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The need for America to re-affirm the First Amendment and its principles has once again been underscored by the recent findings coming out about the origins and impact of the coronavirus.
The most important problem we have as a society is not misinformation but the suppression of non-conforming opinions that often (but not always) turn out to be true.
Americans sense this already. They are concerned about what tech companies have been doing to censor content, with 61% of voters in a recent Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll believing that the government and tech companies worked together to enforce political censorship.
Time and time again, fairly obvious and likely true information is being actively suppressed and even ridiculed for political purposes.
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For example, are you more likely to find gamblers near a casino or near a grocery store? Obviously near a casino. So are you more likely to find a game-changing virus in a virus lab or in a nearby animal market? Obviously in a viral lab. It’s kind of obvious – of course, it is not definitive as you might find some gamblers in a grocery store or find a novel virus in a wet market. But it is not likely.
Consequently, any discussion of the origins of the virus would naturally have centered on these two possible theories – lab or animal market – with fringe theories being it was intentional and the Chinese hypothesis that it started in America.
It was clear on the facts that the virus came from China, and it is unlikely that China would release a deadly virus in its own country. These are common sense conclusions and yet what happened was that people who said the virus came from a lab were subject to ridicule, censorship and even cancellation. These takedowns occurred principally because people couldn’t believe that Donald Trump could have been correct in his concern that the Chinese government, as administrators of the lab, was responsible for the virus.
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In fact, many Americans have long believed COVID came from the lab. In a June 2021 Harvard Harris Poll, 60% of voters said they believed the virus escaped from a lab in China rather than originated from an animal market naturally. They stuck with common sense in the absence of actual proof from China – not to mention the Chinese government also destroyed all of the evidence and refused to cooperate with any investigations.
Similarly, vaccines are meant to mimic the effects of having a disease so it was normal to expect that getting COVID would convey some immunity or reduction in the seriousness of reinfection. In fact it would have been unusual and almost unprecedented for the virus not to have conveyed some level of immunity.
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And yet the CDC and the government gave no vaccine deferrals to people for having had the disease and forced tens of millions to get unnecessary vaccines. A recent study published in the Lancet concluded immunity acquired through COVID infection provided protection equal to if not higher than two doses of an mRNA vaccine – confirming what once again was likely and obvious.
COVID censorship is just the latest example of how politics interferes with a reasonable investigation process. Some questions need time to be answered and governments and tech companies shouldn’t be allowed to eliminate potential answers well within the range of common sense. Yet that’s exactly what happens in today’s polarized climate, especially when Trump or Biden’s names are attached.
The Steele dossier alleging a Trump-Russia conspiracy in 2016 was an obvious fake if you read it but, by spring 2020, 53% of Americans still thought it was legitimate, according to the Harvard Harris Poll. Right now 53% of Democrats still think the Hunter Biden laptop is Russian disinformation despite confirmation of the emails and tapes.
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These cases reinforce why the First Amendment is so important. Government interference, even when well-meaning, easily goes too far, and throughout history they have used emergency pretexts to justify shortcuts that infringe on civil rights.
In times of crisis it is most necessary to stem government overreach and protect free speech. Science and politics both flourish when pushed in better directions by rational debate and open questioning.
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