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COVID-19: Why liberals suddenly love the lab leak theory

The lab leak theory bears a striking resemblance to the WMD hoax of 2002, not only in the fact that one of its key players is literally the same journalist using potentially the same anonymous sources, but also in the bipartisan political and media support it enjoys.

by Alan Macleod 

Part 1

The theory that the COVID-19 pandemic began life in a Chinese laboratory is going viral. Once considering it an anti-science conspiracy theory, the corporate press has done a full 180° turn — and many progressive, alternative media figures are following in its footsteps.

Progressive news show “The Young Turks” recorded what was effectively an apology video to their audience, explaining their new direction. “It does appear that there is some indication that a lab leak in Wuhan, China, is the origin of the coronavirus pandemic,” host Ana Kasparian told viewers. Condemning the scientific journal The Lancet, co-host Cenk Uygur explained that he had falsely placed his faith in scientists with political motives who had led him astray. Writing in The Guardian, left-wing commentator Thomas Frank flagellated himself for his “complacency” in believing the idea was a far-right conspiracy theory. The lab leak is “the most likely explanation for the origin of COVID-19,” Saagar Enjeti told his mostly progressive viewership of “Rising,” announcing that, from now on, we should be “ten times more skeptical of the Chinese government.

This new change in outlook for so many progressive media outlets is not based on new evidence. Rather, it appears to be a result of two new articles and a change in stance from the Biden administration itself. In early May, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists republished a Medium blog post by controversial science writer Nicholas Wade. In an 11,000-word essay, Wade claims that Wuhan itself is simply far too far away from Yunnan Province — where coronavirus-carrying bats make their home — for it to be the natural source of COVID-19. The most logical explanation, Wade asserts, is that the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Wade claims that the virus’s furin cleavage site —  a point on the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 where the protein can more easily divide to better infiltrate and take over human cells — must be man-made, as no such site exists in natural coronaviruses. He also notes the previously undisclosed conflict of interests that zoologist Peter Daszak has. Daszak was an organizer of the 2020 Lancet letter signed by dozens of top scientists calling the lab leak hypothesis a “conspiracy theory.” However, he did not disclose that his company, the EcoHealth Alliance, has links to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Later that month, The Wall Street Journal released a report alleging that three employees of the Wuhan Institute of Virology came down with flu- or COVID-like symptoms in November 2019 and sought treatment in hospital. Although based solely on anonymous accusations from U.S. officials who refused to go on record, the story went viral and was picked up by a wide range of outlets, including Reuters, The Guardian, Forbes, NBC News, Business Insider, CNN, The New York Post, Yahoo News and The Hill.

Adding some intellectual weight to the theory was a letter published in Science Magazine, in which some 20 academics wrote that further inquiry into the source of the pandemic was necessary (although many, including its chief organizer, were at pains to state elsewhere they were highly skeptical of the lab-leak conspiracy). And after Dr. Anthony Fauci said he was “not convinced” of COVID-19’s natural origin, the Biden administration abruptly changed its position, the President ordering an intelligence-services investigation into the idea, launching the lab leak theory from a discredited fringe idea to an official position with surprising rapidity.

Professor David Robertson — Head of Viral Genomics and Bioinformatics at the University of Glasgow, U.K. — told MintPress:

                            It’s not very clear, given the lack of new (or any) credible evidence for a lab leak, why it’s been getting so much attention. There was a letter published in Science in May that quite sensibly supports the need for further investigation but this seems to have been hijacked by a vocal minority who are essentially advocates for a lab being involved as opposed to looking at the broader range of possibilities, and what the available evidence points towards.

In addition to mainstream outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, a host of alternative media figures have lent credibility to Wade, basing their new opinions on his work. On the “Bad Faith” podcast with former Bernie Sanders Press Secretary Briahna Joy Gray, Thomas Frank described Wade’s article as an “incredible piece of journalism,” “quite impressive” and “the likeliest explanation.” Gray appeared to agree, the two having a long conversation about the origins of COVID-19 as if Wade’s thesis has effectively been proven correct. Journalist Michael Tracey wrote that Wade’s words prove the theory is “highly plausible.Current Affairs Editor-in-Chief Nathan J. Robinson praised Wade’s report, agreeing that it is “at the very least, a spectacular coincidence” that COVID-19 exploded so close to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Meanwhile, Enjeti based a segment called “Media’s Lab Leak Failure Is the Next Iraq WMD” on the Wall Street Journal article, telling viewers that the lab leak theory is now “the most likely explanation for the origin of COVID-19.” Popular writer Matt Taibbi also took The Wall Street Journal’s accusations at face value, claiming that “the toothpaste [is] fully out of the tube: there [is] no longer any way to say the ‘lab origin’ hypothesis [is] too silly to be reported upon.”

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