Air Date 1/9/2022
[00:00:00] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we shall take a look at some of the explanations for why life-saving vaccines against COVID-19 are unavailable in much of the world, while being refused by substantial numbers of people where they are widely available.
Clips today are from the Mehdi Hasan Show, Democracy Now!, Straight White American Jesus, This Is Hell, and The David Pakman Show; with additional members-only clips from Reveal, and Democracy Now!
And in my final comments, I will explain the difference between "a goal' and 'a tactic' to explain why libertarian ideas of freedom as the ultimate focus is so misguided, and leads to so much unnecessary suffering.
Why Is The GOP So Anti-Science Part 1 - The Mehdi Hasan Show - Air Date 10-14-21
[00:00:48] MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: If the last year has taught us anything, it's when we ignore science, people die. Yet, we've seen an entire faction of our political leadership, and fellow countrymen-- a faction that often likes to tout its "pro-life credentials"-- just bury their heads in the sand when presented with cold, hard facts. And, cold, dead bodies.
And not just when it comes to the pandemic. We see with climate change, too. A recent study finds that clean energy measures in the Democrats' Build Back Better Plan could save 50,000 lives by the year 2030, simply by improving the quality of our air. The outlook by 2050? 318,000 premature deaths possibly avoided.
And yet, we have a Republican Party that really seems to have no desire to address climate change, joined by coal-state Democrat Joe Manchin we see this with the pandemic, too. A study in the Lancetthat Medical Journal finds that Republican led Florida and Texas could have avoided 22,000 deaths if they had reached the same vaccination rates as New Mexico, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Massachusetts, or Colorado, the top five vaccinated states, according to the CDC. But both governors, Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott have resisted mask and vaccination mandates throughout the pandemic, costing their states, according to the Lancet, more than 20,000 lives.
In the meantime, while Florida and Texas were being crushed by the Delta variant, the attacks on science and on top health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauchi, continued. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis even built his marketing campaign around-- you guessed it-- "Don't Fauchi my Florida!" With beer koozies, and t-shirts. Funny, until it's not. How did we get to the point where our country's top doctor has to walk around with 24 hour armed body guards, because he's become a hate figure on the right for talking about science.
And he's not alone. The attacks are being unleashed on scientists all over the world, from online abuse, to death threats. And the one common thread: right wing factions that often reject science, which in the U S is amplified by the Republican Party.
But this is not a new trend. Back in 2005, author Chris Mooney wrote a book called "The Republican War on Science." In a review Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes wrote: "Scientists have traditionally been loathed to foray into politics for fear of politicizing science, but Mooney's book makes it clear that when sensible people stand on the sidelines, a great deal of nonsense can be spread."
She goes on to say that, "Scientists need to do more to present their knowledge to the rest of society, because there is no shortage of people willing to misrepresent it."
Noam Chomsky Corporate Patents & Rising Anti-Science Rhetoric Will Prolong Pandemic - Democracy Now! - Air Date 12-30-21
[00:03:25] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Noam, can you talk about how you think that skepticism can be overcome — I mean, you, yourself, a serious critic of the corporate-government alliance — why people should trust large pharmaceutical companies like Moderna and Pfizer, that are making billions, why in this case we should trust that vaccines will save the population?
[00:03:57] NOAM CHOMSKY: If the information came from Pfizer and Moderna, there would be no reason to trust it. But it just happens that 100% of health agencies throughout the world and the vast majority of the medical profession and the health sciences accept the actually quite overwhelming evidence that vaccination radically reduces onset of infection and deaths. The evidence on that is very compelling. And it’s therefore not surprising that it’s basically universally accepted by relevant authorities. So, yes, if we heard it just from Big Pharma PR, there would be every reason for skepticism. But you can look at the data. They’re available. And you can — when you do so, you can understand why there is essentially universal acceptance among the agencies that have no stake in the matter other than trying to save lives. You can understand why poor African countries who weren’t paid off by Big Pharma are pleading for vaccines. Their health agencies are.
And, in fact, the only exception I noted about this, apart from Trump for a period, was Bolsonaro’s Brazil, and he is now being under charges of a long senatorial investigation for charges of crimes against humanity for his failure to follow the normal protocol of trying to maximize the use of vaccines. Now that his reticence, reluctance on this matter has been overturned, it’s having the usual effect. Vaccinations are increasing, and incidence of disease and deaths is sharply declining. That correlation is so clear that it takes a real strange refusal to look at facts to see it. And again, as I say, health agencies throughout world are uniform and agreed with the medical profession on the efficacy of vaccines.
There are other things that have to be done: social distancing, care, masking in crowded places. There are measures that have to be taken. Countries where these measures have been followed carefully are doing quite well. But where there’s a high level of skepticism, whatever its roots, there are serious problems.
[00:07:07] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: And what do you think the U.S. should do to ensure that countries get vaccines around the world, not only for altruistic reasons, but because you can’t end this pandemic here or anywhere unless these vaccines get out everywhere? And I’m talking about Moderna and Pfizer. Moderna, the U.S. gave billions to. Pfizer, the U.S. promised to purchase so much. And both corporations, among others, have made billions. And yet, what can the U.S. do to ensure that these vaccines can be made in other places, like requiring that Moderna release the recipe? Still they will make a fortune. What has Biden not done that would allow people to have access to these life-saving vaccines?
[00:08:00] NOAM CHOMSKY: I should say that Europe’s record is even worse than that of the United States. Biden has made some effort, but the wealthy countries have not, including the United States, though not primarily the United States — they have not taken measures that are within their capacity to ensure that other countries that have the resources to produce vaccines will have access not only to the products, the vaccines, but also to the process of manufacturing them.
We should recognize that the World Trade Organization rules, instituted mainly in the 1990s largely under U.S. initiative, they are radically protectionist, radically anti-free market. They provide protection to major corporations, Big Pharma, not only for the products they produce but to the processes by which they produce them. And that patent can easily be broken. The governments have the capacity to insist that the processes be available and that vaccines be distributed to the countries that need it.
First of all, this will save uncounted numbers of lives. And, as you said, it means saving ourselves. If you let the virus run rampant in poor countries, everyone understands that mutation is likely, the kind of mutation that led to the Delta variant, now the Delta Plus variant in India, and who knows what will develop. Could be a — we’ve been kind of lucky so far. The coronaviruses have been either highly lethal and not too contagious, like Ebola, or highly contagious but not too lethal, like COVID-19. But the next one coming down the pike might be both, might even be nonsuppressible by vaccines.
We know the measures that have to be taken to try to prevent this from happening: research, preparations, health systems that work. It’s not a small point. Like, there are now new antivirals coming along which don’t stop the disease but prevent hospitalization. But you have to have a functioning health system. Very hard to see how these could even be usable in the United States, where the health system simply is not organized in such a way that people can get access to what they need.
Why Is The GOP So Anti-Science Part 2 - The Mehdi Hasan Show - Air Date 10-14-21
[00:11:13] MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: How in one of the most educated and scientifically advanced societies in human history, do we end up with leading Republican politicians attacking scientists at campaign rallies, and some of their followers threatening scientists with violence and death?
[00:11:30] NAOMI ORESKES: Well, one of the things we know is that none of this is really about the science. The science is good. The science is solid. We understand evolutionary theory. We understand climate change. We understand that the, uh, SARS-COVID-2 virus causes the COVID-19 disease.
But this issue has become deeply-- many of these issues, all these issues, really-- have become deeply, politically polarized, because of deliberate attempts to polarize it by people on the conservative side of the political spectrum.
Going back to the 1980s, we've seen conservatives, and libertarians, and representatives of the Republican Party, deliberately trying to create distrust in science that pointed to the need for government action on public health and environmental issues.
So, if we go back to the 1980s, we see the Republican administration under Ronald Reagan, challenging the scientific evidence of acid rain, doubting the scientific evidence of the ozone hole, and starting to doubt the evidence of climate change, because they didn't want the government to have to act on these issues.
[00:12:32] MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: So, just picking up on that, and just to be clear for our viewers, in your view, how much of the distrust of science and scientific research is a result of people like the Koch brothers, uh, of big corporations, or billionaires on the right, quote-unquote "libertarians" funding this anti-science stuff, simply because they don't want it to be regulated, they don't want to be taxed; they want to be left alone by big government?
[00:12:57] NAOMI ORESKES: I think almost all of it. I mean, if you look at the evidence which I and my colleagues have done, you find very little evidence that people who are rejecting vaccines, for example, really have some kind of principled or informed scientific concern.
It's almost always a problem about distrusting government, uh, being fearful about the government trying to take away your freedom. If you look at the images from the rallies that occurred last year against mask mandates, almost none of them had signs about the science. Nobody was asking about the sample size, for example, in the clinical trials. The posters, the signs, were all about distrusting government, being mad at government, blaming the government.
And this idea has been fostered by people on the right for exactly the reason you just said. These corporations don't want to be regulated. They want the freedom to just do what they want, no matter who gets hurt.
[00:13:51] MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: One of the posters we saw a lot of, both on masks and vaccines, was "My Body, My Choice," which never seems to apply to the abortion debate.
Uh, let me ask you this: how much of the anti-masker, anti-vaccine arguments and tactics on the right have mirrored the arguments and tactics they previously deployed against climate change, something you studied closely in your landmark book, "Merchant of Doubt?"
[00:14:13] NAOMI ORESKES: Very closely. What we see in all of these debates is a, kind of, deliberate attempt to foster distrust of government, because government is the main tool that ordinary people have to fight back against corporate polluters, against the fossil fuel industry, or the tobacco industry.
If you can get people to distrust government, then you strip them of the most powerful means of redress that they have. And that's what people like the Koch brothers and other, uh, powerful forces on the right want to do.
[00:14:43] MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: There is a sentiment, or prejudice, even, especially among some liberals, that this is all to do with-- when you look at, you know, the rallies, and people screaming about Fauchi-- this is all to do with a lack of education, that the anti-science folks on the right, we're told, they're all rural, or backward, or superstitious, uneducated folks.
And that's not true, is it? You look at Senator Rand Paul, who thinks he doesn't need a vaccine, he's a medical doctor; Scott Atlas, who pushed crazy theories about alternative COVID treatments and herd immunity, is a radiologist who worked with Stanford.
[00:15:13] NAOMI ORESKES: Correct. This has almost nothing to do with education. This has almost everything to do with political ideology, vested interest, and profits of corporations.
We know studies have shown that, among Republicans, the more educated they are, the less likely they are to accept climate change. So, this is very depressing for a professor like myself, but it does show us this isn't about education. This is not a problem of scientific illiteracy. This is a political problem.
[00:15:42] MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: On the one hand, since the start of the pandemic, we've had a lot of people saying, "Listen to the experts," and, "Follow the science;" but a lot of the science has changed rapidly over the past 18 months. A lot of the experts got some big things wrong: masking, for example, at the outset of the pandemic. Has that not just affected the credibility of the scientific community as a whole in America, but also the right's ability to say, "See, they're not infallible. We shouldn't follow their advice blindly."?
[00:16:09] NAOMI ORESKES: It's hard to say, because we don't have a lot of good data about what has happened in this last year, because it's all fairly new. Um, I think, certainly, the right wing exploits any small mistake, or any small error, that scientists make. But I think the important thing to explain to people, and this is what I do in my own work, is to point out: anytime there's a new question, then there will always be a period of learning; and in the early stages, scientists will change their minds as they learn new things.
And learning is a good thing. It's not saying we should be embarrassed or ashamed of. And scientists, shouldn't be ashamed to say, "Hey, we've learned some new things."
It is important for the scientific community to be humble, to be clear about the uncertainties when you are facing a new problem, but that's very different than something like climate change, where we've known for 30 years that human activities were driving disruptive climate change.
So, this is why, in my own work, I emphasize the importance of scientific consensus. Some of the issues you just mentioned, we didn't have a consensus a year and a half ago, because we didn't know. But when it comes to something like climate change, or the harms of smoking cigarettes, we know.
[00:17:13] MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: Yes. So, let me ask you this: what is the solution to all this anti-scientific sentiment, which seems to be growing in the United States? You mentioned that education is almost nothing to do with this. You mentioned is not actually about the science or scientific research. If it's all about politics and politicization, then is there a solution? Because, like, every other political issue will just remain polarised.
[00:17:38] NAOMI ORESKES: Well, you're right. It is a very difficult issue.
So, let me say two things. First of all, it's not to say that education is useless. Certainly educating people about how science works, how science is a process of learning and discovery, and not just a body of facts, that is important. And, certainly, there are many people in this country, particularly school teachers, who are eager for good information, and it really behooves the scientific community to do everything that we can to give those people good information.
But we also have to recognize that if a problem is political, then you can't fix it by just giving people more scientific facts. You actually have to be willing to say, "Hey, this is political. And let me explain why the political characterization of this problem is incorrect." And that's a strategy that has been shown to work. So it is possible to identify the politics and then work around them.
Alpha Male Anti Vaxxers Part 1 - Straight White American Jesus - Air Date 1-1-22-1
[00:18:28] DANIEL MILLER - CO-HOST, STRAIGHT WHITE AMERICAN JESUS: As we look back over what the last year was like, and as you said, I've made this point before and the numbers keep changing, but in a positive way, I just want to throw out there, you mentioned the vaccines, the US has administered over 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine. That's half a billion doses. That's more than enough for every man, woman and child in the US. Numerically, of course, not every man, woman and child in the us can have vaccine, but the point is that the arguments that there is something weird about it or things we don't know about it, or side effects that are going to emerge or whatever, it's just not plausible half a million dose or excuse me, half a billion doses in.
Here's what happened, and the reason I think Aaron Rogers is interesting is because he's come out just full on anti-vaxxer now, but no doubt still does not see himself as an anti-vaxxer, and I think he captures, talked about this with the comments you made previously that we'll mention briefly, he captures the way that people fall into these ideologies. You and I will talk about white nationalism or Christian nationalism or anti-vaccine or any number of belief systems and ideologies that people have, and I think that a lot of people really truly believe that that is not them. They can't step outside and see what they're saying or see what they're into.
So here's what happened. This is a background on Rogers. Back in August, he was asked if he'd been, he said he had been immunized. It turns out that he was not vaccinated, he sought some kind of homeopathic remedies and things like this, and so he was not vaccinated. The NFL knew this, and there's a different set of protocols for un-vaccinated players. He was following all of those and so forth, but then he tested positive for COVID little less than two months ago. He said that he was allergic to some unspecified ingredient. He said he had done lots of research. He did what was best for his body and so forth. Was pretty defiant, but it was really clear. He said that he was not an anti-vaxxer, that it wasn't about opposing the vaccines and so forth.
This is the point that I made back then and people can go back and listen to it, that this is how people fall into these ideologies. Well, this week he goes back on a sports show, the Pat McAfee Show, which is where he made these statements before, and really doubles and triples down on this, and demonstrates all the key elements, for me, of anti-vaxxer radiology, and how it works, and how it plays out.
So I'm just gonna walk through some of the things that he said, the first thing he said is he's he decried what he says is a two class system in the NFL, that there were different policies for vaccinated players versus unvaccinated players. He later says that unvaccinated players are simply being punished for refusing to get a vaccine, and live out their conscience. This echoes perfectly everything the right been saying about vaccine mandates, everything they've been saying about vaccines from the start, now in the voice and on the lips of Aaron Rogers, this really notable, uh, NFL figure. He said, quote, "that there is no pandemic of the unvaxxed", and that's this notion that, and he's quoting and throwing back CDC language that was given that there was a pandemic of the unvaxxed, and he basically says there's no difference, there's no benefit to being vaccinated.
People might've followed, Brad, you might've seen this last night, the House, the US House had to delete a tweet that they had sent out that said, " If booster shots work, why don't they?", and then they had to delete it because of backlash. This notion that people with vaccines or boosters are getting breakthrough cases, so they don't really do anything. So this whole notion that the unvaccinated are a greater risk, it's all, it's all just a bunch of bunk. But what are the numbers on that? And I just want to point this out, the Delta variant, people... so we know Delta and Omicron, and the Delta variant, unvaxxed people are five times more likely to get COVID. They are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized. They're 10 times more likely to die. With the Omicron variant, which we're all still learning about, Pfizer said that their booster increases antibody protection 25 fold, and Moderna found that their booster increases antibody protection 37 fold. So it was just false.
When Rogers has this notion, it's just false that there's nothing, that the vaccines don't do anything. He said vaccinated people just blame unvaccinated people because the vaccine they took to avoid getting the virus doesn't stop them from getting the virus. He basically is like the vaccine doesn't work and now they're obsessed, they want to blame the unvaccinated. Everything we've seen for the last year, the whole notion, the quote, unquote, "the science is always changing. The scientists don't know anything. It doesn't work." The misconstruals of science. Nobody ever claimed that the vaccines are going to be a hundred percent effective. There's no such thing, but data points keep showing that the vaccines, if you do get a breakthrough infection, it's more mild. That appears to be the case with Omicron, from what we know, from what I've read, and that is changing because we're learning about it all the time.
It's simply not true, and yet Roger says it's not like the flu, and it should be treated the same. That is just ideology that it isn't. But he says this, and this is the other piece of this ideology where it gets really wrapped up in notions of freedom, and freedom of speech, and opposing quote unquote, "cancel culture," that's what Rogers has also said, is that people are trying to cancel him, he says, "if science can't be questioned, it's not science, it's propaganda," and he leans on the fact that he has his opinion. Says, I'm not a doctor, I get that, but I have my opinion and it should be respected and we should be sharing opinions.
Here's the thing, science and opinion are not the same thing. Philosophers of science, people who study science, people who study scientific method, they will say one of the things that makes science science is that it's supposed to be based on some sort of empirically verifiable or falsifiable data, and that the findings and claims of science should be able to be replicated. If a bunch of people do the same experiment, the same way with the same things over and over and over, they ought to get the same results. Or it should be falsifiable. You can say, if A happens, then we think this, and if A doesn't happen, then we think something else.
So we do question science all the time, but you question science with counter evidence, or with data, or with things like that. It's not just opinion. Going to a scientist and saying, "I think you're wrong because I don't want to get a vaccine," that's not counter-evidence. It's that slippage and people do this all the time or Rogers is doing that when he says my opinion as the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, one of the greatest quarterbacks who's ever played, is somehow valid when we're talking about virology, immunology, internal medicine, whatever. It just doesn't follow.
Bill Gates and monopoly medicine Alexander Zaitchik Part 1 - This is Hell! - Air Date 4-15-21
[00:24:48] CHUCK MERTZ - HOST, THIS IS HELL!: We just had a presidency that got into power because it's about Make America Great Again, and this nostalgic look back to the 50s as some great period in time—it was a great period in time when it came to distributing vaccines to the world, when it came to Salk's polio vaccine, so what the hell happened to the United States that all of a sudden now that's not a priority, we no longer feel that way, even when we're being nostalgic about that era as some great time for America?
[00:25:15] ALEXANDER ZAITCHIK: The two stories there that you have to tell are the rise of pharma as a trillion dollar powerhouse industry with a lock on the government. Famously, it runs the richest lobbying shop in DC and Geneva, and that is a big part of it. Concurrently you have its very effective leadership quote unquote in, uh, globalizing the model that it established in the US through the World Trade Organization, and that is a very recent story.
One of the things about this shallow historical memory moment that we're in is we forget how new so much of this shit is. Before the WTO, there was zero expectation or obligation on the part of any country on earth to respect any other country's drug patents, for the most part, —and they didn't. That was forced upon the global south, basically, by a very small number of executives, especially with Pfizer, they led the charge. We're talking about a dozen people in partnership with the US government that basically drove home the the intellectual property regime that we're dealing with right now. That was a fight that lasted a long, long time.
There was a rear guard battle led by India, Brazil, and a lot of other large countries in the Global South, that finally they lost because the US was at the peak of its post Cold War power, and they basically said, look, if you want access to our markets, if you want development funds, you're going to sign on this dotted line, and they eventually did. When you talk to the negotiators from these countries about those days, they inevitably pause and choke up in either grief or rage, because they knew exactly what they were assigning in 1994, which went into effect the next year, and that was a death warrant for millions of people. And then of course with the global AIDS crisis, especially in Africa, five years later, that was born out, and anyone could have seen that coming and everyone did see it coming in fact.
That was a huge, huge global debate at the time. Remember Battle in Seattle in 1999, the WTO, that's what this was about. We were having the same conversation in the context of a different pandemic. One of the things about 9/11 that was so tragic was it completely derailed all of that, and now we're having to relearn this history and these lessons and go back to the starting line, but there were people fighting in the streets in tear gas over this issue not all that long ago, because it's completely obscene, it's completely immoral, and it's dictated from above. It's not natural. There's nothing that says scientific knowledge should be or is a natural property right. If anything, all the evidence points in the other direction. Every argument you can think of that basically this is a system failure and it has not worked in terms of access, in terms of incentivizing the needed R&D on actual public health threats, but here we are thinking this is just the state of things, and without this system, we're never going to have a new medicine again, and we're going to go back to the dark ages, and it's absolutely absurd.
The industry's ability to continue this line and sell it is a testimony to the amount of money they have and their messaging think tank network, it's been very effective, and also just the disappearance of memory, I think, to a certain extent. We need to go back and review the episodes that led to this.
[00:28:45] CHUCK MERTZ - HOST, THIS IS HELL!: That gave me goosebumps because it reminded me of us covering the Battle for Seattle back in 1999, and how the people we had on the show were saying this is exactly what was going to happen. This is a system of rising global inequality, and this is a system that is a new form of colonialism. Does intellectual property rights, does that change science into a weapon of colonialism?
[00:29:11] ALEXANDER ZAITCHIK: Effectively yes. It's hard to avoid precisely that conclusion, because these companies are mostly based in a handful of Western countries, which are the richest countries in the world, which became that way through this enormous historical centuries-long wealth transfer, which now takes different forms. One of them is intellectual property around different forms of knowledge monopolies, of which drugs is the most consequential.
Alpha Male Anti Vaxxers Part 2 - Straight White American Jesus - Air Date 1-1-22-1
[00:29:41] BRADLEY ONISHI - CO-HOST, STRAIGHT WHITE AMERICAN JESUS: I want to draw resonances here, I want to point out resonances I should say, with a lot of things we talk about with religious fundamentalists and other religious groups we talk about, Christian nationalists, et cetera, is there's often in that worldview a false binary, and why?
I could sit here and just say, hey, look how stupid Aaron Rogers is, and we could be a show where we're just like, religious fundamentalism is just full of stupid people. Obviously, that's not what we do here. If, as good scholars of religion, we ask, what does this do for people? what it does for people when you reduce the world to a binary, is you gain control. Because instead of there being a lot of different categories and a lot of different moving parts, you have one side or the other.
So if in a religious world it's good and evil or us and them, God versus Satan, hey, there you go. Are you with God? Are you with Satan? Are you with good? Are you with evil? It simplifies things, and it helps people cope, it helps people maneuver through the world. Now that doesn't mean it's "good", per se. It doesn't mean that it's the most helpful path for human flourishing. It doesn't mean that even corresponds to reality, but there is a function to it.
I think Rogers is doing something with a similar function. He wants to reduce this to, "well, either the vaccines work or they don't. So, you know, I don't know scientists say they do, but obviously they're lying. So they must have another motive." And there you go, we either have they work or they don't, I don't want to hear anything else. I don't want to hear about how statistics show that those people who were vaxxed and boosted are experiencing much less severe symptoms than those who are not. I don't wanna hear about how hospitalization rates are much decreased among the vaccinated, rather than the [un]vaccinated. I don't want to hear about any of those sort of details, nuances, any of the texture, I just want, "well, do they work or they don't?"
And it's funny because this is how you also... friends, if you want tools to think about this, this is how people do the gun debate. "Well, never going to get all the guns and the killing out of the bad guy's hands, so we might as well give the good guys the guns and let it rip." It's either one or the other, and again, this has a function—control, certainty. There's a good guy to bad guy. There's God and Satan. The vaccine works or it doesn't.
And I think Rogers is showing why, and friends, there's another takeaway here, this is why the anti-vax movement, even in non-Christian and non-religious iterations, is finding allies within Christian circles, within fundamentalist religious circles, because they share this. "Hey, the world is scary and messy and complex, and I'd really like it just to be one or the other. And so if there's other people around who reduce the world to one or the other, we're going to find some sort of like, we're cousins somehow, even if we're not sharing the same exact worldview."
I have one more thought on that, but does that make sense to you, Dan?
[00:32:33] DANIEL MILLER - CO-HOST, STRAIGHT WHITE AMERICAN JESUS: That totally makes sense to me, and I think this notion of control and simplifying something that is in fact complex, it makes sense. It's an impulse that makes sense. Unfortunately, that's just reality sometimes is complex. One thing I'll just add to this, cause I think what you're doing is really useful, to look at these, we might call these formal similarities or structural similarities, the way that they work in these ways of reasoning, is because this is also, one of the things you're highlighting is, to create this either or option you also steer people toward one of those, it's not neutral. So what you do is you set one that is an impossibly high bar that cannot be met. Hundred percent immunity against COVID. Never going to happen, can't happen, scientifically, physiologically, whatever impossible, and then when somebody doesn't meet the criteria you say, "see, what I said was justified," we see the same logic in racism, in xenophobia.
For example, people do this all the time and say, "well, I'm not opposed to immigrants. I'm not opposed to immigrants from anywhere. I'm not opposed to anybody of any religious background, as long as they, if they fully assimilate to American culture," meaning basically, as long as they become white and Christian, I'm fine. Well then it turns out that lots of say Muslims from parts of the world are never going to meet that criteria, so then they say, "well, yeah, I'm opposed to the Muslims coming in, but it's not because I'm racist or xenophobic, it's because they won't assimilate."
Why do I bring up that example? Because what I think you're highlighting is this is why these ideologies often come in clusters, is because it's the same thing. When Aaron Rogers says, "well, if you question the science of vaccines they'll label you an anti-vaxxer. It's exactly the same as saying, "well, if you want to protect the borders, they'll call you a racist," and these people sit down over a beer and they get to know each other, or at a holiday party, and "man, what you're saying sounds a lot like what I'm saying. What you're feeling is a persecution complex, looks like it feels a lot like what I'm feeling," so maybe it's not just vaccines, maybe it is the race stuff and the religion stuff, and that's why these things hook together, and that's why, to me, it's such a big deal.
And then, and that's the other piece of it with, I think, that moral dimension, because if somebody says, "well, how can they consistently use that rhetorical ploy one direction in one context and another?" it's that moral component, we've talked about that with abortion rights, so the only moral option can be its eradication.
I think you get a similar thing with the vaccine stuff, with the appeal to rights. This unquestioned notion of rights, which anybody ever wants to do the philosophical work to define exactly what a right is or where it comes from or how we get them, it turns out it's really, really complicated, but if you can just play them, they're like a trump card. " Oh, you're violating my rights. You're violating my rights. You're violating my rights. Therefore, you can't have vaccine mandates or require vaccines or whatever."
So again, I think you're highlighting that similar dimension that plays across these different issues, which again, my big point is always this is why they come together. This is why if I know that somebody is an anti-vaxxer, typically, and I'm not putting this on Aaron Rogers, I don't know where he is on other things, but most of the time, if I know somebody's an anti-vaxxer, I know they don't support Black Lives Matter, and I know that they're probably oppose abortion rights.
[00:35:36] BRADLEY ONISHI - CO-HOST, STRAIGHT WHITE AMERICAN JESUS: I don't want to leave this conversation without coming back to what you said about opinion and "my opinion should be respected," so let's just have a mantra, you ready? My opinion should be respected, Aaron Rogers says it, uncle Ron says it, "Hey, you should respect my opinion, it matters." Okay. My response is here's my mantra, "People should be respected, not opinions." So everybody who is a human being, their voice, them as a person, them as a human, them as whatever you want to call a human being, an organism, a creature, whatever you want to call her, they deserve respect. They deserve a chance to explain their position and their experience. Okay.
People should be respected, however, there are opinions that once they have been articulated and once they have been given do not demand respect, because they are not based on evidence. They're not based on data. They're not based on good faith explanation. They're not based on truth. They're not based on a lot of things that would mean that the opinion would be something one would respect. Okay. And so when Roger says my opinion should be respected, my response is no, it shouldn't, actually, aaron Rogers because you explained it, and it was based on very faulty reasoning. It was based on a poor reference points. The data that you use in order to build the case is as, dan Miller just pointed out, scientifically unviable.
So, this does not mean that you, Aaron Rogers, as a person, are canceled. It doesn't mean that I don't think that you deserve flourishing health, protection under the law, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, it just means that what you're saying about vaccines does not deserve my respect. It does not. I'm sorry. And unless you can come up with a better case, I'm not going to change my mind about that.
Bill Gates and monopoly medicine Alexander Zaitchik Part 2 - This is Hell! - Air Date 4-15-21
[00:37:26] CHUCK MERTZ - HOST, THIS IS HELL!: We were talking about colonialism when it comes to intellectual property rights, you also point out that during the HIV era in Africa, you write that the pharmaceuticals argued about people in South Africa, since they could not be relied on to take their medicines on a schedule, giving Africans access to the drugs would allow for the emergence of drug-resistant HIV variants, according to industry and its government and media allies. Are defenses of patents rooted not only in colonialism, but in stereotypes of the political south? Are patents and their thinking grounded in not only racism, colonialism, but white supremacy and privilege?
[00:38:03] ALEXANDER ZAITCHIK: That argument certainly was the systems of power and that they represent, yes, but I don't think there's anything inherently racist about a patent, they're just not a good idea when it comes to to medicines from an equity, justice, or R&D perspective. But that argument that was used at that time, it's shocking in retrospect to think how widespread that was. After the article came out, someone sent me a link to a a West Wing episode, a show that I never watched, but apparently is quite horrible and is responsible for a lot of the bad things in the world.
They repeat that argument with the somber tone, like it was a conversation stopper, like it was just settled the matter, which was surprising to me. When you go back and look at that time, you have not just industry and high-level government officials making that case, but also people in the media. And I mentioned Andrew Sullivan, who was making that case repeatedly in his blog in the late 90s early 2000s, and it turned out that he was accepting funding under the table from pharma the whole time. And then when he got caught, he basically said, I have nothing to be shamed of, there's nothing wrong with this.
I know this is a little bit of a diversion here, but the fact that New York Magazine hired him after that happened, and it was well-known tells you everything you need to know. The fact that people still take that guy seriously is just, I don't even know what to say.
[00:39:23] CHUCK MERTZ - HOST, THIS IS HELL!: Neither do I. I think I was having that conversation with Alex Coburn like 20 years ago. You point out the artificial shortage of vaccines is primarily caused by the inappropriate use of intellectual property rights, so I just want to make sure that people understand this, how is there an artificial shortage of vaccines right now, and is that shortage intentional?
[00:39:47] ALEXANDER ZAITCHIK: I don't think anyone would want there to be less vaccines, although you could make an argument that less vaccines results in a higher price, and controlling the market involves a shortage aspect, yes. so from the point of view of industry, there's a relationship between supply and price. That's just basic capitalism. They want to talk about capitalism, let's talk about capitalism. There you go. Would the supply crisis be less serious if we had taken production more seriously at the beginning and not let IP slow it down? Absolutely.
This goes back to your racism question. You know what Chuck, I think that actually deserves more attention. Places like Bangladesh said, we can make this stuff. We can do one of these vaccines that are ready to come online, and Gates and a lot of governments were like, eh, well, you know, maybe you can't do it up to snuff, this is really complicated stuff. So there were, there was a certain amount of condescension that was dripping with, I think, racism or Northern superiority there. That came into play, absolutely, and it's still coming into play. They're still using this very condescending language about how complicated these vaccines are to make and how everything has to be up to Western standards and up to snuff, but the generics industry in the south, those same product lines make a lot of the name-brand drugs that we buy. So that argument has always been a little bit disingenuous.
They use the same factories they just put it in different bottles, and it's good enough for them to sell at the monopoly prices, but then when it challenges their interests, they say, oh wait, you don't want anything from these factories. So that's something that people should keep in mind. Yeah, absolutely, the supply crisis would not be as bad as it is had IP not been allowed to slow down ramp and scale up a year ago. We lost a crucial year because of this, so whatever happens down the line, we lost the crucial year, and that is something that we're going to have to come to terms with.
Mass Formation Psychosis is New Viral Delusional Right Wing Meme - David Pakman Show - Air Date 1-3-22
[00:41:37] DAVID PAKMAN - HOST, DAVID PAKMAN SHOW: There's this guy called Robert Malone. Robert Malone is someone who has for a period of time now been credited with and taken credit for developing mRNA vaccine technology. Now this is a claim that has been fact checked quite a bit.
It's a bit of an exaggeration. What the right wingers want you to believe is that Robert Malone is the guy who created mRNA vaccination, and now he's totally against it and thinks it's terrible and dangerous and wants to destroy the monster he created and all this different stuff. A more sober analysis -- and you can just Google a number of different, very good stories about this -- is that he was one of many people over a long period of time who did research that contributed to the development of the technology, which of course eventually can get applied to one thing or another.
And now a couple of the current COVID vaccines are based on the mRNA -- okay, you get the idea, right? That's part number one.
The second part is Robert Malone has now been banned from Twitter for spreading COVID disinformation. And this is of course bringing out all of the "that's fascism and communism and authoritarianism and it's violation of free speech" and all that. So it's bringing out those people. It's also bringing out the people who are of the mindset of "The Truth™," the truth about COVID vaccines and COVID itself is being suppressed. It's being covered up, et cetera, et cetera.
So Robert Malone got himself an appearance on an emergency podcast with Joe Rogan. And in it, he, I don't know that he coined the term, but he made a portmanteau of two terms that exist. And that term is "mass formation psychosis." He is saying that this mob psychosis, plagues the side of science when it comes to COVID. And what is incredible, --this clip has gone giga viral millions upon millions of views.
When you listen to what he's saying, it sounds like he's explaining what is plaguing the American right wing. The COVID deniers, the vaccine. Conspiracists the Trumpers, the Stop, the Stealers, but he's not talking about that. Let's just get right into the clip, and then we're going to talk about it. Listen really closely.
[00:44:20] ROBERT MALONE: This is from basically European intellectual inquiry into what the heck happened in Germany, in the twenties and thirties, very intelligent, highly educated population. And they went barking mad. And how did that happen? The answer is mass formation psychosis. When you have a society that has become decoupled from each other and has free floating anxiety in a sense that things don't make sense, we can't understand it. And then their attention gets focused by a leader or series of events.
[00:44:52] DAVID PAKMAN - HOST, DAVID PAKMAN SHOW: Guys, he's describing Trumpism. What we ha -- I almost feel like I'm over -- it's too on the nose. I feel if I give any explanation I'm overexplaining. It sounds like he's describing the mass psychosis of Trumpism that I've been talking about for years, but he's not. He's talking about people who accept the vaccine science.
[00:45:13] ROBERT MALONE: On one small point, just like hypnosis, they literally become hypnotized and can be led anywhere.
[00:45:22] DAVID PAKMAN - HOST, DAVID PAKMAN SHOW: Yeah. And 70 something million of them ended up voting for Trump.
[00:45:26] ROBERT MALONE: One of the aspects of that phenomena is the people that they identify as their leaders, the ones typically that come in and say, you have this pain and I can solve it for you. I and I alone.
[00:45:37] DAVID PAKMAN - HOST, DAVID PAKMAN SHOW: Guys, he's quoting Trump. He's quoting Trump. Here is Trump literally saying I alone can fix it.
[00:45:46] DONALD TRUMP: I alone can fix it. It will restore law and order to our country.
[00:45:53] DAVID PAKMAN - HOST, DAVID PAKMAN SHOW: Do you guys remember that? He's quoting Trump verbatim, but we're supposed to believe it's -- I don't want to call it the left, 'cause there's Republicans that accept science and an empiricism -- I've never seen anything like this.
[00:46:07] ROBERT MALONE: Okay. Can fix this problem for you. Okay. Then they will lead, they will follow that person through. It doesn't matter whether they lie to them or whatever.
[00:46:15] DAVID PAKMAN - HOST, DAVID PAKMAN SHOW: That's exactly what happened with Trump. He lied to them about all of it. I mean, they're all on this now, all the right wingers are now "Yeah, Robert Malone explained what's going on with these leftists. This mass forma[tion].
[00:46:26] ROBERT MALONE: are irrelevant. And furthermore, anybody who questions that narrative --
[00:46:31] DAVID PAKMAN - HOST, DAVID PAKMAN SHOW: Right!
[00:46:31] ROBERT MALONE: -- is to be immediately attacked by the other. This is central to mass formation psychosis. And this is what has happened. We had all those conditions. If you remember back before 2019, everybody was complaining the world doesn't make sense, blah, blah, blah. And we're all isolated from each other. We're all on our little tools. We're not connected socially anymore, except through social media.
[00:46:56] DAVID PAKMAN - HOST, DAVID PAKMAN SHOW: something about these types of -- typically it's guys -- where they talk in a certain way, where they do what they're accusing that when he talks about hypnosis -- when you listen to the way that Bret Weinstein has spoken about vaccines, it goes "Uuh, it's a spike protein is cytotoxic, and I'm concerned that..." Listen, they have a way of talking. And Ben Shapiro has it too, although it's a different way, very different way of talking, where it almost doesn't matter what they say.
Now, now they're all talking about mass formation psychosis. There's a combination. The term mass formation psychology is a preexisting term and it just means like crowd or mob psychology. And they're just saying he's adding psychosis to it to say it's a form of psychosis. It's a mass, it's a mob psychosis of sorts.
What is incredible about this is that you have to share this because this is the best description I've ever heard of the MAGA movement, except he's not applying it to that. When I listened to it, I'm thinking, wow, what a perfect analysis of what has plagued this country with the MAGA movement for years now.
But he's not talking about that. Like the lack of awareness about the irony is incredible.
Now, just because you come up with a name for something doesn't mean it accurately describes anything. And the truth is I've been describing what's going on since COVID in this way for a long time, back in January of last year, 2021, I did a segment called "the shared psychosis of Trumpism." I literally described this. Except he's describing it, but not actually talking about Trumpism. In May of last year, I did a segment called "54% of Republicans think Trump riots were led by violent left-wing protestors," where I described this as a group psychosis. That's verbatim the word that I used.
So it's not a new concept. And it couldn't be more of an instance of projection. But this is their new meme. Robert Malone is their new hero and the new meme is "mass formation psychosis," and they lack the ability or awareness to realize it applies to them better than to anybody else.
Viral Lies - Reveal - Air Date 1-1-22
[00:49:09] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: A poll found that more than one in four adults said they don't know if the COVID vaccines contain a tracking microchip. That's nearly 70 million Americans.
[00:49:21] JOAN DONOVAN: This one in particular, this microchip one, is just big. It's everywhere.
[00:49:28] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: This, again, is Joan Donovan, from the Shorenstein Center at Harvard. She's a leading expert on disinformation, and early in the pandemic studied the spread of this lie.
[00:49:39] JOAN DONOVAN: It touches all different kinds of folks, and it keeps coming up in these different ways.
[00:49:45] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: The microchip conspiracy theory has infected communities, urban and rural, Black and white, liberal and conservative; and she tracked the lie all the way back to where it started.
[00:49:58] JOAN DONOVAN: The microchip stuff comes out of this very nascent conspiracy.
[00:50:03] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: So, let's do a little conspiracy contact tracing. Like so many conspiracy theories, this one's based on a tiny kernel of truth. On March 18th, 2020, Bill Gates logged on to a Reddit AMA to answer people's questions about the new surging pandemic. And in that chat, he predicted one day we would all carry a digital passport for our health records -- not a microchip, but some kind of e-vaccination card that we would show to get into places.
The next day, a website that called itself "the first and only news source on biohacking" wrote about Gates' comment. I talked with their admin who goes by the name Cipher -- and this is going to get weird -- Cipher belongs to a community of biohackers who advocate for human implantable microchips. They also have them.
And they gave their blog post the untrue headline "Bill Gates will use microchip implants to fight coronavirus." But even these futurists couldn't have predicted what would happen next.
[00:51:14] ADAM FANNIN - LAW OF LIBERTY BAPTIST CHURCH, JACKSONVILLE, FL: Hello, this is Adam with Law of Liberty. I want to share an article with you today. Look at this: "Bill Gates will use microchip implants to fight coronavirus." That's right, Bill Gates.
[00:51:27] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: Just two days after the blog post, a Baptist pastor from Jacksonville, Florida makes a biblical case.
[00:51:34] ADAM FANNIN - LAW OF LIBERTY BAPTIST CHURCH, JACKSONVILLE, FL: It's not just an implantable ID system; it's literally worshiping this Beast, which is the Antichrist that gives glory to the Dragon, which is the Devil. That is Satan. So this mark of Satan, that Bill Gates warns about, hey, it's true.
[00:51:50] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: It's not.
But this video with it's incomprehensible logic quickly gets 1.6 million views, an order of magnitude more than anything the pastor's account had ever received. A few days later:
[00:52:06] UNIDENTIFIED: Bill Gates invents this chip, and they just announced that, um, they're considering using it.
[00:52:12] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: A New York comedian uploads this:
[00:52:14] UNIDENTIFIED: now once they have that chip in your body, who knows what they're going to do. Right?
[00:52:18] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: A day later:
[00:52:19] UNIDENTIFIED: We know for sure, it's a plan-demic.
[00:52:22] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: A survivalist joins in:
[00:52:23] UNIDENTIFIED: Bill Gates doesn't want anybody moving around in the country or abroad without a certificate verifying that they've been vaccinated.
[00:52:32] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: Tell me if you've heard this one: A pastor, a comedian, a doomsday prepper, all walk into a -- well, that joke's not worth repeating. But people repeat this lie all over YouTube, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook.
[00:52:49] JOAN DONOVAN: But it's really a story about Roger Stone.
[00:52:53] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: Again, Joan Donovan, disinformation researcher at Hartford.
[00:52:56] JOAN DONOVAN: Which is just Roger Stone being Roger Stone.
[00:53:00] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: Roger Stone makes a guest appearance on The Joe Piscopo Show, AM 970 New York City.
[00:53:06] JOE PISCOPO: Roger Stone standing by. Joe Piscopo on the radio.
[00:53:10] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: Joe Piscopo is an early SNL star who now hosts one of those incredibly long daily talk shows. And it's here on April 13th, 2020, during the fourth hour of The Joe Piscopo Show, that Roger Stone becomes one of the super spreaders this lie has been waiting for.
[00:53:32] JOE PISCOPO: First of all, thank you, Roger Stone, the legend, on the phone with Joe Piscopo.
[00:53:36] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: Piscopo barely tees up Stone with a question about the virus before Stone lays in.
[00:53:42] ROGER STONE: Here's how I try to break it down: whether Bill Gates played some role in the creation and spread of this virus is open for vigorous debate. I have conservative friends who say, it's ridiculous. I have others who say it's absolute. But here's what I do know for certain: he and other globalists are definitely using it in a drive for mandatory vaccinations and microchipping people so we can tell quote unquote, whether you've been tested. Do you know what I say, Joe? Over my dead body. Over my dead body.
[00:54:15] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: Later that afternoon, the New York Post runs the headline: "Roger Stone: Bill Gates may have created coronavirus to microchip people."
[00:54:25] JOAN DONOVAN: And then it just went totally, you know, "burr" on Facebook.
[00:54:30] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: "Burr" is disinformation expert slang for the moment a rumor jumps from the fringe into popular consciousness. The New York Post story and the Baptist pastor's video are liked and shared all over Facebook.
[00:54:46] JOAN DONOVAN: And we don't really know how it's developed since then.
[00:54:50] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: Since April of 2020, the lie keeps spreading and mutating.
[00:54:56] UNIDENTIFIED: A recent Microsoft patent, 060606, a.k.a 666, involves another implantable device for...
[00:55:03] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: Into new variants:
[00:55:05] UNIDENTIFIED: ... They have to have a sensor attached or installed into the body, which will be paid in cryptocurrency...
[00:55:10] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: Reaching new hosts...
[00:55:12] UNIDENTIFIED: And these chips, by the way, aren't just a little passive ones with a super sensors now, and they can...
[00:55:18] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: Across the globe: [various language speakers]
But the viral lie at the center stays the same.
[00:55:33] UNIDENTIFIED: Where they send -- and I know this sounds like the stuff of madness, and 12 months ago, you would never hear this come out of my mouth -- but this does end with a little tiny microchip in our hand so it is easier to get in the pub and out.
[00:55:51] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: When I reached out to YouTube to ask how they moderate medical misinformation, no one would talk to me. Instead, a representative sent a statement saying they've removed 900,000 misleading videos about the coronavirus, including 30,000 videos just about vaccines. YouTube even has a policy banning videos that claim there are microchips in the vaccine.
But when I was reporting this story, all the YouTubes you heard were still live, including the video that helped spark this whole conspiracy theory, the one from that Baptist pastor in Florida.
[00:56:31] ADAM FANNIN - LAW OF LIBERTY BAPTIST CHURCH, JACKSONVILLE, FL: Embedded quantum dots into the body to keep your medical records. And this is part of a larger agenda. This is part of it.
[00:56:40] IKE SRISKANDARAJAH - CO-HOST, REVEAL: It had racked up nearly 2 million views. So I sent YouTube a link asking why this viral video was still active. 48 hours later, and more than a year after it first went up, YouTube decided to take it down. In total, the company removed six out of the seven videos I asked about. The comedian got to stay. TikTok removed five out of six videos I asked about. And Facebook says it removed 16 million pieces of content that violated its COVID and vaccine misinformation policy, and says it's slapped warning labels on 167 million pieces of content rated false by their fact-checking partners.
But even that jaw dropping amount is just a fraction of what experts say is out there. The Center for Countering Digital Hate, an international NGO that studies online misinformation, found that platforms failed to act on 95% of COVID- and vaccine-related misinformation reported to them.
So when people go looking for information about the vaccine, there's a chance that the first thing they run into might be a lie.
A Vaccine for the World U.S. Scientists Develop Low-Cost Shot to Inoculate Global South - Democracy Now! - Air Date 1-3-22
[00:57:57] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Last week, the Indian government gave emergency approval to a new low-cost, patent-free vaccine called Corbevax. The vaccine was developed by two doctors at the Texas Children’s Hospital’s Center for Vaccine Development. An Indian company is now aiming to produce 1 billion doses of the vaccine this year to help address the massive shortage of COVID vaccines in the Global South.
We’re joined now by one of the vaccine’s creators, Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital. His most recent book, Preventing the Next Pandemic: Vaccine Diplomacy in a Time of Anti-Science.
Dr. Hotez, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you link the first part of our lede, what’s happening around the world with the speed of the Omicron variant, to what you have now just accomplished, making this patent-free vaccine available to the world? India has just given you emergency approval.
[00:59:00] DR. PETER HOTEZ: Well, thanks again for having me. Again, the reason why we have this situation now with Omicron, just like we have the situation with Delta, is we allowed large unvaccinated populations in low- and middle-income countries to remain unvaccinated. Delta arose out of an unvaccinated population in India in early 2021, and Omicron out of a large unvaccinated population on the African continent later in the same year. So, these two variants of concern represent failures, failures by global leaders to work with sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America to vaccinate the Southern Hemisphere, vaccinate the Global South.
And we got tired of it, so we’ve decided to do what we’ve always done for 20 years. And when I say “we,” myself and Dr. Bottazzi, as you point out, and our team of 20 scientists. We make vaccines for diseases that the pharma companies won’t make, for parasitic infections such as Chagas disease and schistosomiasis. And we adopted a coronavirus program about 10 years ago, and then we flipped that around to make the COVID vaccine.
And the only thing we know how to do is make low-cost, straightforward vaccines for use in resource-poor settings. And that was the failure of the global policy leaders. They never had any interest in that. It was always about speed and innovation and to make enough interesting vaccines for North America and Europe, without any attention to the rest of the world. So, we went the opposite direction. And we worked really hard, because, you know, it was very difficult to get funding. We got no support from Operation Warp Speed, no support really from the G7 countries. We were on our own.
And now we’ve licensed our prototype vaccine, and help in the co-development, to India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and now Botswana. And India is the furthest along, and we’ve worked with this extraordinary organization known as Biological E that has got a track record of making low-cost vaccines for the world. And we’ve partnered with them, working with them on a daily or weekly basis. And now that vaccine is being produced by Biological E, and they already have 150 million doses ready to go. And they’re now producing 100 million doses a month, and that will get us to 1.2 billion. We’re going to need several billion more, and hopefully our other partners in Indonesia, Bangladesh and Botswana will also have similar successes.
So, it’s really exciting to show that, you know, you don’t need to be a multinational pharmaceutical company and just make brand-new technologies that will only be suitable for the Northern Hemisphere. We can really make a vaccine for the world. And that’s what our goal has always been for the last 20 years. And we think we’ve made an important first step with COVID-19.
[01:01:44] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Public Citizen has said, quote, “Texas Children Hospital’s commitment to sharing technology is a challenge to the pharma giants and the false narrative that vaccine production and medical innovation thrive through secrecy and exclusivity. If Texas Children’s Hospital can do it, why can’t Pfizer and Moderna?” Can you talk about how you were able to do this with so little funding while they are making billions, not to mention billionaires of their founders and chairs and execs in the companies, while millions now — we are dealing with the largest surge in the history of this pandemic?
[01:02:29] DR. PETER HOTEZ: Well, you know, the way I look at it is, the multinational pharma companies are the multinational pharma companies. They’re going to do what they do. And they’ve made some good vaccines. And I, myself, was the beneficiary of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.
I think the problem was not balancing that — not balancing the ecosystem, putting all of the eggs in the pharma basket and not recognizing that we have some outstanding vaccine producers in low- and middle-income countries that are bereft of resources and bereft of some of the technical help they need to get over that hump. And that’s what we’ve been doing now for the last 20 years. The other thing we do is we build capacity. We invite scientists from all over the world to come into our vaccine labs to learn how to make vaccines under a quality umbrella, whereas you cannot walk into Merck or GSK or Pfizer or Moderna and say, “Show me how to make a vaccine.” With our group, we can. And so, we think the problem is not balancing that model better. And that’s what we’re doing now.
And I think, for me, the biggest frustration was never really getting that support from the G7 countries. So, not only was I going on cable news networks and talking about the disinformation empire that was building out of the White House in 2020, but trying to raise meager funds just to get started. And fortunately, we were able to get some funding through Texas- and New York-based philanthropies, and that made — that, we raised about $6 [million] , $7 million, I believe. And with that, we were able to pay our scientists to actually do this, transfer the technology, no patent, no strings attached, to India, now, as I said, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Botswana. And, you know, of course, we’ve been getting calls for help all over the world from ministries of science and ministries of health, and we do what we can. We could do a lot — I mean, if we had even a fraction of the support that, say, Moderna or the other pharma companies had gotten, who knows? We might have been able to have the whole world vaccinated by now.
[01:04:32] AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: I mean, this point you raise with Moderna, which got a fortune from U.S. taxpayers — I mean, we’re talking about millions, if not a billion, dollars — to do the research to develop this, and yet they are not willing to share the formula.
[01:04:50] DR. PETER HOTEZ: Here was the problem. The problem was the policymakers, not only in the U.S. but globally, were so fixed on speed and innovation. You know, it was all about the brand-new technologies, rapidly immunizing populations, without that situational awareness to understand that when you only rely on a brand-new technology, there’s a learning curve. We need 9 billion doses of vaccines for sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. Nobody was able to take a step back and — as any first-year engineering graduate student will tell you, well, you can’t go from zero to 9 billion with a new technology right away; you’d better balance it with some older traditional technologies. And that was the frustration that we had, that there wasn’t — we couldn’t persuade the big policymakers that that was the way to go, in addition to what they were doing.
Fortunately, we were able to do it. We could have done it a lot faster had we had more support. But now we’re moving forward. So, India, as I said, is now starting to vaccinate its population. They’re working to donate vaccines to the COVAX sharing facilities. We’ll do it with others. And eventually, we think we can vaccinate the Southern Hemisphere, the Global South, and prevent these future variants from emerging.
But, you know, we’re still not getting that kind of awareness. You know, for instance, President Biden — and I’m a big fan of the team that the Biden administration has brought on — boasted that, a couple of weeks ago, right before the new year, that he donated 275 million doses to 110 countries. Well, heck. I mean, we have already matched that with our research institute in Texas, and we’re about to exceed it.
So, I think we really need the G7 countries to step up in a bigger way, and we think we could help them quite a bit with our technology. It looks really robust, same technology used to make the recombinant hepatitis B vaccine that’s been around for 40 years, great levels of virus-neutralizing antibody, durable, simple refrigeration, actually has one of the best safety — maybe the best safety profile of any of the COVID vaccines.
And now we’re are doing clinical trials in kids. So, the emergency use is for adults, but hepatitis B vaccine has been given to infants for decades. Ours is the same technology. We’re doing now step-down studies in kids. So we’re hoping that could be the vaccine to immunize kids all over the world, as well. The one thing we don’t have is a path for the U.S., because we don’t have a U.S. partner.
[01:07:27] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with the Mehdi Hasan show in two parts, discussing the anti-science mentality of the Republican party, which has been intentionally stoked;
Democracy, Now! spoke with Noam Chomsky about why you don't have to trust vaccine manufacturers to trust the effectiveness of the vaccines;
Straight White American Jesus, in two parts, discussed Aaron Rogers, science versus opinion, and why individuals should be respected, not necessarily their opinions;
This Is Hell in two parts, discuss the history of vaccine intellectual property rights that signed the death warrants of potentially millions;
and The David Pakman Show highlighted the new conservative talking point that applies to perfectly to themselves, though they can't see it.
That's what everyone heard, but members also heard bonus clips from Reveal, who did a deep dive on the origins of the vaccine microchip conspiracy;
and Democracy, now! which discussed a new patent free vaccine that is set to be distributed widely across the world.
To hear that, and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly into your new members only podcast feed that you will receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support or request a financial hardship membership, because we don't make a lack of funds a barrier to hearing more information. Every request is granted, no questions asked.
And now we'll hear from you.
Distinctions without ascribing meaning - Abdul from Charleston, NC
[01:08:54] VOICEMAILER: ABDUL FROM CHARLESTON, SC: Hey, Jay, it's Abdul again, calling from the Charleston, South Carolina area. You probably to pick it out. I'm really enjoying this most recent conversation because it's my second time calling on this topic.
I think one of the things that helped me make sense of that categorizing versus essentialising, or putting people on a spectrum, is this idea about noticing difference without ascribing meaning to that.
So, for instance, even in the Black community-- uh, I'm a Black person myself-- there are differences perceived or recognized in skin tone, skin color, hair texture, even eye colour. The problem becomes when we ascribe meaning to difference.
And... and I realized that this is a little bit on a different note from the question of sexual orientation versus socially constructed racialized category. But I find that it helps me to make sense of my own, sort of, complicated feelings around skin color, or sexual orientation, or whatever is that: it's okay to notice that people are different; we all have different in color, hair, texture, height, size, weight, body, shape, you know, whatever ; but it's when we ascribe meaning-- and usually in the case of racism, and homophobia, meaning that we ascribe are often negative-- that the problems begin.
Anyway love the show, and really enjoy the conversation. Keep up the great work.
Continuing to value people with opinions that have no value - Quai from North Carolina
[01:10:16] VOICEMAILER: QUAI FROM NORTH CAROLINA: Hi, Jay!, this is Quai again. Just heard your wonderful explanation and the added layers of logic and research that you applied to Scott's question about categorizing people. And I thought that was really well stated, really on point.
And I just wanted to add something, a nuance from my own perspective, which is that, when I originally made the comment about human beings, I purposely used the word "tier" because I was trying to -- I was struggling to find a word that would express value, or worthiness, or goodness versus badness involving judgment, moreso than categorization.
I think what you said about categorization is really important because when we take these categories as, I don't know, when we reify these categories and make them very real things in our minds, they can certainly lead to judgment of worth and value.
But of course there are many differences. And we can safely categorize ourselves, for what that's worth, in any given situation, as long as we don't make distinctions about the value or the worth or the goodness of a person due to any category. And I think that is really where I was trying to make my point.
And just as a personal note, I'll say that it's something that I struggle with as well. Because when I see people online or hear people make comments that are in support of fascism, or racism, or sexism, all of the things that count people as less valuable because of category, or actually evil because of the category, my tendency is to think that they are less valuable.
But I have to return to my own principle and say, "That person is of equal worth," and respect the person. And I think, I think I even heard you comment about this at one point, how we can respect one another as human beings, and still vehemently defend our position, and fight for what we think of is right.
And that's the tension that has to live in our minds, and hearts; is that, you know, I can fight against someone that I consider a brother, and fight till the end of whatever the fight is, and still respect that person as a brother or sister. And if we can do that, then our winning and losing, that will inevitably come along the way, will still be painful, but perhaps not as horrifying, and won't weigh so heavily on our hearts.
So that's really where I was going. The use of the word "tier," maybe there's a better word than "tier" to express value. But categories, that can be okay. Tiers, value, judgments, not so much.
Thanks, Jay! I really appreciate your insights. Stay awesome.
Final comments on the difference between goals and tactics to explain why libertarians are so often wrong
[01:13:35] JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Thanks to all those who called into the voicemail line or wrote in their messages to be played as VoicedMails. If you'd like to leave a comment or question of your own to be played on the show, you can record a message at 202 999 3991.
Real quick, just for the full context of those VoicedMails we just heard, this is an ongoing conversation; you can hear messages in episodes, 1461, 1463, and 1464, all leading up to this.
I've lots to say today. Uh, the first. is Kwai his thoughts on using the term tier versus category. And I will admit that I did not have these thoughts consciously when responding to him I just sort of naturally gravitated toward category.
I didn't really think too much about his use of the term tier, but now I have put some thought into it. And here's what I think. I think that I gravitated towards the term category instead of tier, because. Creating category almost inevitably leads to those tiers, being seen as having different values or being tiers as Kwai points out.
So that is an important point. But if you're speaking to someone who thinks that it's appropriate to essentialise people into different categories, again, to essentialise Really never makes sense when describing superficial differences in people, whereas descriptors is perfectly fine. That's that's what Abdul was, uh, you know, putting a finer point on, but if someone is essentialising people into categories, but insists that they are not applying a different value to those categories, then they'll see.
Your use of tier as a descriptor to imply a different value to the categories as they are describing them as a straw man version of their argument. So I would point out that the tiering of categories, the, the applying different values to different categories, I would say that that is a clear and present danger to essentialising and categorizing people based on superficial ideas.
But it is not absolutely fundamental. So if you don't want to set someone off by making them feel accused of something that they don't believe, then start with the more fundamental categorization and then work your way up to the problems of value and tiering of those categories. Which is almost certainly going to happen, but work your way up to that.
That's my basic thoughts Kwai's as other point, that just was great timing for today. You know, he talked about the valuing of people versus the valuing of ideas. And then we had that amazing clip from straight white American Jesus, where they talk about that exact idea. People are to be respected, not necessarily their ideas, ideas are to be respected when they earn respect.
People are to be respected as people, no matter what, just because they are people, but a person-who-deserves-respect-as-a-person may have terrible ideas that deserve no respect at all. Now, I just want to finish up with a little story of how sometimes things seem simple after they're explained, but are incredibly hard to wrap your mind around beforehand.
That's how I felt about back a little explanation about people versus ideas that was so clarifying, but then felt so obvious when I, when I came to the other side of it, I was like, oh, why couldn't I have thought of that myself? But ideas like that can be sort of muddled when the conversation is going along very logically. And then you don't notice the moment that you pivot from logic to illogic; and then you... you realize, like, "Okay, things don't sound right anymore, but I am having trouble putting my finger on exactly why."
And so recently I had this kind of experience. Uh, when I, I was trying to explain something, and it was relatively logical, but just really convoluted. And I was trying to explain the difference between a goal and a tactic that one would use to achieve that goal. But I didn't use those words, at first, because I didn't think of them. And I just ended up, sort of, making a mess of it. It was still logical, but just harder to understand.
So I was comparing my core political philosophy, which is to reduce suffering, with what libertarians often describe as their core philosophy, which is some version of freedom, or a reduction in coercion, or freedom from coercion, or something like that.
And so I came up with an analogy, and argued that the idea of reducing suffering is as fundamental as the goal of driving safely; while pursuing the ideas of freedom and reduced coercion are more along the lines of turning right so as to avoid turning left across oncoming traffic, which is a tactic or a strategy for driving safely.
And so the, you know, the point is, in countries where one drives on the right side of the road, it is safer to turn right than left. So in the interest of safety, you could decide to always make three right turns every single time you want to turn left. And that would arguably be safer. Because you'd never have to turn across oncoming traffic. But that doesn't mean that you should adopt a right-turning philosophy of driving; you should still adopt the more fundamental philosophy of safe driving. And in pursuit of driving safely, you may decide that it is appropriate to always turn right.
So, uh, you know, I think this makes sense; it's relatively logical, but it's a little convoluted. And here's where I really try to make my point: the point is that turning right is only safer than turning left most of the time; maybe even the vast majority of the time. But not 100% of the time. There's no way. There's always going to be some edge case, some scenario in which turning right is, strangely, more dangerous than turning left.
And that's why you wouldn't want to follow a right turning philosophy. You'd want to follow a safe driving philosophy, so as to not be blinded by your right-turn-always philosophy that's, you know, it's only correct most, but not all, of the time.
So, maintaining a safe driving philosophy rather than the more constrained right-turning philosophy is the best way to keep your mind open to the best course of action on a case-by-case basis.
So I said all of that; I laid out this whole analogy. And it makes sense, but it's just, sort of, convoluted, and potentially hard to follow. And then a couple of days went by, and I realized that if I had just used the words "goals"and "tactics," or "goals" and "strategies," in place of "philosophies of different types" or whatever. Then it would have been so much simpler.
And it was just like that feeling I had when the speaker said that people should be respected, not their ideas, just like, "Oh, right. So clear now."
And the analogy. Just to put a really fine point on it, is that, pursuing freedom, or reduced coercion, as libertarians prioritize, are reasonably good strategies for reducing suffering most of the time; just not a hundred percent of the time.
So, pursuing those as your goal, instead of merely using them as a strategy, is going to inevitably lead you to some, occasionally, bad conclusions, that end up unnecessarily exacerbating suffering, because you prioritize a reduction in coercion above the actual end result of that action.
And the current example is one of the best: by prioritizing the usually dependable strategy of, uh, you know, freedom, or lack of coercion, over the more fundamental focus on a reduction in suffering, libertarian ideas are at the forefront of opposing incredibly reasonable levels of very mild coercion to encourage people to get vaccinated.
I mean, the military is a, sort of, its own thing. You, basically, sign over your body to be property of the government. But in the private sector, where most of the focus on the mandates are, not only is, uh, I think that reasonable to begin with, but it includes a giant exception that allows for frequent testing in place of getting vaccinated.
So, in other words, it's literally not a vaccine mandate. It is a vaccine or don't get vaccinated, and just get tested frequently to keep other people safe. Should be completely unobjectionable.
So, what we have done as a country with our policy is actually to put a lot of weight on freedom, and applying a minimum, of coersion, even though we could reduce illness, suffering, and death even more if we were more heavy handed and our vaccine mandate policies.
And so, if you're someone like me who sees a reduction in suffering as the ultimate goal, then this seems perfectly reasonable. But if you're someone who, mistakenly, believes that freedom from coercion is the greatest end goal in and of itself, rather than simply a tactic, or a strategy to follow in pursuit of a higher goal, then all you can see in a vaccine or testing mandate is an infringement on your core goal, which is, I mean, I guess, to do whatever you want, regardless of whether it causes suffering or not.
So, in summary, keep things simple by using the best words available at any given time-- in this case, goals and tactics, which I had forgotten to use previously in my analogy last time I tried to explain it-- and then decide on your fundamental goal-- I promise you that freedom from coercion is not a good, fundamental goal-- and then start working out the tactics to achieve your goal. Of which, freedom from coercion is often, but not always, a good strategy or tactic in pursuit of that goal.
As always, keep the comments coming in at 202 999 3991, or by emailing me to [email protected]
That is going to be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes.
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So, coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com.