The following is a list of links, organized into six sections: foundational ideas, basic lockdown critiques, communities against lockdowns, vulnerable people, masks, and big picture analysis.
April 9 edit: Over 1000 people have now read this piece! I’m amazed as I originally just wrote it to try and start talking about these things with ~25 actual IRL friends. Thanks for checking it out…
Hello, and thanks for taking the time to read this. I put together this page of information with friends in mind — people who are progressive, caring and kind, with whom I’ve wanted to share my increasing unease and concern about COVID lockdowns and health mandates — but haven’t been sure how to start that conversation. If someone else has shared this link with you, welcome — let’s get started.
Many folks getting their news and views from NPR, CBC, CNN and other corporate or state-aligned media sources, as well as those who mainly use progressive indy news sites like The Nation or CommonDreams, come to the COVID conversation with a firm sense that 1) virtually all reputable scientists/researchers agree that lockdowns and similar policies are the best/most effective/only reasonable response to COVID-10, and 2) that lockdowns and similar policies are the caring response, the response that is in alignment with values around collective care, protecting the vulnerable, etc.
The first link on this list is a good place to start if you’re interested in critically examining those two foundational ideas.
- The Great Barrington Declaration is a statement signed by 13,700 medical and public health scientists, 41,000 medical personnel, and loads of other people. Here’s the intro: “As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.”
Whether or not you agree with the GBD’s analysis, it’s important to at least be aware that there is not consensus on these issues by well-regarded epidemiologists, virologists, doctors and others, and that the second order effects — the ‘side effects,’ the non-COVID health implications — of lockdown policies are real, substantive, and serious.
Next, here’s two links to straightforward, easy to read articles about why some scientists, doctors and others oppose lockdowns:
2) COVID-19: Rethinking the Lockdown Groupthink by Dr. Ari Joffe, health ethicist and pediatrician in Alberta, Canada.
3) The Case Against Lockdowns by Philippe Lemoine, philosopher and commentator, for the CSPI (Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology).
From listening to CBC radio or watching CNN/similar news, it’s easy to get the sense that only right wing wackos oppose masks, lockdowns, vaccine passports or mandatory vaccines, and other COVID-related policies. That’s not the case. Here’s a couple sites you can visit to get a sense of some of the communities of people engaged in talking about, researching, and/or organizing in opposition to these policies:
4) AMA [Ask Me Anything] with Oxford University Professor of Epidemiology Sunetra Gupta on lockdowns, immunity, scientific discourse and more, from one of the Reddit communities focused on lockdown policies. On the right side of this page, scroll down to see more AMAs with lockdown critical scientists from Stanford, Johns Hopkins, UCSF and many others.
5) Collateral Global A global repository for research into the collateral effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures. Very important information for anyone whose overall core value in evaluating COVID policy is the desire to keep people safe.
6) Four articles from anti-lockdown folks on the North America Left:
- Jacobin did a great piece last fall on class, lockdown, and the big picture of risk, safety and health.
- This essay was originally published on a Montreal Anarchist site this past winter — that link is not longer working but it was posted in full on a Reddit page — read it there. It’s a solid piece outlying why many anarchists are starting to speak out against the dominant liberal discourse on COVID.
- From The Bellows in the US, here’s a class analysis of COVID restrictions and the big picture (economically, culturally, politically) by a public school teacher: https://www.thebellows.org/the-great-covid-class-war/
- From crisiscritique.org, a passionate piece on COVID, populism, class politics, and the liberal discourses of late re fascism, #BLM and police.
One of the strongest narratives in liberal media and social milieus has been about altruism and protecting vulnerable people. In various circles, opposition to lockdown policies, mandatory masking, vaccine passports and other measures has been equated with selfishness, racism, and lack of concern for other people.
I would humbly suggest that any time corporate media and professional managerial/media class people have a strong unified narrative around what is moral, it is a good idea to think very critically about what’s going on.
At any rate, even if that doesn’t make any sense to you, it is a good idea after a year of pandemic to think a bit about how vulnerable people are doing. Here’s some links on conditions for elders and for kids.
7) This horrifying story about elders confined to nursing homes for an entire year is an important read; so much of the restrictions, lockdowns and closures have been, ostensibly, about keeping those most vulnerable to the virus — our elders — safe. About being unselfish enough to do it for others. In that context, very important to ask — how is this going for vulnerable seniors?
8) Keeping kids safe with masks, hand sanitizers (which kids in public schools in Canada have been exposed to multiple times every day this year) and putting kids in solitary confinement for two weeks: how is the pandemic going for kids? Bad, very bad, particularly for kids living with disabilities and poor kids.
Masks in particular have been elevated in liberal media to signify collective care, altruism and political/moral goodness, while correspondingly, demands for mandatory masking have spread to include even very small children, even vaccinated people, and even in outdoor spaces.
The basic premise of having everyone (not just people with COVID like symptoms) wear masks, is:
- the idea that non-symptomatic folks spread COVID through mouths and noses enough that it makes sense to have everyone mask up, and
- the idea that masks prevent that spread effectively enough to be useful.
Those two basic ideas are contested and debated, and not just by the people labelled “anti-maskers.”
9) Jay Bhattacharya is a professor of medicine at Stanford University and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He directs Stanford’s Center for Demography and Economics of Health and Aging. Here is a clip of him talking about the role and efficacy of masks and the impacts of the politicization of masks on public health.
10) Here’s a good collection of recent research studies — collected internationally — on mask efficacy, as well as second order impacts of masks. Masks as a targeted tool worn in specific contexts makes sense; having kids wear masks at school all day is a different matter, as is forcing low wage ‘essential workers’ to wear masks of questionable efficacy, possible toxicity, and real discomfort.
Interested in reading more about the politics — in the largest sense of the term — of COVID discourse?
Here’s a link to some of the best written long form pieces I’ve read so far:
11) All of Norman Doidge’s recent long form essays in Tablet Magazine are thoughtful, smart and interesting — on COVID discourse, science, and politics. Doidge is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and author of two fantastic books about the brain.