You may have questioned the veracity of government pandemic interventions: it might have been masks, the rule of six or the 10 o’clock curfew; it may have been the modelling that finally tipped you over the edge. But without dissenters to the Government’s pandemic policies, it would have taken much longer to exit lockdowns, and if China is anything to go by, we might not yet have re-emerged.
With the publication of Matt Hancock’s diaries, we’re discovering the true extent of the Government’s suppression strategies and those behind them.
In July 2020, we wrote in the Spectator about whether face masks help. The article was motivated by the rollout of mask mandates at the end of the month. We expressed the uncertainty in the evidence-base and the setting of policy based on “opinions, radical views and political influence”.
This article went largely unchallenged. However, this all changed in November 2020, when we further published on the only European community trial of masks and the update of our Cochrane Review that found no significant effect for facemask wearers.
The Danish trial done during the pandemic joined 16 other trials carried out over the years at times of variable respiratory agents’ circulation in showing no significant effect, either if compared to not wearing masks at all or wearing other types of face coverings, irrespective of setting.
Despite hundreds of positive comments, the article got censored by Facebook. It led to a vitriolic campaign of denigration with sundry personal attacks, personal losses of posts, complaint procedures to our institutions, smear campaigns and the setting up of websites backed by ministers to attack dissenting academics and journalists.
But we now learn from Isabel Oakeshott’s piece that the attacks were partly orchestrated by Hancock, who harnessed the full power of the state to silence ‘dissenters’.
As far as Hancock was concerned, anyone who fundamentally disagreed with his approach was mad and dangerous and needed to be shut down.
These were the actions of the Right Honourable Minister, the Health Secretary. Make of that what you will, but actions considered acceptable in a communist state were now mainstream and, as it seems, acceptable at the heart of Government.
According to Oakeshott’s piece, the origins of mask mandates in the community were Dominic Cummings’s obsession with masks and a desire to please Ms. Sturgeon. However, the most important figures “Hancock, Whitty and Johnson knew full well that non-medical masks do very little to prevent transmission of the virus”. You could readily translate this to the fact that there was no high quality evidence to support mandates, as we pointed out in July 2020.
The taking down of the Spectator article by Facebook was just the start of the campaign. You could say we were naïve, but we didn’t realise we were enemy number one, along with some of our academic and journalist colleagues within a democratic state that used all its powers to silence those seen to peddle ‘radioactive’ views when in fact, all we were doing was looking at the available evidence – something we have done for decades across a range of healthcare interventions.
Fact-checking sites published critiques of our Spectator article. What they didn’t tell you is Facebook now funded them. Also, the Government didn’t tell you they were cosying up to social media sites to harness their influence. Oakeshott again:
Hancock reveals that his special adviser was speaking to Twitter about ‘tweaking their algorithms’. Later he personally texted his old coalition colleague Nick Clegg, now a big cheese at Facebook, to enlist his help.
In the U.S., Anthony Fauci is being deposed (required to give evidence) for his part in attacking scientists. A U.S. District Judge granted the request to depose Fauci, amongst others, because the Biden administration actively worked with social media companies to censor ‘disfavored’ viewpoints, likely in violation of First Amendment rights.
Yet in the U.K., the former minister gets to be a celebrity. Attempts to uncover the truth through Freedom of Information requests for meetings between Hancock and Clegg go unanswered. Backbench MPs should be outraged; instead, there is silence – those at the heart of the decision-making have moved on to better things.
An anonymous BBC journalist stated to an All-Party Parliamentary Group of MPs and Peers how bad the situation was:
I am having to give this evidence anonymously because of the climate of fear within the newsroom of ‘going against the narrative’. When the daily death toll was read out – something we had never done for any other disease – my worry about the impact of the fearmongering on our audience increased. I raised my concerns with senior colleagues and the reply came back that suggested anyone who thinks differently from the editorial agenda is a ‘dissenter’ and lacks credibility regardless of their peer-reviewed and accredited experience, qualifications and education.
Alas, this is not all. According to the UKHSA, the official scientific rationale for mask mandates in the community is based on a review last updated in the summer of 2021 of 28 studies, two of which are trials and the rest studies of abysmal quality. The review, identified through a Parliamentary Question, is in two parts: the main body and supplementary tables reporting the data. The problem is that the review is full of errors: the two parts do not match and appear to have been written separately and not even proofread.
The events are now clear. Policies affecting millions were decided on whims, independent scientists were persecuted, and grossly substandard work was cooked up to justify an evidence-free policy if anyone bothered to look.
Yes, this is the U.K. In the absence of dissenters, only the people can ask questions and change the status quo. We pity and express solidarity with our colleagues who have lost their jobs, suffered threats and undergone the hairdryer treatment – however, we’d like them to keep going as they are doing.
At the outset, we expressed the uncertainty in the evidence-base. Little has changed – the pandemic intervention policies were largely based on bad science, opinions and political views.
Dr. Carl Heneghan is the Oxford Professor of Evidence Based Medicine and Dr. Tom Jefferson is an epidemiologist based in Rome who works with Professor Heneghan on the Cochrane Collaboration. This article was first published on their Substack blog, Trust The Evidence, which you can subscribe to here.
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