Monday, May 17, 2021

The Case of Joe Rogan: Vaccine Policy and Freedom of Speech

Recently, Joe Rogan, one of the largest podcast hosts in the United States (10.6 million YouTube subscribers), expressed the following opinion about the vaccination of young adults:

If you are 21 and ask me if you should get the vaccine, I would say 'no'. If you are a healthy person and exercise all the time, and are young and eat well, I don't think you have to worry about this." 

This comment created a furor in the United States, where the government's target is vaccination of the entire adult population. For these few sentences he received a sharp reprimand from the White House and Dr. Fauci, who accused Rogan of being selfish and endangering vulnerable members of society. 

Given the very low Covid risk for this age group, Rogan’s comments seem to make some sense. Wouldn't it be more altruistic, rather than selfish, to let a vaccine dose be used first by someone who needs it more? Either way, such criticism is ludicrous when it comes from a government that so often acts contrary to the interests of society.

Additionally, considering the way in which the Covid vaccines were launched, some skepticism on the part of Joe Rogan, and the general population, seems warranted. Indeed, these vaccines have become available so quickly that the Phase II and the Phase III development of these vaccines have been conducted in parallel and are not yet completed. In the US, the Covid vaccins are currently approved only as emergency measures by the FDA, though nearly 260 million Americans have already been vaccinated.

In the case of AstraZeneca, the pressure to get a vaccine out as quickly as possible caused an issue in the dosage during the first distributions. In many European countries this vaccine has not been recommended to young people because of a perceived risk of blood clots. In Russia, an antibody test is recommended before vaccination to ensure that the patient is not already immune, in order to avoid wasting doses and to avoid overloading the body with antibodies.

In this context, it does not certainly seem shocking to suggest, like Joe Rogan, that healthy young adults may not really need to get vaccinated.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH THREATENED BY INTIMIDATION

In reality, the real question is not whether Joe Rogan was right or wrong in saying what he said. Criticism of a citizen by the US government is disturbing regardless of the comments that was made. What about freedom of speech when the State criticizes an individual's speech? 

The protection of freedom of speech and of the press in the USA is among the strongest that exists. The First Amendment to the Constitution in theory offers extremely robust protection, with its famous words: "Congress will not make any law curtailing freedom of speech, or of the press."  

But this implies that it is not unconstitutional for the authorities to publicly judge the speech of its citizens, such as Rogan. As reported by Glenn Greenwald, this represents in practice a government control of speech. He quotes an FCC commissioner who notes that:

"Politicians have realized that they can silence the speech of those with different political viewpoints by public bullying.”

For politically "sensitive" subjects, authorities do not accept deviations from their official story. This deleterious situation has existed since long before the pandemic. Today, it is about vaccine policy, but yesterday, about the war on terrorism, about Russiagate, about the corruption of Joe Biden, and many other topics. Greenwald explains:

When it comes to censorship of politically adverse content, sometimes explicit censorship demands are unnecessary. Where a climate of censorship prevails, companies anticipate what those in power want them to do by anticipatorily self-censoring to avoid official retaliation. Speech is chilled without direct censorship orders being required." 

Concretely, this means that when Joe Rogan is publicly criticized by the authorities, countless other content is never published. This process of media self-censorship, without open and direct coercion from the State, is of course part of the propaganda system that Herman and Chomsky famously called "Manufacturing Consent."  

For intrepid journalists who still take the risk of publicly challenging the official consensus, the lucrative and prestigious positions in mainstream media are no longer accessible. As shown by Greenwald, the risk to their reputation that they incur is real, because they are also then systematically victims of unscrupulous practices, such as being accused of being a conspiracy theorist or of inciting terrorism. These accusations, usually completely unfounded, can destroy careers in the toxic politically correct environment that exists in the United States. 

Unfortunately, it doesn't end there. The authorities go much further than these Mafia methods of intimidation. The main social networks in the US have also become of reliable servants of the State, by filtering and censoring persons or publications at the request of various State institutions; the same way that mainstream media has behaved for ages.

With respect to Covid vaccine policy, for example, Facebook and YouTube today systematically censor comments and videos that are not in line with the official version of governments, the CDC and the WHO. The fact that these institutions have often changed their opinion about which health policy to recommend, does not seem to be a problem.

A CONSTITUTION IS NOT SUFFICIENT PROTECTION

This situation with Joe Rogan should remind everyone that the fight for individual freedoms, including freedom of speech and of the press is a permanent struggle. No document, be it the US Constitution or the Declaration of Human Rights, gives an absolute guarantee against the violations of these freedoms by the State, as shown by many historical examples.    

The authoritarian tendencies of nominally democratic governments are nothing new. Indeed, these governments have a natural interest in trying to influence - not to say shape - public opinion. Recent history shows that in collaboration with traditional mainstream media and now social networks, the government is willing to do almost anything to prevent the electorate from understanding its real behavior. The fame of Joe Rogan will at least have contributed a little to exposing this truth.

Friday, March 26, 2021

What if the Market for Vaccines Were Free?

What are the benefits of a free market for vaccines? While such a market is unrealistic in the current political environment, it is important to understand how the free market could improve the development, production, sale and distribution of vaccines.

The libertarian cannot describe accurately the particular consequences in the long term of a market liberalization. The nature of the free market - its plurality, its decentralization - makes it difficult to make that kind of prediction. However, it is possible to make more general observations concerning a particular market, based on the principles of Austrian School of Economics.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Why We Must Oppose a Covid Health Pass

The rumors surrounding the introduction of a Covid-19 health pass are getting more or more concrete. There are signs that it likely will happen; France and UK are already considering it.

Though the details are still sketchy, it would be a kind of laissez-passer, which would allow only those in possession of it to visit places like cafes, restaurants, museums, exhibitions, etc. In order words, anyone without such a pass would still be denied access to all those establishments that were closed during the numerous lockdowns.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Education of the Modern Socialist

Libertarians often wonder why socialism continues to be so popular, even though it has proved to be such a failure as a political ideology and as an economic system. Though a public education system and a biased mainstream media are key reasons for this, the stubborn resiliency of socialism is also somewhat fictitious since socialism has evolved: the socialist of yesteryear is not the socialist of today. This distinction is important to remember when setting the themes for a libertarian education. 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Julian Assange and the Struggle for Political Freedom

Julian Assange's heroic but tragic life is coming to a head in the next weeks. A British court shall soon rule whether Assange, ostensibly a publisher and journalist, shall be extradited to the United States to be charged with espionage. Though many people around the world have followed Assange's hardships on and off during the last decade, it is really now, during this sham trial in London, that the importance of the struggle for political freedom should become clear to all.

Monday, April 6, 2020

The Lockdown in the West Also Comes From China

The Western reaction to the Coronavirus pandemic has been nothing short of hysterical. Most of the populations in the West have been confined to their homes and whole countries have been locked down, at an economic cost that goes beyond belief. It is difficult to find historical examples of such draconian measures being adopted by Western nations anywhere and anytime, even during war.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Why are Western Politicians Destroying the Economy?

An economic cataclysm has been unleashed upon the world by Western politicians and bureaucrats. Unbelievably, economic activity in the West has slowed to a creep, as entire populations have been confined to their homes for weeks, if not months. As a result, millions have had their lives turned upside down. Most entrepreneurs and self-employed have had their livelihoods jeopardized.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Disastrous Healthcare Plans of Sanders and Warren

The ideas for healthcare reform of the statist and left-wing politicians in the USA are so disastrous and so foolhardy, that they should be severely and frequently criticized. In particular, the healthcare plans of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren reflect quite well what a lot of economically and politically uneducated progressives in the USA think should be done about healthcare. They want change the current system in order to lower the costs of healthcare and provide "free" or almost "free" healthcare. It is true that the healthcare system in the US must be dramatically transformed and that its costs to end-users (patients) should go down significantly, but not at all in the interventionist way these people think. The way to go, as usual, is to expand the free market.

Friday, February 21, 2020

The SAS Commercial : An Outrageous Definition of Scandinavian Culture

Recently, a controversial commercial from SAS, the Scandinavian airline company, was published on social media. It attempts to portray Scandinavian culture as basically non-existing. The message is that because all typical Scandinavian cultural traits and imagery can supposedly be traced to external sources, Scandinavia has "nothing", as the commercial repeats, in many languages. SAS obviously is trying to be politically correct in these globalist times, in which the Nation is looked down upon. At the same time it wants to encourage Scandinavians to use SAS to fly to faraway lands to bring back more valuable things (such as meatballs?), so these too may in the future be transformed and become part of what represents Scandinavia. 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Review of “Sapiens : A Brief History of Mankind”

Though the book “Sapiens”, by Yuval Noah Harari, came out a few years ago, it became such a bestseller that it could be worth reviewing it briefly.

First of all, it must be mentioned that "Sapiens" is a popular book, and therefore necessarily simplifies and omits. Such a book cannot therefore go into details and explanations that academic books could. Many people tend to forget this fact just because the author is an academic. This shall not therefore be the gist of the critique of this work.

The author set himself out to tell the whole story of the human race in a single book, however thick.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Backside to Mr. Pelham's Iran Story

The journalist Nicolas Pelham, who writes for The Economist, has published an interesting, quite entertaining and well written article in 1843, the sister magazine of the Economist, called "Trapped in Iran" about his recent visit to Iran. He details his difficulties getting out of the country, being interrogated by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, having his papers seized, and being forced to remain for several months in Iran before finally obtaining an exit visa. However, the backside to this story has been completely omitted, probably on purpose. In the comments below, it is the political aspect of the story that are considered, not the different cultural, social and religious descriptions that also form a part of Mr. Pelham's essay.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

What Macron Can Learn From Putin

In France, the strike over a pension reform project is over, but it had gone on far too long. Millions of people have been affected by the refusal to work of a few thousand civil servants, but Macron remained invisible and silent for several weeks in December 2019. This public transport strike was the longest since 1986. Many French people were struggling to get from their home to their workplace, but Macron did not really address the subject until his year-end wishes – a strange occasion for such a topic - more than three weeks after the start of the strike.