With well over a billion monthly views, Britain’s populist and pugnacious Daily Mail is one of the world’s most widely-read newspapers on the Internet, having twice the traffic of the Washington Post and five times that of the Wall Street Journal, even sometimes approaching the readership of the New York Times. The publication has stayed true to its original tabloid roots and its success comes from its willingness to wholeheartedly jump on those controversial stories that other outlets avoid.
Meanwhile, the British Lancet is located at the opposite end of the spectrum of respectability, being one of the world’s most prestigious and authoritative medical journals, as sober and responsible as any publication in existence.
So very early last Thursday morning the world witnessed a bizarre “Clash of the Titans” style controversy as an explosive headline in the Daily Mail denounced the Lancet for supposedly indulging in sensationalism.
Fury as The Lancet sensationally claims Covid may have leaked from an AMERICAN lab – echoing anti-western claims peddled by Beijing
A UK medical journal has suggested the US could have created the Covid virus
John Ely • The Daily Mail • September 15, 2022 • 1,100 Words
Surely many millions saw that headline and reacted with shock—at least that fraction of the typical Daily Mail readership that had ever heard of the Lancet.
More than two years ago the Lancet had established the Covid Commission, tasked with investigating all aspects of the worldwide disease outbreak that was already beginning to claim millions of lives. As might be expected, the panel was heavily stocked with the “Great and the Good” of global public health policy, as reflected in its chairman Prof. Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, a pillar of the academic establishment who had twice been named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Then last week the Covid Commission report was finally been released, prompting that immediate, ferocious attack by the Daily Mail, with the first two paragraphs of the article describing the controversy:
The Lancet, one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals, has sensationally claimed Covid may have leaked out of a US lab.
Unveiling the results of a two-year investigation into the origins of the pandemic, the magazine’s team tasked with uncovering the truth stated it was ‘plausible’ the virus could have emerged in America.
Since April 2020 I’ve stood almost alone in publicly arguing that Covid was probably an American virus, with the global outbreak being blowback from a disastrously reckless biowarfare attack against China (and Iran). So I was obviously gratified to discover that somewhat parallel accusations were now apparently being made by so august and respectable a publication as the Lancet and the group of international experts it had convened.
Thus prompted by the Daily Mail story, I eagerly obtained a copy of that lengthy report and began carefully reading it. The complete text ran almost 50,000 words including 499 footnotes, and constituted an extremely sober, cautious, and meticulous analysis of the global health crisis that had already claimed 18 million lives. The crucial information and the copious references were very helpful, and I’m sure I’ll draw upon them in the future.
The Lancet Commission on lessons for the future from the COVID-19 pandemic (PDF)
Prof. Jeffrey Sachs et. al. • The Lancet Covid Commission • September 14, 2022 • 48,000 Words
However, I was puzzled to find almost no traces of the lurid accusations that had so enraged the Daily Mail. At most there were a couple of paragraphs noting that the origin of the Covid virus was still uncertain, with both nature and a human laboratory being possible sources. If the latter case were correct, the particular lab responsible remained unknown, and a few sentences mentioned that both Chinese and American researchers had been conducting viral bioengineering work of a closely related nature. The report reasonably criticized both countries for not being more forthcoming in opening the doors of their research facilities to a proper investigation.
So instead of the bold, headline-grabbing accusations I had expected to encounter, there was almost nothing controversial. Indeed, if not for the brutal media assault, I doubt that almost anyone would have even noticed those few sentences of mild suspicion and disapproval buried in a book-length tome that was otherwise so totally innocuous.
For those unwilling to read the enormous block of text, the Lancet‘s Covid Commission also released a video presentation in which several of the leading participants summarized the major elements of their findings, with the discussion presided over by Prof. Sachs and also including the participation of Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. Once again, their statements provided no hint of any of the outrageous claims so harshly vilified by the Daily Mail.
Reprinted with permission from The Unz Review.