A close look at how the COVID-19 pandemic brought censorship and suppression of scientific debate to frightening new heights.
Suppression of unwelcome or unwanted views is nothing new, but there are several indications that the censorship that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic took on a new character. A new study aims to shed light on the features of this censorship, and it hits on many of the themes we’ve been reporting on for some time. Efforts to stifle free speech are culminating in state-level bills that threaten doctors’ medical licenses if they spread medical “misinformation” relating to the pandemic. We cannot allow these efforts to stifle the speech of doctors to succeed.
An ”orthodox” position on key issues of the pandemic has coalesced. Broadly speaking, this position is in favor of mask mandates and lockdowns, against the use of re-purposed drugs like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin for early treatment of mild- to moderate COVID, supports COVID vaccines as unequivocally safe and effective, and supports COVID vaccine mandates and vaccine passports as ethical measures to protect public health. Anyone calling any of these positions into question immediately becomes a target for censorship and suppression carried out by government, tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter, and special interests like pharmaceutical companies.
Sometimes this censorship was a coordinated effort. For example, on March 7, 2022, the US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called on tech companies to report “health misinformation” to the federal government and to ramp up efforts to remove it. Emails released from legal proceedings have documented the ways in which government officials coordinated with Big Tech to censor doctors, scientists, and journalists.
The newly published study mentioned above documents the tactics used by the censors that, for many of us, have become all too familiar. Those who take a dissenting view from the orthodox positions are excluded, for example, from contributing to or making appearances on media outlets where they were previously welcome guests—they stop getting interviewed or getting opinion pieces accepted.
Derogatory labeling is another tactic: those who don’t toe the orthodox line are labeled ”anti-vaxxers,” “COVID deniers,” or conspiracy theorists. Third party sources claiming to be neutral or non-partisan (like the “fact checkers”) are used by the media to further discredit the heterodox positions taken by some scientists and doctors.
The study’s authors note key differences in this current wave of censorship that set it apart from previous examples:
- Intensiveness and extensiveness. Regarding COVID, not only did the government, media, and Big Tech engage in censorship; medical and research institutions and scientific journals also took an active role in suppressing and discouraging alternative views. Journals rejected peer-reviewed scientific papers; institutions threatened not to renew contracts if dissenters mentioned their affiliation with that institution; if you took the wrong position on COVID issues, you could be dismissed or disqualified from prestigious positions on health or scientific committees, without due process or transparency; and doctors’ medical licenses were threatened if they took the wrong view on COVID-related topics.
- Going outside the fringe. A unique and troubling aspect of the censorship wave we are experiencing is that highly respected and credentialed scientists and researchers have become targets for censorship. These are leaders in their respective fields with hundreds of publications, heads of academic and medical departments, and/or editors of medical journals. For example, the Great Barrington Declaration, which criticized government lockdown policies, was created by three epidemiologists from Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford universities and signed by many notable scientists, including the Nobel Prize laureate Michael Levitt; Google altered its search algorithm to reduce exposure to the Declaration. These aren’t cooks on the fringe whose work and views are being suppressed, de-platformed, and defamed. The message is, no one is safe from the censorship brigade.
The wave of censorship is likely to continue. California just passed a law that makes it easier for the state medical board to target doctors who disseminate “misinformation” related to COVID; other states have introduced similar legislation. The CEO of the Federation of State Medical Boards said that “the largest threat next to the spread of the virus itself is the spread of disinformation and misinformation.” The FSMB recommends that state boards should “consider whether there are options that do not involve disciplinary action that could help a licensee understand the ethical basis of their duty to convey accurate information to patients and the public.” This is eerily reminiscent of authoritarian “re-education” camps for doctors. A group called No License for Disinformation has put up a webpage containing “everything you need to report a doctor for COVID-19 related disinformation.”
The free-speech stifling effects of this censorship would be bad enough, but it also costs lives. Dr. Peter McCullough, one of the victims of this censorship, was a frontline doctor who has spoken out forcefully and convincingly about the failure of public health officials during the pandemic that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives. While the government was telling us to isolate and wash our hands, he was figuring out how to treat patients with combinations of re-purposed drugs; Studies that utilized this approach showed an 85 percent reduction in mortality. How many lives could have been saved if the media, government, and Big Tech were more concerned with the science and less concerned with censorship and suppression?
Scientific censorship bestows power to Big Pharma and the one-size-fits-all paradigm. Natural medicine is predicated on the idea that each patient has individual needs based on unique biology and genetics. If doctors aren’t allowed to discuss alternatives to the mainstream medical approach, not only are the legal requirements of informed consent not being satisfied, but integrative doctors’ ability to treat individual patients will suffer.