Quo Vadis, Journalism?

About the concerning evolution of the media from reporting to activism, from investigative to “virtue journalism”

In the fall of 2020, Fearless Canada hosted an open letter addressed to journalists’ professional organizations and to politicians, calling for open, unbiased coverage of all perspectives on the corona crisis. The post “Assembling a collective of Canadian professionals and skilled workers for honest and open coverage of the health crisis” and the letter included in it refer to the code of ethics for Quebec journalists, which invokes values of “critical viewpoint”, “impartiality”, “fairness”, and “independence”. The letter contrasts these and many other ethical aspirations with the one-sided reporting about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. Specifically, the authors and signatories denounce the suppression or outright attack of the mainstream media on initiatives such as the Great Barrington Declaration, America’s Frontline Doctors, the German Corona Committee, and the Spanish Médicos por la verdad among many dissenting doctors’ and scientists’ groups.

Giuseppe Garcia in “Was ist bloss mit den Medien los?” [“What on earth is going on with the media?” – Screenshot of video on RPP Youtube channel, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDFzBX6Y7gY

The role of the legacy media in the ongoing fear-mongering campaign around COVID-19 is of greatest concern for the future of Western democracy. Journalists, producers, and publicists turned themselves into proponents of government restrictions and parrots of public health edicts when they should have asked tough questions about the validity, necessity, proportionality, and efficacy of the measures. Recently, I discovered a gem of a video by Swiss journalist, author and communications consultant Giuseppe Gracia, The video “Was ist bloss mit den Medien los?” [“What on earth is going on with the media?”] is posted in German; I am outlining the gist of Gracia’s insider observations here.

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Reality Check: No, Canadian Colleges and Universities Cannot Mandate COVID-19 Vaccination Without Violating Charter Rights

I believe we need to counter the misleading fact checks in the mainstream media with “reality checks”. I wrote my first reality check for the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship’s (SAFS) newsletter. I respond to a recent article titled “Canadian colleges and universities can mandate COVID-19 vaccination without violating Charter rights” by Drs. Samuel Trosow and Julie Lowe of Western University’s Faculty of Law. My common-sense analysis titled “Reality Check: No, Canadian Colleges and Universities Cannot Mandate COVID-19 Vaccination Without Violating Charter Rights” is available via direct link or as part of the PDF version of the newsletter (page 33-37). The SAFS newsletter No. 90 (Oct 2021) is a special issue on COVID Policies and Universities, which is well worth reading in its entirety.

Among the rectifications made to Trosow & Lowe’s essay, I show that they downplay the coercive nature of campus vaccine mandates. They also ignore the mismatch between the purported objective of vaccine mandates and the reality of the limited and waning efficacy of the available gene-based products, rendering campus policies arbitrary, disproportionate, and overly broad, and thus unconstitutional. Furthermore, I contend that the universities’ vaccination policies fail every “prong” of the Oakes test for reasonable limits to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One aspect here is the dynamically changing situation with respect to adverse events; an independent, unbiased cost-benefit analysis of the COVID-19 vaccines is the minimum that needs to be completed to sustain an infringement of fundamental human rights and civil liberties.

Note that I am aware of the uncertainty as to whether Charter rights directly apply to Canadian universities. The reality check assesses Trosow & Lowe’s claim that campus COVID-19 vaccine mandates do not violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. My verdict: the claim is false. This submission is for discussion only; it does not constitute legal or medical advice.

The Greater Toronto Declaration

Summary of a comprehensive, compelling statement by the Canadian Covid Care Alliance, asking for an immediate pause of the COVID-19 vaccination program, restoration of fully informed consent, end of vaccine passports and mandates, re-focusing on prevention and early out-patient treatment, and open public discourse without censorship.

The first anniversary of the Great Barrington Declaration is coming up on October 5. The “GBD” galvanized critics of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic response as it represented a balanced, evidence-based position agreeable to many skeptical and concerned minds. It essentially argued to revert to pre-2020 pandemic plans focused on the protection of infected and vulnerable people rather than blanket measures targeting the healthy population with ineffective, harmful restrictions. The declaration had direct political impact in Florida where Governor DeSantis consulted about reopening the state with the GBD initiators Drs. Kulldorf, Gupta, and Bhattacharya. In a smaller way, the GBD brought together three Toronto-area geographers who wrote a forthcoming, peer-reviewed appeal to fellow academics, “Confronting the rise of authoritarianism during the COVID-19 pandemic should be a priority for critical geographers and social scientists“. From these humble beginnings, a growing group of “Canadian Academics for Covid Ethics” emerged over the summer of 2021, comprising PhDs from across the natural and social sciences and humanities.

Screenshot from http://www.mshfd.ca (archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20210927132134/https://crinner.github.io/mshfd/) with a list of critical Canadian doctors writing for, or cited in, the news throughout 2020

Meanwhile, Canadian doctors, health scientists, and (retired) public health officials have been raising questions and concerns about the pandemic response throughout 2020. In the spring of 2021, “independent Canadian doctors, scientists and health care practitioners” formed the “Canadian Covid Care Alliance“. Paying members of the “CCCA”, of which I am one, commit to “integrity, honesty and truthfulness in their work”, “respectful communications”, and to “associate with, and promote only evidence-based information”. The mission of the organization is to provide real help on the ground and offer independent advice and advocacy. The CCCA web site already contains many useful resources about issues such as informed patient consent, early treatment protocols, and the COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Now, the organization published the “Canadian Covid Care Alliance COVID-19 Declaration“.

The CCCA’s declaration starts with an executive summary consisting of eight concrete actions demanded of Canadian governments, public health agencies, and the media. They include revoking the ongoing emergency statutes; developing out-patient treatment guidelines for COVID-19; pausing the vaccination programs, mandates, and passports; respecting medical privacy and choice; ending travel restrictions and refraining from future lockdowns and quarantining of healthy people; and involving a diversity of expert opinions in public discourse and on advisory bodies. Among CA4CE members, we rephrased these action points as a petition to world leaders – the “Greater Toronto Declaration“.

In the introduction, the CCCA declaration explains the CCCA’s membership composition and outlines the current situation in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. With reference to various scientific and media articles, the authors highlight the positive developments and findings including the lower-than-modelled mortality, strength of natural immunity, availability of vaccines to those who wanted them, and alternative approaches pursued by the Scandinavian countries. The CCCA then calls for a re-assessment of Canada’s public health response in light of the evolving science around COVID-19 and offers the organization’s expertise for independent advice. The remaining 24 pages of the declaration plus three appendices serve to support this appeal with reference to six areas of concern:

I. Early Treatment and Prophylaxis
II. Vaccine Safety and Surveillance
III. Immune Escape, Variants and Herd Immunity
IV. Informed Consent
V. Vaccine Passports and Vaccine Mandates
VI. Censorship

COVID-19 is a treatable disease, but even before someone falls ill, vitamin D and other dietary ingredients and supplements have long been known to strengthen our body’s defences against infections. Nasal and throat hygiene were shown to be effective in randomized trials (to the point that German doctor Klaus-Dieter Zastrow argued that anti-septic gargling recommendations could have made lockdowns and most other pandemic response measures obsolete, though this is not a claim made in the CCCA declaration!). Those who fall seriously ill with COVID-19 still have generally high survival rates, despite the haphazard treatment protocols in hospitals and suppression of out-patient treatment options in many countries including Canada. The declaration emphasizes the need to educate health-care providers and the public about the available, affordable, and effective early treatment options and to include medical practitioners on government advisory panels.

During the roll-out of Canada’s vaccination campaign in the first half of 2021, doctors and health scientists in the CCCA developed increasing concerns with the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine products. Dr. Charles Hoffe in British Columbia is one of the few doctors worldwide who heeded an early warning about blood clotting sent on 28 February 2021 to the European Medicines Agency by Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi and others. He tested his patients for the d-dimer marker for micro-clotting after vaccination and found a high number of suspected adverse events. Ontario-based Drs. Byram Bridle and Michael Palmer are two among many health scientists who describe possible cellular mechanisms in response to mRNA vaccine design that would negatively interfere with the body’s immune system and could cause significant short- and long-term harm, in particular to the cardio-vascular system. These concerned doctors and scientists are systematically silenced by the media, threatened by their professional organizations, and ignored by public health officials. The corresponding scientific evidence, which is amply referenced in the CCCA declaration, is equally being suppressed.

Volume 3 of Science, Public Health Policy & the Law with critical assessments of vaccine adverse event reporting systems, https://www.publichealthpolicyjournal.com/general-5

Most shockingly, various governments’ own vaccine adverse event reporting systems and processes appear to be completely dysfunctional. For the US-focused VAERS, Dr. Jessica Rose reported clear “safety signals”. Detecting these is the purpose of the reporting systems, and their monitoring is a requirement of vaccine approvals. Dr. Rose suggests that the “reported deaths, spontaneous abortions, anaphylactic reactions, cardiovascular, neurological, and immunological adverse events” were indeed likely caused by the COVID-19 vaccines. Her peer-reviewed paper is in press for an interesting volume of Science, Public Health Policy & the Law; the above quote is from a summary at “America’s Frontline Doctors“. Unfortunately, public health authorities in the US, and perhaps even more so in Canada, do not appear to be interested in re-examining vaccine safety. By contrast, the CCCA takes the position that the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines is not sufficiently certain for population-wide roll-out and therefore “the Canadian government’s current COVID-19 vaccine program should be paused immediately for the safety of all Canadians, especially considering that those most at risk of the disease are already largely vaccinated. Additional vaccinations will produce more harm than benefit.”

Vaccines for respiratory diseases such as the flu or COVID-19 are typically non-sterilizing, or “leaky”. They do not prevent infection of the respiratory tract and therefore do not stop transmission either. In addition, and in contrast to natural immunity, the mRNA vaccines produce antibodies only for the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, not for several components of the virus. This limitation is also discussed by Dr. John Zwaagstra in an article on “Vaccine concerns weighed against natural immunity” and a related video interview with the Too Cool for School initiative. Applying a leaky vaccine while the virus circulates widely can promote the development of resistant, and possibly more dangerous, “escape” variants. The CCCA unequivocally declares that “vaccination will not achieve herd immunity” and that we need the contribution of natural immunity among those who are at low risk from COVID-19.

I will never forget reading a doctor’s social media post (whether authentic or just a meme;) about a patient entering her practice during the pandemic and intuitively extending his hand for a greeting. The doctor took the hand and thanked the patient for the boost to her immune system! The media are now waking up to the possibility that the fall and winter 2021/22 will present a bad “flu season” because children were not exposed to the usual amount and variety of viruses to “update” their immune systems. Instead of terrorizing our kids with the thought that they may kill grandma if they don’t follow public health measures, the reality is that they may save grandma through natural immunity after recovering from the infection!

One of the staples of modern health care, and in fact modern civilization, is that no medical treatment can proceed without the informed consent of the patient. In its declaration, the CCCA points out that many vaccinated individuals were not informed about the mRNA technology or their individual benefit-risk assessment. The missing elements of informed consent in the era of COVID include a lack of knowledge of adverse events; padded vaccine efficacy using relative risk reduction without mentioning the much smaller absolute risk reduction; under-estimation of the survivability rate of 99.95% for the under-50, 99.4% for those 50-64 years, and 91% for those 65 and older; susceptibility based on comorbidities; and the extremely low, virtually non-existing risk for children. In this light, I think we need to re-label “informed consent” as “proxy-informed pseudo-consent“. This highlights the fact that in a mass vaccination campaign, possibly under existential pressures from a workplace or school vaccine mandate, information is not gathered and assessed by the patient but by public health authorities as a proxy. And consent is not given voluntarily, as it should, but assumed by default (‘just sign at the bottom”). The CCCA additionally notes that “this blatant disregard for medical ethics and most recent scientific data during COVID-19 vaccinations will irreparably damage Canadians’ trust in the traditional vaccine programs”.

In Section V of the CCCA COVID-19 Declaration, the authors advance legal, scientific, medical, and logistic arguments against vaccine passports and mandates. This includes the resulting perversion of “freely given” informed consent and the prohibition from proceeding with a medical intervention without a person’s consent; equality and non-discrimination rights; international mobility rights; breach of medical privacy; and prohibition from using genetic test results for employment-related decisions. I am particularly pleased to see that the CCCA does not shy away from calling SARS-CoV-2 “similar to a bad flu … for the majority of the population”, given some of the responses I have received in the past for that comparison. In other scientific and medical news, “emerging studies and clinical observations [show] that both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated can contract, carry and transmit COVID-19 and carry similar viral loads. This fact alone entirely negates the purpose of a Vax Pass or vaccine mandates.

Source: CCCA COVID-19 Declaration, page 28, https://www.canadiancovidcarealliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Declaration-Final_v5.pdf

The last of these six sections, and the shortest but perhaps most important and punchy, deals with censorship. The declaration takes a direct hit at the so-called “Trusted News Initiative”, which was created by major news with social media and big tech corporations to combat disinformation and tackle its purported “threat to democracy and even to people’s lives“, yet is viewed by many as an instrument of covert censorship and suppression of alternative viewpoints. The CCCA calls on government and media to stop suppressing, maligning, muzzling, threatening, sanctioning, smearing, de-platforming, and cancelling “highly credentialed and well-respected physicians, scientists and academics” for speaking or writing against the government narrative.

Appendix A of the declaration is a list of some 20 groups of side effects that are under FDA safety surveillance in conjunction with the COVID-19 vaccines. One of those adverse events is death, which reminds me of another meme that is making the rounds: “A treatment that has death as a possible side effect shouldn’t be mandated.” Appendix B provides additional evidence against youth vaccination, while Appendix C summarizes the results of Dr. Rose’s study mentioned above. The Canadian Covid Care Alliance COVID-19 Declaration is a comprehensive and compelling appeal to halt the COVID-19 vaccinations, coercion, and segregation; return to basic medical ethics; refocus the pandemic response towards the protection of vulnerable groups and treatment of the ill; and consult with a broader range of expert advisers. The declaration deserves wide circulation and the immediate attention of decision-makers. As a petition, I hope the Greater Toronto Declaration can help with this.

What’s in a Word?

How the WHO and CDC are redefining the meaning of key public health concepts

Pandemic. The word that describes something affecting all (= pan) people (= demos). But what is that something? According to the World Health Organization, it’s about the global spread of a novel virus that results in “enormous numbers of deaths and illness.” Or rather it was how the WHO defined an influenza pandemic up until 2008. Some time before or during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, the definition was changed and the quoted words about the severity of the impact were removed.

I have written about COVID-19 being a déjà vu of the 2009 swine flu. There, I mentioned the Franco-German TV documentary “Profiteers of Fear – The Business of Swine Flu”, which investigated how the (newly defined) pandemic declaration enabled a global political overreaction with immense financial reward for the pharmaceutical industry. The H1N1 virus was benign and would likely not have qualified for a “pandemic” under the pre-2009 definition. A nuanced round-table discussion of the “elusive definition of pandemic influenza” was published in the WHO Bulletin in 2011 for further reading.

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#IStandWithJuliePonesse – Here Is Why

Dr. Julie Ponesse, professor of Philosophy at Huron College at Western University in London, Ontario, published an emotional video on September 7, 2021, the day of return to campus for many Canadian universities and colleges. The video, which was censored by Youtube within hours but re-uploaded numerous times, including by myself here, reveals that Dr. Ponesse was threatened with dismissal from her faculty position or had already been dismissed that day. In the meantime, it has become clear that she was suspended with pay and received a “termination with cause” letter on September 16.

In the viral video, Prof. Ponesse gives a mock lecture in Ethics 101, using her own case. The central question is whether an employer is right to dismiss an employee in the midst of a successful and productive career for declining an unnecessary, experimental medical procedure. As per Ponesse’s expertise and dedication to teaching philosophical principles, the question is asked from a moral and ethical perspective. It is no secret that she was facing this exact situation, like many higher-education faculty members, and had already answered the question for herself with an unreserved “no”.

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Emergency Update on Covid Research and Outreach

The preparations for, and start of, the Fall 2021 has brought the corona crisis to a new level of intensity. I have not had time to write any of the many blog posts I have in mind or already drafted. Instead, I want to provide a quick summary and update of recent work.

A number of faculty from across Canada and various disciplines spanning the natural and social sciences and humanities have formed Canadian Academics for Covid Ethics. The group had already published several pertinent letters and op-eds that you can find on the web site.

In addition, I interviewed with Argentinian journalist Agustina Sucri for an extensive article titled “Carta de académicos a los no vacunados“, appeared with Dr. Angela Durante on the Richard Syrett Show – News Talk Sauga 960 AM (September 2, 2021, recording from 1:02), and was profiled by Richard G in Fearless Canada’s Covid Stories and Testimonials.

Last but not least, I joined the Canadian Covid Care Alliance and co-authored a letter-to-the-editor of the Toronto Star with Drs. Steven Pelech and Julie Ponesse, in response to the Star’s disturbing August 26 front page hate messages.

More work is in progress.

The Coronoia Reloaded

Surfing the Waves of SARS-CoV-2 and Lockdowns in Canada and Around the World

In a way, writing about the ongoing insanity is helping me keep sane … that’s the last sentence of the conclusion of volume 2 of the Coronoia series. “The Coronoia Reloaded” was published on Bastille Day of 2021, sadly also coincident with President Macron’s announcement of vaccine passports to further establish totalitarian central control of life in France.

Back and front of “The Coronoia Reloaded”, https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B099BYQN78

The book is currently awaiting re-approval from Amazon KDP (Kindle Desktop Publishing) after undergoing a few minor corrections. For the cover photo, I again took a picture of a discarded mask sullying my Southern Georgian Bay beach. The mask is a stark symbol of the futile precautions (see Chapter 13) we continue to engage in, while SARS-CoV-2 just wants to be its viral self (see Part I).

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Lockdowns, Distancing, and Face Masks – Better Sorry Than Safe?

With non-pharmaceutical interventions against SARS-CoV-2, we are pursuing futile precaution at the cost of focused protection.

In an interview for the documentary “Planet Lockdown”, retired epidemiologist Dr. Knut Wittkowski mentions the subtitle of the famous play, “The Barber of Seville”. The subtitle “The Futile Precaution” refers to the literary theme of an older man’s useless attempts to prevent his young wife or love interest from running away with a younger man. The non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) — lockdowns, “social” distancing, and face-covering — mandated to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 increasingly feel like such a futile attempt at stopping a respiratory virus from running its course. As Dr. Wittkowski notes, “we have seen that theme be played on the largest stage possible, the entire world!”

To cope with the “world … gone bonkers” (quoted from Dr. Malcolm Kendrick), I signed up for daily emails from one-of-a-kind libertarian Tom Woods. His confident bashing of “lockdown supporters” has been quite uplifting among the dissonance of zealous-hysterical fear-mongering found across the (social) media. For months now, Woods has been promoting the work of twitterer Ian Miller. Miller shares graphs of daily new “COVID-19 cases” for different countries, US states and counties, and the occasional Canadian province, with markers for noteworthy policy changes such as the beginning and end of mask mandates; public news and statements about mask effectiveness; or major holidays or sports events that were expected to result in “spikes” of cases. The graphs unfailingly show no difference between the curves of states that pursued different approaches; no outbreaks after the lifting of lockdowns and mask mandates; but conversely epidemic curves increasing dramatically despite government restrictions. A small selection is shown here.

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Questions About COVID-19

Following “the” science will get us nowhere – our pandemic response needs a greater diversity of strategies being explored and implemented

The lines above were the original title and subtitle for an opinion piece written by myself and five other Ontario academics, which was published this week in the Toronto Sun under the title “It’s time to follow the scientific method — and re-evaluate Canada’s COVID approach“. We did not intend to present any groundbreaking new findings around the disease or the pandemic response. We merely wanted to put another stake in the ground to argue for more open debate, the end of debasing, censoring, and deplatforming critical voices, and the return to common sense and evidence-based government decision-making.

Screenshot from https://torontosun.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-its-time-to-follow-the-scientific-method-and-re-evaluate-canadas-covid-approach

The greatest strengths of the piece, in my opinion, lies in the group of authors, which consisted of a biotechnologist, two geographers, a historian, a physicist, a physiologist, and a statistician. Across these natural and social science disciplines as well as the humanities, we are united in the conviction that the Western world’s pandemic response to SARS-CoV-2 was badly mismanaged. Importantly, we believe that at this point in the pandemic, you do not need to be a medical or public health expert to speak up; every single person in the world is a stakeholder in the pandemic that they are experiencing and often suffering from!

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The University and the Vaccine

Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario, just announced its Fall 2021 return-to-campus procedures. The decision that “vaccines will not be mandatory“, which is highlighted in the title of the announcement, is a welcome distinction from certain other universities’ approaches. For example, under the guise of “safety first”, Western University in London, Ontario, “mandates vaccinations for students in residence“, noting possible exemptions under the Ontario Human Rights Code, and the University of Toronto requires students to have at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in order to provide a “safe and welcoming residence experience” (no exceptions mentioned). Unfortunately, my university just announced a 180-degree turn from last week and followed its big sister across town to require vaccines for students living in residence on campus. Our spokesperson is quoted saying “This measure is necessary to support students’ safety, growth and development“.

Brock University – announcement of Fall 2021 return to campus procedures, https://brocku.ca/brock-news/2021/06/fall-update-planning-continues-for-return-to-campus-vaccines-will-not-be-mandatory/

Does a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine really provide a “safe and welcoming residence experience” and contribute to “safety, growth and development” of our students? It may indeed bestow a feeling of safety, which I argue is misconstrued as a consequence of persistent, possibly willful, ignorance of the science behind the vaccine trials and an outdated COVID-19 risk assessment.

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