Have you ever heard of the Great Barrington Declaration – a petition that claims that ‘current lockdown policies on Covid are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health’? I thought not.
Despite the fact that it has support from thousands of the world’s top scientists and epidemiologists, you won’t find much besides negative reporting on Google, you won’t find much on Facebook and nothing on the main discussion posts on Reddit.
There’s a good reason for that – the declaration – and other such criticisms of government policy on Covid – are being deliberately suppressed.
That may seem surprising to you as the declaration is not the stuff of conspiracy theorists or alt-right groups.
The three authors of the declaration include eminent professors at Harvard, Oxford and Stanford universities.
Among the original architects, Dr. Martin Kulldorff, the professor of medicine at Harvard, is also a biostatistician, and epidemiologist with expertise in detecting and monitoring infectious disease outbreaks and vaccine safety evaluations.
Dr. Sunetra Gupta, the Oxford professor, is an epidemiologist with expertise in immunology, vaccine development and mathematical modeling of infectious diseases.
And Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, the professor at Stanford University Medical School, is also a physician, epidemiologist, health economist, and public health policy expert focusing on infectious diseases and vulnerable populations.
In their considered view, from a global public health and humanitarian perspective, the response to the pandemic, with forced lockdowns, contact tracing and isolation, is imposing enormous unnecessary health costs on people and in the long run will lead to higher Covid and non-Covid mortality than would an alternative approach they call ‘Focused Protection.’
They were particularly concerned about how these current Covid-19 strategies would force children, the working class and the poor to ‘carry the heaviest burden.’
Focused Protection includes a number of detailed measures to protect the most vulnerable, while allowing the rest of the population to resume as normal in order to best develop herd immunity. This approach will, in their view, best benefit the entire population as a whole.
The declaration came about after Dr. Kulldorff invited Drs Bhattacharya and Gupta to a meeting in Massachusetts on October 4, to record a video that would outline an alternative to the current Covid-19 strategy.
While there, they decided to write a short declaration to summarize their thinking. The declaration was named after the location of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where the filming was allowed at the American Institute for Economic Research, and the declaration created. The Institute is a right-wing think-tank.
The three professors subsequently created a website for the declaration, which has already been signed by some 11,000 medical public health scientists, and 30,000 medical practitioners. In all, more than 560,000 people have signed the petition at the time of writing.
The initial co-signatories include 44 of the world’s top epidemiologists, infectious disease experts, immunologists, professors of microbiologists and biophysicists, one of whom won the Nobel prize. The scientists hold views all across the political spectrum, but are united in their deep concerns about the huge health effects of full lockdown.
As an alternative, says the declaration: ‘the most compassionate approach . . . is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk.’
They suggest numerous measures to protect the most vulnerable, including frequent testing in nursing homes populated by staff with acquired immunity, grocery deliveries, and comprehensive measures for visiting or multi-generational households.
The declaration maintains that for all but the vulnerable, schools and universities should have normal physical attendance and extracurricular activities, all restaurants be reopened, cultural and sporting activities resume, and life return to normal so long as simple measures like hand washing and staying home when ill are observed.
The World Health Organization has joined the fray by reversing its decision (again), and recently announcing, through one of its coronavirus envoys Professor David Nabarro, that the ‘WHO doesn’t advocate lockdown measures as a primary means of control of the virus.’
Okay, with so many signatures on the Great Barrington petition, and so much web traffic, why haven’t you heard of this?
Try finding ‘Great Barrington Declaration’ on Google. Its website appears at the top (now – it didn’t some days ago), but then on the first page you’ll find an obscure publication claiming that the petition was created by a ‘climate science denial network’ funded by one of the Koch billionaires (they’re referring to the organization housing the building where the filming took place).
You’ll see critiques by newspapers like the Guardian claiming that it is a phony petition, because it includes signatories like ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’ – the result of a number of pro-lockdown activists encouraging their followers on social media to discredit the petition by signing with false names.
Moderators of the biggest discussion groups about Covid on Reddit have removed any posts about the Barrington Declaration, labeling it ‘spam.’
What about Facebook? In February 2019, the social media platform was threatened by Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff with having its immunity withdrawn under the Communications Decency Act unless it implemented algorithms to suppress ‘vaccine misinformation’ and advertising.
As this would have essentially crushed Facebook’s vast advertising revenues, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg approached the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization to help identify this kind of ‘misinformation.’
This all came to light because Facebook is now being sued by environmental lawyer and advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr, for being a mouthpiece for government and not an independent information clearinghouse.
It may well be that other platforms like Google have taken Facebook’s lead or had similar threats.
Even the mainstream media have been complicit in suppressing news about the petition. When Professor Gupta appeared on BBC in the UK, she says, she was told by its producers not to mention the Great Barrington petition (she went ahead and did so anyway), and subsequently was told by BBC Radio 4 producers that her forthcoming appearance on the Today program would not be held as a ‘even-handed debate.’
In the UK this attempt by the media to suppress an opposing view to the government’s official line likely has to do with guidance of British communications regulator Ofcom on coronavirus. Last March, the agency told broadcasters to be highly cautious before allowing criticism of the government’s official party line or even allowing the views of skeptics to be aired.
Read that as a veiled threat.
Thus far, of the petition signatories, more than 40,000 of them are scientists or medical practitioners. Let’s err on the side of caution and say that up to 10 percent of the signatures are anti-lockdown zealots using phony names, although the number, according to the petition organizers, is closer to 2 percent.
Surely in a democracy, an opposing view to the government’s official line with this much support among eminent scientists deserves to be heard and reported on dispassionately and respectfully by all information sources.
The alternative is Pravda, the old newspaper and official voice of Russia’s Communist Party, which dutifully spouted the official party line until the old USSR was disbanded.
If you agree, check out the Great Barrington Declaration website: https://gbdeclaration.org. Read its FAQs. And if you agree with its position, sign it. If you don’t, champion them for something even bigger than Covid-19: the right to free speech.