Civics: Why can’t we talk about the Great Barrington Declaration?

Tony Young:

You probably haven’t heard of the Great Barrington Declaration. This is a petition started by three scientists on October 4 calling for governments to adopt a policy of ‘focused protection’ when it comes to COVID-19. They believe those most at risk should be offered protection — although it shouldn’t be mandatory — and those not at risk, which is pretty much everyone under 65 without an underlying health condition, should be encouraged to return to normal. In this way, the majority will get infected and then recover, gradually building up herd immunity, and that in turn will mean the elderly and the vulnerable no longer have to hide themselves away. According to these experts, this is the tried and tested way of managing the risk posed by a new infectious disease, dating back thousands of years.

The three scientists who created it aren’t outliers or cranks, but professors at Oxford, Harvard and Stanford. And since its launch, the declaration been signed by tens of thousands of epidemiologists and public health scientists, including a Nobel Prize winner. So why haven’t you heard of it? The short answer is there’s been a well-orchestrated attempt to suppress and discredit it. I searched for it on Google last Saturday and the top link was to an article in an obscure left-wing magazine claiming the petition was the work of a ‘climate science denial network’ funded by a right-wing billionaire. The top video link was to a Channel 4 News report in which Devi Sridhar, a public health advisor to the Scottish government, denounced the declaration as not ‘scientific’. A bit rich considering Devi’s PhD is in social anthropology, whereas Sunetra Gupta, one of the petition’s authors, is a global expert on infectious diseases. In the first 10 pages of Google search results, not one took me to the actual declaration.

It is hard to find any mention of it on Reddit, the world’s best-known discussion website. The two most popular subreddits devoted to the virus — r/COVID19 and r/Coronavirus — have excised all references to it, with the moderators of the latter denouncing it as ‘spam’. A similar line has been taken by nearly all left-leaning newspapers. TheGuardian ran an article on the declaration last Saturday, but only to flag up that its more than 400,000 signatories included a handful of dubious-sounding ‘experts’, such as ‘Dr Johnny Bananas’ and ‘Prof Cominic Dummings’. Hardly surprising, given that lockdown zealots have been openly encouraging their followers on social media to sign up with fake names.