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Scaring Us to Death: Review of Dr. Scott Atlas’s ‘A Plague Upon Our House’

Scaring Us to Death: Review of Dr. Scott Atlas’s ‘A Plague Upon Our House’

How Bureaucrats Used Fear to Push Subversive and Deadly COVID Policies

A doctor’s words can do as much to heal – or  harm – as the treatment he prescribes. That principle guided my father, who was both a pioneer in heart-transplant surgery and a small-town doctor, throughout his medical career.

My father knew how to speak to his patients, and they loved him for it. At his funeral, one of them recounted the lengthy wait in his crowded office – worth it, she said, because in the end you were going to get to talk to him. So, what did he say to them that made it worth waiting for?

The answer lies as much in what he didn’t say as in what he did. Above all, he was scrupulous not to frighten his patients, especially those who were seriously ill and therefore vulnerable to despair. He would find a way to gently level with them without demoralizing them. And, although other doctors would disagree, he would not tell his patients how long they should expect to survive, even if he had “the science” to predict it. “When we tell a patient they have six months or three months to live,” he once explained to a reporter, “we make them die faster.”  And, he would also say, we rob them of the life they do have left. My father was a doctor who understood that fear kills.

So is Stanford University’s Dr. Scott W. Atlas, the health policy expert who served as a Special Advisor to the President and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force from August to December, 2020.

His book, A Plague Upon Our House, is an important and earnest account of his experience during that brief but critical time.  With its release, readers now have a window into how the Task Force bureaucrats weaponized fear to cow the public and the President’s close advisors into shutting down the country.

The Boiling Frog

As is now well known, the lockdowns proceeded like the proverb of the frog in boiling water.

At first, we were assured they would be temporary. Just fifteen days to flatten the curve. Just to slow the spread. Just two weeks, and we’ll be looking at this thing in the rear-view mirror.

But before long, those early assurances gave way to  dire warnings from our public health officials: “Stop the virus at all costs,” or millions will die. That grim message came directly from the Task Force and was eagerly broadcast by a hostile press hell-bent on destroying the President’s chances for a second term.

The Task Force, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, was led by career bureaucrats: Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator; Dr. Anthony Fauci,  Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID); and Dr. Robert Redfield, then Director of the CDC. Together they dictated the devastating lockdown policies forced on the American citizens they would intimidate into compliance.

Birx was in charge of carrying the Task Force’s advice to the states, where it was almost always followed, Atlas explains. The governors, acting under public health emergency powers, imposed broad societal lockdowns, in what then Attorney General Bill Barr called “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.” The lives of millions of citizens were disrupted and suspended  as businesses, schools, and houses of worship were all shuttered indefinitely. It is no wonder that the lockdowns themselves were creating panic and anxiety.

But there was no “science” to support these lockdowns, Atlas realized at their outset. They were  driven by a media campaign of fear that overstated the bad news and refused to acknowledge the good. He saw early on that the fatality rates, based on faulty data, were exaggerated. Reports of actual deaths were also misleading because they failed to distinguish patients who died with COVID-19 from patients who died from COVID-19. As he pointed out in a recent interview with Tucker Carlson, it turns out that two-thirds of COVID-19 deaths occurred in individuals with six or more co-morbidities. Blurring the distinction between such people and the generally healthy population created the impression that the virus was much more threatening to the general public than it really was.

At the same time, public health officials and the media misled the public about relative risk. It soon became clear that the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions bore the brunt of the virus, while children were overwhelmingly spared. The vast majority of people who contracted the virus were either asymptomatic or had relatively mild symptoms. Overall, for those without an underlying condition, the risk of death is small, regardless of age, Atlas says.

To make matters worse, even as the disease spread, there was no acknowledgement of the role of natural immunity from the virus, something that would have given people hope. Natural  immunity was no doubt  a threat to lockdown mandates because it would have inspired confidence in millions of COVID-19 survivors  –  and alleviated the fear that sustained them.

Unprecedented Public Health Catastrophe

Meanwhile, the lockdowns rationalized by this “science” were setting the stage for an unprecedented public health catastrophe.

Unprecedented, because pandemic preparation experts had never before recommended shutting down an entire country, Atlas says. Good public health policy takes the totality of circumstances into account. Its goal, he explains, is  “to minimize all harms,” not simply “stop the virus at all costs.” And experts long understood the obvious, that “all costs” would mean unacceptable “severe harms.”  These include missed cancer screenings; missed cancer treatments; anxiety and depression caused by isolation – especially for the elderly; unemployment; suicides – all were utterly predictable.

Instead of lockdowns, Atlas recommended a common-sense “targeted protection” strategy: Isolate and protect the elderly and vulnerable while allowing the young and healthy to live their lives, with reasonable precautions in place. That approach, later memorialized by Atlas’s colleagues in the Great Barrington Declaration, would have had the salutary effect of protecting those most at risk while freeing up the rest of society.

Atlas and  President Trump saw eye-to-eye on COVID-19 strategy. The President had said many times that he wanted to “open up the economy” because “we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”

The Task Force, however, actively subverted that strategy by advocating shutdowns and gathering restrictions in the name of “stopping all cases.” The press, for its part, fed off the discord – and the fear it provoked in the public – claiming the President wasn’t “listening to the science.”

But with Atlas’s arrival,  the President had the support of a true, world-class health policy expert with the institution and credentials to match. And the Task Force, especially Birx, had a problem. An independent thinker and a straight shooter, Atlas is just the sort of outsider career bureaucrats fear.

It is hard to overstate the level of threat he presented. Jared Kushner, afraid they would try to “destroy” Atlas, at first kept him out of sight. He worked from his home in California in the beginning, so as not to be seen in the White House. When that became unfeasible, he returned to Washington, where even then he was, at first, “literally kept out of the room” where the other Task Force members were meeting, set up on a telephone so that he could listen, but not be heard. He was even advised to hide his White House badge, because he was told Birx might see it and feel threatened.

Birx and the other members had reason to feel uneasy. Until Atlas arrived, there were no public health experts on the Task Force to question its dictates – and upset the status quo. No one on the Task Force had substantial experience in clinical medicine or the academic mastery of a research scientist. Atlas had both, and he came to each meeting with armloads of data, scientific studies, and expert insight – only to be ignored and labeled an “outlier.”

Once he was finally let into the room, Atlas was astonished at the utter lack of critical thinking at the Task Force meetings. Where there should have been vigorous scientific debate, he describes “a striking uniformity of opinion” among the doctors, the likes of which he had never seen in his career in academic medicine.  He says there was “virtually no disagreement” among them, “as though there was an agreed-upon complicity.” What he describes was not science. It was a results-driven endeavor, and those “agreed-upon” results were lockdowns.

Those lockdowns were sustained and justified by a frenzy of high-volume testing and quarantining. That is why, Atlas explains, Birx wanted to test everyone, including healthy asymptomatic people, and insisted that if they tested positive, they should quarantine for fourteen days; those exposed to them would also have to quarantine, even if they tested negative. But as Atlas said in a June 2020 interview on the San Diego Morning News, fifty percent or more of those who tested positive were asymptomatic people who rarely transmit the disease.  Mass testing made no sense, except as “the inevitable pathway to lockdowns.”  And those lockdowns were destroying the country.

Atlas Stood In Opposition

No one, however, had the courage to challenge Birx. No one but Atlas, that is. One day, at a meeting attended by the President, Birx, and others, Trump asked Atlas about Birx’s mass testing strategy. He answered directly: Testing everyone was a mistake that would lead to quarantining the very people – the healthy, low-risk, and asymptomatic – who should be keeping the country running.

High drama followed as soon as the President left the room, when Birx “threw a fit, right there, in front of everyone,” screaming at Atlas, “NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!!” Whatever the Coronavirus Task Force was for, it wasn’t for rigorous scientific debate among our elite experts.

Fauci, for his part, held himself out as “the science” the President wasn’t listening to. Though he kept a lower profile in the Task Force meetings, Fauci was ubiquitous in the American press, which Atlas says was worse than all other English-language sources for disseminating fear.

Late last year, Fauci actually went so far as to claim that those who criticized him were “criticizing science,” because he “represent[s] science.” This claim is particularly rich, considering the rank ignorance Atlas observed at one of the Task Force meetings where Fauci presented an actual scientific study. Fauci was holding the study out as proof to the group of just “how dangerous this virus is,” and Atlas was concerned that he would use this frightening “development” as yet another opportunity to instill fear in the public.

As it happened, however, Atlas was thoroughly familiar with the report, which was about myocarditis in COVID-19 patients. Fauci also vaguely referenced encephalomyelitis, “an uncommon inflammation of the brain or spinal cord that could occur after a viral infection.” Though rare, Atlas explains that the condition is well known to doctors with clinical medical expertise. It was obvious to him that Fauci hadn’t read more than a summary of the report and could not even pronounce the word “encephalomyelitis.” Atlas methodically demonstrated to a silent room the limitations of the study and why it was “absolutely not a cause for alarming the public.”

Fauci also instigated public fear of the unknown in his news appearances by constantly stressing what we didn’t know. But after several months of study and data on the virus, Atlas says there was much we did know and reason for Americans to be optimistic: The overwhelming majority of Americans were not at serious risk, and for those who were, hope was on the horizon, as vaccines were progressing at “warp speed.”

So why wasn’t Fauci sharing this good news?  Because that good news threatened the lockdown mandates.  If he would have been forthcoming, Americans might have come to their senses and questioned the need for them. There is no good-faith explanation for Fauci’s failure to disclose the truth.

And it was not a mere oversight. As Atlas explained in the Tucker Carlson interview, Task Force members affirmatively declined to “take it upon themselves to know the data and to say it truthfully.” Instead, they intentionally instilled fear in the American public to force compliance with the lockdowns.

Atlas knows, because he was in the room when Fauci admitted it in a late-August Task Force meeting. “Americans” Fauci insisted, “were not yet afraid enough,” as if fear were the policy goal. When he pressed Fauci to make sure he hadn’t misunderstood, Fauci doubled down, saying, “Yes, they need to be more afraid.”  Atlas was incredulous. “Using emotional distress as a tool to ensure greater adherence to government policy is immoral in public health,” he explains. And it is a fundamental breach of the trust that should underlie the doctor-patient relationship, albeit writ large across a nation of patients.

Worst of all, fear also paralyzed the President’s closest advisors, who were afraid to “rock the boat” in an election year. If only they had not been intimidated by the Task Force bureaucrats and the press that idolized them, the President might have relied on his own common sense and replaced the members who were sabotaging his efforts to open the country. They let him, and their fellow Americans, down.

But while staff members were tiptoeing around Birx, Atlas’s inbox was filling with emails from families whose members had fallen into despair and killed themselves. For them, the pain and isolation, the loss of life and livelihood, were too much to take.  The fear instilled by the Task Force to perpetuate the lockdowns had destroyed the lives of the citizens those lockdowns were supposedly meant to protect.

Task Force Damaged Millions Of Americans

These tragedies were not inflicted by the virus; they were inflicted by the Task Force bureaucrats, unaccountable and insensate to the damage they caused to millions of Americans. What they did on purpose – deliberately frightening those entrusted to their care – doctors like my father and Scott Atlas are careful to avoid doing even by accident.  Unlike Birx and Fauci, real-life doctors must answer to real-life patients in real-life offices where there are real-life consequences if they fail.

As Atlas recently warned, we must see to it that public health bureaucrats with no such experience of or concern for real life are ever entrusted with the nation’s collective wellbeing again.


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Just imagine the riches a Trump presdiency in 2024 will bring. And now imagine him not running and winning.

    Lybrarious Booker in reply to | January 31, 2022 at 11:20 am

    In his first term, he failed to protect himself (and us) from the deep state coup plotters and the leftist radicals. He allowed the country to be set on fire and the election to be stolen out from under him. But we should definitely give him another chance because maybe he will do better next time.

      Did you know D.C. and the medical community were this evil? Neither did Trump. He had to spend so much time trying to figure out who the backstabbers were that it’s a wonder he had time to do what he did.

Everyday I prayed Trump would fire the evil imp and his evil scarfed mistress


    Lybrarious Booker in reply to gonzotx. | January 31, 2022 at 11:23 am

    But he did not. And as a consequence, the public schools in my deep red flyover state are still under a useless mask mandate.

    gran2ten in reply to gonzotx. | January 31, 2022 at 8:06 pm

    As did I. On FB I early on warned others to be afraid of this imp and his evil scarfed co-host of their evil outcome! From this, I restudied the Germans and how that all happened. I’m waiting now for when our Kristallnacht will come.

Pence… he was behind this, he picked them and he supported their insanity

What I got from Atlas was that Pence was a complete fool with zero leadership or ability to control the insane Fauci and Birx, and that Birx was foisted off on Trump by that idiot Kushner, who I said YEARS ago was poison for Trump.

Fauci and Birx beat everybody else into submission because trash like Pence and Kushner were calling the shots and supporting them.

    Lybrarious Booker in reply to Olinser. | January 31, 2022 at 11:14 am

    Trump handpicked the team that led to his ruin (including the still-serving director of the FBI, Christopher Wray).

      henrybowman in reply to Lybrarious Booker. | January 31, 2022 at 8:13 pm

      Killing the messenger won’t help here. Trump’s hiring and (not) firing policies were his greatest undoing. Trump was not done in by front-stabbing.

Planned parent/hood was neither a good nor exclusive choice. Covid-18, 19, 20, 21, and 22 need not have be abortive. In the general population, and even in high risk cohorts with early, effective, safe, inexpensive treatments, viability exceeds 99% (i.e. seasonal flu), and, of course, the cargo cults (e.g. misinformation) and social contagion spreaders were responsible for the novel (“excessive”) collateral damage.

Oh, and given the diversity (number and color) of viruses and other pathogens on a forward-looking basis, don’t forget your mask(s), goggles, therapeutic “vaccine(s)”, and 9 ft (3 m) social distancing.

Every time I hear or read about the “damage done to the country by COVID,” I want to strangle the person delivering those words. COVID didn’t damage the country, elected officials and unelected bureaucrats ruined the country. COVID was just the excuse to do so. And many of these idiots are still at work, doing as much damage as they are able before it becomes bleedingly obvious to all that nearly everything we were told by government and media experts was a lie.

So, when are we going to see these people brought to justice?

Last week, I got my blood tested independently opting for the most comprehensive choice which evaluated 43 biomarkers. Covid wasn’t included since I have no confidence in the integrity of those tests, But if I was or had been infected, it likely would have shown up as abnormalities in some of the biomarkers tested.

The results showed that almost all biomarkers placed well within the healthy ranges. The two that didn’t were minor and diet-related (LDL a little high and slightly low T). Taken in whole, the biomarkers suggested a minor state of inflammation which is normal for anyone who runs 1500 miles a year and I will today finish my highest mileage month ever. I just need to incorporate more cross training and less impact-related exercise.

An annual health check up wouldn’t have told me anywhere near what I learned from this. And I didn’t have to suffer the mandatory lecture about Covid. I’ve surely been exposed many times by now what with all of the people I know who were infected and ill with it over the holidays.

I am confident that refusing the poison poke has been the best choice for me. The “cure” has proven to be worse than the disease and I am confident that I am not risking “death by sniffles”. My immune system is very strong and the latest studies are proving once again that nothing beats natural immunity.

Redfield, Fauci, Birx were working from the Event 201 script, which was developed and practiced in advance of the pandemic. The purpose was to a global coup.

Steven Brizel | January 31, 2022 at 3:57 pm

I have been triple vaxed and opposed to mandates and lockdowns all along as well as the supression of civil liberties that have been part of the lockdowns as well. This book looks like must reading for any citizen on how the so called experts mismanaged the response and suppressed any dissenting views on far too many issues

    gran2ten in reply to Steven Brizel. | January 31, 2022 at 8:17 pm

    who was President at the time? I simply do not trust his judgment in people now nor did I trust all his decisions from beginning till end. However, some of his decisions I saw better results from, but not many. Would we elect him again? Is he focused on the last election still? Perhaps he’s learned since then.

I don’t understand why every generation of citizen (especially American citizen) has to learn the same lesson for itself. This is “the talk” parents should be having with their children way before “the sex talk.” A new book is nice, but shouldn’t be necessary.

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and then applying the wrong remedies.