Connect with us


Did governments around the world initially over-react to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Initial responses to threats — whether they’re military, strategic or health-related — are crucial to the peace and prosperity of nations. Did governments…



A closed pub in Soho, London, in February 2021, during the third national lockdown in the United Kingdom due to COVID-19. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

The COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about the dangers of the virus have diverted attention from the primary response to the crisis — the decision to lock down entire populations.

Yet there are important questions to ask. Why did the world go into major lockdown for this infection and not for other coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-1, which most experts considered more life-threatening, although the number of cases worldwide was much lower.

Why has there been so little debate globally about what to do in the event of a major emergency like another pandemic? Why did countries follow each other’s actions on containing COVID-19 without considering local idiosyncrasies and cultural characteristics?

The answers to these questions could explain the divide in most western industrialized countries between those who defend the freedom to protect themselves as they see fit in the face of a highly infectious disease and those who prioritize the general population’s health and the protection of vulnerable people.

Read more: Why nobody will ever agree on whether COVID lockdowns were worth it

In a recently published article entitled “Exploring the Process of Policy Overreaction: The COVID-19 Lockdown Decisions,” we examine policy over-reaction.

We do not pass judgment in our research on the overall management of the COVID-19 pandemic by governments. We focus only on the initial response to the pandemic — in particular, widespread lockdowns. We analyze the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in several countries that took different approaches to managing the crisis.

We are strategic management professors and conducted this analysis as experts in theories of organizations and how they function, with a focus on strategic and decision-making processes.

Political over-reaction?

Early policy decisions to massively confine entire populations were made because COVID-19 was perceived as very dangerous. At first, these lockdowns elicited little public outcry almost anywhere globally, even though they profoundly affected the daily lives and well-being of the populations affected.

When the first decision in response to a major threat is large and extreme, it becomes increasingly challenging for authorities to reconsider or correct. Yet these decisions, often made in a hurry, can lead to human and economic upheaval. Their effects are usually felt over the long term, and they are not given much attention given the real or perceived urgency of the crisis.

Policy over-reaction has been documented in academic research. For example, George W. Bush’s catastrophic decision to invade Iraq in 2003 has been presented as a typical example of policy over-reaction, this one in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

a soldier in combat gear points an assault weapon out a window
In this April 2003 photo, a U.S. soldier mans a position from a primary school window in Fallujah, Iraq. The U.S. invasion of of Iraq unleashed a war that led to an insurgency, sectarian violence and tens of thousands of deaths. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

In contrast, during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, John F. Kennedy resisted his advisers’ call to arms. His actions probably prevented a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union.

In general, initial responses to what appears to be an alarming threat — whether military, strategic or health-related — are crucial to the peace and prosperity of nations. These initial decisions create “path dependency,” as explained by American management studies expert Ian Greener, when past events or decisions influence subsequent behaviour and perceptions.

Reaction to COVID-19

The French COVID-19 containment measures were extreme. France’s response attracted worldwide attention, and people around the globe were struck by the image of deserted Paris streets at the onset of the pandemic.

Sweden was one of the first countries to take an opposite approach, resisting the idea of confining its entire population despite a storm of criticism from the international media and a subsequent internal reconsideration within the Swedish government. Despite this, a commission concluded in February 2022 that “Sweden’s no-lockdown COVID strategy was broadly correct.”

Swedish authorities acted quickly to protect the most vulnerable population segments, but refrained from widespread lockdowns, although the country has had major outbreaks in its retirement residences.

women chat and laugh on a restaurant patio with potted daffodils in the foreground
People chat and drink in Stockholm, Sweden, in April 2020. Swedish authorities told citizens to practise social distancing during COVID-19 but still allowed a large amount of personal freedom. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

They provided constant information to the public, seeking both co-operation and social approval. The Swedish response has generally been neither better nor worse from a health perspective — as of February 2022, Johns Hopkins University estimated coronavirus-related mortality as 0.6 per cent in France, 0.7 per cent in Sweden, 0.9 per cent in Germany, 1.1 per cent in Canada and 1.2 per cent in the United States.

But Swedish authorities spared Swedes the excesses of mass confinement.

Decision-making during crises

The 1960 behavioural sciences theory known as “disjointed incrementalism” holds that when cause-and-effect relationships are uncertain or unknown — when there’s no way of knowing how decisions will affect behaviour — broad policies are more appropriate when they first consist of small decisions, made in sequence, step by step, to facilitate learning, adjustment and avoid over-commitment. It also argues decisions should involve input from all interested groups to benefit from collective experience.

Our research suggests emotions, particularly fear, can derail rational decision-making, a phenomenon widely documented in psychological literature. When it affects entire populations, fear can fuel “crowd behaviour.”

In his book Crowds and Power, the British-German writer Elias Canetti, a Nobel Prize winner for literature, argued that people devolve into pack behaviour when frightened, and they become easy to manipulate. Irrational behaviour that would not normally occur individually is common in crowds, according to Canetti.

Read more: What motivates changing behaviours during COVID-19 — from toilet paper hoarding to physical distancing

In the case of COVID-19, fear likely influenced crowd behaviour. Anxiety about the coronavirus among citizens was likely one of the factors that helped prevent any policy adjustment or correction. Instead it led to further tightening of rules.

What’s known as institutional isomorphism may have also contributed to lockdown decisions. That’s when the institutional environment — laws, norms, culture and practices — pushes people and organizations into similar behaviour to justify their actions.

A large square devoid of people with the arc de triomphe in the centre
The empty Arc de Triomphe square during a French nationwide confinement to counter COVID-19 in Paris in March 2020. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Health-only advice

Faced with uncertainty, pressure from the media and frightened populations, national leaders sometimes follow each other’s lead, cementing an over-reaction and taking more action — sometimes questionable — to justify and enforce their decisions. But in the case of COVID-19, the process of justification and implementation often relied on health-only advice and group think, while disregarding social sciences.

It’s not wise, in our opinion, when making decisions about the well-being of entire populations, to neglect the views of psychologists, sociologists, historians, organizational theorists and other scientists.

Read more: Governments need more than just public health officials for COVID-19 lockdown advice

We highlight five measures to limit the effects of negative emotions and institutional isomorphism in emergency crisis management:

  1. Adopt an incremental decision-making approach to allow for learning;
  2. Decentralize response decision-making;
  3. Ensure open communication and listen to civil society input;
  4. Build balanced decision-making structures, involving a wide range of scientific experts, but also concerned societal leaders;
  5. Ensure true evidence-based management, taking into account the various aspects of an emergency crisis.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly been a significant threat for countries around the world.

But large-scale crises are difficult to manage precisely because people can react emotionally. To maintain control, it’s essential to guard against extreme policy decisions that are difficult to assess and implement.

Minimizing the negative emotions, especially fear, that are generated by these crises — and providing reassurance — help control behaviour, earn public support and improve the decision-making process.

That said, in no way do we minimize the difficulty of managing such a crisis. In this vein, we recognize that governments have handled the pandemic not only to reduce the number of deaths, but also to avoid the saturation of health systems, weakened by the surge of COVID-19 cases.

Sofiane Baba has regularly received funding from granting agencies such as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Fonds de recherche - Société et Culture du Québec (FRQSC) and MITACS.

Taïeb Hafsi has received in the past numerous funding grants from federal and provincial research agencies, in particular from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), The Fonds de Recherche Québécois Société et Culture (FRQSC) and from MITACS.

Read More

Continue Reading


Repeated COVID-19 Vaccination Weakens Immune System: Study

Repeated COVID-19 Vaccination Weakens Immune System: Study

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Repeated COVID-19…



Repeated COVID-19 Vaccination Weakens Immune System: Study

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Repeated COVID-19 vaccination weakens the immune system, potentially making people susceptible to life-threatening conditions such as cancer, according to a new study.

A man is given a COVID-19 vaccine in Chelsea, Mass., on Feb. 16, 2021. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

Multiple doses of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines lead to higher levels of antibodies called IgG4, which can provide a protective effect. But a growing body of evidence indicates that the “abnormally high levels” of the immunoglobulin subclass actually make the immune system more susceptible to the COVID-19 spike protein in the vaccines, researchers said in the paper.

They pointed to experiments performed on mice that found multiple boosters on top of the initial COVID-19 vaccination “significantly decreased” protection against both the Delta and Omicron virus variants and testing that found a spike in IgG4 levels after repeat Pfizer vaccination, suggesting immune exhaustion.

Studies have detected higher levels of IgG4 in people who died with COVID-19 when compared to those who recovered and linked the levels with another known determinant of COVID-19-related mortality, the researchers also noted.

A review of the literature also showed that vaccines against HIV, malaria, and pertussis also induce the production of IgG4.

“In sum, COVID-19 epidemiological studies cited in our work plus the failure of HIV, Malaria, and Pertussis vaccines constitute irrefutable evidence demonstrating that an increase in IgG4 levels impairs immune responses,” Alberto Rubio Casillas, a researcher with the biology laboratory at the University of Guadalajara in Mexico and one of the authors of the new paper, told The Epoch Times via email.

The paper was published by the journal Vaccines in May.

Pfizer and Moderna officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Both companies utilize messenger RNA (mRNA) technology in their vaccines.

Dr. Robert Malone, who helped invent the technology, said the paper illustrates why he’s been warning about the negative effects of repeated vaccination.

“I warned that more jabs can result in what’s called high zone tolerance, of which the switch to IgG4 is one of the mechanisms. And now we have data that clearly demonstrate that’s occurring in the case of this as well as some other vaccines,” Malone, who wasn’t involved with the study, told The Epoch Times.

So it’s basically validating that this rush to administer and re-administer without having solid data to back those decisions was highly counterproductive and appears to have resulted in a cohort of people that are actually more susceptible to the disease.”

Possible Problems

The weakened immune systems brought about by repeated vaccination could lead to serious problems, including cancer, the researchers said.

Read more here...

Tyler Durden Sat, 06/03/2023 - 22:30

Read More

Continue Reading


Study Falsely Linking Hydroxychloroquine To Increased Deaths Frequently Cited Even After Retraction

Study Falsely Linking Hydroxychloroquine To Increased Deaths Frequently Cited Even After Retraction

Authored by Jessie Zhang via Thje Epoch…



Study Falsely Linking Hydroxychloroquine To Increased Deaths Frequently Cited Even After Retraction

Authored by Jessie Zhang via Thje Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

An Australian and Swedish investigation has found that among the hundreds of COVID-19 research papers that have been withdrawn, a retracted study linking the drug hydroxychloroquine to increased mortality was the most cited paper.

Hydroxychloroquine sulphate tablets. (Memories Over Mocha/Shutterstock)

With 1,360 citations at the time of data extraction, researchers in the field were still referring to the paper “Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis” long after it was retracted.

Authors of the analysis involving the University of Wollongong, Linköping University, and Western Sydney Local Health District wrote (pdf) that “most researchers who cite retracted research do not identify that the paper is retracted, even when submitting long after the paper has been withdrawn.”

“This has serious implications for the reliability of published research and the academic literature, which need to be addressed,” they said.

Retraction is the final safeguard against academic error and misconduct, and thus a cornerstone of the entire process of knowledge generation.”

Scientists Question Findings

Over 100 medical professionals wrote an open letter, raising ten major issues with the paper.

These included the fact that there was “no ethics review” and “unusually small reported variances in baseline variables, interventions and outcomes,” as well as “no mention of the countries or hospitals that contributed to the data source and no acknowledgments to their contributions.”

A bottle of Hydroxychloroquine at the Medicine Shoppe in Wilkes-Barre, Pa on March 31, 2020. Some politicians and doctors were sparring over whether to use hydroxychloroquine against the new coronavirus, with many scientists saying the evidence is too thin to recommend it yet. (Mark Moran/The Citizens’ Voice via AP)

Other concerns were that the average daily doses of hydroxychloroquine were higher than the FDA-recommended amounts, which would present skewed results.

They also found that the data that was reportedly from Australian patients did not seem to match data from the Australian government.

Eventually, the study led the World Health Organization to temporarily suspend the trial of hydroxychloroquine on COVID-19 patients and to the UK regulatory body, MHRA, requesting the temporary pause of recruitment into all hydroxychloroquine trials in the UK.

France also changed its national recommendation of the drug in COVID-19 treatments and halted all trials.

Currently, a total of 337 research papers on COVID-19 have been retracted, according to Retraction Watch.

Further retractions are expected as the investigation of proceeds.

Tyler Durden Sat, 06/03/2023 - 17:30

Read More

Continue Reading


Complying, Not Defying: Twitter And The EU Censorship Code

Complying, Not Defying: Twitter And The EU Censorship Code

Authored by ‘Robert Kogon’ via The Brownstone Institute,

So, word has it that…



Complying, Not Defying: Twitter And The EU Censorship Code

Authored by 'Robert Kogon' via The Brownstone Institute,

So, word has it that Twitter has withdrawn from the EU’s Code of Practice on Disinformation, a fact that appears only to be known thanks to a couple of pissy tweets from EU officials. I cannot help but wonder if this is not finally Elon Musk’s response to the question I asked in my article here several weeks ago: namely, how can a self-styled “free-speech absolutist” be part of a “Permanent Task-Force on Disinformation” that is precisely a creation of the EU’s Code?

But does it matter? The answer is no. The withdrawal of Twitter’s signature from the Code is a highly theatrical, but essentially empty gesture, which will undoubtedly serve to shore up Musk’s free speech bad-boy bona fides, but has virtually no practical consequences. 

This is because: (1) as I have discussed in various articles (for instance, here and here), the effect of the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) is to render the hitherto ostensibly voluntary commitments undertaken in the Code obligatory for all so-called Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) and (2) as discussed here, the European Commission just designated a whole series of entities as VLOPs that were never signatories of the Code.

Twitter is thus in no different a position than Amazon, Apple and Wikipedia, none of which were ever signatories of the Code, but all of which will be expected by the EU to comply with its censorship requirements on the pain of ruinous fines. 

As EU officials like to put it, the DSA transformed the “code of practice” into a code of conduct: i.e. you had better do it or else.

Compliance is thus not a matter of a signature. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. And the fact of the matter is that Musk and Twitter are complying with the EU’s censorship requirements. Much of the programming that has gone into the Twitter algorithm is obviously designed for this very purpose.

What, for instance, are the below lines of code?

They are “safety labels” that have been included in the algorithm to restrict the visibility of alleged “misinformation.” Furthermore – leaving aside the handy “generic misinfo” catch-all – the general categories of “misinformation” used exactly mirror the main areas of concern targeted by the EU in its efforts to “regulate” online speech: “medical misinfo” in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, “civic misinfo” in the context of issues of electoral integrity, and “crisis misinfo” in the context of the war in Ukraine.

Indeed, as Elon Musk and his lawyers certainly know, the final version of the DSA includes a “crisis response mechanism,” (Art. 36) which is clearly modeled on the European Commission’s initially ad hoc response to the Ukraine crisis and which requires platforms to take special measures to mitigate crisis-related “misinformation.” 

In its January submission to the EU (see reports archive here), in the section devoted precisely to its efforts to combat Ukraine-war-related “misinformation,” Twitter writes (pp. 70-71): 

“We … use a combination of technology and human review to proactively identify misleading information. More than 65% of violative content is surfaced by our automated systems, and the majority of remaining content we enforce on is surfaced through regular monitoring by our internal teams and our work with trusted partners.”

How is this not compliance? Or at least a very vigorous effort to achieve it? And the methodology outlined is presumably used to “enforce on” other types of “mis-“ or “disinformation” as well.

Finally, what is the below notice, which many Twitter users recently received informing them that they are not eligible to participate in Twitter Ads because their account as such has been labeled “organic misinformation?”

Why in the world would Twitter turn away advertising business? The answer is simple and straightforward: because none other than the EU’s Code of Practice on Disinformation requires it to do so in connection with the so-called “demonetization of disinformation.” 

Thus, section II(d-f) of the Code reads:

(d) The Signatories recognise the need to combat the dissemination of harmful Disinformation via advertising messages and services.

(e) Relevant Signatories recognise the need to take granular and tailored action to address Disinformation risks linked to the distribution of online advertising. Actions will be applicable to all online advertising.

(f) Relevant Signatories recognise the importance of implementing policies and processes not to accept remuneration from Disinformation actors, or otherwise promote such accounts and websites.

So, in short, vis-à-vis the EU and its Code, Twitter is complying, not defying. Removing Twitter’s signature from the Code when its signature is no longer required on the Code anyway is not defiance. Among other things, not labeling content and/or users as “misinformation,” not restricting the visibility of content and/or users so labeled, and accepting advertising from whomever has the money to pay would be defiance.

But the EU’s response to such defiance would undoubtedly be something more than tweets. It would be the mobilization of the entire punitive arsenal contained in the DSA and, in particular, the threat or application of the DSA fines of 6 percent of the company’s global turnover.

It is not enough to (symbolically) withdraw from the Code of Practice to defy the EU. Defying the EU would require Twitter to withdraw from the EU altogether.

Tyler Durden Sat, 06/03/2023 - 10:30

Read More

Continue Reading