Eric Zuesse, our erstwhile contributor, recently wrote an article published on Strategic Culture titled “those in denial about coronavirus”. Throughout he refers to a “prominent libertarian site” and the editor he was communicating with. It suits him to be coy and keep it anonymous, but I don’t see that need.
OffGuardian is the “libertarian” site in question, and I am the editor with whom he was exchanging e-mails.
Needless to say, we reject his casting of us in these terms, and refute entirely the idea we are “in denial” or “populist” or that our position on the coronavirus “crisis” is in any way ideological.
Eric did not tell me, until the day before publication, that he intended to use our correspondence as the basis for an article, nor did he ask my permission to do so. While I do object to this unprofessional approach, I did not request he not publish but instead asked him to make three amendments:
- Include my refutation of the “libertarian” label.
- Put my request for an apology in its proper context – ie. a response to his accusing us of “deceiving our readers”.
- Most importantly, publish my entire response rather than quote-mining.
Sadly Eric made none of these changes and did not include the full un-edited correspondence in his piece. So, by way of a response, here is the actual chain of emails:
From: Eric Zuesse
Does this cause you to question your view of coronavirus-policy?
From: Kit Knightly
I appreciate your willingness to engage on this topic, but your choice of source is poor. The logic is bad, and whole areas of policy are ignored.
Firstly, comparing Sweden only to Denmark and Norway is absurd. Sweden imposed no lockdown, yet fared far better than many countries which did so (Belgium, Netherlands, UK, Spain and Italy). This alone is a perfectly strong argument that lockdowns are totally ineffective for their stated aims.
Secondly, it at no point talks about deaths caused by lockdowns, which is a huge factor (accounting for nearly half the excess deaths in the UK).
Thirdly, it mentions GDP but doesn’t discuss that the economy is MORE than that. A suffering economy is not about money or finance, it is about well-being for the working class. Good wages, affordable rent and the freedom to run your own small business. All of which have been destroyed by the lockdown policy, which Sweden shows was (at best) pointless.
From: Eric Zuesse
The Belgian policy-response was unclear, unfocused, and such a mess that nothing has even been generally been reported regarding their contact-tracing (which is such a crucial aspect of effective policy-response to the virus).
None of the countries with good results have achieved them via an expectation of ‘herd immunity’. No country is anywhere near the 70%-infection-rate that produces herd-immunity. It’s a myth; it’s a lie.
For example, though the imperialistic libertarian country United States warns travelers that the coronavirus risk is exceptionally high in Uganda, Uganda is actually one of the world’s lowest-risk coronavirus countries, and they acheived it by stringent policies, which is exactly what you reject. Whereas U.S. now has 17,549 cases per million, Uganda has 47. The country that has a 373 times higher percentage of its population infected, warns its suckers to stay away from the country that has 1/373rd of the risk.
Why is off-guardian feeding into this deception of its readers, instead of exposing it to them? Have you switched to being pro-imperialistic (pro-neoconservative, which is a variety of neoliberal or “libertarian”)? All of a sudden, the neoliberal countries, such as U.S., Brazil, and India, which are or have been the world’s worst on coronavirus-performance, are the ones to emulate? Why? Or else: which countries ARE the ones to emulate on this? Say it. Prove it. The statistical data by now are certainly sufficient to do this. Why don’t you do it, instead of deceive readers? Why do you deceive readers so that they would support, instead of condemn, the imperialistic U.S. Government’s alleging that Uganda is more coronavirus-dangerous than the U.S. itself is? It’s a lie, but how would your readers be able to know this?
I don’t get it. You seem stuck in your existing false beliefs. Please explain so that I will become able to understand. Right now, I don’t.
From: Kit Knightly
For starters: We have never expressed any support for the US or its Imperial policies in any way, shape or form.
Second, you seem to be suggesting that neo-conservatives and libertarians are the same, when they are totally different. We are not, and have never claimed to be, libertarians (we generally shun such hard-and-fast labelling), but I can see and agree with some libertarian stances on some issues. I see nothing wrong with this.
Third, the statistics speak for themselves – the virus is harmless to the vast majority of people, and in no way justifies any of the draconian or authoritarian laws being imposed opportunistically in many countries around the world (including the United States). A fatality rate of less than 1% (much less, according to some studies), and huge numbers of asymptomatic infections means this particular virus is not dangerous.
We have also noted, thanks to diligent scientific research (by us, and our contributing authors), that the lab work on this virus is suspect, the tests incredibly unreliable and the official statistics woefully inaccurate. In short, there is enough evidence to suggest the entire covid narrative is a minor disease being exaggerated to seize power on an almost global scale.
This is not an ideological position, but an opinion crafted from careful research and thorough analysis. We have posted all the evidence in the site, time and time again. It seems you are so invested in opposing the united states (and those you deem “right wing” or “libertarian” or other unhelpful labels) that you are allowing yourself to be deceived.
You are talking as if OffGuardian has changed, but we are where we have always been: speaking truth to power. We oppose authoritarianism, most especially when it’s backed by lies spread by the media. You are currently agreeing with the Guardian, the New York Post, CNN and the BBC. Does this not give you pause?
If you are truly supporting constant surveillance (contact tracing), mass house arrest (lockdown), government enforced limitations on what you can wear (mandatory masks), and the plunging of millions into poverty, then it is you who has changed positions. Not us.
We have never reported anything about Uganda, and I have no idea why you keep mentioning it. And we have NEVER “deceived” anyone, most especially our readers. I would appreciate it if you would retract that comment and apologise.
All the best
From: Eric Zuesse
I don’t think that you intentionally mislead readers, but that you are doing it by your selections of articles that support a now-disproven libertarian (i.e., laissez faire) approach to the coronavirus crisis.
Here is the revised version of my article (which will be published at Strategic Culture tomorrow):
[He included the full text of the article which you can read here.]
From: Kit Knightly
You are behaving astonishingly unprofessionally. You never once asked my permission to publish our private emails, nor did you inform me you intended to use them as the basis for an article.
I would be well within my rights to insist you do not publish this article, as it is a flagrant invasion of my privacy. However, as I consider myself an honest broker with nothing to hide I will not do so.
If you do insist on publishing private correspondence from someone who, until recently, considered you a friend and colleague, then have the decency not to quote mine or take words out of context. I did not ask you to apologise for accusing us of backing US imperialism, I asked you to apologise for saying we’re deceiving our readers. An accusation we take very seriously, and which has no fair basis.
Your article is also inaccurate to the point of dishonesty. You reference us as a “libertarian site” and repeatedly refer to our “libertarian ideology”, yet you have at your fingertips an email in which I repeatedly deny we are any such thing.
If you accuse somebody of something, it is basic journalistic practice to publish their response. To call us libertarians, then refuse to publish our denial of that label is incredibly bad journalism.
I will repeat, since you apparently either did not see or did not understand it the first time: OffGuardian is not a libertarian site, and its editors do not follow a libertarian ideology – or indeed any ideology.
We have a long and proud history of defending left wing leaders, and left wing policies, all around the world. But we will also always oppose authoritarianism in all its forms, whether it comes from the left or right.
We agree with the side that talks the most sense, and take up a position guided by the facts on a case-by-case basis. This is not about ideology, this is about reason. Our position on the covid19 “pandemic” is a reasoned one, not an ideological one.
You did not ask my permission, but I will grant it anyway. On the understanding you publish my entire response, including this follow up, rather than removing my words from their proper context. If you do not do so, I will be publishing this entire e-mail exchange in full on our site.
I will consider all future correspondence between us to be 100% private, unless I give my express permission otherwise.
We consider this response, and the refutation of the “libertarian” label, very important. Not just in this specific case, but in all the disagreements we have had with many alt-news personalities who seek to use labels in place of arguments.
This is not to say that “libertarianism” is an amoral position, or even an insult in an of itself, in fact there are many reasonable and worthy positions from that school of thought.
But it is tiresome to be repeatedly misrepresented, especially when it is being done cynically as a rhetorical ploy to discredit your arguments without engaging in an actual debate.
OffGuardian has not changed, and will not change. But the world is changing around it, and many who should know better have decided that makes us the problem. We respectfully disagree.
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