As a retired newsman and incurable news “junkie” who has been around a few years and seen many big stories over the years, none that I can remember have evolved so rapidly or been so filled with misinformation and so confounding statistically as the COVID-19 global pandemic story.
As my neighbor, who is a sober, reflective guy, said, “I don’t know what to believe anymore. The longer the story goes on the more confusing and unclear it gets.”
Predictably and regrettably, the COVID-19 news reportage seems to be hoving to partisan lines more and more as well. Media literacy, which comes with using mixed sources to properly divine the truth, also requires us to be alert for stories that don’t make the mainstream press. Omissions can sometimes shed more light on a truth than a dozen in-depth stories on the same subject.
From what I can tell, a story that appeared more than a month ago in a London newspaper is the mother of all omissions when it comes to U.S. press coverage of the pandemic story. The London paper reported that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, headed by virus expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, the President’s point man for the virus task force, gave a $3.7-million grant for the study of gain-of-function research at the now-infamous viral experimental lab in Wuhan, China! Indeed, reportedly Dr. Fauci, as head of the institute, approved the grant.
What is gain-of-function research? It is not as dull or benign as it sounds. Here is a definition found on Google: “Gain-of-function research (GOF) studies, or research that improves the ability of a pathogen to cause disease, help define the fundamental nature of human-pathogen interactions, thereby enabling assessment of the pandemic potential of emerging infectious agents, informing public health and preparedness efforts.”
That is a nice, nonjudgmental way of putting it. Put simply, as I understand it, GOF is a way for mankind to take an already nasty natural virus and make it much more potent or lethal in the lab. The supposed overarching goal is to use the mutated pathogen as a way to invent an effective vaccine. Some have called these “monster germs.”
What if the super-pathogen gets out of control, you might ask? Reasonable question. Some respected scientists raised the same question: The work (GOF) entailed risks that worried even seasoned researchers. More than 200 scientists called for the work to be halted. The problem, they said, is that it increased the likelihood that a pandemic would occur through a laboratory accident. Dr. Fauci defended the work. In 2014, the U.S. outlawed GOF research in this country specifically because of the biosafety risks to mankind! Dr. Fauci apparently did an end-run around his own government’s ban of GOF research and outsourced it to the Chinese at the Wuhan viral lab, and he did it with your tax money!
The newsman in me says there is a story here, a major pandemic story largely ignored in this country. I do know that, insofar as I can tell, throughout dozens of daily press conferences that I have seen, no Washington reporter has pursued this line of questioning with Dr. Fauci. Is it because he approved the grant to the Wuhan lab during the Obama administration? Or that Dr. Fauci is a revered scientist, a media hero in frightening times, whose image and savior narrative must be protected at all costs? Anthony Fauci is a mortal, flawed like the rest of us. In January, he assured us that the COVID-19 virus was not a serious threat to the United States. And a number of his predictions have been off the mark. Early on he said that masks were not helpful either. Now he is telling us to wear them.
We don’t know what really happened at the Wuhan lab because the Chinese won’t come clean. Is it possible that we, the world and our country are in the awful throes of a global pandemic triggered by a horrendous scientific GOF miscalculation? And that Dr. Anthony Fauci, highly respected viral expert, was somehow complicit, however unwittingly?
Sooner or later the story will be told in the United States. It is just too astonishing and far reaching to be suppressed or ignored.
V. Paul Reynolds