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.

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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.

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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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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Every Death Counts, Not Just COVID Deaths

Canada’s 2020 mortality in perspective

Throughout 2020, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, in charge of Sweden’s moderate response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, kept pointing to the longterm collateral damage caused by lockdowns and saying that the year-end excess mortality would be the earliest metric to assess the success or failure of the “Swedish model”, as compared to what we might call the “Chinese model” based on the origin of lockdown measures. Many a lockdown skeptic has been waiting for the annual mortality statistics, only to find out that even something as seemingly straightforward as recording deaths isn’t without challenges and delays, and moreover that the concept of “excess mortality” is anything but definitive.

Let’s examine mortality trends for Canada. Most of the data sources and graphs included here were inspired by Twitter user @Milhouse_Van_Ho, who has prepared and shared series of COVID-19 statistics for Toronto, Ontario, Quebec, and all of Canada since April 2020, and whose contributions to an evidence-based discussion of the virus threat and suitable response measures I want to gratefully acknowledge. Statistics Canada wrote about “Excess mortality in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic” in August 2020, explaining that measuring excess mortality requires an accurate death count as well as “some way to determine the number of deaths that would be expected to be observed were there no pandemic”. Without giving details, they suggest that Canada is using an estimate that takes longer-term trends into account. And, “In the Canadian context, with an aging and growing population, the number of deaths has been steadily increasing over recent years and so a higher number of deaths in 2020 would be expected regardless of COVID-19.”

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