Anthony Fauci, Moderna, vaccine
Dr. Anthony Fauci receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the HHS/NIH COVID-19 Vaccine Kick-Off event at NIH in December 2020. Photo credit: NIAID / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Reassessing COVID-19 narratives amid resurgence: a critical look at media influence, Fauci’s role, and the culture of fear that shaped our response.

Just as COVID-19 seems to be staging an unwelcome encore, this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast poses a thorough reassessment of the narratives we’ve clung to since March 2020. 

Guest Laurie Calhoun, author of Questioning the COVID Company Line: Critical Thinking in Hysterical Times, urges us to reexamine the philosophical and ethical underpinnings of our pandemic response. In responding to the first global health crisis to be broadcast live 24/7, the media’s role was not just informative but also formative, shaping public perception and compliance.

Calhoun explores the deification of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who became America’s go-to source for “the science.” Yet, as she points out, following the science did not always yield a clear blueprint to combatting COVID-19. 

She argues that alternative viewpoints were often silenced, and those who dared to question the prevailing wisdom were labeled as dangerous miscreants. This circle-the-wagons posture was typically exacerbated by pop culture, which had already trained us to view pandemics through a lens of apocalyptic dread.

Given the near certainty of future medical crises on a global scale, Calhoun’s perspective goes beyond a dispassionate analysis: it serves as a call to action. She explains why it’s time to move beyond the fear and divisiveness that have characterized much of the public discourse around COVID-19. 

With the benefit of informed hindsight, Calhoun offers a more nuanced, critical examination of how we’ve handled the pandemic so far — and how we can better manage the challenges that undoubtedly lie ahead.

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Full Text Transcript:

(As a service to our readers, we provide transcripts with our podcasts. We try to ensure that these transcripts do not include errors. However, due to a constraint of resources, we are not always able to proofread them as closely as we would like and hope that you will excuse any errors that slipped through.)

Jeff Schechtman: Welcome to the WhoWhatWhy Podcast, I’m your host, Jeff Schechtman. In spite of COVID-19 cases still emerging around us, perhaps enough time has passed since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 to begin to gain some perspective. Maybe we’re now willing to ask questions that have, heretofore, been taboo. To explore this terrain, I’m joined by Laurie Calhoun, a writer and thinker at the forefront of questioning the prevailing narrative surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when the phrase, “We must protect the vaccinated from the unvaccinated,” became a rallying cry, Laurie offered a sobering counter-narrative.

Her collection of 26 essays assembled into her new book, Questioning the COVID Company Line, is a critical examination of the COVID crisis from its inception to the present day. Laurie doesn’t just deconstruct the science, she delves into the philosophical underpinnings of the government’s response and the ethical dilemmas they posed. She examines the social fissures that have been opened up and continue to haunt us. She begins to look at the ways in which we can make sense of the many paradoxes of the COVID era. How was it that a war-like stance against the virus led to blurring of ethical lines, the weaponization of public health, and the erosion of civil liberties?

In this context, Laurie shares her personal journey of dealing with COVID, both inside and outside the United States. Laurie Calhoun is a philosopher and cultural critic. She’s the author of War and Delusion and Philosophy Unmasked, in addition to dozens of essays on war, morality, and politics. It is my pleasure to welcome Laurie Calhoun here to the WhoWhatWhy Podcast to talk about her new book, Questioning the COVID Company Line: Critical Thinking in Hysterical Times. Laurie, thanks so much for joining us.

Laurie Calhoun: Thank you, Jeff.

Jeff: Well, it’s great to have you here. Has enough time passed between March 2020 and today to begin to have enough perspective about what transpired? Has enough time passed to allow us really the opportunity to begin to look back on it and attempt to make sense of what we went through?

Laurie: I think it’s going to depend on the person. For some people, we’ve been doing this from the beginning, but [for] other people, it’s going to take them more time because they were really committed to the reigning CNN-March 2020-Anthony Fauci narrative. And they were so committed and so vocal all over social media and with their families and friends, that it will take them time to be able to reassess what went on during the period of history. Meanwhile, those of us who were annoying from the very beginning have been asking these questions, and that’s why I published this collection of essays because I didn’t want them to just evaporate into the ether.

I want to make sure that we don’t, as a society, forget what happened. I think it’s natural to want to move on. It was a horrible episode of history. For many people, it was disastrous, and some people, they want to wash their hands of it and move forward. But I think we need to learn the lessons of what just happened.

Jeff: When we look back on it and try to understand the various narratives that unfolded, do we need to think about it in stages? The initial panic, the point at which nobody really knew the way in which the narrative that you were talking about before, this mainstream narrative began to evolve, and the things that started to happen afterwards, do we need to think about it in compartments, really?

Laurie: I think we do, and people sometimes ask me, “Oh, how could these people have gotten things so wrong from the very beginning?” And I think in the very beginning, everyone was in a state of complete ignorance. Everyone. If you weren’t, I don’t know why you wouldn’t be. I mean, everyone was just sort of sitting back and listening to what the authorities told us to do and doing it because we really didn’t have a handle on the facts. As the facts became clearer and clearer, there were periods where it began to be clear that propaganda was taking hold.

And basically, because we had statistics from the very beginning of, for example, the death rates in various age cohorts, we started to see that the virus was much more dangerous for people in a very narrow sector of the population than for anyone else, and yet the propaganda kept moving forward. And, in fact, got worse and worse and made it seem as though the virus was really, really dangerous for everyone. And so to answer your question, I think we do have to be very understanding of people’s initial stances because they were told, and many public officials actually had no idea what was going on either. I mean, actually, no one did.

And so everyone thought it was akin to the Black Plague, and so that’s how they were conducting themselves initially. I think as the facts began to emerge and more and more studies were done and more and more papers published, it became less understandable for people to cling to that initial line of it being like the Black Plague. But on the other hand, people were in such a state of fear that they often felt that they needed to err to the side of caution. And so they stuck with their commitment to the initial narrative, and that’s why some of them, to this day, still have not let go.

Jeff: And that’s a really important point that you make, that it was the initial fear that really set the narrative for so many people, narratives and stories that they still live with today.

Laurie: That’s right. And I feel like I, in some ways, had an advantage because I was in different countries, and so I saw what was going on. So I spent the first seven months of 2020 in Austria. The first five months I was in the mountains of Austria, and so I was completely isolated. There was just no chance that I was in – well, I actually got COVID – but there was no chance that I was infecting anyone and I was on my own, and so I was mainly protected from the hysteria. I didn’t really have to deal with people freaking out in stores and things like that.

And then what happened was I was able to leave the house where I had been staying, and I traveled all over Austria. And it seemed that everyone thought that it was over, basically. This was June. So June and July of 2020, I was traveling all over Austria. The borders were still shut, and no one was allowed to enter Europe or go anywhere else from Europe. So I was staying in Austria, but they opened all of the museums and everything was open. It’s just there were no tourists. So it was a very bizarre situation where the people of Austria were acting perfectly normal.

They had dropped the mask requirements and people were just going about their business. For me, it was fabulous because I got to travel all over the place, and I had no competing tourists. I was the only tourist. I’d go to a museum and I’d be the only person there. [laughs] So, for me, it was fabulous. And what struck me was that, at that time in Austria, it seemed as though it was over. And then what happened is when I got back to the United States eventually in November, things kept getting worse and worse. So in terms of the propaganda, even though we knew more and more about the virus and the population it really targeted, the propaganda got worse and worse and worse as time went on.

Jeff: And in Europe, there was also a lot of fear that was specifically coming out of Italy, not that far away from where you were. Talk about that.

Laurie: Exactly. Exactly, which is why I felt basically, in June and July, that we were just about done. That was going to be it. And then, I thought it was going to be similar to the case to the swine flu “pandemic” where it turned out to be, it wasn’t exactly a nothing burger, but let’s just say it wasn’t the Black Plague, anything close to that. So, basically, I thought, “Oh, okay, so we’re about to get back to life as normal.” But that’s exactly the opposite of what happened. What happened then is this massive testing apparatus started being implemented everywhere, all over the world.

And these case surges were used to really terrify people even more than they had been initially. So it was wild. I mean, you’re right, Austria is right next door to Italy. So, in June and July, it seemed like it was basically over, even though Italy had been one of the ground-zero places for the virus where all those people died. So, yes, it was crazy.

Jeff: Beyond decisions that were made, the other overlay to all of this is that I suppose it was the first global pandemic that was televised 24/7. That had an impact as well.

Laurie: Huge impact. And I think it’s the first time when the entire world was living through the same crisis in the same way, strangely enough. And I knew this because I was in various countries. I think a lot of people who were only in one country, didn’t realize that these local restrictions that were put on them actually were being implemented everywhere simultaneously by completely different kinds of governments. And it was really a bizarre phenomenon. The television played a huge role in it, I think, because of, for example, the death ticker tapes. So people would turn on the TV, and they’d see these death ticker tapes of all these people who are dying of COVID all over the place, and specifically in your neighborhood. And people had no idea how many people died before COVID. So people had no idea how many seniors die of the flu every year; it’s actually quite a lot. And so they just were constantly being reminded of death. And this really made them fear their own death, even when they didn’t have rational grounds for fearing it.

Jeff: Talk a little bit about the narrative that you referred to before, what became the kind of mainstream media narrative about the pandemic.

Laurie: Well, one thing that happened, as you know, being in the United States is that Anthony Fauci was essentially appointed our leader through this crisis, to lead us through and carry us through to the end and ensure our survival. So he was erected as this ultimate authority on what we could and could not do, or should and should not do. And people just adopted him as their source of, as he puts it, “the science.” So this slogan, “Listen to the science,” came to be interpreted by many people to be, listen to whatever Anthony Fauci says, because Anthony Fauci knows more than anyone else about this.

He’s the top public health expert in our country, and most of us know nothing about epidemiology or very little about medicine. And so we just have to do what he tells us to do, or follow his prescriptions because we want to survive. And so people became, I want to say, almost religiously committed to Anthony Fauci. He was on television constantly, and he was the face– I think they called him America’s doctor on the cover of Time magazine. He became this source of solace to people, the source of calm. The, “What are we going to do? We’re going to listen to whatever Anthony Fauci says, and we’re going to make it through this pandemic. We’re all in this together.”

There were all these slogans that were constantly being pushed through the media. And there was also a huge amount of divisive denunciation of anyone who demurred from anything that Anthony Fauci said. So there was a lot of censorship, there was a lot of suppression of alternative viewpoints. And so even though many doctors and epidemiologists actually disagreed with some of the things he said, they were silenced because they were discredited and denounced as quacks and incompetents. And people just basically came to the view that they had to follow whatever “the science equals Anthony Fauci” said that they should do.

Jeff: How much of this comes from this unique strain in America that has gone on for so long, and popular culture and media certainly has fostered it for so long, of looking at doctors as godlike creatures?

Laurie: Oh, a lot of it. I think that we put a huge amount of faith in the medical profession. And people assume that doctors are always saving lives. And they do, in some cases, but they also, I hate to say it, they kill people too because there are a lot of iatrogenic deaths, particularly in recent years with the vast increase of prescription medication to particularly elderly people. So, lots of people are taking multiple medications. Some of these are not actually compatible [and] they end up being deadly mixes. Some people die because their various prescriptions are incompatible, and some people just die because of doctor errors.

But you’re right that historically we’ve always looked up to doctors, and doctors are always considered to be these moral upright individuals who have sacrificed their lives in order to save other people. This is the image. It’s analogous to the image we have of the military, where we think that the military is defending us. Okay, well, we think that doctors are keeping us alive. So even if you would’ve survived a particular illness, whether or not you went to the doctor, doctors often get credit for saving people’s lives even when they don’t actually do anything that the person would’ve done anyway.

So it’s interesting because the analogies don’t stop there. I mean, so we have this very positive image of medicine and of defense, and people use this to divide people. So, like, who can actually oppose health? So if you’re against medicine, if you’re against vaccines, for heaven’s sake, there’s something wrong with you. And if you’re against defense, there’s something wrong with you. And so these same tricks of Manichean division of the population into the people who are with us and the people who are not with us were used throughout what I call the Coronapocalypse to maximize compliance.

Jeff: The other similarity, to take this one step further, and you talk about this in the book, is that it became a war on COVID, and that had its own language that went along with it.

Laurie: Absolutely. When they said that we are combating this virus and adopted a wartime stance, this opened up all sorts of things that happen in wartime, among other things, emergency laws. So, because we’re at war with the virus, suddenly the president or the prime minister can do anything in the name of saving the people. And it also instilled in people this idea that if you didn’t get in line, then you were unpatriotic, you were somehow a traitor.

You were an enemy of society if you didn’t go along with what you were told to do. And so it was very, very powerful in securing the compliance of people and also in getting many people to denounce and criticize family members and friends who disagreed, or even who asked questions. You weren’t really supposed to even ask questions throughout this period of history because that meant that you were some sort of miscreant. You were a traitor, you were unpatriotic, you were an enemy of society. You only cared about yourself. You were selfish and ignorant.

Jeff: What was the first turning point, as you see it, from the initial panic and confusion to really where this narrative began to take hold, and it really drove the rest of the story?

Laurie: Well, I think that as soon as vaccines were developed, then the propaganda really went into overdrive because there was a huge push for maximum vaccine uptake. And that’s where, strangely, fear of death was pushed even harder, all alternative therapies were denounced as quackery, and anyone who disagreed or asked any questions about the novel mRNA technology were considered to be anti-science. Even if they were doctors or scientists, they were considered to be incompetent doctors or scientists.

And so, I mean, in retrospect, it looks like there was a huge push right up until the vaccines were available to make it seem as though the vaccine was the only solution to the crisis. It was the only way to get out of it. And so anyone who didn’t immediately line up and roll up their sleeve was considered to be an enemy of society. And this went on and on and on. I mean, it became, in a way, very Orwellian because we had, for example, President Biden standing up and saying when he announced the OSHA requirement on employees of companies with more than 100 persons working there, he said, “We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated workers,” which is a really wild statement if you think about it.

Okay, so, it’s self-contradictory. If a vaccine is being taken in order to protect you from infection and to protect other people from transmission of a disease, then why would a vaccinated person need to be protected from an unvaccinated person? I mean, it’s a really crazy idea, and yet people were walking around parroting this. Perfectly, apparently, in all other ways, rational people were saying this, “We must protect the vaccinated from the unvaccinated.” And so that’s when things really became wild and logic was just thrown out the window. And it just became a very emotional dispute.

Jeff: At the same time, it got caught up in politics. It became polarizing in so many respects.

Laurie: Well, certainly, the politicians have their usual desire to make it seem as though they helped rather than harmed the populace. And so, whatever they did, they assumed [it] was a good measure, and then if the measure didn’t work, then they would double down on the measures. So, for example, lockdowns. So the lockdowns didn’t really have an effect on the case counts or deaths. And so what the politicians said was, “Oh, it’s the populace, they’re not actually following the rules.” So it’s not that the lockdowns were a bad idea or had no possibility of really helping given the nature of the virus. It’s that the people were bad. They were not complying.

And so it became this really bizarre period of history where politicians were constantly criticizing us as though we were toddlers. We weren’t good children, we weren’t doing what we were told to do. And that’s why the pandemic didn’t end. And so when the vaccines emerged, the same sort of reasoning was applied. They kept saying, “This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” So this was a big propaganda line for many, many months, maybe more than a year, that the reason why we still had to live under COVID restrictions was because of the naughty, unvaccinated people who refused to roll up their sleeves, even though a lot of these people had recovered from COVID.

And so if these people who were denouncing the unvaccinated who had recovered from COVID understood how vaccines actually work they would know that there’s no reason for a person who survived the disease to take a vaccine.

Jeff: We do see people now, though, getting it for the second and third time, people that were vaccinated and were not vaccinated.

Laurie: That’s right. These so-called booster shots have been developed because the virus has undergone significant mutation to evade the antibodies produced in response to the body’s own production of the spike protein. So, into the body was injected this mRNA for the spike protein, which told the body to produce the spike protein, and then the body itself viewed as an invader, even though it had produced it. It was a very bizarre scheme. And the problem with it was that it was, as I say somewhere, a one-trick pony. So the spike protein was just a small part of the virus.

So the virus, if you know anything about evolution, what it has to do to survive, to propagate itself, is to get into [the] host. So it mutated precisely in order to evade the spike protein antibodies that were being produced in the bodies of vaccinated people. So, at some point, the virus was no longer using the spike protein to enter the cells of [the] host. And so at that point, anyone who was vaccinated was no longer protected by that initial elixir because the spike protein antibodies became irrelevant. And this will go on and on because these viruses mutate very rapidly over time.

And interestingly enough, Anthony Fauci co-published a paper in January 2023, in which he claims that viruses such as COVID-19, the common cold, the seasonal flu, and a variety of other variants of coronaviruses, cannot be controlled effectively by a vaccine. And the reason for that is twofold. One is that they mutate very rapidly. So that’s why every year there’s a new flu shot, or there’s actually a series of flu shots because the flu is constantly mutating, okay. The same thing is happening with coronavirus. It mutates constantly, so last year’s shot is not going to help you this year. It’s just not.

And so that’s why people who were fully vaccinated and fully boosted are still looking forward to more and more boosters until they die, I suppose. They’ll be taking these boosters because they’re going to always be doing this catch-up, trying to get protection against the current variant. But we’re always going to be just one step behind because the mutations ensure that the virus is able to survive even despite the presence of these antibodies. So, basically, Anthony Fauci wrote this paper in which he claims, amazingly, that these sorts of viruses cannot be controlled in any permanent way by a vaccine.

But there’s no effective vaccination against these particular types of viruses because they mutate so rapidly. And the second reason is that the response mounted by your body to it is relatively weak, so it dissipates quickly. And the reason is that this sort of virus is not that deadly to everyone. It’s only deadly to people who are already weak, sick, and old. And so because of that, when you have the flu, you do have an immune response to it, but it’s a very mild immune response. And so then your body rids itself of the invader and then moves on.

So the response is mild, and so it’s never permanent. And so, as a result of these two features of the coronavirus – that it mutates rapidly, and that your body never mounts a very, very strong response to it because it’s not that deadly – it’s impossible to control by vaccine- according to Anthony Fauci himself.

Jeff: Why were issues like this never part of the dialogue? Where was the drive coming from for this mainstream narrative that we saw on television every day?

Laurie: That’s a great question because, in fact, these issues were raised by virologists early on in 2020, and they were immediately deplatformed, silenced, censored, denounced, and discredited. And so, as the pandemic developed, evolved, it became clearer and clearer that there were actually a lot of financial interests that were driving the initial coverage of what was going on. I mean, there’s no reason that Anthony Fauci would not have known this stuff about the coronaviruses in 2020 because lots of virologists already knew this. They had tried over and over again to develop vaccines against the common cold with no success.

They knew that their flu shots are mediocre at best. So, for example, over the last five years, the flu shot that is really aggressively marketed by governments all over the world on behalf of pharma, they really have a demonstrated efficacy rate ranging between 19 percent and 48 percent, which implies that half the people who take a flu shot are not helped by it in the least. And yet a lot of people feel like it’s rationally obligatory to go get their “free flu shot” every year. And the same thing is happening with the COVID shots. People will be taking them every year on a regular basis. Anthony Fauci is pushing right now for them to take it every year, even though he just published a paper explaining why vaccine technology is not really going to be able to control these sorts of illnesses.

Jeff: Talk a little bit about government response and the instinct that was driven not just by financial interest, as might be the case with pharma, but the idea of lockdowns and school closures, and this instinctive reaction that governments had, not just in the US, but throughout the world in many cases.

Laurie: Well, they were all on the grip of this picture, according to which we were confronted by something akin to the Black Death. And I attribute this, in part, to the fact that our depictions of pandemics, for example, in film, always involve a disease, which is lethal to probably more than half of humanity. In some cases, 99 percent of humanity. So people, including political leaders who are human beings, they had this view from the outset that the World Health Organization has determined that this is a pandemic and that means we’re going to be seeing wheelbarrows rolling through the neighborhood, picking up corpses.

That’s our image of a pandemic, our culturally determined image as a result of things such as the Black Plague, where this did happen. So if you’re in a pandemic, it’s a very serious situation. And so I think it was a kind of snowballing effect where, because it was called a pandemic, people assumed it was really bad. And because government officials believed that a pandemic is similar to the Black Plague, they initially imposed very stringent rules and laws. And then because those laws were so draconian, people believed that they must be in more danger than they really were.

So, why in the world would all of the borders be shut? Why in the world would all of the students be told to stay home? Why in the world would workers be told they can’t go to work? Only, you would logically think, if there was a serious, serious danger to everyone. So there was a feedback between the initial response, which was based on a false depiction of the danger, and then the response of the populace who assumed that because the government officials had imposed these draconian measures, it had to be super, super dangerous. And so it was a feedback effect where the more stringent the rules and restrictions became, the more people became afraid, even though they actually did not have that much reason to be afraid based on the statistics,

Jeff: Of course, those early images from Italy and from New York with bodies going into freezers, outside of hospitals fed into that Michael Crichtonesque image.

Laurie: That’s right. And some of those were actually bogus, it turned out. But what happened is there were a few sorts of images that were recycled over and over again, and people began to associate the COVID-19 crisis with those images. As I said, with the death ticker tapes on the television, they were locked in their homes, they couldn’t go anywhere. They would turn on the TV, and they would just see people talking about death constantly. And so this also contributed an enormous amount to the reigning fear.

Jeff: Was there a point that the fear started to break? That it suddenly became acceptable to ask questions? Can you define a specific point where that happened?

Laurie: Well, in fact, there were people who asked questions from the very beginning. Obviously, I was one of them, but there were also entire huge groups, for example, in France, who protested, from the very beginning, the lockdowns, and the mask mandates, and everything. And it was stunning because these people were out in the streets protesting. The French people love to protest so much; if they’re upset with something, they get out in the streets. So they were protesting with their signs and against all the mandates, for months and months and months.

And the first clue that they were actually right and not wrong is that they weren’t dropping dead. So supposedly they were supposed to be staying home, and instead, they were out in the streets protesting. Meanwhile, the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, basically criminalized anyone who didn’t get the vaccine. He locked everyone down. He made it illegal for people who refused to get the shot to work, to use public transport. And these sorts of measures targeted especially the working class because rich people don’t need public transportation and they don’t need to go to work.

So it was really horrible. And so these protests went on and on in France because, in effect, people were put under house arrest, if you like, because they weren’t allowed to go anywhere or do anything. They couldn’t go shopping, they couldn’t go to restaurants or bars, or cafes. They couldn’t participate in society because they were naughty according to the government. But then there was this counter-narrative which emerged because all these people out in the streets who protested and who opposed the government measures continued to live. Okay.

So, we had the same thing in the United States when Biden came out and said that the unvaccinated could look forward to a winter of severe illness and death. This happened around Christmas time in 2021; a very cheerful message, holiday greeting message. And the holidays came and went, and all of the unvaxxed, unmasked masses, most of them survived. And so as time progressed and all these groups of supposed deviants continued to survive, and then some of the people who were vaccinated actually did die, then this started to crack the narrative a bit, and people became more and more receptive to the idea that, “Oh, in fact we were really gripped by an irrational level of fear” for most of this period of time.

Jeff: And we also saw interesting reactions with the Black Lives Matter protests after George Floyd in the US.

Laurie: Yes, that was crazy. It was, so, you weren’t supposed to go out into groups. You weren’t supposed to go to concerts. You weren’t supposed to go to the beach or do any of these things outdoors. But then with the Black Lives Matter protests, suddenly that was okay. [chuckles] So the government was very lenient toward that, or at least some aspects of the government were very lenient toward that. It was okay to protest in Black Lives Matter, but it wasn’t okay to attend these open-air concerts, for example, or sporting events. So that was a strange contradiction which probably did raise some questions in a lot of people’s minds.

Jeff: There was also the way in which people responded to this in ways that became really about virtue signaling. And we’ve all had the experience of seeing people outside walking virtually alone, wearing masks and people even driving in cars by themselves wearing masks.

Laurie: Yes, that phenomenon of virtue signaling really reached a fever pitch throughout the Coronapocalypse because people began to think that those who refused to wear a mask were evil and selfish, and ignorant, a whole complex of negative things. And, on the other hand, you had people who didn’t really think through what they were doing. So they’re sitting on a beach alone wearing a mask. Basically, I think many people were crippled by their scientific illiteracy. I mean, I don’t know how else to put it. They just don’t know really basic concepts of science such as entropy.

And so they have no idea that in a vast volume of air, the breath you exude is going to immediately disperse into the largest volume of air that’s available. So it’s basically impossible to infect someone on a beach, but people didn’t know this. And because they also didn’t understand how vaccines work, they didn’t understand that the new mRNA shots employed a different technology, which I described a moment ago. They didn’t know anything, but they knew what they didn’t know, and they regarded themselves as epistemologically virtuous in so far as they were willing to just listen to the experts and do what they were told, and “stay in their own lane.”

So when this propaganda line came out, “Don’t do your own research,” this was really crazy. It gained a lot of force because so many people feel a little bit daunted by science. They don’t understand it. They don’t know anything about it. They have no formal training in it. And so they felt like, “Well, all right, I’m a historian.” I mean, these are educated people. Maybe I’m a historian or I’m a professor of English Literature, but I don’t know anything about science, but I do know whom to listen to, and that’s going to be the top public health expert in the country, who is Anthony Fauci.

Jeff: Talk about what you see as you looked at this whole story. The long-term impact of all of this. Not the public health impact, but the impact to society, the impact, the way we might deal with these kinds of problems in the future. The way it changed society in fundamental ways from which we probably will never recover.

Laurie: Yes, sad to say but what we learned through this period is that people are willing, when sufficiently terrified, to exceed radical restrictions of their liberty and even to support policies which are objectively contradictory, such as, “we’re going to protect the vaccinated from the unvaccinated.” So, unfortunately, what it taught us is that people are willing to relinquish their liberty if they have been frightened sufficiently. And so this makes it a very powerful playbook for politicians in the future to use. Just announce that you’re having a pandemic and then people will step in line.

So it’s really shocking, in this case, because what people were agreeing to do once the vaccine propaganda began, was to participate as experimental subjects in a trial for a novel pharmaceutical product for no compensation. Not only that but they were stripped of their ability to mount lawsuits against these companies if they were harmed by these products. And so what happened is, people came to believe that the government could and should tell us what to put into our own bodies. And this is a very dangerous turning point in history. We never had this before.

It’s a complete violation of medical ethics. It’s a complete violation of the Nuremberg Code, but people were willing to toss out the Nuremberg Code. Suddenly it became okay for non-consensual experimentation on human beings because we are in this dire crisis apparently. And so the fact that so many people were willing to accept this view that the government can decree what drugs you must put into your own body, this does not bode well for the future given the power of big pharma at this point in history.

Jeff: Talk about big pharma before we wrap it up, and the influence of the power that you believe they had in all of this.

Laurie: Okay. I think it’s enormous, and I discussed this in a chapter called The Pharma Revolution is Being Televised. So, in my view, there have been four stages of the big pharma takeover, if you like. So, first of all, pharma has always wooed doctors. Tried to get doctors to give their products to patients through various means. But then what happened is, as pharma became more wealthy, particularly in the wake of the launch of Prozac and other lifestyle meds in the late ’80s, they got more and more money, and they were able to lobby more and more effectively.

And they got their foot in the door of the regulatory agency, such as FDA, CDC, NIH. They have a lot of power in determining which medications are used in which context, and whether medications should be used in lieu of other therapies. For example, talk therapy is no longer offered to veterans by the Veterans Administration. If a soldier shows up with PTSD, he’s immediately drugged. So they got their foot in the door of the regulatory apparatuses, and then, in fact, exert a lot of control over them. And then, in 1997, because they had already found a seat at the table with the FDA and these organizations, they were able to get the prohibition against direct-to-consumer advertisement lifted.

So when you watch television now, you’ll see pharma ads, particularly in the United States. I think there’s only one other country which allows this to happen. So you’re constantly being told you might have this disease if you have these symptoms, and that you should ask your doctor for this drug. Okay, so that greatly increased the wealth of pharma right there. Just the amount of money that they were able to glean from the fact that no longer were doctors only suggesting medications to patients, but patients were now going to the doctors and saying, “Oh, I think I need this medication because I have this symptom. I move my legs in the middle of the night or whatever, so I must need to take this drug.”

And so doctors complied because they want to keep their patients. And so then, as they became more and more powerful, there were all sorts of stages in this. I mean, there was a huge marketing push to prescribe Ritalin to kids who were problematic. There became an “epidemic of ADHD in schoolchildren.” And that was because pharma was influencing this interpretation of unruly behavior as symptomatic of a disease which needed to be treated with medication.

Okay, so then what happened is what I call the fourth stage of the pharma revolution. And that happened during the Coronapocalypse. That was where pharma got a seat at the table with governments and persuaded governments to mandate their products. So before it was always a matter of, “We want to persuade people to buy products, we want to persuade doctors to prescribe products.” And with this stage of the pharma revolution, now suddenly, governments were saying, “You have to take this shot. If you don’t take this shot, you can’t go to work, you can’t go to school, you can’t leave your house.” And many governments of the world got on board with this. So, this is very frightening because it means they have an enormous amount of power to control the behavior of human beings.

Jeff: Do you think that that power will continue? Do you think that there’ll be enough of a backlash from this, that things might change?

Laurie: I wish that there would be a backlash. Unfortunately, the prospects are not that good because the World Health Organization is currently pushing for vaccine passports, which you might think is kind of odd because the vaccines don’t prevent transmission or infection. So they actually serve no public health pretext whatsoever. So, basically, they’re just saying, “You have to take this drug because we say that you do.” So because they’re pushing for the vaccine passports on a global level, this could continue to restrict the movement of people from one country to another, one place to another, and could be taken as “the new normal.”

Okay. So evidence of this, evidence of the fact that we’re not having significant backlash can be found in places like Massachusetts where all school children are now required to have both flu shots and COVID shots. The CDC put the COVID-19 “vaccine” on the children’s immunization schedule, which is a recommended list of vaccines. But the problem is that a lot of states will mandate those shots as a result of the CDC’s recommendation and Massachusetts is one of those states. So that means if you want to go to public school in Massachusetts, you have to have these shots every year. And if you don’t, you’re excluded from participation.

So that’s a really strong piece of evidence that we are already on to the slippery slope, and it has been accepted by a lot of people already. And this is very frightening because it means that these school children are, in effect, being set up to be guinea pigs for life. Because every subsequent booster shot is an experimental trial. And what they’ve been told is you have to take the initial COVID shot, which actually serves no purpose because the original virus no longer exists, and you have to take every booster.

Jeff: Laurie Calhoun, the book is Questioning the COVID Company Line: Critical Thinking in Hysterical Times. Laurie, I thank you so much for spending time with us and sharing your views here on the WhoWhatWhy Podcast.

Laurie: Thank you, Jeff.

Jeff: Thank you. And thank you for listening and joining us here on the WhoWhatWhy Podcast. I hope you join us next week for another radio WhoWhatWhy Podcast. I’m Jeff Schechtman. If you like this podcast, please feel free to share and help others find it by rating and reviewing it on iTunes. You can also support this podcast and all the work we do by going to


  • Jeff Schechtman

    Jeff Schechtman’s career spans movies, radio stations and podcasts. After spending twenty-five years in the motion picture industry as a producer and executive, he immersed himself in journalism, radio, and more recently the world of podcasts. To date he has conducted over ten-thousand interviews with authors, journalists, and thought leaders. Since March of 2015, he has conducted over 315 podcasts for

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