A Plague Upon Our House

This is the title of Scott Atlas’s new book. But which House? The US White House or the UK House of Commons? The book is about the former, of course, but let’s start with the other.

99 Conservative MPs voted against the unneeded, ineffective and illiberal new measures against the Omicron variant last night. Since the official Opposition was on the Government’s side (who needs friends with enemies like that?), this did not prevent the measures being passed, but it was the second largest such rebellion ever.

The reasons for opposition were a mixture of trepidation at the encroachment on basic liberties, and the scientific case against the measures themselves, as explained by scientifically literate MPs like David Davis and Steve Baker. The Labour Party appears to lack any scientific literacy – the Conservatives slightly less so.

Despite the contentious vote, the Government is still in full Looming Disaster mode with announcements of rising Omicron cases (no numbers) and hospitalisations, failing to consider that it may, like Delta before it, simply be replacing that variant whilst admissions overall still flatline, and deaths continue to decrease in keeping with the increasing data on the benign nature of Omicron. At this stage it’s hard to say for sure if its rapid replacement of Delta even represents greater transmissibility, or simply population genetic, though it seems likely, at least among young fully vaccinated people!

But that brings me to Scott Atlas’s book, which is highly recommended. I like it firstly because it gives massive insight into the scientific disfunctionality of the White House Task Force last year, whose key medical players – Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx, and Robert Redfield – displayed a woeful level of amateurish disregard for science, combined with a toxic regard for their own positions. Since their self-promotion set the agenda not only for US policy (against the instincts of the President, whom Atlas criticises for uncharacteristic weakness) but for that of the whole world, the result has been disastrous, and still is.

But secondly, having gone to press this August, it gives an excellent summary of the state of the science on all the key issues like masks, testing, management of children and so on, and especially the incalculable harms of lockdowns. Needless to say, the conclusions are consistent with what folks who follow this blog have known from the outset or as evidence emerged, unlike the shifting “winds of doctrine” coming from governments. There is a complete chapter at the end with a series of presentations of the literature devastating to the lockdown cause, each ending with the ironic statement: “And that is the science.”

He is a little weak on the shortcomings and risks of vaccination, partly because these, and the question of coerced vaccination, have largely arisen since the summer, and partly because (I suspect) he is biased by his admiration for the success of Operation Warp Speed and insufficiently by the corruption of Big Pharma.

So the book does what it says on the cover, and carries enormous weight coming from the special presidential adviser to the Task Force. But to a Brit, something comes across which is missed in his primarily American – and indeed Washington informed – perspective.

Atlas rightly identifies the irrational anti-Trump motivation of large swathes of the establishment and the media, including many within the White House itself. He attributes to this much of the root and branch corruption of the scientific community, the recognition of which is one of the most important, and sad, lessons to come from this pandemic. He also, at first hand, observed the self-serving motivations of two of the main authors of the Lockdown Playbook, Birx and Fauci; and their worldwide influence cannot be denied, and is deeply troubling given their poor scientific grasp and self-promoting behaviour, heedless of the cost in hundreds of thousands of human lives and the world economy.

But the failure of American Public Health only goes a certain way towards explaining the lockstep behaviour of the UK, and most other, governments. Yes, America sneezes and the world catches a cold. Yes, Sir Patrick Vallance was in on the Zoom call Fauci organised to bury the lab leak theory, and there is an international network of leadership, not least through the WHO… though that organisation is often ignored. But Trump hatred could never have been a core part of British policy, and Boris Johnson seems, before the wind changed, to have seen him as a genuine populist ally.

Furthermore, since Trump has gone the prophecies of conservatives that COVID would rapidly become a non-event under Biden have proven wrong: despite the huge weight of evidence, the old lies are simply being reinforced. Over here, two years on, the first responses to a benign new variant are counterproductive mask mandates (cases if anything increase under them|), ineffective working from home (spread is definitely increased), and ineffective vaccine passports (compare Wales and Scotland, with mandates, to England, until now without them). All this is based on totally discredited modelling, whose dire predictions have led to warnings about further lockdowns, proven useless in 40 studies and catastrophically harmful in others, and “a conversation” about mandatory vaccinations for a variant that was brought here by fully vaccinated and tested air travellers.

The utterly discredited mass-testing of healthy people has been racked up, and explains most or all of the increase in cases, and this has led to unofficial elements of lockdowns affecting mainly children, the poor working class, and the elderly vulnerable. And of course they affect churches, whose health and safety policies come from denominational H&S departments, consulting (in the Baptist Union’s case)specialist H&S firms, who do nothing more scientific than applying government policy as if it were the oracle of risk. Not a lesson has been learned, and we can’t pin it all on Birx and Fauci.

What I’m saying is that at some stage the groupthink explanation wears a little thin, powerful though it is in day to day experience: last Sunday after BU mask guidance was implemented at my church, many people stayed home “just to be safe.” This has nothing to do with assessment of actual risk, but merely legal back-covering and, of course, individual blind panic from the lies in the news.

Atlas’s revelations demonstrate also genuine corruption and malice, not to mention a significant level of that forbidden word – conspiracy.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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