The theory that COVID-19 originated in a Chinese laboratory has completed its year-long trudge — from fringe nutjob idea to mainstream and expert-approved opinion.
Leading scientists and epidemiologists such as none other than Dr Anthony Fauci were so quick to dismiss the ‘lab talk’. It was first portrayed as a hare-brained wild and tacitly racist conspiracy theory driven by paranoid Republican senators and fever-dream right-wing media. Now it is seen as not only an acceptable theory worth more study, but one that has broken through into the mainstream. This has happened in a matter of days. Where does Sen. Tom Cotton go for his apology?
Interestingly enough, the lab leak theory started gaining more traction — not only in the international community, but in the scientific community in the United States — right around the same time that questions of United States government funding of EcoHealth Alliance, a research and collection group of bat coronaviruses in China, may have lead to gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Anthony Fauci denied that this research was happening in Wuhan with US knowledge but went on to also acknowledge that US officials don’t really have any idea what’s happening in the lab, thanks to the secretive nature of China’s communist government — a regime that has so far successfully put off the pressing questions as to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Almost instantaneously, respectable media voices have switched from writing off the lab leak theory to believing that is somewhere closer to probable than possible. How does that happen?
A group of 18 scientists, including one who worked in the Wuhan lab, penned a letter to Science magazine stating the lab leak theory needed to be investigated further.
Then Donald McNeil Jr, the former New York Times science writer wrote an extensive explanation of gain-of-function research (the scientific manipulation of proteins in a virus to make it more susceptible for human transmission) and why that it’s possible that this research was being conducted at the Wuhan lab.
Shortly after that post, the dominos began to fall. Just this weekend, Anthony Fauci himself, who has long derided the lab leak theory, changed his tune as well, saying that he’s not confident that the virus did not escape a lab.
Fauci was one of the go-to sources for media eager to write off the theory altogether. News outlets such as NPR said in April 2020 that the theory had been ‘debunked’. The Washington Post called it a ‘conspiracy theory that was already debunked’.
The Wuhan lab director called it a ‘pure fabrication’ in Forbes. Well, she would, wouldn’t she? What was stranger was the western media’s willingness to take such an obviously compromised figure at her word.
Reuters took China’s lead, using China itself as a source for the debunking. Lots of the American media appeared reflexively to side with any news story that was at odds with President Trump or made him look bad. ‘Anthony Fauci just crushed Donald Trump’s theory on the origins of the coronavirus,’ wrote noted follower of science Chris Cillizza on the CNN website. Plus ça change.
What’s more interesting is that minds are now shifting on the lab leak theory, without all that much significant new evidence. Only after the media conversation changed did a blockbuster report emerge in the Wall Street Journal describing how three workers at the Wuhan lab, had sought hospital care after experiencing severe respiratory problems way back in November 2019. This was based on previously unreleased intelligence — the very stuff Republican leaders were dismissed as cranks for alluding to early last year.
While there is still only an amount of circumstantial evidence pointing to the lab theory, there is more and more smoke around the fire. Our corporate media is going to stuff this down the memory hole and make their previous statements and stances disappear. Experts, cable news hosts and opinion writers are going to move on as though they hadn’t spent the last year labeling anyone who attempted to even explore this theory as a lunatic. Dr Anthony Fauci was one of those people. He should not be allowed to get away with it.