LAB LEAK (3): What were the mainstream journalists doing?
Why ridicule the lab-leak hypothesis when it was obviously a reasonable COVID-origins proposal? Was it because the US government's fingerprints were all over the Wuhan lab?
For an entire year and half, mainstream journalists parroted academic manifestos against the lab-leak hypothesis.
But the authors of these manifestos had competing interests—some had direct links to the Wuhan lab, probable source of SARS2.
So did the US government.
Where the journalists helping to cover that up?
As is famous all around the world, the influential Nicholas Wade wrote a piece in May 2021 for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that evaluated, against the evidence, both major hypotheses to explain the origin of SARS2 (full name: SARS-COV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19. These two hypotheses are as follows:
The lab-leak hypothesis claims that SARS2 escaped from the Wuhan lab (Wuhan Institute of Virology - WIV) in China, where it was engineered.
The natural-origins hypothesis claims that SARS2 is a naturally occurring virus that jumped naturally from bats to humans.
Nicholas Wade made the lab-leak hypothesis respectable, because he found overwhelming evidence in favor of a lab leak and virtually nothing in favor of natural origins.
Before Wade, journalists all over the West had been ridiculing the lab-leak hypothesis as allegedly obvious nonsense, and they also accused it was a racist conspiracy theory. But after Wade this frankly dogmatic (and even hysterical) rejection of the lab-leak hypothesis became embarrassing.
An important question remains: Why is it that, before Wade, our top journalists couldn’t say or write anything sensible about a possible lab leak? Wade himself has a hypothesis on this.
He points out that journalists were influenced by the claims contained in two manifestos authored by important specialists who published their views in Nature Medicine and The Lancet. According to Wade, these manifestos represented The Voice of Scientific Authority to the journalists, so they dared not question them, nor did they have the skills to do so.1
I think Nicholas Wade’s media hypothesis is implausible. But this is what I’ll do below: I will consider Wade’s media hypothesis seriously, examining its merits against the evidence. And then I will consider an alternative hypothesis.
The force of Nature
“It is improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of a related SARS-CoV-like coronavirus. (…) [W]e do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.”2
Journalists cited this as if it were a validated publication reflecting rigorous work and a careful peer review on methods, argumentation, and results. I am not saying peer review is any kind of guarantee—it isn’t. But the journalists claim it is. Yet in this instance it didn’t matter to them that this was a letter to the editor—an opinion piece.
This opinion piece simply brushed aside the abundant evidence favoring the lab-leak hypothesis. And it favored the natural-origins hypothesis despite conceding that “no animal coronavirus has been identified that is sufficiently similar to have served as the direct progenitor of SARS-CoV-2.” The authors simply assumed as true everything that would have to be true for the origin of SARS2 to be considered natural.
On various crucial points the authors were most generous to themselves, using phrases such as “it is possible that” and “it is likely that”—with zero evidence—to ‘conclude’: “This clearly shows that the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein optimized for binding to human-like ACE2 is the result of natural selection.” But no collection of evidence-free speculations can “clearly show” anything.
These weaknesses were obvious and Nicholas Wade would later wipe the floor with them.
But, says Wade, the journalists could not spot those weaknesses themselves because Nature Medicine is a spinoff of Nature, which (along with Science) is the top scientific journal in the world. So, squinting their eyes from Total Prestige Bedazzlement, these journalists couldn’t look at the content—and lacked the skills to find any problems in it, anyway—so they just parroted the claims.
Nature doubles down
Two weeks later, Nature Medicine doubled down against the lab-leak hypothesis by intervening a scientific paper it had published back in 2015. At the top of this paper it affixed a big bright warning for all readers to see that asserted, in no uncertain terms, that this 2015 paper did not constitute dramatic evidence in favor of the lab-leak hypothesis.3
This needs a bit of context.
The 2015 paper—co-authored by ‘Batwoman’ Zhengli-Li Shi of the Wuhan Institute of Virology—had reported success augmenting the powers of a SARS coronavirus from bats to help it infect and destroy human beings. Such lab modifications are called ‘gain of function’ (GOF).
GOF work is officially sold as benign medical research, meant to get us ahead, in the lab, of the future wild evolution of dangerous viruses so that we may better prepare for a coming epidemic. Even accepting that official justification, there is an obvious peril: a lab-augmented virus might escape and cause the very epidemic it was supposed to help us prepare for. Defenders of the lab-leak hypothesis claim this is precisely what happened.
The lab-leak theorists had plenty of other reasons to suspect Zhengli-Li Shi and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. For starters, SARS2 is descended from a bat coronavirus and is quite similar to one that Zhengli-Li Shi was working on. And the first few cases of COVID were recorded in Wuhan just a few miles from her lab. But the 2015 paper in Nature Medicine added a powerful datum strengthening the lab-leak case, as it demonstrated that Zhengli-Li Shi had indeed—via gain of function—been augmenting the powers of bat-descended SARS coronaviruses in the Wuhan lab.
To undermine confidence in such reasoning, Nature Medicine appended an “Editor’s note” at the top of the online version of that paper, which reads:
“30 March 2020 Editors’ note, March 2020: We are aware that this article is being used as the basis for unverified theories that the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 was engineered. There is no evidence that this is true; scientists believe that an animal is the most likely source of the coronavirus.” (my emphasis)
It is a strong norm in science—considered obligatory, in fact—to cite the source that supports any claim, yet Nature Medicine didn’t, implying that agreement on this purportedly self-evident point was unanimous and a citation therefore superfluous. That was an obvious problem. But journalists cannot spot the obvious, according to Wade, because they are utterly defenseless before authority, whose mouthpieces—in their incompetence—they feel compelled to become.
The Lancet manifesto
The Lancet—which, along with the New England Journal of Medicine, is considered the top medical journal on the planet—published the other anti-lab-leak manifesto, whose title reads: “Statement in support of the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of China combatting COVID-19.”4
The authors, a total of 27, denounced “the rumours and misinformation around [the] origins [of SARS2],” and announced, with a crash of cymbals, that “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” The World Health Organization (WHO), they boasted, was on their side. And they even had a petition they wished you to sign (which got a little over 20,000 signatures). In closing, they protested: “We declare no competing interests.”
That, right there—the declaration of no competing interests—that’s the point of inflection for me. That’s where I have to break with Wade’s hypothesis of journalistic incompetence.
I mean, I can suspend disbelief a bit and follow Nicholas Wade to a point with his profoundly condescending perception of catastrophic media incompetence. Yes, true: most journalists cannot make heads or tails of specialized scientific presentations in the field of virology. And I understand that someone with impressive academic credentials can be intimidating. As soon as I say all that, however, my mind reminds me that a befuddled journalist can always do that Journalism-101 thing and seek out other experts—with equally good credentials—who are skeptical of a given expressed position, and then compare… But, okay, I can play this game a bit and grant to Wade that most journalists cannot understand any science. Fine.
The problem here, however, is that if journalists are supposed to have any expertise, it is in the investigation of competing interests. So the claim of “no competing interests” should have been like a victim’s sock to a police bloodhound. Because this lady doth protest too much: competing interests did indeed exist. At least some of the signatories to that manifesto were lying!
I will begin with the more abstract competing interests and then move to the smoking guns.
The broad and abstract competing interests
Virology is expensive, so virologists need big government grants. You can’t get grants unless the people who make those decisions find you acceptable. Nicholas Wade makes the following observation about this:
“Careers can be destroyed for stepping out of line. Any virologist who challenges the community’s declared view risks having his next grant application turned down by the panel of fellow virologists that advises the government grant distribution agency.”
What is this nebulous concept “the community”—one with a “declared view” about “stepping out of line”?
This “community,” I submit, was really Dr. Anthony Fauci, the formal head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and considered by many the effective (though informal) head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The ageing Fauci has now, very recently, finally retired, but for many years it was he who wielded the power to approve or deny the multi-million-dollar grants that represent the bread and butter of virology research, and therefore Fauci who decided what “stepping out of line” meant.
Does this fit Wade’s model concerning the virologists? It does, because Dr. Fauci was publicly and prominently denouncing the lab-leak hypothesis, and that was bound to incline many virologists to support Fauci’s views lest they lose their precious funding. There lay a powerful incentive to join Fauci’s chorus denouncing the lab-leak hypothesis as alleged nonsense.
Another broad ‘competing interest’ mentioned by Wade, and equally obvious, is the following:
“[Some] virologists … had been playing a dangerous game … creat[ing] viruses more dangerous than those that exist in nature. (…) If SARS2 had indeed escaped from such a laboratory experiment … the storm of public indignation would affect virologists everywhere …”
This, too, is a strong incentive to denounce the lab-leak hypothesis as alleged nonsense.
Both incentives help us explain why some virologists signed the anti-lab-leak manifestos and why others chose to hold their tongues. This is corruption, though it is perhaps not actionable in a court of law.
The direct (and presumably actionable) competing interests
But competing interests also exist that are poignant, direct, and quite actionable (I would think) in a court of law.
For example, as we now know, thanks to congressional investigations into the matter, Dr. Anthony Fauci had a call with virologist Kristian Andersen and the other authors of the influential Nature Medicine manifesto discussed above. In that call, Fauci considered very seriously that SARS2 might have escaped from the Wuhan lab after being engineered there. Just four days later, Fauci prompted Andersen—who has admitted to this—to write the Nature Medicine manifesto against the lab-leak hypothesis. Then Fauci pretended in public that this evidence-free opinion piece was a ‘scientific study,’ and one that he had nothing to do with, whose authors he didn’t even know, and presented it as ‘proof’ that the lab-leak hypothesis was nonsense.5
Other probably actionable competing interests can be discovered by pulling on three important threads: Peter Daszak, the Galveston lab, and the unheeded GOF pause.
→ The Peter Daszak thread
As Nicholas Wade explains, Dr. Peter Daszak is no mere co-signer of the Lancet diatribe against lab-leak “conspiracy theories” but the man responsible for organizing, preparing, and publishing said diatribe. Why might Daszak be so passionate about denying the lab-leak hypothesis a hearing?
Well, perhaps because Daszak is president of EcoHealth Alliance (New York), which has been financing ‘gain of function’ (GOF) work on SARS coronaviruses from bats in—are we paying attention?—the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Those funds have been going directly to ‘Batwoman’ Zhengli-Li Shi.
Yet despite Peter Daszak’s obvious bias and conflicting interests, the World Health Organization (WHO) sent him—of all people—to investigate the origin of SARS2 in Wuhan.
As Wade points out, the composition of Peter Daszak’s WHO team and its access to the evidence were both jealously controlled by the Chinese government. Moreover, “the Chinese had no evidence to offer the [WHO] commission in support of the natural emergence theory.” But no matter: Daszak and his teammates “kept asserting before, during, and after their visit [to Wuhan] that lab escape was extremely unlikely.”
Following Daszak’s visit, the WHO report once again claimed a lab leak was extremely unlikely, yet the WHO confessed it hadn’t even considered the hypothesis:
“We did not consider the hypothesis of deliberate release or deliberate bioengineering of SARS-CoV-2 for release, the latter has been ruled out by other scientists following analyses of the genome (3).”
From the phrase “ruled out”—which evokes the clack of a judge’s hammer following a final and unappealable verdict—you might expect footnote (3) to cite a rigorous demonstration, but what you find there instead is the aforementioned letter to the editor in Nature Medicine. In other words, the World Health Organization was referencing Anthony Fauci’s trick—the trick he played on everyone when he had Kristian Andersen write that manifesto!
And those funds that—by way of EcoHealth Alliance—Peter Daszak had been sending to Zhengli-Li Shi of the Wuhan lab, where did they come from? They came (wait for it…) from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Yes, from Dr. Anthony Fauci!
→ The Galveston lab
That 2015 Nature Medicine paper was first-authored by Vineet D. Menachery from the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch, and that opens another can of worms.
The Galveston lab at the University of Texas was “constructed with funding awarded in October 2003 by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/National Institutes of Health (NIAID/NIH).” Anthony Fauci’s fingerprints are all over that, too.
But is this medical research? The purpose of the Galveston lab, as its website once explained, is
“defending our society against bioterrorism … [by developing] … diagnostic tests … for microbes that might be employed by terrorists.”6
And yet, even though China is officially a military rival—and even an enemy—rather than an ally, “the Wuhan lab”—as The Washington Post once mentioned entirely in passing—“has strong ties to the Galveston National Laboratory.”8
What? At least someone at the US Department of Education raised an eyebrow, for that department initiated an investigation to force the University of Texas to explain the intimate relations between Galveston and Wuhan.9 Because, why was a US military lab collaborating with the Wuhan lab, which is a Chinese military lab?
In the wake of all this, the Galveston lab has found it prudent to remove from its ‘About’ page any reference to military work on bioterrorism as a central purpose of the lab (see for yourself).
→ The unheeded GOF ‘pause’
Most amazingly, perhaps, the funds for the Galveston/Wuhan combine to create a chimeric SARS virus to attack humans—proudly published in Nature Medicine in 2015—were approved by Anthony Fauci despite an official US-government ‘pause’ on funding gain-of-function (GOF) research.
That ‘pause’ had been imposed in 2014 following growing concerns that too many viruses were leaking from ‘biosecure’ labs. As The Scientist reported in 2014:
“the government … is pausing funding for gain-of-function [GOF] research projects ‘that may be reasonably anticipated to confer attributes to influenza, MERS, or SARS viruses such that the virus would have enhanced pathogenicity and/or transmissibility …’ ”10
As if all of these connections were not enough to raise alarms, Anthony Fauci—the same—was also the US bureaucrat responsible for the US response to the COVID-19 pandemic!
(You just can’t make this stuff up.)
At least we can explain the bureaucratic hysteria
Supposing, then, as the bulk of the evidence suggests, that the origin of SARS2 does indeed lie in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the links between Wuhan and the US government entail—and Wade says it—that any Chinese responsibility for the COVID-19 pandemic would likewise be the responsibility of the US government.
This provides a clear and obvious motivation for dishonest US bureaucrats to ridicule the lab-leak hypothesis as ‘conspiracy theory’ (read: paranoid nonsense) and also as alleged ‘racism’ against the Chinese (as if it were anti-Chinese to try and figure out who was killing the Chinese). Because if the pandemic is ‘nobody’s fault’—not even the Chinese government’s—then no one will connect the responsibility dots leading straight back to US bureaucrats such as Anthony Fauci.
Okay, but having an explanation for the behavior of US government officials still does not explain the mainstream media, and that is our present quarry. So I ask:
Why did the mainstream mass media parrot Authority?
Nicholas Wade’s speculation about journalistic incompetence requires me to believe they lack the skills to notice the obvious and troubling connections reviewed here. These journalists are so bad they can’t see a story of high-level corruption and perhaps even treason when it smacks them in the face, even though this is precisely their job.
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Is this even conceivable? Isn’t Wade asking for too much incompetence?
I think he is. And I think, therefore, that we should at least consider Machiavellian corruption of the media and see if this hypothesis cannot better explain the evidence of media behavior. Because the web of troubling intertwined interests here—the very thing that journalists are expected to investigate and didn’t—was too obvious.
But do we have independent reasons to suspect wholesale corruption of the mainstream mass media in the West? We do.
MOR has two investigations that suggest the Western mass media was corrupted as early as 1938 (see here and here). More are coming. These investigations raise serious questions about our entire perception of modern history. How much of it has been thoroughly managed?
And the other question…
And the other question, now rising to nag us, is this: Has the US, then, been developing biological weapons with China?
This must be addressed because doing gain of function (GOF) on viruses is what they call ‘dual-use’ research, meaning that, regardless of how it is officially justified, it has obvious and direct military applications.
‘The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?’; The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; 5 May 2021; by Nicholas Wade.
Andersen, K.G., Rambaut, A., Lipkin, W.I. et al. The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2. Nat Med 26, 450–452 (2020).
Menachery, V., Yount, B., Debbink, K. et al. A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence. Nat Med 21, 1508–1513 (2015).
Calisher, C., Carroll, D., Colwell, R., Corley, R. B., Daszak, P., Drosten, C., ... & Turner, M. (2020). Statement in support of the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of China combatting COVID-19. The Lancet, 395(10226), e42-e43
‘New emails show Dr. Anthony Fauci commissioned scientific paper in Feb. 2020 to disprove Wuhan lab leak theory’; New York Post; 5 March 2023; by Miranda Devine.
The Galveston National Laboratory website as it existed in September of 2016, documented by archive.org.
‘Team Wins New Grant for Vaccine Development’; University of Texas Medical Branch; 2 December 2022.
‘Experts debunk fringe theory linking China’s coronavirus to weapons research’; The Washington Post; 29 January 2020; by Adam Taylor.
‘Education Department investigates University of Texas ties to Wuhan lab’; The Washington Examiner; 1 May 2020; by Jerry Dunleavy.
‘Moratorium on Gain-of-Function Research’; The Scientist; 21 October 2014; by Jef Akst.
‘State Department cables warned of safety issues at Wuhan lab studying bat coronaviruses’; The Washington Post; 14 April 2020; by Josh Rogin.
‘Top spy office confirms investigation into coronavirus origins in China’; The Washington Examiner; 30 April 2020; by Jerry Dunleavy.