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“Though well positioned to weather the pandemic, California instead pursued disastrous restrictions and cracked down on dissent” – so reports John Tierney. Two slices:

No state was in a better position than California to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic. It had a relatively young population, a climate that encouraged people to spend time outdoors, a tech industry that profited from the pandemic’s surge in online traffic, and top-flight medical and research institutions with some of the world’s leading experts on public health and epidemiology. But no state inflicted so much needless suffering for so long on its children and adults.

When the pandemic began, researchers in California were the first in the United States to analyze the threat accurately and offer sensible advice, urging focused protection for the elderly, while warning that school closures and lockdowns were futile and destructive. But instead of heeding their expertise, the progressives dominating the state’s public and private institutions launched campaigns to defame, ostracize, and silence them. These experts, like so many other fleeing Californians, had to leave the state to find leaders who embraced scientific analysis and rational policies.

No other state infringed upon individual liberties more zealously. California was the first to lock down and the last to end its state of emergency (at the end of February of this year). It closed not only schools and businesses but also playgrounds, parks, and beaches. A police boat in Malibu chased down a solitary surfer so that he could be arrested and handcuffed; another surfer was fined $1,000 for endangering precisely no one. Church gatherings were outlawed for nearly a year, until the Supreme Court finally overturned the ban. Other courts had to intervene to keep public schools in San Diego and Los Angeles from mandating vaccines for students.


Yet the state’s leaders remain unapologetic. Governor Gavin Newsom insists that his policies were guided by “the science and data,” while using deceitful statistics to claim falsely that Florida’s less restrictive Covid policies were deadlier than California’s authoritarianism. Instead of acknowledging that the lockdowns were unnecessarily costly, he boasts how much the state spent to mitigate his errors: nearly $40 billion in direct payments and tax relief (which would have been more than enough to offset the state’s current projected budget deficit of $23 billion). Instead of encouraging scientific debate, Newsom signed the nation’s first state law, recently blocked by a federal judge, subjecting doctors to discipline by the state’s medical board if they provide their patients with Covid “misinformation.”

That word presumably means anything challenging the orthodoxy enforced so disastrously during the pandemic. The crackdown on dissent began at Stanford in the spring of 2020, when John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist and one of the world’s most cited scientists, warned that lockdowns could be a “once-in-a-century fiasco” because they were being imposed without any consideration of costs and benefits. He joined with Stanford colleagues, including Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of health policy at the medical school, to measure the spread of Covid in two California counties. Their results (subsequently confirmed by other researchers) showed that the fatality rate among the general population was much lower than the estimates being used by computer modelers, whose doomsday projections (2 million Americans dead by summer’s end, hospitals overwhelmed by 30 Covid patients for every available bed) terrified Newsom and other governors into locking down and ordering nursing homes to accept Covid patients from hospitals.

For daring to question the doomsday narrative, the Stanford researchers found themselves vilified in the media and bombarded with personal threats. The university’s administrators were cowed into hiring an outside law firm to conduct a fact-finding inquiry into a spurious accusation of bias. The inquiry found no bias, but the researchers endured continuing harassment from some Stanford administrators and faculty. “Academic freedom at Stanford is clearly dying,” Bhattacharya wrote in a recent essay recounting the hostility he faced after coauthoring the Great Barrington Declaration, a critique of lockdowns signed by thousands of scientists around the world in the fall of 2020—but that remained taboo for discussion at Stanford.

Bhattacharya’s department chairman blocked his attempt to hold a seminar discussing the declaration, and the medical school never invited him to present an alternative to the Covid orthodoxy that it was promoting. California officials ignored his advice. After Bhattacharya spoke at a roundtable hosted by Florida governor Ron DeSantis and questioned the evidence for masking schoolchildren, activists put Bhattacharya’s face on posters around the Stanford campus blaming him for deaths in Florida, and the chairman of epidemiology at Stanford circulated a petition at the medical school asking the university to censor such speech.

Jay Bhattacharya tweets:

Predictable and sad. Lockdowns were a monstrous policy.
The best available external evidence… demonstrates an increase in child maltreatment hospitalisations & a concerning decrease in child maltreatment referrals.” — @WesleyJPark & Kristen Walsh

How Zeynep Tufekci and Jeremy Howard Masked America.”

Kimberlee Josephson explains that “when it comes to big tech and monopoly power, patience is a virtue, antitrust is a vice.”

Brendan O’Neill says that Bernie Sanders’s new book “feels like a self-help book for upwardly mobile leftists.” Here’s his conclusion:

And yet, Bernie’s book has convinced me that he has squandered any chance of left-wing populism in favour of embracing the moralism of the new elites who hate capitalism not for its structural deficiencies, but for being too productive, too big, too much. One can’t help but feel that Bernie’s main audience now is those leisured classes of priestly loathers of capitalistic greed, rather than the working classes who have a vested interest in more job creation, more industry creation, more fracking, more oil and, let’s be honest about it, more capitalism. For now anyway. Those people don’t hate Jeff Bezos’ yacht – they want it. They’ll never get it, though, as long as the left is led by people whose opposition to capitalism has morphed tragically into opposition to modernity.

Wall Street Journal columnist Gerard Baker calls on employers to “put the squeeze on woke intolerance.” A slice:

For a long time we tolerated campus behavior much as we used to tolerate the behavior of toddlers. They’ll grow out of it, we thought, when they enter the real world. But the joke was on us. They graduated into the real world and started to impose their views on it. Weak-kneed managers, eager to protect their privileges and preserve a quiet life, couldn’t face the hostility they’d get from their employees and a media of the same ideological mindset always willing to air the grievances.

We see the implications—occasionally bursting into the open—as when the New York Times forced its opinion editor to resign for publishing an article the radicals didn’t like, or Google dropping a Pentagon contract because employees objected to helping the U.S. defend itself. Most of the time it advances without publicity, as steadily, day by day, the former campus totalitarians make their way in the “real world.”

It’s time employers started to resist, and began to educate their employees—the hard way if necessary—why free speech is so important.

They’ll find this juice is definitely worth the squeeze.

Noah Rothman decries the population controllers.