Update and Introduction
The record shows that way back on May 5, Ethics Alarms published the post titled “The Pandemic Creates A Classic And Difficult Ethics Conflict, But The Resolution Is Clear, Part I: Stipulations.” That resolution was that the lockdown was wrong, indeed tragically wrong, and that a clear-eyed, unbiased examination of the facts made that conclusion inescapable. This, I note again, was in May. Nobody believed that we would still be strangling American society, commerce, education, culture and life as December approached.
I knew the analysis had to be lengthy, so it was planned as a two part post. One reason for this was that the information, data and scientific analysis was contradictory and still coming in as I began the post, and I needed time to review and sort it all out before beginning Part II. Incredibly, after seven months, the information, data and scientific analysis is still contradictory and still coming in. It is also, as this most recent episode demonstrates, still being unethically manipulated to mislead the American public. This is happening even now, after the election, although much of the manipulation of facts was designed and executed by the Axis of Unethical Conduct—Democrats, the “resistance” and the mainstream media– to derail the Trump Presidency, and ensure his defeat on November 3. (Congratulations, by the way! It worked!)
In Part I, I listed ten stipulations that drove my analysis. I assumed, being a fallible human being, that some would prove mistaken; I definitely assumed that some of them would no longer be accurate by now. I was wrong. Here are the ten:
- This is an ethics conflict, not an ethics dilemma.
- Many, too many, of those involved in the problem are going to approach it as an ethics dilemma…
- It is a cruel trick of fate…that this crisis is occurring in an election year…
- We still do not have adequate information to make a fully informed decision.
- Making important decisions without perfect information is what effective leaders have to do.
- No one can rely on “experts.”
- Experts have the biases of their own field and its priorities.
- The projections and models have been wrong more often than not, but are still being hyped as a valid basis for planning.
- The news media has politicized the lock-down, and most of it is actively lobbying for the lock-down to continue.
- We have to accept that the ethical system we have to employ here is Utilitarianism, the most brutal of them all.
As you can see, these haven’t changed.
While waiting for both some more definitive data and the time to do a competent analysis before completing Part 2, I posted a Prelude to Part 2. the next day, on May 8, the date Nazi Germany surrendered. It was a thorough fisking of a New York Time op-ed that perfectly represented the AUC’s arrogant and dead wrong attitude toward the pandemic, and that also pointed to the sinister un-American and totalitarian-leanings underlying the Left’s enthusiastic embrace of the lockdown and its consequences. The last paragraph of the “Prelude” pointed the way to what would be (and will be) the principle underlying the conclusion of the argument I started to unpack in May:
“Freedom has always had a price. On this 75th Anniversary of V-E Day, it shouldn’t be hard to understand that lost lives can be acceptable when the most rational, responsible policies involve unavoidable risk.“
As attentive readers noticed, Part 2 never appeared. (Kudos to long-time commenter Michael Ejercito for repeatedly chiding me on this.) I have been constantly revising a draft, changing directions many times as new data arrived, followed by newer hype and distortions. Then came the Johns Hopkins report, the discussion of which today becomes Part 2, because it is a “smoking gun.”
And that means that what was Part 2 is now Part 3, still in progress, but I promise, Michael, coming soon.
Now here’s the post….
Once again, we have a res ipsa loquitur. This thing, as the old Latin phrase says, speaks for itself, and what it says is ominous, indefensible. and indefensible.
What you see above is what was an article in a Johns Hopkins newsletter. Writer and blogger Robert Zimmerman flagged it first among the various sources I check, and wrote, correctly [the emphasis is his]…
A new analysis of the 2020 death statistics in the United States has revealed that despite the panic over COVID-19, the total number of deaths in all age groups — including the elderly — showed no change before or after the arrival of the virus.
This bears repeating, in bold and italics: There have been no excess deaths in 2020.
Surprisingly, the deaths of older people stayed the same before and after COVID-19. Since COVID-19 mainly affects the elderly, experts expected an increase in the percentage of deaths in older age groups. However, this increase is not seen from the CDC data. In fact, the percentages of deaths among all age groups remain relatively the same. “The reason we have a higher number of reported COVID-19 deaths among older individuals than younger individuals is simply because every day in the U.S. older individuals die in higher numbers than younger individuals,” Briand said.
Briand also noted that 50,000 to 70,000 deaths are seen both before and after COVID-19, indicating that this number of deaths was normal long before COVID-19 emerged. Therefore, according to Briand, not only has COVID-19 had no effect on the percentage of deaths of older people, but it has also not increased the total number of deaths.
These data analyses suggest that in contrast to most people’s assumptions, the number of deaths by COVID-19 is not alarming. In fact, it has relatively no effect on deaths in the United States.
And yet, there have been so many COVID-19 deaths! How can the total number of deaths not be higher? The researcher looked more closely, and discovered (surprise! surprise!) that there was an unreasonable drop in other causes, matching exactly the increase in coronavirus deaths.
When Briand looked at the 2020 data during that seasonal period, COVID-19-related deaths exceeded deaths from heart diseases. This was highly unusual since heart disease has always prevailed as the leading cause of deaths. However, when taking a closer look at the death numbers, she noted something strange. As Briand compared the number of deaths per cause during that period in 2020 to 2018, she noticed that instead of the expected drastic increase across all causes, there was a significant decrease in deaths due to heart disease. Even more surprising, as seen in the graph below, this sudden decline in deaths is observed for all other causes.
This trend is completely contrary to the pattern observed in all previous years. Interestingly, … the total decrease in deaths by other causes almost exactly equals the increase in deaths by COVID-19. This suggests, according to Briand, that the COVID-19 death toll is misleading. Briand believes that deaths due to heart diseases, respiratory diseases, influenza and pneumonia may instead be recategorized as being due to COVID-19.
Then he discovered that the article had been taken down minutes after he posted about it.
Who is Genevieve Briand? She is a Johns Hopkins professor and the an assistant program director of the Applied Economics masters degree program, meaning that she knows how to read and compare numbers. She has no apparent agenda, other than to reveal the truth and allow others to use facts to better understand the world and to make better decisions. Why, then, were the results of her analysis suddenly scrubbed from the web? Were they wrong?
No, they weren’t, at least not on their face. Here was the primary explanation the editors gave for the article about her presentation being taken down by the editors of the Johns Hopkins News-Letter:
After The News-Letter published this article on Nov. 22, it was brought to our attention that our coverage of Genevieve Briand’s presentation “COVID-19 Deaths: A Look at U.S. Data” has been used to support dangerous inaccuracies that minimize the impact of the pandemic. We decided on Nov. 26 to retract this article to stop the spread of misinformation….
The rest of the editors’ note is attempted tap-dancing and spin to avoid and cloud the natural and reasonable conclusions to be taken from the original article and Briand’s work. To the publication’s credit (sort of), prompted by criticism by Zimmerman and others, the editors provided a link to the original article (with RETRACTED printed across it) writing, that” it is our responsibility as journalists to provide a historical record. We have chosen to take down the article from our website, but it is available here as a PDF.“
Nevertheless, what is important and damning is that the article was not retracted because it was factually incorrect, but because the information it revealed could be used to support arguments that opposed the editors’ own agenda and position.
1 That is not merely the censorship of news and fact to distort public opinion, undermine legitimate dissent and cripple objective, competent and responsible analysis and decision-making. That is doing so shamelessly and obviously.
2. No mainstream media sources have reported either what Prof. Briand found in her analysis nor the fact that the Johns Hopkins publication buried her conclusions. None. NONE. This is the “enemy of the people” doing its worst. The professor’s study is newsworthy and the fact that Hopkins took action to repress it is newsworthy.
3. The only way to learn about this episode is from alternative sources, websites and blogs. Thus we have the dangerous depths to which journalism has fallen, and a horrific example of the damage this does, tangible damage, to the nation. The mainstream media wants the country shut down. It does not want facts that can be used to challenge that agenda available to critics and the public, nor does it want the public to realize how they are being manipulated and deceived.
Is there any other conclusion one can take from this sequence of events? Wrote conservative reporter Matt Margolis, “The article was deleted because it didn’t fit the proper narrative.”
4. Most of the conservative sources reporting the episode refer to “Hopkins” retracting the article. That is misleading; the News-Letter is a student publication and doesn’t speak for the university. However, the fact that students of a prestigious institution have learned that the way to prevail in a controversy is to censor and withhold relevant information bodes ill for the future of the United States. It also is one more piece of evidence of how universities are indoctrinating students to use information to advance political ends, and when the facts don’t cooperate, fix them.
5. The students’ mistake was their naive instinct to report Briand’s findings at all. Hopkins itself was satisfied to leave Briand’s counter-narrative unreported.
6. The question of how to ethically balance policy decisions with massive societal consequences when the objective is to avoid deaths from a particular cause without reducing deaths overall is a fascinating one, but I am not prepared to tackle it here and now. I will say it would seem strange to inflict disastrous wounds on society and the economy if the result is no net gain in lives saved, or just trading one set of maladies for another. Still, it’s a complex issue. However, there is no legitimate argument to be made that the facts should be withheld so the matter cannot even be considered.