Tag Archives: coronavirus

corona marginalia: China crisis?

Having repeatedly called on the Chinese authorities to concede to a rising tide of popular dissent, including street protests, demanding the curtailment of its extreme ‘zero covid’ policy, western news outlets now describe an escalating “covid crisis”. With the longstanding lockdowns lifted, news reports contain footage that appears to be in support of claims that Chinese hospitals are overwhelmed by a deluge of new cases, and that a spike in fatality rates is causing queues outside crematoria. But how far can we trust these latest news reports? And is this a fair representation of the difficulties most ordinary people in China are now faced with?

Unfortunately, because the main debates surrounding covid are so polluted with nonsense (from all sides) and simultaneously restricted by intense censorship, even in the West it can be difficult to ascertain basic facts about the disease such as the efficacy of various treatments, or the effectiveness and/or harm of government policies. Such difficulties are obviously magnified once we are dealing with related issues in a region of the world the West treats as hostile – indeed, today’s geopolitics clouds all discussion surrounding China, but particularly so when it comes to matters relating to covid (Trump’s “kung flu”) in which the Chinese authorities, rightly or wrongly, have been repeatedly accused by the West of lies, cover-ups and general incompetence; accusations that first arose in the days and weeks after the disease emerged in Wuhan.

However, on the basis of the most reliable available data and through contact with direct anonymous sources living in China, John Campbell believes today’s “crisis”, though serious in terms of the rates of infection, is neither as bad as our news coverage presents nor currently any real cause for concern for people outside China:


What is needed, of course, are reliable figures for the total excess deaths across China, but instead the Chinese government provides only suspiciously low numbers for registered covid deaths in which the true figure is very likely suppressed. Regarding precise numbers, John Campbell says the best estimate comes from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) which is forecasting nearly 300,000 deaths in China by the start of April, i.e., over the next three months. This number averages out to approximately 3,300 deaths per day.

Unquestionably this number is large, but to be usefully assessed it needs to be put into fuller context. So let’s say the estimated 3300 deaths per day is approximately correct. This total is across a population of 1.4 billion people. For comparison, the UK population is a little over 65 million. Doing the basic maths therefore we find that it corresponds to an equivalent death rate in the UK of around 150 per day. Keep this comparative number in mind.

Although also suppressed at the time, UK figures during the peak of our own pandemic rose significantly above 1000 per day. In other words about 7 times this comparative number based on the IHME figure provided for China. In fact, the non-covid excess deaths across UK based on data running across the entire period of last year (average of about 260 per day) is still far in excess of these comparable figures for China. Indeed, rates for excess deaths not attributed to covid have remained high across most of Europe and more widely although this subject is NEVER discussed by the mainstream news – John Campbell remains one of the few channels to draw attention to this extremely worrying trend.

So presuming the IHME figures for China are broadly correct it would appear that the whole notion of “crisis” is in all likelihood an overblown piece of western media hype. (Propaganda that really shouldn’t surprise anyone.)

John Campbell quotes a personal source who lives in an undisclosed city of Northern China who writes [from 13:45 mins]: “I can confirm there are queues at crematoria in China, but to get this in perspective one must consider that there are only three crematoria here in a city of five million.”

The same source also says [from 16:40 mins]: “The queues at fever clinics are for paracetamol and ibuprofen, etc, which many Chinese don’t use ordinarily, and many chemists are sold out of.” S/he goes on to stress that many of those standing in line are also seeking covid tests – and after three years of China’s ‘zero covid’ policy, it is entirely understandable that high levels of concern about the disease amongst the public have doubtless exacerbated a high demand for testing.

Campbell summarises: “So [given the limited facilities] you don’t need to actually increase the deaths that much for there to be queues at crematoria”, adding “it seems to me that a lot of western media outlets want to make things look worse in China than they actually are.”

But then, casting our minds back to the start of the pandemic, we may recall how the western media had initially castigated the Chinese authorities when they refused to allow a handful of European nationals to leave on flights out of the country because of suspected infection. Three years on, with widespread immunity across Europe and faced with the prospect of a much less deadly variant (omicron) that has been well-studied, is better understood and entirely endemic today, parts of this same media are however actively encouraging a ban on all travellers from China. A shift in attitudes reminiscent of its current shift in attitudes toward China’s general covid policy; lockdowns are good only when the West sanctions them, relaxation wrong only when China decides to relax. Likewise, all our vaccinations are beneficial, theirs ineffective. The propaganda about covid comes in infinite varieties and never ceases.

John Campbell concludes [from 17:45 mins]: “China’s ‘zero covid’ policy was absolutely ludicrous. It went on for far too long. The vaccination rate in China is relatively high. The Chinese vaccines are more effective than a lot of western outlets would have you believe. They are protecting against severe illness and death. The population fully vaccinated in China is actually 91%. But, of course, now they’re developing a natural immunity at a very high rate indeed. But we’re still probably getting 20–25 million new infections a day in China at the moment.”

Adding as a further reminder of the shambolic mess our own governments oversaw [from 15:00 mins]:

“We had the obscene situation in this country where people were dying and their relatives were not allowed to be by their bedside at the time… I’ve told you before my dad was in hospital for a couple of months and I couldn’t go see him in the pandemic. And yet the chief medical officers and the chief scientific officer and the chief executives that oversaw that obscene programme are still in post. That’s fine! No accountability at all for what they did to us.

“[By contrast] they’re able to go to funerals uninhibited in China, whereas we were restricted for long periods of time. Remember those heartbreaking scenes of loved ones trying to say goodbye to the relatives who were dying on a mobile phone. It’s just disgraceful. That’s not happening in China and the numbers are much less.”



In the original post I had incorrectly stated that over the period of the last year (2022) the UK has averaged about 1800 non-covid excess deaths per day. The correct figure is 1800 per week which although still very high corresponds only to about 260 per day as the article now states.



Shortly after I posted the original article below, John Campbell released an updated video which is embedded here – the significant points are not affected:


Filed under analysis & opinion, China

can the left disagree without being disagreeable? Vijay Prashad

Speaking to Congress in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, George Bush famously said “You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Today it feels as if Bush’s commandment has been reattached to all areas of debate. Everything is deemed black and white.

And as social media segments debate and silos opinion, so the Left gets sucked into pro-intervention positions just as the Right becomes ever more anti-interventionist. This strict division increasingly applies to issues as diverse as climate, covid, censorship and most recently to war.

The following short article reproduced in full is political analyst Vijay Prashad’s response to an outpouring of criticism he received after tweeting the image below:

The points Vijay Prashad raises are twofold. First, that we have collectively entered a stage in history when it is no longer possible to have dispassionate and informed debates. Second, that this has led the Left in particular down a dangerous path.

To be clear, I do not approve of China’s draconian “zero covid” policy although I have never seen any of the ongoing covid debate in purely black and white terms. There was always an East-West divide when it came to approaches to tackling the disease. Most countries in the eastern hemisphere tried to halt its spread altogether and those in the West did not. Prashad evidently holds the view that the eastern approach was finally the better one. Up to a point I share this opinion – read the addendum – but that’s not what his article is really about, or my reason for sharing it.

The main issue today is not covid but war. A war in Europe in which Nato is a proxy and that might conceivably spread to China-Taiwan or spark an incident between Iran-Israel and result in worldwide conflict and potential nuclear annihilation. That I am writing this at all is alarming, that you will likely read it and not regard the seriousness of my warning as hyperbole is deeply, deeply shocking – or ought to be.

So where are the protests? Where is the antiwar movement? What has happened to the Left?

This is the issue Vijay Prashad is raising and there could not be a more important one at this pivotal and historic time. Yet, apparently there is greater concern over just making the right gestures. Did he really mean to write that zed in bold…?

Judge for yourself, if you must. Frankly I can’t be bothered second-guessing the true intentions of someone I don’t personally know.

His message is clear enough I think. Wholeheartedly I agree and endorse it.


I have been a reporter for thirty years. During this period, I have been to many former war zones and to active war zones, including in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. I have seen things that I wish I had not seen and that I wish had not been seen by anyone, let alone experienced by anyone. The thing about war zones that is often not talked about is the noise: the loud noises of the military equipment and the sound of gunfire and bombs. The sound of a modern bomb is extraordinary, punctuated as it often is in civilian areas by the cries of little children. Imagine the trauma inflicted upon generations and generations of children by the noise itself, not to speak of the neurological fear of the adults around them and the great loss of life that they experience from early in their lives. There is no war that should be supported based on the catastrophic cost paid by humanity for the violence.

There is no war that I have experienced that has been as devastating as the war on Iraq, which snatched the lives of millions, devastated the lives of the entire population, and left the country scarred beyond belief. No doubt other reporters who are in Ukraine will come with their own stories. There is no comparison of warzones, one more deadly than the other, although the sheer destruction of Iraq compares to the pain inflicted on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the atomic bombs.

Wars are to be opposed and every effort must be made to prevent wars and to end wars.

So, to claim that I support the Russian war on Ukraine is against everything that I have said or done on the record. I oppose this war as I oppose every war, which is why I have written – since 2014 – for the need for negotiation and for the need for neighbours to find a way to live with each other. It is peculiar that a call for negotiation between Russia and Ukraine is now painted as a ‘talking point’ of Vladimir Putin rather than a gesture towards peace. That is the toxic nature of debate, including within the left, where anything that is not identical with what someone believes is pilloried as the absolute opposite position; the space for nuance and dialogue is being withered by this sort of attitude.

Vijad Prashad discussed the same points with Katie Halper during an interview on December 21st which is available in full on Patreon — the relevant excerpt is embedded above.

I posted a picture on social media about Zero Covid. Having lost family and friends in the COVID pandemic, beloved people who lived in countries that had failed their populations, I remain in awe of the three years of Zero Covid policy and practice of countries with efficient governments (such as in China). When I took that picture, I was in a hotel room, where I used the stationery and pen provided for me. I had to draw the Z for Zero twice, which made the Z darker. This extra dark Z was taken to mean support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. This is the absurd place we have entered, where such fantasies are peddled as fact, despite the public record of my arguments for an end to the war.

Second, the picture was interpreted as a sign that I am a full-scale supporter of the government in China and all its policies. To be sure, I am impressed by the Chinese government’s many policies, such as the way it handled the pandemic, the way it has eradicated absolute poverty, and the way it has managed the social development of the population. If you compare China with India, you will have no problem seeing the impressive developments in the former. There is a noxious way in which Western media claims about China are taken as completely correct, and then these claims – often exaggerated – are put before one as a litmus test: what do you think about this or that policy of the Chinese government, and based on one’s answer, one is measured for ones correct leftism. What is your view on Xinxiang? What is your view on Hong Kong? What is your view on Taiwan? I have never been interested in these kinds of litmus tests. I am interested in discussion and debate, not in treating left discourse as a multiple-choice exam where there is only one correct answer to every question. History is a bundle of contradictions; social policy is fraught with difficult choices: to believe that history is a sequence of questions with one pure answer is erroneous and it creates a fratricidal culture in the left. We need to be far more generous with each other, able to hold conversations without resort to insults and abuses.

Out of disagreement comes understanding. But out of malicious slander only comes disorientation.

Click here to read the original article by Vijay Prashad published on December 20th by Counterpunch.


Addendum: My personal perspective on ‘zero covid’ and other policies

At the start of the pandemic no one knew how deadly the virus might be – or might become. China closed down cities and built new hospitals to contain the spread. We did not.

Although oddly the UK and other western governments eventually mimicked the Chinese model, our own so-called Nightingale Hospital was hardly used because it wasn’t built for the same purpose. In China the whole point was to keep covid patients isolated from others without the virus, whereas the British facilities were built to accommodate an envisaged overspill. Likewise the original lockdowns in China quite obviously stopped widespread transmission of the disease (especially during Chinese New Year when millions travel home to their families). In Britain and the West less stringent lockdowns were imposed only after the virus had already infected all regions.

In reality, the world of the pandemic became divided into two quite distinct camps. Broadly, the countries of the eastern hemisphere including China but also Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, (in many ways) South Korea and Japan as well as in Australia and New Zealand, the main goal was to completely stop the spread by all means available including border controls, widespread testing and (in some cases) strict lockdowns. By contrast, the countries of Europe and the Americas mostly adopted a “flatten the curve” strategy, bringing in lockdowns and other measures but only after the spread of the virus was widespread. The argument that “zero covid” was a more effective strategy is therefore the same claim that responses in the East were generally better than responses in the West. Overall, I regard this as the case.

Leaving aside questions of civil liberties, the statistics do ultimately speak for themselves. By delaying, the West got this badly wrong. Ultimately nearly all our governments imposed lockdowns, the mandatory wearing of masks and other restrictions that had minimal effect. This was not the case in the eastern hemisphere where lives were certainly saved albeit at a sometimes high social cost. Theirs was a real “zero covid policy”; as I say, ours was only ever to “flatten the curve”.

So I sympathise with Vijay Prashad’s stance on this issue, while I realise that like his, my own position (which is different) also meets with disagreements on all sides of the political spectrum. Unpopular with libertarians as with many on the left too, who believe you must stand firm in one of two camps. Either you support the lockdowns wholeheartedly or you don’t. Either you say the virus was deadly or you say it was no worse than flu. No nuance is allowed.

In fact my own position on covid has been laid out countless times on this blog so I do not wish to go back over all points. The original and subsequent strains of the virus were bad enough. I caught the original strain in March 2020. Having contracted a novel disease of uncertain origin and risk I’d soon found myself entirely abandoned by state authorities. Trapped indoors due to the sickness itself and also trying to self-isolate, I relied solely on help from my close family who happen to live nearby. My symptoms dragged on for eight weeks during a period when we had yet to hear about “long covid”.

So why, I wondered, had the UK government very quickly dropped its immediate border controls? Why had it ended its testing regime just as people were contracting the disease? Such lapses are hard to explain. And lockdowns were clearly a knee-jerk response to these failures as well as an indirect measure of government incompetence. South Korea did not introduce lockdowns, but relied on testing above all. This was a model we might easily have adopted, but instead Boris Johnson vanished almost without a trace – went on holiday in fact – and for weeks the government just let the situation drift into a crisis.

Prior to my direct covid experience, I had also spoken to one of my Chinese students (I teach at an international college) who had expressed very grave concerns about the impact of the disease at home. He was seriously worried that if the situation worsened it might bring down the government of China – which contrary to what the western news repeatedly tells us is not an outcome most people in China would wish to happen. So he supported the lockdowns in China as did nearly all Chinese at that time.

Times change, of course, and the omicron strain arrived as a blessing in disguise. It did what the vaccines could not – immunised the entire world with little harm. In consequence, all restrictions in the West have been gradually abandoned, and yet the Chinese authorities held fast. For what reasons we can only speculate. Political inertia? Inbuilt authoritarianism? Fears of new strains? The important point is their longstanding “zero covid” policy no longer made sense to most Chinese and so after very well-publicised if limited protests, China has finally dropped all its measures too.

So is the spread of the virus now overwhelming China due to a lack of natural immunity and vaccine failures? This is how western news outlets have covered the change in policy, but the evidence appears to be somewhat different. Judging from the figures  rather than the propaganda, a massive spike in new cases is not resulting in a commensurate spike in hospitalisations and deaths – which is understandable given how relatively benign the omicron strain evidently is.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, China, India, Iraq, Russia, Ukraine

John Campbell asks (again) why are non-covid attributed excess deaths continuing to rise in the UK and elsewhere? And why does no-one care?

Across the United Kingdom during the week ending October 21st (i.e., the latest data set available) a total of 13,463 deaths were registered from all causes. This figure is 15.7% above the five-year average and includes 1,822 excess deaths, most of which were non-covid related. By comparison, on the week ending March 23rd 2020, when the government introduced its first lockdown there had been 1,379 excess deaths – a rate that although rising steeply was actually 25% lower than the current figure.

In his most recent report John Campbell sifts through the latest UK data and finds that non-covid attributed excess deaths have continued to rise across all age groups. This sustained lack of government concern or mainstream media interest given the alarming numbers causes him to raise the following point:

“We had we had all these lockdowns. We had this mass vaccination campaign. We had people bouncing up and down about it; politicians and medical officers and scientific officers strutting over the telly every night TV. Every night! And now we’ve actually got higher levels of death no one seems to be commenting on it at all.

“It is utterly bizarre and inexplicable that we did so much for a certain number of deaths, [but] now we have a higher number of deaths and no one seems to be saying a thing. It really is very, very strange that this is going on.

“Now we don’t want to get into conspiracy theory, but it just it’s to me inexplicable why mainstream media is not all over this and shouting it from the rooftops, because there’s a major phenomenon that we’re suffering from.”

John Campbell concludes:

“What we need of course is a massive investigation, and I think we have to demand explanations for the more distal causes. So there is something pretty horrible going on – over 1800 excess deaths a week more than we would expect, and it’s been going on for a long time now. And we need an explanation.

“So I really think this is one of those things where we should be writing to our representatives to say ‘look, come on. What the heck is going on here?’ Because these aren’t statistics; these are individuals.

“So, on that really quite depressing, ominous note – on that quite inexplicable note – thank you for watching.”

Click here to read an earlier post entitled “corona marginalia: global excess death mystery” based on John Campbell’s previous analysis published on August 29th.


Update: Govt petition and UK parliamentary debate

John Campbell more recently reported on a parliamentary petition debate calling for a public enquiry into covid-19 vaccine safety that took place on October 24th:

Petition 602171 reads:

There has been a significant increase in heart attacks and related health issues since the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines began in 2021. This needs immediate and full scientific investigation to establish if there is any possible link with the Covid-19 vaccination rollout.

It is the duty of the Government to ensure that the prescribed medical interventions of its response to Coronavirus are safe. We believe that the recent and increasing volume of data relating to cardiovascular problems since the Covid-19 vaccine rollout began is of enough concern to warrant a full Public Inquiry.

It reached 107,122 signatures.

The official transcript from Hansard is available here:

The full debate available on Youtube  is also embedded below:

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain

corona marginalia: global excess death mystery

Many people who would have died this year from old age and natural causes have died in the past two years from covid and in consequence this year’s excess death figures should be expected to fall below the average. Instead, in Britain as across most regions of the western world, we are recording a rate of excess death more than 10% above average. Embedded below is John Campbell’s latest Youtube upload in which he addresses this alarming trend, and calls for an immediate investigation into the causes:


The following notes are based around the transcript of the video with all relevant links and quotes also provided.

There is an excess of deaths above what we would normally expect. The information in this video is rather disconcerting, but I think it does need to be addressed.

I’m going to be starting off with a particular case. I wouldn’t normally do this but it’s in the popular press and all over the place – it’s in the BBC and all the national newspapers:

Champion mountain biker Rab Wardell has died aged 37 just a few days after winning the Scottish mountain bike championships – here is a link to a report by the Guardian.

It is completely tragic of course and we extend our extreme condolences to his partner and family and friends – a terrible tragic death.

Now, Scottish Cycling, the official body, has commented on this saying, “We have very little information at this stage…”

His partner Katie Archibald who was with him at the time is also a track cyclist. She tweeted on Wednesday that he had suffered a “cardiac arrest” on Tuesday morning:

“He went into cardiac arrest while we were lying in bed. I tried and tried, and the paramedics arrived within minutes, but his heart stopped and they couldn’t bring him back.”

I’ve just picked one example here, but there are many others from the popular press that we could have picked.

Partly as a result of these incidents the Scottish government has launched an Inquiry into excess deaths in Scotland since the start of the pandemic.

This is the direct quote from their report:

Data from the Scottish Government shows that deaths in Scotland are 11% above the average for this time of year and have been above the average for the last 26 weeks.

What is unclear, is the extent to which this is being caused by the COVID-19 caseload, or the indirect health effects of the pandemic.

Now I’m just going to give you a bit of a data burst, because this is an international concern. And the fact that other governments around the world aren’t bouncing up and down about this – really trying to get to the bottom of this – is surprising.

Let’s just look at some data here. Now obviously we expect the earlier peaks and excess deaths because these are related to covid and, of course, we’ve had a pandemic. So that’s not at all surprising as we look at these different countries. But if we look at the more recent data since February 13th  2022, we still see that the there’s excess mortality to quite high orders above what would ordinarily be expected.

International excess deaths graph


New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom are all very significant numbers of deaths more than would be expected for the time of year and this is the graphic from the world…

International excess deaths map

… and again don’t take my word for this, the graphs are on Our World in Data. But we can see that most places have a higher excess deaths that than would be expected.

Now this data for all age groups in England and we can see based on the last five year average the bit that’s really concerning are not the deaths indicated in blue (which are covid) but these are non-covid-related deaths. So we’re seeing an excess of non-covid-related deaths.

UK excess deaths graph 2019-current


The other thing that’s concerning is this trend is happening across all age groups. And this is official government data so we can’t really argue with this too much.

According to National Institutes of Health (NIH) library in the United States article (in preprint) titled Excess all-cause mortality across counties in the United States, March 2020 to December 2021:

“An estimated 936,911 excess deaths occurred during 2020 and 2021, of which 171,168 (18.3%) were not assigned to Covid-19 on death certificates as an underlying cause of death.“

So these are non-covid excess deaths as an underlying cause of death. So again in 2020 and 2021 we’re seeing more deaths in the United States than would be expected.

(Behind a paywall unfortunately) is Telegraph commentary on England and Wales. It says that for 14 of the past 15 weeks there have been around a thousand deaths extra deaths each week; none of which are directly attributable to covid.

If this current trajectory continues the analysis indicates the number of non-covid excess deaths will soon outstrip covid deaths this year. I find that quite alarming.

According to latest report from Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, England and Wales have recorded 618 excess deaths at home in the past week (28.1% more than expected) for which we have ONS data. So the number of people dying at home is even more disproportionately higher than we would expect.

The deaths have been attributed by the government to circulatory diseases, diabetes and cancers, but of course that doesn’t tell us what the precipitating factors are for these particular causes of death.

Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre of Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University says excess deaths began to increase noticeably from around the end of April. So we’ve had about four months of increased and unexplained excess deaths in the UK data. (Although the pattern is similar in many other countries as we’ve seen.)

He’s compared the data with the past seven years (so beyond the past five) and found a clear increase.

A direct quote from Professor Carl Heneghan:

“The signals in the data suggest something is not quite right. Sustained rises in deaths should trigger an investigation that may involve accessing raw data from death certificates, a random sample of medical notes, or analysing autopsies. I feel like there is a lack of clear thinking at the moment, and when it comes to people’s health and well-being, you can’t wait – it’s unacceptable.”


Filed under analysis & opinion, around the world, Britain, USA

corona marginalia: Facebook v. the BMJ

“We should all be very worried that Facebook, a multibillion dollar company, is effectively censoring fully fact checked journalism that is raising legitimate concerns about the conduct of clinical trials. Facebook’s actions won’t stop The BMJ doing what is right, but the real question is: why is Facebook acting in this way? What is driving its world view? Is it ideology? Is it commercial interests? Is it incompetence? Users should be worried that, despite presenting itself as a neutral social media platform, Facebook is trying to control how people think under the guise of ‘fact checking.’”

— Kamran Abbasi, The BMJ’s editor in chief

“I worry about the amount of power placed in the hands of these third party groups. There’s no accountability structure. There’s no democratic process to this. And so, while I do see a role for fact checking and think it’s far superior to the alternative—which is Facebook just taking down content—I still worry about the effect that it can have on legitimate sources.”

— Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation


The British Medical Journal (BMJ) is a weekly peer-reviewed journal. Starting out as the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal, it began publishing in 1840 and is one of the oldest and most prestigious medical journals in the world:

Over the decades, news of many important medical advances was broken in the pages of the journal. In 1847/48, the PMSJ carried a number of reports from pioneering anaesthetist Sir James Young Simpson urging the adoption and correct preparation and administration of undiluted chloroform for maximum benefit. Twenty years later, in 1867, The BMJ published the first of many seminal papers on antisepsis by Joseph Lister.

In October 1948, The BMJ published the first centrally randomised controlled trial (‘Streptomycin Treatment of Pulmonary Tuberculosis’— one of the authors being FRG Heaf of Heaf Test fame, which remained in use until 2005).

The journal also carried Richard Doll’s seminal papers on the causal effects of smoking on lung cancer and other causes of death in 1950 and 1954.

Click here to read more about the BMJ’s past achievements on its official website.


Reputation notwithstanding, The BMJ has recently fallen foul of Facebook’s ever-vigilant arbiters of truth who are lodged deep in the bowels of FB’s infallible ‘fact checking’ HQ:

Beginning on 10 November, The BMJ’s readers began reporting a variety of problems when trying to share its investigation on Facebook. Some reported being unable to share it. Many others reported having their post flagged with a warning about “Missing context… Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead people.” Facebook told posters that people who repeatedly shared “false information” might have their posts moved lower in its news feed. In one private Facebook group, of people who had long term neurological adverse events after vaccination, group administrators received a message from Facebook informing them that a post linking to The BMJ’s investigation was “partly false”

Readers were directed to a “fact check” performed by Lead Stories, one of the 10 companies contracted by Facebook in the US, whose tagline is “debunking fake news as it happens.” An analysis last year showed that Lead Stories was responsible for half of all Facebook fact checks.

Taken from The BMJ’s formal refutation of Facebook as published on January 19th, which continues:

The Lead Stories article, though it failed to identify any errors in The BMJ’s investigation, nevertheless carried the title, “Fact Check: The British Medical Journal Did NOT Reveal Disqualifying and Ignored Reports of Flaws in Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Trials.”

The first paragraph wrongly described The BMJ as a “news blog” and was accompanied by a screenshot of the investigation article with a stamp over it stating “Flaws Reviewed,” despite the Lead Stories article not identifying anything false or inaccurate. Lead Stories did not mention that the investigation was externally peer reviewed, despite this being stated in the article, and had published its article under a URL that contained the phrase “hoax-alert.”

The BMJ contacted Lead Stories, asking it to remove its article. It declined. The author of the article, Dean Miller, replied to say that Lead Stories was not responsible for Facebook’s actions.

John Campbell picked up the story and offered his own thoughts on Feb 7th:


The same BMJ piece also goes on to consider related and equally erroneous Facebook ‘fact checks’ that have resulted in a similar censorship drive against the no less prestigious British medical research organisation Cochrane:

Cochrane, the international provider of high quality systematic reviews of medical evidence, has experienced similar treatment by Instagram, which, like Facebook, is owned by the parent company Meta.

A Cochrane spokesperson said that in October its Instagram account was “shadowbanned” for two weeks, meaning that “when other users tried to tag Cochrane, a message popped up saying @cochraneorg had posted material that goes against ‘false content’ guidelines”. Shadowbanning may lead to posts, comments, or activities being hidden or obscured and stop appearing in searches.

After Cochrane posted on Instagram and Twitter about the ban, its usual service was eventually restored, although it has not received an explanation for why it fell foul of the guidelines in the first place.

The spokesperson said, “We think Cochrane was reported as it had published a review on ivermectin and was ironically supporting a campaign about spreading misinformation. It seems sometimes automation and artificial intelligence get it wrong. And user reporting and mechanisms can be used to block the wrong people.”

In response, BMJ editors Fiona Godlee and Kamran Abbasi wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg calling Lead Stories’ fact checking “inaccurate, incompetent, and irresponsible” and asking Meta to review the warning placed on The BMJ’s article and the processes that led to it being censored.

Lead Stories is taking an editorial position on vaccination, York [Jillian York, director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation] says, one that echoes Facebook’s own position. “The broader issue at hand is that companies like Facebook and some of the traditional media establishments are reasonably concerned about vaccine misinformation but have swung so far in the opposite direction as to potentially shut down legitimate questions about major corporations like Pfizer,” she said. The medical industry has a history of suppressing certain information, and citizens need to be able to question it, she added.

Click here to read the full BMJ article entitled “Facebook versus the BMJ: when fact checking goes wrong” written by Rebecca Coombes and Madlen Davies.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, internet freedom

corona marginalia: myocarditis risk?

An article in Israel National News reports findings of a recent study published by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showing the risk of myocarditis after mRNA covid vaccination is around 133 times greater than the background risk in the population:

A recent study published on January 25, 2022, on JAMA Network, has shown that the risk of myocarditis following mRNA COVID vaccination is around 133 times greater than the background risk in the population.

The study, conducted by researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well as from several U.S. universities and hospitals, examined the effects of vaccination with products manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. The study’s authors used data obtained from the CDC’s VAERS reporting system which were cross-checked to ensure they complied with CDC’s definition of myocarditis; they also noted that given the passive nature of the VAERS system, the number of reported incidents is likely to be an underestimate of the extent of the phenomenon.

Click here to read the full article entitled “New study: 133x risk of myocarditis after COVID vaccination” written by Y Rabinovitz, published in Israel National News (Arutz Sheva) on January 27th.

The study compared reported rates of myocarditis across different age and sex strata following vaccination against comparative averages for the pre-covid period 2017–2019.

The findings are published in a paper entitled Myocarditis Cases Reported After mRNA-Based COVID-19 Vaccination in the US From December 2020 to August 2021 published on January 25th in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).


John Campbell provides a thorough overview of the paper and its findings. He estimates the figure may be closer to 84 times the background rate, although he says the true figure is likely to be significantly higher because of difficulties in reporting cases using the VAERS system:


Additional: vaccine aspiration

Back in December, John Campbell spoke with Niels Høiby, a physician, Professor of Bacteriology at the University of Copenhagen and briefly a Danish MP for the Liberal Alliance. They discussed growing evidence of damage caused by inadvertent intravascular administration of both adenoviral vector vaccines (AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sputnik V, Convidecia) and mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna).

On the basis of animal studies as well as his own comparison of rates of myocarditis between Norway and Denmark – rates in Norway where vaccines are not aspirated were 3 times higher – Niels Høiby presents statistically significant evidence that vaccine damage is caused by failure to aspirate prior to pushing in the injection. He is calling for changes to vaccine administration guidelines worldwide to ensure precautionary aspiration:


Please note: I have not been trained as a medical professional and do not claim to have expert knowledge of this subject. This article is in no way intended to provide medical advice of any kind.

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Boris Johnson deserves to be cut down, but why are the knives wielded today instead of years ago?

Back in early 2020, when the nation faced the threat of a novel pathogen of unknown transmissibility and virulence, Johnson’s response was both swift and characteristic – he very promptly vanished.

At the time WHO announced the pandemic, Johnson was busy holidaying on the Caribbean island of Mustique, all-expenses paid by Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross, where he continued to holiday uninterrupted to the end of his stay. Upon return, he then skipped five Cobra meetings and soon after contracted covid himself; before buggering off again to Chevening, a 115 room Grade II-listed 17th Century mansion in Kent, to recuperate.

We will fight them on the beaches

Under Johnson’s “leadership”, government policy has lurched shambolically one way and then another. Following an initially cautious response, and for no given reason, Britain soon reopened its borders, discontinued the testing of suspected cases and generally hampered public health agencies that were already best placed to track the spread of disease.

Having thus overseen the more or less unchecked spread of the virus for some two months, Johnson’s supposed “libertarian” government U-turned and imposed a sequence of tight lockdowns bolstered by its constantly shifting hokey-cokey of ad hoc covid rules. As I wrote in late March 2020, not only were the lockdowns a direct consequence of government delays and incompetence, but taking such drastic measures potentially paved the way to lasting restrictions on civil liberties.

Notwithstanding these catastrophic failures, however, Johnson remained a lucky general and was eventually saved when the cavalry turned up in the form of the NHS vaccine rollout. It also helped immeasurably that the responses of the majority of western nations had been no better than Britain’s.

Throughout the pandemic the establishment media has also played a crucial role by parroting the official line and in general deflecting attention from the ensuing fiasco that has cost so many lives and “spaffed up the wall” literally hundreds of billions of pounds of public money – billions a day just on private consultants and contractors for track-and-trace alone.

But then along came “partygate”. And if Johnson’s is finally brought down by “partygate” (as I believe he will be) then it is akin, as someone already said (I forget who), to Al Capone being imprisoned for tax evasion.


“Wherever you stand on this issue – the severity of it, the medications, the mandates, all of that stuff – put that aside for a minute and just think about what do you want from the people who govern you – is this it?”

That’s the rhetorical question Russell Brand poses and adroitly contextualises below – with strong language throughout:


In December 2020, Craig Murray wrote a post entitled “Sorry, Johnson Will Not Disappear” which begins:

It is currently popular among those who make money writing media articles about politics, to argue that Boris Johnson will implode next year and be replaced as Tory leader by someone more rational and conventional. I very much doubt this: the most important reason for that doubt being the power of the atavistic English nationalist forces that Johnson has unleashed in British politics. Astonishingly, despite the UK government’s hideously inept performance in the Covid crisis, and the corruption and looting of the public purse on a massive scale for which the pandemic has been used, the Conservatives still lead Labour in the UK opinion polls.

In the same piece, he concludes:

My prediction is this: Boris will agree his thin deal and at the end of January the Brexiteers will be gloating that the predicted disaster did not happen. Effects on economic growth and employment will take some time to be plainly identified, and it will be mortifying how readily the Tories will twist the narrative to blame the EU, and also to obtain English nationalist support for the notion that this gradual pain is worth it in pursuit of a purer country, with less immigration. That may sound crazy to you. But is it not crazy to you that the Tories are still ahead in UK polls after the last year? Mark my words; hope that Boris Johnson will simply vanish is very misplaced.

Murray is not entirely wrong, of course, and his damning verdict on Keir Starmer (which you can read in the original post) holds up a little better, but my point here isn’t actually to judge and criticise the lack of foresight of Craig Murray as to point to my own analysis ahead of time, since this can be read further down the same page in a comment (reprinted as a footnote below ):

comment about Johnson posted on Craig Murray's website 18-12-20

My comment was posted on December 18th 2020, so permitting myself an error margin of plus-or-minus a month my forecast is essentially accurate.

How did I recognise that Johnson’s days were numbered when others, including those with more direct political knowledge and experience like Craig Murray, were unable to see what was coming? Simply by remaining objective and nothing more: judging from facts rather than on the basis of preferences and biases.

I’ve always hated Johnson too, of course. I hated him long before most people did. But I also knew I wasn’t alone in my hostility! Johnson has accumulated entire legions of enemies; battalions just within the Conservative Party. How many colleagues has he thrown under that damned bus (and different buses!) since the referendum?

His premiership was precarious right from the start and politicians with so many enemies seldom survive for long. Motives for sticking in the knife abounded, but there remained still the delicate question of opportunity. Meanwhile, closets lay stacked to the rafters with skeletons, all just waiting patiently to be unlocked.

Though make no mistake, had Her Majesty’s opposition remained under the stewardship of Jeremy Corbyn, then the fickle attention of our establishment media might more easily have been distracted over and over (as it previously has been) whether by means of prefabricated allegations of “antisemitism” or with alternative smears perpetually cooked up to undermine his tenure. “Partygate” only becomes a major scandal once the opposition is back securely on its leash. Take a bow Sir Keir! (Or should that be a peerage?)

On Tuesday 18th ‘Double Down News’ released a statement by Jeremy Corbyn outlining the reasons why he opposes vaccine mandates and passports and is concerned by the rise of centralised power:


Like the press (who must have heard some rumours at the very least – we presume they didn’t get invites), the Metropolitan Police evidently paid no attention to the non-stop Downing Street shenanigans and despite the fact that a number of these events happened live on their CCTV cameras. Will this lack of police oversight be a matter for a future inquiry? I shouldn’t think so. But involving the police now makes Johnson’s position even less tenable. Imagine what might have happened had they acted with vigilance and propriety at the time. They didn’t, and again, I wouldn’t expect them to. It would be remarkably naive to seriously believe “nobody is above the law”.

That said, evidence of serious misconduct in office emerges all the time, whereas public indignation wanes quickly. It’s only when the press and the broadcast media help to whip up full-blown public fury by tenaciously sticking to the one story and repeating it over and over when the pressure eventually becomes insurmountable. Which happens, of course, only when the time is ripe.

Just ask former Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, who was eventually fired after it was revealed he was having an extramarital affair with his friend from university, Gina Coladangelo. He and Gina, Hancock’s self-appointed Special Advisor (something else he’d failed to declare!) were caught in the act: snogging after school and captured on leaked parliamentary CCTV tapes – not a very edifying spectacle! Who leaked the kompromat? Who cares! (Nobody seems to.)

Prior to Hancock’s “breach of social distancing restrictions”, he had been caught breaching other drinking curfews but, and far, far more importantly, he had been in flagrant violation of conflict of interest rules on countless occasions; perhaps most notoriously, doing deals for covid test equipment with a mate who runs the local pub.

But the trouble with Hancock was not his unprincipled behaviour or his recidivism, but his utter ineptitude; so much so that he became a constant source of embarrassment for Johnson and the Tories. When Dominic Cummings stepped up to accuse him of “criminal, disgraceful behaviour” adding that he should have been fired as Health Secretary for “at least fifteen to twenty things including lying to everyone on multiple occasions”, Hancock’s sacking finally became an inevitability.

Nevertheless, timing is absolutely key to these types of disclosures and following Cummings’ damning accusations, Hancock still managed to stagger on as Health Secretary for nearly a whole month before “snogging-gate” nailed him. That’s when it also came to light that Gina’s brother, Roberto Coladangelo, the Director of Partnering Health Limited (PHL Group) – a firm specialising in the provision of urgent and primary care services to NHS patients – had also won a whole string of NHS contracts during Hancock’s incumbency. You scratch my back…

Coming back to “partygate”, and considering again the endless waves of government incompetence and the unholy stench of corruption, the biggest question clearly has to be why now? The probable answer being, of course, the one already provided in my comment above: that Johnson’s time is up.

As wrote back then, it was effectively up ever since Brexit was signed off, except that the covid crisis had kept him temporarily secure as PM. After all, nobody wishes to pick up a poisoned chalice; a problem hugely exacerbated by such egregious levels of government incompetence and corruption happening under his charge.

Because any prospective leadership contender – at least anyone serious about electoral success – needs to make a clean break: the chance to pass the buck to Johnson wholesale and excuse and/or limit their own perceived participation in past administrative failures under the reliable cover of plausible deniability. (Confident that once the deed is done, the party and most of the press will instantly have their back.)

For instance, here is Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, trying hard to defend his partner-in-crime Boris – while keeping a respectful distance from any blame sharing – during a press conference on Tuesday 18th:


So why now? Simple – and more or less explained above. The unstoppable spread of this thankfully mild omicron variant is doing what the vaccine rollout has largely failed to do and inoculating the entire population. By lucky chance, the pandemic is essentially over – and though the media has tried to say otherwise, this good news comes out regardless. Thus, with covid behind us, a clean political break becomes a viable option, which is presumably why Johnson’s enemies are suddenly so eager to strike, and determined to do so while the iron’s still hot. Politics is a perennially dirty business…

Following the accusations of parliamentary blackmail, ‘Novara Media’ delved into BBC archives (Westminster’s Secret Service 1995) to present footage of interviews with former Tory whips William Whitelaw and Tim Fortescue revealing how old school arm-twisting was done:


What will happen next? Frankly, I do not pretend to know. Who replaces Johnson is anyone’s guess – although the bookies already have their favourites. If you asked me off-the-cuff I’d say the name most loudly touted is Chancellor Rishi Sunak, but another prospective candidate may be that other ex-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has assiduously distanced himself from the government’s failures throughout the crisis. Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is apparently the bookies’ second favourite and on the same basis Tom Tugendhat (with his Bilderberg connections) appears to a bit of a dark horse too.

Whoever comes to the fore and whoever ultimately wins the race, I am quietly confident that – to quote Craig Murray in the negative – s/he will be “someone more rational and conventional”. That is, they will not be – in contradiction to Murray’s prediction again – anyone closely allied with “the atavistic English nationalist forces that Johnson has unleashed in British politics”. Those days have passed, just as the days of Labour under Corbyn and a revitalised left have passed. Johnson’s undoing means the ‘centrists’ are firmly back in charge again.

In short, and contrary to so much liberal hysteria (which passes itself off under the guise of “progressive”), the present threat to society remains the well-established one. It is the grinding menace of neoliberalism in the form of ‘austerity’ and stealth privatisation that ensures the relentless transfer of wealth upwards to the billionaires and the further impoverishment of the poorest, mixed in with a highly combustible neoconservatism that seeks to perpetuate the forever wars, guaranteeing steady profits for the military-industrialists.

Johnson has already played his useful part for both causes, but he frequently played it without finesse, just as Trump did in America. But coming soon, we can expect to see a safer pair of hands: a candidate literally better prepared to pursue the same old, same old ‘new normal’ plutocratic special interests. Someone better in the business of building false dreams: “building back better” for business as usual… consolidation after a bit of a glitch in the matrix!

A spoof episode of ‘Line of Duty’ by the satirical artists ‘Led By Donkeys’ was posted on Twitter on Tuesday 18th and swiftly retweeted by the ‘Line of Duty’ writer Jed Mercurio with the words “brilliant work”:


Which is why I find “partygate” mostly a bore and irrelevance. The daily ‘did-he-didn’t-he?‘,‘will-he-won’t-he?’ soap opera. Yes, Johnson is being ritually humiliated as he deserves to be. It’s the death of a clown by a thousand custard pies. And the schadenfreude is quite delicious, so I shan’t pretend I don’t take pleasure from the sight of that smug grin being wiped off his supercilious face. It certainly makes for great pantomime.

Short of war with Russia (absit omen), nothing can save him now. Not the unshakeable born-to-rule haughtiness and entitlement of an Eton-educated Bullingdon boy with his nauseating never-say-sorry shamelessness. But still, nothing of real political – let alone historic significance – is actually happening here. Johnson will surely resign – but then, the road for him ran out long ago.

And all the while, Johnson appears oddly oblivious to his fate, incapable of understanding that he has become a total liability to the Tories; almost pitiful, it’s like watching a big shaggy dog being carted off to the vets for the last time! Blinkered by narcissism to the bitter end, even when former Conservative allies like David Davies are as forthright as this:


Not that I have any real sympathy for Johnson. That instead goes out to the victims. To those forcibly separated from their loved ones who were left to die in isolation while these Tory chumps were boozing it up day after day. As I listen to their moving stories, I want to put a comforting arm around the shoulder and whisper “I hate them too”. Those feckless champagne charlies and their self-serving talentless mates who are running our societies into the ground. So yes, thank god this is unspeakable object is being tossed aside by unstoppable forces.

But I also hate, and with no less passion, the Blairite saboteurs so deeply ensconced in Labour HQ who worked tirelessly and in cahoots with the establishment media to defeat their own leader, giving Johnson and his wrecking crew a firm leg up to secure his electoral victory. The relentless smear campaign against Corbyn surely provides more than enough proof that today the fourth estate has been actively transformed and is operating as a fifth column:

Meanwhile, I had been calling out Johnson – “Boris” to his chums – long before he ever became PM (a depressing eventuality I also saw coming a mile away), and during decades when the whole establishment media loved to fawn over his foppish buffoonery. Now they are all sticking the knife in, but only because…

And once the circus has left town? Unfortunately, nothing of benefit will come from Johnson’s dishonourable discharge. The damage done remains and will not be undone whether in this parliament or the next; and worst, a raft of similar policies are certain to be rolled out by whoever supplants him. Meanwhile, “partygate” is exactly the sort of scandal that modern media thrives on, because it’s all about personalities and human interest. Beginning and ending on emotive issues of bad behaviour, it serves deflect public attention from where it ought to be placed: on the plutocratic interests pulling the strings and the open but unspoken class war continually waged against the ninety-nine percent.

Look! Finally, this is nothing more than a ‘changing of the guard’. A piece of political theatre. Were Johnson and the government to be genuinely held to account for their criminal negligence and brazen corruption during the last two years, they would soon be facing prosecution and the prospect of jail terms. Instead, there is no likelihood of a truly independent inquiry into the mishandling of the covid crisis and nobody in government will be seriously held to account. If anyone doubts this, then have four short words to offer: arise Sir Tony Blair!

As I wrote a year ago: “Given historical precedents I reckon he’s got a year at best, but we shall see.” That much was rather obvious, and it is no less obvious that it hardly matters who comes next. Why? Because if, in the remote chance, a genuine political contender did arise and attain the level of a perceived threat to the establishment, then the enforcers working inside parliament, inside the civil service, inside the intelligence agencies, and for the press and major broadcasters can again be coordinated in an orchestrated response to crush the upstart just as they did the last.

The ex-leader of Labour of just two years ago, Jeremy Corbyn, is now de facto ousted from his own party, and yet this extraordinary story of betrayal and skulduggery gets scarcely a passing mention from any of the mainstream news outlets.

Johnson fully deserves everything he gets and a whole lot more. But in about ten years time it’s more than likely he’ll receive a knighthood instead. That’s how it works in Britain – in other places the powers-that-be dish out comparable rewards for services rendered. So, that’s my final prediction: Arise Sir Boris!

You can mark my words and tell me I’m wrong presuming we ever make it as far as 2032.


My comment to Craig Murray

Sorry Craig but I believe you are blindsided by your own love affair with the EU and so find it hard to acknowledge that you share this strange affection with a significant majority of Tory MPs who were and presumably still are (beneath the thin veneer of party loyalty) fellow remainers. Certainly I don’t doubt you are right when you say they will continue to stick by BoJoke for so long as his popularity assures their own re-election, but I believe you fail to factor in the numerous and powerful enemies who are now swarming around him. In effect he becomes a lame duck after January and securing any kind of Brexit deal will only cover his blatant lack of competency for a few months. Meanwhile there will be plenty who are now relishing this midterm opportunity to stick it to him, and some have been sharpening their knives ever since he led the referendum campaign. Given historical precedents I reckon he’s got a year at best, but we shall see.

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corona marginalia: the pro-choice doc

Dr Steven James is a consultant anaesthetist at King’s College Hospital in London where he has been working in the ICU since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020. During a visit on January 7th by the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, Dr James made the case that the science isn’t strong enough to support the government policy of mandatory vaccination for all NHS staff. A video recording (embedded below with transcript) of their conversation subsequently went viral:


Sajid Javid: “What do you what do you think of the new rule to require vaccination of all NHS staff?”

Dr Steven James: “I’m not happy about that.”

Sajid Javid:  “So you’re not happy with that?

Dr James: “So I’ve had covid at some point.”

Sajid Javid: “Yes.”

Dr James: “I’ve got antibodies. I’ve been working on covid ICU since the beginning. I have not had a vaccination. I did not want to have a vaccination.

“The vaccine is reducing transmission only for eight weeks with delta – with omicron it’s probably less – and for that I would be dismissed if I don’t have a vaccine. The science isn’t strong enough.”

Sajid Javid: “That’s your view… [turning to other NHS staff] and your views? Do you have any view on that? [then following no replies, turning back to Dr James] I respect that but there’s also many others with different views.”

Dr James: “Yeah, I understand that there are other views, but there’s another colleague who’s also in the same position.”

Sajid Javid: “Yeah, I understand that obviously and obviously we had to weigh all that up for both health and social care. And there will always be a debate about it.”

Dr James: “But maybe there’s an opportunity to reconsider with omicron and the changing picture, or at least the nuance that will allow doctors who’ve had antibody exposure, who’ve got antibodies, who haven’t had the vaccination to not have it, because the protection I’ve got from transmission is probably equivalent to someone who’s vaccinated.”

Sajid Javid: “Yeah, but at some point that will wane as well.”

Dr James: “But if you want to provide protection with the booster, you’d have to inject everybody every month. If it’s worn off by two months… If the protection’s worn off for transmission after two months, then after a month you’ve still got a bit of protection, so you want to maintain protection you’re going to need to boost all staff members every single month, which you’re not going to do.

Sajid Javid: “Yeah, we take advice on when – how much – you may need…”

Dr James: “But it’s not going to achieve a practical benefit.”

Sajid Javid: “Well we take the very best advice that we can.”

Dr James: “[I] understand but..”

Sajid Javid: “From the people that are vaccine experts.”

Having run out of answers Sajid Javid ends the discussion with a sneaky and deliberate slight. Unaccustomed to receiving push back and especially from someone with specialist training, he finally resorts to an appeal to authority, a logical fallacy known as argumentum ad verecundiam.

The incident has since been hijacked and misrepresented by people within two opposing camps, so it is important to emphasise that Dr James does not hold “an anti-vaxx” position, nor is he expressing one. Instead, he is straightforwardly pointing out that fact that the emergence and spread of the omicron variant has dramatically changed the situation. He is also highlighting the comparatively low protection that vaccines offer to those like himself who already enjoy natural immunity, as well as pointing to the scientifically established waning efficacy of both the vaccines and boosters.

In short he says nothing particularly controversial here and so it is a sign that we are living through exceptional and worrying times that even moderate and well-informed opinions are routinely marginalised as extreme and, in the case of the response to covid, characterised as “anti-vaxx”.


On Wednesday 12th, Dr James was invited by ITV’s breakfast show Good Morning Britain, to explain why he refuses to be vaccinated. Once again, there was no attempt at all to debate the issue seriously, but a rather blatant effort to shame Dr James and also to set a trap they hoped he might fall into – and which he didn’t.


Host Richard Madeley began by asking bluntly, “Dr Jones, [this video]’s made you ‘the poster doc’ for the whole ‘anti-vaxx movement’ but that’s not a kind of hat that you want to wear and you’ve come on Good Morning Britain to try and put the record straight so where exactly do you stand on vaccination?”

Dr Steve James responded: “If I’m the voice of anything I’m the voice of a hundred thousand NHS staff, who’ve already lost their jobs. People whose voice hasn’t been heard.

Continuing after an interruption: “Well I’m not ‘anti-vaxx’ because I’ve seen a great, great benefit from vaccines. There’s been a huge reduction in the number of seriously ill patients who’ve come into hospital and vaccination has probably made – or it’s almost certainly made – the largest contribution to that.”

Richard Madeley interrupts again, pressing him about “why did you say that to Javid?” and Dr James continues:

“So there’s a difference between me giving my own personal opinion about why I wouldn’t have a vaccine and whether vaccines in general are good. So you know as a doctor, I’m not anti-surgery, it doesn’t mean that surgery is what I need to have. So for a population it’d be good to offer certain treatments, [but that] doesn’t mean that everybody needs to have those treatments.”

Richard Madeley again: “So why haven’t you been vaccinated?”

Dr James: “Personally I’m a fit and well man. I’m not elderly. I was exposed to covid on multiple occasions in hospital settings and I wasn’t getting sick, and I thought, ‘well the vaccines are out there now, they’ll go to the elderly and the vulnerable’. And I was surprised to see that there wasn’t a point where instead of offering it to everyone, we’re now going to start offering it to people in a more nuanced way.”

Richard Madeley: “But being fit and young and well is no defence against covid. Young, fit people have died from it.

Dr James: “I haven’t seen anyone who’s young and fit and well and has died of covid. Now, there are always going to be exceptions, but young, fit and healthy people also die at other things. So I thought I would just sit and wait and see.

“Yesterday, the Director of the CDC [Rochelle Walensky] announced that more than 75 percent of deaths in the US have been in people with four or more comorbidities, so at about 25 percent, a lot of them have got three, have got two, have got one. * I still haven’t seen anybody who’s died in my hospital – not saying it hasn’t happened – but [no-one] who hasn’t got any comorbidities or any issues.

Co-host Susanna Reid then asks: “You won’t get vaccinated and you’ve explained why you believe you don’t need to. Just want to establish: you say you’ve been exposed to covid. Have you actually had covid?”

Dr James responds: “I haven’t had a symptomatic episode that I know to be covid… but I’ve got antibodies that show…”

Continuing after a few clarifications regarding how the antibody test had been conducted privately and was not something offered by the NHS: “If you’re carrying antibodies to a virus you’ve developed an immune system’s memory. You develop that memory because you’ve been exposed to it.”

Susanna Reid replies: “So it’s the kind of Novak Djokovic defence against vaccination isn’t it?”

This is an odd statement. First, it is irrelevant. Second, how can the word ‘defence’ be applicable in these cases? Defence implies guilt!

Susanna Reid then cuts him off as he tries to make a reply and continues: “Dr James, you are not going to get vaccinated. You’ve said. You’ve had that argument with the Health Secretary. Of course that comes with a penalty within the NHS, because from April if you aren’t vaccinated you’ll lose your job. Are you prepared to simply lose your work for the sake of taking a vaccination which we know, and you have explained, is enormously beneficial?”

Here again, there is an implicit presumption of guilt, since the prospect of punishment is tacitly endorsed. And I find this staggering. If at the beginning of the pandemic you had said western governments will introduce programmes of mandatory vaccination you would have been labelled a “conspiracy theorist” and dismissed, which is also measure of just how far and how swiftly the Overton Window is being expanded. Returning to the discussion…

Dr James: “So the benefit is for people who are likely to have a serious consequence. So the benefit isn’t there for me.”

Continuing: “For me it’s a point of principle that a hundred thousand members of my profession, who have made careful and valued assessments for themselves in the majority of cases, that they are now being forced to have a vaccine – to have a medical intervention which up until the current epidemic was outlawed in public health acts – even in health crises these things weren’t going to be allowed; and now the government’s changed its mind… but the government’s reports from the House of Commons Select Committees from the House of Lords, they say the scientific evidence isn’t strong enough.

Richard Madeley: “Well, are you arguing this purely from, if you like, a civil rights point of view, or are you also suggesting, as I think you might have done in that exchange with Javid, that you don’t trust the vaccine all the way: you don’t think it’s been researched fully enough. Am I right to summarise it that way?

In fact, Madeley is simply putting words in his mouth with a leading question presumably in the hope of eliciting a decisive if unintentional anti-vaxx statement. But again he fails.

After a further clarification of the question, Dr James says: “So my concern is the civil liberties side. I think the vaccines prove to be very safe, however very safe over the period of time we’ve looked at it. So I’d like to look at it for a longer period of time.”

Adding: “But as my mum said to me last night – she said, ‘you know if Kings [College Hospital] is going to lose 1400 members of staff then how’s the NHS going to survive?’

“And you’ve got to look at the practicality of…”

Susanna Reid cuts him off again, and says: “Dr James, what I don’t understand is you’re prepared to lose your job and put your department under pressure, as a result of you losing a job – because I don’t know how easy it can be to get an anaesthetist with your sort of training and qualifications in there – despite the fact you believe the vaccine is safe and effective.  I’m not sure I understand it.”

She then turns to GMB’s resident medical expert, Dr Hilary Jones, prompting him with this intentionally loaded question, “Dr James says he doesn’t want to be a poster boy for ‘the anti-vaxx’ movement, I can’t see how he avoids that frankly.”

Following a pre-scripted “telling off” in which Dr Jones then overlooks entirely the central issue of civil rights and government overreach in order to heap shame on Dr James, even to the point of castigating him for contracting the virus and inadvertently spreading it to patients when it was already established that he had worked on a covid ICU throughout the pandemic which means his initial infection had very probably occurred long before any vaccines were manufactured and made available.

And rather than permitting Dr James the opportunity to rebut the accusations directly, Richard Madeley finally turns to him and says: “That was an effective telling off from one of your fellow professional doctors. He says that your behaviour is, if you like, selfish. What you’re doing is for your own interests and good and to support your political views in terms of human rights and civil rights, but you’re putting patients at risk. You’ve actually put patients at risk.”

Dr James replies: “Ten percent of the NHS staff are essentially in the same position as me. I’m not a fringe person. I’m having an expression of my voice – a voice which hasn’t been heard. I’ve got thousands and thousands of positive comments from people. Hundreds of doctors and nurses have contacted me saying thank you.

“Let’s open this debate up. The debate has not been held. Many groups of doctors [and] of other politicians have said the science isn’t strong enough and you know if we don’t have a debate, if it’s a single story, it’s a single narrative, that’s not science. Science is questioning…” [final words are cut off.]

I would like to add my own praise and support for Dr Steven James. As a highly-trained medical professional, it actually takes tremendous courage to speak out freely and to address these vital matters head on with equanimity and authority. A lack of debate only further inflames an already febrile political climate in which public attitudes are becoming ever more deeply divided and entrenched.

Moreover, the tightening clampdown on free speech, which is detrimental both to civil liberties and democracy, is being exacerbated by establishment press and mainstream media outlets that hold monolithic and dictatorial lines whether about covid or other related and unrelated issues. As Dr James says, “Science is questioning…” before being abruptly cut off. As a scientist myself, I’d add that inherently this is the nature of science.



On the same day as ITV’s Good Morning Britain took Dr James to task for defying official government policy, an alternative interview with Freddie Sayers from UnHerd was also uploaded on Youtube and is embedded below.

The contrast between the two approaches is illuminating. Avoiding conflict and cheap manipulative tricks, Sayers manages to come across as impartial and respectful. But this isn’t a softball interview and many of the questions really do probe awkwardly in James’ broader opinions and motives:


* Please note: The announcement made by Rochelle Walensky on ABC’s breakfast show Good Morning America on Tuesday 11th has since been updated. Speaking with host Cecilia Vega, Walensky says in the original clip: “The overwhelming number of deaths — over 75 percent — occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities. So really, these are people who were unwell to begin with. And yes: really encouraging news in the context of omicron.”

However, her statement caused outrage amongst some groups, and the CDC then accused the broadcaster ABC of omitting this crucial context. In response ABC has since replaced its online clips with an unedited version of the same interview: “In that one, the CDC director prefaces her reply to Vega by touting “a really important study of 1.2 million vaccinated people, which found that only a minuscule fraction of them — 0.003 percent — died of covid-19. Of the small number who did die, she noted, most of them had underlying health conditions.”

From an article entitled “A Rochelle Walensky interview sparked outrage. But the CDC says ABC omitted crucial context” written by Paul Farhi, published in the Washington Post on January 12, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/media/walensky-abc-interview/2022/01/12/b5744ad4-73be-11ec-bc13-18891499c514_story.html

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2021 was brought to you by Pfizer


In a move that should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, CNN Business has chosen to honour Pfizer’s Albert Bourla as the network’s “CEO of the Year.” Pfizer has enjoyed more than $30 billion in profits thanks to the coronavirus vaccine, and has spent plenty of those gains on advertising, much of it on CNN:

But no doubt this selection had nothing to do with that. In his puff piece, Paul R La Monica of CNN Business writes:

CNN Business considered several other influential CEOs for this year’s honor, including Lisa Su of AMD (AMD), Ford’s (F) Jim Farley, Marvin Ellison of Lowe’s (LOW), David Solomon of Goldman Sachs (GS), Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Sundar Pichai and, yes, Time Person of the Year Elon Musk of Tesla (TSLA)/SpaceX.

But Bourla was our choice for all that Pfizer has done in a year where Covid vaccines went mainstream (vaccine was even named word of the year by Merriam-Webster) and helped stabilize America’s economy — and the world’s for that matter.

“Pfizer did a lot of good [for] humanity and we are very, very proud of it,” Bourla said in an interview with CNN Business. “Not only were we able to save so many lives … but we are enjoying high levels of corporate reputation right now. People like us.”

Unintentionally hilarious, the same piece adds that:

Bourla also acknowledged that there are cynics who question whether Pfizer is just trying to make as much money as possible from the vaccine.

Original post begins below the asterisk


Pfizers revenue from Q1 2010 to Q3 2021

In 2020, Pfizer generated total revenues of over $41.9 billion. This compares to its reported revenue of over $24 billion U.S. dollars during the third quarter of 2021, mostly driven by its covid-19 vaccine which was developed in cooperation with German company BioNTech. It is the highest quarterly revenue during the whole period shown above.

Based on report by Matej Mikulic, November 25th from Statistica.



While AstraZeneca agreed to sell its vaccine at cost during the pandemic, Pfizer wanted to secure its profits. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which now has the brand name Comirnaty, will be one of the most lucrative drugs in pharmaceutical history.

[A] Channel 4 investigation reveals analysis by one biological engineering expert claiming the Pfizer vaccine costs just 76p to manufacture for each shot. It is reportedly being sold for £22 a dose to the UK government.

From an article entitled “‘Wall of secrecy’ in Pfizer contracts as company accused of profiteering” written by Jon Ungoed-Thomas published in The Observer on December 5th.

Click here to watch the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary entitled “Vaccine Wars: Truth About Pfizer” first broadcast on Friday December 10th.


And here’s the news you didn’t hear:



Dinah Fuentesfina, Campaigns Manager at ActionAid International, writes:

“More than 200 million people have been infected during this pandemic, more than 4.5 million people have died, and at least nine new billionaires have been minted thanks to COVID.

“This truly is the inequality virus. We create vaccine billionaires but fail to vaccinate billions of people in desperate need. Given the vast public investment in the development of these vaccines and the overwhelming public health need throughout the world, these life-saving vaccines must be global public goods.”

Click here to read the full statement posted by ActionAid International on September 15th.

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corona marginalia: a lucky break?

John Campbell presents the latest available data from South Africa relating to the spread and virulence of the omicron variant. Based on the most recent studies, he says it appears extremely likely that hospitalisations will remain remarkably low with very few patients requiring oxygen and far less again requiring ventilation.

His conclusion from these admittedly early findings is that we may have been incredibly lucky with the emergence of this new omicron strain, since although it is highly transmissible, it appears to be comparatively benign. Making a cautious but optimistic assessment, he forecasts that with the rapid spread of the omicron variant – something he believes is now unstoppable across Europe and America – we may soon achieve herd immunity but with greatly diminished loss of life or further suffering compared to earlier variants.

Let’s hope he is correct:



In contrast to the UK government’s elevated concern, John Campbell remains extremely optimistic about prospects arising from the inevitable spread of the omicron variant.

This is his report from Monday 13th:


In a later report on Friday 17th, with the spread of omicron in the UK escalating, John Campbell continues to be optimistic although he wonders why the UK government has closed its service that provides Vit-D free to people with an elevated risk of disease (also includes updated reports from South Africa):


Filed under analysis & opinion, South Africa