COVID-19 Lab Leak Theory and Conspiracy Labels: We Won’t Find Answers Unless We Ask Questions

May 31, 2021 Updated: May 31, 2021

Commentary

Last spring, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ran a major news campaign attacking The Epoch Times. Although the network ran many “news” items on the subject, the main attack was in an April 29, 2020, article posted on its website originally titled “’Racist and inflammatory’: Canadians upset by Epoch Times claim China behind virus, made it as a bioweapon.” The title greatly mischaracterized the content of that issue of the newspaper.

The CBC repeatedly broadcast incorrect claims by a delivery person who said he didn’t want to deliver a newspaper that said the virus was “part of a bio-warfare agenda by the Chinese people.” This was incorrect and there was no such claim in the paper, whose focus was the Chinese communist regime and not the Chinese people. CBC anchors repeatedly claimed The Epoch Times was spreading conspiracy theories for daring to question whether the virus came from anywhere but a wet market in Wuhan—which the CBC had told its readers and viewers was the only place it could have come from.

The Epoch Times was lambasted coast to coast by the CBC, the message being that it was spreading “conspiracy theories” and shouldn’t be trusted. In fact, among the many articles in that issue, an opinion piece had simply suggested there should be an investigation into the origin of the virus outbreak, with nothing ruled out. That was enough to incur the CBC’s wrath. The network later issued an obscure correction for its misleading headline, and particularly for the egregiously incorrect “bioweapon” charge. However, the damage was done, and Epoch was painted as a purveyor of “conspiracy theories.”

Around the same time, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu berated a reporter who dared to ask if it might be possible that China was being less than honest about the number of COVID-19 deaths. Hajdu accused the reporter of “feeding into conspiracy theories.” No reporter was even brave enough to ask about the possibility of a Wuhan lab virus origin.

American legacy media took the same tack. Anything that suggested the virus did not come from the “wet market” was deemed to be alt-right conspiracy theory talk. All of this was deeply tied in to the media’s anti-Trump playbook that had clearly overtaken any pursuit of the truth by that time.

But now suddenly, the powers that be have changed their minds and decided that asking legitimate questions about the possibility that the virus originated in a laboratory is not “feeding into conspiracy theories” after all. In fact, the possibility of a lab origin was a legitimate subject of inquiry all along. It was just deemed to be unacceptable because it conflicted with someone’s political agenda.

The question about the origins of the virus is just one example of science-related questions that were simply declared off-limits. The science pertaining to the spread of the virus was also perverted for political purposes. Nowhere was this more obvious than when the Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Antifa protests and riots began and hundreds of thousands of people were allowed to gather in close quarters, with no pushback from governments, while other gatherings met with a public scolding, police enforcement, and aggressive ticketing.

Some politicians even joined the BLM protests in defiance of social distancing rules, such as Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Canada’s own Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who spoke self-righteously about people who endangered others by not staying in their homes, then took part in a large BLM protest on Parliament Hill. Real science was thrown under the political bus.

Meanwhile, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were busy shutting down any sites that even mildly suggested that the virus might have originated in Wuhan. But clearly the fact that the most important virology lab in the country was located there—and that Chinese scientists were boasting that they were the world leaders in experimenting with viruses from horseshoe bats—was something that deserved inquiry.

We now know that the possibility the coronavirus originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology was not a “conspiracy theory” at all. In fact, the fact that all inquiries into the perfectly understandable supposition that the virus might have leaked from the lab were aggressively shut down is the truly unusual part of this story and is probably closer to being an actual conspiracy.

Although the best evidence appears to point to the Wuhan lab as the source of the virus, we don’t know how it originated. Perhaps we will never know. The point is that we should have been able to discuss the issue. We should have been able to ask the question.

We were denied those rights, and not just by the likes of the CBC and Patty Hajdu, who were minor players, but much more so by CNN, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, The New York Times, Democratic Party politicians, and virtually every other organ that controls the discourse in North America today, which all simply declared the subject off limits. Accounts were frozen, thoughtful people were labelled “conspiracy theorists,” and careers were destroyed simply because some highly placed people—we don’t know exactly who—decided that the subject was to be undiscussable.

And the same censorship and obfuscation has applied to so many of the other questions surrounding the virus. Do face masks work? Are treatments like Ivermectin or Hydroxychloroquine of value? Do lockdowns save lives or take lives? Should previously infected people get vaccinated? Should children be vaccinated? There are thousands of legitimate science or quasi-science questions that need asking.

It was when the BLM and Antifa protests and riots began following the death of George Floyd in May 2020 that it became jarringly evident to all but the most gullible of us that science had been overwhelmed by politics. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, met before and after in coffee shops and apartments, and socialized with one another, with absolutely no pushback from the same authorities who had been threatening the general public with criminal sanctions if they dared to even worship with one another.

That was the point when it became perfectly clear that science had been corrupted by politics. The fact is that this pandemic has done great damage to many institutions, but probably none has been savaged as seriously as science. There has probably never been such a high distrust of doctors and scientists as there is today, and this is happening for good reason.

Perhaps it is time to go back and ask what scientific inquiry is all about. Is science really supposed to be controlled by what Mark Zukerberg, Jack Dorsey, and CNN or CBC executives consider politically expedient at the moment? Does it really make sense to set someone as flawed as Dr. Fauci up as some kind of oracle? Or is science worth more than that?

The Scientific Revolution started in Europe 600 or so years ago would not have happened if today’s faceless cabal of high-tech, media, and political nabobs—who can unilaterally declare questions they don’t like off-limits—had been around then. The Wuhan lab example is a perfect illustration. Discussion of a legitimate question was simply shut down because it conflicted with someone’s politics.

This censorship alliance of high-tech, media, and political operatives is not about to change any time soon. So, what’s to be done?

In fact, it is being done. The Epoch Times’ questioning of the origins of the virus in spite of efforts to censor it is one example of what needs to be done. Hundreds of other independent news and information sites are examples as well. People need to keep asking questions in defiance of the big players’ efforts shut them down.

So did the virus come from a wet market or a lab? If it came from a lab, was it leaked accidentally or released intentionally? Did the scientists attempt to hide results of their gain-of-function research—artificially making viruses more infectious and more deadly—when their work became deadly?

We don’t know the answers to these questions, and many others. But we can only find out the answers if we can ask the questions.

Brian Giesbrecht is a retired judge and a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.