354. Lockdown Horror: Targeting Children, Churches, and Your Freedom | David Zweig

    It is crucial to promote openness and diversity of voices, even if they seem outlandish, to avoid assumptions being valued over empirical evidence and to allow individuals to make informed decisions based on all available information.

    enMay 04, 2023

    About this Episode

    Dr. Jordan B. Peterson and journalist David Zweig discuss his role in breaking the Twitter Files, government censorship in society, the extent to which lockdowns were effective, how they affected children in particular, and how one renegade church would not bow to overzealous regulation.


    David Zweig is a writer and journalist, with multiple books published, such as “Invisibles” in 2014 and the upcoming “Abundance of Caution” that centers on the effects of the COVID-19 response on schools and children. He was also one of the journalists who helped break the Twitter Files, focusing on the suppression of information to the satisfaction of the U.S. government and the public health establishment.



    - Links -


    For David Zweig:


    Substack: https://davidzweig.substack.com/

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/davidzweig

    Website: https://davidzweig.com/


    Read David’s article that we discussed in the episode:


    “When a Renegade Church and a Zealous County Health Department Collide”



    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • A healthy democracy needs journalistic integrity and criticism of powerful institutions, even during crises. Twitter files reveal collusion between government officials, media, and Twitter in shaping the narrative around Covid-19.
    • Journalist David Zweig queries the flagging process of tweets during the pandemic, revealing insights on flagged tweets and accounts. His curiosity and experience helped to unravel the process for the rest of us.
    • David Zweig's persistence in fact-checking and deep analysis of important issues made him a voice for truth and a challenge to establishment narrative.
    • Verify information and seek the truth without assuming any agenda by digging deep into empirical data. Building relationships with sources helps uncover suppressed information that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
    • Mitigation efforts may have unintended consequences and disproportionately harm working-class people. It is important to question policies and consider the downsides, even when they come from trusted sources.
    • It's important to involve experts from multiple fields to understand and discuss the effects of pandemic interventions. Dismissing viewpoints from other fields can lead to a dangerous viewpoint that disregards potential side effects.
    • Oversimplification in response to an emergency can cause more harm than good. Instead, policies should balance total risks and respect natural rights, allowing people to assemble freely while owning their property. We must guard against the temptation to reduce problems to a single dimension.
    • While the default for American children is to attend school, intervention during a pandemic must be based on strong evidence of net benefit. Risk should also be factored in, and violating natural rights must have sufficient evidence.
    • The response to the pandemic has highlighted a paradox where those who advocate for freedom of information are now calling for pathogen restrictions, while cautious conservatives call for open doors. It's crucial to consider actual observational evidence and strike a balance.
    • Blind acceptance of expert opinions and sole reliance on predetermined guidelines can lead to flawed decisions in social media content moderation. Platforms must consider the human-factor and ensure transparency and fairness in the process.
    • Regulating social environments and controlling problematic individuals on social media is a universal problem, and while there are some attempts to regulate, it is difficult to determine where the line should be drawn. Transparency and exposure through journalism may help bring attention to this important issue.
    • It is crucial to promote openness and diversity of voices, even if they seem outlandish, to avoid assumptions being valued over empirical evidence and to allow individuals to make informed decisions based on all available information.
    • Models and interventions are not infallible and must be held to high standards. Biases of decision makers can also influence their effectiveness. It's crucial to consider diverse needs when making decisions, especially during crises.
    • Lockdown measures must be carefully considered and supported by evidence to prevent devastating consequences for individuals and broader society. Educators and schools play a critical role in society, including reporting child abuse and providing necessary care.
    • Using pathogen language to demonize groups can have harmful consequences, as seen in past examples. Selective enforcement during the pandemic has also been a problem, calling for legislative measures to prevent such unethical actions in the future.
    • The pandemic response unfairly harmed vulnerable children who depend on school and support systems. While causing destabilization, it also led to a positive shift in David Zweig's perspective on dismissiveness and smugness.
    • The pandemic has prompted introspection and societal change, leading to new connections and unexpected growth. Despite challenges, a desire for equanimity has brought together people from various political backgrounds through challenging yet valuable conversations.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    Jordan Peterson and David Swag on Collusion & Covid-19 Narrative

    Jordan Peterson and David Swag discuss the Twitter files, highlighting the collusion between government officials, media and Twitter in creating the narrative around Covid-19. Peterson emphasizes the need for the media to not collude with the government even during emergencies, and how criticism is crucial even more so in such a situation. Swag elaborates on his involvement in the Twitter files investigation, stating that they had access to specific accounts and tweets but had no access to personal or private information. The discussion sheds light on the importance of journalistic integrity and the need to hold those in power accountable.

    Investigating Covid-19 Tweet Labels on Twitter

    Journalist David Zweig was brought in to investigate Covid-related tweet labels on Twitter. He had access to log files that showed flagged tweets or accounts and could request searches in internal Slack channels and emails on specific employees. However, his time to search through the large amount of information was limited. Zweig arrived with a list of accounts and tweets that he wanted to deconstruct to understand how they were flagged as misleading. He is considered the first journalist to question the idea of schools remaining closed in America during the pandemic. His background as a fact-checker and his personal disposition of skepticism contributed to his curiosity to investigate. Zweig's investigative work sheds light on the process behind flagging tweets and accounts on Twitter during the pandemic.

    Challenging the Mainstream Narrative during the Pandemic: The Story of David Zweig

    David Zweig's contrarian journalism challenged the mainstream narrative during the pandemic, focusing on issues like school closures and the accuracy of pandemic models. He observed a lack of fact-checking and deep analysis in major media outlets and decided to take on the task himself. Despite facing numerous rejections, he persisted in his mission to provide accurate information and found a lane for himself as a writer. His work highlighted important questions and challenged the establishment narrative, making him a voice for the truth during a time of uncertainty.

    A writer's approach to seeking the truth in journalism

    David Zweig, a writer and researcher, shared his approach to journalism and seeking the truth. He emphasized digging deep into the empirical data to check if the information provided is true or not, without ascribing ill will to anyone. He established a relationship with Barry through previously writing for her publication and that led him to investigate the suppression of Covid-related information on Twitter. He had a long list of infectious disease specialists and saw many renowned experts being flagged as misleading on Twitter for sharing their views. This made him curious and gripped him enough to dislodge him from his book to pursue the issue. Zweig's approach to journalism highlights the importance of verifying information and seeking the truth without assuming any agenda.

    The Pandemic Revealed Suppression of Ideas and the Burden of Mitigation Efforts

    The pandemic highlighted a larger issue of the information environment we live in and the suppression of certain ideas. The distrust in public health authorities led to a toxic brew of vaccine policies and school closures, with a myopic focus on suppressing the virus. However, suppressing a virus does not necessarily lead to human or societal flourishing, and there were profound harms and damages from these mitigation efforts. The burden was disproportionately placed on working-class people, and the authorities failed to acknowledge or recognize this. It is important to consider the downsides of mitigation efforts and question the motivations behind policies, even when they come from trusted sources.

    The Dangers of a Societal Overreaction to a Pathogen

    Jordan Peterson uses the biological parallel of the immune system's overreaction to disease to explain the dangers of a societal overreaction to a pathogen. The extended immune system manifests behaviorally and has evolved mechanisms to protect against pathogen transmission. However, when politicians focused only on the potential danger posed by the pathogen and eliminated all consideration for potential side effects, it led to an authoritarian pandemic response that was more pathological than the pathogen itself. The responsibility was abdicated to so-called public health experts who lacked a broad purview. It is essential to involve economists, psychologists, educators, and other experts to understand and discuss the first, second, and third-order effects of interventions imposed. Dismissing viewpoints from other fields of human endeavor can lead to a dangerous viewpoint that unless one is an infectious disease physician or epidemiologist, their view is irrelevant.

    Oversimplification in Response to COVID-19: Violating Fundamental Rights and Destroying Public Trust

    The response to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in violations of fundamental rights and a collapse of multidimensional problem-solving. Oversimplification led to arbitrary benchmarks and policies that were not based on scientific reasoning, causing the destruction of public trust in the public health enterprise. The violation of natural rights led to a compromise in the supply chain and a decrement in vaccine uptake, which could cause more harm than the virus itself. The solution to irreducible complexity is to balance the total risks and allow people to assemble freely while owning their property. Every emergency requires the best policies, and natural rights are inviolable, protecting people in the long run. Oversimplification will always come at a cost, and we must guard ourselves against the temptation to seize a reduction of problems to a single dimension.

    Why Intervention Shouldn't be the Default During a Pandemic

    The default in America is for children to be in school and to be able to go to school, that's the default. Keeping them barred from school became the default due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, intervention shouldn't be the default unless there is strong evidence that it will provide a net benefit rather than harm. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, especially when violating natural rights, which are fundamental to the functioning of our culture. Risk is also a crucial factor when determining intervention, and the risk posed by any enterprise should be factored in as an acceptable level of risk. The school closures and lockdowns during the pandemic were a peculiar response, especially given the low mortality rate among children and the lack of elevated risk for teachers. People have an obligation to society, but intervention shouldn't be the default without sufficient evidence.

    The Delicate Balance between Personal Freedoms and Risk to Society during COVID-19

    The balance between personal freedoms and risk to others is a delicate one that societies must navigate. While humans are potential carriers of pathogens, we are also valuable sources of cooperative enterprise and information. The response to COVID-19 has illustrated a paradox where those who typically advocate for freedom of information have shifted towards pathogen restriction, while conservatives who are typically cautious about freely interacting are now calling for open doors. This battle between walls and doors is necessary, but both sides must be heard to strike a balance. The lack of curiosity from journalists and the elite during the pandemic is concerning, as it is vital to consider actual observational evidence and not just rely on expert opinion.

    The Flaws in Twitter's Censorship System & the Importance of Fair Moderation

    The lack of challenging expert opinions and the use of the same group of people for decision-making can lead to blind acceptance and flawed decisions. This is evident in the Twitter censorship system, with independent contractors and bots making decisions based on predetermined guidelines. This results in a lack of nuance and accountability, with untrained Philippine employees responsible for censoring complex medical tweets. While it is reasonable for platforms to limit extreme content, the process should be transparent and fair. Social media users are complex, with machine-human hybrids leading to complex behaviors and antisocial tendencies. Therefore, platforms must consider the human-factor when making decisions on content moderation.

    Predatory Parasites and the Troubling Impact on Social Media Platforms

    Predatory parasites, a tiny minority of people, can cause a tremendous amount of trouble and destabilize any social enterprise, including social media platforms like Twitter. Societies have forever wrestled with the problem of regulating social environments and controlling the actions of such individuals. With online platforms, the problem becomes even more complicated, as there are almost zero ways of controlling them. Setting up control mechanisms for social media is a universal human problem. While there may be people who try to do their best to regulate such environments, the controls seem to be seated to the players who want control. There is no easy answer to where the line should be drawn, but transparency and exposure through journalism can bring sunlight on the issue.

    The Danger of Suppressing Information and Dissent during the COVID-19 Pandemic

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, suppression of information and voices of dissent had dangerous consequences. Even accredited scientists and experts were silenced if their views did not align with the government's or establishment's views. This led to a situation where assumptions were valued over empirical evidence, and models were confused for data by both scientists and laypeople. Liberal values, which traditionally promote openness and diversity of voices, were not upheld in favor of what the government and establishment deemed as the 'truth.' However, it is important to air on the side of leniency and let all voices be heard, no matter how outlandish they may seem, as some 'crazy shit' may actually turn out to be true, and trust should be placed in people to make informed decisions based on all available information.

    The Risks of Technocratic Solutions and the Importance of Considering Diverse Needs

    Models are not data, but multilayered hypotheses with many assumptions. It's dangerous to worship technocratic solutions and assume they will solve all problems. Most interventions don't work, and the evidentiary basis for these things is often not held up to high standards. The biases of decision makers can influence their decisions. During the pandemic, while some people could tolerate staying home and watching Netflix, others could not. For those who suffered from addiction, loneliness, and wanted to commit suicide, the inability to attend church for seven months was devastating, while malls and museums were open. It's important to consider the diverse needs of society in making decisions.

    The Importance of Understanding Society's Diverse Needs During the COVID-19 Pandemic

    The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of understanding the diverse needs and interests of society. The arbitrary and inconsistent nature of lockdown measures has had devastating consequences for many, including those who rely on churchgoing for their wellbeing. Closing down churches not only impacts the attendees but also has broader social consequences. It is essential to have extraordinary evidence before taking such steps. Educators and schools serve an essential role in society, far beyond merely educating from books, including reporting child abuse and providing critical care. The pandemic has been a significant challenge and requires a nuanced approach, not simplistic directives that ignore the complexity of society and human needs.

    The Dangers of Pathogen Language and Selective Enforcement

    The use of pathogen language to vilify individuals or communities leads to toxic consequences that are worse than mere fear. This kind of language was used by Hitler to describe the Jews, leading to their persecution. Similarly, during the pandemic, those who were identified as pathogenic were subjected to intense surveillance, which included monitoring their cellular phone data and intimate, personal events. This monitoring was both unreasonable and unethical. Legislative mechanisms need to be put in place to prevent this type of behavior in the future. The church described in the text has been fined millions of dollars for refusing to comply with these unreasonable restrictions. This type of selective enforcement was not based on any epidemiological evidence and ultimately causes harm while society grinds to a halt.

    The Pandemic Response's Inequitable Effect on Children and David Zweig's Shift in Perspective

    The pandemic response, with the highly subjective ethical choices made about what people could and could not do, were profoundly inequitable. The children who were harmed the most were the ones who depend on school the most, and those denied support systems required to flourish were left suffering. However, this denial had no benefit for society. This hyper response, hyper unidimensional virtue signaling caused David Zweig, a politically homeless person, to profoundly change the way he viewed the world and himself. He no longer has a dismissive view of people on the right, and has a complex range of feelings on a variety of topics. While destabilizing, this experience was also energizing and changed his perspective on smugness and dismissiveness.

    The Pandemic's Impact on Beliefs and Connections

    The pandemic has forced people to examine their beliefs and attitudes, resulting in some changing their social or societal views even if their core political beliefs remain the same. This has led to a minority of people who feel adrift and homeless politically, but are connected by a sense of equilibrium and a desire for equanimity. These people have found solace in each other, even if they come from different political backgrounds, and are able to have challenging conversations that might not have been possible before. The pandemic has closed some doors but opened up others, leading to new connections and growth in unexpected ways. Overall, the pandemic has been a bizarre and remarkable experience that has challenged and changed people in different ways.

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