Viral, a new book about the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus by Alina Chan and Matt Ridley, investigates whether it was a naturally occurring virus that jumped from animals to humans… or a lab leak. The Daily Mail has published an extract in today’s paper in which the authors describe the role of citizen journalists in discovering the truth that the mainstream media wasn’t interested in.
In the city of Bhubaneswar, India, a man known as ‘The Seeker’ was rifling through a Chinese website.
It was May 18th, 2020, and he was responding to a tweet by an American scientist speculating about the origin of the virus ripping its way across the planet.
And, using login details he’d found online, he was searching through a digital anthology of academic work.
Then, suddenly, he stumbled on a medical thesis which reported how, in 2012, six men fell ill after clearing out piles of bat guano from an old copper mine in Yunnan, in south-western China. Three of the men had died.
The doctors suspected the men had caught a virus that originated in bats, and the case had been investigated by virologists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), more than 1,000 miles away.
The Seeker, a slim 30-year-old with shoulder-length hair, has been accused variously of working for the CIA or Indian intelligence services. But the truth is rather less dramatic.
“I learned how to make search engines work for me,” he told us. “It was more madness than method.”
Motivated by an interest in finding out how the pandemic began and skilled at trawling the internet for clues, he began communicating on Twitter with a group of other internet ‘sleuths’ from around the world – all pursuing the same question: where did the virus that causes COVID-19 originate?
Soon, some of the sleuths had coalesced into a loose confederation known as DRASTIC (Decentralised Radical Autonomous Search Team Investigating COVID-19). And more key findings were quick to follow.
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: A U.S. intelligence report claims that the lab leak theory is probably correct, given the dangerous nature of the experiments being done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the lax biosecurity protocols. The FT has more.