Dr. Robert Malone: The Monkeypox Scare, the Origins of Groupthink, and the Power of the ‘Heretic’

August 11, 2022 Updated: August 19, 2022

“This biomedical industrial complex is going to make huge profits off yet another vaccine and the associated drugs. So it’s a business model. It’s a business model for media. That’s why the fear porn. It drives ratings. It drives clicks,” says mRNA vaccine pioneer Dr. Robert Malone.

“There’s a bunch of things underlying this monkeypox outbreak that are, I think the gentlest term I could say is, suspicious,” says Dr. Malone.

Dr. Malone popularized the concept of “mass formation” earlier this year, but this is just one of the many aspects of human psychology playing into our current societal moment. We tackle the concept of groupthink, the role it has played in the age of COVID, and how to avoid it in the future.

This interview was filmed at the CPAC conference in Dallas, Texas.

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Jan Jekielek:

Dr. Robert Malone, it’s such a pleasure to have you back on American Thought Leaders.

Dr. Robert Malone:

My pleasure, Jan, to be back here again. There’s so much to talk about.

Mr. Jekielek:

This is one thing I’m very curious about. We keep hearing about monkeypox. Recently the U.S. government has declared an emergency around monkeypox. What do you make of this?

Dr. Robert Malone:

This is a complex topic. How do you interpret the behavior of these organizations, the World Health Organization and the U.S. government, as it relates to a disease that has certainly well fewer than 50,000 cases globally, and almost no mortality? To the extent there is mortality, most of it seems to be associated with people that had significant clinical AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.) So, this is not a lethal disease. It is a disease that is associated with significant pain in this new cohort. Historically, we don’t see monkeypox in men who have sex with men. That has not been the usual clinical presentation. In this current outbreak, it’s almost exclusively in this cohort of men who have sex with men, or in people that have close contact with them. There is significant clinical pain in the symptoms associated with that mode of transmission.

What is putting people in the hospital is largely pain control. I’m told by my clinical colleagues, there are medicines now that are really producing a remarkable clinical response in terms of shutting down the virus replication. So, we’re in the same kind of situation that we were with COVID, where there is a push for vaccination. The vaccine industry is salivating over this opportunity, particularly Emergent BioSolutions and Bavarian Nordic. The government has already deployed virtually all of the vaccine that it had, which was developed for smallpox. There’s a bunch of things underlying this monkeypox outbreak that are, in the gentlest term I could use, suspicious. It goes all the way back to the beginning of this. I covered the very first presentations that came out in the media about this. The first one that I saw was by Jake Tapper from CNN.

It’s important to remember that Jake is a member of the Council for Foreign Relations, as many of the CNN broadcasters are.That is an odd thing in and of itself. Why are they so linked to what we would call the administrative state? In Jake’s segment there was clear usage of images of smallpox presented to the public as monkeypox—images of a lethal smallpox virus; old, grainy, black and white photographs that I am very familiar with. I used to work on smallpox vaccines for the Department of Defense back in the day when I was working at DynPort Vaccine Company. So, I know this topic really well. There was this initial push of information regarding monkeypox and the monkeypox threat. I use a psychological term term in characterizing it, which is fear porn.

The media was aggressively pushing storylines about monkeypox that heightened people’s fear. Now, I’m hearing from old ladies and average people that are frightened to death they’re going to get monkeypox. These are people that are not in that high risk cohort. People are alarmed because their children might be getting monkeypox. There are three cases of children that have been reported to have monkeypox, and they’ve all acquired it because of close contact with that high risk cohort. Another example is the Gavi Alliance, which is a Bill and Melinda Gates-funded organization that focuses on AIDS. They put out a website almost immediately after the outbreak was detected in which they asserted a 10 per cent mortality rate. And in the same webpage, they acknowledged the WHO said it had a maximum of 3 per cent mortality. There is all kinds of evidence that there was a concerted effort on the part of corporate media to instill fear around this topic area.

Then, there was this paradoxical planning session that they had almost a year ago, to the date, another war game like Event 201 held in Germany, in which they planned for a highly lethal monkeypox outbreak that would eventually result in a billion deaths from a more lethal, more infectious monkeypox. It’s all very odd. This outbreak is associated with the largest gay rave party in the world, where people fly in to one of the islands outside of Spain to attend this party. It is where the initial outbreak emanated from, and then it was brought back to mostly Northern Europe, the United States, and the Iberian peninsula by the people that participated. There is also this oddity that within less than a week of the onset of the outbreak, Emergent Biosolutions concluded a major contract for purchase of a leading antiviral agent.

So, there’s a whole bunch of things around this that are very odd. Then, we had this recent situation with Tedros, the director general of the World Health Organization. There were two separate advisory committee meetings held about whether or not this should be considered a global public health emergency. The first one voted against it. Only three members voted that it should be declared an emergency. Then apparently there was some modification in the committee structure, and more people were brought in that had detailed knowledge of this high-risk cohort, and the treatment of monkeypox in this high-risk cohort. They still got a vote of six in favor and nine against, which Mr. Tedros declared was a tie, even though clearly it wasn’t. He declared that he needed to break the tie, and he stepped in and made the determination that this was going to be a global health emergency.

[Sound bite/Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus]:

I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern. Of course, as I said earlier, since the role of the committee is to advise, I then had to act as a tiebreaker. I considered this as a close and no consensus by them. So, my colleagues and myself discussed about this issue, and we believed that it’s time to declare a public health emergency of international concern.

Dr. Robert Malone:

This evokes the international health regulation clauses that we’re all familiar with, because of the attempts to modify them in the beginning of the year. That provoked so much outrage about the loss of sovereignty for nations, particularly the African nations. So, there’s a whole cluster of, “Oh, that seems a little fishy,” that has gone all the way through this since the outbreak. Preceding that, another one of those war game planning sessions was held that laid out how this response was going to roll out. The whole thing seems pretty suspicious and clearly influenced by a very vocal advocacy coalition which reflects the interests of this particular high-risk group. It has been widely discussed in social media and other venues that Mr. Tedros should have had more representatives from this committee making the international health determination.

I had somebody from Puerto Rico who’s not in a high risk group come to me yesterday. She was quite frightened, a young woman with children. She told me that it’s now being actively discussed in Puerto Rico that the entire island has to be vaccinated against monkeypox, when we have less than 50,000 cases globally, and it’s not lethal. It is not aerosol transmitted. Masks are not going to do any good at all. It is spread by close intimate contact. By the way, the vaccine is associated with myocarditis. It’s not specifically designed for monkeypox. Under normal public health procedures, the way this would be handled is through contact tracing and quarantining or abstinence. A period of about 30 days of abstinence by the infected individuals of contact with others, or intimate contact, should be sufficient to block the further transmission of this agent.

So, it’s readily contained. It’s a small number of individuals. It’s not lethal. It’s not aerosol transmitted. It is extremely painful in that subset of that high-risk population, because of the practices associated with this route of transmission where an individual becomes infected in the perineal region, which is very sensitive, and highly innervated. It’s no surprise there’s a lot of pain there, but it doesn’t kill these people.

Mr. Jekielek:

You’re saying there’s a lot of suspicious things going on. Okay. I see that.

Dr. Robert Malone:

There’s a lot of moving parts.

Mr. Jekielek:

But this is the ultimate question, and you may be suggesting it. Why would there be interest in making this seem a lot bigger than it is?

Dr. Robert Malone:

That is a great question. It’s really uncomfortable to talk about the politicization of public health, and the weaponization of public health for political objectives. Yet, we even have the New York Times on President’s Day with their amazing reveal article that the CDC has been weaponized for political purposes. It is no longer an objective truth teller. It’s part of the White House political machine. Clearly, public health has been politicized. We can all agree on that. We can agree that the declaration of a public health emergency enables the executive branch and the administrative state to bypass certain laws, and certain norms in terms of bioethics. Many would argue they also bypass certain aspects of the Bill of Rights, including obtaining authorization or justification for various types of censorship and information control practices.

With the declaration that this is another public health emergency akin to Coronavirus, which is clearly no longer a public health emergency, and our hospitals are not filled up. By maintaining this emergency, the bureaucracy, ergo, the administrative state and the executive branch—which I argue is largely captured by the administrative state and operates in support of it—is able to maintain this set of policies that allow for extraordinary powers. Bobby Kennedy warned us about this. RFK Jr. warned us about this on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the Stop The Mandates action that we had in Washington, DC.

He said, “Once they put these policies in place, they will never give that power back unless they’re forced to do so.” There was a lot of criticism about him saying that, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. For some reason, there is strong interest in the HHS bureaucracy and the executive branch in maintaining this state of emergency. We can go down that rabbit hole, but it all becomes speculation, because neither you nor I are being brought into the Oval Office to have chats with Mr. Biden, or whoever’s running the operation at this point in time.

Mr. Jekielek:

There is another explanation, and that is we’ve become overly careful. People call it the safety of society. The current approach is that whatever is happening, we take the extreme safety-oriented approach to any situation.

Dr. Robert Malone:

I concur with that. There is another thread in this, but this is also multifactorial. There’s a lot of interest circulating around this—the biomedical industrial complex is going to make huge profits off yet another vaccine and the associated drugs. So, it’s a business model. And it’s also a business model for media. That’s why they push the fear porn. It drives ratings. It drives clicks. With all of the metrics for CNN and the others that are typically pushing this kind of fear into the population, it’s good business for them. But getting back to your point about this safety culture that we’ve created, in the past I have argued on my substack that we are now facing the consequences of raising multiple generations in an environment in which they are highly protected. We’ve seen this with the current parenting and school behaviors, this logic of protecting the children all the time. The term helicopter parenting is used to describe it.

What it all comes down to is creating successive cohorts that believe that they have the right to be protected from any kind of a threat, and any kind of a controversy. That runs all the way through, they also deserve to be protected from any cognitive dissonance. In other words, they should be protected from any thoughts that cause them emotional or psychological discomfort. From that stems the wide consensus among many people that censorship is okay. They should have the right to be protected from information that makes them uncomfortable. I strongly believe that this is one of the major problems we’re facing right now. We have a culture that has come to the point where many believe they have the right to be protected from virtually any threat, because that is how they’ve been raised.

Mr. Jekielek:

It’s a very troubling thought, isn’t it? We’ve certainly talked on the show about ways to try to solve the current conundrum, this difficult, multifactorial situation that we find ourself in. But when you talk about something like this, it’s almost at the personal identity level.

Dr. Robert Malone:

Yes. One of the things that has come out of all of this is that there are some deep, profound psychological issues that are going on within our culture right now. I mentioned one on the Joe Rogan podcast that lit people up, which is the mass formation psychosis. This comes from Mattias Desmet’s insights that build on prior work going all the way back to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave which describes this property of the masses, of groups and of group formation. But then we also have various abhorrent behaviors and dysfunctionality down at the individual level and in small groups also.

This is part of what’s stopping and inhibiting innovation in much of our industry. It’s responsible for some of the underlying cultural problems that exist in Wall Street. We have some real cultural things, not the least of which is little commitment to core values. We hesitate. We draw back. We don’t want to deal with these things. They’re uncomfortable. It’s unpleasant to say, “Hey, we as a body politic have got some real issues going on here and we don’t want to talk about them, because it’s uncomfortable.” But we’re going to have to deal with it, otherwise somebody else is going to force us to deal with it in a very unpleasant way.

Mr. Jekielek:

Okay. Please explain that. Who’s doing the forcing and what’s the unpleasant way?

Dr. Robert Malone:

I’ve been on this journey of trying to understand what are the underlying drivers that led us to this highly dysfunctional public health response that we call the Coronavirus Crisis. In doing so, I’ve been talking to people in the financial industry and politics. Apparently, one of the major trends is that we are living through the decline of Pax Americana. We’re drawing back from the American experiment in Pax Americana, which has a whole cascade of effects. That means we’re no longer going to be protecting sea lanes in the same way, which means that there’s going to be a major impact on shipping and shipping costs. Globalism around the merging of economies is now going to take a hit. We’re drawing back either intentionally, or under pressure from the CCP, Russia, and that new axis with Iran and others. There’s a new capital structure, a new global currency structure that’s being negotiated right now.

We’re drawing back from the dollar being the global currency for trade, and that has implications. A lot of those dollars are having to come back on shore now. We’ve overprinted money and used that to support this global currency position that we’ve taken, in part, to protect our allies in Europe and elsewhere. Now, that is all in transition, in part triggered by the decisions made in Ukraine and with the responses associated with that. We now face a situation here in the United States where we’ve become very accustomed to being the big dog, and that’s changing. China is the big dog. There is a new Chinese-Russian alliance forming. A lot of our traditional opponents like Iran are now being drawn into that sphere of influence. When I say others are going to force us to deal with it if we don’t deal it with ourselves, I’m talking about living in a hostile multilateral world with ongoing information warfare, economic warfare, and unrestricted warfare with all of these new 21st century dimensions.

If we’re going to survive as an independent nation-state, we need to recognize that we have a landscape of external threats. We don’t have the luxury to be so inwardly focused all the time on these divisive social issues. We really do have to recognize that we face an external threat landscape. It appears many of our leaders have given up on the idea of the American nation-state, and the logic of independent nation-states in general. They have bought into the logic that there should be a one world government, a largely unelected global government that is an extension of the United Nations, and run by the United Nations. The World Health Organization is part of that. The World Economic Forum is a treaty holder with the United Nations.

The logic is that the nation-state is obsolete. It’s dysfunctional. Now, we hear the U.S. Constitution written by these old white guys who were slaveholders is no longer relevant. It’s throwing out all of the lessons of the American enlightenment with all of that insight, and creating this belief in a centralized global government and the logic of a command economy. What’s really being driven is the logic that a small group of unelected individuals with very high economic status are able to lead us. This is driving a lot of the data hunger. If they only had enough data that could be tied to each one of us, then they could run artificial intelligence and machine-learning algorithms and derive an optimum that would maximize global happiness.

You’ll own nothing and be happy. This is all based on the logic of utilitarianism. If we only had enough data, and then we could take all our fantastic new computing power and devise an algorithm that would define the maximal happiness for the maximal number of individuals. Then, we can use command economy to have these individuals produce this many Macintosh apples and this many potatoes and this much energy from these different sources, as if centralized planning and command economy has ever worked in the history of mankind. How many times do we have to run this experiment? But they now believe that the nation-state is obsolete and everything should be run through some centralized structure. That is the big Kahuna underneath all of this, as far as I’m concerned.

Mr. Jekielek:

There is this also this kind of truism. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We forget that. Every group imagines that they’re going to do it differently.

Dr. Robert Malone:

Yes. What you’re touching on is this complex matrix of whether they’re just incompetent or are they really nefarious? Is there true evil behind this? Many people now are speaking of evil, this kind of philosophical religious concept that we used to consider to be outside of the acceptable Overton window. We weren’t supposed to talk about religion and these kinds of things like Judeo-Christian ethics and evil. That kind of stuff was supposed to be somewhere else. It was separation of church and state. For many of us, it has become hard to discuss what we’re observing without evoking the concept that there truly is evil out there. And there is also incompetence and arrogance and elitism, all of these. The best word I have to describe it is sins that are common to man, and have existed through the centuries in virtually every major civilization.

Why should we consider that these things wouldn’t be happening? Of course they are happening. It’s really difficult for any of us to wrestle with the question of how much of this is nefarious intent and how much of it is just arrogant goofiness and incompetence, from people who think that because they’re really wealthy they are smarter than the rest of us. I have seen this run throughout the investment community for years. What I have seen through my whole career with the birth and growth of biotech is this cycle where you have people make a bunch of money in an industry largely through circumstance. A lot of it is the role of the dice. You get lucky with a product. Then you get a bunch of money.

They think they’re all geniuses. They set up an investment firm and then they try to start new companies. They think that they’re so brilliant that every one of those is going to succeed, and they don’t mitigate their risk. They don’t really think things through. This same kind of belief system happens in these really, really wealthy individuals. We have some poster children that we could name here. They all get together in these various forums. The World Economic Forum is just one, Bilderberg is another. There are also many others now that have been seeded where these individuals come together and form groups and strategize for what they think has to be done for the world. What we’re seeing is that a lot of times these folks will come up with a plan. In the ‘90s, Agenda 2030 was developed for the United Nations.

In the ’90s, there was a small group within the United Nations that identified what they thought should be the objectives for the next century. With their 2030 agenda, that got solidified as a plan. A large number of nations signed off on that plan, and now we’re stuck with it. They’re just mindlessly grinding towards that. This has to do with the CO2 emission logic. It has to do with farmland restrictions and placing farmland into ecological reserves. All these things are built into that plan based on the way people thought things were going to be in 2030, and now we are forced into because of the bureaucracy. Once they get a hold of these things, they just keep pounding away at them. That seems to be another part of this process that’s going on. It’s very complex. It’s very multifactorial, like we have been discussing. All of these moving parts interact around the idea that a small group of individuals should be empowered to run the world through the logic of utilitarianism and command economy management, which clearly has repeatedly failed in the past.

Mr. Jekielek:

Robert, now is the perfect moment to talk about this concept of groupthink. This is something distinct from this idea of mass formation that Mattias Desmet and you have popularized, or at least recently brought into the public consciousness. 

Dr. Robert Malone:

Yes. Victims of Groupthink, written by a psychologist, was a core political science textbook of the 1970s and early 1980s. It comes from the same discipline as Mattias Desmet, who is also a psychologist, as well as a biostatistician. But the focus of Irving Janis’s work was more on group theory. His core focus was the behavior of groups and how groups work in a positive way and also in a negative way. As he was proceeding with his academic work, he realized that he was seeing examples of group behavior gone awry, particularly in the context of various federal decisions that occurred during the ’50s, the ’60s, and then up to the present. It was kind of a gradual awakening for him. It’s much like Mattias describing his work that’s built off of Gustave Le Bon and so many other predecessors all the way back to Plato.

In Mattias’s case, he’s focusing on the group as a very large mass, a formation of masses, the psychology of masses, the psychology of totalitarianism, and authoritarian behavior. In the case of Irving Janis, he was focused on small group behavior and theory, and the ways that small groups under pressure can make key decisions that can go awry. He came up with some really clear guidance, through a series of case studies focused on U.S. government successes and major policy failures, that describe how these closed, insular, self-reinforcing groups tend to behave and how they can go wrong. He leads his analysis with a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, “Madness is the exception in individuals, but the rule in groups.” That informs his whole analysis and his personal theory. It’s captured in this small textbook having to do with the process of groups forming these odd behaviors and dysfunctional management styles.

Mr. Jekielek:

Our leaders in different agencies in the U.S., Canada, and around the world have, on the face of it, been making some pretty ill-advised decisions. There are different theories as to why. Some of those theories refer to regulatory capture. But there are also simpler explanations which fit into exactly what you’re describing right now.

Dr. Robert Malone:

Yes. Irving Janis describes this term that is often thrown around and used casually, groupthink. He has some very specific definitions for what it constitutes that come from his core competence as a psychologist. He defines the term groupthink as, “a quick and easy way to refer to a mode of thinking that people engage in when they’re deeply involved in a cohesive in-group.” Okay. This is a key characteristic. There are certain behaviors in cohesive in-groups. We could call them cliques. Potentially, we could say Mike Pence’s special COVID Task Force was clearly an in-group of people that were very cohesive. They knew each other. They were long time friends and associates, and they had a kind of a sense of being elite. So, he calls this “cohesive in-groups in which the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.”

In other words, the core of this idea of groupthink is that you have a small cohesive group that wants to come together, avoid controversy, and believes that they are elite. They are the best of the best. These groups that form, often within our government, but also in corporations, tend to make certain types of errors in their decision making and analysis. It’s fascinating to look back at this core textbook that actually created the term groupthink, and brought it into the public consciousness, and then reevaluate the present time. Have we actually seen the characteristics of groupthink in the people that have been leading our response to the COVID Crisis and the people leading New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and of course the World Health Organization? You and I were talking about this, and it caused me to go back to the book, which I hadn’t read in over 30 years. But I went back to it knowing this was the core text, and started picking through it to determine if there was any evidence that we actually saw groupthink playing a role in the COVID Crisis.   

I’m not saying that the WEF didn’t play a role, along with the WHO, the UN and Pfizer, plus all of these other factors. Look, we both recognize that many things can be happening at the same time. Right off the top, one of the things that I found most striking in Dr. Janis’s work is he describes hard-headed actions by soft-headed groups. He refers to soft-headed thinking as the product of these kinds of cohesive groups, where everybody wants to agree with each other. It’s more important to agree with each other, than to be right. That’s one of the characteristics. This is not just in government groups. It’s the behavior of people in general.

In his case studies he says, “At first I was surprised by the extent to which groups in the fiascos I had examined adhered to group norms and pressures towards uniformity. Just as in groups of ordinary citizens, a dominant characteristic appears to be remaining loyal to the group by sticking with the decisions to which the group has committed itself, even when the policy is working badly and has unintended consequences that disturb the consciousness of the members.” So, it’s actually bothering people on a deep ethical level, but it’s more important that they stay cohesive. Then, he says, “In a sense, the members consider loyalty to the group the highest form of morality.” Whoa, that’s kind of a big statement. “That loyalty requires each member to avoid raising controversial issues, questioning weak arguments, or calling a halt to soft-headed thinking.” What could be a better description of what we have currently observed?

Mr. Jekielek:

On the one hand, I’m sure he describes the circumstances under which this formed in more detail. But I’m sure he can also describe how you would set up circumstances to prevent this exact thing from happening.

Dr. Robert Malone:

Yes. Well put. All of this social theory and psychology doesn’t do us any good if it’s just a bunch of academics talking to each other. What are the actual action items that could be used to avoid all of this? I want to highlight something else that he said. “Paradoxically, soft-headed groups are likely to be extremely hard-hearted towards out-groups and enemies, and in dealing with a rival nation. An affable group of government officials is unlikely to pursue the difficult and controversial issues that arise when alternatives to harsh solutions come up in discussion.”

Janis has some key points that he prescribes as he goes through case studies of things like the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, as an example of a small, positive, cohesive group that successfully came up with good public policy, and the Bay of Pigs, as an example of a huge fiasco because of this groupthink process, and there are many others that he examines. One of the key points that he emphasizes all the way through is, to avoid this you have to bring in outsiders, or you have to have some mechanism to cause the group to continually reevaluate the decisions it has made and test reality, and make sure that that’s really what’s going on and that everything has been taken into account.

That’s clearly something that didn’t happen in the present. We know that from the COVID Crisis, because of Debbie Birx’s book paired together with Scott Atlas’s book. With Scott Atlas, we have the story of the outsider academic that’s brought into the environment of a small cohesive group that’s worked with each other for years and years, largely on AIDS. He describes his frustration that resulted from him coming in at the direction of the president. Apparently, Jared Kushner brought him in, and everything he said was rejected.

He’s treated as an outsider. He’s attacked, as Janis says is the normal behavior of these small cohesive groups. They want to reject any outside criticism and any outsiders. We now have Debbie Birx’s statements in her book in which she talks from the other side about how hostile Scott Atlas was, and how important it was to avoid him and get him pushed out, and to avoid any meetings with him and Donald Trump, and avoid meeting with the Great Barrington Declaration signatories that came in to speak to Mr. Trump. So, all of this fits into this pattern. What we have learned here is that Mr. Kushner did exactly what Dr Janis had prescribed, which is to bring in an outsider heretic that would challenge the basic assumptions of the group and make sure that they were doing the right thing and making the right decisions.

To put an underscore on this, we had the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, largely run by the Democrats, issue their first report in which they specifically criticized Scott Atlas and Jared Kushner for coming in and saying things that were unpopular with the core group, when that’s exactly what should have been done. If they had been listened to, think of where we could have been now, instead of where we are right now. If there had been a willingness on the part of the leadership of that core group to accept outside criticism or to actively criticize themselves as Dr. Janis recommends, then we would have been in a completely different position, as opposed to this classic behavior of rejecting any outside information or anything that’s contrary to their narrative. Again, they were driven, as these small select elite groups often are, to form consensus. They felt that consensus was more important than the ethics of what they were doing. And this is not just particular to them. It happens again and again and again in these small groups.

Mr. Jekielek:

In Dr. Birx’s book it appears that she takes a priori that their policy was the correct policy. This comes through as you read the book. There’s no real discussion about how this policy was arrived at, how it was debated, and how it was actually decided upon.

Dr. Robert Malone:

Because they were all seeking consensus. Here it is again, the central theme of my analysis. Again, let me quote Dr. Janis, “The greater the amiability and esprit de corps among the members of a policy making in-group, the greater the danger that independent, critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink, which is likely to result in irrational and dehumanizing actions directed against out-groups.” Think back to that Birx group, and think how they behaved, okay? They clearly had a lot of esprit de corps. They clearly knew each other, and felt warm towards each other. 

Think of what we saw with the propaganda, the attacks, the manipulation of the media, the defamation, the gaslighting, and the attacks on the Great Barrington Declaration authors, who offered their analysis in good faith. And what did Birx and her team do? They didn’t just argue with them. They didn’t just disagree with them. They tried to destroy them. It’s exactly what Janis proposes is the typical psychology of these in-groups that form and have resulted in some of the greatest public policy failures in the United States history. And I suspect the Coronavirus Crisis is going to be seen as one of those in the future.

Mr. Jekielek:

Why is the Marshall Plan cited as a success story? What was it about the Marshall Plan? According to Janis, what was different in the way they advocated for them to work with each other, or structured the decision making that avoided this groupthink issue? 

Dr. Robert Malone:

Janis did this series of evaluations on various crises, as well as successes. Pearl Harbor, the Korean War, the Bay of Pigs, and the escalation of the Vietnam War were all clear, massive American policy failures. We could add the Afghanistan War as another example. The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Marshall Plan are considered two of the great high points in American foreign policy. You mentioned the Marshall Plan, which many may not remember, was the plan that the American government created to reactivate, re-enable, and rebuild war-destroyed Europe. Europe was just completely devastated. There was a great fear that, just as happened after World War I, we would again have the rise of a totalitarian or a fascist regime and gross dysfunction. So, it was in America’s interest to rebuild Europe.

Plus we wanted to have a trading partner. The question was how to do it. Rather than having a small in-group come together and say, “Well, this is the plan,” what they did brilliantly was to set up a whole range of separate groups that each came up with their own plan. They all did their own analysis, and then came together and built a consensus plan. We now call it the Marshall Plan, which resulted in an amazingly rapid rebuilding of the Europe that wasn’t behind the iron curtain. So, it was an enormous foreign policy success, and an enormous economic success. It was enabled by a president who realized that there was a problem with these small, cohesive groups. He had to find a strategy to break up that process, so that you would avoid that kind of wrongthink or groupthink process that often emerges from these small bureaucratic cliques.

Mr. Jekielek:

That means that we can actually develop some very clear strategy. Now, there is an opportunity to actually understand what happened, and provide prescriptions on how to avoid it in the future.

Dr. Robert Malone:

It’s really useful to frame this in a nonpartisan fashion. We’re all interested in good government, whether you’re Left, Right, center, up or down. We all want good government. We want value for our money. Unfortunately, those that don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it. This is really a case study in the failure to learn from the lessons of American history and past American foreign policy failures. This does not have to be a Democrat or a Republican issue. We can all agree that good government is something we all want. Even if the incoming administration is not able to break up the senior executive service as they may want to, and even if we still have those structures in place, we need to be able to learn from this. Lessons learned. Root cause analysis.

One of the core lessons has to be that we need to avoid this small, cohesive in-group-based decision making that doesn’t allow itself to be challenged. Janis talks about this as a pretzel problem. You have to have enough cohesion in the leadership group. One model is the executive just makes all the unilateral decisions. We make him king or dictator, and that’s that. In America, we have a tendency to want to use groups and group decision making. We think that that gives more diversity of opinion. Generally speaking, we think diversity is good here in the United States. We can usually agree on that. So, we want diversity of opinion, but we can’t have it if there’s too much cohesion, if it’s just a buddy network and all they really want to do is reinforce and protect each other.

Janis gives us nine points, nine clear, tangible recommendations that we can use and implement in our public policy for how these decision making groups should operate. Many of these things are actually put in place among the leaders that are trained by the U.S. military, because they have to respond to a changing tactical and strategic landscape. But typically it has not been part of leadership training in the health and human services. Maybe that’s the big lesson here. We can actually learn from this situation and implement policies so that we don’t have this kind of incohesive in-group that just is focusing on itself and protecting itself, rather than realizing the policy failures that they’re propagating.

Mr. Jekielek:

Are you saying ideological diversity is actually very important? Because people who have come from different viewpoints will really have very different solutions, and all those solutions can be assessed on their merits.

Dr. Robert Malone:

Absolutely. We have to have diversity of political spectrum, diversity of gender, and diversity of ethnic group representation. This is good. This is what makes us strong as Americans, we have this diversity. I’d like to read again from one of the closing quotes from Irving Janis. He is talking about the two main conclusions of his analysis. Those are, “Along with other sources of error in decision making, groupthink is most likely to occur within small, cohesive groups of decision makers. The most corrosive effects of groupthink can be counteracted by eliminating group insulation, overly directive leadership practices, and other conditions that foster premature conclusions.” We are all suffering from premature conclusions. All of us are victims of groupthink, because of those premature conclusions. He goes on to say, “Those who take these conclusions seriously will probably find that the little knowledge they have about groupthink increases their understanding of the causes of erroneous group decisions.”

We have a prescription right here. It has nine different points. It is a clear cohesive analysis. It predicted the behaviors that we’ve seen. It predicted the dysfunction, and we could have avoided it if we’d had a little less hubris, and a little more thinking, plus a willingness to tolerate dissent. In my own laboratory, I crave dissent. In order to have good, clear scientific thinking, you must be challenged. Yet, they’ve done everything they can to railroad and shut down any communication that would challenge their consensus. This is the essence of the, “I am science,” statement that is so profound.

Mr. Jekielek:

Please tell me about these nine provisions.

Dr. Robert Malone:

Janis has nine conclusions about how to prevent groupthink. And really, as you listen to them, they’re just practical. This is nothing fancy here. His first one is; “The leader of a policy forming group should assign the role of critical evaluator to each member,” in other words, each one has to be critically evaluating what’s going on all the time, “..encouraging the group to give high priority to airing objections and doubts. This practice needs to be reinforced by the leader’s acceptance of criticism of his own judgements in order to discourage the members from soft-pedaling their disagreements.” The second key point is, “The leaders in an organization’s hierarchy, when assigning a policy planning mission to a group, should be impartial. Instead of stating preconceptions and expectations at the outset, they need to make it clear that the group has to be impartial and consider everything. This practice requires each leader to clearly avoid any inference that the leader’s opinions need to be taken into account.” This is to avoid sycophant behavior.

Another key point is, “The organization should routinely follow the administrative practice of setting up several independent policy planning and evaluation groups.” This is the Marshall Plan strategy that is one of the great American success stories worldwide, which we can all agree on. Wouldn’t we like it if the American government behaved like they did at the close of World War II with the rebuilding of Europe? To continue, “..several independent policy planning and evaluation groups to work on the same policy question, each carrying out its deliberation under a different leader.” That’s crucial. The fourth point is, “Throughout the period when the feasibility and effectiveness of policy alternatives are being surveyed,” this means when we’re looking at all the landscape of options, “..the policy making groups from time to time should divide into two or more subgroups.” Again, the idea is that we have to divide the group, so that we don’t have this drive toward consensus, and we can allow independent opinions to arise.

Mr. Jekielek:

Robert, this is absolutely fascinating. This brings up the final issue I wanted to discuss with you today, which is how much information is being censored in various ways. We encountered it ourselves at The Epoch Times with Twitter labeling our content across the board on our website as dangerous for about 40 hours time. It was only after a big outcry from our audience and congressional members that this situation changed. But this is just a ubiquitous problem. People have been kicked off social media. Recently I heard that Eventbrite is even preventing certain events from actually using its system.

Dr. Robert Malone:

Yes. That was one of the recent things that I found shocking concerning this recent Hillsdale conference, Crony Capitalism and the COVID Crisis, a very benign topic headed up by a sitting U.S. Senator, Ron Johnson. They have been using Eventbrite for years and years and years to book tickets for their various in-house conferences, including at their DC site. They to set up their Eventbrite account for tickets for this particular event on Crony Capitalism and the COVID Crisis. They had done many prior events in this Crony Capitalism series. They activated the account so that they could obtain tickets through their standard method with Eventbrite. Then, Eventbrite notified them that they had violated their policy and that Eventbrite would not allow them to use their technology to sell tickets.

Then, the conference team went directly to their mailing list, and it was a completely packed house and not a problem. But this is really insidious, this willingness to de-platform, de-list, deactivate, and censor. This censorship seems to have started with Alex Jones and the Sandy Hook episode. It has gradually nibbled away at more and more topic areas, and more and more and more different activities. This censorship affects physicians and bonafide news organizations now, which is shocking. We have the Department of Homeland Security together with the Trusted News Initiative rolling out this language that they use to justify the censorship called, “inconsistent with our policies.” No one can ever question it, because their policies are so vague that you don’t know what your transgression has been. It’s also called misinformation or disinformation. And as I understand it, in your case it was a whole new category. What was it, dangerous information? Is that your sin?

Mr. Jekielek:

I don’t exactly remember right now, but they said it was a spammy or dangerous site. We didn’t communicate with them. It just simply happened. People noticed it and then it just disappeared, thankfully. 

Dr. Robert Malone:

You’re fortunate that it disappeared. For most of us, they just deploy it and they don’t give any opportunity to appeal. It’s just there, and that’s the way it is. The Berenson lawsuit against Twitter actually had a negative aspect, in that now Twitter and all the media giants and all the social media platforms are alerted that they should never disclose the actual sin, because then they could be sued for it. So, what they always use is this nebulous language and these euphemisms like misinformation, or disinformation. Usually they call it misinformation. Misinformation is defined by the Trusted News Initiative, which is the source of all this, as information which is different from that being propagated by the World Health Organization in the context of public health or your local health authority.

So, by definition, if I say something that contradicts the CDC, the NIH or the FDA, if I interpret their data differently, then I am defined as a purveyor of misinformation, which is sold to the public as a horrible thing. I’ve heard many physicians and others say, “The Washington Post says Dr. Malone is a purveyor of misinformation. Therefore, I don’t even want to listen to that podcast. I don’t even want to read that letter that he’s written. I don’t even want to look at that data analysis.” It gives people an excuse. But it is insidious.

Mr. Jekielek:

The WHO guidance is the gold standard for the Trusted News Initiative, but there’s many times when actually the WHO position and the CDC or the FDA position were not the same.

Dr. Robert Malone:

Or, the data changed and they changed their position. There’s never any reconciliation. This is the problem with a lot of these kinds of policies. We’ve all seen it in the workplace. As soon as there is an HR policy that’s put in place, a policy that allows one group to gain leverage over another, it will be weaponized. It’s just the nature of human beings interacting. I have never seen any situation where the major corporate media is accused of misinformation, even though they have propagated many examples of misinformation or disinformation. It’s clearly demonstrable. We have the famous video clips of Tony Fauci making these various statements that evolve over time about vaccine effectiveness.

We have Joe Biden making the clear and unambiguous statement, “Take the vaccine and you won’t get infected.” Well, he’s lived through that. I don’t think he’s going to make that statement again. But we never hear anybody saying, “Joe Biden was guilty of misinformation,” or, “Tony Fauci was guilty.” It’s always the out-groups. And that gets back to what we were just talking about, groupthink. Is it’s always the out-groups that are attacked, which means this is not really a fair and balanced policy. This is another weaponized tool.

Mr. Jekielek:

Dr. Robert Malone, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show again. It’s a bit of a different topic than your expertise. But we’re in this current environment where we have to learn many things that are actually outside of our disciplines.

Dr. Robert Malone:

Yes. Fair enough. I’ve been trying to follow the rabbit hole of why we had all of these dysfunctional policies. Once I figured it out and could see that the policies were wrong, and that they weren’t really advancing the interests of public health, then the next question for anybody who has an inquisitive mind is, “Why?” As you said in the lead-in, there’s a lot of different theories, and a lot of different actors. It’s important to remember that the causes could well be multifactorial. It doesn’t have to be some puppet master up there that’s manipulating it for financial or power gain. It can be an emergent phenomena of many different interacting things. With groupthink, I’m pretty sure anybody that goes through that book and looks at those points is going to scratch their head and say, “That sounds awfully familiar.”

Mr. Jekielek:

Dr. Robert Malone, it’s such a pleasure to have you on again.

Dr. Robert Malone:

My pleasure, Jan.

Mr. Jekielek:

Thank you all for joining Dr. Robert Malone and I on this episode of American Thought Leaders. I’m your host, Jan Jekielek.

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