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The BBC Antisocial attack on Bridgen's speech
And the inconstancy of key players...
This post is a follow-on to the substack article just released by myself, Professors Fenton and Neil an ors regarding a recent BBC Antisocial radio program. On the 23rd of March 2023 Antisocial empanelled four commentators to discuss the speech made by Andrew Brigden MP in the UK Parliament.
Spieglhalter’s record of bad takes on the covid narrative and conflicts of interest
One aspect we did not directly discuss in the article is that of the inconstancy of the main commentator during the Antisocial program - Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter. As you will see, Spiegelhalter has made some interesting ‘calls’ during Covid-19, is prone to seemingly blind promotion of the government narrative on Covid-19 policy, and is not above soft-peddling away from an issue when it becomes clear that his previous position is no longer tenable.
Spiegelhalter and SAGE
While denying his membership in the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) (e.g.: here), evidence shows that Prof. Spiegelhalter voluntarily completed a declaration of interests which supports the inference that he was included on SAGE’s register of participants at his own request (here), he attended at least one meeting (here), and has continued to provide advice to the government regarding their Covid-19 response on an ongoing basis (here).
He has certainly continued to promote the findings and recommendations of SAGE on social media (e.g.: here). In fact, by his own evidence he did not officially withdraw his membership in SAGE until the 10th of January 2022 (here). Much like his SAGE and iSAGE counterparts, Prof. Spiegelhalter has become a self-propelled media personality on all aspects of Covid-19, a role he promotes and freely acknowledges (here). This extra-academic fame has seen him sell Covid-related books (here) and comment on many aspects of the pandemic response, often in a manner that has proven to be self-contradictory. For example, even while telling us we were being manipulated by the numbers used in the media (here), describing the negligently exaggerated death-predicting models of Neil Ferguson in ebullient-sounding tones as ‘optimistic’ and acknowledging that predictive modelling is inaccurate and needs to ‘do better’ (here) - when it suited the narrative Prof. Spiegelhalter would go on to tell us we could accept the output of other models that predict the number of lives saved by Covid-19 vaccines, and that the existence of such models was evidence that lives had, in fact, been saved (here).
Spiegelhalter and the UKHSA report
When the UKHSA published data in Oct 2021 that indicated that in all age groups except the under 30’s the covid infection rate was higher among the vaccinated than the unvaccinated, Spiegelhalter furiously tweeted that this (Government) data was ‘feeding conspiracy theorists worldwide’.
He claimed that it was all due to using biased NIMS population estimates of the proportion unvaccinated and that the results were different using the ONS estimates (which he claimed were ‘correct’). Yet, it turns out that the ONS estimates were the ones that were extremely biased as was acknowledged subsequently by the Statistics Regulator.
Spiegelhalter and Excess Deaths
Spiegelhalter has also apparently changed his mind about the extent to which covid has contributed to excess deaths. In May 2020 he was arguing strongly that covid ‘did not explain’ the massive number of excess deaths at the start of the pandemic. Yet, since then, he has on multiple occasions not only strongly defended the ‘official’ inflated covid death counts, but has argued that these are underestimated.
Spiegelhalter and the AstraZeneca Blood Clots
Another key safety issue that Spiegelhalter put himself out in front of is that of the blood clots caused by the Oxford/AstraZeneca (AZ) Covid-19 vaccine. In March 2021 in direct response to news stories that countries including Denmark, Norway and Iceland had suspended authorisation for the Oxford jabs, he emphatically declared there was no proof that the AZ vaccine caused blood clots, that pausing the AZ rollout was not appropriate, and he warned the UK public to be very careful when interpreting what had actually been clear evidence that international regulators believed a definite link existed between the AZ jab and what were often fatal blood clots. We are open to infer that his intention was that the public believe the actions of international regulators were either, at worst, a misguided anti-vaccine response to a non-existent health issue, or at best, dangerously over-cautious.
As even more evidence showed that the AZ jab did increase clotting risk, he sought to downplay it through direct comparisons with the clotting risk of taking some preparations of the female contraceptive pill - which was a flawed argument because while the risk he came to begrudgingly accept for the AZ jab was for the entire population (males and females), the risk for the female contraceptive pill only applies to little more than half of that population (the females).
When yet more countries (Germany, France and Italy) withdrew the AZ jab the UK government admitted they would be disposing of more than 800,000 unused doses and the European regulator acknowledged the clotting issue, and even while accepting that some risk may exist Spiegelhalter provided fact checkers with confusing statistical distractions to aid their efforts to explain away the clotting issue and helped promote work of scientists who had developed the jabs which still proclaimed them safe and effective.
We are aware that in light of his efforts to downplay risks related to the AZ and other Covid-19 vaccines and to promote the boosters and the vaccine’s use in particular subject groups (children and pregnant women), Professor Spiegelhalter has been asked on more than one occasion to declare whether he or his research group has any potential conflicts of interest with regards to the vaccines, vaccine manufacturers, or vaccine funders like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and GAVI… his ‘skin in the game’, if you like. To date we are not aware that he has made such a dispositive declaration, one way or the other.
Spiegelhalter, OFCOM and Mark Steyn
It is also relevant to note that Spiegelhalter was one of the people who complained to OFCOM about a GBNews programme in which Mark Steyn quoted the Government’s own data comparing hospitalisation and mortality rates of the vaccinated and unvaccinated. It would be interesting to know whether he did this as a concerned citizen, or in his role as a non-executive member of the UK Statistics Authority.
And why was Brendan O’Neill even there?
I close by also asking why another commentator was even included on the show - the self-publishing Spiked journo-pundit Brendan O’Neill.
O’Neill has built his online media platform through challenging what he calls globalist narratives, including telling his audience: nothing that resembles science says that all of humanity will be wiped out unless we stop using fossil fuels and that the Net Zero climate change policy responses are a delirium built on fantasy, and likening them to medieval spiritual punishment (here); that proposals for slavery reparations are unhinged (here); and that the Covid-19 lockdowns were the sinister cruelty of tyrannical overreaching politicians (here). During the Antisocial program O’Neill pointed to a recent Stanford study that said that not only should actual lies be counted as misinformation about the vaccines, but also any true content that might lead people to be hesitant about taking the vaccine. He says that Stanford is therefore creating the Orwellian position that the truth can be misinformation. However, it was notable that at no point did he distinguish whether the matters in Mr Bridgen’s speech that he opined were misinformation were true or not.
Overall, O’Neill gives the distinct impression that he is someone who will play to an audience rather than someone with fixed positions on mainstream issues. He appears happy to speak up against certain narratives when speaking to an audience of people opposed to the dominant government perspective and, as we see in this case, happy to go along with those same narratives when speaking to an audience whose views align with the government mainstream perspective. Any suggestion that O’Neill was present to provide balance or counterpoint to Antisocial’s anti-Brigden empanelment would be disingenuous.