The Great Barrington Declaration strikes back - 2021-10-15
About a year ago, three scientists wrote and issued the Great Barrington Declaration. When I wrote about it at the time, I characterized the Declaration as "magnified minority" and eugenics, the former because it followed a common crank playbook of issuing a declaration about a fringe science position and getting lots of doctors and scientists, the vast majority of whom have no expertise in the area, to sign it, and the latter for reasons I will describe. Named after the town in Massachusetts where the right wing "free market" think tank, the American Institute for Economic Research is located, the Great Barrington Declaration proposed, in essence, letting COVID-19 rip through the "healthy" younger population in order to build up "natural herd immunity," all while using "focused protection" to protect those at high risk for severe disease and death from coronavirus, such as the elderly and those with chronic health conditions like type 2 diabetes.
Tellingly, what "focused protection" would actually mean in practice and how it would protect the vulnerable were never really described in sufficient detail to determine if this was a viable strategy. (Hint: It wasn't, and, despite more recent claims by Great Barrington signatories, still doesn't.) Basically, when I first encountered the Great Barrington Declaration, I couldn't help but get the feeling that the whole thing had a "Screw the elderly and sick!" vibe to it that reeked of eugenics. Amusingly, when criticized, AIER portrayed itself and the advocates of the Great Barrington Declaration as the "new abolitionists," parroting a common antimask and antivaccine theme that likens public health interventions against COVID-19 to "slavery."
Unfortunately, the Great Barrington Declaration was also widely influential. Indeed, Gavin Yamey and a certain author regular readers here know well wrote a commentary for The BMJ entitled COVID-19 and the new merchants of doubt, in which it was described just how influential. Great Barrington Declaration signatories Martin Kulldorff of Harvard Medical School, Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford and Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University have been hugely influential. For instance, Gupta's arguments found favor in UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government, while Great Barrington Declaration-like arguments also were eagerly embraced by the Trump Administration and in Florida.