“The video you just sent to me was taken down by YouTube. Somebody is watching, and they are not your friend.” This is a message I received recently from a good friend who is a critical care doctor. And this is not the first time this message, or ones like it, have been sent from him.
The video this doctor is referencing was part of a new documentary called “Plandemic” which, in part, details some of the work and research of Dr. Judy Mikovits, author of the new book Plague of Corruption: Restoring Faith in the Promise of Science.
The “Plandemic” documentary was removed rather quickly from YouTube but seems to have found a second life on other internet outlets. While the documentary has certainly received praise, it has also generated a substantial amount of valid criticism. Since the claims made in the documentary are now in the open and broadly public, it is crucial that the arguments presented be put to the test of scientific, medical, and philosophic rigor.
One need not fully agree with the arguments presented by Dr. Mikovits, nor even the central principles that are explicated in the documentary itself. Robust counter claims can certainly be made, and they ought to be—so long as the assumed aim of the positions put forth is the attainment of truth. And this is the precise point that should trouble us. The positions being put forth by such individuals is not allowed to be heard or grappled with; nuance is forbidden. Instead, it must be vanquished from the colosseum of public opinion as quickly as possible. To even consider the possibility of calling into question the prevailing narrative regarding COVID-19 must bring about the strongest condemnation of anathema sit. Among other reasons, this is why the documentary will be highly viewed and sought after, and further highlights the rapid rate at which Dr. Mikovitz book has become an overnight best-seller.
These observations about the “Plandemic” documentary and the question of truth should be seen in proper context, as the attempt to censor the documentary’s content reveals a dark and real trend. The first time I sent something to my physician friend that eventually went MIA was an essay by Aaron Ginn, a Silicon Valley tech worker. Ginn penned an essay that was initially published at the website Medium. The central thesis of Ginn’s March 20th essay, titled “Evidence Over Hysteria-COVID 19”, was that—based upon the most reliable data gathered at that time—it seemed reasonable to hold that COVID-19 had a significantly lower infection mortality rate than originally projected. Not long after it was published, Ginn’s essay was taken down. Not only was the essay removed, but whenever one attempted to access it via Twitter, a “content warning” signal appeared. Those pulling the strings of the social media conglomerate wanted readers to turn back; a particular orthodoxy was under threat.
Or take the case of Drs. Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi. The doctors posted a video on YouTube giving their specific medical insights on COVID-19, expressing particular concern that societal lockdowns would undermine our greatest weapon again the virus: the human immune system. They argued that the almost salvific narrative surrounding a COVID-19 vaccine seemed to overlook the elephant in the room, which is that a vaccine is simply an artificial form of herd immunity. The doctors were certainly concerned about those who are most vulnerable, and that the proper prudential precautions need to be followed and carried out.
However, the expressed concern, according to their initial video post, entailed highlighting a rather overwhelming fear apparently crippling our ability to reason well through the actual given data of the virus. Their YouTube video was swiftly and harshly attacked, echoing almost verbatim the same sort of accusations thrown against Ginn. One indicative example of the attack came from the joint statement of the American College of Emergency Physicians and the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, which made the following conclusion concerning the video’s content: “… it appears these two individuals are releasing biased, non-peer reviewed data to advance their personal financial interests without regard for the public’s health.”
The continual referencing of “bias” and “non-peer reviewed” data must be, once again, viewed in the context of the present moment. To better see some of what is undergirding the predominant narrative surrounding the virus, it is worth briefly considering the work done by Dr. John Ioannidis, C.F. Rehnborg Chair in Disease Prevention and Professor of Medicine, of Epidemiology and Population Health at Stanford University. Dr. Ioannidis’ own meta-research has sought to explicate the way a rather large portion of the prevalent “discoveries” in peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals is, to put it bluntly, rather useless. This uselessness is certainly not meant to be a negation of the natural inclination of researchers to grow in scientific knowledge. What Ioannidis has pinned down is the overwhelming bias laced through so many medical research publications. The very questions being posed, the way studies are conditioned, and the methods of data analysis being employed are just some of the notable ways in which bias so often remains.
For Ioannidis, scientific and medical research must be more firmly rooted in an act of humility, acknowledging that conclusions can be wrong, and that scientists do not need to be portrayed as a class of infallible sages. In a kind of strange irony, Dr. Ioannidis’ own work has acutely demonstrated the fact that the reasonableness of scientific inquiry—and the type of wisdom we seek to attain through it—can turn out to be quite unreasonable.
What is striking about the given examples above (and there are many more) is the disturbing degree of censoring and surveillance involved. But perhaps even more unsettling is that these instances are indicative of a deeper disorder within our present democratic ethos. In his book The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies, the Polish philosopher and statesman Ryszard Legutko argued for what appears to be a rather strange convergence between some of the principles of communism and modern liberal democratic regimes. [Editor’s note: See CWR’s February 2017 review of the book.] According to Legutko,
Communism and liberal democracy proved to be all-unifying entities compelling their followers how to think, what to do, how to evaluate events, what to dream, and what language to use. They both had their orthodoxies and their models of an ideal citizen.
Legutko diagnoses the perennial temptation of our modern political regimes, which are similar to (while distinct from) communism before them: that of liberal democracy trans-mutating into a large, mechanizing system oriented towards uniformity of thought and practice. Freedom of thought and speech are goods that are not self-referential; they are ordained towards thinking and acting in accord with what is true. What we are witnessing in this time of pandemic is the opportunity for citizens to reconsider our standards and paradigms of not only how we come to know but, more importantly, the very foundations for judging what is claimed to fall under the mantle of true.
Plato, in a striking remark in The Republic, contends that the democratic soul “wouldn’t be at a loss for patterns” (557e). For Plato, the multiplicity of patterns rooted in our various desires and choices makes the democratic soul struggle to see the pattern of truth that is the very ground of his striving for knowledge. Perhaps what American citizens need to recover in the present moment is the primary fact that truth is not something that we create. Rather, truth belongs to an order outside of our own willing and making that we can, ultimately, choose to discover. As Americans begin to work to return to some level of normalcy, we must certainly be prudent in guarding against the true dangers of the actual virus itself. But it will be just as necessary, if not more so in the long run, that we also strive to habituate ourselves against those forms of democratic thinking that eventually collapse into solipsism, wherein truth merely becomes the echoing of an individual or collective will.
If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!