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A Note on the Media and the Wuhan “Lab-Origin” Theory

From Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post:

The source of the coronavirus that has left more than 3 million people dead around the world remains a mystery. But in recent months the idea that it emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) — once dismissed as a ridiculous conspiracy theory — has gained new credence.

…a lack of transparency by China and renewed attention to the activities of the Wuhan lab have led some scientists to say they were too quick to discount a possible link at first.

Kessler’s article has been received with glee by strong proponents of the “lab-origin” theory of Covid-19, with Fox News reacting with an article headlined “Ted Cruz mocks Washington Post as ‘clowns’ after fact-check declares Wuhan lab leak theory ‘suddenly’ credible”.

More generally, a Substack post by Michael Tracey headlined “As New Evidence Emerges For COVID “Lab-Leak” Theory, Journalists Who Screamed “Conspiracy” Humiliate Themselves” is proving popular, although Kessler’s WaPo colleague Aaron Blake has a more measured perspective:

It has become evident that some corners of the mainstream media overcorrected when it came to one particular theory from Trump and his allies: that the coronavirus emanated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, rather than naturally.

It’s also true that many criticisms of the coverage are overwrought and that Trump’s and his allies’ claims invited and deserved skepticism.

Blake notes that the Trump administration “leaned into” the lab-leak theory “hard” while declining to provide evidence.

He could have gone further: public discussion was positively corrupted by bad actors such as Steve Bannon, who produced an alleged whistleblower who claimed that the chimeric nature of the coronavirus was self-evident, but was being covered up by scientists in cahoots with China (she was heavily promoted on Fox via Tucker Carlson). In the UK, articles sensationally promoting – rather than fairly evaluating – specific lab-origin claims were prominent in the Mail on Sunday (which took credit for Trump being asked about the subject at a press conference) and the Daily Telegraph, which wheeled out  former head of MI6 Richard Dearlove to give the subject the aura and authority of “intelligence”, even though he has no more knowledge of the subject than the rest of us (Dearlove recently went on to provide similar commentary to LBC).

Meanwhile, scientific voices who argue for continuing scepticism risk being overlooked. On Twitter, a thread by Nsikan Akpan (former science editor at National Geographic) argues that there is evidence against the “lab-origins” theory and for the “natural origins” theory; his interpretation is backed by a data scientist with a biology background here and expanded on here.

UPDATE: See also “The Lab Leak Theory Doesn’t Hold Up” by Justin Ling for Foreign Policy.

One Response

  1. Has Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post done an article on:

    The source of Biden’s motivation to run against Trump no longer remains a mystery. He has finally shut up about the “Fine People” Hoax as Trump actually said there were fine people “on both sides” and the anti-Trump media shouldn’t have “edited” out from the middle of his statement that he wasn’t talking about the racists and white supremacists and that he totally condemned them!

    How about:

    More generally, as posts headlined “As New Evidence Emerges For The Election Irregularities Theory, Journalists Who Screamed “Conspiracy” Humiliate Themselves”?

    Do Kessler’s WaPo colleagues now have a more measured perspective on claims Trump was a racist against Mexicans as they finally acknowledge his comments were about an epidemic of rape by people traffickers, drug smugglers, and even fellow illegal aliens, being complained about by “refugee” and feminist support groups, the murderous activities of sadistic torturers the MS13 gang, and Obama and Biden’s own passport recognition laws?!

    Or even:

    It has become evident that some (almost all?) corners of the mainstream media “overcorrected” when it came to one particular “theory” about Trump and his alleged “instructions” to his allies:

    After the “Drink Bleach” Hoax was expose in Congress as the “liberal” media’s slicing and dicing of Trump’s questioning of an adviser on the research trials on “injecting” Far UV *LIGHT* “disinfectant” into ventilator tubes, compounded with interviews of domestic household bleach manufacturers and chemists warning about the dangers of drinking bleach?

    And that that many criticisms of the coverage of Trump’s reference to George Floyd’s funeral were “overwrought” by the editing out of what he said: that Floyd would be pleased with the turnout and public reaction, and the splicing on of a separate, and unconnected, line from a much later part of his speech about economic issues, and that Trump’s opponents in the media and their allies’ in the antisocial media’s claims invited and deserved, ermm, “skepticism”.

    Have Barth’ Notes yet noted that Trump Derangement Syndrome meant “liberals” “leaned into” the “former” British Intelligence Officer’s Putin Collusion and Moscow hotel room golden shower-leak theory “hard” while declining to provide any actual evidence?

    I could have gone further: public discussion was positively corrupted by bad actors such as the “Democrat” media, who produced an endless array of alleged whistleblowers……

    So many “liberal” hoaxes.

    But life’s too short!

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