What historian Phil Magness has discovered, with newly unearthed emails, comes not as a shock to any of us but it is satisfying to see the confirmation of what we suspected. It seemed at the time that the effort to attack and destroy both the GBD [Great Barrington Declaration] and its authors was coordinated from the top. Here at last is the proof that our intuition was not crazy.
Those weeks following the release of the Great Barrington Declaration did feel odd.
On the good side, medical doctors, scientists, public health workers, and citizens all over the world were thrilled that three top scholars in fields of public health and epidemiology had spoken out against lockdowns and for a reasoned approach to Covid. They eagerly signed the document.
Yes, there were some attempts to sabotage it too, with fake names and so on, which should have been a clue about what was coming. The fakes were deleted in days and new methods of confirming signatures were deployed.
The document, on the one hand, said nothing controversial. The right way to deal with this pandemic, it said, was to focus on those who could face severe outcomes from disease – a very plain point and nothing new. There was nothing to be gained by locking down the whole of society because of a pathogen with such a huge differential in its demographic impact.
The virus would have to become endemic in any case (including the realization of “herd immunity,” which is not a “strategy” but a descriptive term widely accepted in epidemiology) and certainly would not be stopped by destroying peoples’ lives and liberties.
The hope of the Declaration was simply that journalists would pay attention to a different point of view and a debate would begin on the unprecedented experiment in lockdowns. Perhaps science could prevail, even in this climate.
On the bad side, and at the very same time, following the release, the attacks began pouring in, and they were brutal, structured to destroy. The three main signers – Sunetra Gupta (Oxford), Martin Kulldorff (Harvard), and Jay Bhattacharya (Stanford) – made the statement as a matter of principle. It was also born of frustration with the prevailing narrative.
Mostly this declaration was intended as an educational effort. But the authors were being called vicious names and treated like heretics that should be burned. There certainly was no civil debate; quite the contrary.
It was all quite shocking given that the Declaration was a statement concerning what almost everyone in these professional circles believed earlier in the year. They were merely stating the consensus based on science and experience. Nothing more. Even on March 2, 2020, 850 scientists signed a letter to the White House warning against lockdowns, closures, and travel restrictions. It was sponsored by Yale University. Today it reads nearly like a first draft of the Great Barrington Declaration. Indeed on that same day, Fauci wrote to a Washington Post reporter: “The epidemic will gradually decline and stop on its own without a vaccine.”
But following the March 13-16, 2020 lockdowns, the orthodoxy had evidently changed. And suddenly. The signers of the GBD had declined to change with it. Thus did they endure astonishingly brutal smears. What felt odd at the time was the sheer intensity of the attacks, as well as their dogmatism and ferocity. These attacks also had a strong political flavor that had little regard for science.
Already by the summer, it was very clear that the lockdowns had not achieved what they were supposed to achieve. Two weeks had stretched into many months, and the data on cases and deaths were uncorrelated with the “mitigation measures” that had been imposed on the country and the world. Meanwhile, millions had missed cancer screenings, schools and churches had been shut, public health was in a state of crisis, and small businesses and communities were fighting to stay alive.