By Rebekah Barnet: Dystopian Down Under
Over the weekend, Australia’s legacy masthead, The Australian, ran the news of the proximal origins cover-up on the front page of both the paper and the pull-out magazine.
In an article titled, ‘Covid cover-up: how the science was silenced’, journalist Sharri Markson detailed how Dr Anthony Fauci had deliberately played down suspicions of a Wuhan lab leak to protect his reputation and deflect from NIH-funded coronavirus research at the lab.
In an exclusive interview with The Australian, Dr Robert Kaldec, a senior US health official and Fauci’s former boss, said that he, Fauci and NIH director Francis Collins had privately discussed how to “turn down the temperature” on accusations against China.
This led to the now infamous phone call in which top
political scientists were prompted to pen the article, ‘The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2’, published in Nature in March 2020, which was used to the nail the coffin shut on the lab leak theory for the next three years.
Kaldec, as quoted in The Australian,
“I think Tony Fauci was trying to protect his institution and his own reputation from the possibility that his agency was funding the Wuhan Institute of Virology…
“I think it’s evident from his later released emails (obtained via Freedom of Information requests) that he had more sense of what his institute had funded at that moment. This was a reputational risk to him and his institute…”
“We think vaccine research resulted in the pandemic – that vaccine research was the proximate cause.”
Kaldec refers to emails and Slack messages released under Freedom of Information in which the scientists who wrote the proximal origins article privately expressed the view that the virus could have been lab-engineered, despite publicly labelling the notion a ‘conspiracy theory.’
The story has since unfurled into a series of follow on articles exposing what appears to be a high-level cover-up of NIH-funded coronavirus research as a possible origin of the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic by top scientists who essentially gaslit the entire world for three years to save their egos and funding.
Old news is now new news, but that’s better than no news
On picking up the weekend paper, anyone who reads independent media likely thought, “yes, and?,” as I did.
The FOI-ed emails and Slack messages had already been extensively reported on by Shellenberger, Taibbi, and Woodhouse, et al. at Public and Racket several weeks prior (linked at the end). And the Wuhan Institute of Virology link has been known for years.
And yet, only a month ago, one of Australia’s better investigative reporters, Liam Mannix, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald’s national science reporter, definitively declared the lab leak theory dead in the water.
As many people still think it’s only true if it’s in mainstream media (MSM), all the alt-media reporting in the world couldn’t counter the authority of a nationally syndicated article like Mannix’s lab leak debunker.
And so, it was significant to see what has already been known for years finally published on the front page of Australia’s legacy masthead as ‘news.’
Social media got busy, with announcements that ‘the dam is breaking’ and that ‘people will finally see that they’ve been lied to’. Some of the content was pretty compelling, like this viral video by Michael Gray Griffith of Cafe Locked Out, calling out the MSM for their role in the cover-up.
This will ring true in a broader sense for those who watched Markson push strongly for Covid vaccine mandates on Sky News before changing her tune to report on vaccine injuries. Having said that, Markson is one of the few who has been on the pulse with the lab leak angle since early days, even publishing a book, ‘What Really Happened in Wuhan’, in September 2021.
A collective ‘meh’
However, outside of the Twitter streams of people who already knew the old news that is now new news…. crickets.
Over the weekend and early part of this week I eavesdropped intently for people expressing outrage to each other – ‘Can you believe it? If they lied about this, what else did they lie about?? – or even just mentioning it at all. But, nothing.
By Tuesday I started asking people straight out – were you surprised about the news of the cover-up?
“What news?” they replied.
The Australian has a combined paper and digital readership of just over three million at last count (2019). The weekend articles spawned spin-off articles and TV features in other mainstream outlets. But a lot of Australians have simply tuned out.
One person told me that she knows the news is full of lies and is always depressing, so she doesn’t read or watch it at all. Indeed, lack of trust in mainstream media is likely one of the reasons that mainstream media readership is in overall decline.
Another younger person told me he gets his news from social media, and hadn’t seen the headline. That fits with research from Canberra University and the Pew Research Centre indicating that Gen Z and Y are increasingly likely to get their news from social media. If it’s not in their filter bubble, they’re simply not seeing it.
When I summarised the story for them and asked, ‘are you mad you were lied to?’, they shrugged. “Politicians and media always lie.” They have just accepted it and tapped out.
The Doublethink Bind
No one believes it unless it’s in mainstream media, but fewer and fewer people are tuning in. When they do tune in, they know that what they’re getting is a simulacrum of the truth, but they treat the simulacrum as if it were real, because to call it what it is would require risking reputation, relationships and income.
It would also consign to them the enormous effort of trawling alt-media for plausible explanations, assessing the content on its merits, and assembling a coherent world-view of their own. That’s a lot of work that most people aren’t up for.
Last year I bumped into an old acquaintance who is an immigrant from China. He told me, “Australia is bringing China here.” I think that statement is multi-faceted, but one can see that mass acceptance of the unreal is the corollary to inhabiting a news media environment controlled by a few powerful actors – whether those actors are the CCP, a handful of oligarchs, or monopolistic billionaires (for some reason, we don’t call them oligarchs in the West).
‘We know it’s propaganda, but we also know that the official line must be toed to get along in the world. So we keep our heads down, treat the unreal as real, and do what we need to do to get by.’
This kind of docile disengagement is a prerequisite for the successful exercise of authoritarian control in a society that has not yet devolved into out-and-out rule by violence.
Prosecute Fauci – a limited hangout?
Following the uncovering of the cover-up, The Australian is going all-in, with journalist Adam Creighton writing that top scientist Richard Ebright now believes that US academics may be prosecuted over Covid lab leak.
Over the weekend, a hot mic caught the private conversation of several MSM journalists discussing Markson’s front-pager, admitting that she was probably right, but that they initially had dismissed the lab leak theory and its cover-up because it just seemed too “unhinged”, and they “probably didn’t look at it dispassionately enough.”
Maybe this is the start of something, or maybe it’s a limited hangout.
What about all the other lies?
If anyone is prosecuted, presumably it will be a Nuremberg kind of scenario, where a relative few take the hit, while the rest get paper-clipped off to better positions and the safety of obscurity.
Whatever happens, I think Mathew Crawford was right when he said, ‘Stop Saying Nuremberg 2.0’. I don’t think we want that.
“In case it needs saying: I’m not telling you that there isn’t hope. I’m just telling you that it won’t be served by official decree.” – Mathew Crawford.
Here are three explainers on the lab leak cover-up which I personally emailed to Liam Mannix.
The main story:
The follow up story, with response to criticisms and full cache of emails and Slack messages:
Why the story is important:
‘Covid’s Origins and the Death of Trust’, Racket News
Rebekah Barnett reports from Western Australia. She holds a BA Comms from the University of Western Australia and volunteers for Jab Injuries Australia. When it comes to a new generation of journalists born out of this difficult time in our history, she is one of the brightest stars in the firmament. You can follow her work and support Australian independent journalism with a paid subscription or one off donation via her Substack page Dystopian Down Under.