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How Suppressed Scientists Fought Back Against COVID Censorship

Peter Biles
Photo credit: Tumisu, via Pixababy.

Last month, the peer-reviewed journal Minerva: A Review of Science, Learning, and Policy published an important article on COVID-related censorship. I’ve written about it already here and here. We’ve seen how government, media, and even the medical establishment bullied and censored medical professionals, doctors, and scientists for deviating from the “consensus” on COVID. The study concluded by discussing how the respondents, interviewed by the researchers, reacted to the censorship, and the “counter-tactics” they employed to expose the censorship. 

The researchers found, not surprisingly, that the respondents reacted first with shock and disbelief. For most of them, it was the first time they had experienced such ostracism from the scientific or medical community. Some of the quotes in the report show just how taken off guard they were, and how much the suppression and exclusion damaged their lives. One respondent said:

I was speechless. … I did not imagine [this could happen]. It was terribly threatening to me, all those attacks … it took me a month to recover from the understanding that this is the country we live in… I was in shock… I was surprised… My heartbeat I think was 200 per minute…. As someone who has been an integral part of the [healthcare] system, … the rift I feel is very heavy.

Turning Suppression into Opportunity

However, the respondents didn’t allow the silencing tactics to deter them for long. Instead, they chose to mobilize, spread the word, and resist. The researchers noted:

Yet, despite the censorship, the personal attacks and defamation, the dismissals, the damage to reputations and the economic price, all respondents nevertheless stated that none of it deterred them, and they decided to fight back, using various counter-tactics.

The censorship itself compelled the respondents to fight back and find ways to creatively translate the suppression into opportunity. The canceling they experienced made them want to advocate for free speech out of a genuine concern for public health. Others also took legal action, since some had writing contracts with journals that were later voided. Overall, the resistance was centered on exposing the unjust treatment and making sure their important contributions to the conversation on public health were heard. Fortunately, some of the respondents were able to get in contact with other people and outlets to voice their views and concerns. One participant said: 

I got in contact with a few powerful people, and they referred me to…a non-profit to fight censorship. I told them what had happened. And they…wrote up an article about it. That article is now being put up on different sites. I did an interview on One America News Network. I kind of brought that to the world.

Alternative Platforms and Organizations 

Others turned to alternative outlets for expression. While social media proved to be an untrustworthy platform to express contrarian views on COVID, for some respondents it was an asset, allowing them to share their views (albeit cautiously). In addition, some of the respondents formed social networks with other “cancelled” scientists and professionals, mobilizing and encouraging each other to keep going despite the opposition. Still others developed alternative platforms and organizations. One noted:

I have a new thing in life. N and I, we started the X organization…, whose sole mission is to try to figure out and help people to treat COVID. And I think we’ve done a real service to the world.

While the respondents were able to expose, validate, and redirect the opposition they experienced, the study concluded that this kind of censorship is unprecedented and cause for concern. The researchers noted:

The current study shows that in the case of COVID, censoring doctors and researchers of this stature has become a regular phenomenon. The participants in our study, as well as those mentioned in the introduction and many others not included in our sample, are not fringe scientists. Most of them are leading figures: researchers and doctors who prior to the COVID-19 era had a respectable status, with many publications in the scientific literature, some of them with books and hundreds of publications, some headed academic or medical departments, some of them were editors of medical journals, and some had won significant awards. Nevertheless, as our findings show, they were not protected from censorship, nor from the suppression and defamation campaign launched against them. This fact indicates that the message is that no one is exempt from censorship and no academic or medical status, senior as it may be, is a guaranteed shield against it.

The Realities of Censorship 

The researchers concluded their article by expressing a desire to conduct further studies among larger groups of medical professionals and scientists who experienced censorship. This would allow for a broader sample of experience and interpretation and deepen public awareness of the realities of censorship in the scientific community. They ended the article by firmly stating, “Censorship and dogma are foreign to true science and must be abandoned and replaced by open and fair discussion.” For the sake of scientific progress and the preservation of free speech, these people’s voices should be heard. 

Peter Biles

Writer and Editor, Center for Science & Culture
Peter Biles graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois in 2019 and went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University. He is the author of Hillbilly Hymn (Resource Publications, 2022) and Keep and Other Stories (Resource Publications, 2022). He has also written for a variety of publications, including Plough, Dappled Things, The Gospel Coalition, Salvo, and Breaking Ground. Born and raised in Ada, Oklahoma, he currently serves as Writer & Editor for Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

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censorshipconsensusCOVID-19defamationdogmafree speechjournalsmedical communityMinervaOne America News Networkostracismpublic healthreputationssciencescientistssocial mediastatus