 100% by-the-book already-done-a-hundred-times-before How To Fascism, and anyone who doesn’t see this is either a small child who has yet to learn or an grown coward who chooses not to. And there are tens of millions of the latter in the US alone. They might not have the balls to do it themselves, but they will gladly applaud those who will.

Think it won’t happen? Look at my link above, at all those happy smiling faces in those photographic backgrounds. The only surprise here is that it hasn’t already.

TL;DR: “Will no-one rid us of these turbulent scientists?”

@ has:

I agree that there are large numbers of enthusiastic participants as well as those willing to ‘look the other way’.

Social media thrives on argumentativeness and pitching more and more outrageous positions. Specific physical locales harbour longstanding distrust of government intervention and professional expertise which intersected with Covid regulations.

One of the loons I survey brags about being raised in a rather extraordinarily unsophisticated place and another claims his youth on a farm forever set his moral compass and love of hard work and clean living**. These statements are obviously meant to attract a particular audience/ clientele that overlaps with right leaning groups whilst vilifying “other people” like those who live in cities, the coasts ( hint, hint) and those with elitist educations ( hint). They blow other dog whistles like anti-secularism, anti-state run education, anti-trans and anti-woke rants. Looks to me like they’re courting the right.

** WV and KS respectively

“One of the loons I survey brags about being raised in a rather extraordinarily unsophisticated place and another claims his youth on a farm forever set his moral compass and love of hard work and clean living**.”

SOP. By far the easiest way to win the game is to set the victory conditions as being the virtues one already possesses—gender, white skin, sub-GED, etc.—and set the disqualifiers to be everything else.

Thus even the most talentless lazy unremarkable waste of skin can be king of the world (elect) simply by defining the world to be all about Him.

A good example: women whose sole talent in life is to marry upward and squat out spawn. For ultimately it’s not the patriarchy that keeps women down: it’s other women. The patriarchy itself would soon starve to death without the millions of mediocre women who eagerly feed its supply chain: a symbiotically parasitic relationship in which the patriarchy at the top rewards its mid-tier enablers by beating down all their enemies for them: more ambitious, talented women who can not only match them in family-making but can wipe the floor with them (and even their menfolk!) in industry too.

Think of those tens of millions of women who proudly voted for Trump in 2012. Their hatred of HRC was unmatched: for not only did Clinton beat them as a woman (a successful mother and lawyer), she trounced them on their own win condition too: married to the President of the USA, most powerful man in the world. Unthinkable that Clinton should gain any further, so they voted for the orange sex abuser with the underage incest fantasy. Talk about weaponizing the patriarchy! All those women, who could push up if they wished, deliberately hauling the glass ceiling down so it sits precisely level with their own bouffant coiffures. A worse bucket of crabs you will never meet. Feminists: take note.

And, of course, once a person knows that s/he rightfully deserves to stand on top, any observed mismatch between that and reality is easily explained as The Other keeping them down. Which leads to the ratcheting up of rhetoric towards action, and we’re all back on the fascist train-ride again. All just because millions of fuckers need to be Special but don’t have the balls to actually work for it; with all the blood, sweat, and likelihood of failure that entails.

And, why bother? It is so much easier to punch others down than raise oneself up.

And you will always spot the top psychopaths in all of this: ’cos they are the ones at the back, selling the $399 knuckledusters fist over fist.

And, on topic of work, time I was outta here. (Again.:)


That’s an interesting take. Definitely have to think about that more.

On the subject of holding physicians accountable, there was a doozy of an op-ed in the N.Y. Times yesterday from medical anthropologist Abigail A. Dumes.*

Using the example of long Covid, Dumes argues that patients with “contested” and “controversial” ailments like chronic Lyme disease are being shafted by the medical community. You see, in the medical hierarchy signs improperly trump symptoms. She wants doctors to avoid misunderstanding and show “humility and empathy” – as in complementary and alternative medicine, which she describes as offering “symptom-centered practices” (alt practitioners undoubtedly groaned when they read that, seeing as how alt med prides itself on addressing the Root Causes of disease, not just alleviating symptoms). None of this evidence-based crap, we need a “social science-informed understanding of contested illnesses”. One assumes that will mean approving long-term megadoses of antibiotics for “chronic Lyme disease” and Morgellons patients, thus validating their symptoms.

Mainstream medicine may be turning the corner, though. A medical recruiting firm that drops enticing ads into my Facebook feed is advertising a position for a tick-borne specialist physician. The Aspirus Tick-Borne Illness Center in lovely Woodruff, Wisconsin** offers services including analyzing any ticks you bring in for disease. “The successful candidate will treat cases involving fractured non-restorative sleep, gut-related issues, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, biotoxin illness, and more. The Center is where patients turn to (sic) when no one else can help.”

I’m probably unfamiliar with cutting-edge therapies for tick-borne diseases, but there seems to be at least a faint whiff of woo there.

*Dumes is the author of “Divided Bodies: Lyme Disease, Contested Illness, and Evidence-Based Medicine”.
**For those on RI eager to get creative with their CVs in order to apply for this dream job, be aware that Woodruff, WI is more than an isolated community in the northern part of the state. It is an outdoorsman’s paradise offering a four-season climate, and is home to the world’s largest penny (yes, they included that factoid in the ad).

I saw that editorial. Although I do think that long COVID is a real phenomenon, I am now sensing a disturbing hint of woo associated with it, very similar to the heavy quackery associated with the fake diagnosis known as chronic Lyme disease. The one point she makes that is valid is that physicians do tend to be too dismissive of the symptoms of those who think they have (or have been told by a quack that they have) chronic Lyme disease and that we have to recognize that their symptoms are real, even if we can’t identify the cause. In the case of long COVID, I do wonder if the pandemic will force us to realize that the sort of syndrome of disabling, vague, and (from a medical standpoint) puzzling symptoms are a much more common phenomenon after severe infections than we had previously appreciated. I’ve always thought that a lot of “long COVID” in patients who survived prolonged courses in the ICU was probably the same as what we appreciate as the “post-ICU” syndrome that many patients who’ve survived prolonged courses in the ICU for anything suffer.

But, yes, that op-ed did have more than a hint of woo about it, along with an obvious effort to argue that if long COVID is real then chronic Lyme must be a real disease too.

“Although I do think that long COVID is a real phenomenon, I am now sensing a disturbing hint of woo associated with it”

Is there money in it? Then Woo will follow.

It may be my age and misanthropy talking, but I do find myself increasingly viewing woo in terms of abuse dynamics. Because if there’s one thing that abusers enjoy having more than victims, it’s having willing ones. And woo is a goddamn smorgasbord.

Just look at how long and hard religion and politics must grift to gain any traction. Famously tough unforgiving industries to break into. Whereas any lame old H. sapiens vampiris can set up in woo for the price of a shingle, and the food happily comes running!

And is there no cure yet, or is the cure not guarantied to work, or has it a negative image, woo will sure promise a fail-safe cure.
Because desperate people are an easy prey.
And if woo doesn’t work, it’s the fault of the patient.

@ had
Having spent a fair amount of time in WI, I was curious about the Tick Center, and did a bit of Googling. I don’t see any grift. It’s part of a non-profit HMO system associated with the Catholic Church. It’s in the North woods, where there’s plenty of real tick-borne disease. A (not recently updated) webpage for it notes it has only two employees in Woodruff, a PA/RPN and an office manger — an associated MD from a university in VA participates via Zoom.

The “about” text suggests the origin of the project was indeed woo inclusive, though not all-woo. So I’m guessing it’s a more or less genuine response to the sorts of mysterious cases of chronic symptoms Orac mentioned, however much that may embrace some questionable science out of vexation with that so-far unexplained suffering.

What I see in clinic looks like the stereotypical damage you see in someone who had experienced massive inflammation due to some insult. Decreased lung capacity due to fibrosis, muscle weakness, etc, etc. Some still have trouble with smell or taste months later. One or two have pretty serious balance issues.

I believe that there is evidence of post Lyme syndrome, but the quacks who want to treat it with courses of antibiotics that lead to life threatening conditions are doing nothing to help these people

I agree that it’s important to acknowledge and treat symptoms, while not giving credence to undocumented disorders and especially not to prescribe ineffective, costly and potentially dangerous drugs and other interventions to counteract nonexistent infections.

I found a website that documents the “world’s largest penny” in Woodruff, WI. It’s a bit disappointing. Maybe I’d be better off traveling to Winter Haven, Florida to see the 24-foot-tall potty chair.

I found the tweet implying that those who take their masks off to ‘eat and drink’ are anti-vaxxers bizarre. I’d like to see anyone try and eat with the mask in place. Indeed the only exception to unmasking in a public place where I live is, if you are in a food service area (Preferably sitting out side, lots of food outlets have invested in tables and chairs.) and eating your meal and you have to mask up as soon as you’ve finished your meal or risk a fine. Thanks to anti-vaxxers I have to show proof of ID and my vaccination status every time I want to eat in a restaurant or cafe.

Rereading this, you are giving the COVID-19 contrarians a lot of benefit of the doubt – or doubting their perceptiveness, depending how one looks at it – in assuming they do not realize how their legitimizing of violence may give impetus to some of their less stable followers.

I’m less and less inclined to give these people the benefit of the doubt. I don’t know that I would assume they’re not saying “who will rid me of this turbulent priest” intentionally.

Leaving Orac’s take on the Brownstoners aside, I’m really getting tired of all the explicit or implicit “Hanlon’s Razor” takes online attributing every worrisome thing to someones’ “stupidity”. So I was greatly amused yesterday when I stumbled across this on a parody of those motivational posters at
“Never attribute to stupidity that which can be adequately explained by a pathological bloodlust for control.”

“Why not both?”

Because “stupid” is applied to so many different kinds of things and people, it means next to nothing. How exactly do faculty at prestigious universities fit such synonyms for stupid as “foolish, moronic, unintelligent, imbecilic, witless, feebleminded…”?

Because it posits an intellectually lazy, oversimplified, self-congratulatory binary, “them stupid, we smart”, with all the wit and perceptiveness of a playground insult, that lets the insulter just cut-off attention to any causes and possible remedies of harmful behavior. I’m not complaining about you here, Orac. But I don’t know how many internet threads I’ve seen where comments attempting some actual analysis just get met with, “Feh, you can’t fix stupid!” replies.

Because this kind of dismissal helps foster the wrong approach to social problems — leaning to smugly self-righteous disengagement.

Because even when the premise is that stupid CAN be fixed. Identifying the problem as “stupidity” leads to proposed solutions that aren’t helpful, as they tend to coalesce around “stupid” as ‘ignorant’ or ‘uneducated’. If only we had better schools! If only the stupids were aware of the debunking! Methinks Bhattacharya and Kuldorff aren’t really all that atypical of rank-and-file COVID deniers, who are likely aware of the debunking and counter-arguments to their conspiracy theories unless they live under a rock, but just dismiss them because the conclusion comes first, then the rationale (like that Ivermectin WTF discussed at SBM today).

Because, when you add it all up, it’s, well…. stupid. ;- )

Altie leaders are insulated from legal consequences** if one of their entranced followers harmed an SBM/ vaccine supporter:
it would be difficult to trace that the culprit was influenced by any particular individual AND, more importantly, difficult to prove that they were somehow convinced or rewarded for doing so. Also, usually the person is an adult and responsible for their own actions and if not, that would also let the leaders off the hook.

So Kennedy, Adams, Null, Del and other loons can cavalierly attribute myriad atrocities and financial duplicity to PH experts and doctors who “destroy” children without evidence and get away with it. They may even consider themselves leaders of an enlightened or liberation movement. IOW, heroes. And the posturing, speeches and photo ops tell me that that’s how they view themselves.

Similarly, lower rent players ( mother/ parent warriors) fill another niche in the overall scheme- they provide horror stories of death and damage to innocent children and how their families’ lives were devastated by the results of vaccines. Their histrionics may fuel their audience’s actions to seek vengeance for the children . Interestingly enough, a few of the leaders include lurid tales of child trafficking, ritual abuse and other Q memes as they attack PH experts.

** however, stuff like this doesn’t look so good on your CV: these days, RFK jr may be becoming most well known for his vaccine hysterics rather than for environmental work or his family. Bad press for most readers.

Nevertheless, if Denice tells me that it’s okay to bash someone’s head in and I do decide to swing that hammer, the guilty party is me, not her. All it took was someone I respect or look up to to make me feel good about the deadly deed and so elevate an already existing inner urge or belief into reality. I had the choice to accept or reject flattery and poor advice. No matter the derision she may attract for those awful words the consequences of the act rightly fall on me. It is society that chooses to condemn one of those acts as a crime while respecting the other as rightful free speech. Animal instincts persist since we’re not as civilized as we may imagine ourselves. We have a long road ahead of us.

“Thanks to anti-vaxxers I have to show proof of ID and my vaccination status every time I want to eat in a restaurant or cafe.”

Why are you blaming anti-vaxxers, the vaxxers are trying to force compliance, if 99% of the population was vaxxed they would still demand ID and vaccination status, anti vaxxers wouldn’t make you show ID or vaccination status.

“CDC reports fewer COVID-19 pediatric deaths after data correction”

The adjustment resulted in removal of 72,277 deaths previously reported across 26 states, including 416 pediatric deaths, CDC said.

I am sure that 99% would be enough .
You tell us the number of reported deaths, too. This is more to the point,

I don’t understand, are you mad that the CDC corrected a coding error and made sure to make the public aware of the error and correction?

Shouldn’t we all be pleased to be getting more accurate information?

““CDC reports fewer COVID-19 pediatric deaths after data correction”

The adjustment resulted in removal of 72,277 deaths previously reported across 26 states, including 416 pediatric deaths, CDC said.”

Thank you. This blows a hole in the anti-health advocate’s pretense that the CDC doesn’t care about facts. Their fantasy version of the CDC would never admit an error

For a long time we could comfort ourselves with the knowledge that it was just a few people who carried out politically-motivated assassinations, or who would even talk about killing others in the name of a political philosophy. Now an entire, major political party has a majority of members whose beliefs are clearly unhinged from reality, and some of their government representatives speak of their desire to murder their opponents as they pass laws to restrict the rights of those with whom they disagree, all while loudly claiming that all they want is “freedom.” It’s truly an Orwellian world.

Their “focused protection” would have meant something close to life imprisonment without trial for the elderly and disable. It would have come with a non-trivial chance of death any time people left that “protective” custody, and with every visit–including from doctors, nurses, and care-gives, as well as family and friends.

That’s not quite a Nazi-style “kill the disabled, the rest of us will be better off,” but for people who advocated that as policy to call for Nuremberg-style trials of the people who were promoting masks and vaccination shows a huge amount of chutzpah.

I may never be able to eat safely in a restaurant again–but the GBD’s “focused protection” wouldn’t have given me that either. As it is, I can at least enjoy a meal with friends in a park or at a restaurant’s outdoor tables.

Obese people is a risk group, too. Insulating them would be been quite a lockdown,

Yep. EVERY young patient I ever saw on the floor or in the ICU for covid had a BMI of 35+. Current stats say 42% of US adults are obese. Just do the crude math in your head.

And this is just the beginning of the lock down/mask/travel restrictions et al related deaths and only for year one the second year is going to be even worse. opioids 38% increase and 55% increase of fentanyl

So yes hold the lock downers accountable.

“Deaths involving alcohol reflect hidden tolls of the pandemic. Increased drinking to cope with pandemic-related stressors, shifting alcohol policies, and disrupted treatment access are all possible contributing factors”

[…] Regular readers know that we at SBM are not exactly fans of the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD), the propaganda document released in October 2020 that advocated a “let ‘er rip” strategy for the pandemic with a strategy of “focused protection” to keep mass numbers of the vulnerable from dying. The idea was that, supposedly, COVID-19 posed so little danger to the young and healthy population without significant comorbidities that the “lockdowns” being implemented to slow its spread were, again supposedly, doing more harm than good. Basically, the GBD was the product of a libertarian free market “think tank”, the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), and three useful idiot scientists who were recruited to draft it, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University (but now the “scientific director” of an AIER spinoff known as the Brownstone Institute), and Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University. The whole thing was a rather obvious astroturf operation designed to get businesses open again, damn the human cost, and was, unfortunately, wildly successful in influencing government policies in the US and Europe. Since then, the spiritual child of the GBD, the Brownstone Institute, has become increasingly antivaccine, although the authors of the GBD assiduously reassure themselves that they are pro-vaccine, even as they promote antivaccine messages. […]

Comments are closed.


Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading