Beginning in early 2020, the corporate media was at pains to label as a ‘conspiracy theory’ the possibility that Covid-19 was leaked from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Media outlets assured us that the virus had arisen naturally in a population of bats before being passed on to a human host who inadvertently spread it at Wuhan’s wet market — and that any other suggestion was ‘misinformation’, ‘bunk’ and ‘fringe’.
During a press briefing in April of last year, however, then-President Trump said he’d seen evidence giving him a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute was indeed the source of the virus.
In typical fashion, news outlets queued up to deride Trump — including CNN, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Vox, NPR, Forbes, Business Insider and Al Jazeera. Even the ABC made Australian taxpayers fund their opinion that Trump was a conspiracy theorist.
Now, the corporate press is beginning to back-peddle, following the revelation via the Wall Street Journal this week that three researchers from the institute in Wuhan were hospitalised with Covid-19 symptoms as early as November 2019.
Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, who had previously disputed the lab leak theory, now says he’s “not convinced” that the deadly virus developed naturally, and he has called for further investigations into its origins.
Fauci has been under intense scrutiny since the start of the outbreak for his role as an NIH director — a U.S. department that provided grant money used to fund bat coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The response of several news outlets borders on the self-incriminating. Politifact had originally published an alleged ‘fact check’ entitled Tucker Carlson guest airs debunked conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was created in a lab. That article has now been archived and issued with a corrective editor’s note.
Vox was far less honest. Sometime between the publication of their ‘conspiracy theory’ article in March 2020 and today, they stealth-edited it — making secret editorial changes — to soften the article’s original claims.
Most disturbing, perhaps, is that social media users on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms were censored and banned for promoting the lab leak theory — a theory that now seems well within the realms of possibility.
Don’t expect to see apologies for this anytime soon from Big Tech. Part of the postmodern milieu in which we now swim is a curated amnesia about the mistakes, mishaps and manipulations of our overlords. Today, truth is whatever people with power say it is — even if that contradicts what they said last month. What was censored one day is consensus the next.
In this confusing environment, we must be cautious. The lab leak hypothesis, bolstered by this week’s revelations, does not necessarily mean that Covid-19 was created as a bio-weapon. If the virus did leak from the Wuhan lab, that leak could well have been accidental.
And there are of course countless other ideas about the virus that do qualify as conspiracy theories, and which should be rejected.
But corporate media and Big Tech aren’t helping. By dictating which opinions are and are not allowed, they seem to legitimise even the wildest claims of conspiracy theorists — and they erode trust in our institutions at a time that such trust is needed most.
Sadly, what we’re all now left to ponder is which ‘conspiracy theory’ will next turn out to be true. That’s not a good place for our society to be.
This article first appeared at the Canberra Declaration.