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Covid Vaccine Sceptics Invest in New Paper from Aseem Malhotra

From the website of South African academic publisher AOSIS:

…Writing in the peer-reviewed Journal of Insulin Resistance (JIR), one of the UK’s most eminent Consultant Cardiologists Dr. Aseem Malhotra, who was one of the first to take two doses of the vaccine and promote it on Good Morning Britain, says that since the rollout of the vaccine the evidence of its effectiveness and true rates of adverse events have changed.

In a two-part review article entitled “Curing the pandemic of misinformation on COVID-19 mRNA vaccines through real evidence-based medicine,” he writes that real-world data reveals that in the non-elderly population, the number needed to vaccinate to prevent one death from Covid-19 runs into thousands and that re-analysis of randomised controlled trial data ( that first led to approval of the vaccines for BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna) suggests a greater risk of suffering a serious adverse event from the vaccine than to be hospitalised with Covid-19.

The review article makes only passing reference to “insulin” as a nod to the journal’s stated purpose, and the journal appears to have been chosen simply because Malhotra is a member of the editorial board. The editor, one Caryn Zinn, is a nutritionist.

Assuming that the peer review process was as rigorous as claimed, publication means that a couple of academics looked the paper over and decided that the issues it raises are worth airing. It’s a baseline for the start of an academic discussion. However, Malhotra and his supporters appear to believe that publication is a landmark event that establishes widespread vaccine injury as confirmed scientific fact. Malhotra has even given a lengthy press conference about his paper in the Upper Hall at the Emmanuel Centre – chosen due to its Westminster location – under the auspices of the World Council for Health, an organisation described by Vice in February as “an umbrella group for purveyors of COVID misinformation”.

Malhotra was previously profiled by the Guardian in 2018, when Sarah Boseley noted his views on statins:

Malhotra urges a low-carb, high-fat diet. His book, The Pioppi Diet, has the distinction of being named by the British Dietetic Association as one of the five worst “celeb” diet books in Britain…

[In 2016] Malhotra was expressing strong views about statins, claiming in a BMJ article that was later partially retracted that they caused side-effects in 20% of patients. On BBC radio, he went further. “It was actually probably an underestimate,” he said, and questioned the benefits of the drug for any patient, citing the cholesterol sceptic Michel de Lorgeril.

He was accused by Prof Rory Collins at Oxford University of endangering lives. Collins said scare stories about statins could do as much harm as Andrew Wakefield did when he claimed that vaccines caused autism.

Malhotra’s father died of an unexpected heart attack last year aged 73, six months after being vaccinated. In his review article Malhotra explains that his father had been in good health, and that vaccination must therefore be the reason for his death.

It remains to be seen how academics respond to his paper formally, although engagement on social media has been scathing: on Twitter, James Neill has a handy “Master list of debunks” thread that includes threads by Viki Male, Frank Han, John Bye, Dr Barrett, Medlife Crisis, Demian Tresch, Health Nerd, Carol Jasper and David Robert Grimes. Wider context has also been provided by the Counter Disinformation Project.

Advance news of Malhotra’s paper was given to John Bowe, a retired actor who runs a self-styled “vaccine injury” advice line (discussed here). The fulfillment of prophecies that vaccination would cause widespread death and harm is not self-evident, and so the faithful have taken to scouring the media for anecdotes about sudden deaths and attempting to discern signs and proofs by sifting through published statistics. Malhotra does a bit of both.

On 12 September Bowe announced “something massive is coming next week”, and he warned “DONT GET JABBED”. On 23 and 24 September his associates Neil Oliver and James Melville also indicated that they were in the know, and Melville explained that there had been a delay due to the mourning period for the Queen. Followers were thus kept in eager anticipation for two weeks – by the time of the big reveal, many of them may have already declined booster jabs and invested personal credibility in exhorting friends and relations to follow suit. As such, they were primed to accept Malhotra’s paper uncritically.

Invitations to the press conference were apparently handled by one James Freeman Wells, a former Brexit Party MEP, and he is currently complaining that “the UK press” did not attend. Wells has also recorded a video with Malhotra, available on his “Freeman Reports United Free Press” website and the conspiricist video-sharing site Brand New Tube (discussed here). Wells’ previous subjects have included the New Zealand web show Counterspin (“labelled far-right by legacy media”, according to Wells) and Australian Senator Alex Antic. The video of the press conference, meanwhile, was handled by “Oracle Films”, which specialises in interviews with Covid vaccination sceptics such as Matt Le Tissier and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

In other words, Malhotra is deeply embedded within a conspiricist milieu and online media network, and this is his target audience/congregation. This is also reflected in the paper itself – he is listed as the sole author, but his acknowledgements include references to “Dr Clare Craig for edits and data analysis, and Alex Starling for comments and suggestions”. Some deleted Tweets that undermine Craig’s general credibility have been helpfully preserved by Neil O’Brien MP, and can be seen here. If she did the data analysis, one wonders why she was not listed as a co-author.

Last October, John Bye noted that Alex Starling had had an online exchange with one Paul Yowell about how the MPs William Wragg and Christopher Chope could be furnished “with the right information” so that they would start asking questions about adverse vaccine reactions rather than just vaccine effectiveness. That may explain why there is now an “All-Party Parliamentary Group on Covid-19 Vaccine Damage“, chaired by Chope. According to the World Council for Health, the original plan was that Malhotra’s presentation would be at a launch event for this APPG (which they misname as the “All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vaccine Damage”).

UPDATE: A former broadcast executive named Mark Sharman attended the press conference and complains:

Rows of empty chairs stood testimony to the indifference as a senior physician presented his findings at a press conference in London today (Tuesday September 27th). Only GBNews and a Polish crew attended.

Meanwhile, John Bye has posted an account to Twitter. The original thread is the best place to access this (he includes screenshots from various sources), but as a bit of future proofing here is the text:

Within a minute of starting, Aseem Malhotra managed to crowbar in a reference to the Holocaust. Talking about “wilful blindness”, he implied that people “ignoring” covid vaccine injuries, which he falsely claims are common, are comparable to Germans ignoring Nazi atrocities.

He also confirmed that anti-vax disinformation group HART helped him write his paper, saying he asked Clare [Craig] and HART to estimate how many people they think would need to be vaccinated to prevent one covid death. Needless to say, their estimate is wildly inaccurate.

HART’s estimate is based on UKHSA data which a) specifically says it shouldn’t be used to judge vaccine efficacy, b) has confounding factors re: who got vaccinated, and c) is widely acknowledged to overestimate the unvaccinated population (and so underestimates their death rate).

Later on Malhotra cited HART again, saying “the HART group are very good”. Er .. no. “They’ve looked at ambulance data, and after the vaccine rollout we found there were an extra 14,000 out of hospital cardiac arrests that are unexplained.” Many are likely to be covid related.

Bizarrely, Malhotra pointed at high rates of cardiac / respiratory arrest call outs in 2021-22 and said they “should have stopped” after the first wave in March 2020. Er .. why? The second wave was even bigger, and we’re still dealing with the long term impacts of covid.

HART aren’t the only anti-vax group Malhotra name dropped. He said “I spoke to [RFK Jr] for the very first time yesterday. He called me and was congratulating me on the paper.” RFK Jr is founder of Children’s Health Defense, which campaigns against routine childhood vaccines.

Earlier Malhotra had dismissed concerns about the MMR vaccine, saying “traditional” vaccines are amongst the safest treatments. So why is he chumming with RFK Jr and the WCH when both promote the work of Andrew Wakefield, who falsely claimed the MMR jab causes autism?!?

After Malhotra finished, Ryan Cole made even wilder claims about covid vaccines, and Tess Lawrie wrapped up by claiming “there’s no longer any doubt among independent experts who have no conflicts of interest that what are called covid-19 vaccines are neither safe nor effective”.

Lawrie then told anyone worried by the nonsense they’d just heard to check the World Council for Health website “for information on what may help reduce the impact of the covid injections on your health”. This includes everything from ivermectin (of course) to .. potatoes?

Things got really wild in the Q&A session though. Responding to a question from unemployed actor John Bowe, Ryan Cole suggested the only reason vaccinated people aren’t all dying is because most of us got “duds” due to “poor manufacturing”. Malhotra didn’t challenge this idiocy.

Malhotra did compliment fellow low carb diet fan turned covid crank Ivor Cummins on his “documentary” though. He also did a separate interview with Ivor after the main event, which is now being teased with a clip in which (hilariously) Malhotra doesn’t get a word in edgeways.

Responding to a question from former Brexit Party MEP James Wells, who seems to have setup the press conference, Malhotra also said he thinks “big pharma” is funding studies linking excess cardiac deaths to covid to divert attention away from their vaccines.

Malhotra admits that severe covid (which hundreds of thousands of people in the UK have had) can lead to heart attacks, but that “it’s complete and total nonsense” that mild covid can also cause complications. “Show us the data”, he said. Here you go: [Link]

Things went off the rails at the end of the Q&A though, when a member of the audience asked “if you still believe in airborne viruses”. Amidst nervous laughter from the panel, Malhotra refused to take the microphone. Sadly these are the kind of people he’s associating with now.

Tess Lawrie however said that while “I think our current understanding is that [viruses do exist], there’s a lot that needs to be discussed now in terms of our understanding of disease causation and so on, so let’s start asking these questions and having these conversations”.

GBNews (which has a history of promoting Covid vaccination scaremongering) also invited Malhotra onto the channel, where he was interviewed by Dan Wootton.

UPDATE 2: Also at GB News, Mark Dolan has declared Malhotra to be the UK’s “Greatest Briton”, based on a nomination from Dominique Samuels. In Dolan’s view, “we need to have a grown up conversation about vaccine mandates, vaccine safety and victims of injuries from the vaccine”.

Some Notes on Alex Belfield and Andrew Bridgen MP

From a Sunday Times article about former BBC radio presenter Alex Belfield, who last week received a long jail sentence for stalking several individuals:

While he was tormenting his victims with online abuse, Belfield, who has nine employees, was estimated to be making £528,000 a year from his YouTube channel, The Voice of Reason — although Google has now stopped his channel carrying advertising. It carried nasty and sometimes misogynistic, racist or homophobic content, but he also interviewed famous names such as Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, and had defenders including the Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who wrote to the then home secretary Priti Patel last year about Belfield’s treatment.

Last weekend, Belfield — by then a convicted stalker — performed alongside the right-wing controversialist Katie Hopkins at the Joe Longthorne Theatre in Blackpool, at a gig titled Two Gobshites Live, which promised to be “not PC but totally LOL”.

Brigden wrote to Patel in May 2021, stating:

It appears that the source of all of the unsubstantiated allegations made to Nottingham Police against him emanate from staff or former staff of the BBC.

Quotes from the letter were published in the Sunday Express as an anti-BBC story headlined “Broadcaster Alex Belfield arrested FIVE times and strip-searched in ‘BBC witch-hunt'”. This was shortly after Belfield had been questioned regarding a hoax bomb threat to the BBC that apparently remains unsolved to this day. It is unclear whether Belfield was able to corroborate his claim of a strip-search, although the Express treated it as fact. Bridgen also commented on Twitter:

As I’ve been warning for years, the BBC has huge power and authority without adequate accountability, which led to many scandals including Jimmy Savile Martin Bashir and their ongoing attacks on Alex Belfield, we’re all forced under threat of criminal prosecution to pay for this

Belfield’s highest-profile victim was the TV presenter Jeremy Vine; there were also seven other complainants, although in four cases the jury did not not convict. This leaves the regrettable impression that it is easier for a celebrity to achieve protection and justice than ordinary people, although without fuller details we can only speculate. I certainly would not hestitate to regard all of the complainants as being Belfield’s victims, as well as other individuals he has been accused of targeting, such as the broadcaster Iain Lee.

The judge’s sentencing remarks can be read here. The judge told Belfield that he accepted that “in certain limited respects you were acting as a form of media commentator in stating views on matters of public interest when you made some of your communications.” However, he added, “even accepting the latitude our laws give to those exercising free speech rights, on the jury’s verdicts you exceeded the generous margins.”

Belfield sent one victim “repeated abusive communications directly”, made “the false and scandalous accusation” that he “had regularly had sex in public on gay beaches with strangers”, and also made “false allegations that he had mental health issues”. In another case, he used images of his victim’s wife and child, and “attached an image of a foetal scan to an email and attempted to contact his wife”. In the third case Belfield “made false representations as to intended legal action”, “went as far as calling his mother” and “sought to in effect blackmail him by revealing details of a long spent conviction”. As regards Jeremy Vine, Belfield falsely alleged fraud, and “actively encouraged others to contact Mr Vine during his broadcasts to pursue the baseless allegation of theft of public money”.

It is interesting to see here malicious false allegations dealt with not merely as civil libel causing loss of reputation, but as criminal harassment causing alarm and distress. It should be noted that this was all done openly by Belfield under his own name; beyond the court case, however, there is also reason to suspect that he engaged in harassment via sockpuppeting and trolling. As Iain Lee writes:

for the last few weeks I’ve been getting the most obnoxious responses to my YT videos from someone calling themselves SarahEverardsRapists – you’d be hard pushed to make up a more offensive name

Alex Belfield goes to prison. Those posts stop
Obviously him

Presumably Andrew Bridgen was unaware of all this when he advocated on Belfield’s behalf last year, but he called in to Belfield’s YouTube channel as recently as three months ago (on the subject of “Is Boris Finished?”), which was some time after Belfield had been charged. If Bridgen now regrets his association with a man whose unreasonable conduct has been a matter of undisputed public knowledge since long before his conviction, there is no public evidence of it (1). One wonders if other recent high-profile callers also wish they had been more circumspect.

Belfield’s output also included conspiracy content on subjects such as 5G and Covid vaccination, and even now he retains some support among conspiricists. The pop-music duo Right Said Fred are of the view that is it a “mistake… to think hurty stuff said online is a ‘crime'”, and commentators such as David Kurten and Paul Joseph Watson similiarly deploy ironic quote marks around “online stalking” and “online harassment”.

UPDATE: The following posts on Twitter come from a pseudonymous account, but there is no reason not to take them at face value:

The fact is @ABridgen MP had every opportunity to be aware of all this. I emailed him on 25th March 2021 at his parliamentary email address with very extensive notes on Belfield’s public activity AND the bullying troll accounts he denies links to, but operated from his home & admin’d his YouTube phone-in. There’s pic proof Belfield lied re links. Homo/transphobia, mental health slurs, suicide goading all listed to Bridgen. I wrote again 31/3/21: “I am sorry that Alex Belfield is continuing to associate himself publicly with having your support”.

UPDATE 2: A Katie Hopkins parody Twitter account claims that it was approached by Anna Brees (see note below), Brees apparently believing that that the account was controlled by Hopkins. According to a screenshot, Brees wanted to know where Belfield was imprisoned, and wrote “I’ve messaged asking his barrister and I’m asking you. Ive asked Andrew Bridgen”. Brees remains supportive of Belfield (albeit with some caveats), and perhaps unwisely she appears to have replied to Tweets by Belfield’s victims with links to his videos.

Note

1. Bridgen also has other links with the conspiracy milieu: in 2021 he was criticised after giving an interview to Anna Brees, and her former associate Jon Wedger previously claimed in 2018 that Bridgen had “made contact” with him. There is also a photo of Wedger and fellow Satanic Ritual Abuse conspiracy fanatic Jeanette Archer sitting at an outside café table with an unidentified man whose appearance from the rear is consistent with Bridgen. He has also previously advocated on behalf of disgraced former chief constable Mike Veale.

A Note on the “Jeffrey Epstein’s List” Rhetoric

A Tweet from Donald Trump Jr, self-styled “Future Leader Ministry of Truth”:

There’s something seriously broken in federal Law Enforcement if they’re going after Mike Lindell, but not the people on Jeffery Epstein’s list.

“Jeffrey Epstein’s list” here does not mean Epstein’s famous address book [1], which appeared online in redacted form in 2015, and which it was agreed would not be made public during Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial, nor it is his flight logs.

Instead, the phrase refers to a speculative “client list” that either Epstein supposedly kept himself or that was compiled by investigators who asssed the evidence of his crimes. Elon Musk mused in June that it was “odd” that the media didn’t care about “The Epstein/Maxwell client list”, and his Tweet was picked up by Tucker Carlson in August as a supposed contrast with coverage of the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago. The American Spectator even speculated that the raid occurred because Trump has a copy of the list.

The implication is that the list consists of powerful people, and that federal law enforcement are failing to “go after” them due to their status. This dovetails with concerns over the leniency and discretion with which Epstein was treated following his original conviction in 2008, his attempts to restore his reputation before his final fall (not least by being photographed with Prince Andrew [2]), and conspiracy theories about the circumstances of his death in prison.

After so many failed prophecies of Pizzagate and QAnon, the Epstein scandal seemed at last to offer concrete proof that “elites” are despicable sex criminals who act with impunity, even if the details are hardly comparable to bizarre claims about infants being tortured for adrenochrome and so on. The purported existence of a hidden list of names, and speculation about who features on it, is likely to become part of the mythology of conspiricists for years to come, continually stoked by the political rhetoric of rival elites who want us to believe it is inherently unfair for them to be investigated for anything.

Notes

1. The address book is a mundane list of contacts of the sort that you would expect any well-connected public figure to have built up. However, individuals featured in it have been subjected to accusations and denunciations based on wild interpretations of its significance. The British broadcaster Andrew Neil is currently suing Boris Johnson’s former lover Jennifer Arcuri for libel over one such instance of this.

2. I find it odd that Virginia Roberts Giuffre does not appear to accuse Prince Andrew in her 2011 correspondence with the journalist Sharon Churcher (a point I’m surprised hasn’t been made much of anywhere). However, Andrew’s explanation for meeting Epstein and being seen with him in public in 2010 is also odd.

Some Notes on the Hunter Biden Child Sex Abuse Smear

From a New York Magazine long-read by Andrew Rice and Olivia Nuzzi about the Hunter Biden laptop story, referring to the activities of Steve Bannon’s associates Jack Maxey and Rudy Giuliani:

[Jack] Maxey tried to turn up the volume, describing in a public speech an allegedly indecent photo of a teenage girl that he had seen on the computer. At the time the original laptop stories were published, Giuliani had advanced a similar claim, driving down to Delaware to urge the local police to investigate whether one of the photos on the laptop amounted to child pornography. The Delaware authorities showed no interest, and others who examined the laptop suggested a more innocent explanation: The photo belonged to a teenage Biden family member whose photo roll had been backed up on the laptop. Still, the insinuation, which resonated with the QAnon conspiracy theory, seeped into the cultural groundwater.

The article also includes interview material with John Paul Mac Isaac, the computer repair man who says that Biden’s laptop had been brought to his shop:

As much as he disapproved of Hunter, he added, his sense of honor compelled him to say that the child-porn rumors were untrue and that some widely circulated images attributed to the laptop were phony.

Mac Isaac also said that the FBI seemed to have been primarily interested in the possibility of evidence of sexual offences, from which we can reasonably infer that no evidence was subsequently discovered.

Rice and Nuzzi’s article is extensive, but the above is an angle that has been explored in more detail in pieces by Dan Friedman for Mother Jones. In April, Friedman recalled how false claims about the laptop were promoted by another Bannon associate, Guo Wengui, and like the New York Magazine authors he notes the affinity with QAnon:

On September 25, 2020, Wang Dinggang—who at the time was a Guo ally with a YouTube channel called Lude Media that was featured on GTV—announced, falsely, that Chinese sources had sent US officials “three hard disks” of material related to Hunter Biden. That was the first public indication that Trump allies had obtained Hunter Biden’s private material.

…While he orchestrated the publication of the Hunter Biden material, Guo encouraged supporters to make a false, vile claim. He instructed them to say the laptop included videos that showed Hunter Biden having sex with underage Chinese girls, according to messages he sent and people who communicated with him. Guo also asserted, baselessly, that the Chinese government had created or obtained the compromising videos and images and used them to blackmail the Bidens… These lies dovetailed with the QAnon conspiracy theory, which holds that many prominent Democrats are pedophiles and that Trump was working to stop them.

In a follow-up article published in July, Friedman further notes:

In that video and subsequent rants, Wang falsely asserted that the material included videos showing sexual abuse of children. Those claims were repeated on another Guo site, GNews; by other right-wing publications and figuresby Giuliani; and after the election by Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

Friedman’s July article includes references to leaked audio in which Bannon appears to express approval of promoting false claims in order to increase the news value of the story:

“We hammered this guy every day for 10 days with the worst pictures in the world, drug addict, taking money from CCP,” Bannon said. “No response. Nothing. And the negatives just keep going up.”

…“That’s why when people tell me, ‘Lude’s stuff’s getting crazy,’ I go, ‘Not crazy enough,’” Bannon said, drawing laughter from others in the meeting.

As quoted by Rice and Nuzzi, Bannon now says “A lot of stuff I do, I don’t feel great about… But we’re in a war”. However, it looks to me that in their greed to hype potentially damaging disclosures about Hunter Biden’s business dealings into something devastating for Joe Biden, Giuliani and Bannon botched their own scoop and destroyed the credibility of the whole story – an outcome that is now being framed as the mainstream media and intelligence services working together to suppress a scandal.

The early involvement of Guo in promoting stories about Hunter Biden was also noted at the time by ABC News in Australia, in a story focusing on two Chinese dissidents living in Brisbane and New York who had previously had dealings with Guo and then been targeted after falling out with him.

Guo has also been involved with spreading Covid conspiracy theories: his “Rule of Law Society” and “Rule of Law Foundation” published Li-Meng Yan’s claim that the the coronavirus was obviously a manufactured hybrid bioweapon, and there is a striking photo of Lude posing with Giuliani, with Bannon in the background and Yan’s reflection caught in a mirror. Yan has since fallen out with Guo.

Excursus

The sexual offences smear against Hunter Biden does not appear to feature in My Son Hunter, a new movie produced by Breitbart that has not been well received by critics. The film has been widely noted in British media due to the involvement of actor-turned-activist Laurence Fox in the role of Hunter Biden. The story is by Phelim McAleer and the screenplay is by Brian Godawa, author of self-described “Biblical novels” such as a series called Chronicles of the Nephilim, as well as a book called End Times Bible Prophecy.

Matthew Sweet Highlights GB News’s Anti-Vax Conspiracy Culture

“It’s not the BBC, you know, you actually get your facts right!” – Liz Truss on GB News, 20 August

Journalist and cultural historian Matthew Sweet writes an open letter to GB News’s Mark Steyn, declining an invitation to appear on his show:

When I agree to make a media appearance, I need to be reassured that the host and the show meet proper journalistic standards. I do not believe that you or GB News are currently meeting these standards. Moreover, I think that GB News is becoming a space though which conspiracy theories are being introduced into the British media.

As an example he cites Naomi Wolf, whose 2019 book Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalisation of Love was withdrawn by the publisher after a disastrous Radio 3 interview in which Sweet raised issues of accuracy that destroyed her entire argument. In his letter, Sweet describes her as

as person who believes, among other things, that the Pfizer vaccine is a Chinese bioweapon with which the CCP is assassinating community leaders across America.

Further, in conversation with Steyn she

made false claims about the rise in neonatal deaths in Ontario. She suggested that Bill Gates had bribed the BBC into suppressing the facts about this. Then she made similar false claims about neonatal deaths in Scotland. You might have challenged her on these matters, but instead you nodded them through and congratated her.

Steyn wanted Sweet to come on his show for a debate after Sweet had criticised him on a Twitter thread (here), which Sweet summarises thus:

I said that you had insinuated that several young atheles had died from the effects of the Covid vaccine. On your sarcastically-titled “Nothing to See Here” segment you made these insinuations about the recent tragic deaths of the cyclist Rab Wardell, the rugby player Ben Benn, the footballer Molly White and the boxer Dominic Oscar. There is no reported evidence that vaccines had any bearing on their deaths… I would suggest that material like this is beneath serious notice.

Sweet goes on to note how Steyn had misinterpreted mortality data [1], citing a fact-check by Iria Carballo-Carbajal of Health Feedback here.

Sweet has now expanded his case on Twitter, judging

that it is reasonable to conclude that @GBNews is engaged in the promotion of anti-vax conspiracy theories, and perhaps ought to be considered part of that culture itself.

I dislike quoting too much of someone else’s content simply to for its own sake, but given the ephemeral nature of Twitter and its inaccessibility to non-users I think a record outside the platform might be useful to some. Readers should preferably view the original. I also prefer treating Tweets as normal quotes rather than as embedded text, although links are included below.

Sweet starts with a discussion of another Steyn guest, a certain Dr Guy Hatchard [here]. Hatchard was brought on to discuss mortality statistics; Sweet points out that he is not an epidemiologist or statistician, but that he instead “has a PhD in Psychology from Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa – a private college founded by the yoga guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi” [here – be sure to check out the “Yogic flying” gif] and is a member of Voices for Freedom, a New Zealand anti-vax group “recently censured for handing out misleading leaflets about Covid” [here, citing source here].

Hatchard also claims that the Covid vaccine “isn’t really a vaccine” [here], a view “shared by other people on your show. People like your fellow @GBNews stalwarts Matt LeTissier and Neil Oliver” [here]. Sweet then turns to Oliver on LeTissier’s Gettr channel as “a good study for anyone interested in how people can be radicalised by online conspiracy theories” [here]:

Here, @thecoastguy [Neil Oliver] says he’s not an anti-vaxxer because he doesn’t think the vaccine is really a vaccine. It’s a “procedure” and part of a plot to create a one-world government. These beliefs, I’d suggest, are the unfiltered versions of views he expresses on @GBNews. [here]

Sweet could have added that Oliver’s quest for confirmatory views recently led to him interviewing Peter Sweden, in a segment that GB News has deleted after Sweden’s history of far-right comments was highlighted.

Next up: Leilani Dowding [2]:

And here, I think, is the weirdest of them all. Actually, I think a stronger kind of language must be used in the case of your @GBNews colleague @leilanidowding. Here she is on your show in April. [here]

And here, on an an online show by the conspiracy theorist Gareth Icke . She is laughing and doing air quotes as she says that she doesn’t believe that her friend’s mother died of covid, because she thinks covid isn’t real. [here]

@Leilanidowding is an enthusiast for 9/11 conspiracy theories. She appears to think the Moon landings were faked. She tweets extracts from a book that claims the vaccine is a hoax and that NHS ambulance crews were only pretending to be on emergency calls during the pandemic. [here – includes screenshots]

I look at this stuff and I feel I’m seeing into a very dark place. She is often featured on @GBNews. [here]

So I wonder, did you and your producers book guests like this in spite of their being conspiracy theorists, or because of it? [here]

In the case of @thecoastguy and @mattletissier, we might be generous. They have histories in legitimate broadcasting. As for @LeilaniDowding – she seems a much more worrying example. [here]

I wonder how you know of her, without being engaged with the sphere of anti-vax conspiracist websites and youtube channels where she seems to do her work? To me this suggests you may be actively recruiting commentators from that culture. [here]

Finally:

As for the bigger problem of the sympathy between @GBNews and online conspiracy culture, that is a matter for the regulator, and, I’d suggest, requires the urgent attention of the @CommonsDCMS. [here]

UPDATE: GB News has responded to Sweet by letter. The text, which is attributed to “GB News” rather than a specific individual, frames his complaint as being that “GB News should have been more supportive of government policy”. It states that Steyn’s programme has “featured families how have lost a loved on to Covid vaccination”, and draws attention to an article in the BMJ from June 2022 about the government’s vaccine damage payment scheme. It adds that there “would appear to be several thousand” vaccine deaths.

Sweet has posted the letter to Twitter, noting that it “fails to answer any of my substantive points about inaccurate reporting and the use of conspiracy theorists and crackpots to comment on gravely serious matters”.

UPDATE 2 (19 September 2022): On the day of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, Sweet notes a Twitter exchange between Dowding and another user:

Dowding: Wow the nurse who gave the 1st vaccine out is walking with the queens coffin. This is mad. They will never admit it… . This is doubling down.

Reply: At least we’ll have their name for future reprisals.

The reply has been “Liked” by Dowding, which amounts to approval.

UPDATE 3 (27 Septmber): Sweet has responded to GB News, in a letter that he has also partly posted as a Twitter thread. He writes:

In a statement you seem to imply that I have argued that it is impossible for the vaccine to cause harm or death. Clearly that is not true and I have never expressed such a belief… I think most reasonable people would agree with your assertion that there should be proper reporting on deaths caused by the Covid-19 vaccines.

In your statement you insist that @GBNews does not disseminate vaccine misinformation. Unfortunately, there would seem to be vaccine misinformation in the paragraph in which you assert this.

The most recent @ONS figures suggest that your assertion of “several thousand” is inaccurate. In the UK 43 deaths have been caused by the Covid vaccine. Each one a tragic loss [link added].

I suspect your figure of “several thousand” comes from raw data relating to numbers of people who died after receiving the vaccine. This includes death from any cause, so those succumbing to any illness, or hit by a bus, would be included.

Now, I am no expert on these matters. Nobody should be booking me to talk about vaccine side effects or mortality statistics. But I did what journalists do: I asked several reputable experts in this field and took advice.

He then contrasts reputable experts with with GB News guests:

Naomi Wolf, who thinks that the Chinese Communist Party is using the Pfizer vaccine to assassinate community leaders in her Hudson Valley neighbourhood… Guy Hatchard, who asserts that meditation groups can lower the crime rate with psychic energy and that the Covid vaccine is not really a vaccine… Tony Hinton, who says that the vaccine rollout was a plot to introduce a digital ID system and a “world government”… @leilanadowding [Leilana Dowding], who spent part of the day of the Queen’s funeral agreeing with one of her followers that the vaccine nurse who accompanied the royal coffin should be subject to “reprisals”… former Emmerdale actor John Bowne [John Bowe], who said on @GBNews that “close to 3% of all people that have been vaccinated have been badly adversely affected by the vaccines or dying” @MarkSteynonline agreed that the NHS was “trying to suppress the story.”… Robert Kennedy Jnr, whose book – endorsed by @MarkSteynonline on your channel, claims a “powerful vaccination cartel” have exaggerated the seriousness of the virus for financial gain. He’s also the source of the Bill Gates vaccine microchip conspiracy theory… suspended NHS doctor Sam White, who says that the vaccine is like “a toxin … a bioweapon” and now works for Robert Kennedy… @GBNews presenter @thecoastguy [Neil Oliver], who says that the vaccine is not a vaccine, that it has killed “uncounted numbers” and that through it, Bill Gates and the CCP have a plan for “nothing less than global governance through the WHO.”… @marksteynonline [Mark Steyn], who has said on @GBNews that the Covid vaccine does not “meet the definition of a vaccine” and that the vaccine “does not work”.

Notes:

1. A good thread on cardiac risks to atheletes by a molecular cardiologist named Glen Pyle can be seen here. He points out that “sudden cardiac death is a leading cause of non-traumatic death in athletes”.

2. I previously discussed Dowding in March. She is also part of a crowd associated with the conspiracy influencer James Melville, having apparently made up with him after criticising Melville’s interview with Matt Hancock. Melville in turn has moved even closer to the Icke milieu, appearing on a show co-hosted by Dowding and Gareth Icke and downplaying David Icke’s claims about transdimensional lizards as “previous opinions”. He writes:

GB News Deletes Neil Oliver Interview with Peter Sweden

A now-deleted Tweet from GB News:

‘Something weird has happened this last year. We have seen an unprecedented collapse of birth rates.’

Political commentator Peter Imanuelsen speaks to Neil Oliver about whether we’re facing a population collapse.

Imanuelsen is better-known as Peter Sweden, an “identitarian” activist who came to attention in 2017 after meeting Katie Hopkins. The Huffington Post subsequently noted that Imanuelsen had

previously used Twitter to question the fact that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust as well as expressing some sympathies for the policies of Adolf Hitler.

…He also believes the Jews and the Vatican are colluding in a plot to create a New World Order which is seeking to undermine Europe by moving Muslim populations under the guise of the current refugee crisis.

The relevant Tweets have since been deleted, although they are quoted in full in the article and the urls are provided. Of these, a couple have been preserved on Wayback (here and here), which confirms the article’s integrity. Hope Not Hate followed up with further material. At the time, Imanuelsen responded first with a dismissive brush off (“There were some old tweets but people mature and views change”); then, he moved on to a complaint of “character assassination” (by “leftist trolls” using “old tweets” that have been taken “out of context”) before finally announcing that “I have had opinions in the past that I strongly regret”.

Having such a person as a guest on GB News clearly crossed a line, and one has to wonder if he was billed as “Imanuelsen” rather than “Sweden” in an attempt to avoid controversy.  The Jewish Chronicle has reported on the incident under the headline “Outrage as GB News interviews former Holocaust denier about demographics on primetime”.

In the deleted clip (also gone from YouTube), Imanuelsen alleged sharp birthrate declines around the world, including of 9% in the UK. This was not, though, the usual right-wing lament that European women are chosing to have fewer children; Oliver speculated that the cause may have been Covid-19 vaccination, and this was probably why Imanuelsen had been sought out to discuss the subject. Oliver is a trustee of John Bowe’s amateurish “Charity Organisation for the Vaccine InjureD” (blogged here), and as such is heavily invested in seeking out evidence of widespread “vaccine injury” that sceptics prophesised but which is not so far apparent. For some, there is a conspiracy theory that the vaccine may in fact have been a secret depopulation measure, echoing the plot of the Channel 4 conspiracy thriller Utopia from a few years ago.

However, and unsurprisingly given Imanuelson’s background, his claims of dramatic declines are not reflected in the data. As regards England and Wales, the Office for National Statistics found there was actually an increase in live births in 2021:

There were 624,828 live births in England and Wales in 2021, an increase of 1.8% from 613,936 in 2020, but still below the 2019 figure (640,370); 2021 remains in line with the long-term trend of decreasing live births seen before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The total fertility rate (TFR) increased to 1.61 children per woman in 2021 from 1.58 in 2020; the first time TFR has risen since 2012… Fertility rates increased overall; however, younger age groups saw declining fertility rates while older age groups saw fertility rates increase.

Data from the United Nations – World Population Prospects as summarised by Macrotrends finds a 0.48% decline for the UK overall during 2021, consistent with figures going back to 2018. The trend for Sweden meanwhile was 0.26%.

Imanuelsen has responded to the renewed controversy by denying that he ever espoused Holocaust denial, alleging that screenshots of old Tweets were fabricated. This was not, though, a complaint that he made in 2017. Within the past day he has also deleted material in which he acknowledged his previous views: his “I have had opinions in the past that I strongly regret” Tweet is gone, although it is still available on Wayback, and he has revised a section on his website called “So Which Views Did I Have & Why ?”, in which he previously wrote:

It’s important to point out that I never hated any people as human beings, but at that time I strongly disliked some peoples actions and what I thought was their actions (like the lifestyle of homosexuality), it was more conspiracy theories, like believing the earth was flat and all kinds of other conspiracy theories, questioning the moon landing, and also regarding things that happened during WW2 like the holocaust.

This also included conspiracy theories about Jewish people running a “New World Order” and other similar things regarding homosexuals and also Muslims.

That is also now gone from this current site. Not all the Tweet screenshots can be independently verified, but even if there are any fabrications among them the general contours of his past remain clear.

Returning to Neil Oliver, Matthew Sweet has a fair assessment:

Maybe it’s best to think of this as a kind of radicalisation. As ever I think the work of @QCassam and his idea of epistemic vice is useful. How the idea of questioning everything can slide into believing anything – which of course makes real injustice harder to spot.

The World Economic Forum Conspiracy Worldview

From the website of the World Economic Forum:

This article has been intentionally misrepresented on sites that spread false information. Please read the piece for yourself before sharing or commenting.

The World Economic Forum is committed to publishing a wide array of opinions. Misrepresenting content diminishes open conversations.

  • Augmented reality technology has the ability to transform society and individual lives, particularly in health care and mobility.
  • As much as visual and hearing aids are a part of our lives today, implant technologies could become the norm in future.
  • Stakeholders in society will need to agree on how to ethically make these amazing technologies a part of our lives.

This notice appears at the start of a post by a digital technology professional that discusses various issues around the ethics of “digital implants”. It is one of 45,600 posts on the WEF website described as “Agenda articles”, which are billed as “opinion articles, timely analyses and explainers from leaders in business, politics, and civil society”.

This particular item, however, has caught the attention of conspiracy theorists who have built up the WEF and its Davos conferences into a malign “shadow government” that tells politicians what policies to enact. In the US, the above piece has been the focus of attention from Gateway Pundit (“World Economic Forum Recommends Humans Become Cyborgs, Implant Brain Chips”), Newsmax (“World Economic Forum: ‘Rational Reasons’ to Microchip Kids”) and Daily Caller (“Microchipping Your Child? ‘There Are Solid Rational Reasons For It,’ Say Supreme Overlords Of The WEF”), and the consensus on Twitter is that the post is a particularly egregious example of the WEF’s scheming and propaganda.

The underlying assumption here is that posts on the WEF website are dystopian manifestos that seek to normalise tyranny by offering authoritarian solutions to non-existent problems such as climate change. These will be achieved via “the Great Reset Initiative“, billed by the WEF as a response to an “urgent need for global stakeholders to cooperate in simultaneously managing the direct consequences of the COVID-19 crisis”. As has been noted, this in turn ties in with conspiracy beliefs that public health measures enacted during the pandemic were themselves an authoritarian power grab, likely based on false science.

In the UK, populist social media commentators and activists such as the inexplicably high-profile James Melville appear to be close to building an entire worldview around interpreting the WEF website; perhaps inevitably, one of those who is part of the scene (a certain Matt Gubba) is asking people to donate money to “help us beat the WEF”. In some cases, only heavily distorted versions of content from the WEF website get passed around, such as a Newspunch post that was recently promoted by GB News’s Neil Oliver (Newspunch was previously YourNewsWire, discussed here).

Reuters is currently dealing with specific claims on a regular basis. Some examples:

Fact Check-No evidence World Economic Forum chairman said internet must be reformed

Fact Check-The World Economic Forum is not behind the European Super League

Fact Check-World Economic Forum letters show 51st Annual Meeting invites [as opposed being “leaked” documents]

Fact check: The World Economic Forum does not have a stated goal to have people own nothing by 2030

Fact Check-Tweet about food shortages and the WEF sent by fake account

Fact Check-No evidence Shinzo Abe killed for not following ‘WEF orders’

And so on.

A more realistic assessment of the WEF is provided by a Conservative Party of Canada politician named Michelle Rempel Garner, who has been targeted by conspiracy theorists due to having received a WEF Young Global Leader award. Rempel Garner scoffs at Davos as “an overpriced sales conference”, and describes the “Great Reset” as “an overwrought leftist article” that was “light on details and heavy on change-the-world rhetoric”. She adds:

Where conspiracy theorists are correct to note that the WEF is elite and opaque; that is its nature. It literally bills itself as an elite club. Rather, they are wrong to assume that a legislator in Canada could be influenced in all matters simply by attending a conference, receiving an award, or reading a badly conceived white paper. In Canada’s democracy, we are accountable to the needs of our constituents.

The economist Joseph Stiglitz, who has attended Davos since 1995, appeared underwhelmed by this year’s conflab:

Business and political elite embraced new ethos at WEF without reflecting on past mistakes… Unable to reconcile friend-shoring with the principle of free and non-discriminatory trade, most of the business and political leaders at Davos resorted to platitudes. There was little soul-searching about how and why things have gone so wrong, or about the flawed, hyper-optimistic reasoning that prevailed during globalisation’s heyday.

This suggests that the WEF is reacting to events rather than orchestrating them.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the WEF is simply irrelevant, or that if it is relevant it must be above criticism. One critique of the “Great Reset” proposals, describing them as “a corporate takeover of global governance” but eschewing conspiracy rhetoric, can be seen on Open Democracy here.

UPDATE (29 August): Many of the anti-WEF populist talking points have just been regurgiated on GB News by its recently ordained commentator Calvin Robinson, the nearest thing the station has to a televangelist. Robinson weaves in reference to Ukraine; he leaves the implications unsaid, although he has previously promoted a cartoon by Bob Moran suggesting that Covid-19 and war in Ukraine have literally been “orchestrated” as a performance spectacle.

Some Notes on the “Freedom Music Festival”

Last week’s “Freedom Music Festival” in East Sussex failed to attract any journalistic interest, despite having been trailed in advance by Vice as a “Red Pill Glasto” for Covid Truthers, and despite the involvement of activists associated with the Hope Sussex venue in a high-profile and aggressive protest outside a library hosting a Drag Queen Story Hour a few days beforehand (the first of several since then).

The festival was hosted by the 1990s pop duo Right Said Fred, who described it in advance as “quite a small event, a bit boutiquey”; the event license was limited to 500, and they claim all tickets were sold. Social media has some images and videos, from a which a few notes can be made:

— A lawyer named Jonathan Lea in particular praised the urinals, where male attendees were invited to urinate onto and through laminated images of Bill Gates, Chris Whitty and political leaders (holes were added to the mouths).

— The entertainment included a monologue from activist Michael Chaves with backing music, a clip of which can be seen here.

— There was also an on-stage conversation between Chaves and James Delingpole, whose commitment to the conspiracy milieu has long eclipsed his former credibility as a media professional.

— A group photo apparently taken on the last day of the event shows about 50 to 60 attendees, although James’s brother Richard Delingpole says there were more. Looking at other photos that does seem to be the case, although evidence for 500 attendees is lacking.

Moral Campaign Group Backs Aggressive Protest by Anti-Vax Activists at UK Drag Queen Story Hour

From the website of the Family Education Trust:

On Tuesday 26th July, FET was asked to comment on a story about a group of parents and others protesting against the launch of Drag Queen Story Hour at a library in Reading. The event was also targeted by pro LGBTQ+ activists who were supporting the drag queen performer Sab Samuel, who performs as Aida H Dee. Our full response to the protests was given to the Telegraph by Senior Researcher Piers Shepherd:

“The arrival of Drag Queen Hour at local libraries across the country has stoked considerable anger among parents and others concerned about the safety of children….

Given the disregard that many libraries are showing for concerns about the potential sexualisation of children, it was inevitable that some might choose to launch in-person protests at the venues where these events are taking place. As seen in Reading, the council responded to these in a disproportionate manner, getting police to bring a riot van to the scene…

It is a matter of concern that police resources will be used in this way when there are so many pressing problems in need of their attention. The simple solution to this problem is for councils to call off the grossly age-inappropriate Drag Queen Story Hour and restore the local library to its proper place as a family friendly environment where parents can take their children without fear that they will be exposed to inappropriate material.”

The Telegraph‘s article about the protest can be seen here (it is also reposted on the FET website, flowing on from the statement); it looks like the journalist noticed Tweets with video clips posted by @CovidRadicals and asked FET for a quote as a substitute for digging further into who the protestors actually were. The paper covered FET’s objections ahead of the event, as did GB News.

However, the write-up does make clear that the protest was aggressive, and it embeds some of @CovidRadicals’ material:

… the first event for families at Reading Borough Council libraries erupted in a dramatic row, as Mr Samuel was given a police escort next to a riot van and demonstrators chanted “paedophile”.

…They were escorted out by police officers and security guards while parents cheered. Rows of dozens of uniformed police officers stood guard outside the library, where a group vowed to perform a “citizen’s arrest” of the drag queen.

…They branded the police officers and council staff, who refused to let them in, as “paedophile protectors” and brandished banners and megaphones.

The embedded information, which the Telegraph could have expanded on, is as follows:

They’ve made a sign using the colours of a rainbow, saying “Welcome Groomers”. Michael Chaves berates police even more telling them that they’re likely to go on to be sex offenders themselves [here]… #SovereignCitizens attempt to enter a library to arrest a Drag Queen. [here]

Chaves came to media attention last year with anti-vax protests outside the homes of television presenters (blogged here), and some protestors in the clips are associated with the militaristic Alpha Men Assemble and with HOPE Sussex, which I recently discussed here.

Returning to the FET statement, the Telegraph focuses on Shepherd’s suggestion that the police ought not to have protected the event, and this quote has also been promoted online by Laurence Fox (whose own activist career owes a great deal to disproportionate coverage in Telegraph titles). Last year, Shepherd was quoted as saying that “The law needs to protect the rights of parents to bring up their children in a way that is consistent with their moral or religious beliefs”; apparently this does not apply when parents do not share his objection to drag artists reading stories to children.

The Family Education Trust was founded in 1971 as “The Responsible Society” and until recently was known as Family and Youth Concern. In the past it has been associated with anti sex-education campaigns; in the 1980s the group’s leader Valerie Richies argued that schoolchilden should not be taught about AIDS because it “is not a heterosexual problem”, and her successor Norman Wells lamented in 2012 that vaccination against cervical cancer was leading “some girls” to believe that they can “engage in casual sex without consequence”. Explicit religious rhetoric ownplayed, but the inspirations are obvious. Shepherd appears to be associated with Roman Catholicism.

Last month, McCain Foods withdrew an advert which featured a drag artist using the word “knockers” while creating a food presentation made up of various McCain’s products, including a potato “Smile“. Right-wing opinion-mongers sniffed blood and saw a chance to promote the imported moral panic, arguing that “sexualised drag queens should not advertise children’s food”.

UPDATE: I’ve belatedly seen this from RDG.Today, a local news site for Reading:

In a statement released today [25 July], Aida said: “There is absolutely no sexual language during any of these shows nor are children exposed to sexual situations.

“What is confusing is that these groups are attempting to create a sexual focus here where none exists by drawing attention to sex and sexuality.

“These stories celebrate the diversity found among human beings, and the delivery of these stories is a celebration of communities who have been historically marginalised and have historically had their voices silenced.

“To attempt to silence their voices here as well is regressive and to claim a person’s sole existence is sexual is insulting.”

Certainly, it seems to me that the argument that drag artists are inherently “sexualised adult entertainment” is a recent culture-war attack line, at odds with decades of pre-watershed television programming.

Antivax “Eco Community Group” In Derbyshire

From the Buxton Advertiser:

There is a new vision for part of the land owned by Stanton Estate at Cressbrook Dale after an eco community group took on the responsibility for the site.

Rachel Enlaugh from the new group is excited about the new venture… Last week they signed the contract for the land in Cressbrook Dale after crowdfunding to raise the first instalment of money. The group now have a year to raise the second half to pay to the Stanton Estate.

Rachel said: “A lot of people are seeing what is happening in the world and want to be independent of the system…”

The person quoted there is actually named “Rachel Elnaugh”; she has a media profile already, having formerly been an investor on the BBC reality business show Dragon’s Den. In September there was controversy when she Tweeted that England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty “will hang” for advising the vaccination of children against Covid.

The Buxton Advertiser makes no mention of her antivax views, but it is clear they motivate her “eco community” plan, along with a mix of New Age and “alternative” beliefs. The land for the project is owned by the Davie-Thornhill family, and in a video, in which Elnaugh presents herself as “Rachel of Cressbrook”, she thanks “the son of the lord of the manor”, who she says is “fully awake to the programme, and jabs, and what’s going on, and very consciously aware and enlightened”.

Elnaugh envisions a number of what she calls “Inner Sanctum” communities across the country: in February 2021 she held a conference call with fellow enthusiasts including Ray Savage, who owns land in Alfriston in East Sussex. In 2015 Savage was one of the protestors alleging Satanic Ritual Abuse at Hampstead; in the video (speaking at 54 minutes) he claims to have been involved with “some quantum nuclear physicists” who “have a way of getting the RFID chips out of the body and nullify the impact of the vaccine if they get to people fairly quickly”.