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It’s a holiday weekend here in the US (and, if I’m not mistaken, in the UK as well), and because of that I debated whether I should just take the weekend off, particularly given how rough the last couple of weeks were getting a grant application finished on Thursday evening. However, I am managing editor here and felt obligated. Also, I came across a post over at that “spiritual child of the Great Barrington Declaration” (a.k.a. the Brownstone Institute) by its founder Jeffrey Tucker that illustrated so well a point that I’ve long made that I felt that a shorter-than-Gorski-usual post was warranted this weekend. The Brownstone Institute article is entitled What Really Happened: Lockdown until Vaccination, and, wow, it is a doozy, even for the Brownstone Institute. You’ll get a flavor of what you’re about to read from the introduction:

Four years later, many people are investigating how our lives were completely upended by a pandemic response. Over my time on the case, I’ve heard countless theories. It was Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Finance, the Green New Deal, the CCP, Depopulation, Get Trump, Mail-In Ballots, and so on. 

There is evidence to back them all. 

The problem with having so many pieces of evidence and so many theories is that people can too easily get thrown off track, going on wild goose chases. It’s too much to follow through consistently, and this allows the perpetrators to hide their deeds. 

There you have it, right from the very first paragraph, a Greatest Hits Collection of pandemic and antivax conspiracy theories, and guess what? Tucker thinks there’s “evidence to back them all”! However, he cautions that there are just so many conspiracies that it’s easy to “get thrown off track” and go “on wild goose chases,” all the better to allow the “perpetrators to hide their deeds.” No doubt that very plethora of conspiracies is part of “Their” plan, as “They” do whatever it is They planned to do in order to accomplish whatever it is They had planned to accomplish, all at the expense of…you, of course. That’s because, as I’ve long argued, all antivaccine misinformation is basically a flavor of conspiracy theory, one that I dubbed a decade ago “the central conspiracy theory of the antivaccine movement.”

Before I delve into the details of what Tucker thinks They are doing, let’s step back a moment and marvel at this evolution of the Brownstone Institute. I will admit right up front that the conspiracy theory laid out by Tucker is not even the most bonkers antivax conspiracy theory that I’ve ever encountered. For instance, Mike Adam’s “Oblivion Agenda” conspiracy theory that posited that COVID-19 was a bioweapon designed as part of a two-step plan hatched up by global elites and aliens—I kid you not!—to force humanity to be vaccinated in order to cause “depopulation,” all so that they could together profit off of the natural resources of earth. Amusingly, the Oblivion Agenda was a pandemic-era update to Adams’ older, similar “vaccine Holocaust” conspiracy theory from 2019. It’s not even as bonkers as Toby Rogers’ more recent COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theory that would be as bonkers as Adams’ if only it had aliens in it.

Truth be told, there’s a lot of Toby Rogers’ conspiracy theory in Jeffrey Tucker’s conspiracy theory, and there could well be a reason for that. First, let’s take a look at some of the central elements of Rogers’ speculations:

What’s striking about Covid is that every step was designed to inflict maximum harm:

  • Splicing HIV into a coronavirus (who even comes up with an idea that sinister!?).
  • Blocking access to hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.
  • Removing NAC from the shelves.
  • No early treatment.
  • Respirators that kill 90% of patients.
  • Seeding nursing homes with Covid+ patients.
  • Blanket “Do Not Resuscitate” orders for the disabled.
  • “15 days to flatten the curve” that slowed the rate of natural immunity.
  • Closing schools for two years.
  • Masks that reduce oxygen.
  • Shutting down gyms to reduce exercise.
  • Keeping liquor stores open while closing the churches that host AA meetings.
  • Closing hiking trails, beaches, and parks thus preventing people from getting vitamin D.
  • Remdesivir and Paxlovid that are expensive, useless, and deadly.
  • The most toxic and deadly vaccines in history on a new platform that will never work.
  • Billions of dollars spent on propaganda to convince people to accept every step of this nefarious plan.
  • Firings, censorship, and blacklisting of critical thinkers.

Actual science was always ignored. Every action by government for four years degraded the health of the public. Covid is a world war, launched by the ruling class, against humanity.

Two of the key elements of conspiratorial thinking are to see patterns in randomness and to attribute malign intent to this pattern, regardless of whether there is any evidence of malign intent or not; well, that, and to claim that the “truth” is being “suppressed,” as Rogers does in the last two bullet points. As for the rest, I’ve written about damned near all of those pieces of misinformation, such as the false claims that HIV was “spliced into” SARS-CoV-2. I don’t feel the need to address all those claims individually, as they are all nonsense, with the possible exception of the “flatten the curve” claim, which is not nonsense in the way that Rogers implies. (It’s nonsense in that in retrospect it should always have been obvious that a period of 15 days was never going to be sufficient to flatten the curve.) The point is that “they” (the “ruling class”) are not just malign; they actively wanted to kill millions of people, to launch a “world war” against all of humanity. Why? Who knows? As much as we might despise the ruling class, they are part of humanity too and can’t escape that.

Now, let’s look at Tucker’s conspiracy theory, where he starts by, in essence, claiming to apply Occam’s razor and then JAQing off:

For such situations, we can take recourse to Occam’s razor: the best explanation is the simplest one that explains the maximum number of facts. This is what I offer here. 

Those in the know will be shocked by nothing herein. Those not in the know will be amazed at the audaciousness of the entire scheme. If it is true, there are surely documents and people who can confirm this. At least this model of thinking will assist in guiding thinking and research. 

Of course, the “explanation” that Tucker offers is nowhere near the “simplest one that explains the maximum number of facts.” Also, conveniently enough, there is no “smoking gun” evidence, as Tucker appears to be readily admitting, saying that such documents must “surely” exist, along with people who can confirm his ramblings. It’s a shame that he can’t present any of them now, but that is the nature of conspiracy theories.

The first part (of three parts) of the conspiracy theory is, predictably enough, that SARS-CoV-2 was created, either intentionally or accidentally, but Frankenstein-like scientists engaged in dangerous “gain of function’ research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology:

First, in late 2019 and perhaps as early as October, higher-ups in the biodefense industry and perhaps people like Anthony Fauci and Jeremy Farrar of the UK became aware of a lab leak at a US-funded bioweapons lab in Wuhan. This is a place that does gain-of-function research to produce both the pathogen and the antidote, just like in the movies. It’s gone on for decades in possibly hundreds of labs but this leak looked pretty bad, one with a fast-transmitting virus believed to be of high lethality. 

The civilians were not likely the first to know. Military and security higher-ups, the people actually working with clearances in the bioweapons industry, were the first to get the word. They gradually leaked it out to civilian sources. 

So, yes, Tucker is claiming that SARS-CoV-2 was the result of bioweapons research in China, even though there is no evidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was ever a bioweapons laboratory. Moreover, as I noted in May 2021, the idea that SARS-CoV-2 originated in a “lab leak” had already clearly become a conspiracy theory. While it was still possible that the virus had emerged as part of a lab leak, there was no good evidence that it was anything other than of natural origin, the wild (and highly misleading) claims of HIV sequences inserted into SARS-CoV-2, furin cleavage sites, nucleotide sequences leftover from common lab plasmids, and other supposed “evidence” of human alteration and engineering applied to the nucleotide sequence of the virus notwithstanding. Moreover, evidence was trending (and continues to trend) in the direction that SARS-CoV-2 arose naturally and that its spillover into humans also occurred naturally, most likely at the Wuhan wet market. Basically, taking a look at the totality of the evidence, lab leak as an origin for the virus is, while not impossible, incredibly unlikely, but that hasn’t stopped conspiracy theorists, including a number of prominent legislators, from promoting the conspiracy theory as a way of attacking China and promoting doubt about science and vaccines.

Of course, to Tucker, the whole idea of zoonotic spillover at the Wuhan wet market as the origin of SARs-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 pandemic was a coverup by “Them” to shift blame from the Wuhan Institute of Virology:

That’s when the effort began to shift blame over to the wet markets in Wuhan and scientifically back the idea of natural origins. They had to work very fast, but the result was the famed “proximal origins” article, published in early February, which was backed up by a stream of NIH-funded scientists labeling the claim of lab origin as conspiracy theory. The media backed the claim with censorship of anyone saying otherwise. 

Actually, that paper was a good synthesis of what was known at the time, based on the newly published nucleotide sequence of the novel coronavirus, the history of virology and pandemics, and observations related to where the first outbreaks occurred. It was imperfect, but, in retrospect, not wrong. While Tucker doesn’t go so far down the rabbit hole as to claim that the “lab leak” had been intentional, he does claim that “They” saw it as an opportunity to push mRNA vaccines:

So far so good, but there was still the problem of the virus itself. That’s where the antidote labeled a vaccine came into play. This effort began in January too: the opportunity to deploy mRNA technology. It had been stuck in research for some 20 years but had never gained regulatory approval through conventional means. But with a pandemic declared, and the fix relabelled as a military countermeasure, the entire regulatory apparatus could be bypassed, along with all indemnifications pushed through and even taxpayer funding. 

The people behind the lab disaster would become heroes instead of villains.

How convenient. But how? I think you can guess what’s coming next:

Speed was always an issue. How can a vaccine be produced, distributed, and injected into the world’s population before the pandemic has already passed through the population, ending the same way as every other such episode in history, namely through exposure and resulting immunological upgrades? 

If that happened, the vaccine would be superfluous and the pharma would miss their chance to demonstrate the wonders of a technological promise that had consumed them for twenty-plus years.

Got it? After the “lab leak” of SARS-CoV-2, “They” (big pharma, with the complicity of, presumably, the US government, medical profession, and public health apparatus) saw an opportunity for Profit with a capital “P,” by pushing mRNA vaccines. Why mRNA vaccines in particular? Tucker never really explains in any coherent manner other than that mRNA technology was “new.” Of course, mRNA technology wasn’t really that “new.” As Tucker readily admitted, it had been around for a couple of decades in development for various purposes, mostly cancer therapy but also as a novel vaccine platform. But apparently the profit motive was too strong, and “They” saw their opportunity.

According to Tucker, that’s where—you guessed it!—the “lockdowns” came in:

That’s where the lockdowns come in. Here is where the plan gets truly insidious. The idea was to come up with some way in which the antidote would gain the credit for having solved the pandemic that supposedly emerged from a wet market. The new technology would get the credit and then obtain generalized approval for a new form of health care that could be applied to myriad maladies in the future. Everyone would get rich. And Big Pharma and Fauci would be the heroes. 

Apart from convincing Donald Trump to authorize the wrecking of his prized economy (which is a story unto itself), the vexing problem with the plan was timing. There was likely no way to get this released to the population for at least 9 months or perhaps more. It could be sooner in the future, perhaps 100 days, but the first time out would require more time. 

It’s not that the planners were in denial of natural immunity. They were simply against depending on it or even tolerating it when they could test out a new product on the population. 

Surprise! Surprise! Surely you knew that “natural immunity” would enter the picture soon. Tucker’s entire idea is that he and the three scientists who had served as his useful idiots to propose the Great Barrington Declaration had been right all along! You remember the Great Barrington Declaration, right? It was the Declaration issued by three scientists—Stanford’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, Harvard’s Dr. Martin Kulldorff, and Oxford’s Dr. Sunetra Gupta—under the auspices of the “free market” right wing organization where Jeffrey Tucker had been employed at the time (the American Institute for Economic Research) that proposed, in essence, letting COVID-19 rip among the “healthy” population while supposedly using “focused protection” to keep those most at risk of severe complications and death from COVID-19 safe. It was a profoundly eugenicist document, given that they provided no good concrete policies or strategies for “focused protection” and thus basically boiled down to letting the elderly and those with chronic health problems die of COVID-19 given that the risk to the young and healthy was so much lower. Even more risibly, the Great Barrington Declaration claimed that, if its approach were followed, “natural herd immunity” could be achieved in six months.

Of course, as Jonathan Howard and I have long discussed, the Great Barrington Declaration was always a pipe dream. The reasons were simple. First, “natural herd immunity” requires either lifelong immunity to a disease after infection or, at minimum, very long-lasting postinfection immunity, such as for measles. We knew right from the beginning that SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, does not meet that criteria, as was pointed out in the John Snow Memorandum, which noted that coronaviruses generally do not produce long-lived post infection immunity. Even worse, coronaviruses are very good at evolving to evade immunity from prior infections, a characteristic that led to the Delta and Omicron waves. Also, the “vulnerable” population was estimated to be as high as 30%, meaning that protecting them could not be nearly as focused as the Great Barrington Declaration seemed to assume. As I said, this was a very eugenicist, “screw the weak” kind of document.

Note how Tucker’s narrative promotes him and the useful idiots whom he recruited to write the Great Barrington Declaration as the heroes by claiming that the reason for the “lockdowns” and all the public health interventions that so damaged the economies of so many nations was because “They” were in a race against natural herd immunity to get their vaccines out, the better to claim credit for ending the pandemic, instead of just letting nature take its course and letting the virus cull the weak and elderly, while just inconveniencing the young and healthy (except, of course, for what Tucker considered the inconsequential number of “young and healthy” who did die of the virus despite being young and healthy). As is the case in conspiracy theories, those positing them receive great ego gratification in portraying themselves as the heroes with “hidden knowledge.” He even makes it quite explicit:

The objective in this little game must be to preserve population-wide immunological naivete for the entire period. Exposure needed to be minimized to keep seroprevalence levels at their lowest possible point, perhaps no more than 10 or 20 percent and certainly below 50 percent. The only possible path here was to insist on as little human-to-human contact as possible. 

Hence: lockdown. Forced human separation. Not just for two weeks. The protocol needed to be maintained for 9-11 months. Nothing like this had ever been attempted in human history, especially not on a global level. But maybe it would work, thanks to online commerce, work-from-home tools, and a properly panicked population that had not been through anything like this in many generations. 

Thus did the plan commence. There were slogans: “flatten the curve,” “slow the spread,” and so on. They all amounted to the same thing: prolong the pain as long as possible to get ready for mass injections.

This is why people were told to stay inside. AA meetings had to be canceled. The gyms were closed. There could be no church services, concerts, weddings, or funerals. There had to be Plexiglas at all merchant locations. Restaurants had to close or be only at half capacity. This was the reason for the masking, a lame ritual but a good symbol of disease avoidance. The travel restrictions were the same. Media messaging would be to demonize all infections and raise constant panic about any exposure. 

And, of course, this nefarious plot, not just science and evidence, was the reason for the hostile reaction to Tucker’s Great Barrington Declaration:

It’s also why there was such a hysterical reaction to the Great Barrington Declaration. The problem was not its opposition to lockdowns as such. The problem was this sentence: “all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine.” Further, with full and immediate opening, “society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.”

Nope. Again, as I pointed out, the Great Barrington Declaration was built on dubious science and false assumptions. Moving on from just his hurt ego that it was mainly cranks and conspiracy theorists who promoted the Great Barrington Declaration, Tucker even makes it more explicit that everything was done in the service of making sure that the mRNA vaccines—and only the mRNA vaccines—would “save the day:

The goal of all of it was to keep natural immunity from ruining the chance for the mRNA shots to save the day. That is also why we could not have off-the-shelf therapeutics. There could be no Ivermectin or Hydroxychloroquine, not because they didn’t work but precisely because they did. The last thing the pandemic planners wanted was a cure that was not mRNA. 

This is also why the J&J shot was taken off the market very quickly on the grounds that it was generating blood clots. It was not a mRNA shot. And it was in competition with the preferred technology so it had to be knocked out. So too with AstraZeneca, which was also not part of the mRNA platform. 

Keep in mind the perversity here: the goal was not health but sickness as long as possible, to be cured by a new technology. That was always the game plan.

See what I mean? It wasn’t enough just for vaccines to “save the day.” It had to be the mRNA vaccines. Why? Again, it’s never made clear. Just because the mRNA vaccines were based on a “new” platform for vaccines that had been under development but had not yet produced a commercially viable product, vaccine or other class. Moreover, so pervasive was the plot, any effective therapeutic had to be “suppressed.” (Never mind that neither ivermectin nor hydroxychloroquine, nor any of the other dubious “protocols” to treat COVID-19 were ever demonstrated to be effective.)

Of course, like all good conspiracy theories, Tucker’s narrative has a germ of truth greatly distorted in it. There is no doubt that there was hope that vaccines could end the pandemic. However, one must remember that, in March 2020, there was no way of knowing that mRNA vaccines could be developed, tested in preclinical models, and then validated in large clinical trials in years, much less in nine months. Indeed, I remember how early in the pandemic many of us were lamenting that an effective vaccine was likely years away—or might never be developed! Tucker’s revisionist history is persuasive only in retrospect, because we know now that the vaccines received emergency use approval from the FDA in December 2020, a mere nine months after the World Health Organization had declared a pandemic. Moreover, Tucker neglects to note that “lockdowns,” as difficult as they were, didn’t last nearly long enough to accomplish what he claims.

That’s why I laughed out loud when I reached the end of Tucker’s post, in which he claims the “entire episode became history’s biggest grift” and then admitted “problems” with his hypothesis. Two are predictable, but this one made me laugh:

First, the lockdowns were nearly universal at the same time, not just in the US and UK. How would the motivations described above apply to nearly every country in the world? 

Why indeed? It never occurs to Tucker that maybe—just maybe—it was because they were following longtime, established public health interventions and that maybe—just maybe—big pharma isn’t powerful enough to compel so many nations to impose “lockdowns.” Basically, while he admits that this is a hole in his conspiracy theory, Tucker just glosses over how the implausibility is. The other two, of course, are standard antivax talking points, such as his claim that “They” had to keep the seroprevalence as low as possible in order to make it look as though the vaccines saved the day and that “They” knew that the vaccines didn’t work, even though they did; they just didn’t prevent transmission as much as hoped. (It’s a standard antivax trope that if vaccines are not 100% effective in stopping transmission, they don’t work.)

I long knew that the Brownstone Institute would devolve into conspiracy theories. After all, the Brownstone Institute has been spreading antivax and right wing conspiracy theories ever since it was founded a couple of years ago by Tucker, who is a neo-Confederate activist who had helped organize the Great Barrington Declaration, that document advocating his eugenicist “let ‘er rip” approach to the pandemic to build up “natural herd immunity” as rapidly as possible by letting the virus circulate through the “healthy population” while claiming to have a strategy to “protect the vulnerable.” Never mind that they never actually had such a strategy other than platitudes used to browbeat public health officials and that “natural herd immunity” never would have worked as a strategy given how easily SARS-CoV-2 could evolve new variants to evade immunity from infection with previous variants.

I also suspect that there is a reason why Tucker’s conspiracy theory closely resembles Toby Rogers’ conspiracy theory. Rogers had presented it at the Brownstone Institute:

Last week I traveled to Connecticut to participate in a four-day writers’ retreat hosted by Jeffrey Tucker and the Brownstone Institute. It was amazing. Speakers presented on a topic or question for 15 minutes that was followed by a discussion for 15 minutes.


Predictably, the Brownstone Institute has completed its “evolution” from a mere ideological “think tank” designed to spread the Great Barrington Declaration into a more all purpose conspiracy promotion machine. It was always going to be thus, given how all antivax is conspiracy theory. In Tucker’s case, just replace big pharma and the WHO for the CDC and amp up the stakes, and it’s the same conspiracy theory. I’m just waiting to see if Tucker will involve aliens in the plot.

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Posted by David Gorski